Honoring your personal sacred text

Honoring your personal sacred text

Have you ever written down your spiritual beliefs and shared it with those close to you? Dr. David Dollahite and Jill Berrett Given relate their experiences with honoring personal sacred texts, both from the author’s perspective and from the receiving side.

Jill here! As you might be able to tell from the length of our episode with Drs. David Dollahite and Loren Marks, we had a fabulous conversation with them that we just did not want to stop. For the sake of our listeners’ ears, however, we had to edit it down a touch, losing some of the wisdom they shared with us. One story, shared by Dr. Dollahite and transcribed below, really resonated with me, however. 

David C Dollahite

“One of the things I did a few years ago was to write down my own spiritual experiences, my own spiritual journey from being a non religious teenager to a conversion experience and reading a sacred text and coming to God and becoming a religious person and then what that meant to me; the changes that meant to my life. So, I wrote this up and it happened to be published in a book called God’s Tender Mercies… I was very fortunate to be able to do an audiobook version of this book… that my daughter and son-in-law got… My grandkids used to listen to that audiobook for their bedtime stories- they requested it because it was their grandfather talking about his own childhood and his own spiritual and religious changes and experiences. For months they listened to that…and I can’t tell you the joy of hearing my grandkids bring up in various settings an experience that I had while reading sacred text. Many of those experiences that I shared in that book are spiritual experiences that had something to do with reading sacred text. To hear them…tell back to me these experiences that I had- they would share similar ideas or they would ask about that, would like me to tell that story again or tell more about that or more details about that… 

I think, in addition to reading sacred texts with your children, if you can write your own sacred texts, so to speak- that is, to write, or to audio-record if you don’t like to write, those meaningful religious and spiritual experiences that you have had and then find a way to share those with your children and, down the road, grandchildren, I think there is potential blessing and joy in that… Reading what people hundreds or thousands of years ago in another culture experienced in terms of their own religious experiences- that’s a deeply important thing to do. I believe that helping your children and grandchildren to know that you yourself have had those kinds of interactions with God…that you’ve sort of been to the mountaintop, so to speak, that you have received answers to your prayers, that you have had challenges in your life that were helped by reading sacred text or by prayer, and if you have had experiences, as anyone who is living a religious life will have- times when they feel God’s presence or God’s guidance or comfort or forgiveness or whatever- if those can be written down and then shared in whatever way makes sense with family members, [then] I believe that that can be a real blessing.”

Jill Berrett Given

Shortly after I married my husband, his father sent him and all his siblings a letter. In it, he shared with them the experiences that he and his wife, my husband’s mother, had gone through shortly after they themselves had been married that led them to the church that they now belong to and the peace and joy that it has brought to them and the family that they subsequently raised.

I was fascinated by this letter, as I come from a family who has been members of the same church going back for generation after generation after generation. I have read the stories of my ancestors having those types of spiritual experiences, but it had all happened so long ago that it was simply a nice story. This one had happened to people who, had they made different choices during that time, would have changed my own life. I never would have met and married my husband had they not had those spiritual experiences. I would not have the children I have. I would not have the life I have. 

We read that letter every so often in our home, both just between my husband and I as well as with our children. I hadn’t thought about it in these terms until hearing Dr. Dollahite talk about it, but it truly has become sacred text to us. I probably wasn’t even foremost in my father-in-law’s mind when he wrote his experiences down, as I was so newly married into their family, but his words have had a great impact on my life and so will yours on people you may not even realize if you simply write them down. Words are powerful and important, as we hope to tell the word with our podcast, and sacred words can be some of the most powerful ones out there.

15: "Holy Script!" Sacred Text in the Home with Dr David Dollahite and Dr Loren Marks

15: "Holy Script!" Sacred Text in the Home with Dr David Dollahite and Dr Loren Marks

To talk about sacred text in our home, this week we are joined by Drs. David Dollahite and Loren Marks, two professors at the School of Family Life at Brigham Young University. They have worked for years on a research project called American Families of Faith, which has given them a great deal of insight into the lives of families who are active in all different kinds of faiths and how these families have used reading sacred texts in their family life, which is what chatted with them about.

In “Holy Script!” Sacred text in the home we talk about:

1. What the American Families of Faith Project does and some of what their research has shown them.

2. What exactly are sacred texts? Each religion considers differently, but in general, for Muslims it is the Koran and the deeds and writings of the prophet Muhammad, for Jewish people it is the Torah and Talmud, Christians have the Old and New Testament, etc.

