The New Big Book of U.S. Presidents

In honor of Presidents’ Day we are highlighting The New Big Book of U.S. Presidents by Marc Frey and Todd Davis for ages 8-12 years. This is the ONE children’s book of U.S. presidents my kids swear by. I bought this book the moment my elementary schooler insisted that he was going to be the “next” U.S. president. I knew he was too young to be the next president, but I wasn’t about to pass up the opportunity to feast on his new-found fascination. Let’s just say this book hasn’t been laid to rest since.  Furthermore, now that the other kids have followed suit, this has become one of the most frequently read books in our home. All our kids are intrigued by it. Here’s why:

1. The book offers fascinating facts. It is not just a “George Washington was the first U.S. president” kind of book. Kids need to know more than just that. It offers a lot more meat about each president’s personal and political life, going even further to include key historical events and achievements surrounding their presidencies, without being lengthy, redundant, or boring. 

2. The book is easy to read and comprehend. I love when a book explains its content to its kid readers so well to the point where adults have to do very little to no reiterating. Indeed, the book is jam-packed with lots of detailed facts and history, but don’t be overwhelmed; they are presented in the simplest, kid-friendly language that kids can easily grasp. Seriously.

3. The book includes a historical timeline. This timeline covers key historical topics that include arts, literature, politics, religion, science, education, etc., you name it. Again, don’t be overwhelmed. They are outlined in the simplest, chronological fashion that is a no brainer for your little reader to absorb.

4. The book has great illustrations. You can never go wrong with great illustrations, especially when your readers are primarily kids. These photos not only serve as a great supplement to the text, they add such incredible details to the point where without the text, they can almost easily stand alone. My kids particularly love associating each president’s name to his face. They also love in inclusion of old historical pictures of the events and persons highlighted in the text.

5. The book has a glossary of key terms. I particularly love a book that includes a glossary primarily because it helps kids review key terms mentioned in the book. It also serves as a summary of what is covered in the text. I see these as a great opportunity for a quick review or quiz to see how much information they actually retain from the reading.

Overall, this book is both educational and entertaining; there are both hilarious and serious aspects to it. This is a book the entire family will enjoy reading, while learning about presidential facts and figures. Let us know what you think. Until then, Happy Presidents’ Day! Happy Reading!   

By: Dawn Hoff, Book Kids








Bite-Sized Reading Resolutions with Oversized Results

Reading Resolution - Best Image

New Year’s resolutions have their ups and downs. They are as easy to break as they are to make. For this reason, more and more people prefer to shy away from making them rather than deal with the disappointments of breaking them.

This is especially true when it comes to reading resolutions. We can certainly guarantee falling off the reading wagon at some point during the year, more times than we’d like to admit. Typically, we do when our expectations either exceed or fail to measure up to our abilities and level of commitment.

Truth is, we all mean well and have good intentions. The problem is we sometimes set the bar too high and become overwhelmed and discouraged before we even begin;  our goal then becomes seemingly unreachable. Other times we set it too low and become under-challenged and bored; our goal then becomes dull and meaningless. The solution is making sure the bar we set for ourselves align with our abilities and level of commitment. See how well these align with your abilities and level of commitment:

1. Read daily. I read daily, no matter how lengthy or short the reading material is. On a busy day, I read something short. On a less busy day, I read something lengthy.  Reading doesn’t necessarily have to consist of reading a book. Reading a newspaper or magazine article is indeed considered reading.

2. Visit a library weekly. Even when I don’t have a book in mind, I go anyway. Usually, I end up with a book or two that are well worth the trip. I also find that my weekly trips to the library amount to me reading more books, considering the fact that I am borrowing and returning books on a weekly basis.

3. Organize a family book club monthly. Select a book the entire family can read and discuss it on a monthly basis. This has been especially simple and doable for my family because our family book selection usually falls in line with Book Kids’ Book of the Month.  We encourage you to use this as your book selection guide as well.

4. Purchase a book quarterly. Treat yourself to a book you’ve always wanted and simply can’t wait to dive into. I use this as a reading reward for my kids and they love it.

5. Visit a book event biannually. Check your local event or community calendar for book events. These are usually held at schools, libraries, bookstores, community centers, etc. Moreover, these are held throughout the year so you’re bound to find one you and your family can attend.

6. Meet an author annually. Authors are touring year-round. Track down your favorites. This can also be a great opportunity to purchase an autographed copy of a book by your favorite author, a great supplement to your quarterly book purchase.

Keep in mind that, like any resolution, these reading resolutions aren’t one-size-fits-all; particularly taking into consideration the daily demands of life pushing and pulling us all in various directions. What works for one may not work for another. These, however, are easy-to-follow suggestions that will help keep you from falling off the reading wagon. Remain persistent and the rewards will be well worth the efforts. Happy New Year! Happy Reading!

What are your New Year’s reading resolutions? We would love to hear about them. Please leave a comment or two below.

