Archive for the ‘Literature’ Category

Reading Aloud: Connecting to Life Itself

Brave Writer Reading Aloud

Reading aloud is more than getting through the chapters to the end. Reading to your children is a chance for them to experience you—your values, your priorities, your heartfelt connection to life itself.

My daughter Johannah called me from college. “That’s why you cried,” she said.

Johannah had always wondered why I couldn’t get through the end of Charlotte’s Web without leaking tears. It’s that final sentence. It gets me every time.

“It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both.”

Charlotte was both—sob! I’m all choked up again.

When Johannah was a child, this line seemed like a matter-of-fact statement about Charlotte. Johannah wondered what feelings I was having that she wasn’t. As a newly minted college student, Johannah reread the book to find out. Cue adulthood, and she experienced a different reaction to those legendary lines. She saw their poignancy, the subtle way E.B. White affirmed writers for their craft, and the power of loyalty in friendship until death. Values—she now understood—demonstrated in my tears, a decade earlier.

When we read to our kids, we aren’t just conveying words or a narrative. Our living, breathing reactions make impressions too.

  • We show an appreciation for courage or hardship,
  • we laugh at the plays on words,
  • we smile with delight at alliterative phrases,
  • we demonstrate surprise or moral outrage.

Our children, listening along, take in the story and adult response—both. Even when they don’t quite “get it yet.” These shared experiences with you form the bedrock of their values.

Next time you feel a little chagrined by your inability to read without tears streaming down your cheeks—let them flow. Let your children see the good, compassionate, sensitive feeling the story evokes from you.

That’s half the lesson.


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Elementary Writing: Nonfiction Books

Brave Writer Online Classes

It’s here! The online class you requested for your littles.

Elementary Writing: Nonfiction Books!


Preheat the oven. Add the flour, crack the egg. You’re halfway through making a cake. 

BRRRRRING! Your timer goes off. Wipe off your hands, it’s time to do laundry!

Midway through folding the soft, warm towels… BRRRING! Stop, it’s time to send that email.

What is all this random dinging, you ask? It’s the bell, telling you it’s time to move on so you can get through your to-do list! 

Sound ridiculous? It’s how most of us did our schooling when we were younger! 

  • BELL! Math
  • BELL! English literature
  • BELL! Eat your lunch
  • BELL! Science
  • BELL! History
  • BELL! You can go home.

It’s part of a system that needs to accommodate hundreds of kids. Do you need such a system in your home? I’d say not! (By the way, other models of schooling ditch the compartments too: Montessori, Waldorf, Forest Schools…)

Real-life learning doesn’t get parceled out into different subjects. The most effective learning is the type where as many different connections are made as possible. 

You have that advantage. Your KIDS have that advantage.

We see that opportunity and we want to help you use it, especially with your youngest learners.

Enter Elementary Writing: Nonfiction Books!

Reading and writing doesn’t always need to be fiction. In fact, we can make even more sparks and connections by bringing in other subjects.

For this online class, topics can be anything that interests: science, art, cooking, history—the sky’s the limit! 

Why this class is a deal:

  • This is a family class with one tuition for the whole gang. 
  • YOU learn a lot since you’ll check in with your personal coach each week to get ideas about how to talk and write about the topic in a way that matches your kids’ natural stages of growth in writing.
  • Two-for-one. Three-for-one! You can take this class and count it toward both writing and whatever other subjects your nonfiction explorations take you.
  • It’s a deep dive. Cross-curricular. Interest-led. The type that can’t be done in traditional school.  

Join us!


Brave Writer Online Classes

Search and Sort: Literature Singles!

Brave Writer Literature Singles

Calling all planners! You’ve asked for it. Now, it’s here!

We’ve created a spreadsheet listing all 230 Dart, Arrow, Boomerang, and Slingshot titles just for you!

And it’s not just a list of titles. Oh, no . . .

We’ve given you the POWER!

The power to search and sort by

  • title,
  • author,
  • book setting (including continent),
  • time period,
  • the literary device highlighted in each Dart or Arrow, and
  • cross-curricular connections to tie in history, science, math, and more!

A dream come true, right?

Find it all on the Dart, Arrow, Boomerang, and Slingshot Literature Singles spreadsheet!

Start with the introduction tab at the bottom then let yourself play with the possibilities.

Happy Planning!


