Mini Book Reviews

Books, books and more books! I love receiving advanced reader copies of upcoming titles. Through NetGalley, I am able to request books that look interesting and if approved I receive an electronic copy for feedback and reviews. Not only do I get to see what is coming out, I get to let my readers know what books to look out for.

Introducing the Spring 2019 line-up. Stay tuned for more reviews.

I am an amazon affiliate, if you click on a picture it takes you to Amazon, where if you make a purchase I receive a portion of the sale.

Read the reviews and help out the authors by pre-ordering if you plan to make a purchase.

Spring 2019

Backpack Explorer Beach Walk. Edited by Storey Publishing. Published on April 16, 2019. I enjoyed the photographs and the child led exploration. This would be a great book to accompany a beach vacation to enrich the time. Or, if it is still cold outside, curl up next to the fire and read this book and dream of warmer days. There are stickers in this book, so best for older children.

Love you Head to Toe. Ashley Barron. Owlkids. Published on March 15, 2019. Lyrical text, simple and gorgeous illustrations, and actions that fit perfectly with the words. A great book for babies and toddlers. Parents of infants can use the rhyming text during diaper changes, on a walk, at the pool or any daily routine. For toddlers this is a great way to connect them to the greater world by acting out the different animals.


When You’re Scared. Andree Poulin. Illustrated by Veronique Joffre. Owlkids Books, Published March 15, 2019. A great book to help explore emotions. A boy and his mother go camping and he is afraid to jump into the water. At the same time, a bear cub is scared to go dive in the dumpster for food. The boy puts aside his fears to help out a friend in need. Beautiful illustrations and scarce text make for enriched narrative skills and vocabulary with each retelling.


Red Light, Green Lion. Candace Ryan. Kids Can Press. Published on May 07, 2019. The illustrations in this book are simple yet bold. They follow the text well and enhance the reading. The text is lyrical and rhythmic. There are pages that young listeners will understand and more abstract pages that might be confusing. The sentiments of the story are lovely and for the most impact I would share this with older preschoolers who are ready to tackle abstract thoughts.

Building Lifelong Readers

“Excuse me, will you help me find a book?”

When I worked as a children’s librarian, there was no greater joy than having a child come up and ask for help selecting a book. That was when I got to exercise my readers advisory skills and dive deeper into understanding what makes a book click for a reader.

More often than not, what I would hear was, “My teacher wants me to choose a book at this level.” Then I would pull out the binder that listed the school’s reading lists with point values and the child would brush my questions away only wanting to know which book in her level she could read for the most points and the fewest pages.

Not a scenario library dreams are made of.

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In the article Thinking Outside the Bin: Why labeling books by reading level disempowers young readers by Kiera Parrott, School Library Journal, August 1, 2017, Parrott discusses what the purpose of leveling books was for in schools and how that was not the intention for libraries.

The key is more choice, not less, Carter believes. “Let them take out a lot of books so that somewhere in that pile they find something that satisfies them,” she says. “But we have to keep that process going….When they come into the library the next time, talk about their choices: what worked; what didn’t. They have to learn their own processes for selecting books, and if we keep narrowing the choices by artificial constraints, we aren’t giving them that chance.

Betty Carter, professor emerita of children’s and young adult literature at Texas Woman’s University, noted in a July 2000 SLJ article

A libraries goal is to build lifelong readers and help each developing reader discover their reading identity. (Parrott, 44) The leveled reading often discourages readers or makes them feel inadequate and reading becomes another school chore instead of a gateway to a larger world.

The acronym Bookmatch, guides young readers to choose their own appropriate reading material. And this is a great place for librarians to help out.

  • Book length
  • Ordinary language
  • Knowledge prior to book
  • Manageable text
  • Appeal to genre
  • Topic appropriateness
  • Connection
  • High interest

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There are debates about leveling books in the education field, but at home and in the library our focus should be on building a love of reading and in order to meet that goal we have to follow the lead of our children.

What can parents do?

  • Go browse library shelves with your child. Have them pick up books that appeal to them, either through the cover or description.
  • Ask them why they picked up that particular book. Did it remind them of another book they read? Did it look funny? Questions help us better understand what connected our child to the book in the first place.
  • Do not judge. Okay, we are all probably guilty of this. We want them to experience our favorite books from our childhood. Who wouldn’t love The BFG or Bridge to Terabithia or The Phantom Tollbooth? They might be classics, but they also were written for a time very different from the world our children are growing up in. Bite your tongue when they look at the Boxcar Children, and say it looks old-timey. They aren’t reading for us, they are reading for themselves.
  • Librarians are in the library for a reason. If your child really isn’t able to find a book to his liking, do not be afraid to ask for help. The librarian will offer some suggestions based on the books the child has enjoyed in the past.

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Too often these days, reading and literacy have been reduced to achievement statistics. That may be fine for improving test scores, but it has a negative impact on a child’s enjoyment of reading. Yes, we need to provide opportunities to challenge our kids, and at the same time, if we focus on their needs, the achievement often happens on its own.

