Must Read Fall Books

Summer may technically be around for a few more weeks, but every year when the calendar hits August, I slip into fall mode. The days are shorter, the cicadas hum their loud tune and school buses fill the streets. Seasons, for me, have never been about the meteorological changes but the rhythm of life. Spring is new life, awakenings, possibilities. Summer is all about relaxation, warmth, resting and reading in the sun. Winter is blazing fires, cozy sweaters, hot chocolate and togetherness.

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Fall has always been about new beginnings. I haven’t been in a classroom myself for well over 20 years, but Fall always makes me yearn for new notebooks, fresh pencils, and fun lunchboxes. Enthusiasm for whatever work I do is at an all time high. I am excited and full of energy.

Since I started my job as a literacy specialist last year, fall brings with it new pre-k classrooms and new students to introduce to a love of reading.

My first unit this calendar year is all about autumn. These happen to be some of my favorite books because they are colorful and full of unique words and routines familiar to most children. As I was preparing for the upcoming story times I had a chance to look at some of the new books out there about fall.

What to read next

FOUR FALL MUST READS

I am an Amazon Affiliate. I am not paid for my reviews or to endorse any particular book. However, if you click on a picture it takes you to Amazon, where if you make a purchase I receive a portion of the sale.

 

This book caught my eye, not only for the illustrations, but the diversity of children and town portrayed. It is important for all kids to see themselves in the pages of the books they read and this book is a great way to explore the themes of fall while building story interest with familiar images.

 

 

Henkes will be a familiar name for most readers. He has written some of my own children’s favorite stories. His illustrations are always simple and attractive and his beautiful use of language will help learns discover new words to use.

 

 

 

 

 

This book came out a few years ago, but when I saw it while browsing the shelves of the library, I was immediately drawn to the illustrations. Again, the children who are on the pages of the book are diverse. The language is fresh and unique. Her use of yellow unifies the pictures of the book and make it art as well as literature.

 

 

 

 

 

Published last year, Full of Fall is a book I love to share with kids. Real photographs capture the children’s attention. At the preschool level kids are more about concrete ideas than abstract. When a picture book uses photographs instead of illustrations, we often spend more time talking about the pages. Photos have a depth, that no matter the illustration, inspires our young learners. The text also makes use of alliteration which not only makes the book a more interesting read a loud, but it helps kids hear the different sounds that make up the words they will learn to read.

 

I hope you are as excited about fall as I am. Take time out of your day to crunch through the leaves, take a hike through the colorful forests, go apple picking, and find a farm that provides hay rides and other fall activities. Research shows that along with reading, singing and playing are just more important in our children’s development than the scheduled activities we sign them up for.

While the rest of the country submerges itself in pumpkin spice lattes, Halloween decor and football start a new fall routine and include great autumn books.

If you are looking for more books about fall please contact me at jes@jeszsmith.com !

Happy Reading

Book Review: Edmond The Thing By Astrid Desbordes

Be Different….But do I have to?

I am not sure at what age the change happens, but it does. Kids, who never noticed differences before, start to see different skin tones, hair textures, heights, weights and more. Where there once wasn’t fear, now there is. The unknown is scary.

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Not just for children, but for adults as well.

I remember when my daughter received a new-to-her shirt. It said Be Different. I loved it. She hated it. She said, “Mom, I don’t want to be different.”

And although I didn’t want it to be true, I understood all to well the fear of not fitting in.

(I am an Amazon Affiliate, if you click on an image or hyperlink, it takes you to Amazon, where if you make a purchase I receive a portion of the sale.)

 

Buy on Amazon!

Edmond the Thing. Astrid Desbordes. Illustrated by Marc Boutavant. Enchanted Lion Books: New York, 2017.

Edmond the Thing by Astrid Desbordes tackles the difficult subject of how we hide from people and things that are unfamiliar. Edmond and his friend George go out for a walk collecting items for a disguise when they come across…. some THING.