Brave Writer’s Dart, Arrow, Boomerang, and Slingshots are digital downloadable products that feature copywork and dictation passages from selected novels. These guides are indispensable tools for parents who want to teach language arts in a natural, literature-bathed context.


Brave Writer

Banned Books Week

Banned Book Week

Banned Books Week is an annual opportunity to celebrate the freedom to read. This special week shines a bright light on attempts—both recent and long ago—to censor books. If this year’s event, held the week of September 26, passed you by, no worries. It’s never too late to dive into this canon. You can pick up a banned book and start reading it today!

In fact, we’ve recently added a few updated Arrows for books regularly found on banned book lists to the Brave Writer store: Harriet the Spy and The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe

You might wonder, why would I want to pick up a banned book? And why, especially, would I want to share a banned book with my kids—and use it to study grammar, punctuation, and literary devices?

We hear you. And we have thoughts to share.

What is a banned book?

The American Library Association (ALA) makes a distinction between challenged and banned books:

“A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group. A banning is the removal of those materials. Challenges do not simply involve a person expressing a point of view; rather, they are an attempt to remove material from the curriculum or library, thereby restricting the access of others. As such, they are a threat to freedom of speech and choice.”

Raising awareness of banned books helps ensure readers an ongoing opportunity to engage freely with diverse ideas and perspectives. At Brave Writer we celebrate that intellectual freedom as a means to promote new empathy and deeper understanding. This is why we make it a point to carry mechanics and literature singles for challenged or banned books!

Digging for Treasure

At first, it might feel counterintuitive to seek out banned titles. After all, we aim to give our kids the best literary experiences we can, poring over carefully curated reading lists to find those “must-read gems” all the experts are raving about. How surprising it is to discover then that the treasures we seek work overtime, often appearing on both the “classics-you-can’t-afford-to-miss-lists” and the banned books lists too!

To name just a few, think:

If you’ve been with Brave Writer for a while, you may recognize that these titles are featured in a Dart, Arrow, or Boomerang. These books were selected for our language arts program because of their:

  • exquisite writing, 
  • honest representation, and 
  • timeless relevance. 

Presented at the right time, in the right context, these tales have the power to enrich family culture and conversation in wildly meaningful ways. Let’s explore how! 

Relevancy Makes Readers

Books get banned for a wide range of reasons, but one element these titles usually share is authors with a willingness to take on the hard stuff. Banned books don’t shy away from the subjects kids are thinking about. Relatable stories of familial challenges, peer pressure, bullying, prejudice, loss, and grief gift our kids with road maps to hold onto when they’re feeling lost or overwhelmed. Books can make it easier to digest and process the feelings these topics give life to. And have you noticed that relatable books turn kids into readers?  

Books as Mirrors and Windows

Many books deemed “controversial” are great teachers of empathy and self-awareness. Education reformer Charlotte Mason taught that books give children a chance to learn about the wider world. Educator Emily Style took this thinking a step further coining the expression “books as mirrors and windows.” 

  • Mirrors are those stories that reflect a child’s identity and their environment back to them. The impact of seeing one’s life reflected in stories is significant because it’s a signal to kids that their lives matter and that there are other people who think and feel the same way they do. What a good feeling that is! 
  • Windows are stories that offer a view of someone else’s experiences and help children see the humanity in others. These stories often reveal surprising commonalities that transcend our differences and may explore issues such as ethnicity, disability, gender orientation, and religion. Diving into complex stories alongside well-crafted characters is a chance to step outside of comfort zones to learn about others. Banned books show the world as the big and sometimes confusing place that it is while providing exposure that cultivates empathy and resilience in readers.

Banned books spark Big Juicy Conversations! 

Do you think the topics covered in Charlotte’s Web are too sad for children? 

Who could this story help? 

Do these themes belong in a kids’ book? 

Why? 

Why not? 

Think how delicious this conversation might be served up with cookies and milk! Substantive stories stir up controversy, and controversy is fodder for juicy conversations. Open-ended discussion of questions like the examples above helps develop critical thinking skills. If given opportunities to engage regularly in rich conversation, kids will grow the skills they need to thoughtfully discern and distill their beliefs and values.   

You Get to Decide

Books that stretch our thinking, make us evaluate and consider the world from a series of vantage points, are doing their job. How fortunate we are to have access to them.

Not every banned book deserves a place on your bookshelf, of course. You get to decide what deserves a place in your collection. But that’s the whole point. You decide. 

