Books to Read Aloud with Your Child

While cleaning out my email tonight, I found this list that my daughter’s kindergarten teacher of books to read aloud to your kids. It’s such a great list, I thought I’d share it here. I believe she got it from Pizza Hut Book It! Program. They have some great resources there, so be sure to check it out!

20th Century Children's bookI was very impressed by this list. We have definitely read all of the Infant to Preschool books. We haven’t read all of the “All Ages” books, because I can’t read The Giving Tree (aka, Call Your Mother) without bursting into tears. And, Little Women as all ages? Um. No. But, we’ve read all of the Infant to Preschool books (thanks in part to The 20th Century Children’s Book Treasury–which is a book I can’t recomend highly enough). We’ve read almost all of the 4-8 Year old books, but I’m excited to try the ones I hadn’t even heard of. Yeah. There were some I hadn’t even heard of. How is that even possible?

As for the 9-12 year old books, we’re just getting to those and I can’t wait to dive in.

How about you? Have you read all of these to your kids? Are there any favorites? Are there any you think were left out?

All ages:

  • The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
  • Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein
  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  • The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
  • Heidi by Johanna Spyri

Infant to Preschool

  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
  • Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
  • Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin, Jr.
  • The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister
  • Corduroy by Don Freeman
  • The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
  • The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown
  • Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney

4-8 years old

  • The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss
  • Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
  • Love You Forever by Robert N. Munsch
  • The Mitten by Jan Brett
  • Stellaluna by Janell Cannon
  • Oh, The Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss
  • Strega Nona by Tomie De Paola
  • Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst
  • The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams
  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss
  • The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka
  • Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by John Archambault
  • The Complete Tales of Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne
  • If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Joffe Numeroff
  • The Lorax by Dr. Seuss
  • Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman
  • Jumanji by Chris Van Allsburg
  • Math Curse by Jon Scieszka
  • Are You My Mother by Phillip D. Eastman
  • Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey
  • One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss
  • The Napping House by Audrey Wood
  • Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig
  • The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter
  • Horton Hatches the Egg by Dr. Seuss
  • Basil of Baker Street by Eve Titus
  • The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper
  • Curious George by Hans Augusto Rey
  • Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox
  • Arthur series by Marc Brown
  • Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes
  • The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton
  • Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish
  • The Art Lesson by Tomie De Paola
  • Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina
  • Clifford, the Big Red Dog by Norman Bridwell
  • Horton Hears a Who by Dr. Seuss
  • The Paper Bag Princess by Robert N. Munsch
  • The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
  • Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss

9-12 years old

  • Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White
  • Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
  • The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
  • Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
  • Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L ‘Engle
  • Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
  • Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner
  • Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan
  • Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks
  • Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell
  • Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli
  • The BFG by Roald Dahl
  • The Giver by Lois Lowry
  • James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
  • Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor
  • Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardiner
  • Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
  • Mrs. Frisby and the Rats fo Nimh by Robert C. O’Brien
  • The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson
  • Matilda by Roald Dahl
  • Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume
  • Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary
  • The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White
  • The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis
  • The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
  • Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
  • Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  • The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
  • Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Lois Sachar
  • Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
  • A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
  • Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard Atwater
  • My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett
  • Stuart Little by E. B. White
  • Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech
  • The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
  • The Watsons Go to Birmingham-1963 by Chirstopher Paul Curtis

Young Adult

  • Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
  • The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Summer of the Monkeys by Wilson Rawls
  • The Cay by Theodore Taylor
  • The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare

Reblogging….because I couldn’t have said it any better

If you’re a mom of girls, you gotta read this because it’s so very true and so delightfully written. And while we’re talking about glitter, a mom in my bible study group said glitter was the herpes of the art world – how hilarious is that?

Glitter is the Devil (And Other Things Moms of Girls Learn)

Plus we already had all of the girl stuff, which made things easier because I place an inordinate amount of importance on logistical household efficiencies. Our boy name was Jessica, and Jessica was going to look just precious coming home from the hospital in his little pink gingham Lilly Pulitzer classic shift dress.

