Read book reviews, tips for parents, and our latest thoughts about early literacy.

4 Reasons Why Storytime is Important


By Amy Pelch October 20, 2017 Reading can so often be seen as an individual or personal activity. Yet, when we read a great book all we want to do is tell everyone about it, join book clubs, hear the author read it, or read it with our friends! For children especially, reading together can […]

Crown: One of the Dopest Children’s Books of 2017


October 11, 2017 by Alvin Irby After watching a movie, listening to a song, or reading a book, people sometimes ask, “What did you think?” During these moments of brief reflection, I often rely upon a single question to help me determine my overall opinion of a particular piece of art: Did it make me feel something? Flipping through […]

Great Teachers Affirm the Humanity in the Classroom


by @AlvinIrby October 5, 2017 Today is World Teachers’ Day! Without the great teachers and horrible ones that crossed my path, my life could have went in a completely different direction. Great teachers see the jewels hidden within the rough of each student. I am forever grateful to the teachers who encouraged and inspired me. […]

5 Banned Children’s Books That May Surprise You


By Felicity LuHill & Amy Pelch September 29, 2017 This week is Banned Books Week! Banned Books Week is a time to celebrate the freedom to read and celebrate great books that have previously been censored. Banned Books Week was launched in 1982 by the American Library Association, and for 35 years, libraries and publishers across America […]

Emotional Lessons Through Children’s Books

Father and son

By Zenobia Jackson September 15, 2017   Many books coach parents and educators on how to teach children social skills such as empathy, manners, and sharing. But an even better way to introduce these concepts to children is through children’s literature. There are many books that expose children to the social skills they need as […]

4 BIG Tips For Going Back to School


By Felicity LuHill September 1, 2017   It’s that time of year again! Whether your child has been spending his summer out at the pool or participating in summertime enrichment activities, he’s going to have to adjust to heading back to school. Though most kids aren’t too happy about summer being over, there are some […]

3 Reasons Laughter Belongs in Every Classroom


By @AlvinIrby August 16, 2017   Happy National Tell a Joke Day! Here are three reasons why laughter should be encouraged in the classroom: 1. Laughter lowers stress hormones + Relaxes muscles Many children deal with all types of stress and it doesn’t magically disappear just because a teacher wants a kid to learn something. […]

4 Books That’ll Take You Around the World


By Zenobia Jackson August 11, 2017   One of my favorite quotes about literacy comes from Mason Cooley: “Reading gives us some place to go when we have to stay where we are.” A great book allows one to travel along with the characters, to see what they see and to feel what they feel. […]

Getting Kids to Read by Choice


By Zenobia Jackson July 28, 2017 Allowing children, and specifically boys to select what they read can be a powerful change agent in the motivation to read. In the majority of schools, student choice is an education phrase that is thrown around to say that we are giving students choice in their learning. But in […]

3 Ways to Prevent Summer Slide


By Felicity LuHill July 10, 2017   What is Summer Slide? Summer Slide is a fun-sounding phrase for a serious issue. It’s the tendency to lose some level of knowledge or skill set achieved the previous school year during summer break. It is most likely to occur with struggling readers and children who “slide” out of […]

Create Your Own Declaration of Independence


By Felicity LuHill February 20, 2017   In honor of President’s Day, create your very own Declaration of Independence! With your early reader, either at home or in the classroom.   What you need: 3 Black Tea Bags Plain White Paper or Paper with the Declaration of Independence text*** Black Pen or Marker (a calligraphy […]

3 Takeaways From Alvin Irby’s Workshop


By Felicity LuHill June 30, 2017   A couple weeks ago, Barbershop Books Founder, Alvin Irby led his workshop, “Kale Salad & Boogers: How Cultural Competency Creates Transformative Reading Experiences” at the National Book Foundation’s conference, Why Reading Matters. Along with being direct about the issues young black boys face in schools today, Alvin also […]

8 Diverse Books to Read This Summer!


By Felicity LuHill June 12, 2017   Young Cornrows Callin’ Out the Moon by Ruth Forman – A fun portrayal of summertime in the city! Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña – A boy learns about compassion while riding the bus with his grandmother. Juna’s Jar by Jane Bahk – Juna’s kimchi jar lets her imagination soar […]

