Nick Springer on the Move Hits Readers Hard

“The National Paralympic Heritage Trust is delighted to be able to share the inspiring story of Nick Springer in its heritage centre, here at the birthplace of the Paralympic Movement, Stoke Mandeville, the UK. Nick, like all fellow Paralympians, is an inspiration to us all, along with his family whom we thank for sharing his life.” -Vicky Hope-Walker, NPHT CEO

“His story is one that will impact and encourage readers worldwide. His perseverance, ingenuity, and hope is palpable on every page. It tells readers, young and old, that in all of life’s trials there’s a purpose to glide, push, and slide forward into greatness.” -Abigail, Teacher Candidate

“Jennifer Stratton and Christopher Kuster craft a powerful and inspirational story of resiliency, capturing Nick Springer’s strength, motivation, and indomitable spirit.  This is the journey of a true hero’s physical and emotional feats, and the amazing tale of a Paralympian who never gave up.  Nick Springer On the Move is a real celebration, an important book to share with children and adults alike because it offers life lessons for us all.” -Meg, English Department Chair 

“Jen’s book has provided a voice in our home library we didn’t know was missing. We have stories of fictional superheroes and magical lands, but none that address content so grounded in reality such as Nick’s story. Reading with a six year old, for whom this type of adversity is new to his worldview, his reflection after was ‘No matter what happens, just try your best.’ When a child sees this story as a tale of overcoming adversity as opposed to questioning the ‘why’ of it all, something special lies between the pages. And just like Nick doing it his own way, it can’t wait to get out and be told.”- Chris, Educator & Dad of Preschoolers

“I found Nick’s story so empowering and uplifting. What an indomitable strength of will. It’s clear he never backed down from a challenge. I especially enjoyed reading about the gold medal game. The writing and illustrations perfectly capture the breakneck pace of the game and the exhilaration Nick and the rest of the players felt as they played on the greatest sports stage of all. Nick left the world too soon, but he left a remarkable legacy behind, and I’m glad this book exists to share his story.” -Miriam, Bay Path University Access Services Librarian

“The book was AWESOME because Nick didn’t let people get the best of him. At first he thought he couldn’t do everything that he used to do, but he was wrong. He actually did more being different.” -Brady, 8th grader & Ethan, 2nd grader

“Utterly inspiring!”- Joey, 6th grader

To hear more about the book in my own words, you can watch my recent interview with Link to Libraries President, Laurie Flynn.

If you are looking to purchase Nick Springer on the Move for a reader you know or to donate to a local library, you can visit Mouth and Foot Painting Artists. If you are looking for more about the book, check out these posts…

The Sports Wheelchair: A (Very) Brief History

I would like to introduce you to my friend, Sam Brady from the UK. He has a very curious mind, and he has used his curious mind to become an expert on sporting wheelchairs. In fact, he is studying them in new and innovative ways that will eventually lead him to get his Ph.D. By asking questions and researching the answers, Sam has learned about the mechanics of sports wheelchairs and the incredible athletes who have helped engineer the evolution of the sporting wheelchair throughout the last century. Here is a video that Sam has created for the readers of Nick Springer on the Move and others to learn more about sports wheelchairs.

Still curious…Here is a transcript of this video and links to all of the visual resources for you to ask your own questions and do your own research.

Even more curious! Check out all of the awesome blog posts and artifacts at the National Heritage Paralympic Trust in Stoke Mandeville, England, the birthplace of the Paralympic Movement or scroll below for related Team Possible posts. Remember, stay curious and push hard!

Reading with Nick Springer on the Move

Ian and Caitlin reading Nick Springer on the Move
To purchase Nick Springer on the Move

Nick Springer on the Move is a hard hitting picture book biography that is meant to challenge readers and inspire action. It tells the real life journey of Nick Springer who became a quadruple amputee when he contracted meningitis at the age of fourteen. It is the story of how he found his own way to boldly move through life and his indomitable determination to become a world class athlete. Nick’s sports quest and the illustrations created by mouth painter, Chris Kuster, will have you redefining ability and will change you forever.

Questions to Discuss

Before: What do you know about people with disabilities and adaptive sports? How would you define ability? How does the image on the book cover support or challenge your definition of ability?

