Bonus: 12 Books of Christmas

We’ve been counting down to Christmas with some of our favorite picture books for the holiday. Check out this year’s choices, and follow us on Instagram or Facebook for upcoming countdowns and recommendations! Here are our 12 books of Christmas 2019

First Day

“On the first day of Christmas…” your friendly, neighborhood, book-loving podcast brings you the first of twelve of our favorite Christmas children’s books!

I begged Amanda to let me highlight this one, because it has been my favorite since my mom read it to us when I was little. It is such a sweet, touching story of a lonely mouse and how one act of completely selfless kindness on his part completely changes his life.

Also: Santa shows up! My kids also love it, which just goes to show how timeless a classic this book is.

Second Day

“On the second day of Christmas…” my library gave to me a wombat and an Australian Christmas Eve!
I vividly remember being fascinated by a book I read when I was younger about a girl in Australia, where it snows in July and is sweltering on Christmas! I love it when books are able to open up our eyes to parts of the world we may never get to experience for ourselves.
In its own way, this Christmas wombat does that for our kiddos- many of whom probably don’t even know what a wombat is, let alone that they live in Australia.
For those of you who already know and love “Diary of a Wombat,” this is the perfect Christmas companion to it. For everyone else, go check BOTH books out, because they are awesome.

Third Day

“On the third day of Christmas…”
The Snowman was first introduced to me as the film adaptation by my husband; and even then, it wasn’t until years later I discovered the movie is based on this book by Raymond Briggs.
We have adopted The Snowman as a family Christmas tradition, although the book doesn’t have anything particularly Christmasy about it. One of the things I love about it is that there are no words, just beautiful illustrations that alternate between small, graphic-novel-style sequencing pictures and beautiful, full-page illustrations.
A heads up for this book; the snowman does melt at the end. In separate interviews (not the book), Briggs makes a point that death is a part of life, and The Snowman is not grim or sad. It is instead a great conversation starter, and allows your children an opportunity to narrate the story themselves. My kids get lost in the artwork for long stretches of time.
Enjoy the original book, the movie, and all the adaptations that have come about throughout the years, including a board book version or several with words.

Fourth Day – Country Angel Christmas

“On the fourth day of Christmas…” my memories gave to me, another childhood favorite I want all to see!
Anyone familiar with Tomie dePaola work (Strega Nona anyone?!) will instantly recognize this as one of his.
I love this Christmas story so much, because it so naturally draws connections between St Nicholas and the story of the birth of Christ. For anyone else out there trying to walk that line between secular and sacred with their kids at Christmas time, this book is gold!
Bonus points that is is another one I remember my mom reading to us as kids, so I love sharing it with my own little crew now!

Fifth Day – Music Books

“On the fifth day of Christmas…” my musical self gave to me Christmas song books!
“Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree, how lovely are your branches. Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree, hmm mmm hmm hmm hmm hmm hmmm.”
It was happening… again.
I can never seem to remember the words to that song, in English or German. So years ago, I bought a book of classic Christmas songs with their lyrics!
Carols and music are so prominent this time of year and can really add a lot to your family’s traditions. Whether that’s standing around the piano belting it out, going door-to-door, or maybe singing in that Christmas party…lots of potential times you may want to know the actual words to the songs (a wassailing? Talk about poetic vocab building! Bonus!).
There has not been a single year these books don’t take a prominent perch on our piano for the month of December. I especially love the Finnish book; I would never know the song to sing while dancing around the tree or be able to connect my family to this half of our Joulu heritage as naturally without this book.
We went back and forth about whether or not to break into the picture book lineup with what are admittedly outliers. But, the more I think about it, the more I’m happy to suggest that you think about getting a music book for your family to enjoy this season, whether or not you have a musician in your household.

Sixth Day – The Nutcracker Comes to America

“On the sixth day of Christmas…” my library gave to me a journey back in time with the ballet! Have you ever wondered how it was that the Russian ballet The Nutcracker became so popular here in the United States…?
Yeah, I hadn’t either, hah! But as soon as I saw this book at our library a few weeks ago I immediately thought, “how DID it become such a widespread tradition here?” This book answered all the questions I never knew I had- did you know, for example, that The Nutcracker was staged for the first time in the US by some dancing brothers from Utah? And that it wasn’t performed here until the 1940s?
Neither did I! But now I do and so can you! Go look up The Nutcracker Comes to America and you can learn all this and more, too!

