Category Archives: imagination

Play with Books!

by Katrina Morse for Family Reading Partnership

Dramatic play is what children do naturally. Acting out scenarios from real life settings such as home, the grocery store, or a city street or pretending to be someone else like a musician, pirate, or scientist give children the opportunity to explore their own feelings and learn how to talk about them. They confront fears, make choices, and solve problems. There is so much learning that happens in play!

Children’s books are a rich source of ideas for pretending. After reading any of your favorite books together, ask your young child which character they would like to pretend to be and start acting out the story. Grown-up hats, scarves, and shoes can used be as costumes that transform your child into another person or creature. Recreate the setting of a book with a few simple props you already have at home. Pillows can become a boat, car, or a picnic table. Stuffed animals and action figures can become other characters in a story. Let the play expand to new make-believe stories and let your child’s imagination blossom.

Here are some books for young children that will inspire the fun:

“This Jazz Man” by Karen Ehrhardt, illustrated by R.G. Roth. This counting book has a bee bop rhythm in the descriptions of how a jazz band makes music. Snap, tap, pound a beat on a drum, and lead with a conductor’s baton. Make your own instruments at home out of pots and pans and create your own sounds just by humming, clicking, and tootling to a beat! Can you work together to make music?

“Wiggle” by Doreen Cronin, illustrations by Scott Menchin. From the author of “Click, Clack, Moo, Cows That Type,” here is another story that will tickle your child’s funny bone and spark some creativity. Follow along as a dog wiggles his way through the day. From the morning wake-up wiggle, to wiggling with his shadow, wiggling like a crocodile, and wiggling as slowly as a polar bear, this is a book that you’ll want to read standing up. Then your child can practice all the ways to wiggle.

“Little Blue Truck Leads the Way.” By Alice Schertle, illustrated by Jill McElmurry. A sequel to “Little Blue Truck,” this story is set in a city with many other types of vehicles, lots of people, and tall buildings. Little Blue Truck is in the right place at the right time and saves the day. Phew! How did he feel about that? You and your children can pretend to be a line of cars, trucks, and cabs with Little Blue Truck out in front, leading the way through a city made by the furniture and doorways of your home.

 

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Filed under creativity, dramatic play, imagination, movement, music, rhythm

Take a Look in Picture Books!

by Katrina Morse for Family Reading Partnership

How is a “p” different from a “q” and a “b” not the same as a “d”? The little details that make letters different from one another require good observation skills that children develop with practice. Noticing differences and similarities also helps when learning to draw, read, study the natural world, and learn a new sport. Details matter! Slow down and just look. You and your child will see a new world.

It’s easy to use picture books to help your child develop observation skills. Most children’s books have little details in the illustrations that may tell even more about the story than the words. The next time you read together notice what is the same and different in the pictures from one page to the next. Are there objects or actions not mentioned in the story that you find? It’s a fun game to play.

Use any of your favorite picture books or try some of these and play the “same and different” game.

“Birds,” by Kevin Henkes, illustrated by Laura Dronzek. Simple, playful text describes how birds are many colors, shapes, and sizes. Compare them all. Then in some “what if”” scenarios we see how with some imagination birds can paint colors across the sky with their tails and a tree-full of crows can fly away in a rowdy surprise.

“Little Cloud,” written and illustrated by Eric Carle. A picture book for the very young child. See Little Cloud as he changes from one shape to another before becoming part of a big rain cloud. After reading, look at real clouds in the sky with your child and see if any look like familiar objects.

“Flotsam,” by David Wiesner. This is a wordless picture book, so all you can do is look and see what has changed in each illustration! The pictures reveal the story of a boy at the beach finding an underwater camera washed up on the shore. When he develops the film, he can’t believe what he sees. There are many details to discover on each page.

“The Snail and the Whale,” by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Axel Scheffler. Charming illustrations and rhyming text together tell the story of a great adventure. Seagulls, a cat, and many little snails are supporting characters in the pictures at the start of the story, but are replaced by penguins and seals at the north pole and then parrots and crabs in tropical islands. Each place the snail and whale travel around the world is a new place depicted in detail. Is the cat in the beginning the same cat at the end? Take a look.

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Filed under I spy, imagination, observation skills, same and different, wordless picturebooks

A Book for Every Child!

by Katrina Morse for Family Reading Partnership

Every child responds to different types of stories. What does your little one love hearing you read the most? There is something for everyone.

Humorous. “Duck in the Fridge” written and illustrated by Jeff Mack. Mother Goose is one type of story to read at bedtime, but why? A little boy finds out that his dad has had some big experiences with ducks! Starting with one duck in his refrigerator, the boy’s dad tells about how it got worse and worse with more animals. Told with an abundance of puns!

Positive Self-Concept. “Thelma the Unicorn” written and illustrated by Aaron Blabey. A pony wishes she could be special. She wants to be a unicorn! When she finds out what it’s like to be a famous celebrity, she realizes that she misses her old life and likes herself just as she is–a pony.

True Tale. “Hero Cat” by Eileen Spinelli, illustrated by Jo Ellen McAllister Stammen. Realistic artwork rendered in pastels depicts a drama that really happened. In 1996, an abandoned warehouse began burning and a mama cat rescued her 5 kittens, one by one, from the smoke-filled building.

Concepts. “You are (Not) Small” by Anna Kang, illustrated by Christopher Weyant, Book 1 of 3 in the “Not” series and Winner of the 2015 Theodor Seuss Geisel Award. Two fuzzy creatures argue about who is small and who is big, but then even smaller and bigger creatures appear. Who is bigger and smaller now? The story is a great opportunity to talk about differences and if they matter.

