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Geeks, Kids, & Books

Wait—What?
Why is an IT Company Posting a Booklist for Kids?

We’re so glad you asked.

Day after day, our team of geeks slays dragons to protect and defend our clients.  We love that fight, and we’re passionate about it. That’s not enough for us, though.  We also want to be part of building a better community for our team members and our clients.

Toward that end, we have promoted some great non-profits in our “Season of Giving” series, sponsored years of First Lego League Teams, advocated protecting kids in digital communications, and helped parents survive the unexpected challenges of the pandemic.

The following booklists are part and parcel of these efforts.   In this age where screens dominate so much of our lives and our kids’ lives, we encourage you to be old-fashioned with your little ones—cuddle up and enjoy a simple story together.   Here are some resources to help you do just that:

Growing Young Readers: Booklists and Reading Tips

Lynette D’Avella’s List, Fall 2020   Click here to read or download this as a PDF

About the Author

Lynette D’Avella earned her bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from The University of North Florida. She primarily taught 1st grade to intercity, at risk children for 5 years. She was awarded Teacher of the Year in 2001. She’s very thankful for her mentor teachers and training in the Reading Recovery program.

Most of all, she cherishes the challenge to home educate her four children that span the ages of 9-17. Her husband, Steve, provides a hands-on component to their education by including the children in his contracting company’s planning and construction tasks. Lynette also offers reading tutoring in her home that stresses a multi-modality approach to learning.

Reading Placed in our Daily Routine

“Books are like friends to me!” exclaimed my 8-year-old in a loud-ish whisper as we entered the library for our weekly visit. Walking hand-in-hand through the rows of books, I smiled inside and out that all of my four children had fallen in love with reading. Being old enough to remember to pause for reflection, I considered how this love for books came to rest over our family. For us, loving to read seems to be rooted in two things- routine and passion.

From the beginning, we placed books and reading into our daily routine. I cling to the perspective that if something is not part of the plan it is probably not going to happen consistently. Here are some of the practical ways I added “book time” to my kids’ days. Place board books in the crib, read before nap time, have stories and snuggles in the rocking chair after nap, and of course a story (or 2, 3 . . .) at bedtime. As they get older, afternoon rest time provides a great opportunity for reading, listening to books and radio dramas, and quiet self-play. You will find these moments full of precious bonding, communication experiences, learning, and lots of laughs. Not every story is amazing, not every toddler is still, and not every teen wants quiet reading time – but the regularity of these activities is bound to benefit the child. Some of the strengths I have seen emerge in my own children are having awareness of print and illustrations, critical thinking skills, having empathy with characters in a story, gaining a great deal of practical knowledge and history, the skill of quiet rest, the ability to read and learn about anything they want to know. The beginning steps to all this started when they were just babies and continues today.

My passion for reading dates back to one of my earliest childhood memories of a little white cabinet with a special latch that held the children’s books. Something about it was extraordinary. My mother read to me & I simply copied her example. My background is in elementary education. Through some well-trained mentoring teachers, I learned many tips of the trade to help kids connect with what they are reading. My desire for quality and meaningful children’s literature took off from there. I’m the one who is never ready to leave the children’s section in the bookstore . . .  just ask my kids!

I encourage you to pour over books with your little ones, fill your house with treasured collections, make Christmas and birthday lists for grandparents including the “must-haves” in literature, and do your best to say YES to . . . “one more story!”

Below are some simple tips for each age group and a list of some of our all-time favorites. Enjoy!

Birth-18 Months Old

  • From the moment of birth (and before!) you can sing and recite rhymes to your This lays crucial groundwork for hearing and understanding our language. The repetition of these at nap time and bedtime demonstrates cadence and rhythm. Search online to find simple poems to read while your little wiggle worm is getting his diaper changed.
  • Place cloth-style books in the car seat. Keep a basket of chunky small-sized board books for them to hold. It’s perfectly fine if they get chewed on a little!
  • Read short and simple Repetition is a good thing. Consider starting with a 5-minute block of time after bath time.
  • Aim for this earliest reading time to convey a warm, comforting & pleasant atmosphere to your sweet

* Books with an asterisk are part of a series!

