6 Tips for Starting Your Own Father-Daughter Book Club

My daughter and I are reading the same book. It happened completely by accident. She had a book. She left it lying on the kitchen counter. I spilled grape juice on it. While I was cleaning it up, I happened to read a few lines of the book and suddenly I was hooked. I must have stood at the counter, sponge in one hand, book in the other for 20 minutes before my daughter came in looking for her book and made me give it up.


Bad news: The book was a library book and it now was definitely tinted purple on a bunch of pages.


More bad news: My daughter cried when she saw the state of the book.


Good news: The damage meant that I had to buy the book from the library which meant that I could finish reading it.


My daughter and I both continued reading the book and as we did we would discuss what was going on. It was pretty interesting to get her take on things and I discovered that what she thought was the most exciting or most important parts of the book were not the same as what I considered the best parts. When we were both done with the book, I was disappointed. I wanted that same connection to keep going. Luckily, the book was the first in a series, and a few days later, my daughter brought home book 2. And that is where our unofficial but very satisfying ongoing father-daughter book club began.


Start Your Own Father-Daughter Book Club


Want to get your own Father-Daughter (or Father-Son, for that matter) Book Club going? Here are few tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way that might help make it easier and more enjoyable for everyone involved.


  • Let her pick the book. Trust me on this. You may have a favorite book that you remember from when you were a kid, but if you suggest it, your child will not want to read it and if by some chance they do (or pretend to) they will tell you how much they hate it, totally ruining the experience for you. Yep, I’ve been there. Resist the urge to pick the book, it’s just not worth it.
  • Provide snacks. Sitting down with your child across an empty (or mostly empty table) is OK, but add some chips and salsa and it’s an invitation to dig deep into the story and spend quality time together.
  • Invite friends. If your other kids want to join or your daughter has friends who want to be part of the discussion, let them. As long as they’ve read the book and have something to contribute, your conversation will be so much more interesting with multiple points of view.
  • Go there. Don’t be afraid to broach difficult topics. Books for kids often touch on controversial themes (which is why so many of them get banned!) but if your daughter isn’t going to discuss death or prejudice or boys with you, who is she going to talk about these things with?
  • Give your honest opinion. If you didn’t like the book, say so. If you did like it, say that too. And back it up with reasons why. Expect your daughter to do the same. It’s incredibly important for your daughter to understand that she is entitled to her own opinion and that her opinion is valid even if it differs from yours.
  • Discuss, don’t quiz. A lot of books come with book club type questions in the back these days. Ignore those. I’ve found it so much more rewarding to have a conversation with my daughter about the book rather than quizzing her about what she read like they do at school. In fact, I think the reason we both enjoy our book club time together is that it doesn’t feel like school. It feels like hanging out with someone you really like who also read the same book you did.


Don’t feel like you have enough time to read an entire book? Or perhaps your child isn’t quite ready to take on an entire novel? Why not try a short story instead? A well-written short story, like those found in CRICKET Magazine, contains all of the same elements of a good novel, including interesting characters, well-developed plots, and universal themes that will make for a great discussion. But with word counts much shorter than a traditional novel, you’ll both be able to get to the part where you learn more about your child much faster.


By the way, that first book my daughter and I read together was called City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau. I highly recommend it for all kids ages 9 and up (and their dads). If you see your child with this book, pick it up yourself and try it. Just watch out if you have a glass of grape juice in your hands.

March is National Reading Month

Way back in December (doesn’t that seem like a long time ago?) we presented a new Advent Calendar to our readers. This Advent Calendar gave a daily gift to everyone who opened it by counting down to the 12 Days of Christmas with a story each day. The calendar was a hit with parents who told us that they really appreciated the convenience of clicking the link and finding a new holiday-themed story to share with their kids every day. After the holidays were over, we packed up our Advent Calendar and, like holiday decorations everywhere, put it away until next year.


Then someone had a great idea. How about we reuse our Calendar to celebrate National Reading Month by providing a story a day for the entire month of March? And so that’s what we did. Throughout the month of March, you can check out our Reading Calendar every day for a new story or article from one of our magazines. You’ll find fiction and nonfiction, stories for little kids and stories for tweens, articles about topics ranging from history to science, and so much more.


