Archive | Raising Star Readers

Constance Van Hoven and Her Reading Team
November 2020

Despite the coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic and a way-too-long phys­i­cal sep­a­ra­tion from her Read­ing Team, Con­nie Van Hov­en has con­tin­ued to find cre­ative ways for them to enjoy books togeth­er. Here, Con­nie describes some of the tac­tics she’s using — includ­ing tech­nol­o­gy and canine love — to assist her in Rais­ing Star Readers:

My Read­ing Team is going to the dogs!

I have been unable to vis­it my Den­ver grand­kids, Priya and Nikhil, since last Jan­u­ary. While I’m grate­ful we can keep in touch with Face­time vis­its and Zoom get-togeth­ers, it just isn’t the same. The kids will turn four (Priya) and two (Nikhil) in the next few weeks; I feel deeply the pass­ing of time.

To help keep the kids’ atten­tion while we com­mu­ni­cate online, I enlist the aid of our black Lab, Peg. Peg is eight years old, but she has the heart of a tod­dler, so she’s always curi­ous when she hears the kids’ voic­es and is hap­py to wave a paw. More about Peg in a moment though….

Both kids are crazy about dogs, espe­cial­ly Nikhil. So, in an effort to appeal to Nikhil for this install­ment of our Read­ing Team expe­ri­ence, I decid­ed to send sev­er­al dog books to Den­ver. Let’s see — so many dog char­ac­ters to choose from! Bis­cuit, Clif­ford, Carl, Skip­pyjon Jones, Martha, maybe even Walter?

Let's Find Momo!In the end, I chose a new­er dog on the block. I found this title on the New York Times best­seller list: Let’s Find Momo! A Hide-and-Seek Board Book by Andrew Knapp. Momo is a bor­der col­lie and an Insta­gram hit turned book celebri­ty. The author cre­at­ed a series of books fea­tur­ing pho­tographs of his dog, Momo, pos­ing in fun and inter­est­ing set­tings. Both kids enjoyed this book; Nikhil searched for Momo on each page, while Priya stud­ied the puz­zle aspects.


Nikhil and Priya search for Momo

Nikhil and Priya search for Momo

Next up, the top dog: Spot. The Spot books, writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Eric Hill, were rel­a­tive­ly new when Priya and Nikhil’s dad was a lit­tle boy. I still have his dog-eared copy of Where’s Spot to share with the kids when they can final­ly come for a visit.

Spot's TractorI did some research on Eric Hill and dis­cov­ered he wrote this first Spot sto­ry for his son, born in 1976. Hill incor­po­rat­ed flaps inside the book — an inno­va­tion that we all know became wild­ly pop­u­lar. Mr. Hill, who often referred to him­self as “Spot’s Dad,” is no longer with us, though the lega­cy of his books (more than 60 mil­lion sold) lives on.

The attrac­tion of pup­py Spot is that he’s play­ful with just a hint of mis­chief. And the sit­u­a­tions Spot finds him­self in aren’t always total­ly pre­dictable. I chose a Spot book that fea­tures a trac­tor, because Nikhil likes trucks and trac­tors almost as much as he likes dogs. After Spot’s Trac­tor arrived in Den­ver, I was told it was the most request­ed bed­time book of both kids, and that some­times a squab­ble ensued over which bed­room the book would go to.

Nikhil shares a book with his dad (and Connie’s son) Phill

Nikhil shares a book with his dad (and Connie’s son) Phill

Fol­low­ing the suc­cess of Momo and Spot, I won­dered if I could cre­ate a sim­ple book with pho­tos of Peg that might delight the kids. As men­tioned, Peg is like a tod­dler — she always wants some­thing: her Fris­bee, food, water, a walk, a swim, a romp with oth­er dogs, etc. So, I titled the book What Does Peg Want? To make it, I col­lect­ed pho­tos and assem­bled them into a sim­ple story.

Nikhil reads Connie’s creation, a book featuring Reading Team dog Peg

Nikhil reads Connie’s cre­ation, a book fea­tur­ing Read­ing Team dog Peg

The pho­to book was a suc­cess. I’m hap­py to report that Peg is the cur­rent “fought over” bed­time book. My son report­ed that Nikhil stud­ies each page and sim­ply says in his sweet voice, “Hi, Peg.” I don’t know why, but that brought both a smile to my face and a tear to my eye.

Connie and Peg enjoy a virtual readaloud with their long-distance Reading Team

Con­nie and Peg enjoy a vir­tu­al readaloud with their long-dis­tance Read­ing Team

Small Walt Spots DotI’m sure Peg is almost as anx­ious as we are to see the kids again. (She hasn’t for­got­ten the joy of retriev­ing fall­en Chee­rios.) In the mean­time, vir­tu­al vis­its will have to do. And with the onset of snow­fall, I’m send­ing a new book, Small Walt Spots Dot by Eliz­a­beth Verdick (illus­trat­ed by Marc Rosen­thal), to Den­ver. Nikhil will be over the moon get­ting to know the intre­pid lit­tle snow­plow. This is the third book in Verdick’s pop­u­lar series about Walt the small snow­plow and dri­ver Gus. In this sto­ry, Walt and Gus come upon a stray pup­py (Dot) that needs their help.

I’m sure the book will engage Priya as well. But I’m guess­ing she will inten­si­fy her pleas for the fam­i­ly to get a dog — maybe a shel­ter dog. Priya has been ask­ing for a dog ever since the family’s beloved yel­low Lab, Lola, passed away sev­er­al years ago.

Lola had a habit of bolt­ing out the front door when the UPS truck pulled up, leap­ing onto the front seat. I guess she just want­ed to go for a ride. Which I can sure relate to dur­ing these days of lim­it­ed social­iz­ing! Some­day soon I’m plan­ning to brain­storm with Priya about a sto­ry we can write fea­tur­ing the adven­tures of Lola the Deliv­ery Truck Dog.

Mean­while, I’m grate­ful to have dogs, books, sto­ries, and video chat to main­tain a pre­cious con­nec­tion with my Read­ing Team across the long miles.


Bookol­o­gy is always look­ing for new Read­ing Teams to help us cel­e­brate the joys of read­ing aloud togeth­er. Con­tact Lisa Bullard for fur­ther infor­ma­tion if you’re inter­est­ed in participating.


Deb Andries and Her Reading Team
November 2020

Rais­ing Star Read­ers is delight­ed to drop in again on Deb Andries and her Read­ing Team as they cel­e­brate diverse new offer­ings from Deb’s local library. Here’s how Deb describes the books that are help­ing to bring her joy:

Read­ing remains a joy. Read­ing remains a trea­sured moment and a teach­able moment. Read­ing is shared.

Joy­ful read­ing occurs when the twins, Myles and Hayes, now 14 months, make every attempt to “sit” and “eat” the book! How­ev­er, the joy also occurs when I hear them bab­ble and attempt to mim­ic and repeat the rhythm of a nurs­ery rhyme or asso­ciate the pic­ture with the word or text on the same page. They love pick­ing and choos­ing books, open­ing them (and quick­ly clos­ing if left alone!); they also love “sit­ting” to spend indi­vid­ual and twin time togeth­er on Grammy’s lap. Late­ly we’ve enjoyed a pletho­ra of board books from Grammy’s bas­ket and their own shared trea­sured books from their brother’s collection.

Raising Star Readers

Deb and her girls: daugh­ter Abby (left) with her daugh­ter Emmy; daugh­ter Kellsey (right) with her daugh­ters Hayes (who she is hold­ing) and Myles (who Deb is holding)

My biggest shout-out goes to Thomas St. Ange­lo Pub­lic Library in Cum­ber­land, Wis­con­sin. They have curat­ed a num­ber of new books in their col­lec­tion, all of which high­light diver­si­ty. I was for­tu­nate to access titles includ­ing Danc­ing Hands by Mar­gari­ta Engle (illus­trat­ed by Rafael López); A Map into the World by Kao Kalia Yang (illus­trat­ed by Seo Kim); Tomor­row Most Like­ly by Dave Eggers (illus­trat­ed by Lane Smith); Tak­ing Time by Jo Lor­ing-Fish­er; and Catch That Chick­en! by Atinuke (illus­tra­tions by Angela Brooksbank).

