Category Archives: activities

Giving Thanks

A sunny day, a hot meal, your family, and a friendly face are a few of the many reasons to be thankful. Sometimes it’s the small things that we may take for granted that bring comfort and joy to life.

Identifying those things to appreciate is just the first step in experiencing gratitude in a deeper way, according to the “Raising Grateful Children” project at UNC Chapel Hill. This project promotes four steps of gratitude that children can practice with the help of an adult.

  • NOTICE what you feel grateful for in your life.
  • THINK about why those things are in your life.
  • FEEL the emotion that comes with your gratitude.
  • DO something to express your appreciation. (such as saying “thank you”)

Young children are just learning about perspectives that are different from their own and developing emotional intelligence. Reading picture books about gratitude will introduce your child to some ideas of what to be thankful for in his or her own life. From there you can think together about why they are grateful, how they feel about it, and say “thank you” with words, by drawing a picture, or doing something nice for someone else.

Here are some book suggestions:

“Thankful” by Eileen Spinelli, illustrated by Archie Preston. A gentle rhyming story about observing the world around us and how we can each be thankful for the simple things that make our lives more meaningful.

“The Thank You Book” by Mo Willems. Laughs abound as Piggie thanks everyone he knows and Gerald the Elephant worries the whole time that Piggie will forget to thank someone. Piggie does indeed forget some special friends, and Gerald is there to remind him who they are.

“Thanks a Million” by Nikki Grimes, illustrated by Cozbi A. Cabrera. Sixteen poems in different formats point out why we should be grateful and how easy it is to say “thank you” in return. The poems are just right for young children.

“Last Stop on Market Street” by Matt De La Peña, illustrated by Christian Robinson. Set in a busy city, a young boy named CJ rides the bus with his Nana to the soup kitchen where they will get a meal. On the way, Nana points out the beauty she sees all around them from a smiling child to a rainbow over an apartment building.

“Too Much Noise,” by Ann McGovern, illustrated by Simms Taback. This retelling of a folk tale is a humorous account of seeing a different perspective. Sometimes what you have already is quite good enough! Repetition and creative problem solving make for an engaging story.

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Summertime Read Aloud!

by Katrina Morse for Family Reading Partnership

What are your family’s favorite summer activities? Picking and eating fresh strawberries, open ended fun at the playground, or cooling off with a swim? Bring along books to read aloud wherever you go and you’ll have a ready-made way to take a break from your action-packed day.

By reading books aloud to your children – even after they can read on their own – you’ll be introducing them to new words and ideas, sparking their imagination and curiosity. Here are some summer-themed books to enjoy with your family:

“I See Summer” by Charles Ghigna, illustrated by Agnieszka Malgorzata Jatkowska. Bright and colorful illustrations depict cheerful summer scenes from sailboats to gardens. This is a great point and say book. Ask your 2-3 year old where things are that you name on each page or count the objects together. You can extend the book experience after reading by continuing the book’s phrase, “I see…”, and filling in what you see around you in real life.

“Gorilla Loves Vanilla” by Chae Strathie, illustrated by Nicola O’Byrne. This book will tickle the funny bone of your 3-5 year old. Stinky blue cheese ice cream? Squirmy wormy ice cream? Ice cream flavored with mud? Who eats all these unusual flavors and what will Gorilla choose as his favorite?

“Jabari Jumps” by Gaia Cornwall. This is a story about a boy who is working on being brave. Jabari would like to jump off the high dive at the community pool, but when he looks at the long ladder to the board, he sees that it’s mighty high up. Told in a playful, yet emotionally sensitive way, the story describes Jabari’s determination to overcome his fears. The longer text of this book, with sounds effects, repetition, and rhythm, will engage 4-7 year olds.

“Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH” by Robert C. O’Brien, illustrated by Zena Bernstein. Published in 1971, this chapter book still remains a favorite with its themes of self-sufficiency, ingenuity, and “doing the right thing.” This is a fantasy story set the in the summer months, featuring the mysterious Rats of NIMH. Read this book aloud, a few chapters at a time, to your 6-10 year old. Or, you could take turns and your child could read to you. Suspenseful and heroic, this will be a story your family will remember.

