Posted in #Librarian Fight Club, Uncategorized

Beyond 2020: Will Kidlit Evolve or Revert?

Before 2020, the children’s book industry wasn’t something that most people could care less about. Sure, there were handfuls of teachers, librarians, niche collectors and people actually in the business of making kids’ books, but the general adult population at large wasn’t overly concerned with it.

  2020 changed that, well, it changed a lot of things.  It shone a burning spotlight on a number of issues and KidLit was one of them, people got fired up. The Black Lives Matter uprisings in June had people looking for ways to be anti-racist, to change the world, to take part, and it was decided a great place to start was with children’s books. The cynical part in me wonders if that’s because purchasing kid’s books, and putting them on a display shelf, is only two clicks up from the most basic form of armchair activism. Whether or not people were actually reading them and discussing them with kids is to be determined.

  During the June uprisings, the status quo of children’s literature was found to be woefully inadequate, lacking in representation of BIPOC characters (Black Indigenous People of Colour), lacking in #ownvoices of Black authors and illustrators, lacking in stories that represented BIPOC characters in a range of types of stories.  People who had probably never thought twice about what sort of books they were buying their kid at the grocery store, suddenly were up in arms demanding immediate change from an industry so slow that you’ve got to wonder if they’ve only got one poor fellow binding every book by hand. Of course, all of these problems I’ve mentioned were no secret; studies, surveys, statistics, have all existed and been done for years showing that this is a huge issue. It’s just in the heat of June, and the fire of the protest, people suddenly cared a lot.

Books like “A is for Activist” by Innosanto Nagara, were cleaned out of every online store for months. Social Media Accounts focused on Diversity and Black representation in kids’ books were flooded with new followers, some accounts growing by fifty thousand followers or more practically overnight.  An entire generation of new Bookstagram accounts emerged.

With people clamouring to buy more books that just didn’t exist, the publishers have been left scrambling. They couldn’t do much that would have any immediate effect aside from reallocating marketing budgets to favour the books they did have featuring BIPOC characters. Suddenly popping out new books wasn’t an option. Especially given the constraints of being in the middle of a pandemic. Even under normal circumstances it takes about two years for the average book to be produced, 

Publishers have gotten to work as fast as they can, finding BIPOC authors and illustrators, and getting to work on publishing socially conscious books, but it will still be approximately a year and a half before most of the books will come to fruition. 

The big question is, how will these books be received, and how will that reception impact the course of Kidlit into the foreseeable future?

Will these books be rushed?  Will they be of questionable quality because of that rush?  Will the books all focus on delivering incredibly serious messages of social activism instead of providing picture books by and about BIPOC people that are meant for children to enjoy again and again? Because if the answer to any of those questions is yes, then there’s going to be a problem. 

Secondly, by the time these books are released how many people will still be interested? The fervour of the uninvested has cooled considerably in the last few months. That paired with having had to endure the absolutely revolting deluge of self published Amazon books about Racism slapped together in an attempt to Capitalize on the BLM movement has me wondering, will people be tired of it?

The fact remains that lack of representation in kidlit, is an issue that needs to be addressed. If this massive wave of #ownvoices books by Black Creators about BIPOC characters does not fulfill the industry’s expectation, then what will happen?  What will their conclusion be? What happens if they do not sell?

If things don’t work out my concern will be that the industry executives will conclude that they were correct all along in not investing in BIPOC creators and BIPOC stories.  Capitalism may dictate it would be best to just quietly close the lid on all of this, and let it collect dust with every other trend from 2020.

Or maybe, maybe I’m just jaded, and it’ll be fantastic, and people will turn up in droves to buy them. Maybe the demand for change brought out in 2020, is just what we needed to launch a new era in children’s books, a more inclusive one.

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

Inclusive Picture Books

Picture books that are full of diverse and joyful representation of humans. With an emphasis on joy and love.

If you’d like to purchase any of the books you see here I recommend contacting your local bookshop, if they don’t have a copy they will be able to order one for you. If you appreciate the work I do here I have merch available as well as a tip jar here.

