Teaching Kids about Walt Disney

I have exciting news! We will be going to Walt Disney World this week!  The last time we went, our oldest children were two years old and 6 months old, and while we had a wonderful time, they were also really little. So we are REALLY excited to experience it with them now that they are older and more aware of what Walt Disney World holds. Even our youngest son is more aware of Disney World than his brother and sister were when they went on our first trip. My kids know about and love the princesses, they love Toy Story, Mickey Mouse, and other famous Disney characters and movies, if the tv is on at our home, we are watching Disney Jr. We LOVE all things Disney. For this trip, I wanted to focus on the original and creative mind of Walt Disney.

When I found out we would be going to Walt Disney World (due to the generous gift of park hopper tickets given by Walt Disney World), I knew I wanted to focus our reading and exploration on Walt Disney’s life and about cartoon animation. We’ve listened to several amazing audiobooks that are also Disney Movies such as Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, Mary Poppins. Yet, I realized my kids didn’t know that Walt Disney World (or, how they call it, “Disney World”) is the creative genius of one man with big dreams.

We started by reading this awesome little biography on Walt Disney. It was full of great information and my kids were very engaged by the story. I’m always amazed by Walt Disney’s dream, the hardships he faced, and his go-getter attitude. He is such a wonderful example of pursuing your dreams no matter the obstacles you face! I also grabbed the book, Who Is Walt Disney? While it is a book about Walt Disney, it isn’t endorsed by the Disney brand. However, I struggled to find a various Walt Disney biographies that were age appropriate for my kids. We aren’t afraid of chapter books (even though my kids are under 5 years of age), so I decided it would be a great resource.

I really love this quote by Wal Disney. I think it is very inspirational to set the bar high on your dreams and to go after them NO MATTER the cost. Walt Disney is a great example of this; he had HUGE dreams that people thought were crazy, but he did not let the naysayers control the outcome of his dreams. He went after his dreams with gusto. It’s safe to say, his dreams continue to grow and become greater and greater!

 

We made sure to read several classic Disney Golden Guide books like Monster’s Inc, Peter Pan, and Ariel. I love being able to read books to my kids when they are familiar with the story (Peter Pan, for example), they can identify and recall parts of the story. They get so excited to connect with a beloved story. The Target Dollar Section has a great selection of Cars 3 board books, so we snatched up one (seen in the picture at the top)

We’ve also spent quite a bit of time practicing cartoon animation drawing. For several days, we had pens and graph paper scattered about our kitchen table, as we would practice our drawing. My 4 year old daughter was much better at drawing than me! We had such a great time practicing drawing Minnie Mouse, Mickey Mouse, Goofy and Daisy. I will tell you, drawing Mickey Mouse or Minnie Mouse may look easy, but it was a challenge for sure!

I grabbed the Frozen, Star Wars and Cars notebooks from Target Dollar Section to inspire my kids to draw while we traveled or to collect character autographs when we go to “Disney World (As seen in the photo at the top!).

The great thing about reading the books and practicing our drawing (along with watching tons of Disney movies like Cars 3) is that our excitement as a family only grew. Because of incorporating books into our Disney countdown, not only has our anticipation grew, but the list of things we want to do in the Walt Disney Parks has also grown.

* The picture with the Walt Disney Quote was taken by me at Disney Springs, Orlando, FL*

Preparing for Legoland: Book Style

If you follow me on Instagram and/or Facebook, you have seen our Legoland pictures! Before I share our favorite parts of Legoland, I wanted to share our preparation for Legoland. When we were graciously gifted tickets by Legoland, I immediately began our “prep work”. I was too excited to wait. Since we are #raisingreaders, I’m always looking for any opportunities to incorporate books into our lives. And while you may not think you can initially combine books with Legos, YOU CAN! In fact, it is a great collaboration. I wanted to share what we did to get ready for our day at Legoland!

I have such fond memories of spending hours and hours playing with Legos with my brothers and sisters. We built entire communities (and even people!) with Legos. With buckets of Legos at our disposal, my brothers and sisters and I would crowd around to create buildings, vehicles, and even people! Now that my kids can safely play with Legos without swallowing them, giving them legos to see what they decide to create was just the tip-of-the-iceberg for me.  My kids are also well-acquainted with the Lego movies, and we have loved watching those films as a family. But, with our Legoland trip in mind, I knew it was time to do more.

