You might know me as the author of the children’s book series, Night Buddies, but did you know that I am also a huge history fanatic? I got my B.A. in ancient history from UNC Chapel Hill, and have made it one of my hobbies ever since.
Being a lifelong learner of ancient history means that I’ve been able to read some of the greatest classics our world still reveres today. For instance, everybody knows what the Fables are like, right? Very short little tales with explicit morals and talking animals. You know the one about the tortoise and the hare, surely? About slow and steady beats fast and flighty? How about the country mouse and the city mouse? Where the country mouse discovers grand living isn’t all it’s cracked up to be?
Okay, maybe I’ll show you one you don’t know. It’ll only take a minute—
The Dog and the Sheep
A Dog sued a Sheep for a debt he claimed the Sheep owed him, and he called on a Kite and a Wolf to be the judges.
Without asking any questions, they both decided right away that the Sheep was wrong and the Dog was right. Then the three of them tore the Sheep apart and ate him before he had been given a chance to say a word.
The Point: It’s sad, but it’s true, that honesty and right sometimes haven’t a chance against cruel force.
See how short? But it does the job, right? Did you know there are 101 of these things? At least in my translation, and there may have been even more 2,500 years ago.
It turns out, Aesop may even be a Fable himself!
That’s because he may or may not have existed. One story has him an Ethiopian slave they called “the Ethiop,” or Aesop. Plutarch says he was an advisor to King Croesus of Lydia (d. 546 BC). And Herodotus (a famous Greek historian) has him a slave of Iadmon, a 6th century Samian. But scholars tend to think Aesop was no more than a name used to tie together all the animal tales floating around at the time.
What really blows me away about the Fables is the truly advanced state of 6th century Greek literature and science. With the mighty exceptions of Homer and Archilochus (ca. 680-645 BC), the Greeks were just getting started. Their temples were still made of wood, and their male statues were those stiff kouroi that all looked alike. The “Golden Age” with Sophocles and Euripides and Plato and Phidias wasn’t for more than 100 years. But despite this, the stories written during this time period resonated with people so deeply that we still know them by heart to this day.
Whether you’re trying to teach your children patience, kindness, fairness, or any number of things, there is a Fable to be told, and there are sometimes even children’s editions of compilations of the Fables if you want to get your kids to read the ancient stories themselves!
Do you have a favorite Fable? Let me know in the comments below!
I’ve written a few posts now about how important it is for us as parents to help our children fall in love with reading. But today I want to take this one step further—I think it is important for us to get kids interested in reading about history. History is one of those subjects that a majority of people sleep through during grade school and don’t even consider studying past their few general ed requirements in college. But it’s also one of the most important subjects out there, if only to keep our world from repeating its past mistakes.
I’ve been a history buff from the time I was a kid, and I think that is largely due to teachers who made the subject interesting for me and books that made historical stories come alive in a tangible way. So I’ve compiled a short list here of some books for kids that hopefully will do the same for them.
Number the Stars, by Lois Lowry
I’m sure you’ve heard of this classic already, but I couldn’t help but put it on my list. It takes place in Copenhagen during World War II, and it is a beautiful story that helps children to see the difficult reality of the Holocaust, while also telling of a friendship worth risking lives for.
Ben and Me: An Astonishing Life of Benjamin Franklin by His Good Mouse Amos, by Robert Lawson
First published in 1988, this funny, entertaining story tells the story of Benjamin Franklin and the founding of the United States of America through the eyes of a mouse named Amos. According to the book, Amos gave good ol’ Benjamin all of his best ideas. It’s a very charming book filled with important historical information, and I guarantee your child won’t be able to get enough!
She Was Nice To Mice: The Other Side of Elizabeth I’s Character Never Before Revealed by Previous Historians, by Alexandra Elizabeth Sheedy
Yet another historical tale told with the help of mice! This one takes place in the Elizabethan era, and follows the life of a mouse living in Queen Elizabeth’s courts. What I think is interesting about this book is that it was written by a twelve-year-old. It really helps kids relate to an era from long ago because it was written by a child who related to it herself!
Pink and Say, by Patricia Polacco
This picture book (still intended for kids ages 5-9) is set during the Civil War. It tells the story of a black Union soldier named Pinkus Aylee finding and rescuing white Union soldier, Sheldon Curtis (who goes by Say). It is a tragic story based on true events from the author’s own family history. To me, the Civil War is one of the most interesting historical events, and I give this book my highest recommendation.
Did you read any historical fiction when you were a kid? Did it help grow a love of history in you as an adult? Leave a comment and let me know!
You want to know what I think? I think that right now, we are living in a time where most boys are encouraged to play sports or video games by their friends and by society to be considered “normal” or “cool.” We aren’t living in a world where the next generation of boys will be a generation who loves to read. But that’s not right. Reading opens up kids’ minds to think of things they might never have had the creativity to imagine before, it improves their performance in school, and it’s a way for them to entertain themselves away from the Internet or the television, which they’re probably getting more than their fair share of.
