Books to help you “Choose Kindness” inspired by the book WONDER, by R. J. PALACIO,

Envision a world where all people are accepted for who they are and not how they look.


April, one of my girlfriends from college whom I have always looked up to as a sweet blessing to our world, is mother to a super hero with Crainiofacial syndrome. Together they are working very hard to raise awareness of Craniofacial Acceptance Month.

Inspired by the book Wonder by R. J. PALACIO, a #1 New York Times Bestseller and listed on the Texas Bluebonnet Award master list, Random House launched an anti-bullying initiative called the Choose Kind Campaign.

In an effort to help children understand the wonder of our differences and importance of choosing kindness over bullying and ugliness, April and her friends have put together a Choose Kind Wish List for their school library. Families are invited to donate any of the books listed to help build the library. Each donated book has a nameplate for dedications and the books are even marked as “Choose Kind” books! This is such a brilliant idea.


Here is a list of children and young adult books that celebrate differences and encourage understanding, compassion, acceptance, empathy and inclusion.

The CHOOSE KIND Library Book List

  1. Monday is One Day Levine, Arthur: (p-k) Working Parents; Family Differences
  2. Mama Zooms Cowen-Fletcher, Jane: (p-1st) Wheelchairs
  3. Moon Rabbit Russell, Natalie: (p-1st) Self-Acceptance; Unlikely Friendship
  4. Just a Little Different Mayer, Mercer: (p-1st) Differences; Interracial Families
  5. What’s Wrong with Timmy? Shriver, Maria: (p-1st) Down Syndrome
  6. Skin Again Bell Books: (p-2nd) Race; Identity
  7. Howie Helps Himself Fassler, Joan: (p-2nd) Cerebral Palsy
  8. Clifford Vista el Hospital Bridwell, Norman: (p-2nd) Hospitalization
  9. The Name Jar Choi, Yangsook: (p-2nd) Cultural Diversity; Self-Acceptance
  10. Night Shift Daddy Spinelli, Eileen: (p-2nd) Socioeconomic Difference
  11. How Kind! Murphy, Mary: (p-2nd) Good Deeds
  12. What Can You Do?: Inspiring Kids to Play Haring, Kevin Arnold: 9p-2nd) Spina Bifida
  13. I Accept You as You Are! Parker, David: (k-2nd) Acceptance of Difference
  14. Dotty the Dalmatian has Epilepsy Peters, Tim and Epilepsy Foundation of America: (k-2nd) Epilepsy
  15. Ordinary Mary’s Extraordinary Deed Pearson, Emily: (p-3rd) Kindness;Social Responsibility
  16. Lost & Found Jeffers, Oliver: (p-3rd) Friendship
  17. Alex & Lulu: Two of a Kind Siminovach,Lorena: (p-3rd) Friendship Despite Difference
  18. Frog & Toad are Friends Label, Arnold: (p-3rd) Unlikely Friendship
  19. How Full is Your Bucket? Rath, Tom: (p-3rd) Behavior, Emotions, Self-Esteem
  20. Will You Fill My Bucket? McCloud, Carol: (p-3rd) Behavior, Emotions, Self-Esteem, Cultural Differences
  21. My Mouth is a Volcano Cook, Julia: (p-3rd)Behavior, Emotions, Self-Esteem, Respecting Others, Manners
  22. Diana Estubo en el Hospital Givaudan, Diana C.: (p-3rd) Hospitalization
  23. Let’s Talk About It: Extraordinary Friends Rogers,Fred: (p-3rd) Disabilities
  24. My Princess Boy Kilodavis, Cheryl: (p-3rd) Unconditional Love; Gender Roles; Acceptance
  25. Zoom! Munsch, Robert: (p-3rd) Wheelchairs