Grayson, Fin­ley, and I shared Hair Love by Matthew A. Cher­ry (illus­trat­ed by Vashti Har­ri­son). As we know, see­ing our­selves and oth­ers in books is an oppor­tu­ni­ty to invite shared con­ver­sa­tions around how we are dif­fer­ent yet all alike.

Raising Star Readers

Grayson, Deb, and Fin­ley read­ing Hair Love

Where Are You From?One par­tic­u­lar sto­ry, Where Are You From? by Yamile Saied Mén­dez and illus­trat­ed by Jaime Kim, gen­er­at­ed dis­cus­sions around how chil­dren in oth­er regions and from dif­fer­ent eth­nic­i­ties refer to their grand­par­ents. We also shared and talked about how we all “belong” to some­one, some­where, and the impor­tance of shar­ing our sto­ries of belong­ing and the “place” we are from.

The joy of shar­ing trea­sured moments in books, bor­rowed and curb­side pick-up in the days of the pan­dem­ic, mean our oppor­tu­ni­ties to grow are unlim­it­ed as I share win­dows and mir­rors with my loved grandchildren.


Bookol­o­gy is always look­ing for new Read­ing Teams to help us cel­e­brate the joys of read­ing aloud togeth­er. Con­tact Lisa Bullard for fur­ther infor­ma­tion if you’re inter­est­ed in participating.


Anita Dualeh and Her Reading Team
October 2020

It’s always fun to catch up with one of our Read­ing Teams and see what titles have become new favorites for them. This month, how­ev­er, Ani­ta Dualeh and her sons are revis­it­ing OLD favorites: pic­ture books that were once beloved by Anita’s boys, but that they have now out­grown at ages 10 and 12. Below, Ani­ta describes what hap­pens when her Read­ing Team reex­am­ines these child­hood favorites through their more “grown-up” eyes:

The Snowy DayOne evening a few months ago, I came down to our office to find my son Adam fin­ish­ing up The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. He recalled that we used to read the book togeth­er. “Whis­tle for Willie is by the same author.” “We still have that book too,” I said as I went to retrieve it from the pic­ture book col­lec­tion that has been rel­e­gat­ed to the util­i­ty room.

I’ll read it — for old time’s sake,” he said, feel­ing like he need­ed an excuse to read some­thing that seemed child­ish to him now. That got me think­ing about revis­it­ing some of the well-loved books from my sons’ ear­li­er years. How well would the books hold up to the crit­i­cal eye of a 10- or a 12-year-old? I col­lect­ed some of their for­mer favorite sto­ries and we sat down one evening togeth­er to re-read some well-loved sto­ries. At first, Adam, my old­er son, tried to give the impres­sion that he wasn’t real­ly lis­ten­ing, in an attempt to com­mu­ni­cate “I’m old­er than that.” Caleb was a lit­tle bet­ter sport but, as usu­al, was influ­enced by Adam’s view to some extent.

Clip, ClopThe first book we read, Clip-Clop by Nico­la Smee, didn’t do much but con­firm their feel­ings. It was one of the first books Adam had request­ed by name when he was a tod­dler. He didn’t remem­ber that, and he no longer had fond feel­ings for the book. My boys thought the sto­ry line was too sim­ple for them now, and they no longer appre­ci­ate the repet­i­tive phras­es in the text.

I Stink!The next book didn’t get a much bet­ter recep­tion. We often used to check I Stink! by Kate and Jim McMul­lan out of the library, with its accom­pa­ny­ing CD. The boys both went through a phase when they would lis­ten repeat­ed­ly to this sto­ry about a garbage truck and his night­ly work. I guess we should have checked out the CD again for the full effect. As it was, my read­ing of the book dredged up no real pos­i­tive mem­o­ries. They just thought the text was sil­ly and won­dered why younger kids are so fas­ci­nat­ed by garbage trucks. 

Yellow ElephantYel­low Ele­phant: A Bright Bes­tiary by Julie Lar­ios was anoth­er favorite of Adam’s — he used to head right for the bin in the children’s sec­tion where he knew it would be “shelved.” He want­ed me to read it over and over to him, and still liked it when I read it to him and Caleb a few years lat­er. “I remem­ber this book,” Caleb said with a smile. We all admired the illus­tra­tions by Julie Paschkis, and not­ed this time how pret­ty the gold finch is. A few years ago, I found a used copy of this book for pur­chase, so now we have it on the book­shelf in the liv­ing room. Still, it had been a year or two since we’d last read it. About mid­way through read­ing it this time, Adam said, “these poems are for any age.” I agree. 

Scaredy SquirrelWe found that Scaredy Squir­rel by Mélanie Watt seemed to have tak­en on added mean­ing thanks to the pan­dem­ic. I used to read this book to Caleb fre­quent­ly, but this time, we were struck by how com­mon­place it now seems to heed the warn­ing inside the front cov­er: “Scaredy Squir­rel insists that every­one wash their hands with antibac­te­r­i­al soap before read­ing this book.” At the start of the sto­ry, the squir­rel nev­er leaves his tree, and every day is the same. We can so well relate to stay­ing home and think­ing that every day feels exact­ly the same. Scaredy Squir­rel even has a face mask and rub­ber gloves in his emer­gency kit, details we hadn’t tak­en much note of in all pri­or read­ings. But the squirrel’s self-quar­an­tine came to an end after he dis­cov­ered that noth­ing hor­ri­ble had hap­pened when he fell, pro­pelled out of this tree into the unknown. We were able to vic­ar­i­ous­ly enjoy Scaredy Squirrel’s “dras­tic changes” in his dai­ly rou­tine as we hold out hope for the day when we aren’t so con­fined to our own liv­ing space.

Adam, Anita, and Caleb reading Scaredy Squirrel

Adam, Ani­ta, and Caleb read­ing Scaredy Squir­rel

Get Me to the Ark on TimeThe last book we read that evening was Get Me to the Ark on Time, writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Cuyler Black. A riff on the flood account from the Torah, the sto­ry is pre­sent­ed in car­toon for­mat, nar­rat­ed by a flamin­go and an anteater. This book held their atten­tion, and the ban­ter between the nar­ra­tors still pro­duced a few smiles.

Then it was bed­time. As the boys drift­ed to their rooms, I was left with lin­ger­ing mem­o­ries of years gone by and filled with grat­i­tude for the bonds that have been forged over the years through the shar­ing of sto­ries. This is rea­son enough to per­sist with read-alouds, even as we move into the teen years. No, pre­cise­ly because we’re mov­ing into those tur­bu­lent years.


Bookol­o­gy is always look­ing for new Read­ing Teams to help us cel­e­brate the joys of read­ing aloud togeth­er. Con­tact Lisa Bullard for fur­ther infor­ma­tion if you’re inter­est­ed in participating.


Brenda Sederberg and Her Reading Team
October 2020

Rais­ing Star Read­ers is delight­ed to hear that Bren­da Sederberg’s Read­ing Team has added to its mem­ber­ship: wel­come, Baby Phoebe! Bren­da is also focus­ing on adding some­thing else — she is expand­ing on the list of her Team’s old favorites by inten­tion­al­ly look­ing for books that are diverse and inclu­sive, that allow her grand­daugh­ters to “see all chil­dren in the books we read.” Here’s how Bren­da describes it:

Our read­ing team grows! Sylvie turns two, and we wel­come her baby sis­ter Phoebe to the world, and to our read­ing team.

Per­haps Sylvie’s favorite book among many right now is Robert McCloskey’s Blue­ber­ries for Sal. She vis­its her great-grand­moth­er’s house and picks blue­ber­ries from the bush­es there, “only the blue ones.”

Days after Sylvie was born I read On the Day You Were Born, by Debra Frasi­er. For Phoe­be’s first days I chose to read Emi­ly Win­field Mar­t­in’s The Won­der­ful Things You Will Be. Sylvie, of course, lis­tens too. Mar­t­in’s illus­tra­tions include many babies and chil­dren doing all kinds of activ­i­ties, and asks “will you stand up for good and save the day?” Sylvie points to the lit­tle baby in a hood­ed sleep­er when­ev­er we look at the end page pictures.

