Monthly Archives: April 2013

Keep the Questions Coming!

Who, what, where, when, and why? Children are full of questions and some children’s books are just as inquisitive. Books that are set up to build anticipation by asking what’s going to happen next, or what you will see on the next page, will hold your child’s interest and keep the read-aloud exciting.

Patterned question and answer books that have repeating words and phrases are also a great way to help children learn to read.  After you read the book a few times, leave off the last word off each page and see if your child chimes in. If the book rhymes it might be easy to guess the word. Or maybe the picture in the book will help your child know the word to say. That’s that way a child begins to learn about reading!

Here are some books that have questions on one page with the answer on page turn:

“Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” by Bill Martin, Jr. illustrated by Eric Carle.  This book not only teaches animals, but colors too. Each page has a clue about what animal will be shown on the next page. The text is predictable and rhyming.

Do Pigs Have Stripes?“Do Pigs Have Stripes?” by Melanie Walsh.  In this book you’ll see big, bold, simple paintings of animals. Each page has a question that is answered on the next page. “Does a bird have a big black wet nose?” Then we see a picture of just the nose.  Turn the page and we see a dog and the text: “No, a dog does.”

“Are You My Mother?” by P.D. Eastman. When a little bird hatches out of his egg, his mother is not there to greet him into the world. He sets off on a journey to find his mother, asking all the animals (and machinery!) if they are the one he is looking for. Young children will find the little bird’s assumptions pretty funny.

“The Z was Zapped” by Chris van Allsburg. Each page is an image of a letter of the alphabet that has had something happen to it. The next page describes what happened to the letter and uses at least one other word starting with that letter. This kind of word play is great for established readers as they try to uncover the clues with just the pictures then read the words to see if they were correct in guessing. Can you see that “the M was beginning to Melt?” You could make up your own alphabet game based on the book after reading it.

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Taking Care of Mother Earth

ImageEarth Day has been celebrated on April 22 since 1970. It is a day to honor our Earth so that individual American citizens and politicians will seriously consider the health and future of our planet.

What can one person do–especially a child, to help our Mother Earth? Even small actions done by an individual to stop polluting the water, air, and land can collectively make a big difference. Teach your child the importance of recycling and reusing everyday items to reduce the amount of garbage in the world. Teach about the animals of the world and how they need their own environments, uncontaminated by humans, to survive. Teach your child to treat the Earth kindly and you will be helping to ensure that our children will have a healthy planet to live on in the future.

Some favorite read-aloud books with Earth-friendly themes:

“The Lorax” by Dr. Seuss. When a family of Once-lers goes into producing Thneeds (which everyone needs), the Truffala Trees start disappearing as the roads, factories, wagons and loads all get “biggered.” The beautiful, colorful landscape becomes dull and gray. It looks like all will be lost, unless…

“The Great Kapok Tree” by Lynne Cherry. In a tropical Amazon rain forest, a man with an ax begins chopping down a sprawling Kapok tree. When he tires and falls asleep, the many animals of the forest creep into his dreams and tell him how much the Kapok tree means to each for survival. Cherry’s realistic illustrations depict many “wondrous and rare” animals. 

“Bald Eagle Returns” by Dorothy Hinshaw. Photographs of real bald eagles in the United States accompany the story of how our national bird went from being an endangered species to being more common.

“Joseph Had a Little Overcoat” by Simms Taback. This is a traditional Jewish folk tale about a man with an overcoat that wears out; but that’s not the end of the story! The overcoat’s life is extended when it is made into a vest, then a muffler, then made into smaller articles of clothing until it is just one button big. A humorous look at “reusing.”

“Too Much Garbage” by Fulvio Testa. A boy takes a filled garbage bag down to the curb in front of his apartment building and sees his friend doing just the same thing. When the two look down the street, they realize how much garbage has been put out. They start seeing garbage everywhere. When will it end? Where does it all go? 

Learn about different earth elements with these books:

“When the Giant Stirred: Legend of a Volcanic Island” by Celia Godkin. A pleasant story of a peaceful island and the plants and animals that live there. When it rumbles, when the “giant” stirs, the people leave the island, it explodes and then turns black. Eventually plants and animals come back, but the middle of the island is gone. Realistic watercolor.

