Family Tornado Preparedness

I was watching a movie with my children when the subject of tornadoes came up. Answering their questions, I realized I was a bit rusty on my knowledge of everything concerning tornadoes, so we decided to do a little research to help us better prepare in the case of a tornado.

What exactly is a tornado? A tornado is made of wind. In a tornado, the wind is rotating in a vortex or column. This can uproot trees, sweep up houses, and cause a great deal of destruction. Similar to tornadoes are straight line winds. Straight line winds have the fast speeds of tornadoes without the rotations. They can be just as deadly.

Most tornadoes are very short-lived and cause only weak damage with winds under 110 mph. Strong tornadoes last more than 20 minutes with wind speeds up to 200 mph. Only a small number of tornadoes are considered violent tornadoes, lasting up to an hour with wind speeds greater than 300 mph.

What is a Tornado Watch? If a tornado watch is called in your area, it means that conditions may cause tornadoes to form but no tornadoes have been spotted. Keep an eye on the weather and listen for any further reports.

What is a Tornado Warning? A tornado warning means that a tornado has been spotted. You should take cover immediately.

Tornadoes can strike quickly, giving very little warning. Being prepared and going over emergency procedures can help children feel more secure.

Preparing for a Tornado

Make a plan:

  • Speak with all family members and plan where you will go in the event of a tornado. You should choose the safest location in your home. This is generally the lower level of your home, away from windows and doors. Choose an interior room or wall and take shelter under heavy furniture when possible. If you are in your vehicle, leave the vehicle and lay flat in a lower area such as a ditch. In the event of a tornado, do not open windows or doors, as this can allow debris and wind to sweep into the home.
  • Discuss ways that family members can prepare and reach the emergency location quickly.

Put together an emergency kit. This should include:

  • Non-perishable food. Pack enough non-perishable food for everyone in your household for three days. Stay away from salty foods and anything which increases thirst. If you pack canned goods, don’t forget to include a can opener.
  • Water. Have enough drinking water for everyone in your household for 3 days. You may want to include extra for sanitation. Consider one gallon per person per day as your starting point.
  • Light. In the event of a power outage, you may be without light. Pack candles and/or a flashlight or lantern. remember to include a way to light the candles or extra batteries.
  • Weather radio. Pick up an inexpensive battery operated or hand-crank weather radio to keep update on emergency weather conditions.
  • First aid kit. Have a first aid kit easily accessible in the event that someone is hurt.
  • Help signal. Include some way to signal others in the event that your home is destroyed. A signal whistle, horn, or flare gun may help alert others to your location.
  • Disposable wipes. Disposable wipes can be used for sanitation if you are confined to your location while waiting for help.
  • Duct tape. You never know when you may need duct tape.
  • Emergency information. Check out this handy information page that you can print out.
  • Pet supplies. If you have pets, pack some non-perishable pet food and possibly an emergency leash. Poo bags may also come in handy.
  • Trash bags. These can be used as makeshift toilets.
  • Entertainment. Consider packing some books, paper, crayons, or other items to help take children’s minds off of the storm.
Other items to consider:
  • Blankets or pillows to keep warm and sleep.
  • Any medications required by family members.
  • Extra eye glasses or other health care items.
  • Feminine hygiene products.
  • Diapers.
  • Extra clothes
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Rope
  • Important documents
  • Road maps
Here is a printable checklist to help your family gather supplies for your kit.

Practice for a tornado:

Most cities where tornadoes are likely to occur test their sirens monthly. If you children are anything like mine, they will have asked about the sirens. While these tests are to make certain that the sirens are working correctly, this is a fantastic opportunity to practice in case of a real tornado. Explain to your children that the sirens are just being tested, but that you want to practice what to do in case of a real tornado. Go through your tornado drill. If there is ever a time when your family needs to

Check out Tornadoes AHEAD: Owlie Skywarn’s Weather Book. This is a free printable coloring book with facts and other information regarding tornadoes.

Looking for books to read with your children? Try requesting some of these at your local library:

Oh Say Can You Say What's the Weather Today?: All About Weather


Oh Say Can You Say What’s the Weather Today?: All About Weather

The Cat in the Hat and various other Seuss characters are travelling in a hot air balloon where they encounter many types of weather.



Flash, Crash, Rumble, and Roll


Flash, Crash, Rumble, and Roll

Make storms a little less scary by reading about what causes them.



Eye Wonder: Weather


Eye Wonder: Weather

DK provides a valuable reference for children with their book on weather. Beautiful color photgraphy combined with clear information help demystify weather for families.


DK Eyewitness Books: Weather


For the slightly older child, check out DK Eyewitness Books: Weather This book covers the same topics with more depth.




photo credit: Florencia Guedes via photopin cc

Read Free Books for a Cause

How would you like to read free books with your kids while helping out others? Sounds great, doesn’t it? We Give Books, a Pearson Foundation Initiative, is offering families the chance to do just that. Decide what literary partner campaign you want to read for, pick a book (or more) from their growing selection of online books, and read with your kids. It’s that simple, and it’s free. The more books you read with your kids, the more books they donate to children who don’t have books. Support children. Read books today!