“When Aiden Became a Brother”

By Kyle Lukoff and Kaylani Juanita

“Ho’onani: Hula Warrior”

By Heather Gale and Mika Song

“The Hips on the Drag Queen Go Swish, Swish, Swish”

By Lil Miss Hot Mess and Olga de Dios

“Uncle Bobby’s Wedding”

By Sarah S. Brannen and Lucia Soto

“Santa’s Husband”

By Daniel Kibblesmith and A.P. Quach

“Mom Marries Mum!”

By Ken Setterington and Alice Priestley

“Bling Blaine: Throw Glitter, Not Shade”

By Rob Sanders and Letizia Rizzo

“Julian at the Wedding”

By Jessica Love

“Julian is a Mermaid”

By Jessica Love

“PRince & Knight”

By Daniel Haack and Stevie Lewis

“Maiden & Princess”

By Daniel Haack and Isabel Galupo

[Christian Robinson]-[You Matter ]-[Hardcover]

“You Matter”

by Christian Robinson

“All Because You Matter”

By Tami Charles and Bryan Collier

Posted in Uncategorized

Hilarious Picture Books

If you’re looking for a good time, with picture books, this is the list you need. I recommend purchasing them from a local bookshop, if they don’t have it in stock, they can definitely procure a copy for you! If you’d like to support ReadwithRiver, we have a tip jar available, as well as merch.

“Everyone’s Awake”

By Colin Meloy and Shawn Harris

“I Have to Go”

by Robert Munsch and Michael Martchenko

Thomas' Snowsuit (Classic Munsch) by [Robert Munsch, Michael Martchenko]

“Thomas’ Snowsuit”

By Robert Munsch and Michael Martchenko


by Judith Henderson and Andrea Stegmaier

“Hat Tricks”

By Satoshi Kitamura

Are You Eating Candy without Me?

“Are You Eating Candy Without Me?”

By Rachel L. Jacobs and Andy T. Jones

“Little Red”

By Bethany Woolin

“How to Give your Cat a Bath”

By Nicola Winstanley and John Martz


By Sacha Cotter and Josh Morgan

Mortimer (Classic Munsch) by [Robert Munsch, Michael Martchenko]


By Robert Munsch and Michael Martchenko

“Oh No, George!”

By Chris Haughton

“The Hug Machine”

by Scott Campbell

“This is a Ball”

by Beck Stanton and Matt Stanton

Posted in Uncategorized

Holiday Books!

Many holidays, we like them, here are books. Enjoy. It’s a great opportunity to shop local, your favourite bookstore can always order a book in for you if they don’t already have it in stock! If you have found our content useful, you can support by purchasing our Read with River merch, or adding to our tip jar here!

Merry Witchmas by Petrell Ozbay and Tess LaBella
Merry Witchmas by Petrell Ozbay and Sonia Labella illustrated by Sonya Abby from Astra Kids Books

Santa doesn’t believe in witches? Poor Ginger the witch wants nothing more than for Santa to visit her witch village, how will she get Santa to believe?

“Cookies for Santa: A Christmas Cookie Story about Baking and Holiday Traditions-Includes Recipe for Santa’s Favorite Cookies! (America’s Test Kitchen Kids)

By America’s Test Kitchen Kids and Johana Tarkela

“Sounds Like Christmas”

By Robert Munsch and Michael Martchenki

Another holiday hilarious favourite in this house!

“The Nutcracker in Harlem”

By T.E. McMorrow and James Ransome

“Santa’s Husband”

By Daniel Kibblesmith and A.P. Quach

“So Much Snow”

By Robert Munsch and Michael Martchenko

Not so much about holidays but about lots of snow!

“Our Favourite Day of the Year’

By A.E. Ali and Rahele Jomepour Bell

Posted in Uncategorized

Picture Books For Little Foodies

You can find the picturebooks here at any of your preferred retailers, and if you inquire at your local independent bookshop they can order it for you as well. If you have found my work useful and would like to show your appreciation we have a support page with merchandise as well as a tip jar here.

