Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Boys' Book Bloggers

Today I'm listing websites that promote books for boys. Most are blog sites. One is a "hotlist" of links to sites related to literature appealing to boys. As usual, I welcome all comments, additions and updates to this list, which will, eventually, have its own page on this blog site.

Boys Read
This site is owned by John Martin of Authors may submit for review books traditionally or independently published. Along with book reviews, this site publishes articles on a variety of topics concerning children’s literature and education with a focus on boys.
Librarians' blog site suggesting books for teenaged boys, along with articles and interviews.

Boys Rock, Boys Read!!!
Ninja Librarian Bill and Iron Guy Carl’s blog site featuring in-depth book reviews. A search window helps readers to quickly find specific book reviews.

Boys Rule Boys Read!
“A place for boys to find terrific books and tell other boys about great reading.” This site is a service of Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, Charlotte, NC, and managed by Iron Guy Carl of Boys Rock, Boys Read!!!
Getting Boys to Read
“Community-based blog for parents, librarians, and teachers.” Mike McQueen’s site is about encouraging boys to read and features articles, videos, interviews, and a forum. It’s not clear if authors can submit their own books for review. The site has an online contact form.

Guys Lit Wire
This site "exists solely to bring literary news and reviews to the attention of teenage boys and the people who care about them.” 
Authors’ suggestions for book reviews are accepted via an online form.

Guys Read
This is Jon Scieszka’s blog site featuring books recommended for boys, helpfully listed under categories with brief information about each book. Also featured are reading lists recommended by reviewers who include famous authors. There is an alphabetical list of authors, a page listing top-20 recommended books, and an online form for suggesting a
book suitable for boys. Authors should note that the site doesn’t offer to review a book submitted by an individual author.

Literature for Lads
Blog site of Duncan James Wright (in Edinburgh, Scotland), who reviews books that are not self-published. He also interviews authors. Reviewed books are alphabetically listed by book title.

Mr Ripleys Enchanted Books
Vincent Ripley is a contributor to this blog site, which reviews many books that would appeal to boys.

Ms. Yingling Reads
“Books for middle-school students, especially boys.”
On her blog site, Karen Yingling (a Cybils award judge) reviews books categorized by various genres. Because her blog is “aimed at librarians and patrons of school libraries” she does not review books published solely in e-book formats or self-published books.

Scary, Gross and Enlightening: Books for Boys
“An Internet hotlist for boys and books.”
This site features a range of resources for those seeking boys’ literature suggestions, including a list of authors’ websites, links to lists of fiction, nonfiction, comics, graphic novels, etc., links to teachers' resources, and more..

SMS Guys Read
This blog site is owned by a teacher and middle-school students. Books they are reading or plan to read are mentioned; book reviews are brief.

The Book Zone (for Boys)
Darren Hartwell’s UK blog site features author interviews and accepts books for review from authors published by major publishers only.

This site, owned by a Cybils book-award judge, features in-depth book reviews. It is not clear if he accepts books submitted by authors, but the site provides his contact information.

TMC Guys Read
This blog site lists reviewed books, accepts guest book reviews and suggestions for book reviews, lists reviewed authors, and features book-related news.

 Happy hunting and happy reading, guys! 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Useful Websites for Writers

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned the Fleisch-Kincaid tool for assessing the reading level and readability of a book/article. I've discovered another wonderful tool for doing that and much more: Renaissance Learning ( Accelerated Reader BookFinder at This tool helps you find the word count, page count, ISBN number, publisher, publication year, reading grade level, themes in the book, and more. Go to Renaissance Leaning's  Products page, click on AR BookFinder, and check the appropriate box (parent, teacher, etc.), which will take you to a page where you can type in the book's title, or name of the author, or book's theme. Clicking on the question marks brings up explanations of the assessment levels. Clicking on the image brings up the full details about the book. 

Below, I list a few useful websites for writers, some specifically for children's writers. To say that online resources for writers are vast is an understatement. My starter list doesn't even cover the tip of the tiny lump of ice on the top of the iceberg. I'll add to this list over the coming weeks and give it its own page on this blog site. I welcome your additions. Future blogs will describe resources for specific topics and problems of interest to children's writers and buyers of children's books..

