Explore the Fall Season with Children’s Books

Experience the colorful, bountiful season of autumn in new ways with ideas from children’s books. Read a book to your young child and then extend the book experience with crafts, cooking, counting, and learning.

Enjoy your time reading and exploring together with some of these books about fall:

Leaf Man

“Leaf Man” by Lois Ehlert. With just a few leaves of different shapes and colors, “leaf man” is created and off on an adventure, sailing through the autumn sky. After reading this book you’ll be inspired to make your own leaf people and animals. Go on a walk and collect leaves, nuts, and other fall treasures to arrange into a story you and your child can make up together. There are also facts in the back of the book so you can learn the names of the trees in your neighborhood.

“Johnny Appleseed” by Steven Kellogg. Enjoy a crunchy red apple as you read the story of the American frontier hero, Jon Chapman, know best as Johnny Appleseed. The text is a bit long, but younger children can see the story unfold in the dynamic illustrations. Facts about the early 1800’s are woven together with some tall tales about Johnny Appleseed’s adventures to make an entertaining story.

“Pumpkin Soup” by Helen Cooper. A cat, a squirrel, and a duck work together to make pumpkin soup the same way, every day, until… Duck decides to do it a different way. Oh no! The three friends have to figure out how to still be friendly to each other. There’s a pumpkin soup recipe included if you want to try cooking up some of your own.

“Apples and Pumpkins” by Anne Rockwell, illustrated by Lizzie Rockwell. Apple picking, pumpkin carving, and marveling at red and yellow leaves are all part of autumn fun. Bold, colorful illustrations and simple text introduce young children to the wonders of the season. The book ends with jack-o-lanterns shining and trick-or-treating.

RunawayPumpkin“The Runaway Pumpkin” by Kevin Lewis, illustrated by S.D. Schindler. This is a rollicking, frolicking rhyming journey of the Baxter family trying to catch up with a runaway pumpkin. Preschoolers will giggle at the antics of the chase and silly sounding words in this story.

“Why Do Leaves Change Color?” By Betsy Maestro and Loretta Krupinski. Learn why autumn leaves are so colorful and discover lots of activities you can do with the leaves in your own backyard. This is a “Let’s Read and Find Out Science” book for young children.

“How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin?” by Margaret McNamara, illustrated by G. Brian Karas. This is a story of children in a classroom, but also an estimating game using math and science knowledge. Pumpkins seeds are slimy when they come out of a pumpkin, and there are so many to count. Which has more seeds–a small pumpkin or a big one?

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Filed under activities, autumn, colors, family reading, humorous, non-fiction, science books

Have a Fruit-full Autumn Reading Together!

We’re in the peak of fruit season in the Finger Lakes in New York  State. We’ve seen cherries on trees earlier this summer; peaches and plums have ripened recently; and now that it’s officially autumn, apples and pears are ready for the picking–and eating.

How many fruits have you introduced to your young child? Read about them in picture books and then try them out. See which fruit your child likes or doesn’t like. Explore the tastes, the textures, and smells. Compare the colors and the shapes. Are there some unusual fruits you’ve seen in books that you can find at the store? Be adventurous and taste something new!


Here are some children’s books to give you ideas:

  • “Eating the Alphabet” by Lois Ehlert. Learn the names of vegetables and fruits from A to Z in this colorful book, then see if you can make your own list of foods for each letter of the alphabet.
  • “Apples” by Gal Gibbons. You will discover how an apple is formed from flower bud to fruit in this non-fiction book. The text introduces new words about pollination at a level that young children will understand.
  • “The Biggest Apple Ever” by Stephen Kroll. Here’s a story about friendship, competition, conflict resolution, and apples, too. This book lends itself to many related projects involving teamwork–with a side of apple pie.
  • “Play with Your Food” by Joost Elffers. Photographs of fruits and vegetables that are slightly altered to give them humorous and witty personalities may give you some ideas for how to creatively play with the food in your own kitchen.
  • “Blueberries for Sal” by Robert McClosky. Little Sal and her mother go blueberry picking on one side of a hill while a mother bear and her bear cub look for blueberries on the other side of the hill. Find out what happens when their paths cross.
  • “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle. “… and he was still hungry” is the refrain as this growing caterpillar eats his way through a smorgasbord of fruits and other delicious food until he is a big, plump caterpillar ready to become a butterfly.

