Day 6 in Ahmedabad: Thorns, Buds and Roses

Hello LitWorld Family,

And so wraps up the final day of LitCamp India. This is the time when you wish you had extra days with the amazing staff and children and the time you reflect on the learnings of the past five days. After a joyous morning meeting, bunk time with heart maps and the traditional talent show, we had a group dinner with the Bal Dosts, Meera, Rafi, Prasad, Trupti and Gargi where we shared our different roses, buds and thorns from LitCamp. Here are some highlights:

The Bal Dosts didn't have a single thorn, not one, but they all had amazing roses and buds. Trupti shared that she is so excited to have many new games and activities to do with the kids. She said she never knew these activities existed and she can't wait to share them with all the children at her Learning Center. Both Hanifa and Sajeda shared their excitement about taking the read aloud back to their kids and watching their curiosity and imagination flourish as they explore new worlds. Rafi's rose was that these children, who are so often not allowed to express themselves were finally brought into a safe space where they could play, dance, sing, write, listen to stories and find joy, hope and friendship.

Leah and my reflections were similar. Our thorns are that we must leave these amazing children and women and that we wish we had the time to delve even deeper into all their stories. Our roses are that we had the privilege to watch the children and the Bal Dosts grow and learn with each day, and that we had the opportunity to learn from them as well. Our buds are that we can't wait to take the amazing momentum from LitCamp and launch LitClubs officially here in India.

Love to you all, thank you for supporting us on this amazing new journey for LitWorld,

Yaya & Leah

Day 5 in Ahmedabad: The True Meaning of Shooting Stars

Hello LitWorld Friends,

Today was another wonderful day of LitCamp. As Yaya always wisely points out, you can measure the success of day one by the way the children enter on day two. These past four days, especially the two days of camp, have been an extraordinary learning experience. I realized that this is the first time we've run a LitCamp on a first visit to a programming site. While that of course presents certain difficulties, it is also an incredible crash course in the culture. If you ever want to learn the unexplainable nuances of a culture, spend two days playing with the children.

We've noticed that the children have a very difficult time with games that involve teamwork. They are excellent at following directions and playing games where they alone are responsible for their actions (Read Along, Simon Says, etc.) but have difficulty with games where they need to rely on others to achieve a set outcome (the human knot, relay races, etc.). They also have trouble cheering on their friends. They will do it when instructed but then forget to continue on their own.

I spoke with two of our Bal Dosts, Prasad and Armene, about this and both women said that this is highly indicative of Indian culture. Children aren't praised at home or in school and none of the children we are working with have had the experience of playing any kind of team-based sport. For many of them, this is the first time they've been asked to cheer on their friends. And to turn that on its head, this is the first time they've been celebrated by their peers.

In that very vein, I have never seen shooting stars take hold the way they have here. Both the children and adults LOVE to give and receive shooting stars. They take it incredibly seriously. If a shooting star is given, the recipient will stop what they are doing to receive it with a deliberate shimmer down their body. Truly, I've never seen anything like it. In the sweetest way imaginable, the children have taken to giving shooting stars to their Bal Dosts after they lead activities. Be still my heart.

It's incredible to see the transformation that is already taking place. The children are so warm and open to every activity, song, and game. They've already begun asking if they can have another LitCamp next year.

All of these discoveries are not only important moments of learning, they are also crucial points of understanding as we continue to expand and deepen our work here. By running this LitCamp on our first trip, by jumping into the deep end of the pool, we are able to immediately see the structural nuances of our partner organization, the particular cultural differences, and the spaces that will need extra care to teach into.

With a joyful and heavy heart we look to tomorrow, our final day of LitCamp. It will of course be heartbreaking to leave these children that we've already come to love so much, but I leave taking heart knowing that they will all have a LitClub to belong to upon our departure.

With love & gratitude,



Day 4 in Ahmedabad: Launching the LitCamp!

Hello LitWorld Family! We are wishing you a very warm, joyful hello from Ahmedabad!

Today we launched the LitCamp! It was a vibrant, joyous, interactive day full of new friends, games, and much laughter. We began the day with the traditional prayer that the Kadam Education Initiative (KEI) chants at the beginning of all their meetings and programs. It is a simple non-religious prayer for peace for all humanity. We then moved to an outdoor soccer field for morning meeting. The kids eagerly joined in for breathing, stretching, and singing.

From there we moved into bunk time (the groups we put LitCampers in are color coded and referred to as "bunks") where the Bal Dosts led a newly translated version of "Read Along," did a read aloud, and helped the children decorate their notebooks. I've never seen a group of children so effortlessly and eagerly jump into activities. There was never any hesitation.

After lunch, we began our afternoon workshops. The bunks rotated through Sound and Movement, community building games, the Book Mural, and Animal Masks. Bal Dosts helped the children transition from workshop to workshop and assisted in leading the activities. We wrapped up the day with a group circle and a round of the Goodbye Song, sung mostly with "La Las".