During: When Nick is recovering in the hospital, what questions do you think are going through his mind? (p. 9)

During: How do you connect with the moment in the story when “Nick knew he could do anything. He would simply do it differently”? (p. 14)

During: What words, feelings, and images come to mind as Nick and his teammates go for gold in the Paralympic Games? What real world connections do you make to this sporting event? (pp. 20-25)

After: After reading the book including the notes from Nick, Jen, and Chris, how would you define ability? How has your definition of ability shifted or grown? Why? Now, what do you know about people with disabilities and adaptive sports?

Words to Know

meningococcal meningitis– A rare bacterial infection that can have serious complications but is vaccine-preventable. Visit the National Meningitis Association for more information.

amputee– A person who was has had a limb amputated due to traumatic injury or at birth his/her/their limbs did not fully develop. For more information and resources supporting amputees visit Amputee Coalition.

occupational therapist– According to AOTA, therapists who “help people across the lifespan participate in the things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of everyday activities” (American Occupational Therapy Association).

residual limb– Refers to the body part that remains after amputation.

prosthetic/prostheses– Refers to an artificial body part such as a limb or limbs.

prosthetist– A specialist in prosthetics who assists individuals with the development, fitting, and use of their prostheses.

wheelchair rugby– A highly physical coed team sport for male and female tetraplegic athletes. It is an invasion and evasion game with the objective of the game being to carry the ball across the opposing team’s try line to score. The team with the highest score wins. Visit International Wheelchair Rugby Federation and USA Wheelchair Rugby to learn more.

Paralympic Games– An international adaptive sporting event that takes place along side the Summer and Winter Olympic Games where athletes with disabilities compete to be the best in the world. Visit International Paralympic Committee and Team USA for more information.

Actions to Take

  1. Donate a copy of Nick Springer on the Move to your local library or classroom to start filling the the shelves with books that feature the abilities of people with disabilities.
  2. Give Nick Springer on the Move to a friend or teacher as a gift and encourage them to share Nick’s story with others.
  3. Follow and promote Jen Stratton and Team Possible and adaptive sports organizations like Move United on social media.
  4. Use this graphic organizer to write your own “On the Move” story and share it with us by emailing it to: jenstrattonandteampossible@gmail.com or tag us on social media @jenstrattonandteampossible.

9 Reasons Why Nick Springer on the Move Belongs on Your Bookshelf

Caitlin proudly holding up the first copy of Nick Springer on the Move

#1 It is an exciting sports story about two-time Paralympian, Nick Springer.

#2 It highlights the hard hitting sport of wheelchair rugby.

#3 The illustrations are bold and colorful and created by mouth painter, Chris Kuster.

#4 The language is rich and packed with vivid images.

#5 Many teaching and reading resources have been developed for it.

#6 It challenges readers to think differently about what is possible.

#7 It will have you cheering for Nick Springer and Team USA.

#8 It will inspire you to persevere against all odds.

#9 Nick Springer on the Move will change you forever.

Be strong and push hard!

If you are looking to purchase Nick Springer on the Move for a reader you know or to donate to a local library, you can visit Mouth and Foot Painting Artists. If you are looking for more about the book, check out these posts…

Jess Silver Is Flexing for Access

Could you define for us what is inclusive fitness?

I define inclusive or adapted fitness as allowing an individual that has any kind of limitation to be able to participate and to learn the fundamentals of exercise regardless and notwithstanding their physical limitation.  By just scaling down or adapting exercise to an individual’s needs, the individual can carry out the exercise and also learn about the importance of being strong and physically active.

Why is inclusive fitness important? 

I think it is so important because sport and fitness are fundamental to teaching life skills and soft skills. These skills include cooperation and defining what adversity is. Self-identity and self-confidence are also gained because, when you are working through a fitness regimen that is based on exercise, you are learning about your body.

Sports allow for interacting with others. Sport can be a microcosm of society where a smaller group can learn to cope with adversity. Sport can be a place where we can build to become a better society cumulatively, which is to me what sports really represents.

Would you say then that through inclusive fitness and sports, we can build a better society?

Yes, an individual that has a limitation versus somebody who does not have an obvious limitation and how do we design infrastructure in order to allow everybody to enjoy and participate actively in society. It is a social justice issue when we examine how those structures are strengthened to include everybody in something like sport and fitness.