18 Months – 3 Years Old

  • This is a great time for sound effects! Zoom! Purr! Crash!
  • Reading time doesn’t always have to be still and quiet. Bouncing, acting out, and different voices keep busy little ones engaged.
  • Point to this; point to that! Keep them thinking and looking with “Point to the [zebra, red car, etc.]”
  • Read their favorites over and over—you can read Good Night Moon more times than you think you can!
  • I always placed a few board books in the crib or at the end of the bed (after the little one was fast asleep). When he awoke, he knew that  he was allowed to quietly “read” on his bed until it was time to get up!
  • The highchair or playpen is great for board books, but know that they’ll be . . . shall we say, well-loved!

3 – 5 Years Old

  • This a great age to create a very print-rich environment. It’s fun to label everything: door, window, bed, bathtub . . . just think of things that they use daily and stick a post-it on it! There will be lots of cross-over when they discover these words in books.
  • Show how reading takes place in everyday life. Show them how we use a seed catalog to know what type of seeds to Explain that you need that big book (or trendy blog) to know how to make a new recipe.
  • Before reading a new book, do a “picture walk.” Click this link to understand more!
  • Ask questions before you read—your goal is to create anticipation.
  • Ask questions as you read, like this: “I wonder what’s going to happen next.” or “Do you see the        ?”
  • See if you can pull a quick one over on them, like this: Read about the “pig” on the page when it’s clearly a bear. If they catch it, they will think you’ve gone mad – it’s quite funny.

* Books with an asterisk are part of a series!

5 – 7 Years Old

  • Use books for a springboard of activity ideas. Five in a Row is a great resource for this!
  • Read in different places: in a tent, at the park, in a tree, in the car (if someone else is driving).
  • Read books of the same series to breed familiarity with characters.
  • Check for prior knowledge while reading. For example, if you are reading Curious George Goes to an Ice Cream Shop, pause and say: “Oh! an ice cream shop! Remember when we had ice cream cones at Susie’s birthday party. This is a special store that sells ice cream. I bet George will think the ice cream is tasty.”
  • When you articulate their prior knowledge of the book’s topic, you connect experiences (real and read) in the brain. I picture it like a spiderweb – connections and intersections happening all over the place!
  • Dramatically demonstrate thinking out loud. Sharing what is going on in your head prompts creative thinking in their For example, you may be reading another Curious George book and wonder out loud to yourself: “Oh boy! I wonder what trouble George is going to get into now. It just amazes me how this silly little monkey is always getting into trouble. I bet if I took a ride in a hot air balloon by “accident” I’d probably get in trouble. What do you think?”
  • Set the purpose: “Let’s read to see how the crazy little monkey is going to get up in the balloon!” or “Let’s read to see how George is going to get down from that balloon and back to the man with the yellow hat.”

7 – 9 Years Old

  • This is a wonderful time to instill a love for chapter books. If the child isn’t reading chapter books on his own yet, read aloud a chapter at bedtime. Make it a special time . . . cozy blankets, a lit candle, a cup of tea. Even if they are reading on their own, reading aloud never needs to end. I find even my teens stopping in for chapter books read in the summer sun or eavesdropping on younger sibling’s storytime.
  • Do your homework to find book series that will appeal to your child.
  • Set aside time for your child to read independently in the afternoon or evenings.
  • Give in to some seemingly silly books (like the Geronimo Stilton Series) about sharks or whatever their particular interest is at the time.
  • Ask questions about what they are reading – and then really be interested. Spot- read (skim) their favorite books and be able to ask questions about the characters, setting, and plotline.
  • Be intentional about extending their reading experience. For example, if your daughter is reading about Kit in the American Girl series, you could learn more about the Great Depression or take her on a tour of a modern-day newspaper office.
  • Get books to match their If he is interested in insects, surprise him with a basket-full of books all about bugs! Utilize your local library’s online hold service. It is a huge time saver!
  • When your kids read for school, guide them in figuring out difficult words. But, when they read for pleasure and ask you about a tricky word, don’t force them to decode it (that makes reading a chore).  Just tell them the word, enabling them to move on.