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Children’s Books That Inspire Winter Fun

by Katrina Morse for Family Reading Partnership

Long winter nights and chilly days with the children home on vacation from school are perfect times to snuggle in, stay warm, and read favorite books with your family. Read about the winter season–then go outside and enjoy the frosty wonderland! If your children need some encouragement to bundle up and go out in the cold and snow, reading books about the magic of snowflakes, making tracks in the snow, and how much fun it is to go sledding will kick-start their winter adventures. Try some of these titles:

“The Story of Snow: the Science of Winter’s Wonder” by Mark Cassino and Jon Nelson. What is at the center if each snowflake that is formed? Why do snowflakes have 6 sides? How many types of snowflake crystals are there? Give your children magnifying glasses and they’ll be able to see how each snowflake is unique, just as described in this fascinating book. Photographs are mixed with illustrations to depict the science of snow.

“All About Animals in Winter” by Martha E. H. Rustad. Have you ever seen a butterfly in the snow? Find out why some animals migrate, some hibernate, and some change the color of their fur to be camouflaged in the snowy landscape.

“Over and Under the Snow” by Kate Messner, illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal. Even though the winter landscape is very quiet, there is a lot going on top of the snow and especially underground. Animals have all kinds of homes they build for the winter and ways of keeping safe, warm, and well-fed.

“Tracks in the Snow” by Wong Herbert Yee. This rhyming book is a mystery story for the very young listener. A little girl makes tracks in the snow and then finds more tracks to follow. Who else is making tracks in the snow with her?

“The Thing about Yetis” by Vin Vogel. Any large, white, furry Yeti, also known as an Abominable Snowman, loves winter. You’ll learn about all the ways this cute little Yeti enjoys the winter season, snow, and cold. But don’t be surprised that like many children, he also misses the warm days of summer!

“The Snow Bear” by Sean Taylor, illustrated by Claire Alexander. This is a story of two children, a Snow Bear, and a sled. How do their imaginations help them when they get lost and have to find their way back home? A story of suspense and of friendship.

Celebrate your family’s winter holiday and the winter season with books you give as gifts or that you find at your neighborhood library. Make giving, getting, and reading children’s books a family tradition. You’ll be making memories for your family that will last a lifetime!

 

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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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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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Summertime Reading with Your Children

by Katrina Morse, for Family Reading Partnership

Pieces of chalk and a driveway, a cardboard box in the grass, flour and sugar in the kitchen, or a stick on a sandy beach–children only need common, everyPiece of Chalkday items, a long summer day, and your encouragement, to have fun. Jumpstart their imaginations by reading children’s books about picnics, swimming, berry picking, exploring and other summer activities, and then do them! You’ll be making children’s books “come alive” and giving your child the connection between new words and what they mean, while creating colorful childhood memories.

Did you ever make drawings, hopscotch games, or start lines for races with chalk on the sidewalk or driveway when you were young? Give your children the same experience. With a few colored sticks of chalk a child can draw all day. The next rain will wash away the chalk to make a blank slate for another time. “A Piece of Chalk” by Jennifer Ericsson, illustrations by Michelle Shapiro, follows a little girl as she creates a chalk drawing the width of her driveway. The book names many colors and playfully relates the colors to the objects in the girl’s yard.

Beach DayAre you going to spend some time at the ocean while the weather is warm? Read “Beach Day” by Karen Roosa, illustrated by Maggie Smith, and learn about the simple pleasures provided by a shovel and a pail. If you are staying closer to home and visiting a lake, compare the animals and activities in this book to the experience at the lake. What is the same; what is different? Younger children will have fun with the rhyming text.

