My first ever book club with wine

I have just returned from my very first book club meeting. I was going to blow it off because it was cold and rainy and for some reason (because I got drunk last night) I was tired. But then it was dinner time and a quick scan of the kitchen a glimpse into what would be my next three hours, I decided to go and be tired at someone else’s house where there is wine, food and no children.

It is almost a guarantee you’ll have a good time whenever you do that thing you were almost on the cusp of not doing. I met the most amazing, beautiful, smart, well-read, down to earth, hilarious group of ladies. I’m so glad I went.

If you or someone you know is Type A, please heed the cry of those who long to be part of a book club but are too Type B to do anything about it. Tonight we had handouts, spreadsheets and a logo. Thanks, Meg!

We decided on our first three books and scheduled our next three meetings. Whoever hosts, leads the discussion. Here are the first two. There were three but I’ve already forgotten.

The following book descriptions come directly from and each book cover links to the NOLA Parent Amazon affiliate page. If you happen to purchase a book via this affiliate link, I will get a penny or something. At the end of the year, I get to buy one lucky person a cup of coffee.

The Husband’s Secret (Liane Moriarty) 394 pages

“Acclaimed author Liane Moriarty has written a gripping, thought-provoking novel about how well it is really possible to know our spouses—and, ultimately, ourselves.”

The Rosie Project (Graeme Simsion) 295 pages

“Now in paperback, the international bestselling romantic comedy “bursting with warmth, emotional depth, and…humor,” (Entertainment Weekly) featuring the oddly charming, socially challenged genetics professor, Don, as he seeks true love.

Here’s is our preliminary list. To narrow it down, we eliminated the books that had already been read. We also decided we didn’t want to go with anything too heavy in content and length. It’s all about setting the group up for success. None of us have read an entire book in quite sometime and I could tell that each of us was determined to read a book cover to cover in less than 12 months. Go us.

Are you in a book club? How does yours work? What are you reading now?