At the end of the day we had an enlightening and inspiring staff meeting. We asked each Bal Dost to share their rose from the day. Meera began by telling the group that this had been one of the best days of her life. She explained that most of the girls, especially the Muslim girls, had never played a game outside before. The communities they've come from have strict rules for women and are far too dangerous for this kind of play. Seeing these girls play and express themselves without hesitation or fear was a great highlight of her life.

The women continued to share how much they learned over the course of the day, whether it was how to manage a group of 75 children (none of them had ever worked with such a large group), or learning new activities and teaching techniques. The final person to share was Gargi, our INCREDIBLE 28-year-old translator. She told us that today had been one of the greatest days of her life. She had assisted in a few other camps in Ahmedabad, but she had never seen such thoughtful, nurturing activities or kids as happy or joyful. But perhaps Armene said it best, "Today will have been a highlight of all the children's lives. It will be a happy memory.

We are so looking forward to tomorrow and watching these incredible children continue to grow.

With love,

Leah & Yaya

Day 3 in Ahmedabad: Building Community

Hello LitWorld Family,

We are finishing up another wonderful day of training with the Bal Dosts. Today we ran through the activities, logistics and itineray for our LitCamp with the women and practiced the skills we learned yesterday.

It was so rewarding to see the Bal Dosts take ownership of several of the activities themselves, voluntarily starting a round of "Read Along" (which Leah and I both now know in Gujarati) and calling us over to hear their read alouds and using their English to explain the stories to us. Today felt like a true day of community building, with much of the nervousness of first meeting dissipated.

No matter where we are in the world, every training is an exercise in cultural education. What activities work? What activities need to be modified? What makes sense for this community? What doesn't? What local games can we learn and use in LitClubs and LitCamps? It's so rewarding to find that perfect song or activity and watch it find its place with another group of LitClub leaders and children.

There was a moment today when we were cleaning up after an activity and one of the women started singing the Gujarati translation of Tuwe Tuwe, and we all joined in, singing and sorting markers and paper, feeling so harmonious and safe and joyful. I can't wait to bring this same sense of community to the kids over the next three days at LitCamp and watch as it is taken back to the Learning Centers in Bombay Hotel and Piplaj and cultivated for even more children and women here in Ahmedabad.

That's all for now friends, tomorrow is the first day of LitCamp, stay tuned!

With love,

Yaya & Leah


Day 2 in Ahmedabad: Synergy, Stories & Joy with the Bal Dosts

Greetings LitWorld Family! I'm writing to share our wonderful day of training with the Bal Dosts (teachers and LitClub leaders).

The training is being held at St. Xavier College, which feels almost like an oasis -- green, clean, and quiet -- hidden away in frenetic Ahmedabad. We began the day getting to know the six magnificent Bal Dosts through community building activities and songs. The women subtly altered a few lyrics in Tuwe Tuwe (Juwe Juwe) to create meaning in Gujarati. The lyrics now suggest looking for something out of a window.

Following our morning meeting, we launched into the LitCamp training, beginning with an overview of LitWorld's work, the LitClub structure, and then moving into the nitty gritty of LitCamp.

In a wonderfully serendipitous way, we did a 30-minute picture walk through "Journey," by Aaron Becker, which the women feel madly in love with. They were eager to answer questions and eventually took over and began narrating every page. They screamed with delight when they accurately predicted the outcome of the story (no spoilers here!). I was so thrilled to hear the good news that "Journey" was honored with a Caldecott Medal this morning.

Throughout the entire day, I was amazing at how engaged the women remained. Every time we taught them a song or a game, they wanted to teach us one of their songs and games in return. For eight hours they joyfully sang, played, and created with us. Through the activities we have been getting to know the women, where they have come from and why they are passionate about the work -- children are deserving of joy, giving back to the communities from where they've come, fighting for equal rights for girl children, etc.

I must also say a word about Meera, the founder and director of the Kadam Education Initiative. She is a powerhouse! Inspiring at every turn, she is always ready to jump into the center of a song circle (as demonstrated by a donkey-themed round of "Boom-Chicka-Boom"), offer specific and caring praise to her Bal Dosts, and explain the delicate details of the community's circumstance.

Following training, Meera and her daughter, Sagadee (a senior in high school), took us to the Law Garden Night Market, where we bought several beautiful items for our Gala auction.

We are looking forward to an inspiring second day of training tomorrow!

With Love,

Leah and Yaya


Stories From the Field: Day 1 in Ahmedabad, India

Hello LitWorld Family! We are wrapping up an exciting and informative first day in Ahmedabad, India. Rafi and Prasad from our local partner organization, the Kadam Education Initiative, picked us up this morning and took us on a tour of some of the different education centers where they work. We stopped in two different communities, Bombay Hotel and Piplaj.