  26. I’m Just Small,That’s All Braithwaite, Karalee: (p-3rd) Dwarfism
  27. Lee, The Rabbit with Epilepsy Moss, Deborah M.: (p-3rd) Epilepsy
  28. No Fair to Tigers Hoffman, Eric: (p-3rd) Courage; Standing up to Injustice
  29. Mixed Blessings Cosman, Marsha: (p-3rd) Interracial Identity; Multicultural Differences
  30. The Lemonade Club Polacco, Patricia: (p-3rd) Cancer; Friendship and Support
  31. My Brother Charlie Robinson, Holly and Ryan Elizabeth Pete: (k-3rd) Siblings of Difference; Autism
  32. Ballerina Dreams Ferrara, Joann: (k-3rd) Overcoming Obstacles; Determination; Hope;Courage
  33. My Brain Won’t Float Away Perez, Annette: (1st-3rd) Hydrocephalus
  34. Stand in My Shoes Sornson Bob: (p-5th) Behavior, Emotions, Self-Esteem
  35. Rosa Giovanni, Nikki: (p-5th) Differences; Race; Civil Rights; Courage
  36. Imagine Me on a Sit-Ski! Moran, George: (1st-4th) Cerebral Palsy
  37. What is Dyslexia? Hultquist, Alan M.: (1st-4th) Dyslexia
  38. Nice Wheels Hooks, Gwendolyn: (1st-4th) Wheelchairs
  39. Make Way for Dymonde Daniel Grimes, Nikki: (1st-4th) Self-Acceptance; Race
  40. Children, Just Like Me Kindersley, Anabel & Barnabas: (k-6th) Cultural Diversity
  41. Stretching Ourselves: Kids with Cerebral Palsy Carter, Alden R.: (k-6th) Cerebral Palsy
  42. Can I Tell You about Dyspraxia? Boon, Maureen: (1st-6th) Dyspraxia
  43. The Goodenoughs Get in Sync Kranowitz, Carol Stock: (1st-8th) Sensory Processing Disorder
  44. The Barn at Gun Lake Tuitel, Johnny and Sharon Lamson: (3rd-6th) Cerebral Palsy
  45. The Great Gilly Hopkins Paterson, Katherine: (3rd-6th) Fostercare
  46. In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson Lord, Bette: (3rd-6th) Race; Immigration; Cultural Diversity
  47. The Lemonade War Davies, Jacqueline: (3rd-7th) Sibling Rivalry; Pride; Values
  48. Hey World, Here I Am Little, Jean: (3rd-7th) Self-Awareness; Emotions
  49. The Thing About Georgie Graff, Lisa: (3rd-7th) Dwarfism; Self-Confidence
  50. Rules Lord, Cynthia: (3rd-7th) Autism; Siblings of Difference
  51. Liesl & Po Oliver, Lauren: (3rd-7th) Depression; Friendship
  52. The Great Unexpected Creech, Sharon: (3rd-7th) Friendship; Forgiveness
  53. Bridge to Terabitha Paterson, Katherine: (3rd-7th) Friendship; Loss
  54. Wringer Spinelli, Jerry: (3rd-7th) Peer Pressure; Character; Gender Roles; Bullying
  55. Jacob Have I Loved Paterson, Katherine: (5th-9th) Self-Knowledge; Sibling Rivalry
  56. Eleanor and Park Rowell, Rainbow: (7th-12th) First Love; Self-Acceptance; Individuality
  57. Stargirl Spinelli, Jerry: (7th-12th) Individuality; Popularity
  58. Maniac Magee Spinelli, Jerry: (7th-12th) Race; Orphan Identity; Defining Family
  59. King and King de Haan, Linda and Stern Nijland: (3rd-5th) Diversity
  60. The Sissy Duckling Fierstein, Harvey: (K-3rd) Diversity

3 cool mom books I’m reading this summer

Here are three books that I’m looking forward to reading this summer: Instant Mom for a good, hearty, pee-in-your-pants kinda laugh about last-minute motherhood, Minimalist Parenting for practical strategies on how to lead a simpler, fuller family life, and The Honest Life for how to live naturally and raise a healthy family.

