Sunday, December 27, 2009
Still, I did want to give a shout out to the book How Santa Really Works by Alan Snow. This is a great picture book for sharing, or for older readers (2nd grade and up) to tackle on their own. The basic story is laid out pretty simply, but there are extra hilarious tid-bits in speech bubbles from the elves on each and every page. While it is a truly fun and whimsical read, it is subversively educational because the North Pole, it turns out, runs very much like a large business with its departments and divisions of labor. Somehow, it's more interesting when one is learning how Santa does it than how Wells Fargo Bank does.
I hope you had a Merry Christmas!
Thank you for reading, and keep an eye out in the New Year, for new posts and new ideas for taking adventures with books!
Friday, December 18, 2009
I would put on my leotard, tutu and slippers and begin twirling harry-carry around the living room to the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies.
I never really knew the story of The Nutcracker though, I knew the music, but could not have told you what was happening in the scene during any particular song. I would have loved to have one of these versions of the classic tale available to me as a ballet-loving kid.
The Nutcracker by Susan Jeffers is great, easy to read and share aloud picture book version of the classic tale. This book is perfect for young audiences who don't have the patience to sit through the whole ballet, or as a short introduction to kids about to attend their very first performance.
The Nutcracker by Eyewitness Classics is a great one for older kids who want to go more in depth into the story, the ballet and its history. The book features the full (long version) story as well as great pictures and side bars with non-fiction information about everything from historical nutcrackers to German Christmas traditions to the Russian premiere of Tchaikovsky's ballet.
Last but not least The Nutcracker by Janet Schulman is a well-illustrated picture book, but more importantly it comes with a read-along CD that features music from the ballet.
If you have kids that love to dance this is a great excuse to expose them to classical music and ballet. There are many excellent and easily available recordings of Tchaikovsky's score - check one out at your local library or invest in your own copy. Crank the music and get your dance on! You can act out scenes from the story together, or just enjoy moving around to the melody.
Sunday, December 13, 2009
In my work I try to highlight the winter celebrations of cultures from all around the world. I adore the holidays, and winter-time celebrations have existed since well before the birth of Christ, so while Christmas gets all the press (and is the holiday I myself celebrate), winter has long been a time to celebrate and gather together regardless of culture or beliefs.
Since this is the week of Hanukkah I wanted to highlight a few of my favorite Hanukkah story books.
As a child my mother bought me a book about the miracle of Hanukkah called Festival of Lights: The Story of Hanukkah. The book told the historical story of Maccabees rebuilding the temple and how the sacred oil for the lamp lasted 8 whole days, the books then goes on to explain the menorah, dreidel and the music for a favorite holiday song. For those gentiles out there, the book is a great introduction to the story behind the celebration.
Last year I stumbled upon another great Hanukkah book. Most books about the holiday seem to be written for a non-Jewish audience, but the book Moishe's Miracle is a great book for Jewish children who already know the holiday and its traditions as well as gentile kids who will find the story equally entertaining because Hanukkah is just the back drop to the action of the story.
In the United States we often associate Hanukkah with potato pancakes called latkes, these tasty treats (which make an appearance in Moishe's Miracle) are from the Ashkenazim tradition, the Jewish people of central and eastern Europe. But did you know that there are also Jewish people from Iberia and the Mediterranean, the Sephardic Jews? They have their own Hanukkah tradition of bunuelos. Bunuelos and latkes are both fried treats. Fried foods are very popular around Hanukkah because they hearken back to the miracle oil in the temple. The Sephardic Jews brought the tradition of bunuelos with them to Mexico and they are now a popular treat for Christmas as well.
Here is a great recipe, just like my lita makes them!
Latkes and bunuelos are both easy to make - try them out this week with your family.
Monday, November 23, 2009
Most of us grew up learning the story of the 1621 Thanksgiving at Plymouth, Mass. with the Pilgrims and Native Americans gathered around the table. In recent history other early Thanksgiving celebrations in North America have come to light . . . so while the Pilgrims and Indians probably weren't the first to celebrate Thanksgiving in our country - the way they celebrated has influenced our current celebration in many ways. But more than commemorating a single event centuries ago, Thanksgiving is a national day for all Americans to gather with friends and family and remind ourselves of what we have to be thankful for.