Bombay Hotel is made up of Muslim communities that settled there after 2002 when a large portion of Ahmedabad's Islamic population was massacred by the Hindus. It is located by the gigantic municipal garbage dump, at least 15 stories high and 4 square kilometers in area (picture below). We visited two different centers there and sang and played games with the children, many of whom will be attending the LitCamp we are running later this week. They were full of high spirits, warm and open. It speaks to the deep and heartfelt work of KEI and their teachers, known here as the Bal Dosts.

Piplaj is made up of communities that were displaced after a large riverfront beautification project commenced, sending residents of the permanent slum community there searching for a new home. They have been displaced several times before returning to Piplaj semi-permanently. All of the children at this center will be attending camp. Leah and I feel fortunate to have been able to interact with them today as it will make the first day of LitCamp so much more exciting and fun for them since they will no longer have to acclimate to strangers.


For many of the children, it will be their first time interacting with peers from a different religious group than them, but Meera and Rafi who are wife and husband, Hindu and Muslim, Brahmin and middle class, have told them that we are all a part of the religion of humanity and we must learn to see each other as one and the same. Beautiful.

We can't wait for day one of training tomorrow with the Bal Dosts and look forward to sharing more stories with you from the field!

--Yaya Yuan, LitWorld's Advocacy and US Programming Director


5 Resilience-Building Exercises for Children

Here at LitWorld, we believe there are simple actions that we can take each day to help our children build resilience. We have designed our LitClubs and LitCamp programs to incorporate seemingly straight forward ideas that provide our kids with the emotional support and space to grow their confidence and courage. However, these moments don't just occur at camp, school, or after school. Here are 5 resilience-building exercises that you can practice in your home.

1. Time for Play

In our busy lives, we often forget the crucial role of play for everyone in our home - except perhaps for our pets! No matter how much activity we feel our kids are getting at school, it is important to designate time each day at home for play. Whether outside or inside, having time and space to move freely and think creatively helps the home feel like a special, relaxing, and fun place to be. Play allows our children to take a break from their stressful lives to just be kid.

2. Reading Aloud at ALL Ages

There is no need to belabor the importance of reading to parents. We know the importance of having books in our home and setting an example for our children by being avid readers and encouraging our children to read themselves, or reading together if they are not yet old enough to read independently.  However, many of us forget the important and intimate nature of reading aloud once our children can read on their own. Reading aloud is a sacred act, one that allows us to share in the joy of storytelling with our children, and encourages us to build our own stories outside of the read aloud together.  Through the plots and characters in our favorite picture and chapter books, our children learn the coping mechanisms they need to become resilient and clear their own hurdles. Take the time to read aloud as a family, even after your child can read independently.

3. Write it Down

If Reading is breathing in, than writing is breathing out. Just as we must make time for reading aloud together each day in our home, so too should we allot time for quiet reflection. Encouraging our children to journal helps them to process their daily personal experiences, reflect on moments of learning (even ones they might not yet recognize!), and build their own personal narrative. It is this personal narrative, this history, this story, that will serve as the strongest tool in their tool belt for overcoming the challenges they will inevitably face on their path to adulthood.

4. Create!

In our busy lives, creative and artistic pursuits are often, and unfortunately,  relegated to the status of "hobbies." Projects may go unfinished, plays unwritten, and art pieces unseen at the back of our closets. These "hobbies" provide valuable means of expression that are crucial to our children's development.  Allotting time to be creative in our weekly (if not daily) lives will help our children build a strong sense of self - who they are, what they love, and how they interact with their world - which all combine to build resilience.

5. Praise

From high fives to thank you cards, the importance of praise cannot be underestimated. Finding small moments each day to praise your child for exemplifying the values your family adheres to is an important way to build your child's self confidence. Whether you take a moment each night at dinner to share what you appreciate about each member of your family, or take time with your loved ones before bed to share moments of admiration you held for them throughout the day. Making praise a habit encourages our children to see their world, and the people in it, in a different light.

5 Ways to Get Out of Your Reading Slump

We've all gone through reading slumps. Perhaps due to busy schedules that feel too hectic to give our reading lives conscious thought, or because we just can't seem to find texts that resonate and pull us through the pages. However, it is necessary to give yourself the gift of story, and to allow yourself to discover new worlds, to travel to new places and to meet new people. Here are 5 ways to get out of your reading slump.

1. Change up your reading level.

Often we stop reading because we read when we're tired and the books we pick up are challenging. We can't advocate enough for the great young adult literature coming out these days, and we find that it rejuvenates our reading lives every time! Some of our favorites are Wonder by R.J. Palacio and One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt.

2. Take a new genre for a test drive.

Try infusing your life with more news sites and magazines or short essays and short stories. Sometimes we need to feel like we are reading things all the way through to build up momentum with the satisfaction of getting through several pieces of inspiring reading in a day, or in a week, so don't forget to engage with these important genres. We don't need to always be reading huge novels or non-fiction tombes. However, if you're sick of novels but love a long read, maybe one of those non-fiction tombes is the way to go, or consider picking up the memoir of a public figure you admire or have always been curious to learn more about.

