Read Free Books for a Cause

How would you like to read free books with your kids while helping out others? Sounds great, doesn’t it? We Give Books, a Pearson Foundation Initiative, is offering families the chance to do just that. Decide what literary partner campaign you want to read for, pick a book (or more) from their growing selection of online books, and read with your kids. It’s that simple, and it’s free. The more books you read with your kids, the more books they donate to children who don’t have books. Support children. Read books today!

2012 Reading Challenges for Children and Young Adults

Reading is a very important part of our lives. We are well known at our library, review books for various authors and publishers, and then pick up some more books in our spare time. I’d like to share with you some great reading challenges for children and young adults coming up in 2012.

 An Illustrated Year: 2012 Picture Book Reading Challenge, hosted by An Abundance of Books, is a wonderful challenge for any family with young children or anyone else who loves a beautiful picture book.

All you have to do is sign up, put the badge in your blog sidebar, and write a post about your participation to link back to the challenge. Then you are all ready to read and review some of your favorite books.

There are three levels of participation, but the top level is only 24 books. We check out more picture books than that in one trip to the library. I have no doubt that we can find 24 picture books to review during the year.

The Award Winning Reads Challenge co-hosted at Books from Bleh to Basically Amazing and The Reading Housewives is one of my favorites. Whenever I’ve been at a loss as to which book I should read with my children, I’ve never gone wrong by picking up an award winner. You don’t have to have a blog to participate in this challenge, and you get to set your own goal. Anyone can do this. If you aren’t certain, I personally challenge you to read one of these wonderful books with your children and let me know how you liked it. Both award winners and honoree books from the Newberrry and Printz lists from any year count.

If you are at a loss to what books you might enjoy reading with your children in the upcoming year, check out the Excellence is Reading: 2012 Challenge hosted by the Super Readers Book Club. There you will find a list of books for the challenge, including many of our favorite books.

Erica at The Book Cellar is hosting the YA/MG Fantasy Chalenge 2012, challenging readers to dive into 10 YA/MG books published in 2012. She has even provided a list of some of the new books coming out. I loved last year’s YA challenge and am looking forward to reading more great new books again this year.

Truly Bookish and One Page at a Time are co-hosting the 2012 Multi-Cultural Book Challenge. Can you read and review one YA book a month? Join in! This is such a fun way to explore new cultures on your own or with your children. Reading multi-cultural fiction has heigthened my children’s curiosity about many different cultures, begging us to explore facts about the cultures in depth.

Don’t forget the 2012 Just Contemporary Reading Challenge hosted by Basically Amazing Books. Young adult books are often overlooked by adults. However, there are a lot of really great stories just waiting for someone. Not all of the details are available for this challenge yet, so I can’t wait to hear more.

A Kid’s Guide to Being a Winner

A Kid's Guide to Being a Winner

C.D. Shelton attempted to write an inspirational book for children with A Kid’s Guide to Being a Winner. I can’t help but feel that the author missed the mark with this. Certainly, concepts such as respect, thoughtfulness, gratitude, responsibility, and a positive attitude are beneficial to promoting a peaceful society. However, Shelton has focused on these principles as if they are black and white issues.

The books words serve to set up a dichotomy: good versus bad, winner versus loser, right versus wrong. There is no room in the book for assessing a situation and forming an opinion about doing what you feel is the right thing to do. As the book says, responsible people “do what is expected of them.” Constant implications of extrinsic rewards don’t challenge children to do what they think is right, but to follow along with the crowd. The emphasis on always doing the right thing, being good, and never being otherwise is impractical, as everyone, including adults, make mistakes. The book goes on to explain how exactly one should judge other people.

The book is meant to be read to children by an adult to further encourage conversations. It would be most suitable for authoritarian (not authoritative) families.

Disclaimer: A copy of this book was provided by The Cadence Group.

The Lost Hero

Percy Jackson fans will not be disappointed with Rick Riordan’s The Lost Hero. The first series creatively wove a modern young adult fiction tale with Greek mythology. My children waited with excitement for each book to be released.

Riordan topped himself with this first book of the second series. Rather than merely continuing with the Greek mythology theme, he has found a way to successfully introduce the Roman aspects into the story with more humor than ever before. I don’t think my eight year old has laughed quite so much at a book we have read together. One liners have popped up everywhere in our lives, creating literary jokes which our family adores. I’m excited to see where this second series goes, and my children can hardly wait for the next book.

The Winter Solstice

Ellen Jackson has a series of children’s picture books regrading various Earth-based holidays. So, when I ordered a copy of The Winter Solstice years ago, I had great expectations. Instead, I found a book focused solely from a Judeo-Christian perspective, even stating empirically that we now celebrate the winter solstice with Christmas and Hannukah.

The Winter Solstice

Most families searching for books of this nature are looking for something that doesn’t revolve around Christmas. Jackson completely missed the mark on this book. I would even have been happy with a book which talked about how Christmas traditions are actually taken from Winter Solstice celebrations. Instead, it’s a book which discounts everything about the solstice and fails to acknowledge the light and goodness which has been shown around the holiday throughout the years.

I won’t refuse to read the book to my children, but I will make clarifications when reading it. I would not purchase this book again.

summer reading programs…

Our family is no stranger to our local library. The librarians know us all by name. We are there quite frequently, checking out books, hanging out, or running in for a quick pick up of books on hold; a quick trip to the library for us is about 20 minutes.  So, it seems to surprise many people that I’m not a fan of summer reading programs.

Summer reading programs have changed a bit since I was a kid. Back then summer reading programs were contests, pitting kids against one another to see who would win the title of summer reading queen or king, a crown, a free book, and a picture in the paper. There also seemed to be a competition between the parents, who were none too pleased to have their child beat out by a slip of a girl who won each year through no effort, reading more 800 page novels than their child read picture books, attempting to hide behind the free book in the newspaper picture.

This generation’s summer reading programs no longer pit children against one another. Instead, they are challenged to read with the offer or rewards – books or trinkets – as though the only reason to read, when not forced to do so in an institutional setting, is to receive dangling trinkets.

My disdain of punishment and reward based systems had me shying away from such programs when my oldest was little. Reading is enjoyment itself. I had no desire to taint it for my children. However, at some point, my children grew older and the decision was no longer mine to make.

Last year, after explaining my thoughts on the subject, the concept behind the program, and what would be involved, my children decided to go for it. After all, the idea of free books for doing nothing more than usual had its own appeal. They earned their five free books at the beginning of the summer and continued on with life, happily reading away. This summer, with finances even tighter, our local library only offered one free book with opportunities to earn cheap trinkets. Once again, my children opted to participate but were rather disappointed to find that their prizes were pieces of plastic junk rather than books. They promptly put the items in their stash of items to trade out when geocaching.

A few weeks later, they commented that the program seemed pointless; people who wanted to read would read regardless of receiving prizes. Emphasizing the benefits of reading, helping kids become better acquainted with the library, and pointing them toward good books would accomplish much more if one’s goal was to help people read.


Willow, star of Denise Brennan-Nelson and Rosemarie Brennan’s book of the same name, attends an art class in which every student is expected to conform to the demands of the strict and unimaginative art teacher. Determined to embrace her true self, Willow continues on, expressing herself through beautiful and unique artwork, to the disdain of her teacher. While keeping a positive outlook on life, Willow performs a simple act of kindness, gifting her beloved art book to her teacher, and changes the lives of everyone in her class for the better. Cyd Moore’s colorful illustrations add to this story of creativity, kindness, and individuality.

Willow (Picture Books)