BAWC Book Club Book Suggestions

  1. The Orphan Train (Christina Baker Kline) 288 pages. The author of Bird in Hand and The Way Life Should Be delivers her most ambitious and powerful novel to date: a captivating story of two very different women who build an unexpected friendship: a 91-year-old woman with a hidden past as an orphan-train rider and the teenage girl whose own troubled adolescence leads her to seek answers to questions no one has ever thought to ask. Rich in detail and epic in scope, Orphan Train is a powerful novel of upheaval and resilience, of second chances, of unexpected friendship, and of the secrets we carry that keep us from finding out who we are.
  2. Gone Girl (Gillian Flynn) 560 pages. On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media–as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents–the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter–but is he really a killer?
  3. The Goldfinch (Donna Tartt) 771 pages. It begins with a boy. Theo Decker, a thirteen-year-old New Yorker, miraculously survives an accident that kills his mother. Abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. Bewildered by his strange new home on Park Avenue, disturbed by schoolmates who don’t know how to talk to him, and tormented above all by his unbearable longing for his mother, he clings to one thing that reminds him of her: a small, mysteriously captivating painting that ultimately draws Theo into the underworld of art.
  4. The Rosie Project (Graeme Simsion) 295 pages. An international sensation, this hilarious, feel-good novel is narrated by an oddly charming and socially challenged genetics professor on an unusual quest: to find out if he is capable of true love.
  5. The Bean Trees (Barbara Kingsolver) 232 pages. Clear-eyed and spirited, Taylor Greer grew up poor in rural Kentucky with the goals of avoiding pregnancy and getting away. But when she heads west with high hopes and a barely functional car, she meets the human condition head-on. By the time Taylor arrives in Tucson, Arizona, she has acquired a completely unexpected child, a three-year-old American Indian girl named Turtle, and must somehow come to terms with both motherhood and the necessity for putting down roots. Hers is a story about love and friendship, abandonment and belonging, and the discovery of surprising resources in apparently empty places.
  6. A Star Called Henry (Roddy Doyle) 342 pages. Born in the Dublin slums of 1901, his father a one-legged whorehouse bouncer and settler of scores, Henry Smart has to grow up fast. By the time he can walk he’s out robbing and begging, often cold and always hungry, but a prince of the streets. By Easter Monday, 1916, he’s fourteen years old and already six-foot-two, a soldier in the Irish Citizen Army. A year later he’s ready to die for Ireland again, a rebel, a Fenian and a killer. With his father’s wooden leg as his weapon, Henry becomes a Republican legend – one of Michael Collins’ boys, a cop killer, and an assassin on a stolen bike.
  7. The Red Tent (Anita Diamant) 336 pages. Her name is Dinah. In the Bible, her life is only hinted at in a brief and violent detour within the more familiar chapters of the Book of Genesis that are about her father, Jacob, and his dozen sons. Told in Dinah’s voice, this novel reveals the traditions and turmoils of ancient womanhood–the world of the red tent. It begins with the story of her mothers–Leah, Rachel, Zilpah, and Bilhah–the four wives of Jacob. They love Dinah and give her gifts that sustain her through a hard-working youth, a calling to midwifery, and a new home in a foreign land. Dinah’s story reaches out from a remarkable period of early history and creates an intimate connection with the past. Deeply affecting, The Red Tent combines rich storytelling with a valuable achievement in modern fiction: a new view of biblical women’s society.
  8. The Secret History (Donna Tartt) 559 pages. Richard Papen arrived at Hampden College in New England and was quickly seduced by an elite group of five students, all Greek scholars, all worldly, self-assured, and, at first glance, all highly unapproachable. As Richard is drawn into their inner circle, he learns a terrifying secret that binds them to one another…a secret about an incident in the woods in the dead of night where an ancient rite was brought to brutal life…and led to a gruesome death. And that was just the beginning….
  9. And the Mountains Echoed (Khaled Hosseini) 404 pages. Khaled Hosseini, the #1 New York Times–bestselling author of The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, has written a new novel about how we love, how we take care of one another, and how the choices we make resonate through generations. In this tale revolving around not just parents and children but brothers and sisters, cousins and caretakers, Hosseini explores the many ways in which families nurture, wound, betray, honor, and sacrifice for one another; and how often we are surprised by the actions of those closest to us, at the times that matter most.
  10. Department of Speculation (Jenny Offill) 182 pages. Dept. of Speculation is a portrait of a marriage. It is also a beguiling rumination on the mysteries of intimacy, trust, faith, knowledge, and the condition of universal shipwreck that unites us all. Jenny Offill’s heroine, referred to in these pages as simply “the wife,” once exchanged love letters with her husband, postmarked Dept. of Speculation, their code name for all the uncertainty that inheres in life and in the strangely fluid confines of a long relationship. As they confront an array of common catastrophes—a colicky baby, bedbugs, a faltering marriage, stalled ambitions—the wife analyzes her predicament, invoking everything from Keats and Kafka to the thought experiments of the Stoics to the lessons of doomed Russian cosmonauts. She muses on the consuming, capacious experience of maternal love, and the near total destruction of the self that ensues from it, as she confronts the friction between domestic life and the seductions and demands.
  11. The History of Love (Nicole Krauss) 260 pages. Leo Gursky taps his radiator each evening to let his upstairs neighbor know he s still alive. But it wasn t always like this: in the Polish village of his youth, he fell in love and wrote a book. . . . Sixty years later and half a world away, fourteen-year-old Alma, who was named after a character in that book, undertakes an adventure to find her namesake and save her family. With virtuosic skill and soaring imaginative power, Nicole Krauss gradually draws these stories together toward a climax of extraordinary depth and beauty
  12. The Lowland (Jhumpa Lahiri) 340 pages. Two brothers bound by tragedy; a fiercely brilliant woman haunted by her past; a country torn by revolution. A powerful new novel–set in both India and America–that explores the price of idealism and a love that can last long past death.
  13. Life after Life (Kate Atkinson) 544 pages. On a cold and snowy night in 1910, Ursula Todd is born, the third child of a wealthy English banker and his wife. Sadly, she dies before she can draw her first breath. On that same cold and snowy night, Ursula Todd is born, lets out a lusty wail, and embarks upon a life that will be, to say the least, unusual. For as she grows, she also dies, repeatedly, in any number of ways. Clearly history (and Kate Atkinson) have plans for her: In Ursula rests nothing less than the fate of civilization.
  14. The Art of Fielding (Chad Harbach) 512 pages. At Westish College, a small school on the shore of Lake Michigan, baseball star Henry Skrimshander seems destined for big league stardom. But when a routine throw goes disastrously off course, the fates of five people are upended. As the season counts down to its climactic final game, these five are forced to confront their deepest hopes, anxieties, and secrets. In the process they forge new bonds, and help one another find their true paths. The Art of Fielding is an expansive, warmhearted novel about ambition and its limits, about family and friendship and love, and about commitment—to oneself and to others
  15. Lives of Girls and Women (Alice Munro) 277 pages. WINNER OF THE NOBEL PRIZE®IN LITERATURE 2013. The only novel from Alice Munro-award-winning author of The Love of a Good Woman–is an insightful, honest book, “autobiographical in form but not in fact,” that chronicles a young girl’s growing up in rural Ontario in the 1940’s. Through these unwitting mentors and in her own encounters with sex, birth, and death, Del explores the dark and bright sides of womanhood. All along she remains a wise, witty observer and recorder of truths in small-town life. The result is a powerful, moving, and humorous demonstration of Alice Munro’s unparalleled awareness of the lives of girls and women.
  16. Brain Rules (John Medina) 301 pages. Most of us have no idea what’s really going on inside our heads. Yet brain scientists have uncovered details every business leader, parent, and teacher should know—like the need for physical activity to get your brain working its best. How do we learn? What exactly do sleep and stress do to our brains? Why is multi-tasking a myth? Why is it so easy to forget—and so important to repeat new knowledge? Is it true that men and women have different brains? In Brain Rules, Dr. John Medina, a molecular biologist, shares his lifelong interest in how the brain sciences might influence the way we teach our children and the way we work. In each chapter, he describes a brain rule—what scientists know for sure about how our brains work—and then offers transformative ideas for our daily lives. You will discover how: Every brain is wired differently Exercise improves cognition We are designed to never stop learning and exploring Memories are volatile Sleep is powerfully linked with the ability to learn Vision trumps all of the other senses Stress changes the way we learn In the end, you’ll understand how your brain really works—and how to get the most out of it.
  17. A Study in Scarlet – Sherlock Holmes #1 (Arthur Conan Doyle) 108 pages. In the debut of literature’s most famous sleuth, a dead man is discovered in a bloodstained room in Brixton. The only clues are a wedding ring, a gold watch, a pocket edition of Boccaccio’s Decameron, and a word scrawled in blood on the wall. With this investigation begins the partnership of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. Their search for the murderer uncovers a story of love and revenge-and heralds a franchise of detective mysteries starring the formidable Holmes.
  18. The Fault in Our Stars (John Green) 313 pages. Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.
  19. The Hunger Games #1 (Suzanne Collins) 374 pages. The nation of Panem, formed from a post-apocalyptic North America, is a country that consists of a wealthy Capitol region surrounded by 12 poorer districts. Early in its history, a rebellion led by a 13th district against the Capitol resulted in its destruction and the creation of an annual televised event known as the Hunger Games. In punishment, and as a reminder of the power and grace of the Capitol, each district must yield one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 through a lottery system to participate in the games. The ‘tributes’ are chosen during the annual Reaping and are forced to fight to the death, leaving only one survivor to claim victory.
  20. The Husband’s Secret (Liane Moriarty) 394 pages. Imagine that your husband wrote you a letter, to be opened after his death. Imagine, too, that the letter contains his deepest, darkest secret—something with the potential to destroy not just the life you built together, but the lives of others as well. Imagine, then, that you stumble across that letter while your husband is still very much alive. . . . Cecilia Fitzpatrick has achieved it all—she’s an incredibly successful businesswoman, a pillar of her small community, and a devoted wife and mother. Her life is as orderly and spotless as her home. But that letter is about to change everything, and not just for her: Rachel and Tess barely know Cecilia—or each other—but they too are about to feel the earth-shattering repercussions of her husband’s secret.

