Archive for the ‘Commentary’ Category

Red Cedar and Stellar Book Award Winners Announced

Posted on May 22nd, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

The winners of the 2010/2011 Red Cedar Book Awards are:

Fiction Award Winner:

Libertad by Alma Fullerton

Libertad at

Libertad at

Information Book Award Winner: Everything but the Kitchen Sink by Frieda Wishinsky and Elizabeth MacLeod

Everything but the Kitchen Sink: Weird Stuff You Didn’t Know About Food at

Everything But the Kitchen Sink at

The winner of the 2010/2011 Stellar Book Award is: The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong
The Summoning (Darkest Powers, Book 1) at

The Summoning (Darkest Powers, Book 1) at

Catch my profile of John Wilson in the spring issue of Canadian Children’s Book News

Posted on May 10th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

It was such a pleasure to have the opportunity to interview John Wilson. He is one of my eldest son’s favourite authors. You will find my profile of John Wilson in the Spring 2011 issue of Canadian Children’s Book News.

Congratulations to Carol C and Tracy B – They each won a copy of E is for Environment

Posted on April 29th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

Thank you to everyone who left comments about E is for Environment. Carol C and Tracy B each won copies of the book!

Be sure to watch for future book giveaways, guest posts and contests.

15 Tips for Parents of Young Readers and Writers

Posted on April 27th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

15 tips for Parents of Young Readers and Writers from Storytime Standouts

Raising a child who reads well and loves to pick up a book is a team effort. Parents can support young readers’ and writers’ formal learning by being involved and enthusiastic, providing encouragement and tools. Here are some ways you can help set the stage for reading success.

Download a free, printable PDF of this information

image of PDF icon  15 Tips for Supporting Young Readers and Writers

    Be a reader and a writer – make sure your children see you reading books for pleasure and information as well as writing letters or making lists.

    Read aloud to your children every day – even once they have learned how to read.  Make it a priority to find great articles and engaging books to share with your family.

    Be flexible.  Read when, where and how it suits your child.  If your child won’t sit still, it is okay to play quietly or color a picture while listening.

    Write silly notes to your children.  Print out  riddles and add them to a  lunch bag or hide them under a pillow.

    • Have Grandma or Grandpa send emails, encourage your child to reply.

    • Try a new recipe, read a map, solve a mystery, check out the comics or learn magic tricks together.  Help your child realize the value of being a good reader.

    • Hook your child with wonderful series books or look for more books by a favourite author or illustrator.

    • Encourage your child to notice and read environmental print (stop signs, entrance,  exit, push and pull signs as well as labels on groceries or names of familiar stores).

    Listen to your children when they read (or when they pretend to read).  Offer lots of encouragement to readers and writers of every age.

    • If possible, have a basket of  books, a well-placed reading light and a comfortable chair inviting young readers to curl up and enjoy a story.

    Keep writing implements; coloured pencils, erasers, rulers and paper handy.  A stapler is also great for children who want to make their own books.

    Visit your public library regularly.  Encourage your children to borrow fiction and non fiction books.

    Get to know your child’s school librarian and make sure the librarian knows your child’s ability and interests.

    Explore your community with your child.  Background experiences help readers to understand.  A child who has been to an aquarium or a farm will make connections when reading about sea creatures or baby piglets.

    Ask for recommendations and suggestions.  Most libraries have lists of book recommendations.  Check with friends and teachers and look at our picture book and chapter book recommendations.   If you need help, send an email. We will gladly give you suggestions.

For further information, check out our page on early literacy.

This is great! – Lane Smith’s “It’s a Book”

Posted on April 7th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

Can’t resist sharing Lane Smith’s “It’s a Book.” Hope you enjoy it is much as I did…

Helping a Beginning Reader – Let’s Make a Plan

Posted on April 5th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

9 Ways to Help a Beginning Reader Succeed from

If you are helping a beginning reader, I’m hoping some of these ideas will be of assistance to you and your child.

I want to begin by saying some children don’t want to read aloud to an adult. They may feel too “exposed” and may worry about making mistakes. If your child doesn’t want to read aloud to you, suggest that she read aloud to a favourite doll or teddy bear or even the family dog. There was a study, not long ago, that found reading aloud to a dog was effective in improving reading skills.

image of cover art for Jen the Hen, a good book for a beginning readerI also want to mention that parents should continue to read aloud to children long after they learn to read for themselves. So, don’t stop reading aloud just because your child has started to read. Hearing you read more challenging stories will encourage them to improve their own reading skills.

