Father Knows Five 3-21-14

*Every Friday we serve you an “a la carte” list of 5 unique videos, articles, ideas, etc. from all kinds of locations. (If you are viewing this blog through your email subscription, please follow the link to our website to view all videos.)  See you next week…


1.  Great Books to Read with Infants and Toddlers – a super list of some super books!

2.  Everyday Steps to Reading and Writing – a super list of ideas!

3.  A beloved author and how her children finished the final novel of her collection – “When Newbery Medalist Jean Craighead George, author of more than 100 children’s books, died in 2012 at the age of 92, she was in the process of writing Ice Whale…”


4.  E.B. White Read-Aloud Awards – Wow, wow, wow…that there is an E.B. White Read-Aloud Award is worth knowing in itself!


5.  The Art of Robert McCloskey, author of Make Way for Ducklings – my well-read grandmother was the first person to introduce me to this book and the McCloskey world of art.  I am still a fan!

robert mccloskey

Reading with Jacob

“All I have is a voice.” – W.H. Auden

Jacob Reads 2013

For the past several years, I have had the wonderful experience of teaching a Christian Education class on Sunday mornings at our church.  I enjoy it even more because of my friend Jacob.  Jacob is 32 years-old, smiles often and loves to sing and reads from his heart.  He also has Down Syndrome.

A few years ago, I was putting together our Christmas study series for the month of December and decided to ask Jacob if he would read a particular passage from the Bible that told of the story of Christmas.

As the students and their families settled into the chairs around the classroom, I quieted the group and made a few announcements before asking Jacob to come to the front to read the scripture.  He asked if I would stand beside him while he read, “just in case I get nervous,” he said.

The magic commenced the moment he began to read.  His voice was shaky and quiet, reserved and somehow piercing as he read from the gospel of Luke.  As I looked around, the students were leaning forward, some literally on the edge of their seats, completely silent and completely enthralled by this young man’s reading of one of the most familiar passages in the entire Bible.

After the class ended, I stepped outside the room and into the hall to shake hands and talk with guests.  One particular friend in class had been through an especially difficult year in his home and work and I noticed that he lingered behind as everyone left the room.  “I need to tell you something,” he said as he diverted his eyes to the floor and put his hands in his pockets.  “What’s up?” I said.

“It has not felt like Christmas at all to me this year.  Nothing has proved fulfilling or entertaining or worthwhile at all in my life these past few months.”

He stopped and drew in a deep breath, lost in thought for the moment before he continued.

“I felt nothing at all…until Jacob read.  Something about his voice, about the quiet way in which he related such a familiar passage.  Something about it has brought me peace.  Something about reading with Jacob this morning has brought Christmas back to me.  Tell him thanks for me?”

Reading with Jacob.  If you ever have the opportunity to do such a thing, don’t pass it up.  It could even change your life.

Reading in the In-Between

photo (2)

Books can fill up the in-between places. And in this busy world, there are so many in-between places.  I have seen the girls take a book with them nearly every time we get in the car. Sometimes, they take two or three – even on a short trip into town! When I asked one of them why, she responded, “You never know what kind of mood you’ll be in so you have to bring a couple along for that just-in-case feeling. And why take just one, when you can take two!”
Good point. We all find ourselves in those in-between places during the day…times when we are stuck in traffic or waiting at the doctor’s office, or taking a car trip across town or across the country.
So however old you are, taking a book along can be just the thing to get you through those in-between places.
And “why take just one when you can take two!”

Reading for One

Greyson Moore 1

I am so glad we were invited to a family birthday party for Greyson Moore. He’s a little boy who just turned one year old. Full of energy and curiosity and happy with the kind of smile that makes you somehow feel better about life in general, we really enjoyed this party.

As his mom and dad set the many presents around him at the center of the living room floor, we all gathered to watch him enjoy this “toy extravaganza” rite of passage. What happened next though really surprised me.  His mother could barely get him to unwrap the gifts because he was so intrigued with each of the birthday cards!