But I’m tired of talking about our fake son Jessica. Let me tell you what I know about raising little girls:

- See more at:

Domestic Violence Has No Place in Our Society

stop domestic violence 1
I’m not a lawyer, a judge, a trained victim’s advocate, or in any way a professional in the field of law enforcement, so I have to admit that my statements here are my unprofessional opinion.

Yes, I am a woman, so my thoughts on the topic —if you look at the statistics—may seem skewed to side with my gender.

But setting aside my profession and gender, more importantly, I am a PERSON! My sense of humanity and compassion for others precludes me from violence against another.

So, when I say that I am appalled, disgusted and saddened by the issue of domestic violence, please understand that is an abysmally gross understatement.
enough is enough
If you’re not a sports fan, until yesterday you may not have heard about the latest headline-generating incident about an NFL player’s domestic violence charge.

But with new, more condemning video being released, it’s safe to say that the NFL, the player’s team, the local prosecutor and the police completely botched this case from the very beginning.

Today, the case dominates the airwaves—from our morning talk shows to ESPN, from newspapers to the web, and everywhere in between.

The silver lining here—and I cringe to even type those words—is that now more people are talking about the evils of domestic violence. Hearing a sports commentator state, “The question shouldn’t be why the victim goes back to the perpetrator, but rather, why does the perpetrator continue to be violent” is important. This backward attack—blame the victim, not the perpetrator—needs to stop.
shattered domestic violence

Domestic violence—physical, mental, emotional—does NOT begin by the victim. The person does NOT ask for it. And “just get up and leave” isn’t always as easy as it sounds.

Domestic violence MUST stop.

Victims need assistance, not condemnation!

All of us deserve to live in a home, a town, and a world where we feel safe and secure. Healthy love and a healthy relationship doesn’t hurt!
stop domestic violence

If you or anyone you know needs help, please reach out. There is support available, even when it seems like a situation may be helpless.

So please, put these websites and phone numbers below in your contact list. You never know when you, someone you love, or someone you meet might need them.

1-800-799-SAFE (7233)

My face is falling.

When my daughter was about four years old, she looked at me very seriously, tapped my cheek and said in the saddest voice, “Oh, mommy. Your face is falling.” I don’t know if I had frowned or if she noticed the fine wrinkles that had started to show up around my eyes and cheeks. Whatever the case, at that time I thought what she said was funny! Aw! So cute. After all, I wasn’t “old”! And pshaw! I certainly wasn’t vain.

But she’s twelve now, and her prophetic words have started to come true. My. Face. Is. Falling. I have to admit, for years I felt kind of…hopeful. Smug, even. That maybe I’d age astoundingly better than other women of my age. Oh, it was all a delightful fantasy! One day about eight months ago…I woke up and shuffled down the hallway to get my morning coffee and thought…what’s up with my eyes? They feel so weird. My eyelids were smushing my eyelashes. Were my eyes just swollen from a bad case of allergies?

No, my friends. At some point in the night, just like that (**snap!**) my upper eyelids had done a little landslide down the mountain and now rested against my lower eyelids. Worse yet, they STAYED there. It’s changed the way I look, even causing a little crease at the corner of my eyes. This change, added to my neck, that’s decided to start doing the limbo (LOWER!) and my hair that is now (Boing! Boing! Boing! turning gray and wiry, has forced me to face reality and acknowledge that yes—apparently I’m at least a little vain, because these changes, if I have to be completely honest, bother me.