“Tea Time Around the World”

By Denise Waisselbluth & Chelsea O’Byrne

“What’s Cooking at 10 Garden Street”

By Felicita Sala

“Whopper Cake”

By Karma Wilson and Will Hillenbrand

This is my personal all time favourite most hilarious picture book!

“There Are No Bears in this Bakery”

By Julia Sarcone-Roach

“How to Feed Your Parents”

By Ryan Miller and Hatem Aly

“Fussy Flamingo”

By Shelley James Vaughan and Matthew Rivera

Kids Can Cook: Fun and yummy recipes for budding chefs by [Esther Coombs]

Kids Can Cook: Fun and Yummy Recipes for Budding Chefs

By Esther Coombs

“The Complete Brambly Hedge”

By Jill Barklem

This is an older series, and I completely adore it, the watercolour images reminiscent of Potter, have a delightful extra level of extreme detail. And SO FULL OF FOOD!

“Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao”

By Kat Zhang and Charlene Chua

Amy wants to learn to make Bao with her family, but it’s harder than it seems. This book was one of the winners of the Bookstagang’s Best of 2019.

“Swamp Water”

By Robert Munsch and Michael Marchenko

One of our all time faves, a little girl goes out to a fancy restaurant for her Grandma’s birthday, but she would prefer to order off menu.

“Bilal Cooks Daal”

By AIsha Saeed and Anoosha Syed

One of the winners of the Bookstagang’s Best of 2019, this gorgeous and inclusive story includes a delightful recipe for daal at the back. I’ve tried it out and can confirm it is delicious!

Each Peach Pear Plum

“Each Peach Pear Plum”

By Janet and Allan Ahlberg

This one is a classic on every baby’s shelf for a reason, comforting and sweet, I just want to dig into that picnic at the end.

“Foraging with Kids”

By Adele Nozedar

So this one isn’t a picture book but an actual illustrated guide, and it is such a great time, so fascinating. We used it during the summer and River and Willow had such fun. We ate a lot of dandelions.

“Dragons Love Tacos”

By Adam Rubin and Daniel Salmieri

“Secret Pizza Party”

By Adam Rubin and Daniel Salmieri

“The Prince and the Porker”

By Peter Bently and David Roberts

“Mr. Crum’s Potato Predicament”

By Anne Renaud and Felicita Sala

Based on the true story of the invention of the potato chip.

“Maggie’s Chopsticks”

By Alan Woo and Isabelle Malenfant

“Round is a Tortilla: A Book of Shapes”

By Roseanne Greenfield Thong and John Parra

“Dragons and Doughknights”

By Dee Leone and George Ermos

Big Cities Little Foodies: Tokyo

By Cheryl Yau Chepusova and Isabel Foo

Posted in Uncategorized

A Book List for Children who Love the Natural World

So I have been asked for Non-Fiction/ Dinosaur/Animal type books several times this week, and so I’ve gotten a good selection together for you here, they would be appropriate for readers 3 and up, with an explanation of what I like about the book. What makes it special.

I recommend you reach out to your local independent bookshop to order the books I have listed, if they don’t have it in stock they can place an order for you. If you have found my content useful and would like to show your appreciation we have merch available as well as a tip jar here.

You will find my recommedations below for

  1. Unique Books about Plants
  2. Dinosaurs
  3. Our Universe, Our World, Facts Facts Facts!
  4. Evolution
  5. Human Body
  6. Non-Fiction Animal Books
  7. Fiction Animal Books

Unique Books about Plants

“In the Garden”

Emma Giuliani

This book is an unusual masterpiece, it’s really big but not incredibly dense, it’s stunningly beautiful, totally interactive with tons of little flaps to explore and discover. Definitely the coolest Garden book I have ever seen.

“I Ate Sunshine For Breakfast”

Michael Holland & Phillip Giordano

Absolutely gorgeous, so many pieces to notice, fantastic bright detailed oriented illustrations. Includes science projects you can do at home. It is a great book for reading a page or two at a time, you can choose bits and pieces. I like a non-fiction book that is in bite sized bits!