Seventh Day – Pocket’s Christmas Wish

“On the seventh day of Christmas…”
Have I ever told you I wish we had a library? Well, here I go. I wish we had a library. I’m visiting my parents, and we went to their library, dug out a (massive) pile of Christmas books, and took our favorites home. Pocket’s Christmas Wish has won a place in my heart, and I’ve already ordered it.
The lovely illustrations, the adorable bunny, the sweet message, and the great open conversation starters on every page make this book one we will treasure every year. My kids and I were all drawn to it, and I’m glad to add such a great story about the meaning and worth of Christmas giving.

Eighth Day – Christmas Tree Farm

“On the eighth day of Christmas…” my parent’s library gave to me, a book full of childhood memories.
Christmas Tree Farm by Ann Purmell illustrated by Jill Weber takes me back to the days when my family and I went to the tree farm to get our tree every year. We hiked in the snow/cold, and then tagged the tree we loved. Then we bought an ornament each from the little cabin while enjoying hot cocoa while we waited for our tree to be chopped down.
Of all the many traditions we had around this time of year, this was the one that I remember most fondly. I cried the year they closed the tree farm.
We had planned to go to a tree farm this year with my kids, but we ended up chopping down a tree from my parent’s yard instead 😅 I decided that this book is the way to connect my children to my tradition until they can go to a tree farm themselves.
Ok enough about me; I love that this book gives the perspective of the tree farmers. Their work is depicted as a labor of love, which adds another dimension of warmth to this treasured tradition. The illustrations are gorgeous, with playful animals throughout the story.
There’s an educational side to this book as well. You can learn about measuring trees, the yearround process of growing trees, and there’s even a fact sheet on the last page.
I love this book for my own memories, but also as a fun way to talk with my children about how we get Christmas trees.

Ninth Day – The Christmas Crocodile

“On the ninth day of Christmas…” my kids’ favorite turned out to be: The Christmas Crocodile!
For the fourth year in a row, the most often-requested Christmas book in our home is this one right here. It has everything! Christmas ham! Crocodiles! A visiting aunt prone to fainting spells! Uncle Carbunkle!
The story is absolutely delightful, but once again, the illustrations steal the show for me, thanks to amazing illustrator David Small. If you are looking for an unexpected Christmas delight, then this is the book for you!

Tenth Day – Little Blue Truck’s Christmas

“On the tenth day of Christmas…” Little Blue Truck gave to me, a fun Christmas book about trees!
I first heard of Little Blue Truck from Sarah Wood (episode 07). I was excited to check it out, and the Christmas book does not disappoint. It lights up, which is a fun surprise, but it’s an overall cute story, adorable illustrations, and it has a nice message about giving. What more do you need in a Christmas book?

Eleventh Day – Mortimer’s Christmas Manger

“On the eleventh day of Christmas…” a little mouse named Mortimer learns a lesson from a little, tiny baby.

When Mortimer the mouse thinks he finds the perfect new home, he has roust the current occupants before he can make himself at home. He irreverently ousts the shepherds, the wise men, and yes, even poor baby Jesus, from their places of honor in the small stable he has claimed as his own, but they keep reappearing! The nerve!

I love Mortimer’s audacity, but also the way our kiddos can learn about this particular Christmas story right along with Mortimer the mouse, who does eventually learn just whose stable that really is.

Twelfth Day – Who is Coming to Our House?

“On the twelfth day of Christmas…” my Father gave to me…

This book captivated every kid aged 3-11 that I read this to for a church activity. We had rotating stations and I got to read Christmad stories to the children 🥰🎄 they all asked for this story, and they all LOVED it. And, I do, too!

The mouse says someone is coming to the stable, but doesn’t say who. Without doubting the little mouse, the animals react by jumping into action to prepare for the mystery guest. Finally we find that it’s Joseph and Mary coming to their house.

I talked with the kids about how they would react if someone said a guest was coming but didn’t say who, and how they would feel if Mary and Joseph came to their house. It’s such a fun and unique perspective.

Who is Coming to Our House is a perfect addition to your Christmas book collection. Thanks for following along with us on this countdown! We’ve had a lot of fun doing this, for sure.

Merry Christmas to you and your loved ones.

Be watching for our upcoming episode on religious texts in the home, coming right after Christmas!