Happy reading!

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Welcome Back to School!

Going back to school is an exciting and happy time of year for children, with friends to make, a new teacher to meet, and a classroom to explore. But, there can be anxiety, too. Different schedules, feelings, and expectations can give a child butterflies and even create some queasiness for parents. We all want our children to do well and adjust quickly.

To keep your family positive and ease any trepidation about starting a new school year, establish a few daily routines so there are at least some things to count on that aren’t new every day. Keep your child’s morning “get-up and get off to school” routine the same each day, so everyone knows what to expect. Do a quiet activity or snack every day when your child comes home as a way to transition from school. Keep your child’s bedtime the same time each night so your child is well-rested for the next day at school.

And, of course, build in some read aloud with your child. Even after he or she learns how to read independently, snuggling up with a parent and hearing a book read aloud reassures your child that some things don’t have to change. Quality time together is still part of everyday family life.

Older children can listen to chapter books read aloud and will learn new vocabulary and ideas hearing you read. Younger children listening to you read picture books will learn words and ideas too, and can come to understand their feelings and how to handle new situations that arise at school.

Reading any books together is comforting, but here are some books especially about the elementary school experience that open up discussions for you to have with your child. Laugh, talk, and learn together!

“The Gingerbread Man Loose in the School” by Laura Murray, illustrated by Mike Lowery. In this book the gingerbread man chases after the school children instead of the other way around. He just wants to join in the fun, but can’t quite keep up! He enlists the help of all the grown-ups at the school and finally does meet up with the children, after touring the whole building.

“How Do Dinosaurs Go to School?” by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Mark Teague. Huge, colorful dinosaurs innocently create havoc as they start a new school year. The rhyming text has a rhythm that keeps the story going as the dinosaurs learn what kind of behavior is appropriate at school. As they get used to school, they share, are polite, and even keep things picked up.

ItsHardtoBe5“It’s Hard to Be Five: Learning How to Work My Control Panel” by Jamie Lee Curtis, illustrated by Laura Cornell. This is another winner by this writer/illustrator team. Actress Jamie Lee Curtis writes with humor and honesty at a level that children embrace. It really is hard to be five-years-old. The book describes how the days of being little are gone, but you still haven’t practiced a lot of self-control. Thank goodness that we each have a “control panel” that we can learn how to use!

“The Incredible Book Eating Boy” written and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers. This is not a typical “back to school” book, but has just that kind of humor a kindergartner will enjoy. When a boy develops a habit of eating books, yes, actually taking bites and swallowing books, the words get all jumbled in his stomach (and brain). He finally learns he can “digest” a book much better just by reading it. The illustrations are collaged type written words, images, and drawings.


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Tips for Reading to an Active Child

Young children are on the go from the moment they wake up until they collapse at naptime. Crawling, toddling around, reaching, grasping, and chewing on everything is the norm. How can quiet book times fit into such a busy life? If you choose your read-aloud times and books strategically and you can include lots of words and stories into your young child’s day.

Tips for sharing books and words with your wiggly one:

  • Give your child a small toy to hold on to while you read (or one for each hand). It’s a simple thing to do and it really helps!
  • Make the read-aloud experience full of activity by asking questions and pointing out details. You can put your finger on and count objects in the pictures, do the actions that are in the story you are reading, or point out objects in the book and say “What‘s this called?”
  • Before sitting down to share a book, do something physical with your child like having bath time, playing with toys, or trying to chase ducks at the park. After all that activity, your child will be more ready to sit down and relax.
  • Read books that are short, that match the length of your child’s attention span.
  • If your child isn’t able to sit down and focus, leave the books and just talk about what you are doing, tell stories or rhymes, or sing songs.
  • Make a habit of reading aloud when your child is naturally less active before nap or bedtime. By making it a routine, your child will come to expect and enjoy hearing books at those times.
  • If your child obviously isn’t in the mood to sit still or doesn’t have interest in the book you are reading, try a different time to read or a different book.

