Celebrate Autumn with Children’s Books

by Katrina Morse for Family Reading Partnership

Nature puts on her brightest colors in autumn in the northeast. With the cooler nights and shorter days, leaves lose their green chlorophyll to reveal reds, oranges, and yellows. This year because of some dry weather at the right moment in September, tree foliage is even more brilliant than usual. Autumn crops are also colorful with deep oranges and dark greens of pumpkins, gourds, and others in the squash family. And of course the beautiful reds of ripe apples are a feast for the eyes and the tummy!

There are many picture books about the fall season that will enrich your child’s understanding and appreciation of this glorious time of year. More than just color changes, autumn is full of other natural wonders and family traditions.

“We’re Going on a Leaf Hunt” by Steve Metzger, illustrated by Miki Sakamoto. Rhythmic and rhyming text tells a playful story about 3 children going on a leaf collecting adventure. Over, under, through, around, and across hills, waterfalls, and more, the children find leaves of Maple, Hickory, Birch, and Oak trees. Lots of details for young children to point out in each charming illustration.

“Awesome Autumn: All Kinds of Fall Facts and Fun” is one book in the Season Facts and Fun series with text and photographs by Bruce Goldstone. Children can learn why leaves change color in autumn, which animals hibernate, and autumn holidays to celebrate. There are even autumn craft projects to create!

“Fall Mixed Up” by Bob Raczka, illustrated by Chad Cameron. If your child is old enough to know some of the signs of fall and has a good sense of humor, this book could be very entertaining! Every single page has a color, animal, or behavior reversed. The book ends with: “Can this be fall? Close but not quite. Go back and find all the things that aren’t right.” Fun for ages 4 and up.

“Autumnblings” is a collection of short poems by Douglas Florian, illustrated with his whimsical paintings. One of 4 similar poetry books about the seasons, each collection is a rhythmic adventure in words. His poems are written with kid-centric imagery and in different poetry formats. He plays with the spellings and meanings of words–writing techniques that 1st through 5th graders will find engaging. These poems may inspire some poetry writing in your own household!

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Filed under autumn, family reading, Series

Who is in Your Family?

by Katrina Morse for Family Reading Partnership

Who is in your family? Mom, dad, sister, brother? Grandma, uncle, friend, neighbor, pet? Families are made of those that we hold dear – the loved ones who share our ups and downs. Family members are there for us when we need support and help us celebrate good times, too.

Who does your child consider as part of your family? It’s a great discussion to have. These children’s books explore the many forms families can have. Find all of these books read aloud online to preview them or share with your child if you don’t have the books on hand. Better yet, get a copy of these books at the library or your local bookseller, snuggle up with your child, and learn about families.

“Families” by Shelley Rotner and Sheila M. Kelly. This book of photos shows how a family can be big or small, the people similar or different-looking, and they can be living together or apart. What makes a family is that the people care about each other. The book ends with the question – What does your family look like?

“Around the Table That Grandad Built” by Melanie Heuiser Hill, illustrated by Jaime Kim. This is a cumulative story that builds up to a delicious family meal. Each member of this extended family adds something to the table that grandad built, from a vase of flowers and napkins to food from a few different cuisines. The rhythm of the text makes a fun read-aloud.

“Love Makes a Family” by Sophie Beer. This board book is illustrated with playful images in bold colors that show many types of families and the activities family members enjoy doing together. Each page included lots of images for a young child to point to and name.

“Full, Full, Full of Love” by Trish Cooke, Illustrated by Paul Howard. Young Jay Jay and his Gran spend a day together waiting for a Sunday family dinner. Hugs, kisses, and happy faces finally arrive and friends and family sit down to a home cooked meal of collard greens, rice and red beans, chicken, potatoes and ham, cobbler with raspberry sauce, and more! There’s nothing like a meal to pull family together and create time to enjoy one another.

“Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born” by Jamie Lee Curtis, illustrated by Laura Cornell. A young girl asks her parents for a retelling of the often-told story of when she was born and brought home to live with her adoptive parents. The recounting of the silly times and loving moments when she was a newborn baby is a celebration of what makes a family.

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Filed under family, family reading, grandparents

Take Your Family on a Story Walk

by Katrina Morse for Family Reading Partnership

Take your family on a walk—a Story Walk! Stroll down a wooded path or skip through a mown field and read pages of a children’s book as you go. Dryden, Enfield, Danby, Groton, and soon Newfield have specially marked trails with the words and pictures from children’s books posted at intervals along your way. These five Story Walks in Tompkins County are a program of Family Reading Partnership.