By: Dawn Hoff, Book Kids

Never Judge a Book Solely by Its Cover

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During a recent conversation, a good friend of mine couldn’t stop bragging about a book she’d recently read and would highly recommend I read as well. The title sounded very familiar. Upon googling it, I recognized its cover illustration and soon realized this to be one of many books I’d previously stumbled upon at the library and totally undermined because I wasn’t all that impressed with its appearance.

Fortunately, I revisited my local library and checked this book out, and it turned out to be one of the best written books I’d ever read. It still troubles me to think that I could have missed out on a really great book simply because I chose to judge it solely by its cover. Needless to say, that incident became an aha moment, prompting me the become more conscious of how I select books based on appearance.

Clearly, it is never okay to judge a book solely by its cover, nonetheless, we all too soon find ourselves in situations where we feel the pressure or need to. If ever you are unsure of a particular book and feel the need make a swift decision based primarily, if not solely on its appearance (perhaps due to time constraints, limited information, last minute gift shopping rush, etc.) keep these basic reminders at the tip of you conscience:

1. Not every book with a faulty cover has a faulty storyline. We all know outer appearance can be misleading. Using the example above, while the book’s appearance was unappealing to me, the storyline turned out to be one of the best I had ever read. I could have easily missed out on a great book because I misjudged its content based on what it looked like on the outside. While I was given another chance at it, be mindful that opportunities are not guaranteed to knock more than once, therefore choose wisely.

2. Not every book with a fancy cover has a fancy storyline. I’m sure we all have our share of stories of books that were amazingly attractive on the outside, and turned out to be a total misuse of reading time. Some, we forced ourselves to read just because… While others, we decided to simply just “let it go!” Keep in mind that, while reading is never a misuse of time, reading the wrong book is. There are many great books out there for everyone. Don’t miss out on them as a result of chasing down “pretty” books.

3. Our young readers are taking mental notes. Kids have the tendency to emulate adults; and the last thing we’d want our kids doing is deciding the value of books based on appearance. Whenever my kids pick out books from our library, the first thing I do is ask them why they pick that particular book. When it becomes apparent that appearance has clouded their judgment, I usually follow up with, “Why don’t you read a bit more to get the scope of the book,” including, preface, headings, table of contents, a few sentences etc., as time allows. It helps that we are rarely in a time crunch when we visit our library, allowing us ample time to skim through book pages rather than just book covers.

4. Our book picking practices extend beyond books. I can be an overthinker at times so let’s hope I’m overthinking this one. Let’s hope I’m simply overthinking to think that selecting books based solely on appearance feeds into society’s obsession with outer appearance. Every time I catch myself making a book decision based on appearance, I stop, pause, and wonder whether I am indirectly teaching my kids that outer beauty carries more weight and value than inner beauty. Perhaps, not. However, it is a risk that I am not willing to take. I would especially love to hear your feedback on this.  

5. Practice makes progress. Realistically, no one is fully immune to this and no one can fully perfect this. However, the more we make conscious efforts to look beyond the cover of a book, the less likely we are to judge it by its appearance.

Of course there are the obvious influence of media buzz, reviews, and recommendations;  new releases, best selling, and award winning lists; and simple word of mouth,  just to name a few. However, if we don’t apply basic discernment on a regular basis, the influence of appearance will surely creep in and override the rest. Stay on guard!  

We would love to hear from you. Tell us about situations where you felt the pressure or need to judge a book solely by its cover. What were the outcomes? Please leave a comment or two below.

By: Dawn Hoff, Book Kids

7 Practical Ways to Minimize Cost of Reading Materials for Your Book Kids.

Book Tree (520x520)

Oh, how we wish books grew on trees. The reality is that they cost dollars and cents. Let’s face it, times are difficult economically for many.  Buying books then becomes one of the last things on the minds of many, especially when it has to compete with meeting the bare necessities. Books can become costly, however there are ways to minimize the cost. Here are seven:

1. Create it. Have your kids create their own books. This is highly advantageous on so many levels. Creating the books allows your kids to exercise their sense of creativity; to sharpen up on their writing and illustration skills; to dig deep and utilize their ever-expanding imaginations; and to take pride and joy in their new creations. Not to mention, your book kids now have new books to add to their home library, without you having to break the bank.

2. Borrow it. Borrow books from your local public or school library. Libraries have numerous titles from which to choose, and they are free. Take advantage of this opportunity to ensure your kids always have reading materials available. We cannot emphasize this enough.

3. Swap it. Organize and host a monthly, quarterly, biannual, or annual book swap party for kids. Collaborate with other parents and have the kids gather books they are willing to get rid of, compile these books and swap them. Everyone then ends up with free books. Can’t beat that! A great way to make the party unique is to organize and display the books as they would appear in an actual bookstore. Give the kids artificial money and have them purchase the books. This is a great way to sharpen up on math skills as well. Alternating locations (various homes, library, park, etc.) will work as an added bonus.