13: From Reluctant Reader to Librarian with Harold Hayes

13: From Reluctant Reader to Librarian with Harold Hayes

Do you have a reluctant reader at home? Perhaps even yourself? Have you become distanced from your local, public library? Hear an inspiring story about a mom’s persistence paying off big-time and how this now-bookworm loves his job as a public library director – and of course, get lots of ideas about resources that may be available to you at your library, in this episode: From reluctant reader to librarian.

This week we are joined by a wonderful man and strong librarian- Harold Hayes, director of the Samuels Public Library in Front Royal Virginia. His career in public libraries has fostered his interest in things such as access to information and the role literacy and information have on societies and the democratic process. Harold is a proponent for books and reading both in his personal and professional life and is passionate about reading aloud to children, a passion that came about at least in part because of his own experiences struggling to read as a child. From those struggles years ago to his role today as a public library director, his is an inspiring story!

From a reluctant reader to librarian:

1. Harold’s rough start with reading- he struggled for years and did not start reading proficiently until he was in 6th grade.

2. Despite his struggles reading himself, he stayed interested in books and he credits his “saintly mother,”(Harold’s words!) who he said read to them a lot and, “always put… those stories out in front of us that captured our interest and therefore challenged our ability to read at a higher and better level…”

3. The summer after Harold’s fourth grade year his family took a road trip from Wisconsin down along the Mississippi River and she read the book Tom Sawyer out loud to him and his four siblings as they drove, following a similar path Tom Sawyer travels in the book. It made the story alive and memorable for Harold, who, at the time, could not have read and understood that book himself.

4. To go from such a reluctant reader to the career he has now, Harold had to turn some corners. In the sixth grade, Harold found a book at a library used book sale and used it for a book report he was required to do for school. It was about a boy and his dog and something about it really clicked with Harold and he devoured every dog story he could find, “harassing [his] poor school librarian” for more. 

5. Looking back on his reading journey, Harold’s advice to anyone going through similar experiences with their children is to look in to Jim’s Trelease and the benefits of reading aloud as well as to let yourself give kids what they want to read, as opposed to what you think they should read.

5. Harold has worked in public libraries for years and he told us that one of his favorite things about it is the fact that public libraries are service-oriented places and he loves helping people. He especially loves solving the little mysteries that people come in with- finding answers for them. It is a good reminder that librarians are there to help us and we aren’t inconveniencing them with our kids and our questions!

6. While the exact programs differ, almost every public library will have programs for kids and teenagers. Things like story times or Books and Barks (kids can read to a trained service dog), so check out your local library for what they offer!

7. Although we may think of library programs as being for younger kids, most have them for all ages, including teens. Those older kids can also be volunteers at the library and help with those programs that they love!

Harold left us with a great idea of how to get started on putting these great ideas into practice this week. He invited us to read out loud to our children and, of course, go visit your public library!

In this episode we mention:


Samuels Public Library Facebook page


Click here for a complete list of our episodes.

12: How to tell the truth about Santa

12: How to tell the truth about Santa

with Martha Brockenbrough

How do you tell your child the beautiful truth about Santa? Martha Brockenbrough told her daughter, Lucy, via a heartfelt letter that she then turned into a book. We hear the story behind this beautiful way to help your child through this major life transition from a Santa-believer to a member of Santa’s team.

This week we are joined by Martha Brockenbrough, writer, teacher, musician and creator of Grammar Day (May 4th- mark your calendars!). She was an editor for MSN, written for NY Times, taught high school and, of course, written books in all genres and for all reading levels. She currently teaches at Vermont College of Fine Arts and continues to write books that look for hard truths and help her readers see that, in her words, “uncomfortable doesn’t mean unfair.” She joined us to talk about one of her picture books, Love, Santa: the beautiful truth about Santa and gives us some amazing thoughts on Santa and helping our kids navigate their feelings about the big man.

Tell your child the beautiful truth about Santa:

1. Love, Santa is just one of the many picture books that Martha has written, but it’s the one we wanted to chat about (‘tis the season, after all!). She shared with us the background and development of the book, from the letter she wrote to her own daughter in that “questioning Santa” moment, to a blog post that spread like wildfire, to finally the beautifully designed picture book it is today.

2. While the book is often used as a tool to help parents have what can be a hard conversation with their children, it is so full of love that it makes what could be a cold, hard truth become a warm, magical time that welcomes the child onto Santa’s “team,” where they get to help spread the magic for others. 

3. Once our kids are out in the world we cannot always control what they hear and what they learn, so being prepared for these kinds of conversations and thinking of them as “the greatest privilege of parenthood…loving our kids, even when they find out the world isn’t necessarily what they thought.”