They don’t know what it is. It doesn’t speak their language, it doesn’t look like them and they are afraid. They assume because they don’t know what the THING is, it is dangerous. They want to exclude it from their safe, known forest. George, however, wants to learn more about this THING, so he disguises himself and discovers what it feels like when everyone, including his best friend are afraid of him.

Teach Our Children to Be the Bridge

“Carefully, he took down the sign and laid it across the river to make a bridge.”

This is my favorite line from the book. It is never to early to begin discussing with our kids that instead of keeping people out we work to find ways to “bridge” our differences and understand each other. Being different, doesn’t mean dangerous and when we are inclusive our world grows a lot bigger.

When we are inclusive our world grows a lot bigger.

This story is geared towards an older preschooler. It has a more sophisticated narrative and moral lessons are hard for young children to understand. Although, the illustrations share the context of the story well, so if you have a child who can listen to longer stories, the pictures will help them follow along with the story much more closely.

Including books from authors of different countries helps broaden our perspectives and will enrich the reading lives of our children, building not only future readers, but caring and compassionate leaders.

This is an important story to share with children, especially in a world that has grown noisy from adults fearful of change and the unknown or unfamiliar. Including books from authors of different countries helps broaden our perspectives and will enrich the reading lives of our children, building not only future readers, but caring and compassionate leaders.

Create a Better World

After reading the book, talk about a time your child was fearful of someone who was different. We all experience that horrifying parenting moment where our child points out someone who is overweight, or a different skin color or has some outward difference in appearance from us. Instead of allowing our embarrassment to overwhelm us, use the opportunity to discuss how new ideas are scary at first, but when it comes down to it we are all people living on the same planet with similar problems, hopes and dreams.

Yes, it is a heady concept for young ages, but the more we say it, the better world we create.

 

What to read next

Books to raise an activist for love

Find these titles at your local bookstore or Amazon.

 

What books have you used to explain how to embrace differences?

Happy Reading

Book Review: Baby Goes to Market by Atinuke

How Can I Read It If I Can’t Pronounce It?

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As a parent and librarian, there were many books that had words or names that I simply couldn’t figure out how to pronounce. I didn’t let that stop me, though, I would pick a way to say the word and say it with confidence. That is all that matters to our children, really. We all mispronounce words, especially when you learn a new word through reading. So, don’t shy away from books because you are afraid to look foolish! Your child will never know.

Although, those Star Wars books my kids love, can’t there be a page of a normal name like Jim, Kim or Bob?

We want to encourage exploration not hide from it because we are worried about our own ignorance.

Parents often shy away from books from other cultures. The names and places and items are unfamiliar, but it is a great opportunity to practice sounding out words in front of our kids, and it is a good starting point for conversation about all the different societies and customs and languages in our world. We want to encourage exploration not hide from it because we are worried about our own ignorance.

(I am an Amazon Affiliate. If you click on the link it takes you to Amazon, where if you make a purchase I receive a portion of the sale)

 

Buy on Amazon!

Baby Goes to Market by Atinuke. Illustrated by Angela Brooksbank. Candlewick Press: Somerville, 2017.

In Baby Goes to Market, author Atinuke writes a story that any parent taking a child to a store can relate to. How many times have you gone to the store and ended up at checkout with more items than you remember putting in? You think to yourself, “Did I really get that big bag of marshmallows. Especially with a tear in it. Then you look at your child with a smudge of white puff across her lips and realize you need to pay more attention to what goes into the cart than what is on your list.

Children in early preschool love to hear books about everyday life and routines.

market pictureWhat sets this book apart from others is that the daily routine takes place in South West Nigeria. So the market is open air with multiple sellers and foods different from our own. Not only will your child be familiar with the normal family outing, but she will learn new words and culture in the process.

Literacy isn’t just about words. This book introduces math literacy in a non-obtrusive way. The baby takes away one banana and puts the rest in. Your child may not be ready to think about subtraction, but reading about numbers builds the stepping stones to early math concepts.

