My fondest childhood memories always involve some sort of book. Roald Dahl, Dr. Seuss, and the Baby-Sitters Club series played a huge role in my adolescence, and I still feel the pang of sweet nostalgia when I see these titles today. Part of my job is to round up toys, mobile apps, games, music, and books to feature in Toy Insider, but in recent months I find myself frantically searching for books to include while games, toys, and especially apps appear in abundance. I am a bit resistant to change, as I still prefer to hold a book in my hand to a Kindle or Nook, so the decline of printed books had me bogged down a bit. As I began searching for books to feature, I realized that reading is reading, and anything that brings a child to find his or her inner bibliophile is A-OK with me. There are so many new platforms for reading that don’t leave out books but take them to a new level, and we have to keep up!
I am fascinated by the LeapReader Read & Write System by LeapFrog. This company is known for its kid-friendly tablets, but this new product has the coolest gadgets and gizmos that should make any child excited about story time. Starting with the very basics, the LeapReader Read & Write books will help your child learn to read and write by sounding out words and guiding letter strokes interactively. The set includes the LeapReader Reading and Writing System, an activity sampler book, one learning paper writing sheet, and free downloads of one audio book bundle, one music album, and one trivia fun pack. I think the coolest part is that interactive handwriting guidance helps children learn to write stroke-by-stroke on mess-free, no ink LeapFrog learning paper—which is also ecofriendly! There are more than 150 books and audiobooks available to add to the set, of which my personal favorite is Learn to Write Letters with Mr. Pencil.
Science was always my least favorite subject in school, but I know I would have liked it if I had The Young Scientist Club’s Clifford the Big Red Dog Rainbow Science Kit. Clifford and his friends explore the world around them with this colorful kit that is all about rainbow science. The kit includes a 20-page manual narrated by Emily Elizabeth that serves as a sneaky little trick to teach children to enjoy reading about science while actually experiencing it with the hands-on components for experimentation: a colorful lab tray, a measuring cup, test tubes, a pipette, and a funnel. The experiements include milk rainbow, mixing colors, rainbow star, ceiling rainbow, moving colors, chromatography bookmarks, colored bubbles in oil, catching a rainbow, rainbow glasses, and my personal favorite, rainbow explosions. Magic School Bus, Animal, and Nature kits are also available. You have to read the manual to know how to experiment!
Storyboxes by Steve Light and Guidecraft may be the coolest thing on my list. Each wooden-crafted storybox contains stylized characters, settings, props, and a booklet that retells the tale of classic stories from around the world, including Rapunzel, Hansel and Gretel, and The Girl Who Loved Danger. Kids can tell their own tales as well as each set comes with unique, story-specific pieces.
One thing that I remember clearly is the golden spine that held most of my books together—the Little Golden books. Little Golden Book released a book that will certainly appeal to the cinematic senses, Monsters University Little Golden Book. This book tells the story of Mike Wazowski and James P. “Sulley” Sullivan when they first met. Surprisingly the two did not like each other, and this book explains how they overcame their differences as it retells the plot of the new film, Monsters University. The release of Despicable Me 2 brought the adorable titles Meet the Minions, The Anti-Villain League Handbook, Undercover Super Spies, and Make a Minion. As if those two films are not enough to keep young readers busy, by subscribing to disneydigitalbooks.go.com, readers can access more than 600 digital Disney books that include a look-and-listen feature, a story builder for custom story creating, and trivia games and puzzles to give kids the opportunity to earn points for reading.
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