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The 2019 New York Times/New York Public Library Best Illustrated Children’s Books

Christmas is right around the corner and there’s no better gift than a beautiful children’s book!

Since 1952, the New York Times convened a rotating annual panel of three expert judges, who consider every illustrated children’s book published that year in the United States. In 2017, they began partnering with the New York Public Library to administer the honor now called The New York Times/New York Public Library Best Illustrated Children’s Books Award.

The judges select the winners purely on the basis of artistic merit. On the 2019 panel were Bruce Handy, a journalist and critic and the author of “Wild Things: The Joy of Reading Children’s Literature as an Adult”; Jessica Cline, supervising librarian in the Picture Collection of the New York Public Library; and Jillian Tamaki, the Book Review’s By the Book illustrator and a past winner of the award. She is the author and illustrator of several graphic novels and the picture book “They Say Blue.”

Here you’ll find images from each winning book.

Colorado has spent hundreds of millions to help kids read. Now, it will spend up to $5.2 million to find out why it’s not working.

Colorado’s education department will spend up to $5.2 million over six years on a consultant charged with determining why the state’s 2012 landmark reading law failed to produce significant gains for struggling readers.

The unusual external audit, to be conducted by the nonprofit WestEd, will dig into how the state’s schools are using about $40 million a year meant to boost third-grade reading proficiency. The review could last up to six and a half years.

state law passed last spring mandated the external evaluation and other steps intended to improve the 2012 law, known as the READ Act. The recent legislation came in the wake of ongoing criticism from lawmakers, parents and literacy advocates about the law’s effectiveness.



Ann Schimke, Chalkbeat Colorado; Photo: Laura Faith Kebede

Happy World Kindness Day! 100+ children’s books that teach kindness

Every year on November 13, countries around the world recognize World Kindness Day, a day to celebrate the natural human desire to be kind and the positive changes that kindness can bring to our communities! During this celebration, people not only perform kind actions to brighten the days of those around them, but they also strive to look beyond the arbitrary boundaries that divide us and focus on our common humanity.

If you’d like to talk about World Kindness Day in your home or classroom or introduce children to stories that emphasize the importance of kindness, Mighty Girl has resources that can help!

Their blog post Children’s Books That Teach Kids to Be Kind provides a selection of books for younger readers that show their acts of kindness can make a difference to others.

If you’ll be recognizing the day with a donation to a charity or by volunteering, you can find books that talk about why we give both of our time and money to help others in our blog post Making An Impact: 30 Mighty Girl Books About Charity and Community Service.

In a world that feels increasingly divisive, you can teach children and teens that one of the most powerful acts of kindness is standing up for others when they witness bullying, intolerance, or bigotry with the resources in our blog post 60 Mighty Girl Books About Standing Up for Others.

By teaching our children about the importance of compassion and empathy, we can all help build a kinder, more accepting future for everyone.

Challenge: Perform one act of kindness on World Kindness Day. 

We Wrote The Book On Music Lessons … And We’d Love To Give You A Free Copy

I’m not a Mama… but I’m a parent of two.  You might say I’m a “Mile High Dada.”  And in my business, I work with parents and families every day as we all continue our community quest to raise the next generation of inspired, confident people.

That quest is my central mission – and I’m passionate about it!

That’s why I started the school more than a dozen years ago… why I wake up excited every morning… and why my friend Marty Fort and I wrote the book on Music Lessons in Littleton, CO.

As we detail in our book, I Fell in Love with Music: Why I started Littleton School of Music, music lessons aren’t really about music.

Not entirely.

No, giving your child the gift of music love – from playing music at home to enrolling them in a safe, professional “musical family” like ours – is really about developing the kind of confidence, persistence, and positivity we all want our future adults to enjoy.

Of course, among the many “outside activities” you and your child could choose – from athletics to hobbies – music school is just one option.  As a parent, you’ll want to evaluate every “fit,” from what seems right for your individual kiddo, to how an activity will work within a limited family budget.

We’re all looking for the best for our children – and that means, among other things, the best “bang for our buck!”

So I’d like to offer you a free copy of I Fell in Love with Music.  I think you’ll find it helps you make a truly informed choice, not just about Littleton Music Lessons, but about how to evaluate all the options for your child.

