Monday, January 30, 2012

Valentine’s Day Books to Make Your Heart Sing: Part 1

I had no idea there were so many great Valentine’s Day books! Check out these books and then come back next week to hear about a bunch more.

Arthur’s Valentine by Marc Brown
Someone keeps sending Arthur valentines, signed “Your Secret Admirer.” Can he find out who it is by Valentine’s Day?

Valentine’s Day Is… by Gail Gibbons
If you’ve ever wondered about the meaning of Valentine’s Day, this book is for you! Not only is the day itself explained, the meaning behind some of the symbols are, too: hearts, ribbon, lace, candy… This is a great source of information to impress your friends and family :)

Love Letters by Arnold Adoff, illustrated by Lisa Desimini
This collection of love poems is everything I love about poetry: the poems are simple, understandable and make me smile and nod my head in delight. The poems never make me think, “Huh?” Plus, they are real, not mushy. Give them a try.

The Valentine Bears by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Jan Brett
Mrs. Bear decides she and Mr. Bear are not going to sleep through Valentine’s Day this year. She plans and prepares. She surprises Mr. Bear with her preparations but he also has a surprise for her. Jan Brett’s illustrations make this lovely book even better.

Minnie and Moo: Will You be My Valentine? by Denys Cazet
Poetry-writing cows is one thing – but poetry-writing cows in tutus? This book is hilarious!

Little Mouse’s Big Valentine by Thatcher Hurd
Little Mouse creates a giant valentine. It’s so big, no one wants it. What will he do with his big valentine? Even though this book was written over 20 years ago, it’s still one of my favorite Valentine’s Day books.

Happy Valentine’s Day, Miss Hildy! by Lois Grambling, illustrated by Bridget Starr Taylor
Miss Hildy loves two things: her cup of afternoon tea and solving mysteries. Her latest mystery – who sent her 12 flamingos for Valentine’s Day? She puts her mystery-solving skills to the test to find out. The illustrations are very fun.

Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch by Eileen Spinelli, illustrated by Paul Yalowitz
Mr. Hatch has no friends. He does the same things every day and he does them alone. One Valentine’s Day, a giant valentine is delivered to him and his life changes. But is it the valentine that changes him? This is my new favorite book for Valentine’s Day.

A String of Hearts by Laura Malone Elliott, illustrated by Lynn Munsinger
Sam wants to make a valentine that will cause popular Tiffany to notice him. But what does Tiffany like? Sam’s friend Mary Ann helps him make a pretty valentine. Will his valentine catch Tiffany’s attention?

Lilly’s Chocolate Heart by Kevin Henkes
Lilly searches for the perfect place to hide her last chocolate Valentine heart. See if you guess the perfect place before she does.

Babymouse: Heartbreaker by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm
Valentine’s Day is Babymouse’s favorite holiday. Unfortunately, her life doesn’t even come close to her fantasies. Will someone ask her to the dance? Will she ask someone? Will she go alone? This is my favorite Babymouse book so far.

I’m a big fan of Valentine’s Day. It’s all about friendship, love, chocolate and signals that we’re moving toward spring! What do you like best about Valentine’s Day?

This week's free online story from Bob Brooks: From Nuts To Reading.  It's about a reluctant reader.

Friday, January 27, 2012

More Mother Goose Fun

As promised in November's Mother Goose Fun, here are more Mother Goose games and activities.

Mini-videos of some nursery rhymes for the young set

Online coloring pictures depicting nursery rhymes

Same pictures as above, but you print them out first

Nursery rhymes in words and pictures

Rhymes are read aloud by kids

A collection of craft ideas

Activities and games

Online quiz

Another quiz

Unscramble nursery rhymes – not easy!

So what were your favorite sites? Write them in the Comments Box!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Promoting Literacy through Picture Books: Part 2 - Science Books

When I said last month in Promoting Literacy through Picture Books: Part I that I’d offer some books to consider for sparking interest in a variety of subjects, I had some ideas and resources in mind. But as I researched more, I realized that this topic was much bigger than I could present in a single post.
To keep this topic manageable, I’m offering a limited scope this week: picture books about science. Specifically, today’s books are about scientific method (observation, research, hypothesis, testing and conclusions) and basic science concepts (cause and effect, attributes, perspective…). Noticing these methods and concepts as you read can be a fun activity.
Of course, this post could be part of a Monday Books post, but the concentration on the scientific aspects of the books seems more suitable for a parent post.
Carol Otis Hurst is a wonderful source for books ideas. Click here for a huge list of books on all sorts of topics. Today’s list starts with some of Hurst’s science book suggestions, followed by some of my own.