4. Just like you always have granola bars in the glove box, to be ready for whatever parenthood throws at us, we can think ahead, have a plan and be ready for these moments. For instance, Martha knows that she won’t lie to her kids, so when asked point-blank about certain things (like Santa!), she knows what direction she would want to take the discussion.

5. She had some great thoughts on how to make the conversation about Santa a positive experience, including expanding her earlier, wonderful thoughts on welcoming the child to Santa’s team: “You’re on Santa’s team now. What do you want to give to the world? Is there someone who needs something? Is there something you have to offer? What is it? Let me help you do that. Give the kid the power! There is nothing that feels better than being generous and helping others.”

6. Martha’s daughter Lucy, whose question about Santa sparked the idea for the book in the first place, wrote a song called “Santa is Love” for her mother’s birthday one year. The song is Lucy’s interpretation of the experience she shared with her mother learning “the beautiful truth about Santa.” It is a wonderful companion to the book and a wonderful gift to her mother. If curious, the song can be found on iTunes and YouTube!

Martha left us with a great idea of how to get started on putting these great ideas into practice this week. She challenged us to get ourselves a book, maybe one that we wouldn’t otherwise have read, and ask why this person wrote it and why did it get loved enough to be published and see if we can expand the corners of our world just a bit.

We are so grateful to Martha for taking the time to talk with us!

Mentioned in this episode:

Martha’s website

Lucy Berliant’s song she surprised her mother with: Santa is Love

Books we mentioned:

Love, Santa

Cheerful Chick

Alexander Hamilton, Revolutionary


The Dinosaur Tooth Fairy

Finding Bigfoot

Missed our last episode? Listen to some great ideas for seasonal books and more from Cathy Balfanz here.

Episode 11: How We Read with Cathy Balfanz

Episode 11: How We Read with Cathy Balfanz

This week we are excited to launch our How We Read series, where we talk with Cathy Balfanz. Cathy is a mother of four, has moved all around with her husband’s military career and with those moves has had the opportunity to try out all sorts of learning experiences and opportunities with her kids. Her children are in the pre-teen/teenage years now, and Cathy shares her knowledge and insight into what reading and a love of books looks like in older children in her home.

Listen to our interview with Cyndi Giorgis, of the Read Aloud Handbook

In How We Read with Cathy Balfanz we talk about:

1.The Balfanz family moves around – a lot. This means Cathy has had the opportunity to experience many different school systems, including a 2-year stint homeschooling her children.

1. With all of their moving and experience living in many different places, Cathy and her kids have encountered all different kinds of school systems and even did a 2-year stint of homeschooling. During those years, Cathy chose a literature-based curriculum and developed a new perspective an even deeper appreciation for the many ways to use literature in their lives. Even though her kids are in public schools now, they still use the skills and habits of using literature in all aspects of learning at home with them now..

2. Like many of us, Cathy loves The Read Aloud Handbook, and we were very interested to hear what reading aloud can look like as kids reach preteen and teenage years. She admits that it is not as straight-forward as it is when kids are younger, but even though it looks different, those bonding, reading aloud together experiences can still happen! Sometimes she just reads the first few chapters of a book together with her older daughters and then they take it from there. Sometimes they listen to an audiobook together. And sometimes she still even reads picture books with them! There is no limit to those amazing picture books out there, so grab one and read it with your teenager!

3. Another way Cathy incorporates books into all aspects of her family life is to keep books out in the house. She keeps “book baskets” in the main living areas that Cathy keeps stocked with books. She rotatest them, choosing a range of reading levels and subjects- ones that go along with the time of year, or holidays or about things her kids are particularly interested in. This keeps books in the forefront and it also keeps her teenagers exposed to those precious picture books even as they get older.

5. We chat about our feelings about audiobooks and, although a bit apprehensive at first, Cathy has learned the great value of audiobooks. They are a wonderful way to enjoy a book as a family, turning a simple car ride to the grocery store into a bonding experience! While it shouldn’t replace reading together with your kids, it is a great way to get more literature into your lives!

6. One thing Cathy has noticed as her children have gotten older is how reading, and the quality of books her kids are reading, has affected their writing and even speaking vocabulary levels.

7. One last thing that Cathy has learned in her journey of navigating the world of books with teenagers so far is that not all Young Adult books are created equal. She listened to an episode of Sarah Mackenzie’s Read Aloud Revival podcast where she heard the advice that Young Adult is a genre, not a reading level, which really struck a chord with her. She has definitely learned that for herself as she helps her teenagers find new books to read and she recommends spending some time and effort researching good books that will interest our kids. There are a lot of great resources and book lists out there to give you a start, many of which we will link to below.

