Tag Archives: family reading

Travel by Book!

By Katrina Morse for Family Reading Partnership

Take your family on a trip into a wintery wonderland in Jan Brett’s magical children’s stories. Travel by book through her snowy landscapes that depict arctic animals in their winter white fur or in Scandinavia with mischievous trolls hiding among the snow-covered evergreens.

Brett’s illustrations are detailed watercolors that she creates after researching and sometimes visiting faraway places like Russia or Switzerland. Many of her books are reworked traditional folk tales such as “The Mitten,” “The Three Snow Bears,” and “The Gingerbread Baby.” All of her books are delightful and a feast for the eyes.

Brett began illustrating children’s books in 1978 and started writing and illustrating her own books in 1985. Brett lives just south of Boston, MA, but studies the remote locations of each of her stories so she can include authentic costumes and realistic animals and plants of the area. Each page has images of the story surrounded by a border made of artifacts and other cultural details, including cameo portraits of characters in ovals.

If your children are fascinated with “I spy” games, they will want to look at Brett’s illustrations over and over again. A little know fact is that because Brett’s favorite animal is a hedgehog, she includes a hedgehog in almost every one of her books, even if it’s not quite the right climate. Keep a lookout for the little animal as you are enjoying her stories.

Brett has more than a dozen books with winter settings and another handful specifically about Christmas. Unfortunately she has no books of other winter holidays, but does have many more retellings of classic tales such as “The Owl and the Pussycat,” “Cinderella,” and “The Hat.” She also has one story set in India, “The Tale of the Tiger Slippers,” one in Africa, “The Three Little Dassies,” and “The Umbrella,” set in Costa Rica.

Jan Brett’s latest book is entitled “Cozy.” Following the progressive story line of “The Mitten,” Cozy the Musk-Ox offers a warm and snug place to one Alaskan animal after another until there are more animals than could possibly fit under Cozy’s long, thick fur. Readers will learn about polar animals, their habitats, and behaviors as they see the fantastical story unfold. Combining realism with the magical notion that animals can talk to each other makes an endearing and memorable story.

For a listing of Jan Brett’s books, videos showing her illustration techniques, a wealth of activities, and even a card generator that uses her artwork to create cards you can print out, visit her website: www.janbrett.com.

Family Reading Partnership is a community coalition that has joined forces to promote family reading. For information visit www.familyreading.org. You can also find them on Facebook and Instagram.

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Filed under family reading, family time, folk tales, I spy, winter

Being Thankful

By Katrina Morse

Being grateful increases a person’s happiness. Studies have proven this to be true even in some children as young as 5 years old! Show your children from an early age to be thankful for the things you value as a family and they could grow up feeling more content and optimistic as adults.

Model for children how to say “thank you” when others are helpful or kind. Point out to them the small things that make life pleasant such as a enjoying an apple, reading a book together, seeing the sun–and then the moon, or hearing someone laugh with joy. Everyone has a different list of things they are thankful for. Maybe your bedtime routine can include you and your child each sharing one gratitude for that day.

For suggestions of what to give thanks for, these children’s books give a multitude of ideas.

“Gracias ~ Thanks” by Pat Mora, illustrated by John Parra. A bilingual book in Spanish and English, this gentle story tells of the everyday things that bring happiness to our lives. “For the cricket hiding when he serenades us to sleep, thanks!”

“Thanks a Million” by Nikki Grimes, illustrated by Cozbi A. Cabrera. What makes you thankful and how to you show your thanks? In 16 poems in different formats, the author describes how nice it is to receive thanks as well as to give it. Appropriate for early elementary aged children.

“We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga” by Traci Sorell, illustrated by Frané Lessac. This story takes us on a trip through the seasons in a modern village in the Cherokee Nation. Thanks are given to the plants, animals, people, and rituals for each time of year. Some Cherokee words are incorporated and pronunciations are spelled out on that page of the story. “The Cherokee people say otsaliheliga to express gratitude. It is s reminder to celebrate our blessings and reflect on struggles daily, throughout the year, and across the seasons.”

“The Thank You Letter” by Jane Cabrera. A young girl writes thank you notes to her friends for her birthday gifts, but then sees all the things she appreciates in her life and writes a long list for herself. After reading this book, your children may be inspired to write their own list. Or help with the writing if they can’t write yet, and brainstorm the many small and big things that you both are thankful for.

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Celebrate Creativity Month!

by guest writer Suzie Brache, Family Reading Partnership Program Coordinator

January is International Creativity Month. How inspiring for families! Even though the weather has grown colder and snowier, and sunlight is just a bit dimmer, what a great time of year to start something fresh and new.

How can you celebrate this unique time of year? The beauty of creativity is that there are no rules. The possibilities are endless. You can start a new project or craft, or try your hand at sewing. Create art of all forms, including painting, drawing, and sculpture. And don’t forget writing. Have you written any poetry lately? How about a song or story? Launch a brand-new invention. Make a kite to fly in the spring. Plan your garden. Build castles in the snow.

Creativity is heightened when you create as a family. Your family can become inspired by visiting museums, signing up for a class, or simply appreciating others’ creativity. It’s never too early to play games or make up new songs to sing together with babies and small children. Being creative increases vocabulary. Write a family book together with older children. Cook together. There are numerous ideas in books and online to help guide you.

