Monday, June 21, 2010

Children's Books I Love, Father's Day Edition

In belated honor of Father's Day, it's time to share my favorite children's books, otherwise known as "Books Kids Love, and Ones This Dad Loves to Read to Them."

How does a book make it on this super exclusive list? It's simple.
First, it has to be something my kids love. Both of my kids have fairly extensive libraries of books. I must have read hundreds of books to them over the years. But to make this list, both my son and my daughter have to be fans.

Second, this book has to hold up on a fourth or seventh or seventy-fifth reading. If you've ever struggled through a dead boring children's book only to hear the dreaded "Again!!", you know what horror awaits if you don't choose wisely.

Third, this book has to appeal to adults too (namely me). An actual theme. Outstanding illustrations. Solid writing. Laughs (or even tears). My kids know when I'm enjoying a book, and they enjoy it so much more when I'm into it too.

So, without further ado, the winners are:

1. Bark George, by Jules Feiffer. This proves that a book doesn't have to be complicated or involved to work on every level. It's a quick read that kids can master fast. The illustrations are simple but hilarious. And it lends itself perfectly to a high energy "Dad read" to really amp up the laughs. My all-time favorite.

2. Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type, by Doreen Cronin. Illustrated by Betsy Lewin. Another classic, a Caldecott Honor book, this is one of the few books that worked equally well when my kids were very young and still engages them now that they're well into reading on their own. It has great repetition for the youngest kids but a real story and terrific illustrations that older kids enjoy too.

Be forewarned though: this book falls into that trap of a runaway classic spawning a series of so-so (or worse) follow-ups. (I'm looking at you, If You Take A Mouse to the Movies: A Special Christmas Edition).

3. Anything from the Henry and Mudge Series by Cynthia Rylant. Illustrated by Sucie Stevenson. A great introduction to chapter books, the Henry and Mudge stories share the adventures of a young boy and his lovable dog, Mudge. Cute enough to engage your kid, with bits and pieces of sarcastic wit that will make you chuckle to yourself. My favorite in the series is Henry and Mudge and the Happy Cat, though so many of them are good it's hard to pick a bad one.

4. Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney. Illustrated by Anita Jeram. You know it, you love it. Everyone knows it and loves it. But I can't read this book without tearing up. Call me a sap if you must, I don't care. It's a simple, beautiful premise that's flawlessly executed. Kids love it and you'll love reading it to them. What more could you ask for?

Have a favorite of your own? Share it in the comments, and happy reading.

And happy belated Father's Day to all the Dads!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Shop our Overstocks and Save 70% or More!

Summer's in full swing, but at Hooked on Phonics, we're doing Spring Cleaning! That means huge savings on overstocks and classic versions of our most popular programs.

You never know what you'll find when you sweep out the warehouse, and this time was no exception...

We've just discovered a small quantity of our flagship Learn to Read program -- they're brand-new condition, and the same award-winner that millions have used successfully -- but they're the 2006 edition.
To make room for our new Learn to Read, we've got to move these an amazing $59.95! That's a savings of $140 each!
And, first-come, first served, for readers ages 7+ we also have the Windows XP versions of Master Reader -- at an even lower $49.95! This is your chance to save 75%!
Hurry. These deals will not last, and when they're gone...they're really gone.
Shop all our overstocks before it's too late. You'll find deals on Hooked on French, Discover Reading Toddler and more!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Classics Are Forever!

Like many people in metro areas, particularly the DC/Baltimore metro where we are based, I have a very long daily commute in my car. I go through cycles where I listen to music, I listen to NPR, or I listen to books on tape. I have been on a classics kick lately, choosing books that I read when I was much younger but only vaguely remember. I find these books require me to listen a little more closely in order to follow along, and I can’t tune out or I’ll miss something. As a result, my drive seems to go a little more quickly. I just finished 1984 and now I’m “reading” Great Expectations by Charles Dickens.

As a producer, I often receive children’s book samples from publishers. We recently got a batch from Sterling Publishing, one of which I was thrilled to see was a children’s version of Great Expectations, “retold from the Charles Dickens original.” It’s a 145-page book written for a 9- to 11-year-old. I read through the first few chapters of this book, and I think it’s an excellent version. It follows the story closely while still being accessible to a young person today. There are some great illustrations as well.

It’s easy to forget about the classics when so many new and incredible books are being published every day. But as I wrote about awhile back in my Alice in Wonderland post, the classics provide a major foundation for so many of today’s cultural references.

If you can’t get your hands on one of these “retold” classics for your child to read on his own, consider reading them together. It’s a good opportunity for discussion (trust me, there will be lots of questions) and a great vocabulary builder. Our language has changed dramatically even in just a few decades, never mind 150 years ago, and the classics have a way of using those million-dollar words seamlessly. You might even throw in a game of Scrabble when you’re finished!

Happy reading!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

National Spelling Bee Features HOP Graduate!

As the nation gears up for the annual Scripps National Spelling Bee, contestants from around the U.S. -- and around the world -- will gather to show off their skills.

I know here at Hooked on Phonics, we'll be rooting for one participant in particular, 13-year old Matthew Zizi of Virginia.

Not only is Matthew an accomplished musician and big-time sports fan, he's also a Hooked on Phonics alum! Way to go Matthew!

Click here to read Matthew's story. And in honor of Matthew, and all the Spelling Bee participants, we're offering great Summer Savings on Hooked on Spelling. Get it now, save an amazing $15, and maybe we'll be reading about your child next!