3. Switch locations.

If you keep falling asleep reading in bed, you are building up an association of falling asleep while reading. Try reading in a different room, or take reading outside where you won't have old habits to fall into. 

4. Catch up old friends.

Read an old favorite. Rereading is awesome. For children, rereading is a wonderful way to build fluency and stamina. For adults rereading old classics (we love the Frog and Toad series by Arnold Lobel) is a chance for reflection, to revel in new discoveries and nuances that are uniquely revealed during a reread.

5. Set a goal.

Set goals of increasing reading minutes each week over a period of time, or getting to a certain number of reading minutes within a month. (We love the 7 minute challenge!) Set goals with a buddy and keep one another accountable.


5 Admirable Story Characters

Stories are both a window and a mirror. We read to find out about the world, and about ourselves. The characters below have inspired the LitWorld staff from childhood to adulthood. Each time we read these stories, we learn something new about both the characters and ourselves.

Anne Shirley from "Anne of Green Gables" by L.M. Montgomery

When Anne Shirley smashes her slate over Gilbert Blythe's head as punishment for calling her Carrot Top, we were in love. Her prodigious imagination, love of story, courage and yes, even her fiery temper, won us over again and again with each read and re-read of the Anne of Green Gables series. From Anne, we learn about the power of determination and impassioned bravado.

Rachel from "Eleven" by Sandra Cisneros

On the day of her eleventh birthday, Rachel has the unhappy misfortune of being blamed for leaving an ugly, smelly red sweater in the coat closet at school. In a voice full of wisdom and thoughtful reflection, she recounts the unhappy experience, explaining her reactions and thoughts through the voice of a girl who is not only eleven, but also one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine and ten. Rachel teaches us about the complexity of the human experience, regardless of age.

Auggie from "Wonder" by R.J. Palacio

Born with a horribly disfigured face, formerly home schooled Auggie decides to brave the halls of middle school as only he can, with kindness, sincerity and compassion. Despite bullying, peer pressure and tested friendships, Auggie stays true to himself and we admire his courage and clarity in the face of difficulty.

Charlotte from "Charlotte's Web" by E.B. White

Charlotte's cleverness and intelligence as she hatches a plan to save Wilbur the pig from his impending death captures our imagination and admiration. Charlotte is the first to befriend Wilbur in a barnyard of unfriendly animals, and goes on to become not only a friend, but a confidant, mentor and teacher. From Charlotte we learn the true power of words.

Ping from "The Empty Pot" by Demi

When the Emperor tests all of the children in his kingdom to see who will become his successor, Ping must confront his own frustrations and insecurities when he fails the test. We love Ping's quiet humility and his confidence as he approaches the Emperor with his test results, with unexpected results, of course.

5 Ways to Praise and Affirm a Child's Achievements

Regardless of age, we all like to be validated for our good work, and to know that those around us truly see and appreciate our daily actions. Creating positive, praise-centric environments for children gives them a safe space to discover and embrace who they are and fortifies them with the confidence needed to face the world. Here are 5 ways to praise and affirm a child's achievements:

1. Be specific.

When you are praising behavior or achievements, name the particular action or aspect that you admire. This can be as simple as recognizing a child for sitting quietly. In fact bringing attention to small actions makes a child cognizant of and more likely to repeat this behavior in the future.

2. Praise the small steps towards larger goals.

Being recognized for the effort we are devoting to a project before it reaches (or even nears) completion keeps us motivated and energized to push through and stay the course. Praising small steps teaches children to recognize progress and reflect on where they have been and where they are going.

3. Affirm realized expectations.

Make sure to celebrate the hard work that children do to reach their goals. You can mark their achievements in small ways or with a larger inspiration celebration to showcase their work and to share it with a wider audience (family, friends or other community members).

4. Show love and demonstrate affection.

We are most comfortable being ourselves and feel the most secure when we are surrounded by those we love. Express your affection in whatever way is comfortable for you. Be genuine, sincere and make your excitement and joy obvious from the moment children enter a room.

5. Validate your child's feelings.

Often as listeners we try to impose solutions or our own opinions about an event onto whoever is expressing their feelings about a particular situation. Teach your child to embrace his feelings by being a steadfast listener. Ask questions and offer comfort and acknowledge their feelings and then work through a solution together (if feelings are negative) or jump in and share their joy (if feelings are positive). When necessary brainstorm possible courses of action to resolve any lingering negative feelings, this will allow you to gently guide towards resolution while leaving your child in the driver's seat.

Dispatches from the Haiti Innovation Hub: Day 3

The LitCamp started with a nice surprise as the first group of girls to arrive were from the LitClub hosted at COHP and they all knew us from earlier in the week. It is always wonderful to begin the morning hearing your name enthusiastically shouted by little ones and being mobbed with hugs.

Everyone settled into our space, reading, doing puzzles and eating breakfast as we waited for the rest of the girls to arrive. We put on our LitCamp t-shirts and excitement gathered in the air.

