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123 - How to Help Young People Keep Reading when School Is Out

This week, we're talking about all of the things that work for us and that have worked for our students to keep the reading momentum going! We talk about favorite authors like Jason Reynolds, Jacqueline Woodson, and Mo Willems, and we share about awesome audio options like Lavar Burton's weekly reading opportunities. To get full access to all of the resources we curated, be sure to sign up for our newsletter where you'll be able to download our guide!

Bookish Check In

Sara - Katharine McGee’s American Royals

Jen - Mikel Jollett’s Hollywood Park

Ashley - Cassandra Clare’s Lady Midnight

Mentioned in Episode

Jason Reynolds - Instagram / Library of Congress

Kwame Alexander - Twitter / YouTube

Jacqueline Woodson - Twitter

Lavar Burton - podcast / Twitter livestream

Anne Bogel’s Don’t Overthink It

Give Me One - A Worthwhile Purchase during Quarantine

Jen - John Flanagan’s Ranger’s Apprentice series (book 1, The Ruins of Gorlan)

Other Mentions

(A note to our readers: click on the hashtags above to see our other blog posts with the same hashtag.)

Interested in what else we're reading? Check out our Featured Books page.

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Want to see a sneak peek of what we discussed? Take a look below. Click here for a full transcript that you can read while listening provided by

Sara 0:33

Hello, before we even get started with anything today we wanted to just take an opportunity to thank all of the essential workers who are working tirelessly in our country and around the world. We so appreciate and recognize your sacrifice and your commitment to all of us, and we are so grateful and so appreciative of all the work that essential employees are doing to help fight this virus and help keep the things that are needed going. And we just wanted to take a moment just to say thank you and we are so grateful.

Welcome to Episode 123. Today we're going to be talking about helping young people keep reading when school is out. I think that is something that we're all either dealing with at home as parents or as teachers (if you're a teacher) and just trying to figure out how to keep kids going with their reading and for the young people that you may have in your life. So that's what we're discussing today. Before we get started, we wanted to remind you that we are currently releasing a weekly newsletter. That is just us actually curating things that we are loving, things that are kind of helping us as we navigate life in our homes a lot more than we are we have been used to. And so we are just curating lists, clickable things, just lots of stuff just to give you some resources while you're at home, and just things to make you smile because I think we all need that a bit. You can subscribe to the newsletter on our website, or you can click the link in our profile on Instagram, and it will take you right to the newsletter signup page. So definitely do that. When you sign up, you will get access to all of our past newsletters and the current month's newsletter so definitely sign up because you'll get all the goodness we've put out so far and then everything going forward.

Bookish Check In

So let's start out our episode today with our Bookish Check In. Jen, what is your book?

book cover of Mikel Jollett's Hollywood Park

Jen 2:45

So I am currently listening to Mikel Jollett’s Hollywood Park, and I'm about a quarter of the way through and I am really loving it. I will say parts of it are quite difficult to listen to, but Mikel and his little brother Tony were separated from their parents who belong to a cult called Synanon, and Synanon believed that when that kids should not be raised by their families, that they should be raised in this separate, kind of like an orphanage. And so they were in this orphanage until I think Tony was seven or eight and Mikel was three or four. And then their parents left the call, took them out of the orphanage, and they were having to learn what family was and so parts of it are really heartbreaking but Nichelle narrates it himself, which I always enjoy. So he's reading the book himself. And I'm just finding it really interesting. It's good but kind of a tough listen at times. But

Sara 3:49

That sounds tough.

Ashley 3:51

It sounds really interesting.

Sara 3:54

I love a memoir anyway. So...

Jen 3:56

I do, too. And I love it when they're . . . they read it, when the author reads his own. I think that's great, too.

Sara 4:00

All right, I'm gonna have to check that out. Ashley, what are you reading?

book cover of Cassandra Clare's Lady Midnight

Ashley 4:04

So in the last couple of episodes that we've recorded, we've been talking a lot about how to keep going as adult readers during this time and ways to move through books and I am now reading Cassandra Clare's Lady Midnight. This is her The Dark Artifices -- I think that's the right name? I always forget the name of her series; I always remember all the names of the books, and I want to call them by those instead. But anyway, this is a trilogy. I borrowed it from Jen ages ago, and they are just gigantic books like this one's probably I don't know 600 and something pages 650 or something, and it's I think it's the shortest of the three. And so I have just put them off because like we talked about our book is turn offs episodes, it is just hard these days to pick up long books. And kind of just to give yourself permission to do it, especially when it's something like this, like fantasy that is really fun to read, and of course, I think has some rich literary elements... But it isn't the same as reading literary fiction or a memoir or something like that. So I think I've just had to give myself permission and I am loving it. So I'm really glad that I started and I think that even though it's long and therefore will probably take me a while to get through that it's worth it for the joy I'm getting out of reading it. So again, that's Cassandra Clare's Lady Midnight. What about you, Sara?

book cover of Katharine McGee's American Royals

Sara 5:33

So I am currently reading American Royals, which was a Reader's Choice pick for our book club for May. I had to think that it's for May, and I am I'm really enjoying it. Basically what American Royals is, is it is a reimagining, if when George Washington was this great general and he instead of giving been given Instead of him getting the presidency, he became a king of America. And so the it's basically imagining if America had a royal family, and it's really good, so it goes really quickly. So I'm really excited. Everyone knows the struggles I've been having with reading and trying to get into books. And so this is great. This is like the perfect choice. I'm so happy that readers chose this because I think it's perfect right now. And I just wanted to say, when I was trying to figure out how I was going to summarize it when having not read much of the book that Amazon has Crazy Rich Asians meets The Crown, and perfect for fans of Red, White, and Royal Blue and The Royal We. So I was like, hmm, I'm in on that.