Here are some of the things you’ll learn from the book:

  • My personal story – how music actually saved my life
  • How to tell if your child’s ready for music lessons – not every child is
  • What you can do at home to help your child love music
  • How music lessons help in ways far beyond music itself (academics, for instance)
  • The best ways to measure your kid’s progress
  • Details about the most popular lesson types (guitar, keyboard, percussion, and voice)
  • Common myths about Piano Lessons, Voice Lessons, and more

… and more.

Clearly, I’m a big believer in music lessons for children.  I know first-hand how powerful music can be in positioning a youngster for lifelong success

Now that school’s in session, and children (older and younger) start looking for other things to do, it’s a great time to learn more about wholesome, safe, productive activities.

As hundreds of our school’s families have discovered, music might be just the ticket.

So let me share with you a copy of my book. As a parent, an informed choice is always a good choice.

Stephan Hume, founder of Littleton School of Music, appeared on the hit MTV show “Made,” and created the school in 2006.  His music degree is from the University of Colorado (Denver), and he lives in Littleton with his wife, Lauren, and his young son and daughter.

 For your free copy of the book, call (303) 972-7625 or email  Supplies are limited. 

 By Stephan Hume, Littleton School of Music



National Literacy Month: Teaching your kids to read from an early age

Grab a book during National Literacy Month! Did you know that 65% of fourth graders are not proficient in reading in America according to Kids Count 2019? Taking simple steps can help ensure that  your child will go from babbling to book reading in their first 5 years of life. It’s up to you to read, talk, and sing with your young ones so they can learn new words and string longer sentences together. 

Here are some awesome tips to get you going at any age so your child is on track to succeed in school. 

Reading with Baby

It’s never too early to read with your child, so start early. Keep things interesting with these ideas:

  • Use silly voices when you read, and soon your baby will begin to make silly sounds too. 
  • Point at pictures and say the names of objects out loud. Your baby will listen and learn the importance of language.
  • Hold your baby on your lap while you read, and make eye contact.
  • Read for a few minutes every night at bedtime. This is a soothing routine that will end any day on a positive note.
  • Read on the go! Share a book while riding the bus or waiting in line.
  • Babies love to be bounced and rocked to the rhythm of chants, nursery rhymes, and songs that go with a book. Repeating those experiences during diaper changing or in the car will delight your child and make deeper connections in their brain development.

Between ages 1 and 2, your child will go through a language explosion turning single words into small sentences! Try creating a word box to boost your child’s vocabulary! Here’s how:

  1. Find a box and fill it with lots of items that interest your child. You might try items like a ball, doll, stuffed animal, cracker, cup, block, book, or bottle.
  2. Start by picking one interesting item. Show it to the child and say, “This is a _______. We do_______with it.” For example, This is a teddy bear. We cuddle with the teddy bear. 
  3. Pretend to use the item. If it is a phone, you can pretend to talk on it, for example. Next, repeat the name and return it to the box, saying, “I’m putting the phone in the box.”
  4. After that, encourage your child to look in the box by saying, “What’s in the box?” Give him a chance to respond. If he makes a sound, say, “Yes, that’s a _______,” and say the name again. If he does not respond vocally, answer your own question. For example, “Oh, that’s a _______.”
  5. Return the object to the box, and encourage the child to look again.

Music and singing are brain builders for your toddler. Try to put a little rhythm and rhyme in your routine every day!

  • Let him be in charge. When riding in the car, ask your child to choose a song to sing. Children are not often “in charge” of things in their lives. It’s fun for them to be in charge of the songs in the car.
  • Dance and move around. Sing a song with lots of movement or dancing in it – like the Hokey Pokey! Your child will be learning lots of new words, and the movement makes learning even more fun.
  • Add instruments. Young toddlers will enjoy instruments they can shake, such as bells, rattles, drums, and tambourines. Make your own shaker with a paper cup filled with rice or dried beans and taped shut.
  • Use music to change your toddler’s mood. Soft, gentle music seems just right for bedtime. Louder, bouncier music could be used when it’s time to clean up toys.

Literacy learning is most effective when it comes from the child’s world, which includes going to the grocery store.