Not only will your child learn a lot in the book, but he will have a lot of fun listening. He can see what the mother doesn’t. Make sure you stop and ask what you think the mother will say when she discovers what baby has done. You may also need to point out why it is funny the mom thinks the baby is starving. Remind him that the baby snacked the whole shopping trip!

Reading multicultural books builds more empathetic children and adults.

It is becoming easier to find multicultural books that everyone can relate to. This is not only important in helping our kids learn, but it will make them more empathetic students, citizens and friends.

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Try this recipe

In the book, the baby is given four chin chin from the biscuit seller. Chin Chin is a popular snack in Nigeria and can be made crunchy or soft. Try this recipe with your child from 9jaFoodie

 

 

What to read next

Find these other great books at your local bookstore or online at Amazon following the links.

What books do you suggest to help your child understand the similarities between families of all cultures?

Happy Reading

Book Review: Hooray for Books! By Brian Won

child reading

How Many Times Can I Read the Same Book?

Your child has a favorite book. The book that every time she calls out it’s time for stories, she runs to the bookshelf and grabs a book. Not just any book. The same book you read this morning and before bed last night and after lunch yesterday and the book you’ve read every single day that week.

You are sick of it, but she won’t ever be. Well, at least until she finds the next BOOK. In my house each of the kids had a different favorite. For my son it was Dark Night by Dorothee De Monfried. For my oldest daughter it was Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen. And for my youngest it was Richard Scarry’s Busy, Busy Town (aka, the longest book ever without a strong plot) These were comfort books. Nap books. Bedtime books. Anytime books. No matter how many times we read them together they still wanted that old blanket of a book.

As a parent, we get tired of reading the same old, same old. We want to yank all those other books off the shelf and say, “But what about this one. This is a GREAT book because I haven’t read it a million times.”

But if your children are anything like mine, that lower lip will stick out, arms cross and feet stamp on the floor. “No, this one.”

So you read it again and again and again and again, because to your child, that book is magic.

Before you hide that favorite book, remember, rereading matters.

Take comfort though, there is a reason our kids turn to the same books over and over and over again. They are learning a new word and the more they hear it the sooner they learn it. Or a concept that they are struggling with. Or they just like how the book sounds read out loud. All of these reasons build strong future readers. Before you hide that favorite book, remember, rereading matters.

(I am an Amazon Affiliate, which means if you click on an image or link, it takes you to Amazon, where if you make a purchase I receive a portion of the sale)

Click here to buy on Amazon

Hooray for Books! By Brian Won. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: New York, 2017.

In Hooray for Books! Brian Won captures the intensity of that first love our kids have for books. Turtle can’t find his favorite book and remembers he shared it with his friends. As he asks each friend if he or she has seen the book, they say no, but suggest a different book to read. Turtle simply must find it and an adventure ensues.

This book is a reminder for parents that favorite books matter and for kids it shows them that the old is comfortable and sometimes we can share that comfort with friends and they can share their favorite books with us. Discovery is always best when we are safe with our family and friends.

This book is a great read aloud because it invites the listener to participate along with the text. Naming the animals that follow Turtle on his quest to find the book as well as repeating the phrase, “Hooray for Books!” At the end of the book you can make a list of your child’s favorite books. Write down and help him remember those books he loves and talk about what he liked about them. This builds reading comprehension while providing a conversation starter for you and your child.

The simple vocabulary and basic pictures ensure that even young readers will enjoy the story. The text and pictures compliment each other and help the child derive meaning easier.

Hooray for Books! is a enjoyable read that will build your child’s literacy skills while she has fun. Who knows, it may even become the new BOOK in your house.

And for that, I apologize in advance. 🙂

What to read next

Look for these other books at your local bookstore or Amazon

What is your child’s favorite book and how many times a week do you read it?

