Tag Archives: children’s books

Nonfiction Books Enrich Summer

by Katrina Morse for Family Reading Partnership

What can you and your children do this summer? Read nonfiction books together and you’ll learn fascinating facts, be inspired by incredible events, and maybe find a favorite activity!

Read about people in history or in present day. Delve into other cultures. Find out more about animals, plants, minerals, oceans, mountains, deserts, and jungles. Learn how to create something or develop a new skill.

Nonfiction books are a special type of picture book for children. The best of them tell a story that is relevant to children while incorporating well-researched facts. Nonfiction children’s books are in their own section of the library apart from fiction, arranged by subject.

Try some of these nonfiction picture books and find more books on topics that your family enjoys:

“Island: A Story of the Galápagos” by Jason Chin. Award winning author and artist Jason Chin tells the fascinating life story of an island from birth to old age. With intricately detailed paintings you’ll learn about the unique plants, insects, and animals that live only on the Galápagos Islands, and nowhere else in the world. Chin uses successions of small images and full spreads in glorious color to show the island growing and changing, affecting what can live there. Chin also wrote and illustrated “The Grand Canyon,” “Redwoods,” “Gravity,” and many other exquisite works of non-fiction for children.

“Me, Frida,” by Amy Novesky, illustrated by David Diaz. The story of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo and her determination to create artwork that expressed her feelings. Moving to San Francisco, Frida had to find her way in a new country and develop her own painting style that was unlike her husband’s, the famous muralist Diego Rivera. Children will be inspired by Frida’s belief in herself and courage to follow her dreams.

“A Picture Book of Benjamin Franklin” by David Adler, illustrated by John and Alexandra Wallner. In easy to understand text, Adler tells about American statesman Benjamin Franklin, starting with his life as a child and describing his many interests and contributions as an adult in science, writing, inventing, and government. Adler has written over 175 books for children including many biographies and the Cam Jansen series.

“Ranger Rick’s Guide to Hiking” by Helen Olsson. This is not a story but a very practical guide for children on where to go hiking, what to wear, safety precautions, and creative things to do while outside. It’s a “how to” guide that will give children the information and confidence to set out on a trail with the family. Also in the series are children’s guides for camping and fishing.

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Filed under activities, art, exploration, field guides, nature, non-fiction, science books, summer

Name that Vehicle!

By Katrina Morse for Family Reading Partnership

Garbage trucks, graders, backhoes, and snow plows. Front-end loaders, fire engines, and cranes. When you have a young child in your life who loves hard-working vehicles, you probably are learning all about them yourself. Do you have to stop with your child at every construction site to look at the action? Does your child point out 18-wheelers and police cars on the highway?

Young children are learning to name their world–to put words to what they see. Reading books about diggers, lifters, and emergency vehicles reinforces what you see in everyday life. Most of these books are in a convenient and durable board book format. Some are stories and some are just about recognizing the differences and learning the names.

Try some of these books to read with your very young child and then see how excited he or she is to name a vehicle you see in action!

  • “Machines at Work” by Byron Barton. Big blocks of primary colors in Barton’s signature style depict different trucks and other hard working machines. The text is brief­–perfect for toddlers.
  • “Tip Tip Dig Dig” by Emma Garcia. Collaged paper makes up the simple illustrations of trucks digging, moving, and shaping earth. Simple text gives noises for each vehicle. Roll, roll, roll and push, push, push–What are all these vehicles making together?
  • “My Truck is Stuck” by Kevin Lewis, illustrated by Daniel Kirk. Silly repeating rhymes and funny illustrations tell the story of a truck that can’t move and needs help. Count how many cars and vehicles try to get the truck unstuck and watch the pictures closely for another storyline. This author and illustrator pairhas also created “Chugga-Chugga Choo-Choo” and “Tugga-Tugga Tugboat.” 
  • “Little Blue Truck” by Alice Schertle, illustrated by Jill McElmurry. This truck is stuck in the country on a mucky road and finds that some farm animals can help. Lyrical, rhyming text is full of truck and animal sounds. The story is one of friendship and helping others.
  • “Road Builders” by B.G. Hennessy, illustrated by Caldecott Medalist Simms Taback. This is a story all about how a road is built, from beginning to end. What does the crew do? Which construction vehicles are needed for which jobs? You’ll find out what each does, from cement mixers to pavers.

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Filed under books for toddlers, family reading, trucks, vehicles, words

Loving Words and Reading

by Katrina Morse for Family Reading Partnership

Will you be my valentine? Celebrate the day of love by making Valentine’s Day cards with your children. Cut out or draw hearts and flowers, add some bold red and pink, maybe some stickers, lace, or yarn, and then together choose words to use on your creation.

Your young child may not write yet, so let him have fun practicing holding a crayon or pencil and making marks on the paper. If she has something she’d like to say on the card, you can write the words for her and point out how each letter of a word has a sound and together the letters make a word.