Non-Fiction. “Earth! My First 4.54 Billion Years” by Stacy McAnulty, illustrated by David Litchfield.  “Hi, I’m Earth! But you can call me Planet Awesome.” This story, told from the point of view of The Earth, is both funny and filled with kid-friendly facts. The book includes back matter with more interesting bits of information.

Modern Classic. “Circus Train,” by Jennifer Cole Judd, illustrated by Melanie Matthews.  Circuses may be events of times past, but if you want to experience this American classic happening, “Circus Train” leads the reader through the circus train rolling into town and children and their parents waiting in line and going into the show. Clowns paint their own faces, lumbering elephants dance, and trapeze artists flip. Rhyming text and playful illustrations.

Classic. “The Cat in the Hat” by Dr. Seuss (Theodor Geisel). Published in 1957, this timeless story embraces the premise that the 2 children in the book are home alone–all day–with no parents! The Cat in the Hat, with his red striped hat, finds many activities to fill up the day. This book was presented as a possible alternative to the debatably ineffectual “Dick and Jane” primers. Geisel used the most popular rhyming words (“cat” and “hat”) and created a story that eventually became an acceptable alternative to those primers of the past to help children learn to read.

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Filed under classics, family reading, imagination, non-fiction

Laugh It Up!

by Katrina Morse for Family Reading Partnership

Humor can help create friendships, make difficult situations easier, and can make children beg for more books. Humor can work wonders! A lot of humor is based on portraying a skewed view of a normal situation. Children age 3 to 4 and up can start appreciating how something should be, and then the funny alternative way it is described in words and pictures.

What if animals took over a farm for the farmer? What if cows could type? What if you knew a woman named Mrs. Submarine or a housefly that danced? Characters changing places and play on words make stories silly and encourage creative thinking.

Laugh it up with these funny books:

“Buggy Riddles” by Katy Hall and Lisa Eisenberg, pictures by Simms Taback. This is a book of riddle just right for a young child. Q: How do you start a lightning bug race? A: On your mark! Get set! Glow! and Q: What does a fruit fly do in a cornfield? A: goes in one ear and out the other! Look for the many other riddle books by these two authors.

“Rainy Morning” by Daniel Pinkwater, illustrated by Jill Pinkwater. One rainy morning a husband and wife are having hot, corn muffins for breakfast. “Would you like another breakfast, dear?” Mrs. Submarine asks her husband. “I’ve had two breakfasts already,” Mr. Submarine says. “But it is raining very hard. I will have one more breakfast, please, but just a small one.” From there, you won’t believe who joins them for a muffin!

“Cows in the Kitchen” by June Crebbin, illustrated by Katharine McEwen. Pigs in the pantry? Ducks in the dishes? Hens on the hat stand? Silly, silly, pre-school silliness!

“Click, Clack, Moo: Cows that Type,” written by Doreen Cronin, illustrated by Betsy Lewin. A Caldecott Award winner for its bold and whimsical illustrations, this book is reportedly humorous to even two year-olds. Cows can’t type! Cows don’t use electric blankets! Look closely at the illustrations for some surprises.

“Quiet Night” by Marilyn Singer, illustrated by John Manders. A cumulative story that starts with one very large mouthed frog croaking “Ba-rum!” and ends with ten campers yawning on a now noisy night. The exaggerated illustrations are even funnier than the noises.

“Quick! Turn the Page!” By James Stevenson. An interactive story that will tickle your child’s funny bone. This may become your new favorite family book!

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Bring Books to Life by Connecting to Activities

Bring books to life for your child! Read a book, then experience what you read by connecting the story to the real world. By extending the book to include the sights, sounds, textures, smells, and tastes of real life, the written word and flat pictures in a book become a multidimensional and memorable experience.

You could read a book about food, such as “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” by Judi Barrett or “Dragons Love Tacos” by Adam Rubin and then eat some spaghetti or make your own tacos. Read the book while you sample the food and the story will become an event that your child won’t forget.

You could read “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus” by Mo Willems and then take a real bus ride; or read “Click Clack Moo, Cows that Type” by Doreen Cronin and then type and send a real letter or email to someone your child knows. (Grandma will love getting a personal note from her grandchild.)

A great way to teach your child about music is to read books about music and instruments and then listen to the real thing. There are many free and low cost concerts in your community and at schools that your child may enjoy. Make sure to point out the instruments that you have read about and listen to how each sounds. Stay at a live performance only as long as your child is interested, so that this introduction to music is a pleasant experience for everyone.

Some children’s books about music that will make you tap your toes:

  • “Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin” by Lloyd Moss, illustrated by Marjorie Priceman, introduces ten instruments in an orchestra, in rhyming text with illustrations that curve with the rhythm of the music. 
  • “The Bat Boy and his Violin” by Gavin Curtis, illustrated by E.B. Lewis, is an endearing story about a young African American boy who would rather play violin than be the bat boy for his father’s baseball team. The boy’s expert music making ends up helping the team overcome a losing streak, and helps win over his dad’s heart. Striking watercolor illustrations are based on extensive research of the time period.
  • “Moose Music” by Sue Porter. When Moose finds a violin and bow in a mud puddle in the woods, he finds out that the rusty strings produce an ear-splitting screech that no animal in the woods can tolerate… except for a lady moose who has a raspy, howling voice. Children will laugh at this pair.
  • “This Jazz Man” by Karen Ehrhardt, illustrated by R.G. Roth. The bouncy text of this book is based on the childhood tune, “This Old Man” and the illustrations are lively collage. The book begins with: “This Jazz Man, he plays one. He plays rhythm with his thumb. With a snap, snap, snazzy-snap, give the man a hand, this jazz man scats with the band.” The book ends with brief histories of nine jazz musicians from the thirties and forties.

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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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