How To Find Books Your Kids Will Read

Lined up at midnight for the  Harry Potter  release. He finished it the next day.

Lined up at midnight for the Harry Potter release. He finished it the next day.

There is nothing that gets me into my minivan and pulling out of the driveway faster than a refrigerator without eggs or a kid who has "nothing to read".

All four of my kids are readers, but my twelve-year-old son is an avid reader. He's exactly like me and one of his uncles at the same age: buried inside a book whenever possible. When he gets desperate (after he's already re-read his own collection for the billionth time and can't take it anymore) he'll wander into his sisters' rooms in search of anything that has a cover and some words.

He reads the newspaper on the weekends and the back of cereal boxes and yogurt containers in the morning. And as much as I'd like to keep adding to his humongous collection, I haven't been able to find a money or book tree anywhere (we do buy series that all the kids will read and everyone in the family gets books for birthdays and Christmas). So whenever there's a plea for more books, I go from library to library hoping they've ordered new ones.

Today, I stopped in on my lunch hour and it was quiet. There's a humour series a friend of mine had mentioned, and I asked the librarian at the information desk if it was available. I do my best to stay current about what kids are reading, and I also rely on word-of-mouth from other parents. But there is so much out there, and I often wonder if I'm missing out on books that would really appeal to their individual interests. Of course, each of the kids has a preference for book style and it's hard to keep tabs on all those genres.

The librarian looked at me, took in the fact I was there on my own and then asked if I had a few moments to spare. She proceeded to teach me the best way to find books my kids would read. My tried-and-true method has always been to set the kids loose with a basket, so they can choose their own books.

This time, I sat down at the computer with a very skilled librarian and learned about databases and Read Alike lists. GAME CHANGER. See also: RABBIT HOLE.

I'm always skimming articles about best book series and I read the book review section of the weekend paper looking for suggestions, but it all ends up cluttered in my to-do list. Read alike lists are so easy to use and something the kids can do themselves.

I also learned about the hidden resources on our library's web page. Did you know many communities purchase access to specialized databases?

Go over to your library's homepage and look for digital resources. And then look for databases and/or research. Scroll through and look for links related to kids. For example, our library has provided the community with access to the Novelist K8 database, which can be searched by age group, genres, sub-types and (this is the best) categories like "funny & gross". To access the database, you do need to enter through a library or school.

Before I left the library yesterday, I was handed a pile of new books to bring home (already knowing they would appeal to the kind of humour he appreciates) and some lists of other books to explore when he's ready. The librarian also put a hold on the humour series I had originally come in to find, and I'll be receiving a call when they're ready to be picked up.

If you have a reader in your home (or if you are looking for books for yourself), go introduce yourself to a librarian.

Seriously, they are wizards in disguise.




Our 10-year-old son—the shyest of our lot—started at a brand new school this year.

It was the best decision for him academically, but it was a move that was not without its risks. 

For someone who struggles as much as he does with finding his place, it meant leaving behind a small, but tight group of friends that he (and we) had worked hard to build.

It meant starting over. And it's been a slow start, which is exactly what we expected.

To keep his confidence and self-esteem up, we've continued to spend time with the friends from his old school. We could not be more grateful that they have continued to reach out to him—it means so much to us. They have shown kindness and acceptance and genuine friendship. 

Today is Pink Shirt Day across the country. It's an initiative that focuses on anti-bullying, as well as the value of spreading positivity and kindness. And as much as we can count on the schools to help perpetuate those messages, it has to begin at home. It has to start with parents and caregivers and role models. We have to walk the talk ourselves, if we expect our children to do the same. 

Two weeks ago, we were on the receiving end of a beautiful gift from one of those boys, and I wanted to share it here on this important day. 

My son's friend came to our door with a wrapped gift and inside was a homemade Wall of Awesome with adjectives and words that described our son. He wears his emotions very openly, and when he read those words his face lit up with joy. It let him know that he is still seen. 


This gift comes from a family who aren't afraid to raise a boy who is empathetic and compassionate. They don't worry themselves about making him tough, they worry about making him kind. And even before this great gift, we had seen it exemplified in every interaction we've had with him. 

