Ready to understand your boy better? Sign up now

and get Janet's ebook 6 Keys to Parenting Success:

Category Archives: Reading & Literacy

What to Do About ‘Wired’ Boys

I was recently introduced to the book, Wired to Move: Facts and Strategies for Nurturing Boys in an Early Childhood Setting by Ruth Hanford Morhard. She does amazing work as Ruth Reid & Company, consulting with Starting Point in Cleveland, Ohio.
Screen Shot 2014-11-11 at 3.08.28 PM

Whether you are parenting or teaching young children or older children, I think you’ll find great value in what she has to share! Thanks Ruth!


What to Do about “Wired” Boys!

by Ruth Hanford Morhard

Recent media stories in the New York Times and NBC talked about fidgety boys who are struggling in school, noting the huge gap in behavioral skills and performance between young girls and boys entering kindergarten—a gap that continues to grow throughout their school years.

The Times article noted, “today’s education system fails to acknowledge the profound differences between boys and girls. It asks boys to sit still for hours and provides them with too few role models in front of the classroom.”

This is an issue that can be addressed early—through simple changes in preschool classrooms and teaching methods—and that parents, too, can use at home to help boys perform—and behave—at their best.

• Why Boys Are Fidgety
Sure, boys are “fidgety”, and there are good reasons why. It begins with the way their brains are wired. Boys are “wired to move.” When a boy is physically active, his brain is active. If his brain is not stimulated, he tunes out. He’s not built to sit and listen for a long time. His attention span and learning ability are directly tied to movement and activity. While there are many other differences in boys’ and girls’ brains, this is perhaps the most significant.

• Why Girls Generally Do Better
Girls’ verbal and listening skills are normally better developed than boys’, and they’re more adaptable to change. Most early childhood programs are geared to the ways girls’ learn. The teachers and caregivers are female and more attuned to the ways girls learn and behave. They expect boys to sit still, listen and follow directions—but they’re not made that way. They learn differently and our teachers need to adapt.

• How to Engage Boys
It’s important to keep boys’ brains awake. Allow enough time for physical activity and incorporate movement into daily routines. If you’re reading a book, let them act out the characters or pretend they’re flying like the airplane in the story. Alternate quiet and physically active times. If they need to sit quietly, give them a squeeze ball or other object to manipulate. And keep verbal instructions to less than a minute.

• How to Help Boys Learn
Boys learn best by doing—so let them learn their ABC’s and numbers by manipulating objects—have them make ABCs out of clay or count objects like coins or blocks or crayons. Give them puzzles to put together. Boys are also visual learners—they see better than they hear—so display pictures of the things they’re learning about and use the bright colors they respond to best. Build on their strengths—like spatial-mechanical abilities. Give them enough blocks so they can make large objects and have lots of balls of different sizes

• What About Behavior?
When boys don’t sit and listen or when they won’t stop running and jumping and wrestling with one another, it’s easy to think that’s bad behavior. It’s not. They’re just doing what boys do. If they’re forced to sit quietly, they get frustrated and act out. They need time and space to get physical both indoors and outdoors.

Adapting to the way boys’ learn benefits the boys, their teachers, caregivers, parents and even the girls. Everyone benefits from a less disruptive environment.

There’s a lot more to learn about helping boys perform and behave at their best. It’s important to their future–and ours. Check out: Wired to Move: Facts and Strategies for Nurturing Boys in an Early Childhood Setting, available at booksellers everywhere. And if you’re in the Ohio area, check out: Starting

If you need strategies for your ‘wired’ boy, schedule a 20-minute complementary discovery call with Janet here.

And you aren’t alone!  Join us on Facebook:

In All Seriousness, Humor Works!

A guest post from Dr. Colleen Carroll of Innovative Reading.

Don’t you just love a good laugh?

Any kind of laugh is awesome, right? I mean, I’ll take a light chuckle, a hearty giggle or a deep belly laugh that leaves me teary-eyed and out of breath any day over being sad and gloomy. Humor in reading is a great way for all of us to find happy!

Scientific research proves the health benefits of laughter, and that it is really good for us! Without getting too medical-ly here, laughter promotes relaxation, stress reduction, socialization, improved communication and creativity, to name just a few benefits. For these reasons and more, people love to laugh and we all should be promoting more of it!

So how does humor help with getting children to read?

Ask any child reading a book why they like it and I guarantee that if it is funny, he will point that out.

I have tested this over and over and every time without fail it happens. Kids tell me that they love funny books and they love books that make them LOL (If your child texts, you know that means laugh out loud). Sometimes those books tell silly stories, or have outrageous characters, or hysterical illustrations. Sometimes they are funny throughout, or just have funny parts sprinkled here and there. The ways a book can be funny are numerous, but the effect is still the same.

They make kids happy, they make kids laugh, they make kids want to keep reading.


Want to test me on this one? Go ahead! Just do a quick Google search on “funny books for kids” and see how many websites pop up with tons of recommendations.

Why? Because there are great books out there that will make you laugh so hard you shoot milk out of your nostrils and we like to share the good stuff when we find it.

For a quick resource that gives you some awesome titles to pick up right now, download:

Dr. Carroll’s Fast 5: Recommended Hysterical Picture Books for Kids of All Ages

As if you needed more reasons to find some funny books to put in front of your child, here are several:

  • NOTHING makes for a better read-aloud than a funny story. Really.
  • When your child has had a hard day at school, a funny book can pull him out of a funk.
  • Some funny stories actually teach lessons, have a moral, or help you drive home a parenting point. Use them accordingly.
  • Some funny stories have absolutely no point to them whatsoever except they are just funny. That is perfectly fine too and makes for lighthearted reading which is a benefit unto itself. 
  • Humor may just be the absolute easiest way to hook a reluctant reader to open a book. Start with funny books if you just don’t know where to start. I promise, you can’t go wrong!
  • Sometimes the illustrations are the funniest part. Use them in a read-aloud to get your child talking about what the illustrator is trying to say through pictures.
  • Authors who use humor are often crafty in their language. Maybe the book is rhyme-y or poetic. Funny language can be a great tool for easily remembering new vocabulary words.