This summer I want to laugh, focus on and enjoy the important things in life and feel good doing it. And, you?


Instant Mom is a memoir written by Nia Vardalos (My Big Fat Greek Wedding), about her struggle to get pregnant and her ultimate decision to adopt a three year old little girl with only 14 hours notice. Instant Mom reminds us that motherhood, despite how you get there, is hard but worth it. The book appendix offers information on how to adopt all over the world and proceeds from book sales go to charity. Instant success!



Less is more according to Christine Koh of Boston Mamas and Asha Dornfest of Parent Hacks who teamed up to write Minimalist Parenting: Enjoy Modern Family Life More by Doing Less. In a culture where parents are bombarded with more advice, more gear, more worries, more safety concerns, more products, more services, more education and more activities, Minimalis Parenting helps us come up with a plan to lead simpler, fuller lives by offering “practical strategies for managing time, decluttering the home space, simplifying mealtimes, streamlining recreation, and prioritizing self-care.” Yes, please.



Is there ANYTHING this woman can’t do? Jessica Alba, founder of the Honest Company, shares her personal journey of healthy living in her first book The Honest Life. Through a candid look at her daily home life, Jessica shares strategies for maintaining a healthy diet, a daily eco beauty routine, budget friendly eco decor tips, and fun, hands-on activities with kids. Readers will love her down-to-earth, honest approach to a life-changing, natural lifestyle.

What books do you have on your nightstand or in your queue this summer?



New Orleans Children’s Books

One of my favorite hidden treasures of the Jazz Fest is the Book Tent, a pop-up bookstore featuring local authors and curated by the New Orleans Gulf South Bookstore Association (NOGSBA), a consortium of local, independent bookstores. All of the proceeds from book sales go to support children’s literacy through organizations like STAIR (Start the Adventure in Reading), a volunteer-based, non-profit children’s literacy organization that provides reading tutors for public school 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade students.

For your viewing pleasure, we’ve created a NOLA Children’s Books pinterest page featuring all of the local children’s book authors we found in the Book Tent. If you notice something missing, please let us know so we can add it to the board.

A big shout-out to The Garden District Book Shop for helping us put this together and shedding some light on the wonderful work the NOGSBA is doing to support literacy in our community.

you can have your books… and eat them, too!

I’m not sure what I’m more excited about:

A) that an international Edible Book Festival exists and will be hosted by the New Orleans Public Library (Alvar Branch) on April 6, 2013; or

B) that I came to learn about this brilliant idea via SIFT, which, by it’s name, explores the intersections where Sequence, Image, Form, and Text converge, celebrating and facilitating an appreciation of and participation in the book arts within the New Orleans community.

I’m not sure what that even means but it sure does sound good.

OK. Moving on.

So SIFT is presenting the 2nd Annual Edible Book Festival, an annual event held at locations around the world, where participants create edible books that are exhibited, judged for fabulous prizes, and then devoured.

Participation in the event is free and open to all ages. For those not bringing an Edible Book entry, SIFT encourages a contribution of a canned food item to be donated to the Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans.

What is an Edible Book, you ask?

An edible book is something “bookish” and made of 100% food materials. All entries must be made entirely of edible elements, as they will be consumed by the participants during the festival. Entries could be bookish through the integration of text, literary inspiration, or just being in a book-like form. It could look like a book, be a pun on a book title, a reference to a character, a scene from a book, or an artist’s book made entirely of edible materials.


To get your juices flowing, here are some clever Edible Book Festival entries from around the web:


After all entries are registered, community judging is opened up to all participants. This year’s award categories include:

Novel Eats
for most inspired use of literature or literary reference

Cooked Book
for best use or exploration of book-like structure

Upper Crust
best in show, adult

Bound for Greatness
best in show, ages 12 and under

An activity area will also be on site for kids to create paper puppets of famous literary characters and other hands-on activities. Music will also be performed by harpist Luke Brechtelsbauer at 1:00.