Letting Swift River Go by Jane Yolen and Barbara Cooney
This book presents not only the mechanics of storing water, but the results of that action on the people who are displaced by those actions.

Everybody Needs a Rock by Byrd Baylor and Peter Parnall
This book describes the qualities to consider in selecting the perfect rock for play and pleasure. Its emphasis on attributes makes it an important science book.

Shark in the Sea by Joanne Ryder and Michael Rothman
We experience one day through the eyes of a shark.

Tigress by Helen Cowcher
This book builds on the conflict between the needs of a wild animal and those of the people.

The Day Jimmy's Boa Ate the Wash by Trinka Hakes Noble and Steven Kellogg
Jimmy's boa constrictor wreaks havoc on the class trip to a farm. This book gives varying perspectives and the idea that each action causes a reaction.

In the Beginning: Creation Stories from Around the World by Virginia Hamilton and Barry Moser
This is an illustrated collection of twenty-five myths from various parts of the world explaining the creation of the world. It belongs in a science collection for contrast, food for thought, and the evidence of the very human need to explain the unknown.

Cook-a-doodle-doo by Janet Stevens
With the questionable help of his friends, Big Brown Rooster manages to bake a strawberry shortcake which would have pleased his great-grandmother, Little Red Hen. The added insets give explanations and information about each process, making this a good science book.

You Can't Take a Balloon into the Metropolitan Museum by Jacqueline Preiss and Robin Preiss Glasser
In this wordless story, a young girl and her grandmother view works inside the Metropolitan Museum of Art, while the balloon she has been forced to leave outside floats around New York City causing a series of mishaps that mirror scenes in the museum's artworks. Finding the science behind each of the balloon’s moves is just one activity from this book.

Owl at Home by Arnold Lobel
In each of five short stories, Owl could do with a little science training. His interpretation of natural events is confusing to say the least.

A Seed Is Sleepy by Dianna Hutts Aston and Sylvia Long.
This book is an introduction to an assortment of seed and plant facts. It starts with an opening page spread showing sunflower seeds nestled within the center of a ripe sunflower head. Beautiful illustrations show seeds next being secretive (lying dormant for a season or for years), fruitful (encased in blueberries and papayas) and so on.

The Magic School Bus Series by Joanna Cole, illustrated by Bruce Degen
By my last count, there are 69 books in the Magic School Bus series! I haven’t read them all, but each one I have read has been a winner. They show science in ways that are entertaining, informative, funny and understandable. Their scope is quite comprehensive – from archaeology to bees to the human body.

Flotsam by David Wiener
Science is all about exploring, looking closely, imagining, looking closer still, persisting and sharing. The boy in this wordless book does all these things and more. The illustrations are really quite indescribable and magical.

Science Verse by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith
Ha! It’s possible adults will enjoy this book as much as the kids. Some well-known poems and songs are re-written around science concepts. For example, The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere becomes The Senseless Lab of Professor Revere, about the senses.

11 Experiments That Failed by Jenny Offill and Nancy Carpenter
A girl asks questions [What is the best way to speed up a boring car ride?], forms hypotheses [Yodeling makes time go faster.] and conducts experiments [Yodels in the car.] Each conclusion is based on the results of the experiment [Walked to school.] Although the hypotheses and experiments were all failures, the scientific method is quite good. And funny.

I hope you and your child enjoy some of these science picture books. They definitely gave me some things to think about! Some Wednesday in February, I’ll write about picture books dealing with history.

MARK YOUR CALENDAR: March 7th is World Read Aloud Day. It is sponsored by LitWorld, an organization that strives to unite literacy efforts across the world. I will post more information as the day gets closer.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Mother Goose Forever! Nursery Rhymes for All! Part 2

Last month, I offered a bunch of nursery rhyme books, with a promise to continue this month with some more. Here they are.
As before, I’ve grouped them, starting with fairly traditional books, followed by books that are definitely not traditional. Enjoy!

