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Tuesday, April 7, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Families reading together an opportunity for sharing, exploration and education

With the coronavirus pandemic keeping many families home, it’s a good time to read together. (Shutterstock)
With the coronavirus pandemic keeping many families home, it’s a good time to read together. (Shutterstock)

With regular routines upended by the coronavirus pandemic, families are seeking new and old ways of creating structure. Even better if it counts as a bit of education.

For many, that means the family reading together.

“This is a great opportunity to take a book that you loved as a child and share that with your child,” said Gwendolyn Haley, the Spokane County Library District’s public services manager for education and enrichment.

For the next book, read one together that your child knows and loves. “It gives you a chance to experience each other’s taste,” she said.

“What you’re looking for in a good read aloud for a family is something that touches on some bigger themes,” and also has an engaging plot and characters.

Adventure tales, fairy tales and mythology will fit the bill. It also could be a good time to explore different cultures through literature.

“Fairy tales are wonderful to read to children at any time, always so magical and engaging, and their themes of bravery and fortitude are especially pertinent during a pandemic,” said Sharma Shields, a local author who also has worked at area libraries and bookstores.

The Spokesman-Review asked Haley, Shields, Coeur d’Alene children’s librarian Mandi Harris and Wishing Tree Books owner Janelle Smith for recommendations on what families should be reading now. Here are some of their suggestions:

Picture books

Suggestions for picture books range from silly to sweet with lots of animals for good measure. And some offer ways for families to talk about how life isn’t always happy.

For instance, “Happy Right Now” speaks to the importance of valuing the present moment, Harris said. “Yet, my favorite part is that it does not gloss over the fact that sometimes it is very hard, if not impossible, to be happy right now. A necessary read for kids and grown-ups.”

“The Button Book,” by Sally Nicholls, illustrated by Bethan Wollvin

“Up on Bob,” by Mary Sullivan

“The Rabbit Listened,” by Cori Doerrfeld

“The Pink Umbrella,” by Amelie Callot, illustrated by Genevieve Godbout

“Everybody Says Meow,” by Constance Lombardo

“Drawn Together,” by Minh Le, illustrated by Dan Santat

“Happy Right Now,” by Julie Berry, illustrated by Holly Hatam

“The Circus Ship,” by Chris Van Dusen

“Old MacDonald Had a Woodshop,” by Lisa Shulman, illustrated by Ashley Wolff

“A Visitor for Bear,” by Bonny Becker, illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton

“The Seven Silly Eaters,” by Mary Ann Hoberman, illustrated by Marla Frazee

“Fairy Tales and Fables,” by Gyo Fujikawa (There’s also a new biography about Fujikawa, “It Began With a Page,” by Kyo Maclear, illustrated by Julie Morstad. It details her Japanese American family’s internment during World War II and her commitment to publishing diverse children’s books.)

For history buffs, there the picture book biography “Thirty Minutes Over Oregon: A Japanese Pilot’s World War II Story” by Marc Tyler Nobleman and Melissa Iwai. (Who knew that a bomb was dropped in Oregon during the war?)

Chapter books

These recommendations cross cultural boundaries. There are classics, bullies, animals, even trees. Smith said she’s had many families tell her they enjoyed reading Grace Lin’s “Where the Mountain Meets the Moon” together.

“Prairie Lotus,” by Linda Sue Park

“Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow,” by Jessica Townsend

“Bernice Buttman, Model Citizen,” by Nicki Lenz

“To Night Owl From DogFish,” by Holly Goldberg Sloan and Meg Wolitzer

“Parked,” by Danielle Svetcov

“Where the Mountain Meets the Moon,” by Grace Lin

“Wishtree,” by Katherine Appplegate

“The Unlikely Story of a Pig in the City,” by Jodi Kendall

“Winterhouse,” by Ben Guterson

“The Boxcar Children,” by Gertrude Chandler Warner

“The Girl Who Drank the Moon,” by Kelly Barnhill

“Charlotte’s Web,” by E.B. White

“Mrs. Piggle Wiggle,” by Peggy McDonald

“Aru Shah and the End of Time,” by Roshani Chokshi

“The Storm Runner,” by J.C. Cervantes

“Dragon Pearl,” by Yoon Ha Lee

“Sal and Gabi Break the Universe,” by Carlos Hernandez

Other recommendations

Series: Kid Artists, Kid Athletes, Kid Scientist, Kid Authors, Kid Activists – Each book has multiple short biographies of famous people when they were children.

Newly reissued after being out of print: “A Street Through Time: A 12,000 Year Journey Along the Same Street,” illustrated by Steve Noon – “Fabulous! You see all of the tiny bits and pieces that make up the community that lives on the street through 12,000 years,” Smith said. “Lots to look at and talk about.”

For parents: “How to Raise a Reader,” by Pamela Paul – “Not just for parents with young children. This walks the parent through the teen years, as well,” Smith said.


Of course, tastes vary widely when it comes to reading aloud together. The Spokane County Library District has several resources online at that can help families find a book to share together.

Novelist K-8 Plus: Families can find book recommendations by age group, genre and subject. Or customize what type of books you’re in the mood to read by mixing up characteristics like character-driven, fast-paced plot and more to craft a customized list of recommendations.

Online Book Clubs: Try out new books by reading the first couple of chapters delivered direct to your email inbox.

Tumblebookcloud Jr.: Online collection of chapter books to read along or listen to as a family.

The Spokane Public Library ( and Coeur d’Alene Public Library ( also have online resources. And families can shop online at local bookstores, too, like Wishing Tree (, Well-Read Moose ( and Auntie’s Bookstore ( During the coronavirus outbreak, the stores are offering shipping and curbside pickup.

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