What is Can we read?

It’s your weekly guide to children’s books and how to build a culture of reading in your home. You’ll get reviews of books old and new, titles to check out on your own, and commentary from a reader, writer, mother, and children’s book lover. New issues arrive between before 10AM CT on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and once a month on Fridays.

My goal is to help children’s books find the right readers. I write weekly about titles that I personally own or have checked out of the library, including a publishing date, a photo, and a reason for my recommendation. Think less “critical review” and more “mini book talk” (remember those 2-3 minutes your school librarian used to spend telling you about a few books and why you might like them? That was a book talk). My purpose is to share my love of children’s books, support you in raising readers, and inspire you to create a culture of reading in your own family/home.

I’m a lifelong, hardcore bookworm who has always been crazy for children’s books — when I had two children of my own, now 7yo and 4yo, I became obsessed. (The title of this newsletter was inspired by my then-3yo daughter, who asked me that question 25+ times a day. The answer was — is still — always yes.)

I’ve built our large home library book by book (you can read more about that here, if you’re interested) and have learned everything I can about children’s literature and raising readers. I’m self-taught, but I know a lot. (I am also a professional writer in my full-time day job and have a BA in English — not that I think either of those qualify me as an expert but they do, perhaps, contribute to the quality of my newsletter).

This is, nothing more and nothing less, a love letter to children’s books, old and newer, and the magic of reading them together.


What am I going to get?

You’re going to get the guidance of someone with both knowledge and experience. I take the guesswork (and time!) out of finding excellent books for you and the children in your life.

(You don’t have to be a parent to find value in this newsletter. I have many subscribers who are grandparents, aunties/uncles, teachers, librarians, therapists — you name it. If there are children in your life in any capacity and your relationship might be strengthened by books and reading, this newsletter is for you.)

Can we read? No. XY (Wednesday)
  • On Wednesdays you’ll receive 4-6 book recommendations (that always include at least one inclusive title) in a numbered issue (No. 1, No. 2, etc). This is the bread-and-butter of this newsletter — the biggest value I offer, and the message that subscribers love the most.

    Wednesdays are also the day when you’ll receive, about every six weeks or so, special edition issues (summer, for example), which focus on seasonal and holiday titles and repeat (with updates and new books) every year, as well as what I call Spotlight On issues — one-time issues that focus on a specific topic, like Counting Books; Folk and Fairy Tales; Loss, Death, and Grief, etc. These are big, juicy, and offer not only 7-8 individual reviews but also lists of suggested titles for babies and toddlers, older readers/read alouds, etc.

Notes from the Reading Nook (Tuesday)
  • On Tuesdays you’ll receive a shorter message, titled Notes From the Reading Nook — this is a digest of some combination of what my family and I are currently reading and loving, links of possible interest, topical mini booklists as occasions arise, and answers to questions from subscribers.

(How) Can we read? (Second Friday of most months)
  • On the second Friday of the month (minus May and December) you’ll receive an extra, deep-dive newsletter wherein I share with you everything I know about raising readers and building a culture of books and literacy in your home. I write in depth about the nitty-gritty details I get asked about a lot, such as: where do you buy all your books? How do you store them? What is your family’s reading routine? I give you a glimpse into my home and life with the intent of inspiring you to try something new/change something up in yours, and to offer practical, actionable ideas for you and your family.


Can we read? is a reader-supported newsletter. Both free and paid subscriptions are available. I encourage those who want to support my work to take out a paid subscription.


Free sign ups

Free sign ups are readers who sign up for the email list, but have not chosen a paid subscription. Free sign ups receive:

  • Every regular weekly issue on Wednesdays

  • One extra every month — this could be an additional regular issue or Notes From the Reading Nook, it might be a (How) Can we read? issue, it might even be a huge special edition (I am leaving the door open for surprise, because it’s fun)

Paid subscribers

Paid subscribers are readers who have paid either a monthly or annual subscription fee (or have been gifted or comped a subscription). Paid subscribers receive:

  • Every regular weekly issue on Wednesdays

  • Notes From the Reading Nook on Tuesdays

  • All special editions and Spotlight On issues

  • All (How) Can we read? issues

  • Access to my instant digital download, 100 Books to Build Your Library (a $5 value)

  • Personalized book recommendations at any time, for you or someone else. I review as many books as I can but of course will never get to them all, and furthermore, you often have specific needs (ideas for gifts, books addressing something your family is going through, subject lists for school/special study, etc). This is a chance to receive recommendations tailored to you — tell me about your child/ren, their interests, and/or titles you already enjoy, and I’ll give you a customized list. Like a personal shopper, only for children’s books.

