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January 2006

Posts from December 2005

Recent Articles About Children's Books and Literacy Programs

I've been on vacation, and haven't had a lot of time for posting. However, here are links to some recent news articles about children's books and children's literacy efforts.

Happy Reading, and Happy New Year! -- Jen

Books to Read to Your Child Before Visiting the Dentist

My friend Nicole, who is a dentist in Newport, Rhode Island, suggested to me a couple of books that parents should read to their children before their first dental visit. She said "I found that parents who read these stories make a huge impact on the child's first dental visit. It makes a world of difference!" Make your dentist happy, and read these books to your children before they visit.

I also ran across a couple of other dentist-related kid's books on Amazon:

Nicole also recommended a book of wonderful stories, some of which have helped to distract children during dental visits: The Adventures of Spider. I hope that you find these books useful!

Books for Christmas

Merry Christmas to all! I hope that you all received lots of books for Christmas. The books that I was fortunate enough to receive today included:

My wonderful sister also got me a gift certificate to Barnes and Noble, always a favorite gift. I gave more books as gifts this year than ever before, too many to list here. But a few highlights were:

I wish you all many books, and a Happy Christmas. More soon! -- Jen

High School Group Gives Books to Infants

A high school service group in Portage, Wisconsin has started Books for Babes, a program that donates books and literacy information to parents of newborn children. The goal is to to encourage the parents to read to their children, so that when the children are older, they will be more likely to read. I read about this program in an article in the Portage Daily Register, which I recommend that you take a moment to read. What I find particularly encouraging about this program is that high school kids are the ones running it. It gives me hope for the future!!

Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi

Although it's not a children's book, several people have asked my opinion about Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi, which I have listed in my "What I'm Reading" list. They find the title particularly intimidating, because it gives the impression of some sort of relentless networking approach, by which you can never just be at home by yourself. As many of the people I know are engineers and/or bookworms, this is a pretty intimidating concept!

However, I liked this book a lot. It's not so much about the shallow networking that the title appears to imply. It's more about forming strong connections with people, and making the interactions that you have with people positive for both sides. It's about marketing, not selling. I think that it's a much better book than the title suggests. I would say that it's a poor title, but I think that the title catches people's attention and prompts them to ask about it. So it's actually a very clever title.

I've found some of the ideas directly useful already, and I intend to read it again to jot down some more ideas. (I listened on MP3 while walking the first time, so I couldn't jot things down very easily.) In particular, the book contains a wonderful section about finding the intersection of what you're passionate about and what you're good at, and trying to do more of that in your life. He calls it your "blue flame." This helped motivate me to start this blog, after literally years of wanting to do something constructive in the area of children's books.

The ideas from Never Eat Alone have influenced my development of this blog in another way, too. Since reading it, I find that I have opened up more in reaching out to people I know to tell them about what I'm doing. To tell them that this (literacy and children's books) is something that I really care about. I've written to people who I've known for a long time, but with whom I haven't had much recent contact. I've also written to people who I know through my work in the semiconductor industry, for whom this is a completely different side of me. I've written to new friends, who are just starting to get to know me. And of course I've written to my close friends and family members.

And I have been just amazed and inspired by the outpouring of support that people from all of these groups have given to me and to this project. People have sent back detailed comments and suggestions for books, and for the structure of the website. People have added links to my website from their own blogs (such as my friend Miles), or from their organizational websites (such as the Friends of the Santa Clara City Library). They have taken their time to forward my message and site link to their book-loving friends. They have taken time to send me links to related articles that they have run across, and to the blogs of other book-loving friends. And they have asked to be on the email list that I plan to start, even though I don't have a sign-up form yet, or know when I'll commence publication. Best of all, many of the people I contacted have taken the time to let me know what and how they're doing. This is a tremendous bonus, especially during this busy holiday time of year. If I hadn't read and absorbed "Never Eat Alone" I don't believe that I would have reached out to all of these people (not right now anyway), and I would have really missed out.

All in all, I highly recommend Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi, especially if you:

  • Would like to feel more connected with other people;
  • Are thinking of starting a new business; or
  • Own your own business, but aren't that good at marketing

You might also want to check out Keith's blog. I chose to use TypePad for my blog, because I liked the look of this one. It may give you more of an idea of what the book is about.

