It’s Chinese New Year!

By Pamela Lafayette
Family Reading Partnership
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Gong Xi Fa Cai! Gung Hay Fat Choy! These are greetings expressed on Chinese New Year that bestow wishes to friends and family for a year of prosperity, good fortune, and wellbeing. Chinese New Year is the most important holiday in China and is celebrated in thousands of communities around the globe, from Nanfeng to New York City. The Chinese lunar calendar follows a twelve-year cycle, each year represented by an animal. This year, on February 8, we welcome the Year of the Monkey!

In ancient China, this festival offered hope and renewal for a new year after a hard winter. Today, celebrations are still rooted in tradition with Lion Dances, family customs of cleaning and decorating homes, buying new clothes, offering tokens for good fortune like Hong Bao (red envelopes), and most importantly, families gathering together. Parades with dragons dancing down the streets, firecrackers popping and whizzing from storefronts, colorful decorations strung from doorways, and lanterns zig-zagging from shop to shop, are some of the festivities that welcome in the new year with a BANG!

Children love to learn about cultures from around the world, hear and repeat new words and sounds, and travel within a story to explore traditions and celebrations. Luckily, there are dozens of wonderful children’s books about Chinese New Year, from board books to cookbooks, which do all these things and more.

In addition to the fanciful tales and festivities that stimulate the imagination and broaden a child’s view of the world, reading books about cultures and celebrations provide opportunities for families to talk about diversity and community, and all the possibilities awaiting them in a new year.

In the book, The Great Race: The Story of the Chinese Zodiac discover how the Zodiac came to be, and how the cleverness and determination of a small rat impressed the Jade Emperor. In the book Ernie Wan’s Chinese New Year, spend the morning with a young boy in Chinatown who is finally big enough to be part of a lion dance. In Dumpling Soup, meet a young girl and her large Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Hawaiian, and Haole family as they come together in Hawaii to celebrate and prepare a traditional midnight meal. Words and phrases in different languages throughout the book give depth and richness to the story, like adding spice and seasoning to the dumpling filling.

What is a dumpling? Preparing and sharing special foods are a large part of Chinese New Year, and many children’s books tempt our taste buds with descriptions and photographs of scrumptious dishes, and offer recipes for families to try.

By reading together about how families celebrate Chinese New Year, your family can join the excitement! Check out these books, and just listen for the POP, SIZZLE, and CRASH – because here comes Chinese New Year!

Chinese New Year Book List:
The Dancing Dragon by Marcia Vaughan and Stanley W. Foon
Dumpling Soup by Jama Kim Ratigan, illustrated by Lillian Hsu-Flanders
Hiss! Boom! Pop! Celebrating Chinese New Year by Tricia Morrissey, illustrated by Kong Lee
Bringing in the New Year by Grace Lin
The Great Race: The Story of the Chinese Zodiac by Dawn Casey, illustrated by Anne Wilson
Lion Dancer: Ernie Wan’s New Year by Kate Water, photographs by Martha Cooper
A World of Holidays: Chinese New Year by Catherine Chambers
Dragon Dance, a Chinese New Year Lift-the-Flap book by Joan Holub, illustrated Benrui Huang
My First Chinese New Year by Karen Katz
Moonbeams, Dumplings & Dragon Boats by Nina Simonds, Leslie Swartz and the Children’s Museum, illustrated by Meilo So

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Cookbooks Offer A Unique Literary Experience

 

 

by Melissa Perry
Program Coordinator
Family Reading Partnership

Reading and cooking are two of my favorite activities. That being said, cookbooks, naturally, are near and dear to my heart. Not only are they useful to adults looking to create a meal, they also offer a unique and important reading experience for children. Read on for ways to share the joy of cookbooks with the young ones in your life.