If you have a reluctant reader

  • Try audiobooks. One of the funniest books my family has listened to is Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians. This book demands to be listened to. The narrator is fantastic and the whole family will sit and listen together.
  • Graphic Novels are a must. Graphic novels are not hurting your child’s reading life. In fact, many kids begin with graphic novels and advance to chapter books. And if they don’t, no worries because graphic novels are still reading!
  • Magazines, Guiness Book of World Records, and more. Reading is reading is reading. Is anyone judging you for reading the latest Stephanie Plum? Well, if they are, you don’t need to hang around them 🙂 Like graphic novels, magazines and list books are easier for kids to digest because the text is broken up, there is more white space and instead of looking at all those tiny letters scrunched together on the page, there is breathing room in the text.

We all want the best for our kids

Deep reading will come if we build a trusting relationship between kids and books. That relationship starts young, when they are still babies and continues on, hopefully through the rest of their lives. If we take the focus off of results and academic achievement, I believe we would have way more readers. Our job as parents, caregivers, and child reading advocates is to guide our children into the wonderful world of reading and then set them free.

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Book Review: Poppy and Sam and the Leaf Thief by Cathon

I am an Amazon Affiliate, which means if you click on links or pictures it will direct you to Amazon, where if you make a purchase I receive a percentage of the sale. I am not paid to review books. I did receive access to the book from NetGalley.

Poppy and Sam and the Leaf Thief by Cathon. OwlKids books, Published 8/15/2018.

Talk

 Comics and graphic novels are the perfect stepping stone to build enthusiastic readers.

My kids love graphic novels. I gave up a long time ago asking them to read my favorite chapter books. The quality of comic books and graphic novels has really improved and more and more I find myself suggesting graphic novels to parents.

The problem is, there is a bias against these types of publications. While in the past, they were not always of the best quality, the market has certainly changed. For new or emerging readers the simple text and picture driven story provide a solid foundation for reading comprehension. If you have a hesitant reader, comics and graphic novels are the perfect stepping stone to build enthusiastic readers.

Meet Poppy and Sam

Poppy and Sam, through trial and error, discover the mystery of who has been eating Basil’s leaves. The comic/graphic novel illustrations keep the narrative clear showing children the sequence of events from beginning to end without a lot of extras to confuse the narrative. The language is rich and unique and repetitive in all the right places to help children learn new vocabulary. This book is not only great for independent readers who love comic books, but it serves as a great read aloud to preschoolers. The themes of friendship, community, manners along with the mystery element will keep readers engaged through the pages.

Million Dollar Words

  • culprit
  • interviewing
  • nibbled
  • lurking
  • aphids
  • shifty
  • tunnel
  • dense
  • earwig

How do you help your kids learn these new vocabulary words without making it boring?

Play Charades

Play charades! Grab a bag and write the words on slips of paper and toss them in the bag. Have your child chose a paper. Read the word to them, making sure to run your finger underneath as you read it to encourage print and letter awareness. Then, talk about what the word means and choose an action to represent it. Have your child repeat the motion/action and choose another. After you have gone through the words a few times together, see if they can perform the action on their own when you read the word.

Go on a word scavenger hunt

This one will be tricky and requires imagination but see if you can find books or objects that the child can experience each word out of context of the book. Dig through dirt and see if you can find any earwigs. Look for books on aphids and ladybugs. Give an impromptu science lesson by finding objects that are dense, versus objects that are hollow. There is no right or wrong!

Sing

Singing promotes literacy because it breaks down the sounds of words. The phonemes the children hear provide a solid basis for future reading. Play music in the car as you drive around town, put on music during the 4 o’clock witching hour and have your kids dance their energy out and during baths or getting ready for daycare or preschool, sing songs to keep everyone’s mood light and squeeze in more learning time for your child.

Fingerplays are another great way to get kids involved in the action. There are alot of great options on the internet or create your own using nursery rhymes your child already knows.

Play

Recently, I read a great article about how movement, especially crossing the midline, is essential to building reading comprehension. I know it sounds weird, but readers are built by playing!

How Crossing the Midline Activities Helped this Child Listen to His Teacher retrieved from Integrated Learning Strategies Learning Corner on 10/11/18.

So whenever you are listening to music, or find yourself waiting, have your child practice some of these moves to help integrate their whole body.

Cook with Basil

Make Spaghetti Sauce! Cooking or baking are great ways to practice reading, numbers, math and all sorts of goodness. Go to the store and by fresh basil and pretend earwig is nibbling on the plant. Tear up the leaves and prepare your favorite sauce recipe. Have your child taste the basil as you cook.

Mystery Bag

Fill a gift bag, grocery bag, or whatever you have lying around with different objects. Have your child pretend to be Poppy or Sam and solve the mystery of what’s in the bag. Have them close their eyes and feel the object and make a guess to what it is. You might need to show this a few times to them before giving them a turn. Any old household item will do, not only does it increase vocabulary, it gets their senses involved!

Read