Mind you, when I talk about vanity, I don’t mean I spend a lot of time in front of the mirror admiring myself and obsessing over my appearance, I just mean the idea of saying goodbye to my younger self is a little unsettling. It means…changes. A graduation of sorts, to “the next part” of life. It’s normal to feel this way, isn’t it?
I’ve always been determined to age gracefully. So…how to do that. I’m not sure, I’m still working through that part. Here are some of my current strategies:

1. I wear sunscreen. Sun damage is the cause of a lot of my aging issues. I’ve got sunspots and wrinkles from spending days at the lake and several years living in Panama, before anyone cared about sunscreen. I used to have the best tan. Now I’m paying for it. No need to compound the damage with more.
2. Makeup. I’ve realized: LESS IS BETTER! And that frosty, shimmery eye shadow is NOT my friend.
3. I indulge in skin care/cosmetic products that work for me. For example, I love products with argan oil in them.
4. I’m more careful of my diet. I’ve gone really heavy on the veggies, and have started working more organic, clean foods into my diet. It’s not about counting calories or losing weight, but about feeling better.
5. I drink a lot of water. I’ve also replaced diet sodas with LaCroix sparkling water.
6. I’ve become more active. I just FEEL better when I’m outside and moving and doing something.
7. Most importantly, I look at the beautiful women I admire so much. My mom, my grandmother, my aunt and mother-in-law, and so many other lovely women who are part of my life every day. They are gorgeous and smart, and have shown that age is something to be proud of—not concealed or ashamed of. Each year of our lives is a blessing. It’s important to measure them by the meaningful relationships we enjoy with the people we love, and our accomplishments, big and small. Not by the lines on our faces.

How about you? Do you have any strategies to share for aging gracefully? Is it something that troubles you—or not at all?

From Zero to Panicked in 60 seconds flat

Two years ago I had this conversation with the mother of one of my daughter’s classmates:

Her: We’re thinking about moving to another school district.

Me: Why? Did you or your husband get a new job?

Her:  No. We’re worried about Jennifer’s class rank.

Me: Um … okay.

Her: This school district is so competitive. It’s almost impossible to make into the top ten percent. And you, if you’re not in the top ten percent, you don’t automatically get into UT, A&M or Texas Tech. And if you can’t get in there…

Me: Um ….

Her: What do you think?

Me: Don’t colleges know how competitive our school district is? Shouldn’t that matter?

Her: <Looking at me like I’m a naive idiot> Um ….


At the time, our kids were in the second grade. I thought she was crazy. Like, bat-shit crazy. Why would you move (actually sell your house and move) so your kid could go to an inferior school district in the fear that ten years from now his or her GPA might not be competitive?

Flash forward to Monday morning. Someone forwarded The Geek an article from Money Magazine ranking colleges. He’s rattling off interesting facts:

Him: Did you know most of the really good colleges are upwards of $150,000?

Me: <choking on coffee>

Him: Did you know Stanford only accepts 8% of its applicants?

Me: Uh???

Him: Oh, look, Harvard only accepts 6%.

Me: <gasping for breath>

five minutes later

Me: How do we feel about moving to a shitty school district?


Okay. So we’re not moving. Yet. But I am officially freaked out. My daughter is in the forth grade. Middle school is right around the corner. Those days when I have to think about class ranking and dream colleges is right around the corner. Like so many times in my past as a mother, parts of me are at war. On one hand, I don’t want to be the crazy mom who moves the whole family to engineer a better class rank for my kid. On the other, I want her to have options. I want her to get into any school she wants to go to. I want her to enjoy her childhood. I worry that we’re not doing enough. I remind myself that I got into Texas A&M (and so did her father) and that was good enough for both of us. I don’t want to push too hard, but I’ve always felt my parents didn’t push enough.

What if she wants to go to Harvard and doesn’t get in. What if she does get in and we have to pay for it? What if pay for it and then … and then … my baby is going to live in Boston!!!!

What if she never moves back? I’m going to have to move there too! I’m going to have to learn to drive in the snow! 

Thank goodness for The Geek. While I was hyperventilating, he pointed out several wise things: we still have time, we have savings, our kids are bright, we didn’t go to Harvard and we’re okay. Remembering all of that helped. 