 

Happy Reading

Book Review: Flashlight Night by Matt Forrest Esenwine

What is it about the dark that scares and intrigues children at the same time? How many times has your child come downstairs after you’ve tucked him in and said, “I’m afraid of the dark.” To be honest, aren’t we all still a little afraid? Shadows loom larger, sounds are louder, problems bigger.

Books that help kids explore their fear in a safe and encouraging way are great from preschool ages. They acknowledge the scariness of night but also open a world of possibilities.

(I am an Amazon Affiliate which means if you click on a picture or link and make a purchase from Amazon, I receive a portion of the sale.)

Flashlight Night is a perfect book to read around a firepit in the summer or before a walk in the winter night sky before bedtime. Esenwine creates a magical world of stories that starts with a flashlight, a boy and the night sky.

The rhyming text builds phonological awareness and the sophisticated vocabulary will help your child learn new words. Afterall, when was the last time you used the words mizzenmast or craggy?

Reading comprehension and narrative skills are highlighted through the detailed illustrations that accompany the words. There are many things to explore on the page that aren’t in the text. The pictures can lead to further conversation about pirates and pyramids and castles. Have your child tell their own story either using the book as a jumping off point or create their own using a flashlight and shadow puppets.

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Flashlight Night is a great example of how simple books can introduce complex ideas and topics while answering questions all children have about what happens in the dark.

More books to help with fear of dark

What other books have helped your child process fear of the dark? Share in comments.Happy Reading

Book Review: Belinda the Unbeatable by Lee Nordling and Scott Roberts

Graphic novels and comics often get a bad rap from teachers and parents. They are seen as not as legitimate as “real books.” But they have been a game changer in our family. My son is an avid reader, but not in the traditional sense. Give him Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Garfield or any graphic novel and he will read for hours. Graphic novels have deep narratives, help kids derive context from the pictures which builds reading comprehension, teach how to follow a story through the panels, and are just plain old fun.

Graphic Novels are becoming more prevalent for young ages which is a great thing. Reluctant readers will pick up a book that is more picture drive, boys and girls alike will find something they like with the diversity of what is published now. I was even excited to see that there was a wordless graphic novel which isn’t only perfect for school age kids, but a great way to introduce the genre to preschoolers. It will give them a way to “read books” on their own. And it will strengthen reading comprehension and narrative skills through the story they create where they can practice their growing vocabulary and understanding of the printed word.

I am an Amazon Affiliate. If you click on the images it takes you to Amazon, where if you make any purchases I receive a portion of the sale.

Belinda the Unbeatable is a great first graphic novel. It is about Belinda and her best friend Barbara. Belinda is outgoing and Barbara is shy. They join a musical chair game at the school and it becomes more than just the run-of-the-mill game. Will they work together to stay in the game?

This is a book you have to see for yourself. The pages will take you and your child on a journey of imagination.

Graphic Novels for Kids

Common Sense Media has a great article with suggestions on why graphic novels for kids. Read it here.

I Love Libraries has suggestions by age/grade here.

Three Reasons Graphic Novels Can Be Great for Young Readers by Scholastic.

Other Graphic Novels to Enjoy

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Have you and your family enjoyed graphic novels? Share what you’ve read in the comments.

 

Happy Reading

Book Review: On a Magical Do-Nothing Day by Beatrice Alemagna

Smartphones, tablets, computers are a part of our lives and the lives of our families whether we embrace it or not. The American Academy of Pediatrics, developed guidelines to help parents make decisions about how and when to incorporate screen time into a child’s life. Under the age of 18 months, they do not recommend having screen time other than video chatting with family. Any age over that parents need to engage in a family media plan that will set boundaries on when, where and how media and screens will be consumed.

Although, technology is here to stay, it doesn’t mean we as parents have to give in to it. Our children still need time to play outside in mud puddles, be bored, and read.

(I am an Amazon Affiliate, the links to the pictures take you to Amazon, where if you make a purchase I receive a portion of the sale.)

