Summer Reading 2018

Summer vacation is almost here and that means lots of sunshine, campfires, baseball games, road trips, roller coasters, fireworks, barbecues, cannonballs into the pool, and Summer Reading 2018! Encouraging your child to stay on top of their reading maintains literacy, strengthens critical thinking skills, keeps them from falling behind, supports their reading development, builds vocabulary, and nurtures a lifelong love of books. All great stuff, right?


Getting kids involved in their local library is important for many reasons. In addition to the various Summer Reading Programs, access to free books, magazines, audio books, music, and internet, there are opportunities to volunteer, find a reading buddy or tutor, and be in an environment where other kids are reading for fun. Most libraries have some sort of Summer Reading Program so stop on in and let the fun begin!

“A library card is the start of a lifelong adventure.” Lilian Jackson Braun

“I have found that the most valuable thing in my wallet is my library card.” Laura Bush

“The only thing you absolutely have to know is the location of the library.” Albert Einstein

“Getting my library card was like citizenship: it was like American citizenship.” Oprah Winfrey



Whether kids are getting their books from libraries, bookstores, or online apps, setting aside 20 minutes or more for reading should be an essential part of their daily routine. Create a snazzy chart, graph, or poster to record daily, weekly, or monthly reading goals, use incentives, and reward progress. A promised shopping spree at Barnes&Noble or Half Price Books goes a long way!


Reward them with the key to a locked treasure chest filled with surprise goodies. The wonder and anticipation of what’s inside is a huge motivator. Fill it with stickers, baseball cards, bookmarks, ear buds, sidewalk chalk, crayons, markers, UNO, Crazy Eights, Old Maid, or Go Fish cards, Jacks, a journal, shiny marbles, colored stones, beads…the possibilities are endless!


  • A magazine subscription for Highlights, National Geographic Kids, Story Monsters Ink, or any subject of particular interest (dance, science, sports, fashion, cars).
  • Tickets to an upcoming sporting event, concert, or movie they’ve been wanting to see.
  • A gift certificate to Amazon, Barnes&Noble, Half Price Books, or Record Exchange.
  • Something specific they’ve had their eye on (video game, skateboard, jewelry box).



 Your public library 
* Carnegie Library Summer Reading Extravaganza
* Barnes&Noble Summer Reading
* Half Price Books Summer Reading Program
* Scholastic Summer Challenge
* Sylvan Learning’s Book Adventure



Let’s face it, reading lots of books can get pretty pricey. Luckily, there are a ton of places to score some free ones. School, online apps, and the public library are always great places to start.


International Digital Children’s Library 

Oxford Owl

The Library of Congress

Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh

Free Kindle Unlimited Amazon



  • Get them a library card.
  • Take them book shopping.
  • Take turns reading aloud, alternating pages.
  • Encourage them to donate/share used books.
  • Laugh! Reading should be fun.
  • Discuss the story and characters; encourage questions.
  • Prompt them to bring stories/books along for trips, car rides, waiting areas, and picnics.
  • Create decorative bookmarks together for every season.
  • Be an example! They need to see you reading too.
  • Do a Summer Reading Challenge with them.



FREE for Kindle Unlimited! 

KRISTY JO VOLCHKO is a multi-genre author and blogger. She lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where she continues to share her love of storytelling. 
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Give Your Children The Gift Of Health-


We’ve all been there. You open up your kid’s new toy and whew! It’s like a cackling skull and crossbones just floated above and flicked you in the nose. Yep, I’m referring to that nauseating odor that makes you wince (or gag) when opening a package. That smell is very likely a chemical soup of petrochemicals, PVC’s, phthalates, pesticides, BPA or BPD, lead, dioxins, ethylene glycol, methyl ethyl ketone, and (who knows what else?)

Unknowingly, your child will wear them, put them into their mouth, absorb them through their skin, and breathe it into their lungs. Chemicals so toxic, they cause asthma, cancer, birth defects, nervous system and organ damage, Down Syndrome, hormone disruption, behavioral changes, cognitive decline, and a myriad of other unfortunate, and many times, irreversible things.

Those of us who are chemically sensitive knew this long before the vast amount of information hit the web, validating what we already felt. Despite friends, family, and the occasional doctor throwing strange looks when you mention the swelling and migraines you’ve been battling since purchasing that new carpet or the disorientation you experience from a trip to the car mall, fresh window caulking, perfume, etc. We knew these products were making us sick.