So be sure to check out our National Reading Month calendar throughout the entire month of March. There will even be special discounts on Cricket Media magazines for you and toward the end of the month, a preview of our new Tech in Check initiative, which you will not want to miss.


March is National Story Month


Enjoy and keep reading. As Dr. Seuss said, ““The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”


Calendar art: Ladybug January 2014 issue “Dragon Talk” art by Bryn Barnard

Dear Poet: Notes to a Young Writer

A poetic journey through the creative process for readers, writers, artists & dreamers.


As I enter my seventh decade on this planet, I wonder what words of wisdom I might have written to the younger me. What treasured tidbits have I learned along the way? What could I leave in a letter to young wide-eyed artists and poets searching the world for advice, guidance, and inspiration.


I began as I always do, by closing my eyes and listening to that soft voice that has spoken without fail for more than a half century. The voice spoke. I took notes. Here they are. Little poetic pieces I trust will speak to future generations of poets and artists, young and old. May they continue to listen. May they continue to speak.



Do not tell

the world

your pain.

Show it

the joy

of your tears.



Hang a picture

of truth

in your heart.

Let the mirror

of your eyes

fill the page.



A simple


is light.

A complex


is fire.



When in need

of the poem,

go write it.

But do not think

you are


There is no


for the poet.

There is only


for the poem.



Do not write

another word–

unless you have to.



No matter

how many poems

you write

to keep

yourself alive,

you cannot.





Spit at the dark.

Curse the moon.

Throw rocks

at the stars.

Get it all out.

Get it all out.

Get it all out on paper.



Style is not

how you


It is how

you do not








your instincts

to write.


your reasons

not to.




like lightning,


from the





Look in the mirror.

If you see a stranger,

write a poem.

If you see

your father,

write a poem.

If you see


put down the pen.



A silent rhyme

upon the page

is what the poet gives,

gentle words

whispered in trust

to see if memory lives.



The path

to inspiration starts

upon a trail unknown.

Each writer’s block

is not a rock.

It is a stepping stone.



Poems are not penned

to the page

waiting for us to admire.

They are only

lonely thoughts

caught by tears on fire.



Don’t plant

your poem

on the page

as thought

you’re hanging


Its shape

and flow

should come

and grow

like wild

summer grapes.



A poet’s life

is paradox,

it’s more than what it seems.

We write

of our reality,

the one inside our dreams.



A poem

is the echo of a promise,

the thunder of a sigh,

the music

of a memory,

a child asking why.



A poem

is a rising moon

shining on the sea,

an afterglow

of all you know,

of all your dreams set free.



A poem

is a spider web

spun with words of wonder,

woven lace

held in place

by whispers made of thunder.



A poem

is a firefly

upon the summer wind.

Instead of shining

where she goes,

she lights up where she’s been.



It’s not the poem

on the page

that makes them laugh or cry,

it’s how your soul

touched a heart

and opened up an eye.



A poem

is a play

meant to delight you.

A poem

is a party

meant to excite you.

A poem

is a song

full of desire.

A poem

is a sunset

meant to inspire.

A poem

is a secret

shared among friends.

A poem

is a promise

that never ends.



A poem

is a whisper, a shout,

thoughts turned inside out.

A poem

is a laugh, a sigh,

an echo passing by.

A poem

is a rhythm, a rhyme,

a moment caught in time.

A poem

is a moon, a star,

a glimpse of who you are.



The answer

to the poet

comes quicker than a blink,

though the spark

of inspiration

is not what you might think.

The muse

is full of magic,

though her vision may be dim,

the poet

does not choose his muse,

it is the muse that chooses him.

Leading the Way to Leadership

What is a leader? A leader is a person who unites us and inspires us to work together toward a common goal. A leader is a person who is responsible for guiding the group toward new heights of success, individually and collectively, and for bringing out the best in each of us. In a symphony, the maestro is the leader. In sports, the captain of our team is the leader.


