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On the Shelf: Family Story Time

No matter what the school year looks like, having time to read – alone or on a lap – is important for all aspects of a child’s healthy development. And for parents, reading a book aloud as a family can be a chance to unwind together, take a break from screens and maybe open doors to talk. Check with your local library or bookstore for these great reads. 

“My Life in the Fish Tank” by Barbara Dee (Aladdin, ages 9 – 13, releases Sept. 15)

For middle grade readers, this is one to pre-order for fall reading. Twelve-year-old Zinny and her family face an unexpected challenge when her college-aged brother is diagnosed with bipolar disorder. The story affords parents a unique and gentle way to talk about mental illness and take steps to overcome the secrecy and stigma that still surrounds mental health issues. Bring back family read-aloud time with this one.

“You Matter” by Christian Robinson (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, ages 4 – 8) 

The message here is a simple one, but it hits home for all ages, especially in times of isolation and the “new normal” of living in a pandemic. From the smallest microscopic life form to giant dinosaurs and everyone in between, you matter. You are important and you make an impact.

“The Sea Knows” by Alice B. McGinty and Alan B. Havis, illustrated by Stephanie Laberis (Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books, ages 4 – 8)

Dive right into this beautifully illustrated journey of ocean discovery. The text is perfect for early readers, and the lavish color and detail will mean there’s plenty of time for little eyes to linger and find something new with every look. For older kids, the authors’ notes explain exactly what the sea knows, making this a book that will stay on your shelf for years to come. 

“Leaf Litter Critters” by Leslie Bulion, illustrated by Robert Meganck (Peachtree Publishers, ages 8 – 12) 

Whether kids are back in the classroom or learning at home, this book will put curious minds well on their way to investigating a world that most of us just step right through. Homeschooling families, this is a great basis for a unit study. It covers everything from poetry to science. A free teacher’s guide is available at

“My Rainy Day Rocket Ship” by Markette Sheppard, illustrated by Charly Palmer (Denene Millner Books/Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, ages 4 – 8)

Imagination can take you anywhere – even out of this world. With rich, bright illustrations and rhyming text, kids will quickly learn to shout the last word of each page. This is a great one for story time and helping little ones connect language to the words on the page.