New Beginnings, New Read-Aloud Books

by Katrina Morse for Family Reading Partnership

Fall is a time of new beginnings for children and families. A new school or classroom, new routines, friends, and challenges can all bring out some strong emotions in kids. Your child may be worried and excited at the same time and feel a range of emotions each school day. You, as a parent, may feel the same way!

How can you support your child during these changes? Be present and understanding when your child talks about his or her day. Bits of information about your child’s day may come up during play, bedtime, or on the way to school in the morning. Keep things casual and comfortable and over time you’ll be able to talk more about feelings. How are you feeling about your child starting school? Take care of yourself too.

When everything else is new and different, it is comforting for your child to have some things that are familiar and predictable. You could develop a morning routine of having breakfast together or walking to school or to the bus stop with neighbors. After school, maybe try an activity that is calming and relaxing and do it every day: take the dog for a walk, pet your cat, have a friend over to play, have a snack, listen to a book read aloud, listen to music, write a story, or draw a picture. Or your child might need some active time outside after school to release some built up energy.

Reading picture books about starting school and the feelings that go along with being in a new situation provide opportunities to talk together about what your child is experiencing. Helping your child become more self-aware is process. Listen to your child more than talk and be open-minded and supportive. Here are some books to read aloud to young children before the new school year begins.

Books about starting school:

  • “Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten” by Joseph Slate, illustrated by Ashley Wolff
  • “Kindergarten, Here I Come!” by D.J. Steinberg, illustrated by Mark Chambers
  • “My First Day of School” by Ellen Crimi-Trent and Roger Priddy
  • “Kindergarten Rocks!” by Katie Davis
  • “On the First Day of Kindergarten” by Tish Rabe, illustrated by Laura Hughes

Books about emotions:

  • “The Kissing Hand” by Audrey Penn
  • “The Invisible Boy” by Trudy Ludwig, illustrated by Patrice Barton
  • “Glad Monster, Sad Monster” by Ed Emberley and Anne Miranda
  • “Too Shy for Show and Tell” by Beth Bracken
  • “My Very Own Space” by Pippa Goodhart, illustrated by Rebecca Crane
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Nonfiction Books Enrich Summer

by Katrina Morse for Family Reading Partnership

What can you and your children do this summer? Read nonfiction books together and you’ll learn fascinating facts, be inspired by incredible events, and maybe find a favorite activity!

Read about people in history or in present day. Delve into other cultures. Find out more about animals, plants, minerals, oceans, mountains, deserts, and jungles. Learn how to create something or develop a new skill.

Nonfiction books are a special type of picture book for children. The best of them tell a story that is relevant to children while incorporating well-researched facts. Nonfiction children’s books are in their own section of the library apart from fiction, arranged by subject.

Try some of these nonfiction picture books and find more books on topics that your family enjoys:

“Island: A Story of the Galápagos” by Jason Chin. Award winning author and artist Jason Chin tells the fascinating life story of an island from birth to old age. With intricately detailed paintings you’ll learn about the unique plants, insects, and animals that live only on the Galápagos Islands, and nowhere else in the world. Chin uses successions of small images and full spreads in glorious color to show the island growing and changing, affecting what can live there. Chin also wrote and illustrated “The Grand Canyon,” “Redwoods,” “Gravity,” and many other exquisite works of non-fiction for children.

“Me, Frida,” by Amy Novesky, illustrated by David Diaz. The story of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo and her determination to create artwork that expressed her feelings. Moving to San Francisco, Frida had to find her way in a new country and develop her own painting style that was unlike her husband’s, the famous muralist Diego Rivera. Children will be inspired by Frida’s belief in herself and courage to follow her dreams.

“A Picture Book of Benjamin Franklin” by David Adler, illustrated by John and Alexandra Wallner. In easy to understand text, Adler tells about American statesman Benjamin Franklin, starting with his life as a child and describing his many interests and contributions as an adult in science, writing, inventing, and government. Adler has written over 175 books for children including many biographies and the Cam Jansen series.

