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About Tom Burns

Tom Burns is a husband, a dad, and a veteran of the educational publishing industry, living just outside of Detroit Rock City. After years of obsessing about what his daughter was reading, he founded BuildingaLibrary.com, a website devoted to helping parents find the right books for their kids. He’s served as a contributing editor for several print and online publications, and his writing has been featured on Brightly, Time Magazine, Reading Rainbow, The Huffington Post, xoJane, and various other sites. He’s also made appearances on The Meredith Vieira Show and HuffPost Live.
Latest Posts | By Tom Burns
Old Games for New Kids: The Simpsons Hit & Run
4 years ago

Old Games for New Kids: The Simpsons Hit & Run

By  •  Originals

simpsons hit and run

In our series Old Games for New Kids, we suggest a great past-generation game to play with your new-generation children.


The Simpsons: Hit & Run (2003)
by Vivendi Universal – GameCube, PlayStation 2, Windows, Xbox

I love sharing video games with my daughter, but I’ll admit that, lately, I’ve been a little concerned about HOW she plays video games. My kid is six, so the majority of games she plays are either touch-based games on the iPad or motion controller games on the Nintendo Wii. And, as a guy who grew up in the Nintendo generation, I wanted my daughter to spend some quality time with a more old school controller – i.e. a rectangular thing you hold with some kind of directional pad and/or stick and some kind of A/B button configuration. So I set out looking for older controller-centric games that might catch her interest and be simple enough in their design to help her get comfortable using an iconic action-button gamepad design. And the game I landed on was 2003’s The Simpsons Hit & Run.

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Five Non-Existent Classes For Dads That Totally Should Exist
5 years ago

Five Non-Existent Classes For Dads That Totally Should Exist

pokemon classes for dads

When my wife and I first found out that we were going to have a kid, we instantly became aware of the “parenting class” industry that had existed in our community for years without ever attracting our attention. Suddenly, there were all of these flyers, newspapers ads, and emails, offering us practical parenting instruction in friendly classroom settings.

And, as new parents-to-be, we were game for them. Almost immediately, we signed up for the childbirth class, the baby care and CPR class, the “how to install a car seat” class, the breastfeeding class, you name it.

(The only classes I remember us opting out of were the “baby massage” class and the “parenting for dads” class, which I found more than a little insulting.)

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Daddy-Daughter Dances: I Do Not Want to Date My Daughter
5 years ago

Daddy-Daughter Dances: I Do Not Want to Date My Daughter

By  •  Blog

daddy-daughter dances

I attended my first-ever Daddy-Daughter Dance this past weekend. I know some fathers love these kinds of events, but I was fairly apprehensive about going.

Why? Because aside from perhaps family weddings, when does a father ever get dressed up, buy his date flowers, and go dancing without there being some kind of romantic agenda on the table?

I almost have panic attacks whenever I think back to all of those poor, unfortunate girls who danced with me at high school proms, tolerating my sweaty awkwardness as we lumbered through the long version of “The Lady in Red”.

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How to Let Your Kid Experience Star Wars If They’re Not Ready for The Movies Yet
5 years ago

How to Let Your Kid Experience Star Wars If They’re Not Ready for The Movies Yet

By  •  Originals

Not Ready For Star Wars

In my article last week, I discussed how the question of “When is it appropriate to show your kids the Star Wars movies?” can become a very contentious and hotly debated topic amongst parents. And I also mentioned that I have not allowed my own five-year-old daughter to watch the Star Wars films yet, even though she really, really wants to. But here’s where I want to make an important distinction – just because I won’t let my kid watch the Star Wars MOVIES, that doesn’t mean that I keep her away from all things Star Wars.

I mentioned in my last post that every kid in my daughter’s school has Star Wars on the brain, so, I’ll admit, I didn’t want her to be the only kid in school who didn’t know what a Wampa was. She even got invited to a Star Wars-themed birthday party and I really did not want her to be the odd kid out. But I also wasn’t going to backtrack on my original decision to not show her the movies. (I actually know of some parents who’ve shown their kids the Star Wars movies solely to help them deal with peer pressure… which is kind of sad.)

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When Is It Appropriate to Show the Star Wars Movies to Your Kid?
5 years ago

When Is It Appropriate to Show the Star Wars Movies to Your Kid?