The Wonderful Things You Are endpapers
Sylvie, Gram, and Phoebe reading

This book speaks to my goal of read­ing books that are diverse and inclu­sive. As we wish for all chil­dren to see them­selves in books, so I wish for Sylvie and Phoebe to see all chil­dren in the books we read.

As a Min­nesotan, feel­ing dev­as­tat­ed over the death of George Floyd and the racial injus­tices in our com­mu­ni­ties, I’m more mind­ful of what my grand­daugh­ters are see­ing and hear­ing in chil­dren’s lit­er­a­ture. As so many adults are cur­rent­ly focused on chang­ing their read­ing lists to include more Black, Indige­nous, Asian, and Lat­inx authors, I am doing the same for the books Sylvie, Phoebe, and I read togeth­er. I include here some books Sylvie and I have appre­ci­at­ed and enjoyed since you last read about our read­ing team:

I think Sylvie loves the award-win­ning Fry Bread: A Native Amer­i­can Fam­i­ly Sto­ry because the char­ac­ters are pic­tured eat­ing “num­mies!” I’m hap­py to read this sto­ry by Semi­nole Nation mem­ber Kevin Noble Mail­lard, illus­trat­ed by Peru­vian born Jua­na Mar­tinez-Neal, appre­ci­at­ing the illus­tra­tions that include a group of cul­tur­al­ly diverse children.

Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music, by Mar­gari­ta Engle, enchants Sylvie with bril­liant­ly col­ored images of the drums, snakes, and flow­ers of Cuba, illus­trat­ed by Rafael López. I love that the sto­ry is “the inspir­ing true sto­ry of a Chi­nese-African-Cuban girl who broke Cuba’s tra­di­tion­al taboo against female drummers.”

Around the Table That Grandad BuiltI thank Melanie Heuis­er Hill and Jamie (Jimyung) Kim for Around the Table That Grandad Built. This story’s repet­i­tive lines and pic­tures allows Sylvie to look at and name the sun­flow­ers, the forks, the spoons, and the col­ors of the plates. We read and name the foods on the table that include tamales, samosas, rice pud­ding, and the word “mmm­M­M­M­M­MM.” We look at the chil­dren pic­tured and note their skin col­ors and hairstyles.

Thank you to the book selec­tors of Chap­ter & Verse, a book club of which I am a mem­ber. Each month this group leads me to dis­cov­er books I might not oth­er­wise have known about, (includ­ing two of those I men­tioned above). From their website:

Chap­ter & Verse is a nation­al book club for children’s lit­er­a­ture enthu­si­asts in their com­mu­ni­ties who wish to dis­cuss children’s and young adult fic­tion, non­fic­tion, pic­ture books, and poet­ry.” If you’d like to form a group in your com­mu­ni­ty, check it out.

Until next time, wish­ing you good times read­ing good books.

—Sylvie, Phoebe, and their Gram

Bookol­o­gy is always look­ing for new Read­ing Teams to help us cel­e­brate the joys of read­ing aloud togeth­er. Con­tact Lisa Bullard for fur­ther infor­ma­tion about how to participate.

About Rais­ing Star Readers

The orig­i­nal inspi­ra­tion for this col­umn was Mar­i­on Dane Bauer’s book The Stuff of Stars and her sug­ges­tion for using that book as an ongo­ing scrap­book to doc­u­ment read­ing aloud with a child. More details about that sug­ges­tion can be found on this PDFThe Stuff of Stars is illus­trat­ed by Ekua Holmes and pub­lished by Can­dlewick Press. 


Ann Angel and Her Reading Team
September 2020

As our Rais­ing Star Read­ers col­umn kicks off anoth­er school year, edu­ca­tors and care­givers both con­tin­ue to face the kind of chal­lenges few of us could have imag­ined last fall. Here, Ann Angel describes how her Read­ing Team is coun­ter­ing the “pan­dem­ic bub­ble” by adding non­fic­tion books to their list of favorite reads: 

Hey there, par­ent or grand­par­ent, raise your hand if you’re a pan­dem­ic teacher. I’m guess­ing many hands just went up. My hand is up, too, and I hear from many oth­er grand­par­ents that as the school year begins, we’re pro­vid­ing child­care and the class­room for tod­dlers, kinder­garten­ers, and even some grade school­ers. At least we know that although we may be iso­lat­ed in this pan­dem­ic, we’re in this togeth­er. 

While we hadn’t real­ly planned to be called into ser­vice this way, there are some amaz­ing upsides to edu­cat­ing our lit­tle ones. The best upside is that we get to sift through and share new books and authors with our kids and grand­kids. In my new role as Nana and teacher, I’m see­ing such a won­der­land of non­fic­tion books, and I’m learn­ing about the uni­verse along­side my lit­tle stu­dents. For instance, I now know that dia­dem snakes have wind­pipes that open into the bot­tom of their jaws so they can breathe and eat at the same time; an octo­pus has eight brains; and the earth’s inner core is made of sol­id iron, which grand­son Ted­dy always reminds me is also what Ironman’s suit is made of.

The Stuff of Stars and Soar High, DragonflyEnter­tain­ment, art, and edu­ca­tion are all com­bined in some of the best illus­trat­ed books I’ve come across. Mar­i­on Dane Bauer’s The Stuff of Stars is sure­ly the most beau­ti­ful weave of these ele­ments, with abstract illus­tra­tions by Ekua Holmes that allow a glimpse of nature made of star dust. You can make out the forms of hors­es, feet, birds, but­ter­flies, and a care­tak­er hug­ging a child. The first time I read this with my grand­son Ted­dy, he exclaimed at the explod­ing stars, “I’m begin­ning to love this book!” It has become a favorite, and Ted­dy and I enjoy find­ing new images every time we share it. He reads along with me, lov­ing the idea that before there was you, there was a uni­verse, and we’re all made of star dust. (Note: this book actu­al­ly inspired the name of this column.)

Oth­er favorites that focus on a sin­gle ele­ment include Flip, Float, Fly: Seeds on the Move by JoAnn Ear­ly Mack­en and illus­trat­ed by Pam Paparone, a poet­ic per­spec­tive of the way seeds trav­el and implant across the land. Sheri Mabry Bestor has cap­tured details from the world of insects with Good Trick, Walk­ing Stick! and Soar High, Drag­on­fly!, both col­or­ful­ly illus­trat­ed by Jon­ny Lam­bert. Side­bars pro­vide addi­tion­al details about these insects and encour­age kids to dis­cov­er the tini­est crea­tures in our world.

With well over 100 pages of illus­trat­ed infor­ma­tion, the DK books from Pen­guin Ran­dom House pro­vide hours of fun for my younger grand­kids when we’re togeth­er in our pan­dem­ic bub­ble. Andrew, 6, Ted­dy, 4−1÷2, and Emma, 4, might not always have the patience to sit through lis­ten­ing to all of the text, but they do pick their favorite ani­mals, plan­ets, and explor­ers to share with one anoth­er. Two favorite books include the DK Smith­son­ian Did You Know? Amaz­ing Answers to the Ques­tions You Ask and My Ency­clo­pe­dia of Very Impor­tant Things. I’m guess­ing that, if they don’t grow up to become explor­ers, they could well end up envi­ron­men­tal­ists or zoo keep­ers or even actors, see­ing as part of read­ing always entails act­ing out every­thing from light­ning strikes to snakes breath­ing through their mouths.

Ann Angel's grandsons

And of course, kids can learn any­where, so we are also mak­ing the most of time out­doors. Why not take your books and your Read­ing Team out­side to enjoy the ear­ly fall weather?

There is such a wide vari­ety of non­fic­tion avail­able for all age lev­els. Feel free to leave your favorites in the com­ments below so we can all build our non­fic­tion libraries. 


Bookol­o­gy is always look­ing for new Read­ing Teams to help us cel­e­brate the joys of read­ing aloud togeth­er. Con­tact Lisa Bullard for fur­ther infor­ma­tion if you’re inter­est­ed in participating.