Our stories this week reflect that idea. In Rivka's First Thanksgiving we learn the story of a Jewish family recently immigrated from Poland and how Rivka introduces them all to Thanksgiving. In a similar vein, The Thanksgiving Door by Debby Atwell, tells the story of an elderly couple who after the demise of their own Thanksgiving meal stumble upon the first Thanksgiving of a newly immigrated Russian family who "accidentaly" left the door to their restaurant ajar. Both books show the universality of Thanksgiving celebrations. Finally, Thanksgiving Fun: Things to Make and Do includes a section on how other Thanksgiving type harvest festivals are celebrated around the world, in addition to recipes and craft ideas throughout the book.
I hope you will take this opportunity to share your heritage with your family. Tell your kids about their roots, and how those influence your Thanksgiving celebrations. In my family, my mom is a descendant of William Bradford, the governor who declared the 1621 feast day, which might explain why Thanksgiving is her favorite holiday. While on the other side of my family, my father is a first generation immigrant from Mexico, so we always make turkey tacos with our leftovers and have homemade salsa in the days following Thanksgiving. Passing on your own family's story not only gives your children an appreciation of history, but also of diversity, after all, we're all immigrants here - some of us have just been here longer than others!
Enjoy this time to be with family and remember what all we have to be thankful for, especially in these lean times. And if you have any to spare, please also remember those who are in need. What better way to show our thanks than by sharing our blessings?
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Every year on November 11 (with few exceptions) we honor our troops, past and present, for their service to our country.
We celebrate on November 11 because that is the day that armistace was declared in World War I. Once called "the war to end all wars", we know that sadly it was not - and so our soldiers continue to serve - not only to protect the peace, but also in war zones, as now with our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The book Love, Lizzie: Letters to a Military Mom is a touching book of letters between a mom and daughter during Mommy's deployment overseas. This book is inspiration for today's activity: Thank You Cards For Soldiers
I've heard from friends and family that serve in active duty that they often feel ignored. Sadly the politics of war have often over shadowed the sacrifices made by those men and women who voluntarily serve their country in the armed forces. Regardless of your personal beliefs about current conflicts - I think we can all agree that our troops deserve a big THANK YOU for their willingness to serve.
Get some construction paper or card stock, stickers, markers, crayons, etc. and make your very own cards to send to soldiers. The message does not need to be long (though it can be) - just a simple "Thanks" will suffice.
If you do not know someone in active duty to send your cards to, the website AnySoldier.com can be a great resource. The Any Soldier organization will deliver your cards, letters and/or care packages directly to the soldiers who need the morale boost the most - those who get the least correspondance from home. You can even search for a unit's address based on where they are serving or where they are from. Just be sure to read the FAQ before sending anything.
Thank You, Soldiers!
Sunday, November 8, 2009
For kids that have never been to the hospital books can be a great way to introduce them to the concept before they, or someone they know, has to go to the hospital. What's Inside a Hospital? by Sharon Gordon is a great beginning reader picture book, with pictures, big letters, simple words and sentences kids are introduced to the different people and places in the hospital. In a similar vein, the book At the Hosptial by Amy Moses uses big pictures and simple explanations to tell about what goes on in a hospital. If you have a kid who loves the gross-out factor of blood and guts, then Ugh! Icky, Sticky, Gross Stuff in the Hospital by Pam Rosenberg is for you. This book tells how doctors get rid of germs and use leeches to help patients among other gross-out details of how hospitals work to get patients better.
Many kids will likely get their first introduction to the hospital through minor surgery like having their tonsils out, or from a trip to the emergency room for a broken bone or bad sprain. In Good-bye Tonsils! by Juliana Lee Hatkoff and Craig Hatkoff, Juliana tells the storry of her own tonsilectomy. This detailed story is told from as a first person narrative from the patient's perspective and is a great resource for the parents of the 250,000 kids that will have their tonsils removed each year. While the surgery is different, those getting tubes put in and/or adnoids removed can also learn a great deal from this book.
If your child is having a planned surgery - speak with their doctor about having a tour of hospital before the big day. When I had my tubes put in to deal with my horrible ear infections I remember getting to meet some of the pediatric nurses, see the area of the hospital where I would be and doing a little walk through of how things would go on the day of my surgery. This did a lot to ease my fears, and came in very handy again when my appendix was removed a few years later - even though that was an emergency surgery at a different hospital in a completely different state - because I was already prepared for many of the things the nurses were doing to me, like taking my blood pressure and blood samples.