What is your role as an inclusive fitness trainer?

I feel that it is my role to educate individuals with limitations and to help them become strong, to teach them an exercise prescription, and to teach them that they are valued members of society. I want them to know they are capable of being an athlete if they invest the time, effort and hard work into their performance. 

Being an adaptive trainer is not so different from being a mainstream trainer, but here’s why it is so important because of that social understanding. I can acknowledge that there are challenges, but I can say here’s a way that we can design and redesign curriculum to make it so that any individual can excel. 

Fitness and sport are vehicles to allow individuals that have physical limitations and injuries to manage and ameliorate their physical and emotional states of being. In fact, you can manage the disability and any atrophy by engaging in fitness and sports. So, in the end, it can actually redefine what an individual is fully capable of through fitness and sport.

So, what is your training regimen? 

It will probably make some people’s jaws drop, but I train or at least I try to train in some way, shape, or form every single day. Every day, I engage in some kind of training or movement-based activity. In terms of high-performance training, I strive to do it about three-four days a week. Because I have cerebral palsy, I know as an adult that the more I engage in movement, the more I challenge my brain through the different functional patterns, and even if there is damage associated with some part of the brain, the more improvements can happen.

Tell us about Flex for Access.

This has been an endeavor of mine that I’ve been working at developing and growing. It’s a registered nonprofit organization here in Toronto, Canada with the goal of recognizing how Cerebral Palsy affects every individual differently. It is a condition that affects 70 million people and is the most common neurological disability that children can be born with or acquire later on in their life as well, through a brain injury. Even though it’s the most common, I found that not a lot of people know that the condition affects every individual differently. Because I felt like that understanding was missing, I wanted to redefine the context from which it is understood. For me, sport was that avenue through which I could do that so Flex for Access was created.

In addition to training, founding Flex for Access, and working in Marketing and Communications, you have also written a book titled, Run: An Uncharted Direction. Can you tell us about it?

My book was something that I knew my whole life that I wanted to write. I’ve been a writer since I was six years old. I started by writing poetry and short stories. You could always find me with a pencil in my hand. For me, I wanted to write my book and put my story out there. 

We’re all on an uncharted journey. Your path and your experiences are not known to you. From the day we’re born, we become enriched by our experiences. We learn through our experiences. Some experiences are positive and some are negative. The negative ones, you learn from through adversity. But I would argue, that through adversity comes beauty. 

What I want people to learn from reading my book is that we are all on an uncharted journey. The more experiences that you expose yourself to, the more compelling and beautiful your journey will be. I want to encourage people to really embrace the challenge, embrace the unknowns, embrace the times where you feel like you’re broken, and you don’t know where you’re going. Through my story, I show how adversity breeds strength.

To close, how do you define ability? I think that ability is anything that you invest your heart and your mind into doing. 

For more on Jess Silver, watch this interview or visit her website: Flex for Access.

A Mother’s Love Is Limitless

Teaching at a women’s college, I often find myself exploring gender issues with my students. When my students shared their desire to research the representation of women with disabilities in children’s literature, I was ecstatic about their curiosity and then devastated by their discoveries.

There are a growing number of picture books highlighting women with invisible and visible disabilities such as The Girl Who Thought in Pictures, The Story of Temple Grandin by Julia Mosca and Rescue & Jessica by Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes.

This growing representation is essential and demonstrates progress. However, when one more closely examines motherhood, women with disabilities seem to disappear from the pages and bookshelves. 

Think about that for a minute…think about all the books that you have read as a child or have read to a child about a mother’s love, about families…how many included representation of women with disabilities? What does this say to children? You must be fully-able bodied to be a mother. What does this lack of representation say to a young girl with a disability? You are not worthy of being a mother. What does this lack of representation say to young boys? A woman with a disability is not capable of being a mother. If you have a disability as a man, you cannot be a father. 

These may not be the intended messages, but they are the implicit messages that our children are receiving. Here is one conversation among school children from a study in the British Journal of Sociology of Education (2014) focused on the assumptions young children have about people with disabilities, 

Interviewer: Do you think disabled people sometimes have children and families of their own? 

Boy 1: No, no, no, no, no!

Girl 1: No!

Interviewer: Why is that?