Who is Luke Brechtelsbauer, you ask? He plays original, Greek, Irish, Macedonian, jazz, Brazilian, Cape Breton and Honky-Tonk music on his harp.

Ok. That’s enough rad for one day. I can’t wait to share this post with my little bookworm. Art and books are her two favorite things. We’ve been reading Mo Williams’ Should I Share My Ice Cream a lot these days. Maybe there’s something there…

bedtime and books.


It’s the end of a long busy day and time to settle down for bed. Traditionally, bedtime is story time. Reading can be a comforting and soothing activity to prepare your child for a good night’s sleep. It can also be challenging if you have multiple children or for a single parent doing it alone. I hope the following tips are ones that will help make your bedtime ritual a special and rewarding experience for you and your family.

Establish a consistent bedtime routine.

Children, like adults, need a quiet time to relax and unwind at the end of each day. Consistency allows everyone to anticipate and look forward to this exclusive time spent together.

Create a special cozy place devoid of distractions.

No phone, no television! Not only is this calm atmosphere valuable for your child, it is a wonderful opportunity for you to spend uninterrupted time with them. You can also use this time to simply talk with your child. Conversation is another means of exploring language and an integral part of literacy development.

Assemble a variety of books and quiet activities for your nighttime ritual.

Having choices to accommodate the ages and interests of your children will make it possible for everyone to participate. Act out stories. Tell stories. Sing songs. Play quiet games. Create a puppet show. Play soft music. The goal is to establish a quiet time as part of the bedtime ritual.

Model various ways of reading a book.

Look at and describe pictures. Read to a pet or stuffed animal. Have older children read to younger siblings.

What is your bedtime routine? Does it involve books? How do you manage story time with multiple children?

books: holiday gifts that keep on giving.

It’s that time of year again when parents are looking a special gift. As clichéd as it sounds, books truly are the gifts that keep on giving.

Reading with your child is a present to both parent and child. Whether your children need you to read to them, with them, or simply curl up near them with your own book, reading brings families together. However, the world of books can be overwhelming, so here are a few tips for how to find the perfect book.

For babies and toddlers, look for durability, such as board, cloth, or plastic books. Simple rhymes and colorful pictures can intrigue and entertain your toddler. Tactile books (Touch-and-Feel) are also popular among young readers.

For pre-school and school-aged children, there are a number of different resources available to help simplify your search. Schools can be a great asset, as many keep a list of books recommended by teachers. Lists of award winning books for each year can be found through the school or online as well. Your local librarian or bookstore clerk are also great sources for finding the perfect book.

When looking for books, let your child’s interests guide you. Whether it is cars, fairy tales, or dinosaurs, a book exists for every curiosity. Don’t discount your childhood favorites either, as most of the classic books you loved are still available and can create an added bond between you and your child.

Here are three websites with good book suggestions for all age groups. Happy holidays and happy reading!

Common Sense Media Holiday Gift Guide 2012 for kids ages 2-6 years

Reading Rockets 2012 Buying Guide for Kids ages 0-4 years Holiday Gifts in Books for Kids and Teens

kids and stuff.

“If you want your child to be brilliant, tell them fairy tales. If you want them to be very brilliant, tell them more fairy tales.” – Albert Einstein

Black Friday is finally behind us and as a society I guess we survived, but not without denting some of our dignity. The accounts I read ranged from humorous to horrifying: A family of four in Florida camping overnight in front of a Toys R Us store. Women trampled at the opening of a Victoria’s Secret outlet in California. Families in Metairie enduring long lines and chilly weather for first crack at Best Buy.

