Tag Archives: children

April is National Poetry Month!

by Katrina Morse for Family Reading Partnership

There was a young child homeschooled.
She found there were all different rules.
When she tried raising her hand
Her dog jumped up to land
Right onto homework – not cool!

Poetry can add humor and fun to your new family routines and safe ways of learning. Encouraging children to work on schoolwork when the grown-ups may be trying to work at home can be challenging. Poetry can be an enjoyable diversion and a way to stretch your kids’ imaginations.

April is National Poetry Month, so right now you can find many resources online. You’ll find books of poetry collections to buy or read online, authors reading their own poems, and ideas for writing poetry with kids.

Poems are a way to play with words. Some poems rhyme, others are verse, some have a rhythm, others are don’t at all. Poems can be funny and other poems can be serious. Try writing some poems with your children and see what you all create. Here are some standard forms, but all rules can be broken when it comes to poetry!

Limericks: Like the example above, limericks are made of 5 lines with a set rhythm scheme and are usually silly. The first, second, and fifth lines rhyme with each other and are longer. The third and fourth lines rhyme and are shorter. Limericks were made popular in the 19th century by Edward Lear. Look up some of his work online and say them out loud to catch the limerick beat, then try your own!

Haiku: This is a Japanese form of poetry that is made of just 3 lines. Typically the first and third lines have 5 syllables and the second line has 7 syllables. Haikus are often about nature or a moment in time. They don’t have to rhyme. Here is a “What am I ?” haiku from http://www.kidzone.ws: Green and speckled legs/Hop on logs and lily pads/Splash in cool water.

Acrostic: This poetry form creates a word puzzle. Take any word or phrase and write down the letters that spell it out vertically. Each letter will be the beginning of one line of the poem. Now brainstorm ideas that describe your word. An acrostic poem using the word POEM could be: Pencils are ready/ Open your mind /Everyone can do it/ Many words can work.

Free Verse: This is a great form if your child has an idea or a feeling and some words that describe it. Break up the words into groups of 2, 3, or 4 words per line and see how the emphasis of the words or meaning may change.

Find more resources for word play and poetry with children online. Family Reading Partnership is a community coalition that has joined forces to promote family reading. For examples of poems on their website visit www.familyreading.org/resources/ and look under Family Book and Reading Activities.

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Filed under family reading, family time, homeschooling, poetry, rhythm

Spreading the Love with Words and Books

by Katrina Morse for Family Reading Partnership

Writing and receiving cards in the mail or hand delivering a card to someone special can be a fun family tradition. Show your child the value of the written word this Valentine’s Day by making your own cards and sharing them friends and relatives.

Get out your red and pink construction paper (or color some white paper with crayons), scraps of ribbon, buttons, or other odds and ends. Use glue sticks or white glue (for heavier items) and markers or colored pencils. Show your child how to make a heart by folding paper in half and then cutting out just one half of the heart. Open the paper to reveal a symmetrical symbol of love! Cut, arrange, glue and then when everything is ready, add the words to make a special Valentine’s Day message.

When you help your children write the things they want to say on their cards, or you write what they dictate, you are showing them that words are used to tell people our feelings (among other things!).

Read the Valentine message by pointing to letters and words and saying the message together, following along with your finger. Give each other a hug for a job well done!

Give Valentine’s Day cards in person or put in an envelope and show your child how to add an address, stamp, and put in the US mail. Grandma, grandpa, aunts, uncles, and faraway friends will treasure a handmade card sent to them for Valentine’s Day.

Learn some words about love that you can use in your cards by reading some of these children’s books:

  • “How Many Do I Love You: A Valentine Counting Book,” by Cheri Love-Byrd, illustrated by Mei Stoyva, padded picture book format
  • “Counting Kisses: A Kiss & Read Book” by Karen Katz, board book format
  • “I’ll Love You Till the Cows Come Home” by Kathryn Cristaldi, illustrated by Kristyna Litten

Do you have a favorite picture book character? There is probably a Valentine’s Day book featuring that character that you can read together. You’ll find rhymes and heartfelt messages about love in these books:

  • “Llama Llama I Love You” by Anna Dewdney, board book format
  • “Love from the Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle
  • “Pete the Cat: Valentine’s Day is Cool” by James Dean
  • “Love from the Crayons” by Drew Daywalt, illustrated by Oliver Jeffers
  • “Happy Valentine’s Day Mouse” by Laura Numeroff, illustrated by Felicia Bond, board book format

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Giving Thanks

A sunny day, a hot meal, your family, and a friendly face are a few of the many reasons to be thankful. Sometimes it’s the small things that we may take for granted that bring comfort and joy to life.

