Posted in Demystifying publishing

What Happens to Banned Books?: Demystifying Publishing Part 9 with @readwithriver

What's the deal with banning books? What happens to the books? Who is most affected? Let's discuss!
Demystifying Publishing Part 9 with @readwithriver: What happens to Banned Books? #Bannedbooksweek
The History of Banning Books. As long as books have existed, people have tried to ban them. Banning books has always been about maintaining existing hierarchies of power, and control. Empathizing with people who are oppressed by those hierarchies is considered a threat to that power. In 1121 CE Abelard was forced to burn is hown book…he was also castrated. They didn’t play around back then. (Source Bond, S. ” Top 5 Ancient and Medieval Censored Books TO Read During Banned Book Week” Forbes, 2016.
Banned Books Today. Are banned books illegal tools of the devil? …No…Books are banned by individual school boards, libraries, schools, etc. You can still buy them, they are often harder to find.
Does banning a book make it more popular? “No Publicity is Bad Publicity”-P.T. Barnum. Books by already famous authors often see a jump in sales when they have a banned book. “Whether or not there is a benefit often hinges on how high profile an author is at the time of the challenge.” (Source King,N. “Banned Books Week: How the Blacklist can Goose a Book’s Sales”, 2013.)
IF You’re Not A Famous Author… not a good time. “A lot of these authors who are challenged are not famous….Wealthy authors who sell a lot of books can hire publicists and attorneys to defend them, but your average mid-list author can’t. They’ve got to take these battles on personally.” (Source. King,N. “Banned Books Week: How the Blacklist can Goose a Book’s Sales”, 2013.) “As an author of a recently challenged book, I will not trade freedom for profit. And I wouldn’t trade freedom for profit, even if the math was on my side.” (Sara Hockler,, 2010)
Who is most Impacted? Children. “THe history of children’s book publishing in America offers insight into the ways in which traditional attitudes about “appropriate” stories often end up marginalizing the lives and experiences of many young readers, rather than protecting them.” (Source, Ringle, P. “How Banning Books Marginalizes Children,”, 2016.) “When we say ‘this book is inappropriate’ we’re telling those childrne your situation…your family…your life is inappropriate.”-Kate Messner
What kind of books get banned? “In 2019, eight out of the 10 books on the association’s list featured L.G.B.T.Q. subject matter. For 2020, however, that majority was fractured, with the addition of books that touch on racial injustice and police violence toward Black people and books by authors of color.” “In this case, we’re seeing an effort to stigmatize and vilify stories about racial injustice.”(Source, Waller, A. “Books About Racism and Police Violence Fill Out List of ‘Most Challenged Titles.” NYTIMES, 2020.)
Banned Books Week Since 1982 every year in September Banned Books Week is celebrated to fight against challenges, and support books that have been banned. A Coalition of Organizations works together for banned Books Week. Check it out to learn more.


Source 1: Bond, S. ” Top 5 Ancient and Medieval Censored Books TO Read During Banned Book Week” Forbes, 2016.

Source 2: King, N. “Banned Books Week: How the Blacklist can Goose a Book’s Sales”, 2013.

Source 3: SaraH Ockler,, 2010

Source 4: Ringle, P. “How Banning Books Marginalizes Children,”, 2016.

Source 5: Waller, A. “Books About Racism and Police Violence Fill Out List of ‘Most Challenged Titles.” NYTIMES, 2020.