So how do we do it? How do we make the next generation a generation of boys who read? Here’s my top four ideas about where we begin.
1. Put interesting books on acceptable school reading lists. Books don’t have to be extraordinarily literary or realistic to be beneficial to education. Especially among younger kids, why not let current bestsellers count toward silent reading credit? Why not let kids do book reports on something they find interesting? If they can read what is popular amongst their generation, kids might start bonding over the books they read just like they do over the video games they play.
2. Never put down books that they find interesting. To go along with my first tip, as parents we shouldn’t judge books that seem too silly, or too “boy-ish.” The book is based off a video game? It’s still a book. The book is about some guy who wears underwear outside his pants? It’s still something for them to get acquainted to the literary world with. If we want boys to read, we have to let them read what they want; the more they do read, the broader their literary interests will become.
3. Seek out reading role models. A lot of celebrities participate in reading campaigns for children. Seek them out. Or maybe there’s a teacher, an older sibling, or a basketball coach they look up to greatly; ask that person to talk to your kid about reading. If the person they think is the coolest in the world tells them they think reading is cool, chances are your child will want to give it a shot.
4.Take your child to book fairs/festivals. Book fairs usually have lots of games set up for kids, and book festivals have everything from games to live readings and full-on shows to peak the younger generation’s interest in reading. They happen all over the country, are usually free entry, and will end up being a fun day for the family—your child finding a book they’re dying to read would just be the cherry on top.
How do you interest your child in reading? Do you think it’s still important for kids to read? Let me know in the comments below!
There’s nothing better than the feeling you get as a parent when you walk into your child’s bedroom and see their nose buried in a book, completely lost in a world between pages. Today most children spend more time on their iPads or watching television than they do reading books, but we at the Night Buddies Headquarters know that just one great book can turn a child into a lifetime reader. Here are some of our suggestions to help you make that happen.
1.) Pick out a book for them that is tailored to their interests. If you know your child loves horses, pick out a book that revolves around horses. If they like television programs about witches and wizards, pick out a book that is about witches and wizards. Make sure you pick a book at their reading level so that they don’t get frustrated reading it (once they start reading more, you can steadily find books that will be more difficult for them to read). In the beginning, it is just important to find a book your child will enjoy, so that they begin to associate reading with fun.
2.) Set aside a specific time, preferably right before bedtime, for them to read. This makes reading turn into a habit, and makes it more likely for them to choose to read at that time on their own later on. Plus, studies have shown that watching television before bed might interfere with sleep quality, so reading is a good, calming alternative!
3.) Don’t take away their other forms of entertainment. This will make reading feel more like a punishment than a reward, and you only want them to have positive associations with reading if you want them to fall in love with it. If your child is used to and enjoys watching a certain amount of television or playing video games for a certain amount of time in the day, allow them to continue. The goal is to incorporate reading into their routine, not to completely change their routine.
4.) Take them to your local library and let them explore. Libraries can be an exciting place for kids, especially during the summers when most libraries offer reading contests and rewards. Plus, allowing your child to pick out his or her own books gives them a level of independence, and it lets them try new things and develop their own reading tastes. Taking them to your local library once every couple of weeks can be an exciting excursion for you two to share!
5.) Read with them. Some of my favorite memories associated with reading are the times when my mom and I would trade off reading chapters of my favorite books as a little kid. Not only does your child get to learn a better vocabulary as you help them through the difficult sections, they get to bond with you at the same time as they are falling in love with books. When you read with your child, it’s always a win-win situation!
We over here at the Night Buddies Amalgamated have some exciting news for you!
The third Night Buddies book, Night Buddies Go Sky High, is going to be released early next year! We will provide you with an exact release date soon, but for now we are officially revealing the cover.
As you can see, John and Crosley are going to be in for some out-of-this-world adventures! Each Program the Night Buddies go on only gets bigger and more exciting.
In this new book, when young John Degraffenreidt and his red crocodile buddy, Crosley, show up at the Pineapple Cheesecake Factory and find Big Foot Mae lying on the floor, staring up at her Great Star Puzzle on the ceiling, they expect something’s afoot. Not surprisingly, Crosley is craving a new supply of pineapple cheesecakes, but what Mae points to on her ceiling will start the Night Buddies on a totally new fantasy adventure.
This is one book you’re not going to want to miss out on!
Before the book is launched, I’d like to get your thoughts about the book cover in the comments below. For example, what does the cover say to you? Does it grab you?
If this is the first time that you’re hearing about the Night Buddies series, be sure to check out the first two titles, available on Amazon and B&N.com.
Stay tuned to this blog for more exciting news to come!!
Sharing bedtime stories with your child is an important night-time ritual for many parents. In fact, research has shown that children of parents who have bedtime stories show increased brain activity, particularly vocabulary and logic skills. Those skills will serve as the foundation for a better reader for the rest of their life. Bedtime stories also deepen your relationship with your kids and help to establish a bedtime routine (something every parent needs for their child). It’s also a time for both parents and children to wind down for the day.
