Monthly Archives: July 2012

I Think I Can!

“I-think-I-can, I-think-I-can, I-think-I-can,” said the little blue engine as it chugged slowly up the rocky mountain. When you are a three-year-old and small–when you are just learning how to do things that grown-ups take for granted–the story of “The Little Engine That Could” is empowering. In the story, the train engine that was the most unlikely to be able to pull the long line of train cars over the mountain was able to do it! As the train went down the other side of the mountain it chuffed, “I-thought-I-could, I-thought-I-could, I-thought-I-could.”

The version of “The Little Engine That Could” that most families know is by Watty Piper (the pen name of Arnold Munk), illustrated by Lois Lensky, and published in 1930 by Platt & Munk. The origin of the story is unclear, but is similar to part of a sermon, “The Story of the Engine That Thought It Could,” by the Rev. Charles S. Wing in 1906. The story in the sermon was later published as a children’s book named “The Pony Engine” in 1910.

Since the 1930 publication of “The Little Engine That Could” there have been other slightly different versions of the story published and many references in popular culture to the notion of “I think I can,” promoting the idea that even if you think you can’t do it, just try!

Not every time a child tries to do something new, however, ends up successfully. Sometimes there is disappointment. That’s when a parent can talk to their child about how much is learned just in the attempt, even if things don’t turn out as we plan. Reading storybooks about trying can help open up a conversation about life’s ups and downs. Talk about the books you read together and listen to what your child thinks about the stories. You may be surprised!

Try these books for your pre-schooler which all support trying, but also are realistic about the abilities and interests of a young child.

• “I Like It When…” written and illustrated by Mary Murphy. A very affirming story for youngsters about doing things together with a grown-up, like eating new foods, helping around the house, dancing, and sharing books. The book ends with a sweet, “I love you.”

• “From Head to Toe” written and illustrated by Eric Carle. From turning your head like a penguin to bending your knees like a camel, activities all end with the refrain of “I can do it!” This is a fun book to read and act out with your child.

• “Can I Play Outside?” by Mathew Price, illustrated by Atsuko Morosumi. Featuring a bear family, this story illustrates in a gently way how grown-ups can do some things that children can’t (such as drive a car), but that children can do lots of other things (like play in the sandbox).

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Explore Summer with Books

Help your children discover the wonder and magic of the outside world this summer with some choice children’s books. You’ll be satisfying their curiosity and giving them experiences that will be happy summertime memories for years to come. You can explore your own backyard, the beautiful night sky, or your vacation spot on the ocean with field guides written especially for young children.

• The “Take Along Guide” collection is a wonderful series of non-fiction books. Learn about seashells, crabs, and sea stars, caterpillars and butterflies, eggs and nests, trees, leaves, and bark, and more!

• “Once Upon a Starry Night: a Book of Constellations” by Jacqueline Mitton and illustrated by Christina Balit brings the sky to life with animals and people that emerge in the glowing patterns of stars.

• “Pop! A Book About Bubbles” is one book in the “Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out-Science” series that features photographs of children on each topic. How fun to blow bubbles, send them off into the warm summer sky, and then learn how and why they work!

There are also plenty of stories about summertime activities that feature children on adventures picking berries or chasing after butterflies.

• “Blueberries for Sal” by Robert McClosky is a classic written in 1949 that young children today will still find fascinating. As a mother and daughter set off to pick blueberries so they will have some fruit to can for the winter, a mother bear and her cub set off to find blueberries to eat on the same hillside. As the story unfolds, we see how both mothers and the two children have more in common than just loving blueberries.

• “Summer Days and Nights” by Wong Herbert Yee was just published in 2012. This is a delightful story of a little girl enjoying a beautiful summer day from sun-up to bedtime. Told in gently rhyming verse the author describes the delights of daytime and nighttime summer fun, which will give you and your child many ideas for things to do and explore.

• “Beach Day” by Karen Roosa, illustrated by Maggie Smith, is a favorite of very young children. Two-year-olds will love the sandy beach images and the sing-song text. “Waves roar, rush and soar! Rolling, crashing to the shore.” From water-skiers to picnic blankets, this book encompasses an entire joy-filled day at the ocean.

After you read a new book together, you will most likely learn some new words that you can put right to use as you enjoy time as a family. Happy summer reading!

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The Joy of Reading to Grandchildren

Grandparents are special people. As a grandparent you are a veteran at raising children. You’ve lived through diapers, tantrums, and your child driving your car. Although some things have changed since your kids were young, sharing books together is still one of the best ways to connect with children in a meaningful way. Whether close by or far away, slow down and treat yourself to quality time reading with your grandchildren and you will be creating memories that will last their lifetime.

Here are some ways to share the joy books and words with grandchildren:

• When you visit, bring a new book as a gift for each grandchild or visit a bookstore together to pick out a book. Adding an inscription makes the book a keepsake.

• If you live close to your grandchildren, plan a regular night of the week for reading aloud to them. Parents can go out or stay home and listen in! As your grandchildren get older, you can enjoy longer books by reading chapters in installments. If you live far away, you can use skpe.com to read via video or you can read aloud by phone.

• Find a book from your grown-up son’s or daughter’s childhood and give it as a very special gift to your grandchildren. Read it together and talk about which parts were favorites of their parent.

• Help your grandchildren make a card for a relative or friend, decorating the outside. What message does your grandchild want you to put in the card? Help him or her write it.

• Send a letter or postcard to your grandchildren when you travel or just send a card from your home saying hello.  If you are comfortable with the Internet, send an email. Your grandchild probably has his or her own email address.

• Give a note to your grandchild with a joke, riddle or poem written on it. Practice telling it together and then you and your grandchild can try to memorize it for the next time you visit.

• Clip out articles from the newspaper about things that interest your grandchild and send them in the mail for him or her to read.

• If you are helping to raise your grandchildren, make sure that books are a special part of your daily routine. Read books aloud after school, at bedtime and on weekends.

Here are a few of the many wonderful children’s picture books that feature grandparents:

• “Luka’s Quilt,” by Georgia Guback, is an intergenerational book set in Hawaii. Luka and her grandmother, “Tutu,” have a very close relationship until they have a disagreement about the colors that Tutu chooses for the quilt she is making for her granddaughter. The two find a very honest and loving resolution for their differences.

• “Grandfather’s Journey” by Allen Say tells the story of a boy’s recollection of his grandfather making a boat trip from Japan to live in the United States, but still missing his homeland.

• “I Love Saturdays y Domingos” by Alma Flor Ada, illustrated by Elivia Savadier is a story about a young girl’s alternating visits with two sets of grandparents every other Saturday.

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Emergent Readers

It is truly magical when a child learns to read. The hidden messages on the pages of a book are revealed; the mystery of a story discovered. All the time you have spent sharing books together before this, have given your child the motivation to learn to read. Your child knows that books are full of adventure, feelings, facts and fun. Now that your child can access the magic of books on his or her own, it is amazing!

Your emergent reader will still benefit from hearing books read aloud, but will most likely be proud to read aloud to someone else. Parents, grandparents, siblings and friends can all be good listeners. Even pets and stuffed animals can be included. Books that your child has heard you read aloud are familiar and may be a natural choice for your child to read. But books new to your child hold a treasure of excitement as they are read for the first time.

Praising your child’s efforts at reading will go a long way in establishing your child’s confidence in being able to read. Reading is a skill to be practiced and learned. Reading aloud gives a child the opportunity to pronounce words and speak in a natural cadence. It also gives the listener a chance to gently guide the early reader into sounding out or using context to approach new vocabulary.

Asking questions about the story can check your child’s comprehension. When your child has finished a page of reading, ask about the characters in the story. What will happen next, or what is the character thinking or feeling? Does your child know the meaning of what he or she read?

Your child will enjoy picking out books that are interesting to him or her, but steer the choice of books to a level that is appropriate for your early reader. Many books have been written especially for early readers and are labeled as such right on the cover of the book.

Save longer, more complex books for an adult to read to the child. Remember that beginning readers are veteran listeners (Jim Trelease, “The Read Aloud Handbook”) and can understand a higher level of book read aloud than they can read on their own. Keep reading to your child, even when they read to you!

Suggested books for early readers:

“Are you My Mother?” By P.D. Eastman. A little bird looks everywhere for his mother. His ideas of the identity his mother may be appeal to a child’s sense of humor.

“Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” By Eric Carle. The sing-song text goes through the names of colors and animals and makes reference to school.

“If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” by Laura Numeroff. An unusual series of events takes place before this mouse ever gets his snack.

“Ira Sleeps Over” by Bernard Waber. Ira wants to spend the night at his friend’s house, but doesn’t know if his teddy bear is too childish to bring.

“The Foot Book” by Dr. Seuss. Repetition and rhyme make the text of this book predictable.

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