Ann Angel and Her Reading Team
May 2020

In this Rais­ing Star Read­ers update, Ann Angel shares how read­ing aloud helps car­ry on her family’s her­itage of sto­ry­telling. Here’s how Ann describes it: 

Ann Angel and her grandson Teddy

Ann Angel and her grand­son Teddy

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie and Richard Scarry

With Stay-at-Home a require­ment in most states, mine includ­ed, I only see some of my grand­kids via Skype and Zoom. But I have a daugh­ter and grand­son liv­ing with us. That means we’re bal­anc­ing work and Teddy’s school, so, of course, I get involved. Some­times my grand­son Ted­dy insists on read­ing to me. And when he does, pic­ture books take on a whole new lev­el of sil­ly and seri­ous. This is most often the case when I let him pick out his favorites. Of course we go through the usu­al count­ing books and ani­mal sound books which always enter­tain. But then Ted­dy reach­es for books he knows by heart, such as Richard Scarry’s edu­ca­tion­al clas­sics or Lau­ra Numeroff’s If you Give books. Then his imag­i­na­tion kick into high gear. I’m enter­tained like crazy and he devel­ops skills in interpretation.

Richard Scarry Cars and Trucks from A to ZThe sto­ry takes on twists and turns and amaz­ing details. Recent­ly Ted­dy read to me from Richard Scarry’s Cars and Trucks from A to Z. Ted­dy was con­cerned that an apple car might arrive instead of an ambu­lance. “Would the work­er take you to a farm?” he asked. “Would you get bet­ter or worse?” When we reached an image of a pick­le car, Ted­dy asked, “Who dri­ves a pick­le car? Do you?”

The pump­kin truck cre­at­ed a prob­lem: “Some­one is going to miss Hal­loween. All the pump­kins are falling out of the truck.” Water­mel­ons cas­cad­ing from anoth­er pick­up led Ted­dy to frown and point out, “There won’t be any water­mel­on tonight!”

When read­ing If you Give a Mouse a Cook­ie (Lau­ra Numeroff, illus­trat­ed by Feli­cia Bond), Ted­dy loves to iden­ti­fy the entire mouse fam­i­ly in one of the first illus­tra­tions. The last time we shared this sto­ry, he point­ed out that at one point, the mouse dis­ap­pears from the page. “He’s in the mid­dle of that dust because he’s sweep­ing,” Ted­dy informed me, adding a lay­er to the sto­ry on the page. By the way, we end­ed this sto­ry time by mak­ing our own cookies.

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie

While these sim­ple excla­ma­tions might be writ­ten off as a kid’s per­spec­tive, what’s going on inside our kids’ minds when we encour­age them to read to us is so much more. My grand­kids have dis­cov­ered the art of sto­ry­telling with our shared sto­ries and they’re devel­op­ing this tal­ent and skill. Mean­while, I’ve dis­cov­ered the pure bliss of know­ing my grand­kids have this gift and will pass sto­ries along for gen­er­a­tions to come.

Teddy reading


Bookol­o­gy is always look­ing for new Read­ing Teams to help us cel­e­brate the joys of read­ing aloud togeth­er. Con­tact Lisa Bullard for fur­ther infor­ma­tion if you’re inter­est­ed in participating.


Deb Andries and Her Reading Team
April 2019

We’re espe­cial­ly delight­ed to cel­e­brate with Deb Andries (a.k.a. Gram­my) this month as she launch­es her newest Read­ing Team. Here’s how Deb describes the experience:

Myles, Deb Andries, and Hayes

Myles, Deb Andries, and Hayes, read­ing together

My heart has always felt this “explo­sion of love” when we’ve wel­comed a grand­child into our fam­i­ly. I vivid­ly remem­ber when our grand­son Park­er, now 14, was born, and the pure and ele­vat­ed joy I felt. It was the same “joy explo­sion” with Grayson and Emmy, born four days apart six years ago, and then Fin­ley who is now four. Each of those “lit­tles” is not lit­tle in the uncon­di­tion­al love they share and bring to my life.

Imag­ine how my heart explod­ed when we found out we would be wel­com­ing twin girls into our fam­i­ly! Myles and Hayes, age six months in this pho­to, have con­tin­ued to remind me that my heart grows big­ger and big­ger in love. I didn’t think I’d get the chance to share board books again with grand­chil­dren. I am so glad that my stash (and both my daugh­ters’ col­lec­tions) have been added to our book bas­ket, which has been grow­ing since Parker’s birth!

I also love the newest addi­tions to the book bas­ket: Itsy Bit­sy Spi­der (illus­trat­ed by Emi­ly Ban­nis­ter), My Favorite Book of Col­ors (by Jan­ice Behrens, illus­trat­ed by Joan Michael), and Baby’s Very First Black and White Books by Stel­la Bag­gott. These Usborne “mini” books are just the right size for the girls and the black-and-white illus­tra­tions appeal to their first visions of how they see color.

Usborne Books

While they would rather put the book in their mouth, they will also sit (some­times), both on my lap, and lis­ten to my read­ing voice as I share the bril­liant pho­tos of things they will come to know, love and name for them­selves all too soon. We sing the nurs­ery rhymes, we move our hands with actions – yep, one at a time with hand actions as I only have two hands to help them. We point to the pic­tures, we name them, and we read the book again and again.

Here’s some­thing else I do to sup­port their ear­ly lit­er­a­cy learn­ing. When­ev­er I’m dress­ing them, I always start with their left hand, or their left foot, or left leg, for shirts, socks, shoes, pants, etc. Why, you ask? Because we learn to read from left to right, and if we start with that ear­ly fir­ing of neu­rons to their rapid­ly devel­op­ing brains, we will cre­ate those pat­terns for read­ing. I have also sung to all of my grand­chil­dren as I’m dress­ing them. They hear nurs­ery rhymes and songs so they can “feel” the rhythm, hear the rhyme and put up with my off-key pitch! I want them to know that these tra­di­tion­al rhymes, tried and true, are an impor­tant com­po­nent as I nur­ture their love of reading.

our book basket

our book bas­ket, cur­rent­ly filled with many board books

I love time spent with all my grand­chil­dren in read­ing. It might be the driver’s man­u­al for my soon-to-be 15-year-old grand­son; it might be books online with famous authors shar­ing their works through the COVID-19 school shut­down; it might be that stack of board books just wait­ing to have the pages turned by the newest “lit­tles” in our family.

No mat­ter what comes, we will spend time reading.


Bookol­o­gy is always look­ing for new Read­ing Teams to help us cel­e­brate the joys of read­ing aloud togeth­er. Con­tact Lisa Bullard for fur­ther infor­ma­tion if you’re inter­est­ed in participating.


Anita Dualeh and Her Reading Team
April 2020

In this addi­tion to Rais­ing Star Read­ers, we check in again on Ani­ta Dualeh and her Read­ing Team. Along with many of us, they’re using books as a dis­trac­tion and a con­so­la­tion while liv­ing with the mas­sive changes brought about by the threat of COVID-19. Here’s how Ani­ta describes this shared moment of history-in-the-making:

Adam and Caleb getting ready to read

Adam and Caleb get­ting ready to read

In the past month, my kids haven’t had much for­mal school­ing. First, we had four days off due to a teach­ers’ strike, and then every day after that because the gov­er­nor ordered all schools in Min­neso­ta closed to help pre­vent the spread of coro­n­avirus. We haven’t done the morn­ing get-ready-for-the bus rou­tine since March 9th. What­ev­er else seems to be in flux dur­ing this time, I’m hold­ing fast to at least a few rou­tines in our home, includ­ing read­ing aloud.