Rachelle Burk offers an astonishingly huge listing of resources on everything you ever wanted to know.
The Institute of Chidlren’s Literature offers writing courses, online writers forum, articles
on various topics, and a newsletter with writing advice and publishing news.
Kathy Temean’s Writing and Illustrating blog (“Sharing Information About Writing and Illustrating for Children”) lists helpful sites, a blogroll, and author sites.
Mary Andrews’s website lists a plethora of resources for writers.
Martina Boone, Lisa Gail Green, and Jan Lewis offer helpful articles on various topics.
Verla Kay’s site offers the marvelous Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Chat Board.
Robert Kent’s website is a treasure trove of interviews with literary agents.
Literary agent Maria Lamba offers practical advice for writers.
Casey McCormick’s Literary Rambles blog spot offers a treasure trove of interviews with literary agents.

Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi’s website, “dedicated to helping writers via descriptive tools, knowledge sharing, and support,” has an interesting niche: thesauruses of character traits, physical attributes, emotions. Ackerman and Puglisi authored The Emotion Thesaurus. 
Literary agent Janet Reid critiques query letters - a golden opportunity for writers.
Literary agent Nathan Bransford writes a series of articles on practical topics and lists resources.
Literary agent Mary Kole offers a treasure trove of useful websites for writers. She is the author of Writing Irresistible Kidlit (“The Ultimate Guide to Crafting Fiction”).
Elizabeth Kennedy's pages on offer a wealth of information and you can sign up for her newsletter.
This literary agency’s website offers a Writer’s Toolbox that lists a handful of articles on writing and a short list of websites helpful to writers.
The Scriptorium Webzine offers an interesting list of books on various aspects of writing and a few articles on writing.
Absolute Write has a useful list of writers' resources including literary agents who blog.
Writer Beware – essential information on literary scams, including publishers and contests
You can subscribe to receive blog updates via e-mail.

Predators and Editors offers essential information on literary scams.

Karen Cioffi offers SEO and other technology tips.

Jacketflap offers a huge list of publishers and a database of authors and other people in the book publishing industry, also an opportunity to showcase your work as an author..
Media Bistro offers reviews, writer resources, publishing industry news.
Good Reads is worthwhile joining. For MG writers: Great Middle Grade Reads. (Go to the Groups page and type in the name of the group.)
Publishers Weekly provides children’s book industry news.
This is Lee Wind’s official blog of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.
Kim Norman’s School Visit & Author Blog offers great advice for authors visiting schools.
Nate Hoffelder's great blog site is about the e-book industry with tips, gadget reviews, and other resources.

Children's Writers’ Social Media Groups
Children & Youth  Writers_and Authors
Children’s Writers and Illustrators

Children’s Books
Children’s Media
Children’s Publishing
Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI)

Children’s Authors and Illustrators

Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI)
Lots of help for children’s writers who become members of this worldwide organization

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Book Awards & Book Blogger Awards

Awards are of interest to both children’s writers and book buyers. A book that has won an award can increase its appeal to book buyers. A book blog site’s credibility can be strengthened by an award.
The rules of organizations offering book awards vary considerably: Writers need to note that some contests do not accept submissions from authors, some don’t accept self-published submissions, some only accept unpublished manuscripts, some charge an entry fee (which can sometimes be very high), some charge no fee, some require many copies of the book, some don't accept e-books, and so on. 

Writers also should beware of award scams and worthless awards. Many contests are run by “award mills” that benefit the mill owners rather than the winners. Some contests include injurious publishing contracts. Writers should take the time to read about scams and worthless awards at Writer Beware and review the list of complaints about contest scams at Preditors and Editors (see websites listed below). Children’s book buyers should be aware that an award may not necessarily mean the book has significant literary value.

A Few Children’s Book Awards and Resources Listing Awards
Key: Authors = authors can submit their own books for consideration.
        No SP = no self-published entries  

American Library Association
Caldecott Medal, Newbery Medal, The Coretta Scott King Book Awards, and other awards

Children’s Literature Web Guide—Children’s Book Awards
The most comprehensive guide to English-language children’s book awards on the Internet

Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market (reference book)
Edited by Alice Pope and published by Writer’s Digest Books; includes a list of children’s book contests and awards

The Cybils (Authors)
Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers’ Literary Awards

International Reading Association (Authors)
IRA Chidlren’s and Young Adults Book Awards