* Books with an asterisk are part of a series!

9 – 12 Years Old

  • Radio dramas are great to introduce at this age. Hearing wonderful stories told in a theatrical setting can certainly whet the appetite for quality literature. It also helps to prick the imagination with sound effects, music, and voices. See the section below about audiobooks & radio drama.
  • Projects help books have a meaningful and lasting impact. If you are using books for school lessons, consider some alternatives to the traditional book report. Here are some ideas for your child/student:
  1. Fill a bag with items related to the book’s main events; take them out in order and re-tell the story.
  2. Make a mobile of the characters (find free images online)
  3. Dress up like the main character and tell the story.
  4. Act like a news reporter and write an article about a main event in the story.
  5. Instead of re-inventing the wheel, use a great resource (even if it costs a few dollars) to help a book reading experience become a lifelong Just search online; start at Teachers Pay Teachers.

* Books with an asterisk are part of a series!

12 – 15 Years Old

  • At these ages, as life becomes busier and children often have other interests I find it still valuable to carve out afternoon or evening reading time. Before or after dinner or just before bed may be a good time for everyone to grab a book or magazine and take a break.
  • Reading a paragraph/page/chapter back and forth (child/parent) can be very helpful at this age, especially if the reader is struggling. It will build up endurance.
  • This is a great time to still keep up with what your child is reading. It’s vital to help your child in developing his or her worldview. Reading/listening to a book and then having conversations about those topics during dinner, laundry folding, and the car can help you to connect with your child and pour into their lives.

Family Read Alouds for Elementary School – Adult

  • Summertime reading – after lunch on a blanket in the sunshine
  • Evening reading – with a cozy warm drink or by the fire
  • Snack time reading – who can say no to a story & snack (plus they are quieter while eating!)

Radio Dramas and Audio Books for Younger Kids

Your Story Hour     Kids Corner    Paws & Tales    Sugar Creek Gang     Tumble Books   Adventures in Odyssey

Radio Dramas and Audio Books for Older Kids

Brinkman Family Adventures     Focus on the Family Radio Theatre     Jonathan Park     The Aventum

G.A. Henty Audio Books    Your local library may offer a free Tumblebook subscription, or free audiobooks.

Magazines & Miscellaneous — these smaller chunks of reading are more digestible by some readers:

National Geographic Kids                                 Laugh of Loud Jokes for Kids                      Ask

Ranger Rick and Ranger Rick, Jr.                     Would you Rather Book for Kids             Ladybug

Tabletopics Family (Conversation Cards)         5,000 Awesome Facts                        I Spy Book Set

Keep Reading for the list we published in 2019 by Alison Meredith

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Great Books for Children

Alison Meredith’s List, Fall 2019      Click here to read or download this as a PDF

    

About the Author

Alison Meredith has been leading kids in learning and/or singing since she was a young adult.

Alison earned a BS in Mathematics from Virginia Tech.  She taught High School Math in the 1990s, at Dobyns-Bennett and at schools in North Carolina and Massachusetts.  She received a national award in 1997. Alison and her husband Tim have been home-educating their kids for over 20 years; they have 7 kids ages 8-20.

Alison is the co-owner of Holston & Garner IT, which provides cybersecurity and other IT services.

Alison is a best-selling author. She and other IT leaders wrote You Are the #1 Target, to help business owners implement cybersecurity.  She wrote a whitepaper and produced video tips regarding how to protect kids in digital communications.  As the pandemic started, she recorded a series of webinars to help parents maintain sanity and productivity while teaching kids at home.

