How To Host A Neighborhood Book Swap

Neighborhood Book Swap

How to Host a Neighborhood Book Swap

Do you get the eye roll when you ask your kids to go read? Do they whine because they’ve read the books in your home library at least twenty times? Are you going to scream if you have to read the same bedtime story one more time? I’ve been there. It’s a struggle. What can you do about it? Well, you could go purchase a whole new home library, but that’s a little out of reach for most of us. The next best thing to do is host a neighborhood book swap.

What is a neighborhood book swap?

What is a neighborhood book swap? Well, it’s quite simple. You and your neighbors get together and trade books. Then you all go home with a new set of books. Great, right? It’s a fast, easy, and inexpensive way to get new books. The kids love picking out new books!

So how does it work?

  1. Advertise your book swap.

Let your neighbors know what it is, when to bring the books, and when to pick up the new books. Click HERE to download your free copy of this flier:

Neighborhood Book Swap Flier2. Collect the books on the planned day.

There are two ways to do this.

1. The really easy way where everyone brings the books and you collect them. You don’t keep track of anything; they need to remember how many books they brought and pick up that same number of books. This works, but I have found that people will bring 10 picture books and pick up 10 chapter books, so there aren’t enough chapter books for the people who brought chapter books.

2. Print off two colors of Book Bucks (One set on red paper and the other set on blue paper). Those who bring in picture books get one color and those who bring in chapter books get another color. You get one Book Buck for one book. The hardest part is cutting out the Book Bucks, but kids are great helpers. It’s ok if they aren’t cut perfectly. Click HERE to download your free copy of Book Bucks. 

Book Bucks

3. Lay out all the books.

On the pick-up day, lay all the books out on tables, chairs, or even the dry cement. I’ve found it best to put picture books together and chapter books together.

4. Collect the Book Bucks as people choose their books.

Collect the Book Bucks as people choose their books. Just make sure they have the correct number and kind of books.

5. Have fun chatting with neighbors and discussing books.


That’s it! Easy Peasy! If you want to have a treat like popsicles or cookies you may, but it’s not necessary. To make it really easy for later, save the Book Bucks. You could all take turns hosting too–just pass the Book Bucks around. I hope you have a fun Neighborhood Book Swap!

Make a Teacher Happy: Prevent Summer Brain (Part 2)!

Prevent Summer Brain

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Make a Teacher Happy: Prevent Summer Brain (Part 2)

Yay for summer! The kids get to wake up early, do chores, and read for hours. Then they have time to work on their science fair projects for the upcoming school year. After that they read some more, and then they help with dinner, laundry, and yard work without complaint. Hmmmm……maybe in a fairy tale land! If your family is like most families, this isn’t even close! Many kids don’t pick up a book the whole summer (gasp!). By the time school rolls around, they have forgotten much of what they worked so hard on the previous school year. This is called SUMMER BRAIN. Let’s prevent summer brain this summer!

How do we prevent summer brain? 


Yep, simple as that. Kids need to read at least 20 min each day. My kids read 30 min each day. Go to the library and get lots of books. Or go to the bookstore and let them pick out one new book. Have them pick a book from each genre. Try out an audio book. Have a neighborhood book swap (more on this coming soon…). Or start a neighborhood Book Club! Make reading fun! Read outside, inside, at the park, or in a tent. And for sure, download my monthly summer Reading Challenge! Click here to download June’s BINGO challenge!

2. Daily Homework

I know, I’m the meanest mom because I make my kids do homework throughout the summer! I’ve had my kids doing summer homework since preschool, so they just expect it now. It might be a hard adjustment if you’re starting in 4th or 5th grade, but it’s ok, they’ll get used to it. I’ve tried a bunch of different things. I’ve used workbooks, I’ve printed off my own weekly packets, and I’ve tried online programs.

3. Limit Screen Time

I know this one is difficult! My rule is no more than one hour per day. It’s rough sometimes, but it’s doable. And I do fudge it sometimes. If they don’t use any screen time for a couple of days, and want an extra hour the next day, I’m fine with that. I’ve seen examples of parents not giving out the wi-fi password until reading, homework, and daily chore is done for the day. I  think that’s a great idea! Or, if they have friends over and have been outside for hours then want to watch a movie, I’m fine with that too. Of course, the online games I just posted count as screen time; the Khan academy would not count as screen time for me because it’s their math homework. 