  • Cookbooks introduce children to interesting vocabulary. Words like simmer, juicy, mince, broil, and garlicky are all commonplace within recipes and help expand a child’s vocabulary and ability to use descriptive words. All while broadening their connection with food and other cultures. Read recipes aloud with your kids and ask them what they think these unique words mean. Then, by way of explanation, give them a demonstration of what broiling or mincing looks like and the opportunity to experience juicy or garlicky foods.
  • Recipes require reading a list and following written directions that combine numbers, symbols and words. Reading for information and then completing the necessary tasks builds confidence while creating something together and showing the importance of reading in real life. Having children help gather and prep ingredients is a great way to practice these skills. Gathering ingredients can be like a scavenger hunt and kids love to measure, pour, and stir!
  • There are many cookbooks that feature foods from favorite children’s books. These types of cookbooks expand a child’s experience and relationship with a story, allowing it to become an even more important part of his or her life. Other cookbooks offer a story within a recipe. Choose a book that has an accompanying cookbook and make one or several of the recipes that you read about in the story. Does what you made look or taste the same as it was described in the book?
  • Cookbooks for kids have fun with language and can make food more interesting for children. With a play on words, vegetables sound much more enticing when called carrot coins or broccoli spears. Check out a recipe for a dish, perhaps one that your child isn’t exactly fond of, and see if having your child follow the recipe and help create such items as ‘cool cucumber soup’ or ‘hide and seek muffins’ makes a difference in his or her desire to eat something he or she would normally not be interested in.
  • Perhaps the most important benefit of reading and cooking a recipe together is the opportunity for conversation with your child. Cooking lends its self naturally to making predictions, describing foods, and offering observations. To expand this experience, work together to compile a grocery list and shop for ingredients. You can take turns describing an ingredient and having the other one guess what ingredient it is.

Food and reading are both important factors of success. Our need for nourishing foods must be meet before we can feed a voracious appetite for reading. Early, frequent, and pleasurable experiences with books are vital to success in school and in all areas of life. Cookbooks help satisfy these two undeniable needs while giving children an interesting reading experience. Plus, your kids will know how to cook real food- and that’s never a bad thing.

Cookbooks to check out:
The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook by Dinah Bucholz
Roald Dahl’s Revolting Recipes by Roald Dahl
The Little House Cookbook by Barbara M. Walker
Writers in the Kitchen complied by Tricia Gardella
Pretend Soup By Mollie Katzen
Fairy Tale Feasts: A Literary Cookbook for Young Readers and Eaters by Jane Yolen, Heidi E.Y. Stemple, and Philippe Beha

For a large assortment of cookbooks for both children and adults, visit the non-fiction section of your local library.

 

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Sharing Digital Story Books with Young Children

ebook family

by Elizabeth Stilwell
Early Childhood Specialist
Family Reading Partnership

Recently, a young mother asked me if I thought reading stories to her 3-year-old on her tablet was story time or screen time? Good question, since the American Academy of Pediatrics advises that parents read to their children beginning at birth but also recommends no screen time for children under 2, and less than two hours a day for older children.

Maybe a better question to think about is, “How can we make reading e-books to young children more like story time and less like screen time?” Pediatricians recommend reading to children right from the start because for a baby, the read-aloud experience centers on connecting with a loving adult through language and warm, responsive interactions. Flipping the pages of a book back and forth, hearing your voice, watching as you point to illustrations, and putting their own sticky fingers and sometimes mouths on the same spot, are all part of sharing a book with a baby. Babies simply can’t have that experience with an e-reader. They might be very interested in watching the screen, but will miss out on the rich, multi-sensory experience of sharing a traditional book.

For older babies, toddlers, and preschoolers, the ideal read-aloud experience is one that sparks curiosity and conversation. How that experience changes with digital picture books depends on a few things. Digital picture books are often enhanced with music, animation, and games. They are definitely engaging to young children but with all this interactive fun, sometimes the actual story gets lost. Research shows that there is much less adult-child interaction and conversation with e-books, so much of the read-aloud benefit is also lost and children spend more time on “making the book work” than settling in and enjoying the experience. There is no denying the convenience of e-readers and the fact that these devices offer access to hundreds of books at home or while families are traveling.

Here are some simple things to consider if you want to get the full read-aloud benefit from a digital picture book for your toddler or preschooler.

  1. Choose digital books in a format that is as simple as possible. If your goal is to read to your child, use books without all the extra bells and whistles. Search for classic picture books in a digital format.
  2. Turn off the narration. Especially the first few times with a new digital book, read the book in your own voice, pause, ask questions, and fully engage in the wonderful parent-child conversation that makes the read-aloud experience so rich for young children. Just as with traditional books, children will learn to “read” them independently. Encourage them to do this without the narration and to tell the story as they remember it by looking at the pictures.
  3. Use the manual instead of auto setting. This allows you and your child to move through the book at a comfortable pace, and to turn back a page or two whenever your child wants to.

One good model of e-readers for children is “Tumble Books,” an excellent resource for digital picture books that stay true to the story and offers a variety of user options. The convenience and novelty of e-readers for young children can provide entertainment and access to a huge collection of books. It’s the adult who can help make this experience more complete by adding a warm lap, and lots of conversation.