“Over and Under the Pond” by Kate Messner is featured on the Dryden Story Walk

Start with the book cover at the trailhead then look for the book’s first page next on the path. Read aloud as you go and enjoy the story, illustrations, and being outside with your children. What happens next in the story? Look for the next page on the trail to find out!

Walking while reading can be the perfect way to share a book with an active child and can engage a range of ages from baby to early elementary school ages.

The books for these Story Walks are chosen by librarians and community members in each area and feature local authors and illustrators when possible. Books are usually nature-themed or have content related to the community itself and are replaced with new books seasonally.

When each Story Walk is launched, the featured book is given as a gift to families who attended the event that day, with funding for books provided by United Way of Tompkins County Youth and Philanthropy, Rotary Club of Ithaca, and in Dryden in memory of Grandma Alice Garmezy by her loving family. After the launch, the Story Walk trail is opened for all to enjoy year-round for new adventures each visit.

In Dryden you can read “Over and Under the Pond” by Kate Messner, illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal. The Story Walk is located on the portion of the Jim Schug Trail between Agway (Main St) and South St. In this story children will discover how plants and animals live together on the land surrounding a pond and in the pond’s water.

The Enfield Story Walk is located on the elementary school grounds, starting in the orchard, and features “Mouse’s First Fall” by Lauren Thompson, illustrated by Buket Erdogan. Learn about autumn with the book’s characters Mouse and Minka as they explore leaf shapes and fall colors.

In Danby read “Over in the Meadow” by John Langstaff , illustrated by Feodor Rojankovsky on their Story Walk located at Dotson Park, in the area right in front by the natural playground. Based on the traditional counting song, each page of this book has new details for young children to see and animal noises to try out.

Groton is currently featuring “Izzy’s Groton Adventure” by local authors Janet Watkins and Mona Forney, and is located on the Groton Memorial Trail section that leaves from the Groton Memorial Park, behind the pool. Because this is a new Story Walk, free copies of the book are still available for families to pick up at Brittany Station gift shop, while supplies last. Store hours and location are posted at the Story Walk.

Published in 2013, this is the first of a series of books told from the perspective of a fictional, adventurous orange cat, Izzy P. Kitty, who lives in the Groton Public Library. Readers may recognize Groton landmarks and some town residents in the book. This Story Walk is recommended for slightly older children because of the steeper trail and longer story.

Newfield will be getting their Story Walk installed later in August or September. Location and book still to be determined.

Want to get involved? Groton and Enfield Story Walks are still in need of sponsors. Volunteer liaisons are also needed for each Story Walk to walk a trail every week or two and let Family Reading Partnership know if anything needs attention. Contact Family Reading Partnership at 607-277-8602 or office@familyreading.org for more information. Follow Family Reading Partnership on Facebook and Instagram for read-aloud tips, inspiration, and activities.

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Filed under activities, book activites, family reading, family time, opportunities for conversation, reading outside

Stargazing with Children

by Katrina Morse
for Family Reading Partnership

What do your children see in the night sky? The moon, stars, and planets? A fish, a bear, or even a lion? The night sky has been a source of wonder and inspiration for people since we first looked up! Science researchers and explorers have provided us with facts about the vast universe of celestial bodies and phenomena, and they are still discovering more. And before we knew the science of the skies, people were seeing shapes in the stars and creating stories to explain the world they knew.

Plan a midnight star gazing with your children and they will never forget time spent looking at the sky when normally they would be asleep. Right now in the Northern Hemisphere you can see the Perseid Meteor Showers, which peak this year around August 11 and taper off 2 weeks later. The meteors are made of grains of dust and ice left behind by the Comet Swift-Tuttle. As the debris hits the Earth’s atmosphere it burns and creates shooting stars.

The shooting stars seem to originate around the area of the ancient Greek constellation of Perseus in our northeastern sky, and so are named after that mythical figure. Cultures across the Earth have seen many figures in the sky based on the animals, people, and life that they lived.

For a taste of the variety in constellation myths, the picture book “Star Stories from Around the World” by Anita Ganeri and illustrated by Andy Wilx tells twenty-three sky legends accompanied by beautiful artwork.

Weaving science and storytelling into one children’s book is “What We See in the Stars: An Illustrated Tour of the Night Sky” written and illustrated by Kelsey Oseid. Learn about the Northern Lights, planets, deep space, and constellation myths from other cultures.

“They Dance in the Sky: Native American Star Myths” by Ray A. Williamson, illustrated by Edgar Stewart tells about the night sky with stories from many of the native North American tribes.

“Follow the Drinking Gourd” by Jeanette Winter is a picture book recounting a song passed on by African-American slaves who used the Big Dipper constellation as a guide to travel north to escape slavery.