Attending a Reading for Boys from Low-Income Families


By Felicity LuHill May 19, 2017   Last week, I attended the spring semester reading for WriteOn, a non-profit that “connects passionate writing teachers with underserved school children.” The teachers are second year Creative Writing MFA Candidates at The New School and the students are fourth through eighth graders from George Jackson Academy, an independent, […]

Tapping Into Your Inner Child


By Felicity LuHill May 12, 2017   My apartment building is right next to an elementary school and I work from home, which means I have the joy of listening to little kids scream in the school yard all day while I work. And I’m not saying “joy” sarcastically; it really is a joy. As […]

Leveled Classroom Libraries Matter for Young Readers (Part 1)


May 9, 2017 @alvinirby I recently had a conversation with a kindergarten teacher who explained that her young learners were struggling to apply the reading strategies she had taught them. Her students had made less progress by that time in the year than she had hoped. I inquired about what independent reading time looked like […]

Why White Kids Need Diverse Children’s Books

U.S. School Children Watch President Obama’s Speech

by @alvinirby  June 19, 2015 The devaluation of black lives doesn’t happen overnight nor is the process of dehumanizing those associated with blackness limited to a single ethnic group. All over the world, we find big black men standing outside bars, nightclubs, and department stores, while their lighter-skinned relatives exercise a different, and arguably, a […]

Education Through Failure


By Felicity LuHill April 25, 2017   This week, in Edutopia, there was an article titled “Redefining Failure,” which says that educators should encourage students to try new things and fail so that students can grow and learn from their mistakes. It uses the example of bowling, a first-time bowler will learn quickly on their own […]

Band-Aids on Broken Bones: Why Sensitivity Readers Aren’t the Answer


April 19, 2017     @alvinirby I totally understand why children’s book publishers hire sensitivity readers. These cultural consultants review children’s books before they are published and offer their opinion about whether other people who share their same cultural or ethnic background might be offended by something written or depicted in the book. I am by […]

Different Method of Learning (and Reading!)


By Felicity LuHill April 17, 2017     When encouraging kids to read, it’s important to note their specific learning styles. Every child has his own way of learning and trying to make him learn through a different method can prove to be frustrating and counterproductive. When I tutored a fourth grader who was having […]

Books for African American Boys: They are not what pops into your head.

April 6, 2017 by @alvinirby Scholastic surveyed about 3,000 parents and children from different cultural backgrounds to learn about families’ reading preferences and book access. The results revealed that parents and children are not always on the same page when it comes to what kids want in a book. I travel around the country speaking […]

8 Diverse Children’s Books to Read this Spring


By Felicity LuHill April 3, 2017   “Oh Yes! Oh Yes! It’s Springtime!” by Susan Ring, Jeff Borkin, and Andy Mastrocinque: Join the Little Einsteins as they travel through time and space to help their friend baby tulip bloom! “Who Likes Rain?” by Wong Herbert Yee: It’s April showers, which means grabbing rain gear and jumping into puddles. […]

3 Things Kids Teach Us About Race


By Felicity LuHill March 28, 2017   I was recently introduced to a study CNN did on children’s perception of race, “A Look at Race Relations Through a Child’s Eyes:” Though it’s important to note that this study was done in 2012, I believe the conclusions of this study are still pertinent to today. On […]

Spring Cleaning with Reading!


By Felicity LuHill March 21, 2017   It’s officially spring, and what does that mean? Melting snow, longer days, and, that’s right, spring cleaning! When the skies are brighter and the weather starts to get warmer, I always feel rejuvenated. There’s a life-giving quality to this time of year, which is why productivity kicks into […]

8 Reasons Why You Should Read Aloud


By Felicity LuHill March 13, 2017   For Read Aloud Month, I looked into what reading to a child for 15 minutes a day can really do. People often underestimate the importance of reading to a young child that has little to no language skills. Here’s the truth about how important it is: Children often […]

