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!
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.
Available for preorder
Ages 8 and up
(I received an ARC of this book for a fair review. I was not paid for the review. However, I am an Amazon Affliliate and if you click on the link and make a purchase I receive a portion of the sale.)
Conversations about race at any age is difficult. It is a topic often avoided with kids because of the worry they aren’t old enough to handle the intricate topic. “Can I Touch Your Hair” provides a starting point for deeper conversations in our schools, our families and with our friends. The authors handle cultural differences and new friendships with sensitivity.
The writing and illustrating teams gave each character and picture its own distinct voice and style through free style poetry. This is the first picture book I have read using this technique, and I enjoyed its fresh approach to the picture book genre.
The book stayed away from stereotypes of each culture, and highlighted the fact they exist. Its universal theme of fitting in makes the book a relatable for everyone. Each of the characters struggles to find his or her place in the community they live in and find friendship in the last place they expected to.
Although the concepts are sophisticated, parents and teachers shouldn’t shy away from the book. Use the book as a discussion starter about race and our similarities and cultural differences.
“Can I Touch Your Hair” shows no matter our perceptions we are all a part of the same community.
Try It At Home
Reading aloud should never stop. This book is a perfect read aloud book for older kids. Research shows that fluency improves when kids hear books being read aloud even if the child reads independently. The back and forth nature of Can I Touch Your Hair, makes it perfect for a read aloud. Your child can practice reading with emotion and pauses and learn from you as you read the same way.
Poetry aids self-expression and builds creative writing skills. Poetry isn’t only a great way to express emotions, it is a great way to build reading and writing skills. Free style poetry is a great way to introduce creative writing to kids because it doesn’t have the rules of other types. We often think of poetry as having to rhyme and this book is a perfect example of creativity at work. Write poems with your child about what is important in his or her life. Emotions she might have a hard time expressing or places where he feels insecure. Don’t stop there! Haiku’s are a great way to connect with nature and writing and are fun to produce. Poetry doesn’t have to be intimidating as the authors demonstrate.
Rekindle the art of letter writing. Feeling different or out of place happens to all of us and as kids age they have a harder time telling us what they are feeling and what is happening in his or her life. A friend of mine when my kids were young suggested sharing a diary that the child can write in and the parent can respond to. It gives kids a chance to let out the emotions they have a hard time discussing and gives us as parents time to think through our response. Added benefits are increasing narrative skills through the letter writing or diary format and handwriting practice.
Try these Books:
Tune in tomorrow when Building Future Readers interviews the authors Charles Waters and Irene Latham about the book!
What books do you read to begin a conversation about race and cultural differences and similarities?
The blog turns two in January. I have loved reviewing books and helping parents and children connect over reading. I hope this blog has encouraged your family to add a reading routine in your busy schedule.
In our family, books are always included in holiday gift-giving, birthdays and more. Finding quality and fun books can be a daunting task, so I’ve made it as easy as possible. I have created a section on my Building Future Readers Blog Board that will highlight the book reviews for each year.
Visit my pinterest page and follow to find the best books of the past two years on Building Future Readers.
First up is Picture Book Reviews from 2016
Did you have a favorite book from that year? Share in the comments below.
Roaring Books Press: New York, 2017
Good for any age but particularly Ages 18 months to 3.
What the Book is About
Every child can’t wait until their birthday and this book shares the excitement and joy of waiting for a day that never seems to arrive.
What I Like About the Book
The illustrations have the whimsy of childhood and use mixed media for a fresh approach. The illustrator, Christian Robinson is a Caldecott and Coretta Scott King Honor artist. You may have seen his other collaborations with Mac Bennett, Cynthia Rylant, Adam Rex, Kelly DiPuccio, Margaret Wise Brown and so many others. His illustrations engage the youngest readers through their simplicity and childlike whimsy. I adore the books he illustrates and so excited to see another great writing partnership in this book.
The book, while simple in text, carries a lot of vocabulary to enrich your child’s speech throughout the pages. The pictures will spark conversation and help your reader learn new words.
A lot of opportunities to practice counting appear throughout the book. Who doesn’t love to count candles! And food! And snowflakes. Build math literacy while having fun.