This Little Piggy by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Will Hillenbrand, musical arrangements by Adam Stemple
This book has over 50 rhymes. Many of the rhymes also have finger plays and musical arrangements. A CD is included. If you have a younger sibling or cousin who likes nursery rhymes, this might give you some fun ideas.

Dan Yaccarino’s Mother Goose by Dan Yaccarino
This book has a very up-to-date feel. It features mostly familiar rhymes with fun illustrations that perfectly capture the rhyme.

The Charles Addams Mother Goose by Charles Addams
Although the nursery rhymes included here are the basic ones, the illustrations most definitely are NOT. Probably the best way to explain the illustrations is to tell you that Stephen King wrote, “Hurrah for this rediscovered treasure!”

Dragon Pizzeria by Mary Morgan
Two dragons open a pizzeria in Fairy Tale Land and deliver unusual pizzas to fairytale characters. So who ordered the magic-bean pizza? The porridge pizza?

Monster Goose by Judy Sierra
A collection of 25 nursery rhymes have been rewritten to feature vampires, ghouls, mummies, monsters, and other fearsome creatures. Examples: There was an old zombie who lived in a shoe… The illustrations are just what you’d expect – really creepy.

And the Dish Ran Away With the Spoon by Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel
What happens when the dish and the spoon run off and don’t return? With the help of a map, the jumping Cow, the fiddling Cat and the laughing Dog search for them. Various nursery rhyme characters give them not very helpful help.

Whatever Happened to Humpty Dumpty? by David T. Greenberg, illustrated by S.D. Schindler
Not-so-happy (but funny) endings are written for well-known nursery rhymes. Warning: not for the kind-hearted!

Humpty Dumpty Egg-splodes by Kevin O’Malley
Humpty Dumpty is sick of being teased about falling off the wall and decides to get even. He goes on a rampage through town. All the nursery rhyme characters have ideas of how to stop him. Mother Goose’s solution is hilarious!

The Great Nursery Rhyme Disaster by David Conway, illustrated by Melanie Williamson
Miss Muffet is bored with being in the same old Nursery rhyme. She trots off to find a different rhyme to be in. Her trip doesn’t go well and she considers returning home until…

The Cheese by Margie Palatini, illustrated by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher
Do you know the song The Farmer in the Dell? Everyone, from the rat to the farmer, agrees that the last line, “the cheese stands alone,” is silly and decide to have a cheese party. Don’t know the song? No problem – there’s a link for an online recording.

Nursery Rhyme Comics illustrated by 50 Cartoonists
This is a very fun book! All the familiar nursery rhymes and some not so familiar are illustrated graphic-novel style by 50 different illustrators. Some are sweet, most are hilarious. Not for the preschool set. Definitely a book to check out.

Do you have favorite nursery rhymes? Write them in the Comments box!

PS Looking for a free online story? Try Bob Brooks' weekly Ballymore story. This week's story: The Tea Party

Friday, January 20, 2012

More Winter Puzzle Fun

Did you see last week’s puzzle sites? Well, here are some more…

online jigsaw puzzles

on-line winter and arctic animal jigsaw puzzles

printable Sudoku, find-the-differences, mazes

printable spot-the-differences, crosswords, word searches and more

Have you discovered any other winter puzzle sites? Write them in the Comments Box!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Kids On KidLit: Bringing Families Together With Books

Patricia Newman is the author of seven children’s books and is a strong literacy advocate. Today, she shares with us her literacy program Kids On KidLitHer program is a wonderful opportunity for kids to share their views on the books they read.

Kids On KidLit: Bringing Families Together With Books
by Patricia Newman
Have you ever looked back at your life and noticed a theme? Mine is literacy. I figured it out when the Sacramento Area Reading Association awarded me the Celebrate Literacy Award for my books, my work in schools, and my devotion to reading. Doesn’t sound like a big “ah-ha” moment does it, but at the awards ceremony I thought back to my childhood when books took me to exotic places and fueled my imagination. Then I raised two readers. We looked forward to our family reading time every evening when my husband and I read aloud to our children until they were old enough to participate. Books have been a huge part of my life and I want to share that love with kids.
In my newest literacy program, Kids On KidLit, your kids get to become book critics. Every child who sends me a review will be published on my blog. I also award a free, age-appropriate book each month to one child who submits a review.

