Encourage Creativity and Wonder

Katrina Morse
For Family Reading Partnership

The next time you are at your local library or favorite bookstore, make a point to find the biographies in the non-fiction section of the children’s books. Once you know your way to those shelves, you’ll have access to the true-to-life stories that can inspire and engage your child into learning new things and dreaming big.

Stories about activists, composers, athletes, inventors, artists, engineers, and more will spark your child’s imagination. Many biographies written for children start by describing the childhood of the accomplished adult. They tell how that man or woman began with an idea as a young boy or girl and how their curiosity and wonder drove them to pursue their passion.

Who will inspire your child’s love of learning? Check out some of the following biographies of scientists and inventors. And make sure to read more biographies about other life adventurers that followed their dreams and in doing, made the world a better place.

“Shark Lady: The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean’s Most Fearless Scientist” by Jess Keating, illustrated by Marta Alvarez Miguens.
This is the story of marine biologist Eugenie Clark and her daring pursuit of studying sharks at a time in history when women were discouraged from careers that were dangerous and traditionally held by men.

“The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind,” picture book edition, by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer, illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon. This modern day biography was released as a chapter book and is now a motion picture and a picture book for younger children. This is the story of a young boy and his vision to bring electricity to his village in Malawi. With a mixture of illustration and photos, the reader sees the real life account of a boy whose search for answers started at his public library and led him to invent the design for a windmill to generate electricity that changed life in his community.

“On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein” by Jennifer Berne Page, illustrated by Vladimir Radunsky. We think of Einstein, the man, as a genius, but first he was a curious, imaginative child who didn’t speak much. As an adult he was funny and loved jokes and tricks, and still wasn’t comfortable in social settings. But, Einstein never stopped wondering how things worked and had the courage and motivation to explore the physical world around him and the world in his mind to come up with revolutionary theories in physics.

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All About Trees

by Katrina Morse
for Family Reading Partnership

A tree can be a memorable part of childhood. A tree can hold a swing or a birdhouse. Some trees are good for climbing and others for picking apples. A tree’s leaves can change from green to bright red, yellow, and orange. Children can watch a small tree grow bigger, just as they are growing, too.

Learn more about these remarkable plants by reading some of these books together, and maybe you’ll look at the trees around you in a new way.

“We Planted a Tree” by Diane Muldrow illustrated by Bob Staake.“We planted a tree and it grew up. We planted a tree and that one tree helped heal the earth.” Two families on opposite sides of the world both find that trees are important for shade, cleaning the air, giving us food, and helping to keep soil from washing away.

“The Great Kapok Tree” by Lynne Cherry. When a man comes to the Amazon rainforest to cut down a Kapok tree, he first takes a nap at its base and then hears whispered messages of the animals that depend on the tree for survival. When the man wakes up, he has changed his mind about using his axe to cut the tree down.

“Tell Me, Tree: All About Trees for Kids” by Gail Gibbons. Along with giving the reader facts about all the ways trees are an important part of the web of life, this book teaches how to tell one tree apart from another. You and your child will learn types of trees and why we all should appreciate these amazing plants.

“Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf” by Lois Ehlert uses simple text and collage illustrations to describe the life of a tree. The book text will engage young children and older children will appreciate the glossary the back of the book that goes into more detail about the life cycle of a tree.

“The Tree Lady: The True Story of How One Tree-Loving Woman Changed a City Forever” by H. Joseph Hawkins, illustrated by Jill McElmurry. This is a biography of Katherine Olivia Sessions in the 1800s. As Kate was growing up, she became fascinated with the trees around her in northern California. Although it wasn’t common for girls at that time to get dirty hands or to be a scientist, Kate pursued her love of trees. When she was older she helped change San Diego, in southern California, from a desert city to one with an abundance of lush green trees. Charming illustrations depict the events in the life of this environmental pioneer.

“Strange Trees and the Stories Behind Them” by Bernadette Pourquie and Cecile Gambini. Trees are very adaptable and have developed special characteristics that help them live in many different habitats. Early elementary aged children will appreciate the unbelievable tree forms and a map showing where all these unusual trees grow around the world.

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Back to School!

by Katrina Morse
for Family Reading Partnership

Get ready for school! New routines, new friends, and new challenges are part of the school year ahead. Is your child starting a new school or moving up a grade and joining a new classroom? Ease any first-day-of-school jitters by reading stories about what school might by like and talking about your child’s feelings.

The characters in books often have the same feelings that your child may have, so reading a book together can give you and your child ideas and the words to talk about and overcome any worries.

Sharing any book with your child also adds to their personal sense of security. Sitting together and giving your attention to your child as you read aloud shows them that you support them, care for them, and love them. It helps your child feel confident enough to try new things, which they will be doing all school year long.

