Category Archives: books for toddlers

My Favorite Book Tradition

books

by Melissa Perry
Program Coordinator
Family Reading Partnership

 

As the leaves start to fall and the nights set in ever earlier, with signs of Jack Frost’s midnight escapades when we wake, thoughts in my home start wandering toward ‘the books’. Even my anticipation rises as I look forward to the joy of a few quiet hours, so precious in themselves as a parent, spent pouring over the books, reliving heart-warming memories as I wrap the books with newspaper or the remnants of last year’s holiday paper. When the time comes, these books will be unwrapped, more carefully than any gift, in reverence of what they mean to our family- togetherness and love during the holiday season.

These books are a collection of both old and some new holiday and winter-themed tales, collected overtime from many places- my childhood, from loved ones, from Bright Red Bookshelves in the community, yard sales, thrift stores, school book fairs, and local booksellers- all selected to be part of this elite group of books because they are meaningful to our family in some way. Lovingly wrapped and cradled in their own festive crate, these books have a designated place of honor amidst our holiday décor.

Each night, starting the day after Thanksgiving and ending on our big winter holiday, our family chooses two wrapped books from the crate. Before the books are unwrapped, the children love to try to guess which book is under the paper, in hopes of getting their favorites but never disappointed if it isn’t because they are all so special to us. Then, we pile onto the couch, with our cat, inevitably, budging his way on to someone’s lap, not willing to miss this family holiday book tradition, and we snuggle under the quilt meticulously hand-stitched so long ago by my beloved great-grandmother to lose ourselves in the spirit-lifting winter wonderlands of these stories.

This nightly ritual gathers us together and gives us pause during the bustling holiday season. We crave these quiet moments of reading and reminiscing together, all heading to bed with sweet words and memories to keep us cozy during the long winter nights. These books, gifts in themselves to be sure, become a focal point of our holiday celebrations, with reading together the most treasured piece of this seasonal ritual.

After the holidays, when all the books have been read and re-read countless times, the crate of holiday joy is quietly tucked away in the back of a dark closet. There they will await their time of glory next holiday season.

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Make the most of family time this fall with books

 

by Melissa Perry
Program Coordinator
Family Reading Partnership

Piles of crunchy leaves, a spicy bite in the air, chilly mornings, and flocking geese; all these signs point to fall. When this time of year rolls around, we tend to take notice of and truly appreciate the colorful, yet slowly browning outside world, with a few moments of summer-like sun sprinkled in for good measure. We spend more time at home enjoying the warmth thrown off by a baking oven overflowing with delicious, tempting smells, and lingering just that much longer in the comfort of a cozy blanket with a steaming cuppa and a few good books. Children love the extra family time that comes as a result and reading together is the best way to make the most of it.

Here are some ideas of expanding on your time spent reading together and incorporating books into your fall activities.

‘Leaf Man’ by Lois Ehlert, is a book that features collages of real leaves made to tell the story of the very busy leaf man, traveling wherever the wind takes him. You may enjoy taking a walk outside to collect leaves to make your own leaf people and animals. What types of leaves work best for feet? Heads? Hair?

‘Why Do Leaves Change Color?’ by Betsy Maestro teaches you all about why and how leaves change in the fall when the weather turns cool. You can explore the park or your yard to see what kinds of leaves you can find and talk about how and why the leaves change from green to red, yellow, orange, and brown. If you find a green leaf, make a guess at what color it might turn!

Explore different types of leaves with ‘Autumn Leaves’ by Ken Robbins. How many of the leaves in the book can you identify in your own back yard? To preserve the beautiful leaves and make your own book with them, cut contact paper to the desired size, then press leaves onto the sticky side of the paper. Carefully cover with another sheet of contact paper, slowly smoothing out the air bubbles. Make a cover out of a cereal box or construction paper and decorate.

To learn about the growth cycle of pumpkins, check out ‘Pumpkin Circle: The Story of a Garden’ by George Levenson. You and your child will see the pumpkin’s process from seed, to plant, to fruit, and then as it decomposes. Try it with a pumpkin at home! Cut open a pumpkin and take a look at the seeds. You can even save a few to plant next year. Leave the pumpkin outside and watch it decompose as time goes on. You can even keep a diary of the pumpkin and draw pictures of how it looks as it changes.

‘Pumpkin Soup’ by Helen Cooper is a charming tale about a dog, a cat, and a duck that live together and make pumpkin soup together every night, each with their own special part of the process. Enjoy reading the recipe at the end of the book and following the steps to make the pumpkin soup recipe with your family!

‘Cranberry Thanksgiving’ by Wende and Harry Devlin has always been a favorite at my house. This funny tale offers a glimpse of the New England autumn and teaches us not to judge others by their appearances. You’ll also find the secret recipe for Grandmother’s Famous Cranberry Bread in this book- a fall time favorite that you can recreate with your own family!