Share a book together
Kids On KidLit provides a meaningful way for you to share a book with your child. Here’s how it works:  First, your child chooses the book. Choosing what to read is part of the joy of reading. When kids find an author they love, they often become loyal fans, reading everything the author has written.
The good news is I don’t care how many pages the book has, whether it’s an Accelerated Reader book, or whether your family has read it 50 times, but I do want the topic to interest your child. Fiction, nonfiction, poetry, graphic novels—it’s all fair game in Kids On KidLit.
Read the book together. Preschoolers can read the pictures and you read the words. With older children, take turns reading aloud, alternating by page or chapter.

Share opinions, write a review
Next, discuss the book with your child. For preschoolers and reluctant writers, ask the child why she liked or disliked the book. The “why” is important to elicit more than a yes/no response. Type what your child says. Verbatim. In Kids On KidLit, your child’s words are king.
If your child is capable of writing a few lines, sit her at the computer (a real treat!), and ask her to type why she liked or disliked the book. Don’t worry about inventive spelling. It’s all part of the charm of getting ideas down on paper. Let’s save the grading for the teachers. My goal is to help children unlock their imaginations and communicate their ideas to others—a critical skill for educational success.
If your child is loaded down with homework and after-school activities, encourage him to send me a book report already completed for school. Professional writers often reuse material, so why can’t children?

Email me, the last step
I post every review I receive. At the end of every month, I randomly select a winner to receive a free, age-appropriate book. And hopefully the cycle begins anew! I invite you to check out posted reviews.
The Kids On KidLit guidelines are easy. Read. Write. Submit. My ultimate goal is to connect kids to great books.
Thanks for helping!

Learn more about me and my books:

  • Bravo zulu! Nugget on the Flight Deck is a California Reading AssociationEureka! Silver Honor Book for Excellence in Nonfiction.

Many thanks to Patricia for sharing her program with us today. I'm always happy to pass on information about what others are doing to promote literacy. And check out Patricia's books - they're real winners!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Cold and Cozy Winter Books: Part 2

Did you get a chance to read any of last week’s winter books? Well here are a bunch more to enjoy!

Snow by Uri Shulevitz
The adults all say, “No snow.” But a boy and his dog know better. They wait and the snow comes. As they dance about in the deepening snow, they are joined by some unlikely playmates. This is a Caldecott Honor Book. It perfectly captures the joy of the first snowfall.

Winter Lullaby by Barbara Seulling, illustrated by Greg Newbold
Where do the ducks go in the winter? The bees? The snakes and bats? Where do people go? This is a perfect bedtime or laptime read-aloud.

Iguanas in the Snow/Iguanas en la Nieve by Francisco X. Alarcón, illustrations by Maya Christina Gonzalez
This is a book of winter poems written in both Spanish and English. I’m not sure which is livelier, the poems or the illustrations. They both dance on the page. There are 4 books in this series, one for each season.

Winter Fox by Jennifer Brutschy, illustrated by Allen Garns
When a girl gets a rabbit as a pet, she tries to keep it warm and safe. A hungry fox has other plans. Every page of this story is wintery cold. It’s a harsh story but very well told.

Winter is the Warmest Season by Lauren Stringer
Do you think the title of this book is foolish? You won’t when you’re done reading it. The girl who narrates this story has me convinced that winter IS the warmest season!

Little Brown Bear Won’t Take a Nap! by Jane Dyer
Bears sleep all winter, right? Not Little Brown Bear – he refuses to hibernate and heads south with the geese, instead. The pictures are quite charming and a little surprising – who knew that some geese take the train instead of flying south for the winter!

When This World Was New by D.H. Figueredo, illustrated by Enrique O. Sanchez
Danilito arrives in New York City from his island home in Caribbean Sea. He’s scared because everything is strange to him. Then it starts snowing and there is nothing like the first snow of the season. You can easily imagine what it is like for Danilito to experience snow for the first time in his life.

City of Snow: The Great Blizzard of 1888 by Linda Oatman High, illustrated by Laura Francesca Filippucci
This is a perfect book for kids interested in history. It tells about the blizzard that hit New York City and lasted 3 days. The illustrations are detail-filled and give a strong sense of the time. The story answers a question I hadn’t thought of: what did city people do with the huge amount of snow when there were no plows or trucks to haul it away?