Most alarming in all this is the thought of the mountain of “stuff” that will end up under trees and in the arms of kids across America: Hunger Games action figures, Justin Bieber dolls, Cabbage Patch, Hello Kitty purses, Dream Dazzle dolls, Pokemon play sets, Carrera slot cars, Microchargers, Sonix City, Monster High cell phone covers, Samsung Galaxy tablets, car DVD players, Batman Dark Knight action figures, Angry Bird video games, Harry Potter Lego sets, True Heroes, Thundercats, Avengers, Halo, Zoobles, Koo Koo, Zhu Zhu, Xia Xia, Build a Bear, My Little Pony, Disney fairies (and accessories), Liv Dolls, Little Tykes, Pictionary, Wii, Xbox, PlayStation, iPod touches, iPod nanos, MP3s and nabi Tablets for kids.

I’m not anti-toy or technology. Our apartment is filled with activity centers, dolls, balls and knick knacks our almost-2-year-old busies herself with. Granted, most of the larger toys were gifts from relatives, but we didn’t exactly chuck them off our balcony either. The problem with the unbridled accumulation of stuff is this: the more toys the child has to play with, the less he’ll use his imagination. And studies have proven the brain grows most robustly when the inner movie reels of imagination are steadily spinning. Toys make imagination nearly obsolete: the shiny, brightly-painted Barbie doll is an amazingly lifelike rendition of a female person. No imagination needed. The spinning stops.

In his powerful and insightful book on brain development, Evolution’s End, researcher Joseph C. Pearce lists what neuroscientists believe to be the biggest deterrents to development of the neo-cortex, the largest and most underused portion of the human brain. The first one is obvious: television, which replaced storytelling in most homes. The second, somewhat less apparent, is: toy stores. Forty years ago, the average American child had a maximum of five toys, Pearce writes. Today, that number is infinite. With little left to the imagination, the neuro-connectors needed to grow the brain stop multiplying or multiply less. “Having no inner imagining capacity leaves most of the brain unemployed,” he writes.

Pearce recounts how he only had four toys growing up, each of which he remembers clearly: a Flexible Flyer Sled, a Radio Flyer wagon, a pair of skates and a bicycle. “I never heard the word bored until I was in the armed service in World War II,” he writes. “I never knew a bored child in my own childhood. There was far too much to do, yet we had only a few toys.”

As Black Friday turned to Cyber Monday and shopping began its true gallop toward Christmas, expect more urgency to acquire more things. I don’t have an answer on how to stop the onslaught of stuff pointed at us from manufacturers, stores and well-meaning relatives. The best I could do is show our girls the fun of imagination-play with an empty milk carton or a handful of select twigs. Then hope that habit sticks.

GoldieBlox inspires the next generation of female engineers.

Anson, my almost six year old, likes to build things. She likes numbers, strait lines and patterns. Since she came into this world, I’ve counted with her. Every step she walked up or scooted down had a number. We counted everything and we still do. Maybe this contributed to her connection with numbers, maybe it didn’t. Either way, my kid likes things that seem to fit nicely with numbers, math, patterns and predictability. Structures speak to her.

top to bottom: Anson (3) building 2010, Anson (5) building 2012

She also loves words and books. I am sitting on the edge of my seat in great anticipation for the day literacy takes a hold of her brain and the world opens up to her.

Building + books. Spacial + verbal.

This simple concept is the inspiration for GoldieBlox – a book series and construction set for girls, imagined and developed by Debbie Sterling, a female engineer from Stanford University who wants to inspire the next generation of female engineers.

Meet Debbie and her brainchild, Goldie, a girl inventor who goes on adventures with her friends and solves problems by building simple machines.

It’s no surprise that with a national emphasis on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) programs in schools and a specific interest in getting girls more involved in STEM, the GoldieBlox concept was successful in raising the necessary funding via to go into production. You can pre-order the first GoldieBlox set here ($29.99). Estimated delivery is February 2013.

Ask your daughter to watch the video and let us know what she thinks. Anson loved it. I, of course, cry every time I watch it. It’s just so inspiring.

kindness, six chicks and a book.