Ashley 6:48

Yeah, I think that's a good sign for all of us.

Jen 6:50

I'm really excited to start it.

Sara 6:52

Yeah. So it's good, and I think it's gonna be a fast read. So perfect for these times.

Main Discussion - How to Keep Kids Reading

All right, so let's get started. With our discussion, we're going to, like I said before, we're going to be talking about how to keep the kids in your life reading when school's out, because I think some of us are really struggling with that. And we first wanted to talk just a little bit about just our general ideas surrounding this topic. Does one of you want to get started?

Jen 7:24

Sure. Yeah. So I've been thinking about this a lot. Since we're all three in instructional technology, we've been having a lot of these conversations with teachers right now. And so I think we always talk a lot about summer slide. And this is like summer slide on steroids. So we're just thinking about, you know, we don't want kids to go from now till August (if we're back in school in August) without reading. But we're also trying to talk to teachers about what's important. So you know, maybe the reading quiz that you typically give your kids after they finished the first three chapters of The Great Gatsby is not the best thing to do right now to motivate kids to read when you're not there to have those conversations. And I will say I did that. So that is not shame. Like I did give a reading quiz about The Great Gatsby after the first three chapters. That was a real life experience. But yeah, like I would not be doing that now. Because I think kids, just like we are sometimes reading differently or having trouble reading because of the stress of this time, kids are going to have the same difficulty. So yeah, we've been thinking a lot about equity as well, kids who have maybe less access than our own children due to books. I think all of these ideas have just been swirling around among our colleagues, but also among us for the podcast.

Sara 8:40


Ashley 8:41

Yeah. And I think that what we are talking to teachers a lot about and are thinking about ourselves is how do we bring meaning to this experience that helps to enrich instead of hinder what is happening in the world, and I feel like reading as a way that can really, really enrich this time for kids, but it has to be done in a way that they enjoy and that they can keep the traction. I mean, just like I was saying about the fantasy series. I mean, I had to, I really felt like I had to give myself permission to read something that is not as elevated in some ways as another kind of reading because even though it is a lot of a lot of pages, and it's going to take me a long time, if I'm enjoying it and immersed in that, and that is a really great joy that reading is bringing for me. And that is really important. And so I think helping kids to find stuff that is bringing them joy, and that brightens their day, that that's the kind of reading that we want to have them do. And then as a community, you know, what can how can we as educators or how can we in our families, help them to feel like they can both read and be part of a reading community? So that's kind of what we want to share too is just what are some ways to be reading different things but still feel like you're connected and able to share in a reading community.

Cover of Diary of a Wimpy Kid

Sara 10:01

Yeah, I mean, I think too if you haven't been doing that it is not too late because I am guilty of doing that because and I you know, I think that's a great point that you made Jen about how we read differently, which I've totally been reading differently during this time, then I usually do and I however, was totally encouraging (and not a very nice way) my son try to read new books because he has got tons of books and he wants to keep going back to the same books over and over. And so we do reading time every day and he kept bringing back down these books he's already read and I'm kind of not very nicely saying you need to get find a book (because this is a constant battle with us). And then talking to you all, I just am like, Yeah, I just need to cut him some slack and if he wants to read The Diary of the Wimpy Kid for the hundredth time, or read all his graphic once again, then I need to give him that space to do that, because at least he's reading. And he loves them, you know, and he is reading so, yeah, so I just wanted to say it's not too late if you because, I mean, this literally happened to me yesterday, and look at me -- I've seen the light right now. I just want to say that, you know, thinking about that kids are having struggles. I mean, they might not show it like we do, but they are still... it is a scary time. It is an unusual time. They miss their friends -- so let them choose, let them read what they want to read because you can have meaningful discussions about anything that you read, I mean, even if even if you read something and you hate it, I mean we we have meaningful discussions about those kinds of books all the time. So or if you know if I'm reading below my reading level, so what? You know?

Jen 11:52

I was going to say I think this is... I'm always skeptical of an obsession with reading level but now in particular, like I am definitely reading well under my reading level pretty much inclusively right now because I do not have the brainpower to devote to parsing through a really challenging text. I mean, like Ashley, it's like what you were saying with Cassandra Clare. I love Cassandra Claire. She writes books for teenagers. We are not teenagers. But there is something comforting about not having to stop after every sentence and just allowing yourself to get swept away. I mean, sometimes you just need an escape, and you can escape better into books that aren't just difficult for the sake of it. So...

Ashley 12:34

Yeah, part of what we're trying to do is help kids want to pick up the book. I mean, again, that was a lot of what I'm looking for is that I want a book that I can read, like when I'm watching my kids outside. I can't do something that I'm super intently focused on because my children are quite young. But something like that if I get a few pages read outside, both if I want to read them, that's a great sign, and if I get a few of them done because it's so much easier than another kind of reading, then that's really great, too. All of that feels good. So I think the same for kids -- we want them to be reading things that... And that's what Jen mentioned before about equity, because one of the things we want to talk about is how to help kids get to books, because that is definitely a struggle right now, for anybody who normally counts [on getting them from other places]. I mean, we all had classroom libraries in our classes, and we're always giving books to kids from our classes, they also have access at their school libraries, I mean, all that kind of stuff. So none of those systems are in place. A lot of the public libraries are also closed. None of those systems are in place right now for kids. So I think that is important. We are going to get to that --thinking about how can we help them get books, but I also think what we got to find a way to do as educators and as parents and as people who are connecting with young people is make sure that they want to do it and that they're finding some joy in it. So yeah.