To say that the regulation of chemicals in the U.S. is in need of serious reform is a gross understatement. Thankfully, independent research organizations have made it a priority to fight for our health and reveal the truth.

Now that this information is widely available, it’s your duty to protect your children from this toxicity. As a parent, naturally, you want what’s best for your child, right? They may not be able to completely avoid it out in the world but why put them in harm’s way in their very home? Bedding, toys, clothing, food…you control it, therefore, controlling the chemical load they’re exposed to, giving them the best chance at a healthy mind and body.

So what kinds of crazy chemicals are we talking about? Here are a few to put on your radar.
• PBDE’s Polybrominated diphenyl ethers * DecaBDE

These toxic flame retardants are found in hard plastics, toys, stuffed animals, curtains, mattresses, textiles, electronics, furniture, building materials, and hundreds of other products.

PBDE exposure is associated with thyroid dysfunction, hearing problems, neurological and cognitive disorders, cancer, birth defects, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, (the list is quite long). This stuff is in our children’s toys, mattresses, and couch cushions?
• PVC (Poly vinyl chloride)

PVC is a synthetic plastic polymer considered to be one of the most toxic carcinogens known to humans. Just one vinyl shower curtain can release over 90 volatile chemicals into the air. Yuck!

It’s found in toys, food packaging, flooring, adhesives, rain coats & boots, sports equipment, inflatables, solvents, adhesives, plastic wrap, mattress covers, arts & crafts, and a lot more- since it‘s so cheap. In fact, cost-effective lead is what’s used as the emulsifier. Massively high amounts (up to 95% higher) have been found in imported toys.

The proven health effects of PVC and it’s released dioxins are vicious. Immune system damage, endometriosis, birth defects, cancer, diabetes- stay away from PVC!
• Methyl ethyl ketone

This industrial solvent has been discovered in over 447 products. Boots, shoes, toys, clothing, art supplies, hats, baby bibs, teething rings, gums, resins, rubber and wax products. It’s a known neurotoxin as well as an irritant to mucous membranes, eyes, nose, and lungs.
• BPA & BPS (Bisphenol-S)

This devil of a carcinogen is used in plastics, toys, baby bottles, CD’s-DVD’s, dental sealants, PVC water lines, canned goods, paper money, store receipts, sippy cups, and more. It’s been linked to over 30 adverse health effects. A large amount of advertised BPA-Free products that were tested still contained toxicity.
• Phthalates

Phthalates are a group of toxic chemicals used to soften plastics and increase flexibility. It’s found in soft toys, IV tubing, mini blinds, food packaging, wallpaper, flooring, nail polish, hairspray, perfumes, detergents, soaps, lubricant, aftershave, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, and more. Phthalates are known endocrine disruptors and can damage the kidneys, liver, and reproductive organs.

Can you believe that over 80% of toys and children’s products sold in the US are manufactured in China and other Asian countries, where they do NOT regulate these deadly chemicals?

So now what? You’ve got to make changes, that’s what. Here are a few places to start. Do your research, educate your family, throw out the worst offenders from your home and car. Do you really need that gold, polka-dotted, vinyl shower curtain? Nope. Replace it with an eco-friendly cotton one or glass doors. Start fresh.

There are a ton of places to buy non-toxic children’s products, food, dishes, makeup, home furnishings and building materials. Stick with the most natural, least chemically treated everything.

When buying food, do your best to choose organic, non-GMO products. Organic is always best if you can swing it. For textiles, cotton, hemp, and bamboo are awesome (they look and feel great). Use natural woods, glass, bamboo, cotton, hemp, beeswax, ceramics, stainless steel, low or no VOC, for as many things as you can. Re-use cloth bags or recycled paper for shopping.
• Whole Foods Market or Food Co-op

You’ll find your organic foods, cookware, supplements, eco-friendly diapers & baby products, personal care, makeup, non-toxic detergents, they even have formaldehyde-free toothpicks!
• Target

They have a huge selection of 100% organic cotton, eco-friendly, non-toxic baby toys, products, bedding, towel sets, and children’s clothing. *Budget friendly.

These sites have an array of doll houses, toy boxes, instruments, games, rattles, teething rings, bed frames, clothing, bedding, and toys- all free of dyes, pesticides, and other toxic chemicals.

If you implement these changes, the next time you open up that toy for little Johnny, you may find that you’re greeted by a tiny sunshine instead of a green, ominously giggling, Mr. Yuck sticker. Best of luck with your new, healthier lifestyle!