Another way your family can celebrate creativity is by reading together. Any books your family likes will do. To spark imagination, consider Peter Reynolds’ “Creatrilogy,” including “The Dot,” “Ish,” and “Sky Color.” These wonderful books invite children’s self-expression, and remind everyone there are no rules. The sky is the limit when it comes to inspiration.


Also, be sure to check out Barney Saltzberg’s “Beautiful OOPS!” which tells children it’s okay to make a mistake, and that every “mistake” is actually a fantastic opportunity to make something new and amazing. And isn’t this is a message both children and adults need to hear?

It is vital to nurture creativity in ourselves and our children. Starting when children are very young, encourage their new ideas and creations (even if it gets messy sometimes!) Tell them creativity is a gift in all of us.

Take your newfound creations even further and extend International Creativity Month throughout the whole year. Use January as a leaping-off point to continue creative endeavors for months to come. Create things together as a family! Read together! Share your creations!

So, what are YOU going to create?



Filed under activities, creativity, family reading

Thank You for Reading to Children

Thanksgiving Day reminds us of what we should be thankful for all year: a loving family, food to eat, warm clothes on our backs, and time spent with children reading together. Yes–reading together!

Reading together is an essential part of growing up, just as important as food and shelter. Reading to your young child, snuggled up to you and a book, feeds his or her brain and makes your child feel loved at the same time, nurturing both cognitive and emotional health.

What books are your favorites to read in your family? Do you read a story with words that are bouncy and rhyming or so silly that you laugh together? Maybe a favorite book is about something familiar that is comforting that your child wants to hear again and again. If your child is curious, a book about the natural world could become a favorite.

Thank you to all the grown-ups that read to young children and help them get the best start in life. Here are some ideas of books that could become classics in your household.


  • “Silly Sally” by Audrey Wood. Rhyming, repetitive, and downright goofy, this story about Sally walking backwards and upside down into town will have your pre-schooler giggling in no time.
  • “The Snowy Day” by Ezra Jack Keats. Told from a young child’s perspective, this little boy discovers the wonder of snow as it falls in his neighborhood. He finds out how to make snow angels, go sledding, and how snow melts.
  • “ Pete’s a Pizza” by William Steig. Making a boy into a pizza can be a very ticklish activity! This is a book you can act out over and over.
  • “Officer Buckle and Gloria” by Peggy Rathman. Police Officer Buckle and his dog assistant Gloria give safety lectures throughout the town. No one listens to the lectures until Gloria starts acting out the safety tips without Officer Buckle knowing. Humorous and informative, too.
  • “Where is the Green Sheep?” by Mem Fox, illustrated by Judy Horacek. Is he here? Is he there? Every page is an enticement to turn to the next. Where is that green sheep?

Share the read-aloud experience: Give the gift of reading to a local family by donating a new book or funds for Family Reading Partnership to buy a book. Books are distributed to families at WIC sites and through local human service agencies.

  • Buy a favorite book at Buffalo Street Books in Ithaca and donate it to the “Give the Gift of Family Reading” program right at the store, beginning the day after Thanksgiving.
  • Call Family Reading Partnership at 607-277-8602 for other donation options. Thank you for giving books or funds for books so other families can enjoy family reading time together.

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Filed under family book traditions, family reading

Bedtime is Better with Books

There are many excuses your youngster can come up with for not going to bed. Thirsty, too dark, worried about monsters, too many wiggles, the wrong pajamas, or just not tired (or so your child may think!). No wonder so many children’s books end with a good night scene. Winding down and finally sleeping is something all parents are trying to encourage, for a well-rested child the next day and for parents to have some quiet time of their own.

Consistent routines help make bedtime easier. An hour before “lights out,” intentionally do quieter activities with your child. Then go through the same steps each night to help your child prepare for sleep. Maybe brush teeth, change into PJs, pick out a stuffed animal friend to bring to bed, and definitely read books!

Reading a few books at bedtime can ease the transition from play to sleep and give you and your child some “snuggle time” together. Try some books of these books about bedtime and send me the titles of your family’s bedtime favorites at: Katrina@familyreading.org.

“Llama Llama Red Pajama” by Anna Dewdney covers all the possible reasons that your own little llama won’t go to bed. When it becomes a loud “llama-drama,” mama steps in and reassures her child that it’s going to be all right. Young children will love the real-life concerns about going to bed and the comforting resolution by the mom.

“Shadow Night” by Kay Charao. A boy is frightened of the shadows in his room until his parents show him how to make hand shadows. His dad tells a story using all the animals his hands can make like spiders, snail, birds, and finally a boy shadow monster!

“The Boy Who Wouldn’t Go to Bed” by Helen Cooper. A boy is trying to go to sleep during the summer, but it’s still light outside when it’s bedtime. It’s hard to sleep! He goes on an imaginary journey in his toy car, past all the toys in his room, which have become large and interactive. His toy train, stuffed lion, and model castle are all life-sized and as fun as an amusement park. Finally, after his toyland adventure, he falls off to sleep.

“The Squeaky Door” retold by Margaret Read MacDonald, pictures by Mary Newell DePalma. This is a very funny story about a boy staying overnight at his grandma’s house.  Grandma has a surprise for her grandson. On this visit he gets to sleep in the big brass bed all by himself! But, it is a little scary in the big bed, in the dark, with a squeaky door. Grandma tries to comfort him with the cat, the dog, and more animals–until the bed breaks!

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Filed under bedtime, children's books, family reading