Boy 1: Because they’re disabled, they won’t ever look after them because…

Boy 2: (Interrupts) They can’t look after themselves! 
The only time that this assumption was questioned was when a child stated her uncle is a disabled person and father of three children, but this was an isolated comment and was ignored by her peers. (Beckett, 867).

The issue of mothers with disabilities missing from children’s literature becomes even more complex when we look at women of color. Where are women of all ethnicities and abilities represented on the bookshelves?  If you find them, please share them with me. I need them. My students, as future educators, need them. My daughter needs them. My sons need them. We all need them.

Because…a mother’s love is universal. A mother’s love is limitless.

Until I find those books (or write them), I will share and discuss inclusive images of motherhood like the ones above with my students, my children, and my readers.

If you have images of motherhood that represent the limitless ability of all mothers, please send them my way at jenstrattonandteampossible@gmail.com. And, keep believing in the Possible!

Work Cited & Other Related Resources

Beckett, Angharad E. (2014) Non-disabled children’s ideas about disability and disabled people. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 35 (6), 856-875.

Pennel, Ashley E.; Wollack, Barbara; Koppenhaver, David A. (2018). Respectful Representations of Disability in Picture Books. Reading Teacher, 71 (4), 411-419.

We Need Diverse Books

Many Ways to Be Mighty: 35 Books Starring Mighty Girls with Disabilities

Representation Matters

Being a professor of education for over a decade, I have read lots of children’s books. Over the past five years, I have focused my reading on children’s books representing people with disabilities, and you might be shocked at what I found or maybe not…

  1. You can find many picture books about disabilities, but few picture books where the main character has an exceptionality.
  2. You can find the sports stories of athletes who play traditional sports, but you cannot find picture books about athletes who play adaptive sports. 
  3. You can find lots of pirate picture books featuring amputees holding weapons or bottles, but you cannot find books about going back to school that include children with limb differences. 
Pirate Pete by Kim Kennedy

When I reflect on what I can and cannot find for young readers, I wonder what messages they are getting from the books that do and do not appear on our shelves. Are these the messages we intended?

  1. You can talk about disabilities, but you can’t talk with people who have exceptionalities.
  2. You can hear the sports stories of traditional athletes, but the triumph of athletes who play adaptive sports are not as valuable. 
  3. You can read about amputees as villains, but they shouldn’t be included in your classroom.

Fortunately, there is a growing representation of people with exceptionalities in the media. You can see a young boy in a wheelchair on a poster at Target. In my Athleta catalog, a young girl who is an amputee is running across the page. So now, I simply wonder when children’s literature will catch up and include everyone on the shelf. 

Oliver Garza Pena gets that representation matters. Photo Credit: Ollie’s World Facebook Page

Until then, I will blog, teach, and present the sports stories of athletes who redefine ability and believe in the possible because I know representation matters. Don’t believe me. After a group of third graders, heard my son, Ian, and I share the sports story of wheelchair rugby champion, Nick Springer, and they asked to write him letters.

Nick Springer, two-time wheelchair rugby Paralympian. Photo Credit: Christopher Griffith for Vanity Fair

Dear Nick,

“You showed me that anything is possible. You showed me that there are no limits to what I can do.” -Sierra

“I think you are brave and I know you are strong.” -Olivia

“Never let anyone tell you what you can’t do and what you can.” -Emerson

“Everyone loved how you persevered.” -Grace

“I think you are brave like a superhero. I like the way you do wheelchair rugby.” -Ahmed

“I bet you liked crashing, slamming, banging, and helping your team. I think it would be fun to play wheelchair rugby.” -Logan

“It felt good telling your story to the class. I was proud of you and Mom and me. It also felt good to talk about someone else who has a disability like me. The best part was doing it with Mom. Love, Ian”

I told you REPRESENTATION MATTERS.