Put finished valentines on mom or dad’s pillow or send in the mail to grandma, grandpa, or friends. Start a tradition!

Snuggle up together and enjoy some books about love. Your child will learn new ways to appreciate kindness shown by others, learn words about feelings, and learn how to give kindness in return.

  • “The Day it Rained Hearts” by Felicia Bond. A girl collects hearts that fall from the sky and makes valentines for all her friends. The perfect book to read before making your own valentines.
  • “I Love Mom with the Very Hungry Caterpillar,” illustrated by Eric Carle. The iconic green and red caterpillar crawls his way through a small format book that celebrates all the ways moms are amazing! Every mother and grandmother who reads this book will feel honored.
  • “My Dad Loves Me,” by Marianne Richmond. A board book with very simple sentences on each page describing ways animal dads show they care about their children.
  • “Click, Clack, Moo I Love You,” by Doreen Cronin, illustrated by Betsy Lewin. Little Duck throws a Valentine’s Day party for the animals living at the farm, complete with pink and red balloons, twinkly lights, and valentines in the barn. But then Little Fox crashes the party and the farm animals stop everything. What is a fox doing in the barn? With the classic humor of her other books, Cronin ends the story with all the animals dancing “until the cows came home.”
  • “This is NOT a Valentine!” by Harter Higgins, illustrated by Lucy Ruth Cummins. Perfect for a child who blushes uncomfortably if you talk about love and mushy things. This story illustrates that love is all around. Showing you care is in the everyday things you do together or for someone else.
  • “Love is” by Diane Adams, illustrated by Claire Keane. A girl, a duckling, and a year of learning about each other is a lesson in love. Can you let someone grow and change and love them just the same?

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Filed under holidays, love, Valentine's Day, words

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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Filed under alphabet book, art, author spotlight, creativity, empathy, Feelings, kindness, love, opportunities for conversation, wordless picturebooks

Encourage Creativity with Children’s Books

Creating artwork is one of those things that some adults find easy and others won’t even try to do! Young children, however, don’t judge themselves as harshly as grown-ups, and usually are eager to dive head first into painting, drawing, cutting, and gluing. The process of working with different media and putting colors and materials together is rich with learning experiences and even more important than what the creation looks like in the end. The drawing, painting, or collage they bring home from school is a reminder to your children of how much fun it was to make their art piece.

As children get older they create art with more intention. Children learn to use the real world and their imaginations for inspiration. Because artwork is unique to each person, children can find self-confidence in creating one-of-a-kind pieces with support and encouragement from the adults in their lives.

To encourage your child’s creativity, read some of these children’s books together and then follow-up your read-aloud by doing an open-ended art project:

“The Pencil” by Allan Ahlberg, illustrated by Bruce Ingman. A pencil starts by drawing a line that becomes a boy, a dog, a bicycle, more characters, and a story. A paintbrush joins in to add color. What happens when the pencil wants to change a few things? He draws an eraser for himself of course!

“the dot” by Peter H. Reynolds. A girl believes she can’t draw, but her art teacher encourages her to start with a dot. From there, she finds her confidence, and passes on the feeling to a friend. 

“Ms. McCaw Learns to Draw” by Kaethe Zemach. Ms. McCaw seems to know everything about math and science, history and spelling. But, one thing she can’t do is draw. Dudley Ellington, a student in Ms. McCaw’s class, doesn’t do well with traditional studies at school, but loves to draw. A friendship is formed as the student teaches the teacher.

“When a Line Bends… a Shape Begins” by Rhonda Growler Greene, illustrated by James Kaczman. Lines turn into many brightly colored shapes that become animals, people, and action! Young children will have fun looking for triangles, squares, circles, and more while listening to the rhyming text.

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Filed under art, creativity

Back to School Books Ease the Transition

by Katrina Morse for Family Reading Partnership

We expect a lot of our young children. After the huge tasks of learning to walk and talk we expect them to learn to share and be civil in public! Going to school may be the first time a child’s communication and negotiating skills are put to the test. This is the beginning of learning how talk about feelings. Children start to realize that other people have other points of view, and they must learn to compromise. As adults, we know how important these skills are for successful relationships at home and at work.

Additionally, your child is learning to be independent. This may cause some anxiety at first, for both the parent and the child. It’s a big world out there! Your child will be comforted by the predictability of being home after a day at school. Talk about school and what to expect. Be a good listener and hug with abundance. Your child is growing up!

Try some of these books to help ease the transition to pre-school or kindergarten and provide a way to talk about feelings.

“Kindergarten Countdown” by Anna Jane Hays, illustrated by Linda Davick. This book can be read over and over even after the first day of school. The author counts from seven down to zero, names the days of the week, and weaves in the alphabet and colors as a child waits for school to begin. The rhyming text is happy, playful, and bouncy. Illustrations are clean edged, computer generated images with big areas of solid colors and patterns.

