blogpromoI’d long wanted to visit the places Laura Ingalls Wilder lived and wrote about in her Little House series. During the summer, I finally got to travel the Laura Ingalls Wilder Highway.

My traveling companions–son Breece, niece Avery, my mom–and I covered more than 2,500 miles during our pilgrimage. We’ve been blogging about our Little Journey on the Prairie at Reading Rockets and that’s where you should go to read about what three generations of readers saw, learned and loved about each historic site. There’s also a bit of advice for those planning to make their own little journey and plenty of ideas for parents and educators who want to help kids connect to the stories and history of Laura Ingalls Wilder and her family.

But here’s where I’ll offer some additional insights and photos as things strike me or as I learn even more about Laura from the Laura Ingalls Wilder Massive Online Course from Missouri State University.

Here’s your first tidbit:

jackLaura’s best friend was a brindle bulldog named Jack. Brindle refers to the color of the dog. Brindle is brownish or tawny with streaks of other color. Did you know that?

And did you know that when Charles Ingalls traded away the ponies, Pet and Patty, Jack was part of the deal? The real Jack didn’t travel back from the prairie and never once played along the banks of Plum Creek.

Dear, faithful Jack!

Summer is a great time to get a little crazy in the kitchen and for food-related field trips! At Random Acts of Reading, you’ll find my Dr. Seuss inspired recipes that will take your reading and cooking adventures on beyond Green Eggs and Ham.

You’ll also find food fun, like these One Fish Two Fish Treats at

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Reading Rockets has cooked up some great food fun centered around paired fiction and nonfiction books. Check out these Reading Adventure Packs for getting creative in the kitchen:

Each Reading Adventure Pack includes great book recommendations. But if you want to sample some other food and cooking related titles, try these: 

Growing Vegetable Soup by Lois Ehlert

Yum Yum Dim Sum by Amy Wilson Sanger

How To Make an Apple Pie and See the World by Marjorie Priceman

The Ugly Vegetables by Grace Lin

The Magic School Bus Gets Baked in a Cake: A Book About Kitchen Chemistry by Joanna Cole

Granny Torrelli Makes Soup by Sharon Creech

Pie by Sarah Weeks

Looking for true love this Valentine’s Day? Connect a kid with a book and watch the sparks fly!

The wise and wonderful Katherine Paterson said, “It is a sign of wonderful love and affection to read aloud to someone, and we love it. So, we should never stop reading aloud.”

Make some book love this Valentine’s Day! Read aloud with your loved ones and enjoy these titles about a love for books and reading.


The Plot Chickens by Mary Jane and Herm Auch



I Am the Book: Poems selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins. Illustrated by Yayo




The Library by Sarah Stewart. Pictures by David Small




But Excuse Me That is My Book by Lauren Child




 That Book Woman by Heather Henson. Pictures by David Small




Book! Book! Book! by Deborah Bruss. Illustrated by Tiphanie Beeke




The Hard-Times Jar by Ethel Footman Smothers. Pictures by John Holyfield



Have a very happy Who-liday when you visit Who-ville this Christmas season!

Enjoy enchanting scenery and local musical performances

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 Dig in to delicious local foods
Since the Grinch took the last can, sample this Who Hash featuring
leftover Roast Beast

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Or remember the Grinch with a sweet and tasty souvenir

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 Send holiday love to friends and family

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 And relax with a good book

It was delightful to chat with Kathleen Dunn and her callers today about encouraging and motivating kids to read. Listen here if you want to hear the thistle tongue twister, how to be a reading role model, and ideas to make reading fun and fundamental to your kids.






B is for back to school and I’m sharing back-to-school reading fun at Random House Kids!

Check out this post for Seussational ideas to help parents start the new school year out right.

Try the recipes, crafts and printables at Seussville!


At the local elementary school, I’m known to some as Princess Rita Alot. Others call me the Book Fairy. While out shopping, I’ve been recognized as “the space alien who came to school.”  I like to dress up! School book fairs and library nights have given me many opportunities to have fun with favorite themes and characters.

QueenCI realized though that I’d been very limited in my costume choices, neglecting the wondrous world of nonfiction. So I moved beyond the book fair to the Science Fair. In my late 19th century dress with a vial of (pretend) radium, I was Marie Curie. But the most fun was dressing as a cumulus cloud and having kids explain the water cycle to me!

Why did I wait so long to take advantage of these nonfiction opportunities? As a parent, I don’t think I’m alone. When my kids were younger, we read a lot about shapes, colors, animals and then trains. Lots and lots of books about trains. Which is normal. As children get older, their interest in specialized information grows stronger. The trick I think is to remember to keep introducing potential new interests so that you don’t wander away from nonfiction all together just because you’ve exhausted (or been exhausted by) one favorite subject.

In the work I do with Reading Rockets we’ve developed some interesting resources and activities for engaging in nonfiction reading.  The Reading Adventure Packs which pair a set of theme-based fiction and nonfiction books and related interactive activities are great to encourage reading at home and support the role of parents as educators. Robots and Gardening are the newest themed packs and wonderful to share during the summer.

The Reading Adventure Packs are also featured as part of Reading Rockets newest project, Start with a Book. Start with a Book is a great resource to help parents, caregivers, and volunteers find summer themes that match the curiosities and interests of young children (grades K-3) and get them actively exploring bugs, birds, planes, music, sports, superheroes, inventors, art, the ocean and more!


If you’re unsure of where to start with nonfiction, this Quick Guide to Selecting Great Informational Books for Young Children will give you a very thorough introduction.  Start with a Book can also help you entice fiction readers to nonfiction. But if you already have nonfiction fans in your house, they might enjoy learning more about how these kinds of books are made. These video interviews with Gail Gibbons, Seymour Simon and George Ancona will give curious minds even more to think about.