Here are some books to read before the big first day:

“On the First Day of Kindergarten” by Tish Rabe, illustrated by Laura Hughes. Count all the fun first days of kindergarten, starting right on day one. You will see how many exciting things happen in school, like making new friends, painting, running a race, and counting. Upbeat and engaging with a diverse classroom of children depicted in the illustrations.

“The Pigeon HAS to Go to School” by Mo Willems. Pigeon cannot believe he has to start school. He already knows everything and doesn’t want to make new friends. What is school about anyway? He just doesn’t want to go! If your child already loves Mo Willems’ books, this is going to be another winner in your family. If you have yet to meet Pigeon–and Elephant and Piggie–in other Willems’ books, you are in for a treat, and some laughs! Pigeon has many of the same fears as any child about going to school, but your child can giggle at Pigeon’s overblow reactions.

“Monsters Love School,” by Mike Austin. A little monster named Blue is anxious and worried about going to school. He wonders, “What do you eat at school? What do you learn? What about friends?” Adults and teachers are reassuring at every turn during Blue’s first school day. From the art teacher, to the school lunch worker, to the gym teacher he hears the same messages, “School is for trying new things. You’ll meet new friends. You’ll like school!” Told with humor and light-heartedness, this story will be a comfort to a Pre-K or kindergarten child before their first day at a new school.

“Planet Kindergarten” by Sue Ganz-Schmitt, illustrated by Shane Prigmore. Put on your helmet and get ready to blast off to a classroom. This story creates an outer space adventure of going to school. Starting with a flight plan for the journey, school as a space capsule, and fellow students as the crew, the playful story reveals that the main astronaut is a bit worried about the trip. Cute and clever, the story ends with the young space-goer back on his original planet with a splashdown (in the bathtub) in the comfort of his own home.

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Filed under back to school, benefits of reading together, family reading, Feelings, Mo Willems, opportunities for conversation

Summertime Read Aloud!

by Katrina Morse for Family Reading Partnership

What are your family’s favorite summer activities? Picking and eating fresh strawberries, open ended fun at the playground, or cooling off with a swim? Bring along books to read aloud wherever you go and you’ll have a ready-made way to take a break from your action-packed day.

By reading books aloud to your children – even after they can read on their own – you’ll be introducing them to new words and ideas, sparking their imagination and curiosity. Here are some summer-themed books to enjoy with your family:

“I See Summer” by Charles Ghigna, illustrated by Agnieszka Malgorzata Jatkowska. Bright and colorful illustrations depict cheerful summer scenes from sailboats to gardens. This is a great point and say book. Ask your 2-3 year old where things are that you name on each page or count the objects together. You can extend the book experience after reading by continuing the book’s phrase, “I see…”, and filling in what you see around you in real life.

“Gorilla Loves Vanilla” by Chae Strathie, illustrated by Nicola O’Byrne. This book will tickle the funny bone of your 3-5 year old. Stinky blue cheese ice cream? Squirmy wormy ice cream? Ice cream flavored with mud? Who eats all these unusual flavors and what will Gorilla choose as his favorite?

“Jabari Jumps” by Gaia Cornwall. This is a story about a boy who is working on being brave. Jabari would like to jump off the high dive at the community pool, but when he looks at the long ladder to the board, he sees that it’s mighty high up. Told in a playful, yet emotionally sensitive way, the story describes Jabari’s determination to overcome his fears. The longer text of this book, with sounds effects, repetition, and rhythm, will engage 4-7 year olds.

“Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH” by Robert C. O’Brien, illustrated by Zena Bernstein. Published in 1971, this chapter book still remains a favorite with its themes of self-sufficiency, ingenuity, and “doing the right thing.” This is a fantasy story set the in the summer months, featuring the mysterious Rats of NIMH. Read this book aloud, a few chapters at a time, to your 6-10 year old. Or, you could take turns and your child could read to you. Suspenseful and heroic, this will be a story your family will remember.

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Celebrate Dads with Children’s Books

by Katrina Morse for Family Reading Partnership

Let’s celebrate dads! Give a children’s book as a gift to a new dad, or read books together about dads with your young child. Children will see in stories how it’s the simple, everyday things a dad does with his family that children will grow up to cherish.

Very young children are learning who is who in their immediate world. Dad, mom, sister, brother – babies and toddlers are just beginning to understand who the important people are in their lives. Reading books about dads (or moms, grandmas, grandpas, and significant others) is a way to talk to your child about these relationships.

But more importantly, every time you snuggle up with a child and read a book together, you are establishing a loving bond and a feeling of security for your child that will help them grow and thrive.

Here are some books about fathers to celebrate the dad in your young child’s life. Most of these are in board book format, so are great for babies who want to hold a book and explore how it opens and closes – and how it tastes!