Find more reading suggestions with Dr. Carroll at Innovative

You’re invited to join us in the Boys Alive! Private Facebook Group – ask a question, offer support, enjoy an article, laugh and cry with us. We are stronger together!

If you’d like to chat with Janet Allison one-on-one, use this link to schedule a 20-minute complementary phone call or email me at I’m here for you!

Create a Reader-Friendly Home

Our guest Dr. Colleen Carroll of Innovative Reading shares how to create a reader-friendly home.

Creating nooks for tablets, books and kids cozying up to reading

Look around your home. Go ahead – take a stroll through each room and ask yourself as you wander around, “Does my home invite my child to read?”

reading on rocker boardsAs you do this, be sure to change your lens for the moment. Instead of a parent lens, the one that measures every area for its tidiness, efficiency, and decorative style, view your home instead through the eyes of a child, particularly one that avoids reading.

Now, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does my home have areas that are cozy and that a child can curl up and be comfortable?
  • Does my home have quiet places, away from the sounds of a TV, loud conversations, or other noisy distractions?
  • Are there areas my child can read where there are no electronic gadgets? (TV, computer, etc.)
  • Are there cozy areas that include spaces for books and other reading materials to be displayed?
  • Do we keep reading materials out and available for my child to access readily (instead of always “tidying up” and moving reading materials out of site).
  • Do we include words, letters, comics, poems, and other fun sources of writing around in our home?
  • Do we make distractions like video games hard to access while making reading materials easy to reach?
  • Is my child’s bedroom a no TV zone?

If you answered “Yes!” to any of the above questions, you are on your way to creating a reader-friendly environment. Kudos to you – I bet your child is benefitting from this effort by feeling an invitation to read and interact with words.

After the assessment, did you determine that you need to take it up a few reader-friendly notches? Don’t worry! Follow these quick tips on how you can alter just a few things fast and rearrange with ease to get your child wrestling with words and loving it!

Top 10 tips to creating cozy nooks and book havens right at home without spending lots of time or money:

  1. Look for spaces you already have that just need a little tweaking to improve. Is there already a child-sized chair in the corner? Be sure to surround it with books and toss a throw on the arm to up the inviting-ness.
  2. Have an empty basket sitting around? Fill it with books, magazines, comics, graphic novels, printed items off the web and anything else you find that is readable. Put that basket out for your to child trip over (err, I mean find) so it’s super easy to access.
  3. No perfect child chair right now? No problem! Throw some brightly colored pillows on the grown-up easy chair to size it down for kids. If your kids are really little, position a step stool to the side for easy climbing.
  4. Where are the video games and other distracting devices? If they are within easy arms’ reach of your child, get them out of there and into someplace harder to reach. Use a closet, a storage bin, an armoire or anyplace that will take just a little more effort to play them and insist they are returned after each (time-limited) session. Think to yourself what you’d choose if the cookies were always easier to grab than the carrots…
  5. Make your child’s room a TV free zone. Be sure there is a bookcase instead, or at least a stack of books/magazines/readable stuff someplace in view. If your child is younger, decorate the walls with letters and use an alphabet bedspread.  For older children, consider decal words on the wall, a chalkboard paint wall, posters of popular books (and those turned into movies) and a bedspread with words. Bonus points: Every child should have access to magnetic poetry someplace at home!
  6. Be sure that there is a place in the home where your child can read and relax free from too much noise (think TVs, running appliances, etc.). If that is a challenge due to space, try to carve out some minimal noise times when quietness is preserved and your child can associate reading with relaxing and destressing.
  7. Good lighting in a reading area is essential! Invest in a fluorescent lamp or put some bright LED bulbs into a big table lamp and keep it in the reading zone. The more light, the easier it is on everyone’s eyes (and the longer your child will be able to read as well).
  8. Involve your child in decorating the area. Ask him to pick out some posters or artwork he created to hang in the special spot so it is a meaningful place he associates with positivity.
  9. Vary the text collection and keep it interesting. Be sure to rotate the books and magazines regularly so there is always something fresh and new to read. Also make sure that the choices align to your child’s interests so she’ll gravitate to the topics naturally.
  10. If your child prefers devices, keep a Kindle, Nook or other tablet available with reading material at the ready. This is a perfectly acceptable substitute to paper books and for some kids who are tech-inclined, a preferable option.

Try some or all of these ideas today and see how your child adjusts to his new surroundings! You may include him in the entire process to get his buy-in, or do it on the down-low as a surprise and make him feel special.

Grab your “How to Make your Home Reader-Friendly” CHECKLIST from Dr. Carroll here.

You’re invited to join us in the Boys Alive! Private Facebook Group – ask a question, offer support, enjoy an article, laugh and cry with us. We are stronger together!







If you’d like to chat with Janet Allison one-on-one, use this link to schedule a 20-minute complementary phone call or email me at I’m here for you!

Does He Hate to Read?

Are you worried because he isn’t reading yet?

Or maybe he doesn’t read the way you think he should?Boy reading with flashlight


You aren’t alone.

Recently, a dad told me he was worried because, “My son is 5 and he isn’t reading yet…”

I was dismayed to hear this concern… what have we done to our kids by pushing the expectation of reading down into the preschool years?

Age 5 is when he should be playing and figuring out social relationships, NOT sitting with a book and laboring over letters and numbers.

And yes, I know, some young children pick up reading early and read voraciously. They are the exception.

Other kids should not be pushed into this early reading “phenomenon.”

Boys, especially, become a focus of this “he isn’t reading yet” worry from parents and teachers.

Many boys become readers later than many girls – often as late as 3rd or 4th grade.

With LITERACY being the key skill to life-long academic and financial success – we want to encourage boys to become readers but they often don’t feel like they are ‘real’ readers because they don’t read like many of the girls in their class (sitting still, reading a chapter book).

We need to know how to approach reading from a “boy’s-eye view.”

[Which might be tough for moms to relate to.]

There are some fundamental reasons why your boy resists reading but when you know reading “his way” – you’ll know how to get him engaged and excited about reading.
Boy reading in grass

Boys are PHYSICAL.
He needs to move to process what he is learning. He wants to touch things, act out storylines and characters, the more active and adventurous his reading experience, the better.

