Kindergarten, Here We Come!




By Elizabeth Stilwell, Early Childhood Specialist, Family Reading Partnership

It’s hard to imagine, but 3.7 million five year olds (and their families!) are starting kindergarten this school year in the US. Locally there are more than 1,000 children starting school in Tompkins County, NY. Many of these young children have attended a childcare or preschool program, but going to kindergarten is a big transition. Riding the bus, entering a big school building, and managing many transitions throughout the day are new experiences for most children. Helping your child know what to expect before they cross the threshold can help pave the way for a smooth start. But how can you do it, especially when your own heart is pounding in your chest?

Reading picture books about starting school can create opportunities for children to discuss their worries, and talk about all the wonderful new things they are about to experience. Encouraging your child to ask questions and talk about their expectations will offer opportunities for you to calm their fears and help them look forward to this new adventure.

Here are some wonderful books to help you get the conversation started:

  • “First Day” by Andrew Daddo, illustrated by Jonathan Bentley. This fun picture book gives children the opportunity to encourage their fretting parents and remind them that change can be a good thing!
  • “Starting School,” by Jane Godwin, covers new routines, new people, and new surroundings in a way that is positive and inclusive, helping children to see that they aren’t so different from the other kids who are starting at school.
  • “The Night Before Kindergarten” by Natasha Wing, illustrated by Anna Walker. This little book captures the excitement and anticipation of the first day of school. Details about how kids pack up their school supplies, lay out clothes, and then bound off to school the next morning are right on target!
  • “Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten” by Joseph Slate, illustrated by Ashley Wolff. This book shows how a teacher gets her classroom ready to welcome her new kindergarten students. All of the characters are animals…but that doesn’t seem to bother children at all, in fact they love the whimsical feel of the book.

So why not plan a trip to your local library and check out their collection of books on starting school? You might find that reading these books together will help calm your own worries along with your child’s!

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Filed under back to school, children's books, family reading

Reading On the Run

by Melissa Perry, Program Coordinator, Family Reading Partnership

With many families taking some sort of vacation this summer, there will be a lot of time spent on the road travelling with children. While traveling can be an exciting adventure, with opportunities to explore the world, experience new things, and create family memories, the reality is that it can also be stressful- especially when taking road trips with children. Fortunately, travel time is the perfect opportunity for children to enjoy the pleasure of reading! Not only is it a fun, quiet activity that can fill long stretches of time, it also lends itself to the discovery of far off lands and incredible people. (All of this to say nothing about the importance of reading to fend off summer learning loss!)

It’s simple to outfit a vehicle with a variety of literacy material within easy reach of your children, keeping them occupied to read to themselves, or read to you, the driver! Stash some books in the seat pockets or buckle in a milk crate or a backpack in the center seat and fill with books. It’s fun to bring along a few favorites and add some books related to your destination or journey along the way. Learning about the states or big cities you plan to travel through, the vehicles seen on the roads, or activities you may be doing on your trip, such as fishing, camping, or visiting Grandma. There is an abundance of books that can capture the attention of your young travelers. Books are the perfect travel companions because they can be read again and again and children can read them to each other. Bring along small clip-on book lights for nighttime reading. Don’t forget that comic books, joke books, I spy books, magazines, and graphic novels count, too!

Another great way to weave literacy into your car trip is to borrow a few recorded books to enjoy while traveling. There are many options at your local library and it’s something the whole family can enjoy together, naturally encouraging conversations about predicting what may happen next, what each character could have done differently in the story, or what may have happened with the characters before the story began. Adults can also check out a few recorded books of their own and pop those in while the kids are asleep.

With over two-thirds of the population of young children in the US having regular access to an e-reader or tablet of some sort, it may seem logical to leave the printed books and recorded books at home, opting instead for the electronic versions of books. However, if your intention is to encourage your children to read while on the road, it’s useful to know that only about half the number of children using an electronic device use it for reading. And even at that rate, electronic devices only hold a reader’s attention for five minutes per day; compared to 30 minutes per day a child will read printed books. That’s a significant difference!