Click on the book covers for more information about each book and follow this link for more information about Beginning to Read.

Anyhow, back to the “plan” for helping a beginning reader…

Choosing a book is alot like tasting porridge. We don’t want a book that is too difficult and we want to move past the ones that are too easy. We want a book that is “just right.” Some people suggest using The Rule of Five. If your child has difficulty with five or more words on a page, have your child choose a different, easier book to read. Then, offer to read the “too tough” book aloud so your child has the opportunity to enjoy it.

Keep in mind that just because a book is labelled “level 3,” does not mean that the level of difficulty is consistent with other books with the same label. Take time to check out the text.

Once your child has selected a book, talk about the cover. What sort of story will it be? Does this cover remind you of anything else we’ve read? Who wrote the book? Who illustrated it?

If the book is non fiction (a fact book), ask your child what he hopes to learn and what he already knows about the subject. Warm up the book.

Decide how best to share the book… does your child want to read it silently and then aloud? would your child like you to read together with him? will you alternate pages or paragraphs? or will your child read the passage and then listen while you reread it? Please keep in mind that some memorizing and guessing is “normal.”If your child makes a mistake or gets mixed up, pause and give him a chance to self correct. If he can’t solve the problem, suggest that he try to read it again or read to the end of the sentence and decide which word would make sense.

image of cover art for Mercy Watson, a good series for a beginning reader

If he makes a mistake that does not make sense, ask him, “Did that make sense? Did it sound right?” If he tries twice but can’t decode the word, tell him the correct word.

If possible, as you are reading together, pause to discuss what is happening, what might happen next, how the story might end.

Remember, your praise is incredibly important to your child. There are all sorts of things you can say to a beginning reader

“I loved your expression when you read that story.”
“I’m so glad you are checking out the pictures for clues about this story.”
“I like the way you figured out that tough word.”
“I’m glad you asked me to help you read that tricky word.”
“I am so proud of your reading!”

image of cover art for Houndsley and Catina, a popular book for a beginning reader

Keep in mind that your child does not have to read perfectly. If she substitutes a word and the sentence still makes sense, ignore the mistake and let her continue. If she makes a mistake and the sentence does not make sense, wait for the sentence to end and then ask, “Does that make sense?” Encourage her to correct her own mistakes.

My own person advice is to relax. Learning to read is not a race and becoming an early reader does not ensure a love of books. Reading is like so many other milestones in childhood. Some children become readers quickly and almost effortlessly, while others require encouragement and lots of extra help. Your child will become a reader – I am sure of it – and, if you can keep the experience positive, relaxed and happy, I believe you will be playing a critically important part in raising your child to love to books and reading.

Please share your ideas, questions and suggestions about helping a beginning reader.

Scribbling Women – Marthe Jocelyn Provides An Intimate, Revealing Look at Women Writers

Posted on April 1st, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

Storytime Standouts looks at Marthe Jocelyn's new book:  Scribbling Women“Scribbling Women”: True Tales from Astonishing Lives
written by Marthe Jocelyn

When I was invited to participate in Marthe Jocelyn’s blog tour for her fascinating new book, “Scribbling Women”: True Tales from Astonishing Lives, I had no idea that having an opportunity to read and savour her words would touch me in such a positive and personal way.

For Marthe Jocelyn, it must have been a daunting task to select eleven women writers to profile. She not only describes their writing, she illuminates us about the worlds they lived in, the choices they made and their extraordinary experiences. The resulting book, is an intimate, revealing look at the lives of these remarkable women and a celebration of women’s writing in general. Carefully researched, Ms. Jocelyn provides the back stories and guides her readers to appreciate the hardships, danger, drama, heartache and triumphs these fascinating women experienced.

Respectfully and lovingly written, “Scribbling Women” provides behind-the-scene glimpses that will inspire readers to consider the story behind the author each time they read. As well, the insight will encourage women to take up a pen or keyboard to share their own dreams, ideas and observations.

Several of the stories resonated with me personally and it would be difficult to select a favourite except for the fact that I have a copy of Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management. It was in my husband’s parent’s home when we dealt with the contents just about one year ago. Held together by my father-in-law’s masking tape repair job, many of the pages are discoloured, some are loose.