Boys are VISUAL.
NOT verbal – all those words may overwhelm his brain. Find graphic novels, comic books and shorter stories that have lots of white space on the page to entice his visual system and keep him interested and engaged. Magazines, catalogs, and instruction manuals are also good choices.



MEN are crucial to your son seeing himself as a reader. Make sure he sees Dad and other men in his life reading. Encourage men to share with him what their purpose for reading is: pleasure? to learn something new? directions from a manual?



Armed with a new perspective about boys and reading, you’ll be able to relax and trust that he will be a reader – on his own timeline.

Pushing him is unproductive and stressful for everyone!


Educating yourself is your best defense!

CLICK HERE for podcast interview bundles on this topic and more with renowned experts:

Boy Talk #6: If you like Percy Jackson, Read This!

By Guest Author Valarie Budayr, Founder of Jump into a Book

Maybe you’re in the same boat as we are.
We’ve finished all of the Percy Jackson books…now what do we read?
We want more Rick Riordan!

Or perhaps you have an ‘aging’ reader?
Our son is now in high school.
Percy Jackson was such an epic event in his younger years that he is continually searching for books that “grab” him just like Percy Jackson did.
So what does on do after Percy?

First, I suggest The Lost Hero Series which is Percy Jackson-related AND is also written by Rick Riordan.

Percy Jackson Lost Heros

Still needing a little bit more Percy Jackson ? Here are two great big favorite books from our favorite demi-god Percy Jackson.

Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods

Percy Jackson's Greek Gods

Percy Jackson’s Greek Heroes

Opercy Jacks's Greek Heroes

Another favorite Rick Riordan series is his Red Pyramid Trilogy. We just loved it!

Rick Riordan

Now as we wait for the latest new series from Rick Riordan, on Norse Myths this time. Magnus Chase will be out in October.

Magnus Chase

Until then, here are a few Books Like Percy Jackson for grades 6 and above, covering a wide range of ages and interests. They are ALL series! Happy Reading!

books like Percy Jackson

The Lost Years of Merlin Series by T. A. Barron

Books like Percy Jacksonbooks like Percy Jacksonbooks like Percy Jackson

A young boy with no memory or identity emerges from the sea…and discovers his destiny as the most legendary wizard ever to live. (Grades 6-8)

The Goddess War Series by Kendare Blake

books like Percy JacksonBooks like Percy Jacksonbooks like Percy Jackson

Goddess Wars Series. Athena and Hermes’ search for the cause of their illnesses leads them to Cassandra who may be key to a war started by Hera and other Olympians who have become corrupt anti-gods determined to destroy their rivals.

Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

books like Percy Jackson

A twelve-year-old criminal mastermind, Artemis Fowl, brings the fairy folk to their knees when he kidnaps one of their own. (Grades 6-8)

(Grades 7-9+)

Sweet Venom by Tera Lynn Childs

books like Percy jackson

Three teenage descendants of Medusa, the once-beautiful Gorgon maligned in myth, must reunite and embrace their fates. (Grades 9+)

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

books like Percy Jackson

In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. Long ago the districts waged war on the Capitol and were defeated. As part of the surrender terms, each district agreed to send one boy and one girl to appear in an annual televised event called, “The Hunger Games,” a fight to the death on live TV. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she is forced to represent her district in the Games. The terrain, rules, and level of audience participation may change but one thing is constant: kill or be killed. (Grade 7 +)

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

books like Percy Jackson

Outside the safety of the Glade lies an enormous maze, populated by nightmarish perversions of technology. (Grades 6-10)

The Mortality Doctrine Series by James Dashner

books like Percy Jacksonbooks like Percy Jacksonbooks like Percy Jackson

Mortality Doctrine series set in a world of hyperadvanced technology, cyberterrorists, and gaming beyond your wildest dreams . . . and your worst nightmares. (Grades 7+)

City of Ember by Jeanne Duprau

books like Percy Jackson

Books of Ember Series. Lina & Doon must fulfill the prophecy and help everyone in town survive. So what if the townspeople are all trying to kill them? (Grades (8-9+)

Sea of Trolls by Nancy Farmer

books like Percy Jackson

If Jack’s sister had just stayed quiet, they wouldn’t have been captured by Vikings. Little sisters can be so annoying! (Grades 6-9+)

Incarceron by Catherine Fisher

books like Percy Jackson

Flinn has lived his entire life inside the gigantic prison known as ‘Incarceron.’ Escape seems impossible…until he meets Claudia, who is trapped in the 17th century by a computer.
(Grades 7-9+)

The Ruins of Gorlan by John Flanagan

books like Percy jackson

Ranger’s Apprentice Series. 15-year-old Will joins the magic wielding rangers to battle against an evil warlord. (Grades 6-8)

The Paladin Prophecy series by Mark Frost

books like Percy Jacksonbooks like Percy Jacksonbooks like Percy Jackson

A boy who has spent his entire life trying to avoid attention finds himself in the middle of a struggle between titanic forces when he is recruited by an exclusive prep school and followed by sinister agents. (Grades 7+)

Reckless by Cornelia Funke

books like Percy Jackson

Welcome to the Mirrorworld, where the darkest parts of your favorite fairytales are a chilling reality! (Grades 7-10)

Tunnels By Roderick Gordon

books by Percy Jackson

The Colony” has existed unchanged for a century, but it’s no benign time capsule of a bygone era— it is ruled by a cult like overclass, the Styx. And before long—before he can find his father—Will is their prisoner…. (Grades 6-9)

Runemark by Joanne Harris

books like Percy Jackson

In Maddy Smith’s world, order rules. Chaos, old gods, faeries, magic–all of these were supposedly vanquished centuries ago. But Maddy knows that a small bit of magic has survived. (Grades 7+)

Raven’s Gate by Anthony Horowitz

books like Percy Jackson

The Gatekeepers Series. When Matt gets into trouble one time too many, he is sent to live in a far-away village. Is he the only one who can see the evil below the surface? (Grades 8+)

Talon by Julie Kagawa

books like Percy Jackson

Dragons exist and Ember is one of them. Trained to infiltrate the humans, she just wants to have fun in her final summer of freedom before joining the Talon, but destiny has another thing in store for her. (Grades 9+)