Ian representing his story at Shriner’s Hospital. Photo Credit: Shriner’s Hospital

Shriners Hospitals for Children Making an Impact

When filling out the adoption paperwork for Ian to join our family, we had to identify resources in our community that could support our son’s upper limb difference. We knew it was a blessing that just 30 minutes away was Shriners Hospitals for Children. However, at that time we had no idea of the impact that the team at Shriners Hospital would make on our family and just how grateful we would be for this amazing resource in our own backyard. Here are three ways Shriners Hospital has improved our lives:

#1 Modeling Acceptance. Did you know representatives from Shriners Hospitals visit schools and teach about physical differences, equip children with vocabulary to discuss disabilities, and provide hands-on experiences with prosthetic devices, braces and more? I didn’t until the counselor at Ian’s school arranged for outreach visits to his school, and Ian came home from school with a “finger cast.” He then shared how Miss Lee and Miss Kristen from Shriners had visited his class with dolls, braces, and made molds of the children’s fingers to show them some of the services provided at the hospital.

A Thank You Note from Ian’s Classmate
Photo Credit: Thankful Mom

With their modeling and accepting language, Ian told me how he decided to stand up in front of his class and tell his friends about his upper limb difference. His classmates asked him questions like, “Does it hurt?” or “Will it grow back?” And with pride, he answered them, “No, it doesn’t hurt” and “Nope, it won’t grow back”. For a child once taught to hide his little hand, with the guidance of Kristen and Lee, he was able to educate others and share with confidence how he can do anything. He just does it differently.

#2 Making Play Accessible. Kids are meant to play that is how they learn and explore the world. But when a child has a physical difference, his/her ability to fully engage with his/her surroundings may be limited. For Ian, he takes on most two-handed tasks like cutting his food, zipping his coat, or even playing basketball by making modifications. It takes practice, but he usually figures it out and doesn’t look back. However, learning to ride a bike proved to be unusually challenging for him. After lots of falls, scraped elbows and knees, and plenty of band-aids, Ian decided to ask the doctors at Shriners for some help. During our annual visit to the upper limb difference clinic, he stretched out his arms and said to the doctor, “Look at my arms, they are not the same length. It makes me wobble, and fall off my bike. Can you help me?”

Ian’s Big and Little Hands
Photo Credit: Proud Lucky Fin Mom

The doctor held Ian’s outstretched arms, smiled back at him, and said, “You’re right. They are not the same. But, we can make you a bike hand and that will help you balance on your bike. Do you want a bike hand?”

“Yes!” exclaimed Ian. Then, the nurse simply walked us out of the examination room and down the hallway to Pediatric Orthotic and Prosthetic Services Department (POPs). There Brock (he really is as cool as his name) made a mold that day for Ian’s new bike hand. It wasn’t until a rainy and cold November day that Ian got to test out his new bike hand. Since the weather wasn’t cooperating, Ian got to ride smiling down the hallways of the hospital. It was absolutely thrilling to watch him maneuver confidently around the corners and even ride one-handed while giving the nurses and doctors high-fives.

Brock and Caitlin watch Ian test out his bike hand while riding through the hallways of the hospital. Photo Credit: Proud Bike Hand Mom

BIKING UPDATE: In August, after lots of practice Ian finally learned to ride his bike without training wheels. Learning to ride his bike was a redefining moment for Ian. He truly learned to believe that he could do anything!

Ian is all smiles after riding his bike to the beach with his siblings and without training wheels.
Photo Credit: Proud Bike Mom

#3 Valuing Our Story. This third gift of valuing our story I never expected, but it might be the most important service that Shriners has provided to our family. The staff listened our story. They understood our story. They encouraged us to share our story. In the end, they valued our experience and literally offered a helping hand when we needed it. Their encouragement let us know that anything is possible for Ian. Their compassion let us know that it is okay to ask and accept help with no conditions attached. So on this #GivingTuesday, please consider supporting this amazing organization with a donation. And remember, always believe in the possible.

Ian showing radio hosts, Zito and Kera, from Mix 93.1 his bike hand.
Photo Credit: Shriners Hospital Photographer

Adoption Year #2: Redefining Family

Painted Family Rocks to celebrate Ian’s 2nd Family Day
Photo Credit: Proud Mom

November is National Adoption Month, and I thought it might be the perfect time to share an update on our adoption journey. While year one was mostly spent navigating new territory, which made the year both beautiful and overwhelming all at the same time, year two has been spent settling into our new “normal.” For us to get there, we have had to find time for healing and redefining our family. Let me explain…

Ian has the most beautiful mind. He is inquisitive and a big thinker. Every car ride is filled with questions, observations, and more questions. Often one idea bounces to another and yet another. Ian also has endless energy much like a bouncing rubber ball filled with joy, sunshine, and sprinkled with stardust. However, when you put all of this inside of a box like a structured school day or a martial arts lesson, it looks a lot like ADHD. It’s not

Ian is excited for his first day of 3rd grade.
Photo Credit: Proud Mom

It is, however, a brain that has experienced trauma from years of living in an institutional setting where all of your basic needs are not always met and from suffering significant losses. Fortunately, the brain can heal and grow. The fancy term for this is neuroplasticity and understanding this growth mindset has been a key component to Ian’s academic success, social-emotional development, and us becoming a family.

