Posted in Education, Family, Library, literature, parenting, reading, teaching, toddlers, Uncategorized

13 Picture Books to Read before 2016 Ends

As much as I love the classics- Where the Wild Things Are, Dr. Seuss, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, etc etc; I feel that there are some great new children’s easy readers (picture books), which have come out in the past few years that get overlooked when parents ask for reading recommendations. Everyone who follows this blog knows how I feel about Early Literacy Education, so even if you are newly pregnant, thinking about becoming pregnant, or just had a baby; bookmark this list to review.

I’m going to already assume you have the essentials and give you some updated book recs for babies, toddlers, and preschool aged children.

This book made my daughter actually lol. That’s hard to do with a book. I love Oliver Jeffers style (The Day the Crayons Quit) and I think kids do too. It’s a colorful, relatable, style that is still detailed enough to really paint vivid images. In this book, a little boy loses his kite in a tree. So logically, the only thing to do to get it down is to throw his shoe at it. Then his shoe gets stuck. So he throws the other shoe. The whole thing just spirals as he throws whatever he can find at the tree.

 

 

Great bedtime story. The transitions from the daytime to the nighttime are really cool. I enjoyed the illustrations of this book more than I did the actual story.

 

 

 

 

I’m a sucker for rhyming. I like to read rhyming books out loud. This is a very cute little story about a mouse, who obviously wants to sit in his chair, but there’s a bear in it. Pretty simple premise but definitely a fun read. Also good for kids who may be having a little trouble with sharing.

 

 

I honestly did not know how my daughter was going to feel about this book. In the same vein as Journey, The Only Child has no words; just pages of pencil drawn images to tell the story. Being they are all black and white I thought maybe she would get bored of it. I was wrong. She loved this book and I enjoyed it too. It was a great way for us to talk about what we thought was happening. Since there are a lot of fantasy elements to the plot we ended up going on some pretty long winded tangents.

 

Like every kid, my daughter has a small fear of the dark. Nothing major but when I saw this book I thought maybe it would help her out. At first she was a little apprehensive of the book. Then after we read it two or three times she started to realize “the dark” was nice. It hasn’t cured her fear but she did ask for this book more than some of the others I had brought home.

 

 

 

This book I actually bought, purely for myself. I don’t cry at movies, but books will get to me. This one definitely did. If you are a new mom I highly recommend this book. And some Kleenex.

 

 

 

This book promotes reading so I liked it (shocker). More than that though, it was a very funny story that I actually enjoyed. The illustrations are simple, cartoon style, but they work well with the story.

 

 

 

 

If you don’t have the Press Here book, get it now. My daughter goes crazy for that book. This one is the same idea. It’s almost magical I think for little kids when they read these kinds of books. “Did they really just make all the dots fall to one side?” Definitely gets kids using their imaginations.

 

 

 

I loved this book. My daughter got a little bored at parts because it is long winded. Basically a little girl goes home from school with a book her teacher gave her but as she walks, words from the book start to fall out. A fox behind her catches them and she creates the stories. Very clever and unique children’s book.

 

 

 

 

If toddlers and preschoolers had to take sociology I would make them all read this book. It’s a cute book that shows you all the different houses people can live in. The art is interesting so I think that kept my daughter’s attention more than anything.

 

 

 

 

This was not at all what I was expecting when I first opened it. Bruce is an old curmudgeon and doesn’t like to be bothered. So of course, due to a series of events, he ends up with baby geese to take care of. The writing is actually really funny and the illustrations are great too.

 

 

I added Finding Winnie onto this list because I enjoyed the book. With that being said, my daughter did not. I tried to get her to let me read it again and she was not having it. It does have a lot of wordage and war history so I think she just lost interest. However, being an huge Winnie the Pooh fan as a child I enjoyed the back story.

 

 

This is my top pick by far. Everyone should have this book in their collection. It’s art and story are amazing. Every picture in the book is made up of words from classic tales like Peter and Wendy and Treasure Island. My daughter liked it because it’s fantasy and she enjoyed the illustrations but I don’t know if she got all the messages in it.

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Posted in Education, Family, parenting, summer, teaching, teen, toddlers, Uncategorized

Outdoor Education and Camping!

Tablets, smartphones, laptops, eReaders, television, game systems: There are so many reasons for your kids to stay inside and stare blankly ahead not absorbing the world around them (note: I put eReaders on the list because a lot of times I see kids using them they’re playing games, books are okay 🙂

I’ve posted a few articles about being outdoors with children and how it’s educational for them, but this weekend is our first attempt at taking our three year old camping. I am nervous and excited but it also prompted me to look up educational reasons to take your kids camping that I wanted to share. (Update: we didn’t make it through the night. We did get to do some of these things though it was fun for awhile just playing in the woods so…still worth a shot!)