Legoland is all about riding rides and seeing characters from the Lego Movies and shows. But, long before there were hilarious movies and TV shows or fun rides, Legos were multicolored blocks that inspire kids to be innovative builders, designers and architects. So, of course, that is how we prepared for Legoland.

When I’m introducing a new idea to my kids, I gather the books and then we hunker down. I never say, “Hey Kids! Let’s learn about architecture!” We just read the books. I’m always amazed by how much they soak in.

Frank Lloyd Wright for Kids was really a book we just flipped through it. It was a little over their heads age-wise, so we just looked at the pictures.

Roberto the Insect Architect is a fabulous book about a termite who has the dream to build incredible buildings. He is heavily criticized for his dreams, but he never gives up. My kids loved reading this one. I mean, who wouldn’t? It has bugs!

How to Build a Museum tells all about the planning, building, and design of the Smithsonians’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. What an INCREDIBLE BOOK. There was such much information and detail. I was ready to pack up and go to Washington DC just to visit the Museum!

Iggy Peck, Architect is one of the best books we’ve ever read. I LOVE how to Andrea Beaty weaves in rhythm, science, and the never give up attitude.

Good Night, Good Night, Construction Site is the perfect bedtime story for sharing a construction themed book. If your kid loves tractors, Good Night, Good Night Construction Site is AMAZING.

After we read those books, we grabbed some graph paper and markers and designed on paper what we wanted to build with Legos. My son especially impressed me with building a jet ski, a floating device and a fidget spinner.

I loved seeing my kids get excited and explore with building and design. This is why Legoland is perfect for families who are raising readers. We spur on activities, fun, and engagement of new adventures through the power of books. Then, we take it a step further by bringing our kids to fun places like Legoland that show them the depth of possibilities. At Legoland, they really get to see the vast possibilities and they see it all through play!

*This post contains affiliate links. This is at no cost to my readers, but it does help support my blog. THANK YOU!*

 

A Dad’s Perspective on Reading

For Father’s Day, I asked my husband, Ben, to write a special guest post for my blog. Ben is an incredible supporter and advocate to our reading lifestyle. I’m so thankful for Ben; he is a wonderful, wonderful dad and I’m extremely blessed to be on this parenting journey alongside him.

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I will be honest with you. I’m not a reader. I believe most people would be surprised to hear that from me. As an Executive Director of a non-profit organization, I am expected to read and to do it often. People in my network are constantly suggesting books to me and I politely say how great that book sounds. Don’t get me wrong; I read plenty of articles on the internet on my phone. My problem with reading is sitting still and concentrating as I flip pages. I’m just not that into it. To some extent, my ability to do that has been ruined by the need to put a screen in front of my face. It’s quite embarrassing for me to admit that.

My famous wife, The Book Review Mama (aka Bethany), has been trying to get me to listen to audio books for years. I was so resistant to the idea. Finally, within the last 6 months I took her advice. I was finally able to listen to two books that had often been suggested to me, ”Start with Why” by Simon Sinek & ”Waking the Dead” by John Eldredge. They were both awesome books that gave me a lot to think about. For the last 3 months I have been tackling learning Spanish through audio book. I may look crazy riding around in my car speaking to myself in Spanish, but it has been so helpful.

I’m not really sure where my love for reading paper books went to. When I was a kid I did love to read. I read my first novel, “Where The Red Fern Grows”, while I was in the first grade. It was a very long book and I felt very accomplished when it was completed. I remember how proud my Dad was of me. He would tell everyone we met that his 7 year old son read a novel. As I moved into the 4th & 5th grade I became obsessed with the “Goosebumps” series by RL Stine. In high school I stuck to reading recommended books, but honestly I mostly read the Cliff’s Notes versions. After high school, I became obsessed with the Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice. I read them all.

As I became an adult, I would read Christian books and biographies here and there. However, for the most part I stopped reading. While I liked to read for fun, a true love of reading was never cultivated within me. This is why I believe in my wife’s mission of cultivating a love for reading within children. This is why I read books to my kids. Sometimes, when I’m tired and one my children brings me a book to read I say no. On some occasions they will persist until I agree. It is within those moments that I think about the beautiful thing my wife has done for our kids. They LOVE to be read to. Some books we read over and over.

