Raising Readers Monday: Tonight We’re Going to Party Like It’s 1984!

No, I don’t really suggest you throw an Orwellian birthday party for your children (although…Big Brother watching them is not the worst idea.  Have you seen what kids get up to at parties?) I mean that:

  1. I’m a total throwback.  When I was 7 (3 guesses which year that was) you had your birthday party at home. Your mom made cake from a box.  Frosting from a can.  I LIKE birthday parties at home.  I meet the kids, I meet their parents. The kids actually play together – not just in the same facility.   They play with one another – not laser guns or bouncy castles. It’s nice.
  2. I love book-themed parties! With so many options at  Parties R Us, it’s easy to just opt for a party based on your kids’ favorite Disney, Nick Jr., or Dreamworks characters.  But it is simple and fun and sets an amazing example to your kids if you plan a book-themed party instead.  How do you make reading fun?  Have fun with reading!

I know how easy those pay-one-price-for-20-kids parties can be.  I’ve been to gymnastics parties, princess parties, bouncy, bowling, build-a-bear parties. But I can honestly say that the memories I have of planning themes and games and decorations with my kids massively outweigh the inconvenience of cutting my own cake and cleaning my floors both before and after the shindig. Here’s an example of one spectacular party we threw when my eldest turned 7.

C was in 1st grade heading into 2nd and obsessed (along with all of her closest friends) with the Magic Fairy books by Daisy Meadows.  These girls coveted the books with their own names, birthstones, favorite colors or holidays.  They traded them on the playground and after school.  The got on lists at the library for hard-to-find titles. Girls who wouldn’t sit still for a chapter book before were devouring them in one sitting.  Glitter, glamour, magic and easy-to-read?  Who could resist? C was delighted when I suggested we do a Magic Fairy party for her birthday.

After much discussion and brain-storming, we decided to have a Rainbow Fairy scavenger hunt all around our house and yard.  In the original series, the Rainbow Fairies are 7 sisters who are scattered by the evil Jack Frost.  2 girls, Kirsty and Rachel, have to find and rescue all the fairy sisters to bring color back to Fairyland.  We made Rainbow Fairies from fabric and construction paper scraps and popsicle sticks, hid them all around our property, and made clues and challenges to help the party-goers collect all the fairies.

The girls huddle around and READ a clue to find Amber the Orange Fairy.

The girls huddle around and READ a clue to find Amber the Orange Fairy.

Having found all 7 fairies, the girls earned their wings!  I was able to purchase fairy costume wings at a huge discount from a Halloween warehouse, since it was August.  The new “fairies” headed to Fairyland (my dining room) for a fairy tea party.  We decorated with green tulle and cut leaf shapes from felt for seats, then put garden flowers in teapots.  There was a good bit of glittery confetti, too!

Chloe's 7th birthday 2012 149

Chloe's 7th birthday 2012 174

The cake was homemade from ice-cream sandwiches and whipped topping, decorated by my daughters with rainbow sprinkles and a rainbow! (What else?) Every girl left with her new wings and a goody bag containing a new book and bookmark.  It cost less than a pay-and-play party and was huge fun.  As parents, we were thrilled to have encouraged a burgeoning love of books in our daughters and their friends.  That’s something to feel good about!

If Magic Fairies aren’t for you, take the time to find out what your kid DOES like to read.  Here are some of my favorite suggestions.

Toddlers: Eric Carle themed parties are popular! Look on Pinterest for a million caterpillar treats and easy crafts.  Read aloud a favorite like “Does a Kangaroo Have a Mother, Too” or “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?”

Kindergartners: For girls, Fancy Nancy and Pinkalicious themes are fun and easy. For boys, try the How Do Dinosaurs series by Jane Yolen or Clifford the Big Red Dog.   I also love the idea of a party themed on “If You Give a Pig a Party” by Laura Numeroff and Felicia Bond.  Again, I would read aloud to the kids at this age level to get the party started and make sure they are all familiar with the theme.

