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Book Review: Blue Sky White Stars by Sarvinder Naberhaus

Ages 2-5

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.

Print Motivation

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.

Phonological Awareness

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:

  1. What picture do you like best? Why? Is it the colors? Or the scene (what is happening on the page?)
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Vocabulary

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.

  1. Conestoga Wagon
  2. Pioneers
  3. The West
  4. Settlement
  5. Wagon Train
  6. Windmill
  7. Canyon
  8. Diverse
  9. Graduation
  10. Astronaut
  11. Proud
  12. Immigrant
  13. CitizenAmericanFlagStars and StripesAbraham LincolnCountry

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?

Happy Reading!

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Book Review: As Time Went By By Jose Sanabria

Ages 3-5

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.

Print Awareness

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.

Vocabulary

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:

  1. Translate
  2. Rebuilt
  3. Assembled
  4. Abandoned
  5. Company
  6. Luxury
  7. Village
  8. Harbor
  9. Steamship
  10. Sea
  11. Sail

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.

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.

Phonological Awareness

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.

Boat Color Sheets

Britannica Kids: Motorboat

Kidzsearch: Steamship

Questioning:

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.

Print Motivation

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?

Try these books:

Happy Reading!

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Book Review: Trees by Lemniscates

I am an Amazon Affiliate. If you make a purchase by clicking the link, I receive a portion of the sales.

Ages 2-5

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

What the Book is About

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

About this post

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

Print Awareness and Print Motivation

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

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

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

Narrative Skills

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

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

Letter Knowledge

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

Phonological Awareness

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

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

Apple Tree from letsplaykidsmusic.com

Apple tree, apple tree,

Will your apple fall on me?

I won’t cry, I won’t shout,

If your apple knocks me out!

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

The branches on the tree go up and down

up and down, up and down

The branches on the tree go up and down

In the breeze.

The leaves on the tree swing to and fro

To and fro, To and fro

The leaves on the tree swing to and fro

In the breeze.

The birds in the tree flap their wings

Flap their wings, Flap their wings

The birds in the tree flap their wings

In the breeze.

Take it Further

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

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

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

Happy Reading!

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Building Reading Comprehension

Functional illiteracy is a large problem in the United States

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

K12 Reader: The Importance of Reading Comprehension

Improve Reading Comprehension

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A Storytime Primer for Parents

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

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

So how does a librarian plan a story time?

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

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

Focus on the Six Pre-Literacy Skills

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

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

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

When reading to kids, order matters

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

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

This is a great way to get the kids wiggles out

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

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

Preschool Story Time Sampler

 

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

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

VOCABULARY

 

 

PRINT MOTIVATION

 

NARRATIVE SKILLS

 

 

 

PHONOLOGICAL AWARENESS

 

 

 

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

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May’s Baby Reading List

6prereadingskills

 

 

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!

Untitled design (1)

Look for books that:

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

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

Baby Take Me to the Library Reading List

 

Happy Reading!!

 

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Websites for Parents to help build literacy

Best Literacy

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Happy Reading!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

For further information about this week and ways to celebrate

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

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

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

HAPPY READING!

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What Makes a Reader?

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

WHAT IS INVENTIVE SPELLING?

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

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

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

How to encourage “invented spelling”

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

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

 

 

Book Review: Am I Yours? by Alex Latimer

All children get lost at some point in early childhood. It is a frightening event and with all the talk of stranger danger, kids are even more afraid than ever. This is a rhythmical story about an unlucky egg that gets blown out of its nest and tries to find its way home. Reminiscent of PD Eastman’s Are You My Mother? It is a perfect story to read to help allay your child’s fears of getting lost and a good conversation starter about what to do when you can’t find a familiar face.

 

(I received a free advance reader copy of this book from the publisher. I was not paid for my review. The opinions expressed are mine. I am an Amazon Affiliate and if you click on a picture it will take you to Amazon where if you make a purchase I receive a portion of the sale.)

 

Build Comprehension

Book Talk Cover Story

Build Vocabulary

I have to admit Dinosaur books always worried me a little. Kids love the books, but I can’t always pronounce their names on the first try! We know that fluidity matters, but this is a great opportunity for you to show your child how to approach new words. Sounding them out, will not only help them hear each of the individual sounds that make up the word, it will also demonstrate how to work through new words.

Am I yoursmillionwords

Build Conversation

It will happen. Even the most attentive parents and kids will get separated at some point. At the park, the store, the pool it is an inevitable part of life. Talking about what to do when your child is lost is important, and it needs to be done in a way that won’t scare them. There are a lot of resources out there and every family, parent and child is different, so find what works for you and your child and then talk about it. This isn’t only for their own safety, but talking about life skills is a good way to have a positive and meaningful discussion with even the youngest of children.

5 Things your kids need to know about getting lost

What should your child do if she gets lost

Help, I’m lost! How to teach your child what to do if he’s lost

In addition, it helps our kids to think about situations and how to respond before it happens. You can discuss the feelings he might have or the questions she might experience. All of this not only gives them information they need, but talking with our children helps build future readers!

Build Word Sounds

Songs are a great way to help your child learn word sounds. Singing builds phonological awareness which he will need as he learns to sound out words for reading.

My Address

Have Fun!

Reading shouldn’t stop when the book closes! Find ways to continue the story outside or around the house. Play isn’t only for fun, it is a time for learning as well!

Find different objects that are round. Apples, oranges, balls, eggs and see how each one rolls (or doesn’t roll so well) Have your child predict which when she thinks will roll the best. You can use a small hill or go to the park.

At craft stores like Jo-ann Fabrics or Michaels you are often able to find inexpensive plastic dinosaurs. Buy some for your child and as you are waiting at the doctors office or for school pick up for older siblings let your child’s imagination soar.

Feel like a kid again! Find a big hill and roll down with your child. Not only will the physical experience enrich your child’s play, play helps parents and children bond!

What to read next

Other books by Alex Latimer:

How do you talk about getting lost with your children?

Happy Reading

Must Read Fall Books

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

boy-child-dry-leaves-36965

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

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

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

What to read next

FOUR FALL MUST READS

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

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

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

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

Happy Reading

Book Review: Baby Goes to Market by Atinuke

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Buy on Amazon!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reading multicultural books builds more empathetic children and adults.

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

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Try this recipe

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

 

 

What to read next

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

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

Happy Reading

Book Review: Hooray for Books! By Brian Won

child reading

How Many Times Can I Read the Same Book?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to buy on Amazon

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

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

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

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

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

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

And for that, I apologize in advance. 🙂

What to read next

Look for these other books at your local bookstore or Amazon

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

 

Happy Reading

Book Review: Flashlight Night by Matt Forrest Esenwine

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

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

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

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

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

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

flashlight

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

More books to help with fear of dark

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Graphic Novels for Kids

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

I Love Libraries has suggestions by age/grade here.

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

Other Graphic Novels to Enjoy

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

 

Happy Reading

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

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

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

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

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

smart phone and kids

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

natural world

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

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

Kid painting Santa on a paper plate

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

After Reading the Book

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

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

For Parents

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

Articles on Screen Time

Common Sense Media

Consumer Reports

What do we do all day

Becoming Minimalist

Books on Wonder, imagination and exploration

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

Happy Reading

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

finland

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

Why Finland Ranks Number 1 for Literacy?

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

Finnish quote

 

How are Their Numbers Different?

Finland, Where Reading is a Superpower

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

How Much Do They Read?

Finland Reads

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

christmas gift

What Can We Learn?

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

 

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

We are hosting a holiday giveaway!

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

 

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

Happy Reading

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just a few of books by Mac Barnett

 

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

Happy Reading