Leading the Way to LeadershipLeaders are everywhere! They are in our family, classroom, team, community, state, and county. At home, parents are the leaders. At school, teachers, librarians, and principal are the leaders. The leader of our community is our mayor. The leader of our state is our governor, and the leader of our country is our president.


Some leaders lead with their words. Some leaders lead by example with their actions and deeds. Some leaders bring out the greatness within each of us. Those leaders are great leaders.


In his play, The Twelfth Night, William Shakespeare wrote, “Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.” Maybe Shakespeare was thinking of one of those great leaders. Maybe one of those great leaders is you.


Response Ability

Responsibility is our

Most favored point of view;

Responding with ability

To what we say and do.

—Charles Ghigna


The Right Touch

A thoughtful word, a thoughtful deed,

We never lose the knack,

For kindness is a boomerang

That always comes right back.

—Charles Ghigna


Success Full

Never doubt what you can do

No matter what the chore;

Success comes when we care enough

To do a little more.

—Charles Ghigna


Think Tank

It doesn’t take an army

To think what can be done;

One person with just one idea

Is more than ten with none.

—Charles Ghigna


Virtue Us

Integrity comes not from words,

Though spoken near or far;

It does not come from what we say,

It comes from who we are.

—Charles Ghigna


Winning Strategy

Self-discipline is what it takes

To find a way to win;

To see if you have what it takes

Just take a look within.

—Charles Ghigna


Charles Ghigna – Father Goose® lives in a treehouse in the middle of Alabama. He served as poet-in-residence and chair of creative writing at the Alabama School of Fine Arts, and as a nationally syndicated feature writer for Tribune Media Services. He is the author of more than 100 award-winning books for children and adults from Random House, Disney, Hyperion, Scholastic, Simon & Schuster, Time Inc., Abrams, Charlesbridge, Capstone, Orca and other publishers. His poems appear in hundreds of magazines from The New Yorker and Harper’s to Cricket and Highlights. For more information, please visit his website at FatherGoose.com

What do Turkeys Eat for Thanksgiving?

No, that’s not a joke. It’s the subject of an actual article that appeared in SPIDER Magazine a few years ago. Coincidentally, it is also an actual question my daughter asked last night at dinner. And that’s exactly what I love about SPIDER Magazine and Cricket Media magazines in general. The editors of these magazines understand kids. They know the types of questions kids ask and the types of stories that make kids laugh and cry and question and wonder.


Last year on this blog, we shared 3 stories as part of A Literary Thanksgiving Feast for Your Family. All of those lovely stories are still available for you to share with your family. And in case you read those last year, here are 3 more free Thanksgiving day treats for you from SPIDER Magazine, including the article with the same title as this blog.


We hope you enjoy these samples of the types of stories you’ll find in SPIDER and the other magazines in the Cricket Media Family. For more stories like these, be sure to subscribe to SPIDER.


From all of us at Cricket Media, best wishes for wonderful, joyful, and loving Thanksgiving holiday.

Dream Child: Follow your Dreams

Dream. Dream big, Child. Follow your dreams. They will take you places you once only dreamed about.


It all starts with a first step. A few new steps each day and you are on your way toward your dream.


Don’t be afraid to pursue your dreams. Remember, nothing can keep you from your dreams, but you. The fear of failure is only an illusion. When “No, I can’t” comes knocking, knock him out with “Yes, I can!”


You will learn that failure is only an excuse. It is only a temporary set-back. One step back. Two steps forward. And you are on your way again. Each step is a stepping stone leading the way on the path to success.


Thomas Edison had a dream. He dreamed he would one day invent the light bulb. But each time he tried, he failed. He failed more than one thousand times, but he never gave up. He said he welcomed and accepted all those little failures along the way knowing that each one was simply the next step to his ultimate success in bringing new light to the world.


What is your dream? Do you want to become a doctor? An athlete? An architect? An actor? A teacher? A dancer? Musician? Artist? Writer? Scientist? Inventor? Do you want to cure cancer? Do you want to help make the world become a cleaner, safer place, a more peaceful place? A place to ponder? A place to dream?