1) Outdoor Education- this is an educational initiative all its own now. Many countries (Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Norway come to mind) have outdoor education as part of their normal school curriculum. It consists of everything from hiking trips to playing more outside, to having several recess breaks throughout the day, to fishing trips. In the New Zealand Curriculum Framework, they state that providing outdoor education gives students “opportunities to develop personal and social skills, to become active, safe, and skilled in the outdoors, and to protect and care for the environment.”

2) Problem solving- many spur of the moment issues can arise while camping. Is that poison ivy? Is there rain coming? Taking children camping can help them better their problem solving skills and quick thinking techniques. To prep for the trip have your children be involved with packing their own supplies. Obviously, guide them to pack essentials but let them really decide what they want and what they do not.

3) Imaginative play- camping provides ample opportunities for imaginative play. Being out in nature surrounded by trees (or the ocean if you choose to camp on the beach) gives them a backdrop they aren’t used to at home. The campfire is also a great place for imaginations to take off. Take turn telling stories. If you are having trouble starting, try making up new endings to stories you already know. Like what if Little Red Riding Hood didn’t realize that the wolf was pretending to be her grandmother? What if they lived together for a while, how would the wolf act?

4) Unplug! Along the same lines as imaginative play, being outdoors and camping really gives you and your family a chance to unplug together. It may be tempting to break out the phones or bring the iPads but don’t. Spend your time together, together. You are not home so you shouldn’t be worrying about work and things that can be dealt with once camping is over.

5) Cooking in a new atmosphere- cooking is a great learning experience. Measuring, mixing, and playing with different textures and ingredients. Camping provides a completely new way to experience the learning process of cooking. Bring some pre-made items like pancake mix and let your child help with pouring it on the pan over the fire. In addition, being outside instead of in the kitchen might help you not worry so much about the mess.

Here are some activities to do with your children while camping to make the experience fun and educational!
Scavenger hunt- there are many available online if you don’t want to create one yourself
Frisbee or catch
Fishing or crabbing
Bubbles
Crafts- a lot of ideas out there on Pinterest. Here are some I really like.
Sand toys

Posted in Education, Family, Library, literature, Opinion, parenting, summer, Uncategorized

Review of Geek Parenting

Occasionally, I actually get to read. As a librarian, I get asked all the time for recommendations and I’m sorry to say I don’t get to read nearly as much as I would like. However, some books just stick with you and I recently read Geek Parenting by Stephen H. Segal and Valya Dudycz Lupescu. I wanted to share some of my thoughts on it. 

 

A short book that uses examples from other books, movies, and shows to mirror life as a parent. It’s an easy read, and an entertaining way, to show parenting through glimpses of literature and cinema.

One analogy references The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (if you haven’t read it, read it). The argument made is that in the book, Nobody Owens is raised by everyone in the graveyard. It’s not only his adoptive parents who raise him, but many other people and ghosts who prepare him and educate him. He says, “ In the modern world, it is rarer than perhaps it once was to be closely tied to the people who live around us. We may live our lives behind fences, both literal and metaphoric, but there’s something to be gained by turning nearby strangers into real neighbors.”

My favorite section (surprise) uses The Princess Bride to show the importance of reading to your children. In the film version the grandson is sick in bed playing Nintendo. His grandfather comes to read to him but the boy is extremely reluctant to sit and listen. However, once the story gets interesting and he starts to fear for Wesley and Buttercup, you can see his excitement start to rise. In those moments he has developed a new love for reading and storytelling. “Today’s kids have more forms of entertainment competing for their time…let’s not forget the unique appeal of reading a story aloud to our kids. We can pick up the pace, slow it down, or hit pause, depending on their interest. We can revisit favorite parts again and again.”

Another point the authors mention, along the same lines as above, is that children need to be allowed and be prompted to use their imaginations. They use the Chronicles of Narnia series as an example. “Now take a moment and imagine what might have happened if Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy had smartphones or iPads.” They say “boredom is creative potential.” Which is now going to be a motto in my house whenever it looks like boredom may be kicking in. Don’t just assume that because there is downtime, and because you’re inside, that the television has to be on. Just because it’s a long summer day doesn’t mean everyone needs to be on the computer or on their phones. There’s plenty to do and plenty of resources now to help you come up with imaginative play.

