Creating a Book List: Simple, Right?

I’ve encountered the need for targeted lists of children’s books in every stage of my career, from preparing curriculum units as a teacher, to writing curriculum for a literacy nonprofit, and even for fulfilling my kids’ burning desires to learn about various topics or provide thoughtful baby and birthday gifts to family and friends. There are so many fantastic children’s books out there –but it turns out, compiling the perfect collection, whether it’s three books or three hundred –is significantly more time-consuming that you might think.

Some of the factors I consider when I’m compiling a book list include:

  • Quality of writing
  • Appeal of illustrations
  • Match to list purpose
  • Genre variety, or quality of genre-specific characteristics for a genre-specific list
  • Representation of gender, cultural, familial and lifestyle diversity
  • Reading level based on quantitative and qualitative measures, as applicable
  • Real children’s reactions!

Curating book collections becomes significantly easier with experience. Being familiar with existing available titles and authors, industry trends, and reliable resources all streamline the process. Cultivating and maintaining relationships with a variety of publishers makes it possible to better stay on top of new releases and obtain review copies.

An excellent book list provides an unparalleled foundation for a curriculum unit or program. It’s definitely worth the time and investment. Please enjoy some of my recent book list posts below, and contact me about how I might support your organization to assemble book collections and related resources to fit your needs.

Mentor Texts for How To Writing

Books and Tips to Help Children Understand Alzheimer’s and Dementia

Hanukkah, Christmas and Kwanzaa Books for Kids



Why You Need It: Customized Blog Content for Your Literacy Organization

“You should write a blog,” argued my husband several years ago when I began contemplating getting back into the workforce after our second son finally began sleeping through the night. Joining the ranks of parent bloggers didn’t appeal to me, but as I began to connect with more literacy-related organizations, I realized there is an acute need for top notch blog content to help organizations maintain a productive online presence. Fresh and focused blog posts:

  • Bring traffic to your website
  • Keep visitors on your website longer
  • Reflect your story
  • Provide you with social media content to extend your reach
  • Highlight your products or services in a meaningful way

Of course, it’s crucial to make the right choice as to who provides your blog content. Oftentimes senior staff members have too many other commitments to contribute frequent content, and less experienced writers may produce content that isn’t reliable.

Whether it’s ghostwriting as the voice of an organization or writing as a contributor or guest blogger from my own perspective, digging into an organization’s mission and values to prepare fresh blog content has been hugely satisfying for me. I frequently receive appreciative feedback, and, as one client told me, “A blog is an animal that constantly needs to be fed.”

I’d love to help you improve your blog offerings. Please enjoy a few recent samples of my blog contributions:

An Intro To Early Brain Development for Raising Readers

A Culturally Responsive Approach to Discussing Thanksgiving in the Classroom for LEE & LOW books

7 High-Interest Picture Book Biographies for Women’s History Month for the Barnes & Noble Kids Blog


Outer Space Books to Rock Kids’ Worlds

I recently wrote this post for a teachers’ magazine:

27 Great Space Books To Celebrate National Astronomy Day

It was a great opportunity to explore a topic to which my own kids gravitate (ha!) As with most topics my kids get into, I even learned some new information myself. The images below were some of our family favorites from the list. My kids decided to be “The Three Little Aliens” for Halloween this year!

Picture Books for Adventure-Loving Kids and an Old Lesson

Recently I wrote this post for the online parents’ magazine

Turn off the TV: Picture Books for Adventure-Loving Kids

This was a fun little project born out of a challenge many parents and teachers face: how to find the right books to hook children into reading (or, in my case, make reading as appealing as screen time.) The library was a perfect source to sample many books for this endeavor without breaking the bank.

While working on this piece, I was also reading the parent resource book Born Reading: Bringing Up Bookworks in a Digital Age–From Picture Books to eBooks and Everything in Between by Jason Boog. (Check out my book review.)


One book he writes about his daughter loving is Cosmo and the Robot by Brian Pinkney. I requested this title on interlibrary loan thinking it may fit my article but it didn’t arrive until after I’d submitted my work. Upon first glance at the cover and illustrations, I was sure my kids would find it tired and unappealing. I left it in our basket of library books and didn’t bother calling their attention to it. My five-year-old picked it up on his own and asked me to read it, and it turned out that he and my three-year-old both loved it. Cosmo, a young boy living on Mars with his family, must use his “Solar System Utility Belt with Ten Supersonic Attachments” to save his sister from his malfunctioning robot. Well really, the book had them at “utility belt.” Several weeks later the title is still in our ongoing rotation and has sparked some great imaginative play.

So, keep up the search for the books that will entice your kids to read, and remember: Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover!