Sara 13:53

And maybe we can just get to that... to talking about just how students can access books. I want to say before we get started, we are not going to go into huge detail about all these things because we have created a resource that we are going to put if you go to our website and put in your email address and sign up for our newsletter, we're going to send this resource to you in our newsletter, and it's going to have links and lists, and it's going to be framed and you're going to have all the information that you need. It just, we were just worried that it would get a little tedious trying to explain everything on like on the podcast episode, because it's much more it's much easier to navigate written down. And so we have a multiple page guide for this particular topic for you that we will give you if you just go sign up for the newsletter. So what are some ways that you think we could guide students to access books?

Jen 14:46

Yeah, I think one of the amazing things about this time has been companies and people's generosity and sharing the resources that they have. One thing that I've been thinking about is a resource that is available every summer that is directed to teenagers. It's called Audiobook Sync, and it is through AudioFile. And it is just a program that starts in summer, though actually, they define summer as the end of April for which I'm grateful. And every two weeks all summer every year they give two audiobooks as free downloads to anyone who signs up. And they typically are aimed at teenagers. So usually there's one why at least one YA title, sometimes two, sometimes they'll pair a classic with it, or they'll do like full cast recordings of other books. But it is just great. And so I think for this time, it is really, you know, kids may not have access in other ways, but it's a great program every summer. So things like that, that all a kid has to do is have a way to download something. That way you're providing a resource regardless of a kid's ability to pay for something, it's always free. I think that kind of thing is great because you can share that and know that the majority of your students anyway would have access.

Ashley 15:08

Did you say it's two books a week?

Jen 16:04

Two books a week, yeah. So I mean, I think the biggest problem would just be storage space. And we can get into some of that in the resource. But there are very few barriers to that working for kids.

Ashley 16:15

Yeah. And I just wanted to tack on that, like Sarah said, a lot of these, it can be intimidating both for the adults and for the kids to navigate the technology. And for sure, like email us because this really is what we do in our jobs outside of the podcast. And we're happy to send step by step instructions. So we tried to put some things in the guide. But if any of this does not make sense, we really do mean that you can email us you can DM us on Instagram, and we will get back to you, and we'll give instructions that we think can help you get started really quickly because some of those things like Jen said, storage space can be a big barrier. And so we can kind of talk through like how to... what some different suggestions are based on what what technology you have access to.

Sara 16:53

And some other things that are happening... Authors are doing a ton of stuff live. I mean, they are... I know Jason Reynolds has been doing some live stuff with students, you know, in like picking them randomly to come on. And the one that I watched was he gave them a prompt to pitch a new idea. And then they kind of decided, they tried to request to get into the conversation and he picked them randomly and then they pitched their idea to him. And then he told them what he thought of their idea. It was really cool. I know Kwame Alexander has been doing some stuff. So I really encourage you to go and follow those authors on Instagram, Facebook, because some of them are doing Facebook Live and just like looks for some of the the authors that your kids enjoy and a lot of them are doing some things. Jacqueline Woodson is. There's also for older kids LeVar Burton from Reading Rainbow days, he has a podcast called LeVar Burton Reads and he reads short fiction for older students or children, so that's definitely something you might want to check out. And all that again is linked in the guide. But there is a lot of free, pretty low technology level things happening. You just kind of need to follow the authors to be able to know when everything is coming. And we do try to share when we find something we try to share on our Facebook page. It's harder to share it for us to share that stuff on Instagram because of the link issues. But if you follow us on Facebook, we try to share what we can there.

Ashley 18:32

Yeah, Twitter as well.

Sara 18:33

LeVar Burton reads also does a Twitter live stream directed at kids. So the podcast, I think would be great for older kids. But if you have younger kids, the Twitter livestream, he's going to have things particularly aimed at that audience.

Ashley 18:46

Yeah. And I was thinking even for really young kids, just seeing the author is really valuable for all kids. And we found that with our students, we let them watch a part. We had read one at Jason Reynolds' books and we let them watch a part and they were just amazed to see him as a person, and I mean, that's teenagers. And so, you know, I think that that's really valuable. So I was thinking about Mo Willems is doing a, I forget exactly what's called it's like "Doodling at Lunch."

Sara 19:10

I think it's "Doodle with Mo Willems."

cover of Mo Willems's Today I Will Fly

Ashley 19:12

Yeah. So it's easy to find. But he's doing that daily. And I think that he that, of course, is focused more on drawing than reading, but the kids who love Elephant and Piggy and who love his books, just even my little kids, you know, who are three and five, them seeing the authors as people talking and sharing what they do is just really amazing. And I think when again, when we're thinking about cultivating a love of reading, that's another thing that adds a layer of love of reading, or the reading experience is that -- and we know that, as readers, how much we love seeing the authors themselves talk and hearing them and you know, just seeing them in a richer way than just on the printed page, and so I feel like, you know, that can be really powerful for kids of all ages.

Sara 20:01

So, what do you guys think are some ways that we like we as people with young young people in our lives or as teachers, how we can help kids move through a book without like what you were saying Jen doing like a quiz chapter one through three? And again, I was also when I was in the classroom guilty of doing those checks to make sure to keep kids accountable for reading. But like now, we don't, I don't think we have the space to do that. We need to have ways to move them through a book, but without hammering them with things that are not as essential to their understanding of the book.