So this summer make sure the library basket has nonfiction choices. And make sure those costume baskets have lab coats as well as crowns and wands!



Part of this post is revised from a previous article written for the First Book Blog.

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There’s no better ode to the Earth than Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax!

Find all kinds of reading and recycling fun for Earth Day in my article for Random House Kids For Parents.

And when you visit Seussville you’ll find my recipe for Truffula Tree cake, directions for making a recycled page corner bookmark, along with activities, crafts and more.

While I’ve been waiting for bits of green to suddenly appear in my garden (or anywhere for that matter), I’ve been taking a look at some excellent books to encourage green thumbs in young readers and thinking about outdoor garden reading parties:

Planting party! Start with readings of From Seed to Plant and And Then It’s Spring. Have seeds, tools, and a ready place for planting. Dig in!

The garden in summer is a perfect place for a book-nic with a read aloud of Weslandia and summer-ripe fruits and veggies.

Summer garden parties can also be more refined affairs with a reading of The Summertime Song and hats made lovely with flowers and greenery from the garden.

Host a harvest party to celebrate and share the bounty of your garden. Plan for a reading and making of Stone Soup and ask friends to bring items harvested from their own gardens to add to the pot.

Take a cue from reading The Imaginary Garden and brighten a winter day with a painting party. Create a mural, artwork to hang, or decorate stones to mark your garden path.

Whatever the season, there are books and activities to get your young readers raring to grow!

Tips to Get Growing

  • Reading books featuring gardens will give kids ideas about what they want their own garden should look like. Let them take the lead in planning.
  • Give kids their own separate space to garden, and let them plant and tend it in their own way.
  • Beginning gardeners should start small, planting their favorite flowers or foods.
  • A garden can be planted in a yard, on a balcony, porch, stoop or windowsill.
  • Provide kid-sized tools or improvise with old silverware. Containers for planting can come from the recycling bin, attic or garage. You can plant in almost anything if you add drainage holes and potting soil.
  • Some kids are going to be more interested in the digging than the planting. Others will be more fascinated with the insects and other creatures that inhabit the garden plot. And some will only be impressed when it is harvest time. Encourage their curiosity, give them responsibility and let them get dirty!

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Great Gardening with Kids Resources

Dig Art! Cultivating Creativity in the Garden from Cornell Garden-Based Learning

Family Gardening for all seasons at KidsGardening

Our Green World from Start with a Book



Belle in the Garden

I’ve also been thinking about books that influenced and inspired my own gardening adventures.

All one hot morning, the beans were popping out of the ground. Grace discovered them and came shrieking with excitement to tell Ma. All that morning she could not be coaxed away from watching them. Up from the bare earth, bean after bean was popping, its stem uncoiling like a steel spring, and up in the sunshine the halves of the split bean still clutched to pale twin-leaves. Every time a bean popped up, Grace squealed again.

Little Town on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder

More than any others, the books in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series made me want to grow my own food. I wanted to shriek with excitement like Grace and have “large, round colored pumpkins [that] made beautiful chairs and tables.”

I loved all Wilder’s details about preparing the earth, planting and tending the garden, and harvesting. Just by reading, I felt at age 8, I knew what to do to plant a garden and grow my own food to survive! But it was also clear that there were no guarantees—no matter how hard you worked and tended the garden, something could still go wrong. For me, the gamble was part of the excitement.

Growing up, my yard was 109 acres, so there was space for me to dig, plant and grow my own mammoth squash and fat pods of peas. Now my garden is reduced to two 4 x 8 foot raised beds. But there’s comfy bench nearby that’s a perfect place to read while waiting for those tender shoots to emerge.

Hats Off to Dr. Seuss

Busy getting ready for the biggest reading party of the year? Dr. Seuss’s birthday bash draws near! NEA’s Read Across America is being officially celebrated on March 1 as Dr. Seuss’s March 2nd birthday falls on a Saturday.

Bring on the Books

If you need ideas of what to read on the big day, I recently wrote an article for Random House Kids that takes a look at some Seuss titles you probably haven’t spent much time with but should. Other Dr. Seuss titles for classroom and at home fun include:

The Butter Battle Book

After reading about the Yooks’ and Zooks’ feud over which side you should spread your bread, make your own butter! Will you eat it on your toast with the butter side up or the butter side down?

I Am Not Going To Get Up Today!

This Beginner Book, written but not illustrated by Dr. Seuss, is the perfect title to launch your own Family Bed-In for Books to rest, relax, and read together on March 2. Breakfast in bed with some Green Eggs and Ham or Scrambled Eggs Super! then enjoy the morning (or day!) under the covers with good books.

And to Think that I Saw It on Mulberry Street

Dr. Seuss’s first book is a great catalyst for getting out and about in your neighborhood. Read it and then go out and see what’s happening on your street.

From There to Here, From Here to There, Seusspiration Is Everywhere

The Internet delivers an abundance of ideas, activities and other resources for celebrating:

  • The NEA has 10 Pinterest boards dedicated to Read Across America. There are many, many others. Also check out obSEUSSed or search Seuss for pins and boards.

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Pick Up a Book and Share What You’ve Got

No one loves a good reading party more than I do. I relish all the Seussational and Seusstastic activities folks have created to help motivate young readers. But the true heart of Read Across America is having every child in every community in the company of a good book and caring adult on Dr. Seuss’s birthday.

Let reading take center stage at your Read Across America celebration! Share the love!