For other kids, it's their rough and tumble outgoing play that will land them in the hospital for the first time. Is Gaspard in the Hospital, Gaspard the rabbit finds himself in the hospital after swallowing a toy. While Maisy Goes to the Hospital after breaking her leg, while in traction she makes friends with other children in the pediatric ward. Even our favorite friend from darkest Peru, Paddington Bear Goes to the Hospital after a nasty fall.
Alas, the sad fact is that many kids won't necessarily have a positive first experience with the hospital. For them, their first trip to the hospital may be to visit a sick family member. These last two books deal with that experience very well. In When Mommy is Sick a little girl shares her anxiety when Mommy has to go to the hospital, because the disease itself is never identified, this book can be a good sharing experience for many kids with a parent who suffers from a chronic illness. In Emma's Question another little girl is afraid to ask the big questions about death and dying when her beloved grandma falls ill and has to stay in the hospital for a time. This story has a happy ending, but is a great discussion starter for kids with older family members who may be going through illnesses as they age.
One hospital experience I chose not to cover in this blog post is the addition of a new family member. But we'll try to tackle some the excitement and anxiety that goes along with becoming a big brother or sister at another time.
However your child is first introduced to the hospital, books can help ease their fears and anxieties and serve as good conversation starters for moms and dads worried about how to talk to their children about a potentially scary subject. Unforuntately, almost all of us will spend at least some time in a hospital during our lives and it is a good thing to make the experience a less anxious one for kids.
Monday, November 2, 2009
For your beginning reader, Little Critter: The Fall Festival is a great book, with big lettering and easy to sound out words along with descriptive pictures, all with the childhood favorite Little Critter and his family celebrating the harvest season.
The Little Yellow Leaf is another good one for early readers to read along with their grown-ups. The illustrations are great artisitically, and might inspire some craft ideas - in addition the story is a great tale about friendship and taking leaps of faith.
For the more scientific and curious child What Happens in Fall? by Sara L. Latta, from the series I Like the Seasons! does a great job of explaining what causes the leaves to change colors and fall, why the weather gets cooler, the days shorter, and how animals prepare for the coming winter.
Translated from Japanese, Hooray for Fall! tells the story of three little squirrels discovering the beauty of autumn's colors.
Last but not least - We're Going on a Leaf Hunt takes the classic children's chanting game "Going on a Bear Hunt" and gives it a fall twist. The children in the story hunt for the leaves of different trees squish-squashing their way through the woods - and it is their adventure that is the inspiration for today's activity: Leaf Collage!
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Snow Party by Harriet Zeifert tells the story of snow people who gather to celebrate the first snow of the season. Late at night while the snow falls around them, the snow people kick up their heels.
The Winter Visitors by Karol Hayes may be short on words but it is long on story. A simple read due to its low word count and simple word choice, it tells much more story through the pictures which appear in multiple frames per page like a comic or graphic novel. It is a great book for little ones to use their imaginations and practice their story telling by explaining to you what is going on in the pictures - a story within a story.
Last but not least Under the Snow by Melissa Stewart tells a simple story of how many animals make it through the winter. For instance, did you know that the wood frog can freeze solid under the snow and survive to thaw out and hop happily away come spring?
Now my family had a tradition that the first solid freeze or the first snow of the year we would have homemade chilli for dinner and a fire in the fireplace. Perhaps this is the year to start a tradition of your own, maybe chilli like my family did or perhaps pumpkin bread, candle making, s'mores, chicken noodle soup, meatloaf or chicken pot pie. The sky is the limit, use your family's tastes and your own favorite comfort foods and activities as your guide.
Sunday, October 18, 2009
I haven't seen the movie myself yet, so I can neither recommend nor discourage you from watching the film - but I do hope you will take this opportunity to introduce your children to the story. (I was amazed at how many children I work with were not familiar with the book this week). And then, when you are done with that - have a wild rumpus of your own. There is something about the unabashed play of childhood that can never be recaptured, so have those moments and make those memories with your children now, while you still can. Make a mess, dance around like crazy people, dress up in monters costumes of your own making, just let down your guard and enjoy some pure unadulterated play time!
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
"Meatloaf, smeatloaf, double-beatloaf. I hate meatloaf."
"All right, I'll get that kid to eat. Where's my screw driver and my plumber's helper? I'll open up his mouth and I'll shove it in."