3. Developmental psychologists pretty much agree that ages 0-6 are the most developmentally for children. Keeping that in mind, may times we underestimate our young children and with some guidance, enthusiasm explanation and perhaps most importantly, some stories and narrative, these kids are capable of gaining surprising depth in their understanding of faith. Reading these religious texts with our kids, whether it is the actual texts or more kid-friendly versions, adds another level to the bonding and development that already occurs when we read other stories with our children. 

4. What about our kids who are older than six? Even if those early years are the building of children’s developmental foundations, the doctors have found in their research that there is “explosive building” on that foundation in the ensuing years, even into early adulthood. This is the time that children will start to ask questions and our dialogue with them becomes rich and interactive. We also need to remember that our traditions and ways of going about things like reading sacred text in the home with our children will change and evolve as our children grow. We may continue to do it through the years, but exactly how it is done will look different year to year. 

5. Based on their own experience as well as their research, they have found that these studies work best when there is an open dialogue between children and their parents. Both parents and youth enjoyed conversations about religious things more when they were initiated by the youth, when parents found ways to relate the conversation to the youth rather than abstract theology, when the parents kept their parts brief and more. They give us plenty of great ideas for this type of reading with our older kids!

6. Reading religious texts is something that can benefit from taking the time to personally prepare for those times we do it as a family, but, recognizing that the phase of actively raising children is a time- and energy-consuming one, do not discount the study and preparation you have done in this area leading up to this time of your life.

7. Families with interfaith relationships may need to go about things differently, but to successfully include religious texts in your family’s habits, the different members must learn to respect the views and beliefs that each other hold. This also is a huge part of what goes into adult children’s decisions to stay with their family’s faith or not- the relationships and respect of the family they grew up in.

Drs. Dollahite and Marks left us with a couple of great ideas of how to get started on putting their insights into practice this week with sacred text in the home. Dr. Dollahite invited us to prayerfully consider the way that we are engaging in sacred texts personally and in our marriage and parenting, and ask if what they are doing is enough and be open to the possibility that perhaps there might be an adjustment might be worth trying. Dr. Marks invited us to be gracious and patient with ourselves and our efforts in this area and to remember that even when we fail, which will be more often than we want, the successes will be worth it.

In this episode we mention:

We are so grateful to Dr. Dollahite and Dr. Marks for taking the time to talk with us! More information about them and the American Families of Faith Project can be found in the following places:


American Families of Faith Project

BYU School of Family Life


Religion and Families: An Introduction by Loren D Marks and David C Dollahite

The Quran (Pictured here is a book of selections)

The Torah

The Talmud

The Holy Bible

The Book of Mormon

Additional Articles and Research:

Strengths in Diverse Families of Faith – Provides an overview of many topics discussed in our conversation

How Religion Promotes Positive Parent-Youth Relationships and Youth Spiritual Development:

Dollahite, D. C., & Marks, L. D. (2019). Positive youth religious and spiritual development: What we have learned from religious families. Religions10, 548. doi:10.3390/rel10100548

Dollahite, D. C., Marks, L. D., Babcock, K. P., Barrow, B. H., & Rose, A. H. (2019). Beyond religious rigidities: Religious firmness and religious flexibility as complementary loyalties in faith transmissionReligions, 10, 111; doi:10.3390/rel10020111

Dollahite, D. C., Marks, L. D., Kear, T. M., Lewis, B. M., & Stokes, M. L. (2018). Beyond the bucket list: Identity-centered religious calling, being, and action among parentsPsychology of Religion and Spirituality10, 44-54. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/rel0000130

Dollahite, D. C., & Thatcher, J. Y. (2008). Talking about religion: How religious youth and parents discuss their faithJournal of Adolescent Research23, 611-641. doi:10.1177/0743558408322141

Layton, E., Hardy, S. A., & Dollahite, D. C. (2012). Religious exploration among highly religious American adolescentsIdentity: An International Journal of Theory and Research, 12, 157–184. doi:10.1080/15283488.2012.668728

Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation:

Dollahite, D. C., Marks, L. D., & Barrow, B. H. (2019). Exploring relational reconciliation processes in Christian, Jewish, and Muslim familiesFamily Relations, 68, 517-533. doi:10.111/fare.12371

Lambert N. M., & Dollahite, D. C. (2006). How religiosity helps couples prevent, resolve, and overcome marital conflictFamily Relations, 55, 439-449. doi:10.1111/j.1741-3729.2006.00413.x

Don’t miss our previous episode, Interactive Journaling in the New Year with author Paula Spencer Scott

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.

