Read All Summer Long!

girl reading

by Melissa Perry
Program Coordinator

Have you heard of the ‘summer slide’? Not the slide at the park, the slide that affects learning and the retention of knowledge. Did you know that children regress in their academic skills during the summer months? Fortunately, this can be avoided with one simple act- reading! Reading throughout the summer can prevent the loss of skills and knowledge and is a great activity to do with your child. Check out the tips below for planning a successful summer of reading.

Model Reading
Let your child see you finding pleasure in reading each day!

Read Together
Read aloud to your child, or have an older sibling or family friend read with him or her. Let your child read to a younger child, the family pet, or a favorite stuffed animal!

Let Them Decide
Let your child choose what he or she reads. Remember- newspapers, magazines, and comic books count!

Make Time
Set aside time each day to read. Make it an enjoyable time that everyone looks forward to! You can create a reading area with comfy blankets and a spot for books- inside or outside!

Take Reading on the Road
Whether you’re headed to the park down the street, a friend’s house the next town over or to visit family across the country, don’t leave home without something to read! Reading in the perfect way to occupy the lulls of travel time.

Host a Book SwapInvite your friends to gather up some books they are ready to pass on, and then get together to trade. You’ll have something new to read and the books will find new homes.

For more activity ideas, please visit www.familyreading.org.

 

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Exploring Nature with Books

 

by Melissa Perry
Program Coordinator

With longer, warmer days and the foliage in full bloom, summer presents a great opportunity to explore the outside world. Imagine walks through the forest, lingering in a garden, swimming and playing in the stream, and laying out at night to discover the constellations. While enjoying these marvelous adventures, don’t forget to bring along some books!

Books enhance outdoor experiences by getting children excited about the possibilities of what can be found right in their own backyard or most any green space. Books inspire children to seek out the magic of the intricately spun web of the spider, the fragrant, spiky needles of the pine, and the pillowy, low-hanging cumulus clouds. Books, particularly field guides and nature focused non-fiction, offer a deeper look at living things and natural occurrences by providing facts, real photographs and/or life-like illustrations, information about life cycles, habitats and diets, and also answers to the many questions children are sure to have when they come across one of nature’s wonders. Field guides are designed to be portable, making them easy to bring along on any outdoor adventure. Plus, there are guides on just about any topic of interest, from amphibians to fossils to mushrooms.

Not only do books and field guides allow a child to explore the world local to them more deeply, they also open up entire new worlds of faraway places like jungles, deserts, outer space and oceans. All of these places (and many more!) can be explored through books. Apart from actually visiting these places, books are the next best way to be immersed in these unfamiliar worlds. As a bonus, you can travel to these places as often as you’d like!

An outdoor adventure can be many things: a visit to a waterfall, a nature walk through downtown, an afternoon at the park, or an afternoon examining the different types of stones in the driveway. Books are the best accessories for these moments, piquing children’s interests and offering more information about their world, introducing unique words and encouraging the practice of never ending exploration. Reading can happen any time, any place — even (and especially) when discovering the outdoors!

Take some books on your next adventure! You can find many field guides and nature focused non-fiction books at the library and your local bookseller. Here are some to get you started:

“The Tree Book for Kids and their Grown Ups: by Gina Ingoglia
“Nature Anatomy: The Curious Parts and Pieces of the Natural World” by Julia Rothman
“The Night Books: Exploring Nature After Dark with Activities, Experiments, and Information” by Pamela Hickman
“Nature’s Day: Discover the World of Wonder on Your Doorstep” by Kay Maguire
“Backyard Birds (Field Guides for Young Naturalists)” by Karen Stray Nolting and Jonathan Latimer
“Insects (National Audubon Society’s First Field Guides)” by Christina Wildson
“Wildflowers (National Audubon Society’s First Field Guides)” by Susan Hood
“Clouds (Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out Science 1) by Anne Rockwell

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Communicating Through Books

 

parents reading together

by Melissa Perry

When my children are facing new or challenging situations, my first instinct is to turn to books. By reading books about characters that work through, overcome, and grow from difficult or unfamiliar experiences, children learn strategies that they can then apply to their own lives. Books offer the luxury of a type of practice run for handling situations and, as I have come to find, there really is a book to complement every occasion.

I’ve relied on books when my children were preparing for the first day of school and feeling unsure of what the new year would bring, and when they’ve had issues with friends that they found difficult to process and explain. I especially depended on books when we lost a pet that was a significant and treasured member of our family. I have found that when my children are unable to relate to my experiences, or if they need to work through something on their own, often times they can find answers and comfort in a book.

Books are also counted on in fun and celebratory times to help provide a connection and insight into life events. From losing a tooth, to having that first sleepover, to staying home alone, and planning a family vacation, each event was more deeply experienced through the power of a connection with books. And the lessons and wisdom these books exude claim a permanent niche within a person’s being; always there to be revisited as life deems necessary. For example, when my son was five he desperately wanted to be able to whistle. Try as he might, he just couldn’t get the hang of it. “Whistle for Willie” by Ezra Jack Keats became a daily read and when he finally did learn to whistle, he attributed his success, in part, to the companionship he felt with Peter. To this day, it is still one of his most loved childhood stories and a reminder to keep trying, even when a task may seem too arduous to overcome.