“Made for Me” by Zack Bush, illustrated by Gregorio DeLauretis. This story is very sweet in its words, but what makes the book compelling to share with a child are the illustrations paired with the story. The dad depicted is a gentle giant of a man who cares for a very small child and repeats the reassuring refrain in the story, “You are the one made just for me.”

“Quiero a mi papa porque… – I Love My Daddy Because…” by Laurel Porter Gaylord, illustrated by Ashley Wolff. English and Spanish are together in one book, or you can read the English only version. This book is part of a series of board books that show the caring family relationships of people that are similar to animal families.

“I Love You Daddy “by Jilliam Harker, illustrated by Kristina Stephenson celebrates the bond between a child and dad. When Little Bear needs a hand he finds that his father is the best choice to help out and in turn learns more about himself.

“Daddy Hugs” by Karen Katz. This is a counting book layered with love and hugs between a father and baby going about their daily routine. The short text and bold illustrations will capture the attention of your young child.

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Making Friends

by Katrina Morse for Family Reading Partnership

What does it take to be a good friend? Sharing adventures, working out problems, and accepting each other despite differences is a good foundation for a long-term friendship.

As the parent of a young child, you can model good friendships and show your child the type of supportive people that you want to have around that add meaning and richness to your life.

You can also talk to your child about what character traits you value as a family such as honesty, kindness, being a good listener, and being able to share. Reading books together about friendship gives you the opportunity to talk about the joys and the occasional frustrations of being and having a friend. Enjoy some of these stories and learn more about friendship.

  • “Carrot and Pea, an Unlikely Friendship” by Morag Hood. Can a small, round, green pea and a tall, straight, orange carrot stick be friends? With illustrations made of simple shapes and bold color, this clever story explains to the very young child how differences can be the bond for friendship.
  • “Stick and Stone” by Beth Ferry, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld. Much like “Carrot and Pea,” with one round and one straight character, this rhyming story goes into more detail about what it takes to be a friend through good times and rough patches. Even though friends can be very different from each other, true friends care about one another.
  • “George and Martha” short stories by James Marshall. These two goofy hippos are best friends and do everything together. They go to the movies, the beach, eat meals, and like all best friends, laugh together and sometimes have misunderstandings. Although written over 30 years ago, these stories are timeless.
  • “Gerald and Piggie” books by Mo Willems. When an elephant and a pig get together, anything can happen! Each story explores an emotion that arises in this unlikely friendship using very simple language, with just a few words on each page.
  • “Leonardo the Terrible Monster” by Mo Willems. Being terrible at being a monster means that you can’t scare anyone! Leonardo works at becoming scary, but when he succeeds he realizes that perhaps being kind is a better way to gain a friend than being frightening.

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Play with Books!

by Katrina Morse for Family Reading Partnership

Dramatic play is what children do naturally. Acting out scenarios from real life settings such as home, the grocery store, or a city street or pretending to be someone else like a musician, pirate, or scientist give children the opportunity to explore their own feelings and learn how to talk about them. They confront fears, make choices, and solve problems. There is so much learning that happens in play!

Children’s books are a rich source of ideas for pretending. After reading any of your favorite books together, ask your young child which character they would like to pretend to be and start acting out the story. Grown-up hats, scarves, and shoes can used be as costumes that transform your child into another person or creature. Recreate the setting of a book with a few simple props you already have at home. Pillows can become a boat, car, or a picnic table. Stuffed animals and action figures can become other characters in a story. Let the play expand to new make-believe stories and let your child’s imagination blossom.

Here are some books for young children that will inspire the fun:

“This Jazz Man” by Karen Ehrhardt, illustrated by R.G. Roth. This counting book has a bee bop rhythm in the descriptions of how a jazz band makes music. Snap, tap, pound a beat on a drum, and lead with a conductor’s baton. Make your own instruments at home out of pots and pans and create your own sounds just by humming, clicking, and tootling to a beat! Can you work together to make music?

“Wiggle” by Doreen Cronin, illustrations by Scott Menchin. From the author of “Click, Clack, Moo, Cows That Type,” here is another story that will tickle your child’s funny bone and spark some creativity. Follow along as a dog wiggles his way through the day. From the morning wake-up wiggle, to wiggling with his shadow, wiggling like a crocodile, and wiggling as slowly as a polar bear, this is a book that you’ll want to read standing up. Then your child can practice all the ways to wiggle.

“Little Blue Truck Leads the Way.” By Alice Schertle, illustrated by Jill McElmurry. A sequel to “Little Blue Truck,” this story is set in a city with many other types of vehicles, lots of people, and tall buildings. Little Blue Truck is in the right place at the right time and saves the day. Phew! How did he feel about that? You and your children can pretend to be a line of cars, trucks, and cabs with Little Blue Truck out in front, leading the way through a city made by the furniture and doorways of your home.

 

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Filed under creativity, dramatic play, imagination, movement, music, rhythm