Having said that, coming up with a bedtime story for your child EVERY night can be a little overwhelming. You can only read the same books so many times before your child gets bored. You can only talk about the same characters (princesses and superheroes) for so long.
Courtesy of Pixabay
So what do you do when your child asks for a story and your mind goes blank?
1. Put your child in the story.
Whether it’s princesses or superheroes (or superhero princesses), allowing your child the opportunity to be in the story stretches their thinking muscles and enhances their linguistic skills. It also gives the chance to develop and enhance another muscle, their imagination.
Courtesy of Pixabay
2. If you are reading a book, ask them, “What do you think happens next?”
Courtesy of Pixabay
3. Put your child in the storyteller’s seat. Ask them to tell you their favorite story.
Asking your child to retell a story back to you gives you (the master storyteller) a break. In addition to allowing them to practice another important skill, memory. Because children (actually everyone) remembers what they believe is important, allowing your child to tell the story gives you a front row seat into what your child values.
Courtesy of Pixabay
4. Take an old story and add a unique spin to it.
This is an old trick that people ranging from writers to Disney use. Take an old story that everyone knows like “Red Riding Hood” and re-imagine it. What is Red Riding Hood could fly? What if Jack didn’t climb the beanstalk, choosing to take the elevator?
Courtesy of Pixabay
The point of these suggestions is to make storytelling fun and interactive. Storytime should not be a tired old routine that you do because you have to. Storytime should be an important time for your child to relax and develop the skills that will serve them in their lifetime.
Reading is a skill that every parent knows is essential for their child to thrive in the modern world. Gaining your children exposed to reading helps foster brain development, language development, and more at a critical time in their development. The skills and behaviors learned in those early years can have a strong impact on your child throughout their life. Starting early helps build a foundation that your child can improve on in the later years. In other words, the earlier, the better!
Gaining reading skills is such an important task that pediatricians now offer reading as a prescription for children as well as their parents (for their newborns). Not gaining these skills can be detrimental. According to an article from Quello.com, children with parents who read to them an hour a day had a vocabulary of 10,000 words of more by the time they reached Kindergarten! Low literacy can also impact children as they get older. According to Intellihealth.com, surveys show that children who don’t develop the appropriate reading levels by third grade harve a harder time graduating from high school. Adult patients with low literacy had more problems with their treatment and medication compared to those with well-developed literacy.
Children often begin their path to reading in Kindergarten, but that path can (and should) begin earlier than that. The more exposure your child has to reading, the easier reading can become for them. The earlier you expose your child to reading, the better. It can begin at home, with you. Sadly, a survey found that only half of parents with young children read to their children every day (see here). We can improve that!
You can be a reading superhero. A reading superhero is a parent or other adult who demonstrates and shares their love of reading with children so they can battle for literacy!
All it takes is a minimum of 15 minutes…
Here’s how you can get started….
1. Read to your kids every day (even if it’s just 15 minutes a day!)
Reading to your kids every day sets the foundation for reading behavior in the future. Depending on your child’s age, this can range from just a few minutes reading aloud and allowing a child to play with a book or can be a 30-minute (or more) dedicated storytime. Find the time and balance that works right for you and your family.
2. Have a dedicated time and place to read.
One way to encourage a habit is to repeat a behavior in the same place at the same time. Reading to your children in a comfy chair or by their bedside consistently helps children starts the process. After awhile, children will expect to have a book when they get in that chair (even if you aren’t there with them!).
Don’t worry though if your child wants to read a book at a different time or in a different location. Reading is reading! The point is to establish the behavior.
Choose a comfortable, quiet spot and start reading!
3. Keep books and magazines around the house.
Another easy way to encourage literacy is to have books and magazines around the house. Buy a couple of children’s books (based on your child’s interests) and magazines to keep your child busy. Encourage them to read when they feel bored. Develop activities and stories based on the books you read (Sands Hetherington did this and became a 6-time award -winning author!)
All it takes two or three books to start.
4. Encourage and praise reading behaviors.
Talk about reading and encourage reading in your home! When your child finishes a book, ask them about it. Ask them to read the book to you and others (like siblings or their favorite teddy bear). Get them in habit of seeing reading as a natural and positive activity in your house. Your child will follow suit.
5. Read yourself!
Children model what they see. If they see that you as a parent enjoy and make time for reading. They will model that behavior
You’ve got your orders. Now go out and start reading!
Need more help? Check out these additional tips and resources:
“Born to Read” (Insight on how to read your child) http://www.human.cornell.edu/pam/outreach/parenting/research/upload/Babies-20are-20Born-20to-20Read-20Updated.pdf
“Importance of Reading” http://www.mychildrensmedicaid.org/content/importance-reading
“Born to Read” http://www.ala.org/alsc/issuesadv/borntoread/resources
“Reach Out and Read Program (Physician-led literacy program for kids): http://www.reachoutandread.org/