So, as you pack the car for your next family adventure, be sure to include reading material for every member of the clan, including the adults to model reading as a pleasurable, relaxing, and valuable activity. You can even create simple activity kits that relate to the books you have decided to bring along that extend the experience for little ones and keep them occupied just that much longer. Consider small toys such as finger puppets, small animal figurines, or, my favorite, a notebook and crayons. A theme-based snack can be a fun addition, too!


Some fun travel themed books to check out include:

“Richard Scarry’s Cars and Trucks and Things That Go”
“Our 50 States” by Lynne Cheney
“Road Trip” by Roger Eschbacher
“Swimmy” by Leo Lionni
“S is for S’mores: A Camping Alphabet” by Helen Foster James
“Mister Seahorse” by Eric Carle
“Planes” by Byron Barton
“Dear Zoo” by Rod Campbell
“Next Stop Grand Central” by Maira Kalman
“A Bear Called Paddington” by Michael Bond
“Wabi Sabi” by Mark Reibstein
“Fly High, Fly Lo” by Don Freeman

For older readers:

“The Magic Tree House” series by Mary Pop Osborne
“From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler” by E.L. Konigsburg
“The Invention of Hugo Cabret” by Brian Selznick
“The Mysterious Benedict Society and The Perilous Journey” by Trenton Lee Stewart


Happy reading on the run!










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Filed under activities, book activites, can do, children's books, family reading, siblings, summer

Go On an Adventure by Book!

Ready to go on an adventure? Open a book and begin! Children’s books are full of new ideas, words, and excitement. Read a book with your child and then experience the book through real life for added dimension and pizzazz!

If you read a book about a bakery, go visit one and get a sample of a tasty treat. If you read a book about birds, do some backyard bird watching and see what feathered friends you find. If you read about construction vehicles, spend a week looking for them on any outings. You can also go on a reading adventure at home, learning about things you do every day to see life in a new way.

When you are on your adventure, you can have your book with you to read and compare. What is the same in this bakery as the one in your book? What birds did you find that are the same or different as what you read about? How many construction vehicles did you spot that were in the book you read? Your child will be learning new words as you talk about what you are doing and will be practicing how tell you his or her own ideas.

Here are some suggestions for books to read and activities to do. Have fun on your reading adventures!

Read “From Head to Toe” by Eric Carle and do all the movements in the book. When you are done, play a guessing game and take turns remembering what motion each animal makes.

Read “Harold and the Purple Crayon” by Crockett Johnson, then make a picture together. One person can draw something with a crayon on paper, then can give the crayon to the next person, who adds to the drawing. Go back and forth adding to the drawing until the paper is full.

raindrop plop

Read “Raindrop Plop!” by Wendy Cheyette Lewison, illustrated by Pam Paparone on a rainy day, then put on some boots, grab an umbrella, and see what you find out in the rain. Are there any new streams of water or puddles? Are there any animals or insects out in the rain with you?

Read “Lunch” by Denise Fleming, then try to find a rainbow of food to eat for your own lunch. What food is red, purple, or green? Can you find anything to eat that is pink, blue, or yellow?

Read “I Went Walking” by Sue Williams, illustrated by Julie Vivas, and go on your own walk. Take a walk around your neighborhood, a park, or a farm. What animals do you see? What color is each animal? You can repeat the refrain in the book as you go, “I went walking. What did you see? I saw a (fill in with animal name) looking at me.”


Read “Jamberry” by Bruce Degan and find some berries to eat! Look at the grocery store, farmer’s market, or farm stand. Try to find fresh berries, but if you can’t, you can get frozen berries or berry jam at the grocery. Which berries are your favorites? Which berries does your child like?

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Silly Sounds are Perfect for Your One-Year-Old

It is an exciting time when your growing baby starts communicating more intentionally around his first birthday. He may know how to shake his head no, respond to questions by pointing, and even saying a few easy words. At 12 months your child is becoming much more social and she can interact with others by imitating noises and learning new words.

Children at this age enjoy books with rhyming text and silly sounds. As you read aloud, repeat the rhymes or noises and see if your child says them along with you. Ask questions about the book. When you see a picture of a cow ask, “What does the cow say?” You can also pause before saying the last word on each page and see if your child fills in with a sound or word.

Here are some books with text just right for your one-year old. They all come in a sturdy board book format so there are no paper pages to rip or crumple and your baby can even teethe on them without too much damage. See which books your child likes best.

“Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You?” by Dr. Seuss. The board book version of the original is an abbreviated story still filled with buzzing, banging, and mooing sounds and asks the child to make the sound on each page. When your child gets older, you can graduate to the longer version of the book.

Flip-Flap-Fly-Root-Phyllis“Flip, Flap, Fly!” by Phyllis Root, illustrated by David Walker. A baby bird leaves his nest and sees many other animals on his first adventure in flying. He sees a baby snake that ziggle, zaggle, wiggles, and a baby otter that sloop, slop, slides, along with many other baby animals with fun-loving words to say on each page.

“Itsy, Bitsy Spider,” a Child’s Play book illustrated by Annie Kubler. There are many books that retell traditional nursery rhymes, but the Child’s Play series are all board books that include motions to do while reading and joyful illustrations of smiling children. They lend themselves to snuggling and giggling with your baby.

“Moo, Moo, Brown Cow! Have You Any Milk?” by Phillis Gershator, illustrated by Giselle Potter. This story is based on the cadence of the traditional nursery rhyme, “Baa, Baa Black Sheep” but has many new verses that fit together to make a farmyard frolic. Your baby will love the rhythm and rhyme. You can try to just read this book aloud, but you may end up singing it!

“I Went Walking” by Sue Williams, illustrated by Julie Vivas. Each page starts with “I went walking,” with an illustration of child. And then asks, “What did you see?” We see a girl discovering animals, one by one, on her walk. When you read this book with your child, make the noises of each animal as they appear in the story and soon your child will be making the animal noises with you.


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Filed under board books, books for babies, books for toddlers, reading to babies, rhyming, rhythm

Imagine What Is in a Book!

Picture books help children expand their imagination. Reading stories about how other people think, what they do, and places that are different than their own, help children learn new vocabulary and think more creatively. It helps them be better problem solvers! Any book can be an adventure for a child when you talk about it as you tell the story. Ask your child questions, suggest some different endings to the book, and talk about new ideas. See if some of the following get your child’s creative juices flowing.

“Now What Can I Do?” by Margaret Park Bridges, pictures by Melissa Sweet. A raccoon child wonders what he can do now that it’s raining outside. Every parent knows that complaint! His mom sees all the chores to do inside and helps her son see how fun it can be to make everything into a game. Making his bed is much more fun if he pretends his bed is a boat. Putting toys away becomes herding cattle. Putting socks in a drawer is like making a slam dunk in a basketball game. Brushing teeth can be pretending to be a singer. After reading this book, you and your child can think of even more fun you could have around the house using just a little imagination.

“Magic Box” by Katie Cleminson. When a girl pretends she is a master magician, she makes animals appear and disappear in great abundance. Animals can float and play music too! Illustrations are ink outlines with blues and reds splattered into the background. With a wave of her magic wand, everything vanishes… except one thing… Read the book to find out what is left!

“Red Wagon” by Renata Liwska. Lucy has a new, bright red wagon and is ready to play, but her mother wants Lucy to use the wagon for chores. Instead of pouting, Lucy does her chores with her wagon and her trip to the market becomes a high-seas adventure, a ride through outer space, and a day at the circus.

DoCowboysRideBikes “Do Cowboys Ride Bikes?” by Kathy Tucker, illustrated by Nadine Bernard Westcott. A question on each page and then a rhyming answer tell about cowboy life, from what they eat and say, to what they do at night. This book is a great conversation starter. Is cowboy life easy or hard, fun or just a job? After this book you can read, “Do Pirates Take Baths?” by the same author/illustrator team.

“Mouse Mess” by Linnea Riley. What would your life be like if you were a mouse? This rhyming story has illustrations with big bold shapes and colors for young children. Mouse has fun after the humans go to bed, raking the spilled corn flakes, nibbling food, making a castle with brown sugar, taking tops off of jars–what a mess! After his night of adventure he takes a bath and goes to bed. Will the humans know that he has been there?


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Filed under creativity, imagination

Babies Belong at the Library!

Kicking off National Library Week, the six public libraries in Tompkins County and Family Reading Partnership have launched a new initiative called “Babies Belong at the Library!” New library cards especially for babies, more board books to check out, and special read-aloud and play times for babies offered at every library are all part of encouraging families to visit their nearest library early and often to make it a familiar and comfortable place for their growing family.