Jen 20:41

I've been really thinking about this because our division has decided (and I appreciate this decision) to deemphasize grades over this time and I think a lot of divisions are moving toward more of a pass/ fail philosophy, which I totally endorse. I do think sometimes I know I relied on grading as a way to provide external pressure on students to do things, including read. And so I think, in the absence of that, yeah, I think this is a really challenging question. Because if that has been your primary way to move through books with your kids, we've lost that stick. And that carrot. So I think, Ashley, you said at the very beginning about establishing a community, and I think that's what we have to think about how are you going to facilitate conversations with students? How are you going to support the choice books that they're reading? Maybe they do need something organized to help them move through a book, but knowing that you're not going to grade it, it really has, they have to see value in it beyond just the grade that they get at the end. So if you can provide, you know, check in conversations, or maybe handouts that help them move through a book and ask good questions without feeling incredibly tedious. I will say one of my sons really likes handouts, like it helps him feel like he's accomplishing something. And some kids need those markers. They need something to feel like they're moving through something. Other kids that is not going to work. With my other son, that will not work. And what he wants is the chance to talk to somebody about a book and to share or recommend it with his peers or with with a teacher or with me. And so yeah, I think offering a variety of options to meet different kids' personalities is going to be really important.

Sara 22:32

And I think too, when I think about my son, I mean, he likes to read, but he does not love, love to read like, like your son does, Jen. And he likes academics in school, but he's also a very social kid, and he likes the social portion. So his science teacher has been running like a week a daily science get together for kids that can get on and even though he might not want to do the science, he wants to get on because he can see his friends. And it's like a social thing. So I think for him, if (and I'm actually Jen and I are trying to set this up between her son and my son), if I could set up a group where they're talking about books, even if it's not the same book, but they are all talking about the books that they're reading and what their favorite parts are and all the things that we ask kids to reflect on when they're in the classroom, like in broad strokes, I think they can do that in a conversation and talk about it with their peers online. And then you add that social component for kids who are probably I mean, at least my kids are really missing their friends.

Ashley 23:37

Yeah. I think that all kids, even kids who are introverted, are starved for social interactions because it is a huge change for that part and not like what I really like about that is the feeling that is that's authentic reading life. That is exactly what we're doing on Instagram. That's what we do with the Bookstagram community. That's what people do in book clubs and again, in a book club, just like in a class, often everyone is reading the same book and discussing the same book. But there are so many ways that we can talk about it just like we do with our Bookish Check Ins, we can talk about what we're reading, even though the things that we're reading are different. And we can do that in a loose way. Or we also can have as teachers, we can provide questions for our students or, you know, as parents if you're trying to just have some general things for them to pull from really broad questions like, what was the central problem? or How did the characters overcome something? Or how does this relate to the world? Or what do you see that connects to your life? Those kinds of questions -- you only need a few of them to have a good conversation. And that really can be enough for kids to be able to share about what they're reading. And again, that they're having some kind of external connection really helps with accountability and helps make people keep moving. And Sara, you mentioned about the reading every day. I do want to say that one thing that we can do if we have kids in our house is just setting aside a time that you, that the whole family, if possible, just sits and reads and that alone... like we do that in our classrooms, we model that for students. And I've always found that if I had to respond to an email, or write a hall pass, or talk to someone in the hall, the reading environment was not the same. As long as I was reading my book, and they were reading their books, then you get this communal sense of a reading experience. And doing that every day like that is the one thing that weekend, weekday, whatever it is, we do that at our house too. And again, I have a three year old and a five year old, so they just get big stacks of books that they look through. But they know that that is something that we do after lunch every day and just having that has really helped us feel grounded. And it also is a way for me to passively communicate. I say things actively as well, but again, we don't want to harp on things because sometimes it's really a turn off for kids. But that's a way of saying this is something that we value. This is something we set aside time for, and this is something that's important to us as a family and that we know is going to enrich your life.

Jen 26:03

And I think too, so our division has made the decision not to have not to allow conferencing face to face conferences, like on a zoom or on a Google Hangout. And so then you have to get creative. So we have a learning management system called Schoology. And that allows online discussions, I think there are a lot of platforms that you can use for that kind of conversation. So even if they can't see each other's faces, I think those conversations count as... it's not the same, but they count as social exposure, right? They are getting that exposure to a conversation about a book. And I know my sister teaches in a school division that is exclusively using paper packets. And so I was thinking, Well, you know, what could she do? I think letters. And there's gonna be a time delay because they're leaving the paper packets in their school buildings for a certain amount of time before teachers get them. You can have a slow conversation and have the kids write letters to you and then you write letters back to them. I think anything that they know they're going to get some sort of response is going to be meaningful. I think they're used to getting that every day from teachers. And so in the absence of that, we have to find other ways to give them that sort of affirmation.

Sara 27:17

I mean, we... my son is not bothered, but my daughter and I both have pen pals for this time. I'm a huge letter writer. I love to write like long form notes and stuff. So I have a couple of penpals because I just like I like to get letters and I like to send letters. But someone on Instagram was running a kid's pen pal project and I mean, my daughter loves it. And I mean, I think that would be great. Even if you just had one of your child's friends be their penpal or his or her grandma or somebody like that, that they can just write back and forth about what they're reading and tell them about the story. I mean, and the person on the other end, especially if it's like a grandparent or something like that, they don't even have to read the book as long as the child can tell about the book, and then they can write back and ask more questions. So I think that there are creative ways that you can do that. And it's not like every single thing is not going to be the right thing for every kid. So you're just gonna have to know your kid or your students and figure out what's going to work. But I mean, like I said, for my daughter it is perfect to write a letter, she loves to write and draw and all that stuff, but for my son, he'd rather you know, try to do something on video if possible.