Having read, “Scribbling Women”, not only do I know the previous owner of the book, I feel I have gained insight into the author and how she impacted the world around her. I am truly grateful for the information and will treasure Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management – even if If don’t have a housekeeper (as second in command) in my home.

Readers interested in “Scribbling Women” will want to learn more about this blog tour. Be sure to visit Tundra Books’ weblog and discover how to win an enormous collection of Marthe Jocelyn’s wonderful books.

As well, please visit one of these blogs and read more about “Scribbling Women”

Jo Ann at Journey of a Bookseller and Melanie at The Indextrious Reader

Update June 18, 2012 “Scribbling Women” nominated for the Norma Fleck Award For Canadian Children’s Non-Fiction

“Scribbling Women”: True Tales from Astonishing Lives at

“Scribbling Women”: True Tales from Astonishing Lives at

News for Canadian Authors and Illustrators

Posted on March 30th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

The Canadian Children’s Book Centre has today announced the creation of a new membership level: Professional Creators. Effective immediately, published authors, illustrators and professional storytellers, will be offered memberships for a discounted (annual) rate of $35.00.

All members receive a one-year subscription to the quarterly magazine Canadian Children’s Book News and a copy of Best Books for Kids & Teens, the CCBC’s annual selection guide. Members also receive an invitation to the Annual General Meeting each June and invitations to special events hosted by the CCBC throughout the year.

In addition, Professional Creator members will have the opportunity to be listed in the Canadian Children’s Book Centre’s Author, Illustrator, and Storyteller Directory.

Today is World Read Aloud Day

Posted on March 9th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

According to, nearly 1 billion people entered this century unable to read a book or sign their name.

World Read Aloud Day is about showing the world that all people should be able to read and write. World Read Aloud Day enlists the support of children, teens and adults in celebrating the power of words. It is intended to create a community of readers advocating for every child’s right to a safe education along with access to books and technology.

We hope that by celebrating this day in communities around the globe, we will convey the message that all children have the right to read and to write and, by exchanging words and ideas, we can change the world.

Suggested activities for celebrating World Read Aloud Day

10 FAQs About Reading Aloud to Children

Posted on February 3rd, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

Here are our answers to 10 frequently asked questions about reading aloud to children

10 FAQ About Reading aloud to young children -

Simply put, reading aloud to your children will positively effect them for the rest of their lives.

Reading aloud and sharing wonderful stories will make them laugh (and cry), expand their vocabulary, broaden their view of the world, teach them lessons, prepare them for formal reading instruction and create long lasting memories.

Here are my answers to ten frequently asked questions about reading aloud to children…

Goodnight Moon is a great readaloud for babies and toddlers
When should I start reading to my baby?
Some people would say, “Start while the baby is still in the womb.” For me personally, I think six months is a good age. Ideally, starting to read to your child should happen before the baby is really mobile. Snuggle up and enjoy a couple of board books every day.

Harry Potter is a terrific readaloud for eight year oldsWhen can I stop reading to my child(ren)?
My personal opinion is that you should continue reading aloud daily to your children (at least) until they are teens. We know that as children get older, the words, paragraphs and chapters become longer, there are fewer illustrations and the content is often more complex. If you continue to read to your child – even after he becomes an independent reader – you and he can enjoy books that are too challenging for him to read independently. This provides great motivation for him to continue reading

Who should read aloud to our children?
Everyone! I would love to have parents, grandparents, babysitters, aunts and uncles read aloud to children. Each adult can bring something special to the read aloud and/or storytelling experience. For boys, it is very valuable to have a male role model for reading. I know of one family where Dad reads the stories while Mom sits nearby and enjoys her own book. This is great for the children to observe.

What if my child won’t sit still for a story?
Hearing the story is more important that sitting still for the story. Allow your child to bathe or colour or bounce a ball while you read aloud.

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom is good fun for Preschool Age Children

My child wants to hear the same story over and over again… I’m bored. What should I do?
Read your child’s favorite story and then offer an incentive to listen to something different… “We can turn the light out now and you can go to sleep OR you can stay up late tonight and hear this new story!” My prediction is 9/10 children will want to stay up late to hear a new story.

I have two children, aged six and three. Can I read the same stories to them or do they each need their own stories?
Ideally I would try to read stories to each BUT that may only be possible occasionally. Just do your best.

