A book to show our children how to be a bridge instead of a wall.
Blue Sky White Stars by Sarvinder Naberhaus. Dial Books for Young Readers: New York, 2017.
(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.)
What the Book is About
Beautiful prose and gorgeous illustrations weave together America’s story, its monuments and its flag. A land that is as diverse as the people who live here is highlighted in this book.
Print Awareness and Letter Knowledge
Start with the title page. Say the title and trace as you read it. Have the child count with you the number of words in the title?
Why do we trace the words on the page? It connects our youngest readers, not only with the letter shapes, but how we read a book. Left to right and down a page.
Look at the front cover. Ask if the people look the same. Point out glasses, hair color, clothes, skin color, etc.
Ask the child what she thinks all the people are watching. Then flip through the pages of the book and ask questions about the pictures. Have the child guess what the book is about.
This can be used as a participation book. Read the first several pages or even one time through. Encourage the child to say with you the phrase, Blue Sky White Stars. Kids love to be a part of the story and participating helps them learn even more.
Although homonyms and homophones might be too advanced to discover on their own, point out the letter differences and then say each word. The repetition will help your child hear each individual sound. Even if they don’t understand the concept of homonyms, these experiences with concepts as a young child will build a solid base for learning later in life.
Sing Yankee Doodle along with this video:
Or This little light of mine
or You’re a Grand Old Flag
Narrative Skills or Building Reading Comprehension
Ask questions about the book:
- What picture do you like best? Why? Is it the colors? Or the scene (what is happening on the page?)
- Have your child describe a picture and see if you can guess what it is. This encourages the child to look at the picture in details, deriving more context as well as trying out some new words.
- After a couple of read throughs, have the child “tell” the story from the pictures. You be the listener! Getting the right words isn’t important, but seeing whether the child comprehended what the essence of the story is.
For so little text, there are so many big words to use! The rich illustrations demonstrate how critical pictures are in early reading. It helps expand vocabulary as well as tell the story. As children age, they need pictures less and less. But these first years of listening, the power is often in the pictures.
Using the pictures make a list of words your child hasn’t heard often.
- Conestoga Wagon
- The West
- Wagon Train
After the Book
Find symbols of America using this picture book as a guide. One of the best parts of the book is how it celebrates the diversity of the american experience. Using newspapers and magazines, create a collage of our country. Label the pictures to reinforce letter awareness.
What did you try?
Tell us in the comments sections, what you tried. What worked and didn’t work? Any other ideas you used?
As Time Went By. Jose Sanabria. Translated by Audrey Hall. North South Books Inc. New York: 2016.
(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. )
What the Book is About
The changing life of a steamboat and the changing faces of who inhabits and uses the boat.
How to Use this Book
Below are suggestions broken down by literacy skill to help you engage your young listener. You will not use each activity or skill in one sitting, but choose one or two to focus on each reading.
It is always important to orient the child to the story and book before you begin a reading. This particular book’s cover illustration goes from front cover to back cover. Open up the book, so both front and back cover show. Start at the left of the picture and ask questions about what the child sees. Ask about the people, the colors, the different types of transportation shown before you even open the book.
Next, underline with your finger the title and author. Point out the author and illustrator and then mention that the author is from another country and this book was written in Spanish and translated into English.
Flip through the book and show how it is structured into part 1, Part 2 and Part 3. Simply describe that books are put together or assembled in different ways. This one has two stories that become one story.
Research shows that the more unique words a child hears in everyday conversation, the more prepared she is when it comes time to read. Face to face conversation is critical because not only are the children listening to the words, but they watch how the mouth moves when the words are formed. Tablets, TV and smartphones do not provide the same benefit. (see Talking with Young Children)
Try to find unique words that are in the story or words you might use while talking about the story. For example:
Pick a few words each day and find ways to incorporate them into conversation. With repetition these words will become a part of your child’s vocabulary. Some words are hard to find ways to use naturally! So find a game or activity that would allow you to use them. And don’t forget, that is why we read books! The more we read, the more kids hear, the bigger vocabularies they build.
Activities to use:
Categorize words. For example: From the list above, categorize words into nouns: People, places or things; Adjectives or describing words; Verbs or moving words. Write lists or make drawings in each of the categories. This will help the child connect with the words on a deeper level.
Find the words in the book: Abandoned, luxury and homeless. The illustrator uses different colors on pages that these words appear. Talk about happy and sad emotions (and remind them that emotions are feelings) Then look at the pictures and have the child say whether the people on that page feel happy or sad or a different emotion. This not only builds vocabulary but helps the child reinforce reading comprehension and narrative skills. You could even make paper faces and draw the face and label happy or sad and have the child hold up how the picture makes him or her feel.
