What to read

A Year of Picture Books

Blame it on the pandemic, the election debacle, or the winter blues, but we have just about had it this year. Our homeschool was feeling like drudgery and needed a spark, so I decided to make a much needed change. This year we are declaring it to be a Year of Picture Books in our household. After listening to countless parents gushing over their love of picture books on The Read Aloud Revival I finally tried it myself and we love it! There is some kind of weird thing that happens around grade 4 where we think that since a child can read on their own that they should put aside picture books and move to strictly chapter books. That is so wrong and sad! A really good picture book presents wonderful information and exposes the child to art at the same time. (If you want to fight me over this…bring it! Only kinda joking….) Yes there are purely silly picture books that are put out for really small children that are not that great of quality, but for the most part, so many picture books are wonderful and full of valuable lessons if you look for them. I hope by sharing our favorites, you too can bring these delightful gems into your home and get to share countless hours reading to your children (My 16 yr old daughter loved these just as much as my 9 yr old son and I did, so age and gender doesn’t matter a bit when a good book is involved)

**Oh, and if you keep a Book of Centuries, many of these titles have important dates that you can add to your timeline.

We really loved The Oldest Student. This book tells the story of how a former slave traveled through life yearning to learn to read but never got the chance. She eventually learned at the age of 116. My kids were so surprised that she lived through 26 presidents! My favorite line from the book was, “As the airplane dipped and soared like those swallow-tailed kites of long ago, Mary decided that flying was a lot like reading: they both made a body feel as free as a bird.”

Balderdash!: John Newbery and the Boisterous Birth of Children's Books (Nonfiction Books for Kids, Early Elementary Histor...

Balderdash! tells the story of how John Newbery sought to bring good, quality books to children at a time when most people felt children prospered better with dry, boring books. I love his quote, “The Grand Design in the Nurture of Children is to make them Strong, Hardy, Healthy, Virtuous, Wise, and Happy.”

Malala's Magic Pencil

We all loved Malala’s Magic Pencil. This book tells the amazing story of how one girl stood up to the Taliban and tried to fight for women’s education in her country. Oh, the artwork was so beautiful in this book. The artist used metallic paint any time that Malala was dreaming about a brighter future, so her dreams just shined so brightly throughout the pages. The most stunning (and heart wrenching) page is completely black with the following words printed in white, “My voice became so powerful that the dangerous men tried to silence me. But they failed.” This of course is referencing when an extremist shot Malala in the head in an attempt to silence her….she amazingly survived.

The Polio Pioneer

I picked out this book to share with my children because we are living in a pandemic right now and need all of the positivity about science that we can get. But it was amazing and beautiful too, so that was another blessing. This book tells the amazing story of Dr. Jonas Salk who dedicated his life to eradicating the polio virus. I enjoyed finding out that he helped to invent the flu vaccine and that its success encouraged him to attempt to make a vaccine for the polio virus. My favorite quote from Jonas Salk: “Hope lies in dreams, in imagination, and in the courage of those who dare to make dreams into reality.”

A Boy Called Dickens

A Boy Called Dickens follows the childhood of Charles Dickens and shows how his early years contributed to his success as a writer. We are currently reading A Christmas Carol, so it was nice to show the kids where Dickens drew his inspiration from. Oliver Twist and David Copperfield both contain characters with similar characteristics and names of people that Dickens met in his own life. Excerpt from the book: “For years Dickens kept the story of his own childhood a secret. Yet it is a story worth telling. For it helps us to remember how much we all might lose when a child’s dreams don’t come true.”

Worst of Friends: Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and the True Story of an American Feud

This was one of my favorites that we have read so far. Worst of Friends tells the story of how the good friendship of Jefferson and Adams fell apart over politics. This book was so painful to read because we are once again being torn apart as a nation over politics (will it ever end?) This book is chockful of historical information, contains wonderful artwork, and tells a moving story of how we all need to remember that relationships are more important than how you decide to vote in an election. I was shocked that these good friends did not talk for 12 years. The best line in the whole book was when Adams wrote to Jefferson that “You had as good a right to your opinion as I had to mine.” I won’t lie that it made me tear up and my son had to finish reading it for me. What are we doing to each other as a nation!?! **Another interesting fact that we learned was that they both died on the exact same day, July 4, 1826.

Thanks to Frances Perkins: Fighter for Workers' Rights

Thanks to Frances Perkins tells the amazing story of how one woman said no to injustice and spent her whole life seeking to make life better for all of us. After witnessing the horrific Triangle Waist Company fire that killed 146 people (who were locked in what we would call a sweat shop today), Frances vowed to make a difference in the working conditions of women, children, and immigrants. She was an amazing woman. She encouraged FDR to add the Social Security Act to his New Deal programs and helped to think up minimum wage, unemployment insurance, survivor benefits, and countless other workforce laws that still help us today. Frances also has the distinction of being the first woman to be in the United States Cabinet when she was appointed to be Secretary of Labor under Franklin Roosevelt in 1933. My favorite quote from her was, “I promise to use what brains I have to meet problems with intelligence and courage.”

Have you read any good picture books lately??

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