“Over and Under the Rainforest”

Kate Messner & Christopher Silas Neal

Is part of an acclaimed series by Kate Messner and Christopher Silas Neal, what is interesting about these books is that they straddle the line between fiction and Non-Fiction. It is a fiction story in a traditional sense, a child observing nature, but it includes lots of non-fiction facts as well. The art, although not hyper realistic, pays particularly close attention to real life details. These books are very unique.

“Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt”

Another book in the “Over and Under” series. This one looks at the Garden and it’s changes over the seasons. Lyrical, poetic, observant of nature. Plenty of opportunities to discuss what we notice in the world around us, and to explore new vocabulary.

Dinosaur Pop Up

“Encyclopedia Prehistorica: Dinosaurs”

By Robert Sabuda & Matthew Reinhart

This book is all about the pop up. It has all sorts of incredibly specific scientific detail, which is really better suited to a child 7 and up, but my toddler and kindergartener pore over this book, again and again. It is magnificent. Interesting to not Matthew Reinhart the artist also does a “pop up school” for young artists on social media. This book isn’t just about dinosaurs, it’s about the fact that art can be 3D in so many different ways, and it can be dynamic, innovative, and involve a lot of engineering.

Our Universe, Our World, Facts Facts Facts!

“Me and the World: An Infographic Exploration”

By Mireia Trius and Joana Casals

This book is so unusual, and definitely a reaction to the trend and love for Infographics. It’s about everything and nothing specifically, but it’s all taken from statistics and facts. Each spread is a different infographic, incredibly detailed, and graphed or mapped out differently. This is a great way to discuss graphing, and communication of information in different ways. There are infographics on different breakfast foods around the world, Sports around the world, even Birthday dates! It’s totally random, and yet some how really well unified. Really enjoyable.

“Sound: Shhh…Bang…POP…BOOM!”

By Romana Romanyshyn and Andriy Lesiv

This non-fiction book is conceptual but also concrete and factual, exploring different kinds of sound, how they’re made, how we hear and interpret them. But also exploring silence, sign language, different language sounds around the world. It’s a beautiful book and super inclusive. Not a dense read either, can be read all in one go enjoyably.

“Discovering Energy”

By Eduard Altarriba

This is part of a whole series too, I’ve only read two. But I think this one is more interesting and accessible. I really like this one, it goes through every sort of energy source and information to understand different elements about it. Really important read for a child learning about the mechanics of our world.


“Who Will It Be? How Evolution Connects Us All”

Paola Vitale and Rossana Bossu

This one is about evolution and starting at the smallest sells and growing and becoming, and guessing from these really interesting watercolour? Possibly ink? Illustrations what something will be. At the end it has info about Darwin, and Evolution.

Human Body

“Grow Secrets of our DNA”

Nicola Davies and Emily Sutton

This book is great, it follows one girl’s life and throughout it explains how her body will grow, it explains DNA and what it all means. Very nicely done.

Non-Fiction Animal Books

“Fanatical About Frogs”

(and below some of the other Animal books by Owen Davies)

By Owen Davies and Produced by Flying Eye Books

These books are incredibly special, and beautifully made, which doesn’t seem like that important? But the quality of these books really does stand out, the colours are so deep, the paper is thick, it lasts which is what I look for in a hard cover book I want to buy. The art is phenomenal, again it’s not photographic, nor is it photo realism, but the attention to detail on every element of these scientific illustrations is bananas. They’re just magnificent.

So these are really a reference book not stories, but what I also like about this series is that every block of text is broken up into something readable and understandable. So though there is a ton of information in each book, you can read it with a child as young as three over time. My child enjoyed them.

“Bird Watch”

“Bird Watch” (And “Beach Walk”)

Backpack Explorer

These are super fun, they have photographs, they include activities and are very interactive. They even both include a little magnifying glass. They’re the perfect handheld activity to bring with you out on a walk, or on a trip. They’re also quite sturdy so they’ll survive a tromp around in the woods.