Scepter of the Ancients by Derek Landy

books like Percy Jackson

Skulduggery Pleasant Series. When twelve-year-old Stephanie inherits her weird uncle’s estate, she must join forces with Skulduggery Pleasant, a skeleton mage, to save the world from the Faceless Ones. (Grades 6-8)

The Colossus Rises by Peter Lerangis

books like Percy Jackson

Seven Wonders Series. Seven pieces of power from Atlantis that disappeared long ago. Cass, Jack, Marco and Aly depend on them to save their lives. (Grades 6-9)

The Young Elites by Marie Lu

books like Percy Jackson

Adelina survived the blood fever, an illness that killed many, but left others with strange supernatural powers. Cast out by her family, she joins a secret society called the Young Elites and discovers her own dangerous abilities. (Grades 8+)

The Apothecary by Maile Meloy

books like Percy jackson

When the apothecary is kidnapped, Janie and Benjamin must uncover the secrets of the sacred
Pharmacopoeia in order to find him and save the world. (Grades 6-8)

A World without Heroes by Brandon Mull

books like Percy jackson

Beyonders Series. Jason and Rachel are pulled into the mysterious, troubled realm of Lyrian. All they want to do is get back to their own world, but they may have to stop evil wizard emperor Surroth first. (Grades 6-8)

Mark of the Thief by Jennifer Nielsen

books by Percy Jackson

When slave-boy Nic is forced to enter a cavern containing lost treasures, he discovers an amulet that belonged to the great Caesar and is filled with a magic once reserved for the Gods — magic some Romans would kill for. (Grades 6-9)

Here, There Be Dragons by James A. Owen

books like Percy Jackson

Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica Series. Three guys become owners of the Imaginarium Geographica and open mystical worlds. (Grades 8+)

Divergent by Veronica Roth

books like Percy Jackson

One choice can transform you. Beatrice Prior’s society is divided into five factions—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). Beatrice must choose between staying with her Abnegation family and transferring factions. Her choice will shock her community and herself. But the newly christened Tris also has a secret, one she’s determined to keep hidden, because in this world, what makes you different makes you dangerous. (Grade 9+)

Magyk by Angie Sage

books like Percy Jackson

Lost as a child, Septimus Heap must reunite with his true family & learn the magyk arts.
(Grades 6-8)

The Alchemist by Michael Scott

books like Percy Jackson

The Immortal Secrets of Nicholas Flamel Series. Two teens are caught up in a battle between ancient alchemists looking for the secret of immortality. (Grades 6-9)

The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman

books like Percy Jackson

‘The Grimm Fairytales were just stories,’ or so Elizabeth thinks, until she discovers that some of the more famous and magical objects are very, very real! (Grades 6-9)

I.Q. by Roland Smith

books like Percy Jacksonbooks like Percy Jacksonbooks like Percy Jackson

Q and Angela have rock star parents who may know more about the dangerous world of spies and terrorists than they let on… (Grades 6-8)

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

books like Percy Jackson

The Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened… where they train you to be a criminal mastermind. (Grades 6-9)

The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud

books like Percy Jackson

The Bartimaeus Trilogy. When young magician Nathaniel summons the ancient, powerful, and mischevious djinni Bartimaeus, he gets more than he bargained for! (Grades 6-9)

The Shadow Thief by Anne Ursu

books like Percy Jackson

Cronus Chronicles Trilogy. Charlotte sneaks into battle with a Greek demigod, then gets grounded for it. Still she continues on to fight the malevolent forces of the under-world. Charlotte’s life is tough! (Grades 7-9)

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

World War I is waged between the ‘Darwinists,’ with their fantastic genetically-altered creatures, and the ‘Clankers,’ who pilot giant robots. Aleksander and Deryn are caught in the middle! (Grades 7+)

See any good titles here? Any favorites? Any on your “must read” list? Please share in the comments below!

Best Wishes,
Valarie Budayr

P.S. Some of these links are affiliate links.


Valarie was recently our guest on BOY TALK. Save your seat for future BOY TALK Conversations here.
Missed one? You can download past BOY TALKS, along with a Tool Kit of tips and resources, for a small ticket price – see the full catalog here.

Click here for the Boys Alive! Free Report – “Living with Boys: How to Cope and Connect – HIS Way”

Boy Talk #6: Haunted Histories – Jump Into a Book

Guest Post by Valarie Budayr of Jump Into a Book

Do your kids like ghosts and the idea of a place being haunted?
My kids go through phases on this one and so I pick their scary, ghost type books carefully.

My first goal is to grab something that will have them turning the pages, Haunted Histories: Creepy Castles, Dark Dungeons, and Powerful Palaces ! is such a book. Even the most reluctant reader will embrace this fun book by Marilyn Scott Waters and J.H. Everett.

“Sure to lure reluctant readers.” —School Library Journal

“Reluctant historians may find Virgil’s ghost story appealing.” —Kirkus Reviews

Haunted Histories

Virgil is my new favorite Ghostorian. Taking us on a time tour, Virgil introduces us to the incredible world of castles, dungeons , and palaces. Included are amazing facts of resident ghosts, timely traditions such as how are castles really built, what are the best means of torture, and what are palaces really for as well as having a look at life as a working child and a few grave yard tips.

Happily, this book is creepy but not scary. A perfect read for boys especially ages 8-12, girls will like it, too. This is one of those books which boys will absolutely love!

Excerpt From The Book:

Some kids think that castles in the old days were pink and filled with princesses and ponies. Guess what? Life back then was no fairy tale. I know ghosts who can prove it.

Filled with great amounts of history told in a very entertaining way. I adored this book and we read it in one sitting. I can always tell when a book is a big hit at our house because it just sort of floats from one person’s room to another. And you can hear questions such as; “are you through with that yet?” and “when will you be done?”

About The Authors

JH Everett

J.H. Everett :J.H. Everett is an artist, visual storyteller, writer, and creativity expert. He is currently Senior Partner of EverWitt Productions, LLC. A multimedia studio in Encinitas, CA. J.H. thinks his official title should be “get’s paid to have more fun than he should be allowed to have.” Read more about J.H HERE.