incorporate language into your child’s experiences

New Orleans is a magical place for children to grow up in, and can offer parents many unique opportunities for fun learning activities. Creating a Mardi Gras storybook, for example, can be a great way to incorporate language into your child’s experience of the parade season. This book would tell the story of each year’s Mardi Gras, with photos of the parades, as well as text describing what happened in each picture or parade.

How to make a Mardi Gras storybook:

  1. Print off all those great pictures of your child enjoying the floats, catching or wearing beads, and the collection of toys from each parade. If you don’t want to waste your printer ink, just email the images directly to Walgreens Photo Shop and pick them up in an hour.
  2. Create the book itself by either stapling construction paper together or using a purchased photo album or scrapbook. You can find some fun materials at Michael’s or National Art and Hobby on Magazine. Or you can download some printable pages from Etsy. We love these from Etsy:
  3. Paste the pictures to the pages. Kids love glue sticks.
  4. Depending on the age of the child, add words. For younger children, have them simply add a word describing the picture. As children get older, they can dictate what they want you to say about the pictures, or eventually even write it themselves.

Not all reading and writing activities have to be purely exercises. In fact, some of the best activities you can do to teach your child to read is to make a game or activity out of it. This scrapbook is a great way to make sure your child is associating a great time with writing, and is also a very good way to remember and revisit those special memories you and your child share during this important time each year.