Winter Trees by Carole Gerber, illustrated by Leslie Evans
Do you like to spend time in the woods? If you like to notice the details around you, then this book is for you. A boy wanders through the winter woods with his dog and spots differences between trees – their shape, their bark, their branches… Reading this book makes me want to go out and see what I can notice.

A Winter’s Tale by Ian Wallace
All Abigail wants for her 9th birthday is to go winter camping with her father and brother. The 3 of them go and have a great time and a neat adventure. This story and its illustrations provide lots of details and makes winter camping seem like a wonderful adventure.

Rainbow Crow retold by Nancy Van Laan, illustrated by Beatriz Vidal
I must admit I’m a sucker for legends that tell about how something came to be. In this legend, we learn how Rainbow Crow with his beautiful feathers and lovely voice becomes the black crow with the caw-caw voice we know today. Hint: he is very brave and unselfish.

I admit winter is not my favorite season. But these books certainly helped me enjoy and appreciate it more. What are your feelings about winter?

Friday, January 13, 2012

Winter Puzzle Fun

Time for winter puzzle fun!

printable word search, maze, picture hunt

printable mazes, connect-the-dots, hidden pictures and more

on-line concentration, hangman, jigsaw puzzles and more; plus a collection of printables

a bunch of on-line photo jigsaws

I hope you have great puzzling fun - there will be more puzzles next week!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Guest Post from Rescued Readers: Bringing Literacy to the Children of Africa

.Today’s post is from Tammy Flowers of Rescued Readers.  This organization strives to bring literacy to the children of Africa. As Tammy states below:
The goal of Rescued Readers is not simply to deliver books, but to build a sustaining relationship between schools in America with schools in Africa.
 I am a big fan of this organization and as you read Tammy’s words, I believe you will be, too.

I am a wife, mother, educational administrator, professor and grew up experiencing poverty. I grew up knowing the uncertainty of where we would live after being evicted again, the anxiety of making new friends at yet another school, the embarrassment of going to the grocery store and using food stamps and the gripping fear that poverty would be my life forever.

I was fortunate.  I was fortunate that I had role models in my life that taught me the value of literacy.
A love of reading…searching for answers…escaping to another world…finding dreams and solace in the pages of a book.
 Literacy saved me. 

I first went to Africa simply because I was invited.  Officially, it was a ‘mission trip’, but by the true definition of ‘mission’, one must have a purpose or an ultimate goal in mind.  I was simply going because I felt called. 

As an educator, I was drawn to support the teachers who worked in the orphanages we were planning to visit.  And so it was decided, my focus would, of course, be literacy.

Several months and 18 grueling hours on a plane later, I found myself in the ‘cradle of humanity’, Ethiopia. As I stood at the front door of the KG (kindergarten) classroom, children were sitting in groups at tables as the teacher stood at the head of the class leading a mathematics lesson.  I simply observed, nervously waiting for my opportunity to stand in her place.

It was time.  The teacher introduced me, and the children were curiously anticipating what the ‘ferenge’ (foreigner) in their classroom had brought to share. 

My lesson plan was designed such that they would build letters from the American alphabet using materials they could find anywhere.   I was immediately impressed at their knowledge of the American alphabet.

I complimented the teacher on her knowledge of the names of letters and asked her how well they knew their letter sounds.  She gave me a ‘so-so’ kind of response and my lesson evolved into a slightly more advanced lesson on phonetics.  About five minutes into the lesson, she timidly tapped me on the shoulder and asked, “Do you have some time today that you could teach me the letter sounds?”

I later learned that although young children are expected to read and write English as well as their native language, their teachers need only have an 8th grade education.  I took this opportunity to share my knowledge and love for literacy as much as I could with this young teacher. 

I asked her if I could read the students a story. The confused gaze that she gave me still haunts me today.  “We have no books,” she said.

I had prepared myself for their lack of traditional facilities, amenities and even running water…but I had not been prepared for a lack of books. 

At that moment, I made a promise to those children, that I would bring them books.  My ‘mission’ had been revealed.

I didn’t know it at the time, but Rescued Readers was born in that small KG classroom in the heart of Ethiopia.  

