Professor Astro Cat’s Solar System

jetpackDoes the kid in your life dream about visiting the stars?

For the second year in the row, I served as a book app judge for the Cybils Awards–the annual Children’s and Young Adults Bloggers Literary Awards that celebrate the best books and apps.

The winning app was Professor Astro Cat’s Solar System, an interactive science textbook about our space neighborhood.

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Homemade Digital & Print Books

In Born Reading: Bringing Up Bookworms in a Digital Age, I included a whole section about making books and digital books at home. Homemade books will help your kids stay creative for the rest of their lives.

My friend Ethan Minsker is an author and zine maker in New York City. For years, he’s created homemade magazines with other writers, artists, and East Village characters. In Born Reading, he  explained how he turned bedtime stories into simple homemade books:

“At bedtime, I make up a story with my daughter as the central character. Each night I refine the story paying attention to how she reacts. Then I write them down and have my wife illustrate them.”

Minsker then prints these homemade books like a ‘zine (two are pictured above): “It becomes a family project. Now that they are printed my daughter sometimes selects her own books to read at night.”

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How To Beat Math Anxiety

BedtimeMath1_coverDo you have scary memories of math? If you suffer from math anxiety (and I most certainly do), you need to work hard not to pass on this fear to your kids.

While researching my book, I turned to Laura Overdeck and her excellent Bedtime Math books for support.

Overdeck worried that most math workbooks and textbooks can be too dull for kids. So she wrote math problems tackling topics kids love, like candy, flamingos or ninjas.

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Electric Company Collaboration

Prankster_Planet_Icon_1024_roundedThe primary advice I give parents in Born Reading: Bringing Up Bookworms in a Digital Age is deceptively simple: “Share a book, app, eBook, audiobook, or any kind of literary experience. Don’t let your kid spend too much time alone with a device.”

It can be really difficult to find apps to play with your child, since the VAST MAJORITY of app designers only create apps for solo play.

My daughter and I loved playing with The Electric Company Party Game: Lost on Prankster Planet (you can download it for Apple devices or Amazon devices), an app that beautifully illustrates how families can use a device TOGETHER.

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Creating Talk Time

blank bookHow much “talk time” do you spend while reading with the kids in your life? The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) just released “How To Advise Families on Media Use,”a set of helpful guidelines for doctors, parents and caregivers.

The new paper stressed how kids learn best through interactive experiences: “Neuroscience research shows that very young children learn best via two-way communication. ‘Talk time’ between caregiver and child remains critical for language development.”  

Reading is the easiest way to build “talk time” into our busy lives, and I found lots of great book and app recommendations while researching Born Reading

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Why Kids Need Nonfiction

President+Taft+Front+CoverWhen was the last time you read a nonfiction book with the kids in your life?

As schools around the country adjust to new Common Core standards, children will spend dramatically more time with nonfiction reading, or “informational texts.”

If you are interested in learning more about informational texts, I will tackle Common Core standards and nonfiction books during a free webinar this week, if you are interested in joining us.

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Drawing Contest Craft

drawHow can you keep kids reading once the book is closed?

I’ve never been much of an artist, but I created a simple game I call “Drawing Contest” to keep reading experience going in our house. Basically, my daughter and I take one of our favorite books and try to draw a picture of the main character.

It all started with this “Let’s Draw Arthur” lesson from author Marc Brown.

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Sharing Apps with Family


What’s your favorite app to share with the kids in your life?

Last month, the Joan Ganz Cooney Center asked me to write about the “Preparing for New Experiences” section of its free interactive book about Family Time with Apps.

My essay explored lots of different apps that parents and children can use together, but my main example focused on potty training. Check it out:

“The process of potty training requires weeks of patience, and the physical process needs to be reinforced every couple hours for months for the activity to sink in properly. So this is the perfect time to use ALL the tools at your disposal to prepare your child for potty training: read books together, download great apps, learn some catchy songs, and play games with stuffed animals.”

Hat Monkey & Interactive App Play

screen568x568-2Does the kid in your life always want to play with your smartphone? Children just want to understand these digital tools that parents use every day, and you can help them.

Author Chris Haughton created the Hat Monkey app, a satisfying way for kids to engage with adult technology. The app contains simple technology that your kid can play with inside the story.

Rather than randomly pushing buttons on your device, the app encourages kids to text, chat and dance along with the lovable Hat Monkey character inside the game.

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Sight Word Resources for Young Readers

What_to_draw_and_how_to_draw_itFrom kindergarten onward, many parents will learn about “sight words.”

These are common words that many school kids will be expected to recognize on sight as they learn how to read.

If you need a simple introduction to sight words, start with The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss.

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