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!

Bonus Book Character Costume Ideas

Bonus Book Character Costume Ideas

While we talked about several great options for costumes inspired by books in our latest podcast episode, we are full of all sorts of ideas that are just dying to be shared! We also wanted to make sure and throw in some books that might pique the interest of your tweens or teens, so dive on in!

Picture books:

Triangle, Square and Circle by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen. My kids and I were lucky enough to get to hear Mac Barnett chat about several of his books at this summer’s National Book Festival and my then-three-year-old was enthralled by his reading of the book Circle. She has been drawing the three friends, Triangle, Square and Circle, ever since and if we didn’t already have our costumes locked down I would be sorely tempted to dress my three kids up as Barnett and Klassen’s surprisingly emotive shapes!

Stegothesaurus by Bridget Heos. Lots of kids will be dinosaurs for Halloween, but how many of them will be dinosaurs wearing a bow tie?! 

Blue Hat, Green Hat by Sandra Boynton. There are so many clothing combinations to choose from when dressing up as a character from this book that makes me laugh every time I read it. Bonus points if you dress up as the turkey!

Diary of a Worm, Diary of a Spider, Diary of a Fly by Doreen Cronin and Harry Bliss. If you have a bug-obsessed kid on your hands I hope you have already discovered these delightful books, but have you ever thought of then as costume inspiration? Worm with his ball cap, Fly with her bow? Adorable!

Early Chapter books:

Hi, Jack and Jack Blasts Off by Mac Barnett and Greg Pizzoli. These are fairly new books, but they are perfect for my starting-to-read six year old! It helps that he relates to the mischievous Jack and I bet he would love to don a yellow shirt and J-emblazoned hat to be Jack for a book character day!

Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater. Do you happen to have twelve kids that need or want book character costumes? You are in luck, because Mr. Popper just happened to have twelve penguins!

Princess in Black by Shannon Hale. A princess and a superhero?! Done and done! As you read more of these books, you will find all different characters to inspire your costumes: the Goat Avenger! The Princess in Blankets! The only bunnies you will ever be scared of!

Chapter Books:

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. One of my favorite Halloween costumes growing up was a pirate when I was 11 or 12 years old, which is why I think this book is perfect inspiration for the tweens and teens in your life.

Cinder series by Marissa Mayer. This series takes several beloved fairy tales and puts a great spin on them, giving kids a chance to dress up like their favorite fairytale character in a totally new and unique way (two words: cyborg Cinderella)!

Prime Day USA 2019: Books

Prime Day USA 2019: Books

Jill Berret

Amanda’s got the UAE covered today, and now I’m up for the US! Several of the books Amanda covered are also deals in the US, and she also gives great instructions on how to find the book deals, so be sure to check out her post HERE!

You Are (Not) Small boxed set

My mom gave thee books to my son for his birthday last year (she gives all the grandkids books for their birthdays each year and it’s always exciting to wait and find out which awesome one she chooses!), so I will admit that I am extra fond of them because of that. Those warm fuzzy memories aside, however, I do love these books. Two fuzzy friends navigate some of life’s issues that all kids are going to encounter, but are extra adorable about it! Bonus, the text is simple enough for my just-learned-how-to-read six-year-old to read to me!

The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread

This is one of those great books for kids who are ready to read books a step up from pictures books, but still love the illustrations. Any kid who loves adventure will love this tale of a tiny mouse with larger ears and more bravery than any mouse you’ve ever seen. If anyone has read more of Kate DiCamillo’s books, you probably already love them and will be excited to snap this one up on Prime Day! I had the privilege of hearing her speak at the US’s National Book Festival (https://www.loc.gov/events/2019-national-book-festival/about-this-event/) last year and she is just delightful (as are her books)!