But here’s the bottom line: I’m going to panic. Every time I think I’ve got this parenting thing under wraps, there’s going to be something to freak me out. I can go from zero to panicked in sixty seconds flat. Okay, in this case it was more like fifteen minutes. Still, you see what I mean right?

Here’s one of those things I never knew about parenting: I would be afraid all the time. I would be afraid of crazy crap that I would totally make fun of under other circumstances. And I would always be trying to hide how afraid I am. Because here’s the deal: I’m okay telling The Geek when I’m afraid. I’m okay telling you guys. I’m not okay with the kids knowing it. They don’t need my crazy in their heads. My girl will have her own fears about college and they will come soon enough.

So, what about you? Are you thinking about college yet? What makes you panic?



Emily McKay lives in Central Texas with her family and her chickens where she writes YA horror and eats lots of cookies.

Please Take a Stand

Me, again, with another one of those activist blogs. I was actually going to blog about slutty Halloween costumes for girls. I’ll write that one later this month. I know you’ll want to weigh in on that topic.

But this topic couldn’t wait, because there’s a company that needs a little push to do the right thing.

In my opinion, there are 3 crimes that don’t get enough attention and whose perpetrators are not punished sufficiently.

  1. Child abuse and/or neglect
  2. Elder abuse/neglect
  3. Animal abuse/neglect

Children, the elderly, and animals are the weakest, most vulnerable members of our society. They need our protection and our stewardship the most.

Here’s the scenario. The CEO of a company called Centerplate, which is a sports catering company, walks into an elevator with a miniature Doberman pinscher. He doesn’t know the camera has an elevator. He doesn’t know that his 52 seconds of interaction with the dog is filmed. He doesn’t know the video catches him repeatedly kicking the dog, yanking her leash, and dangling her off the ground.


The video is out there. I haven’t watched it because I don’t want to see this sick guy do something like that to a defenseless dog.

So what’s happened to this guy? Has he been fired? Has he said he was sorry? No. He’s still employed by Centerplate, he’s made excuses and lied about his behavior, and the company gave him a slap on the wrist.

That’s not good enough for me. I signed this petition, emailed Centerplate, am tweeting them, and am passing the link to a third party article about the abuse and the petition on to you.

We have to stand against abuse. All abuse. Our society is defined by the way we treat its weakest members.



A Work In Progress

I once had a boss, Dr. Ed, who was a well-respected accident reconstructionist. I worked for him for nearly fifteen years. He was a tall, deep-voiced, imposing man who tended to terrify people who didn’t know him—but in truth he was big hearted and caring, not to mention brilliant. And moody and complicated and completely exasperating! But he considered his staff his family, and we loved him. When I first met him, he was eyeball deep into cycling—as in really nice road bicycles. He had all the gear, several bikes, and would go out on the weekends to participate in races. Being a cyclist meant he also held himself to a very strict diet and exercise regimen. He wasn’t one to devote himself to something half-heartedly. He was also interested in firearms. He took every course he could find, learned the mechanics of them, learned to shoot them and educated himself on every bit of minutia there was to know. He earned all the certifications there were to earn. Soon, he was being called not only to consult and testify regarding fifteen car pileups–but also incidents involving firearms.

But Dr. Ed wasn’t finished challenging himself yet. Next, he spent a few years learning everything about Harley Davidsons, and acquiring several beautiful bikes and a show trailer, etc., etc. Then, he started racing. First, he bought and raced Dodge Vipers. Then, Ferraris. He didn’t just race them. Like all of his “hobbies” he learned everything about them—he even traveled to Italy to tour the factory and see how they were built. As an engineer, he was intrigued by the mechanics and performance dynamics of all vehicles. They presented a host of complex problems to him. Problems he wanted to solve! I still remember a funny moment when, completely bewildered, he told me his driving instructor said he was too analytical, overthinking every moment on the race track, and that he needed to learn to rely on his instincts. He had a really hard time with that, as you can imagine. Even funnier was when he called to say he was at a driving course with a guy who “was in some band called AC…DC…” Had I ever heard of it? He had not, that he could recall. Dr. Ed was a little sheltered from popular culture in that way. As you can see, I remember him as a bit larger than life. He was, and suddenly, out of the blue, he was gone from our lives. At his funeral, we all gathered at the race track and in our own vehicles and followed the hearse around until they waved the checkered flag when he crossed the finish line.