Alliteration is a big word and concept that can be simplified for kids by pointing out the beginning sounds of words. For example:
Ship that sailed beside the sun.
Ship. Sailed. Sun.
See if you and your child can write your own alliterative phrases.
The sun shines severely.
The board barely broke.
Write out and underline the similar starting sounds. This also encourages letter awareness/knowledge along with phonological awareness which is hearing the smaller sounds that make up the whole word.
Sing Row Row Row your boat. Singing is a great way to build Phonological Awareness. Add in motions to make it a whole body experience.
Narrative Skills (Building Reading Comprehension)
Connect the book to other ideas the child might know. For example, discuss what a steamship is and then talk about other types of boats. If you search for images online you can print out the pictures of different types of boats and then create labels for each type. Play a matching game. This also builds letter awareness and vocabulary.
Ask questions about the story as you read. Not every page, but every few pages. It is also a good way to see if the child is understanding the story or if it is still a little too hard comprehension wise. At the end of the book, go back through and pick out main points of the story and discuss them. It may take a few readings before the child can tell you the story on his or her own.
Repeated phrases are a great way to engage listeners in the book. Reading should never be a passive event! A repeated phrase in the book is, as time went by. When you get to that line, make sure to follow with your finger and encourage your child to say it with you. After a few times he or she may say it with you with little prompting.
After the Story
Do your own As Time Went By story. Take a loved toy, or hand me down clothing or some other repurposed object and write its story. Use the story as a guide, but have your child dictate what you are to write. Have him illustrate and put it together like a book.
Take a field trip. Find a repurposed building in your city to visit. Talk about what it had been and how it is used now. Was it ever abandoned like in the story? It is a good way to not only practice vocabulary, but to connect the story with the real world, a stepping stone to critical thinking.
Write in the comments section what skills and activities you tried. How did they work? What did you try different?
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.
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?
Using the title page, what letters do you see? Are any of them in your name?
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!
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.
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:
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.
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.
(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.)
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!
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.
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?
A 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
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”
- 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.
- 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.
- Foam letters. Even if your child hasn’t mastered writing, he can use foam letters to form words and stories.
- 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!
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.
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.
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
Have you and your family enjoyed graphic novels? Share what you’ve read in the comments.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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?
- They place a high value on reading.
- They focus in the preschool years on having children tell stories and hear stories.
- Most homes subscribe to a newspaper.
- They have one of the best library systems in the world.
How are Their Numbers Different?
- 77 % of the population buys at least one book a year.
- 75% of parents read aloud to kids every day.
- Writing is one of the most respected professions.
How Much Do They Read?
- 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.
- 1 in every 6 people between the ages of 15-79 buys at least 10 books a year
- Book gifts are huge and about half of books purchased as gifts are given to family.
- There is at least one library in every municipality, 300 central libraries, 500 branch libraries, mobile libraries and one library boat.
- 40% of citizens are active patrons visiting a library at least twice a month.
- Each book is read about 2.5 times a year and there are about 7 books for ever Finn in the libraries.
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!
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?
- Make them sit while you share a story. Kids bodies are meant to move and even if it doesn’t look like they are listening, they hear and are learning. Toddlers are more apt to run around, but keep reading.
- Keep books where they can’t reach them. One of Raganathan’s Five Rules of Library Science is books are for use. If kids can’t reach the books, they can’t use them! Have books on low shelves, baskets around the house, in the car and anywhere else they fit. And don’t worry if the books are destroyed. It doesn’t mean the kids aren’t ready for them, but that the books are well loved.
- Use books as punishment. Please, promise me right now, you will never use reading as a punishment. We want kids to associate reading with positive thoughts and memories, but if you use reading as a way to punish, they will hate reading.
- Read books like it is a punishment for you. We all have books that elicit a groan from our lips as soon as we see our child pick it off the shelf. It has no plot, it is longer than a George RR Martin book, or the stereotypes make you cringe. Still read the book like it is the most exciting piece of literature you ever read. Change the speed of your reading. Use lots of expressions and voices. Make it as fun to listen to as their favorite T.V. show.
- Tell them to read while you watch T.V. or scroll through your phone. Our kids copy what we do, so if we want to build readers we need to be readers. And this means a physical book. Our kids can’t tell if we are using an e-reader app on a phone or tablet. Pick up a book and read.
