Category Archives: Feelings

Back to School!

by Katrina Morse
for Family Reading Partnership

Get ready for school! New routines, new friends, and new challenges are part of the school year ahead. Is your child starting a new school or moving up a grade and joining a new classroom? Ease any first-day-of-school jitters by reading stories about what school might by like and talking about your child’s feelings.

The characters in books often have the same feelings that your child may have, so reading a book together can give you and your child ideas and the words to talk about and overcome any worries.

Sharing any book with your child also adds to their personal sense of security. Sitting together and giving your attention to your child as you read aloud shows them that you support them, care for them, and love them. It helps your child feel confident enough to try new things, which they will be doing all school year long.

Here are some books to read before the big first day:

“On the First Day of Kindergarten” by Tish Rabe, illustrated by Laura Hughes. Count all the fun first days of kindergarten, starting right on day one. You will see how many exciting things happen in school, like making new friends, painting, running a race, and counting. Upbeat and engaging with a diverse classroom of children depicted in the illustrations.

“The Pigeon HAS to Go to School” by Mo Willems. Pigeon cannot believe he has to start school. He already knows everything and doesn’t want to make new friends. What is school about anyway? He just doesn’t want to go! If your child already loves Mo Willems’ books, this is going to be another winner in your family. If you have yet to meet Pigeon–and Elephant and Piggie–in other Willems’ books, you are in for a treat, and some laughs! Pigeon has many of the same fears as any child about going to school, but your child can giggle at Pigeon’s overblow reactions.

“Monsters Love School,” by Mike Austin. A little monster named Blue is anxious and worried about going to school. He wonders, “What do you eat at school? What do you learn? What about friends?” Adults and teachers are reassuring at every turn during Blue’s first school day. From the art teacher, to the school lunch worker, to the gym teacher he hears the same messages, “School is for trying new things. You’ll meet new friends. You’ll like school!” Told with humor and light-heartedness, this story will be a comfort to a Pre-K or kindergarten child before their first day at a new school.

“Planet Kindergarten” by Sue Ganz-Schmitt, illustrated by Shane Prigmore. Put on your helmet and get ready to blast off to a classroom. This story creates an outer space adventure of going to school. Starting with a flight plan for the journey, school as a space capsule, and fellow students as the crew, the playful story reveals that the main astronaut is a bit worried about the trip. Cute and clever, the story ends with the young space-goer back on his original planet with a splashdown (in the bathtub) in the comfort of his own home.

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Filed under back to school, benefits of reading together, family reading, Feelings, Mo Willems, opportunities for conversation

Making Friends

by Katrina Morse for Family Reading Partnership

What does it take to be a good friend? Sharing adventures, working out problems, and accepting each other despite differences is a good foundation for a long-term friendship.

As the parent of a young child, you can model good friendships and show your child the type of supportive people that you want to have around that add meaning and richness to your life.

You can also talk to your child about what character traits you value as a family such as honesty, kindness, being a good listener, and being able to share. Reading books together about friendship gives you the opportunity to talk about the joys and the occasional frustrations of being and having a friend. Enjoy some of these stories and learn more about friendship.

  • “Carrot and Pea, an Unlikely Friendship” by Morag Hood. Can a small, round, green pea and a tall, straight, orange carrot stick be friends? With illustrations made of simple shapes and bold color, this clever story explains to the very young child how differences can be the bond for friendship.
  • “Stick and Stone” by Beth Ferry, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld. Much like “Carrot and Pea,” with one round and one straight character, this rhyming story goes into more detail about what it takes to be a friend through good times and rough patches. Even though friends can be very different from each other, true friends care about one another.
  • “George and Martha” short stories by James Marshall. These two goofy hippos are best friends and do everything together. They go to the movies, the beach, eat meals, and like all best friends, laugh together and sometimes have misunderstandings. Although written over 30 years ago, these stories are timeless.
  • “Gerald and Piggie” books by Mo Willems. When an elephant and a pig get together, anything can happen! Each story explores an emotion that arises in this unlikely friendship using very simple language, with just a few words on each page.
  • “Leonardo the Terrible Monster” by Mo Willems. Being terrible at being a monster means that you can’t scare anyone! Leonardo works at becoming scary, but when he succeeds he realizes that perhaps being kind is a better way to gain a friend than being frightening.