Books that have repeating phrases are great books to use to highlight print awareness. Anytime you get to the refrain, follow along with your finger and have your child say the phrase. While they are not yet reading the words, this connects the words on the page to the words they hear you reading. In addition the text appears in different ways and offers different ways to point out how books are read.
The text reminds me of a child’s excited wonder. All kids are excited about birthdays and the cadence of the story fits our kids natural speech patterns making this a perfect read.
The author obviously has experience with young children because it hit exactly how my kids talk about their birthdays as if they are always just around the corner. Birthdays are a great way to talk about how time passes and to look at calendars. Not only will it build math skills it also is a great way to beef up narrative descriptions and reading comprehension.
when’s my birthday, explores the excitement and wonder of childhood in an accessible and familiar way to our young readers. The illustrations by award winning Christian Robinson and the lyrical text of Julie Fogliano work together to create an engaging read that your child will come to over and over again.
Take It Further
The learning doesn’t have to end with the closing of the book. Try these activities at home to continue the learning and fun of the book.
Develop a home calendar!
The passage of time is difficult for our kids to understand. This post has a lot of great ideas to adapt for your home to help your child learn to become familiar with calendars. The one I like in particular is a list of the days of the week and then pictures for the different activities that will happen during the week. You could do this in a variety of ways: morning routine, bedtime routine, lunch/naptime. It will not only help your kids understand what will be happening during the day, but it will help them begin to connect to calendars. Don’t worry if they don’t seem to get the concept of today, yesterday and tomorrow, all you need to do is provide the access and as they age the understanding will develop.
Throw a birthday party for a favorite stuffed animal!
It may be months until your child’s birthday, so recreate the fun of a party for a favorite toy or animal. Gather art supplies and make banners and pictures to decorate the room, building scissors skills and strengthening writing skills. Bake cupcakes, cookies or a cake. The recipe is a good way to demonstrate print awareness by following along with your finger as you read the recipe and the measurements, not only show numbers, but exhibit measuring skills. Young kids love to pour, so give them an opportunity to help dump in the ingredients. Set a table and have fun!
Make lists! Of guests, of food for the party, of party games or more. Have your child dictate and write down what they say. This is a great brainstorming activity so there are no wrong answers. It is a way to introduce them to sequencing by adding numbers to each item listed. Also it connects the words they say to the written words. You can continue by creating your own invitations. If your child is older preschool, let them create the invitations. Spelling will be creative but it is a great way to encourage writing.
(I am an Amazon Affiliate. I am not paid to suggest or review books, but if you click on a link it takes you to facebook and if you make any purchases I receive a portion of the sale.)
Gerald and Piggie never disappoint! This book will provide a fun conversation starter with your child about how hard it is to wait.
Kids really have no concept of time. This will help them explore the feelings they have about excitement and waiting.
A different way to talk about daily routines through the sounds we hear.
What books do you enjoy with your child about birthdays, routines, or waiting? Share in comments.
The bus pulls in front of the house and the kids are home for the day. How can that be? I am still in my pajamas sipping coffee?
Oh, yeah. Pinterest happened.
I love Pinterest for a lot of reasons but it is an invaluable resource for parents and encouraging literacy skills. Skip the perfect party pictures and the snacks too beautiful to eat. There is a smorgasbord of easy to do, no frills activities for the average parent to create for their child. You don’t have to be Picasso or Van Gogh to recreate the pins.
Follow my Pinterest Board Literacy Activities Toddlers to find great ways to encourage gross motor skills, fine motor skills, letter awareness, phonological awareness, books, and more.
Some of my favorites use objects we have in our homes. No fancy tools needed and keeping it basic is the best way to go. None of this should feel overwhelming, so if it starts to feel that way pare it down! Learning should be fun for both you and your child.
The best teachers know where to look for information instead of recreating the wheel. Find what works for you and your family and enjoy!
Share in the comments section your favorite games and activities to share with your kids that help them learn while having fun.
The one part of library work I miss the most is getting my hands on brand new books. It takes a lot more effort to keep on top of upcoming releases. Publications for publishers help, Amazon and others, but it isn’t the same as getting my hands on the books and flipping through them.
That being said, there are several book releases in the next several months that I can’t wait to read. I hope the list inspires you for your upcoming holiday shopping for the little readers in your life.