- Reward your kids for reading. I am not a huge fan of Summer Reading Clubs and I get that it is a controversial statement. The intent is wonderful, but reward based behavior usually backfires and makes kids relate reading to something they have to be forced to do. Make reading a routine and skip the rewards.
- Don’t leave time in the day to read together. Many kids, even at a preschool age, are overscheduled. We don’t want them to fall behind in sports, music or technology, but think nothing of putting off reading time for another day. Reading should be a non-negotiable. Not only will it encourage a love of reading, it gives you and your family uninterrupted time together.
- Choose all the books for them. Did you like your summer reading list from school? Take your family to the library or bookstore and let them pick books. Slip in a couple of classics they might not choose on their own, but let them drive the selection and they will be excited to read.
- Don’t give them a place to read. Make reading special. Make sure there is a special spot for reading. It doesn’t take much. A couple of pillows, a blanket and a basket of books. You can get creative if you have the time or desire. Tents, blanket forts are all great places to snuggle up and read.
- Focus on the results not act itself. Don’t make story time together learning time. It will happen all on its own through the book choices and the discussions you have as you share the time together. The more books kids hear from the earliest age, the better they will do in school. It will happen. Don’t force it.
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 do you believe helps create kids who love to read? Share ideas in the comments.
Find a new family favorite this Christmas!
One of my favorite picture book authors is Karma Wilson. Her books are rhythmic, full of unique words and fun to read. This is a book you will read over and over again.
I am hosting an Amazon Giveaway of one copy of this book for Christmas. Enter for a chance to win. No purchase necessary. The winner will be chosen randomly after December 23, 2017 at 11:59. Tweet the giveaway for your entry.
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.
Thank you so much for being a part of the Building Future Readers family! Wishing you a safe and happy holiday!
What is your favorite Christmas story? Share in comments.
There are always so many good books out there to review! And so many that form a solid base for your child’s future reading. This Christmas don’t forget to gift books!
Visit my Pinterest page below and the Building Future Readers blog to get a great list of suggestions from the past year’s reviews.
What books will you add to your shopping list this season?
Tilly and Tank by Jay Fleck celebrates friendship in the most unlikely pairs. This book is available on January 9, 2018 but can be preordered on Amazon.
(I am an Amazon Affiliate. I am not paid to review books, but if you click on links and make a purchase from Amazon I receive a portion of the sale.)
What I Like About This Book
A strong vocabulary is a precursor to reading. Parents who choose books with unique words (words that you don’t use in everyday conversation) help strengthen this skill so when the child begins to independently read she has a huge background of words to pull from. Tilly and Tank uses 23 words that you most likely don’t use when you talk with your child. Words like curious, detected, barrel, turret, puzzled and so much more. We call these million dollar words. Use them throughout the day to help reinforce the new word. It can take 10-15 times of word use for the new word to stick. Pick a few new words after the reading and find various ways to enrich your child’s vocabulary.
The simple, bright illustrations are easy to follow and highlight print awareness (knowing the parts of books and how to follow along the pages.) The text moves around with the pictures, so get your finger ready and follow the word trail. Not only does it highlight the print, it will also help your child connect the sounds they hear with the words on the page.
Simple narratives help pre-literate children learn to exercise their storytelling muscles. The simpler the story at a young age, the easier it is for the child to recall and retell after a few readings. Not only that, but as a parent guide your child with questions about the story that aren’t in the text. Ask what you think Tilly might be feeling when she sees the stranger from far away? Why do you think Tank responded the way he did (Good way to use a new word and help reading comprehension) In addition there are a lot of different emotions at work in the story and highlighting them and then talking about times your child might have felt the same way not only builds narrative skills, but helps the child better connect to the story and produce a positive reading experience.
Tilly and Tank isn’t just a refreshing story about friendship, it also hits many early literacy skills which will build strong future readers!
How To Use This Book
Make cards with some of the new words your child learned. Have a conversation with your child where you intentionally use the words and as you say them, put the card in front of your child to connect the sounds with the words.
Have your child retell the story and write it down in one line sentences and draw a picture to go along with the sentence. Cut the pictures and sentences from each other and practice reordering the story using the words and pictures.
Play a matching game! Take pictures of your child making different emotion faces. Happy, Sad, Angry, Excited etc. Print them out in duplicate and play a matching game.
Other Books to Read
Tilly and Tank not only explores relationships, but how to handle new situations or times when we feel uncertain about the people we meet. These books are great to follow up to the themes of Tilly and Tank.
