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Book Review: Trees by Lemniscates

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Ages 2-5

Written and Illustrated by Lemniscates. Candlewick Studio: Somerville, 2015

What the Book is About

Mixed media illustrations all about trees. How they change, where they grow, how they communicate and who benefits from having them around. A great way to encourage young children to explore the world.

About this post

Below I have highlighted different ways to incorporate pre-literacy skills to engage the listener and build reading skills. You won’t use each skill in every reading, but with each reading, pick a few different skills to highlight and use those suggestions.

Print Awareness and Print Motivation

When you read the book point out the title. Have the listener trace the letters with his finger. Ask what he thinks the book is about. What else does he see on the front cover? Point out the different tree shapes and sizes and have the child show you the tallest or most round tree.

Open the book and use your finger to underline the title and author. Remind the listener that the author writes the words and the illustrator draws the pictures. Sometimes, like this book the author and the illustrator are the same person.

This encourages Print Awareness and Print Motivation which orients the child to the parts of the book as well as leads the child to think about reading before it happens, deepening reading comprehension.

Narrative Skills

Build a dialog with the book. In the opening pages, ask the child what season it looks like outside your own windows. Are there leaves on the trees? Do you see the grass? What is the temperature, hot or cold?

As you read the story, stop and talk about the illustrations. For example, in the story text, the roots are referred to as feet. Talk about how this is a metaphor because roots are like the feet of the tree. Another page says the trees talk to each other and this is called communication. Ask how she believes trees communicate? What do you think trees talk about? If you were a tree, where would you live? By the river, in the wilderness or in the city?

Letter Knowledge

Using the title page, what letters do you see? Are any of them in your name?

Phonological Awareness

This isn’t a rhyming book, but there are ways to incorporate this important skill as a follow up to a reading. Come up with a rhyming tree. Ask the listener, what rhymes with tree? Draw a picture of a tree and for each rhyming word make a branch on the tree. The leaves can be silly words that rhyme but aren’t real words.

There are a lot of great finger plays, poems, songs and rhymes available online.

Apple Tree from letsplaykidsmusic.com

Apple tree, apple tree,

Will your apple fall on me?

I won’t cry, I won’t shout,

If your apple knocks me out!

You can also make up your own rhyme to a familiar song like this one sung to the tune The Wheels on the Bus:

The branches on the tree go up and down

up and down, up and down

The branches on the tree go up and down

In the breeze.

The leaves on the tree swing to and fro

To and fro, To and fro

The leaves on the tree swing to and fro

In the breeze.

The birds in the tree flap their wings

Flap their wings, Flap their wings

The birds in the tree flap their wings

In the breeze.

Take it Further

Go on a tree scavenger hunt. Look for different trees in your neighborhood or at a local park. Collect leaves, take notes on how the bark feels, how the branches grow, does the tree have fruit, etc. When home, make rubbings of the leaves with crayons and make a leaf book. Write the name of the tree and its characteristics.

The book’s illustrations are in mixed media, which means a variety of art techniques are used to make the pictures. Make your own mixed media pictures experimenting with texture, paint, paper, crayons, colored pencils and more to draw your own wilderness scene.

Don’t forget to post pictures in the comments below to share your child’s creativity!

Happy Reading!

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Building Reading Comprehension

Functional illiteracy is a large problem in the United States

(Information retrieved from K12 Readers on July 29, 2017 from http://www.k12reader.com/the-importance-of-reading-comprehension/ )
  • Over 60% of inmates in the U.S prison system have reading skills at or below the fourth grade level.
  • 85% of U.S juveniles in prison are functionally illiterate.
  • 43% set of adults with extremely low reading skills live at or below the poverty line.

Someone who is functionally illiterate is unable to read at a level that they need to manage daily life. This could involve reading employment applications or banking forms or housing agreements.

One of the most critical pre-literacy skills is Narrative which helps strengthen reading comprehension to build strong readers.

 

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Reading Comprehension is an important part of early literacy. It involves not only understanding the story that is being read, but processing and understanding the meaning of the story, predicting what will happen and relating it to the child’s life or other stories he or she has read.

It is a skill that doesn’t come naturally and needs to be nurtured as readers grow. Our youngest readers start by connecting the pictures on the page with the words that they hear. In the beginning books have short simple sentences with clear illustrations. As a reader ages selecting stories with strong sequencing, (Like Gingerbread Man or If you give a Mouse a Cookie) help build the narrative skills essential for reading comprehension. Asking questions about the story help children begin to understand the flow of books and create a deeper connection with the story that goes beyond recalling the events on the page.

By the time a child is an independent reader we want them to go beyond decoding the words they read to a rich understanding of the story as a whole.