Using Obi-Wan and Luke Skywalker as an example the authors explain the power of positive reinforcement. They stress that constant negatives are not good for the psyche of a child. The classic phrase “the beatings will continue until morale improves” is one they mention that really shows the outcome of such behaviors. I will admit, the praise for the good things is something I struggle with as a parent and just in general. It’s so much easier to notice the bad then it is the good.

These are just a few examples of things that stuck out from reading this book. I would highly recommend it as a light read for any parent (or anyone dealing with children honestly).

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – Parts One & Two (Special Rehearsal Edition Script): The Official Script Book of the Original West End Production

Posted in Education, Family, parenting, summer, teaching, Uncategorized

Playing in the Woods

I’ve had several posts about getting outdoors, and playing, and how they positively affect intellectual growth (and bonding!) of a child. I was reading up and found some great play ideas for being out in the woods and with the cold season approaching (still hasn’t hit us quite yet) I thought this would be a great time to get some ideas out there.

1) Journey Sticks

Journey sticks have a rich history, most popularly attributed to Native Americans. Journey sticks are to represent someone’s individual experience. Along the way of a long expedition or important travel, the person creating the stick would gather pieces of nature to attach to their stick. Then they would return and tell of tales of their journey.

To create a journey stick find a good sturdy stick during the beginning of your hike through the woods (you can also choose to just accumulate items to take home and make the stick once there). As you go through the woods look for special items- a brightly color leaf, a feather, a special flower. Bring along some tape, string, and straight pins to attach them to your child’s stick.

 

 

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(Click on photo for link)

2) Nature Photography

Being out in the woods is a great place to get your children to appreciate photography and beauty of nature in general. You can do this in a few different ways. If your child is older, you can let them use your digital camera or phone if you feel they are responsible enough. Give them a list of things to try to get on photo: a bird, two different colored leaves together, a tree that looks like it has a face. If you have a younger child, you might not want to trust with anything expensive, so get them a disposable camera. Make sure before heading out into the woods that you explain there are only a certain amount of photos on the camera. Teach them to take one photo at a time and learn to use their eyes and ears to find new and exciting pictures to take.

 

3) Story Telling

The woods are the perfect backdrop for so many stories. Fairy tales, ghost stories, adventure tales, and legends seem to be more believable when told surrounded by nature. If you live somewhere with a state park that allows fires try going on an afternoon hike and end the day with a story and some snacks by the fire. You don’t have to camp overnight to enjoy tales and s’mores. If you can’t have a fire just find a spot to sit under a large tree or a place to spread out a blanket and relax for awhile. Some great stories to tell are:

Little Red Riding Hood

Robin Hood

Hansel and Gretel

Rumpelstiltskin

Local tales- look online or at your local library to find myths and legends that relate to your area.

Just like wanting to read at the beach, this is also a great time to bring along a few books from home and just sit outside and read together.

 

4) Scavenger Hunt

If your child is old enough to read then make up a list of items to find while out in the woods. If they are not then just tell them one thing at a time as you go along your hike.

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(Click on photo for link)

5) Coloring and Art

Sometimes you can do the same thing you would be doing at home just while outside! Find a nice spot to set up; if there is a picnic area use that, if not find an area to lay out a blanket to play on. Don’t forget something hard to lean on if coloring on the ground (clip boards are great for this). You can color things you see, trace leaves off of the ground, or put leaves under your paper and color so you reveal the leaves’ stems.

 

6) Bubbles

I can find a reason to put bubbles on any list I make honestly. Bubbles in the woods are just pure magic. If you are creative try combining bubbles with another activity, like story telling. Make up a story about how fairies are attracted to bubbles or that in the woods you are currently in bubbles are supposed to reveal treasure. If you can, sneak a quarter or something they consider treasure, and hide it in the direction the wind seems to be going.

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This website (click on photo for link) has some great ideas for if you are camping and need activities for overnight.

Playing outside is a dying art form so any chance you get to get out there with your child do it. Here are some tips for starting a garden at home and getting your child involved. Rain isn’t always an excuse to stay in either.

Posted in Education, Family, Library, literature, parenting, teaching

Goodnight Literacy

So the title may be a bit dramatic- however! I am an avid believer that reading to your infants and toddlers should not just be a night time activity. Part of my program Early Literacy Begins at Home, which I will be teaching through the Ocean City Library next year, will be discussing this and showing techniques for exciting reading!

But for now I would like to share some books that ARE good for night time reading and some that are NOT.