Subscriptions are $6/month or $65/year. (Math! Subscribing annually gives you one month for free.)

If you’re feeling extra generous and want to consider yourself a true patron of my work, you can subscribe at the “Founder” level. That will get you all of the benefits of a paid subscriber, plus warm fuzzies.


Why should I subscribe?

  • There are a million booklists online — I tell you why I recommend each title and why you and your kiddo/s might enjoy it

  • I do the work for you. Many subscribers use each message to put books on hold at the library, or make purchases to build or freshen up their own home libraries

  • I offer help and support in your efforts to raise readers

Hear it from some subscribers:

You know I think this newsletter is the best! The recommendations are spot on and it’s so well-researched. You are really skilled at this!”

“I enjoy the variety of formats — from quick lists to deeper explanations. It's a nice mix.”

“Your passion, interesting commentary, and fantastic book selection has been the highlight of my inbox. You have introduced me to so many authors and titles I had no idea needed to be in my life and I love your tone of writing. Not pretentious, not unrealistic, just right. I feel like we could be having a coffee and talking books and it’s just really nice to read.”

Not everyone buys into the subscription model (of course I intended that pun), not all of you find value in what I do here enough to pay for it every month. This is why I don’t paywall everything — I write this newsletter for the love of it, not to feed my family, and though increasingly it takes more and more time, energy, and money to keep it (and me) going, I still want to put my work out there for everyone as much as I can.

I hope that you’ll choose to become a paid subscriber — I’d be very grateful, and it will make a difference in my ability to continue doing this — but whatever you decide is cool. I’m going to continue to try to write an excellent newsletter for people who care about children’s books and reading and send you work that I’ve put my heart into regardless.


Anything else I should know?

Yes:

  • I am just as likely to review a book from 1968 as from 2018. I don’t care when a book is published, I care whether or not it’s a good book. My love for older books is akin to the reason I like thrift stores — there is something interesting, even magical to me, about finding lost gems or titles that have been mostly forgotten. For our purposes here that means the titles I highlight may be variously in print. That also increases the likelihood that they will be unknown to you (see: you don’t need me to tell you about Goodnight Moon or Charlotte’s Web). But I am not into collectibles, so “out of print” still means pretty available and reasonably priced, just not perhaps attainable with one click.

  • To facilitate getting more books into your hands, I am an affiliate of Bookshop.org (you can browse the booklists I’ve created on my storefront) as well as an Amazon Associate, which simply means that I often include links in my issues that will generate a small commission for me if you decide to click through and make a purchase. I create booklists to make searching for and buying books easier for you; I create affiliate links to collect a few dollars here and there (really), at no extra cost to you, to put toward supporting this newsletter. We all win.

  • Please note that I am not a reading teacher or specialist: I know nothing about reading levels (GRL, DRA, AR, Lexile) or any other supposed measures of reading or listening. I couldn’t possibly care less about those things (in fact believe they’re outright damaging and vehemently oppose categorizing books in this way) so this is not the place you’ll learn about any of that.

  • I will comp a paid subscription to anyone experiencing financial hardship. If this applies to you, simply let me know — no explanation or qualification necessary. Let’s get you hooked up with the right children’s books, regardless of your circumstances. (And if you are in a position to offset the cost of someone else’s subscription, please consider subscribing at the “Founder” level — enter the amount you would like to contribute above the annual subscription rate and I will use the difference to help this newsletter reach those for whom the price is a barrier to entry. Thank you for your support in this effort.)


Thank you for allowing me to pop into your inbox and mental space every week. It’s an immense pleasure to be even the smallest part of your life.

Take good care and read good books 😘

Warmly,
Sarah


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