We made a big circle and had a rousing morning meeting of songs and games, introducing the day as an extra special day of fun and joy together as a community of women and girls. The young women leaders really took charge in wonderful and poignant ways from the start of the day all the way through. They are learning so much by being a part of LitWorld and TOYA.

During our LitClub time, I worked with the oldest girls (young women, some are 20). They are a deeply complex group, each one struggling with her own life challenges, past, present, future. They have grown so much since the last time I saw them in March. It was thrilling and moving to be with them again. The young women leaders did a read aloud of a Haitian Creole book about a grandfather and his relationship with his grandchildren, and we talked about kind things that people have done for us to express their love, or things that we would do for someone to express our love. Everyone gradually opened up, first to a partner, and then to the group, in beautiful, emotional ways. We made heart maps, and everyone thought deeply about what to put in them, and wanted them to look just so.

We came together again with the whole group for big games and had fun playing Mingle Mingle, Fire on the Mountain, and the Motion Telephone Game. We sang some Haitian songs, and then everyone got geared up for the afternoon with a bit of quiet time with some more drawing and reading and a delicious lunch.

We split the group by age for the afternoon and Yaya and I started with the 15+, Leah and Pascale with 8-14. We made book pages from our life stories that we will turn into a Be the Story mural for the Haiti Hub tomorrow, while Leah and Pascale played the Machine Game and did yoga exercises and sang songs.

We swapped groups and Leah and Pascale led yoga relaxation exercises and sang songs with the older girls while Yaya and I made book pages with the younger girls. With the little ones coming out of Leah's activities, we started them off singing and drawing together. It was incredibly beautiful. Just the most beautiful thing. They were all carefully making their pages gleam rainbows and singing rounds of Tuwe Tuwe and Od Yavo Shalom Aleniu together, fully, fully engrossed and at peace. Leah's group was in the other room in silent meditation listening to us sing and practicing their breathing.

This is all just what these girls and women need in their lives. It is so important for them to have LitClubs. It is so important for them to have each other. It is so important for them to have their mentors. It is so important for them to have us, and to have the structures of support we are working to create for them every day.

--Dorothy Lee, LitWorld's Creative Director

Dispatches from the Haiti Innovation Hub: Day 2

Our second day in Haiti has just come to a close, and it was wonderful. We spent the full day at the Hub with the Young Women Leaders doing LitClub and LitCamp training.

This was my second time doing trainings for the Young Women Leaders, but my first time visiting the Innovation Hub. It was wonderful to see how at home everyone feels in the space. Nadine and Pascale greeted us along with 20 young women leaders. All the young women were so relaxed, having fun and laughing and all of them greeted us with hugs and "bonjour!" There were many familiar faces, but many new ones as well.

It's wonderful to see just how much the LitWorld culture has passed on to these women as they have spent more and more time together. As we gathered for our community building portion of the day, the women led us in song, singing "Hey There Ladies" and the "Hello Song" with beautiful harmonies and energy. We taught them Read Along in Creole and they loved it.

The LitClub training was a great success. We did a whole LitClub session with them, and afterwards they asked the most insightful questions, from working with kids with low literacy to classroom management skills. We are so grateful to have our board member, Nicole Nakashian, with us again (her second visit to the Haiti Hub). Nicole led a one hour leadership presentation about how you need Community, Clarity of Purpose, Courage and Confidence to be truly successful.

The young women were rapt as they listened to Nicole's advice and afterwards asked many questions about how to achieve their dreams of becoming a chemist, a teacher, a minister, while being surrounded by naysayers, oftentimes from their own families. Nicole reminded them that these people are often discouraging because of love for you, but also fear that you will fail, and even though they are in your community, they do not have to be in your head. You will fail, she said, most people do, but keep trying. Surround yourself with people who you now have your best interests in mind, and remember that tearing down is so much easier than building up, so keep building.

After a delicious lunch by Maria, the woman who runs vocational skills workshops for HIV positive women, we gathered with the 6 women who will be our LitCamp co-counselors tomorrow. We taught them about the importance of camp and then went through the activities we'll be running. Many of them volunteered to lead the activities themselves tomorrow! They are a wonderful group, some LitClub leaders, some not, but all enthusiastic, warm and willing to learn and teach.

We can't wait for tomorrow. 30 kids ranging from ages 8-20 will arrive at the Hub at 8:30, and with that the first Haiti LitCamp will begin!

--Yaya Yuan, LitWorld's Innovation Developer

Dispatches from the Haiti Innovation Hub: Day 1

Greetings from Haiti! It has been a full first day in Port-au-Prince. Peterson (translator, dancer, and charisma captain) arrived this morning to take us to meet Dominique at the Children of Haiti Project (COHP). As a first time visitor to Haiti, the drive itself was a fascinating experience. It's a wonder the cultural snapshots you get from a speeding window. I was particularly fascinated by the number of men carrying bundles on their heads, a job usually reserved for women.