This week families with babies born at Cayuga Medical Center received the first copies of “Baby’s First Library Card” in a red book bag with a board book of “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle, and a list of “50 Board Books for Baby” that they can find at any of the local public libraries. “Baby’s First Library Card” is also available at all Tompkins County public libraries and through many community organizations that work with families. In special recognition of welcoming babies, all six libraries have adopted a policy that there will be no fines on board books for babies.

Come, stay, and play with your baby and books at the library! Babies learn about books and stories through listening, looking, handling, and tasting! The most important thing is spending time with your baby and talking or reading, giving your baby the words that he or she will start learning and some day say back to you.

Babies like to hear stories with rhythm, rhyme, and motion. Very young babies like to look at faces of people, and as they get older they enjoy stories about the world they see around them. Here are just fifteen of many books that come in a sturdy board book format that can stand up to a baby’s curiosity.

“Whose Toes are Those?” by Jabari Asim

“Itsy, Bitsy Spider” by Annie Kubler

“Peek-a-Who?” by Nina Laden

“Flip, Flap, Fly” by Phyllis Root

“From Head to Toe” by Eric Carle

“Clap Your Hands” by Lorinda Bryan Cauley

“All Fall Down” by Helen Oxenbury

“Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb” by Al Perkins

“Baby Dance” by Ann Taylor

“Snug” by Carole Thompson

“Counting Kisses” by Karen Katz

“Hugs & Kisses” by Roberta Grobel Intrater

“Carry Me” by Star Bright Books

“Where is the Green Sheep?” by Mem Fox

“I Went Walking” by Sue Williams

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Filed under family reading, libary, National Library Week, reading to babies

Yoga for Children Is More Than Just Movement

My-Daddy-is-a-PretzelStretch and bend, cross over and reach! With spring  on the way it’s time to get limbered up for outdoor activities. Children can have fun while forming their bodies into the shapes of animals, letters, and geometric shapes with kid-friendly yoga.

Along with getting the blood flowing, yoga also helps clear the mind and is a way to work out feelings. If your child is happy, sad, mad, or sleepy, ask him how he can show that in the way he holds his body. Working out feelings through movement is a great life skill to carry into adulthood!

Here are some movement books that show children yoga positions you can do at home. Most books also tell a little about how yoga can help children with concentration and patience.

“The Happiest Tree, a Yoga Story” by Uma Krishnaswami, illustrated by Ruth Jeyaveeran. Meena was worried about how she would perform in the school play. She felt like she was clumsy and would trip and stumble on stage. But, when Meena started taking a yoga class especially for children, she learned how to quite her mind and feel in control of her body. What she really learned was how to have peace of mind no matter what happened.

“Alef-Bet Yoga for Kids” by Ruth Goldeen, photos by Bill Goldeen. Photos of children superimposed onto Hebrew letters show how each letter can be made by bending this way or that. Learn the Hebrew alphabet in a very experiential way, while stretching, bending, and lengthening the body.

“Babar’s Yoga for Elephants,” based on the characters by Laurent de Brunhoff. This is a silly book for mid-elementary aged children. According to this story, elephants invented yoga! Here are 15 positions that you can do as a family or that children can do on their own. After giving instruction on the poses, the book shows all the places that an elephant (or human) could practice yoga during a regular day such as a department store, the subway, a park, or in Times Square, and at any number of world tourist destinations.

“My Daddy is a Pretzel: Yoga for Parents and Kids” by Baron Baptiste, illustrated by Sophie Fatus. Written by a world-famous yoga instructor, this is an introduction to yoga positions that will resonate with children. The name of each position in English is related to a real-life object so children can pretend and imagine as they contort their bodies into different shapes. Diagrammed step-by-step instructions show how to form “Tree,” “Dog,” “Triangle,” and 6 other poses.

“Can You Move Like an Elephant?” by Judy Hindley, illustrated by Manya Stojic. Although this isn’t specifically a yoga book, it is a wonderful introduction to yoga-like positions for young children. The book suggests movements that are similar to different animals, like slithering like a snake or scratching like a monkey. Slide slow like a snail, spring in one bound like a tiger. Do the motions with your child and both of you will benefit.

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Filed under family reading, movement