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Summer Reading Part Two: What Should My Kids Read?

The post Summer Reading Part Two: What Should My Kids Read? is from Teachable Moments from the experts at Boys Town.

Keeping our children reading throughout the summer is important. We recently looked at ways you can encourage your children to read, but you may now be wondering what exactly your children should be reading. As the Manager of the Reading Center at Boys Town High School and a parent myself, I have compiled a list of book your kids (no matter their age) are sure to love reading this summer, along with descriptions.

Don’t forget to come back and let us know in the comments which books were your children’s favorites! We’d love to hear about what summer reads were the biggest hits in your home.

Pre-K (Emerging Readers)

I Saw an Ant on the Railroad Track (2006) by Joshua Prince
A colorful, suspenseful, and poetic story about a wandering ant in search of a snack, and a compassionate switchman who tries to save him from an oncoming train.

God Loves Me More Than That (2008) by Dandi Daley Mackall
A beautifully rhymed and illustrated ABC book about how God’s love is higher, deeper, wider, bigger, louder, and softer than even the highest, deepest, widest, biggest, loudest and softest things on earth.

Shark in the Dark (2009) by Peter Bently
A rhyming story about a mean, greedy shark and the sea creatures who work together to teach him a lesson.

Giraffes Can’t Dance (2012) by Giles Andreae
A precious story about a giraffe that is ridiculed by the other animals for being a terrible dancer and gets a little help from a friend in finding the “right music.” It teaches children the lesson that being unique is okay and that they can still be good at something even if they have to go about it a little “differently.”

This is Not My Hat (2012) by Jon Klassen
An underwater tale about a little fish who takes a hat that doesn’t belong to him and the larger fish that pursues him to reclaim it. This book is a good conversation starter about respecting the property of others.

The Very Cranky Bear (2014) by Nick Bland
A compassionate tale about four animal friends who seek shelter in cave and must find a way to comfort the angry and tired bear that inhabits it in order to stay.

Look! (2015) by Jeff Mack
A hilarious story about an attention-hungry gorilla, a television-loving boy and a friendship that develops over books.

A is for Musk Ox (2012) by Erin Cabatingan
A laugh out loud story of two animals, which through their banter, pair each letter of the alphabet with descriptive terms or characteristics of an often forgotten animal, the musk ox.

Grades Kindergarten-2nd (Ages 5-8)

Where the Sidewalk Ends (1974) by Shel Silverstein
An outrageously funny collection of poems filled with nonsense rhymes, crazy characters silly words, and simple drawings.

The Magic School Bus (various titles) by Joanna Cole
A classic collection of books for K-2 students that combine fun stories with neat facts, humor, and illustrations.

I Need My Monster (2009) by Amanda Noll
An imaginative, creepy, and comforting story of a little boy who can’t fall asleep without the familiar nightly scares of his favorite monster.

Those Shoes (2009) by Maribeth Boelts
A story about a boy who envy’s learns the difference between wants and needs.

Blackout (2011) by John Rocco
A digital-age story of a disconnected family that comes together in the midst of a blackout. It reminds us that despite technology, we are never too busy to interact with other in our homes, neighborhood, and greater community.

The Other Side (2001) AND Each Kindness (2012) by Jacqueline Woodson
Two heartwarming books that embrace diversity and teach lessons about how even small acts of kindness can change the world.

The Matchbox Diary (2013) by Paul Fleischman
A story of an Italian immigrant who shares his childhood memories with his great-granddaughter, through a “diary” of saved objects that commemorate the most important events of his life.

Here’s Hank (various titles) by Henry Winkler
A hilarious collection of chapter books based upon the real-life experiences of the author, Henry Winkler (a.k.a. “The Fonz”). These stories describe the antics of a boy with undiagnosed learning difficulties, whose impulsiveness, disorganization, and clown-like tendencies routinely get him into hot water.

I Just Don’t Like the Sound of No! (2011) by Julia Cook
A story about accepting no for an answer and disagreeing the right way. Julia Cook helps little ones learn how to be the best they can be in this useful book.

Grades 3rd-5th (Ages 9-11)

Watsons go to Birmingham-1963 (2000) by Christopher Paul Curtis
Narrated by 10-year-old Kenny, this is the story about Kenny’s middle-class black family and their visit to Grandma and South Birmingham that puts them in the middle of history.

Wonder (2012) by R.J. Palacio
A story about a boy named August that teaches the reader not to judge people by how they look or what they are like.