“Don’t Go!” written and illustrated by Jan Breskin Zalben. Daniel is a bit tearful as he waves good-bye to his mother on the first day of school, but he has so much fun during the day that he forgets to be sad. This is a realistic look at separation with ideas interspersed in the story about how to make the transition easier. The illustrations of animal characters at school give many opportunities to talk about your own child’s pre-school experience. A Pumpkin Vanilla-Chip Cookie recipe included.

“Chicken Chickens Go to School” by Valeri Gorbachev. With illustrations reminiscent of Richard Scarry, the author/illustrator uses animal characters to tell a story about the first day of school for two little chickens. They try to make friends all day, but feel that they are being ignored and are discouraged until their fellow students pull together to help the chicks cross a stream at recess. This is a heartwarming story and introduction to school.

“Off to Kindergarten” by Tony Johnson, illustrated by Melissa Sweet. A boy gathers all the things he will need for kindergarten, like his stuffed bear, some cookies, a toy truck, his swing and sandbox… and more and more. He realizes he’ll need a moving truck to get all the items to school, until his mother tells him that all he needs to bring to school is himself!

“This is Our House” by Michael Rosen, illustrated by Bob Graham. As a natural part of their emotional development, young children are self-centered. Remember the “Mine! Mine!” phase? This story is all about learning the difficult task (for a pre-schooler) of sharing. George makes a house out of a box at pre-school and learns to share it with all his classmates.

“The Kissing Hand” by Audrey Penn. Young Chester raccoon is worried about leaving home to go to school. Mama raccoon gives her son a very special gift to keep him feeling loved the entire school day.

The “Miss Bindergarten” series of books is about–you guessed it, kindergarten! Miss Bindergarten is a Border Collie who teaches a class of animals from A to Z. These are wonderful books for a 5 year old, with so many things to look at. As the children in the class drop things, spill, hug, cry and laugh, Miss Bindergarten remains unflappable.

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Filed under back to school, family, family reading, transitions

Read to Your Baby!

Read to a newborn baby? YES! It may seem too early, but reading to an infant is the beginning of a lifetime of your child loving books and establishes a reading routine for your family. A baby doesn’t understand the words you read, but he or she feels safe in your loving arms, hearing the familiar sound of your voice, and receiving your undivided attention.

Read anything! In the earliest days of infancy, you can read anything to your baby. The sound of your voice is what is important, not the content of what you are reading. Sing-songy, rhyming text will grab your baby’s attention. Of course, if your baby isn’t in the mood to listen and is fussy, try again later. When a baby is older and more aware of what is around him and can hold objects, he’s ready for children’s books that relate to his world and introduce words and concepts in a fun way.

Start collecting books for your home library, even before your baby is born. Board books are a great type of book to start with because their cardboard construction makes them sturdy enough to stand up to a baby holding them, dropping them, turning the pages, and even chewing on them. You can buy board books at your favorite bookstore, or choose free, “gently-used” board books from a Bright Red Bookshelf  in your neighborhood. Sign up for a library card especially for your baby and start checking out board books from your neighborhood library.

Look for books that have lots of rhythm and rhyme and pictures that show recognizable objects and faces of people. You’ll want to avoid board books with too much text or ones where the pictures are too small. This happens when a larger format book for older children is printed into a board book. Your favorite childhood book may look cute as a small board book, but your baby will lose interest if the book wasn’t meant for a young child.

Keep it fun! When reading to your baby, you may not want to read all the words in the book, or even look at all the pages. Looking at the pictures, asking questions or pointing things out is another way to share books with your child. Most important is to enjoy your time together!

Fifteen Favorite Board Books for Baby (Use this list for your own family and for gift ideas for the next baby shower you attend!)

  • “Hug” by Jez Alborough
  • “Ten, Nine, Eight” by Molly Bang
  • “Snoozers” by Sandra Boynton
  • “Tumble Bumble” by Felicia Bond
  • “Freight Train” by Donald Crews
  • “Color Farm” by Lois Ehlert
  • “Eyes, Nose, Fingers, and Toes” by Judy Hindley
  • “Counting Kisses” by Karen Katz
  • “Peek-a-Boo” by Roberta Grobel Intrater
  • “Ten Little Fingers,” Annie Kubler
  • “Chicka Chicka ABC” by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault
  • “I Spy Little Animals” by Jean Marzollo
  • “Guess How Much I Love You?” by Sam McBratney
  • “Say Goodnight” by Helen Oxenbury
  • “Have You Seen My Duckling?” by Nancy Tafuri

Books for Grown-Ups about Reading Aloud

  • “Baby Read-Aloud Basics” by Caroline Blakemore and Barbara Ramirez
  • “Great Books for Babies and Toddlers: More Than 500 Recommended Books for Your Child’s First Three Years” by Kathleen Odean
  • “Reading with Babies, Toddlers and Twos: A Guide to Choosing and Loving Books Together” by Susan Straub and KJ Dell’Antonia

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Filed under board books, books for babies, family, family reading, library, love