Category Archives: Books

Summer Reading Programs for Kids

While summertime means fun and play for most, it should not be an excuse to stop learning. (Truly, learning should be lifelong—for kids and adults!) Here are 5 summer reading programs for kids, available around the country:

1. Books-A-Million

Read any 4 books from their Summer Reading Adventure section and receive a Free Pencil Case with pencils in store.

2. Barnes & Noble

Earn 1 free book after reading any 8 books and recording them in a journal.

3. Half Price Books

When kids read for 300 minutes during both June and July, they’ll get a free $5.00 gift card per month. That’s only 15 minutes per day—very reasonable goal.

4. Chuck E. Cheese

Kids can earn free 10 tokens after reading each day for 2 weeks. In addition to reading, they have many other reward charts available for good behavior in other areas. 

5. Six Flags

Intended for kids in grades K-6 who complete six hours of recreational reading. The prize is a free ticket to Six Flags!

Along with these nationwide programs, don’t forget to check your local library. Most have their own and some offer really nice gifts. My family has gotten free books, McDonald’s coupons, and an invite to an End-of Summer kids party. 

Sorting Through 400 Books

Since I was very small, I have always loved to read and over my lifetime, I’ve built up quite a collection of books. I knew I had a lot, but I didn’t realize it was over 400 until I started sorting through them.

Because we’re looking to move this summer (hopefully), a major downsize is needed. Books are heavy and they take up a lot of space, so bringing every one of them just isn’t feasible. 

I’ll be honest: some of these books are total junk—broken spines, missing pages, worn jackets, etc. But there were many good ones as well, some good enough to sell. Here’s what I’ve done so far:

  • 31 books for sale on Amazon (more recent and popular titles work best)
  • 69 books sold to Sell Back Your Book (mostly reference and older ones)
  • 2 donated bags to Goodwill (All novels)
  • 5 donated bags to the library (1 for kids, 4 for adult circulation)

Yes, I still have a ton left, but feel really pleased about making a huge dent in the mountain (getting rid of them takes almost as much effort as reading). Even if I don’t need them anymore, I’m so glad that these books can be enjoyed by others and stay out of the landfill. It’s hard to part with a collection, for sure, but in the end, it’s a good thing. 

Books I Love – Baby & Toddler Basics

Caring for our children’s health is one of the most challenging parts of motherhood, especially when they’re little and we may not have experience. Dr. Tanya Altmann has recently written a book, Baby and Toddler Basics: Expert Answers to Parents’ Top 150 Questions, that covers the most commonly discussed topics. (As a mom of 3 boys, she also understands what it’s like to be on the “asking” side, too.)

Odds are you will find yourself obsessing over one—or all!–of these distressing issues, usually at 3:00AM on a Saturday night while on vacation (ask me how I know?):

  • Feeding – Is my baby/toddler getting enough nutrients? Is nursing better than bottle-feeding? Why does my baby never seem full?
  • Sleep – My baby/toddler won’t sleep at all, wakes up often or has their days and nights mixed up.
  • Crying – Are they crying constantly, and if so, what’s the cause? Could excessive crying be related to a serious problem?
  • Fevers – Are fevers always dangerous for littles ones? How high is too high? Should a fever always signal a need for a visit to the Pediatrician?
  • Skin Care – Rashes, Jaundice, diaper rash, and more.
  • Stomachache – What causes tummy trouble? Lots of good advice about Food allergies, dehydration, cramps, and vomiting.

I had the opportunity to meet Dr. Tanya in person and she is such a doll! It was at an event for Tylenol in Boston, over 3 years ago. She was the featured speaker and everyone who attended really enjoyed it. (We were amazed that she could stand on her feet for hours while heavily pregnant and talk without needing any notes!)

After the talk was over, she took the time to visit with me individually and we discovered our shared love of Israel. (She actually did some medical training there.) She is a wonderful lady and a very compassionate physician that actually listens. I live on the East Coast and she’s based in California, but if we lived closer together, I’d certainly want her as our family’s Pediatrician.

Baby and Toddler Basics:  Expert Answers to Parents’ Top 150 Questions is a great pick for any mom’s book shelf.

Is the Stigma of Addiction Worse for Jews?

Lisa Hillman was living the “perfect” life: She had two beautiful children, a wonderful husband who’d served as mayor, and a successful career in healthcare and journalism. Her son’s long struggle with addiction threatened to destroy it all. In public, everything seemed fine, but in private, the whole family was living in fear and shame. Active in the Jewish community, Lisa was surprised to find a huge lack of services to help those who are suffering. Through her book, Secret No More, and through her amazing advocacy, she is changing that. In the following guest post, she shares some excellent advice.

Recently, my son, Jacob, and I were invited to address a group of South Florida rabbis. Although the setting was private, the mere idea was daunting. Other than another rabbi, heads of state, or leaders of major organizations, who gets to speak to a roomful of rabbis? It was very overwhelming!

Our talk was focused on educating these religious leaders about addiction and how to better prepare them to face this issue in their own congregations. Planning for the event, I had a sudden realization.  

Was my shame, during my son’s active addiction, more pronounced because I was Jewish? Because our community stresses high achievement, the pressure to be prefect can be extreme. There is also a myth that Jews don’t have addictions, that we don’t drink to excess and we certainly don’t abuse drugs. (Or so I thought.)

Don’t Jews excel in nearly every field?  Shouldn’t my son, therefore, shine among his peers?  As I said to the rabbis that day, weren’t we the “Chosen People”?

This quest for perfection can make it very difficult to admit that problems exist. It wasn’t until writing my memoir that the shame, isolation and fear lifted. Sharing my story with others in hopes of encouraging them to seek help – and to give them hope – was the antidote I needed.

That day with the rabbis, I offered them five suggestions:  

Educate yourself

Read all you can about the disease. Start with journalist Sam Quinones’ Dreamland which traces the rise of heroin across America. Befriend someone in recovery and attend AA meetings. Be open to learning.

Talk about it

Use the pulpit, newsletter and other outlets to express understanding and compassion for those with addiction and those affected by it.


Hear what a congregant is saying without his directly saying it. Both the addict and the family members may be scared to ask for help without prompting.

Learn resources

Be ready to refer families for help.  Know the best therapists, treatment centers and online sites.

Offer space

Groups like AA and Al-Anon often lack a place to meet; By lending them a place, it can aid recovery to addicts and their families. Be sure to tell  congregation that you support it.

Most of all, we have to remember that only by talking about addiction and unmasking the stigma can we ever hope to conquer it.

About the Author:

Lisa Hillman is the author of Secret No More, a powerful memoir that details her son’s addiction and how it affected her entire family. In addition to writing, speaking, and educating others about this important topic, she serves as a board member of Pathways and Samaritan House, both programs that serve addicts.

Lisa is the mother of Heidi and Jacob. She and her husband reside in Maryland. Find out more and connect with her through her website.