Identifying those things to appreciate is just the first step in experiencing gratitude in a deeper way, according to the “Raising Grateful Children” project at UNC Chapel Hill. This project promotes four steps of gratitude that children can practice with the help of an adult.

  • NOTICE what you feel grateful for in your life.
  • THINK about why those things are in your life.
  • FEEL the emotion that comes with your gratitude.
  • DO something to express your appreciation. (such as saying “thank you”)

Young children are just learning about perspectives that are different from their own and developing emotional intelligence. Reading picture books about gratitude will introduce your child to some ideas of what to be thankful for in his or her own life. From there you can think together about why they are grateful, how they feel about it, and say “thank you” with words, by drawing a picture, or doing something nice for someone else.

Here are some book suggestions:

“Thankful” by Eileen Spinelli, illustrated by Archie Preston. A gentle rhyming story about observing the world around us and how we can each be thankful for the simple things that make our lives more meaningful.

“The Thank You Book” by Mo Willems. Laughs abound as Piggie thanks everyone he knows and Gerald the Elephant worries the whole time that Piggie will forget to thank someone. Piggie does indeed forget some special friends, and Gerald is there to remind him who they are.

“Thanks a Million” by Nikki Grimes, illustrated by Cozbi A. Cabrera. Sixteen poems in different formats point out why we should be grateful and how easy it is to say “thank you” in return. The poems are just right for young children.

“Last Stop on Market Street” by Matt De La Peña, illustrated by Christian Robinson. Set in a busy city, a young boy named CJ rides the bus with his Nana to the soup kitchen where they will get a meal. On the way, Nana points out the beauty she sees all around them from a smiling child to a rainbow over an apartment building.

“Too Much Noise,” by Ann McGovern, illustrated by Simms Taback. This retelling of a folk tale is a humorous account of seeing a different perspective. Sometimes what you have already is quite good enough! Repetition and creative problem solving make for an engaging story.

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All About Trees

by Katrina Morse
for Family Reading Partnership

A tree can be a memorable part of childhood. A tree can hold a swing or a birdhouse. Some trees are good for climbing and others for picking apples. A tree’s leaves can change from green to bright red, yellow, and orange. Children can watch a small tree grow bigger, just as they are growing, too.

Learn more about these remarkable plants by reading some of these books together, and maybe you’ll look at the trees around you in a new way.

“We Planted a Tree” by Diane Muldrow illustrated by Bob Staake.“We planted a tree and it grew up. We planted a tree and that one tree helped heal the earth.” Two families on opposite sides of the world both find that trees are important for shade, cleaning the air, giving us food, and helping to keep soil from washing away.

“The Great Kapok Tree” by Lynne Cherry. When a man comes to the Amazon rainforest to cut down a Kapok tree, he first takes a nap at its base and then hears whispered messages of the animals that depend on the tree for survival. When the man wakes up, he has changed his mind about using his axe to cut the tree down.

“Tell Me, Tree: All About Trees for Kids” by Gail Gibbons. Along with giving the reader facts about all the ways trees are an important part of the web of life, this book teaches how to tell one tree apart from another. You and your child will learn types of trees and why we all should appreciate these amazing plants.

“Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf” by Lois Ehlert uses simple text and collage illustrations to describe the life of a tree. The book text will engage young children and older children will appreciate the glossary the back of the book that goes into more detail about the life cycle of a tree.

“The Tree Lady: The True Story of How One Tree-Loving Woman Changed a City Forever” by H. Joseph Hawkins, illustrated by Jill McElmurry. This is a biography of Katherine Olivia Sessions in the 1800s. As Kate was growing up, she became fascinated with the trees around her in northern California. Although it wasn’t common for girls at that time to get dirty hands or to be a scientist, Kate pursued her love of trees. When she was older she helped change San Diego, in southern California, from a desert city to one with an abundance of lush green trees. Charming illustrations depict the events in the life of this environmental pioneer.

“Strange Trees and the Stories Behind Them” by Bernadette Pourquie and Cecile Gambini. Trees are very adaptable and have developed special characteristics that help them live in many different habitats. Early elementary aged children will appreciate the unbelievable tree forms and a map showing where all these unusual trees grow around the world.