“One, two, three. Ready or not, here I come!” Hide and seek has been a favorite game of children for generations. The book “Gotcha, Louie!” by H.M. Ehrlich, illustrated by Emily Bolam, is a simple book about a small boy and his family playing hide and seek on vacation. Who will find Louie in the tall grass?

Yum! Homemade cake! “What’s Cookin’?” by Nancy Coffelt is a counting and baking book. On each turn of the page there is a “knock, knock, knock,” and someone else comes into the kitchen with another ingredient to add to the mixing bowl. The delightful illustrations continue onto pages at the back of the book that give ideas of activities to do while baking and a recipe for “Cousin Alice’s Easy Layer Cake” and “Quick Chocolate Frosting.”

Secret hiding places, magic houses, and even entire pretend towns are part of childhood. “Roxaboxen” by Alice McLerran, illustrated by Barbara Cooney, is about a special place called Roxaboxen that comes to life with the imagination of the children in this Arizona landscape. With little, white stones, wooden crates, and items found in the sand, the children create streets and houses. When the children grow up, they come back and find the traces of Roxaboxen still there.

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Teach love with books

reading-together

by Melissa Perry
Program Coordinator
Family Reading Partnership

If there is one thing that the world needs most, especially right now, it is love. Love for our family, friends, and those we cross paths with in our daily lives. Love for the plants and animals of the earth, and for the earth itself. Love for the opportunities we have and the struggles we overcome. And love for ourselves so that we may embrace this life and radiate our love to make this world a better place.

There are many children’s books that explore and celebrate the topic of love. Sharing these stories with children helps them understand and embody the act and feeling of love so that they, too, can share it with the world. These books lend themselves to wonderful discussions about love, kindness, and what it means to care for others.

A Chair For My Mother by Vera B. Williams
After a fire destroys their home and possessions, Rosa, her mother, and grandmother work together to save and save until they can afford to buy one big, comfortable chair that all three of them can enjoy.

Pinduli by Janell Cannon
Pinduli’s mama has always told her that she’s the most beautiful hyena ever. But Dog, Lion, and Zebra don’t think so. Why else would they make her feel so rotten about her big ears, her fuzzy mane, and her wiggly stripes? Poor Pinduli just wants to disappear–and she tries everything she can think of to make that happen. Yet nothing goes her way. Nothing, that is, until a case of mistaken identity lets her show the creatures of the African savanna how a few tiny words–bad or good–can create something enormous.

Ordinary Mary’s Extraordinary Deed by Emily Pearson
Can one child’s good deed change the world?
It can when she’s Ordinary Mary- an ordinary girl from an ordinary school, on her way to her ordinary house- who stumbles upon ordinary blueberries. When she decides to pick them for her neighbor, Mrs. Bishop, she starts a chain reaction that multiplies around the world. Mrs. Bishop makes blueberry muffins and gives them to her paperboy and four others, one of whom is Mr. Stevens, who then helps five different people with their luggage, one of whom is Maria, who then helps five people, including a man named Joseph who didn’t have enough money for his groceries, and so on, until the deed comes back to Mary.

Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena
Every Sunday after church, CJ and his grandma ride the bus across town. But today, CJ wonders why they don’t own a car like his friend Colby. How come they always have to get off in the dirty part of town? Each question is met with an encouraging answer from grandma, who helps him see the beauty—and fun—in their routine and the world around them.

Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson
Chloe and her friends won’t play with the new girl, Maya. Every time Maya tries to join Chloe and her friends, they reject her. Eventually, Maya stops coming to school. When Chloe’s teacher gives a lesson about how even small acts of kindness can change the world, Chloe is stung by the lost opportunity for friendship, and thinks about how much better it could have been if she’d shown a little kindness toward Maya.

A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip C. Stead
Friends come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. In Amos McGee’s case, all sorts of species, too! Every day he spends a little bit of time with each of his friends at the zoo, running races with the tortoise, keeping the shy penguin company, and even reading bedtime stories to the owl. But when Amos is too sick to make it to the zoo, his animal friends decide it’s time they returned the favor.

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