Goal Mind

Success begins the moment that

You set your goal in place;

Take time to savor every step

For life is not a race.

—Charles Ghigna


The High Road

The path to inspiration starts

Upon the trails we’ve known;

Each stumbling block is not a rock,

But just a stepping stone.

—Charles Ghigna



Do not let fear confine your life

Inside a shell of doubt;

A turtle never moves until

His head is sticking out.

—Charles Ghigna


Solid Goal

Don’t let the distance to your goals

Keep you from your dreams;

It’s never really quite as far

As what it often seems.

—Charles Ghigna


True Grit

The move from failure to success

Takes more than simply grit;

It starts when you first realize

You know you’ll never quit.

—Charles Ghigna


Dreams Allowed

Don’t be afraid to dream aloud

The things you want to do;

Just saying what is in your heart

Will help your dreams come true.

—Charles Ghigna


The Worst Bad Word

Try to think of all the words

That you could live without;

Make a list of all those words

And throw the worst word out.


It’s not a very easy task,

You might just rave and rant;

But don’t give up before you find

The worst bad word is can’t.

—Charles Ghigna


[Editor’s Note: Speaking of Thomas Edison, enjoy this overview of just a few of the many inventions he created. This article “A Lifetime of Invention” appeared in the July 2005 issue of COBBLESTONE. Or better yet, get the entire issue about this great inventor and share it with some of the young dreamers in your life.]


Charles Ghigna – Father Goose® lives in a treehouse in the middle of Alabama. He is the author of more than 100 award-winning books from Random House, Disney, Hyperion, Scholastic, Simon & Schuster, Time Inc., Abrams, Boyds Mills Press, Charlesbridge, Capstone, Orca and other publishers, and more than 5000 poems, many of which appear in textbooks and anthologies, and in newspapers and magazines from The New Yorker and Harper’s to Cricket and Highlights. He served as poet-in-residence and chair of creative writing at the Alabama School of Fine Arts, and as a nationally syndicated feature writer for Tribune Media Services. He has spoken at schools, colleges, conferences, libraries, and literary events throughout the U.S. and overseas, and has read his poems at The Library of Congress, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the American Library in Paris, the American School in Paris, and the International Schools of South America. For more information, please visit his website at FatherGoose.com

What We Learn From Nature

Go outside. Look around. What do you see? A robin? A squirrel? A honeybee? A parade of busy ants beneath a shady tree?


What can our little outdoor friends teach us? What can we learn from them? What lessons await us at every turn?


The robin is busy collecting sticks and straw and building a beautiful nest for her baby chicks that are on the way. She teaches us diligence and patience and pride as she prepares for the future.


The squirrel gathers and stores acorns for the winter. He teaches us how to postpone immediate gratification as he prepares for greater rewards in the future.


The busy honeybee buzzes around the garden with his brothers and sisters. He gathers nectar from the flowers and takes it back to the hive to make honey. He teaches us how to work together to reach a common goal.


The eager little ant hurries back and forth carrying crumbs to her ant hill for everyone to enjoy. The crumbs she carries are often bigger than she is. She teaches us the joy of sharing and the reward of doing more than we thought we could.


We can learn much from our little nature friends. We, too, can find joy and pride and reward in working toward our goals every day, working together and alone to accomplish more than we ever imagined.


The Ant

See the little ant.

He never says, “I can’t.”

And so it comes as no surprise,

He carries things ten times his size.

—Charles Ghigna


A Poem is a Busy Bee

A Poem is a Busy Bee

A poem is a busy bee

Buzzing in your head.


His hive is full of hidden thoughts

Waiting to be said.


His honey comes from your ideas

That he makes into rhyme.

He flies around looking for

What goes on in your mind.


When it is time to let him out

To make some poetry,

He gathers up your secret thoughts

And then he sets them free.

—Charles Ghigna

Ladybug Cover

Robin’s Nest

Tiptoe up and look real closely,

Made with sticks and straw but mostly

Made with love and lots of care,

A little tree house in the air.