3. Chores

Haha! This one is a mom’s best friend! My kids also need to do their daily chore before they can play. (I know! I’m so mean!) Divide up the chores however you want. Some days are super quick and other days I make them work harder.

To-Do-Chart-Cute-Animals-Website-Images-000-Image1 Need a cute Chore Chart? This One is adorable! And so is This One 

4. Fun Activities

Even just getting out and having fun is better for the brain than watching tv or playing video games! This Summer Calendar is so cute and is a great way to organize fun activities. 

FREEBIE - Summer Bucket List - pin Click here for this fun Freebie Summer Bucket List!

I hope this helps!!! Let’s prevent summer brain this year and send our kids back to school prepared and on track to learn! Do you have any resources that I missed? Or have questions on how I get my kids to do all this? Email me!



Raising A Reader: How To Help a Struggling Reader

Child Reading Book to Doll

How To Help A Struggling Reader

I love this image! It’s my daughter when she was little. She’s twelve now, and of course she’s still cute, but this picture just melts my heart. She’s so little! Okay, back on track! When I taught first grade parents always asked me what they could do to help their child become a better reader. Even now, parents ask me how to help a struggling reader. My answer is always the same! READ to her!

Reading Aloud to Children

Did you know that in my state government officials plan for prisons based on first grade reading ability? That’s right. Crazy, huh? They take the reading ability of the first graders to plan for future prison needs. It’s a little scary to think about! If a child struggles to read through third grade, then there are resources set aside to help her. After third grade, the resources quickly decrease. If a child still struggles to read when she gets to junior high then there are very few resources to help, and even good teachers have moved on. It’s usually not a priority.  So what can parents do?

Today’s tip on how to help a struggling reader is the easiest and the most fun!

READ aloud to your children!!

Reading to your kids every day is the best way to help them enjoy reading. What is better than piling on the couch or the bed and enjoying a great book together? Not only is it good quality time together, it also teaches them to enjoy reading. It can be picture books or chapter books, depending on their age, but either way…….Just Read!!!

If we could get our parents to read to their preschool children fifteen minutes a day, we could revolutionize the schools. ~Dr. Ruth Love, Superintendent, Chicago Public Schools (1981)¹

The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.²

When my daughter (the one in the above photo) was in second grade, she really struggled with reading. She was my third child and I hate to admit that we had gotten busy and had not been as good at reading every day. At parent teacher conference her teacher told us how much she was struggling and I was surprised. I hadn’t realized! So what did we do? We started reading. A lot. I read aloud to her daily, and usually more than once a day. We read picture books and chapter books. I read aloud and I had her read aloud. 

What happened? She began to improve. It didn’t happen over night, but by fourth grade she was back where she needed to be. So good, in fact, that she read all of the Harry Potter books in fourth grade. She is now in sixth grade and is doing great. Her teacher gave her a goal of 40 books this year and she has read well over that. Reading aloud works to help struggling readers! They love the time together, they hear your pronunciation, your fluency, and your enjoyment. Struggling readers also learn vocabulary words and background knowledge. They learn that reading is enjoyable.

What about older kids?

My kiddos are getting big! My oldest is 16 (ahhh!), but they still ask me every night if we can read. It’s my favorite time of the day! I have all four kids in the same room with me, and I have their full and undivided attention! Start when they’re little and make it a priority. Beware though! Once you start they won’t want to stop! If they’re big now, it’s ok, start now! There are fun books to read to older kids too! We’re reading The Princess Bride by William Goldman at the moment. Before that we read A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. (Just in case you’re wondering, the book is WAY better than the movie!)

I hope this helps you to know how to help your struggling reader! Here are some of the books I’ve read to my kids over the years. Click on the image to read my review!

The Napping House by Audrey and Don Wood   The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks   Frindle by Andrew Clements   The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary   The BFG by Roald Dahl   Mr Poppers Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater   Charlotte's Web by E.B. White   The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan  Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl    the chocolate touch   the hundred dresses   The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo 

¹The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease p. xi

²The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease p. 3

This post was first published on 2/4/14; updated on 5/3/18.

15 Ways To Get Kids Excited About Reading

   With all of the distractions in today’s world (You know, all the things kids want to do all summer: video games, Pokemon Go, movies, tv, electronic devices, etc.) it can be difficult to get them excited about reading. Reading every day is so important, especially during the summer! Here are 15 things you can try to help them pick up a book without all the whining and moaning. 
1. Go to the library and have them sign up for their own library card. 