Check out these articles for further information on Reading Comprehension and why it matters:

Reading Rockets: What Research Tells us about Reading, Comprehension and Comprehension Instruction

K12 Reader: The Importance of Reading Comprehension

Improve Reading Comprehension

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A Storytime Primer for Parents

When I worked as a children’s librarian, my favorite part of the week was planning storytimes for a local Head Start school. I would sit on the floor of the children’s area and sift through the shelves looking for a theme and fun books to complement it.

But I didn’t stop there, because the theme was only to get the kids interested in the books, the real learning was happening through the choices I made about the books I read.

So how does a librarian plan a story time?

It starts with a theme. Themes can be about a topic like moving or first day of school or beach days. It could be colors or shapes. I once had a teacher ask me to do a storytime on positional words like Over, Under, Above, Below. That was a challenging storytime to prepare.

Once I have chosen a theme, I start to assemble books. Story times and attention spans of preschool children usually last about 30 minutes. Three or four books, with songs and rhymes in-between will fill the time quickly. So with so few minutes, how did I make the most of the stories I read?

Focus on the Six Pre-Literacy Skills

With all the choices of books out there and so little time, after I settled on a theme, I chose what of the six skills I would highlight that week.6prereadingskills

This part is for the kids, but they will never know it. These six skills are the building blocks for future reading success. When I introduce the book, I will say a line about the skill highlighted in the book and a quick sentence about why it is important. That is for the teachers and the parents and the caregivers. The kids only need to know they are in for a great book.

After the theme and books are chosen, I then choose the order I read the books in.

When reading to kids, order matters

With active bodies and imaginations, storytimes need to be kept short. I always start the storytime with the longest book. If you try to read the Little Engine Who Could at the end of a story session you will have chaos on your hands. So start with the longest book first and end with the shortest.

After the order is chosen, find songs and rhymes to go along with them.

This is a great way to get the kids wiggles out

Kids are made to move. Sitting and listening to story after story is hard. So make the most of your time and take short breaks to get those little bodies moving. Fingerplays are a great way to involve the kids in the story time and get their attention back. (Fingerplays are poems/songs like where is thumbkin) Playing music and having them follow your dance is also a great way to get them back in a listening mood. Sing a song, repeat nursery rhymes, whatever you can dream up for a quick break between books will be appreciated by the young listeners.

Those are the building blocks of a story time, so let’s see the theory in practice.

Preschool Story Time Sampler

 

The theme as you can tell is messes! These books I chose because of the unique vocabulary, the strong narratives, rhyming words, and the fun pictures that build print motivation. The last book, I ain’t gonna paint no more is a show stopper because it can be sung to It Ain’t gonna rain no more.  All of the books encourage interaction with the kids and fun conversations. Songs that could be used with this storytime are Laurie Bernker’s Victor Vito, The Itsy Bitsy Spider, and the nursery rhyme humpty dumpty. I always began and ended my storytimes with the same opening rhyme and the same ending rhyme. It gives the kids a sense of order and completion to their time at the library.

Now, I am not suggesting that parents create a show-stopping storytime for their loved ones each night, but it may help you break through a reading rut with your child or find a new way to explore stories together.

VOCABULARY

 

 

PRINT MOTIVATION

 

NARRATIVE SKILLS

 

 

 

PHONOLOGICAL AWARENESS

 

 

 

(I am an amazon affiliate member, if you click on a picture it takes you to Amazon, where if you make a purchase I get a small percentage of the proceeds. I am not paid to review any particular books and the opinions are all mine.)

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May’s Baby Reading List

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It is never to early to start reading to your child

Baby’s first books are often vocabulary books, nursery rhymes and songs. Babies are sponges for language at this age and it becomes a cornerstone of future reading success. Look for books that have simple pictures, contrasting colors, and real pictures of faces and animals. Touch and feel books or any book with texture is a perfect pick for babies.

One or two words per page and simple songs will keep your child engaged and interactive which not only builds language but develops a lifelong reading habit. Allow the child to hold the books and explore. Yes, the book will often end up in their mouth because that is how babies explore!

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Look for books that:

  • Have real faces, animals, objects. Babies react more to real faces at this stage of development.
  • Textured books. Babies explore with their senses. Find books that are not only heavy cardboard, but cloth and other textured materials.
  • Simple one or two word sentences with simple pictures. These types of books help build vocabulary which future readers need a large base for school reading success!

I have put together a PDF of suggested board books that will engage your baby. Print it out and take it along with you to the library or bookstore. In addition, many libraries have parent packs with puppets and age appropriate toys to help dive deeper into reading. Also look for baby storytimes and play and learn centers for parent/child focused time.