What if a book includes a word or idea that I object to?
Rather than avoid the book altogether, use this as an opportunity to explain your objection to your child. Books can be great springboards for frank discussions about behavior, language and more.

Puzzle books like Spot Seven help children learn to notice small details
My child likes those puzzle books but I find them really boring. What’s the point of those books?
I Spy, Spot Seven, Can You See What I See? – type books help your child to notice small details and will also introduce new vocabulary. Enjoy in moderation.

Some of these fairy tales can be awfully scary… Is it okay to read them to my child?
You’re right, witches and potions and monsters can be scary. Be guided by your child. If your child wants to hear you read a scary story, trying it while sitting comfortably with you enables them to enjoy a shiver of excitement in a safe setting, One of my fondest camping memories involves a campfire, a book of ghost stories and a flashlight!

Wordless picture books like Breakfast for Jack are great for multilingual families
English is not my first language. I am uncomfortable reading English to my children. What should I do?
Books on tape or CD could help you and your child enjoy books together. Look for these at your local library. While you are at the library, find out about storytimes, many libraries offer several opportunities for children to hear stories read aloud. Wordless and almost wordless picture books may also be a good choice for you and your child. Finally, you will spend many years encouraging your child to try new things – I would encourage you to try reading at least one book to your child every day even though you may make mistakes.

Our page about Wordless and Almost Wordless Picture Books

For book recommendations, check out our picture book and chapter book suggestions.

If you have a specific question about reading aloud to children, leave a comment. We promise to reply with our best ideas to help you read aloud to your child.

Canada’s Freedom to Read Week

Posted on January 25th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

Freedom to Read Week 2011

Canada will celebrate Freedom to Read Week February 20 – 26, 2011. Freedom to Read Week is an annual event that encourages Canadians to think about and reaffirm their commitment to intellectual freedom. There are many ways to get involved including attending or hosting an event, participating in a photo contest, reading or releasing a challenged book.

Freedom to Read Homepage

January 27th is Family Literacy Day in Canada

Posted on January 21st, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

January 27th is Family Literacy Day in Canada and this year’s theme is “Play for Literacy.” I hope you will join in making family literacy a priority by participating in a community event or planning some special activities at home. Next Thursday evening, how about turning off the television, computers and smart phone and dusting off a board game or two. Why not challenge your children to a game of Scrabble, Life, Monopoly, Skip-Bo or Blokus?

In our household, Scrabble is the current favourite. We play as individuals or form two teams. During the holidays, we awarded double points to any “sort-of Christmas-y” word – just to change things up a little.

When the boys were younger, we played countless games of Skip-Bo. Skip-Bo is a fantastic game for developing math sense – without anyone realizing that is what’s happening. It is great for children and adults to play together and it has a “junior” version for younger kids.

Blokus is not as well known but it is another game we have played many times. It really encourages players to think and plan. An enjoyable strategy game, Blokus is also great for kids and adults to play together.

Blokus Classics Game at

Blokus Board Game at

You will find more information about Family Literacy Day at ABC Life Literacy Canada

Please check out our many free printables that support family literacy and our Pinterest Family Literacy Board.

Please share your thoughts about Family Literacy Day and favorite board games.

Scrabble Crossword Game at

Scrabble Crossword Board Game at

Great Non Electronic Toy for Teens and Adults

Posted on January 5th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

Image of Brainstring, a non electronic toyWhen Christmas shopping for my thirteen year old, I wanted a non electronic toy and I stumbled upon Brain String – Advanced. This non electronic, 3D puzzle was a “hit” in our home throughout the Christmas holidays as it was picked up by various family members. New puzzles were created and solved over and over again.

The puzzle features colour-coded elastic strings stretched within a transparent, symmetrical dome. The challenge is to work, by slightly stretching the strings, from outside the dome to create a knot inside it and then to solve the puzzle you created by manipulating the strings until you untangle the knot. This is done by moving the strings from surface to surface and hole to hole. The strings have colour-coded buttons that match the string colours. The buttons and strings move from hole to hole and surface to surface as you attempt to untangle your knot. Ideally, a “solved puzzle” will have like colours on each surface of the dome and no entangled strings.

A highly recommended non electronic toy for teens and adults who enjoy a mental challenge, Brain String Original is also available.

Brain String (Advanced) at

Brain String Teaser (Original) at

Brain String (Advanced) at

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