Posted in Demystifying publishing

Literary Agents: The Fairy Godparents of Publishing

Demystifying Publishing Part 4 with @readwithriver

Demystifying Publishing Part 4 with @readwithriver  
Literary Agents:The Fairy Godparents of Publishing
A very practical Cinderella story.
What does an agent do?  Why do you want one? How do you choose one?
Saves and Shares are appreciated!
Fairy Literary Agents 
A very practical Cinderella story.
Once upon a time there was a writer who could not get to the publisher’s ball to have her manuscript read. “Oh how I wish I could go to the ball.” Then one night after many years of wishing one of her queries* was answered! An agent appeared.  
*See part three on How to Query.
Fairy Literary Agents
Pumpkins and Glass Slippers
Her Fairy Literary Agent used her editing magic to dress up her manuscript and get the writer past the gates into the publisher’s ball to dance with the editor.  Most editors especially at big houses will only look at manuscripts brought to them by agents.  These editor-agent relationships are cultivated over many years.  Even for publishers that accept open submissions (see part 3) manuscripts submitted by agents are seen faster and are given a response even if it is a reject.  Instead of six months, you can expect half of that time frame or less for a response.
Fairy Literary Agents At the Ball
Once the writer’s work was past the gates, it was up to the writer to make the editor fall in love with her work.  A Fairy Literary Agent can help you streamline your work, they can get you an audience with the best editors but, they can’t force an editor to love it or to like you.  That’s your job.  Editors call a meeting with the author before an offer is made to see if they will be easy to work with.  You CAN talk yourself out of a book deal. 
Fairy Literary Agents Finding you the right prince!
Not every publisher is one you want to work with.  Agents look for skeletons in editors’ & publishers’ closets and steer their clients away from sketchy partnerships.  They have a history of working with various editors and teams and they will know who will be the best fit for you and your work.  Traditional publishing is a team sport.
Fairy Literary Agents Contracts
Standard contracts are NEVER in the author’s best interests. Your agent negotiates for you until it is. Beforehand: financial matters like royalty percentage &, production matters like cover approval. During: intervening in decisions that negatively affect the integrity of your work.  After: making sure your work continues to be in print and if it is not, fighting to revert rights back to you to resell.  This is just a fraction of what they negotiate.
Fairy Literary Agents, agents succeed if you succeed. 
Agents usually make 15% of the author’s cut, from advance and royalties.  They only get paid if you do.
This is NOT lucrative. Agents sometimes have second jobs, or take on more clients than they can reasonably handle to make a living wage.  This is a career people choose because they love doing it, not because they’re trying to make a mint.  A good question to ask an agent before working with them is how many clients they have and how much time they will have to work with you personally.  No one is more personally invested in your success than your agent, their livelihood depends on it.
Fairy Literary Agents: Finding the right agent for you
Having an agent is a relationship that ideally will last many years.  It’s important you get along well.  Often agents will take a client on for only one manuscript as a trial period.  It is vital you have an agent who you trust & who shares the same editorial vision you do. Head to for resources in finding an agent & querying.

Resources to help you find Literary Agents:

US Literary Agent Listings

Posted in Uncategorized

Early STEM Learning and the OZOBOT

This week we will be hosting a fantastic STEM Learning Giveaway on our Instagram @Readwithriver Giveaway runs from Dec. 3- Dec. 10, 2020.

We are so excited to be doing an incredible STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) Giveaway this year for our North American Followers. We will be giving away three wonderful books, two of which were winners in the #Bookstagang_Bestof2020 List! And in partnership with @ozobot we will also be giving away

  • “Evo for Home & Homeschool“
  • In the box:
  • 1 Evo robot
  • Quick Start Guide
  • Evo Experience Pack
  • 4 Color Code markers
  • USB charging cable

To Enter, head over to Instagram! And Enter yourself in the Giveaway Post!

Watch River Show you how to use Evo the Ozobot!

We’re still learning about all of the features, because really the possibilities are enormous with coding your own programs, but here we show some of the basic ways you can use it.

You absolutely do not need to know how to code to be able to use this. It is incredibly accessible.

The Evo is a tiny robot that your child can code to perform certain actions by giving it instructions (code) in a few different ways. Using coloured markers, or stickers, tracks can be created and the Evo will follow along, this includes understanding instructions such as turn left, skip over or finished!

By downloading the app the Evo can also be driven by remote and given other instructions including doing tricks, playing games, or even trying your hand at programming your own game! Both River (4) and Willow (2) have had so much fun, designing tracks especially! They have enjoyed rolling out long sheets of paper to make extra long obstacle courses! It definitely levels up our homeschooling program.