Baby Star Wars Header

I’ve stumbled my way into many, many heated discussions surrounding divisive parenting issues since becoming a parent. There are certain topics that just seem to bring the worst out in moms and dads, issues where parties on both sides feel defensive, attacked, and vastly self-righteous all at the same time. The topics range from breast-feeding to TV-watching habits to the question of “If your child has a late birthday, should you send them to kindergarten earlier or later?” (That last one is a particular party-ruiner.)

But, while I’ve battled my way through debates on all of those issues and more, possibly THE most contentious parenting issue I’ve encountered so far was one I wasn’t really expecting. If you really want to see a group of modern parents tear each other from limb to limb, just take a deep breath and ask, “So, when do you think it’s appropriate to show your kids the Star Wars movies?”

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Buying Boys Underwear for My Daughter: Gender Disparity in Kids’ Character Undies
5 years ago

Buying Boys Underwear for My Daughter: Gender Disparity in Kids’ Character Undies

Buying Boys Underwear for My Daughter

(This article was reprinted by The Good Men Project and The Huffington Post)

I can’t imagine that any dad is entirely comfortable taking their daughter underwear shopping. Blogger Jim Higley did a great article back in April about taking his older daughter on shopping “dates” to Victoria’s Secret, and Higley really conveyed that wonderful, uncomfortable panic that can overcome a dad who’s forced to stand too long in the lingerie and unmentionables section.

While moms have their own unique on-the-job difficulties, I know way too many dads who are perpetually nervous about unwittingly coming across as a pervert or a pedophile, thanks to stupid societal prejudices about the perceived dangers of men interacting with children. And, though I disagree with all of those stereotypes, I will admit – when I linger in the girls’ underwear section at Target, my personal levels of social anxiety go off the charts.

Fortunately, unlike Higley, at the moment, I’m getting off fairly easily when it comes to taking my daughter underwear shopping. She’s only five years old, so I’m (hopefully) years away from flop-sweating and avoiding eye contact while I hold a purse next to the Victoria’s Secret changing rooms in the mall. Right now, we just go to Target or Kohl’s, she sees a six-pack of underwear with her favorite characters on it, I toss it in the cart, and we’re good to go. Character underwear makes undergarment shopping super-easy and predictable for the parents of young children.

Or so I thought.

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Pro Tips: How To Turn Your Kid Into a Hardcore Comic Book Geek
5 years ago

Pro Tips: How To Turn Your Kid Into a Hardcore Comic Book Geek

How to Turn Your Kid Into a Hardcore Comic Book Geek

Don’t tell my wife, but I developed a lot of secret personal agendas once I became a parent. For example, I was determined to convince my child that Jim Henson’s Labyrinth was an epic movie (Accomplished!), I wanted my kid to love Donald Sobol’s Encyclopedia Brown mysteries (Achievement unlocked!), and I was dead-set that my daughter would have perfect movie theatre manners (Hat trick! She sometimes even shushes me!). But, if I’m being honest, more than anything else, I really wanted my daughter to love comic books. I am a big comics nerd and it was just a major part of my life that I wanted to share with her.

And, thankfully, she does. She really, really does love reading comics. She’s got her own ever-growing collection of comics and graphic novels and, every time we get in the car, she has to bring along a few comics to read in the back seat. I’m a lucky dad.

However, I realize that there are dads out there who might have to contend with children who might not be interested in comic books and would rather spend their time participating in sports (What?) or academics (No!). But, believe me, there’s still hope.

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The Unpretty Portrayal Of Dads In The Disney Princess Movies, Part 2
5 years ago

The Unpretty Portrayal Of Dads In The Disney Princess Movies, Part 2

By  •  Originals

The Unpretty Portrayal Of Dads In The Disney Princess Movies, Part 2

Editor’s Note: This is part two of a two-part epic about how dads are portrayed in the Disney Princess movies. Check out part one here!

Recap: As a service to the dads out there struggling with kids who might have a similar affinity for the Disney Princess Industrial Complex, I decided to breakdown how fathers are portrayed in all ten of the major Disney Princess films, if only to point out exactly how low Disney sets the bar when it comes to showing fathers in a positive light onscreen. Disney Princess fathers are largely absent, oblivious, easily manipulated, loathe to accept responsibility, and generally not the sharpest tools in the shed. Their daughters normally succeed in life DESPITE them, not because of them. And, speaking as a dad, I think that kind of stinks. Take a look at ten of the least impressive fathers in film history and decide for yourself if they’re as potentially damaging to a kid as the old-fashioned damsel in distress. Part two after the jump! Read More