Focus on reading readiness skills

  • Choose a letter as you’re walking into the store. Make a game of finding things in the store that start with that letter. For example, for the letter “p” you could find peanuts, popcorn, pineapple, paper and pizza. Emphasize the letter “p” and the sound it makes with each of your “p” words.

Focus on vocabulary skills

  • Position words are used every day at home and in the classroom. Use the items on the grocery shelf so your child can practice finding something above their belly button, below their nose, on the bottom shelf, and between other items on a shelf.
  • Opportunities to use superlatives, those little endings that help describe size, are all around the grocery store. Have your child find a big fruit, a bigger fruit and the biggest fruit in the produce section. What’s the smallest item in the cart? The largest item?

Get more parenting tips, games, and other resources, based on the age of your child, sent right to your cell phone 2-4 times a week for FREE with Bright by Text. Text BRIGHT to 274448 or click here to sign up!

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What’s Going On In Your Child’s Brain When You Read Them A Story?

“I want The Three Bears!”

These days parents, caregivers and teachers have lots of options when it comes to fulfilling that request. You can read a picture book, put on a cartoon, play an audiobook, or even ask Alexa.

newly published study gives some insight into what may be happening inside young children’s brains in each of those situations. And, says lead author Dr. John Hutton, there is an apparent “Goldilocks effect” — some kinds of storytelling may be “too cold” for children, while others are “too hot.” And, of course, some are “just right.”

Hutton is a researcher and pediatrician at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital with a special interest in “emergent literacy” — the process of learning to read.

For the study, 27 children around age 4 went into an FMRI machine. They were presented with stories in three conditions: audio only; the illustrated pages of a storybook with an audio voiceover; and an animated cartoon. All three versions came from the Web site of Canadian author Robert Munsch. While the children paid attention to the stories, the MRI, the machine scanned for activation within certain brain networks, and connectivity between the networks.

Click to keep reading at NPR. 


How Parents Can Help Their Daughters Express Anger in Healthy Ways and Why It Matters

Most parents talk to their children about their emotions, but there’s one emotion that people often leave out when talking to girls: anger. “I don’t remember my parents or other adults ever talking to me about anger directly,” observes Soraya Chemaly, author of Rage Becomes Her: The Power of Women’s Anger, “Sadness, yes. Envy, anxiety, guilt, check, check, check. But not anger…. While parents talk to girls about emotions more than they do to boys, anger is excluded.” In fact, from an early age, parents, caregivers, and teachers expect girls to regulate their emotions more effectively than boys, teaching them that expressing “negative” emotions like anger is socially unacceptable. In this blog post, we’ll explore why it’s important to let girls be angry – and how to teach girls to channel their anger productively.

Most girls and women understand the risks they take when they become angry,” writes Chemaly. “No matter how justified, appearing angry won’t do her any favors and will actually undermine people’s perception of her competence and likeability.” Instead, “girls are more likely to learn that their feelings of anger, no matter the reason they have them, are ‘wrong’ and out of sync with their identities as girls.” So when we leave anger out of our girls’ emotional toolbox, they may struggle to stand up for themselves, even when a situation deserves their anger. “We are so busy teaching girls to be likable,” asserts Chemaly, “that we forget to teach them that they have the right to be respected.”

Click to keep reading how to help girls understand their anger at Mighty Girl.

Why I Stopped Body Shaming Myself In Front of My Daughters

It happened when my older daughter, Violet, was not quite two years old. We were sitting around the dinner table, and I’d begun a tirade to my husband about how none of my pre-baby clothes fit right (and spoiler: They never would again!). I couldn’t figure out what size jeans to buy, I couldn’t imagine putting on a swimsuit… “I’m just not very happy with my body right now,” I said. And Violet, from her high chair, began patting herself all over. “My body! My body!” she said.

I froze. I wasn’t sure how much she understood, but I stopped talking negatively about my body within her earshot pretty much that minute. This doesn’t mean I automatically turned off my own negative feelings. When Violet was four, and asked “why is your tummy still so big?” I had to take a deep breath before I could explain, cheerfully, that it had made lots of room to grow her and her baby sister. Which, for the record, delighted her: She wasn’t criticizing me. She just wanted to hear again how she had once been tiny enough to fit inside me. She likes that my body still carries proof of that. I’m learning to like it too.