Hotel Bruce

This is another gift someone gave my son (this time his preschool teacher) that they knocked out of the park. Bruce the bear, adopted parent of a trio of geese, returns home from vacation (being a good goose parent, he “flew” south for the winter with them), to discover his cozy bear home has been turned into a hotel in their absence! As far as I can tell, the original book about this unusual family, Mother Bruce is not a Prime Deal, but Hotel Bruce is delightful even with never having read the first one!

Highlight’s Write-On Wipe Off Letters

I am not planning on buying much this Prime Day, but I might be reeled in by this one. Reading and writing go hand-in-hand and I have a gaggle of kiddos who are just about at that learning to read and write stage (as well as a gaggle of road trips coming up that they need entertainment for)! If you, too, have a kiddo who needs some non-screen-time entertainment in these last weeks of summer (here in the northern hemisphere, anyway), join me in trying this one out! 

As Amanda said, Prime Day Deals start all throughout the day, so be sure and take note of when your deals are on. Happy book shopping, everyone!

Prime Day UAE 2019: Books

Prime Day UAE 2019: Books

Amanda Fristrom

Did you know there’s a Prime Day in the UAE as well as the US? Prime Day is a blitz of sales across Amazon, most of which are restricted to those who have a Prime subscription, but there are some deals open to all.

I got to wondering if Prime Day was going to be happening on the new Amazon.ae site – and yes, folks! Not only will it be there, but it is going to cover 2 days! Hooray!

So, without further ado, since the deals are already going, I’m going to send you to the Book section for the deals – watch for when they will begin (they are released throughout the day). Books are rather hard to find; you need to go to the Explore Prime Deals bar, click on the “All Deals” icon with the rainbow, and then on the left sidebar is a filter for “Books.”

Because we don’t have an active affiliate account with Amazon.ae (yet), clicking on the pictures below will take you to the US site.


First up: Picture Books

Windows –

Walking his dog at dusk, one boy catches glimpses of the lives around him in this lovely ode to autumn evenings, exploring your neighborhood, and coming home.

Before your city goes to sleep, you might head out for a walk, your dog at your side as you go out the door and into the almost-night. Anything can happen on such a walk: you might pass a cat, or a friend, or even an early raccoon. And as you go down your street and around the corner, the windows around you light up one by one until you are walking through a maze of paper lanterns, each one granting you a brief, glowing snapshot of your neighbors as families come together and folks settle in for the night. With a setting that feels both specific and universal and a story full of homages to The Snowy Day, Julia Denos and E. B. Goodale have created a singular book — at once about the idea of home and the magic of curiosity, but also about how a sense of safety and belonging is something to which every child is entitled.


A creative spirit learns that thinking “ish-ly” is far more wonderful than “getting it right” in this gentle new fable from the creator of the award-winning picture book The Dot.

Ramon loved to draw. Anytime. Anything. Anywhere.

Drawing is what Ramon does. It¹s what makes him happy. But in one split second, all that changes. A single reckless remark by Ramon’s older brother, Leon, turns Ramon’s carefree sketches into joyless struggles. Luckily for Ramon, though, his little sister, Marisol, sees the world differently. She opens his eyes to something a lot more valuable than getting things just “right.” Combining the spareness of fable with the potency of parable, Peter Reynolds shines a bright beam of light on the need to kindle and tend our creative flames with care.

I got the rhythm

On a simple trip to the park, the joy of music overtakes a mother and daughter. The little girl hears a rhythm coming from the world around her- from butterflies, to street performers, to ice cream sellers everything is musical! She sniffs, snaps, and shakes her way into the heart of the beat, finally busting out in an impromptu dance, which all the kids join in on! Award-winning illustrator Frank Morrison and Connie Schofield-Morrison, capture the beat of the street, to create a rollicking read that will get any kid in the mood to boogie.

This is Not My Hat

A sneaky fish learns a lesson in crime and punishment in the bestselling, multiple award-winning sequel to I Want My Hat Back. Winner of the Caldecott Medal and Kate Greenaway Medal 2014 From the creator of the bestselling I Want My Hat Back and Sam and Dave Dig a Hole comes the story of a tiny fish who proudly wears a blue hat. It fits him perfectly. Problem is, trouble could be following close behind… So it’s a good thing that the enormous fish he took it from won’t wake up. And even if he does, it’s not as though he’ll ever know what happened, right? With so many emotions conveyed in just the glint of an eye, visual humour swims to the fore in this thrillingly original, perfectly-paced cautionary tale.

