Category Archives: family reading

ideas and suggestions for reading aloud to young children

Books for Comfort in Troubling Times

by Katrina Morse for Family Reading Partnership

Books can be a great comfort. If your child is worried, anxious, sad, mad, or confused, there is most likely a children’s book that can help give information and reassurance. This is the world of bibliotherapy – using books to learn healthy ways of coping with difficult situations.

Sitting together and reading a book, any book you both love, is comfort in itself. Giving your child your full attention by sharing a story together shows that you care.

Your children may be worried about the current spread of Coronavirus, confused if your family is going through a divorce, or anxious if someone close to them is facing a cancer diagnosis. Reading about difficult topics will give your child the right amount of information in age-appropriate language so they can feel more in control of a situation.

Sharing a story can also give you both the opportunity to talk about your child’s feelings and find ways to feel more at ease. Learning the words needed to talk about emotions is just as important as learning facts.

Here are some picture book recommendations that cover a few topics, but look for the books that address your child’s concerns. Read the book by yourself first and see if it is a good choice for the circumstances. Reading the physical copy of a book is the coziest way to read together, but you can also find many books read aloud on YouTube, if you’d like to watch with your child, as another way to share a story.

“Cutie Sue Fights the Germs” by Kate Melton, illustrated by Ira Baykovuka. Book 2 in a series, a brave young girl fights germs with lessons she learns from her doctor about personal hygiene and staying healthy. Rhyming text tells the story of Sue and her brother recovering from tummy aches.

“Breathe Like a Bear: 30 Mindful Moments for Kids to Feel Calm and Focused Anytime, Anywhere,” by Kira Willey, illustrated by Ani Betts. Whatever your child’s worries, these strategies for calming down with simple breathing and movements will be useful. Once learned, you and your child can practice them whenever needed.

“Two Homes” by Claire Masurel, illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton. When parents are divorcing, family life changes. This book doesn’t go into the adult reasons for divorce, but instead tells a child-centered story about how life is different living in two households. Life is also the same because each parent always loves their child.

“The Invisible String” by Patrice Karst, illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff. Imagine there is always a connection with a loved one, even if there is a physical separation. With an invisible string, no one is ever alone. This is a reassuring story to help children overcome separation anxiety.

“Cancer Hates Kisses” by Jessica Sliwerski, illustrated by Mika Song. Written by a mom who was diagnosed with breast cancer when her daughter was a baby, this book tells about treatment and the side-effects in an upbeat way. How can children help a parent with cancer? By giving kisses and their love.

BOOKS FOR FAMILIES: The Cancer Resource Center of the Finger Lakes supports area families when a parent or loved one is affected by cancer through their program “CRC Cares About Families.” Through this program families can receive a choice of a book for a child or teen and a resource packet. For more information visit http://www.crcfl.net.

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Filed under Bibliotherapy, family reading

Jerry Pinkney Gives Children Strong Role Models

Katrina Morse for Family Reading Partnership

Jerry Pinkney, award-winning author and illustrator of over 100 children’s books, is going to celebrate his 81st birthday this year and has no plans of slowing down. There are so many more stories to tell!

Pinkney’s books broadly cover two of his favorite subjects: African American history and culture and folk tales. He carefully researches the time period, people, and stories he portrays in pictures. His illustrations are detailed watercolors, sometimes with added colored pencil or oil pastel. Images are both powerful and humanizing, created with the intention of giving children strong, positive role models and showing them that anything is possible.

As an African American himself, Pinkney has also sought out and found opportunities to use his illustrations to portray people of African descent and help change perceptions and stereotypes at a national level. His illustrations of African American history and culture have been used in materials for the National Guard, National Geographic, the National Park Service, and the U.S. Postal Service.

In his children’s books Jerry Pinkney expresses his humanitarian values in words and pictures, a legacy which he has passed on to his family. His wife, Gloria Jean Pinkney, his son Brian Pinkney, and his son’s wife Andrea Davis Pinkney are also prolific authors and illustrators of children’s books with themes of compassion, love of life, and exploring history.

Here are just a few children’s books illustrated by Jerry Pinkney:

  • “A Place to Land: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Speech That Inspired a Nation,” by Barry Wittenstein (2019) tells the inspiration for this famous speech and how it was written.
  • “The Three Billy Goats Gruff” (2017) is a retelling of an old story about bullying.
  • “A Starlit Snowfall” by Nancy Willard (2011), a rhyming poem that embraces the gentle beauty of winter.
  • “The Lion and the Mouse” (2009), an Aesop’s fable about the importance of kindness, retold entirely in vivid illustrations set in the Serengeti plains.
  • “Minty: A Story of Young Harriet Tubman” by Alan Schroeder (2000) introduces the injustices of slavery through the eyes of a child.
  • “The Ugly Duckling” (1999), a classic tale by Hans Christian Andersen about bravery and patience.
  • “Black Cowboys, Wild Horses: a True Story” by Julius Lester (1998) shows in pictures a different and more accurate Wild West than Hollywood has shown us in film.

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Filed under African American culture, author study, family reading, folk tales, Jerry Pinkney

How to Choose a Children’s Book as a Gift

Katrina Morse for Family Reading Partnership

Open a picture book and inside you’ll find a world of wonder waiting to be discovered. It could be an exciting story about far-away lands or a comforting tale about everyday life. It could be a story that introduces new ideas or shows how something works. There are so many children’s books to read!

Share the magic of stories with the young children in your life and give a book as a gift for a holiday, a birthday, or your own spontaneously created special occasion. Start a tradition of making books part of family celebrations. You’ll be giving more than just a physical book. You’ll be giving the experience of sharing it together again and again, creating memories that last a lifetime.

