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About Booklights

Learning to read is a big deal for kids — and their parents. With terms like phonics and phonemes, it's easy to get caught up in the nuts and bolts of reading. But there's more to literacy than the mechanics. To be a truly successful reader, kids should love to read. In a perfect reading world, your kids would beg to go to the library, sneak a flashlight to read under the covers, and lose themselves in a book so thoroughly that they forget what day it is.

Perhaps your children are already there. Perhaps they're not. We've gathered experts and book lovers to share their recommendations, favorite books, tips, tricks and advice. Read what they have to say, ask them questions, and share your own ideas and favorite children's books. Reading — out loud, together, or alone — is a thing of joy that all kids can and should experience.

About Gina


Gina Montefusco works on the PBS KIDS Raising Readers initiative, creating online literacy resources for parents, teachers, and caregivers of young children. Before coming to PBS, she worked for Reading Is Fundamental, producing reading games, activity calendars, and author and illustrator interviews. She is involved in several book clubs and writers' groups and helped teach creative writing to high schoolers at the University of Virginia Young Writers' Workshop. She never outgrew her childhood love (or obsession, depending on who you ask) of books and created Booklights to foster that same devotion in others.

About Jen


Jen Robinson has been in love with children's books for as long as she can remember. She enjoys reading them, collecting them, and discussing them. But her passion, the thing that makes her eyes light up, is helping parents, teachers, writers, and librarians encourage kids to enjoy books. On this blog, Jen will focus on book recommendations and literacy news. She'll provide tips for parents on how to cultivate young readers, and will also help direct parents to other resources from the larger community of children's book advocates known as the Kidlitosphere.

When not blogging for PBS Parents, Jen can be found at her own blog, Jen Robinson's Book Page, at There, as here, she focuses on book reviews (picture books through young adult) and literacy and reading news. She also publishes a weekly Growing Bookworms email newsletter with her own blog content. Jen has been blogging about children's books since late 2005. She is the Literacy Evangelist for the 2008 Cybils (the Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Awards), and is active in the Kidlitosphere. She has had guest posts published at ForeWord Magazine's ShelfSpace blog, 5 Minutes for Books, the First Book blog, and the NCFL Literacy Now blog.

Although she has made a lifelong, personal study of children's books, Jen's educational background is in Industrial Engineering (making systems more efficient). She co-owns a small software firm called FabTime™ that helps computer chip manufacturers to improve their performance. She has degrees from Duke University (B.S.), The University of Texas at Austin (M.S.), and the University of Massachusetts (Ph.D.). She is originally from Lexington, MA, and now lives in San Jose, CA. She is a dedicated Red Sox fan, and a life-long reader and recommender of children's books.

About Pam


Pam Coughlan runs the blog MotherReader where she features reviews, commentary, humor, and the annual 48-Hour Book Challenge. She has contributed to an online journal for children's literature, The Edge of the Forest, and assists in the bloggers' book awards, The Cybils. For nine years, she has worked at a public library in the Virginia suburbs of DC, where she plans storytimes, runs book clubs, and recommends books to anyone who will listen.

She is the mother of two girls — one in elementary and one in secondary school — who are the light of her life, even as they drop their coats on the foyer floor yet again. She's a Girl Scout leader, humor aficionado, and voracious reader. She believes adding author to her resume is just a matter of time, but she also believes that tiny wizards make computers work. She likes creative art projects, hates cleaning the house, sings charmingly with little provocation, and never turns down chocolate.

About Susan


Susan Kusel has the two best jobs in the world: children's librarian and mom.

She can trace her love of children's books back to her mom, who read her books every night and took her to the library every week. She does the same things for her son and is thrilled to watch how much he enjoys books.

She is a children's librarian for Arlington County Public Library in Virginia and loves recommending books, doing story times and talking about books to kids, parents, grandparents and teachers. She is also proficient in American Sign Language and runs a sign language story time at her library.

She has worked for several bookstores and had a previous career in theater administration. She attended Brandeis University as an undergraduate, and received her Master's degree in library science from the University of Maryland. She is active in the American Library Association, the Association for Library Service to Children, and has founded a Washington D.C. regional book club for adults who enjoy discussing children's books. She blogs at Wizards Wireless about children's books, comic strips and Harry Potter.

Susan has a wonderful husband, an always energetic son and two loud dogs.

About Ann


I am delighted to be here at Booklights. I can't think of anything I'd rather do than read and talk about amazing children's literature.

I am a professor at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN. My academic focus (and passion!) is teaching introductory and advanced seminars on the study of children's literature. In fact, this past semester I taught a course examining children's literature of Post-Apartheid South Africa. My students and I spent a remarkable Spring Break in Cape Town learning about the culture of picture books there. My absolute favorite memory from the trip was the looks on the faces of the Manenberg Township's elementary children when we opened suitcases filled with the picture books we had brought with us to donate. They hadn't had a new book since the 1960's! If you want to see the highlights from our trip, we kept a blog that you might enjoy:

I very often find myself having similarly incredible experiences with literature, whether it's halfway around the world or right here in Music City. One new great experience has been reading Booklights and soaking up all the great reviews and discussions among the three featured bloggers---Susan, Pam, and Jen. They are doing a fantastic job and truly seem to be having a blast doing it. My job will be to select some of the ideas they have shared and help readers make more connections. So, check out this month's round-up and be sure to stop by next month for even more conversations about turning your children on to reading!

So, as Max in the Wild Things says, “Let the wild rumpus begin!"

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