How does parenting from a trauma-informed perspective look different? For me, it has been three important approaches:

Ian inspecting shells on the rocky seashore of Maine. Photo Credit: Proud Mom
  1. Creating space. I try to create space for Ian to have some quiet time each day. I try to create space for him to talk about what is on his mind. I try to create space for hurt or angry feelings, and I try to create space for hugs and physical closeness. 
  2. Addressing sensory needs. I try to limit over-stimulating situations, especially if he is tired. I also let Ian know his schedule ahead of time, notifying him of any changes in it, and giving him a heads up on transitions. Additionally, I plan extra time for transitions and always have healthy snacks. I make it a priority that he is hydrated and well-fed. (We all function better when we are not hangry.) I make sure he exercises daily and gets to bed early. In fact, he loves the predictability of his bedtime routine where he gets his clothes out for the next day, takes a shower, and then cuddles while being read a bedtime story.
  3. Advocating for Ian. This is the hardest task for me because it means I have to get into some uncomfortable conversations with people who care about Ian but may not fully understand the complexity of his needs or situation. At home, it may mean changing a family tradition or vacation plans. At school, it might be asking for more services or holding providers accountable. With friends, it might be reminding them that I am Ian’s “real mom” and that his biological mom (a term they need to add to their vocabulary) loved him dearly. 

As the healing has taken place for Ian, we have also been able to focus on redefining who we are as a family. It has meant “Family Meetings” where we problem-solve on issues like chores, teasing each other, or how to get ready for school on time. Some of the redefining even comes in the form of scheduling events together like family movie nights or game nights. And a lot of it has been spending time outside together. Mother Nature has a lot of healing power.

Taking a break during a coastal hike.
Photo Credit: Seth Stratton

For example, in July, we headed to the coast of Maine for a few days of camping. We stayed in tents, built campfires to roast marshmallows, and went on lots of hikes exploring the rocky inlets of Casco Bay. During one of our hikes, we spotted two dozen horseshoe crabs huddled along the shoreline. With closer examination, we realized that they were mating while some lonely crabs were jockeying for a mate. We stood there watching in amazement, wondering about the event, and asking each other questions about what we saw. Later in the evening, we sat on rocks observing seagulls hovering high above craggy ledges with clams in their mouths. They would then drop the clams to crack them on the ledges below and then finally swoop down to grasp the exposed meat in their beaks. We cheered when they were successful and empathized with the gulls who, after much effort, lost their meat to a larger more dominant gull.

As you can see, this second year has been filled with lots of small moments where we have slowed down to connect, heal, and build something new. We will all admit that what we are building is not perfect and the process is often messy. But… it is us weaving our lives together. It is how we define our family.

Celebrating Family Day 2019
Photo Credit: Brian Marsh Photography

Summer Reading Challenge

Caitlin reading while camping by the ocean in Maine. Photo Credit: Proud Book Mom

I just love talking with kids about books and helping them find the right book to read. It can open up a whole new world to them. Now with summer here, I’ve gotten some requests for summer reading lists for Team Possible families. So, I thought I would share ten goals that I have for my family and resources to support reaching them. I hope you and your family will find these reading goals and books lists helpful. Let me know if you do and what goals you accomplish. And, if you have a book to add to these lists, please share it with me.

Goal #1: To read a book with a main character who is differently abled.

Young Readers- Rescue & Jessica: A Life-Changing Friendship by Jessica Kensky & Patrick Downes

Middle Readers- Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusty Bowling

Older & Parent Readers- The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen

Other Book Lists- Schneider Family Book Award & Books Section of Team Possible Blog

Goal #2: To read a book with a main character from a culture different than my own.