Early Chapter Books that Parents and Kids Enjoy

In response to my list of 25 Children's Books that Adults Will Enjoy, several people wrote to me that they were particularly looking for early chapter books to read with their children. Here are some suggestions:

I hope that you find these suggestions helpful. I welcome your additions and feedback! I would be particularly interested in newer books that fall into this category, as the above are mainly classics. You can use the Comments feature below, or email me.

Donate Books to Your Local Library

As the year-end approaches, I thought that I would suggest a charitable donation option that's near and dear to my heart. If you have spare books or media products (software/CDs/DVDs/Audiobooks) lying around, consider donating them to your local library. Most libraries have Friends of the Library organizations that will sell your donated products, and use the money for library-related programs.

I volunteer for the Foundation and Friends of the Santa Clara City Library, in Santa Clara, California. The Foundation and Friends is a non-profit organization dedicated to supplementing public funding to expand and enhance the Library's programs and services. The Friends group in particular raises funds by selling donated books. We sell the books in a bookstore inside the library, in regular book sales, and online. The money that we raise through these avenues is used to fund great activities like summer reading programs, new library cards for kids, adult literacy programs, and many others. At a recent meeting, the Foundation and Friends voted to fund eight requests like these from the Library totaling more than $20,000 and to establish three endowment funds. (The complete list is here.) The funds to fulfill all of these requests came from the proceeds from the used book sales.

In summary, library Friends organizations can do great things with your donated books. And you can get a tax deduction. So, if you have extra books or videos lying around your house collecting dust, and you would like to give them to a good cause, check to see if your library accepts donations. At our library, children's books and videos are particularly in demand, but any gently read books are welcome.

Indiana Superintendent Recommends Giving Books this Holiday Season

Suellen Reed, the Superintendent of Public Instruction for Indiana encouraged Hoosiers to give books as gifts to children for the holidays this year. “Reading is absolutely essential in all learning, and books make great gifts,” said Dr. Reed. "Instilling our students with an appreciation for the importance of reading and the enjoyment that can be derived from it will not only result in higher test scores, it is the most effective way to build a highly skilled workforce and an informed citizenry.”

Dr. Reed accompanied her suggestion of buying books with a list of more than 100 age-appropriate titles submitted by people from across the state of Indiana. You can find the full press release on this initiative, complete with a link to the full set of recommended books (in PDF format), on the DOE website. I learned of this initiative from an excellent article in the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel.

Although a number of the books on Dr. Reed's list are holiday books, many of them are more general. The books are grouped into Primary, Intermediate and High School levels. Some examples from the list (mostly holiday examples) include:



High School

I strongly support this idea of giving children books as holiday gifts, and I recommend that you check out the Indiana Dept. of Education's full list (see the link at the bottom of the page).

Children's Picture Books Adults Will Love

Elizabeth Kennedy is the children's book guide on She maintains a list of Children's Picture Books Adults Will Love. I recommend that you check it out. I would also suggest a couple of other adult-friendly picture books:

But I have to admit that I don't spend a lot of my time reading picture books (I've progressed to at least a fourth-grade reading level), so I don't know what else to recommend. I would welcome your feedback and suggestions of picture books that adults can read over and over again without going crazy.

Books for Children Who Need Them

In the spirit of the holiday season, I would bring to your attention two organizations that give books to children to promote early literacy.

  • First Book ( is a national nonprofit with a single mission: "to give children from low-income families the opportunity to read and own their first new books". First Book works with existing literacy programs to distribute the books. My mother, Phyllis Robinson, brought to my attention today this article about the activities of a local chapter of First Book near her home in Massachusetts. I also ran across this article today about First Book activity in Louisiana.
  • Reach Out and Read ( is a program that "promotes early literacy by bringing new books and advice about the importance of reading aloud into the pediatric exam room." The idea is that parents tend to trust the advice of their pediatricians. Doctors and nurses give new books to young children at semi-annual office visits, and also give advice to parents about reading aloud with their child.

Supporting either of these organizations with your money or your time would be a great way to help more children to grow up with access to books. Of course there are many other local and national programs that give books to children during the holidays, and that's wonderful too! Thanks for reading!