That of course from the classic Jean Shepherd screenplay (based on his novel), A Christmas Story . . . there is a picky eater in almost every family - if you don't have one, count yourself blessed!
Most picky eaters won't eat their green vegetables, or refuse any protein source outside of chicken nuggets, but in these three books we're dealing with special types of picky eaters.
In Gregory the Terrible Eater, Gregory the goat refuses to eat "traditional" goat fare, like pocket lint, buttons and newspaper - prefering instead toast, and maybe a tall glass of orange juice. His parents are at a loss and eventually consult their family doctor for advice on how to get Gregory to eat a "healthy" goat diet.
Much like Gregory, Little Pea does not like to eat the candy on which peas are meant to feast. Little Pea's favorite delight? Spinach! Which he readily gobbles up, scoffing at stripped candy, red candy, and even polka dotted candies.
Any parent who has ever told their child that broccoli was not a vegetable, but actually a tiny tree, will no doubt enjoy Monsters Don't Eat Broccoli. Monsters love to gobble cars and boulders and especially trees!
Many moms are familiar with the tricks to sneak an extra helping of veggies onto junior's dinner plate by hiding it in other foods - like maccaroni and cheese with peas - but any deft picky eater also knows how to eat around the peas. There are some great, healthy, kid-friendly recipes to try though in The Little Pigs' First Cookbook. Not only is a recipe book with food easy for little hands to help prepare - it's also a story book - taking readers through breakfast, lunch and dinner with the culinary pig brothers. Unfortunately, the Little Pigs are out of print, but there are used copies available on Amazon, and there's a good chance your locally library system will have at least one copy available to loan as well.
And now the Library Lady, herself a reformed picky eater, must go make her own dinner. Bon appetite!
Monday, September 28, 2009
Today is Yom Kippur, which our Jewish readers already know is the culmination of the Days of Awe which stretch a span of 10 days from Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) to today, Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.
For those of you not familiar with the Jewish high holidays, now would be a great time to introduce yourself and your family to them - especially if your child has friends who practice the Jewish faith.
Sound the Shofar! by Leslie Kimmelman
Celebrate Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur by National Geographic
Are two great resources. For those Jewish readers already familiar with the high holidays these are still great books, especially the later, as it shows how Jewish cultures all around the world celebrate the holidays. It is interesting to compare what is the same, and what is different between their celebrations and your own.
Now I am only part Jewish, and my family no longer practices - so I, unfortuantely, do not have a handed down family recipe for the Challah (the bread eatten at meals during the Days of Awe) - but Here Is A Good One - I hope you'll give it a try!
Saturday, September 5, 2009
When I was first starting kindergarten it was no big deal for me. I was an outgoing kid, it was only a half-day of school, I'd already had some pre-school experience and my mom (or a family friend) picked me up and dropped me off at school each day.
For me the scariest back-to-school experience came on the first day of first grade. My family had just moved to Colorado and because I was therefore a late enroller, I got pushed to the overflow school rather than the elementary school that all the other kids in my neighborhood attended. It was a half-hour long bus ride from our home on (what was then) the eastern edge of town to my elementary school in the west, just off the interstate. It was my first time going to school all day long and my very first time navigating the mine field of riding an intimidating big yellow bus.
My mom dropped me off the first day, but wouldn't be able to pick me up, so I had to find my bus out in a lot full of yellow bus-colored giants all alone after school. I was terrified I would get on the wrong bus and end up in a strange neighborhood with no way of finding my home or my family. I very nearly cried as I paced the lot of roaring engines twice before finding the right bus number. Fortunately my bus driver, Ms. Beth, was looking for me so I knew I had found the right place! Maybe school wouldn't be so scary afterall . . .
There are so many great books about school that I can't even begin to list them all, but two of my favorites tell the story of a classroom ill-behaved children in Texas, and their teacher, Miss Nelson. We are first introduced to Miss Nelson and Miss Swamp in Miss Nelson is Missing when the evil substitute Miss Swamp pays a visit and the students learn just how lucky they are to have a teacher like Miss Nelson. In the sequel Miss Nelson is Back, a new set of pupils learns their lesson from Miss Swamp as well.
If your kiddo is just getting started in school I would also recommend I Am Absolutely Too Small for School from the Charlie and Lola series, Franklin Goes to School from the Franklin the Turtle series, The Berenstain Bears Go To School, and Little Critter: First Day of School.