Marilyn Scott Water

Marilyn Scott Waters: Marilyn Scott-Waters loves making things out of paper. Her popular website,, receives 2,000 to 7,000 visitors each day, who have downloaded more than six million of her easy-to-make paper toys. Her goal is to help parents and children spend time together making things. Her first self published book, The Toymaker: Paper Toys That You Can Make Yourself, was a best-selling paper toy book on, sold out two print runs, and was picked up as a series by Sterling Publishing in 2010.



Haunted Histories: “Haunted Histories came out of my desire to help kids experience history closer to the approach and point of view of a professional historian,” says J.H. Everett, who himself has a PhD in history, apart from being a multi-media artist. “History is not just one thing after another in a textbook or dates in a timeline. It is connections, mutations, accidents, trivialities, and everyday life. In short, history is messy. History is about people…History is fun!”

Not only does the book have a great deal of fun embedded in its pages and its images, however, this book also aims to talk up to kids. “The most important thing was to write the best possible book that we could for kids,” says Co-Author/Co-illustrator, Marilyn Scott-Waters, “children deserve our best and highest work.”


Something’s To Do


In the back of Haunted Histories is a timeline. We used this as a gauge as to what was happening in the castles, dungeons , and palaces. Using a continuous strip of paper we placed dates and events. Since this timeline focus’ on buildings, we looked up each castle, dungeon, and palace online and printed out a photo to paste onto our timeline. We also took a moment to read more about each place. The following places were investigated for our timeline.

  • Himeji Castle
  • Krak Chevaliers
  • Tower of London
  • Newgate Prison
  • Castle Neuschwanstein
  • the Bastille
  • Hampton Court
  • Hellbrun
  • Jag Mandir



How about a little castle-creating fun? Here’s a fun craft from InCreations


Cardboard Fort with Escape Chute from What I Made.


Haunted Histories gives us loads of ideas on how to attack a castle. For us, the best way is to use a trebuchet. Here’s a fun and easy design made out of popsicle sticks which will have those castle walls coming down quickly….. or at least in our imaginations they will. For throwing purposes we use marshmallows or cotton balls.

How to Make a Popsicle Stick Catapult


Go To Jail

In the French prison called the Bastille, telling a bad joke could land you in prison plus some not so nice punishments. Gather your family and friends. Everyone is to bring a large collection of jokes. Divide into two teams, toss a coin to see which team goes first, and then start telling those jokes. After each joke is told, those that don’t get laughed at will land the joke teller in “jail”, that is until his team-mate gets a laugh to get him or her out. Remember to try not to laugh, no matter how funny the joke is. :) Good luck with this one. We are a bunch of corn balls that laugh at just about anything, especially really, really stupid jokes. The stupider the better.

Some fun and clean joke sites for kids

101 Kidz Jokes Great and plentiful animal jokes on this one.

Az Kids Net: -Knock-Knock Jokes

Scatty: See if you name has it’s own knock-knock joke. There are literally thousands of great jokes on this site.

What is Gruel ?


I’ve always wanted to know and now Haunted Histories has ended that mystery for us. In work houses and in cruel boarding schools, gruel was served as the one meal of the day. Gruel is a water downed version of porridge made with any grain that was on hand, for example, Rye, wheat, corn, etc., also known as groats. Groats is a combination of grains. For those of you who are really brave here’s our best gruel recipe.

1 tablespoon of groats or oatmeal
2 tablespoons of cold water
1 pint of boiling water

Cooking Instructions
First put the oats, together with the cold water, into a saucepan and mix together until smooth. Then, over this, stirring all the time, pour one pint of boiling water. Now stirring frequently boil for 10 minutes. Serve.

P.S. : If this is a bit too thin for you add more groats or forget this whole idea and make oatmeal.


Create a Coat of Arms: Here is a great site which shares a wonderful wealth of information about the symbols and messages used in a coat of arms. It also provided free templates and other activities to do with your newly designed Coat of Arms.

Things to Do with your Coat of Arms:

  • Create a shield
  • Make a flag to hang from your castle or front door of your home
  • Place it on a sweat shirt or Tee Shirt
  • Make a badge to place on your back-pack

Test Your Haunted Histories Knowledge

Here are some super cool trivia cards made by the creators of Haunted Histories. The online versions are animated but you can print them out as well.

Hope you’ve enjoyed the world of Haunted Histories. Please feel free to share your experiences in the comment section below or share your photos with us on the Jump into a Book Facebook Fan Page.

Best wishes,
Valarie Budayr


Valarie was recently our guest on BOY TALK. Save your seat for future BOY TALK Conversations here.
Missed one? You can download past BOY TALKS, along with a Tool Kit of tips and resources, for a small ticket price – see the full catalog here.


Click here for the Boys Alive! Free Report – “Living with Boys: How to Cope and Connect – HIS Way”

Boy Talk #6: Horten’s Miraculous Mechanisms – Jump Into a Book

Guest Author Valarie Budayr is the founder of Jump into a Book

I love Stuart’s Dad the best. His vocabulary was hilarious and made reading Horten’s Miraculous Mechanisms so fun!”

—Emily B., age 11

Horten’s Miraculous Mechanisms by Lissa Evans is known around the hallowed halls of Jump into a Book as “The grocery store book.” No kidding ! I was grocery shopping at my local super-market when this cute little book with gizmos on the cover was sitting on top of some tomato sauce jars. Also on the cover was a 25% off sticker and the words Magic, Mystery, & Adventure. Needless to say this little book came home with me and I’m so glad it did.

Ten year old Stuart stumbles on a note daring him to find his great-uncle’s hidden workshop full of wonderful mechanisms, trickery, and magic.


“I have to go away, and I may not be able to get back. If I don’t return, then my workshop and all it contains is yours if you can find it- then you’re the right sort of boy to have it.


Your Uncle Tony

P.S. Start in the telephone booth on Main Street.

Enter a wonderful world filled with real magic, mystery, and danger.

As if being small and having S. Horten as his name isn’t bad enough, now 10-year-old Stuart is forced to move far away from all his friends.But on his very first day in his new home, Stuart’s swept up in an extraordinary adventure: the quest to find his great-uncle Tony–a famous magician who literally disappeared off the face of the earth–and Tony’s marvelous, long-lost workshop. Along the way, Stuart reluctantly accepts help from the annoying triplets next door… and encounters trouble from another magician who’s also desperate to get hold of Tony’s treasures.

This, sets young Stuart off on an adventure of a lifetime.


Something To Do:

Anagrams: Check out this cool Anagram Generator. Did you know A Jumbo Pink Too is an Anagram for Jump Into a Book? Or Oak Bum Join Top…..or Puma Job Oink To..ok..I’m done now.

It’s time for a little preambulatory anagram treasure hunt.


n. 1. A walking or going before; precedence.
2. A preamble.

For this game you will need to think fast, play together but mostly have a lot of fun. You will need your collective brain power to solve the anagram clues for this one.

You will be divided up into two groups. If there are a large number of you, go ahead and divide up into three groups. This treasure hunt can be played indoors or for our purposes, perambulation, we are going house to house in the neighborhood. Of course you will only go to houses which are being included in the treasure hunt.

The house everyone meets at to start the treasure hunt is known as the Main house or the Host House. How do you know which houses you’ll be going to? A group of you will be making a treasure hunt map and marking the houses with numbers 1 through 8.

The host or hostess at the Main House will give each team a card with the clue on it.

Once you’ve figured out the clue, go to house number 2 on the treasure hunt map to find the next clue placed on the thing or place you’ve just decoded.

Once you’ve solved the clue at house number 2, go to house number 3 and so on.

The Clues:

Clue # 1: Mold me shape me but don’t leave me out. Here’s the unscrambled answer but please remember to just put the anagram on the clue card. Ployadh (Play doh)

Clue #2: If you were soggy and wet like me you would cry. I went here to get dry. clerestoryhd ( clothes dryer)

Clue #3: If you push all my buttons and use me to call I can reach really far but I’m not very tall. phenetole(telephone)

Clue #4: It isn’t freezing but might be very cold. Don’t stand with the door open, everyone is told . frogeaterirr (Refrigerator)

Clue #5: My name isn’t frosty but he would like it in here. He would be all nice and comfy, with nothing to fear. rfzeere (freezer)

Clue # 6: I have keys but I don’t open a door. You can use me for files, info,games, and more. crumpeto (computer)

Clue #7: Have found a home for goldfish that are never wet. You all love to eat them and you don’t need a net. shacklefords crig (goldfish crackers)

Clue #8: You can use me to be a little bit taller, People who use me are certainly smaller . Lotos (Stool)

This is the last clue. On top leave the Magic Box for the first team who finds it and scattered goodies of some kind around for those who didn’t get there in time.

How To Make A Magic Box


  • Prefab square box with lid.
  • Scissors
  • Pencil
  • 12 x 12 inch scrap-book paper in a variety of colors
  • Scrap-book 3-d stickers
  • Florist wire
  • Glue dots

READY? Let’s begin (see photos below if you are unsure of the finished product):

  1. Start with a prefab box
  2. Cut down each corner of the box from top to bottom.
  3. Bring down the sides, lie flat.
  4. Take the lid off the box and place it aside.
  5. Put flat box on a 12 x 12 inch piece of scrap-book paper.
  6. Trace around the open box.
  7. Make 3/4 inch extensions around the box.
  8. Trace around the laid out box for the inside piece.
  9. Cut out pieces from scrap-book paper.
  10. Center the box onto the outside piece.
  11. Place glue dots on the reverse side of the outside paper.
  12. Lay down the outside paper and press.
  13. Gently fold up the box sides to make sure they move easily.
  14. Cut all the corners on the piece of paper before gluing into place.
  15. Fold up each side onto each section of the box and glue dot into place. Work each section of the box until all the sides have been glued.
  16. Take the interior piece and turn it over. Glue dot in straight rows from top to bottom.
  17. Place the interior place on the inside of the box, covering the folded flaps from the exterior piece of paper.
  18. For the lid, Do Not Slit the Sides.
  19. Trace the outside of the box. Cut to fit the interior top lid.
  20. Glue into place.
  21. Wrap the outside of the lid like a gift.
  22. On the inside of the box. Wrap the florist wire around a pencil to make little springs.
  23. Attach the stickers to the springs and glue dot into place inside the box.
  24. Make sure you have something on each inside panel of the box.
  25. Fold up your box and put the lid on.

You’ve now completed your Magic Box and what a surprise the person who receives it will get!! I always put a little message or riddle on the inside and have lots of interesting things to catch the person’s attention.
NOW, all this decoding and sleuthing made Stuart a hungry boy in the story. So let’s make some of…..

The Best Mushroom Pizza Ever !!!!

Remember how Stuart made the excuse to go over to the triplets to eat mushroom pizza? We couldn’t resist. We love mushroom pizza and we’re sure you will too.

  • Deep-Dish Pizza Dough
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped green pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onion
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 2 1/2 cups sliced mushrooms
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups canned crushed tomatoes
  • 1 1/4 cups (5 ounces) shredded reduced-fat Monterey Jack cheese
  • 3/4 cup (3 ounces) shredded provolone cheese

Prepare Deep-Dish Pizza Dough, and set aside.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add pepper, onion, and garlic, and sauté 5 minutes. Add mushrooms, oregano, and salt; sauté 3 minutes or until tender. Remove from heat; cool.

Spread half of tomatoes over each prepared crust, and top each with half of vegetable mixture. Sprinkle Monterey Jack cheese and provolone cheese evenly over pizzas.

Bake at 475° for 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375°, and bake 15 additional minutes. Cut each pizza into 8 wedges.

Cooking Light Five Star Recipes, Cooking Light

Valarie Budayr
Screen Shot 2015-12-10 at 6.03.37 AM
Publisher and founder of Audrey Press Publishing,
an artisanal publishing house dedicated to producing high quality
books and media for families.


Valarie was recently our guest on BOY TALK. Save your seat for future BOY TALK Conversations here.
Missed one? You can download past BOY TALKS, along with a Tool Kit of tips and resources, for a small ticket price – see the full catalog here.
Click here for the Boys Alive! Free Report – “Living with Boys: How to Cope and Connect – HIS Way”


Summer Slide

Is your son slipping on the summer slide? Keep him reading while he plays.