Zach’s Lie/Jack’s Run (2003/2007) by Roland Smith
Jack’s Run is the sequel to Zach’s Lie, and both books will be hard for your young reader to put down. The story is about Jack’s family, his father’s lie and the subsequent results that follow.

King of the Mound: My Summer with Satchel Paige (2013) by Wes Tooke
When Nick is diagnosed with polio, everyone is devastated. Wanting to continue playing baseball, he begins working for the owner of a minor league team where he meets Satchel Paige. This heart-warming story is all about overcoming the odds.

Mockingbird (2011) by Kathryn Erskine
A moving novel that proves everything is not black and white and that the world is full of color.

I am Malala (2015) by Malala Yousafzai
The remarkable tale of a family uprooted by global terrorism, of the fight for girls’ education, of a father who championed and encouraged his daughter to write and attend school and of brave parents who have a fierce love for their daughter in a society that prizes sons.

The Junction of Sunshine and Lucky (2014) by Holly Schindler
A book about hope that will remind readers that one girl’s trash really is another girl’s treasure.

Cardboard (2012) by Doug TenNapel
An imaginary tale of cardboard creatures that have come to life and a boy who is now responsible for saving his town from disaster.

Grades 6th-8th (Ages 12-14)

Maze Runner Series (2014) by James Dashner
A series of young adult science fiction adventure novels, this series will be a hit for fans of the Hunger Games series.

Divergent Series (2014) by Veronica Roth
Similar to the Maze Runner series, this is another series of young adult science fiction adventure novels. The story is set in post-apocalyptic dystopian Chicago and is a thrilling tale from start to finish.

Boy in the Striped Pajamas (2006) by John Boyne
Set in Berlin 1942, this is a heartbreaking story about a friendship that ultimately has devastating consequences.

Stormbreaker (2000) Anthony Horowitz
The Alex Rider series is a very popular one among middle-school readers and Stormbreaker takes readers on a thrilling ride of a boy (Alex) and his attempt to outsmart those who want him dead.

The House of the Scorpion (2004) by Nancy Farmer
Matteo Alacran is seeking his own purpose in his life. This riveting story takes readers on his journey to be free.

Counting by 7s (2014) Holly Sloan
A moving novel about being an outsider, coping with loss and discovering the true meaning of family.

One Came Home (2014) by Amy Timberlake
Full of adventure and mystery, this book is a love song to the natural world. It has also won many awards, including the Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Juvenile Novel.

I Capture the Castle (2003) by Dodie Smith
A story told through 17-year-old Cassandra Mortmain’s journal. Readers will witness all of the changes in the Mortmain household firsthand from the words of Cassandra by the time she closes her final diary.

Grades 9th thru 12th (Ages 15-18)

Paper Towns (2009) by John Green
With the movie version hitting theaters this summer, teens will enjoy discovering the real Margo on paper first.

The Fault in our Stars (2014) by John Green
Insightful and bold, this story brilliantly explores the funny, thrilling and tragic business of being alive and in love.

If I Stay (2010) by Gayle Forman
A heart aching, yet beautiful, book about the power of love, the true meaning of family and the choices we all make.

The Book Thief (2007) by Markus Zusak
Perfect to teach the importance of reading, this is an unforgettable story (set during WWII in Germany) about the ability of books to feed the soul.

Unbroken (the young adult adaptation) (2014) by Laura Hillenbrand
This riveting read will introduce teens to one of history’s most thrilling survival epics. Just make sure they select the young adult adaptation when picking up a copy to read.

Darius and Twig (2014) by Walter Dean Myers
This is a great novel about friendship and the need to live one’s own dream.

The Everest Files (2014) by Matt Dickenson
Eighteen-year-old Ryan Hart sets out to solve a mystery about disappearances and death in the Himalaya. What he discovers is a shocking tale of lies, betrayal and obsession.

Farhenheit 451: The Authorized Adaptation (2009) by Ray Bradbury and Tim Hamilton
A tightly monitored world where thinking is dangerous and books are forbidden has become a way of life for Guy Montag. In this adaptation, the original story has been made even more powerful with this gorgeously imagined graphic novel.

The post Summer Reading Part Two: What Should My Kids Read? is from Teachable Moments from the experts at Boys Town.

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Donor Stories: Harriet Karol’s Playground

The post Donor Stories: Harriet Karol’s Playground is from Teachable Moments from the experts at Boys Town.