Out of the many choices of books for young children, consider the interests and personality of the child who will be receiving your book gift.

For a wiggly child, choose books that have motions that can be acted out as you read. There is no need to sit still for these stories. Bend, stretch, and make noises. After a few readings your child will come to anticipate what action or sound is coming next.

  • “Wheels on the Bus” by Raffi, illustrated by Sylvie Wickstrom
  • “Dinosaur Dance,” by Sandra Boynton
  • “There’s a Monster in Your Book” by Tom Fletcher, illustrated by Greg Abbott

To wind down at bedtime, choose a book with a calming storyline that leaves children ready to doze off to sleep.

  • “I Love You to the Moon and Back” by Amelia Hepworth, illustrated by Tim Warnes
  • “Steam Train, Dream Train,” by Sherri Duskey Rinker, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld
  • “Goodnight Little Bear” by Patsy Scarry, illustrated by Richard Scarry

Around age 3 or 4 children start developing their own sense of humor. Pick a book with silly, unexpected happenings that will elicit giggles.

  • “Come Home Already!” by Jory John, illustrated by Benji Davies
  • “Silly Sally” by Audrey Wood
  • “Ball” by Mary Sullivan

For a child who loves learning about new things, there are many fact-filled picture books with engaging stories that will make them want to know more.

  • “The Story of Snow” by Jon Nelson, illustrated by Mark Cassino
  • “The Raft” by Jim LaMarche
  • “Hello Hello” by Brendan Wenzel

When you find an author or subject that your child loves, you can find similar books at your local bookseller or library. Enjoy!

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Filed under book gifts, book routines, family book traditions, family reading, traditions

Encourage Creativity and Wonder

Katrina Morse
For Family Reading Partnership

The next time you are at your local library or favorite bookstore, make a point to find the biographies in the non-fiction section of the children’s books. Once you know your way to those shelves, you’ll have access to the true-to-life stories that can inspire and engage your child into learning new things and dreaming big.

Stories about activists, composers, athletes, inventors, artists, engineers, and more will spark your child’s imagination. Many biographies written for children start by describing the childhood of the accomplished adult. They tell how that man or woman began with an idea as a young boy or girl and how their curiosity and wonder drove them to pursue their passion.

Who will inspire your child’s love of learning? Check out some of the following biographies of scientists and inventors. And make sure to read more biographies about other life adventurers that followed their dreams and in doing, made the world a better place.

“Shark Lady: The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean’s Most Fearless Scientist” by Jess Keating, illustrated by Marta Alvarez Miguens.
This is the story of marine biologist Eugenie Clark and her daring pursuit of studying sharks at a time in history when women were discouraged from careers that were dangerous and traditionally held by men.

“The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind,” picture book edition, by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer, illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon. This modern day biography was released as a chapter book and is now a motion picture and a picture book for younger children. This is the story of a young boy and his vision to bring electricity to his village in Malawi. With a mixture of illustration and photos, the reader sees the real life account of a boy whose search for answers started at his public library and led him to invent the design for a windmill to generate electricity that changed life in his community.

“On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein” by Jennifer Berne Page, illustrated by Vladimir Radunsky. We think of Einstein, the man, as a genius, but first he was a curious, imaginative child who didn’t speak much. As an adult he was funny and loved jokes and tricks, and still wasn’t comfortable in social settings. But, Einstein never stopped wondering how things worked and had the courage and motivation to explore the physical world around him and the world in his mind to come up with revolutionary theories in physics.

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Filed under children's books, creativity, family, family reading

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

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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Filed under benefits of reading together, family, family reading, summer

LOL with These Books!

by Katrina Morse for Family Reading Partnership

When will a baby laugh at the game of peek-a-boo? At the time in their development when they start knowing what is expected and unexpected in their world. This first sense of humor revolves around the physical world and slap-stick scenarios like mom or dad pretending to drop an egg or playing dress-up with the dog.

As children learn more words, start to see different perspectives, and have practiced stretching their imaginations, language-based jokes become very funny. They will laugh at unlikely combinations of words, double meanings, and incongruous situations. They are now ready for some children’s books that will tickle their funny bones!

Get ready to laugh out loud while reading some of these books:

  • “Grandpappy Snippy Snappies” by Lynn Plourde, illustrated by Christopher Santoro. Grandpappy has some super useful suspenders that can make everything wrong turn right with just a snap. This fast paced story with rhyming text is full of surprises. When Grandmammy is in trouble and the suspenders are worn out, how will Grandpappy save the day?
  • “Those Darn Squirrels” by Adam Rubin, illustrated by Daniel Salmieri. Old Man Fookwire loves painting pictures of the birds at his backyard feeders, until the birds fly south and the squirrels take over! This grumpy old man changes his tune when the squirrels come up with a plan.
  • “Silly Tilly” by Eileen Spinelli, illustrated by David Slonim. “Tilly is not an ordinary goose. She takes her baths in apple juice. She wears a pancake as a hat. She tries to ride the farmer’s cat.” She’s not like any of her farm animal friends. When Tilly’s silliness gets to be too much, the barnyard animals demand that Tilly stop being silly. But then the farm is much too quiet and they miss their silly friend Tilly.
  • “I’m Bored” by Michael Ian Black, illustrated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi. A little girl is so very bored with life, until she meets a potato that actually talks. But the potato decides that kids are boring. The little girl is determined to show this potato that he is wrong about kids.
  • “A Little Stuck” by Oliver Jeffers, author and illustrator of “The Day the Crayons Quit.”  What would you do if your kite was stuck in a tree? Floyd tries to knock his kite down by throwing his shoe at it, then his other shoe, then a whale, a firefighter, an orangutan and more and more unlikely items as the story continues.

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Filed under family reading, family time, humorous