Always keep reading together fun and something your child looks forward to doing with you. Recommended books for active young children:

  • Full of Action: “Ten Little Fingers,” “I’m a Little Teapot” and “Itsy Bitsy Spider” are board books published by Child’s Play, that are familiar children’s songs. Most of us grew up knowing the motions that go with these rhymes. Continue the tradition by teaching your child your favorites. Annie Kubler illustrates these board books with her whimsical, round-headed children depicting a multitude of ethnicities.
  • Short Text: “Tickle, Tickle,” “All Fall Down” and “Say Goodnight” are all short board books with few words and lots of action. Written and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury, these books are just right for a young child with a short attention span. They aren’t stories with a beginning and end, but rather a series of actions that your child will recognize.
  • Rhyming and Word Fun: “Maybe My Baby” by Irene O’Book with photos of babies by Paula Hible has a bouncy text and some words that may be new to your child. Another great rhyming book is “Peek-a Who?” by Nina Laden. The pictures are boldly colored and the text brief with cut out holes that give a peek at what comes next. Your child may giggle at the silly, repetitive sounds.

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Filed under board books, books for babies, books for toddlers, family reading

Reading Fits into the Flow of Summer

How is your summer going? What have the kids been doing to keep busy? Running, jumping, swimming, exploring, and hopefully some relaxing have all been part of your family’s summer fun.

Summer reading fits right into the flow. Read a book aloud with your children for some quiet time and then get up and go with a related activity to make the book come alive! Here are some suggestions:


  • Read “The Salamander Room” by Anne Mazer, then go on a walk in your neighborhood and look under rocks, in streams, and in trees for creatures you may not usually notice.
  • Read “The Doorbell Rang” by Pat Hutchins, then bake some cookies and count them. If you eat 2 cookies, how many are left? What kind of cookies did you make? Did you follow a recipe in a cookbook?
  • Read “How Rocket Learned to Read” by Tad Hills, then write an alphabet letter in mud with a stick or in sand with your finger. A good letter for any child to learn is the first letter of his or her name.
  • Read “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus” by Mo Willems, then take a bus ride. Where did you go on the bus? Who did you see? Who drove the bus?
  • Feast for 10Read “Feast for Ten” by Cathryn Falwell, then go grocery shopping together. Make a list of what you need for the day. Check off each item on your list as you find it and put it in your cart.
  • Read “Aunt Flossie’s Hats (and Crab Cakes Later)” by Elizabeth Fitzgerald Howard, then try on all the hats you have at home. What shapes, colors, and sizes of hats does your family wear?
  • Read “Feathers for Lunch” by Lois Ehlert, then go on a walk to look for birds. You’ll find out the names of some local birds, what they look like, and what their call sounds like in this book. Can you spot any near where you live?
  • Read “A Splendid Friend, Indeed” by Suzanne Bloom and ask a friend to come over and share a snack. Or you could ask your friend to play a game or draw a picture. What do you like to do with your friends?

Have a great summer!

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What Makes a Classic?

I was talking to a friend recently who said the 1969 picture book “Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb” by Al Perkins was a favorite of her grandson when he was a young boy. He wanted to hear the book read aloud repeatedly and chose that book to buy as a gift for every friend’s birthday. Her grandson, now an adult, loves that book even to this day and will no doubt read it to his own children when he has a family.

Hand Hand Fingers Thumb

What makes a picture book a classic? How does a book become timeless and relevant to children over many generations?

There are a few qualities that classics share. At the core, the story has some ideas or actions by characters that are already part of a child’s life, and so are easily understood by a child. There are also some elements that are new, exciting, funny, curious, or sometimes even a little dangerous. That bit of the unknown makes the story memorable.

The familiar plus the new equals a classic story, especially if the theme is about a childhood issue such as conquering a fear, keeping hope, being accepted, knowing you are loved, or just having unrestricted fun! A classic story, even if published decades before, inspires a child to think bigger and imagine more.