With two kids on two very dif­fer­ent sched­ules this school year, our recent read­ing rou­tine had only involved about two or three chap­ters a week. But since no one is leav­ing for school any­more, our read­ing rate has gone up to one or two chap­ters per day. I con­sid­er it a sil­ver lin­ing that we have more time than ever, and read­ing togeth­er more often has helped cre­ate a deep­er sense of con­nec­tion between me and my kids. At times, pick­ing up a book and begin­ning to read has helped de-esca­late some tense moments or strong emo­tions. We have found that sit­ting down togeth­er to be trans­port­ed into a sto­ry about anoth­er time and anoth­er place has helped to con­sole and uplift us. The sto­ries have made us laugh and made us won­der. They’ve pro­vid­ed a wel­come dis­trac­tion − no, a nec­es­sary distraction.

Home of the BraveOur favorite so far from this peri­od of more inten­sive read­ing has been Kather­ine Applegate’s nov­el Home of the Brave. My 12-year-old has giv­en the sto­ry par­tic­u­lar­ly high marks. He appre­ci­at­ed the humor and the real­is­tic por­tray­al of the child refugee expe­ri­ence.  He also not­ed, “I thought there wasn’t going to be a hap­py end­ing, but there was.” My nine-year-old thought it was a good sto­ry as well. He enjoys a good laugh, and this book had plenty.

I appre­ci­at­ed the way Apple­gate devel­ops a relat­able pro­tag­o­nist and evokes empa­thy as she describes the chal­lenges of being a new immi­grant in the Unit­ed States. Per­haps part of the rea­son the sto­ry res­onat­ed so well with my sons is that we have fam­i­ly and friends who have immi­grat­ed to this coun­try – and some of the anec­dotes in the books sound not that dif­fer­ent from oral sto­ries my chil­dren have heard over the years. But I believe even kids who can’t say the same would find this to be a reward­ing, empa­thy-build­ing read. 

Adam and Caleb reading

Adam (on the left, age 12) and Caleb (age 9) read excerpts of nov­els the team has recent­ly read together

We are in the thick of the joys and chal­lenges of being togeth­er all the time, every day. The days and weeks are start­ing to blur togeth­er and there’s noth­ing much to look for­ward to from one day to the next, as my old­er son has point­ed out. Even dur­ing spring break. This is where books have come to the res­cue. As I com­plete a chap­ter, we find our­selves look­ing for­ward to the next one to see how the sto­ry unfolds. We talk about the char­ac­ters, even some days lat­er. We pick the books up again and reread the best parts. 


Bookol­o­gy is always look­ing for new Read­ing Teams to help us cel­e­brate the joys of read­ing aloud togeth­er. Con­tact Lisa Bullard for fur­ther infor­ma­tion if you’re inter­est­ed in participating.


Constance Van Hoven and Her Reading Team
March 2020

In this addi­tion to Rais­ing Star Read­ers, we check in again on a Read­ing Team that morphs each time we meet them (depend­ing on who’s will­ing to sit still long enough!). This time around, Con­nie (Gigi to her grand­chil­dren), is cel­e­brat­ing a read­ing mile­stone that will res­onate with every book lover. Here’s how Con­nie describes it:

Priya and Connie reading Still Stuck

I brought along sev­er­al book choic­es on a recent Col­orado vis­it to my Read­ing Team: Priya (3 years) and Nikhil (15 months). To my hap­py sur­prise, though, Priya had a book to share with me — one she chose from the library. Priya hap­pi­ly brought out Still Stuck, writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Shin­suke Yoshi­take. And she couldn’t wait to show me her favorite page. She imme­di­ate­ly turned to it and began to giggle.

Still StuckStill Stuck is the sto­ry of a young child get­ting ready for a bath. He gets his shirt stuck try­ing to pull it over his head. Once the shirt is hope­less­ly stuck, he imag­ines what life would be like with a shirt that nev­er gets unstuck. He even imag­ines meet­ing anoth­er child with a stuck shirt. (This is Priya’s favorite page.)

In a three-year-old’s world, get­ting dressed and undressed by your­self is, of course, a big deal. Priya showed me that she had recent­ly learned the trusty tod­dler tech­nique of putting a jack­et on with­out any help, aka “arm-arm-flip it over your head.” No won­der this book res­onat­ed so much.

At the end of the sto­ry, the child requires a lit­tle help from mom to get unstuck, only to face the next dilem­ma of a stuck paja­ma top. Which Priya found hys­ter­i­cal. Find­ing humor in what­ev­er sit­u­a­tions befalls us is a good thing — even three-year-olds rec­og­nize that life is a nev­er-end­ing series of get­ting stuck and unstuck.

As a writer of children’s books, boy could I relate to get­ting stuck and unstuck, all while being aware there is more “stuck” lurk­ing around the next cor­ner. Thank good­ness for friends who can relate to stuck, friends who can help us out of stuck, and friends who can cel­e­brate the joy of unstuck with us!

After sev­er­al read­ings of Still Stuck, it was Priya’s bed­time. But first, there was just enough time for her to demon­strate what stuck looks like. And unstuck.

Priya stuck Priya unstuck

Thank you, Priya, for remind­ing me of the great plea­sure we feel when we dis­cov­er, all on our own — the per­fect book.

P.S. Nikhil just mas­tered walking/running. He was far too excit­ed about his new-found “unstuck­ness” to sit down with a book. I plan to help him dis­cov­er his own per­fect book on my next visit.


Bookol­o­gy is always look­ing for new Read­ing Teams to help us cel­e­brate the joys of read­ing aloud togeth­er. Con­tact Lisa Bullard for fur­ther infor­ma­tion if you’re inter­est­ed in participating.


Norma Gaffron and Her Reading Team
February 2020

Norma Gaffron and her star readers

Lau­ren, Nor­ma, and Erik Gaffron

Tuesday by David WiesnerNor­ma Gaffron is thrilled to have this chance to share her family’s long tra­di­tion of read­ing aloud. Her chil­dren and grand­chil­dren are now grown, but they took the time dur­ing their Christ­mas Eve cel­e­bra­tion to share a pic­ture book togeth­er. Norma’s son Tim took the pho­tos of Lau­ren (21), Nor­ma (88), and Erik (25) enjoy­ing Tues­day by David Wies­ner. As Nor­ma reports: “They sit still and lis­ten very well!” They chose Tues­day because when Erik was in preschool, he used to prompt their read-alouds by say­ing “Talk it, Grand­ma” — and Tues­day, Nor­ma says, is the per­fect book to “talk it.”

Nor­ma notes that read-alouds pro­vide great oppor­tu­ni­ties for fur­ther dis­cus­sions. As she read with her grand­chil­dren grow­ing up, they would all look at the pic­tures and com­ment on what was hap­pen­ing (“Did you see the mouse in the cor­ner? Why do you think the illus­tra­tor put it there?”).

Bartholomew and the OobleckNor­ma offers sage advice for new par­ents: “Read to your baby every day. Start now. If they don’t under­stand the words, they grow by hear­ing your voice.” In Norma’s fam­i­ly, the read-alouds con­tin­ued even when the grand­chil­dren grew old­er. Even Spot the res­cue dog (now sad­ly depart­ed) seemed to lis­ten in and sat up to look at the illus­tra­tions. When Lau­ren was a teenag­er, she made Oobleck and invit­ed her friends to a par­ty where her father Tim read Dr. Seuss’s Bartholomew and the Oobleck to the group of teens.

Nor­ma says, “I think I can safe­ly say that read­ing was a big part of what made our three kids and two grand­kids who they are today. If you can read, you can han­dle most any­thing. If you love read­ing, you learn a lot.” She reports that Lau­ren is study­ing envi­ron­men­tal sci­ence at Uni­ver­si­ty of Wis­con­sin-Eau Claire and Erik grad­u­at­ed from Uni­ver­si­ty of Min­neso­ta Duluth with a major in jour­nal­ism — and that each had a book list­ed on their Christ­mas list, one a mys­tery, the oth­er one about cli­mate change. Nor­ma states, “I like to think we raised star read­ers here!”


Bookol­o­gy is always look­ing for new Read­ing Teams to help us cel­e­brate the joys of read­ing aloud togeth­er. Con­tact Lisa Bullard for fur­ther infor­ma­tion if you’re inter­est­ed in participating.