“50 Things to See in the Sky” by Sarah Barker, illustrated by Maria Nilsson is a non-fiction book that will give your family facts about more than just stars and planets.

“2020 Guide to the Night Sky: A Month-by Month Guide to Exploring the Skies Above North America,” by Storm Dunlop and Will Tirion can be read over time as you explore the sky each month.

Look, learn, and imagine the sky you see and how others saw the sky long ago. You’ll see the night sky in a new way, and maybe be inspired to create some personal family constellations and stories in the stars!

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Filed under African American culture, stargazing

Teaching Young Children about Social Justice

by Katrina Morse by Family Reading Partnership

Children are constantly sorting their world into categories of “same” and “different.” This is how they learn language and how to read. They learn different shapes, colors, and numbers. Seeing what is the same and different also helps children develop their personal identity.

Young children are looking at how they are the same and different from others by observing, not judging. Children will notice the variety of skin colors and put them into categories of being the same or different compared to themselves. Where judgment comes in is by listening and watching the people they know, the media, and our society. Young children learn from others to label the differences they observe as good or bad and so begin having biases.

You can start when your child is a pre-schooler to talk about race and racism in a way that they understand. Children recognize when something is not fair. You can explain racist events in simple terms that point out the unfairness that happened. Should people be treated differently just because of their skin color? Have conversations about the differences and similarities in people, be a good listener, and encourage your child’s curiosity.

There are many good resources available for parents and educators that give ideas and booklists supporting anti-racism work with children. Here are some you may find helpful:

Booklists

About the Brown Bookshelf

Social Justice Resources

embracerace.org

Other books you may already read with your children can be effective teaching tools even if not specifically about race and discrimination. Stories that have themes of fairness and justice can be compared to similar events in your child’s own life. When you talk about the books you read together, you’ll learn more about what your child thinks and can add your own ideas.

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Explore the Natural World!

Katrina Morse for Family Reading Partnership

Spring has sprung! Tender new leaves and a bounty of blossoms are just a few signs that we are heading into a warmer season. Birds have arrived back to the area from their winter homes, animals are out of hibernation, insects are more visible outside, and the weather patterns are changing.

It’s a great time to observe and discover the natural world with your young child! What is new outside each day where you live? Do you see new plants sprouting, leafing out, or blooming? What colors are the birds you hear singing or see building nests? How many animals did you see in one day? Do you notice insects crawling or flying? Have you seen storms blow in and then clear to be a sunny day?

All of these observations can be written down into a nature journal. This can be easily created from paper folded in half into a booklet. For each entry in the journal, show your child how to write the month, day, and year. Add the time if you’d like.

Now look around outside, be still, and notice what is around. Help your child put those observations into words and note them in the journal. Your young child can add drawings if he or she would like make a visual record of what you both saw.

By practicing observation skills and noticing details and patterns in nature, you are introducing your child to new words and helping them learn how to express their thoughts and ideas.

Once you have started observing the natural world, your child may want to know more. Find the answers to questions about nature in these children’s books.

“Trees, Leaves and Bark” by Diane Burns. A book of pictures, facts, and activities to help young children learn to identify trees by looking at details.

“About Birds: A Guide for Children” by Kathryn Sill, illustrated by John Sill. Beautiful realistic paintings illustrate common backyard birds. The text tells basic facts about how birds live, in easy-to-understand language.

“National Geographic Kids Readers: Animal Homes” by Shira Evans. Especially for pre-readers, adults can use this book to help children learn new words about animals and where they live.

“The Backyard Bug Book for Kids” by Lauren Davidson is a story with facts, photographs of insects, and activities for young children to help them learn more about insects.

“Oh Can You Say What’s the Weather Today?” by Tish Rabe, illustrated by Aristides Ruiz. Part of the Cat in the Hat Learning Library, this book gives detailed information about weather phenomena and instruments as the Cat in the Hat travels with friends in a hot air balloon. Appropriate for young elementary age children.

There are also many natural areas and nature organizations that have websites with information, online tours, and live webcams. Search online for the topics that interest your child. Add information you learn together to your nature journal!

Family Reading Partnership is a community coalition that has joined forces to promote family reading. For information visit www.familyreading.org.

 

 

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Filed under activities, family reading, nature, non-fiction, observation skills

April is National Poetry Month!

by Katrina Morse for Family Reading Partnership

There was a young child homeschooled.
She found there were all different rules.
When she tried raising her hand
Her dog jumped up to land
Right onto homework – not cool!