(I am an Amazon Affiliate. If you click on the picture provided it takes you to Amazon, where if you make a purchase I receive a portion of the sale.)
Fairly sure Sandra Boyton never goes out of style. My kids ADORED her books throughout their baby and preschool years. This makes a perfect gift for the holidays or buy for a long Thanksgiving road trip to grandmother’s house. Available 11/17/2017.
As a librarian in an inner city neighborhood I always struggled to find books with diverse characters. I appreciate that more books are being published and hope the it continues. This is a book that all kids will relate to. Another great holiday gift idea! Available 11/21/2017.
There have been a lot of news articles and blog posts about teaching our kids grit. I love this series of books from Cloverleaf that teach life skills outside what was available when I was a kid like sharing, lying, kindness. A book that will help our youngest leaders build confidence and self esteem in a healthy way. Available 1/1/2018.
What books are you looking forward to reading this winter?
Crystal Swain-Bates. Illustrated by Megan Bair. Goldest Karat Publishing, LLC, 2013.
What this Book is About
A girl with big hair, different from everyone else’s, finds all the reasons why she loves her hair!
What I like About this Book
The text has a strong cadence and full of rhyme. Rhymes help build phonological awareness, which children need in order to build reading skills. Rhymes break apart the different sounds in the words, strengthening the ability to sound out words.
The vocabulary the author uses is strong and unique. She describes different hair styles with accompanying pictures. She chooses descriptive words like view, unique, chic, flair, fluffy, crowd and so many more. Vocabulary is essential in building future readers. The more words a child knows and hears, the larger the “database” she has to pull from when learning to read.
This is a great book to use to develop print awareness because the text is large and easy to follow. Print awareness helps kids learn how to follow along with the text. While you read, use your finger to follow the text. It will teach your young reader that we read books front to back, left to right. The illustrations follow the text of the story which builds strong reading comprehension.
Print Motivation and Narrative Skills
Kids always love to participate in a story. With the repetitive phrase: “I love my hair” it won’t take long for your reader to start repeating it with you. This develops narrative skills as well as print motivation. Both of these early literacy skills motivate kids to enjoy reading and understand what they read better.
Confidence and Self-Esteem
Books that focus on daily life and activities are always a crowd pleaser. The simple illustrations and following a girl through activities most kids are familiar with brings comfort and familiarity all the while teaching them new concepts and words. It still is hard to find books with protagonists of different cultures and backgrounds and I appreciate so much this is a confidence building and universal book that all children will relate to.
Take the Book Further
Build vocabulary while you have fun! Find new hairstyles on the internet or check out a book from the local library and play hair salon. Take turns being the client and beautician. Dig out aprons, hair curlers, brushes, bobby pins and more. Write out the names of the different tools and set the items on the paper.
Talk about what your child likes about herself. This book is all about being different and loving the differences. Start by telling him something you like about yourself. Write down his answer and the answers of the other people in your family and make a book. Another great way to increase vocabulary through conversation and narrative skills through descriptions.
Try Out These Other Confidence Boosting Books
What are your favorite books to read about self-esteem and confidence? Comment in the post to share book ideas!
Play Matters to reading success
We’ve talked a lot about reading in this blog and I was reminded at a work training this week that not only do we prepare our kids to become future readers, but we prepare them to become future writers as well.
I was under the misconception that writing was all about fine motor skills. I did a lot with my kids to strengthen their pincer grasp, but I didn’t know how important shoulder, back and forearm strength was for future handwriting success.
This workshop opened my eyes to a whole new level of early literacy success.
Some of the ideas I share below came from the workshop and others came from a great website called Your Therapy Source: Gross Motor Skills and Handwriting. I’ve put it in a graphic format so you can print it out and remind yourself to add play into your day to help your child develop the muscles he needs to become a strong handwriter.
This afternoon go find a park and try out some of the activities, not only will you and your child spend some quality time together, the play will actually build the arm and hand strength needed to be a successful student.
There are also great blog posts about how handwriting develops.
What other gross motor skills have you used to build shoulder, back, and arm muscles for writing?
( I am an amazon affiliate, if you click on the pictures or links it takes you to Amazon where if you make a purchase I receive a portion of the sale.)