There are countless situations that our children face each day that invoke a variety of emotions. As parents, we may be able to understand some of these happenings but others may leave us needing a little extra guidance. And that’s where books come in. Books, both fiction and non-fiction, are so effective at offering a reference point and scenarios that both adults and children can relate to, allowing them to better understand themselves and each other, leaving them better able to conquer life’s uncertainties together.

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The Gift of Possibility

 

reading outside

by Melissa Perry
Program Coordinator
Family Reading Partnership

As it is for many families, the last day of school is an exciting event in my home. Beyond the thoughts of long summer days filled with swimming, hiking and ice cream, and late nights filled with bonfires, lightning bugs, and a sparkling, starry sky, is the anticipation of what has come to be known as, ‘the summer bags’. The summer bags are simple- usually brown paper sacks decorated with each child’s name and a fun summer scene that the kids excitedly open as soon as they return home on the last day of school. Now, you ask, what’s inside that makes these bags so exciting? Books.

Books purchased for the occasion from local booksellers, books passed down from friends, books from a Bright Red Bookshelf, and books long forgotten on our own bookshelves. Plenty of books. There may also be magazines and homemade gift certificates for summer activities, but always books. These books, thoughtfully chosen and presented as gifts, become treasures waiting to be discovered during chilly mornings and rainy afternoons, or read with a flashlight during too-warm, sleepless nights. These books hold endless possibilities and become the inspiration for outdoor play and art projects. They become a friend when boredom strikes, are the best reason to curl up in a hammock, and are the perfect activity for a long car ride. They can be taken anywhere and enjoyed everywhere.

Not only do the books from the summer bags provide entertainment and companionship, they also help protect the valuable skills and lessons my children gained throughout the school year. Reading during the summer helps all children retain information and expand their knowledge, preventing them from losing valuable skills and having to work extra hard to catch up in the fall when school starts up again. Children who lose skills over the summer find themselves even further behind their peers because while they are regaining skills previously learned, their peers who don’t need to catch up are already moving on to more advanced skills. Summer reading is both a pleasure and a necessary activity.

My children see the books they receive in their summer bags as a gift. And they are. These books are a gift that will introduce unique words not used in everyday conversation and will provide a glimpse into unfamiliar worlds. These books are a gift that will expand on and challenge the knowledge of what is already known. These books are a gift that will be opened again and again and their influence felt long after they have been read. Books are a gift with unlimited potential in how they shape a person’s life. My children perceive their summer bags as gifts of fun summer reading. I see them as gifts that contain endless possibilities.

 

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Non-fiction books have many benefits for kids

by Melissa Perry
Program Coordinator

 

Q: What should my child be reading?

A: More non-fiction!

The teachers I have spoken to say they hear this question and give this answer all the time. And they do so for a good reason.

Non-fiction literature gives children a glimpse at how the world works and allows them to explore unfamiliar places, animals, cultures, and concepts. For example, a child interested in marine life can learn about the creatures residing within the very depths of the ocean and a child curious about the foods enjoyed in Japan can have their questions answered and even learn to make some of these foods themselves by following recipes found in cookbooks. Nonfiction builds on a child’s interests and curiosity, increases vocabulary and deepens background knowledge. And the topics to be explored are endless!

Non-fiction differs from fiction because it requires reading for content and information. Having early experiences with informational text gives children the opportunity to practice gleaning facts, statistics, instructions and other pertinent information from text, diagrams, charts, and photographs. This is a skill used in daily life. Whether following a recipe, deciphering a bus schedule, or reading a formal contract, the ability to sift out necessary details is required to be successful.

Non-fiction can also help children handle new life experiences and changes. Moving abroad, or even down the street, preparing to welcome a new sibling, or having trouble with friends- there are multitudes of printed materials at the ready to give children (and adults!) factual information about any life situation.

Non-fiction comes in many forms from newspapers, magazines, educational journals, atlases, cookbooks, and encyclopedias, all of which can be found in your local library. Next time your child asks a question about wombats or Thomas Edison that you don’t have an answer for, stop by the library and check out a few books! You and your child will find what you’re looking for and a whole lot more!

Here are some great nonfiction book series that are available at your local library or bookseller:

The Magic School Bus series
National Geographic Kids
Backyard Books
‘What was…’ series
‘Who was…’ series
‘I survived’ series

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The magic of words found in picture books

north star

by Katrina Morse

The words used in conversation and the written word are often completely different. Think about what you casually say to your child every day and then what you read to your child. Books, even children’s books, contain a richness of vocabulary that we don’t often find in daily language. It is through hearing these new words spoken, in the context of a story, that children build their vocabularies beyond a basic lexicon.

