The perfect literacy gift: Part 1

Hello, kind readers! Are you still looking for those perfect gifts? If so, then as you know, many resources are available.

Stone Soup Literacy will be appearing in The Express community newspaper’s Holiday Gift Guide this coming Wednesday, Dec. 6!

In the meantime, I would be remiss if I did not take advantage of the shopping time of year to recommend some websites where you can go for information that will help you make better selections when it comes to providing literacy-based gifts such as books, magazines, games, puzzles, etc.

Of course, The Bus Stops Here in downtown Lock Haven has a plethora of wonderful gifts for children, parents and teachers alike!

Before you start, there are a few things to keep in mind.

As you begin your book-shopping journey, how do you know where to go and what to buy? Well, it certainly helps if you already know something about the reader’s preferences. If you are looking for a book for a child, it would be most helpful to know his or her reading level. Unfortunately, reading level is an elusive piece of information. Many times books are marketed and identified based on the grade level of the child, however that is like walking into a shoe store and buying shoes based on grade level. Just because someone is in fifth grade doesn’t determine how big his or her feet are! Many factors are going to influence shoe size, just as many factors determine what someone would like to read. My advice is to find out what the child has read recently and use that as a way to estimate reading level.

Another way to think about the challenge of buying the right book is to compare it to purchasing candy as a gift. Imagine standing in front of the rows and rows of different kinds of candy that are available in a grocery store.

You might say, “It’s the thought that counts, so I’ll just grab something that I like and hope that it will be OK.”

The problem with that is that you might buy Almond Joys and then find out that the person you’re buying for hates coconut! My suggestion is to keep receipts, find out what the reader would prefer, and make an exchange.

Most Stone Soup Literacy columns have focused on helping us understand the needs of school-age readers and how we as a community can strategically participate in promoting literacy. When it comes to giving gifts, however let’s not forget about those adults on your shopping list who also would enjoy receiving a book or magazine.

Before getting online or walking into Barnes and Noble, a better choice would be to get in your car and drive to your local library. If you need recommendations for anything in print (not to mention audiobooks and DVDs), the knowledgeable folks who work there are your best resource. You might even find some gently used books to give or keep for yourself. If getting to the library is problematic, then the following websites will be useful.

r Brightly

“Helping parents grow lifelong readers.” This beautiful website provides suggestions and tips for books for babies and adults.

r Growing Book by Book

“A guide to nurturing young readers.” Offers specific titles and tips for selections for babies through beginning readers.

r Home Literacy Blueprint

“A site full of simple plans for building literacy-rich homes.” Provides searchable resources (by level, subject or skill area) that are designed to “inspire a little literacy love at home.”

r HarperCollinsPublishers

HarperCollinsPublishers is a global publishing company started in 1817 by brothers Jay and John Harper, and its website offers what you might expect from the second-largest consumer book publisher in the world. I share it because it has several ways to search for books, some of which are delightfully unique. For example, I like to read nonfiction and historical fiction centered on World War II. This website allows me to click on one of the authors I like and read her recommendations for books on WWII, which has led me to some titles that I cannot wait to explore! Use

r Whichbook

“A new way of choosing what book to read next.” Yes, it is a new way and well worth your time to explore. It defies a brief description!


This site is a great way to give a gift magazine subscription without having to choose the magazine.

These sites are a fraction of the online resources that can help you in your selection process.

The Stone Soup Literacy column that will appear in the Express Gift Guide will be Part 2, and a follow-up to this column. That column will include not only buying tips but also strategies for how to make your purchase even more personal and meaningful.

If you have suggestions of other useful websites, buying tips, or book recommendations, please share them at Happy shopping!


Kathy Gephart is a mother, grandmother, wife, daughter, sister, graduate of Lock Haven High School, Lock Haven University and Penn State, educator of children and adults, volunteer and avid reader. She is the founder of Stone Soup Literacy whose mission is to build readers, one community at a time. Email Kathy at Stone Soup Literacy can be found online at