Do you have a “book bag” with go-to titles for different topics? These are the books that pop into your head at the mere mention of a word. If someone says “silly books” the cover of Mr. Brown Can Moo appears in my mind’s eye.
And when someone says “sibling problems” or “jealousy” I instantly see Mama, Chester, and Ronny raccoon from the cover of A Pocket Full of Kisses by Aubrey Penn. Animal stories have a way of making life lessons easier to understand, and when they’re done well, kids can see themselves and reflect on the message.
It was Okay for a while, but now Chester doesn’t like having a little brother. Every time he thinks Mother Raccoon has given him just a little extra love, she goes and gives it to his brother Ronny, too. Finally, with a story about the stars, Chester begins to understand about a mother’s love. This story helps “big brothers” understand that parents can never run out of love for their children.
Raccoon protagonists make this a story that’s easy to swallow for “big brothers” who want to make sure that they are loved, too. It could also work in a classroom where “jealousy” is the issue at hand.
There is just enough humor that the human “big brother” can see his jealousy but not be embarrassed by it.
It offers parents a means to physically demonstrate their unconditional love in a way that is precious to a child. If you have two (or more) children who sometimes forget that they are loved equally, this is a nice reminder.
If you’re in a house with siblings (or soon-to-be siblings), this is a great story for talking about love, jealousy, and being the ‘bigger’ child.
In our house, there are no brothers or sisters, yet as a three-year-old our daughter couldn’t get enough of this book. Great books make an impression that can last a lifetime. What books fit that category for you?
“A capacity and taste for reading gives access to whatever has already been discovered by others.”
~ Abraham Lincoln
This month I have felt particularly overwhelmed with news-y articles about literacy, book awards announcements, reading-related events, and social media “discoveries.” I deleted many without botherint to read them. If it looked like it had something interesting or some analysis, I spent some time reading.
Some of it turned out to be repetitive (i.e., repackaged news I’d read elsewhere), but most of it had a nugget of information that struck me as new and “good to know.” The articles covered questions I’d never know to ask, ideas I’d never considered, and information that help with better informed decision-making and recommendations. I’m hoping you find these articles valuable, too.
Extra Helpings, a free e-Newsletter of the School Library Journal, shared its interview with LeVar Burton. Reading Rainbow has re-launched as an App for the iPad, and will be expanding to other devices and the web, as well. Two ideas really struck me:
Reading Rainbow was a television show because that was the “prevailing technology of the day.” Today, the technology for “steering kids back in the direction of the written word” is not a TV.
Burton has not forgotten his PBS roots. “My dream for our kids is that we become like a PBS for parents in the digital realm.”
It is fun to read that article next to Scholastic’s latest Kids & Family Reading Report. As you might expect, stats related to eBooks have gone up significantly since the last report, but here is the shining star …
Eighty percent of kids who read ebooks still read books for fun primarily in print.
If you listen to National Public Radio (NPR), you may have heard Tanya Lombrozo’s piece Music, Multivitamins And Other Modern Intelligence Myths. The article presents the findings of a paper published in January that looked at dozens of studies to see what (if anything) can improve a child’s intelligence in those early year. The article isn’t long, but it garnered a collection of comments that are also worth reading.
Did you know that one in every ten households in the United States is an adoptive family?
The rise in international adoptions adds an extra dimension to a family’s way of life, because their child brings with them a cultural heritage that may not be the culture they grow up in. Most families of adoption – like many biological families – do not want to rob their children of their cultural identity. Rather, they take concrete steps to celebrate it. We can do that in classrooms, too!
Bilingual children’s books offer a way to introduce and bridge cultures. Your child or student may already speak at least some of his/her native language. If that’s the case, then bilingual books can help you learn the language, not only improving communication, but showing them that you think their culture is important.