If Mardi Gras is out of sight, out of mind, this activity can be used for any occasion!

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

read to your bunny.

Reading to your child every day is the single most important thing you can do to create a lifelong love of books and ensure school success. Parenting a small child is a full time job, yet research shows that the first five years of life are crucial to language learning.  So how do you find time to incorporate reading to an active, inquisitive child into an already hectic schedule? Here are some tips that help fit reading into your daily routine with a limited amount of stress.

It’s never too early to start reading to a child. Reading can be a wonderful bonding opportunity. Hold your child while you read to her and she will grow up associating books with the warmth of your body and being held. One way to read to an infant is to put him on your chest facing up, and then lie down and hold the book up above you.

We often think that we have to read the text as printed in the book. Follow your child’s lead. If he’s flipping through the pages, point to a picture and name it.

Choose books that are developmentally appropriate. Really little ones enjoy concept books and bright colors. Relate the their experience. Point and name the objects in the picture: “this is a cup” or “this is a bottle, you drink from the bottle” or something associated with their routine. As they get older, you can choose books that have increasing text and a more sophisticated plot.

Reading is not restricted to sitting in a lap. While some children enjoy this, others, particularly active and curious children, are unable to sit still for an entire book. Read to them while they’re walking around, playing with leggos, or investigating a new toy. They are still listening.  Seize opportune moments, such as when your child is in a highchair or the bath, to get in some reading time. There are waterproof books designed explicitly for this purpose.

Expand the definition of reading. Rhymes, songs and just talking to your child are wonderful ways to bring language into their daily life. You don’t have to be a rockstar to sing to your child.  Children naturally respond to the rhythm of language and love the sound of your voice.

Make your reading time a fun, exciting adventure.  Move to the rhythm of the text or find a songbook.  Add motions and an expressive voice to bring the book to life.

Find the hook. Children express genre preferences early on so find the subject that engages and interests your child. If you’ve gone to the zoo and they love animals, read them a story about an animal.  If they like cooking, help them read the recipe. Reading can be in various formats, whether it’s a computer game, an iPad app or a magazine.

Add a reading or language component to an everyday activity. Talk or sing while you’re changing a diaper. Listen to a book on tape while driving. Keep a book in the car for unexpected free time, such as waiting at a doctor’s office.  Grocery stores are another great opportunity for literacy learning. Have your child help you write a list beforehand, even if it’s just contributing ideas. Upon arrival, talk about what you see, pointing out signs and favorite foods.

Find text in your environment. Letters in a child’s name and letters in family member’s names are their first core alphabet. Those are the letters they’ll learn first, so have them look for those. Look for letters in passing cars’ license plates. Have them find the “m” in McDonalds or the “t” in ToysRus.

Establish a nighttime ritual. Reading or just looking at a picture book together can be a soothing end to a busy day. Curl up with your little one and start a lifetime of shared moments with reading with someone you love.

How do you integrate reading into your child’s life? What’s your family’s reading routine?

How motherhood led to a love of reading and the launch of READ Nola

My introductory remarks at the beginning of a session of READ always include telling parents that they are their child’s first and most influential teacher. What I found is that although I did serve in that role, I learned an equal amount from my children.

My career truly benefited from all my daughter and son taught me over the years. As a child, I was not read to and although I was a good student, I was a relatively slow reader and did not know the joy of reading for pleasure. My daughter loved language and books almost from birth. My son started reading at age four, extremely interested in the box scores on the sports page. I feel that they literally took me by the hand and we, together, explored books and the pleasure that reading provides.

I was a teacher by training and taught kindergarten at Newman school for a couple of years before my daughter, Lauren, was born. I left and was a full-time Mom until Josh, my second child, was 10 years old. When I went back to teaching, I continued in the classroom, but also developed a summer reading enrichment program. My interest in doing this was inspired by the love of reading that I experienced personally only after having children. My goal was to design a program that was a fun, comfortable learning environment. The original program was for children aged four to seven years. The summer program was a big success and I enjoyed working with children, books, and literacy so much, that I decided to leave the classroom, and READ was born.

I felt that the exposure to the magic of reading should begin even earlier than four years, so while I applied the same concepts from the summer program, I focused on starting a love of reading as early as possible.

READ Nola is now for children aged six months to five years. In addition, I wanted this reading experience to not only teach the children, but to serve as an opportunity for parents and children to explore the world of books together.

No matter how old they are, children remember times where they felt happy and close with their parents. Incorporating books into those special times helps children associate reading with positive feelings.

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