Tag Archives: Family Reading Partnership

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

Choosing the Best Book

 

by Katrina Morse for Family Reading Partnership

Looking for that perfect book gift for the young child in your life? As a grandparent, aunt, uncle, or friend, it’s not always easy to know what will spark the interest of a youngster. Here are some strategies for choosing a winner:

  • Ask the child’s parent for ideas. A parent probably knows best what books are already in the household and what kinds of books their child chooses as a read-aloud book again and again.
  • Ask the child for ideas. What are their favorite books now? Is there a library book they’ve read that they want to have for their own to keep?
  • Go with what you know about the child’s interests. Does he or she like kittens, wild animals, the ocean, adventure, or the color pink? There are books on just about every topic a child might find exciting. Look online or ask your local bookseller for ideas for the age of the child.
  • Search online under “best children’s book lists” and you’ll find lists of book choices from The New York Times, the New York Public Library, book publishers, Time magazine, and many more. Look up your neighborhood library online and you’ll find book lists galore!
  • Read reviews of children’s books online. Find out what books keep the attention of young listeners and why and match that to what you know about the child.
  • Read the book yourself before buying it, if you can. Are the illustrations engaging? Is the story compelling?
  • Pay attention to the recommended age range for the book. You may also know what kinds of books the child already listens to or reads independently and can choose a book gift at that same comprehension level.
  • Choose a book that was published this year if you want to be pretty sure the child doesn’t own it already. Pick a classic if you know the child doesn’t have it already, and you want to make sure that book is part of the child’s home library.
  • You also could go through your own collection of children’s books and pick some favorites to pass down and enjoy.
  • Avoid books that have toy parts attached to them that can break or have pieces that can be lost. This will just be frustrating to the child and parents in the end.
  • Inscribe the book with your sentiment and the date as a way to make the book a keepsake.
  • If you can, enclose a note to offer to read the book aloud to the child via a video chat or in person.

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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

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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Filed under humorous, imagination

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

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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Filed under imagination, movement, music, rhythm