On a Magical Do-Nothing Day, the author Beatrice Alemagna explores the complicated relationship parents, families and children have with screens. On a rainy day a mother and daughter go to a cabin in the woods while the father stays in the city. The mother works and the daughter mindlessly plays a videogame which irritates her mother. Who tells her, “Is this another day where you do nothing.” She takes the game and hides it, but the daughter finds it and goes outside. What she discovers is a world she couldn’t find in her video game.

smart phone and kids

Alemagna’s book reminds me of my youth spent exploring the woods and creek outside my front door. We weren’t allowed to watch TV during the day and at that age I wouldn’t want to. Boredom isn’t lethal, but sometimes as parents we act as it is. My kids are forever asking me to watch T.V. or play on the tablet or have “screen time” because they are bored. We set strict limits that works for our family but even with the limits it doesn’t stop the kids from asking to cure their boredom with so easy to digest media.

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The book doesn’t just provide rich discussion about how to combat boredom it also has rich, lyrical vocabulary filled with imagery using metaphors and similes. The book uses a lot of directional/positional language which is great for young preschoolers beginning to understand the concept of over, under, top, bottom and etc. But the book can also be used with older preschoolers/kindergarten aged children with its sophisticated vocabulary.

As you read this book with your child you will notice that the narrative skills are developed strongly throughout the text. It focuses on imagination, discovery of the natural world, parent relationships, and yes screen time. This will help foster a conversation between you and your child and even family about how to handle the balance between t.v., games and quiet times without those screens. After reading the story talk about how you find quiet time in your day without screens. And if that isn’t something you do, maybe as a family you can learn to incorporate media free times together.

Kid painting Santa on a paper plate

Our kids need space to explore the world independently in a safe and unstructured way. They need time that isn’t scheduled with activities. They need time to be bored so they can create, develop and grow. Play is one of the most important times in our child’s day. It is where the most learning takes place. On a Magical Do-Nothing Day will take the story of a boring, rainy, dreary day and encourage our children to go explore a fascinating and ever changing world.

After Reading the Book

Go outside. Even if the weather is terrible. Dress appropriately and go explore.

As you walk with your child, ask her what she notices? How is today different than other days? What is the same? And if it is age appropriate, go to the backyard or a park and allow them some free range time to look around and play on their own.

For Parents

A good picture book is one that not only makes kids think and learn, but parents as well. There is a lot in this book to make us think about how we spend our time. The work/family balance, our relationship with phones and screens, and how we include time for ourselves to explore, create and dream. Use this book as a starting point for discussion about how your family will handle screens. Each family is different, so do what works best for you. We have decided that screens are limited to weekends, but during the week we will watch movies or a T.V. show together. And during school breaks, the rules are relaxed. But if the kids have screen limits, it is only fair to see how grown ups should too.

Articles on Screen Time

Common Sense Media

Consumer Reports

What do we do all day

Becoming Minimalist

Books on Wonder, imagination and exploration

Do you have a favorite book about play, imagination or boredom? Share in the comments at the end of the post.

Happy Reading

Finland loves to Read and How We Can Be More Like Them

finland

Finland, Norway, Iceland, Denmark and Sweden have the highest literacy rates in the world. It is no surprise that book culture is celebrated in these countries and there is less focus on compulsory education and more focus on play, reading and family time.

Why Finland Ranks Number 1 for Literacy?

  1. They place a high value on reading.
  2. They focus in the preschool years on having children tell stories and hear stories.
  3. Most homes subscribe to a newspaper.
  4. They have one of the best library systems in the world.

Finnish quote

 

How are Their Numbers Different?

Finland, Where Reading is a Superpower

  1. 77 % of the population buys at least one book a year.
  2. 75% of parents read aloud to kids every day.
  3. Writing is one of the most respected professions.

How Much Do They Read?