—Charles Ghigna


Shadow Tail

Shadow Tail

The word “squirrel” comes from

Greek meaning “shadow tail.”


Elusive as a wisp of smoke,

Bashful as a breeze,

Shadow Tail plays hide and seek

Among the morning trees.

—Charles Ghigna


Editor’s Note: For more about how nature can inspire readers of all ages, read our recent blog about how to bring the outdoors inside with nature magazines for kids.


Charles Ghigna - Father Goose®Charles Ghigna – Father Goose® lives in a treehouse in the middle of Alabama. He is the author of more than 100 award-winning books from Random House, Disney, Hyperion, Scholastic, Simon & Schuster, Time Inc., Abrams, Boyds Mills Press, Charlesbridge, Capstone, Orca and other publishers, and more than 5000 poems, many of which appear in textbooks and anthologies, and in newspapers and magazines from The New Yorker and Harper’s to Cricketand Highlights. He served as poet-in-residence and chair of creative writing at the Alabama School of Fine Arts, and as a nationally syndicated feature writer for Tribune Media Services. He has spoken at schools, colleges, conferences, libraries, and literary events throughout the U.S. and overseas, and has read his poems at The Library of Congress, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the American Library in Paris, the American School in Paris, and the International Schools of South America. For more information, please visit his website at FatherGoose.com

Beloved Authors Who Have Appeared in Spider Magazine

Publishing children’s magazines for the past 40+ years has given us quite an archive of engaging stories and beautiful illustrations to enjoy and share. The works of many children’s book authors, who hold a special place in the hearts and minds of children (young and old), can be found inside the pages of our magazines.


Spider, the magazine for kids 6-9 years old,  is filled with fantasy and adventure stories, folk tales, non-fiction, poems and activities and written for the newly independent reader who is excited to read on their own. Many of the stories found in Spider are written by amazing story tellers who have written books that almost every kid has or has had on their bookshelf.


Beloved Authors Featured in Spider


Here are just a few beloved children’s book authors and their stories featured in Spider magazine:


(Hint: Click on the image to download and enjoy the story!)


Anna Dewdney, who unfortunately passed away earlier this month, was the author of the super popular Llama, Llama book series. A New York Times bestselling author and illustrator, she shared some fun Knock Knock jokes with children in the June 1998 issue of Spider Magazine.


Tree House Knock Knocks

Beloved Authors Who Have Appeared in Spider Magazine


Daniel Pinkwater is a well-known author of young adult books, most notably Lizard Music. His book characters tend to be misfits who find themselves in strange situations, Pinkwater, who is also a talented illustrator, has published picture books and adult fiction as well. His story, Blue Moose, was reprinted in the June 2001 issue of Spider Magazine.


Blue Moose

Pinkwater: Beloved Authors Who Have Appeared in Spider Magazine


During his long writing career, Maurice Sendak, author of Where the Wild Things Are, was awarded the Caldecott Medal, the Hans Christian Andersen Award and the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal. He was only one of two writers to win all three of these prestigious writing awards. His poem, March, was featured in March 2013 issue of Spider Magazine.



Sendak: Beloved Authors Who Have Appeared in Spider Magazine


More about Spider Magazine


Spider Magazine r kids 6-9 years old. Spider is an advertising-free children’s magazine featuring fiction, nonfiction, multicultural folktales, humor, recipes, games, activities, and puzzles created by award-winning writers and illustrators for kids 6-9 years old.

Gather Round Kids, It’s Time for our Weekly Podcast

Remember the good old days, when the family used to gather around the stereo for the latest episode of their favorite radio show?


The good old days like … last Tuesday.


Podcasts. They’re the new radio drama.


You’ve probably heard of at least a few podcasts out there: Welcome to Nightvale, TedTalks, The Nerdist, The Moth, Snap Judgement, This American Life. If not, you’ve missed an entire renaissance in entertainment as people serial-listened to Serial or worked out to Freakeconomics instead of Superfreak.