The goal of Rescued Readers is not simply to deliver books, but to build a sustaining relationship between schools in America with schools in Africa. Students will know each other and embrace one another’s culture.  Teachers from the American school will even travel to Africa to meet their new partners in learning.  

In creating a literacy program enveloped in a supportive relationship, a culture of literacy that offers true change will begin to permeate the lives of the children…one small village at a time.  Simultaneously, a youthful awareness of a world beyond our front door is created at home.  One that builds compassion, empathy and a giving spirit that will last a lifetime. 

Over the course of several returned trips and established libraries, Rescued Readers remains a small entity.  We do this because we value partnering with communities, educating their teaching staff, and building relationships that make a lasting difference. 

However, a small organization translates into a limited budget.  People often ask themselves, where should I invest?  They ask, “Where will my money make a true difference?” 

Rescued Readers is your answer…an organization that has no administrative salaries to pay, allowing sponsoring funds to be allocated 100% to programming.   You have the opportunity to be a supportive role model in the life of a child who is experiencing life without the beauty of the written word at his fingertips.  You have the opportunity help break the chains of generational poverty.  You have the opportunity to offer a child…
A love of reading…the chance to search for answers…escape to another world…find their own dreams and solace in the pages of a book.

Thanks, Tammy for this post. Keep up this excellent work!
Please check out the Rescued Readers . It's worth the visit.


Monday, January 9, 2012

Cold and Cozy Winter Books: Part 1

Now that the holidays are over, we can settle in to enjoy winter. Here are some books to help us with this.

The Mitten retold by Jan Brett
A boy drops one of his mittens in the woods. One by one, forest animals crawl in to escape the cold. Is there a limit as to how many animals can fit? This is a retelling of an old story. There are other versions, but Jan Brett’s is my favorite.

Snowballs by Lois Ehlert
This is a simple picture book about building snow people. I like it because it expands the practice of building a simple snowman to creations that are quite grand. It gives me ideas!

Snip, Snap…Snow! by Nancy Powdar
Sophie wants snow. Every day it is cold but there’s no snow. She talks her teacher into letting everyone cut paper snowflakes to decorate the classroom. By the end of the day, Sophie’s snow comes down. Directions for cutting paper snowflakes are on the last page.

Stranger in the Woods by Carl R. Sams II and Jean Stoick
The animals in the forest are chattering, “Stranger in the woods!” At first all seem afraid and then many of the animals volunteer to be the one to check this stranger out. They solve the mystery of the stranger…but they don’t know the whole story. I’d love to have been part of photographing the illustrations – very cool!

A Hat for Minerva Louise by Janet Morgan Stoeke
Minerva Louise is a chicken who loves snow. When she gets cold, she goes searching for something warm to wear. The illustrations are both charming and funny.

Stella Queen of the Snow by Marie-Louise Gay
It’s little Sam’s first snowstorm and he is wary and full of questions. His big sister has all the answers and gradually convinces him of the glories of snow. The illustrations are wonderful.

Winter Eyes by Douglas Florian
This is a collection of poems about winter: what to love, what to hate, winter colors, icicles, ice fishing and more subjects. Each page or two has an illustration that perfectly shows the winter of the poems.

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
This has always been one of my favorite winter books. It tells of Peter and his day in the snow. It feels wintery cold. It sounds snowfall quiet. It also seems warm and cozy. This book won the Caldecott Medal in the early 1960s.

Uncle Phil’s Diner by Helena Clare Pittman
It’s a cold winter day and snow is falling. Ruthie and Papa are setting out for Uncle Phil’s diner. This is not a short walk and they keep themselves warm with memories of summer. I love the way this book is set up like a photo album, with each watercolor picture tacked down in the corners by old-time picture mounts.

Is That You, Winter? by Stephen Gammell
The lines between real and pretend are a bit fuzzy in this story. Is Old Man Winter real? A doll? Beats me. The illustrations are truly remarkable and not like any other book I’ve seen.

Shingebiss: An Ojibwe Legend retold by Nancy Van Laan, illustrations by Betsy Bowen
Shingebiss the duck bravely challenges the Winter Maker. Even though the winter is long and harsh, Shingebiss manages to find enough food. This irritates Winter Maker so much he does everything he can to prevent Shingebiss from getting food. I’m a big fan of woodcuts and this book has some wonderful work.

