Books for Families

by Lori Ragsdale

If your afterschool program works to build literacy skills, then family involvement activities should do the same! Here are some books you can share with families in your program. The first few are great read-aloud books--set up a family read-aloud time in your program, or have the books available in your program library for families to share at home.

Then I’ve suggested three books of fun activities families can share. You may be able to adapt some of these activities for a family involvement program, or, again, you can have the books available for families to use at home.

Family Read-Alouds

The Book Cover

Case of the Firecrackers
Laurence Yep
Harper Collins, 2005
In this book in the Chinatown Mystery Series, Lily and her Auntie Tiger Lil take on a new mystery in their hometown, San Francisco’s Chinatown. When Lily, her brother Chris, and Chris’ girlfriend visit a TV set, they encounter an “accidental” shooting of the TV star. As they set out to prove a young actor’s innocence, they learn more about their Chinese heritage, including details that make for a fascinating read for the whole family. Families might enjoy reading this book during the Chinese New Year.

The Book Cover

Jacquelyn Woodson
Penguin, 2003
Lonnie Collins Motion (Locomotion) writes beautiful, poignant poems about his life in New York that will touch family members of all ages. When Lonnie’s fifth grade teacher encourages him to write, Lonnie shares his most painful memories and frustrations in poetry that is vivid and memorable. Family members can take turns reading aloud the poems and discuss what the words mean to them. They can draw pictures of the words or phrases that touch them the most and discuss how any of Lonnie’s experiences are similar to or different from their own.

The Book Cover

The Watsons Go to Birmingham-1963
Christopher Paul Curtis
Bantam Doubleday Dell, 1997
When the "Weird Watsons" declare big brother Byron incorrigible, the whole family sets out on a car trip from Flint, Michigan, to Birmingham, Alabama, to live with his grandmother. The family, Byron, and irritating little brother Kenny learn lessons they never imagined in racially charged Alabama in 1963. If families read and enjoy this book, you might want to make available other materials on the civil rights movement for families to peruse, or lead a discussion with adults and children on ways they or people they know have encountered discrimination in their own lives and what can be done to address it.

Family Activity Books

The Book Cover

Do-It-Yourself Family
Eric Stromer
Bantam, 2006
TV carpenter Eric Stromer combines work and fun in this book full of projects that the whole family can do. His kid-friendly projects and directions will get kids of all ages involved in making their home--or your program space--a better, more attractive place to be. You can set up a work day in which families work together to clean and paint a room or install shelving at your program site. Families can also work together at home on an improvement project such as building an activity center or clutter-proofing a room.

The Book Cover

Emeril’s There’s a Chef in My Family
Emeril Lagasse
Harper Collins, 2004
Everyone’s favorite TV chef, Emeril Lagasse (a New Yorker!), incorporates fun and learning in this recipe book for the whole family. Emeril gives his snack and meal recipes fun names, and ensures that most are just a little too difficult for younger children to make on their own, encouraging adults to participate in the fun. You could try some of the snack or sandwich recipes that don’t require a stove in a family cooking activity, or use these recipes to inspire families to write their own favorite recipes or stories about good times they’ve shared around a meal.

The Book Cover

The Merry Christmas Activity Book
Jane Bull
DK Publishing, 2005
This well-illustrated book of family crafts and recipes includes easy-to-follow directions. Using inexpensive materials, families can spend enjoyable times together making gifts such as cookies, candles, candies, and ornaments. Though some are specific to Christmas celebrations, non-Christian families can enjoy many of the crafts--who doesn’t appreciate a candle or a sweet treat in midwinter? You may be able to demonstrate one of the projects at a family involvement session and then encourage families to try that craft or a different one at home.

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Anne Lawrence
Laura Paris
Laurie Z. Ragsdale
Maria Santana


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