Cathy left us with a great idea of how to get started on putting these great ideas into practice this week. She invited us to try to read out loud to our kids every day this week. Then, see if you can make it a 14-day streak and keep building on that habit.

We are so grateful to Cathy for taking the time to talk with us!

Cathy left us with a great idea of how to get started on putting these great ideas into practice this week. She invited us to try to read out loud to our kids every day this week. Then, see if you can make it a 14-day streak and keep building on that habit.

In this episode we mention:


Read Aloud Revival

The Good and the Beautiful

Book Shark

Five in a Row

Build your library

Beautiful feet


The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease (latest edition co-authored by Cyndi Giorgis)

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown

Call it Courage by Armstrong Sperry

Frindle by Andrew Clements

Boxcar Children series by Gertrude Chandler

George Washington’s Breakfast by Jean Fritz

Phoebe the Spy by Judith Berry Griffin

George Washington’s Teeth by Deborah Chandra

Episode 10: Reading for the Holidays

Episode 10: Reading for the Holidays

Jill and Amanda, hosts of One Page at a Time, take a break from our usual interview and instead bring you a few tips to keep your family reading over the many holidays being celebrated all over the world this time of year.

In this episode we talk about:

Tip one: When you read for yourself, let your kids know what and that you are reading, and then tell them about what you read!

Tip two: Choose a designated adult/older child to read aloud for the entertainment while everyone is working in the kitchen.

Tip three: If you struggle remembering to have your kids read when they are off of school, set aside family reading time and do it all together.

Tip four: Turn reading from a solitary activity to a group activity with book clubs, competitions, talent shows of who does the best voices when reading picture books, or other incentives.

Bonus: We know there are plenty of you who will be spending the holidays catching up on the show The Crown. If you, like us, love that show, then we have put together a list of books you just might enjoy as well! Check it out our website (LINK) and happy reading!

Bonus Episode 09.5: Bring out your professional book nerd with Adam Sockel

Bonus Episode 09.5: Bring out your professional book nerd with Adam Sockel

From author interviews to book recommendations galore, we interview Adam Sockel about his podcast, Professional Book Nerds. This bonus episode is actually the tail end of Episode 09: Getting to know OverDrive and Libby. Adam works for OverDrive, the company that brings ebooks and audiobooks to thousands of libraries around the world, and gets an inside scoop with publishers and authors along the way.

In this episode we talk about:

  1. How Professional Book Nerds came to be – Adam’s co-host suggested they take all their office book buzz to all of us via their podcast. Because of OverDrive’s access to publishers, Adam is able to fill more than 400 episodes with amazing author interviews and great book recommendations.
  2. We talk about how Adam and Jill talk a lot about seasonal books, or books that evoke the feelings of a particular season, like murder mysteries in “spooky season.” They bring details and book groupings that are unique to their podcast because of their passion for books and the authors that write them.
  3. Adam has a bit of a unicorn job in the book world, in that he knows about books in advance from the publishers. Their listenership has grown enough that publishers approach them for the podcast, and if Adam finds out a book is coming, he will go directly to the publisher and ask for an early copy so he can promote all of these books to the librarians who stock their Libby collections.

A big thank you to Adam, and his co-host, Jill, for their dedication to this great podcast. Professional Book Nerds is wherever you listen to your podcasts. Give it a listen, head to their website, and tell us which book you’re reading on Libby right now!

Episode 09: Getting to know Overdrive and Libby

Episode 09: Getting to know Overdrive and Libby

This week we are joined by Adam Sockel, social media specialist for OverDrive and co-host of OverDrive’s delightful podcast, Professional Book Nerds. This all basically means he runs OverDrive’s social media, gets to field questions about OverDrive and their accompanying app, Libby, all day and gets to read as many books in as many different formats as he possibly can. Adam joined us to answer some burning questions about OverDrive the company, OverDrive the app and, of course, our beloved Libby app. 