Every day when I pick up my daughters from school, I ask them if they were kind and who was kind to them. Kindness is one of our family values and my husband and I have found that when we talk about it and explore it with our children, it grows in each of us. Kindness becomes real and not just an abstract concept or expectation.

My sweet friend and neighbor Monique Sobrino, owner of Little Miss Muffin, just delivered to my three little girls a signed copy of the most lovely children’s book, Chick, Chick, Hooray! It literally just hit the stands.

Chick, Chick, Hooray! is a sweet book about Ellie, a little chick who isn’t sure of her value as she compares herself to all the other little chicks at Barnhill Academy. Caroline is beautiful, Claire is stylish, Molly is an athlete, Ida is smart, and Frannie sings like a songbird.

Despite her uncertainty about how she fits in with this impressive clutch of chicks, Ellie finds her value along the way, thanks to the gentle farmer who knows her heart well and has always loved her.

Chick, Chick, Hooray! is a story about kindness. It is relevant to all of us – young and old – because when the heart acts out of kindness, change within ourselves, our families, our communities, and our world happens. True self-value and value of others resides in the heart – not in our beauty or clothes, not on the field, not in the classroom.

This is the message Six Chicks with a Mission – a powerhouse of six local, successful women (Mary Lupo, Beth DePass, Heather Mahoney, Trudy Hurley, Lisa Lugwig and Lacey Wood) – hopes to inspire within young girls across all communities. It is a message and a movement and it begins here at home.

Chick, Chick, Hooray! is the first in a series of books. Pick yours up at Little Miss Muffin or online at ($11.95). Buy one for your own brood and however many you need for the birthday circuit and holiday season. It is such a beautifully written story and the illustrations are perfect.

A very smart book. Absolutely delightful. Every little girl should have this book on her nightstand.

Chick, Chick, Hooray!

What are some of the values you hope to instill in your children? How? Share your story.

yell much? what your child needs from you.

Do you want to end the yelling, become less frustrated and enjoy your kids more? Join local parent/family coach, Elizabeth Elizardi of  StrengthsHub, for a four-week interactive, online program based on the book What Your Child Needs From You: Creating a Connected Family by Dr. Justin Coulson. This is a rare opportunity to work at your own pace, wherever you want, whenever you want!

This four-week online program starts on October 29th and continues through the week of November 26th. (Don’t worry, no class on Thanksgiving!)

Program Details:

Week One: Emotional Availability
Week Two: Showing Understanding
Week Three: Teaching your Children Good Ways to Act
Week Four: Kindess, Love and Compassion

What is Included?

Your payment of $150.00 for the four-week program includes:

  • a copy of the book What Your Child Needs From You by Dr. Justin Coulson;
  • a weekly email from Elizabeth outlining activities for the week and questions to ponder;
  • a three-month membership to the Parent Hub online community;
  • access to the online discussion forum;
  • a one-hour weekly group call with Elizabeth;
  • one individual 15-minute coaching gym session with Elizabeth; and
  • a BONUS Expert call with the author, Dr. Justin Coulson, at the end of the four-week program.

How does it work?

Upon registering, you will receive in the mail the book  What Your Child Needs From You: Creating a Connected Family and an invitation to join the Parent Hub, a private, online parent community and discussion forum with weekly activities.

Beginning the first week of the program, Elizabeth will send an email to all participants outlining the reading, weekly activities to try, and questions for the discussion forum. Parents are encouraged to do the assigned reading, visit the forum, comment on the questions, try out the activities and report back to the group.

Elizabeth offers support through a one-hour weekly conference call with Q & A and community discussion. Parents are also invited to schedule a one-time fifteen minute coaching session during the four-week program.

How do I get started?

There is limited space for 20 participants in this class. Register here, spread the word and invite friends, too. Be sure to enter your email address, first/last name and mailing address so that you can receive your book in time for the first class on October 29th!

Get connected and boost your Parent Well-Being.

For questions or more information, email Elizabeth at

Skip to toolbar