2.  While you’re at the library, help children choose a wide variety of books. (Picture books, chapter books, nonfiction books, or comics.)

2. Take a family trip to the book store and allow children to pick out one book.

3.  Find books that interest your child. (Does he play baseball? Find books on famous baseball players. Does she like princesses? Find all the books on princesses that you can.)

4. Make sure you have books that are your child’s correct reading level. (If books are too hard or too easy to read, children will get overwhelmed or bored. Have you heard of the High Five Rule? Have your child read a random page in the book. Every time he comes to a word he doesn’t know he holds up a finger. If there are more words on the page that he doesn’t know than fingers on his hand, the book is too difficult.)
5. Read to Your Children. (This is one of the most important!)
6.  Allow your children to see you read, and to see your love of reading. (This is one of my favorites! When children see that your to-do list goes out the window because you’re lost in a book, they see the joy found in reading a book! Haha….”Sorry Honey, nothing got done today because I was being a good example for our kids.” 🙂 What is great, too, is to then recommend that book to your child after you have read it-if it is appropriate for them, of course!)
7.  Have a set time each day to read.

8.  Do not use reading time as a negative consequence for poor behavior.

9.  Have a family read-a-thon! (Remember the snacks and treats!)

10. Have children participate in a neighborhood or school Book Club. 

11. Make sure to have books in your home, a lot of them. Make sure they’re easily accessible. 

12. As a family, read the book then watch the movie. (Growing up my dad read “The Princess Bride” to us, and then we all went and watched the movie together. The book and the movie are still some of my all-time favorites!)

13. Have children try all the different genres. (My boys love fiction/fantasy books. My daughter likes those too, but she REALLY likes history books. I never would have found that out if I hadn’t made her try one.)
14. Ask children about the books they’re reading. (Be interested in what they’re reading. Ask about characters, plot, setting, and their favorite part. Get excited about it! This helps them know you care, and it also helps you make sure the book is a good fit!)
15. If your child doesn’t like a book after the first few chapters, do not make him finish it! (There is not a rule that says you have to finish a book if you start it. If he doesn’t like it, have him put it down and pick a different one. Continuing to read a book he doesn’t enjoy will only make him frustrated, and that’s one of the reasons kids decided they don’t like reading.)

   Do you have any other suggestions or ideas? Please share them below!! What works for your family?

Raising A Reader

Raising A Reader

Today’s tip for Raising A Reader is to:
Find the genres and topics that interest your children. 
Let them pick books out to read! They usually know what they like. If not, start with their hobbies and talents. Children will easily get bored and disinterested if they are reading things they aren’t interested in, just like adults! So, if you have a dancer, try books about dancing–fiction and nonfiction. If you have a scientist, find books that relate to science. If you have a baseball fan, find books about famous baseball players, the game of baseball, etc. If that doesn’t work, keep trying. Try fiction, nonfiction, sci-fi, fantasy, biographies, mysteries, magazines, or even comic books (Yes, I know……but you may need to start somewhere!). I’ve noticed that a lot of books, even novels, are now written in graphic novel format, which looks more like a comic book. This might be a good way to transition from comic books to novels. You could try audio books too. Some children may also be more sensitive to having the main character the same gender as them. If you have a girl, try books that have strong female main characters, or opposite for a boy. Anything you can get them to read is a good place to start, and then you can build from there. If you’re still stumped, ask the child’s teacher what the other kids in the class are reading. Many times children will talk about the books they’re reading and give good reviews. This may interest your child. It’s fun to read what *everyone* is reading, and be in the know! Librarians are also very helpful when it comes to finding good books. You are always welcome to search my blog as well! I have a pretty good list for many different age groups.
Fiction: Fantasy
Fiction: Adventure
Nonfiction: Adventure, Biography
Fiction: Sci-Fi
Realistic Fiction

Click on any of the above books for my reviews.

Raising a Reader

Raising a Reader

Today’s tip for raising a reader is a great one! It’s something I have always done, and it’s easy! It can be a little tricky to keep track of sometimes, but it’s worth it! In my house it is absolutely necessary because my boys read so much that I could not afford to continue buying them books! 
Today’s tip is:

Get your kids their own library cards and use them regularly! Go to the library!