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Patrick McDonnell’s Books Teach Love and Kindness

by Katrina Morse for Family Reading Partnership

How about starting the New Year off with more love and kindness? Treat your family to some books by award winning author and illustrator Patrick McDonnell. His stories show the many ways we can cultivate kindness toward one another and accept others for who they are, especially if different from us. McDonnell’s picture books are written for young children, but his stories touch on big life messages that will resonate with adults.

McDonnell is widely known for his comic strip “MUTTS” that premiered in 1994 and stars a cat named Mooch and a dog named Earl (coincidently McDonnell’s real dog’s name). One of the author’s passions is in helping facilitate pet ownership and kindness toward animals. 5% of all sales of printouts of his comic strips (www.mutts.com) go to The Humane Society of the United States’ Animal Rescue Team.

McDonnell’s work is strongly influenced by George Herriman’s “Krazy Kat” comic strip (1913-1944, New York Evening Journal). He uses the same bulbous noses, black eyes with no whites of the eyes showing, and loosely rendered black ink lines to define his characters. He does everything without computer technology and hand paints each image with watercolor. In the style of Harriman he also uses tender-hearted colloquial dialog between characters. “Yesh!” says Mooch, quite often.

But an even bigger influence on his artwork was Charles Schulz, creator of the Peanuts comics, and a mentor to McDonnell. Schulz was also profoundly influenced by Harriman, the defining comic strip artist in his time. Learning from Harriman, Schulz added depth of meaning and personal feeling into his “cute” characters and passed the value of incorporating sentiment into comics, on to McDonnell.

In 2005, McDonnell broke into the children’s book world with the book “The Little Gift of Nothing” about the significance of giving your presence and companionship to someone instead of a physical gift. Since then he has written and illustrated 12 children’s books and collaborated with Eckhart Tolle (author of “The Power of Now”) on a book for adults, “Guardians of Our Being, Spiritual Teachings from Our Dogs and Cats.”

Here are some favorite Patrick McDonnell books to read with your young children. Talk about what happens in each story and see if love and kindness grow this year!

  • “Hug Time.” Little orange-striped kitten Jules is so filled with love that he wants to hug the whole world. Jules makes a Hug-To-Do List and visits places around the earth, hugging many endangered species and getting many hugs in return.
  • “Wag!” “Fwip, fwip, fwip!” wags Earl’s tail. Mooch wants to know what makes Earl’s tail wag. After much observation, Mooch finds out. It’s love!
  • “Thank You and Good Night.” How many fun things can you do at a pajama party? These 3 friends have an evening packed with togetherness. They stage a funny-face contest, learn a chicken dance, play hide-and-seek, practice yoga, eat, watch for shooting stars—and they are thankful for it all.
  • “Art.” Art is a boy and art is a thing to do. McDonnell uses this homonym pair to play with the idea that unbridled creation in squiggles, wiggles, and zigzags can be a person’s identity. Can you tell Art and art apart?
  • “The Little Red Cat Who Ran Away and Learned His ABC’s (the hard way)” Great for a child who already knows his or her alphabet, this wordless book is a continuously flowing story that needs the reader to identify what word is represented in each illustration of the alphabet. Here’s the trailer for the book on Youtube.

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Teaching Children Empathy

by Katrina Morse, Family Reading Partnership

“That’s not fair!” your 4 year-old proclaims. “Why do I have to share?” Being “fair” to a young child means getting what he wants, when he wants it. Your child’s world is constructed with your child prominently in the center and other people and activities revolving around him.