2012 Reading Challenges for Children and Young Adults

Reading is a very important part of our lives. We are well known at our library, review books for various authors and publishers, and then pick up some more books in our spare time. I’d like to share with you some great reading challenges for children and young adults coming up in 2012.

 An Illustrated Year: 2012 Picture Book Reading Challenge, hosted by An Abundance of Books, is a wonderful challenge for any family with young children or anyone else who loves a beautiful picture book.

All you have to do is sign up, put the badge in your blog sidebar, and write a post about your participation to link back to the challenge. Then you are all ready to read and review some of your favorite books.

There are three levels of participation, but the top level is only 24 books. We check out more picture books than that in one trip to the library. I have no doubt that we can find 24 picture books to review during the year.

The Award Winning Reads Challenge co-hosted at Books from Bleh to Basically Amazing and The Reading Housewives is one of my favorites. Whenever I’ve been at a loss as to which book I should read with my children, I’ve never gone wrong by picking up an award winner. You don’t have to have a blog to participate in this challenge, and you get to set your own goal. Anyone can do this. If you aren’t certain, I personally challenge you to read one of these wonderful books with your children and let me know how you liked it. Both award winners and honoree books from the Newberrry and Printz lists from any year count.

If you are at a loss to what books you might enjoy reading with your children in the upcoming year, check out the Excellence is Reading: 2012 Challenge hosted by the Super Readers Book Club. There you will find a list of books for the challenge, including many of our favorite books.

Erica at The Book Cellar is hosting the YA/MG Fantasy Chalenge 2012, challenging readers to dive into 10 YA/MG books published in 2012. She has even provided a list of some of the new books coming out. I loved last year’s YA challenge and am looking forward to reading more great new books again this year.

Truly Bookish and One Page at a Time are co-hosting the 2012 Multi-Cultural Book Challenge. Can you read and review one YA book a month? Join in! This is such a fun way to explore new cultures on your own or with your children. Reading multi-cultural fiction has heigthened my children’s curiosity about many different cultures, begging us to explore facts about the cultures in depth.

Don’t forget the 2012 Just Contemporary Reading Challenge hosted by Basically Amazing Books. Young adult books are often overlooked by adults. However, there are a lot of really great stories just waiting for someone. Not all of the details are available for this challenge yet, so I can’t wait to hear more.

A Kid’s Guide to Being a Winner

A Kid's Guide to Being a Winner

C.D. Shelton attempted to write an inspirational book for children with A Kid’s Guide to Being a Winner. I can’t help but feel that the author missed the mark with this. Certainly, concepts such as respect, thoughtfulness, gratitude, responsibility, and a positive attitude are beneficial to promoting a peaceful society. However, Shelton has focused on these principles as if they are black and white issues.

The books words serve to set up a dichotomy: good versus bad, winner versus loser, right versus wrong. There is no room in the book for assessing a situation and forming an opinion about doing what you feel is the right thing to do. As the book says, responsible people “do what is expected of them.” Constant implications of extrinsic rewards don’t challenge children to do what they think is right, but to follow along with the crowd. The emphasis on always doing the right thing, being good, and never being otherwise is impractical, as everyone, including adults, make mistakes. The book goes on to explain how exactly one should judge other people.

The book is meant to be read to children by an adult to further encourage conversations. It would be most suitable for authoritarian (not authoritative) families.

Disclaimer: A copy of this book was provided by The Cadence Group.

The Lost Hero

Percy Jackson fans will not be disappointed with Rick Riordan’s The Lost Hero. The first series creatively wove a modern young adult fiction tale with Greek mythology. My children waited with excitement for each book to be released.

Riordan topped himself with this first book of the second series. Rather than merely continuing with the Greek mythology theme, he has found a way to successfully introduce the Roman aspects into the story with more humor than ever before. I don’t think my eight year old has laughed quite so much at a book we have read together. One liners have popped up everywhere in our lives, creating literary jokes which our family adores. I’m excited to see where this second series goes, and my children can hardly wait for the next book.

The Winter Solstice

Ellen Jackson has a series of children’s picture books regrading various Earth-based holidays. So, when I ordered a copy of The Winter Solstice years ago, I had great expectations. Instead, I found a book focused solely from a Judeo-Christian perspective, even stating empirically that we now celebrate the winter solstice with Christmas and Hannukah.

The Winter Solstice

Most families searching for books of this nature are looking for something that doesn’t revolve around Christmas. Jackson completely missed the mark on this book. I would even have been happy with a book which talked about how Christmas traditions are actually taken from Winter Solstice celebrations. Instead, it’s a book which discounts everything about the solstice and fails to acknowledge the light and goodness which has been shown around the holiday throughout the years.

I won’t refuse to read the book to my children, but I will make clarifications when reading it. I would not purchase this book again.

summer reading programs…

Our family is no stranger to our local library. The librarians know us all by name. We are there quite frequently, checking out books, hanging out, or running in for a quick pick up of books on hold; a quick trip to the library for us is about 20 minutes.  So, it seems to surprise many people that I’m not a fan of summer reading programs.