Ashley 28:34

Yeah, I was just thinking like making those choices as much as possible. That's what we've worked on in our division and what we really recommend for reading and other things as well is just as much as possible having choice boards or things where kids can choose different ways to share what they have experienced. And so for sure, some kids are going to want to hop on a video and do a little book talk and they're very happy to do that. And then other kids are going to prefer to write it out or create art that relates to it or write a poem or something like that. And all of those are valid ways to experience. Again, if the point is to find joy in the experience, and then share that with other people, whatever is doing that is going to be really great.

Sara 29:15

Gosh, there are some good ideas. What do you all think about how to help students find their next read, because also, again, we're at home, so we can't go to the library and help like, let kids look through books. So what do you think about trying to help them find the next thing they're going to read?

Jen 29:32

Yeah, I think that's a challenge even in the classroom when you have your kids with you every day. So I've spent a lot of time thinking about this as well. I follow a lot of blogs. And that's one of my main sources like when I'm trying to find my next read, but also when I'm trying to find reads for my kids. There are some blogs that I follow and some websites I follow that have great ideas. We've provided a list of resources so I won't bore everyone with the list, but I will just say finding places you trust that recommend books that you have found that their recommendations are accurate can be really helpful. There are book matching sites out there as well that you kind of fill in your personality type or your mood. And they will suggest a book for you. Book Riot is a place that has quizzes that you can take. And it's like, we'll recommend your next read, and you sort of answer 10 questions, and then they'll tell you what book you should read next. So I think any of that type of thing can be really helpful. I also think if you could talk to your kids in some way, whether it's text or an actual conversation, your recommendation probably is going to hold a lot of weight for your students or for your children. I have to be careful... You have to be careful with your own kids. If my kids know that I really want them to read something, sometimes they they don't want to, so I do a lot of like (I've talked about this before) like casually sliding books on the table next to where they're sitting and just walking away and not saying anything.

book cover of Katie and the Cupcake Cure

Sara 30:57

Well, I always found, too, if you can find Book One of a series, especially like these days, you know, if we can find one book one of a series and then they can read it... My daughter is currently reading The Cupcake Diaries, I think that's what they're called? Cupcakes something -- we'll put it in the show notes, but she... I just randomly got her number one of a bunch of different series for I think it was for Christmas, and then she's been reading those, and she found that she really liked that one. So then I ordered a few more so that she would have them ready to go. Because you know, that way there's always something in the wings waiting.

Ashley 31:32

Yeah, and the series options -- sometimes you can get a box set or something like you know, you can get a set of them, and so that can be a good way that is a little bit more affordable. And I know that now, you know now is not... there's a lot of reasons why it's really hard to buy things right now. But if you're able, I think that that kind of purchase can go farther as far as the kids actually reading the books and then you're not having to figure out you know, you might get 10 books in a series instead of trying to figure out 10 different books, which is going to take longer to figure out what to order. Yeah, I think another thing that's really important as far as helping them keep going, is having a plan for their TBR. And I think that's something that the Bookstagram community on Instagram is just really great for helping people find books for their TBR... too many, usually for all of us! We have the opposite problem in our lives. But I think that prior to Bookstagram, and for sure still, Jen is my number one book recommender, and, like my personal shopper in the book world, and I really value that because I think not only is she it's not like she's just like, Oh, I like this book, like she knows what I am going to like. And I know that when she recommends something, it's going to work. And so I think that is really valuable for people. And that's why, as Jen said, if you find a blog that you really like their recommendations and you know that what they recommend makes sense for you, that is really valuable. Same with kids and teachers. I mean, if they have a teacher they really trust, I mean, that's why that has a good success rate because the teacher is thinking about not just a book that the teacher loved, but instead a book that they know. They know that they know their kids, they know their students, they know what they love. And so then they're recommending stuff that they know is a good fit. And I think that's kind of the whole thing, but for sure, anything that we can do as educators and also with our own kids to help them find more things to keep going is going to make a big difference. So whether you are looking for you know, if they're actually like getting a physical stack because they do have access to books, then that's great, and if they don't, then it is important... Like audiobooks for me, I have to be a lot more intentional about making sure that I have a plan for my audiobooks because I don't have unlimited access. I use Scribd, which is a subscription service. So I don't have endless choices, whereas I have a huge TBR stack both physical and on my Kindle for print books. I have to be really intentional with audiobooks and that is a time where I often turn to Instagram, to the Bookstagram community on there and say "I'm looking for my next audio book." And then lots of people give me recommendations, which are great. And then I go through and I find the ones that are available on Scribd so that I'm not having to purchase anything, but I am using the resources that I have, and having a plan for what I'm going to do next. And I've noticed if I don't have that plan, that's where I don't I wind up going several days. And for our kids, it could be you know, weeks, instead that quickly all the sudden all this time has passed, and they didn't pick up something new because it is that transition, just like everything else with education, it is all about transitions. And so getting that transition to be smooth, and getting that to go nicely is really what is gonna impact how successful they are.

Sara 34:37

Yeah. I will say we also in this Oh, sorry, I just wanted to say on on this resource, which I hate to keep talking about, but we have a lot of stuff in there. We've also highlighted blog posts and episodes from Unabridged that we think would be helpful for you and for your students. So yeah, sign up for the newsletter is the short answer because we have a lot of stuff on there.

Ashley 34:59

Something that we really have started focusing on the last few months is bookish faves. And we do those on Mondays. And I think that is a really great blog, like if you're looking for a post on our site, we have those like, you can go on our top menu at and just click on bookish faves. And all of those are going to be big lists of recommendations instead of just a single recommendation. And so that's a nice place to start if you're just looking for it, because we have them curated by type. So we have like, you know, romance books, or comfort reads or hopeful books for kids. And then you can click on it. And it's also nice... I'm very driven by cover images. And so the covers are on there. And that is really nice for you. And it can be really nice for you for your kids to just have an reference. And I mean, of course, we're not the only ones doing that. There's tons of stuff out there, but for sure having a visual image that has a wide variety of covers can be a really great way to start trying to figure out what you want to read next.