“Ranger Rick’s Guide to Hiking” by Helen Olsson. This is not a story but a very practical guide for children on where to go hiking, what to wear, safety precautions, and creative things to do while outside. It’s a “how to” guide that will give children the information and confidence to set out on a trail with the family. Also in the series are children’s guides for camping and fishing.

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Filed under activities, art, exploration, field guides, nature, non-fiction, science books, summer

Summertime Fun!

Katrina Morse for Family Reading Partnership

Summertime is here! Enjoy the sun, the warmth, and all the family fun that summer brings. Are you planning a vacation? Will you be spending some time at the pool? Are you looking forward to some backyard exploration? Whatever you do this summer, there are many books to read with your young children to enrich experiences and give your family ideas for summer activities. Here are a few favorites:

“LaRue Across America: Postcards from the Vacation,” written and illustrated by Mark Teague. Told from the perspective of Mrs. LaRue’s dog, Ike, you can follow their road trip across the country visiting landmarks, cities, and small towns. It would be a much better vacation for Ike if they didn’t have the neighbor’s cats along with them in the car!

“Summer Days and Nights,” written and illustrated by Wong Herbert Yee. A celebration of the simple pleasures of summer, this story features a little girl’s adventures in one day, sun-up to sun-down. Butterflies, lemonade, picnics, and swimming during the day and owls, frogs, and sounds to explore in the night. This book will inspire your family to head outside and appreciate the natural world.

“Frog and Friends: The Best Summer Ever,” by Eve Bunting, illustrated by José Masse. This beginning reader book is written in 3 short stories. In each, Frog interacts with his friends and learns about accepting differences, compromising, and being generous, with summertime as a backdrop for the tales.

“Hello Ocean,” by Pam Munoz Ryan, illustrated by Mark Astrella. This poem will bring you right to the ocean with rich language that evokes the feel, sights, sounds, smell, and even the taste of the ocean. Squishy sand between the toes and salt spray on the face are also depicted in the realistic illustrations.

“Maisy Learns to Swim,” written and illustrated by Lucy Cousins. With a little trepidation, Maisy goes to her first swim lesson and step-by-step we see what she learns from kicking, floating, and blowing bubbles. Maisy is cold getting out of the pool, but gets dressed, and has a snack. The story covers all the nuances of learning to swim.

“Bailey Goes Camping,” written and illustrated by Kevin Henkes. Bailey, the rabbit, wants to go camping with his older brother and sister, but they tell him he is too little to go. Mother finds a way for Bailey to camp out right at home. This is one of the author’s first books and has become a summertime classic.

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The Story of Mo Willems

by Katrina Morse for Family Reading Partnership

Did you ever know a kid in school who was always doodling during class? The margins of their papers filled up each day with patterns, wandering lines, and zany characters.

Now-famous children’s book author and illustrator Mo Willems, started out just that way. Doodling and drawing cartoons in school and at home in New Orleans, Willems was one of those kids who couldn’t stop creating and loved using his imagination. He drew, wrote stories, acted and even directed plays in his elementary and high school days and then as an adult tried his hand at stand up comedy.

After moving to New York City, Willems went on to create animation and write for children’s television, including Nickelodeon, and won Emmy awards for Sesame Street pieces. He eventually made his break into the children’s book world in 2003 with his book, “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus.” From there Willems has been busily creating books for children and accumulating multiple honors and awards including the Caldecott Medal for illustration, the Theodor Seuss Geisel Medal for beginning readers books, and Carnegie Medal for excellence in children’s videos of his stories.

Willems’ style of illustration reflects his long history of cartooning. His characters are simple drawings in black line. Emotions are shown exaggerated in facial expressions and body language. Backgrounds are one or two flat colors or actual photographs. He has more than 50 published children’s books, many of which are parts of a series of stories incorporating kid-generated predicaments and humorous scenarios.

The “Knuffle Bunny” series stars a young girl named Trixie (like his own daughter) in a big city dragging around her stuffed bunny, who suffers some unfortunate mishaps in each book.

