As a former teacher, Clarissa has continued to celebrate the impact that education can have on a child through her love of reading. Ever since she was first introduced to books like “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe,” and “Anne of Green Gables,” reading has been an integral part of her life. Book Nerd Mommy was created in April 2016 after the birth of Clarissa’s second child. She was inspired to start a blog that would combine her love of literature with her journey in motherhood.
Since it’s inception, Clarissa has evolved the blog to include interactive crafts and activities centered around her favorite stories. Visitors will be delighted by her extensive book lists, literacy tools, and creative concepts to get their children excited to read. “I have always identified myself as an avid “book nerd” and because of the stage of life I am in and the type of content I wanted to share “mommy” was the perfect addition to my blog name,” Clarissa shared in regards to how she created her blog name.
We chatted with Clarissa about her love of reading, how she chooses what books to feature on the blog, and the latest trends in storytelling.
What were some of your favorite books you read as a child and why?
“I was in love with Shel Silverstein as a child. I think a lot of it had to do with the fact that the copy of “Where The Sidewalk Ends” that I read over and over again was the very same copy that my mother had as a child. It had a bookplate sticker in it with her name and it felt very special to me. I memorized many of the poems and found them delightfully ridiculous.
My first memory of reading a book that changed my heart and completely enchanted me is “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” by C. S. Lewis. Every time I read it I felt transported to the magical land of Narnia where all my dearest friends waited for me to join in the adventure. I cried when Aslan died and my world brightened when he returned. I don’t think another book had impacted me so much emotionally before then. It has remained a beloved story to me since.”
How does your former career as a teacher influence the types of books you choose to feature?
“As a teacher, I read oodles of books to my students and read voraciously on the side as well. I was also always interested in the books that were popular among my students and was curious as to what made those specific books so successful with them. Through all of this reading and watching what students engaged with, I feel like I gained a good feel for what separates a good book from an exceptionally great book. However, I do believe that every story has an audience and that no two people who read a book have exactly the same perspective or the same experience. I feel strongly that there is value in every book.”
Tell us more about the types of crafts, recipes, and activities you create in the “Beyond the Book”.
“In the educational world, the term for my crafts, recipes, and activities would be “extension activities”. These are activities that help children dive deeper into their educational experience with a book as well as their connection with it. There is a special level of bonding that can happen with stories when you celebrate them a little more through something such as eating a treat that is similar to the one that the protagonist had in the story or experiencing something that the characters may have experienced. In the world of Book Nerd Mommy, we call them “Beyond the Book” activities because it is an invitation/opportunity to go one step further with the books that you read.”
We’ve all had to spend a lot more time inside during the past year, how did your reading selections change or grow?
“Honestly, they didn’t change too much. We always read a lot in our home and we simply continued to do so. However, I would say that the holiday books we read are more important and special than usual because there have been fewer holiday activities to do outside of the home.”
What are the current trends you’ve seen with book stories in the past year?
“One of the biggest trends that I have seen in children’s literature is more social-emotional learning books being released. These are books that help children develop social skills, emotional awareness, self-awareness, and more. I am thrilled to see more wonderful books being released that cover these topics because books can be such a wonderful tool in this area. Some introduce coping strategies, help build empathy, teach love and acceptance, and are great in-depth discussions within your home.
Another big trend that I have seen and love in children’s literature is more books being released that celebrate different cultures and lifestyles. I love this because books are an excellent way to help children learn about other lifestyles that may be different than their own. This helps them gain empathy and love for people as well as understanding the importance of different perspectives. We call these types of books “windows” because they give children a “window” into another way of life. I feel they are essential in children’s literature.”
Food and reading often go hand in hand, what inspires the yummy treats you pair with a book?
“Pairing books with food is one of my favorite ways to celebrate a story. Usually, the inspiration comes from a certain food being highlighted within the book itself. For example, one of my favorite recipes that I made to pair with a book is the Mud Tarts that I paired with “How to Make Friends With a Ghost” by Rebecca Green.
I created them to go with the book because part of the story mentioned that they are a favorite food among ghosts. They are so fun to eat while reading the story and children get the biggest kick out of the fact that the pudding is meant to represent mud. They love to pretend that the gummy worms that they are eating are, in fact, real worms. There are a lot of giggles and it makes storytime that much more fun.”
How has your website helped you realize your mission or vision for your blog?
“I love my website because it is the perfect hub for gathering together and showcasing all of my ideas and thoughts. I want it to be a fabulous resource for parents and teachers alike in helping to encourage a love of reading with the children in their lives as well as a way to help them celebrate books with them. Having everything I have created be accessible in an organized way is very important to me and I feel like my website has been excellent in helping me achieve that.”
What are some ways you have customized your site from the original template in terms of look or function? How easy or tricky was it for you to do?
“Perhaps the biggest customization I have made for my site from the original template was the extra menus on my homepage that I created. It was a bit of a “trial and error” process for me because I have no background in website design and don’t consider myself “tech-savvy” in the least. However, that being said, I did get it figured out and feel like it was very doable despite my lack of expertise. I created my website myself so having a user-friendly template that I could lean on and with the flexibility to customize it with relative ease was essential to me. I am so pleased with how it has functioned so far and I would have been so lost without the aid of a great template.”
What’s the most rewarding aspect of your blog for you personally, and how does your website play a role in that?
“The most rewarding aspect of my blog by far is connecting with other book-loving parents and teachers. I have a huge passion for children’s literature and all that it offers. It means so much to hear that what I share and the resources that I am creating are being used, appreciated, and loved. My website plays a big role in that because I am creating it in the hopes that it can be a wonderful resource to help parents and educators encourage a love of reading and celebrate books with the children in their life.”
Check out everything Clarissa is doing online.