Night Buddies - Adventures After Lights Out

4 Ways to Find Inspiration as a Writer

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One of the most fun and most difficult parts of being a writer is finding your next story. Sometimes a bestselling idea will hit you out of nowhere, but more often than not you have to go out into the world and seek inspiration. But where do you go? And how do you do it? (more…)

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Top 5 Books to Buy Your Children This Holiday Season

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Chances are, your kids’ Christmas/holiday gift lists consist of toys and technology (iPads seem to be one of the biggest hits), but what about putting a relatively cheap, simple, and thoughtful gift under the tree that your children can cherish their entire lives? Giving books as presents will help your kids to see books as fun rather than as associated with boring schoolwork, and the stories they fall in love with at young ages can turn them into lifelong readers. The trick to all of this is just picking the right book! Here are my top 5 favorite children’s books that will make wonderful stocking stuffers this season!

The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend, by Dan Santat. This children’s book is for younger readers (it features illustrations, but is broken up into chapters), and it made the American Library Association’s list of Notable Books for 2015! The short description is as follows: “In four delightful chapters, Beekle, an imaginary friend, undergoes an emotional journey looking for his human. Vibrant illustrations add to the fun.” Definitely a fun story that will stick with your children throughout their lives…and it’s a fun one to read together with your kids as well.

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Beautiful Moon…A Child’s Prayer, by Tanya Bolden. This is a great one for the holiday season when you’re trying to teach your kids about gratitude and helping others. It follows the prayers of a boy thinking about the homeless, the hungry, those at war, and his family in a beautiful, touching way that is still accessible to children. It is another on the American Library Association’s List of Notable Books for 2015, and I’d say it’s placement is well earned!

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The Boys Book of Survival (How to Survive Anything, Anywhere), by Guy Campbell. This one is a sillier book for a bit older children, ages 8-12. The Amazon summary says, “Lost in the desert? Stuck in quicksand? Confronted by a man-eating tiger? Trapped at a school dance? Fear not, brave reader! With this essential survival guide, you’ll find a way to get yourself out of every imaginable predicament, whether it’s an avalanche or a zombie invasion!” It’s a fun, easy read that kids don’t have to devour all at once—the perfect gift for guys and girls looking for a fun, mostly practical, and interesting read.

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The Chocolate Touch, by Margot Apple. This book is a spin-off of the classic King Midas and the Golden Touch story, but features a greedy chocolate lover who might end up finally tiring of his favorite food. It’s silly, it’s cute, and it’s a fun read. Plus, I’m always a fan of spin-off books—let’s keep those old classic tales alive!

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And of course, I can’t help but recommend the Night Buddies series! These books are easy enough reads that any child can find themselves getting sucked into the stories, but feature a broad enough vocabulary and interesting slang that will help them become better readers. I always incorporate a theme of friendship and teamwork into each book, which make them great reads for the holiday season!

Night Buddies Go Sky High

Were you ever given a book as a gift? Let me know in the comments!

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Should Kids be Reading on Tablets? The Benefits and Drawbacks of Reading on the Screen

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You can call me old school, but I don’t do the e-reading thing. I like to sit down with a book in my hands, flip through the pages, write in the margins, and keep all the screens at bay even if for just a few hours. Reading, to me, is an escape from the world. And lately, it seems like the world is full of nothing but smart phones, laptops, and tablets.

But what about the next generation? The parents raising kids now, not those of us who raised our kids thirty years ago? It seems they won’t be able to avoid keeping tablets in the house, and with cheaper books and easier access, shouldn’t switching from books to screen actually be a benefit to today’s children?

In some ways, yes. Books are more easily available than they have ever been. Children’s e-books are usually made with interactive features now, so kids can feel even more like they become part of the story they’re reading. They can guide the content, write pieces of the stories themselves, draw pictures of the characters, and take their creativity to entirely different levels.

An article on amplify.com said it best: “Kids aren’t just passive receptors anymore, they expect to be able to interact, remix some of the content, and work collaboratively with others to do things with the content.”

Kids are excited to sit down with these e-readers, because it’s no longer a time just to clock silent reading hours—reading has turned into another kind of game time. And while I am glad that books are getting out there and children are reading, I would also argue that this is the exact problem.

The experience of reading changes when it is filled with hyperlinks, game times, and endless upon endless distractions. It distracts from the general enjoyment of reading—losing oneself in a narrative. Why have interactive features when you can instead take the place of someone else’s consciousness, and live a different life than your own for a few hundred pages? An article on mom.me quoted a study which said, “Of those who took part in the UK’s National Literacy Trust survey, only 12 percent of those who did their reading on a screen said they enjoyed reading, while 51 percent of those burning through pages said they liked to read. Print readers, even if they mixed it with screen reading, made up a larger percent of above-average readers compared to those who only read on a screen—15.5 percent vs. 26 percent.”

Long story short, we can turn reading into a sort of game time, but real game time is only going to be a tap of the screen away from their book. Why spend a few hours reading when Angry Birds is just as easily available on the same device?

I think kids and parents benefit from putting away the distractions, locking the screens away for just an hour or so, and sitting down to read books together. You can still encourage your children to create stories and imagine for themselves—that’s how the character Crosley from my book series was created—but without a tablet and all the distractions tablets come with in the way, hopefully the pure pleasure of reading a book will continue to be passed on through the generations.

Do you prefer reading books or on tablets? Let me know in the comments!

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