Poetry can add humor and fun to your new family routines and safe ways of learning. Encouraging children to work on schoolwork when the grown-ups may be trying to work at home can be challenging. Poetry can be an enjoyable diversion and a way to stretch your kids’ imaginations.

April is National Poetry Month, so right now you can find many resources online. You’ll find books of poetry collections to buy or read online, authors reading their own poems, and ideas for writing poetry with kids.

Poems are a way to play with words. Some poems rhyme, others are verse, some have a rhythm, others are don’t at all. Poems can be funny and other poems can be serious. Try writing some poems with your children and see what you all create. Here are some standard forms, but all rules can be broken when it comes to poetry!

Limericks: Like the example above, limericks are made of 5 lines with a set rhythm scheme and are usually silly. The first, second, and fifth lines rhyme with each other and are longer. The third and fourth lines rhyme and are shorter. Limericks were made popular in the 19th century by Edward Lear. Look up some of his work online and say them out loud to catch the limerick beat, then try your own!

Haiku: This is a Japanese form of poetry that is made of just 3 lines. Typically the first and third lines have 5 syllables and the second line has 7 syllables. Haikus are often about nature or a moment in time. They don’t have to rhyme. Here is a “What am I ?” haiku from http://www.kidzone.ws: Green and speckled legs/Hop on logs and lily pads/Splash in cool water.

Acrostic: This poetry form creates a word puzzle. Take any word or phrase and write down the letters that spell it out vertically. Each letter will be the beginning of one line of the poem. Now brainstorm ideas that describe your word. An acrostic poem using the word POEM could be: Pencils are ready/ Open your mind /Everyone can do it/ Many words can work.

Free Verse: This is a great form if your child has an idea or a feeling and some words that describe it. Break up the words into groups of 2, 3, or 4 words per line and see how the emphasis of the words or meaning may change.

Find more resources for word play and poetry with children online. Family Reading Partnership is a community coalition that has joined forces to promote family reading. For examples of poems on their website visit www.familyreading.org/resources/ and look under Family Book and Reading Activities.

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Filed under family reading, family time, homeschooling, poetry, rhythm

Books for Comfort in Troubling Times

by Katrina Morse for Family Reading Partnership

Books can be a great comfort. If your child is worried, anxious, sad, mad, or confused, there is most likely a children’s book that can help give information and reassurance. This is the world of bibliotherapy – using books to learn healthy ways of coping with difficult situations.

Sitting together and reading a book, any book you both love, is comfort in itself. Giving your child your full attention by sharing a story together shows that you care.

Your children may be worried about the current spread of Coronavirus, confused if your family is going through a divorce, or anxious if someone close to them is facing a cancer diagnosis. Reading about difficult topics will give your child the right amount of information in age-appropriate language so they can feel more in control of a situation.

Sharing a story can also give you both the opportunity to talk about your child’s feelings and find ways to feel more at ease. Learning the words needed to talk about emotions is just as important as learning facts.

Here are some picture book recommendations that cover a few topics, but look for the books that address your child’s concerns. Read the book by yourself first and see if it is a good choice for the circumstances. Reading the physical copy of a book is the coziest way to read together, but you can also find many books read aloud on YouTube, if you’d like to watch with your child, as another way to share a story.

“Cutie Sue Fights the Germs” by Kate Melton, illustrated by Ira Baykovuka. Book 2 in a series, a brave young girl fights germs with lessons she learns from her doctor about personal hygiene and staying healthy. Rhyming text tells the story of Sue and her brother recovering from tummy aches.

“Breathe Like a Bear: 30 Mindful Moments for Kids to Feel Calm and Focused Anytime, Anywhere,” by Kira Willey, illustrated by Ani Betts. Whatever your child’s worries, these strategies for calming down with simple breathing and movements will be useful. Once learned, you and your child can practice them whenever needed.

“Two Homes” by Claire Masurel, illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton. When parents are divorcing, family life changes. This book doesn’t go into the adult reasons for divorce, but instead tells a child-centered story about how life is different living in two households. Life is also the same because each parent always loves their child.

“The Invisible String” by Patrice Karst, illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff. Imagine there is always a connection with a loved one, even if there is a physical separation. With an invisible string, no one is ever alone. This is a reassuring story to help children overcome separation anxiety.

“Cancer Hates Kisses” by Jessica Sliwerski, illustrated by Mika Song. Written by a mom who was diagnosed with breast cancer when her daughter was a baby, this book tells about treatment and the side-effects in an upbeat way. How can children help a parent with cancer? By giving kisses and their love.