On Writing Cross-Culturally with Andrea Pinkney


By Felicity LuHill March 6, 2017   I’ve just finished two Saturday classes titled “Writing Cross-Culturally: Diversity in Children’s and Teen Literature,” with Andrea Pinkney, editor at Scholastic, esteemed author and Coretta Scott King Award Winner for “Hand in Hand: Two Black Men Who Changed America.” For our class, Andrea listed the “ingredients” of writing […]

Encouraging Kids to Read & Write (When They Prefer Other Subjects)

19341565 – young boy thinking

By Felicity LuHill February 28, 2017   As a tutor, I’m often called upon to help students read and write when they prefer other subjects over Literature. Generally, these students hate reading and writing. So I ask them, “What subjects do you prefer?” Science, Math, and History are big ones. In these cases, I find […]

At 4-years-old, Writing Should Be Exploration – Not Writing Drills


February 24, 2017 @AlvinIrby While heading to a concert in Brooklyn, NY, I had a great conversation with my Uber driver. I mentioned to him that I used to teach kindergarten and now run Barbershop Books. Then he shared with me his struggles trying to teach his four-year-old daughter to write. “What are you trying […]

5 Reading Tips For Parents From Someone Who Hated Reading As A Child


February 15, 2017 @AlvinIrby  I was not the most academically astute child. During my first few years of school, I struggled in reading and to say my behavior was challenging would be a huge understatement. My mother’s solution for my reading woes was to replace some of my time playing outside on weekends or during […]

Windows and Mirrors: Why We Need Diverse Children’s Books

Young Girl Playing By Herself — Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

By Felicity LuHill February 13, 2017   I’ve been tutoring for a long time, and I’ve come across a lot of different educational texts for young people. Once, while I was tutoring out in California, I remember a white eighth grade boy making fun of people’s names used in the word problems of his math homework. […]

4 Things Obama Taught Us About The Power of Reading


February 8, 2917 by Alvin Irby 1. Books are a great sources of ideas. They enable readers to explore the thinking of others. It is especially helpful to learn how other people who have faced similar challenges. In an interview with the New York Times Obama said, “The writings of Lincoln, the Rev. Martin Luther […]

Is “Sounding it Out” Helpful?


By Felicity LuHill February 6, 2017   For an early reader, it can be hard to pronounce words correctly. For someone who is helping an early reader read out loud, it can be tempting to tell the reader to stop for a moment and try “sounding the word out” when an early reader gets stuck […]

Suspension Rates Impact Reading for Black Boys


By Corinne Bridgewater February 1, 2017   I read an article the other day that New York City is updating their discipline code to almost rid suspensions in K-2 classrooms. As an upper grade teacher, I worked at a school with a tremendous suspension rate, and saw how it hindered a lot of my students […]

A Spring Festival Activity for Your Early Reader


By Felicity LuHill January 30, 2017   According to Spring Festival, or Chinese New Year, 2017 is the year of the Rooster! But what does that mean exactly? Find out with this little activity we whipped up for you and your early reader:   First thing’s first, find out what his and your Chinese Zodiac animal is (or […]

How to Gain a Healthy Dose of Empathy


By Corinne Bridgewater January 25, 2017   Empathy or Compassion. Do I picture myself in your shoes, or do I understand that we wear different shoe sizes? With the education world growing mindfulness toward equity it’s important to take a step back and think – just how am I using my bias and awareness to […]

Reading in the Age of Technology


By Felicity LuHill January 23, 2017   This past week, I had experienced a blackout. Today, this perhaps seems more dire than it used to because along with no light, heat or TV, a blackout also means no internet! While the blackout was happening, my phone was on its last leg, so even using data was out of […]

Winning Over Boredom


By Corinne Bridgewater January 18, 2017   “I’m bored.” – every kid in America. Although as adults we often shrug it off, it is something to consider in our own lives. In powerpoint presentation or training we usually stop listening five minutes in and grab our ipad to take “notes.” Secretly, we are spending hours […]

20 Things You Didn’t Know About Martin Luther King


By Felicity LuHill January 16, 2017   Most people know that Martin Luther King, Jr. was a great civil rights activist who practiced nonviolence in his protests. But here are a few things you may not have known about the man (and his legacy!) Martin Luther King, Jr. and his father, Martin Luther King, Sr. […]

