Literacy + Life – Music Playlist

Welcome to the second edition of Literacy + Life, our blog series that shares family literacy activities as a way to promote literacy.

family literacy ideasWant an easy way to bring literacy to the dinner table? Turn on a little music.

There are so many wonderful ways that music can contribute to literacy growth.

  • Lyrics help by adding to vocabulary, enjoying rhyme, or giving listeners a glimpse into a word’s many meanings.
  • Melody can evoke a mood or spur imagination.
  • The myriad of genres introduce different sounds and sound combinations, instrumental and/or vocal.

Enjoy your meal together with some dinner music. The sky’s the limit. Maybe you want to share some of your favorite songs; introduce new kinds of music; or bring to life music from books (musician biographies, music related to an historical period you’re reading about). Dinner is a great time to enjoy the experience.

Family Literacy Activities – The Music Menu

family literacy activities with musicListening to music is the spark, but conversation is important, too. Ask questions.

  • What kind of mood is the music trying to convey (emotion, imagination)?
  • If you could *see* the song in a movie, what kind of movie would it be (imagination, storytelling)?
  • How does the music make you feel (emotional connection)?
  • Does it remind you of someone (recall)?

Put together a playlist ahead of time so that when you sit down to your meal, you can just hit PLAY. That also gives you time to think about how you want to introduce your tunes. If you have information about the song or artist, share it. Maybe describe your “relationship” to the music. Is it the music you listened to in college?

Give your kids – especially middle school and high school students – a chance to create a playlist, too. If everyone has a turn, they’re more likely to be interested in the idea AND you can make it a regular event.

When it is their turn to be the DJ, let your kids take the lead on sharing why they picked the songs and ask questions. An added bonus: they might do some research. Reading AND critical thinking. Rock on!

Inspiration List

We don’t need craft supplies, but we might want some starter ideas for tuning into our musical family literacy activities. The sky truly is the limit. There is no requirement to tie the music to books, but if that’s of interest, here are a few ways to build family literacy activities around them:

  • Ask your local librarian to recommend books about music genres, instruments, or musicians.
  • Talk with your kids about what they’re studying in history. Select music that would have been popular in that time period.
  • Look at what you’re reading – is the book set in a specific time period? Select music that might fit.

We’ve got a broad collection of books that we’ve reviewed in the Reading Tub, as well. Here are some of our favorites.

  • Punk Farm by Jarrett J Krosoczka
    (creating music)

When you click the book titles, we’ll take you to the full review on The Reading Tub website. When you’re there, you have the option to find the books at your local library.

When you click the book cover, we’ll take you to Should you buy through Amazon – and it’s not endorsed – we can earn money to fund our literacy mission.

Your Turn

We’d love to hear your suggestions on ways of incorporating music into family literacy activities. Whether you have a favorite book or activity, or if you have a blog post on the topic, be sure to add it in the comments.

Literacy + Life – Books about Snow

popsicle stick snowflakes Welcome to 2015!

One of our goals at the Reading Tub is to bring literacy home for families.

Yes, it is about sharing books and getting children excited about reading. But it is also about engaging readers with their world.

We’re kicking off 2015 by launching a new literacy series! Literacy + Life is a new series that combines books and related activities on a specific topic. It isn’t a new idea, there are some great blogs that share ideas to bring books to life.

Our goal is to illustrate that literacy is part of our daily life. Some parents are overwhelmed by having to “add” literacy activities to their very busy days. Not all of us like arts and crafts. Not only do we get that, we’re very sensitive to those concerns. For those reasons, our activities are going to be easy to do. So don’t be surprised if a suggestion is as simple as taking a walk in the neighborhood.

We are kicking off the series with books about snow.

There are lots of great books about snow, so how did we pick these? First, we wanted our books about snow to include fiction and nonfiction, illustration and photography. We also wanted to cover the (frozen) waterfront. That means books that engage all of a reader’s senses (like Peter crunching through the snow); introduce weather / science concepts (like Sadie’s melting snowmen); and lend themselves to hands-on activities.

Winter friends books about snowmen    books about winter    books about snow - Sadie and the Snowman    books about snow

Click the covers to read the Reading Tub reviews of these books about snow.

Activity Ideas

1. Go outdoors.

Got snow? Bundle up the kids, grab your mittens, and go for a walk. Search for individual snowflakes, track your footsteps, listen to the crunch under your feet. Pick up some snow and try to make a snowball, or put some in a bucket and bring it indoors. Ask questions:

  • Does this snow make a good snowball?
  • What sounds do you here?
  • Does snow have an odor?
  • What kind of footprints do you see?
  • Do your shoes crunch in the snow?
  • What happens when we bring the snow inside?

Pair these activities with Sadie and the Snowman, The Snowy Day, When Winter Comes - a Lullaby; and Winter Friends.

2. Make fake snow.

Even if there isn’t any snow in your forecast, there are plenty of ways to “play” in the snow.

There are lots of recipes for make-it-yourself snow on the Worldwide Web. We promised simple, and the recipe we liked uses just baking soda and white hair conditioner. Two ingredients you’re likely to have on hand. Our recipe came from Momma’s Fun World.