“Rain” by Manya Stojic. “It was hot. Everything was hot and dry.” The rain comes to the African plain so the animals can smell, see, hear, feel and taste it. The landscape explodes with lush color… and then… “The sun shone over the plain. It was hot. Everything was drying out…” How do the animals and plants adapt?

“Water Dance” by Thomas Locker. Beautiful paintings show the water cycle on the Earth. Water moves and changes shape and form from rivers, waterfalls, oceans, clouds, rain, and mist. 

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On the Move with Books

Stretch! Bend! Jump! Dance! It’s time to shake off the weary winter weather and move with a spring in your step! Read one of these children’s books about movement and exercise and be ready to act out the motions with your young listener.

“Twist with a Burger, Jitter with a Bug” by Linda Lowery, illustrated by Pat Dypold. This rhyming, rhythmic, bouncy book is illustrated in collage with bold shapes and colors. The catchy text gives the message that we can move, dance, and find rhythm in life all the time. This book may introduce some new vocabulary to your child in these dance names: mambo, jig, polka, jitter, jive, rumba, and waltz.

“Who Bop?” by Jonathan London, illustrated by Henry Cole. A colorful book with a jazzy beat shows animals with music and moves. Cool Cat plays the sax and bunnies do the sock hop. The text is a tongue-twisting rhyme. “Get down, play that thing! If it’s got that swing it means EVERYthing. Jazz-Bo knows it. Says, ‘Hope I don’t blow it!’ He squeezes them blues right out of his shoes.”

“How Can You Dance?” by Rick Walton, illustrated by Ana Lopez-Escriva. Get ready to move like the animals do when you read this book. “How can you dance as you swim in a pool? Dance like a frog feeling fine, keeping cool. How can you dance when you’re mad as a bee? Dance around, around, around–wildy.”

“Dancing in My Bones” by Sylvia Andrews, pictures by Ellen Mueller. Dancing, bouncing, clapping, toe-tapping, and singing; the catchy stanzas rhyme and repeat. Illustrations are happy watercolors with big-headed, smiling children, rainbows, and flowers.

“Tumble Bumble” by Felicia Bond. A zig-zagging and growing parade of animals have mishaps and fun as they tumble, bumble along. The book ends with a quieting down as everyone heads off to bed.

“Get Up and Go!” by Nancy Carlson. The author/illustrator uses Lou Ann Pig, Henry and their animal friends to show why exercise is important and all the ways to do it. You can be involved with sports, play at the park, hike, garden, or dance in your living room. Moving is good for a healthy body.

“Clap Your Hands” by Lorinda Bryan Cauley. “Clap your hands, stomp your feet. Shake your arms, then take a seat.” Children and animals, big and small, all join in doing the motions. Each page has a rhyming set of directions that you can act out with your child.

“Who Hops?” by Katie Davis. This book will tickle the funny bone of your 3 or 4 year old. Illustrations are in big bold colors showing which animals hop, fly, slither, swim, and crawl. Every few pages there is a silly question, such as, “Do elephants jump?”

“Baby Dance” by Ann Taylor, pictures by Marjorie van Heerden. This is a short board book showing all the fun things a father does to soothe his crying baby: “Dance little baby, move to and fro. Coo and crow baby, there you go.”

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Find Children’s Book Suggestions Online

Need ideas of books to read to the children in your life? Peruse the Internet for book lists by topic and age, book reviews, and author biographies. There are also plans for activities to go with books you read and local and national book-themed events.


Some favorite children’s book websites:

• Carol Otis Hurst’s Children’s Literature Site: – This website was created by a teacher (and storyteller, author and consultant) for teachers, but is very useful for parents as well. You will find an extensive collection of reviews of books for kids, ideas of ways to use books in the classroom, and collections of books and activities about particular subjects, curriculum areas, themes, and professional topics. The reviews are very honest and comprehensive.