What surprises me is that I was actually one of the adults who had suggested that buying a birthday card for a one-year old is surely nothing more than a Hallmark scheme.  I was wrong and I was intrigued to see this little boy so entranced with holding these cards in his hands just like he was holding a book, and acting as though he was reading them.

Here’s what I’m thinking – Greyson has a family who not only reads to him but reads to themselves.  He is watching and learning how to hold a book, how to look at a book, and eventually he will find that reading a book is as natural as walking and talking.

So here’s to books and birthdays and big families and (I can’t believe I am about to type this) Hallmark cards for toddlers!

Greyson Moore 2

P.S. As I was finishing up this post late last week, my wife’s good friend sent us a photo of her little girl, Alleeah (a little more than a year old) who had been “reading to herself” in her crib that morning.  I love people who read before they can read!!!

Alleeah reading


The Under 5 Crowd

I have spent the past 18 years in the field of early childhood education as a student and professor.  The textbooks are good and the thinkers are some of the best and getting people together to talk about best practices and great ideas and teaching with enthusiasm and pride and professionalism is exciting, but none of it can really ever hold a candle to seeing all of those scholarly thoughts and ideas and lesson plans and reading skills play out right in front of us in real life.

My youngest niece is CJ (age 2) and my youngest nephew is McCoy (age 3).  Since they are the littlest of our six wonderful nieces and nephews, they are the most uninhibited about their play and proud of their adventurous spirits.  Their families have read books over and over to them, which gives these wonderful kids a sense that they can also read them.  They like to try to spell things and draw things and wonder about things and build things and think about things and talk about all kinds of things, and everyone at my house is grateful for such things.

Here are three “moments” that remind us just how great it is to know people under the age of 5!

Shaving Cream



Whether it is trying to write letters in shaving cream (we also like rolling Hot Wheels through it!), looking through books just before bedtime with all the blankets in the house on top of you, or just sitting in your very own personal “book room” (a little corner of the bedroom with a Winnie-the-Pooh bedsheet for a curtain and a few shelves for favorite books), a book and child will make the best of friends.

We’re fans of the under 5 crowd!

5 Great Kids Reads for Halloween

Halloween books

Thirteen years ago I was assigned to a student teaching position in Kindergarten at Windsor Hills Elementary School in Putnam City, a suburb of Oklahoma City.  It was a wonderful experience that I will never forget, but one of the moments that stands out to me was the day my assigned classroom’s wonderful veteran teacher told me what she wanted me to use as my theme to teach when my professor came to evaluate me as I taught that roomful of 20 young children in late October.  She said one word – ‘monsters.’

She had always used that as her theme for this particular week and so that was the theme she wanted me to use, as well.  I was crushed.  As a boy, I was scared to death of monsters and spent many creepy nights sleeping outside my parent’s bedroom in my Battlestar Galactica sleeping bag.

Now here I was faced with having to create a five-day curriculum for little girls and boys about the one thing that surely sent them fleeing on most nights – monsters!  To make a long story short, it went wonderfully well (this was one great teacher and I trusted her) and I had the time of my life.  We used the puppets of Where the Wild Things Are and learned Monster tunes for Kids that my daughters and I made up at night and I taught to the children the next morning in circle time.  We completed math lessons with monsters and wrote stories and talked about scary monsters and funny monsters and fears and worries and everything in between.  The whole room was a monster wonderland!  I also collected quite a variety of great children’s books with monster themes during that semester of my life.  Here are a few of our favorite short read-alouds to celebrate some reading time with your little ones during this especially monstrous week of the year:

1.  Ten Creepy Monsters by Carey Armstrong-Ellis (Harry N. Abrams, 2012) – Julie Roach and School Library Journal reviewed the book for Preschool to Grade 2 and wrote, “When ten creepy monsters meet beneath a pine tree, they get into all sorts of trouble that helps readers count backward from ten to one…After the second to last monster-a vampire-rushes off in the sunrise, readers are left with one monster hurrying home. An abandoned mask, strewn candy, and a sleeping boy tell the rest of the story. Fun for Halloween or for counting anytime.”