When we arrived at COHP, Dominique gave us a tour of the school, which as has been noted many times before, is beautiful. Dominique herself is immensely passionate about her students. Her eyes welled up as she explained how she was searching for new schooling options for ten of her students moving out of the tent city.

Following our tour we ran a morning LitClub session with approximately 35 students aged six to nine. Besides being unbelievably adorable, they were all incredibly well behaved, engaged, and ready to participate. We left them a copy of Chrysanthemum because they didn't want to stop looking at the pictures (one boy tried to grab the book out of my hands)! A particular highlight was a French song session which somehow miraculously transitioned into a fully choreographed dance routine to Michael Jackson's "Bad".

After lunch we ran a teacher training session with 6 of the COHP teachers. Although they started out rather reserved, after a consecutive series of the Hello Song, the Human Knot, Read Along, West Wind Blows, and oh so many shooting stars, the group opened up and were eagerly participating.

Following the training we launched into a second LitClub session with Dominique's older students. After a wonderful session we met the beautiful women of the Moms Sewing LitClub. Together we sang and made a beautiful communal heart map. Dominique asked the women if anyone would like to share their thoughts on their club. One after one the young women stood and thanked us all for providing them with this life changing opportunity. They each said how much they had learned so far, and how this opportunity was giving them the skills needed to earn a living for their children.

Overall it was a beautiful, overwhelming, exhausting, shooting-star-filled day that is just the start of our Haitian adventure!

--Leah Reiser, LitWorld's Community & Gratitude Cultivator


5 Ways to Get Your Kids to Read More Tonight!

One of the key determiners of our children’s success as readers is the amount of time they actually spend reading.  Like any skill, reading is a practice, and the more we practice, the stronger our reading muscles will grow. Here are 5 tips to help your child become a frequent reader.

1. Take a field trip.

One of the best resources we have at our disposal during the summer is time. Use your child’s out of school time to visit new and exciting places to pick out books. Try a fun museum, an independent bookstore, or go on a scavenger hunt in the library. Choose books that you can read together and that your child can read on her own.

2. Set a goal.

Goals motivate all of us - children and adult alike!  Just as we set goals in our every day lives, we can set family reading goals as well. Decide on a reasonable target of reading minutes that you can accomplish together as a family in two to three weeks.  Make a chart to track your progress, and plan a celebration that everyone can "read towards" and anticipate when you hit your reading target.

3. Start your own book club.

Book clubs are a great way to create community around reading and to spend time together discussing what we are enjoying in our reading lives. Start a summer book club in your family or community, and have each member contribute to the reading list. Meet every week or bi-weekly (and over e-mail or video chat in the interim) for snacks and fun conversations.

4. Dive into non-fiction.

Summer is a time to be fun and adventurous in our reading lives. Use your child's interests and natural curiosity to find informational books to learn more about these topics, and make the readings interactive. Try conducting science experiments around what you have read, or visiting the historical locations that are the real settings of favorite new stories.

5. Read aloud every day.

Don't forget the importance of reading together, and routine. Make your read alouds fun and interactive with exciting voices, and ask your child questions about the text. Make the reading suspenseful by reading one story over the course of a few days (or nights)!

5 Ways to be Your Child's Reading Hero

Children already emulate, admire and revere their parents and caregivers in so many ways. Here are 5 ways to be your child's reading superhero.

1. Train to be strong readers together.

A day spent reading side by side with your child under a tree may sound more like relaxation than hard work, but every minute spent with text (and rereading favorite texts) builds the frequency and stamina your child needs to be a strong independent reader. Often reluctant readers push back against independent reading time because of the isolation factor. The beauty of this "training" is that you are bringing companionship to the act of reading.

2. Be a vulnerable reader.

One of the most magical things about reading is the way stories move us - to tears, to laughter, to sleeping with a light on after a frightful tale. Make all of these emotions visible to your child as they happen to you, and talk to her about what in particular - a certain event or turn of phrase - moved you. 

3. Be a curious reader.

We all have favorite genres of text that we return to again and again, this is because we have built strong reading identities by exploring a wide variety of text. Embrace the opportunity to help your child discover who he is as a reader and what he likes to read by reading aloud to him from genres of text that he might overlook and dismiss. For example, poetry and newspaper articles make great read alouds.

4. Be a confident reader.

Commit to making reading aloud joyful and memorable for your child by giving in to silly voices and over the top actions. This is not only an act of reading kindness that will build strong and happy memories for years to come, it will model the fearlessness and confidence that we want our children to have when they approach new texts and new experiences. 

5. Make reading safe.

Just as superheroes protect citizens from harm, build safe reading sanctuaries for your child to read whatever he wants, free of judgement. Encourage and validate reading whenever it happens (whether it is the back of a cereal box or a picture book) and allow your child to immerse himself in whatever captivates his attention and makes him want to read more. 