Baby Take Me to the Library Reading List

 

Happy Reading!!

 

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Websites for Parents to help build literacy

Best Literacy

These are five websites I turn to for up-to-date literacy news and book lists. Follow many of these on social media or visit the links by clicking below.

Growing Book by Book Started by an early childhood teacher and literary specialist, Growing Book by Book is a great website that has reading tips and read aloud ideas for infants to early readers. Here you will find activities to use with your child and book ideas to keep your reading routine fun and interesting. Growing Book by Book also has an active Facebook page that shares relevant reading articles and blog posts from other sites and great reading lists.

 

The Literacy Nest An educator and mom who is also trained to help kids with dyslexia.  Although the website is geared towards older children, I find she shares great resources on literacy and how to engage struggling or reluctant readers. All children learn to read at their own rate and in their own way and this site is a great resource for all parents.

 

Reading Rockets An organization for parents, teachers, and other dedicated literacy staff. Book lists, activities, articles and more on helping families and teachers build a culture of readers.

 

Raising Readers Is a website about a program for Maine families but the resources on the site about reading and the importance of early literacy can be used by anyone. While you won’t be able to receive any of the books, there are great book lists and articles to peruse to help build your future reader.

 

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library Dolly Parton is committed to providing access to books for children and families across the country. From birth to age five a child will receive a book a month in participating communities. If there isn’t a program in your community you can start one! Imagine receiving a free book every month for your child. They will have 60 books by the time they reach age 5.

 

What websites do you turn to for your reading and literacy questions?

Happy Reading!!

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Celebrate Great Children’s Literature during Children’s Book Week

CBW-champion-FINALA librarian for the Boy Scouts for America toured the US in order to raise awareness and support for better quality children’s books. He wanted to create a “Good Book Week” to celebrate children’s literature and he enlisted the help of Publisher’s Weekly, the American Library Association and the American Booksellers Association to join the Boy Scouts in promoting this event.

In 1944, the Children’s Book Council took over the event and it is still held today, 98 years after the first event. (see Every Child a Reader for more on the history of the event)

High quality children’s books are critical in building the success of future readers. What can you do as parents or caregivers to build a love of reading for the children you care for.

  1. Make reading a regular routine. Just like brushing teeth, reading should be a part of your child’s every day. It only takes twenty minutes to build a love of reading and the necessary pre-literacy skills that will aid your child during his school years.
  2. Find books your children love. Read blogs, check out the new shelf of your library, go to the bookstore and ask friends. There are a lot of places to find new and enriching books.
  3. Put books within your child’s reach. No high bookshelves! Have baskets in multiple rooms of the house with easy access to books. Keep a bag handy in the car with books and always keep a book or two with you while you wait for appointments. Make finding a book as easy as finding her favorite toy.
  4. Go to a bookstore or library storytime as a family. Show your child the importance of reading by attending a community storytime. Here you will learn about new books and learn new songs to sing together.
  5. To raise a reader be  a reader. Let your child catch you reading throughout the day. Our kids tend to copy our habits. Look how early they imitate our smartphone habits! So, pick up a book and get reading, and know that your love of reading will grow your child’s love of it too!

Don’t forget to look at the events page at your local library, bookstore and school to see the exciting events taking place in your community for Children’s Book Week.

For further information about this week and ways to celebrate

  • Get started on your summer reading with this Summer 2017 list by Publisher’s Weekly.
  • Find out more about Children’s Book Week here.
  • Search for your local events here.
  • Find downloadable books and activities from a CBW sponsor here.

You can also vote in the Children and Teen’s Book Choice awards by clicking here.

Tell us in the comments how you are celebrating with your child this week!

HAPPY READING!

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What Makes a Reader?

On my Facebook feed yesterday, there was a link to an article on a new study published by the journal Developmental Psychology. The study found that children who find reading success use something called “inventive spelling” as she writes. Find a link to the full article here.

WHAT IS INVENTIVE SPELLING?

Inventive spelling is how a child writes the words he hears. Children use the sounds they here to create the words on the page. I often see this in my own children’s writing work when they create stories. School will often be written as skul or skl. As the child matures, according to the study, the consonant and vowel sounds develop.

In the Children’s House in the Montessori classroom, this type of invented spelling is encouraged through the work, the moveable alphabet. The children use wooden letters and place them on a large mat, lined like a piece of paper. Children start by placing the letters on the mat, writing single words. Then stories. After the letters are placed on the mat, they will copy what they see onto a piece of paper and illustrate the story. Reinforcing hand strength, reading comprehension and phonological awareness.