2.  Monster Mischief by Pamela Jane (2001, Scholastic) – This is a wonderfully inventive book of creative monsters visiting a monster home to trick or treat for Halloween.  This quote from the book sums up the fun, “On Halloween, for trick or treat, five monsters mixed a stew to eat of which they never ate a bite, because their stew ran off that night.  A few, I know, are glad of that – spider, lizard, frog and bat!”

3.  Haunted Halloween:  A Choose Your Own Adventure Book #37 by Susan Sanders (1986, Bantam-Skylark) –  If you grew up in the 1980’s in America, this was the hottest series on the bookshelf.  It is still around and still exciting and interesting and interactive.  If you don’t remember how it works, the reader reads a few pages and then at a key point in the story there are two questions at the bottom of the page.  You must choose your own adventure at this point, sometimes for good and sometimes for not!  These are so much fun and your kids need to be reading them – there are many choices so I was happy that we had this one for Halloween week here at Father Knows Books!  In this book, “it is halloween night and you’ve been invited to a costume party at an old, spooky mansion.”

4.  Monster Pops Counting 123:  How Many Monsters Can You See by Gill Davies (2002, Parragon Publishing) – “Discover a pop-up surprise on each page as you enjoy a monstrously good counting rhyme.”  This book is super for preschool and Kindergartners, as well…and who doesn’t love a pop-up book!

5.  The Teeny Tiny Ghost by Kay Winters (1997, Scholastic) – a wonderful children’s picture book with a great read-aloud style and wonderful illustrations by Lynn Munsinger.  It is the story of a “timid teeny tiny ghost.  He lived in a teeny tiny house with two teeny tiny black cats.”  He is scared of scary stories and hides when he hears himself say “boo!”  When his friends come for a surprise costume party, things indeed take a turn for the better.

The Wisdom Tooth Reader


We are sitting in an oral surgeon’s waiting room this morning. Our 13-year old is having her wisdom teeth pulled. I am waiting and relishing the opportunity to read something that is hanging on this long rack of great magazines right by my chair. I have a book with me, but these are just too enticing.  They are all current (what a miracle!) and include TV Guide, Time, Boy’s Life (which I used to read when I was a kid), People, Golf Digest, and Sports Illustrated.

Isn’t it something that there are things to read nearly everywhere we go? The sheer number of words hanging here on this wall beside me…millions, trillions…who knows?

One thing in common among them is that they are all written from a point of view.  Somebody wants us to read these words.  They tout some wisdom, be it cheap and shoddy or profound and priceless. It may be a whole article, a paragraph, or just a sentence, but if you read anything you know what I mean when I say that there will often come that moment when the lightbulb goes off while you’re reading…and a whole new world of thought (aka wisdom) opens before your eyes.

All of that to say this – reading is too important to not find a way to enjoy it.  If my daughters come home with a book that they start reading and decide they don’t like, we get a new book!  Life is too short to waste time reading a book or article (unless of course it is necessary for you to read either for school or work or to improve something about your life) that you can’t find a way to enjoy.  I have friends who have nearly given up on getting their little boys to read because nothing interests them.  But that’s just not true – there is something that interests them and sometimes it takes some time to figure out what that something is.  Here’s a hint though – it may not be a book in the true sense of the word.  It might be a comic book or a magazine or an instruction manual or an encyclopedia or a Ripley’s Believe it or Not/Guinness Book of World of Records fact book or a cookbook or a map or a brochure.  Reading is everywhere and is everywhere available!

I remember the day my dad bought me The Empire Strikes Back movie book in script form.  It was the published screenplay (from my favorite of the Star Wars movies) and included original artwork from Lucas and his team and even had the stage cues and camera angle ideas typed or written into the margins.  It was the coolest bit of reading I had done at that point in my life and it was a turning point for me in helping me look at the library and at bookstores for the things I wanted to read.

Here is an excellent article from Scholastic about the subject that I hope you’ll take a minute to read.  It is a short list that just might give you one of those “lightbulb” moments of wisdom (with or without the teeth!).  Just click on the photo below and it will take you direct to the article at Scholastic: