Book Look: I Am . . . series by Susan Verde

I Am Love: A Book of Compassion by Susan Verde + Art by Peter Reynolds

Susan Verde has written an inspiring series of children’s books and paired with the engaging art of Peter Reynolds to provide families with the opportunity to read wholehearted stories that bring light and empowerment even in the most challenging times.

The book that hooked me first was I Am Love: A Book of Compassion. This short picture book uses powerful wording to help us all understand how to be the light and love in the room wherever we go and in whatever we do. It is also a wonderful reminder of all the ways love is present everyday if we are mindful and engage with self-compassion too.

I Am One: A Book of Action by Susan Verde + Art by Peter Reynolds

The second book that caught my eye was I Am One: A Book of Action. This is an invitation to ask ourselves “How do I make a difference?” even when we feel like we only have one small voice. The messaging emphasizes that so many things start with just one – a seed in a garden, a musical note for a song, a brushstroke for a masterpiece, and the first step on a long journey. This gift of a book is empowering and a wonderful reminder for the whole family that each individual can make a difference.

I Am Peace: A Book of Mindfulness by Susan Verde + Art by Peter Reynolds

This book, I Am Peace: A Book of Mindfulness, is a balm and guide for those folks who worry what might happen next in our ever changing world. It provides a wonderful introduction to being present with what is and the basic gentle steps on how to be at peace with yourself, others, and the world around you. Bonus material includes encouraging folks to wonder and connect to nature!

I Am Human: A Book of Empathy by Susan Verde + Art by Peter Reynolds

This keepsake, I Am Human: A Book of Empathy, is a wonderful expression of all that we each are and can be. This book is filled with simple possibilities and opportunities to guide each of us to be a better human and to simply be human. I appreciate the messaging throughout this story and the offering of a loving-kindness meditation at the end to pass forward.

I Am Yoga by Susan Verde + Art by Peter Reynolds

Through a focus of quieting the mind, body, and breath I Am Yoga brings calm and peace into any moment and with it a touch of magic as you witness the power to just be still and centered. This is an excellent introduction guide on how to embrace the basics of yoga and to see how the effects of the poses can bring strength and clarity to your day. A must read for the whole family!

P.L.A.Y. is here to support you and your family on your life learning path.

Share this Simple Gift with friends and loved ones.

P.L.A.Y. – Pass it on!

BOOK LOOK – Owl Moon and Winter Bees

 ~ ~ ~ BOOK LOOK ~ ~ ~

Owl Moon

by Jane Yolen

Winter Bees

poems by Joyce Sidman & Rick Allen

Karen’s P.L.A.Y. previews (short) and companion activity adventure list suggestions (long).

SHORT P.L.A.Y.ful story preview of Owl Moon:

Simply a Jane Yolen snowy winter classic – need I say more?

Time to suit up and make tracks in the light of the moon or snuggle up for this wonderful read.

❤ ❤ ❤ Or both! ❤ ❤ ❤

LONG P.L.A.Y.-filled companion activity adventure suggestion list for Winter Bees:

  • Challenge: Have you ever thought of bees in the snowy winter? Where do they go? Have you walked by them in the woods and not even known it?
  • Super Challenge: What other animals and insects are nearby in the winter cleverly hidden from view? How do you know? (*see snake lullaby poem!)
  • Super-Duper Challenge: Have you ever wondered how trees hang in year after year, season after season? What does the spirit and the survival of the trees tell us?

BOOK LOOK – Free Range Learning by Laura Grace Weldon – Chapter 14 Language Arts/Foreign Language

~~~ BOOK LOOK ~~~

Review & Reflections

Free Range Learning:

How Homeschooling Changes Everything

by Laura Grace Weldon


If you were to only have one homeschool, unschooling, life learning book on your shelf this would be my top pick. It is absolutely worth having this volume on your shelf to revisit again and again.

This book encompasses so many of my core beliefs on life learning and how to raise children (and yourself!) in a mindful and wholehearted way that I just had to write a series of reviews covering the chapters in this book and encouraging other folks to try out this lifestyle.

Revisit reviews of previous chapters by clicking on the Category – Homeschooling + Unschooling search tab on the right side of this page or linked HERE.

In Chapter 14 – Language Arts & Foreign Language Laura covers more of what some folks would view as the “core required academic subjects” of homeschooling. She also expands on the idea of language arts focusing on listening and speaking, story telling as a means of expression and communication, and explaining how in our interconnected world reading, writing, and speaking truly affect our daily lives. She also addresses the typical concerns of “when will they learn to read and write?” and encourages the parents to create a word rich environment and model an enjoyment of reading.

Be sure to try out the wide variety of options Laura offers with both activities and resources for language arts and foreign language focus and see my reflections below on our own families lived experience and the resources we used on our journey.


 Read Aloud or Read Alone

Just Joy-fully + P.L.A.Y.-fully READ All the Time!

Our work as life learners is to engage with topics of interest, explore curiosities, express ourselves creatively, and quite simply build a life of purpose and meaning through our daily adventures.

And a key tool in making these connections is reading.

And what is one of the number one questions as folks begin homeschooling?

“How do I teach my children to read?”

My answer is quite simple “We read. Period.”

Putting this into practice however requires a DAILY commitment from every member of the household and extended family.

After nearly a decade working in classrooms and two decades as a homeschool mom here is what I know to be true:

  • We need to model that reading is valued by being readers ourselves in our homes.
  • We need to be patient when a young reader says “let me try” and sit with them as they slowly, methodically sound out words to read text on a page.
  • We need to support readers of every age+stage when they ask “What is this word?” and tell them so that they may continue on with continuity vs. being told to go look it up and losing sense of the story line along the way.
  • We need to read and re-read the favorite picture story book over and over as this builds muscle memory and connections.
  • We need to visit the library often AND bring home oodles of books EACH week! Let the kiddos pick out books, you pick out books, and bring home bags (plural) so there is always a wide selection of interesting and engaging stories (fiction and non-fiction). *As homeschoolers we would have 30-40 books or more loaned from the library at any given time!
  • We need to listen to audio books together and make connections with the corresponding text. Ask questions, get curious, get silly, get involved in the story and be eager to read and find out more.
  • We need to go to story time at the local library and see others enjoying reading too.
  • We need to read recipes, comic books, labels on foods, music to sing, letters from Grandma, directions on how to play a game or putting a new toy together, maps and road signs, billboards, postcards, quite simply read all the time and everywhere!
  • We need . . . well there are many needs when it comes to reading and they all can be woven in to our daily practices together as a family.

Putting together some of the practicalities:

Phonics and other programs are okay IF a child would LIKE to explore them, however they are not required.

In actuality a simple early learner rhyming dictionary quite nicely shows all of the common word families (and spellings) and provides fun and P.L.A.Y.-filled practice while getting silly with building sentences.

And as readers become more confident they also, over time, take in the structure and framework of how the English language is pieced together. Simply by having access to all books all the time AND making the space for reading throughout their day they will naturally find their way as a reader. This also means yet again the idea of “in their own time and in their own way” applies. There is no set time table for when each individual can read on their own. Consistently engage as readers in your household and everyone will eventually read what they need when they need it. There is only a small percentage of the population that truly require extra assistance, above and beyond consistent exposure to reading, and there are a host of tools and resources at your fingertips to serve their needs and support all of you on this journey.

Reading is a cornerstone of the life learning lifestyle and it will happen naturally over time. Trust that nature knows the pace that each individual needs for this adventure we call “life”.

And one final word to really bring home the point of how important it is to fill your home with living books that really allow you and your family to come alive and joyfully learn together.

This exchange took place between my 8 and 10 year old kiddos when sorting through a stack of books:

” When I read boring books my mouth gets dry.” – age 8

“Reading it is like chewing sand because the writing is so dry.” – age 10

This sums up why it is so important to guide and support young readers, let them select books and also be willing to invest the time to preview books for them, to encourage them on their P.L.A.Y.  journey.

Be present and support the readers in your family by taking the time to preview books whenever possible. There are so many amazing and wonderfully written books in the children’s section of the library that there is no reason to waste your precious time on “dry literature”.

There are so many reliable sites that now provide great book reviews for your previewing including here on the P.L.A.Y. blog. And purchasing a few special books for your shelves at home whether it is at the library book sale, tag sale, or your favorite local book store, reminds your family how much you value reading and the priority you place on spending your time this way.

Whenever I get the chance, even though my kiddos are grown, I still spend hours joyfully in the children’s section of the library simply sorting through the stacks of books (both picture + chapter) to bring home bags of these goodies to read at night and then share the best with you. A simple and sweet gift that keeps on giving!

Time to wrap up this thread of reading ideas with two action items:

  1. Be sure to check back throughout the week for updates in the  BOOK LOOK + Story Nook P.L.A.Y.-ful reviews section of my blog for all your life learning adventures (found HERE).
  2. A Request –please support your local libraries and keep them in the business of books by volunteering and providing monetary and used book donations! My family and I have spent countless hours over the years volunteering at our local library shelving books, creating bulletin boards, running children’s programs for free, and delivering numerous bags of books we no longer needed in order to give back to a community resource we value greatly. Ask your librarians or make suggestions on how you can best be of service. Truly, it is family time P.L.A.Y.-fully and joyfully well spent!

Chapter 15 in this series can be found HERE.

Compliment this reading with the authors and resources listed below.

~ Recommended Authors + Resources ~

Sue Young –

Scholastic Rhyming Dictionary (or any age appropriate rhyming dictionary)

REMINDER: Phonics and other programs are okay IF a child would LIKE to explore them, however they are not required.

In actuality a simple early learner rhyming dictionary quite nicely shows all of the common word families (and spellings) and provides fun and P.L.A.Y.-filled practice while creating sentences, poetry, songs, stories, greeting cards, etc. And yes – silliness is a bonus!

❤ ❤ ❤

Emily K. Neuburger –

Show Me A Story: 40 Craft Projects and Activities to Spark Children’s Storytelling (my future review here)

Journal Sparks: Fire Up Your Creativity with Spontaneous Art, Wild Writing, and Inventive Thinking (my future review here)

BONUS: If you live here in Western Mass then you also have the opportunity to visit the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art where Emily has held workshops with these books.

❤ ❤ ❤


Karen Benke –

Rip the Page!: Adventures in Creative Writing (my future review here)

Leap Write In!: Adventures in Creative Writing to Stretch and Surprise Your One-of-a-Kind Mind (my future review here)

❤ ❤ ❤


Scholastic Series – Everything You Need to Know About ENGLISH Homework

❤ ❤ ❤

National Geographic Book of Nature Poetry

❤ ❤ ❤

Tina Packer –

Tales From Shakespeare

❤ ❤ ❤

Ian Doescher – (awesome way to excite folks about Shakespeare – with character parts to P.L.A.Y. and speak theater style!)

William Shakespeare’s Star Wars

William Shakespeare’s the Empire Striketh Back

William Shakespeare’s the Jedi Doth Return

William Shakespeare’s the Phantom of Menace

William Shakespeare’s the Clone Army Attacketh

William Shakespeare’s Tragedy of the Sith’s Revenge

❤ ❤ ❤

Purchase Here- P.L.A.Y. Nature Alliteration Adventure Guide Books

and join the play-filled journey today!