One of our favorite books is “A Splendid Friend, Indeed,” by Norwich, NY author, Suzanne Bloom. This is a very simple story about a sullen polar bear and an inquisitive goose. The text is made up of common words, except for “splendid” and “ indeed,” two words that are rarely used in daily conversation. When this book is read out loud by an adult, a child will hear the words of the book pronounced, hear words used in a sentence, hear words while looking at the accompanying illustrations, and then, will not only learn about new words, but will understand them.

At the end of Suzanne Bloom’s book, when the now-animated bear says to goose, “You are my splendid friend, my splendid friend indeed,” the child who has heard the book read aloud will have two new words to add to their vocabulary.

Jim Trelease, author of The Read-Aloud Handbook, says “As you read to a child, you’re pouring into the child’s ears (and brain) all the sounds, syllables, endings, and blendings that will make up the words he or she will someday be asked to read and understand.”(6th edition, p. 13)

Choose books for your child that introduce some new words, but not so many that the meaning of the story is lost. For pre-schoolers try “The Napping House” by Audrey Wood, illustrated by Don Wood, which uses synonyms for the word sleeping: slumbering, snoozing and dozing. “Chester’s Way” by Kevin Henkes contains a rich assortment of words that are not common to youngsters: diagonally, miniature, duplicated, disguised and fierce. “How Do Dinosaurs Say Good Night?” by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague, uses some uncommon verbs: pout, stomp, roar and demand.

Even when your child is old enough to read to him or herself, read aloud to your child. A child’s listening level always exceeds her reading level. So, while a child may be reading picture books on his own, you can read a book aloud that is more advanced, like “Charlotte’s Web,” by E.B. White. When you read aloud you are pronouncing words that are new to your child, and can talk about the meaning if your child doesn’t understand.

Trelease goes on to say, “It’s not the toys in the house that make the difference in children’s lives; it’s the words in their heads. The least expensive thing we can give a child outside of a hug turns out to be the most valuable: words.” Where are those words? In books.

Find these children’s book titles at the library and local booksellers. For more of our favorites visit the “Great Ideas” page of the Family Reading Partnership’s website:www.familyreading.org.

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Babies and Books

baby

by Elizabeth Stilwell
Early Childhood Specialist

There is an abundance of advice about the benefits of reading with babies, but what if your baby doesn’t respond…or reacts by crying? The first and best tip for sharing books with babies is to enjoy the time together. The next is, don’t give up! Research confirms that reading to babies and surrounding them with words, contributes to the development of language and their growing brains. An added bonus is that the emotional connection to this special, one to one time with you and a book, also lays the foundation for your baby to develop a life-long love of books and reading. All of this magic will happen, but only if the experience is enjoyable for both of you.

You may have already discovered that reading aloud to an infant is very different than reading to a preschooler. Here are some things to remember as you begin to make sharing books with your baby part of your family routine.

 A Few Minutes at a Time is OK.
Don’t worry if you don’t finish the story. Tiny newborns might be a captive audience. In a few months though, your baby may be much more distracted with the big world around her. As your baby grows and develops, so will your style of sharing books.

 Talk or Sing About the Pictures.
You don’t have to read the words to tell a story. The important thing is for your baby to experience sharing books as a pleasurable time with you. Singing a song about the animals or talking about the picture may be much more interesting to your baby than the words on the page

 It’s OK if your baby wants to hold or chew the book.
That’s her way of getting knowledge about what a book is and how it works. Babies learn through all of their senses. She will soon learn that there is a story inside.

 Make Books a Part of Your Daily Routine.
The more that books are woven into your baby’s everyday life, the more likely he will experience reading together as a familiar pleasure.

 Select the right book.
Books for babies should be easy for them to hold and manipulate. Books in heavy cardboard format (board books), hold up to a baby’s use. Choose board books with simple engaging photos or illustrations, rhyming text or just a few words on each page. Remember that for babies, the book is a tool to engage your baby with your voice and your words.

Snuggle up…or not
If your baby is fussy when you are sharing a book, it may be that he just needs to move. Follow your baby’s cues. Try again when your baby is happily sitting in his bouncy seat or laying on his back kicking and stretching. Try adding books when your baby is already happy!

Let your baby choose the book
When your baby is on the move, have books on the floor for her to discover. When she finds one tell her about it. Soon she will be crawling over to a book and brining it to you to read!

Babies Belong at the Library!
As part of our county-wide initiative Babies Belong at the Library, babies receive their first library card at birth. If you enjoyed a home birth or adopted your baby, stop by your library to pick up your card, check out beautiful books for your baby and connect with other families!

Here are some of Family Reading Partnership’s favorite books for babies. See more on our list of Fifty Great Books for Baby’s First Year on our website www.familyreading.org

 Whose Toes are Those? by Jabari Asim
Snug by Carole Thompson
Flip, Flap, Fly by Phyllis Root
Baby Faces, a DK book
Peek-a-Boo by Roberta Grobel Intrater
Ten Little Fingers by Annie Kubler
Rah, Rah, Radishes! By April Pulley Sayre
Barnyard Dance by Sandra Boynton

When it comes to sharing books with your baby, it’s never too early to start and the benefits last a lifetime!

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