In this episode we talk about:

  1. We start off by mentioning Overdrive’s own podcast, Professional Book Nerds. Adam and his co-host, Jill (different Jill from One Page at a Time’s Jill), talk with authors and leave fantastic book recommendations in their great podcast. We talk more about this later on.
  2. Next up, Adam tells us what Overdrive and Libby are. Overdrive, the name of both the company and the original app, works with about 43,000 libraries and schools all around the world to provide audiobooks and ebooks to people of all ages. This includes about 95% of all libraries in the United States. Libby is the new-and-improved app by Overdrive.
  3. Adam aced our speed round of questions Amanda pulled off Google regarding Overdrive and Libby; these are getting to the root of many searches. Here they are:
How many books can you check out on OverDrive at a time?

Depends on your library; most are between 8-10, though some go as high as 50!

Can I use OverDrive on my Mac?


Is OverDrive being replaced by Libby?

No – OverDrive covers some areas, such as vision disabilities, better and will remain in use, though Libby is the easier and more user-friendly of the two.

Can I use OverDrive without a library card?

No, you need access to someone’s library card.

Is Libby by OverDrive free?

Yes, 100%

Does Libby sync with OverDrive?

Yes, both audio and e-books

Does Libby automatically return books?


How do I add more libraries to OverDrive?

Go to the “add a library” button in either OverDrive or Libby, search for your library, and input your library card.

Does Libby search all libraries?

It is going to very soon.

Can you renew books on Libby?

Yes – 3 days before your books are due, it will ask if you’d like to renew. Renewal length is dependant on your library’s policy. If someone has a hold on that book, you will be added to the hold queue instead of renewing.

Does Libby sync across all devices?

Yes, as long as you are logged in on all those devices.

Where does Libby download books?

To any device you have the app downloaded on. The files are tiny, thankfully!

Can you borrow picture books or comic books on OverDrive?

Yes, indeed you can.

  1. How to get set up with Libby: download the Libby app on your device(s) of choice. Put in your zip code, select your library, put in your library card (or get one – and you can get one automatically if you’re in a service area for an Instant Digital Card using your phone number). You may also be able to pay an annual fee for a card to select libraries. And Jill reminds us to check the libraries around you to see if any offer cards to neighboring counties/zip codes. Having access to multiple libraries gives you access to those libraries’ collections
  2. For those living outside the US, check your library to see if they use OverDrive. And, don’t forget your permanent address if you are an expat like Amanda. If your library doesn’t offer OverDrive services through Libby, you can ask your library to get Libby.
  3. If you have exhausted all your personal options, you can share a card with a family member – an added thought is to consider adding your children’s library cards to your account so you can use content filters and you can toggle to their account and see what they are searching for and reading.
  4. Libraries receive more funding based on their usage and circulation, so using Libby is good for a library!
  5. Adam tells us a few reasons why we should all be reading with Libby. Beyond its convenience, there are specialized fonts such as the dyslexia and enlarged fonts, adjust the lighting of the screen, instantly expand your children’s library with a quick search, and the ability to listen to audiobooks means you can read in different situations than you would otherwise. Jill is also excited to try out the Read Along feature.

Adam left us with a great idea of how to get started on putting these great ideas into practice this week. He invited us to take the time to read this week- even just five minutes.

We are so grateful to Adam  for taking the time to talk with us! More information about him, OverDrive, and Professional Book Nerds can be found in the following places:





Professional Book Nerds website

Books we mentioned:

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

Book travel worksheet

Book travel worksheet

In episode 8, Amanda Fristrom tells us all about how you can improve your traveling – using books. To help us plan ahead and make it even easier to bring along our favorites, we have a worksheet you can print out for every trip, or laminate and use dry erase markers again and again.

Step one: Read Before

Choose where you’re going, of course! But, after that is all sorted, we start our planning process with thinking about books we can read at home, before we ever step out the door.

Younger children:

Think “sensory;” what will you see, smell, hear, feel when you’re there? Will there be a different climate, language, people, habitat, housing, foods, or maybe even plants or animals? Try to find books that talk about these differences. Amanda talks about using flags as a great, go-to to catch the attention of her young kiddos.

Older kids:

You may want to think about famous people, holidays, facts, or the history of the place you are visiting. Try to incorporate their interests into the plan – and don’t forget fiction books as well!


Are you the travel book type, to read through what Lonely Planet has to say? Perhaps you want to brush up on some art history before making your way to the Louvre. There’s always Wikipedia while you’re standing in front of that painting, true. But reading about your destination before you go can help you be truly present in the moment while you’re gazing at Mona Lisa’s famous smile.