She is the center of her own reality, as she should be. From this place of being sure of herself when she is young, she can begin to imagine how others feel and develop a sense of empathy. This is a natural progression in a child’s development as she approaches her 5th birthday and will continue into adulthood. Having empathy helps us define our own beliefs and appreciate others.

You can encourage and support your child’s growing awareness of other points of view by noticing real life examples. Talk about how other people might feel. Read stories that about conflict and resolution. Discuss how each person has to consider what others are thinking. Why does your child feel strongly about something and then how and why do others feel differently? Is there a right way or a wrong way to think?

Here are some children’s books that offer opportunities to explore empathy and help your child develop compassion.

“Stick and Stone” by Beth Ferry, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld. The rhyming text is brief on words, but big on meaning. The simple chalk illustrations show how tall and skinny Stick and short and round Stone become unlikely friends. Through a series of incidents they help each other, come to the rescue, and stand up for each other. In the end they appreciate each other’s differences and find that they are bonded in friendship.

“The Day the Crayons Quit” and “The Day the Crayons Came Home,” by Drew Dewalt, illustrated by Oliver Jeffers. You may think that crayons don’t have much of an opinion; however, in these stories, each color crayon has its own personality and a lot to say! Telling the story from the perspective of the crayons opens up ideas for children about other viewpoints. If toys, pets, or even furniture could talk, what would they say?

those shoes“Those Shoes” by Maribeth Boelts, illustrated by Noah Z. Jones. Jeremy really wants a new pair of the trendiest shoes—black with 2 white stripes. Everyone has them except Jeremy, who gets practical boots instead. Jeremy is faced with the judgment of his classmates, but then finds the need to be compassionate to someone else.

“Millie Fierce” and “Millie Fierce Sleeps Out” by Jane Manning. Millie knows she has a temper and finds out what happens when she “lets her fierce out.” Millie has to work hard on her self-control because she knows that her point of view is not how everyone else sees the world. Watercolor illustrations are delightfully loose in structure and color but show the details of Millie’s complex life.Millie Fierce

“Yoko,” by Rosemary Wells. Yoko the kitten brings her favorite lunch to school–sushi. But Yoko’s classmates think her lunch of raw fish wrapped in seaweed is strange. When she brings out her red bean ice cream she is called a weirdo. Her teacher arranges for an International Food Day at school and the students soon realized the value of trying everything and appreciating each other’s backgrounds.

 

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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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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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Family Read-Aloud Resolutions

reading together mouse family

by Melissa Perry, Program Coordinator, Family Reading Partnership

The New Year is upon us and with it the tradition of reflecting on the past twelve months and what we’ll do differently to improve our lives in the upcoming year. Unfortunately, most of our best intentions fall flat within a few weeks. However, if I may, I’d like to suggest a New Year’s resolution that is simple, enjoyable, and will benefit the entire family; a resolution that won’t be thrown by the wayside.

    Read.

Read-aloud to the children in your life. While you’re at it, read to the teens and adults in you’re life, too- I don’t know of anyone who doesn’t love a good story. Make it a special part of your daily routine.

Take time to enjoy a good book yourself. There are few things better than losing yourself in the world of a great book. As a bonus, when others see the pleasure you find in reading, it’ll encourage them to read as well!

Visit your library often to stock up on all types of literacy materials for every member of your family. You’ll find board books, picture books, chapter books, comic books, cookbooks, magazines, recorded books, etc. Drop in for story time, a book club or another family event. Check your library’s calendar for a list of activities.

Create a special place to read together. Any cozy nook will do! An area with space to store library and other reading materials makes it convenient to snuggle up and read anytime of the day.

Give the gift of reading by giving books as gifts. When books are given as gifts, whether for a special occasion or just because, it increases the book’s value in the eyes of the recipient. A book given as a present is a gift that can be opened again and again.

Resolving to read-aloud, read together, and enjoy a good book yourself is a New Year’s resolution that we can all stick to- and all benefit from.

Cheers to the New Year and to all of the reading adventures to come!

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