Podcasts are great and my family has a few favorites. I was a big Nightvale fan (so bizarre … yet so addictive) and from there I tried The Black Tapes (note: these are Blair Witch style “journalistic” tales about scary urban legends including topics like demons, The Slender Man, and cults. My weird-o kids loved it, but you may want to proceed with caution if you have sensitive ears in listening range).


It’s not all entertainment – podcasts are a phenomenal source of infotainment. You can learn from podcasts in a fun way because, unlike an audio book, the nonfiction editions are rarely just one guy doing one long, boring lecture.


  • The Torch (from The Great Courses) is full of interviews with experts on everything from the search for exoplanets, how to get published, The Black Death, to photography, cooking, and more.
  • Anansi Storytime, a brand new podcast, has voice actors preforming historic fables, folktales, and myths from around the world.
  • StarTalk is a podcast that does often involve one guy doing one lecture, but the one guy is Neil DeGrasse Tyson, so boring is the last word to describe it.

Or don’t focus on one topic. Learn how they make silly putty, how not to sound stupid when ordering wine, and other tidbits that are both useful in the real world and in case you ever end up on Jeopardy. Good Job Brain, Stuff You Should Know, and How to Do Anything provide curiosity-busting tidbits and answers by playing fun trivia and quiz games, throwing out random factoids, and answering your questions.


If you’ve got younger kids, there are a number of story-based or early-learning podcasts out there. Brains On, TedTalks Kids and Family, Tumble, The Radio Adventures of Dr. Floyd, The Thrilling Adventure Hour, StoryNory, and Stories Podcast will all provide hours of fun listening that won’t make you want to rip your ears out the way hearing The Wheels on the Bus 400 times does.


Of course, nothing is quite as good as hearing a story directly from a parent or grandparent though, so don’t forget to download the free Story Bug app which lets you read to your kids and share books through video chat and interactive technology no matter where you are.


Cricket Mama Media would like to apologize for yelling about how everyone needed to shut up last week. In her defense, a BIG REVEAL was happening on The Black Tapes. But that poor drive-thru employee couldn’t have known that when he asked to take our order. CMM would also like you to know that she is associated with The Great Courses and therefore knows a thing or two about how great The Torch really is.

Discover Summer: National Summer Learning Day

Most families welcome summer break and enjoy the lack of routine and revel in the much needed downtime. While it’s nice to have the break, it’s also important to look for outside of the box learning opportunities throughout the summer months.


According to the US Department of Education, “Over the summer months, some students experience a slide in learning that can contribute to gaps in achievement, employment, and college and career success. This is particularly true for low-income students who lose access to critical supports that keep them safe, healthy, and engaged during the school year.”


Ideas for Summer Learning


Summer Learning DayThe National Summer Learning Association (NSLA) has designated July 14, 2016 as the official National Summer Learning Day!  Their website is full of information, resources and events all summer long that celebrate and raise awareness about the importance of summer learning.


Discover Summer Reading Program


Our children’s magazines are created to challenge minds and boost confidence, creativity and curiosity.  So, all summer long, we are picking summer themed stories from our magazine archives to download, share and of course, read with your kids. Even if your kids are not voracious readers, these short stories are quick reads that will help stop the summer learning slide.


Week Four Theme: Ocean Exploration


Deep Sea ExplorerConnecticut’s Deep Sea Explorer
by Peg Lopata
Faces Magazine
September 2009

Have you ever wondered what lies below the ocean’s surface? What strange stories could we learn by seeing the great battleships, merchant vessels, and majestic ocean liners of past times that now lie quietly upon the ocean floor?



Going Off the (Really) 6.77 MILES DOWN IN THE MARIANA TRENCHGoing off the (Really) Deep End
By Carrie Clickard
Muse Magazine
January 2016

DEEP END Expedition seeks explorers brave enough to face bizarre, glow-in-the-dark creatures. Must be able to navigate safely past vents spewing liquid carbon dioxide, erupting mud volcanoes, and a treacherous lake of molten sulfur. What strange corner of the universe is this expedition headed for? It’s a cozy little planet called Earth and a spot miles under the surface of the Pacific Ocean called the Mariana Trench.




Looking for the previous weeks? Discover Summer Reading Program