Unleashing Joyful Imagination: Must-Read Children's Books for Endless – Cardinal Rule Press
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Unleashing Joyful Imagination: Must-Read Children's Books for Endless Delight

It’s the new year and time to bask in the positivity that is circling around so many people in January. Reading looks quite different in our home these days. Gone are the days of reading picture book after picture book with three little ones. Oh, who am I kidding? I still read picture books to my niece, who is with me for a few hours after I pick her up from preschool on Wednesdays!

With one child in highschool, another in middle school and our youngest in elementary school, our bedtime routines have shifted. However, reading remains a hobby and priority in our home. On school days, our ten year old and I will read for 20-30 minutes on the couch together. This is either after school or after dinnertime. He reads his book (and likes to tell me what is happening) and I read mine. It’s the coziest time of day for me and I love it!

Our girls read with their kindles in bed. Oftentimes we will find our high schooler asleep with her kindle in her hand. Our oldest also loves audio books like I do. She listens to them while putting away her laundry and doing her chores. 

Our middle daughter has been borrowing books from the nonprofit I am building. She was super bummed the other day because she left the book she was reading in her Uncle’s car. 

Reading, for us, is about relaxing and unwinding. It’s about endless delights found within the pages of a book that we can borrow from our local library (knowing that not everyone has access to books, we cherish this privilege.) For my husband Dave, it’s about knowledge and being informed. I am such a nerd around reading that I join a challenge every year on Goodreads. There have been years I haven’t met the challenge, but in 2023 I did it!

Here are a few books we’ve read recently, that I recommend to empower your child. I’ve included a journal that my teen and tween write in. It’s been beautiful for our relationship that is changing as they grow.

Here at Cardinal Rule Press, we are happy to help you with resources for your bookstore or library. Click HERE for your freebie!

#1 Big by Vashti Harrison

Maria’s Two Cents: It’s important for my children to love who they are. As an adult, I still have times when I struggle to accept my body. When the voice in my head overpowers the reasonable one and tells me that I am not enough. Reading books like this one put those positive words and sensible statements into our children’s vocabulary. 

This deeply moving story shares valuable lessons about fitting in, standing out, and the beauty of joyful acceptance, from a New York Times bestselling and award-winning creator.The first picture book written and illustrated by award-winning creator Vashti Harrison traces a child's journey to self-love and shows the power of words to both hurt and heal. With spare text and exquisite illustrations, this emotional exploration of being big in a world that prizes small is a tender portrayal of how you can stand out and feel invisible at the same time.

#2 Words Between Us by Angela Pham Krans

Maria’s Two Cents: We live in a diverse community. I am always reminded our Dismondy crew that actions speak louder than words. This book illustrates this point beautifully! 

Felix and Grandma have always lived oceans apart--until the day Grandma arrives. Felix is so excited to meet Grandma and spend time with her.

Except she doesn't know English!

And he doesn't know much Vietnamese!

But maybe they can connect in other ways--like over their shared love of pizza.

One day, when Grandma gets lost and doesn't know how to ask for help, Felix decides to teach her English. And by working together and teaching each other, they just might learn to share words as well.

This tender and heartwarming story from Angela Pham Krans and Dung Ho shows how love transcends language and how food and flashcards can bring family together

#3 This Book is Banned! By Raj Haldar

Maria’s Two Cents: How in the world do you teach a child to understand why people are banning books? Read them this book!

This is a book about dinosaurs. No it's not. Dinosaurs are not allowed.

Oh. This is now a book about avocados! Sorry. We deleted those too.

FINE. This book is about--nope! Forbidden!

Maybe you shouldn't even try reading this book...But what could possibly be inside?

Discover just what can happen when ideas are erased instead of expressed with this hilarious picture book romp that kids (and grown-ups) will want to read over and over again.

This Book Is Banned is a funny, engaging book perfect for

  • Families to read aloud with kids of all ages
  • Parents eager to share a laugh while addressing meaningful themes
  • Educators looking for an entertaining resource to discuss important issues
  • Readers with a penchant for humor, vibrant illustrations, and thoughtful content

#4 This is A Story by John Schu

Maria’s Two Cents: Read this book to the reluctant reader. There is something for everyone in a book. They just have to find the right kind! 

Children's literacy advocate John Schu and Caldecott Honor recipient Lauren Castillo celebrate the power of finding the perfect book--in a story that's more relevant than ever.

This is a word on a page.

This is a page in a book.

This is a book on a shelf . . . waiting.

With a sea-horse kite in hand, a child heads out with Dad to the library. On the way they stop at a park, joining lots of people, some of whom are flying kites, too. At the library, a person toting a big pile of books hands over a story on a favorite subject: the sea horse. All around, there are readers poring over books, each with their own questions, ideas to explore, hopes for the future, and imaginations ready to spark. With a warm, lyrical text and tenderly expressive illustrations, John Schu and Lauren Castillo invite us to imagine the myriad ways that books can foster connection and understanding--and how they can empower children, through their own passions, to transform the world.

#5 Just Between Us… by Sophie Jacobs

Maria’s Two Cents: Communications comes in many different forms. Sometimes it is easier to say something in writing. Having a shared journal with your child allows you to provide a space for communication between the two of you.

Just Between Us: Mother & Daughter is the original bestselling mother-daughter journal. Now available with two fantastic cover designs to choose from!

A bestselling gift book that has touched the lives of thousands of women and girls, Just Between Us: Mother & Daughter features advice and perspectives from both generations, two lovely ribbon bookmarks (one each for mother and daughter), and appealing illustrations in a deluxe hardcover journal that is a treasure to give or receive.

Whether you have a great or "could be better" relationship with your mother or daughter, communication and bonding can be hard. This journal can change that.

Have you ever wondered . . .

  • What your mom thought the moment you were born?
  • Where your daughter would go if she could go anywhere in the universe?

Thoughtful writing prompts like these and entertaining mini quizzes pave the way to discussing everything from friends and school to crushes and growing up. Just Between Us provides plenty of free space for writing about whatever comes to mind, plus pages for drawing and making lists, ensuring this mom and me journal stays refreshingly open-ended.

We recommend this shared journal for daughters aged ten years old and up. Some reviewers say they love using it with their adult daughters! It's great for stepmom and daughter as well.

Don't forget your free downloadable HERE!

Author Bio:

Maria uses her experiences as an former educator and author for over a decade to work with writers on getting their messages into the world as the publisher at Cardinal Rule Press. Maria is the founder of Making Spirits Bright, a nonprofit dedicated to providing access to diverse, relevant and age appropriate books for children in Detroit and surrounding areas.

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