Summer reading programs have changed a bit since I was a kid. Back then summer reading programs were contests, pitting kids against one another to see who would win the title of summer reading queen or king, a crown, a free book, and a picture in the paper. There also seemed to be a competition between the parents, who were none too pleased to have their child beat out by a slip of a girl who won each year through no effort, reading more 800 page novels than their child read picture books, attempting to hide behind the free book in the newspaper picture.

This generation’s summer reading programs no longer pit children against one another. Instead, they are challenged to read with the offer or rewards – books or trinkets – as though the only reason to read, when not forced to do so in an institutional setting, is to receive dangling trinkets.

My disdain of punishment and reward based systems had me shying away from such programs when my oldest was little. Reading is enjoyment itself. I had no desire to taint it for my children. However, at some point, my children grew older and the decision was no longer mine to make.

Last year, after explaining my thoughts on the subject, the concept behind the program, and what would be involved, my children decided to go for it. After all, the idea of free books for doing nothing more than usual had its own appeal. They earned their five free books at the beginning of the summer and continued on with life, happily reading away. This summer, with finances even tighter, our local library only offered one free book with opportunities to earn cheap trinkets. Once again, my children opted to participate but were rather disappointed to find that their prizes were pieces of plastic junk rather than books. They promptly put the items in their stash of items to trade out when geocaching.

A few weeks later, they commented that the program seemed pointless; people who wanted to read would read regardless of receiving prizes. Emphasizing the benefits of reading, helping kids become better acquainted with the library, and pointing them toward good books would accomplish much more if one’s goal was to help people read.


Willow, star of Denise Brennan-Nelson and Rosemarie Brennan’s book of the same name, attends an art class in which every student is expected to conform to the demands of the strict and unimaginative art teacher. Determined to embrace her true self, Willow continues on, expressing herself through beautiful and unique artwork, to the disdain of her teacher. While keeping a positive outlook on life, Willow performs a simple act of kindness, gifting her beloved art book to her teacher, and changes the lives of everyone in her class for the better. Cyd Moore’s colorful illustrations add to this story of creativity, kindness, and individuality.

Willow (Picture Books)

you’re loveable to me…

It had been a big day. It had been a hard night.

Many parents can identify with the opening pages of Kat Yeh’s book, You’re Lovable to Me. Long nights and sometimes longer days can often leave parents tired and cranky. However, it’s important that we continue to show our children that no matter what, we love them unconditionally. As the mother rabbit in Yeh’s book explains to her little ones, no matter what a child’s feelings may be, the child is always “loveable to me.”

The simple prose, combined with  Sue Anderson’s sweet illustrations, makes a wonderful book about unconditional love for toddlers or preschoolers and their parents. This would make a wonderful story to use for reconnection after a big day or a long night.

it’s so amazing…

After reading It’s Not the Stork with my children, I had high hopes for It’s So Amazing, the next book in the series by Robie Harris, geared for ages 7 and up. I decided to read the book before sharing it with my children, as I wasn’t quite certain what the difference between the two books would be. For the most part, the book builds on information presented in It’s Not the Stork, with the added topics of puberty and HIV/AIDS.

Harris addresses HIV in her previous matter of fact manner. She also takes a similar view point for bringing up the terms of hetero- and homosexuality. After going over the basics of puberty and briefly discussing sexual intercourse, birth control is mentioned, which may be uncomfortable for some families. However, it is not a definitive guide, only mentioning condoms and birth control pills, and is more an opening to discuss the concept with your children, ending with the fact that abstinence is the only way to completely avoid pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

I had the same complaint with this book as its predecessor in regards to its reference to intact penises as uncircumcised. In this book, she goes further to say that both are normal. While our society’s vernacular isn’t quite what it used to be, accepted would be a better term for circumcised penises than normal. Society accepts individuals with both intact and circumcised penises, but there is nothing normal about cutting off a part of someone’s body. She also once again mentions in her discussion of okay versus not okay touches that it is acceptable for a doctor or nurse to touch a child’s private parts. It is never acceptable for one person to touch another person without their permission.

She also lost a little respect in this book by presenting to the mainstream crowd when it comes to childbirth. Not everyone chooses to have an attendant, which isn’t left as an unsaid option in this book. Women, in almost all cases except for when there are rare problems, are perfectly capable of birthing a child and do better when not inhibited and without interventions. Mainstream choices such as immediate cord cutting and delayed skin contact with the mother are also stated as fact rather than choice. While she mentions c-sections as an alternative birthing method, the word normal is once again inappropriately used. Surgery, while accepted, is never normal.

I ended up choosing not to share this book with my children. The greatest reason is that they haven’t shown any interest in discussing puberty more than we already have. They are still young, although we will probably be discussing the topic in greater detail in the next couple of years. However, I think there must be a better book out there for when they decide they do want to explore the topic in more depth.