BOOKS FOR FAMILIES: The Cancer Resource Center of the Finger Lakes supports area families when a parent or loved one is affected by cancer through their program “CRC Cares About Families.” Through this program families can receive a choice of a book for a child or teen and a resource packet. For more information visit http://www.crcfl.net.

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Filed under Bibliotherapy, family reading

Spreading the Love with Words and Books

by Katrina Morse for Family Reading Partnership

Writing and receiving cards in the mail or hand delivering a card to someone special can be a fun family tradition. Show your child the value of the written word this Valentine’s Day by making your own cards and sharing them friends and relatives.

Get out your red and pink construction paper (or color some white paper with crayons), scraps of ribbon, buttons, or other odds and ends. Use glue sticks or white glue (for heavier items) and markers or colored pencils. Show your child how to make a heart by folding paper in half and then cutting out just one half of the heart. Open the paper to reveal a symmetrical symbol of love! Cut, arrange, glue and then when everything is ready, add the words to make a special Valentine’s Day message.

When you help your children write the things they want to say on their cards, or you write what they dictate, you are showing them that words are used to tell people our feelings (among other things!).

Read the Valentine message by pointing to letters and words and saying the message together, following along with your finger. Give each other a hug for a job well done!

Give Valentine’s Day cards in person or put in an envelope and show your child how to add an address, stamp, and put in the US mail. Grandma, grandpa, aunts, uncles, and faraway friends will treasure a handmade card sent to them for Valentine’s Day.

Learn some words about love that you can use in your cards by reading some of these children’s books:

  • “How Many Do I Love You: A Valentine Counting Book,” by Cheri Love-Byrd, illustrated by Mei Stoyva, padded picture book format
  • “Counting Kisses: A Kiss & Read Book” by Karen Katz, board book format
  • “I’ll Love You Till the Cows Come Home” by Kathryn Cristaldi, illustrated by Kristyna Litten

Do you have a favorite picture book character? There is probably a Valentine’s Day book featuring that character that you can read together. You’ll find rhymes and heartfelt messages about love in these books:

  • “Llama Llama I Love You” by Anna Dewdney, board book format
  • “Love from the Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle
  • “Pete the Cat: Valentine’s Day is Cool” by James Dean
  • “Love from the Crayons” by Drew Daywalt, illustrated by Oliver Jeffers
  • “Happy Valentine’s Day Mouse” by Laura Numeroff, illustrated by Felicia Bond, board book format

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Filed under love, Valentine's Day, words

Jerry Pinkney Gives Children Strong Role Models

Katrina Morse for Family Reading Partnership

Jerry Pinkney, award-winning author and illustrator of over 100 children’s books, is going to celebrate his 81st birthday this year and has no plans of slowing down. There are so many more stories to tell!

Pinkney’s books broadly cover two of his favorite subjects: African American history and culture and folk tales. He carefully researches the time period, people, and stories he portrays in pictures. His illustrations are detailed watercolors, sometimes with added colored pencil or oil pastel. Images are both powerful and humanizing, created with the intention of giving children strong, positive role models and showing them that anything is possible.

As an African American himself, Pinkney has also sought out and found opportunities to use his illustrations to portray people of African descent and help change perceptions and stereotypes at a national level. His illustrations of African American history and culture have been used in materials for the National Guard, National Geographic, the National Park Service, and the U.S. Postal Service.

In his children’s books Jerry Pinkney expresses his humanitarian values in words and pictures, a legacy which he has passed on to his family. His wife, Gloria Jean Pinkney, his son Brian Pinkney, and his son’s wife Andrea Davis Pinkney are also prolific authors and illustrators of children’s books with themes of compassion, love of life, and exploring history.

Here are just a few children’s books illustrated by Jerry Pinkney:

  • “A Place to Land: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Speech That Inspired a Nation,” by Barry Wittenstein (2019) tells the inspiration for this famous speech and how it was written.
  • “The Three Billy Goats Gruff” (2017) is a retelling of an old story about bullying.
  • “A Starlit Snowfall” by Nancy Willard (2011), a rhyming poem that embraces the gentle beauty of winter.
  • “The Lion and the Mouse” (2009), an Aesop’s fable about the importance of kindness, retold entirely in vivid illustrations set in the Serengeti plains.
  • “Minty: A Story of Young Harriet Tubman” by Alan Schroeder (2000) introduces the injustices of slavery through the eyes of a child.
  • “The Ugly Duckling” (1999), a classic tale by Hans Christian Andersen about bravery and patience.
  • “Black Cowboys, Wild Horses: a True Story” by Julius Lester (1998) shows in pictures a different and more accurate Wild West than Hollywood has shown us in film.

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Filed under African American culture, author study, family reading, folk tales, Jerry Pinkney