Sara 35:55

Yes, great points. So does anybody have anything else they want to add to this conversation? I think that we, we've covered it pretty thoroughly.

Ashley 36:05

Yeah, which is that we really, we are really thinking about everybody out there who's trying to help keep learning going during this time. And we know how hard it is. And we know that no, but none of it's going to be perfect. And just that we keep as we're trying to help teachers in our division, and as we're trying to think about our what we talked about on the podcast, we just keep trying think about what are our goals? What are our objectives? And if our objectives are to help kids continue to be curious, continue to learn, continue to enjoy the learning experience, then how do we meet those goals, and that really has helped me kind of parse out the things that are meaningful and the things that I need to let go of both in my home life because it is hard to do all the things in our houses and a lot of us out there are trying to support our own kids and this this is not, you know, you have other areas of expertise. And now all of a sudden you're trying to do this. And like Jen said before your own kids, you know, when you're recommending a book is very different than your students, so like, it's an added challenge often to try to try to help your own kids with their learning. So yeah, just that we understand all that and, and hope these are resource these resources are helpful in that way.

Sara 37:15

And I think in all things we have not done this before as parents, people in the community teachers. Our children haven't done it before and just making sure that we're always giving ourselves grace and not getting, you know, it's hard as a teacher, as a parent as a grown up individual trying to hold it all together at times, and sometimes we just need to give ourselves grace. So I have to tell myself daily before because I mean, and also to give my kids grace and know that it's just -- it's gonna be okay. And if they don't get every single thing done, that's okay.

Ashley 37:54

Yeah. Like trying to figure out when to push a little bit yourself or your kid Yeah, and when to let go, because I think for sure, you know, if we can't just say... I mean for our family, and I'm sure it's been true for a lot of people, it has been very up and down. And so some days, some days things have gone, you know, relatively smoothly considering the circumstances and then other days are just a mess. And that's not a great day to try to force them to read in a new book, or try to force whatever project on that they're supposed to complete for their schoolwork. I mean, that is a day to say we'll get to this tomorrow, we'll have a fresh start tomorrow, every day's a new day. It's okay to let go of some of those things. And that's going to make us happier, which is going to make us better learners. So I think you're right about the grace. And same I just have to like coach myself through that and just give myself permission to let go of some of those things.

book cover of Don't Overthink It

Jen 38:47

I will say to you, I keep thinking I keep seeing these questions like What will we learn from this time when we go back to school, and I think some of those are things. I am a control freak, and so there were a lot of things in my own classroom that I had a hard time letting go of. But I think like we read Anne Bogel's Don't Overthink It. And one thing she talks about is value based decision making. And I think if we say our value is we want kids to keep reading, what can you let go of? And so I think if there's anything we can take back to the classroom, it's how do you give grace to yourself and your kids? Because let's face it, some students and some teachers have situations during the school year that require grace. And so yeah, that got a little preachy, but I just have been thinking a lot about that, that we have this opportunity to reconceptualize what we're doing, and maybe that's one of the answers is, what is our value? What can I let go of? What just isn't that important in the scope of your learning journey?

Ashley 39:48

Yeah. And I think when we think about reading, like being more flexible about what kids are reading, because I think that you know, again, when we think about core skills as people instructing in English, we absolutely want kids to read and to love it. We want kids to write and communicate their ideas in writing and verbally. And we want them to be able to research what they want to learn and understand what it's saying, and then draw their own conclusions. And so I feel like part of what's great about reading is that we can help kids maybe I mean, my kids, sometimes in their reading time, they're flipping through these Ranger Rick magazines, which is kind of annoying, because it makes a lot of noise and doesn't seem very focused. But then sometimes that prompts them to then want to read and research about something that they've seen in that magazine. So like just recognizing that learning looks different for different kids and different days and that that doesn't mean that nothing good is happening. And you know, like you said, Jen, just the value based decisions and trying to think about like what is most important and that's why I said that about some days I just have to be like, today is not the day. And I think that is that is a useful thing to give yourself permission to decide.

Sara 40:55

I feel like I need that t-shirt.

Jen 40:59

"Today is not the day." Or "Give yourself grace." Or both? Or one is the front and one is the back.

Give Me One - A Worthwhile Purchase During Quarantine

Sara 41:07

All right, ladies, let's move on to Give Me One because it's still kind of in the same vein of things that we can do in our homes. And so today's Give Me One is one worthwhile purchase you've made while we've been at home. So, Ashley, do you want to start?