We still don’t know enough about what causes eating disorders, but the research is fairly clear that most patients have genetic predispositions to them, which matter just as much (and likely more) than the conversations they hear about bodies, weight and food. So if your kids overhear one stray moment of fat shaming, you haven’t fast-tracked them to an eating disorder. But—you have reinforced the idea that some bodies are better than others, and that our self-worth should be tied to our aesthetic appeal. That isn’t good for any kid—or any parent—to believe.

But we don’t show up for parenthood with all of our own personal body image demons sorted out. And we mostly learn by failing. So if this is hard for you, give yourself grace. I don’t know if my decision to stop body shaming myself will protect my daughters as they grow up and absorb all that diet culture can throw at them. But I know that deciding to stop verbalizing every unkind thought I have about my body has helped me let a lot of them go. Which gives us a place to start having different conversations.

Virginia Sole-Smith is the author of The Eating Instinct: Food Culture, Body Image and Guilt in America. She’s also a contributing editor with Parents Magazine and co-host of the Comfort Food Podcast. She lives in New York’s Hudson Valley with her husband and two daughters.  

Colorado 9-year-old takes world by a snowball with new book and movie deal!

In December 2018, Dane Best, age 9 took the world by storm, putting his tiny, snowcapped town of Severance, Colorado on the map, fighting to overturn a nearly 100  year old snowball ban.  A law in Severance, Colorado states, “It is unlawful for any person to throw or shoot  any stone or any other missile upon or at any person,  animal, building, tree or other public or private property;  or at or against any vehicle or equipment designed for the transportation of persons or property.” This included snowballs, and Dane wanted to do something about it.  

 After all, can you imagine not being able to throw snowballs? Let alone in Colorado? However, overturning a century-old law was no easy task. Where do you even begin? Who would listen to a 9 year old?  “I think it’s an outdated law,” Dane said, “I want to be able to throw a snowball without getting in trouble.” Despite all odds, Dane Best was able to make history, and bring back snowball fights in Severance.  

 From acclaimed author and illustrator, Richie Frieman, Snowballs For Severance: The Terrifically True Story of Dane Best and the Snowball Ban is the real-life, true story of what can happen when someone decides to stand up for what they believe in, and make a change. Snowballs For Severance debuted at #1 as a New Release, and at #5 worldwide for Children’s Government books, in front of stories about Obama, Mandela, Roosevelt, and Ghandi. There is currently a feature film in the works as well with Kapital Entertainment, who created Wonder, This Is Us, A Million Little Things and Life In Pieces, just to name a few.

 For more information, visit and on Twitter/Instagram @RichieFrieman

Anythink hosts special event with One Book Colorado author (get a free book)

As a participant in One Book Colorado, a yearly initiative that promotes early literacy by providing all 4-year-olds in the state with access to an exceptional and recently published book, Anythink will be hosting a special story time with Marcie Colleen on Tuesday, April 16, at Anythink Brighton.

Marcie Colleen is the author of Penguinaut!, this year’s One Book Colorado selected book about a penguin who devises a plan to fly from the zoo to the moon. This event is an opportunity for children and caregivers to interact with a nationally acclaimed storyteller. All attendees will receive their own copy of the book to take home, which are also available at all Anythink locations in both English and Spanish.  This event is free and open to the public. 

Event Details
A Very Special Story Time with
One Book Colorado Author Marcie Colleen
Tuesday, April 16, 2019
6:30 pm

Anythink Brighton
327 E. Bridge St.
Brighton, CO 80601

new study published just this month by Ohio State University in collaboration with the Columbus Metropolitan Library highlights the importance of young children’s exposure to books: researchers concluded that young children who are read five books a day by their caregivers enter kindergarten having heard about 1.4 million more words than kids who were not read to. What is being referred to as the “million word gap” may be one explanation for literacy and vocabulary disparities experienced in American schools.

One Book Colorado is a collaboration between Serve Colorado, the Colorado State Library, Denver Preschool Program, the Colorado Office of Early Childhood, public and military libraries, the private sector and non-profit communities.