The Pigeon series features a whiny pigeon acting very much like a preschooler. He pleads, gets worried, is demanding, dramatic, and thankful too. Pigeon speaks directly to the reader of the book in each story, asking for help in getting what he wants. In this way the reader/listener is also part of the story.

Elephant and Piggie books are especially for children learning to read independently,with reading strategies embedded into the story. Each book has many “sight” words, that is, words that are used in literature frequently that children can learn just by seeing them over and over. There are a limited number of different words in each book and those words are easily decoded using phonics, or “sounding out.” The illustrations give clues to help children figure out hard words, so can be used as an additional strategy to help understand the story.

Now a stay-home dad and full-time author/illustrator, Willems lives in Northampton, Massachusetts with his wife Cher and teen aged daughter Trixie. His newest series, “Cat the Cat,” made its appearance in 2010. To the delight of his young fans, Willems is still creating and publishing children’s books and has posted many videos of his stories, riding the wave of his past 15 years of success.

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Filed under author spotlight, Early Readers, Mo Willems

A Book for Every Child!

by Katrina Morse for Family Reading Partnership

Every child responds to different types of stories. What does your little one love hearing you read the most? There is something for everyone.

Humorous. “Duck in the Fridge” written and illustrated by Jeff Mack. Mother Goose is one type of story to read at bedtime, but why? A little boy finds out that his dad has had some big experiences with ducks! Starting with one duck in his refrigerator, the boy’s dad tells about how it got worse and worse with more animals. Told with an abundance of puns!

Positive Self-Concept. “Thelma the Unicorn” written and illustrated by Aaron Blabey. A pony wishes she could be special. She wants to be a unicorn! When she finds out what it’s like to be a famous celebrity, she realizes that she misses her old life and likes herself just as she is–a pony.

True Tale. “Hero Cat” by Eileen Spinelli, illustrated by Jo Ellen McAllister Stammen. Realistic artwork rendered in pastels depicts a drama that really happened. In 1996, an abandoned warehouse began burning and a mama cat rescued her 5 kittens, one by one, from the smoke-filled building.

Concepts. “You are (Not) Small” by Anna Kang, illustrated by Christopher Weyant, Book 1 of 3 in the “Not” series and Winner of the 2015 Theodor Seuss Geisel Award. Two fuzzy creatures argue about who is small and who is big, but then even smaller and bigger creatures appear. Who is bigger and smaller now? The story is a great opportunity to talk about differences and if they matter.

Non-Fiction. “Earth! My First 4.54 Billion Years” by Stacy McAnulty, illustrated by David Litchfield.  “Hi, I’m Earth! But you can call me Planet Awesome.” This story, told from the point of view of The Earth, is both funny and filled with kid-friendly facts. The book includes back matter with more interesting bits of information.

Modern Classic. “Circus Train,” by Jennifer Cole Judd, illustrated by Melanie Matthews.  Circuses may be events of times past, but if you want to experience this American classic happening, “Circus Train” leads the reader through the circus train rolling into town and children and their parents waiting in line and going into the show. Clowns paint their own faces, lumbering elephants dance, and trapeze artists flip. Rhyming text and playful illustrations.

Classic. “The Cat in the Hat” by Dr. Seuss (Theodor Geisel). Published in 1957, this timeless story embraces the premise that the 2 children in the book are home alone–all day–with no parents! The Cat in the Hat, with his red striped hat, finds many activities to fill up the day. This book was presented as a possible alternative to the debatably ineffectual “Dick and Jane” primers. Geisel used the most popular rhyming words (“cat” and “hat”) and created a story that eventually became an acceptable alternative to those primers of the past to help children learn to read.

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Filed under classics, family reading, imagination, non-fiction

Name that Vehicle!

By Katrina Morse for Family Reading Partnership

Garbage trucks, graders, backhoes, and snow plows. Front-end loaders, fire engines, and cranes. When you have a young child in your life who loves hard-working vehicles, you probably are learning all about them yourself. Do you have to stop with your child at every construction site to look at the action? Does your child point out 18-wheelers and police cars on the highway?