It isn't easy for my boy to trust peers, he's been hurt before. It's easy to hurt him, after all.

But with this friend, he is able to be his true self. 

And that is what I want my children to know at their core. 

A true friend lifts you up and helps you find your best version.

My son's friends are doing that for him and as their parents,

we are all standing on the sidelines cheering them on.





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Partners In Teaching

The first day of school is such an emotional milestone for kids as well as for parents who open their hand to let go of their child's and then raise it in a wave until we see his backpack climb onto the school bus or walk through the doors of the school. 

I've been through it four times now. And no matter how excited and proud I felt each time, there was also a messy mix of other emotions at play. 

For some kids, it's an easy day. For others, it's harder. 

I knew it would be the latter for my boy.

When I saw how scared he was, I wanted to turn around, take him home, and pretend the first day was still in the future.


But then I watched the way his teacher really noticed him, and I felt better about moving his hand from mine to hers. I kept watching as she took him to the front of the line beside her—where he stayed for the rest of that year.

He's a very bright kid, who enjoys school and looks forward to going. But he's also incredibly shy and deeply sensitive. He can be hard to read, because he keeps so much of what he's thinking and feeling inside. It isn't always easy for him to communicate what he needs. 

For him to succeed in school, I knew my husband and I would have to work closely with his teachers to help them understand and support him. And I knew we'd have to show him that we believed they could. For our family, having school-aged kids means valuing the relationship between school and home. 

We make an effort to get to know our kids' teachers, especially since we expect they'll make an effort to do the same for our family. The Ontario College of Teachers provides parents with information about their certified teachers with a search tool on their website called Find a Teacher. By searching a teacher's name, parents can learn about a teacher's qualifications, educational background, and current status with the college. 

We're just over the halfway point of grade school with our wonder boy, and we could not be more grateful for the many ways his teachers have helped him shine. 

His kindergarten teachers let him take his time getting used to the classroom. They encouraged him and cheered him on and helped establish school as a place he wanted to be. 

His grade one and two teachers learned to read his body language instead of waiting for him to find the words, and they made him feel heard because of it. They celebrated his successes and pushed him through his challenges with empathy and care. They let him know they were there for him.

During a parent-teacher interview with his grade three teacher, he told me and his teacher he wished it wasn't so hard to talk to the other kids. Without skipping a beat, she said there were kids in the class who told her they really liked working with him and together they would figure out how to get to know those classmates better. And then she met my tear-filled eyes with tears in hers, and I knew she'd make it a priority to help him. 

In grade four, he had two teachers who were new graduates. And we had our reservations about how things would go. To be honest, I think we underestimated the calibre of education and knowledge they would have coming into their position (all teachers who wish to teach in Ontario must be certified by the Ontario College of Teachers, you can learn more about the process here). They can bring new ideas and strategies to the classroom and their approach to social dynamics led to one of his most confident years yet. 

His current teacher—at a brand new school—has brought a wealth of experience and specialized training to her role. He's finding new ways to stretch his thinking in a program geared to gifted learners, and we are watching him grow confidence and enthusiasm about his alternative way of thinking and learning.

When it comes to the partnership between our family and our kids' teachers, we believe it's a relationship worth investing in. We choose to participate in our province's education system, by having our children in its schools, and we feel it's our responsibility to stay informed and educated, so we can best support our teachers as they teach our kids. 

To stay up-to-date and informed about the Ontario College of Teachers, you can sign up to receive the e-newsletter, The Standard (click here), which provides reports on trends in education, information about changes in education legislation, as well as services to help you learn more about how the College works to set and ensure high standards in teachers and education.

A few months ago, we sat down to make some holiday cards for the kids' teachers and my son turned to me and said, I'm going to need a whole bunch, Mom. I have so many teachers to thank. And I remembered that scared boy and felt such gratitude for every teacher who has brought him this far.


Is there a teacher who has made a difference in your child's school experience?

I would love to hear your story.


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This post is sponsored by the Ontario College of Teachers.

The story, opinions, and wonder boy are all mine.



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