This year our family will focus on Malala Yousafzai and her courage to create change for girls in her community and around the world.

Photo Credit: Kid World Citizen

Young Readers- Malala: My Story of Standing Up for Girls’ Rights by Malala Yousafzai or The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba

Middle Readers- I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Changed the World by Malala Yousafzai or The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, Young Reader’s Edition by William Kamkwamba & Bryan Mealer

Older & Parent Readers- I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai or The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope by William Kamkwamba & Bryan Mealer

Other Book Lists- Coretta Scott King Awards Book List, Pura Belpre Award Book List, South Asia Book Award Book List, American Indian Library Association Book Award List , Children’s Book Council Diverse Kids & YA Lit Book Lists

Goal #3: To read a book with interesting facts about my world.

Yes, my kids and I love to snuggle up at bedtime and travel the world by reading a world atlas. It is so fun to learn about different countries and the language, economy, landscape and more. Give it a try. No packing or tickets required for this trip.

Ian getting ready for a trip. Proud Book Mom

Young Readers- National Geographic Kids Beginner’s World Atlas

Middle Readers- National Geographic Kids World Atlas

Older & Parent Readers- Factfulness: Ten Reasons We Are Wrong About the World by Hans Rosling

Goal #4: To read a book about an issue that is important to me.

Starting a new job at a all women’s undergraduate university, I felt compelled to learn more about women’s issues and empowerment. The books listed here have helped me, my students, and my daughter thrive. They have also helped me find ways to talk with my husband and sons about gender equity issues. I encourage you to follow your passion and share it with your family.

Caitlin with her “People Working” sign. Photo Credit: Proud Feminist Mom

Young Readers- I Will Be Fierce by Bea Birdsong

Middle Readers- Confidence Code for Girls by Katy Kay & Claire Shipman

Older & Parent Readers- Confidence Code by Katy Kay & Claire Shipman

Mom Readers-  A Moment of Lift by Melinda Gates (A MUST READ!)

Other Book Lists-  A Mighty Girl  website

Goal #5: To read a book by a local author.

Living in New England, we are surrounded by many amazing local authors. We have children’s literature icons like Eric Carle and Jane Yolen. We also have rising authors like Jarrett Krosoczka who is breaking new ground. He is the focus of my local author list.

Ian with his favorite author, Jarrett Krosockza, during a school visit. Photo Credit: Ian’s School Principal

Young Readers- Punk Farm on Tour by Jarrett Krosoczka

Middle Readers- Lunch Lady Series by Jarrett Krosoczka

Older & Parent Readers- Hey, Kiddo! By Jarrett Krosoczka

Other Book Lists- SCBWI Crystal Kite Award Book List

Goal #6: To read a book with a main character who learns differently than me.

Young Readers- The Girl Who Thought in Pictures: The Story of Dr. Temple Grandin by Julia Finley Mosca

Middle Readers- Fish in a Tree by Linda Mullaly Hunt or Rules by Cynthia Lord

Older & Parent Readers- Focused by Alyson Gerber

Other Book Lists- Schneider Family Book Award

Goal #7: To read a non-fiction graphic novel about women in science, a historical event that is surprising, or one that simply interests me.

Young Readers- I Am Jane Goodall (Ordinary People Change the World)  by Brad Meltzer (Note: More of a hybrid text with word bubbles than a graphic novel)

Middle Readers- Alia’s Mission: Saving the Books of Iraq by Mark Alan Stamaty

Older & Parent Readers-Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey and Birute Galdikas by Jim Ottaviani

Other Book Lists- Albris Best Selling Non-Fiction Graphic Novels

Goal #8: To read a book written in verse.

Young Readers- Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie by Julie Sternberg

Middle Readers- Love that Dog by Sharon Creech

Older & Parent Readers- Crossover by Kwame Alexander

Other Resource: Listen and watch children’s poets read their own work at No Water River: A Children’s Poetry Place

Goal #9: To read a book that has won an award or was recommended by a friend.

(Most books on this list are award-winning, and I hope you count me as a friend. Hence, this goal should be easy to achieve.)

Goal #10: To share a book that I read with a friend because reading connects us.

Now, go set some goals, read, and keep believing in the possible!

Ian’s Reading Goal Photo Credit: Proud Book Mom