What this book is about
One day on the playground Lucía is teased by the boys that she can’t be a superhero. It makes her mad and that night her Abuela tells her about the luchadora’s. A luchador is more than an acrobatic wrestler. A luchadora is brave and spunky and fights for what is right. Lucía wears the luchador costume the next day on the playground and soon all the kids show up in masks and costumes. She has fun until the boys tease again that girls cannot be superheros. She takes off her mask to reveal her true identity and show the boys that girls are superheros.
What I like about this book
It is hard to find picture books that feature diverse characters. This book not only features Mexican culture through the main character it is also a universal and empowering story for girls.
The pictures are vibrant and complement the text well and I love the influence from comic books and Mexican culture.
The vocabulary is rich in the book. Every page introduces unique words.
As you can see from the sample pages your child will learn the words masked, swift, slick, style, luchadora, agile.
Print Awareness/Letter Awareness
Print Awareness will be developed with each reading. As is typical in comic books, the onomatopoeias are set apart and larger than the rest of the text. This is a great way to use your finger to follow the sentences and also highlight the places where the words deviate from the typical sentence structure. Paragraphs are in different colors which also will help children differentiate the text.
This book provides many opportunities to stop and have the child trace the letters with her fingers and sound out words even if she aren’t reading on her own yet.
Onomatopoeias are also a great way to help kids learn different letter sounds. They are short words, often one syllable. As you read these words, follow along with your finger and then stop and have them repeat the sound.
The text, while doesn’t rhyme, has a strong cadence which gives it a beat like a rhyming book. The flow, not only makes it enjoyable to read out loud, strengthens your child’s expressive reading when they become independent readers.
Feeling different is a normal part of growing up and this book will provide a jumping off point to discuss this in your own family. Often times societal norms tell us girls act one way and boys act another. Talk about what you did as a child and some of your favorite memories that might help dispel the stereotypes.
There are many places in the book to stop and ask further questions about what is happening on the page that might not be told in the sentences. Ask your child about the pictures and what is also going on in the story.
Why you should pick this book up today
This book is a great read aloud that girls and boys will enjoy together. It features a strong Hispanic girl, provides rich vocabulary and strong text that makes this a book you will come back to again and again.
Other great picture books with strong female characters
When my kids were toddlers and preschoolers we literally spent hours a day reading. First thing in the morning, right after lunch, after naps, before dinner, and as a getting ready for bed routine. We were a read aloud family.
As the kids get older it is harder to keep up with the routine. First my oldest started reading independently and then soon after her brother followed and my youngest will still hand us books to read but as she becomes a more confident reader the read aloud routine is sporadic at best.
I know the research that shows reading aloud benefits all ages. Babies, toddlers, preschoolers, school age kids, tweens, teens and yes, even adults.
“The first reason to read aloud to older kids is to consider the fact that a child’s reading level doesn’t catch up to his listening level until about the eighth grade,” said Trelease, referring to a 1984 study performed by Dr. Thomas G. Sticht showing that kids can understand books that are too hard to decode themselves if they are read aloud. “You have to hear it before you can speak it, and you have to speak it before you can read it. Reading at this level happens through the ear.”
Jim Trelease, The Read-Aloud Handbook.
Retrieved on 10-11-17 from https://ww2.kqed.org/mindshift/2013/05/14/why-reading-aloud-to-older-children-is-valuable/
Read aloud tips for older kids:
- A level or two above their own reading level. This helps mature reading comprehension and vocabulary.
- Give them something to do with their hands while you read. Coloring books, Legos, knitting, drawing, it doesn’t matter what, as long as their hands stay busy their minds and ears stay open.
- Make it a family event. Turn off phones and the TV. Make it part of the bedtime routine or after dinner routine or even in the morning. Find a time that works for your family.
It does become challenging the older our kids get to find time to read together. Sports, homework and extracurricular activities overtake the evenings and weekends, but there isn’t a better gift you can give your children then reading together as a family.
Check out the Read Aloud Revival podcast for read aloud tips
Look for the read aloud classic and find book lists at Jim Trelease’s Website
Common Sense Media: 10 Amazing Books to Read Aloud to Big Kids
Common Sense Media: 10 Reasons You Should Read Aloud to Big Kids Too
What are your favorite chapter books to read with older children? Post in the comments section to share ideas.