4. Download it. The online resources are endless. There are tons of free children’s books online that are only a click away from your home computer or printer. Your child can either read them online or download and print them. If you don’t have access to a home computer, check with your local libraries. They usually have them available for your use. Here are some great sites to explore: Children’s Storybooks Online, Storyline Online, Free Kids Books, Children’s Books Online, Magic Blox International Children’s Digital LibraryWe Give Books, and many others.

5. Request it. Ask for free books for your kids. There are numerous literacy organizations that help provide free books to families in need. You can contact them directly or through your local library or children’s schools. Here are a list of a few: First Books, Heart of America Foundation, Kids Need to ReadLibrary of Congress Books Surplus Program, The Literacy Empowerment Foundation, Books for Kids Foundation, Scholastic Book Grants, Reach Out and Read, Reading is Fundamental. For a list of more programs click here.

6. Win it. Interestingly enough, your book kids can win free children’s books through various reading programs at school, online, or at your local libraries. Many require your kids’ participation in their reading programs. Sign them up, have them read the required number of books, and they win free books. The Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge is one of the largest reading programs currently underway. Check your local listings for others.

7. Buy it. There are times when there may be no other way around it. You may have to buy some books. For such a time as this, know that there are many bargain bookstores that sell discounted children’s books. Check your local listings for them. Some local libraries sell used books for little to nothing. Scholastic Book Fairs is also another great resource for obtaining great books at a very reasonable cost. Again, check your local listings, kids’ schools, and local libraries for information on these book fairs and discounts.

All in all, while books may not grow on trees, these penny-pinching tips, put to great use certainly will make them appear as if they do. Let’s do all we can to make sure our kids have sufficient reading materials, without us having to break the bank in the process. Happy Reading!

By: Dawn Hoff, Book Kids



5 Reading Tips to Ensure Your Book Kids Are Achieving the 20 Minutes a Day Reading Recommendation


Research (Nagy & Herman, 1987) shows that students who read at least 20 minutes daily have a clear literacy advantage over kids who read less or don’t read at all. This infographic by the Perry Lecompton School District, Perry KS depicts an alarming illustration of such findings.


Twenty minutes of reading per day may seem simple and doable. However, be ever mindful that the busyness of life can easily creep in and rob our book kids of these crucial 20 minutes of valuable reading time; and if we are not vigilant, they can easily slip into the student “C” category. Here are five simple time saving reading tips to ensure that your kids are reading at least 20 minutes a day.

1. Too much homework? Order a kid or teen magazine subscription or check some out from your local library. These make quick, fun, and easy reads, especially when everyone is crunched for time.  Kids can easily grab one during snack time or homework break and read a quick short story or two. Two of our favorites are Highlights and Stone Soup. Their beautifully illustrated short stories, great poems, excellent articles, and amazing artwork are bound to captivate your kids’ attention. Highlights is especially  jam packed with wonderful games, jokes, puzzles, riddles and other activities. 


2. Too many sports or extracurricular activities? Have lots of mini books available at all times.  These are quick, fun, and easy reads that your book kids can breeze through in a flash on the way to basketball practices or football games. Some great examples of these are the Steck-Vaughn Adventure and Mystery Books: Smoke, A Bone To Pick, Don’t Look Back, Forgotten Treasure, Stolen Bases, Buying Trouble, Please Call Back!, Modem Menace, Video Quest, Road Rally, and many others.  My kids particularly love them because they are full of suspense and adventure; and I love them because they are great on-the-go-books.


3. Too much time with technology? Incorporate technology into the reading process. We live in an age where kids and technology seem to be almost inseparable. While technology can be a major time thief, using it as a reading and educational tool can be another great way to squeeze in that 20 minutes of reading. There are substantial amounts or reading and educational materials on the internet; and with some supervision and monitoring on the part of the parent, everyone benefits ultimately -your book kids are excited that they get a technology break, and you are thrilled that they get some reading done in the process.



4. Too many chores? Whip out those flash cards or vocabulary words. Chores are inevitable and can take up an incredible amount of time on a daily basis. If we are not observant, they can easily zap up a tremendous amount of valuable reading time. If you can’t minimize the chores, maximize the time by having your kids read their flash cards or study their vocabulary words while tackling their chores. Ultimately, they end up accomplishing three things all at once: reading, homework and chores. It doesn’t get any better or easier than this.

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 5. Too little interest or enthusiasm for reading? Stock up on some educational board games. Let’s face it, even our little book enthusiasts have days when they simply do not want to read. For such a time as this, these games come in very handy. Playing a quick game of Scrabble, Trivia Pursuit, Boggle, Jr. and others alike can easily expose your book kids to hundreds of words within minutes; and they actually get to have fun playing with words. They may not have the urge to grab a book to read at the moment, but they certainly wouldn’t mind joining in on a good game of Scrabble.

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All things considered, there is no substitute for a good book. Ideally, every child is reading at least 20 minutes per day; realistically, not every child is. These five effortless, time saving tips will help ensure that your kids are at least achieving the 20 minutes a day reading recommendation. Anything more is an added bonus.  Happy quick, fun, and easy reading!

By: Dawn Hoff, Book Kids