5 Children's Books That Every Adult Should Read

Whether it's Alice catapulting down a rabbit’s hole, or a corduroy bear missing a button, many of us have childhood stories that hold an enduring place in our heart. Yet when we return to these books years after they first captured our imaginations, we find them rich with lessons that we may have missed so many years before. At LitWorld we celebrate children’s literature every day. Below is a collection of our favorite children’s books that every child at heart should own.

"Peter Pan" by J.M. Barrie

In the timeless tale of a boy who never grows up, J.M. Barrie explores the conflict between the innocence of childhood and the responsibility of adulthood. Set against the backdrop of 19th century London and the magical island of Never-Never Land, “Peter Pan” is one part childhood fantasy, one part grand adventure, and one part exploration of innocence, love, and what it means to grow up.

"The Little Engine That Could" by Watty Piper

"The Little Engine That Could" is the story of a small steam engine with a heavy load to pull up a steep hill. Time and time again the little engine tries to make it over the hill but meets set back after set back. Of course, our hero has the pluck and gumption to continue his efforts and eventually with hard work and perseverance, he achieves his goal. With colorful and dynamic illustrations, the simple yet profound moral here is one for all ages: If at first you don’t succeed, try again.

"Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day" by Judith Viorst

We've all been there. We’ve all had one of those days, where everything seems to go wrong. The coffee machine is broken, the car won’t start, you spill juice all over yourself… on and on it goes. Join Alexander on his very bad day for a laugh, a sigh of recognition, and an important reminder that tomorrow is a new day.

"The Missing Piece Meets the Big O" by Shel Silverstein

While copies of “The Giving Tree” continue to fly off the shelf, do yourself a favor a pick up a copy of Shel Silverstein’s hidden gem, “The Missing Piece Meets the Big O.” It is the story of a missing piece that is looking for another perfect piece to complete itself. This simply told story takes an unabashed look at relationships, happiness, fulfillment, love, and what it means to be whole.

The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling

The most popular and iconic series of our generation, Harry Potter is for lovers of magic of all ages. The series follows a child wizard through an engaging and ever evolving plot, flying through worlds and decades. Brimming with themes, metaphors, and substance, this is a series that grows with its readers, challenging us along with its main characters. Catapult yourself into a magical world with mystery, adventure, romance, and a deep streak of humanity.

LitWorld's 5 Read Aloud Tips & Best Books to Read Aloud

At LitWorld, we believe that you are never too old to enjoy a read aloud. Not only does reading aloud help you create warm and special family memories, it also demonstrates good reading habits to up and coming young readers. Here 5 tips for an engaging read aloud and 5 books that we love to read aloud!

1. Choose a book with relevant themes.

Children feel all emotions deeply. The best part about a good picture book is that under the seemingly simple story runs a deeper theme that can often open up larger, important discussions. If you notice your child is trying to make sense of a new experience, positive or negative, use your read aloud time as a pathway to discuss what your child is going through. Try "Chrysanthemum" by Kevin Henkes. This book is about a mouse named Chrysanthemum who learns that being different is something to be celebrated.

2. Choose a book with repetition and rhythm.

Familiar rhythms embedded in a text make reading aloud a soothing and relaxing experience for your child. Many books use repetition to allow children who cannot yet read independently to participate in the read aloud and develop a love of language. Try "Blueberries for Sal" by Robert McCloskey. This book, about a girl named Sal who goes on a big adventure while blueberry picking with her mother, comes alive during a read aloud with its use of sound imagery.

3. Choose a book with great illustrations.

Good readers study illustrations and images as closely as the words on a page to make sense of what they are reading. By choosing a book with stimulating visual images, a child can practice visual literacy. Each page offers a wonderful, teachable moment in which to pause and talk about what is happening in the story. Try "Sleep Like A Tiger" by Mary Logue, Illustrated by Pamela Zagarensky. The warm images of this book are filled with details perfect for talking and lingering.

4. Choose a variety of texts.

A meticulously woven tale of adventure, a beautiful poem, a thought provoking article, lifelong readers enjoy all of this and more. It is important to see your read aloud time as an opportunity to widen your child's perspective. By choosing diverse texts to read aloud, a child will appreciate different forms of writing that he may never have explored on his own. Try "Actual Size" by Steve Jenkins. This book contains a wealth of information about the animal and plant world and the interactive illustrations will have kids going back for more.

5. Choose a book you've read before.

You've probably noticed that your child requests the same read aloud over and over again. This is a great habit to cultivate! Good readers often re-read texts, thereby increasing reading fluency and deepening comprehension. Don't hesitate to encourage your child to engage with the same text multiple times and encourage a deeper understanding of the text by asking questions about the story that leads to different interpretations. Try "The Gift of Nothing" by Patrick McDonnell. Ponder over the meaning of friendship with Mooch as he searches for the perfect gift for his best friend, Earl.

10 Ways to Nurture a Summer Reading Life

Summer reading memories are a joyful and comforting gift that will return to your child year after year with the scent of a warm breeze. Here are 10 ways to nurture your child’s summer reading life.

