Purpose of this Blog...

You may have noticed that not all books are equal in capturing children's imaginations and in cultivating those innocent, tender souls. My goal is to help you find the ones that do!
(Painting by Mary Cassatt: "Mrs Cassatt Reading to her Grandchildren" -1888)

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

A Mom Who is "Cultivating Readers"

Today I'd like to introduce you to another blogger who is passionate about good books for children - Michelle Leichty, a Mom who blogs over at Cultivating Readers.
"Here at CultivatingReaders.com, you will find a mother’s perspective on a book your child is reading, suggestions of books your child would enjoy, and books your whole family will enjoy reading out loud together."

It's so affirming to come across a kindred spirit when it comes to reading aloud good literature to kids! I discovered Michelle's blog through her sister-in-law Molly Sabourin (whose Close to Home blog and book are not to be missed either!)

I've enjoyed Michelle's posts about the books she and her children are reading.  When I asked her to do this interview, I don't think I realized how similar our philosophies are when it comes to what constitutes good literature for children.  Even the reasons why she started her blog are much the same as mine!  (And: we are both from Illinois and have a history with Campus Crusade for Christ and homeschooling - now that's quite a coincidence.)

Here's a little bit about Michelle:  
"I have been an avid reader as long as I can remember. I would ask for books for every holiday and birthday, but my mom refused to buy them for me because I would be done with them before the day's end. As a result, I got to know my local library quite well!

 I grew up in Illinois, and graduated from the University of Missouri with a Journalism degree. I worked at a TV station in Iowa, and met my husband at the church I attended. Then I joined him on Campus Crusade for Christ staff, producing videos at their headquarters in Florida.

Our four children were born in Florida before we moved back to Illinois. I've been homeschooling since 2003, although this fall we will have two children in public school (10th and 6th) and two at home (8th and 5th)."

What inspired you to start a blog about children's books?
Even though I am an avid reader, I had a hard time transitioning to reading to my children. When I started teaching them at home, I started by reading books for them - and felt a little lost walking into the library. Where do I find good books to read to my kids? The ones that all of us would enjoy, not based on the cartoon character of the month? As I continued to homeschool, other moms started asking me for book recommendations. I was searching for something to do for myself, in the midst of giving so much to others, and decided to try blogging. Three years and over 250 posts later, I can truly say I love reading and writing about children's books. 

What is your criteria for a book making it onto your blog; how do you pick the books that merit a review/post?
It's a work in progress, I think. Right now, I'm writing about books my children and I love. I would call them books with 'substance'. I think books are like food - some food will keep you going for hours, and some food will give you a sugar high followed by a huge crash. I like to write about the books which have longevity - solid characters, an engaging plot, and a good message. I'll admit, some of the books I've written about fall more into the 'candy' category (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, for example), but a majority are books readers will read over and over again.

That said, I'm considering writing about all the books I've read - the mediocre and the awful. As my children are growing older, I'm realizing I can't keep up with what they're reading and I know other parents feel the same way. It's nice to know what is in the books my kids are reading - and there are some books I have encouraged my children to avoid because of world view, character or plot issues.

What are some your family's favorite read alouds: 
Picture books:
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom - I think I can still recite it from memory!
Fancy Nancy and Amelia Bedelia books. 
My boys especially enjoyed Magic School Bus books and author Seymour Simon (take care with world view issues if you believe in Biblical creation).
Bible Stories by Ella K. Lindvall are great for reading aloud and for early readers.
Authors: Margaret Wise Brown, Virginia Lee Burton.
Our favorite new author is Mo Willems. Even though we are out of the picture book stage, every child in my house reads his books and laughs out loud. There are so many - but I'll stop there!

Chapter books: This is asking a lot! We've read hundreds of books aloud, how can I choose? Let's see...
Ginger Pye by Eleanor Estes, which got us started on the rest of her delightful books.
The Wheel on the School by Meindert DeJong (long, but very much worth reading, as are all of his books.)
Humor: Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books by Betty MacDonald keep us laughing, as do Henry Winterfeld's Detective in Togas and it's sequel The Mystery of the Roman Ransom.
Classics: Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House books; Cheaper by the Dozen by Frank Gilbreth, Jr.;
Andrew Lang's Fairy books. We keep returning to The Chronicles of Narnia books by C.S. Lewis.
Authors: Marguerite Henry, Linda Sue Parks, Gloria Whelan, and every time I read Rules of the Road by Joan Bauer, I like it even more.

Any advice for parents as they head out to their local library? 
  • Pay attention to what your children are reading. Just because the book is marketed for children doesn't mean it's meant for your child. Even though I can't read everything my kids are reading, I still read the jacket covers of all the books my kids check out - and have said 'no' to some as a result. 
  • Pick out some books for your children. We keep a basket in our living room for library books. All the books the children choose go in it, as do the books I choose. If they want me to read to them, I'm sure to have something I'll enjoy reading instead of only Geronimo Stilton or the latest Disney release. 
  • Browse the audio books. We listen to so many books on CD or Play-a-way as we drive in the van. It's a great way to generate discussions, or enjoy a shared experience - and know what your kids are reading. 
  • Befriend your librarian. They may have suggestions for books or authors you don't know and will enjoy.

Thanks so much, Michelle! I hope my readers will visit you over at Cultivating Readers. It's a wonderfully informative blog for parents who care about what their children read!

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