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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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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

Getting to Know a Picture Book Character

by Katrina Morse for Family Reading Partnership

When you think of children’s books that are written as a series of 2, 3, 4, or more books with the same characters in different stories you may think of chapter books for independent readers. Maybe you know some of these series for young readers such as “Junie B. Jones,” “How to Train Your Dragon,” and “The Magic Tree House,” to name just a very few of so many that are popular.

But picture books also have character series that can hook the pre-reader. Getting to know the same characters in a series is like making new friends. As you see the characters develop relationships, face challenges, and solve problems, the young listener can relate to those events in their own life.

Try out some of these series and see what grabs the attention of your young child:

“Little Pig,” written and illustrated by David Hyde Costello. In 2 books (so far) this young pig faces the challenges of being the smallest and youngest in his family. In each story he wants to join in the activities that his older brothers and sisters are having but isn’t allowed. Without any fuss, this tenacious and creative little pig finds his own way of having fun.

“Frog and Toad,” written and illustrated by Arnold Lobel. Each of these 5 books is a collection of 5 short stories about two friends who have opposite personalities. The stories are about quiet times in every day life such as making a list of things to do, cleaning the house, and baking cookies in the context of what it means to be a friend.

“Good Dog Carl” written and illustrated by Alexandra Day. In over 15 mostly wordless stories, Carl the Rottweiler looks after a baby girl who gets into all kinds of predicaments. Young children will see the humor in the ongoing dilemmas.

“Elephant and Piggie” written and illustrated by Mo Willems. In a 6 book series that is growing, we see that these two best friends have very different personalities. Gerald the elephant is careful, solemn, a worrier. Piggie is happy-go-lucky, smiles, and tries anything. Every child will be able to relate to some qualities in these two characters.

“The Princess in Black” by Shannon and Dean Hale, illustrated by LeUyen Pham. In this 4 book series we are introduced to a young girl who looks like any normal princess until she is needed to save the day and changes into a superhero.

“Flat Stanley,” by Jeff Brown, illustrated by Macky Pamintuan. This series of 6 books started with the original Flat Stanley book over 50 years ago. A boy named Stanley Lambchop is accidentally flattened to be just one half inch thick when a bulletin board falls on him in the night. Being that flat, Stanley can be mailed, rolled up, flown in the sky like a kite and becomes an unlikely hero by catching two art thieves.

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Filed under book series, children's books, Series

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

The Glory of Autumn in Children’s Books

by Katrina Morse for Family Reading Partnership

Soon we’ll be seeing signs of autumn and your children may start wondering. Why do leaves change color in the fall? How do you make applesauce? Where are the geese flying? Snuggle up and read some children’s books together and satisfy your child’s curiosity. Read and learn about autumn, go for a walk looking for colorful leaves, taste some newly picked apples, and enjoy the glory of the season with your family.

Here are some books about fall to read with your young children:

 

 

 

 

 

  • “The Busy Little Squirrel” by Nancy Tafuri. Just like the squirrels in your own neighborhood, this little squirrel scurries here and there as the summer changes to autumn and he prepares for the winter ahead.
  • “Seed, Sprout, Pumpkin Pie” by Jill Esbaum. In this story illustrated with photographs, your child will see how a little pumpkin seed becomes a sprawling pumpkin vine and eventually can be baked into a golden pumpkin pie.
  • “Fall Mixed Up” by Bob Raczka, illustrated by Chad Cameron. Words and pictures about autumn are silly jumbles of mistakes. Look for what is not quite right on each page. Do bears really gather nuts and do geese hibernate?
  • “Leaf Jumpers” by Carole Gerber and Leslie Evans. Make a pile of leaves and jump! You’ll learn about why leaves change color and why they fall off trees.
  • “Applesauce Season” by Eden Ross Lipson, illustrated by Mordicai Gerstein. Red apples, orange leaves, and bright blue sky–It’s time to make applesauce. You’ll want to make your own after reading how easy it is to do. Start your own fall family tradition!
  • “Hello Harvest Moon” by Ralph Fletcher, illustrated by Kate Kiesler. The big full moon during harvest time is celebrated in words and beautiful illustrations.
  • “The Roll-Away Pumpkin” by Junia Wonders, illustrated by Daniela Volpari. Maria goes on a chase after her pumpkin escapes her grasp one windy autumn day.
  • “The Little Yellow Leaf” by Carin Berger. This little yellow leaf has to be brave because it’s going to be autumn soon and he knows he will fall from his tree.
  • “Autumn Is Here!” by Heidi Pross Gray. See the changes that happen as autumn arrives. Children will enjoy the whimsical text and repeated refrain.

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