Monthly Archives: December 2012

Possibilities in Books

TheSevenChineseSistersWhen you are just a little boy or a little girl, the world is full of possibilities. You may know that you can’t do some things yet, but you can imagine that will be able to some day. You have hope and ambition!

Foster that positive outlook in your children by reading books that give them ideas of what they could become or do. Spark their imagination so your children want to learn more and start dreaming!

“I Can Be Anything” by Jerry Spinelli, illustrated by Jimmy Liao. This is a great book for young children because it honors all those little skills that kids have to learn that adults take for granted. This is not about dreaming of being a lawyer, doctor, or accountant! These are jobs a child can relate to: “paper-plane folder, puppy-dog holder, deep-hole digger, and lemonade-swigger.” The book ends with: “They’re all such fun; I’m going to choose every one!” Illustrations are fun, bouncy, bright, and full of motion.  The short phrases rhyme.

“When I Grow Up” by Al Yankovic, illustrated by Wes Hargis. Some of you may know the author, “Weird Al,” as a comedian specializing in song parody. This is his first of two children’s books. His story is set in an elementary school classroom as a boy, Billy, gives the long, rhyming answer to his teacher’s question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Some of the text will twist your tongue it’s so full of adjectives, but it’s also quite humorous!

“The Seven Chinese Sisters” by Kathy Tucker, illustrated by Grace Lin. This is a story of girl power and teamwork. Each sister has a special skill that comes in handy when they have to rescue their baby sister, Seventh Sister, from a hungry dragon. Lin’s clean and colorful illustration style is a great match to the story.

“The Everything Machine” by Mat Novak.  No one in the whole town of Quirk has any ambition at all because there is a machine that does everything for everybody. It mows the lawns, cooks food, even colors in coloring books! One day the Everything Machine breaks and the people in the town have to learn how to do things on their own. Then something amazing happens–the townspeople learn that they like to work!

Louanne Pig in “Making the Team” by Nancy Carlson. This is one of many books by Carlson that promote positive self-esteem in children. Try, try again, and you will be rewarded, but not always in the way you expect! Carlson’s stories teach children to see the best in all situations.

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Count the Ways Reading is a Part of Your Life!

scranimalsWhen you know how to read, you take for granted all the ways that reading enriches your life. I was thinking about his as I read the ingredients on a box of cereal at the grocery store. Because I can read, I knew what was in that box and could make a good choice about whether that cereal was healthy for me or not.

In one day alone, I found that I read so many things I could hardly count them. I read street signs that told me about a road detour. I read the specials at the bagel shop so I knew what to order and how much to pay. At work I read articles and emails and learned more. At home I read a recipe in a cookbook and made peanut butter cookies. I read my latest novel and was introduced to ideas that got me thinking in new directions.  I read a card I got in the mail and found out what my friend in another state was doing. I read jokes, news updates, and played a word game online.

Snuggle up and read aloud to the young child in your life and you’ll be passing down your love of books and reading, and showing how important it is to know how to read. Here are some books to read together that show how words are used every day.

“The Signmaker’s Assistant” by Tedd Arnold. When the signmaker goes away, his young assistant makes new signs for the town and sees first hand how powerful words are. What signs would you change in your neighborhood? Use your imagination.

“Like Me and You” by Raffi, illustrated by Lillian Hoban. Although the words to this song don’t mention how words are used to write letters, the illustrations depict children from around the world writing, sending, and reading airmail letters to and from distant places on the globe.

“Scranimals: Poems by Jack Prelutsky” illustrated by Peter Sis. Say the name of an animal and you’ll see in your mind what it looks like. But what if the name was all scrambled up? What would a rhincerose or a broccolion look like? Make up your own silly word combinations!

“Many Luscious Lollypops” by Ruth Heller. Everything changes when you add adjectives to them. Try it out for yourself. How does a slow, purple snail act differently than a quick, orange snail?

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Peace, Hope, and Love

AlikiHeartRedPeace. Hope. Love. When our society seems like it’s forgotten these fundamental principles, it’s comforting to know that as a parent or caregiver, you can help in your own way by honoring these values in your home. Give your children peace by showing them that problems can be solved without violence. Give your children hope by giving them the opportunity to give to others and develop a generous spirit. Give your children love. Hugs, kind words, time spent together reading, playing, and enjoying each other’s company show that you care.

Raise your children in peace, hope, and love, and you will be giving them, and our society, a great gift. Here are some family traditions that may inspire you. They all use books as a way to spend more quality time together.

• Pick one favorite book and read it aloud on a special day each year. It could be a birthday book, or one book you only read on a holiday. You could even record the date and place where the book was read each year on the inside cover; then take a photo of the family with the book and slip it in the book to look at next year.

• “A Book On Every Bed.” Amy Dickinson, syndicated advice columnist, just described this family tradition in her column, “Ask Amy,” this week. This is what you do: Get a book–new or used. Wrap it. Place it at the foot of each child’s bed one night before a holiday or other special day so the children wake up with a gift to open. Repeat next year (or next special occasion)!

• Listen to a favorite audio book while you are baking cookies or driving to visit family and friends. Going on vacation? Bring books to read together on the way and while there.

• Plan meals or decide on baked treats to make by reading cookbooks together. Show your child how the words in the book give the directions about what to do.

• If you find a children’s book that you especially like, donate a copy to your child’s classroom or school library. Or volunteer at a nursing home to read your favorite books to the elders there.

Wishing you a peaceful year’s end filled with the joy of books and love of family!


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Give Your Child Words

TravelingBysmRead, talk, and sing to your young child every day. It’s all about giving your child words. If your active little one is just too wiggly to sit for a book, talk about what you are doing or make up a tune and sing together. Young children will soak up words whether you are reading, talking, or singing.

At first your baby is just listening, absorbing what he or she hears. Then your child will say a word at a time and finally put words together to make conversation. By two-years-old, your child may be able to help you sing a song—even if it isn’t quite in key!

There are many children’s books that are based on songs that may even have a CD included. Some are favorites you’ll remember from your own childhood. Others are new, boppy, kid-friendly tunes that you’ll be singing over and over again once you hear them that first time.

These books are in the collection of “Read-Along Songs” produced by Family Reading Partnership. Each book is a gem on its own, and the collection of them together makes a great gift for a young child. A CD of the songs featuring local personalities Cal Walker and John Simon, comes with the set so families can hear the books both read and sung.

Children in Pre-K and Head Start in Tompkins County, NY receive this set in spring each year thanks to funding from the “Today and Tomorrow Fund” of the Community Foundation of Tompkins County. To purchase “Read-Along Songs” set of 6 books with CD in its own blue canvas book bag, visit

“A You’re Adorable” illustrated by Martha Alexander with words and music by Buddy Kaye, Fred Wise, and Sidney Lippman. This book pairs letters of the alphabet with words that describe your wonderful child. You could substitute other words that come to mind, serious or silly, when you know the song.

“Over in the Meadow” illustrated by Ezra Jack Keats. There are many illustrated versions of these old tune. Keats uses collaged illustrations to depict the animals in the song from one to ten.

“Hush Little Baby” by Sylvia Long. A sweet lullaby with cozy images of a mother rabbit putting her little bunny to bed.

“The Itsy Bitsy Spider” as told and illustrated by Iza Trapani. This is a longer and humorous version of the original song that most children learn first as a fingerplay.

“We All Go Traveling By” written by Sheena Roberts, illustrated by Sioban Bell. This cumulative story includes colors and modes of transportation set to a very catchy melody.

“Miss Mary Mack” by Mary Ann Hoberman and Nadine Bernard Westcott.  Hilarious illustrations accompany the text of this jump rope rhyme. This is another song that you may sing all day because it won’t leave your head!


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Mind Your “P’s” and “Q’s”

Duckling“What are the magic words?” Do you remember an adult in your life reminding you to say “please” and “thank you” when you were young? Those magic words go a long way in befriending other people.

Having good manners shows others that you see them, care about them, and appreciate what they are doing. Manners are all about respect. “Thank you for the present, Grandma.” “ Sorry, I didn’t mean to be so loud.” “Can you please pass the butter?”

It would be great if our kids were born knowing how to speak politely, but young children have a very small view of the world with themselves at the center. It takes years for children to develop the maturity to think of how their actions are affecting others and to care about other people’s feelings.

The best way to teach your children manners is by your own example, and by giving them the words to say when occasions arise. Reading some of these books about being polite will help too, as you both see what makes each story’s characters have good or bad manners.

“Mr. Wolf and the Three Bears” by Jan Fearnley. Mr. Wolf plans a big party for Baby Bear’s birthday with cake, sandwiches, biscuits, and Huff Puff Cakes (all recipes are included in the book). It’s lovely, until someone crashes the party. Enter Goldilocks! She budges, pushes, is messy, and inconsiderate. Goldilocks cheats at games and is just plain rude! How can Mr. Wolf save the party?

“Cookies: Bite-Sized Life Lessons” by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Jane Dyer. This is a kid-friendly dictionary of some choice words that are good to know when learning how to be polite. Each word is illustrated and described in ways children will understand such as, “Greedy means taking all the cookies for myself. –Hee, hee, hee. Yum, yum, yum. Generous means offering some to others. –Please take one. You too. Anyone else want a cookie?”

“How Do Dinosaurs Eat Their Food? By Jane Yolen and Mark Teague. First we see how sloppy and careless dinosaurs can be at the table; then we see all the ways that dinosaurs can be very neat and polite when eating. You may see your own little dinosaur in the pages of this book!

“The Duckling Gets a Cookie?!” by Mo Willems. The Pigeon character that stars in many of Willems’ books isn’t in the title, but is featured in this book as the hungry, curious, and frustrated onlooker. How does Duckling get a cookie, just by asking? (Clue: it has something to do with the magic word!)

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by | December 7, 2012 · 5:27 pm