‘In November’ by Cynthia Rylant is a sweet story about how the earth and all it’s creatures prepare for winter. When you look outside or go for a walk, what winter preparations do you see taking place? What does your family do to get ready for winter?

 

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Connecting with Grandchildren and Books via Skype

grandparesnt-readingkeepintouchwithgrandparents_skypestorytime

by Elizabeth Stilwell
Early Childhood Specialist

If you are like many grandparents today, you may be experiencing the “love lag” of having young grandchildren who live far away and out of arm’s reach. More and more long distance grandparents are closing that gap using Skype, a service that allows you to communicate by voice and video over your computer. Seeing your grandchild on screen, watching all the new developments and making sure that they are familiar with your voice and your face, can make a big difference in feeling connected. Skype is also a great way to create read-aloud rituals with toddlers and young children.

 

If you are new to Skype – don’t worry! Chances are that you have everything you need to Skype. The setup involves a computer and a webcam. Most newer computers come with built-in webcams. Your computer will need a high-speed connection and you’ll need to use a speaker or earphones. That’s it! Then go to skype.com and set up your account. It is a free service and your adult children can help you with the simple set up and operations.

 

Reading aloud to children is a time-honored tradition used by grandparents to create special connections and memories with grandchildren. Although it’s not the same as having a little one snuggled on your lap, starting read-aloud rituals through Skype is another way to create and maintain meaningful relationships. Here are a few tips to make this experience more engaging for your grandchild and more rewarding to you.

 

  1. Choose books that are simple and age appropriate.   Often we remember childhood books that we read to young children when they were five or six. If you are reading to a toddler, classic picture books like ‘Make Way for Ducklings,’ or ‘The Little Engine That Could,’ have too much text and plot to keep a very young child engaged. It’s best to start with a simple board book, possibly with rhyming words or repeated phrases. Visit your library and get some help from the children’s librarian to find a rich selection of stories that are appropriate for you grandchild. The best part of this is that you can then invite your grandchild (and his/her parents) to check out the same story at his or her own local library!

 

  1. Make a “Skype date” for your read-aloud. Call or text your adult children to find a time that works for you to read to your grandchild. This should be separate from a regular video chat. The read-aloud Skype date will be a special time for you to share a story. Eventually try to set up a regular reading time that you can all plan on and look forward to.

 

  1. Practice the logistics of Skype reading with your spouse or another adult. It might feel awkward at first and if you practice you can be sure that you are holding the book so the child can see the illustrations and that you’re comfortable. Try pausing after reading each page and then do a “close up” so your grandchild can point to things in the illustration, just as they would in a traditional book. Read through the story in advance so you can anticipate characters, plot, and create special voices.

 

  1. Add a finger play, rhyme or song. Often at library story times for young children, the experience starts with a brief song or finger-play. This “warms up” the audience and helps the children settle in for the story. You could start each Skype story-time with the Itsy-Bitsy Spider, Patty-Cake, or any other simple song or finger play. Here is a website with songs and finger plays in case you need some inspiration! http://www.songsforteaching.com/fingerplays

 

  1. Read chapter books to older children. At Family Reading Partnership we believe that reading aloud to children should continue well beyond the time they can read independently. Sharing reading time with older children through Skype is a gift of time that you as a grandparent can give. It might be while parents are busy making dinner or as a break from homework. Invite your grandchild to check some books out of the library, choose a book to share and text you the title so you can check out the same book. Or, as a special treat, send a copy of a book to the child, maybe one that you remember reading aloud to your own children. Invite your grandchild to read ahead if it’s too hard to wait for your next Skype reading time but to let you know so you can do the same. Then have a conversation about the book in your own private Skype “book group”. In real time, these focused interactions can sometimes be hard to schedule in the busy world of young families. Skype can actually be a more intentional one to one interaction with an older grandchild.

 

There is a quote I love by Lois Wyse that says, “Grandchildren are the dots that connect the lines from generation to generation”. Sharing books through Skype is one more way for long distance grandparents to help connect the dots!

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Modern libraries have much to offer

 

by Melissa Perry
Program Coordinator

When you think of a library, what image comes to mind? A large, dusty room patrolled by a stern-looking librarian ready to glare at and shush you if you dare to make a peep? Or do you think of friendly, light-filled rooms full of activity and smiling faces, a happy librarian on the floor singing and doing finger plays; while in the next room, children are building with Legos and families are designing forts to act as their very own reading oasis for the evening? If the latter description doesn’t sound much like a library to you, it’s time to take a trip to your local library!

Modern libraries are gathering places for the community. At the library, one can view an art exhibit, listen to lectures, watch movies, and participate in book groups. Patrons can enjoy any variety of story times, read with cats and dogs, treat their favorite plush friend to a sleepover, participate in STEM events, play games and, of course, read! And all of those activities and books you can read? They’re free. And open to everyone. These books and activities are the library’s gift to the community.