Step two: When we plan to read

Put on some relaxing music or burn a candle and imagine what the days will be like during your trip. Are you going to be in the car a lot? Perhaps you need quite a few family-friendly options to listen to. Are you going to be trapped in a single-room hotel with kids that go to sleep at 5pm and have to be in pitch-black, can’t-see- your- hand-and-don’t-even-think-about-watching-TV silence? Maybe you’ll be with family members who are learning to read, or who would love to sit with your kiddos and read for hours on end.

Now that you have a rough idea for what the days may look like, think about how you can make books work for you and take out some of the hard stuff about traveling. Feel free to get that cheesy romance for the beach. No judgement here! Maybe you want to bring along a child-friendly cookbook or science fair project book for Grandma and Grandpa to use with your kids while you run as far away as you can. Maybe you need to be holed up in London every day from noon until 2pm while your child sleeps off the jetlag. Or maybe you know you need to read to unwind after the aggravation of the rental car queue…

Step three: Books to download

Now we get down to it! If you’re planning on using books on any devices, check up on your Audible, Scribd, Libby, Kindle Fire, or whatever you use for your books, and stock up before you leave, so no lack of wifi is ever going to get you down. Write down the books you’re dying to read or listen to there, and download them!

Step four: Tech pack it

If you’re like Jill and Amanda, you have a lot of tech related to your reading these days. From kindles to headphones to splitters and chargers for all. the. things, you don’t want to be left stranded with a bunch of new books to listen to or read on that e-reader with no way to do it!

Step five and six: Book pack it

We separated this into two boxes so you can distinguish between different categories of books if you’d like. Say, children’s and adult’s books. Or leisurely reading vs. work-related. Maybe “task” books like journals vs. reading books. Maybe you’re doing one of these worksheets for each member of your family, and you just write down all those novels you’ve been saving up for yourself.

The main point is, don’t forget to pack your books!

Extra credit:

Hopefully you’re all set to go with your books. If you want to set aside the children’s books like Amanda does so they are fresh for your kids, you can add that to your calendar or right there on the worksheet.

I am keeping my completed sheets as a part of our travel journals, a sort of snapshot of what our family’s preferences are right now and another layer of memories for our trip.

Take a picture of the lists of books and tech that you bring so you can easily remember to bring them all back.

Let us know where you’re going next, and how you’ll be using books!

Episode 08: How books can help you travel better

Episode 08: How books can help you travel better

Get some ideas for how you can improve your traveling by using books. This week we are joined by One Page at a Time co-host, Amanda Fristrom! Amanda is probably among one of the more well-traveled people out there, having visited 6 continents, 63 countries and 49 of the 50 United States. She has many talents, such as possessing a vast knowledge of spices and the ability to design a whole line of handmade toys centered around camels. She chatted with us about the role books have played in her travels all over the world, both for herself as well as her kiddos.

In this episode we talk about:

1. We dive on in with Amanda’s tips for using books in the prep and lead-up to travels. They have a book of all the world flags that they use to show their kids the flags of the countries they are visiting. They can then use this knowledge to help kids connect with the place they are visiting, as they find flags while they are out and about. Bonus: finding flags can also be used as a distraction for antsy kids!

2. Books can also be used to introduce kids to a new language or landmarks they will be exposed to when they are in the new location. There are plenty of books with these things geared towards kids; Amanda shared the ones her family uses. 

3. One more tip for the lead-up to trips, Amanda has her kids go on a “screen freeze” for up to two weeks before leaving for a trip, to get everyone ready and excited for screen time while travelling.

4. During the actual traveling to the new destination, Amanda has Kindle Fire’s for her kids that she loads with books that can be read off-line and a couple reading apps (details below). Kindle has versions of books that are interactive; the books are read to them, the kids can turn the pages and interact with elements on the pages. Amanda has learned through experience that e-books work best for the actual travel time, although she does pack some “emergency” books in a carry-on to use if needed (low battery on devices, long delays, etc).

5. For herself, Amanda likes to have a physical book, so she has found a genre that works well for her for travelling (autobiographies). Everyone’s travel books will be different depending on your tastes and needs, but when travelling with kids you will most likely need a type of book that you enjoy, but isn’t too engrossing, so won’t mind getting interrupted while reading it (kids needing things, pausing to enjoy scenery, etc.).

6. Book Crossing is a fun website that lets you leave a book in a location with a code printed from the website and then you can track if someone finds and takes your book to a new place!