Ashley 41:26

Words Give Me One repeated in bright colors

Yes, I always felt lately . . . I have felt like I needed to say, like, 10 things, so I'm going to try not to do that. But before I say my most worthwhile purchase, I do want to say that the item that has been most valuable in our house is LEGO sets. And I had no idea that that was going to be so valuable to us. It's something that my life partner is like really passionate about LEGO so we have--and I had them growing up--so and my family kept everything. So you know, we have the ones from the 80s and 90s. We also have new sets both that my husband has gotten for himself . . . like, you know, people gift it to him because that's something he really loves, and for for our kids. But anyway, I mean, I just think I couldn't have known that for my five year old. She just now like this morning, we took apart one of her little Friends LEGO sets. And she built the whole thing this morning before breakfast. And so I think it's just she's at this moment of realizing . . . and I think goes back to what you said, Jen, about teachers often giving affirmation. And kids wanting that affirmation. They want . . . they want to accomplish a goal. And they want to see that they have done a thing and then get get people to see it. And so she did a set yesterday, she did a set today. And I mean, all on her own. And then we've been working on some bigger sets together. And I just couldn't have known that that was gonna be so valuable. But I think that's really awesome. So I think, how do we think about what is in our house that can be used maybe in a different way, or kind of brought back to the surface. Like all of our building stuff our kids have used, we have Keva planks. We have straws that hook together, and we have the Magformers is what we have, but there's a lot of different magnetic tiles. Like all of those kinds of things, getting those out can be really helpful so it's, it is interesting we're gonna mention purchases, like a single purchase that was really helpful, but I think I've been shopping in my house and just discovered that we actually have a lot of things that we don't normally have time to take advantage of, and just like bringing them to light and saying oh look we can do this thing in a new way can can really make a day a better day. So, anyway . . .

Sara 43:26

I was just gonna say my daughter is the same: she, she got all these LEGO sets for Christmas because that's what she told every single person she wanted for Christmas. She did not vary, so we got like 10 LEGO sets and some of the giant ones. But it's been awesome because she has not had time because we usually have sports and practice and all this stuff on the weekends. And she has had time, she's built those and they, I mean they've been great. And the other thing I will say is not like something I bought but she, she is very creative. She loves art, and she loves to make things her own, so I've given her like old t-shirts and old shirts and stuff, and she's been designing clothes with them. And she doesn't have a sewing machine or anything. She's just been cutting them and tying them and using rubber bands on them and drawing on, drawing on them. And so she's doing her own little Project Runway and I mean, she will spend a long time doing that and she loves it and then she comes to this like little fashion show and we FaceTime the grandparents and she shows what she's made. So, I think . . .

That's so cool, Sara! I want to see. I would love to see pictures I'm so . . .


Ashley 44:31

. . . some of the things she's made because I think that my kids would really enjoy that too. And again, just repurposing it. It's funny to see how useful that can be.

Sara 44:39

And when she makes a shirt or you know she cuts a shirt off or whatever she then wears it that day.

Ashley 44:45

That's so cool.

Jen 44:47

I'm going to jump on the Lego train really fast and just say recently, I recommended the show Lego Masters as one to watch. And that my boys love Legos too. And the Lego Masters show has been really cool because they have the challenges in each episode. And then my boys will go and take apart their sets and try to build the challenge that's on the show. So that's Yeah, I wonder if your kids I mean, there is a reality TV component, Ashley, that I don't know for your girls they would love, but even if you just like it's, it's on Hulu--we've been recording it--but you could get to the part where they show the challenge and then the part where they show the result is really neat.

Sara 45:24

So yeah, my kids just started watching that one and they really liked it.

Jen 45:28

It's so cool. It's really neat.

Ashley 45:30

And y'all know that I don't currently have Hulu but let me tell you, but that's okay. I have been thinking lately that we talked about this with Kindle Unlimited in one of our recent episodes that like if there's ever a time to go ahead and subscribe to something for a little bit. I think this might be the time.

Jen 45:45

You can watch Little Fires Everywhere with us.

Ashley 45:48

I was gonna say that I have been loving your IG Live stuff about Little Fires Everywhere, and you all know that I love Celeste Ng so very much, and so yeah, I'm like if I got Hulu then I also could watch that, which would be fun, so . . . and like we said, I mean, a lot of why we don't have it as just because we already have way more things than we have time to watch. But now is a good time to have a little bit more time to watch, and I am trying to motivate myself to read and to work in all of my down minutes, but it is true that like, I mean, it's an exhausting time and, so it is nice to be able to relax a little bit so. Okay, so that was a digression.

Sara 46:25

Give me one, give me one thing.

book cover of Fun and Easy Crafting with Recycled Materials

Ashley 46:27

Okay, so really, related to what I said about repurposing things, the one item that I think has been most useful for me. Sorry, I want to give two again. I keep doing this. The one that I already had is called 150+ Screen-Free Activities for Kids, and I love that book. I talk about it all the time on my Stories. But anyway, I've had that one a long time, but that one is like my go to when when the day is falling apart. That is like the thing that I get out, and I will find something in there that we can do pretty easily, and often that can kind of repair the, you know, devolving situation and get us back in in a better mood. So anyway, the one that I got recently was Kimberly McLeod's Fun and Easy Crafting with Recycled Materials: 60 Cool Projects that Reimagine Paper Rolls, Egg Cartons, Jars and More. And I just got that recently, and I wasn't sure how great it would be with my age kids. But it . . . there are a lot of things that we can do in there. But I do think it could range for anybody in elementary school. And it is really cool because it's very simple items, but imagined in a really interesting way. And so I've found that in general, I'm happy to do art and craft projects with my kids, but I'm just not a very creative thinker in that kind of way, so I will do them. But I need the ideas to be . . . I need to see it. And then I'm like, Oh yeah, we could do that thing. And then you know, we kind of can go from there. And so that book has been a great resource for me. So that's been a good investment during this time.

