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Best Summer Reading Sites for Kids

Here’s a secret: I loooove the library.
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Especially during the summer, when I have more time to read for fun.

I think it’s because the concept behind the library is so charmingly old school:  You want a book.  You borrow it.  You bring it back, and then you get to choose another.  And it’s all FREE.  No matter how much times change or how fast technology advances, you can always count on the library.

I have fond memories of library visits with my mom when I was little. I adored everything about the place, including walking up and down the musty aisles, breathing in that strange but pleasant old book smell. So nowadays I take K. to the library often, hoping to make it a special place for him, too.

Before each trip, I envision the two of us entering, hand in hand, sashaying down the aisles of the Young Readers section, soft music (ideally, harps) playing in the background as we search for just the right book.

And after each trip, I realize just how delusional I am.

Going to the library with a 3 year old is a feat for only the bravest of soldiers.  For the first, say, two minutes, things are just peachy.  Then all hell breaks loose.  K. darts off in a different direction and I quickly lunge after him, paranoid that he’ll get lost or, worse yet, kidnapped after disappearing down an aisle.  Once I drag him back, kicking and screaming, I know that my time is limited: five minutes, tops. So we do a mad dash through the bookshelves.  As fast as humanly possible, I scan the rows like an automaton, looking for any object with a bright, shiny cover.  If a book looks even halfway decent, I toss into my bag.

Consequently my library book selection process is truly a crap shoot.  Problem is, I have a low tolerance for dumb books.  To me, there’s nothing worse than a ho-hum kids’ book with flat characters or boring pictures.  And all too often, after setting a land speed record at the library for fear of Preschooler Gone Wild, I’ll get home to find that at least a few of the selections I’ve made are sub-par at best.  K. is disinterested and I’m disheartened. BIG bummer.

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So, what to do?  You want your kid to love books, but he turns into a hellion every time you go to the library and it’s all you can do to walk out of the place without screaming.  How can you maximize your library experience?

Here’s what I’ve learned: Rather than dropping into the library unprepared (Blank Mom Brain, anyone?), do a little research before you go, and make a list of books you like ahead of time.  Then you can simply walk up to the handy reference librarian, hand her your list, and viola!  Top-notch kids books, handed to you on a silver platter.  All in the amount of time it would’ve taken you to locate the card catalog. (Do those even exist anymore?)

As a bit of a biblio-geek, I’ve developed a handful of favorite children’s book websites.  Bookmark them, and get your summer reading off to the right start!

GuysRead – As the mom of a smash and crash-lovin’ little boy, I must confess that this is my all-time favorite site.  Jon Scieszka, lovable author of the TruckTown series, compiles an insanely comprehensive list of books that boys will love.  All in the name of developing guys’ love of reading.

Reading Rockets’ parents page – This site, compiled by WETA, the Washington, DC-based public television and radio network, provides a delightful set of resources for parents intent on hooking their kids on reading, from book suggestions to literacy-related developmental milestones.

StoryPlace – A groovy collection of book suggestions and online activities geared toward the preschool and elementary school set. Especially nifty: selections are organized by theme (firefighters, babies, etc.)

Seussville – Who doesn’t love Dr. Seuss, that wise old sage? A fun and colorful site that offers a handy catalog of the best books from the One Who Brought You Sam I Am.

KidsReads – This fun site, targeted to kids of all ages, provides the motherlode of children’s book suggestions, games, activities and contests.

And may you never find yourself tearing your hair out in the kid lit section ever again!


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