Books that have all the text in one language – whether it is English, Mandarin Chinese, or Arabic – are not bilingual books. They are foreign language children’s books. These are wonderful books if you already know a language, but they may be a bit daunting (or downright discouraging) if you aren’t familiar with it.
así que vamos a hablar en español los libros bilingüe
(Let’s talk bilingual books)
There are two two types of bilingual picture books.
Some bilingual books tell the story with parallel text. In these books, the English and (let’s say Spanish) text are presented together on the same page, with an illustration on the facing page.
If you have had some training in the language, these books can help dust off the rust quickly, and you’ll be reading comfortably in no time.
The second type of bilingual book is a story where specific vocabulary words are inserted into the sentence, and you use the illustrations to help with the translation. “The vaca wandered from the farm.” Vaca is Spanish for cow, and the illustration would likely have a cow walking out from her pen.
This style of presentation introduces the language through context, and is very useful when you want to begin building a vocabulary. You may learn simple phrases like “good luck,” but you don’t have enough immersion to create complete sentences.
Given the portability of books these days, many bilingual books come with CDs. All of the titles in the Teach Me … series (Teach Me Tapes.com), for example, have parallel text and come with a book and CD. Hearing the language spoken correctly can help you and your child, too. I’ve not done any exploring, but I imagine there are read-to-me capabilities in children’s book apps, too.
With bilingual stories, you can share more than just the languages of your family’s heritage. You often learn about other cultural traditions and history. Myths, legends, and folklore are the foundation of every society’s storytelling tradition. Whether you are reading (or listening to) a native story in English or another language, you are celebrating all that makes your child unique and yet also part of a global world.
My Fifth Grader has been working on a project where she has to read an historical fiction novel then transform it into a picture book that she will read with her third-grade Book Buddy. [Personally, I think this is a brilliant project, but that's a subject for another day!]
One of the grading points for the project is the book’s cover, which must be
“engaging … with colorful illustrations.”
For better or worse, a book’s cover is often the key determinant in whether or not someone (adults included) pick up a book. When covers and content come together, there is reason to cheer.
For this week’s set of book reviews, I’ve selected three irresistible books from Dawn Publications from our Reading Tub® book bag. As you’ll see in the comments, our reviewers enjoyed them from cover to cover! Click the covers and read them on BigUniverse.com
Read on Big Universe
written and illustrated by Robert Nutt
length: 48 pages
Amy is scared of the dark. When she sees small lights are flickering outside her window, she gets an idea. She retrieves an empty jar and goes outside to catch some fireflies to bring to her room. The light of the fireflies dims because they’re confined to the jar. Amy releases them into her room, the darkness has gone away, and she overcomes her fear of the shadows on the walls, falling asleep in peace. This is a story that brings together nature and a child’s fear of the dark.
Everyone can enjoy this unique story with its dream-like quality and wonderfully researched facts about fireflies. The illustrations are quite effective at telling the story, and are wonderfully created. There is so much info here, both entertaining and educational.
This is a bedtime story and can start conversations about being afraid of the dark, but it is also about fireflies. At the end of the book is also a page of factual info about fireflies and their decline in the environment, and how to preserve them.
My children (ages 2,4, and 6) enjoyed the book. However, not really having experienced fireflies, I’m not entirely certain this book hit home for them.
This is a book about how honey is made by honey bees. Follow the day of a honey bee, with exquisitely detailed illustrations that are biologically accurate and just gorgeous to look at! This is a story about honey bees that also includes science information.
This is a great book that will catch the eye of most kids.
Gorgeous pictures, will grow with the attention span of the child. The story text is written at 2 levels: 1) a 2-year-old level, with just 2-10 words per page (short and sweet for a short attention span), and 2) a 5-year old level, with several sentences explaining the bees’ behavior in more depth.
My sons (ages 3 and 5) both loved the book. They both love learning about animals, so this book really spoke to their interests. The pictures gave them lots to look at, and the text was very interesting to them. I picked the book the first time, but they came back and asked for it a lot.