1. Make a Summer Blockbuster

Don’t wait for Hollywood to turn your family’s favorite story into a summer thriller, make your own film adaptation! The boys and girls of our LitClubs love making short movie trailers inspired by their favorite books. As your child enjoys the creative process of active storytelling, she is also practicing finding and communicating the theme and plot of a story to an audience. You may choose to film the trailer or simply act it out. (Be prepared to channel your inner Meryl Streep as necessary!)

2. Bring Characters to Life

In books we meet some of our best friends, and anyone who has fallen hopelessly in love with a story can attest to the fact that characters have lives that extend beyond the words written on a page. Show your child how to bring characters to life by living as the character in one of her favorite books for a day. On this day let this character inspire your meals, your music, your field trips, your manner of speaking, and your reading choices.

3. Share Reading Recommendations

Show your child how much you value his opinions by sharing his reading recommendations far and wide. This can be done using a social networking site like Goodreads, or publishing a family newsletter. Reinforce for your child that every opinion is valid (we don’t always love what we read!) and encourage him to return to the text to give reasons that support his opinions.

4. Rally Behind the 7 Minute Reading Challenge

Drop everything and read every day for 7 minutes. This quirky odd number is fun, feasible and achievable, and dispels the notion that to be successful readers we must read a book from cover to cover. These 7 daily minutes are extraordinarily powerful in building fluency and stamina. While you’re at it, sign up for the Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge and log these minutes towards a world record.

5. Take your Tales 2 Go

Summer lends itself to day trips and longer vacations. Take advantage of the time you may be spending in a car or on a train by loading your child’s tablet or iPod with audio books. From non-fiction that is relevant to your adventure, to a classic novel, bring reading to life in a new and joyful way.

6. Host a Family Summer Camp

Turn your home into a summer LitCamp! Each week of our Harlem LitCamp has a special theme, including animals, science, cooking and health. Choose your own theme weeks and seek out different genres of text around this theme. After a week immersed in the topics of your child's choice, plan a fun “inspiration celebration” together to mark the end of a successful exploration. This may be a special field trip or art project.

7. Tell Stories Through the Lens

In the 21st century, visual literacy is extremely important. This photo challenge asks your child to re-tell the stories or informational text she reads through her own lens (literally). Take a photography walk and have your child capture images that are relevant to what she is reading. Encourage a variety of connections - from objects that are the character's favorite color to a close up of an ant hard at work.

8. Go Outside

The summer climate offers an opportunity to read in new places that may be too cold, wet or otherwise inaccessible during other seasons. Embrace a change of pace and a change of scenery and show your child that reading and enjoying nature go together perfectly.

9. Enlist a Reading Buddy

Sometimes a perceived sense of isolation or solitude causes children to prioritize social activities over settling down with text. Make reading a friendship-building activity by enlisting a reading buddy. This could be a friend from school or the family pet, let your child select her ultimate reading friend. Buddies may choose to read aloud together or to simply read side-by-side in companionship.

10. Be a Reading Role Model

Show your child what it means to be a voracious reader. Carry books with you wherever you go and share your reading excitement. When you read a beautiful passage in the New York Times sports section, read it aloud. When a passage in your novel makes you laugh out loud -- laugh out loud and explain the source of your laughter.


Download LitWorld and Scholastic's All-Time Favorite Summer Reads

Create joyful, powerful and lasting summer reading memories with this carefully crafted list of all-time favorite stories for every age. These books are beloved by LitClub children around the world and are centered around the LitWorld 7 Strengths: Belonging, Curiosity, Kindness, Friendship, Confidence, Courage, and Hope. These are core ideas that cultivate compassionate global citizens and are key to resilience-building. Click here to download the list. Happy reading!

Download a Free Activity to Capture Summer Memories

Four Square Memories is a simple art and writing activity that is beloved around the world by our LitCampers and LitClub members. Click here to download the worksheet.


This activity is a great way to get your children to reflect about their own stories and experiences. The process of filling in each square will help them develop a better sense of their own individuality as a storyteller and reader.

Start by looking at the worksheet with your child and explain that each square (My Family, My Friends, My Hobby, My Dream) represents a different part of her life. Then have her draw a picture in each box to illustrate the different parts of her life and write a brief sentence to summarize her drawing. (Longer written responses are always welcome and can be recorded on the other side of the sheet.)

Next, have your child repeat the activity. This time ask her to fill out the Four Square Memories sheet as if she were a character from a favorite book, or a book she has recently finished as part of the Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge.

This fun twist is a great way to get your child thinking about the multidimensional lives of characters, and encourages close reading and critical thinking in a natural, creative way.

When your child has completed these drawings, ask her to share the content of each square. Which square did she enjoy drawing the most? Which square was more challenging than the rest?

Don't forget to share your Four Square Memories with us! Find us on Twitter and Facebook and tell us about your experience.