 

I Love You, Stinky Face by Lisa McCourt and Cyd Moore

The story is about a little boy who is relentless in his pursuit to find out what he could be that would make his mother not love him anymore. Of course, he is shown that his mother would love him no matter what he became. Even a “super smelly skunk”. The story takes place at night and is about the boy getting ready for bed so a great bedtime story.

Llama, Llama, Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney

Again, takes place at night, little llama having some separation issues (great to read for kids who are at that age where they are not staying in their beds at night). It does have rhyme and rhythm but not enough to make it distracting for those nighttime heavy eyes.

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown

You have to put it on here. I said in a past post that my daughter never really took to this story but I have heard from many others that this has helped completely transform nighttime routines. In the story the little rabbit says goodnight to everything before going to sleep. If you have a sleep fighter I have heard that reading this book and then letting your child say goodnight (goodnight lamp, goodnight couch, goodnight rug) to your house before going to bed might help.

How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight? by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague

I just need to say I love this whole series and so does Riley. This story is great because its funny and entertaining but is also teaching good bedtime routine.

On the Night You Were Born by Nancy Tillman

I have probably mentioned this book in the past as well but this is one of my all time favorites. The art is extraordinary and the words are gorgeous. This was my first go to every night at bedtime for the first year. Tillman has had a couple more since this and the art is still beautiful but the words are not as captivating to me as in this book.

Books to NOT read at bedtime:

(Disclaimer: I am not saying don’t read these books so if you are just skimming at least know I still love titles to be read, just not before going to sleep)

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

Obviously, a classic. Everyone should know the story. Even though this book takes place at nighttime I steer away from it as a bedtime book for one reason: roaring! If you are reading this correctly you should be roaring and causing the “wild ruckus”. I like this better for early in the day or after nap time.

Any Eric Carle Book Ever

Again, obviously classics. Eric Carle has a very unique style that is super recognizable and I love all the colors he uses in his art. However, because his art is so bright and vibrant I tend to say this is a day one as well. Also for titles like Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You Hear, you’re going to be making some noises. Roaring, growling, ect.

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr

This book has so much rhythm and rhyme going on if you are tired after reading it you’re not doing it right. You should be singing and thumping and clapping and whatever else it moves you to do.

Posted in Education, Family, Library, parenting

Learning at home: A week’s worth

I am currently getting information together for a program I want to do next year to help local parents, teachers, grandparents, whomever, help to promote literacy at home. Below is one week worth of ideas to help you:

Things to do at home throughout the month to help improve literacy:

Monday- Make a grocery list for the week using pictures from magazines. Have your child help pick out foods they want. Glue to a piece of paper or in a list order.

Tuesday-Focus on whatever season it is. If its spring, read a book about spring, sing a song about spring, talk about the weather. Go outside and look at the birds and flowers that are only out in the spring. Summer time, read about the beach and the sun. Autumn, read about the leaves and the trees. Winter, read about the cold and the snow. Just make sure to talk today.

Wednesday- Water play! Winter time- play with the snow. Use spoons, cups, and measuring supplies to scoop different amounts of snow into a large bowl. Summer- play with a bowl water and a sponge. Can you transfer all the water in one bowl into an empty bowl?


Thursday-Nursery Rhyme Time: Learn Five Little Ducks


Friday- Walk around the house (maybe while doing laundry or cleaning kitchen). Find at least ten blue items. Reward with a yummy blue snack- Jello, freeze pop, gummies, blueberries and Cool Whip, ect.

Saturday- Go to the library! Check out any programs going on throughout the month.

Sunday- Learn what your name starts with. Give a cutout or draw an outline of the letter. Let them color it in, decorate it with stickers, whatever they want.

Just one week of things to do with your child to help promote literacy. Just keep in mind, early literacy is not forcing your child to learn to read and write at an early age. It’s engaging them in a way that learning is fun, and interesting, so they will want to keep learning as they get older. That’s it in a nutshell!

Posted in Education, literature

The Best Facts about Classic Authors

I have been so surprised with how many of my younger students who have been interested in the classics. I think supporting that interest is very important and knowing background information can make them more appealing.

Interesting Literature

Since we began publishing our occasional series, ‘Five Fascinating Facts‘, a couple of years ago, we’ve covered a range of famous authors across well over 50 posts. What follows are our 15 most popular posts in this ‘Five Fascinating Facts’ series (hence our labelling them the ‘best’ of all our author-related facts posts). Further information (and more interesting facts!) about a particular author can be found by clicking on the links provided, which take you to the full post. For the archive containing all posts in the ‘Five Fascinating Facts’ series, click on the link provided above.

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