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

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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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Creating a Book Home

 

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Family Reading Partnership’s Read-Aloud Challenge is drawing to a close but the fun of read-aloud never ends! Check out these tips to make your home read-aloud friendly!

Do you live in a Book Home? Is your home filled with a love of reading, listening to stories and playing with words? Are books a part of every day? Does your child have a favorite book and a favorite time to hear books read aloud?

Before children are ready to read, they need lots of “lap time”–time sitting with a grown-up or older child listening to books read aloud. They also need time to look at books on their own, to be comfortable holding a book and turning pages, exploring at their own pace. Children discover that there is a story inside each book, and pictures too! They learn new words and ideas, excitement and adventure, comfort and delight!

Just listening to books, without knowing how to read themselves, children learn how to express themselves in words, how to think creatively and critically, how to ask questions and, children develop a longer attention span. With all that goodness packed in children’s books, you’ll want to make your home into a Book Home –if it isn’t already!

Here are some suggestions:

  • Own some children’s books, but also borrow from the library or pick up used books at yard sales or a Bright Red Bookshelf, if your community has that program.
  • Have books within reach of children. For baby, put board books in a basket on the floor next to the toys. For preschoolers, make sure books are on lower shelves where children can get them.
  • Stand some books up on a table or in the bookcase so their front cover is facing out and they are more noticeable.
  • Take photos of your child enjoying a book and put those pictures on the refrigerator, in a photo album or in a picture frame.
  • Give books as gifts for special occasions like birthdays and holidays.
  • Let your children see you reading books, magazines, letters and emails.
  • Play with words! Sing nursery rhymes, say tongue twisters, and make-up silly word combinations with your child.
  • Talk to your child about the books you read together. Talk to your child about what you do together. Children learn words by hearing them and using them.
  • Do things with your child that you read about in children’s storybooks, like baking cookies, visiting a park, going for a walk. Relate the books you read to real life.
  • Read to your child every day!

A HUGE ‘Thank you!’ to everyone who has shared read-aloud pictures and stories with us on our Facebook page. We love them!

Do you want to share your read-aloud moments with us? There’s still time! Visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/FamilyReadingPartnership.

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Wordless Picture Books are Perfect for Read-Aloud

Pancakes-for-BreakfastIf you’ve ever seen a children’s book that has no words, just pictures, you may have wondered how to even go about “reading” it. How can you read a book aloud to a child when there is no story?

Ah, but there is a story! The illustrations tell the story and it is up to you and your child to come up with your own narrative. Share the pictures together and use imagination and good observation skills to see the plot.

Look for the beginning, middle, and end to this story–the sequence of events. Ask questions and soon your child will be asking questions about the pictures too. Take your time and really look at the illustrations. Your child may see little details in the pictures that you miss.

Wordless picture books are perfect for read-aloud and can be adapted to many levels of understanding. Model storytelling and talk about the emotions of the characters in the book. Can your child imagine how the characters are feeling?  Together, predict what will happen next. You will be stretching your child’s thinking and using the pictures to expand your child’s vocabulary.

March is National Read-Aloud Month and a great time to practice reading  wordless books aloud as part of the “Books are my Super Power” Read-Aloud Challenge! Take a look in the Read-Aloud Tool Kit and you’ll find a pledge you can take to read aloud to your child every day and activities and books lists to download to make read-aloud even more fun!

Check out these wordless picture book favorites:

  • “Pancakes for Breakfast” by Tomie dePaola. In this humorous book about a little old lady’s attempt to make a pancake break- fast, dePaolo tickles the funny bone and gives a lesson about optimism and persistence. Children can make predictions about how this heroine will use her Super Power of Determination to finally have a pancake breakfast!
  • “Flotsam” by David Wiesner. When a young boy goes to the beach to collect and examine the typical objects that wash ashore, he discovers something unexpected–a barnacle-encrusted underwater camera. Children delight in this imaginative exploration of the mysteries of the deep.
  • flotsam1“The Lion and the Mouse” by Jerry Pinkney. This wordless picture book is the well-known Aesop’s Fable about a tiny mouse and a mighty lion. Children will see the themes of kindness, trust, and friendship in the beautiful illustrations.
  • “Good Night, Gorilla” by Peggy Rathman. A zookeeper says goodnight to a gorilla, but the mischievous gorilla is not ready to go to sleep. He follows the zookeeper around, letting all of the other animals out of their cages, before following the zookeeper to his bedroom and getting into bed. It takes the zookeeper’s wife to ensure all (or nearly all) the animals return to their cages.

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Be a Read-Aloud Super Hero!

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Family Reading Partnership invites you and your family to join our March Read-Aloud Challenge, Books are my Super Power, an exciting and interactive celebration for National Read-Aloud Month.

Our theme, Books are my Super Power, highlights the many ways books empower young children to be thinkers and doers, and how to become Read-Aloud Super Heroes!

Why are Books a Super Power? Books provide opportunities for children to imagine themselves in the character’s situation, think about what they might do, and to practice being, among other things, kind, brave, persistent, and a good friend. These qualities really are SUPER POWERS for children.

Read aloud to the young children in your life and make reading at home a treasured part of your daily routine for the Challenge in March, and beyond. The benefits last a lifetime!

TAKE THE PLEDGE with your family and together we will invite every child to believe in the magic words: Books are my Super Power!

BooksSuperPowers2Here is how you can join the Books are my Super Power Read-Aloud Challenge:

  • Visit www.familyreading.org to learn more!
  • Take the pledge to read all month. Grown-ups can pledge to read and children can pledge to ask for read-aloud!
  • Download a Tool Kit filled with fun ideas and activities including Super Hero masks and wrist cuffs!
  • LIKE the Family Reading Partnership Facebook page to see all the action, enter to win prizes, post photos, and share your favorite read-aloud moments!

During National Read-Aloud month, March 2016, Family Reading Partnership’s book, “At Home with Books/En casa con libros,” is available at a deep discount so families and classrooms can enjoy more read-aloud!  Written and illustrated by Katrina Morse, this bilingual book is the story of the Bear Family and all the family members and friends that read aloud during the day. It is a book that encourages, supports, and celebrates reading aloud to young children. Read to the young children in your life every day because… Books are a Super Power!

 

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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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