One of the great things that she has done is that she reads them a variety of books. She doesn’t stick to one kind or one series. As I look through my life of reading, I always stayed stuck in one series or genre without venturing to far outside of what I was comfortable with. When I was caught up on whatever series I was on, I would wait for the next book to come out before I read again. I hope that my children do it differently than I did. And the great news is I know just the person for the job, the Book Review Mama (and she is pretty hot).

Book Review: The Martian Wars

Every so often, I decide to read a book that is outside my normal favorite genre choices. I don’t normally read science-fiction, however, I was willing to give the genre a try with the book, The Great Martian Wars by Jake Beebe. Up until now, I don’t know if I had every read a book about life on Mars.

A young Prime Minister. A new marriage. Big dreams. A status quo challenge. An age-defying vaccine. Life on Mars. War.

This book has it all.

The main character of The Great Martian Wars is a man Penn Horton is now the Prime Minister for what is formerly the USA, but is now the land of Nova. He is newly married to Sarah, and his closest friend is  his trusted advisor. When they decide to move away from the council that controls the country, Penn is met with great resistance. Not to mention, what was once a great accomplishment – people living on Mars, has become a a horrific scenario of bondage. This is an action packed, and multi-layered story! Readers will have a hard time putting it down.

If you like a modern old world/new world futuristic tale, you will enjoy  The Great Martian Wars. I appreciated how the main character, Penn, isn’t afraid of new ideas. As a powerful leader, he has a singular focus on listening and taking care of the “common folks”.

The characters in The Great Martian Wars are engaging; author Jake Beebe does a great job of developing characters so you feel you really know them. Reading and “watching” Penn and Sarah’s relationship and how they leaned into each other in a new marriage that is formed before Penn becomes a prime minister made them even more endearing. Even the secondary characters, the ones that only show up occasionally, are so well developed that you feel connected to them.

The Great Martian Wars is the first volume in a series. So, there is more to come from Jake Beebe!

(Contains affiliate links. This is at no cost to you, the reader, but it help support my blog. Thank you!)

Blue Man Group Making Waves Exhibit

We spent the morning at the Blue Man Group Making Waves Exhibit at the Children’s Museum of Atlanta. I’m so thankful for the invitation to take my kids and explore this incredible exhibit. We all (my three kids and I) had the best time ever! My kids played nonstop for over 2 hours. And as soon as we left, they were asking when we were going to go back to the “Kids’ Museum”.

This brand new exhibit is called Making Waves and is inspired and designed by the popular Blue Man Group. This is a short-term exhibit and will only be at the Children’s Museum of Atlanta from June 10, 2017 to September 4, 2017. Make sure you take your kids! They will love it! The Making Waves exhibit uses musical techniques used by the Blue Man Group to encourage kids to make music. Using items like PVC pipes, drums, and sound waves, kids will have a blast engaging in a musical activity that is unique and completely open to interpretation as well!

My kids had a blast at Making Waves exhibit. They kept bouncing from one station to another. The neon lights keeps the energy level high and matches kids (and adults!) excitement to engage with the musical instruments.

I loved this trio of PVC pipe instruments. Each of the pipes were color-coded and had a different sound (kind of like techno music with organ-looking pipes). Kids can uses rubber paddles to hit the pipes and create amazing music. I especially liked that each instrument had a simple music book that had songs kids could play but following the color coded notes (the “musical notes” matched the different colored PVC pipes).

The drum section was SO FUN. Each drum provide different entertainment. The one my daughter is at showed the vibrations a drum makes with sound. This was demonstrated using sand. My sons loved pounding away at the other drums as they were able to observe how loud or how soft the drum sounds were based on the intensity of their drumming motion.

This station had PVC pipes and large push buttons. As you pushed on the buttons, sounds would come through the pipes. My kids got a kick out of how this station worked. I also loved how the staff of The Children’s Museum were readily available to teach kids how to get the most out of the station they were at. Every staff member we encountered was extremely kind and so friendly towards the kids.

After kids are finished playing with the various musical instruments, they will get to explore how to make and change sound waves. This was SO FUN! Giving kids space and permission to make their own sounds (AKA loud voices!) and then experiment with the sound waves creates a whole new dimension of musical exploration and fun. My kids got a kick out of playing at this station. It was so engaging and fun for them to play and explore.