The kids love having their own card because they feel so grown-up, and it’s a great 
motivation to read! 
They take better care of the books because they know it is in their name!
And the best thing is that there are endless amounts of books! There are so many different subjects and authors, and it’s great to help find topics that the kids are actually interested in and will read! (And it’s free!!! Seriously, I’d be spending hundreds of dollars a month in books….no way!)
I’m with Arthur on this one:
Ready, set……GO to the library!

Raising A Reader: The Power of Reading

Raising A Reader:
The Power of Reading

I recently heard this story and thought I should share. It’s an amazing success story, and 
kudos to his mom for realizing the importance of reading!

Ben Carson

Ben Carson said of himself, “I was the worst student in my whole fifth-grade class.” One day Ben took a math test with 30 problems. The student behind him corrected it and handed it back. The teacher, Mrs. Williamson, started calling each student’s name for the score. Finally, she got to Ben. Out of embarrassment, he mumbled the answer. Mrs. Williamson, thinking he had said “9,” replied that for Ben to score 9 out of 30 was a wonderful improvement. The student behind Ben then yelled out, “Not nine! … He got none … right.” Ben said he wanted to drop through the floor.

At the same time, Ben’s mother, Sonya, faced obstacles of her own. She was one of 24 children, had only a third-grade education, and could not read. She was married at age 13, was divorced, had two sons, and was raising them in the ghettos of Detroit. Nonetheless, she was fiercely self-reliant and had a firm belief that God would help her and her sons if they did their part.

One day a turning point came in her life and that of her sons. It dawned on her that successful people for whom she cleaned homes had libraries—they read. After work she went home and turned off the television that Ben and his brother were watching. She said in essence: You boys are watching too much television. From now on you can watch three programs a week. In your free time you will go to the library—read two books a week and give me a report.

The boys were shocked. Ben said he had never read a book in his entire life except when required to do so at school. They protested, they complained, they argued, but it was to no avail. Then Ben reflected, “She laid down the law. I didn’t like the rule, but her determination to see us improve changed the course of my life.”

And what a change it made. By the seventh grade he was at the top of his class. He went on to attend Yale University on a scholarship, then Johns Hopkins medical school, where at age 33 he became its chief of pediatric neurosurgery and a world-renowned surgeon. How was that possible? Largely because of a mother who, without many of the advantages of life, magnified her calling as a parent.
This story was told by Tad. R. Callister. 1 

Wow, right? I love this story! That is the power of reading for you! 
And that’s how you raise a reader! 
Happy Reading!

Raising a Reader

Today’s tip for
Raising A Reader

is to:

Have The Kids Read Books At Their Reading Level
If a book is too difficult to read then it will not be enjoyable and the child will not understand what he or she is reading. If the child spends the whole time sounding out words then her comprehension will suffer. And what is the point of reading if you don’t understand? At that point the kids just get frustrated and they begin to say that they don’t enjoy reading. Well, of course they don’t! They’re not experiencing getting caught up in a story because they don’t understand the story. 

So, how do you determine if a book is too difficult for a child to read? 

Give It A High Five!

Open the book with your child. Open to a page, any page. Have the child read that page. If there are more than five words on that page that the child needs to sound out, or doesn’t know the meaning of, then that particular book is too difficult. Yes, he might be sad because all his friends are reading it and he really wants to, but you have to be strong. I promise, he will not enjoy it if he gets frustrated. Sometimes that can be a huge motivation for kids to improve their reading. And, there is always the option of you reading that book to him!
I hope this helps!
Happy Reading!

Raising a Reader

Raising a Reader

I recently read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. I LOVE that book! Anyway, as I was reading I noticed that the Oompa-Loompas sing this song:

“The most important thing we’ve learned,
So far as children are concerned,
Is never, NEVER, NEVER let
Them near your television set–
Or better still, just don’t install
The idiotic thing at all.
In almost every house we’ve been,
We’ve watched them gaping at the screen.
They loll and slop and lounge about,
And stare until their eyes pop out.
(Last week in someone’s place we saw
A dozen eyeballs on the floor.)
They sit and stare and stare and sit
Until they’re hypnotized by it,
Until they’re absolutely drunk
With all that shocking ghastly junk.
Oh yes, we know it keeps them still,
They don’t climb out the window sill,
They never fight or kick or punch,
They leave you free to cook the lunch
And wash the dishes in the sink–
But did you ever stop to think,
To wonder just exactly what
This does to your beloved tot?
It rots the senses in the head!
It kills imagination dead!
It clogs and clutters up the mind!
It makes a child so dull and blind
He can no longer understand
a fantasy, a fairyland!
His brain becomes as soft as cheese!
His powers of thinking rust and freeze!
He cannot think–He only sees!
‘All right!’ you’ll cry. ‘All right!’ you’ll say,
‘But if we take the set away,
What shall we do to entertain
Our darling children? Please explain!
We’ll answer this by asking you,
‘What used the darling ones to do?
‘How used they keep themselves contented
Before this monster was invented?
Have you forgotten? Don’t you know?
We’ll say it very loud and slow:
They…used…to…READ! They’d READ and READ,
And read and read, and then proceed
To read some more. Great Scott! Gadzooks!
One half their lives was reading books!
The nursery shelves held books galore!
Books cluttered up the nursery floor!
And in the bedroom, by the bed,
More books were waiting to be read!
Such wondrous, fine, fantastic tales
Of dragons, gypsies, queens, and whales
And treasure isles, and distant shores
Where smugglers rowed with muffled oars,
And pirates wearing purple pants,
And sailing ships and elephants,
And cannibals crouching ’round the pot,
Stirring away at something hot.
(It smells so good, what can it be!
Good gracious, it’s Penelope.)
The younger ones had Beatrix Potter
With Mr. Tod, the dirty rotter,
and Squirrel Nutkin, Pigling Bland,
And Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle and–
Just How the Camel Got His Hump,
And How the Monkey Lost His Rump,
And Mr. Toad, and bless my soul,
There’s Mr. Rat and Mr. Mole–
Oh, books, what books they used to know,
Those children living long ago!
So please, oh please, we beg, we pray,
Go throw your TV set away,
And in its place you can install
A lovely bookshelf on the wall.
Then fill the shelves with lots of books,
Ignoring all the dirty looks,
The screams and yells, the bites and kicks,
 And children hitting you with sticks–
Fear not, because we promise you
Thank, in about a week or two
Of having nothing else to do,
They’ll now begin to feel the need
Of having something good to read.
And once they start–oh boy, oh boy!
You watch the slowly growing joy
That fills their hearts. They’ll grow so keen
They’ll wonder what they’d ever seen
In that ridiculous machine,
That nauseating, foul, unclean,
Repulsive television screen!
And later, each and every kid
Will love you more for what you did.”

My tip for today…….turn off the tv (and I’ll add, the personal electronics and video games)!
Thank you Roald Dahl! Love this poem!

The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child

The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child by Donalyn Miller
Donalyn Miller is a dedicated teacher who says she has yet to meet a child she couldn’t turn into a reader. In The Book Whisperer, Miller takes us inside her 6th grade classroom to reveal the secrets of her powerful but unusual instructional approach. Rejecting book reports, comprehension worksheets, and other aspects of conventional instruction, Miller embraces giving students an individual choice in what they read combined with a program for independent reading. She also focuses on building a classroom library of high-interest books, and above all, on modeling appropriate and authentic reading behaviors. Her zeal for reading is infectious and inspiring, and the results speak for themselves. No matter how far behind Miller’s students may be when they start out, they end up reading an average of 40 books per year, achieve high scores on standardized tests, and internalize a love for reading that lasts long after they’ve left her class.
My review:
Where was this book 14 years ago when I taught my cute little first graders? I LOVE this book! It is my personal teaching philosophy all rolled up into one nice, neat package. Seriously! I love her ideas, her structure, her philosophy, her library, all of it. Ms. Miller focuses on reading for reading instruction. Her goal is to help kids love to read and to be life-long readers, and she does it by allowing them to actually read. I was definitely what she calls an underground reader in school. I would read the book we were reading in class, finishing it in a few days or a week, and then I’d have to sit through weeks of awful lectures and lessons and picking the book apart before the class finally finished. By then I’d probably read three or four other books. I hated reading books as a class. I hated that it took so long. I hated trying to find the meanings of each and every sentence. I wanted to scream, “I don’t care, just let me read!” And that is what Ms. Miller does. She lets them read. Awesome. Even though this book is geared toward teachers, parents can learn a lot from it as well. I highly recommend it to all my teacher friends, and when I go back to teaching, this will be my top priority! Love, love, love this book!!!
Rating: G (Clean!)
Recommendation: High school and up. This would be great for high school/college students who want to go into teaching. Every teacher should read this book!