• Children’s Book Guide: – You can find lists of books that are classics, those that are most currently popular, and lists by theme, subject, and author. Color images of each book cover and a summary of the book in one paragraph make the site useful for quick reference. Click into the title of each book for a peak at the inside pages and a more extensive write-up including an opinion of the story. Sometimes clicking on the title brings you to the Amazon link to buy the book, which can be helpful or distracting, depending on your frame of mind.

• Guys Read: – This site is filled with titles of books recommended by guys for guys, ages very young to adult. Jon Scieszka, author of “The True Story of the Three Little Pigs” and “The Time Warp Trio” books founded the site to help boys become self-motivated, life-long readers. You can search by book title, author, or age level. Scieszka comments about why he developed the site: “I think boys need to choose what they read, pick from all different kinds of reading – not just school novels, and find out what other guys like to read.

• Parents’ Choice: – This organization has been reviewing children’s media (audio, books, DVDs, magazines, software, TV, toys, and video games) since 1978. If you click on button at top of the page, “Reading Learning, Playing” then click on “Reading,” you will find lists of articles giving child rearing advice, books lists, and annual Parents’ Choice book award winners.

• Reading Rockets: – The goal of this site is to launch young readers by offering a wealth of information for families and teachers about books and the joy of reading. Under “Children’s Books and Authors” you can find over 100 audio and video interviews with your favorite authors and book lists by theme. There are also book buying guides and literacy information in a variety of other languages.

• Of course check your local library’s website for book lists on themes. In Ithaca visit the Tompkins County Public Library site: For surrounding areas check the Fingerlakes Library System: You can also look at websites of libraries in larger cities such as Boston:

• The Family Reading Partnership website: has a growing list of children’s books by theme, read-aloud tips, and book activities on the “Great Ideas” page.

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It’s National Poetry Month!

April is National Poetry Month in the US. Do you have a poem you remember and can recite? “Hey diddle, diddle, the cat and the fiddle…” or “Twinkle, twinkle, little star…” Poems can bring us right back to the time when we first learned them and they are a way to hand down family traditions to our own children.

Poetry can take many forms. There are jump rope rhymes, European Mother Goose nursery rhymes, and African Talking Drum rhymes. There are Japanese haikus with short lines. There are silly limericks, serious verses and catchy songs. Read some poems together, or even write your own, and discover what types of poetry you and your child like best.

Poetry books have their own section in the library. Apart from the children’s picture books, books of poems are located in the children’s 811 shelves. Ask your librarian to show you the way there.

Rhythm and sound are important in poems. Many use rhyming words, but not all poems do. Here’s a poem that does both: “Mix a Pancake” from the book “Read-Aloud Rhymes for the Very Young” collected by Jack Prelutsky. “Mix a pancake, stir a pancake, pop it in the pan; Fry the pancake, toss the pancake–catch it if you can,” by Christina Rossetti.


Words in poems are like colorful strokes of a brush that paint pictures in our mind’s eye. Poems often describe moods, environments, colors, sounds, and textures. You can feel the heat and smell the earth in the words of the poem “Farmer” by Carole Boston Weatherford, from the book “In Daddy’s Arms I am Tall: African Americans Celebrating Fathers.” “A plot of weeds, an old grey mule. Hot sun and sweat on a bright Southern day. Strong, stern papa under a straw hat, plowing and planting his whole life away. His backbone is forged of African iron and red Georgia clay.”

Poems are an escape from the ordinary way of using language and introduce new vocabulary– words that aren’t used in common speech–with your child. From “Alphathoughts: Alphabet Poems” by Lee Bennett Hopkins, here are the poems for two letters of the alphabet. Both introduce some advanced vocabulary. “O: Ornithologists. Teachers of flights and tweets and reasons for putting out suet.” “P: Pencils. Magical implements waiting for stories, poems… to pop out from head to lead.”

Poems are a way to pass on language from one generation to another. Do you remember the poem “Mud,” by Polly Chase Boyden? “Mud is very nice to feel, all squishy-squash between the toes! I’d rather wad in wiggly mud than smell a yellow rose! Nobody else but the rosebush knows how nice mud feels between the toes.”

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