This wonderfully illustrated counting book portrays a variety of colorful ocean life. On each spread there is an underwater mother fish and her young, from 1 to 10, each with a short rhyme. This picture book is an undersea counting book that also introduces readers to ocean life.
Bright illustrations, short text, bonus material about teaching kids how to count, and “behind the scenes” looks at how the book was created make this book stand out.
My boys (2 and 4) liked this book. They both wanted to read it again, and my older son made associations between the illustrations here and other books. He also asked “what is that” about the other elements of the page. My 2-year-old is starting to learn to count, and the illustrations made counting fun.
The pages were colorful with lots to see, but they weren’t overwhelming.
There are lots of things to do with this book in addition to counting. You can explore the biology of sea life; and the rhyming lets you make it a musical story. The clay artwork may inspire kids to create their own works of art.
Big Universe promotes strong family literacy practices.
Big Universe, a champion of literacy, reminds schools and program administrators that only two weeks remain to nominate educators for the 2013 Toyota Teacher of the Year award for family literacy. The National Center for Family Literacy (NCFL) will accept applicationsthrough Feb. 13 for the award, which is worth $20,000 for the recipient’s literacy program. The winning teacher will also receive a free trip to the National Conference on Family Literacy to be held April 28-30 in Louisville, Ky.
Those nominating an educator should fill out the NCFL’s online application. Schools and community organizations may nominate no more than two candidates for recognition.
Applicants will be assessed on the following criteria:
Service to families and communities with high literacy and socioeconomic needs.
Service through a family literacy program, Title I school, preschool, library, or other literacy-minded community group.
A record of high performance, plus a novel idea to expand their program to better engage parents in their children’s education.
A runner-up will be given a scholarship to the NCFL conference, as well as a $2,500 grant for his or her family literacy program. NCFL has teamed with Toyota to promote literacy in the United States since 1991.
Big Universe promotes family literacy through its engaging online educational community and has done so since the platform launched in 2006. The website engages and motivates students while meeting the diverse needs of educators, parents, and even adult ESL readers. Big Universe also supports the new Common Core State Standards Initiative by aligning with College and Career Readiness anchor standards in reading, writing, language, speaking, and listening.
As caregivers of children, we want to give them the best start possible. We feed them, we clothe them, we teach them how to be responsible citizens, and we facilitate their education. Study after study tells us that the key to their success — not only as students but as successful professionals — is learning how to read.
Reading is something we learn to do, just as we learn how to throw a ball, play the piano, or jump rope. With each thing our kids learn, we help them practice so that they can get better. Reading is no different. Parents and educators are coaches and mentors who work one-on-one to help our children become confident, successful readers.
But what happens when your reading interests are different from your kids’?
Should you be worried if all they want to read is comic books?
What if the kid next door, the same age as your child, is reading big fat chapter books and your child is still reading picture books?
And last but not least, who do you go to for answers?
credit: Elizabeth Dulemba
In March 2009 I launched a literacy blog tour called Share a Story-Shape a Future. 2013 marks the fifth year that an ensemble group of teachers, parents, librarians, and reading specialists come together to share their expertise and love of all things literacy. It is a week filled with practical and supportive ideas for helping parents helping kids learn to read.
Homeschool Mom Melissa offers a personal story about two daughters who are two very different readers. One devours every book, the other is “stalled out” and wants to keep reading “easy” books. Melissa helps parents understand their child’s reading rut and offers a way to get them out of it.
Last but not least, Mom and educator Caroline Lennox helps all of us parents with kids who are fixated on ONE THING! She shares a story about how she got her daughter to expand her interests beyond “those princess books.” Check out “Princess Books? Give Me a Break!“
So why all these links? Because none of us is teaching our kids to read in a vacuum.
Ours isn’t the first (or last) child to be in a reading rut or balk at having to read longer books; and we aren’t the first or last parent to tire of reading the same book over and over, reading things we don’t like, or even having to read at all.