7. Eventually you will make it to your destination and books can still play a part! Amanda has found that keeping her kids’ bedtime routine as close to what they do at home makes a huge difference in their travels. Books play a big part in their bedtime routine, so she keeps that up while travelling. She either uses the books she brought in her “emergency” supply, borrows from people if visiting family or friends, or sometimes finds new books in stores while travelling. 

8. Travelling can be scary and stressful to kids, with an overload of new places and experience. Reading to them is one way to calm them and bring them back to a comfortable and familiar thing. The same can apply to you, as well- taking some time to read your own book can help you fight jet lag, decompress and settle down. 

9. If travelling to visit family, reading together- even older kids reading to the younger ones- will give family members that your children may not get to see as often that bonding time and is a wonderful way to bring the family together. 

Amanda left us with a great idea of how to get started on putting these great ideas into practice this week. She invited us to write down a quick plan of how we are going to use books in whatever travel is coming up in our lives. Books can play a powerful role in our travels and they shouldn’t be overlooked in our travel prep!

We are so grateful to Amanda for taking the time to talk with us and giving us so many great ideas and books to go look up (details below)!

Resources we talk about in this episode:


Book Crossing – track your books as they travel (like geocaching for books)


Amazon Kindle Fire


The Flag Book by Lonely Planet

Hello World: A Celebration of Languages and Curiosities by Jonathan Litton

Elephants on Tour: A Search and Find Journey Around the World (Where’s waldo-esque elephant book)

The Complete Tales of Winnie-The-Pooh by A. A. Milne

Michelle Obama’s Becoming

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Kindle interactive books

(look by author on your Kindle Fire)

Little Critter books by Mercer Meyer

Sandra Boynton (author)

Episode 07: What your child’s teacher wants you to know about reading

Episode 07: What your child’s teacher wants you to know about reading

This week we are joined by Sarah Wood, the teacher that every parent hopes that their child will get each year. She has taught various grades of elementary (primary) school for the past twelve years (she is on lucky year 13 of teaching!) and in her spare time you can find her in the dance studio and hanging out with her awesome two-year-old son. Sarah is passionate about books and uses them in all sorts of ways in her classroom and with her own son. She was gracious enough to spend some of her precious non-teaching time to chat with us about what she sees from our kids in her classroom and how reading plays a role in that!

In this episode we talk about:

1. Teachers can, in general, tell which kids read and are being read to at home. They look forward to going to the school library, can talk about their favorite book or use character names or titles in conversations and often read at a slightly higher reading level. On the flip side, it is harder to find books for kids who do not read at home that they like to read or listen to and are easily distracted during reading times at school. Sarah noted that she only applies these observations to typically developing children, taking out, for instance, children who are still learning English, etc.

2. We asked Sarah what she wished she could sit down and tell the parents of all her students and she told us that, no matter their age, all children want to be read to! The minute she picks up a book in her class, who basically never stop talking, you can hear a pin drop.

3. Sarah uses different kinds of books all the time in her classroom. When teaching math in first and second grade, for example, she would find a picture book with examples of symmetry and use the examples to visually show that example. With her current class of fifth-graders one of the reading rotations that she does is reading with a buddy- reading out loud to each other- and they love it!

4. We chatted about some great ideas of how to use those same principles at home with our kids! There is an instagram account that Sarah loves and uses called The Book Report, which is run by a former teacher, now stay at home mom, who uses books all the time at home with her kids. She also loves a website called Reading Rockets, which has resources and videos with suggestions on all sorts of things, like, how do you read non-fiction books at home (links to both of these are below). Her best suggestion, however, is to simply find something that your child is interested in, gather books about that subject and then go out in the world and connect those things. Read books about fire trucks and then go to a fire station and see read fire trucks. Find books about rocks and minerals and then go dig around your backyard and see what kinds of rocks you can find! She did share the tip to find the book first and then plan the activity, because it does not always come together when you try and do it the other way around.

5. Sarah herself has a two-year-old son and she has been exploring the world of reading as a parent as opposed to a teacher. It is just as important to her at home, however, as it is in her classroom. She even used one of her son’s favorite books, Vroom Vroom Garbage Truck, in her fifth-grade class when teaching about onomatopoeia! 

We are so grateful to Sarah for taking the time to talk with us! More information about what we chatted about today can be found in the following places:

Instagram references:

Websites mentioned:

Reading Rockets

Books we mentioned:

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

Vroom Vroom Garbage Truck by Asia Citro

My Truck is Stuck by Kevin Lewis

Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle

Reading in the Wild by Donalyn Miller (follow-up to her book, The Book Whisperer)