US Customers Can purchase here. I do NOT make a commission from any sales, and I do highly recommend this toy we were gifted one. Additionally if you wish to order an Ozobot, during the holidays, they are also giving away a free Racer Wearable Skin  

Canadians can purchase Evo here.

  • “Evo for Home & Homeschool“
  • In the box:
  • 1 Evo robot
  • Quick Start Guide
  • Evo Experience Pack
  • 4 Color Code markers
  • USB charging cable
  • $99 in the US, $124.99 CAD

About the books in this Giveaway!

“Born Curious: 20 Girls Who Grew Up to Be Awesome Scientists”

This is an anthology of biographies explores the lives of Female Scientists! Inspire your little ones!

“Izzy Gizmo and the Invention Convention”

Izzy and Fixer have returned in the next book in this fabulous series. They’re on a quest to build a naturally fueled recycling machine and hopefully win the Genius Guild badge as well! Relatable characters, fun read aloud, growth mind set!

“Discovering Energy”

What is energy? How do humans harness it, how do we use it, what do we use it for? This book explores all of the ins and outs of understanding this complex topic for kids! With wonderful illustrations. This book was one of the nominations for the #Bookstagang’s Best Books of 2020.

Posted in Uncategorized

Twice Recycled Eric Carle Art

Eric Carle inspired Art


Do you have piles and piles of ambiguous blobby paintings?  We sure do.  River is a prolific abstract artist and it is just impractical to keep every single one.
So how do I mitigate the paper use?  First I give her paper that I have already used, I am a compulsive list maker.
Second, I find ways to then use her paintings again.  This activity is perfect for recycling paintings and gives you a style that looks something like Eric Carle’s works! I saw something like this on a library display board years ago.
I made one here as an example based on Eric Carle’s  “The Very Hungry Caterpillar.”

How to:




Tempera paint


Canvas or firm background paper (Bristol board will do)

Utensils for painting with (think outside the box, forks, old tooth brush, sponge, cardboard, cotton balls, you can use your fingers or feet!)



1. Have your  child make a bunch of abstract process paintings on a fairly thick paper, we did this over several days. (Abstract process paintings are paintings that aren’t supposed to look like anything and are all about the experience of painting.)

2. Each painting should use different colours, you may wish to limit their colour palatte by only giving them a couple of colours at a time.  Otherwise everything will  be muddy.

3. Let them experiment making marks on these paintings give them different tools for each one.

4. Once it is all dry cut shapes out of the paintings.  Make a variety of sizes and types and throw in some organic shapes for good measure.  You can let your child help with safety scissors.

5. Using regular glue make pictures with the shapes.  To get the Eric Carle feel emphasize layering the picture.  So add plenty of layers and details.

5.  This can be a great opportunity to bring in math discussion and exploration,  talking about shapes, patterning, and symmetry.

6. Show us your work! Tag @readwithriver


#bookishplay #kidsartactivities #kindergartenart



Posted in Uncategorized

Encouraging Reluctant Readers : Top Advice from Teachers & Bookstagrammers

Not all children instantly love books. A reluctant reader will often struggle down the line with literacy skills and it can affect their feelings about learning in general and their own self esteem.  This can be frustrating for both you and your child. So what can you do?

  I have collected advice from 20 of my favourite bookstagrammers and teachers here on Instagram!  Tips that you can implement at home without spending any money.

How to Encourage A Reluctant Reader

  1. Let them choose books that match their interests, regardless of level or type. 
  2. Relax! Focus on enjoyment and relationship building with your child. 
  3. Make it a special time.
  4. Make books constantly available and reading spaces inviting 
  5. Don’t give up, keep reading to your child. 
  6. Let them see you reading 
  7. Consider Audiobooks 
  8. Find series books with loveable characters 
  9. Think out loud about what you notice in the book.  
  10. Don’t push through a book they don’t enjoy 
  11. Use books that start conversations.
  12. Take turns reading aloud.
based on advice submitted from participating teacher influencers and bookstagrammers.