Information is power, too much information is paralyzing! Share a Story is designed to help with reading in ways that are engaging, helpful, and most importantly, realistic.
By sharing the thoughts and ideas of a group of moms and professionals who have been there or are in the same spot we are, we are empowered to do more…for ourselves AND our little bookworms.
Just before the Thanksgiving break, the principal at my daughter’s elementary school sent a note to parents saying they were “already seeing” the pre-holiday increase in the students’ energy.
It was a kind but specific plea asking us to create / maintain an environment where the kids could still learn … get them a good night’s rest, breakfast, keep a routine, and give them opportunities to burn their energy in other ways.
It is that last point that is both the easiest and the hardest. Easy, because there are plenty of things to do. In OT they call it heavy work: getting the kids to use their big muscles to recenter that energy. It is why daily recess is so important.
Hardest because with so much preparation and activity, the routine can’t help but be disrupted. And since the activities lead up to something important to the kids, well, it just adds to the excitement.
So how DO you make it all work?
I have been thinking about this topic a lot lately. Not just in helping my fifth grader retain her focus, but also in my role as Executive Director of the Reading Tub. Our goal at The Tub is to “bring reading home for families,” and I am always looking for / thinking about / sharing ideas that integrate literacy and learning into daily life. These are a few of my recent suggestions that will also work in a classroom.
age group: 9 and Up
Whether you supervise little ones or let the teens take charge, let the kids spend the afternoon with a video camera (or just a camera) and make a holiday flick or slideshow. Here are some starter ideas for themes
Newsreel with major events from around the world, school, or home
autobiography of their three favorite things about the year
biography with the things they like most about a sibling, friend, or relative
an original skit / movie
music video of their favorite song / holiday song
letters to / lists for Santa
This would be a fun project for small group projects or siblings to do together, too.
Go Top Chef!
age group: 3 to 8
Well, not exactly … but it does involve cookie cutters. There are no limits to what you can create with cookie cutters. Iin addition to sorting by shape, size, and color, they make great props for pretend play and art projects, too.
The kids can trace them on card stock, cut out the shape, and use pieces of tissue paper to make them like stained glass windows.
Cut out the various shapes to make a collage or puzzle.
Go American Idol!
age group: 3 and Up
Kids love to sing – and its a great way to get those lungs working and their brains cranking.
Combine this idea with the recording idea above.
Let them pick their favorite tune and rewrite the lyrics to fit a theme you select. The 12 Days of Christmas by Straight No Chaser is a fun example of this idea.
This is an updated version a post I wrote for PBS Kids Booklights in August 2010. The theme THEN was to give parents help in getting their kids back on that literacy train before school started. The same ideas will work well for winter at school, too, on those days the kids can’t go outdoors for recess … or if parents want learning game ideas for holiday gifts.
‘Tis the holiday season when, despite the first days of winter, our days seem sunny and bright … or at least seasonal. But what about January? February? When we get into the unpredictable, too-cold / wet / icy -to-go-outside-for-recess days, the kids need something to do.
Every classroom has a rainy-day-recess game shelf for just those days. As educators, we like to find games that sneak in some learning. For preschoolers and Kindergartners we consider more than just the fun factor, we look at
The amount of time it takes to play (think: attention span).
How well it disguises learning. For some kids, Scrabble Junior is a blast; for others (like my daughter) it takes too long and looks too much like her spelling list.
How it introduces (rather than memorization).
Last but not least: is there a winner, loser, or race to the finish.
Picture puzzles are great for that, because they help kids create a complete image from just pieces of it, they don’t require any letter or spelling knowledge, and they can be done independently or with help. Here are a few other ideas.
There is no spelling or letter recognition required, but it does make kids think: Does a blue head go with a red tail? Do snakes really have two heads? Where is my snake’s tummy?
Like Wig Out! (below) this game lasts about 15 minutes.