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Family Read-Aloud Resolutions

reading together mouse family

by Melissa Perry, Program Coordinator, Family Reading Partnership

The New Year is upon us and with it the tradition of reflecting on the past twelve months and what we’ll do differently to improve our lives in the upcoming year. Unfortunately, most of our best intentions fall flat within a few weeks. However, if I may, I’d like to suggest a New Year’s resolution that is simple, enjoyable, and will benefit the entire family; a resolution that won’t be thrown by the wayside.

    Read.

Read-aloud to the children in your life. While you’re at it, read to the teens and adults in you’re life, too- I don’t know of anyone who doesn’t love a good story. Make it a special part of your daily routine.

Take time to enjoy a good book yourself. There are few things better than losing yourself in the world of a great book. As a bonus, when others see the pleasure you find in reading, it’ll encourage them to read as well!

Visit your library often to stock up on all types of literacy materials for every member of your family. You’ll find board books, picture books, chapter books, comic books, cookbooks, magazines, recorded books, etc. Drop in for story time, a book club or another family event. Check your library’s calendar for a list of activities.

Create a special place to read together. Any cozy nook will do! An area with space to store library and other reading materials makes it convenient to snuggle up and read anytime of the day.

Give the gift of reading by giving books as gifts. When books are given as gifts, whether for a special occasion or just because, it increases the book’s value in the eyes of the recipient. A book given as a present is a gift that can be opened again and again.

Resolving to read-aloud, read together, and enjoy a good book yourself is a New Year’s resolution that we can all stick to- and all benefit from.

Cheers to the New Year and to all of the reading adventures to come!

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Books: A Holiday Tradition

by Melissa Perry, Program Coordinator, Family Reading Partnership

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No matter which holidays you celebrate this time of year; we all experience the same sense of anticipation and excitement, the same yearning for familiar traditions. An act that, if missed, makes the special day seem not quite complete.

The best traditions are those that bring families together. Sharing the same special story each year on the same special day is a simple tradition that evokes heart-warming images of snuggling up together in a cozy spot and reading a favorite story. Perhaps it is one you enjoyed as a child and are now able to share with your own little ones. Or maybe it is a book you and your children are discovering together for the first time. Regardless of which book you are reading, it is the act of reading together that is most important.

So, how do you choose just the right book for the occasion? Really, any book that is significant to the event will do. A book given as a gift to celebrate a child’s birth or adoption can be read each year on the child’s special day. A book about winter can be read after the first visit from Jack Frost, and books treasured by parents in their youth can be shared with their children when they reach that same particular age. The possibilities are endless.

To make your chosen books even more beloved, present them as gifts to your children. A book’s value and meaning increases tenfold when it is given as a beautifully wrapped gift. A fun way to surprise family members is to place wrapped books at the foot of the recipients’ beds. When they open their eyes the next morning, they will be delighted to discover a lovely gift awaiting them – ones that can be opened again and again. This tradition has come to be known as “A Book On Every Bed.”

Thousands of families across country have embraced this tradition of leaving wrapped books for loved ones to discover on a day that is meaningful to them, beginning the special day with a special gift. We invite you and your family to join the fun! For those of you with little ones, try giving gifts of books for them to find on their beds for them to open right away; not only will they see books as an important gift, but, it may also just keep them in bed a little longer that morning!

For more information about “A Book On Every Bed” please visit www.familyreading.org.

 

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Celebrate “The World of Eric Carle” November 14th

Welcome to Kids’ Book Fest and The World of Eric Carle!

by Elizabeth Stilwell, Early Childhood Specialist, Family Reading Partnership

It’s that time again. The days are shorter and cooler, but there is a big bright spot on the horizon. Saturday, November 14th from 10-4, Boynton Middle School in Ithaca, NY will be transformed into a fun and magical venue for children and families to participate in Family Reading Partnership’s annual Kids Book Fest! This year’s Kids Book Fest theme is “The World of Eric Carle,” in celebration of 20 years of welcoming babies in the community with the special gift of Eric Carle’s “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” through Family Reading Partnership’s “Welcome Baby!” program sponsored by Tompkins Trust Company.