Young children are learning to name their world–to put words to what they see. Reading books about diggers, lifters, and emergency vehicles reinforces what you see in everyday life. Most of these books are in a convenient and durable board book format. Some are stories and some are just about recognizing the differences and learning the names.

Try some of these books to read with your very young child and then see how excited he or she is to name a vehicle you see in action!

  • “Machines at Work” by Byron Barton. Big blocks of primary colors in Barton’s signature style depict different trucks and other hard working machines. The text is brief­–perfect for toddlers.
  • “Tip Tip Dig Dig” by Emma Garcia. Collaged paper makes up the simple illustrations of trucks digging, moving, and shaping earth. Simple text gives noises for each vehicle. Roll, roll, roll and push, push, push–What are all these vehicles making together?
  • “My Truck is Stuck” by Kevin Lewis, illustrated by Daniel Kirk. Silly repeating rhymes and funny illustrations tell the story of a truck that can’t move and needs help. Count how many cars and vehicles try to get the truck unstuck and watch the pictures closely for another storyline. This author and illustrator pairhas also created “Chugga-Chugga Choo-Choo” and “Tugga-Tugga Tugboat.” 
  • “Little Blue Truck” by Alice Schertle, illustrated by Jill McElmurry. This truck is stuck in the country on a mucky road and finds that some farm animals can help. Lyrical, rhyming text is full of truck and animal sounds. The story is one of friendship and helping others.
  • “Road Builders” by B.G. Hennessy, illustrated by Caldecott Medalist Simms Taback. This is a story all about how a road is built, from beginning to end. What does the crew do? Which construction vehicles are needed for which jobs? You’ll find out what each does, from cement mixers to pavers.

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Filed under books for toddlers, family reading, trucks, vehicles, words

Loving Words and Reading

by Katrina Morse for Family Reading Partnership

Will you be my valentine? Celebrate the day of love by making Valentine’s Day cards with your children. Cut out or draw hearts and flowers, add some bold red and pink, maybe some stickers, lace, or yarn, and then together choose words to use on your creation.

Your young child may not write yet, so let him have fun practicing holding a crayon or pencil and making marks on the paper. If she has something she’d like to say on the card, you can write the words for her and point out how each letter of a word has a sound and together the letters make a word.

Put finished valentines on mom or dad’s pillow or send in the mail to grandma, grandpa, or friends. Start a tradition!

Snuggle up together and enjoy some books about love. Your child will learn new ways to appreciate kindness shown by others, learn words about feelings, and learn how to give kindness in return.

  • “The Day it Rained Hearts” by Felicia Bond. A girl collects hearts that fall from the sky and makes valentines for all her friends. The perfect book to read before making your own valentines.
  • “I Love Mom with the Very Hungry Caterpillar,” illustrated by Eric Carle. The iconic green and red caterpillar crawls his way through a small format book that celebrates all the ways moms are amazing! Every mother and grandmother who reads this book will feel honored.
  • “My Dad Loves Me,” by Marianne Richmond. A board book with very simple sentences on each page describing ways animal dads show they care about their children.
  • “Click, Clack, Moo I Love You,” by Doreen Cronin, illustrated by Betsy Lewin. Little Duck throws a Valentine’s Day party for the animals living at the farm, complete with pink and red balloons, twinkly lights, and valentines in the barn. But then Little Fox crashes the party and the farm animals stop everything. What is a fox doing in the barn? With the classic humor of her other books, Cronin ends the story with all the animals dancing “until the cows came home.”
  • “This is NOT a Valentine!” by Harter Higgins, illustrated by Lucy Ruth Cummins. Perfect for a child who blushes uncomfortably if you talk about love and mushy things. This story illustrates that love is all around. Showing you care is in the everyday things you do together or for someone else.
  • “Love is” by Diane Adams, illustrated by Claire Keane. A girl, a duckling, and a year of learning about each other is a lesson in love. Can you let someone grow and change and love them just the same?

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Filed under holidays, love, Valentine's Day, words