Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The Stories We Shared: A Family Book Journal (Review + How I'm Using It)

I got a peek at this family reading journal while watching a free master class by Sarah Mackenzie of the Read-Aloud Revival. It was only mentioned briefly because endorsing a specific product was not the point of the class at all -- a commenter brought it up, so Sarah held hers up to show viewers what it looked like. Boy, am I glad I caught that brief glimpse! This is basically the family reading journal for my son I never knew I needed. So I bought four. (Yes, really!) One is for us, two were gifts for the kids of friends from book club, and the last one is still TBD. It's definitely going to become a future go-to gift for anyone I know who likes to read aloud. There is also a distinct possibility I'm going to fill ours in sooner rather than later -- even with room for nearly 400 entries! -- and move onto a second one.

So what's in this thing and why is it so great?

109 pages for Journal Entries
Most pages have 4 entries, with some drawings and quotes interspersed to reduce some pages to 3 entries. Each entry has a line for title, author, illustrator, # of pages, date finished, who shared the story, star rating, and an empty spot for notes, doodles, etc.

A Feature Lists section to record...
New Words We Like! (86 entries)
Our Favorite Quotes (71 entries)
Most Memorable Characters (51 entries)
Most Surprising Story Twists (38 entries)
Books That Made Us Laugh (41 entries)
Books That Made Us Cry (41 entries)
Books That Changed Us (37 entries)
Our Very Favorite Books! (38 entries)

10 Adventure Quests to complete
Each of these include a Quest, a Sub-Quest, and an Arch-Adventurer Quest depending on how challenging or in-depth you would like to go with each topic. A few of them also have an additional Bonus Quest.

World Explorers
Time Travelers
Genre Hoppers
The Serial Bookworm
The Literary Zookeeper
High Adventure
Myths & Legends
Newbery Quest
Caldecott Quest

You guys, this thing is gorgeous and if you have any desire to keep a reading record for your family, I can't think of anything more perfect. 

Even though it has a very specific set up, there were still quite a few decisions for me to make regarding how exactly I want to use this journal. First of all, since I discovered it when my son was nearly two and a half (and it's only been published since November 2016 anyway), the biggest question has been how to handle all those books from the last 2.5 years. Thanks to Goodreads, I do have a record of them all (barring any accidental omissions), but there were just way too many. So I decided I would only record books I loosely call "favorites" -- basically anything that's been on repeat that my son, myself, my husband, or any combination of us has really loved. So basically that eliminated: 1. books we read but didn't keep because none of us loved them, 2. books we read only once or twice and returned to the library, and 3. books still in our collection that have not yet stood the test of time or that the jury is still out on because they're still too advanced, out of season, etc.

I also made the decision to print out book covers to paste onto the entry squares. I know this is going to add bulk to the journal and the more we use it, the more it will start bulging with the extra thickness they add, but at least for the picture books, I really wanted to include that visual element. The artwork is such a vital part of picture books, I wanted some representation of it in our journal. Also, at this point, I don't have a whole lot of notes for most of these books. I've placed the covers in such a way that I still have a little room to write and have only just started adding in a few notations. I've been working in stages and this has been a really fun project, even if I'm a little impatient to have it all caught up to our current reading!

For the time being, I decided to leave the "story shared by" line blank. I know my son and I have shared every single one of these books. My husband has also read the vast majority of them aloud or has been in the room with us when I read them aloud at bedtime. A lot of them have also been read with his grandparents and various other relatives. I don't want to box us in by trying to figure out who did or didn't share a particular picture book one of the many, many times it has been read aloud. Someday when we move on to novels that won't get re-read a zillion times, I will definitely use this line. I feel much the same about the "date finished" line -- I also decided to leave that blank because picture books are never really finished if we keep reading them over and over again!

I'm still not 100% sure what I'm going to do about the Quests and Feature Lists. On the one hand, if I start them now, they would really be more for me than for my son. I think these sections will really shine once he is old enough to listen to chapter books and novels, have more input and opinions about the books we read, and can help find the various books needed to complete the quests. On the other hand, since I'm fairly certain I'm going to be filling in more than one of these journals, I still may go ahead and start working on them with books from these early years anyway.

So, have I convinced you yet? This journal is awesome, really. If you need a Christmas, holiday, birthday, or baby shower gift (any kind of gift really!) for a bookish friend or family, I can't recommend it highly enough!

The Rabbit Room
(I got our first on Amazon, then ordered the others through my local indie)


  1. This is so cool! I wish I'd had something like this when my kids were little. And actually, a bookish friend is about to have her first baby -- this might make a great shower gift!

    1. Yes, it would definitely be an awesome baby shower gift! I can't believe I didn't include that now, come to think of it -- going to edit that last line now. Of the ones we gave as gifts, one was for a newborn :)

  2. Oh, my goodness, I want one!!! This is definitely going on my son's Christmas list that we pass out to family. What an amazing find! I'm so glad you shared it!

    1. I'm so glad to share this find -- it was too good to keep to myself! You'll love it for your son :)

  3. Interesting idea - in my case all the books would be mine - my better half is not a leisure reader. Cheers

    1. I'm sure that would work too! I think it's probably geared toward read-alouds mostly, but there are all sorts of ways it could be used to help record books :)

  4. Oh, how lovely! I kept a list of the books I read when I was younger but just the sort of thing you record on goodreads now - dates, author, etc. The lists seem like a lot of fun and a great way to remember more from the books you read.

    1. I wish I had a list like that from my own childhood! I have vague memories, but very few specific titles I could name all these years later :) I think those lists will be super fun when my little guy is a little older for sure.

  5. Thank you for the link to this post! Yes, I think you have me convinced!

    1. A little overdue here on the reply, but you're welcome! I'm glad I convinced you -- the journal is really great :)


I'd love to hear what you think :)