Libraries have so much to offer, much more than I have mentioned here. The next time you’re looking for something to do, head to your local library! Check out the variety of activities your library has to offer. From infants to seniors and every age in between- the library has something for everyone!

Check out these events happening at local libraries:

Tompkins County Public Library

Laura Doherty Performance: Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Laura Doherty will make a rare tour stop in Ithaca. She has won multiple awards, including the American Library Association’s prestigious Notable Children’s Recording Award.

LEGO at the Library: Saturdays from 2 to 3 p.m. Children are invited to attend this weekly LEGO building program. ‘LEGO at the Library’ encourages children to use their imaginations or LEGO books from the TCPL collection to create their own LEGO art! The library provides LEGO bricks, and all creation will be displayed at the library for one week!

Yoga Storytime with Diane Hamilton: Wednesday August 24 and 31 from 10 to 10:45 a.m. Children ages 3-10 are invited to join yoga instructor Diane Hamilton for ‘Yoga Storytime’ to bring favorite stories to life with yoga pose. No yoga experience or mat required, but comfortable clothing is recommended.

Ulysses Philomathic Library

Farmers’ Market Storytime: Wednesdays until October 26, from 5 to 6 p.m. at Trumansburg Farmer’s Market.

Summer Storytime and Art Project: Thursdays until September 29, from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m.

Southworth Library

Guided Storywalk: August 20 and 27 from 11 a.m. to noon at the Montgomery Park Storywalk.

Pajama Storytime and Author Visit: Friday from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Children will hear “How to Put Your Parents to Bed’ by Mylisa Larsen.

Lansing Community Library

Preschool Storytime: Every Tuesday at 1 p.m. This event includes stories, crafts and fun for preschool children.

Toddler Storytime: Every Thursday from 10:30 to 11 a.m. Geared especially toward toddlers with new themes each week!

Newfield Public Library

Family Storytime: Every Tuesday from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. Themes for the next two events are games and the circus!

Groton Public Library

Fun Day: Every Tuesday until August 30 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Join other kids for a half-day of fun and activity that includes read-aloud, crafts, lunch and free play!

Tween Nerf Wars @ the Village Park: Aug. 26 from 7 to 9:30 p.m. Bring your nerf guns and ammo, if you have them. Some are available to borrow. Hot dogs and s’mores provided!

For complete lists of activities, please visit each library’s website.

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Exploring Nature with Books

 

by Melissa Perry
Program Coordinator

With longer, warmer days and the foliage in full bloom, summer presents a great opportunity to explore the outside world. Imagine walks through the forest, lingering in a garden, swimming and playing in the stream, and laying out at night to discover the constellations. While enjoying these marvelous adventures, don’t forget to bring along some books!

Books enhance outdoor experiences by getting children excited about the possibilities of what can be found right in their own backyard or most any green space. Books inspire children to seek out the magic of the intricately spun web of the spider, the fragrant, spiky needles of the pine, and the pillowy, low-hanging cumulus clouds. Books, particularly field guides and nature focused non-fiction, offer a deeper look at living things and natural occurrences by providing facts, real photographs and/or life-like illustrations, information about life cycles, habitats and diets, and also answers to the many questions children are sure to have when they come across one of nature’s wonders. Field guides are designed to be portable, making them easy to bring along on any outdoor adventure. Plus, there are guides on just about any topic of interest, from amphibians to fossils to mushrooms.

Not only do books and field guides allow a child to explore the world local to them more deeply, they also open up entire new worlds of faraway places like jungles, deserts, outer space and oceans. All of these places (and many more!) can be explored through books. Apart from actually visiting these places, books are the next best way to be immersed in these unfamiliar worlds. As a bonus, you can travel to these places as often as you’d like!

An outdoor adventure can be many things: a visit to a waterfall, a nature walk through downtown, an afternoon at the park, or an afternoon examining the different types of stones in the driveway. Books are the best accessories for these moments, piquing children’s interests and offering more information about their world, introducing unique words and encouraging the practice of never ending exploration. Reading can happen any time, any place — even (and especially) when discovering the outdoors!

Take some books on your next adventure! You can find many field guides and nature focused non-fiction books at the library and your local bookseller. Here are some to get you started:

“The Tree Book for Kids and their Grown Ups: by Gina Ingoglia
“Nature Anatomy: The Curious Parts and Pieces of the Natural World” by Julia Rothman
“The Night Books: Exploring Nature After Dark with Activities, Experiments, and Information” by Pamela Hickman
“Nature’s Day: Discover the World of Wonder on Your Doorstep” by Kay Maguire
“Backyard Birds (Field Guides for Young Naturalists)” by Karen Stray Nolting and Jonathan Latimer
“Insects (National Audubon Society’s First Field Guides)” by Christina Wildson
“Wildflowers (National Audubon Society’s First Field Guides)” by Susan Hood
“Clouds (Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out Science 1) by Anne Rockwell

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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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