I learned A LOT from Dr. Ed, and he made a real impression on my life. Not just mine. When my son was about five years old, Dr. Ed gave him a poster of him driving his Ferrari and autographed it for him. My son still remembers going to watch Dr. Ed race. Just yesterday, my now 16 year old son put that poster in a new frame and hung it on his wall and that got me thinking about how eleven years later, he’s still a part of our lives.

Dr. Ed inspired me to always be a work in progress. To never stop being interested in new things, and learning and bettering myself. While I don’t have his very hard-earned and well-deserved budget, I know budget really doesn’t matter. For example, for the past year, I’ve been teaching myself Spencerian handwriting.


It’s a small thing, and although I’m not very good, I love it. This example, from the Fountain Pen Network is what I aspire to…


My handwriting, as an adult, wasn’t so great, probably because of my reliance on the computer. Not only did I want to improve it, but I love the historical aspect of beautiful cursive writing, and it pains me that kids aren’t learning even the basics in school today. That’s the subject for another blog, though.

Another challenge I’d like to tackle, but haven’t yet…public speaking. I’m awful at it. I love people. I can talk to anyone. But put me up on a stage with a podium and microphone and … something in my brain trips a breaker and I start speaking in tongues. I need to join Toastmasters…just the thought terrifies me. Ha! I may immerse myself in the art of French cooking first.

What about you? What’s something you are currently learning or is there something you would like to learn how to do? Tell me, because I may decide I need to learn it too!

Summer Fun

postcard KW
By now many, if not most, school districts and universities/colleges are back in session. Summer is over and it’s time to get back in a groove of school, homework, longer commutes and busier schedules.

The dog days of summer are behind us—though in the Southeast, we’re still feeling the heat and humidity. And typically will for months to come.

With our kids and teachers starting back to school, I thought I’d call upon a beloved class assignment from my past: the age old, “What did you do this summer?” essay.

I have to say, I had a blessed summer of 2014. My girls are older, so they’re not home all that often now and when they are, I treasure every moment.

I started off with a three-week visit from with my youngest before she headed back to college for the summer session. Yes, I tried to pack as much fun as I could in her short time with me.
zac brown band with belle

Then, my youngest niece and nephew arrived to spend two months with my parents and me. Talk about reliving my past. It’s been a while since I’ve had elementary and middle school kids running around the house. From World Cup soccer parties to 90 minutes of trampoline time at a local Skyzone…they certainly kept me hopping—in a fun way!

world cup gator dockside 1
Between two writers’ conferences, a rousing family reunion celebration in Texas
cousin love
and the passing of a beloved uncle, my June and July flew by.

To cap off my summer, my middle daughter arrived home for two weeks and we headed off for a long weekend in Key West, my old stomping grounds during junior high and high school.

We biked all around the island,
P & G biking KW
hit Duval for a little dancing and nightlife, watched a glorious sunset on Mallory Square, caught sunrise before hitting the tennis courts, spent a relaxing day on a boat with old friends, passed by my childhood home and enjoyed playing tourist. It was a jam-packed weekend of catching up with good friends and sharing my hometown with my daughter.

Some folks have commented on all the traveling I managed to do over the past few months. Yes, I’ve been blessed in that respect.

For me though, what I really count as a blessing is the time I’ve been able to spend with family. The memories we created together. The hours spent in each other’s company. The opportunity to say, “I love you” in person to loved ones I don’t get to see often enough.

I’d say the highlight of my summer was the blessing of family time. With the traveling being the icing on the cake. ☺

So, as the Key West sun sets, the homeschool teacher in me wants to know: What did you do this summer?
KW sunset