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books about the natural world

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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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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Cookbooks Offer A Unique Literary Experience

 

 

by Melissa Perry
Program Coordinator
Family Reading Partnership

Reading and cooking are two of my favorite activities. That being said, cookbooks, naturally, are near and dear to my heart. Not only are they useful to adults looking to create a meal, they also offer a unique and important reading experience for children. Read on for ways to share the joy of cookbooks with the young ones in your life.

  • Cookbooks introduce children to interesting vocabulary. Words like simmer, juicy, mince, broil, and garlicky are all commonplace within recipes and help expand a child’s vocabulary and ability to use descriptive words. All while broadening their connection with food and other cultures. Read recipes aloud with your kids and ask them what they think these unique words mean. Then, by way of explanation, give them a demonstration of what broiling or mincing looks like and the opportunity to experience juicy or garlicky foods.
  • Recipes require reading a list and following written directions that combine numbers, symbols and words. Reading for information and then completing the necessary tasks builds confidence while creating something together and showing the importance of reading in real life. Having children help gather and prep ingredients is a great way to practice these skills. Gathering ingredients can be like a scavenger hunt and kids love to measure, pour, and stir!
  • There are many cookbooks that feature foods from favorite children’s books. These types of cookbooks expand a child’s experience and relationship with a story, allowing it to become an even more important part of his or her life. Other cookbooks offer a story within a recipe. Choose a book that has an accompanying cookbook and make one or several of the recipes that you read about in the story. Does what you made look or taste the same as it was described in the book?
  • Cookbooks for kids have fun with language and can make food more interesting for children. With a play on words, vegetables sound much more enticing when called carrot coins or broccoli spears. Check out a recipe for a dish, perhaps one that your child isn’t exactly fond of, and see if having your child follow the recipe and help create such items as ‘cool cucumber soup’ or ‘hide and seek muffins’ makes a difference in his or her desire to eat something he or she would normally not be interested in.
  • Perhaps the most important benefit of reading and cooking a recipe together is the opportunity for conversation with your child. Cooking lends its self naturally to making predictions, describing foods, and offering observations. To expand this experience, work together to compile a grocery list and shop for ingredients. You can take turns describing an ingredient and having the other one guess what ingredient it is.

Food and reading are both important factors of success. Our need for nourishing foods must be meet before we can feed a voracious appetite for reading. Early, frequent, and pleasurable experiences with books are vital to success in school and in all areas of life. Cookbooks help satisfy these two undeniable needs while giving children an interesting reading experience. Plus, your kids will know how to cook real food- and that’s never a bad thing.

Cookbooks to check out:
The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook by Dinah Bucholz
Roald Dahl’s Revolting Recipes by Roald Dahl
The Little House Cookbook by Barbara M. Walker
Writers in the Kitchen complied by Tricia Gardella
Pretend Soup By Mollie Katzen
Fairy Tale Feasts: A Literary Cookbook for Young Readers and Eaters by Jane Yolen, Heidi E.Y. Stemple, and Philippe Beha

For a large assortment of cookbooks for both children and adults, visit the non-fiction section of your local library.

 

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Go Buggy for Books!

What’s the difference between a spider and a beetle? Do you know how many legs a butterfly has? How many queen bees live in one bee colony? You can find the answers to all these questions and more in the non-fiction sections of your neighborhood library. The children’s section has its own non-fiction area and you can find books about insects, spiders, and other crawling creatures in the 595s. Ask your librarian to show you around.

Try out some of these books and gain a new appreciation for our multi-legged friends.

“The Beetle Alphabet Book” by Jerry Pallotta, illustrated by David Biedrzycki. Big, detailed illustrations of 26 different kinds of beetles have a few short sentences about each. Learn about the huge variety of these hard-shelled insects, from the African Goliath Beetle that is as big as a hand, to the Zinc Metallic Beetle, that looks precious and shiny.

“Honeybees” by Deborah Heiligman, illustrated by Carla Golembe, published by National Geographic Society. Easy-to-read scientific facts about honeybees and their fascinating lives are illustrated by with brightly colored paintings. The back of the book has instructions for doing your own Honeybee Dance with a secret code to communicate with a friend.

becoming butterflies“Becoming Butterflies” by Anne Rockwell, pictures by Megan Halsey. Illustrations are created with watercolor and cut paper and show children in school caring for monarch butterfly caterpillars until they change into butterflies. The text tells the story of the life cycle of the monarch and the stages of metamorphosis. Find out what is about to happen when a chrysalis turns dark!

“Make it Work: Insects” by Wendy Baker and Andrew Haslam. One of a series of “Make it Work” books that gives facts, creative projects, and activities about a subject for a multi-sensory learning adventure. In this book you’ll find directions for making different insects out of folded paper and styrofoam as a way to understand insect anatomy. There are also instructions for making a homemade moth trap and a box that can house an ant colony so your child can observe insects like a scientist.