Mix 3 cups of baking soda with 1/2 cup hair conditioner

If you like sparkle, then feel free to add glitter! There are also just-add-water options with Insta-Snow Powder (link to

Pair this activity with these books about snow: The Snowy Day and Sadie and the Snowman.

 3. Create paper snowflakes

make paper snowflakes craft Create your own winter wonderland! From simple folded & cut printer paper to more elaborate 3D designs, the sky is the limit. We found a wonderful collection of ideas and tutorials on Pine Dawson’s Snowflakes Paper Patterns and Templates board on Pinterest.

One of the added literacy benefits of creating paper-cut snowflakes is the opportunity for little hands to practice fine motor skills. That hand activity helps with preparing them to write.

Another option is to pull out the craft sticks (aka Popsicle sticks) and design your own flakes.

Pair these activities with these books about snow: Sadie and the Snowman and The Snowy Day.

Supplies List for Activities with Books about Snow

For Fake Snow

__ Baking Soda

__ White hair conditioner

__ glitter (optional, as desired)


Snowflake Crafts

__ paper – white printer paper or construction paper

__ Popsicle-style craft sticks

__ glue / glue sticks

__ glitter (optional, as desired)

__ paint (optional, as desired)

Your Turn

Literacy is a social experience. So we’d love to know about your favorite books about snow and your winter-related activities.

View blog post for supplies

The Magic of Christmas Books

Gift wrap 2 Last week I spent my time catching up on my holiday book reviews (like two years worth of books in the TBR pile). I am thrilled to say that despite reading a baker’s dozen of various Christmas books, I still love the holiday. There is plenty of variety in the storytelling, and much to my wandering eyes didn’t appear any cloyingly sweet stories. Nary a repeat in the bunch – even The Night Before Christmas as interpreted by Barbara Reid and The Twelve Days of Christmas by Susan Jeffers – fit in the unique Christmas books category.

Rather than pick my favorite Christmas books (can you really have a favorite?) I want to share three seasonal stories that you may not have heard about.

Each of these Christmas books offer especially unique, timeless stories. They are picture books that embody the magic and warmth of the season and will work for all ages. These are books that I will be buying for our permanent family collection.

christmas books - rockrhydinRockrhydin
by Cheryl Elizabeth Waddell; illustrated by Janice Prey Wolfe

When he was a little boy, Jon Michael had a rocking horse he named Rockrhydin (rock-ride-in). For years, even though he was too big, Jon Michael would visit Rockrhydin … until one day he was gone. With the help of Tanyabelle, Rockrhydin returns to Jon Michael’s life in a very special way. This is a magical story that takes the idea of a toy coming to life in a new direction. 

Review summary:  Part fairy tale, part coming of age story, Rockrhydin is a very special story. The illustrations are beautiful, but the story itself is magical. It would be the perfect choice for kids struggling with the push and pull of growing up and leaving toys behind. Just be prepared to have a beloved toy as an ornament when you share the book.

Read our full book review.

magic christmas booksThe Magic Christmas Key
by Leann B Smith; illustrated by Kip Richmond

Everyone is gathering at Nana and Papa’s house for Christmas. Andy loved Christmas with Papa, especially Papa’s beautiful sleigh. Papa showed Andy a key, and said simply “All things are possible when you believe.” The next day, Papa explained the significance of the Magic Key and Andy was now its keeper. Being the Keeper of Santa’s Magic Key turned out to be much harder than Andy thought. With Andy in charge, Christmas was turning into a disaster! What would Santa think? There is a lot of depth to this story about family, tradition, and the meaning of Christmas.

Review summary: Families will share this treasure of a book for many years (if not generations). It has that days-of-old feel, but is timeless, too.  I especially loved Andy’s relationship with his grandfather and the special bond they share. For younger children, the story will help explain how Santa visits different homes. For older children, it is a story about responsibility, honesty, and being careful what you wish for.

Read our full review.

Spirit of Christmas - Christmas books about givingThe Spirit of Christmas; a Giving Tradition
by Nicky Benson; illustrated by Jason Cockcroft

Drew loves Christmas! Who doesn’t? When Mama tells him that sometimes children don’t get presents (even if they want to), Drew has an idea. He writes a letter to Santa offering some of his own toys and clothes. Santa picks them up, takes them to the North Pole, and then delivers them to children so their Christmas wishes can come true. This seasonal picture book shares the story of a young boy’s generosity.

Review summary: This Christmas book is a very special story that all ages can enjoy, appreciate, and bring to life. What a fabulous story. It is so hard for children to let go of some of their things. This Christmas story helps them see how letting go can make someone as happy as they have been, and also opens their hearts to giving.

Note: You can buy just the book, or a book set with the giving bag and bell. A portion of the proceeds go to The Savlation Army.

Read our full review.

More Christmas books. The Reading Tub has been reading and reviewing Christmas books and seasonal stories for more than 10 years. If you’re looking for that “just right” story for you family, read the full list of Christmas books.

Book bloggers – if you’ve reviewed any of these over the years, we’d love to add your review to our link list. The more families can learn about great Christmas books the greater the chance we have of creating a new generation of readers.

What are the Christmas books you and your kids love to share year after year?