Ann Angel and Her Reading Team
January 2020

Rais­ing Star Read­ers rel­ish­es this chance to catch up with Ann Angel and her multi­gen­er­a­tional Read­ing Team. For this entry, Ann was espe­cial­ly focused on how the words and visu­al art in pic­ture books lead kids to think and to dream. Here’s how Ann describes it:

Long before I had kids and grand­kids, I thought I’d grow up to be a visu­al artist. And, although my art turned to writ­ing, I always, always, ALWAYS loved to share word play and the details of bril­liant illus­tra­tion in pic­ture books with my chil­dren. Now that they’re grown with chil­dren of their own, I catch them perus­ing illus­tra­tions with their kids to find hid­den, sil­ly, or tiny images that tell a sto­ry with­in a sto­ry. These illus­tra­tions help all of us see how artists draw that sto­ry and move it from the words on the page to art that cre­ates sub-plot and deep­er mean­ings. With­out a doubt, the dis­cov­ery helps us to think more deeply about themes, and to dream about the details of our lives.

Many pic­ture books use nuanced art so kids think about sto­ries in ways that lead them to dis­cov­er tech­niques to nego­ti­ate life and to dream about the mag­ic and, some­times, the silli­ness of the world.

Wild Wild Sunflower Child AnnaI was remind­ed of that mag­ic recent­ly when I came across a dusty copy of Wild Wild Sun­flower Child Anna by Nan­cy White Carl­strom (author) and Jer­ry Pinkney (illus­tra­tor).

When my daugh­ter Ste­vi saw the cov­er she com­ment­ed, “I loved that book. It was one of my favorites.” In part, I think she loved the book because she looked a bit like Anna, but most­ly, I think she fell into the botan­i­cal illus­tra­tions and the mag­ic of nature. After all, this was the daugh­ter who tried to keep pet worms in a plas­tic cup in her bed­room. She was also known in our fam­i­ly for play­ing with, and even kiss­ing, frogs and toads while danc­ing through gar­dens and fields.

Wild Wild Sunflower Child Anna illustration

illus­tra­tion copy­right Jer­ry Pinkney from WIld Wild Sun­flower Child Anna, Simon & Schus­ter, 1987, writ­ten by Nan­cy White Carlstrom

That favorite book dis­cov­ery led to an after­noon with both daugh­ters and grand­kids. Daugh­ter Aman­da, a fifth grade teacher with a love of books (and a tal­ent for writ­ing and art her­self), delight­ed in explor­ing illus­tra­tions with nephew Ted­dy and her son and daugh­ter Andrew and Emma.

Ann Angel's family

Ted­dy, Andrew, Aman­da, Emma

Laundry DayAfter read­ing Anna’s gar­den tale, Aman­da pulled out Laun­dry Day, a book by writer/illustrator Jes­sixa Bagley.

(Of course, I joined in the fun with Laun­dry Day, which is our newest favorite.)

In this book, two bored bad­gers, Tic and Tac, help their moth­er hang laun­dry on a line to dry. They turn this into a game to hang the sil­li­est things. I won’t give all the items away but they include a broom, a comb, a pail of water, even a mouse sit­ting in a soup ladle. The images led the grand­kids to iden­ti­fy items they rec­og­nized and to learn about how some items might have been used by their par­ents and grand­par­ents when they were kids.

Laundry Day illustration

illus­tra­tion copy­right Jes­sixa Bagley, from Laun­dry Day, Roar­ing Brook Press, 2017

Vincent Comes HomeAman­da end­ed up read­ing an entire stack of favorites while grand­kids explored the pic­tures. Jessixa’s detailed art was def­i­nite­ly a top new choice.

In one case, because Vin­cent the cat who lives on a car­go ship looks like our grand-cat Finnegan, Aman­da end­ed up pour­ing over details of ships, ports, and cities with Vin­cent Comes Home, co-cre­at­ed by Jes­sixa Bagley and Aaron Bagley.

Wherever You GoAnoth­er favorite is Wher­ev­er You Go, writ­ten by Pat Ziet­low Miller and illus­trat­ed by Eliza Wheeler.

This delight­ful pic­ture book takes read­ers on a bicy­cle jour­ney with a rab­bit and his com­pan­ion owl through tun­nels, across bridges, into forests, and cities, and dis­tant lands. We learn that we can always return home again. By the way, this book makes a delight­ful high school grad­u­a­tion gift ─ I gave it to my old­est grand­daugh­ter, Beth, who’s study­ing lib­er­al arts in Wash­ing­ton State. (She’s not pic­tured because she’s savor­ing a mel­low Wash­ing­ton cli­mate while we’re sur­viv­ing the cold Mid­west­ern winter.)

Ann Angel's family

You can’t keep Ann away from books and her read­ing buddies!


Bookol­o­gy is always look­ing for new Read­ing Teams to help us cel­e­brate the joys of read­ing aloud togeth­er. Con­tact Lisa Bullard for fur­ther infor­ma­tion if you’re inter­est­ed in participating.


Anita Dualeh and Her Reading Team
December 2019

Rais­ing Star Read­ers is delight­ed to intro­duce a new Read­ing Team, one that high­lights how reward­ing it can be to con­tin­ue a prac­tice of read­ing aloud with chil­dren as they grow older.

Ani­ta Dualeh’s Team includes her sons Adam, age 12, and Caleb, age 9. As Ani­ta explains, “While I encour­age inde­pen­dent read­ing, I believe read­ing aloud is equal­ly impor­tant, and for every age. I’ve been read­ing to my sons since they were infants, but we’ve had to adjust our rou­tine as their read­ing skills have devel­oped. They’re both avid read­ers and read above their grade lev­els but tend to stick with what they know and like. When left to choose their own books, that’s graph­ic nov­els. Still, they’ll also pick up a ran­dom pic­ture book I have lying around and read it — and some­times humor me when I want to read one aloud to them. I’ve also been able to lure them to some chap­ter books by read­ing the first book in a series aloud and let­ting them pick it up from there.

Caleb, age 9, and Adam, age 12

I look for clas­sics or books with endur­ing themes for our read-alouds. We usu­al­ly keep a book going at all times but devote more time to shared read­ing dur­ing hol­i­days and breaks from school. With a snow day added, we had a five-day week­end dur­ing Thanks­giv­ing and we made good use of it, fin­ish­ing Richard Peck’s nov­el A Sea­son of Gifts. It’s the third book in the series that begins with A Long Way from Chica­go, a New­bery Hon­or book. I’d dis­cov­ered the author by scan­ning the shelves near where my third-grad­er was look­ing for his cur­rent favorites, the ‘Big Nate’ nov­els by Lin­coln Peirce.

We had read the first book in Richard Peck’s series togeth­er in Octo­ber and had grown fond of Grand­ma Dowdel, a no-non­sense matri­arch who is as handy with a gun as she is with a rolling pin. We imme­di­ate­ly request­ed book two in the series, A Year Down Yon­der, which my boys thought was even bet­ter than the first one. It left us eager to read more, so we checked A Sea­son of Gifts out of the library. This third book takes place some years after the first two, but many of the same char­ac­ters remain a part of the sto­ry, as well as the chil­dren of char­ac­ters we’d met in ear­li­er books.

Richard Peck trilogy

This series con­tains sto­ries with just the right bal­ance of humor and poignan­cy to be sat­is­fy­ing to kids and grown-ups alike. Even bet­ter, they address themes that have led to some rich con­ver­sa­tions among the three of us, both while read­ing and days lat­er. They’re cer­tain­ly enter­tain­ing — the scene about 12-year-old Bob learn­ing to dri­ve with Mrs. Dowdel proved to be hard to read aloud because I was laugh­ing so much. We had a marathon read­ing ses­sion the day after Thanks­giv­ing to fin­ish the last book and get it back to the library by the due date.

The only prob­lem is that the next book we’ve start­ed read­ing has been a bit dis­ap­point­ing by com­par­i­son. (I’m ask­ing them to hang on, though, as I know the plot improves.)”


Bookol­o­gy is always look­ing for new Read­ing Teams to help us cel­e­brate the joys of read­ing aloud togeth­er. Con­tact Lisa Bullard for fur­ther infor­ma­tion if you’re inter­est­ed in participating.