We would like to spend a few moments to shine a spotlight on one of our awesome donors. Because it’s the deep, heartfelt generosity of donors just like them—and like you—that have helped Boys Town achieve Father Flanagan’s vision of healing children and healing families.

In this post we’re featuring a longtime donor, California mother and grandmother Harriet Karol.

Situated just outside the new Boys Town Residential Treatment Center, there is a special playground where troubled young children can play and romp as other kids do. For these children, who suffer from a variety of psychiatric disorders that require intense therapy and around-the-clock supervision, any opportunity to leave their troubles behind for a while is a blessing.

The playground and its surrounding picnic area were a gift from Boys Town donor and supporter Harriet Karol.

“The play area was very important to me,” explains Harriet. “It’s a place where children can forget their past problems and believe they can have a much better and more wonderful life… the life they truly deserve to have.”

Harriet has always believed that parents and caregivers are the key to children’s success in life. And she understands the value of providing children with the attention and nurturing they need, including the importance of teaching them essential life skills.

The opportunity to provide a playground where children could find joy and embrace a brighter future was an honor for Harriet.

“It touched a soft spot in my heart, and it was a privilege to give,” she says. A plaque outside the playground, known as Harriet Karol Park, expresses a heartfelt message from Harriet: “From Grandma Karol, because I care.”

Thanks to Harriet, children who are working to overcome difficult behavioral and emotional issues will always have a place at Boys Town to forget their troubles and have fun.

The post Donor Stories: Harriet Karol’s Playground is from Teachable Moments from the experts at Boys Town.

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Toddlers and Spring Cleaning

This post was first published on Momaha.com. On your mark, get set, go! That’s right, you are at the starting line for the “Annual Spring Cleaning Race” project. Whether you have a two-page or a 10-page “to do” list, some deep cleaning is in order, and that usually takes longer than your regular weekly chores. It’s that time of year when you get down on your knees and wipe the floor boards that have been splashed with Nebraska’s snowy, salty grime from your little one’s boots, and when drawers need to be opened so you can sort through all of the outfits because, amazingly, your son or daughter has outgrown them in a matter of one season. You have great aspirations to get your long list done before your child’s busy summer activities begin, but as you walk up to the starting line, you find you have a toddler by […]

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Tyler’s Journey: An Update

Hello! My name is Tyler Simmons and I am a Boys Town graduate from the class of 2012. I can remember that graduation day like yesterday, and I can say it has been one of the best experiences of my life still. As of today I am a Junior at Black Hills State University in Spearfish, South Dakota and it is a tremendous experience as I am nearing my senior year of college. Attending Boys Town a few years ago was probably the best thing that could have happened for me going into college. It definitely prepared me for being a college student and focusing on getting my next award, which is my college degree. My major is Exercise Science-Management and it is a very interesting field of study for me as I love to exercise and be around physical activity, as well as understand the business aspects of it. […]

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#AtTheTable Tonight

Tonight — and every other night — I am committed to having dinner together with my family. Because my kids are still young, I am lucky that their extracurricular activities are minimal and I can schedule them around family dinners; but, I know that won’t last forever. I know family dinnertime can be challenging when sports, music lessons, scouts and other activities start to fill the early evening. But it’s important to make family dinners a priority. They allow us time to hear about each other’s day, give thanks for the good things in our lives and spend quality time together. I cherish these moments and I will continue to make sure my children understand the importance of family mealtime. You should too! Start tonight by joining us at Boys Town — along with ConAgra Foods and Godfather’s Pizza — as we sit down #AtTheTable with our families and enjoy […]

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Thoughts on Graduation

The post Thoughts on Graduation is from Teachable Moments from the experts at Boys Town.

Graduation 2015 from Boys Town on Vimeo.

Recently, more than 80 Boys Town seniors walked across the stage to receive their diplomas, signifying the start of their journey from adolescence to adulthood. Though I have been a part of this ceremony many times during my tenure at Boys Town, it never ceases to fill me with pride and hope for the future.

You see, graduation is a rite of passage experienced by millions of teenagers across the nation every spring. And while it is justifiably celebrated with parties and gifts, it has become a routine and expected part of young adulthood. But for those 80 plus kids who just received their Boys Town diplomas, graduation was once far from a certainty. In fact, for most of them, it was nothing more than a dream – something that happens to other kids in nicer, safer zip codes.