We loved the Making Waves exhibit because it furthered our understanding of music in a way that was incredibly fun. As a family, we listen to the radio and we sing songs we’ve learned from movies, but I wouldn’t say we are music enthusiasts. The Making Waves exhibit was great for exploring music in a whole new way. I LOVED seeing my kids so engaged with not just making music, but how sound waves work. It was as much an educational experience for me, as it was my kids. That makes the Making Waves exhibit something the whole family can enjoy. You can take your kids to the Children’s Museum of Atlanta, enjoy this specialty exhibit and walk away with a wonderful and wholesome family outing that is full of great memories.

To purchase your tickets to go to the Making Waves exhibit + enjoy the rest of the Children’s Museum of Atlanta, go to the Children’s Museum of Atlanta website!

 

Book Review: Avalanche

If you like the YA genre, then I have a book for you. I recently read Avalanche by K. Vann O’Brien which is full of teenage romance, turmoil and angst, but also full of hope and redemption.

The author says that the title Avalanche is not only a literal description of what happens in the book, but also a metaphor for how the character develops in the story.

In Avalanche by K. Vann O’Brien, we meet Alice Bass. A former cheerleader, fashion obsessed teenager who has recently gone through quite a change. She quit the cheerleading squad, gained weight, and dyed her blonde her jet black. She exchanged high heels and high fashion for black shirts, and baggy sweatshirts. Her mom, concerned over the dramatic change of her daughter, sends Alice off to drug camp. But, Alice isn’t on drugs. So why is she at a drug camp? We do meet a lot of kids who do have addiction issues at the camp. They are marked by their past, the addictions that hold them back, and the people in their lives who have made them feel abandoned. The camp is nestled in the snowy mountains in the state of Washington. Campers spend their days enjoying hiking, skiing and more. When an actual Avalanche hits the camp, Alice must choose between being honest with herself and addressing the secrets of her past, or helping her new friends.

In the book, Graceful Wind is the name of the drug camp, and even though it’s advertised to be “Christian based”, the campers do not find Christian values.

Reading Avalanche hit really close to home for me. In fact, you could say my reaction felt like an Avalanche. My husband runs a recovery program for teenage boys who have substance abuse addictions. It is also Christian based. I was so sad for the characters in the book, because they only encountered hostility at Graceful Wind. I kept comparing the fictional drug camp in Avalanche to the very real program my husband runs. The two could not be more different. My husband  and his staff work hard every single day to show the young meant in the program what it means to follow Jesus. They also work with them to uncover what got them into a lifestyle of addiction.  As they work through that, they experience true freedom.

Despite the fact that I really struggled with the camp (in comparison to  to the program my husband runs), I continued to remind myself that not all drug/behavioral programs are run like the one my husband runs. Some of them really are like Graceful Wind in Avalanche.

There are a lot of intense situations that are either directly addressed or indirectly implied in Avalanche. This is a book for teenagers/adults, so it is not a book you want to use a read aloud for growing readers. The book addresses drug use, suicide, losing a parent, and rape. I felt like the author did a great job of introducing these intense issues and allowing the characters to work through them. I usually hate bringing up potential spoilers, but because I recommend a lot of chapter books with read aloud potential, I want to make sure you know: Avalanche is a great read, but it has adult content.

I read Avalanche in two days. It was a great book. I had a hard time putting it down. If you need YA LIT genre book to read, this is a great book to pick up!

You can find Author K. Vann O’Brien on Facebook and her website. On Facebook and her website, you will find information about K. Vann O’Brien’s other books.

*This post contains affiliate links, this is at no cost to my readers, but it does help support my blog. Thank you!*

Book Review: Germ Fighters: A Battle Within

If you are around kids, the subject of germs is going to come up. It’s inevitable. Between reminding kids to wash their hands after trip to the restroom and telling them not to pick their noses, germs come up. We talk a lot about germs because germs can make you sick. For curious kids like my own, they aren’t satisfied with “germs can make you sick”. They want to know details.

