Get Organized: A Look at 2015 and a Lean into 2016

get organized review 2015January is National Get Organized Month. Seems like a no brainer: out with the old, in with the new. New year, new ideas … you get the picture.

Before I can get organized and set new goals, I usually need to stop and look back. Where are we? How did we get here? and (most importantly) What’s next?

2015 was an amazing year for the Reading Tub. So before I talk about what’s next, let me share where we are.

Book Donations

Truth be told, for most of 2015, my office was overrun by books that had been read and/or reviewed, and were waiting to find the right home. In November, we found them.

We delivered 660 board books, picture books, and easy readers to the ReadySteps team at ReadyKids Charlottesville. They’ll be drawing from this new mini-library not only to provide books to children in under-served communities, but working directly with families on how to use the books for other learning activities, as well.

Our other major recipient was a public middle school serving students who read below and well-below grade level. We had the students submit topics of interest, and then we scanned the shelves for books in those genres. This was a unique – and challenging – request, as the school needed such a broad range of reading levels, but we did not have the data to match reading level with genre interest. The school received a collection of 35 brand new picture and early chapter books; graphic novels; and middle grade and young adult novels.

Bottom line: In 2015, we donated more than $8,500 books to readers in need and their families.

What’s Next for Book Donations in 2016?

This week I am going to get organized on a project for our military. We had a request for books that deployed service members can read with their children. My goal is to send 200 NEW books. If you are interested in supporting this project, please contact me at thereadingtub [at] gmail [dot] com.

We have almost a dozen boxes of middle grade and young adult books that need to placed with at-risk readers.

Book Reviews

In 2015, the Reading Tub logged more than 3,000 hours of volunteer service. As it has for more than 10 years, Be the Star You Are Teen Review Team sent us LOTS of reviews for middle grade and young adult books. Fifty-seven, to be exact. We welcomed several new reviewing families and a high school reviewer, who collectively added 100 reviews to our site.

As I noted in my year-end newsletter, our goal was to publish 300 reviews. We finished the year with 287. That is a Reading Tub record. The previous high was 252 books.

What’s Next in Book Reviews for 2016?

Quite a few of my book reviews published last year were books from my TBR pile. Some had been read in early 2014, but the reviews got waylaid. That meant a lot of time re-reading books to remember plot and character, and refresh my memory on why I put a post-it on a certain page. That was not a lot of fun.

So as I get organized with book reviews for 2016, I plan to (a) take better notes as I read; and (b) draft – if not publish – a review within two weeks of finishing a book. So far, so good!

That 300 book-reviews-in-a-year milestone is still out there. My sights are set on that, as well.

Family Literacy Integration Project (FLIP)

In our 12 years of existence, the Reading Tub had never undertaken project-specific fundraising. We rely very heavily on affiliate income and pride ourselves on using all donations to support literacy work, not overhead (like office supplies, web hosting, etc.)

I am THRILLED to report that thanks to your generosity, the Family Literacy Integration Project is nearly fully funded. Through three crowd-funding efforts, we raised $6,930. Just $570 shy of the $7,500 needed to move FLIP from the drawing board to the code room. Donations are more than welcome.

What’s Next for FLIP in 2016?

We are getting ready to move forward with Phase 1 of this project: design and organization. Very, very exciting.

Our hope is to implement FLIP in 2016, and I will continue the fundraising effort.



Last but not least is a look at how we did vis-a-vis curating and sharing literacy and reading ideas. I’d give us a C-minus. We did a lot to improve our Pinterest boards, but we fell way off on blog reading. As for Twitter, it was a pretty uneven year. And the newsletter – an F.

What’s Next for Getting Social in 2016?

We have lots of work ahead of us. The good news is there is nowhere to go but up. Over the next two months I want to get back into the habit of scheduling “social” time and reading more blogs. By spring I hope to get a regular newsletter going.

How are you going to get organized this year?


literacy nonprofit card




Happy New Year – Let the #Cybils Reading Begin

cybils finalists 2015Is there really any better way to finish one year and start another? I think not!