Imagine waking up every morning not knowing where you were going to sleep that night. Imagine having to take care of your baby sister while your drug-addicted mother disappears for days at a time looking to score her next fix. Imagine seeing your childhood friends die one by one from stray bullets or drug overdoses or seeing them end up in prison for any number of violations. Now imagine all that while trying to make it to class every day in some school rife with drugs and gang activity.

It’s not too difficult to understand why many at-risk kids fail to make it through all four years of high school.

Which is why our graduates are so special.

So spare an extra thought for our Boys Town class of 2015. They’ve worked harder than most to get where they are today. And that hard work has prepared them well for the challenges they’ll face in the coming years, be they in higher education, the military or in the workforce.

As for us, the educators and mentors who helped them realize this achievement? We’ll celebrate too – for a minute or two – and then we’ll get right back to preparing the class of 2016 for their graduation.

Dr. Reznicek
Superintendent, Boys Town High School

The post Thoughts on Graduation is from Teachable Moments from the experts at Boys Town.

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At the Picnic Table This Memorial Day

The post At the Picnic Table This Memorial Day is from Teachable Moments from the experts at Boys Town.

At the Picnic Table This Memorial Day

Summer gets busy for families with barbecues, pool parties and sporting events. Especially over Memorial Day weekend. This Memorial Day, carve out some time with just your immediate family for a nice meal at the picnic table (weather permitting of course). In the craziness of the holiday, pack a meal and go on a picnic. You might like it so much you’ll make a tradition out of it.

Here’s a great recipe where you can do all the prep work at home and assemble your tacos on site: http://www.ro-tel.com/recipes-Carnitas-Tacos-6465.html

If you are really adventurous, give each of your kids a “taco challenge”. Have everyone create his or her own filling for a street taco and bring along each in its own containers for the picnic. At the picnic bring small taco shells and everyone can taste test each family chef’s creation. Now, don’t be upset if you end up eating a taco filled with bananas and fruit loops, it’s the experience that counts!

If you have older kids, try out some new taco recipes:




All recipes are provided by ConAgra, a partner of Boys Town in getting families together at the table more often.

If you have kids that hate to cook then just get outdoors and have some food and conversation. Visit the Boys Town dinner table guide for more ideas and conversation starters.


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Teachable Moments can come from a wide variety of sources, including other parents. From time to time parents write blogs for us that we think you will find interesting, useful, or entertaining. Please enjoy this post from a fellow parent. The influence of mainstream media on today’s teens is perhaps stronger than it has ever been. With multiple social media avenues, blogs and magazines toting this week’s latest look flooding the brains of today’s youth, sometimes it’s hard for young girls and boys to be comfortable with how they look. And more often than not, the types of role models our teens are looking up to may not be the role models we would pick for them. The latest craze? Having lips like Kylie Jenner. Who is Kylie Jenner, you ask? Kylie is the youngest sibling of the infamous Kardashian sisters. Thrown into the spotlight of reality television at a […]

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Getting Kids to Help around the House

This post first appeared on Momaha.com. Photo courtesy of Momaha.com.  This morning I stumbled upon a strange pile of pajama pants, lotion and deodorant in the middle of my living room floor that my son knows should not be there. He is like most kids, he understands that there are chores that he is required to do around the house. He also knows that if he sits quietly enough, I will likely forget to tell him to do them. However, he has no clue about the strategic parenting ninja moves I am capable of, including removing all of his electronics from his room while he sat watching TV on the couch, inches from his pile of displaced belongings. I’m preaching to the choir when I say that getting your children to help more around the house can be tricky. Here are some age appropriate ideas to help minimize the struggle: YOUNG […]

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Praising Teenagers

I’m very much an advocate of praising kids, including teenagers, in a positive-negative ratio of at least four positives to every one negative. For some, this may sound a bit lofty but it is very realistic if adults truly pay attention to behavior and learn to praise specifically and genuinely. Praise is a sincere, positive evaluation of a person or an act. A lot of praise is “global” and terms are used such as “great job,” “you are smart,” or “pretty,” etc. These are very general, nonspecific words that often mean little to kids/teens. One of the keys is to offer very specific praise for very specific behavior. Learn to observe a behavior and describe the behavior back to the teen when possible. My general rule of thumb is when offering praise to a teenager; use one or two specific behavioral sentences. In contrast, when describing inappropriate behavior to a […]

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