Loving Children’s Literature

I have always loved Children’s Literature.

I soaked it in as a child. Nearly every Sunday, Dad would lead us into the church library before heading out the door, giving us a few minutes to check out a couple of books. I felt so important signing my name on those little cards, understanding that my signature was a huge promise to take care of the book and bring it back the following week.

When I was in fifth grade, my school librarian asked my parents if I could help her with a special job. She wanted me to read a stack of books that were highly acclaimed for their literary value but which had objectionable language. She asked, “Could Alison read these books and make a list of which curse words are on which pages? Then I can use her notes to quickly go through the books and mark out the bad language before I put them into circulation.” I was honored to have this important responsibility, and honored that both my parents and my librarian would trust me with it.

As a teenager, I reread The Chronicles of Narnia and other treasures written “for younger kids,” and I went straight to the bookshelves whenever I was asked to manage kids in the church nursery or work as a babysitter.

While a student at Virginia Tech, I found time to take Intro to Children’s Lit, an atypical elective for a Mathematics major. The textbook from that class by DL Russell is one of the few college texts I kept. I pulled it off the shelf as I was writing this and skimmed over some of my scratchy notes.

When Everything Changed

Then, 20 years ago, something life-changing happened to Tim and me. A little girl was born into the world. She did something which none of her siblings had the honor or ability to do. Her presence gave us the most important title we will ever hold: parents.

Suddenly, my love for Children’s Literature was transformed from a hobby into a passion. I wanted to find the best books for her, not only storybooks but non-fiction works as well. For example, when she was learning colors, I spent at least two hours reading book reviews to discover which board book was going to be both the most fun and the most effective at teaching her how to recognize the difference between red, orange, and pink.

However, you won’t see any board books about colors on this list. Whichever ones I chose for her got chewed to the point of disgusting and then discarded. Also discarded, a few years after she learned her colors, was my need to thoroughly research books before my kids read them. My commitment to find the exact right books for my kids was replaced with a different strategy. For that, I have my husband to thank. Here’s what happened:

Waking Up to a Better World

About 15 years ago, Tim surprised us late one afternoon. He walked into the house carrying a large box with both hands and set it on the floor. The entire box was filled with library books: fiction, nonfiction, board books, and traditional books.

I freaked out. I glared at him and asked, “How will I keep them clean? How will I not lose them? Wait, we’d better count them now, before any leave the box, so I will be prepared to take an accurate inventory when we get ready to return them. When is the duedate anyway, and how will I remember it? I have a five-year-old and two little ones under foot, are you crazy?”

When I finished pitching my little fit to my sweet husband who deserved far better, I turned around to look at our children. I observed a five-year-old and a three-year-old standing around the box, slowly pulling books out, amazed and silent. You could almost hear their thoughts, “Wow, there are so many books.” They were enthralled. They each quickly found a book they liked, sat down, and began to read or look through its pages.

Our 18-month-old also stood by the box, removing all the books which his older siblings had left inside it. He would take a book out, drop it on the floor (clearly, to his mind, that was where the books belonged), look at us with a big smile, and then return to his work.

I was hooked.

A Better Strategy

Since then, the Meredith family library boxes have had a permanent home in our living room. We use two laundry baskets; they last one to two years before they get so cracked we have to replace them. We go to the library monthly or more often, and check out the maximum number of books allowed by four library cards (thankfully, kids can have library cards too).

People ask me how I keep up with it all. I reply: “I don’t. I pay fines. We try not to be late, and we try not to lose or damage books, but sometimes it happens.”

The first time we paid a fine, I was so disappointed in myself. Then, as life became more complicated, I adopted the “I can’t bat a thousand” mindset. My check to the Bristol Public Library goes to a great cause, and the fines I pay are a pittance set against the value of reading all these books. I do teach my kids to treat the books carefully and with respect. But with the quantity we check out, I haven’t solved the puzzle of avoiding fines altogether.