The large takeaway from this study is memorizing sight words does not lead to reading success. The exploration of reading and words by the child and child directed, however does.

How to encourage “invented spelling”

  1. Have a lot of writing material available. No matter where you are, it is easy to carry a small notebook and pencil with you. In the car, waiting in line at the grocery store, or waiting for your child’s turn at the doctor’s office, have a notebook and pencil at the ready. Have her write down what she sees or a story about what will happen.
  2. Chalkboards work too. Chalkboards are great for many reasons. But I like the versatility of them. Children can use chalk, or even their fingers to form letters and words in the dust.
  3. Foam letters. Even if your child hasn’t mastered writing, he can use foam letters to form words and stories.
  4. Don’t worry about correcting or editing the words. At this stage your child is learning how words are put together and they sounds he hears. All of this leads to developing the skills he needs to become a future reader. Spelling comes later!

Take a look at the article. There are a lot of great tips on how to further encourage and build your child’s love for reading!

 

 

Book Review: THE QUEEN’S HANDBAG by Steve Antony

The Queen’s Handbag. Steve Antony. Scholastic Press, New York, 2015.

 

 

 

What this book is about

A sneaky swan makes off with the queen’s handbag and she chases the bird throughout familiar British landmarks. Will the Queen ever get her bag back?

What I like about this book

 

VOCABULARY

The pictures are simple pencil drawings but have a lot of action that drives the story on the page. Outside of the text, a child will learn a lot of new vocabulary words from the pictures alone. Carriage, Bobbies, Convertible, Parachute and so much more. In addition, young listeners will learn about important British landmarks and geography through the text on the page. In addition, there is a glossary in the back with each of the landmarks and a brief description of what they are. The synonyms the author uses to mix up the word chase will also lead the listener to learning new words. This book is rich with vocabulary proving even simple stories provide rich ground for learning.

NARRATIVE SKILLS

Another benefit of this story is the strong narrative. The story starts with the Queen losing her handbag and each page builds a sequence of events that leads to her catching the swan and getting her bag back. With each repeated reading the child will begin to guess what the next page holds, adding fun to the story while she learns. Strong sequencing helps build the important Narrative Skills young learners need to become future readers.

PHONOLOGICAL AWARENESS

The way the author plays with words will also help build phonological awareness. He uses alliteration throughout the book to help children hear and break apart the smaller sounds in the words. The strong cadence of the story also reinforces the word sounds. Children also build Phonological Awareness through literary devices like alliteration.

This fun, short story is sure to provide lots of laughs along with a lot of learning.

How to use this book

This story provides not only a fun story but a unique way to experience the culture in a different country. Look for these other books at the library that explore British culture, history and geography. Find a few and read them. Talk about the different places the stories explore. Find a printable map of England here, and put each place you and your child read about on the map.

In the illustrations of the book some of the crowd is waving the Union Jack and the book is all illustrated in the colors of the flag. Checkout one of these books at the library on flags and compare the US Flag to that of England’s. Ask what is the same and what is different about the flags. Find the flag for your state and see how it compares to the US Flag. These types of questions and activities get your child thinking critically about the stories she reads and how they relate to other information she has heard or read.

There are a lot of words in the book your child may not be familiar with.Repetition is the best way for children to learn new words. Print off the pdf below and cut the words into cards. Have your child act out each of the words on the card to help him cement the meaning of the word. Have fun and decorate the cards with the action as well. Make it a charades game as your child becomes more familiar with the words.

Drove (Click on the link to print and download the card PDF)

Make a passport of your child by taking his picture gluing it to a book made out of folded over paper. For each country book you read, stamp the book, just like you would if you traveled into a new country. See how many different countries you can travel with your child this summer!

What to read next

Even young readers can participate with board books! Try out this fun series called Tiny Travelers.

 

What is your favorite picture book about traveling?

 

Happy Reading!!

Book Review: Stanley’s Store by Williambee

Stanley's storeStanley’s Store by Williambee, Peachtree: Atlanta, 2017.

Stanley owns a store and customers come to find what is on their grocery list. This is part of a series of books about Stanley and his friends.

What I like about this book

Stanley’s store is a bright and cheerful vocabulary book that will familiarize kids with products they might find at a grocery store. They will identify with Little Woo who loves to shop and grab all the sweets within his reach. Not only are many of the items found in the store labeled, the author also makes sure to include colors and shapes and textures as well.

The different characters and what they buy at the store also provides a structure to the story that will help build narrative skills. This book provides a lot of opportunities to ask questions. Here are a few to get you started:

  • Who bought the cheese? And what problem did it cause?
  • How would you solve Myrtle’s problem when she buys all of her cheese?
  • Who are you in the story? Little Woo? Hattie? Myrtle? Stanley?
  • What would you buy at the store?