Jambari Jumps

Jabari is definitely ready to jump off the diving board. He’s finished his swimming lessons and passed his swim test, and he’s a great jumper, so he’s not scared at all. “Looks easy,” says Jabari, watching the other kids take their turns. But when his dad squeezes his hand, Jabari squeezes back. He needs to figure out what kind of special jump to do anyway, and he should probably do some stretches before climbing up onto the diving board. In a sweetly appealing tale of overcoming your fears, newcomer Gaia Cornwall captures a moment between a patient and encouraging father and a determined little boy you can’t help but root for.

Waiting is Not Easy

Gerald is careful. Piggie is not.
Piggie cannot help smiling. Gerald can.
Gerald worries so that Piggie does not have to.

Gerald and Piggie are best friends.

In Waiting Is Not Easy!, Piggie has a surprise for Gerald, but he is going to have to wait for it. And Wait. And wait some more…

Alma and How She Got Her Name

What’s in a name? For one little girl, her very long name tells the vibrant story of where she came from — and who she may one day be.

If you ask her, Alma Sofia Esperanza José Pura Candela has way too many names: six! How did such a small person wind up with such a large name? Alma turns to Daddy for an answer and learns of Sofia, the grandmother who loved books and flowers; Esperanza, the great-grandmother who longed to travel; José, the grandfather who was an artist; and other namesakes, too. As she hears the story of her name, Alma starts to think it might be a perfect fit after all — and realizes that she will one day have her own story to tell. In her author-illustrator debut, Juana Martinez-Neal opens a treasure box of discovery for children who may be curious about their own origin stories or names.

Next up is the section for books for adults.

Who Knew? 10,001 Household Solutions: Money-Saving Tips, DIY Cleaners, Kitchen Secrets, and Other Easy Answers to Everyday ProblemsWho Knew?

A fresh take on the bestselling Who Knew? series (which has sold more than 5 million copies), 10,001 Household Solutions makes household tips more accessible and easier to use than ever. Each tip – such as Magic Bug Spray, Orange Peel All-Purpose Cleaner, and How to Make Lemons Last Forever – is listed briefly with easy-to-follow instructions in the trademark chatty Who Knew? style. Tips are organised into chapters by subject (Cleaners, Pets, Bugs and Other Pests, Kitchen, Holidays, Health and Beauty, etc.) and the book includes a full index.

Six Seasons

Six seasons – each with its own character… In each of the six seasons, McFadden celebrates vegetables as only a chef with the soul and experience of a farmer can. Vegetables appear not only in their prime seasons but also in multiple seasons, because how you handle, say, a young spring carrot bears no relationship to what you do to storage carrots in winter.McFadden’s intuitive feel for the way seasons affect flavour translates into recipes that coax out the best of each ingredient. The 225 fresh, modern, and entirely approachable recipes range from the raw to the cooked to the preserved. While 75 percent of the recipes are vegetarian, there are plenty in which meat, seafood, and poultry play a supporting role. All have that great vibrancy made possible by McFadden’s keen sense with seasoning, and his ability to get to deep and rich without the use of unnecessary fats. These are but a few of the many lessons taught in this beautifully photographed book.

Out of the Maze

Wall Street Journal Bestseller

The long-awaited sequel to Who Moved My Cheese?, the beloved 28-million-copy bestseller that became a worldwide sensation.

In his trademark style that has won tens of millions of fans, Dr. Spencer Johnson once again shares a simple story that offers profound truths about how to transform your life.

When we first met them in Who Moved My Cheese?, two mouse-sized characters named Hem and Haw were faced with unexpected change, when the Cheese they loved suddenly disappeared. Haw learned how to deal with that change successfully by setting off in search of New Cheese. But Hem remained stuck where he was.

Now Out of the Maze reveals what Hem did next–and how his discoveries can help you unlock the riddle of whatever mazes you may face yourself.

When you follow Hem and his new friend, Hope, on their new journey, you’ll discover how to get more out of life by thinking outside the box. Or, in this case, outside the Maze.

Written for all ages and backgrounds, this story takes less than an hour to read, yet its insights can last for a lifetime.

The 5am Club

Legendary leadership and elite performance expert Robin Sharma introduced The 5am Club concept over twenty years ago, based on a revolutionary morning routine that has helped his clients maximize their productivity, activate their best health and bulletproof their serenity in this age of overwhelming complexity.