Last night, just before midnight, I finished The Dragons of Ordinary Farm [review coming soon.] That means today I need something new to read. Are you in the same boat?

Let me suggest you peruse the 2015 Cybils Finalists lists. With 89 books across 11 categories / genres, there are plenty of highly-recommended books to choose for your first reads of 2016.

Want to take it the extra step? Pick your favorite category and read along with the Round 2 judges.  Yes, your library is closed today, but their online catalog isn’t! Visit to find and reserve the books you want to read.

2015 Cybils Finalists (by Category)

To help get you started, we have listed each of the Cybils categories and the number of finalists. Click the link to read a blurb about each of the books that the Round 2 Judges will be reading over the next 6 weeks.

Worth noting: Several nonfiction titles are on this year’s Cybils finalists list for developing readers. Yeah!

On a personal note, it was fun to see some of my nominees are among this year’s Cybils finalists. [I pasted them in from the Cybils blog … which I encourage you to visit.]

Easy Reader / Early Chapter Book

West Meadows Detectives: The Case of the Snack Snatcher
by Liam O’Donnell
Owlkids Books
Nominated by: Terry Doherty

Myron is starting at a new school, and is dreading it. But then he becomes involved in a mystery when food starts disappearing from the school kitchen, and it is up to him and his new friend Hajrah to solve it. Myron is autistic and the way his brain works helps him be an excellent detective. This book lays out a mystery that is relatable for all children and fun to solve.

Susan Murray, From Tots to Teens

Elementary / Middle Grade Nonfiction Book

I, Fly: The Buzz About Flies and How Awesome They Are
by Bridget Heos, illustrated by Jennifer Plecas
Henry Holt
Nominated by: Terry Doherty

In this lively book, a cartoon fly narrator explains that, even though they aren’t as attractive or iconic as butterflies, house flies deserve to be studied. Readers soon learn house flies go through complete metamorphosis like butterflies, but their larvae and pupae look very different. They also discover facts about house fly flight, anatomy, house fly relatives, and even some problems with flies. This lighthearted approach will capture children’s imaginations and also make an unusual (and sometimes gross) subject more palatable.

Roberta Gibson, Wrapped in Foil

Kindness Knows No Season

For many of us, tonight is a time of quietude and hope. That moment in our year that we actually stop to take time for reflection. For Christians, it is also about Christ’s birth, and a star in the East that served as a guide to shepherds and kings alike.

In the story, The Man Made of Stars, a young boy discovers that his acts of kindness add stars to the sky. It seems like a perfectly apropos selection for today. We are going to close out our year with hope for a better, kinder world in 2016.

I am one of those sappy people who wishes that Christmas spirit would last all year ’round … or at least well into spring! Who believe that kindness is something to be offered every day, not just special occasions. Compendium (publisher) sent us a copy, and we shared it with one of our volunteer families. Here’s what they had to say.

An excellent message and gorgeous illustrations make a captivating, special book to share with children. I am going to buy this book. I love the message and would love for my children to hear it again and again.

The Man Made of Stars is a book that shares the quietude of the season every day, not just Christmas Eve. This bedtime story about kindness is a great choice for new parents and grandparents.

kindness for kids

What are your favorite Kindness books?

Do you have a go-to picture book that you share to help children understand and practice kindness? We’d love to hear about it! Add it to the comments below.


This Read It and Keep selection is part of our Gift of Literacy Pinterest board. There are additional recommendations on our Family Reads: Values and Life LessonsBooks Make the Best Gifts, and Bookshelf Worthy Books for Your Home Library boards, as well.

We are taking a break from our Throwback Thursday Book Review schedule to focus on sharing gift ideas with a literacy twist. These are featured selections from our Gift of Literacy board on Pinterest.

Image links in this post go to our Pinterest Boards.

You can support The Reading Tub when you shop for gifts this holiday by visiting

support nonprofits on amazon