25 Children's Books (and Series) that Adults Will Enjoy

A list like this is by its very nature subjective, and subject to criticism. People like different things. But I hope to stave off some of the criticism by pointing out that I'm not saying that these are the only children's books that adults will like. Or even the best ones. The idea is to provide a starting point. I welcome your feedback.

  1. Watership Down by Richard Adams
  2. Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
  3. The House with a Clock in its Walls by John Bellairs
  4. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  5. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
  6. The Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper
  7. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
  8. Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes
  9. Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
  10. From the Mixed up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg
  11. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
  12. The Narnia Books by C. S. Lewis
  13. Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren
  14. The Giver by Lois Lowry
  15. Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery
  16. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O'Brien
  17. The Inheritance Series by Christopher Paolini (Eragon, Eldest)
  18. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
  19. The Complete Adventures of Curious George by Margaret and H. A. Rey
  20. The Harry Potter books by J. K. Rowling
  21. Holes by Louis Sachar
  22. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
  23. The Velvet Room by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
  24. The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
  25. Charlotte's Web by E. B. White

Bonus book: As I started sharing this with people, several immediately complained about the absence of The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster. Since people never publish "top 26 lists", we'll just call it a bonus book.

I'll be starting an email newsletter on Children's Books for Adults sometime in the near future. It will contain further recommendations, as well as discussion by adults reader's of children's books. If you are interested in being notified when sign-up begins, send me an email.

(c) 2005 by Jennifer K. Robinson

Why You Should Read Children's Books as an Adult

If you read as a child, and loved it, then re-reading those books is like entering a time machine that takes you back to the child you once were. It's amazing, because the books are still available - you can read them any time. It doesn't cost much, you don't have to travel, you don't need anyone to help you. You can just time travel at will.

You can also read newer children's books, and there are some great ones out there. This helps to keep you young at heart, and imaginative. It's also a great way to relate better to kids in your life, be they your own children, or friends' children, or nieces and nephews... Kids who love books love to talk about these books with the adults in their lives. And trust me, they know if you're faking it, or not really interested. One of our nieces likes to rehash every detail of the Harry Potter books with us. We have read them, and we can offer informed opinions about whether or not Ron and Hermione are going to end up together, and other important issues. I think that this is valuable for our niece, and that it strengthens our bond with her.

Now, if you didn't read much as a child, it's all the more important to read children's book now. Because you've really missed out on a lot of great things. For one thing, there are a lot of cultural references that you're just missing, especially if you never read the classics. Do you know what a Pollyanna is? Do you remember when Joey from Friends was reading Little Women? Trust me, the episode was better if you already knew that Beth died, and cried over it yourself.

Also, children's books are often flat-out inspirational. They make you want to be a better person. They make you believe that you can be a better person. They give you examples of bravery and honesty and reacing for a dream. Oh, you can find these things in adult books, too, but you have to look a lot harder.

I'm not saying that you shouldn't read adult literature. There's great stuff there, too, and you would miss out if you didn't read it. But I suggest sprinkling in a few children's books from time to time. And if you don't read much at all, but feel like you want to, then children's books are a great place to start. They're relatively short, so even if you can only read a little at a time, you can finish a book before you tire of seeing it on your nightstand. And because they're designed to keep the attention of children, they're generally page-turners. You want to keep going to find out what happens next.

So, here are my top 10 reasons why adults should read children's books:

  1. It's fun.
  2. It keeps your imagination active.
  3. It strengthens your relationship with the children in your life who read.
  4. It sets an example for the children in your life, making them more likely to become readers.
  5. It clues you in on cultural references that you may have missed (both current and classical).
  6. It's fast. Children's books are usually shorter than adult books, so if you don't think you have time to read, you DO have time to read children's books.
  7. It allows you to read across genres. Children's books aren't limited to mystery OR science fiction OR fantasy OR literary fiction. They can have it all.
  8. It's like time travel - it's an easy way to remember the child that you once were, when you first read a book.
  9. It's often inspirational - reading about heroes and bravery and loyalty makes you want to be a better person. And couldn't we all do with some of that?
  10. Did I mention that it's fun?

I'll be discussing some of these reasons in more detail in future posts. Tomorrow I'll be back with some specific recommendations for getting started. I also plan to start an email newsletter on Children's Books for Adults sometime in the near future. If you would like to be notified about this, send me an email. Thanks for reading!

(c) 2005 by Jennifer K. Robinson