This different strategy—I’ll call it “quantity, quantity, quantity”— has worked exceedingly well. Surprisingly, we ended up with quality too, a far deeper, broader quality than we could have attained had I continued to be our family’s primary researcher of great books.

My kids have become literary analysts. The best books in the library box are read by everyone multiple times. A few months later, we check out those favorites again. When a library book really shines, one of our kids will ask Nana Cary to give it to him for Christmas.

Every book on this list is either a well-worn book we own or a well-worn book we frequently check out of the library. I commend them to you, to enjoy with the children you love.

For Laptime Reading with 2-5 Year Olds

Board Books

For Kids who are Afraid of the Dark

Emberly brilliantly prompts the child and his accompanying adult reader to chant “Go away, big green monster!” on every page—no child can read this book without feeling braver than he did before.

For Couch Snuggle Time with 4-10 Year Olds

Lynley Dodd weaves together brilliant poetry and jolly paintings to create one masterpiece after another. The book listed above regards a bossy warthog; her other works include tales about Hairy Maclary, Slinkly Malinki, Zachary Quack, the Smallest Turtle, and Schnitzel von Krumm.

For Couch Snuggle Time with 8-12 Year Olds

My daughter called me from college to thank me for teaching her the scientific method. I replied that I was certain I deserved no such credit. She said, “Mom, that little pink book you read to us, about how to think like a scientist—don’t you remember it? We read it multiple times; it was great. Anyway, I was the only one in my class who could define the scientific method, and I promise it’s all because of that book.”

The Armand Eisen Treasury has many classics: Snow White, Paul Bunyan, Three Little Pigs, and more.

Any book by Jean Fritz is worth reading; she’s a master of adding just enough humor and random detail to captivate young audiences with the wonder of our history. Likewise, if you can lay hands on any book by Millicent Selsam, grab it and use it to spark in your kids the delight of studying nature.

For Big Kids to Read Independently

For Adults to Read Aloud to Kids, One Chapter Per Night at Bedtime

Poetry

Let your child pick a poem he likes. You pick one too. Each of you commit to reading your poem 3-6 times per week. Within 2 weeks your child will have his memorized verbatim, likely beating you to the task. The adventure doesn’t end there, though. The fun part is this: each of you take a turn reciting your poem to your family. Here’s one of the first poems each of my kids memorized and recited with pride. It’s from the Wilkins book referenced in the Board Books section of this list.

Reflection, by Myra Livingston: In the mirror / I can see / Lots of things / But mostly—me.

Books which Prompt Laughter from Kids and Adults—but for Different Reasons

Lobel is a mastermind of crafting hilarious stories for kids which are actually a commentary on adults.

His tale about Grasshopper’s journey is filled with childlike humor. While reading it to your child, though, you’ll enjoy a deeper meaning which our kids may not yet catch: the book is about small-minded people. How does Grasshopper react when other critters say or do illogical, silly, or unkind things?

Any book in Rylant’s Mr. Putter series is especially delightful for grandparents to share with grandkids.

If you think Winnie the Pooh is just a cartoon character, you are missing a treasure. A. A. Milne’s insights into how a child perceives the world are unparalleled. Like Lobel, he paints characters which children and adults find funny for different reasons. Milne portrays characters with radically different viewpoints and personalities and then describes how a caring, insightful boy pursues a relationship with each. If only more of us adults could be like Christopher Robin, patiently interacting with the pessimistic eeyores, anxious piglets, ruminative owls, and bouncy tiggers in our own lives.

Bonus Extra Resources

We hope you have enjoyed these booklists!   If you would like a printable PDF of these lists, Lynette’s list is here and Alison’s list is here.  

Here are more resources to help equip parents and others who guide and protect our children:

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