My tips to make reading inviting! Create spaces that a child would want to read in and have a selection of excellent books for them to choose from.  Rotate the selection regularly. Focus on creating a special time every day where you can also read together and focus on keeping it fun.


My best tip for reluctant readers is to find a series of books that match their interests.  When kids get to know the characters in a series, they feel connected, invested and want to know more about them. So find a few great series of books to keep them reading.


My advice for parents of reluctant readers would be to relax! I know it’s tough, but try to stop worrying so much about what your child is or is not able to do. 

Find some books on a topic they’re interested in and read it to them. 

Enjoy books together without testing them or making them perform for you. If you can make reading a positive experience, a time for connection, your child is more likely to be motivated to learn. 

Another tip would be to “think out loud” – casually point something out as you read (a letter you notice, a sight word you know they’re practicing at school) or work out a tricky word aloud and then move on. But be careful! If you do this too often or too obviously, your child will likely catch on and get annoyed.


Tough to narrow it down because each reluctant reader is different. But probably my number one tip is to find a way to get into the fun of it with your child. Whether your thing is voices, or reading during bath time, or seeking out book events. If you as the caregiver can make it fun and set an example of reading being awesome then the kids will likely follow.


To help kids build stamina for longer texts parents can try an “I read, You read” strategy. Take turns reading a page (or paragraph) at a time. It’s a relief for reluctant readers because they don’t have to carry the full load by themselves and comprehension is better maintained because they can listen to understand when it’s the parent’s turn.


Pick books with engaging illustrations to have conversations about, in addition to reading the text. Ideally, a series or a book that would lend itself well to being a jumping off point for extra interest in a topic.


“Allow them to choose the books, and set aside the time to read one to one every day. Keep books in every part of the house… even the bathroom! That way a book is never more than an arms length away.”


 I would say allow them to choose the book. Even if we are the one reading to them, giving reluctant readers a choice is helpful. So I would show the child three-four books with topics they are interested in and then have them choose.

Togetherness and specialness.  Togetherness, making a set time each day and make it special, an afternoon tea after school, a special drink and a bite to eat while sharing a book to read. Whatever you do, make it special and be together


Find books that interest them with characters they want to read about. Foster a love of reading!


All reading is good reading!

Don’t worry about reading level, or size, or genre, or if it’s a book they’ve read before. Reading is reading.

If someone only wants to read dinosaur books or graphic novels- let them. Building book joy and love is the foundation for lifelong literacy.

Oh and audiobooks are reading too!

Give your kid both- the book and the listenable format and let them follow along.

Hearing fluency modeled is a great way to encourage them to read along on their own!


My number one tip is to let kids see their parents enjoying books. 


Find something they are really interested in and tie it to books. My youngest didn’t enjoy reading until I found him some simple biographies about famous runners. Also, audiobooks are a great option for some kids!


Make reading fun! Use silly voices and actions.


I think family members modelling positive reading behaviours is the most important. Since children learn so much by seeing (not telling), if they see others gaining enjoyment of reading, they might be inspired to give it a try. We tell parents/guardians to pull out a book themselves, read aloud picture books/chapter books, make reference to how reading helps them read driving directions (kids will internalize, “I need to read to drive a car”) or when a parent is cooking they can say, “can you help me read this recipe”… without pressure, parents can model positive ways in which reading is intertwined into daily life

Another tip we share in my role is  not to use timers to enforce 20mins of reading a night (even though we know it’s good practice)… timers make it seem like a chore and when the timer goes off, even if the child was enjoying the book, they will stop and move onto something else

With reluctant readers, we also tell parents not to worry about WHAT they are reading (comics, graphic novels, magazines)… let them gravitate to anything and praise!

Bring them to places where they will also see people reading… bookstores, library… they will start to see that reading is for enjoyment.


Let them pick books they’re interested in reading – even if it means they’re reading something you’re not super excited about. Graphic Novels are books! They’re awesome for encouraging a love of reading!

