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Innovative Kids books Review by Stacy Kalisz

The Five Senses / One Tree (from the Green Start Book series)
By Leslie Bockol
Where Is My Hat? / The Neat Pig / Spooky Night
(from the Now I'm Reading!™: Read it - Write it - Draw it! series)
By Nora Gaydos
Innovative Kids
Distributed in the U.S. by Hachette Book Group USA
3 Center Plaza
Boston, MA 02108

Innovative Kids has a number of exciting products children will enjoy. I received books from the Green Start set and the Now I'm Reading series for review. As I tell a little about these products, hopefully you will catch a glimpse of what this company has to offer. 

The Green Start books are an earth-friendly series designed for children three to six years of age. Made from 98% post-consumer recycled material and printed using soy-based inks, these books are intended to benefit your child and the environment. There are currently four books in the Green Start series. This review is based on two of them: One Tree and The Five Senses. Each non-fiction book teaches facts about nature in story form. The back of each book contains a two-page parent section that provides eco-friendly tips for living green. 

One Tree follows the life of a single tree through the seasons as well as those who inhabit and depend on it (birds, caterpillars, squirrels, etc.). The parent pages include information about the importance of trees and give specific steps we can take to preserve our forests. 

The Five Senses is a sweet, rhyming story that describes ways in which we use our senses to experience nature. Lots of descriptive words help children notice how they are connected to the world around them. The parent pages discuss how our actions affect nature and what we can do to take care of the earth. 

These small yet sturdy books are great for little hands. The stories are simple and engaging; the illustrations are cheerful and sweet. My 4-year-old enjoyed listening, and my 7-year-old could read them herself. We were pleased with the quality of these books and are always happy to find stories that provide information about nature in an easy-to-read format. However, I personally found the parent pages in the back of the books a little extreme in their suggestions. 

The product recalls of the past few years have increased my concern about the safety of the items my children use. The claim that these books are "good for your child" certainly caught my attention. I appreciate the effort that has been made to produce a "clean" product. However, I was a little disappointed to find that these books are printed in China. While safe products can definitely be made in China, I would have more confidence if they had been printed here in the United States.

The Now I'm Reading! Read it - Write it - Draw it! series is completely different from the Green Start series. These interactive books were designed to improve reading and writing fluency and comprehension. Since reading improves writing and writing improves reading, this really is a well-rounded approach. 

Intended for ages four to seven years old, The Now I'm Reading! books are available in three levels. Each book begins with the Read It section, which contains a simple story with a humorous plotline and colorful illustrations. This is followed by the Write It section, where children have the opportunity to trace words, fill in the blanks, or write a story (depending on the level). Last is the Draw It section. Here children will have fun as they further develop their fine motor skills by illustrating the story on their own (and using the 20 stickers included with each title). 

In Level 1, Where Is My Hat?, children will read about a dog in search of his misplaced hat. This level is designed for the earliest of readers and focuses on mixed short-vowel words. The original story is repeated in the Write It section, with selected words ready to be traced. Finally, children will enjoy coloring the original illustrations in outline form in the Draw It section. The enclosed stickers can also be used here. 

Level 2, The Neat Pig, contains a cheerfully illustrated story about a pig that causes his parents great concern because he is overly tidy. The reading level is a little more advanced than level 1 and includes mixed short- and long-vowel words. The Write It section is also a step up from the previous book and has children writing words instead of simply tracing them. The Draw It section is the same as level 1, with the original illustrations in outline form ready to be colored. 

Level 3, Spooky Night, is the most advanced. The Read It section contains a short story about a boy whose imagination runs wild after he watches a scary movie. This level combines short- and long-vowel words with complex vowel patterns. In the Write It section, children write the tale in their own words on lined pages that have a small picture from the original story. The Draw It section includes the story text and blank pages; there are no outline illustrations in this level. Here children create their own pictures to accompany the story on each page, and they can also use the stickers if desired. 

My children thoroughly enjoyed the Now I'm Reading! books. I liked them because they provided an educational activity that the kids found interesting and fun. Level 1 was perfect for my 4-year-old, and levels 2 and 3 were just right for my 7-year-old. In fact, the Level 3 book kept her occupied all afternoon! These books would be handy on vacation or during any time when formal schooling is not "in session." They could also be useful for children who need extra reading and writing practice. 

This is just a sample of what Innovative Kids has to offer. They have many products available for all ages. Our family was pleased with the Green Start set and the Now I'm Reading! Read it - Write it - Draw it! series. We look forward to using more products from Innovative Kids.

Product review by Stacy Kalisz, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, May 2009