What books do you read to help your child understand emotions? Post in comments to share suggestions.
Yesterday I reviewed the book Can I Touch Your Hair: Poems of Race, Mistakes, and Friendship by Irene Latham and Charles Waters
Reminder, I am an Amazon Affiliate. I do not get paid to review or recommend books, but if you make a purchase by clicking on a link I receive a percentage of the sale.
I had the privilege of interviewing the authors about their book, their friendship and their lives and am excited to share the interview today!
What would surprise our readers about you?
Irene and Charles: Most people are surprised when they find out that we met – for the first time – in November 2017 at AASL in Phoenix, AZ. We were online acquaintances when we started writing this book (in January 2015), and we completed the project through email, mostly, with the occasional text and phone call. Our real-life friendship really mirrors the friendship as portrayed in the book. We’ve also discovered we have quite a few quirky things in common, including but not limited to: we both worked at Disney World; we were both named for a great-grandparent; and we each grew up in big families as one of five siblings.
Our real-life friendship really mirrors the friendship as portrayed in the book.
How did the book come about?
Irene: The book exists because of our editor Carol Hinz. We had both been reading CITIZEN by Claudia Rankine, a book of poems for adults that deals with systemic racism. Carol wanted to bring this to a younger audience, to be a change agent, and she suggested one way to do that was a conversation, through poems, between a white poet and a black poet. I instantly thought of Charles.
Charles: Irene reached out to me with a possible collaboration on a book at a time in my life when I needed, and had been working toward for years, an opportunity to break into the book business with a book of my own and not specifically having poems of mine in children’s poetry anthologies, which at the time had been my sole publications. It was opportunity meeting preparation because I was ready to go!
In your book, two students are brought together for a school project and they are unsure about working together, not only because they are very different personalities, but because of the differences in their race. Did you find yourselves confronting any misperceptions or biases you didn’t realize you had?
Irene and Charles: One example that comes to mind involves the poem “Summer Reading” about THE BLACK STALLION by Walter Farley. This actually was a childhood favorite of Irene’s, and in an earlier draft of the poem the horse was referred to as “The Black,” just like in the book. Charles suggested that was possibly offensive, so we changed the poem. Later, after the book was final, our editor mentioned being disturbed by the fact that in THE BLACK STALLION there is a character described only as a “dark-skinned man.” This is the kind of subtle racism that changes our brains and takes conscious effort to re-shape. We are comforted by the fact that this kind of language/characterization would never pass muster in today’s publishing world! We are all learning.
We are all learning.
What is the most powerful lesson you learned from writing this book? What was the easiest part of writing the book? The hardest part?
Irene and Charles: We learned that no matter what your age, it takes courage, trust, and vulnerability to talk about race — and it is from that place where true friendship can grow. The easiest part was that once we got going, the poems came fast. We had a working draft of the manuscript within 3 weeks! The hardest part was cutting poems we cared about. A favorite poem that got cut was Willie Babe, about Irene’s (white) niece’s love for her black baby doll, which, as Charles says, is a poem that dealt with, to quote the poem Walking Away by Cecil Day-Lewis, “How selfhood begins with a walking away, And love is proved in the letting go.”
How did your childhood experiences contribute to the narratives of each of the characters?
Irene and Charles: A fair number of the poems are if not true, then the spirit of them are true. For example, Charles had a teacher named Mrs. Vandenberg who pushed him to be his best self both in and out of the classroom. She was his high school teacher though, not his 5th grade one. Just like in the book, Irene was a quiet book and horse-loving kid, in part, due to moving 9 times and attending 11 different schools by the time she was 14. She really did want — and get — and Afro.
How do you hope parents, as well as teachers will use your book? What is one step parents and teachers can take right now to start a conversation about race?
Irene and Charles: Listen! Without interrupting. And bring into the home books and toys that show other cultures. Note — and celebrate! — differences. Allow children to be curious and ask questions — we are all learners! The quickest way to shut down a conversation, and to teach kids race isn’t to be talked about, is to scold.
Listen! Without interrupting.
I find poetry to be a perfect fit for every pre-literacy skill, but is often books parents shy away from the most. What books of poetry for young kids do you suggest to get families reading more poetry?
Irene and Charles: We love anthologies as a way to introduce readers to a bunch of styles and voices. Recent favorites include ONE MINUTE TILL BEDTIME, edited by Kenn Nesbitt; THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC BOOK OF ANIMAL POETRY, edited by J. Patrick Lewis; FIREFLY JULY, edited by Paul Janeczko, THE POETRY FRIDAY ANTHOLOGY FOR CELEBRATIONS, edited by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong; and SCHOOL PEOPLE (coming in February 2018), edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins. Some of these anthologies include our own poems.