The Summer Slide is a very real phenomenon according to the authors of a report from the National Summer Learning Association:  “A conservative estimate of lost instructional time is approximately two months or roughly 22 percent of the school year…. It’s common for teachers to spend at least a month re-teaching material that students have forgotten over the summer. That month of re-teaching eliminates a month that could have been spent on teaching new information and skills.”

You can bet your teachers are already thinking about school and how to make up for lost time. Boys not only suffer the most in the summer slide they also are most challenged in all aspects of schooling as you can see in this video.

Click here to watch.

Trouble with boys

If this isn’t your son (and we hope it isn’t), chances are it’s the boy down the street, or the boy on your son’s soccer team.

It DOES take a village and we’ve got to start by shouting this information to rooftops, raising awareness and advocating for change.  Note that boys of color and boys in poverty are at exponentially higher risk.

We’ve got to work together to stop these trends by advocating and acting locally and nation-wide.

Here’s one thing you can do, right now:

Sign the on-line petition to create a White House Council for Boys and Men (and note the irony that we’ve had one for girls and women since 2009!)

sign now

Then, look around, how can you reach out and change one boy’s day – at the mall, the grocery store, or on the street?

Stay in touch – tell me how you’ve reached out in your neighborhood.

Getting Boys to ReadA Book Recommendation
Just For You
Getting Boys to Read by Mike McQueenMy friend and colleague Mike McQueen has “been there, done that.”  He knows what it is to be a struggling reader and yet he grew up to be a school librarian!

He has motivated thousands of boys to read through teaching, motivational speaking, professional development and his book.

He’s an inspiration and a reminder to never, never give up!

Click here to order

Click here for your Boys Alive! Free Report: “6 Keys to Parenting Success”

The New Dr Seuss Book

Talking with Steve and Rebecca on KXL101’s Morning Show:

Who didn’t grow up with Dr Seuss?

Hop on Pop, Green Eggs and Ham, One Fish Two Fish…are all entwined in learning to read and teaching others to read. Dr Seuss was brilliantly funny, clever, and his use of vocabulary made us beloved fans.

Now, 25 years after his last book was published, we’re treated to a new Dr Seuss book, “What Pet Should I Get?”
Screen Shot 2015-07-28 at 6.19.46 AM

Two siblings get the okay from dad to get a pet and arrive at the pet shop only to see how many pets there are to choose from. The book comes with a warning – your children may be asking you for a pet, too!

Read the entire article here.

(And, just to be “politically correct” the publisher advocates that you adopt a pet from a shelter or rescue organization instead of a pet store, which was the popular way to acquire a pet when Dr Seuss wrote this book.)

Dr Seuss books are perfect for young readers… and if you’ve got a child that you’re trying to encourage and inspire to read check out this blog post: “He Isn’t Reading Yet.”

Click here for your Boys Alive! Free Report: “6 Keys to Parenting Success”

Boy Talk #1: He Isn’t Reading Yet

“He’s 5 and he isn’t reading yet…” a father worries.
reading on rocker boards
Strong reading and writing skills are essential to academic success and are key indicators for life-long economic success. It’s a fairly recent phenomenon that we’ve started worrying about whether our 5-year olds were reading.

Sure, some boys and girls are reading voraciously by kindergarten, but there are many more who won’t read until much, much later. Most of those children will be boys.

The reading expectations that were once 2nd grade turf have been pushed down into Kindergarten. These heightened expectations are not helping boys who are developmentally still geared toward active, gross motor play and haven’t yet developed the fine motor skills that are key components to reading.

They aren’t ready to “stop, drop, and read” yet.
Many simply aren’t ready to read and no amount of worrying will speed this process.

Boys and girls approach reading differently.
Girls can typically sit quietly and read for long periods. Many boys, on the other hand, don’t see the point in sitting still and reading quietly. They view reading as a “female pursuit” as it is typically mom and female teachers that read with him at an early age.

Boys and girls read for different results.
Girls read for pure enjoyment. Boy, more often than not, read to discover how to do something. Directions, recipes, manuals, instruction books, graphic novels, dictionaries, and encyclopedias are all exciting reads for boys. They provide information in bite-size pieces and are usually accompanied by pictures and drawings.

Trust your gut.
Is he more interested in active play and less interested in reading? Will he focus with your encouragement? Does he seem interested but still struggles? Consider having his eyes checked by a Vision Therapist. This is more than just whether he needs glasses, it is checking to see that his eye muscles are strong and working in a coordinated way. Some children benefit greatly from Vision Therapy, correcting the issues that get in the way of efficient reading. Check with your eye doctor.


My Top 5 Tips for Getting Boys to Read

1. Let him move. Playing with blocks, drawing, or even just lying on the floor will help him listen better. Have him help to create a comfortable reading area – include beanbag chairs, pillows, and lots of floor space.

2. Include food! Boys will do pretty much anything if food is involved. Read menus and order pizza. Read recipes and bake a cake.

3. Provide ‘boy-friendly’ reading materials. Give him magazines, graphic novels, instruction manuals, diagrams, maps, catalogs, non-fiction, the sports pages, and joke books. Boys tend to read in shorter chunk-sizes than girls.

4. Show him men who read. Boys often see women and girls reading and think it isn’t for them. Ask the men in his life to share what they read and why they read. Check out, their goal is to help boys become “self-motivated, life-long readers.” Consider hiring a high school boy to hang out and read with your son.

5. Turn off the media. Reading comes before screen time, always. Resist Kindles and ipads and encourage hands-on reading materials. Set a timer if you have to. You’ll know you’ve succeeded in capturing his reading interest when he doesn’t hear it ring.

He may not think of himself as a “reader” so be sure to point out to him all the ways that he does read.

Don’t forget to make friends with your local library. He will love having his own library card. They usually have great summer reading programs to give him added incentive to pick up a magazine, comic book, or graphic novel as well as a book.

Read together and keep it active!