“One Day on Our Blue Planet…In the Outback”

By Ella Bailey

I recommend a lot of Flying Eye Books because the quality is so consistently good. This one is also part of a series apparently, but this is the only one I personally have read and it’s very well done. It’s also formatted more like a read through story rather than a reference book. So it is a couple of sentences on each page about what is happening with the animals and the time of day and where they are etc. It’s Non-Fiction but it’s a nice pleasant read through.


So I know this is about Nature, and really celebrating non-fiction. But if your child enjoys animals and nature, they might enjoy these hilarious fiction stories. The following

“Fussy Flamingo”

Shelly Vaughan James and Matthew Rivera

This is one of River’s absolute favourite read alouds. It has so much good stuff happening, a story about a little flamingo who will not eat shrimp because she thinks they’re going to be yucky. It’s fun, it’s well written for early readers to chime in with, and at the back there’s a whole Non-Fiction section about flamingos! So good!


Judith Henderson and Andrea Stegmaier

This is my personal favourite story book of 2020. It’s about a boy who finds an alligator, who maybe wants to eat some people, but they become friends anyway.

Unstoppable: (Family Read-Aloud book, Silly Book About Cooperation): Rex,  Adam, Park, Laura: 9781452165042: Books


By Adam Rex and Laura Park

I don’t even know how to explain this book it is totally ridiculous, unexpected and hilarious. You should probably buy it.

“Animals Brag About Their Bottoms”

Maki Saito

Exactly what it sounds like. Delivers on title promises.

“Not Your Nest”

Gideon Sterer and Andrea Tsurumi

This one is just so silly, this poor bird keeps trying to build a nest, but every single animal keeps stealing it away. Poor bird just wants to sleep.

Posted in Uncategorized

Our Kindergarten Homeschool Plans Free Download: And a note on Goal Setting

Hello Reluctant homeschoolers! You may find yourself feeling virtual kindergarten is just not working for you. So I have laid out some of the main guidelines I use. I have been a teacher in Primary and Kindergarten since 2013. These plans are my regular Full Day Kindergarten plans modified for home and what I am using with my own children.

One of the most important pieces of this, that you need to really do for yourself is goal setting. When we plan a program, we centre it around long and short term goals that are tied to the curriculum (you can see my previous article that contains the curriculum document and a video explaining how to interpret it.) Because you are only teaching your own children, the goals you set can and should be individual to your children and their needs. Where are they at right now, and what is the next step?

Does your child recognize letters? If so then you can move forward with decoding words, recognizing sight words, etc. If your child has no interest in books and doesn’t know which way it should open or that text directionality is left to right, then your goals are going to be much more simple. Just reading together and beginning letter recognition.

When you set goals they should be achievable, specific, realistic, and within the range of proximal development. So they should be challenging but not impossible. You need to spend time really assessing what your child can do. Then plan from there.

Once you know where you are at, you need to pick some long range goals (a few months) and more short term goals (for the month, or week.) You don’t need to do a ton of fancy activities, but what you focus on when reading, writing, and discussing should all tie back to those long term goals.

With that being said here is our basic schedule.

Literacy circle Details, I do not do different activities for literacy every day. The books change but the format does not. I do sometimes do a specific and preplanned craft or activity in the afternoon (math, science, art) but not every day.

There is a lot of overlap in the different sorts of play. Some children have preference for one or two over others and those choices should be respected. But occasionally we encourage them to branch out!

Posted in Uncategorized

How to Decode The Kindergarten Curriculum Document: A Super Quick Guide for Parents

If you are looking for the Kindergarten Document for download you can access it


Or Download it below

Meet the Ontario Kindergarten Curriculum Document. It includes everything you need to understand the approach, principles, expectations and assessment of the Kindergarten Full Day Program.

If you have opted to keep your kindergarten aged child at home during the pandemic and do not feel that remote schooling is going to work for them or you, then you may wish to consult this curriculum document while making plans to home school.

I have included a longer explanation below of how to interpret this document!

Why should you consider this document? Essentially, it lays out exactly what skills and information a child should have by the end of Kindergarten, entering grade one. So, it is very helpful to look at these expectations when planning your long range and short range goals for teaching at home. That way your child will be up to speed when they go back to school!