Children's books

Today is Martin Luther King's actual birthday. The celebrations that will take place on the national holiday are sure to include various renditions of the song that has become associated with the Civil Rights Movement, “We Shall Overcome."

How long does it take for tradition to take hold? I'm not sure there's an easy answer but a fairly recent program seems to have caught on and I hope becomes a tradition that lasts for generations.

It's holiday gift giving time. I made my shopping easier this year as I decided just about everyone on my list will get lasting gifts — books, of course! What's baby or toddlerhood without Mother Goose rhymes? So the youngest children will receive one of my favorite, most accessible collections: My Very First Mother Goose (Candlewick) selected by Iona Opie, illustrated by Rosemary Wells. There's a really bright nearly three-year-old that I want to remember.

This is our family’s fourth year for "a book on every bed," and it's one part of my shopping that I really look forward to! Three years ago, the Family Reading Partnership and Ask Amy from the Chicago Tribune launched a homegrown, grassroots literacy campaign with a goal to raise a generation of readers.

If you're like me, you're scurrying around looking for the perfect gift for a child in your life. Below are some helpful gift suggestion lists I've come across. Maybe you'll find just what you were looking for! A treasure trove of resources from Jen Robinson's Growing Bookworms Newsletter. Be sure to look through the links she shared on Twitter. Lots and lots of book suggestions! Parents' Choice offers children's media and toy reviews, which are sortable by age, price, and award.

Have you ever thought of how the digital world influences us — and by extension, our children? A number of recent articles made me rethink access, about the use and popularity of digital books by young readers (and their parents), and about what and how is presented in them in both mediums. We've all heard about the digital divide; a Pew study reports that 70 percent of American households have Internet connectivity. That's the good news.

We've all read books whose plot or main character stay with us for a long time. With kids, books can be a great and subtle way to illustrate personality traits we may want to engender. Collections of books with similar themes (sometimes called "text sets") give teachers and parents a way to focus on a theme but do so in such a way that you're not beating your kid over the head with the same message over and over again.

Books always make terrific gifts, but it's possible that kids don't always like the books adults think are charming. A recent book brings that point home with laugh out loud humor. Plus a book that makes even experienced readers check twice to make sure that it has been untouched by an aspiring child-artist. I have read, reread, guffawed, and shared with lots of friends — experienced and inexperienced readers — one such book.

That's essentially what I write in every card as I hand over a stack of board books to expectant mom friends: "Three a day keeps the reading specialist away." After a chuckle and a roll of the eyes, my Mom-to-be friends add our tried and true board book titles to the pile of baby gifts and toys. But I'm happy, knowing that those board books will be loved and chewed on for years to come.

Taking a group of children for an outing can be rough — perhaps more so for adults than for the young people. After all, it's up to parents and teachers to keep track of their charges, worry about transportation, safety, snacks, and more. So why bother? Because field trips make a difference. There's research that supports field trips to art museums, aka "culturally enriching" activities, has a significant and positive impact on students. In my experience, almost all family or class outings can make a positive impact.

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"You know you’ve read a good book when you turn the last page and feel a little as if you have lost a friend." — Paul Sweeney