That’s why I’m excited to share the Germ Fighters: A Battle Within book by Jen Conway. This exciting books takes kids underneath the skin after a child’s knee is scraped. With a nod to vintage superhero comics, we meet the “good guys” (red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets) and we meet the “bad guys” (germs). Using supersonic glasses, we “dive” beneath the surface of the skin, under the Boo-Boo to see the battle unfolding. Germ Fighters clearly explains the role of each “good guy”. There is also little boxes on each page with more detailed scientific facts about germs, white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets. This is fantastic for kids who want a little more information. It can also be easily skipped for younger readers who just want the story.

The illustrations in Germ Fighters are claymation!  This is a great way to clearly and effectively illustrate the individual jobs of the white blood cells, red blood cells, platelets and even the germs. The illustrations shows the readers what happens when you correctly use medicine (aka the blue cape superheroes)for a boo-boo. We don’t see claymation often in picture books, but I loved that this was the art technique used for Germ Fighters. It made the story come to life!

My kids loved reading this book. It satisfied their “WHY?” Questions. They could easily identify the book characters.

In the back of the book, there are coloring sheets and a matching game for kids to play with for further interaction. There is also a record sheet for boo-boos, so you can write down when a child got hurt and how the boo-boo was taken care of. The end of the book includes a “Until next time!”, from one of the characters, so I hope that means author Jen Conway will be writing more fun, nonfiction books.

You can follow Jen Conway on Facebook, Instagram, and her website. The e

Book Review: The Heir of Kembarius

Do you want to know a secret? When you raise readers, sometimes, it can take you down roads you didn’t expect to take. The unexpected twists in a family’s reading journey elevate books and reading to an incredibly unique journey.

This was the case of author Sarah Stehlik. A mom of three boys, Sarah and her kids have read countless books. Until, finally, Sarah decided it was time to introduce the book world to her book. The Heir of Kembarius by Sarah Stehlik is book 1 in the Tales from Winderlawk. For fans of books like Lord of The Rings, Chronicles of Narnia and The Green Ember, get ready! You are going to love The Heir of Kembarius. The Heir of Kembarius is for ages 8-12 years of age, but if you love a good story, you will want to read The Heir of Kembarius.

The Heir of Kembarius is a fictional book about Kingdom Heir who was kidnapped; this act of treason caused the kingdom to divide. The heir was never found, and divisions have only grown. A select group, the five elders, are given the seemingly impossible task of finding the heir.

The entire story premise of The Heir of Kembarius demands a clear explanation of the kingdom’s history. I love that the first chapter carefully explains it. This is not a boring history lesson! You are literally sucked into the story, and the more you read, the more questions  you have. Never fear. Author Sarah Stehlik is a reader who writes for readers. She understands the need for a great balance of intrigue and explanation. Sarah delivers too! Ya’ll, I flew through the chapters. In fact one time, I thought I was still in chapter 4, only to discover I was starting chapter 7. That is the best sign of a good book; when you have no idea what chapter you are in, because you can’t get enough.

There is such mystery in the storyline of The Heir of Kembarius. I loved how you will think you know where the story is going, until it changes and then you have no clue. Those storylines, the ones that keep you on the edge of your seat, are seriously the best. My goodness. I couldn’t get enough. The characters are awesome. I loved how developed they were. There is friendship, mysterious leaders, even more mysterious and threatening “bad guys”.

Be sure to grab your copy of The Heir of Kembarius; it will make a great summer read!

I’m excited to see what Sarah Stehlik does next! She is a talented writer and has incredible grasp on a telling a good story. You can find Sarah Stehlik on her website.

*This post contains affiliate links. This is at no cost to my readers, but it does help support my blog. Thank you!*

Interview with Beth Guckenberger

I am thrilled to bring you the interview with author Beth Guckenberger. I was on Beth’s book launch team for her book, Start With Amen. It was a book that made a huge impact on me. I am so glad I had an opportunity to interview Beth. You can read my book review of Start With Amen here.

You can find Beth on her website, Facebook, and Instagram.

Enjoy my interview with Beth!

1. Your book was incredibly raw and honest. Were you nervous about being so vulnerable with your readers?

Beth: Yes, but it didn’t seem worth the effort of writing without being real. So much pretend is in the world, and I grow most when I honestly exchange with someone. This was my best attempt at starting the exchange. My hope is readers have conversations of substance with people in their life as they process their own insights with each other.