Early Elementary school: These kids know what they like.  Try a party based on Fly Guy or Captain Underpants, Junie B Jones or  Magic Treehouse. Include an activity to complete as a group, a thematic craft and themed snacks.  The paperbacks in these series are very reasonably priced to use in goody bags, especially if you buy a set at a discount and give a different one to each child.

Upper Elementary/Middle School:  Oh, it’s iffy territory with these kids – they are the ONLY ones who know what cool is.  You may want to go with a more commercialized book/series like Judy Moody or A Series of Unfortunate Events, since having a movie makes everything cooler at this age.  I personally think the Artemis Fowl series is the coolest ages-10-and-up action-packed magic-filled series in decades – get your kid hooked on that, and you will be planning an awesome event.

High School: You think I’m crazy, right?  I am not.  Sure, it’s not for all teens, but being a geek married to a geek, I can tell you we would both have totally enjoyed a party themed on our favorite books in high school.  Heck, I’m thinking about one for my 40th.  Elaborate costumes and mood(y) music?  Yes, please.

I’d love to hear your ideas, link to your Pins, or get your feedback in the comments below.  Would you have a book-themed party for your child?  Why or why not? 

Happy Reading!

One last shot of my rainbow fairy.

One last shot of my rainbow fairy.

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18 thoughts on “Raising Readers Monday: Tonight We’re Going to Party Like It’s 1984!

    • Thanks so much for the link. Great to have more ideas on encouraging a love of reading in kids! If you haven’t checked out previous Raising Reader Monday posts, I hope you have a chance to do so. I welcome suggestions for them here and via email.

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  1. Lots of luck in trying to change this party idea that you know I have never liked. Keep it at home and enjoy those kids. If by accident some one learns something so much the better. Keep up the fight.

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  2. We always do our parties at home! Its much more fun, we make our own decorations most of the time. Will have to use a book theme for the next one. Love this post 🙂

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  3. I always do HUGE parties, themes and crazy stuff! But you are right, having it at home, which is what we usually do, is great because you do get an idea of who the kids are and have a chance to talk to the parents… unless there are 26 kids…like what happened to us when my son was in PreK. TWENTY SIX KIDS IN MY BASEMENT 🙂

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  4. Reblogged this on The Writing Catalog and commented:
    This is a little different than the things I usually feature here, but I’ve been following Kateywrites for awhile now, and it’s a blog I recommend. I find the writing engaging, and there are not many things more important than teaching children to love reading, which is something Katey blogs about quite often. Being taught to read well and to view reading as something to enjoy is one of the things that has allowed me to do as well as I have in life, and I try to do the same for the children in my life. You can also follow Kateywrites on Facebook and Twitter.

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    • Gene’O, thanks so much for including me at The Writing Catalog! It’s great to have a chance to expand my reach a bit – and I’m honored you enjoy my work enough to share it. I also really enjoyed your Marriage Equality post over at Sourcerer. Keep fighting the good fight!

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  5. I only have two birthday parties under my belt (both at home), and while they weren’t book-themed, I did buy a book as a birthday present for my son to go along with the party theme. I plan to continue doing it for however many years I’m throwing parties for him–if that means high school so be it!

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    • Ingrid – I think books as gifts are wonderful, too. People seem to think kids won’t appreciate any gift that doesn’t take batteries – but boy are they wrong! I love to help my kids pick one of their favorites plus a small item to give at friend’s parties. There’s a growing tradition of book-themed baby showers to build a library for the new baby, too. Thanks for reading and commenting!

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  6. Pingback: How do you do it? Parenting Link Up #15 - How Do You Do It?

  7. Pingback: How do you do it? Parenting Link up #15 | What's up Fagans?

  8. I’m almost 40 and I think a party themed around favorite books would be awesome too. Though I’d have trouble picking one book. I always give books as gifts, especially for kids, because they were my favorite thing growing up. 🙂

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  9. Pingback: #RaisingReaders Monday: Birthday Books | kateywrites

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