Finland Reads

  1. There are 20 million books sold every year in the country which is an average of 4 books a person (including kids) in a country of 5.5 million people.
  2. 1 in every 6 people between the ages of 15-79 buys at least 10 books a year
  3. Book gifts are huge and about half of books purchased as gifts are given to family.
  4. There is at least one library in every municipality, 300 central libraries, 500 branch libraries, mobile libraries and one library boat.
  5. 40% of citizens are active patrons visiting a library at least twice a month.
  6. Each book is read about 2.5 times a year and there are about 7 books for ever Finn in the libraries.

christmas gift

What Can We Learn?

Creating a culture of readers starts at home. If mothers and fathers read and make it a priority, kids will read. If the US focused less on outcomes and more on creating storytellers and story hearers, our school success rate would improve. Making books a priority in schools, communities and as gifts, promote a culture of literacy and reading.

 

Don’t forget to enter the Building Future Readers Giveaway! Open until 12/23

We are hosting a holiday giveaway!

See this #AmazonGiveaway for a chance to win: Bear Stays Up for Christmas (The Bear Books).https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/335fa96c601876e4 NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Ends the earlier of Dec 23, 2017 11:59 PM PST, or when all prizes are claimed. See Official Rules http://amzn.to/GArules.

 

What is one step you will do today to create a culture of reading in your family? What can we do to promote reading in our communities? Comment below!

Happy Reading

Book Review: I Love You Like a Pig by Mac Barnett

Reading aloud together is one of the most important parts of the day for any family. Not only does it build a reading routine, but it sets aside a special time for you and your child. A time of no interruptions, no consequences, no to do lists. It is simply a time to be together.

I Love You Like a Pig by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Greg Pizzoli, is a perfect read for curling up and spending time together. It provides whimsical ways to say I love you. The text and pictures work well together and allows the child to fill in the blank by deriving context for the pictures. After a few read throughs with your child, pause and have them say the end of the sentence. This not only builds narrative skills and reading comprehension but kids love to participate in reading and this is the perfect way to engage them with the book.

Books with onomatopoeia are always crowd pleasers. As a bonus they help build phonological awareness and letter knowledge. There are words sprinkled throughout the pictures and it helps to point those out.

Along with emotional vocabulary, the book has a lot of rich words that will grow the words your child knows. Tuna, fossil, banker are just a few of the words in the text, but if you look at the pictures with your child you will be able to expand their word knowledge even more. What kind of hats are the tuna fish, monster and elephant wearing? Bowler Hats. The cake the boy brings pig is a tiered cake. It has three layers. Talk about the pictures before or after you read the story and point out objects like the record player your child probably hasn’t seen before.

You can also build vocabulary by going on a word/object scavenger hunt. Write out different words in the book: pig, happy, monster, lucky, window, smiling, tuna, funny, fossil, sweet, banker, crazy, raspberries, tree, rowboat, bread, milk. Cut the words into slips and go around the house finding objects that fit the word. Label the object with the correct word slip. Teach letter knowledge along with new words.

The sound play in the text not only makes it a delightful read, but helps build phonological awareness. “Funny like a fossil.” or “You’re crazy like raspberries.” Help your child hear the f or z sound. Take it further and find words that start with those sounds in the room you are reading in.

After reading the book come up with your own fun and silly “I love you like…” sentences. It reinforces the narrative of the story and encourages your child to think up his own story. Write down what he says and have him illustrate. Another way to reinforce the ideas of the book is to make a graph of what different people in your family like to eat. One of the sentences is, “I love you like bread and milk.” Ask family members how many like milk, water etc. Plot it on a graph and introduce math skills along with reading.

I Love You Like a Pig isn’t just a fun book about all the different ways we love each other, it is a strong literacy tool that children will enjoy while they learn. It is a perfect example of how critical author/illustrator teams are in producing fun, lively books that will have kids and families reading over and over again.

Just a few of books by Mac Barnett

 

Does your family have any funny sayings to tell each other how you care?

Happy Reading