Why do you think poetry intimidates people? Why do you think poetry draws us together?
Irene and Charles: Because poetry wasn’t properly taught in schools to many former students-now-teachers, it becomes an intimidating factor when passed down to their own students. Also, because poetry takes risks and isn’t always straightforward, it requires us to THINK and often, FEEL. That can be scary! But it you give it a minute, if you approach it with an open mind, poetry is SO accessible. It goes across many curriculums and can gets to the heart of the matter in the fewest words. It makes the ordinary extraordinary, it gives value to life.
Because poetry takes risks and isn’t always straightforward, it requires us to THINK and often, FEEL.
What do you believe is the biggest misbeliefs people have of poetry?
Irene and Charles: I think many see poetry as superfluous — either unrelate-able and too-hard, or trite. Of course there are poems that fall into these categories. But poetry is an ocean! There’s a fish for every kind of reader! And hello, we NEED fish to survive. Our ecosystem depends on it and so we need beauty and the close attention of poetry — the way poetry can give us an experience in so few words and such a short amount of time. Poetry doesn’t have to be studied to a fare-thee-well in order to be understood. What a bunch of nonsense! Read poems out loud, enjoy them, move on.
Read poems out loud, enjoy them, move on.
Building Future readers hopes to build a lifelong habit of reading together. Do you read together as a family? What are your favorite books to share and why?
Irene: My husband Paul and I have three sons, now grown, and reading as a family was something we really enjoyed. Mostly we let the kids direct our reading, based on their interests — trucks, WWII, survival stories. A couple of titles that stand out as beloved by all: FEED by M.T. Anderson and HATCHET by Gary Paulsen. More recent titles I’d recommend: BROWN GIRL DREAMING by Jacqueline Woodson, ONE CRAZY SUMMER by Rita Williams-Garcia, and ESCAPE FROM ALEPPO by N.H. Senzai.
Charles: While I don’t have any children, I do have gaggles of nieces and nephews and have made sure they have many books, signed by the author no less, a bunch of them also generously given to them by Irene as well, that are stored on a special shelf at their grandparent’s house and ready to be read at any time. Personally I can remember reading A KICK IN THE HEAD edited by Paul B. Janeczko and being knocked sideways at the different poetic forms each poet conquered, I also remember being impressed for years to come at the book BRONX MASQUERADE by Nikki Grimes and the anthologies SHARING THE SEASONS and AMERICA AT WAR both edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins. A recent favorite of mine is the novel-in-verse INSIDE OUT AND BACK AGAIN by Thanhha Lai.
What is your memory of being read to as a child? Did you have a favorite book you listened to?
Irene: I was born to a super-reader father (he read at least a book a day his entire life!) and a schoolteacher mother, so yes, books, thankfully, have always been a part of my life. My early favorites were Shel Silverstein and Dr. Seuss. One of my treasures is a video of my nearly 70 year old father reading “Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout Would Not Take the Garbage Out” the same way he once read it to wee me while I sat on his knee.
Charles: Growing up I read THE BERENSTAIN BEARS series and Dr. Suess, as I got older it was the sports pages of the PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER. The three books that got me hooked on reading while becoming a teenager and young adult was OUT OF CONTROL: Confessions of an NFL Casualty by Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson and Peter Knobler, SHORT CUTS: Selected Stories by Raymond Carver and ORDINARY PEOPLE by Judith Guest.
Sadly, I didn’t get into poetry until I was 29 years old. It started with reading Jack Prelutsky before going into work by Marilyn Nelson, Nikki Grimes, Lee Bennett Hopkins, Paul B. Janeczko, Valerie Worth and many, many more. It’s my mission to make sure it doesn’t take another human so long to get into this life changing form. Poetry is as accessible as blue skies, sunshine, rain, apple pie and checkered tablecloths. Trust it, it will never let you down.
Poetry is as accessible as blue skies, sunshine, rain, apple pie and checkered tablecloths. Trust it, it will never let you down.
Thank you, Jessica, so much for having us!
Thank you so much to Charles and Irene for their time and thoughtful answers! I don’t know about you, but I have a lot of online shopping to do now 🙂
I will be giving away a copy of the book Can I Touch Your Hair when it is released in January. To win, comment below with your favorite poem from childhood.