2. For our readers who may have not read Start With Amen, can you share Why Start With Amen? (Side note; this is something I really wrestled with as I read your book, but it felt like such freedom once I worked through it in my own life)

Beth: Starting with “amen” (which means ‘so be it’) is more a posture than a prescription. It means beginning with the realization he is sovereign, and worthy to be surrendered to. Letting go of my agenda right from the start breeds freedom. Then I ask or confess like I would in any normal prayer, concluding by acknowledging who I am addressing, “dear Jesus…” Inverting my prayer life has allowed me to release control, worry, fear and embrace peace, spiritual confidence, freedom.

3. How has the Lord used your book, Start With Amen in your own life?

Beth: The idea of starting with amen has been a tremendous part of my spiritual maturation. The actual book was an act of obedience and any time we say yes to Jesus and then grow through the discipline of following through with that ‘yes’, we are changed.

4. My blog is all about reading and books, can you share with your favorite book was as a child?

Beth: I loved novels, and probably Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume was one of my favorite stories. As I grew, I appreciated true stories and today read more of those than any other kind.

5. What’s a book you are reading now?

Beth: My friend, Lauren Casper, just wrote a book It’s Okay About It about her autistic son. I am in the middle of it and appreciating her warm, conversational tone and spiritual insights.

6. When you are writing, do you have a daily ritual you follow?

Beth: I have no ritual! I do lots of travel, so I wrote a bunch of Start With Amen on a plane, or in a hotel room. Once I am under a deadline, I write whenever I can (I have a houseful of kids!) usually in my room (where I can shut the door!) and with a Diet Coke in hand.

7.  Who do you consider to be a “hero in the faith”?

Beth: Oh, no doubt, my mom. She reads her Bible so much and has a enthusiasm for it’s fresh insights, despite the fact she’s been studying it for 50 years! I appreciate how she gains strength from it for her life, relationships and calling.

8. Are you working on another book?

Beth: Always! I always have an idea or two floating around my head and my hard drive. I am working on three proposals right now, we’ll see which ones stick around. Thanks for asking!

*This post contains affiliate links. This is at no cost to you, but it does help support my blog. Thank you so much!*

Book Review: Who Invited the Bees?

Several months ago, I had the opoortunity to meet author Beatrice Brown. I was immediately struck by how she has a tremendous heart for children. I reviewed Beatrice Brown’s first book, A Giraffe in the Gym. You can read the book review for A Giraffe in the Gym here. I am excited to announce that Beatrice is back with a brand new book!

Who Invited the Bees? by Beatrice Brown is the story of a class of young students who take a field trip. While exploring the newness of Spring, the class encounters a swarm of bumble bees! As they walk paths, cloud watch, have a picnic, and more, the class discovers the bees are following them!

Who Invited the Bees? is such a fun read. With warm weather, and new life bursting forth in nature, you can’t help by yearn to be outside and explore. Just like the class in Who Invited the Bees?, we can all identify with seeing bees show up. A buzzing bee can be a little scary, but Who Invited The Bees? Is a great way to talk about how bees are curious creatures with a mission.

The watercolor illustrations are so beautiful. The children in Who Invited the Bees? are expressive and sweet. With toothless grins, the kids bravely face those pesky bees! There are so many wonderful details in the book; like, the picnic lunch, the whistle one of the teacher is holding, and the bees! The bees are so expressive! I loved seeing such a jolly swarm of bees! The expression of the bees makes you wonder who is having more fun on the class outing – the kids or the bees? I’ll let you decide that one!

What a delightful book to read aloud to kids. It’s perfect for my son who will be entering kindergarten in the fall. He has a lot of questions about what school will look like. So we’ve been reading a lot of books that talk about kindergarten and class routines. Who Invited the Bees? perfectly lines up with that theme; while we chase the bees, we see the day unfold for a classroom on a field trip.

I LOVED seeing the diversity within the classroom in Who Invited the Bees?. There is such diversity of skin colors and abilities within this class of students. Who Invited the Bees? is so inclusive!

Be sure to grab your copy of Who Invited the Bees?! You can find Beatrice Brown on Facebook and her website!

*Contains affiliate links. This is at no cost to my readers, but it does help support my blog. Thank you!*