The Snow Tree by Caroline Repchuk, illustrated by Josephine Martin
Little Bear wakes up to his first snowfall and wonders where all the colors have gone. The other forest animals bring the colors of the forest and together they create a magical tree. I didn’t discover this book in time for Christmas, but I couldn’t wait until next year to tell about it. It’s really special and you shouldn’t wait either!

Do you have a favorite winter book you like to cuddle up with? Tell about it in the Comments Box!

Friday, January 6, 2012

4 Sites about Picture Books

Looking for some new picture picture books to enjoy? Check out some of these ideas...

The New York Public Library should have good suggestions, right?

Maria Popova reviews her favorite picture books from 2011.

Book trailers are a fun way to learn about new books. This is a collection of trailers created by book authors and others who like books.

John Schu is a K-5 teacher-librarian who works diligently to put the right book in every child's hand. This is a list of 1,021 picture books he’s reviewed.

Hope you have a great weekend reading picture books!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Promoting Literacy through Picture Books: Part I

As I’ve said over and over in this blog, picture books are NOT just for little ones. Picture books offer so many things to so many readers. Some of the benefits include:

They are fun. Picture book authors know how to deliver a great story in few words and lively language. The illustrations provide another layer of energy, wonderment and delight.

They are motivating. Pictures draw us in and make us want to read on. Books without pictures can do this, too, but not unless we’re already hooked on the power of books.

They are easy to follow. Picture books tend to have straightforward plots. If there are twists, the pictures usually lead you to the right path. These plots invite retelling. I can’t tell you how many times my students have acted out the plots from picture books just because they were simple and easy to recall and of course, fun.

They often introduce new vocabulary and expressions. Picture books seldom use restricted vocabulary, such as early readers use. The authors use whatever language and vocabulary they need to tell their stories and often let the illustrations illuminate the meaning.

They introduce a variety of writing styles, authors, and illustrators. This can provide models for young writers to try in their own stories. When teaching writing, I often used picture books as models.

They provide an excuse to stay close. Reading aloud a chapter book with no pictures can be done from the other side of the room. Picture books demand to be seen. Sitting close is the only way to go.

They provide windows to complex subjects and ideas. Well-written picture books can introduce, clarify, raise questions, challenge and spark interest in all kinds of subjects: science, history, philosophy, emotions, math, attitudes, cultures…

In this Part I, I’ll offer a few suggestions as to how to use picture books to enhance your child’s (and your own) enjoyment. In Part II (later this month), I’ll offer some books to consider for sparking interest in a variety of subjects.

When making connections, readers tie what they read to personal experiences or to other reading, in order to enhance their understanding of themselves, other books, and life itself. This is something enthusiastic and experienced readers do automatically. They read something and think, “Oh, this makes me think of when I …”

For example, in Ezra Jack Keats A Whistle for Willie (my favorite Keats book), Peter tries and tries to whistle. Any child can relate to such repeated attempts to master a skill.

When reading a book together, try modeling this by saying something like, “When I read that part, it made me think when I ...” Or, “This makes me think of that book we read…”

As you read, you can pose questions about the story.

About the text
What will [a character] do next?
Where is [a character] going?
Who did that?
Why did [a character] do that?
Not so simple:
I wonder why [a character] seems so sad?
What message is the author trying to give?
What is your personal opinion about this?
Do you like this character? Why?
Do you like the ending? How would you change it?
Why might this story be scary (funny, confusing…) to some kids? To some adults?

About the illustrations
What season is this? How can you tell?
How many ___ are there in this picture?
What picture might be on the next page?
Where is the___?
After reading: What is your favorite illustration? Why?
Not so simple:
I wonder why the illustrator used such dark (bright, pale…) colors?
What do you think is the most important thing in this illustration? What makes it important?
How can you tell that car (girl, dog…) is going fast (feeling sad, is sleeping…)?

CAUTION: We adults tend to overdo the questions. The last thing we want is to make reading together at home seem like a chore. Be aware of your child’s reactions to your questions. Remember, our goal is to show that reading is fun.

Encourage your child to ask his own questions. Try asking your child to think of teacher-type questions for you. Pretending to be the teacher can be great fun and encourages a different type of thinking.

What does your family like to do when you are reading picture books together? Write them in the Comments box!