Constance Van Hoven and Her Reading Team
October 2019

Nikhil and the dust jacket for Grumpy MonkeyThis addi­tion to Rais­ing Star Read­ers fea­tures the theme “If you read it, they will come.”

As Con­nie (Gigi to her grand­chil­dren) explains: “Our read­ing team hit a bump in the road! On a recent trip to Col­orado, I intro­duced the pic­ture book Grumpy Mon­key (writ­ten by Suzanne Lang and illus­trat­ed by Max Lang) to Priya (now 2½) and Nikhil (now 10 months). This is a fun­ny, sweet sto­ry about allow­ing your­self to have a bad day every once in a while for no par­tic­u­lar reason.

Nikhil absolute­ly did not want to sit on my lap to look at the book. He did, how­ev­er, want to man­han­dle the bright red shiny dust jacket.

Grandpa and Priya reading Grumpy MonkeyPriya did not want to sit and read either, though she was intrigued by the title. She kept repeat­ing, “grumpy mon­key” as she put­tered around the porch with her arm­ful of toys. It wasn’t until Grand­pa picked up the book, began to read aloud, and clear­ly enjoyed the sto­ry, that Priya couldn’t resist com­ing in for a look. Hence the moral of the sto­ry: If you read it, they will come!

With the addi­tion of Grand­pa, our read­ing team has now grown by one. And Priya’s dad reports that since we left, Grumpy Mon­key is Priya’s most request­ed bed­time sto­ry. It seems she has added Jim Panzee, Marabou, and Nor­man to her list of beloved book friends.”


Bookol­o­gy is always look­ing for new Read­ing Teams to help us cel­e­brate the joys of read­ing aloud togeth­er. Con­tact Lisa Bullard for fur­ther infor­ma­tion if you’re inter­est­ed in participating.


Brenda Sederberg and Her Reading Team
September 2019

Bookol­o­gy read­ers first met Bren­da Sederberg’s Read­ing Team part­ner Sylvie when she was only two days old. At that time the two were shar­ing one of their very first read-alouds. Now Gram and Sylvie have had the chance to share a whole won­der­ful year of read­ing together!

To cel­e­brate Sylvie’s first birth­day, Bren­da is high­light­ing the three books that have become Sylvie’s favorites over that spe­cial year. As Bren­da says, “Sylvie now brings books to me to read — which is such a joy for me, both as a for­mer ele­men­tary school teacher and as Gram.” Sylvie’s First Birth­day Favorites are: The House in the Night, writ­ten by Susan Marie Swan­son and illus­trat­ed by Beth Krommes; Big Red Barn, writ­ten by Mar­garet Wise Brown and illus­trat­ed by Feli­cia Bond; and “More More More,” Said the Baby by Vera B. Williams.

Bren­da con­tin­ues, “Sylvie loves being read to: when she isn’t feel­ing well, before a nap, and just anytime!”

Bren­da and Sylvie con­duct their read-alouds in Min­neso­ta. Bren­da also shares her pas­sion for children’s lit­er­a­ture by read­ing to an ele­men­tary class­room and by belong­ing to the Duluth branch of Bookol­o­gy’s Chap­ter & Verse Book Clubs, which meets at the Book­store at Fitger’s.


Bookol­o­gy is always look­ing for new Read­ing Teams to help us cel­e­brate the joys of read­ing aloud togeth­er. Con­tact Lisa Bullard for fur­ther infor­ma­tion about how to participate.

About Rais­ing Star Readers

The orig­i­nal inspi­ra­tion for this col­umn was Mar­i­on Dane Bauer’s book The Stuff of Stars and her sug­ges­tion for using that book as an ongo­ing scrap­book to doc­u­ment read­ing aloud with a child. More details about that sug­ges­tion can be found on this PDF. The Stuff of Stars is illus­trat­ed by Ekua Holmes and pub­lished by Can­dlewick Press. Bren­da has been hav­ing fun putting togeth­er just such a scrap­book for Sylvie and is delight­ed to share this peek at it with Bookol­o­gy readers.


Deb Andries and Her Off-to-School Reading Team
September 2019

Start­ing kinder­garten is a spe­cial time, and it’s real­ly spe­cial when you get to read books with Gram­my to get you ready! For this addi­tion to our Rais­ing Star Read­ers fea­ture, we’re delight­ed to once again be show­cas­ing Deb Andries, a Nation­al Lit­er­a­cy Con­sul­tant who lives in Wis­con­sin, and two of her grand­chil­dren, who are both start­ing kinder­garten this fall. Emmer­syn, five-and-a-half, will attend in cen­tral Min­neso­ta. Grayson, also five-and-a-half, will attend in north­ern Wisconsin.

Reading Off-to-School Books

In prepa­ra­tion, they shared some very spe­cial books at Gram­my’s house. They talked about mak­ing new friends, offer­ing to sit by new friends at lunch, and invit­ing them to play at recess. They talked about how excit­ing it will be to get ready the night before. As the kid­dos stat­ed, “You HAVE to have your back­pack all ready every night!”

The Day You BeginThe team shared many back-to-school books which Deb gath­ered from her per­son­al and pro­fes­sion­al library col­lec­tion. There are many great titles to share with read­ers as the school year begins, but one title is a par­tic­u­lar favorite of Grammy’s: The Day You Begin, writ­ten by Jacque­line Wood­son and illus­trat­ed by Rafael López. Deb describes the book this way:

The Day You Begin is a beau­ti­ful sto­ry of a young boy who is start­ing in a new school. As the char­ac­ter tells his read­ers, ‘There will be times.…’ Grayson, Emmer­syn, and I talked about ‘times’ when they may be new to a sit­u­a­tion and how they might respond. I also use this book in my pro­fes­sion­al devel­op­ment train­ings as a Lit­er­a­cy Con­sul­tant, shar­ing the sto­ry as an inter­ac­tive read aloud, and with teach­ers who may be embrac­ing new teach­ing and learn­ing in the school year.”

Deb con­tin­ues: “I have fall­en in love with the mes­sage of this book! I share it with my grand­chil­dren, friends, col­leagues, and teach­ers because of the idea that new begin­nings offer so much hope for each of us. Or as Jacque­line Woodson’s sto­ry puts it, ‘This is the day you begin / to find the places inside / your laugh­ter and your lunch­es, / your books, your trav­el and your sto­ries, / where every new friend has some­thing / a lit­tle like you−and some­thing else / so fab­u­lous­ly not quite like you / at all.’”

Deb con­cludes with this wish for every­one: “May this school year be the begin­ning of find­ing places of laugh­ter, lunch­es, trav­el, sto­ries, and pro­found friendships.”

books and The Day You Begin


Bookol­o­gy is always look­ing for new Read­ing Teams to help us cel­e­brate the joys of read­ing aloud togeth­er. Con­tact Lisa Bullard for fur­ther infor­ma­tion if you’re inter­est­ed in participating.


Deb Andries and Her Reading Teams
May 2019

Guess How Much I Love You?For this addi­tion to our Rais­ing Star Read­ers fea­ture, we’re delight­ed to once again be show­cas­ing Deb Andries, a Nation­al Lit­er­a­cy Con­sul­tant who lives in Wis­con­sin, and her grand­chil­dren: Fin­ley and Grayson, who live in Cum­ber­land, Wis­con­sin, and Emmer­syn, who lives in Sartell, Min­neso­ta. Gram­my and her Read­ing Teams recent­ly shared Guess How Much I Love You, writ­ten by Sam McBrat­ney and illus­trat­ed by Ani­ta Jer­am, while enjoy­ing mile­stone read-togeth­ers dur­ing their Mother’s Day celebrations.

Deb explains that the book was giv­en to her by a friend five years ago when she was a lit­er­a­cy coach in Min­neapo­lis and her fam­i­ly was eager­ly antic­i­pat­ing the arrival of both Emmer­syn and Grayson. Deb explains, “My friend knew how excit­ed I was to know that there would be two to love (and they were born five days apart!).”