(By “not super excited about” I mean like character books – not books that are inappropriate or anything.)


It’s ok to give up on a book that’s not working. Forcing something that no one is enjoying is never fun. Put the book away and head to your library for something else. And if in doubt ask a librarian for their recommendations for books on a theme, topic or genre your kid enjoys.


When it comes to reluctant readers, I always think of that J.K. Rowling quote, “If you don’t like to read, you haven’t found the right book.” My biggest tip for parents or teachers looking to help reluctant readers is to first explore the child’s interests and then find a book that fits their personality. I used to give my students a self-evaluation sheet asking them to circle various activities they were interested in and then used that to help guide them to a book I thought they might like that was near their reading level. 

Another tip I have is to be open minded. Many parents don’t love graphic novels, but reluctant readers do! There are a ton of graphic novels out there that not only have tons of kid appeal, but they also help children built important skills like reading with expression and better understanding punctuation. Because these books are highly illustrated, readers can use the pictures to help identify new words and better comprehend the story. Children may finish these stories quickly, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It is a huge boost to their ego to be able to read the entire book and they will usually return for rereadings, which will help books their reading skills.

Many parents also worry when their child chooses a book that they believe is lower than their typical reading level or if they reread a book over and over. There are actually benefits for children rereading books or choosing books on a lower level. Rereading allows them to develop a deeper understanding of some of the nuances in the plot they may have missed the first time and it can be an opportunity to practice their fluency. Sometimes they need a break from all the difficult reading they may be doing in school. Many adults are able to read War and Peace, but very few do because they want something more entertaining. Kids are the same way. 

Kids are figuring out their own reading identities and they have to have the freedom to explore and choose their own books.

Scholastic has two new groups of books aimed specifically for new/ reluctant readers that are fantastic! 

Acorn Books are intended for children ages four to seven and contain an excellent combination of easy-to-read text, color illustrations, and engaging storylines featuring friendship stories, humor, and magic. They also include tips for drawing the characters to inspire budding writers to create their own stories. 

The Branches Books are an ideal choice for those newly independent readers who are in between the easy reader stage and traditional chapter books. They have high-interest stories with simple plotlines that include easy-to-read text and illustrations that provide context clues and aid in reading comprehension. 


Read TO your kids. That’s my tip!


 let them read whatever they want. Blog, comic, graphic novel, book below grade level, I don’t care, as long as they are reading.


Honestly, I read this tip from Shannon over at @ohcreativeday about just continuing to read, read, read even when they don’t seem to be listening or don’t seem to care. So I probably read to my now toddler’s bum for months because she would just crawl away. So I think continuing to expose, even when they don’t seem interested, and creating a literacy rich environment would be my only tips!

Posted in #Bookstagraminthe6ix, River Reads, RwR Book Club

RWR Best Books of 2019

Our Participating Judges

The Read with River Book Club is proud to present the books selected as the best new releases of 2019. The juries for this selection were made up of our 16 regular bookstagram members, and three guest judges worldwide.

How did we come to the decisions we made? The process was admittedly difficult with mountains of books and pdf.’s piling up at our doors and in our inboxes. In the end each book was judged on a scale of one to ten in it’s category, and the scores were added up to give us the most impartial results possible.

There were definitely some stand outs for each of us, and not everyone always agreed on everything. However in the end we were all happy to see books that we could all agree on.

My own personal favourites from the year were “Pokko and the Drum” by Matthew Forsythe, an absolutely gorgeous experiment in effusive and dramatic illustration.

“There are No Bears in this Bakery” by Julia Sarcone-Roach, a cat who monologues like a 1930’s private eye and an awful lot of baked goods in this one for the win. I laugh every time we read it.

“When Grandma Gives You a Lemon Tree” by Jamie L.B. Deenihan and Lorraine Roccha, was an overall win for me too. Excellent story, very relatable, inspiring, and the art was on point. A definite must add for your bookshelf.

Who were the participating judges?

Canadian Judges





American Judges










British Judges




Australian Judges