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Explore the Fall Season with Children’s Books

Experience the colorful, bountiful season of autumn in new ways with ideas from children’s books. Read a book to your young child and then extend the book experience with crafts, cooking, counting, and learning.

Enjoy your time reading and exploring together with some of these books about fall:

Leaf Man

“Leaf Man” by Lois Ehlert. With just a few leaves of different shapes and colors, “leaf man” is created and off on an adventure, sailing through the autumn sky. After reading this book you’ll be inspired to make your own leaf people and animals. Go on a walk and collect leaves, nuts, and other fall treasures to arrange into a story you and your child can make up together. There are also facts in the back of the book so you can learn the names of the trees in your neighborhood.

“Johnny Appleseed” by Steven Kellogg. Enjoy a crunchy red apple as you read the story of the American frontier hero, Jon Chapman, know best as Johnny Appleseed. The text is a bit long, but younger children can see the story unfold in the dynamic illustrations. Facts about the early 1800’s are woven together with some tall tales about Johnny Appleseed’s adventures to make an entertaining story.

“Pumpkin Soup” by Helen Cooper. A cat, a squirrel, and a duck work together to make pumpkin soup the same way, every day, until… Duck decides to do it a different way. Oh no! The three friends have to figure out how to still be friendly to each other. There’s a pumpkin soup recipe included if you want to try cooking up some of your own.

“Apples and Pumpkins” by Anne Rockwell, illustrated by Lizzie Rockwell. Apple picking, pumpkin carving, and marveling at red and yellow leaves are all part of autumn fun. Bold, colorful illustrations and simple text introduce young children to the wonders of the season. The book ends with jack-o-lanterns shining and trick-or-treating.

RunawayPumpkin“The Runaway Pumpkin” by Kevin Lewis, illustrated by S.D. Schindler. This is a rollicking, frolicking rhyming journey of the Baxter family trying to catch up with a runaway pumpkin. Preschoolers will giggle at the antics of the chase and silly sounding words in this story.

“Why Do Leaves Change Color?” By Betsy Maestro and Loretta Krupinski. Learn why autumn leaves are so colorful and discover lots of activities you can do with the leaves in your own backyard. This is a “Let’s Read and Find Out Science” book for young children.

“How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin?” by Margaret McNamara, illustrated by G. Brian Karas. This is a story of children in a classroom, but also an estimating game using math and science knowledge. Pumpkins seeds are slimy when they come out of a pumpkin, and there are so many to count. Which has more seeds–a small pumpkin or a big one?

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Explore Summer with Books

Help your children discover the wonder and magic of the outside world this summer with some choice children’s books. You’ll be satisfying their curiosity and giving them experiences that will be happy summertime memories for years to come. You can explore your own backyard, the beautiful night sky, or your vacation spot on the ocean with field guides written especially for young children.

• The “Take Along Guide” collection is a wonderful series of non-fiction books. Learn about seashells, crabs, and sea stars, caterpillars and butterflies, eggs and nests, trees, leaves, and bark, and more!

• “Once Upon a Starry Night: a Book of Constellations” by Jacqueline Mitton and illustrated by Christina Balit brings the sky to life with animals and people that emerge in the glowing patterns of stars.

• “Pop! A Book About Bubbles” is one book in the “Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out-Science” series that features photographs of children on each topic. How fun to blow bubbles, send them off into the warm summer sky, and then learn how and why they work!

There are also plenty of stories about summertime activities that feature children on adventures picking berries or chasing after butterflies.

• “Blueberries for Sal” by Robert McClosky is a classic written in 1949 that young children today will still find fascinating. As a mother and daughter set off to pick blueberries so they will have some fruit to can for the winter, a mother bear and her cub set off to find blueberries to eat on the same hillside. As the story unfolds, we see how both mothers and the two children have more in common than just loving blueberries.

• “Summer Days and Nights” by Wong Herbert Yee was just published in 2012. This is a delightful story of a little girl enjoying a beautiful summer day from sun-up to bedtime. Told in gently rhyming verse the author describes the delights of daytime and nighttime summer fun, which will give you and your child many ideas for things to do and explore.

• “Beach Day” by Karen Roosa, illustrated by Maggie Smith, is a favorite of very young children. Two-year-olds will love the sandy beach images and the sing-song text. “Waves roar, rush and soar! Rolling, crashing to the shore.” From water-skiers to picnic blankets, this book encompasses an entire joy-filled day at the ocean.

After you read a new book together, you will most likely learn some new words that you can put right to use as you enjoy time as a family. Happy summer reading!

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