Does your family already have children’s books that have become classics in your household? Here are some that have stood the test of time:

  • “Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb” by Al Perkins, illustrated by Eric Gurney. The characters of this book are all monkeys that act like children. They shake hands, sneeze, say hello and goodbye, and do everyday things (the familiar), all while they are drumming on drums (the unusual). The story is very simple with lots of rhythm, rhyme, and repetition, so it is predictable and enjoyable to hear read aloud. These monkeys are all friends who have fun together–a reassuring theme for any child.
  • “Goodnight Moon” by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Clement Hurd. A young bunny goes through his bedtime ritual of saying goodnight to all the things in his room, including the paintings on the wall and even the air in the room. The story takes a familiar part of a child’s life and expands it to be magical.
  • “The Story of Ferdinand” by Munro Leaf, illustrated by Robert Lawson. Ferdinand the bull is expected to be fierce and wild, but turns out to be peaceful and gentle. Every child can relate to wanting to be accepted for being himself and not what other’s think he should be.
  • “Curious George” by H. A. Rey. This is another monkey story about a curious little guy who unwittingly breaks all the rules, but is forgiven every time. Does that sound like any child you know?
  • “Corduroy” by Don Freeman. Similar to Curious George, Corduroy has an innocent, child-like curiosity that puts him into some predicaments that are a little scary for a small teddy bear. In the end he is always accepted and loved for who he is.


Filed under classics, family book traditions, family reading

A Prescription for Reading Aloud

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) announced recently that it is asking its 62,000 members across the country to be advocates for reading aloud to children. Along with the usual attention to healthy physical child development, the AAP is now recommending, for the first time, that pediatricians inform parents about early literacy education. Families will hear from their doctors that the words children learn early on are critical for later success in talking, communicating, and eventually independent reading.

In the first 3 years of a child’s life his or her brain is growing faster than it ever will again and children thrive on hearing words as others talk, sing, and read aloud. Studies have shown that there is a “word gap” that is evident as early as 18 months between babies who hear an abundance of words in everyday life and those who don’t.

Thankfully, every family in our own community has been given this message from their child’s doctor since 2002, when Family Reading Partnership’s “Books to Grow On” program was launched. Children have been receiving a brand new book at 6 different child-well visits before the age of 4 and have come to expect that a visit to the doctor means a book to take home. The books gain value as they come as gifts from trusted medical professionals.

Each book in the “Books to Grow On” program is chosen especially for the age of the child who will be taking it home so that families have the best possible read-aloud experience. This summer 2 more books will be added to the “Books to Grow On” library so families will be getting 8 books in their child’s first 4 years. New books titles are also replacing old favorites at the 12 offices in Tompkins County, NY that see children, so in the coming year families will receive these beautiful new books at well-visits:

  • 2 months: “Baby Cakes” by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Sam Williams. Rhyming words give parents love language to talk to their baby.
  • 4 months: “Moo, Baa, La, La, La!” by Sandra Boynton. These silly animals noises are just the kind of sounds a baby is beginning to say as he practices vocalizing.
  • 6 months: “Clap Hands” by Helen Oxenbury. A short story with pictures showing babies doing baby things like clapping, eating, and waving.
  • 12 months: “Chugga-Chugga Choo-Choo” by Kevin Lewis, illustrated by Daniel Kirk. From sun up to sun down a toy train picks up all the other toys in the playroom with a “wooo, wooo!”
  • 18 months: “I Can Do It Too!” by Karen Baicker, illustrated by Ken Wilson-Max. As a toddler becomes more independent, she can help out the grown-ups with every day fun.
  • 2 years: “Roadwork” by Sally Sutton, illustrated by Brian Lovelock. All kinds of vehicles and what they do to make a new road.
  • 3 years: “And Here’s to You!” by David Elliot, illustrated by Randy Cecil. Colorful, whimsical pictures of people, plants, and animals around the world with words of gratitude for all of life.
  • 4 years: “My Village: rhymes from around the world” collected by Danielle Wright, illustrated by Mique Moriuchi. Poems written in English and the native languages of many peoples in many countries show how children are fun-loving no matter where they are from.

When pediatricians give a prescription to parents to read to their young child, doctors are looking at the wellness of the whole child, not just their physical well being. Giving young children lots of words and loving attention gives them the emotional and cognitive foundation to have the best start in life!

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