Kids’ Book Fest is a fun, free, family-friendly celebration that focuses on the joy of books and reading aloud with young children. The whimsical illustrations and stories of beloved author and illustrator Eric Carle, will be central to this year’s event. To build anticipation, over 3,600 children in Pre-K – 3rd grade in the TST-BOCES District have received their own copy of Eric Carle’s, “The Mixed-Up Chameleon,” thanks to funding through Wegmans Reading Centers and local schools. Classroom teachers have been invited to engage their students to create artwork and projects related to this book. This helps to connect children throughout the community to the celebration and to each other. The children’s work will be displayed prominently and proudly at Kids Book Fest, transforming the hallways into beautiful galleries of children’s creative thought and process.Chameleon

Other highlights of this year’s Kids’ Book Fest include:

  • The Tompkins County Public Library will host an interactive, mobile library. Children will be able to check books out and families can help their children and babies sign up for a library card.
  • Storybook Theater–Ithaca College students from Voice and Movement classes will bring children’s books to life through simple interpretations of stories by Eric Carle and many more.
  • Children will be invited to enter the world of “The Mixed-Up Chameleon through a special interactive book room.
  • Ithaca Children’s Garden will sponsor a “Very Hungry Caterpillar interactive experience and invite children and families to provide input into the design of their new Very Hungry Caterpillar Boardwalk to be installed at the garden next year.
  • Community Organizations will provide an array of fun activities related to many different Eric Carle books. Participants of all ages will be invited to contribute to community art projects including a color chameleon mural and a word wall.
  • Babies, toddlers, and preschoolers can relax and play in a special area just right for them and their parents to take a break from all the Book Fest fun.
  • Additional parking will be available at the Ithaca High School with a free Kids’ Book Fest shuttle van.

A great way to begin to enjoy “The World of Eric Carle” before coming to Kids’ Book Fest, is to read some of his more than 70 children’s books. Here are some favorites that you can find at your local library.

“Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” Gently rhyming and beautifully illustrated. every page introduces the reader to a new character, all of which are adorable animals. Children quickly learn to chant along with the text.

“The Very Busy Spider.” This story follows the tales of a number of farm animals who are trying to divert a very busy spider from completing the spinning of her web. She persists anyway, and creates something that is both beautiful and useful.

house_hermit_crab“A House for Hermit Crab.” As children learn about the life of a hermit crab this story also teaches about nature and the benefit of working and living together as a community.

Papa, Please Get the Moon for Me. This is a tale of a father’s love for his daughter. and includes interactive fold-out pages for extra charm

“Pancakes, Pancakes! Jack would really like to enjoy some delicious pancakes, but first he’s got some chores to do!

“The Tiny Seed.” This story gently invites children to learn about the life cycles of nature. The text is quite poetic and beautiful, but certainly simple enough for young readers to enjoy.

Please come and join Family Reading Partnership at Kids’ Book Fest as we celebrate books, children and connecting our community through the joy of books and reading!

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The Importance of Book Series

bear

by Melissa Perry
Program Coordinator
Family Reading Partnership

Some of the greatest books of all time have been part of a series. The Little House books, Winnie the Pooh, Harry Potter, The Chronicles of Narnia, to name a few. What compels us to start a series and what keeps us reading until the very end? More than that, why do book series matter?

There are two basic types of book series. The first involves books with interwoven plots, meant to be read sequentially, from the first book to the last. The second type may feature the same characters and setting but, lacking a chronological plot, these books can be read in any order without missing major pieces of the story. Both are equally appealing to readers for each of these reasons.

So what draws us into a series and what keeps us coming back for more? When reading a series, we know there is the promise of more adventures with beloved characters to come after finishing the first book. Having a blank slate stretching multiple volumes, an author is able to develop more complex scenarios and character personalities, deepening our relationship with these fictional friends. Seeing characters work through conflict, take on increased responsibility, and grow in their relationships throughout a series is especially rewarding for children and allows them a type of reference for their future experiences. All of this, in turn, captures our attention and sparks our interest, bringing us back for more. And the more we read, the more we love reading- and that’s what’s important.

Visit your local library to rediscover the book series of your childhood or to fall in love with a new favorite you can share with the young readers in your life.

Favorite Book Series:
“The Magic School Bus” by Joanna Cole
The “Bear” series by Karma Wilson
“If You Give a….” series by Laura Numeroff
“Berenstain Bears” collection by Stan and Jan Berenstain
“Skippyjon Jones” books by Judy Schachner
“Llama, Llama” books by Anna Dewdney

“The Boxcar Children” by Gertrude Chandler Warner
“Mr. Putter and Tabby” by Cynthia Rylant
“Imagination Station” by Paul McCusker
“The Magic Tree House” by Mary Pope Osborne
“The Wingfeather Saga” by Andrew Peterson
“Tales of Magic” by Edward Eager
“Mercy Watson” by Kate DiCamillo
“Time Warp Trio” by Jon Scieszka
“Binky the Space Cat” by Ashley Spires

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