Now, in this life-changing book, handcrafted by the author over a rigorous four-year period, you will discover the early-rising habit that has helped so many accomplish epic results while upgrading their happiness, helpfulness and feelings of aliveness.

Through an enchanting–and often amusing–story about two struggling strangers who meet an eccentric tycoon who becomes their secret mentor, The 5am Club will walk you through:

  • How great geniuses, business titans and the world’s wisest people start their mornings to produce astonishing achievements
  • A little-known formula you can use instantly to wake up early feeling inspired, focused and flooded with a fiery drive to get the most out of each day
  • A step-by-step method to protect the quietest hours of daybreak so you have time for exercise, self-renewal and personal growth
  • A neuroscience-based practice proven to help make it easy to rise while most people are sleeping, giving you precious time for yourself to think, express your creativity and begin the day peacefully instead of being rushed
  • “Insider-only” tactics to defend your gifts, talents and dreams against digital distraction and trivial diversions so you enjoy fortune, influence and a magnificent impact on the world

Part manifesto for mastery, part playbook for genius-grade productivity and part companion for a life lived beautifully, The 5am Club is a work that will transform your life. Forever.

These aren’t the only books available for the Prime Day deals, so head over there and check them out!

Journals: Motherhood’s Memory Weapon

Journals: Motherhood’s Memory Weapon

Amanda Fristrom

Sleep is a big thing at our household. Or maybe I should say it’s a little thing since we get very little of it. I was just watching a TED talk on sleep, and the speaker, Matt Walker, mentions that if you don’t get enough sleep (hello, mothers out there), your brain becomes waterlogged and has serious issues forming memories.

Yikes. This brings a whole new meaning to all those things “they” say phrases, like, “Cherish this time while they are young – you’ll miss it.” Or even more directly, “Remember them like this – they are only young once.” This is a huge problem since I don’t know the last time I have gotten a decent amount of sleep in even one night, let alone several together.

On the one hand, this can mean the blur of motherhood while kids are young can bring out the nostalgia and help you focus on the good while you’re a grandmother? And make you forget all the bad things, like the pains of childbirth and the emotional scarring from losing it when your toddler takes 3 years to get out of his car seat? Or…. I’m actually having a difficult time coming up with silver linings to motherhood memory loss, or more accurately, motherhood dysfunctional memory-building.

So if you’re like me and can’t seem to get enough sleep, try as hard as you surely are, there’s a backup solution to the memory problem: journals. You can actually create a physical backup of your brain (or if you want, do it in the cloud). I’ve been using a 5-year journal, writing in a journal on my computer, and posting once daily to Instagram and using Chatbooks to print out a physical copy. For this post, I’ll focus on some of the top-rated motherhood journals on Amazon. These are mother-child journals, multi-year journals, and baby book/journals.

Just Between Us is an example of a mother-child journal. Some of these have prompts that start a conversation between you and your kid, and others are blank that you do the talking yourself. The idea is that you write in it, leave it for your child to read and respond, and they return it to you. My children are a bit too young – your child needs to be able to read and write – but I have high hopes for these in my future!

This is a fun spin-off – an art journal!

I’m currently using a journal that has a little space for a couple sentences each day and lasts for 5 years. I like that this leaves me feeling a little less pressure than pulling out a big journal or sitting down with my computer to write about the day. It’s perfect to write something funny my daughter said, or a cute thing my husband did that day. It’s still really hard for me to find the time to write every day, but I’m more likely to write a sentence or two most days than to write a lot once a week…

These have questions as prompts. I’d be interested in trying them, too!

This one combines the idea of a daily motherhood journal with another popular journal type: the gratitude journal.

Now we get to the hardest category for me. I really want to have baby books for all my kids. I love the idea of writing down milestones in pregnancy and early childhood. I mean, I can’t even remember instructions from their doctor appointment yesterday, much less when they started army crawling or got their first tooth. I want to, though. However, I have not been able to find a baby book I absolutely love. Maybe I’m just too picky? Here’s the link to my favorite of the 3 we have, and then some highly-rated on Amazon, including a non-traditional one that makes me think of my brother and his wife.

Hopefully this gets you inspired to write down your memories as you go, instead of hoping to remember them later! What are your favorite journals for motherhood?