Melissa & Doug See & Spell It is hard to beat Melissa and Doug products for durability and educational value. Kids can create words by placing the letter on the word board, but they can also use the letters independently to create new words, too. For example, slide “bug” off the board, swap out the “b” for an “r” and they have rug … or any other silly words they’d like to create.
This game has no time limits.
Wig Out! Here’s a matching game that will have everyone rolling with laughter, making it perfect for mixed age players. You get a series of bald heads and your job is to play all your hairstyle cards faster than anyone else. Of all the games in the list, this is probably the most marginal for this audience. Not because of content, but because of its speed.
Each game takes 10 to 15 minutes, which is good for kid with short attention spans, but it also is played quickly.
ThinkFun Zingo We had a blast with this game when my daughter was in Kindergarten.
It is a combination of picture and word Bingo, and you can make it as easy or as complex as you want. We would also use the little plastic cards to play matching games (think Jeopardy!).
Depending on how you play the game, each round lasts 10 to 15 minutes.
These games – and others – are perfect for the teacher looking to update their rainy-day game shelf, a mom trying to find a great gift for your child’s teachers, or a dad looking for something new for Family Game Night.
Do you have some favorite learning games and / or puzzles? Add them to the comments … someone might be looking for just that idea!
This is an updated version of a post I wrote for the PBS Parents blog Booklights as part of my “Bookworm Basics” series. The original article appeared in June 2010. Although geared toward parents, teachers and librarians may find these posts valuable for their classroom or as hand-outs to share with parents.
Books are great to share every day, but it is also nice to keep a few books in reserve for those times when you need to jump-start some interest in literacy activities and can’t get to the library or bookstore.
This is a stash of books – and it doesn’t need to be many – for your Rainy Day bookshelf. These are the perfect response to “I’m bored!” The key is that they aren’t available every day … just those “special” days when the kids can’t rip and run.
Joke books and riddles keep the kids talking to each other and laughing for hours.
* These books are essentially anthologies.
* They have lots of content, there is no required order of reading, they are (usually) good for mixed-age audiences.
* Everyone will find at least one thing that tickles their funny bone and/or stumps them.
Activity books are titles that engage the reader to use the book. Although workbooks fall into this category, I’d recommend keeping the fun in the books on your rainy day shelf.
* Coloring books and learn-to-draw books are always fun, as are books of word games (crossword puzzles, word hunts, and word scrambles).
* These types of books can often be found in a dollar store.
A kid-friendly craft or project book can offer hours of activity, too.
* A quick check at Amazon.com returned nearly 800 craft/project books for kids – 756 of them for kids ages 4 to 12!
* So if you want to find fun in a subject that interests them … there is probably a book for that!
Some need more unique supplies, so you may want to read carefully through the book to make sure you will have what you need on that rainy day.
Last but not least, books with blank pages (bound or spiral) are also good to have on hand. You may even think about adding a special set of crayons or pens to keep with it.
Kids can turn the “empty book” into art or story portfolios, reporter’s notebooks, lists of their favorite (or least favorite) things, journals … anything their imagination dreams up.
Do you have any favorite books you like to save for rainy days?
Note: Book cover images link to the Reading Tub affiliate account with Amazon.com. Purchases made through these links can earn income for that Literacy nonprofit. There is no obligation to use those links or to purchase the product.
Ready or not the Thanksgiving holiday is just four days away!
What I love about the holiday is that despite the hustle and bustle, I can still find that ”quiet place” to think about all of the things I’m thankful for.
What am I most thankful for? Well, the gift of literacy ranks right up there with my family and my health!
There were a lot of people who encouraged me to read, try my hand at writing, and of course, made me stand in front of a class and give a speech!
That I can read means I owe a debt of thanks to those who helped me. There isn’t just one person, it is a community effort at home, at school, and yes at work. Not all of us turn out to be bookworms, but all of us use those skills every day, probably without even thinking about it. Here are some examples …