Sara 47:57

That's awesome. Jen, what about you?

book cover of The Ruins of Gorlan

Jen 48:00

So my recommendation actually is going to connect to a lot of things we talked about today. I had bought John Flanagan's, the first in John Flanagan's Ranger's Apprentice series a year or more ago for my son who is almost 13 now because I knew he would love it, but he just did not want to read it. And it was one of those things like he knew I wanted him to read it, and he just wasn't feeling it. And then one day, he picked it up, and he, as I knew he would, loved it. And so he did the thing where he was like, Mom, will you buy me the next book in the series, and there are like, 12, and then there's the spin off series with eight more books. So I hopped on Amazon, and I thought, ooh, if I get them all, it saves me a couple dollars per book. So I took a chance, and I bought the whole thing. And I had the confession moment with my husband when I was like, I just spent this much money on the entire Ranger's Apprentice series. I really hope he loves it. And oh my goodness, he does, so it is a lot of money, and I know everyone does not have flexible spending money right now. But I think investing in a series once you know that your kid . . . like Sara, you were saying, once you know that your kid likes the first book, he has now read the whole series twice. And then yesterday, he was like, Mom, I'd really like to listen to those on audio also. So I was like, scouring the internet to find a way so I'm not paying the ridiculous $30 or whatever it is to buy an audio book on Audible. But yeah, scouring the internet to try to find them on audio to because he loves them enough that he wants them in that format as well. And yeah, we're scoping out IMDb because he's like these would make great movies. It's been optioned. So I just did this.

Sara 49:39

That's awesome.

Jen 49:39

Yeah. And then he's read the spin off series now. So it has just exploded. And yeah, it's one of those times it could have been a big disaster and a big waste of money. But fortunately for me, it has worked out. So that is John Flanagan's Ranger's Apprentice series, which is fantasy. It has a lot of action. I loved the book when I read it . . . I was a high school teacher as you all probably know, and I had students who loved it and would read the whole thing so I think it's good for older kids as well.

Sara 50:10

That's awesome.

Ashley 50:11

What about you, Sara?

Sara 50:13

In stereo. So mine is, like I said my daughter is super into art and so is my son. He loves to draw. My daughter loves to do everything, but my son really loves to draw and paint some. So right before all this started going down, I bought these little this little art canvas paint set that had like a thing that holds up the canvas.

Jen 50:39

An easel.

Sara 50:39

An easel, yes.

Jen 50:43

Sorry, we're watching Sara gesture and I was like I know what that thing is.

book cover of 150+ Screen-Free Activities for Kids

Sara 50:47

It has an easel and then it came with two canvases, three paint brushes, and some acrylic paints and they . . . It has been a lifesaver. And then I also ordered another set of canvases that were just really cheap and they they really it's been nice having those on hand for when they want to do art projects. And I don't know it just, it was something I bought on a whim and because I was like oh my gosh, we're gonna be in the house for two weeks. That's . . . Four weeks later. But anyway, that we were going to be in the house for a while, so I bought them, and I mean they've used the paints, and they use the canvases. So it's been just a good, pretty cheap, good purchase for this time. And I did want to shout out Ashley, also I did buy the 150+ Screen-Free Activities . . . I also bought that in a panic, that was the other panic buy. Because I was like Ashley loves this book. I know that we can do this. So I got that, too.

Ashley 51:44

Yeah, with that one, I think the thing that's really amazing about that book to me is that it, it starts with babies, so it goes all the way up and not that every activity is appropriate for them, but she's very specific. Asia Citro, I think, is her name. She is very specific about what ages are appropriate, and for sure, again, through elementary school and even older, some of those activities are really great for them. And there are some things that you need, like not every activity--because we don't have access to everything right now--not every activity you're going to be able to do necessarily, but a few key purchases for me like again, I've had that one a long time, but a few key things like I got liquid water colors, which is just like instead of, you know, where you see them on the tray, they're drop bottles instead. And that works for so many things. And you can do food coloring instead, but it does stain some, so I think, you know, it's that kind of thing, like I made that purchase one time. I have had those for the last three years or however long I've had the book. And I use those for tons of projects because basically anytime you want to dye like a slime or playdough or any of that kind of stuff, like all those work every time, and so just a couple of things . . . like I've got a bunch of Elmer's glue, and that goes in a lot of different slimes and things. So I've found that there are times when the kids will pick something out of the book that then I need to find an ingredient or two to make it work. But there are a lot of ones in there that once I got a couple of those key things, I can just make 'em work fine. And I mean, you know, it's just a lot of fun, and like my girls really love going through both of those books, the ones I mentioned with the recycled materials, and 150 Plus, they like going through the book, like they enjoy looking at all the pictures, and finding something that they're interested in doing. And so that part is fun, too. But yeah, I love that one because I think it is a really great age range thing because like when I first had my second child, it was really a struggle. And I think this is a struggle a lot of people probably having their house right now is like your one age kid wants to do something that the other kid can't do doesn't want to do isn't interested in it's not appropriate for them or whatever. So then it's kind of finding things that bridge those age gaps. Great.

Sara 53:49

Okay, well, I think those are some good good tips. Before we leave today we want again to just another time thank all the essential workers around our whole world who are making sacrifices for us. We appreciate it, and we are thinking of you. And we know that it is a difficult thing that you're doing, and we are so grateful for your sacrifice. Thank you for listening today. We are thinking of all of our listeners, and we hope to keep continuing to bring you content during this time. And we would also love to talk to you on social media and discuss books and give you a little respite from your day. So hit us up there.


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1 Comment

Jody Stottlemyer
Jody Stottlemyer
Apr 29, 2020

Yes to the Ranger's Apprentice series! All 3 of my older boys have adored it. Also, the Redwall series. And yes to leaving interesting books just lying around. And, if you have them, don't forget non-fiction books.

Are there book blogs out there for kids to interact with comments? That would be something my kids might like. They like book clubs or just talking about books with my husband and I. Lots of times in the evenings when we're reading, my husband or I will say something like, "Hey, listen to this--" and read an interesting snippet.

With regards to getting books in students hands, I have no clue. For those of us who hoard books, it's not a problem,…

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