How to use this book

After reading this book take a trip to the grocery store. See if you can find a small independent store that you haven’t been to. If available, find an Asian or Indian or other diverse ethnic grocery store to explore. Inside, locate the different departments and name what you and your child see. Talk about the shapes and the colors and the textures of the packages and foods.

Create a story about Stanley and what your child thinks Stanley will do after work. Write down the story your child tells and have her illustrate the pages.

 

What to read next:

William Bee is a prolific writer of children’s books. Here are just a few examples of his other books. (I am an Amazon Affiliate. I am not paid for my review, but if you click on the pictures, you will be directed to Amazon, where if you make a purchase, I do receive a small percentage.)

 

Do you have a favorite Stanley or William Bee book? Comment in the post below.

Happy Reading!!

Book Review: Wake Up! By Helen Frost and Rick Lieder

Wake UpWake Up! Poem by Helen Frost and photographs by Rick Lieder. Published by Candlewick Press: Somerville, MA, 2017.

A poem about new life in the world all around us. Illustrated with beautiful photographs that invite the reader, not only explore the pages of the book, but the world right outside the front door.

WHAT I LIKE ABOUT THIS BOOK

This book needs to be discussed. It is rare to find books that so naturally include conversation starters within the text. Conversations aren’t just a way to connect people together, they are also important building blocks of future reading success. Talking in a positive way, not only provides a safe space and fond memories, but it strengthens vocabulary and builds reading comprehension. The natural flow of conversation will connect what the child sees on the page to the text and even the world around her. It provides the perfect opportunity to enrich dialogue between you and your child.

This natural conversation will also strengthen vocabulary. The language the poet uses is unique and fresh and in addition there is a pictorial glossary at the end of the book to provide more information about the animals and insects explored in the pages of the book.

The photographs are simple, yet detailed at the same time. The close up shots provide a different vantage point for children to look at the natural world. Preschool children are very concrete thinkers, so this is a perfect book to help him gain a better understanding of how the world works and his place in it. And most important, the mystery and awe and wonder of the natural world.

HOW TO USE THIS BOOK

This story begs to be read outside at a picnic in a park. It invites the reader and listener to explore the outside world find their own new beginnings. After reading the book, go on a scavenger hunt to see if you can find any of the animals photographed. Use your phone or camera and take your own close up shots and then when you get home, print them out with labels and create your own Wake Up! book.

Allow conversation to flow

Ask questions your child like where she thinks the different animals may be and why? Where does she think they go at night and what does she think they eat. Allow space for her to ask her own questions as you walk. It is okay if you don’t have all the answers! That is what makes nature so interesting and awe-inspiring. And tell her you can visit the library to find out more information on what she finds most interesting and perplexing.

Don’t forget to get up close

The book encourages looking at nature from a different perspective, so tell your child it’s okay to get down on the ground and look at things up close! Stones and dirt, mulch and sticks. Plants and flowers. Take the time to lay on your backs and look at the sky. Watch the clouds roll by and discover hidden shapes and even label the different types of clouds you see.

WHAT TO READ NEXT

The poet and author have collaborated on several similar picture books. (Note, I am an Amazon Affiliate. If you click on a picture it will take you to Amazon, where if you make a purchase I receive a small percentage of the sale. The opinions in the review are mine and I have not been paid for this review)

 

What books would about the natural world would you add to the WHAT TO READ NEXT list?

Happy Reading!!

May Toddler Reading List

 

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Board Books are perfect for toddlers. With heavy pages, the children can flip through the book independently. The text is simple, rhyming and full of new vocabulary words. The pictures are engaging and the books are the perfect size to take with you anywhere you go.

Look for books that:

  • Have fun rhymes
  • Phrases easy to repeat
  • Real faces and animals
  • Shapes and Numbers
  • Feelings

Below is a PDF of board books toddlers love. Print it out and take it with you to the library or bookstore!

Toddler Take Me to the Library Reading List

May’s Preschool Reading List

No substitute for booksHeading to the library and don’t know what to look for?

Below is a printable PDF that you can take to the library with you. These books are books that my own children devoured or were huge hits at the library storytimes. Also included are music cd’s and magazines that will build literacy while having fun together. Each book listed will have the pre-literacy skills that are strongest in the book. Take this list with you to discover new books together.

This week’s list is for preschoolers. Next week look for board books and picture books for toddlers and the last week of May will be board books for babies.

Enjoy the list and feel free to share with the other parents you know.

Preschool take me to the library reading list

 

Happy Reading!!