Click here for your Boys Alive! Free Report: “6 Keys to Parenting Success”

Boy-Friendly Schools

Is He Going ‘Back-to-School’ in a Boy-Friendly School? –
Are you wondering how he is going to do THIS year? Is he in a boy-friendly school? Does he have a boy-friendly teacher?

A boy-friendly environment looks different.

As academics continue to get “pushed down” into younger and younger grades, boys often suffer. When the early years of play turn too soon to academics – what was once first grade curriculum is now taught in kindergarten – boys struggle to fit into these new constraints and school becomes stress-filled rather than joy-filled. Add to that teachers who are simply overwhelmed by boy energy and you’ve got trouble.

“Every behavior is useful in some context.”

Yet school is often a context that does not fit boys.

I’ve seen first grade boys completely bewildered when asked to follow multiple directions, complete fine-motor tasks, and sit still and be quiet — all at the same time. It is nearly impossible for them, which leads to frustration (melt-downs and/or tummy aches), stress (acting out / being silly) and generally making everyone around them a little bit crazy. It also leads to the dreaded question, “Shouldn’t we be testing him for ADD?”

What does a boy-friendly school look like?
– MORE ‘CHAOS’ – Classes are noisier with kids in motion more often. This is not a “sit still and learn” environment – and you don’t want it to be!

-LESS CLUTTER – Boys tend to be highly visual. Too much visual stimulation can be overwhelming. Boy-friendly classrooms are decorated with simplicity in mind. Rules & assignments are posted visually/graphically rather than just with words. There is more floor space to play, work with clipboards, work on projects etc.

– MORE RECESS/MOVEMENT – In addition to recess there are other opportunities to move during the day – most importantly a time to pause during lessons to get up and stretch or ‘take a lap’ when the wiggles get too overwhelming.

How can you create a more boy-friendly experience for your son (at home and school)?
– MOVEMENT – Make sure he moves before school. Park several blocks away and walk; promote a jump rope or shooting hoops club before school with parents supervising (teachers will be grateful – and girls will love it, too!).

– LITERACY – Reading is the key to success in school and in life. Yet, boys often don’t consider themselves readers. Make sure your son’s classroom has plenty of boy-friendly reading materials – manuals, catalogs, dictionaries, graphic novels, magazines. Boys tend to read for a purpose and read in shorter bursts. Start collecting materials now. (And make sure he sees the men in his life reading!)

– ADVOCATE – Working within a parent organization, you can be the catalyst to begin a conversation at your school about the different ways that boys and girls learn and how to foster a boy-friendly environment (girls benefit, too!) An excellent resource is the book Boys and Girls Learn Differently by Michael Gurian.

When teachers and parents understand that boys need a different kind of structure at school and home, then discipline and behavioral issues decline and school enthusiasm increases. The contexts fit and our boys succeed!

What a great way to begin the year!

YOU must be the advocate for your son.

Boys Alive! has the resources to help you:

1. BOY TALK – Download interviews with parenting experts and expert parents on many all-things-boys topics: The Birds and The Bees; Coping with Grief; Boy-Friendly Schools; Peace with your Preschooler, and more!

2. HOST AN EXPERT – Janet Allison speaks nationally and internationally and creates programs designed for your specific school situation. Her talks are dynamic, engaging, and often have the highest turn-out of any school sponsored parent evening because of the compelling topic of boys! Discuss possibilities with her – EMAIL JANET>>

3. JOIN THE CONVERSATION – Our private Facebook group is open to you! Join us as we help each other, share successes, and feature ideas and advice for making life with boys at home and school even more fun and successful. JOIN US HERE>>

5 Ways to more-than-survive Summer with your son

DSC_0084Barely a month into summer – are you already in survival mode?

Have you scheduled (and–gulp-paid for) a gazillion camps?
Trips to grandparents?
Trades with friends?
… just so you can survive all those endless hours of ‘unscheduled’ time?

Want to turn Survive into THRIVE?

Boys (and girls) want (and need) active, physical, exciting adventures.

BUT they’ll also savor the downtime if you make it part of the activities, too.

1. READ and READ SOME MORE. Read out loud, read upside down, read outside, read early, read late. Show (and tell) him the many ways he is already reading – cereal boxes, instruction sheets, billboards. Part of reading is writing – have him make lists, categories, maps and charts. See Getting Boys to Read by my friend Mike McQueen for easy and effective ideas for engaging him.

2. SERVICE. Look around – who could use a helping hand? Water plants, pull weeds, take out recycling. This ‘early employment’ gives him feedback that isn’t from you so he can build his internal system of rewards. It is high on satisfaction and low on money and material rewards – and that’s a good thing!

3. PASSION. Guide him to his passion. He may not recognize it until you point out how one interest connects to another. Don’t be too teachy or preachy though. Provide the opportunity and let him do some self-discovery – you provide the fertile ground and let him explore. Reading Rainbow does this so well!

4. NATURE and NATURE SOME MORE. Nature is the anecdote for stress and over-scheduled lives (yours and his). Schedule it, if you have to. Plan a whole day to be outside – doing everything outside – cooking, eating, sleeping. Have you heard of Forest Kindergartens? Do you have one in your area?

5. BOREDOM. Celebrate it and provide lots of space, raw materials, and time. Its hard to create when you’ve got to be at baseball in 30 minutes. A friend prepared tons of entertainment for her 2 boys for their summer 4-week road trip. At 1200 miles in, the bag hadn’t been opened. The boys were completely enthralled with hotel note pads and pens (plus a few books).

Okay…one more…for you…

6. SAVOR IT TOGETHER! Schedule it, if you need to. Be daring and leave your phone at HOME. Notice how different it feels to be completely untethered (remember that feeling??) Even if it is turned off but in your pocket, your backpack, or your car, you’ll be tempted to check it. “Oh he won’t notice.” Trust me, he will.

Be fully there for him.

Be fully there for yourself.


It’s so much better than Survive!

Janet Allison is an Educator, Author, Family Coach and Founder of Boys Alive! She works with parents and teachers locally and nationally, interpreting gender differences and helping create action plans for positive change. She certifies Parent Coaches in Boys Alive! so they can spread the word, too! Contact Janet at

Ready to understand your boy better? Sign Up. Inspiration and strategies are on the way!

Site Design & Development by Makeness Media LLC