Deb, Fin­ley, and Grayson read­ing Guess How Much I Love You

The book has become very mean­ing­ful for the fam­i­ly. As Deb says, “When I think about the bond of the love between grand­par­ents and grand­chil­dren, this book sends that mes­sage. As far as our arms can reach, as high as we can hop or jump, all the way up to our toes and across the lane and down the riv­er … our love extends THAT far. When we read the book, the grand­kids are enam­ored by the illus­tra­tions and how Lit­tle Nut­brown Hare and Big Nut­brown Hare share how much they love one anoth­er. Then, we talk about those very same things. ‘I love you, Gram­my, as far as my arms can reach.’ And, ‘I love you, Emmer­syn, Grayson, and Fin­ley as far as MY arms can reach!’

Read­ing Guess How Much I Love You has become a spe­cial tra­di­tion for Deb and Emmersyn

Deb loves the time spent read­ing aloud togeth­er. As she explains, “This time with a book, snug­gled up tight togeth­er, is spe­cial and cre­ates a bond of love that is like no oth­er. There’s always room on Grammy’s lap for all of us to lean in to lis­ten and share the words, and then our own ‘I love you as much.…’ We also have a tra­di­tion with the book: we trace their hand­print once a year and write their name, as a ‘mem­o­ry mak­er’ of this love and bond.”

Deb adds: “We read the book around Mother’s Day this year, but we also read it many oth­er times dur­ing the year. Any day, and every day, is a good day to spend time togeth­er in books and con­ver­sa­tions around them. Read­ing indoors or out­doors, books are a pow­er­ful way to help my grand­kids learn about the world around them, share sto­ries we love, and find new sto­ries, too.”


We here at Bookol­o­gy wish Deb and her Read­ing Teams many won­der­ful hours of read­ing togeth­er this sum­mer! If you would like us to fea­ture your Read­ing Team when Bookol­o­gy starts up again in the fall, con­tact Lisa Bullard for fur­ther infor­ma­tion about how to participate.


Constance Van Hoven and Her Reading Team
February 2019

For this addi­tion to our Rais­ing Star Read­ers fea­ture, we’re delight­ed to be show­cas­ing anoth­er new Star Read­er: Baby Nikhil was just 2 months old when he joined the Read­ing Team that also includes his grand­moth­er Con­stance Van Hov­en (Con­nie) and his big sis­ter Priya (2). The team was cel­e­brat­ing Connie’s first oppor­tu­ni­ty to meet her new grand­son, who lives with his fam­i­ly in Colorado.

Constance Van Hoven and her grandchildren

Priya, “Gigi,” and baby Nikhil share their first read-aloud together.

Con­nie (or Gigi, as she is known to her grand­chil­dren) chose Owl Babies, writ­ten by Mar­tin Wad­dell and illus­trat­ed by Patrick Ben­son, as the team’s first read-togeth­er title. Con­nie notes that the book is gen­tle and reas­sur­ing and adds “who does­n’t love owls?” She also says that new big sis­ter, Priya, enjoyed point­ing out each owl sib­ling on every page and that she cheered when their Owl Moth­er returned to the nest. Nikhil clear­ly sensed some­thing good was hap­pen­ing, because he stayed awake for two read­ings! Of course, Con­nie admits that their spon­ta­neous “whooo-whooo-whooo’s” also helped keep his atten­tion. Con­nie comes from a fam­i­ly of bird­ers, so she is espe­cial­ly hap­py to share that love and antic­i­pates read­ing this book with them many times in the future.


We here at Bookol­o­gy wish Con­nie, Priya, and Nikhil many won­der­ful hours of read­ing and owl-hoot­ing togeth­er! We espe­cial­ly look for­ward to a pho­to of the three of them enjoy­ing Connie’s newest pic­ture book when it is pub­lished next year. If you would like us to fea­ture your Read­ing Team, con­tact Lisa Bullard for fur­ther infor­ma­tion about how to participate.


Brenda Sederberg and Her Reading Team
February 2019

Sylvie and Gram

Sylvie and Gram begin a read-aloud tra­di­tion together.

For this addi­tion to our new Rais­ing Star Read­ers fea­ture, we’re hon­ored to be show­cas­ing a brand-new Star Read­er: Baby Sylvie was only two days old when this pho­to was tak­en! She’s pic­tured with Gram (Bren­da Seder­berg), as the two of them share Debra Frasier’s clas­sic pic­ture book On the Day You Were Born at Sylvie’s home in Duluth, Min­neso­ta. The mile­stone they were cel­e­brat­ing was, of course, Sylvie’s safe entry into the world.

Bren­da is a retired ele­men­tary teacher with a pas­sion for chil­dren’s lit­er­a­ture. When she retired, she didn’t take much else from her class­room, but she did bring home 24 box­es of books! They are now on shelves in her home, and she takes cer­tain ones out to read to vis­it­ing chil­dren and now her new grand­daugh­ter as well. Bren­da also reads in a 4th grade class each week and belongs to the Duluth branch of Bookol­o­gy’s Chap­ter & Verse Book Clubs, which meets at the Book­store at Fitger’s. 

Sylvie is now five months old and Bren­da cares for her two days a week. They read togeth­er each time. This is impor­tant to Bren­da, being a teacher, and know­ing the impor­tance of books. Her wish for her grand­daugh­ter is to grow up with a love of read­ing, and Bren­da is delight­ed to report that Sylvie is already lis­ten­ing and focused.


We here at Bookol­o­gy wish Bren­da and Sylvie many, many hap­py hours of read­ing togeth­er, and we look for­ward to shar­ing oth­er mile­stones with their Read­ing Team in the future. If you would like us to fea­ture your Read­ing Team, con­tact Lisa Bullard. She can answer ques­tions and pro­vide fur­ther infor­ma­tion about how to participate.


Deb Andries and Her Reading Teams
January 2019

We’re delight­ed to fea­ture Bookol­o­gy fol­low­er Deb Andries and her grand­chil­dren to kick off our new Rais­ing Star Read­ers col­umn! The column’s goal is to show­case dif­fer­ent Read­ing Teams as they read togeth­er dur­ing mile­stone celebrations.

Reading The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg

Grayson, Gram­my, and Fin­ley share The Polar Express by Chris Van Alls­burg (HMH Books for Young Readers).

Deb, a.k.a. “Gram­my,” was able to enjoy two mile­stone read-togeth­ers to kick off her Christ­mas sea­son. In the pho­to above, Gram­my shares The Polar Express, by Chris Van Alls­burg, with grand­sons Grayson (5) and Fin­ley (3) in Wis­con­sin. In the pho­to below, she shares the same book with grand­daugh­ter Emmer­syn (5) in Minnesota.

Emmersyn and Grammy share a read-aloud tradition.

Emmer­syn and Gram­my share a read-aloud tradition.

Deb told Bookol­o­gy about the spe­cial rit­u­als her fam­i­ly enjoys as they read this hol­i­day favorite togeth­er every year: “All three grand­chil­dren know the sto­ry and have favorite pages on which we linger and share our thoughts. We also keep our bells in our pock­ets or close by to ring at the end of the sto­ry. My orig­i­nal bell is as old as the book pub­li­ca­tion as that’s when I start­ed read­ing it with my daughters!”

Deb is a retired ele­men­tary teacher and lit­er­a­cy coach of 35 years from Min­neso­ta. Cur­rent­ly, she is a Nation­al Lit­er­a­cy Con­sul­tant for Bench­mark Edu­ca­tion Co. She talks about the impor­tance of books in the life of her fam­i­ly: “Time togeth­er with these spe­cial peo­ple in my life is cher­ished. We all have book­shelves in our homes, and at each vis­it, whether that’s for a day, or a week­end, we make time to cel­e­brate spe­cial books togeth­er. Some­times, we read the same ones over and over, and oth­er times, there’s an oppor­tu­ni­ty to read a new treasure!”


We here at Bookol­o­gy look for­ward to shar­ing oth­er read-togeth­er mile­stones with Deb and her Read­ing Teams in the com­ing years! And if you would like us to fea­ture your Read­ing Team, con­tact Lisa Bullard. She can answer ques­tions and pro­vide fur­ther infor­ma­tion about how to participate.