Mark your calendars. Next year’s Banned Books Week begins Saturday, September 24, 2022. As the date draws closer, keep an eye on your library’s calendar to see what events are planned and join the fun with your family. Of course, there’s no need to wait till next year— you can pick up a conversation starter today! 

Banned Book Literature Singles at Brave Writer:

Dart Titles


Arrow Titles

Boomerang Titles

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg! See if you can spot other banned books on our Literature Singles list. There are more! 


Brave Writer Literature Singles

How Brave Writer Picks Books

Brave Writer

How many books do you think Dawn, our Director of Publishing, had to read to select the 35 books featured in our Dart, Arrow, Boomerang, and Slingshot programs? I’ll wait…

Did you guess 40? 55? 70? In fact, she read over 100. 

The jigsaw puzzle of selecting books is no small feat! What follows is Dawn’s outline of how we go about putting together a year of reading with your family that leads to rich learning and family closeness. Can’t wait to share our brand new book lists for 2021-2022 with you on June 1 and 2!

What’s the process of pulling the book lists together?

  • Customers recommend books or topics
  • Staff members suggest books
  • We follow publishers to keep up with what’s new
  • We keep tabs on new and popular books on GoodReads and other book-related sites

Those recommendations go into a project and we read throughout the year—yes, we are already reading for the 2022–2023 lists! 

There’s no guarantee that a book we love will even make a list. There are lots of moving parts once we start putting the books into a sequence and stand them up side-by-side. For instance, we don’t want a string of depressing story-lines or too many books in a row that feature animals as the protagonists.

As the year progresses, we look for what’s missing—holes—in the lists. We want to ensure a year of reading that feels fresh each month, not a retread of what has already been experienced. 

We also keep in mind the books we feature in our Literature Singles—books from previous years. The trick is to find the magic TEN that will make a list (FIVE, for the Slingshot). 

What does a book need to make the cut? 

  • Amazing writing is the first hurdle for a book. That’s not to say that every book on our list has the most stellar writing—sometimes a book’s popularity with kids lands it a spot which allows us to showcase mechanics in a book your kids already enjoy.
  • We look for an engaging plot or slice of life. A rip-roaring plot can pull readers along and keep them engaged, but sometimes it’s nice to slow down and appreciate the quiet moments in life. Bronze and Sunflower comes to mind—there’s a plot, of course, but the amazing aspect of that book is the level of daily life details, and, of course, the writing. It knocked our socks off! 
  • The book needs to be appropriate for the developmental level. A book might bump up to a Boomerang or down to an Arrow or Dart depending on the themes or the vocabulary.
  • We always look for party possibilities, of course! (*wink*). Some books just scream “Party with me!” (we’re looking at you, PIE!), while other books deal with heavier topics that don’t lend themselves to a “party” atmosphere. You may have noticed that some issues refer to the book club as a “gathering” rather than a “party.” It’s a slight shift, but a good distinction to make when considering the celebration of books with heavier topics. 

What are our considerations? 

  • Library of variety. Our goal in putting together our book lists is to provide a “library of variety” in two ways: genre and representation. In terms of genre, we include historical fiction, graphic novels, fantasy, poetry, and modern fiction to name a few. In terms of representation, we look for characters and authors from a wide variety of backgrounds. We are particularly attuned to the trend in publishing called Own Voices books—meaning the author is a member of the community that is the focus of the book.
  • Filling gaps in our overall Literature Singles list. In the fall of 2019, Dawn attended an Equity in Action course for librarians. The goal of the course was to learn how to audit a collection of books by surveying the standing collection and looking for gaps in representation. Our audit helped us make selections that fill those gaps. It’s a satisfying process, even if it’s a long and ongoing one here at Brave Writer.
  • Finding windows and mirrors. You may have heard that books can be both windows and mirrors. The phrase “mirrors and windows” was first introduced by Emily Style for the National SEED Project. A mirror is a story that reflects your own culture and helps you build your identity. A window is a resource that offers you a view into someone else’s experience.  Rudine Sims Bishop expanded on these concepts with the addition of sliding glass doors that allow readers to walk into a story. Then Grant Snider, a comic artist, expanded it even further: stepping stones, overcoats, anchors, springboards, escape hatches, quiet corners, warm blankets, flying carpets, and beacons for new readers.  

We are so excited to introduce you and your kids to great literature! Read along with us this year by purchasing a year-long program: Dart, Arrow, Boomerang, or Slingshot!

Brave Writer Language Arts