Book Review for Born Reading: Bringing Up Bookworms in a Digital Age—From Picture Books to eBooks and Everything in Between

Welcome! This is the first post in an ongoing series in which I’ll review literacy-related books for parents and educators. Maybe you’ll decide to pick up your own copy, or maybe these highlights will be just enough information for you.Unknown

Overview: Jason Boog is a dad who leveraged his time at home with daughter to serve as field research for a book about reading with your children in the 21st century. Born Reading: Bringing Up Bookworks in a Digital Age–From Picture Books to eBooks and Everything in Between intersperses information about child development from standard experts such as the American Academy of Pediatrics with the perspectives from a wide range of literacy-related sources (e.g. children’s authors, researchers, app developers, teachers) and stories about his own parenting experiences. His repeated message is, “It’s not only important that you read to your kids, but how you read to your kids.” The book is organized around his “Born Reading Playbook,” a list of ways for parents to interact with their children while enjoying books and digital media. Each chapter after the introduction focuses on a year of life from birth to age five and contains suggestions for books, activities and digital media for that age.

Recommended For:

Parents of Children Ages 0-4*

Parents who want to make reading more of a focus or feel like they could “do a better job” reading or productively using technology with their children will likely find this book helpful. It’s a good book to keep on the bookshelf and read a chapter as your child approaches that age.

 New York City’s Children’s Librarian Betsy Bird says it well in her introduction: “[Jason Boog] is perfectly aware that while you’re good at other things in your life, maybe the simple act of reading something like Nina Laden’s ‘Peek-a-Who?’ to your infant could be potentially terrifying.” (I remember the first few books I read to my oldest son feeling so strange, even though I’d read aloud to countless children as a childcare provider and teacher.) Boog gives suggestions such as: “Ask lots and lots of questions…even before your child can answer with words,” “Dramatize the story” and “Discuss personal opinions about a book.” He includes specific examples of how he used these strategies with his daughter and includes descriptions of her gradually more interactive responses to books. This book can serve as a confidence boost for parents, and provides enough research backing up the suggestions to be compelling. For instance, he cites a landmark study in which children who were exposed to interactive reading strategies like these for a month were found to gain 6-8 months of verbal abilities compared to a control group. (See a summary of this study and related studies here.)

Parents who sometimes feel stuck as to how to encourage creative play will also find Boog’s book-related play ideas helpful. For instance, he describes a “detective” game he made up with his daughter after reading The Berenstain Bears “Bear Detectives” that made me wonder, “Well, why didn’t I think of that?” He also advocates creating a “bundle” of related experiences for your child centered on a book he or she enjoys. When his daughter loved Cosmo and the Robot he made an effort to gather more fiction and nonfiction books about space exploration, suggested pretend play scenarios in which they were “space explorers,” and found space-related videos online.

While Boog’s repeated recommendation that the best way to for children to consume digital media is alongside their parents may be off-putting to parents who rely on TV and iPads to be virtual babysitters on occasion (present company included), the app and eBook suggestions are more extensive and thoughtful than other resources I’ve seen. Book’s lists includes song and story apps, apps that focus on alphabet and early numeracy, knowledge-building apps about cooking, music, science, etc. and even apps for children to create their own digital books.

Early Childhood Teachers

Teachers may find this book helpful to suggest to parents who want to “do more at home.” The book could also spark discussions with parents about technology use, or help shape policies about technology use in your program. Much of the content described above could also be applied to curriculum planning: read aloud strategies, classroom book suggestions, literacy-related exploration and play ideas, and ways to effectively infuse audio books, apps and eBooks into your program (if you choose to do so.)

*The final chapters cover “Kindergarten and Beyond” and “How Born Readers Can Thrive With Common Core Standards” so technically the book is also aimed at parents of older children. However, I think the book fell flat here. Boog departed from his actual experiences with his daughter and his writing is largely extrapolation about how to prepare elementary students to meet educational standards and navigate standardized testing. There are better resources on these topics.

Personal Takeaways:

Reading this book made me think more about the conversations I have with my children during and after reading. Even though the information about the benefits of interactive reading wasn’t new to me, revisiting it made me realize that it’s easy to fall into the trap of reading straight through a book without stopping to talk with my kids at all (especially at bedtime) and that this constitutes a missed opportunity. The book was also a good reminder about the power of extending exploration of stories and book content into playtime.

Regarding technology use, as I said above, I definitely use the TV to keep my older children busy while I cook dinner (the baby is still happy banging on pots and pans or throwing stuffed animals at me from his pack and play.) Reading this book inspired me to set up a better system for my kids to enjoy audio books (which they love in the car) at home and to try out some of the suggested apps as alternative (and more productive) approaches to screen time. I’ll report back on my experiences!