Moonbeam Awards (Author)
Organized by the Jenkins Group; forty-one categories of award

National Book Foundation (Authors, No SP)
Young People’s Literature Award

Pacific Northwest Library Association—Young Readers’ Choice Award

Reading Rockets
"teaching kids to read and helping those who struggle"
National multimedia project sponsored by WETA TV; lists award-winning books 

Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators
Golden Kite Award, Sid Fleischman Award, Sue Alexander Award (Authors may submit their own books but must be SCBWI members)

Information about Award Scams
Writer Beware

Preditors and Editors

Book Blogger Awards
Awards can strengthen the credibility of a book blogger’s site, which should be of interest to those who buy books as well as writers wantingto increase their understanding of children’s literature.

Goodreads/Association of Book Publishers—Independent Book Bloggers Awards (IBBA) 
"designed to showcase the incredible talent in the book blogging community today"
Categories include Young Adults & Children's 

Writer's Digest 101 Best Websites for Writers Award

Sunshine Award
Awarded by independent bloggers to "bloggers who positively and creatively inspire others in the blogosphere." 
This blog site was recently honored with a Sunshine Blogger Award by fellow blogger and writer Barbara Bockman ( The award comes with my answers to a few questions:   
Favorite color: terra cotta, or is it deep rust (especially as I enter my dotage)?
Favorite animal: otter, or maybe dragonfly? They both seem to have a lot of fun. On the other hand, I do so sympathize with the sloth . . .
Favorite number: Any number that wins the lottery.
Favorite drink: Ginger tea. Too boring? Well, how about a margarita?
Passions: Laughter, music, friends, organic food, natural health.
Favorite day: Any day I can be with family and friends.
Favorite flowers: water lilies in the sunlight, gardenias on a summer's night, winter jasmine on a cold day.

I have passed along a Sunshine Blogger Award to fellow writer and blogger Beverly Stowe McClure, whose blog site for children's and teens’ books is at

I welcome your comments, updates, and additions to this list of resources for finding book award contests, books that have won awards, and book blogs that have won awards.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Guide Your Child’s Reading and Make It Fun

I continue to expand the list of bloggers who promote middle-grade (and other) children's books and their authors (MG Book Bloggers List). These are bloggers who invite authors to send their work for review, who interview authors, offer book giveaways, and other author-friendly services. I am also expanding the list of websites that, while not as directly responsive to authors as bloggers, are helpful to those who purchase children's books and to writers who wish to increase their knowledge of children's literature and all things pertaining to children's publishing and literacy (Sites That Promote Children's Books). I welcome your suggestions for additions, corrections, updates, etc..

Today, as a change from lists, my blog covers some of ways children benefit when adults guide their reading and read aloud to them, or they themselves read aloud.

The results of several studies suggest that children’s reading fluency and comprehension improve when adults read stories aloud to them. Even when studies fail to show a direct link between the two, the evidence strongly suggests that reading aloud, when combined with the child’s reading lessons at school, can make a contribution to that child’s reading proficiency. Studies have shown an even stronger result when parents and teachers encourage children to read a story aloud and provide guidance.

Here are some suggestions I've gathered from around the Internet that you can use to guide your child’s reading:
  • Ask your child to guess what a new book is about from looking at its cover and title.
  • Explain some of the bigger words in the story.
  • Talk about words that have multiple meanings.
  • Ask your child to point to the words while reading.
  • Encourage your child to spell out words and combine sounds.
  • Allow your child time to read difficult words.
  • Don’t interrupt as the child reads.
  • Offer clues and encouragement when the child falters.
  • Encourage your child to repeat difficult words and sentences.
  • Ask your child to tell you in his/her own words what a difficult sentence or phrase means.
  • Discuss the story while reading and afterward.
  • Encourage your child to ask questions about the book while reading and afterward.
  • Ask your child to summarize the story in his/her own words.
  • Praise the child’s efforts.
  • Be patient.
  • A few days after your child reads a new book, ask him or her to “remind” you of what the story was about.
If your child is to become an enthusiastic, and therefore proficient, reader, reading must be fun. Here are a few suggestions for making it fun:

  • Ask your child to suggest a book, but be sure it’s not too difficult. It’s better to choose an easy book than one that will risk turning the reading session into a chore. The key here is that the reading material must be something your child wants to read, not what you think your child should read.
  • If your child suggests a comic book, welcome the choice. The highly visual medium of the comic book can lure children into reading, especially boys, who are traditionally more reluctant than girls to pick up a book.
  • If your child can’t think of a book, start with books that relate to your child’s hobbies and interests but of course make sure they’re not too difficult.
  • Be sure to convey your own enthusiasm for reading the book.
  • Don’t set unrealistic goals.
  • Be sure your child has a quiet spot where you both can read together undisturbed. Your child’s room at bedtime is often the best choice.
  • Keep the reading time fairly short, maybe only ten minutes for a very young child.
  • Try substituting your child’s name for a character in the story.
  • If your child has a favorite book, let him or her read it to you as often as he or she wants, even if you don’t want to hear it again.
  • Read passages of the story yourself, so your child doesn’t get tired and
  • Read slowly so your child has time to absorb the meaning.
  • Read using different voices for various characters; have fun with sound effects.
  • Encourage your child to use different voices too.
  • Act out some parts of the story with the child.
  • When traveling, have fun reading road signs and signs on storefronts.
  • Visit bookstores.
  • Try to find activities that connect with books your child has read. For example, visits to a natural history museum and zoo would tie in with books on animals.
  • Talk about books you enjoyed as a child and read them aloud if your child wants to you to.
  • Play word games with your child, including rhyming and syllable games.
  • Play board games that involve reading.
Other things you can do to motivate your child to read: 

  • Try to set aside a specific time every day for reading.
  • Don’t make the schedule feel burdensome.
  • Take your child to the library regularly. Encourage book borrowing and attending story time at the children’s library.
  • Ask friends and relatives to give your child books rather than toys.
  • Keep a variety of reading materials around your house from books and to brochures.
  • Make sure your child sees you reading for pleasure.
  • Encourage older children to read to younger ones. The older ones may enjoy showing off their skills.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Who Needs Books?

My recent blogs focused on resources for finding bloggers who review and promote books for middle-grade  readers and on websites promoting children's books, which buyers of children's books may find useful. But all those books require reading skills. Why do we want our children to be proficient readers? 

To quote the Executive Summary of the 2007 National Endowment for the Arts study, "To Read or Not to Read": "Americans are spending less time reading. Reading comprehension skills are eroding. These declines have serious civic, social, cultural, and economic implications."

The fact is that proficient readers usually obtain better-paid jobs, while less proficient readers have limited career opportunities. Those who have very poor reading skills or are illiterate experience a much poorer quality of life. Some states base their budgets for additional prison beds on fourth-grade literacy scores. 

Here are a few more US statistics, taken from www.begintoread.comOne child in four grows up not knowing how to read. Three out of four food stamp recipients perform in the lowest two literacy levels. Low literacy costs $73 million per year in terms of direct health-care costs. A Pfizer study put this figure much higher. 

The 2003 National Adult Literacy Survey reports the average adult American reads at a ninth-grade level. Popular novels are written at a seventh-grade level and the average newspaper is written at eleventh-grade level.

Some interesting statistics can be found at the following websites:

This website offers help in teaching children to read fluently: Intervention Central also offers a tool for testing the reading level of a book or article at the boxes with the title, author, and at least seventy-five words of text from your selected book/article. Click on Compute or download a pdf report.
Microsoft Word also has a Flesch-Kincaid reading level assessment tool (the most popular tool in the USA for assessing a text's readability/reading level. Click on the Microsoft Office Button; go to Word Options; click Proofing; under  the subhead When Correcting Grammar in Word, check the Check Grammar with Spelling and Show Readability Statistics boxes. Run the Word spell check on the text you want to test. The results of the Flesch-Kincaid test should pop up after the spell check is completed. The Flesch-Kincaid test reports the grade level of the test content and its reading ease. 

For an explanation of the Fleisch reading ease formula, see

90.0 - 100.0    Easily understood by an average 11-year-old
60.0 - 70.0      Easily understood by average 13- to 15-year-olds
0.0 - 30.0        Best understood by university graduates
For example, the excerpt from my book Dewi and the Seeds of Doom on the book's website has a reading ease of 85.2 and a grade level of 3.9. I guess some young readers will have to look up a word or two in the dictionary, which I don't consider a bad thing.

I'll transfer the resource URLs in this article to a page of their own on this site.

Happy reading!