Closing the Achievement Gap through Project-Based Learning


By Corinne Bridgewater January 11, 2017   Due to zoning, New York City is experiencing one of the highest segregated divide in schools since pre-integration. Many view this as an issue because schools with the highest concentration of African American and Latinos generally have the most outdated resources, untrained/inexperienced teachers, and as a esult low […]

Identifying as a Reader BEFORE Learning to Read


By Felicity LuHill January 9, 2017   You may not consider a book the best toy for a kid who doesn’t yet know how to read, but you would be surprised how much being around books, even before a child learns to read, can make an impact. As a writer, pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing […]

We Should Replace Flash Cards With Field Trips


By Alvin Irby      January 6, 2017 Over the holidays, I had a wonderful conversation with a friend who currently teaches kindergarten at a public school in the largest urban school district in Arkansas. She mentioned that teachers and administrators at her school often complain about students’ poor vocabularies. As we spoke, one question […]

How to Follow the “Education Trends” of 2017


By Corinne Bridgewater January 4, 2017   The start of a new year means looking forward, and seeing what’s new in fashion, technology, and education! That’s right, like everything else, education is not immune to trends. In fact, they emerge every year, and as a parent it’s important to get the buzz. Here are some tips on […]

Reasonable Reading Resolutions

A bedtime story — Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

By Felicity LuHill January 2, 2017   New years is a time for a fresh start, a clean slate. Which is why every time new years comes along most of us come up with a list of things we’d like to improve upon ourselves, in areas like health, relationships, or career. If you’re like me, […]

How Journal Writing Transformed My Kindergarten Classroom


by Alvin Irby December 22, 2016 What would happen if the children in our lives were allowed to write freely? I don’t know but I’m confident that the results will exceed many adults’ wildest expectations and move beyond our limited imaginations. When I taught kindergarten, I began each day with 10-15 minutes of journal writing. Each […]

The Right Questions to Ask Your Early Reader

By Corinne Bridgewater December 21, 2016   Test time! Can you answer this question for each passage: What is the main idea?   Mr Bucket was the only person in the family with a job. He worked in a toothpaste factory, where he sat all day long at a bench and screwed the little caps […]

10 Diverse Children’s Books To Read This Christmas


By Felicity LuHill December 19, 2016 The Most Precious Gift: A Nativity Story, by Marty Crisp N is for Navidad, by Susan Middleton Elya and Merry Banks When Christmas Feels Like Home, by Gretchen Griffith Who Built the Stable? by Ashley Bryan The Christmas Truck, by J.B. Blankenshop Happy Christmas Gemma, by Sarah Hayes King Island Christmas, by Jean Rogers […]

Why I Wrote A Picture Book About Boogers


December 16, 2016 by Alvin Irby As a professional comedian, former elementary school teacher, and the leader of an early literacy organization, I have seen first-hand the transformative effects of using humor to help children learn.  My debut children’s book, Gross Greg, follows a young boy who loves eating his boogers despite the protest of everyone […]

#BlackBoyJoy and Finding the Reader’s Flow


By Corinne Bridgewater December 14, 2016 Chance the Rapper’s infectious demeanor inspired a viral sensation on Twitter. The hashtag #blackboyjoy started trending and filled the internet with images of black boys smiling and having fun. The social move made me think of #blackboyjoy in our classrooms – just how important is joy in learning? It’s […]

We Found a Hat: A Challenging Story of Friendship


By Felicity LuHill December 12, 2016   We Found a Hat was named one of the best children’s books of the year by Time Magazine, The New York Times, and The Guardian. So we decided to see what all the fuss was about! We Found a Hat is the third and final book of Jon […]

Schools Should Not Silence Silliness


By Alvin Irby              December 9, 2016 I was an assistant teacher in a 9/10’s (4th grade) class at the Bank Street School for Children, a world-renowned independent school on the upper west side in Manhattan. As my eyes moved from one corner of the class to the other it dawned […]