For your older child just getting started on chapter books the Wayside School series by Holes author Louis Sachar are great fun!
And for your YP reader there is of course the Harry Potter series and one of my favorite British school girls, Georgia Nicolson, whose series of confessional journals started publication back when I was still a teenager!
Making a Personalized Pencil Box
What you need:
- a plain pencil box (plastic or wood recommended)
- multi-colored permanent markers (or paint pens, or paints)
- stickers (optional)
Write your child's name prominantly on the top or side of the pencil box, then let them go to town decorating and doodling on it!
Saturday, August 29, 2009
I know that I would not be in the field I am in today if it were not for the love of reading and knowledge that was encouraged by my near daily watching of Reading Rainbow as a child.
So I would like to take this moment to say thank you to LeVar Burton and the other producers of the show for their years of dedication to children's literacy, and for the profound effect they have had on my own life. THANK YOU!!
Here is a list of all the Reading Rainbow books over the years, some of my favorites include Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters, Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain, Mummies Made in Egypt, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, Abiyoyo and The Day Jimmy's Boa Ate the Wash . . . but you don't have to take my word for it!
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Next to reading a great book, it's probably my favorite thing to do.
Growing up my family and I took camping trips to many of the National Parks and innumerable state parks. I learned to fish, start a fire, build a fort, toast the perfect marshmallow and play spades, about wild animals, poison ivy and geology. For a curious kid camping trips are the best!
Sometimes, and especially here in Colorado, the weather just gets in the way of plans. Quite literally raining on the parade.
So when you can't go camping outdoors, bring the adventure in - and take a good book (or five) along for the ride!
You can set up a tent indoors, or even better: build one together out of sheets and assorted furniture:
If you have a fire place, build a "camp" fire to roast marshmallows! If this is a dinner time camp-out, try the recipe below for one of my favorite kid and camp-stove friendly meals. Then it's time to snuggle up in the tent, wrap up in a blanket or bed down in a sleeping bag for story time!
My all-time favorite camping book: Three Days on a River in a Red Canoe by Vera B. Williams. It's the story of a family float trip down the river in a book that looks more like an illustrated scrapbook than a traditional children's book. As bonuses it has a couple camp recipes and even teaches you how to tie knots!
Some other good picks:
- Curious George Goes Camping
- S is for S'mores: A Camping Alphabet (This one also has great info for grown ups!)
- Amelia Bedelia Goes Camping
- The Boy Scouts Book of Campfire Stories
But there are SO many to choose from. An Amazon search for Children's Books about camping produced 8,309 results! A search of the local Denver Public Library system yielded 168 books in their collection. These include tales from many of your favorite characters and series like Caillou, Maisy and Little Critter.
So next time you're ready to gear up for an outdoor adventure but the weather just won't cooperate - Take an adventure with a good book instead!
Recipe for Hobo Pockets:
The recipe for hobo pockets is - there is no recipe, just ingredients! Older kids can help cut the veggies, and everyone puts the ingredients of their choice onto a square of aluminum foil. Grown-ups then fold the foil into little packets, and place the packets in a 375 degree oven for about 25-30 minutes.
Ingredients (mix and match as desired):
- ground beef or turkey
- cut russet potatoes
- spring onions or pearl onions
- cut carrots
- herbs (parsley, sage, thyme)
- seasoning salt
- sweet corn
- cut celery
- salt and pepper
My personal favorite: beef with potatoes, pearl onions, peas, mushrooms, herbs and a dash of seasoning salt. Experiment with your own tastes and have fun!
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
I don't know about the kids in your life, but I remember vividly my fear of summer storms as a child. I was terrified of thunder and, after an evening spent in a closet waiting out a tornado warning, I was afraid of any strong wind gusts as well. Like so many fears however, I found that more I new about a topic, the far less fearful it became, to the point that by late childhood thunderstorms were (and still are) one of my favorite parts of the summer.
The cliche rang true - knowledge was indeed power. Power, and freedom from fear.
Books were a key part to gaining that knowledge.
One episode of PBS' Reading Rainbow was probably the tipping point. In this episode James Earl Jones brought life to the story of Kipat, who watched his herd, as he stood on one leg like a big stork bird in Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain. The story taught me about the importance of the rain to the plants and animals who share our planet, that summer storms are a blessing for the Earth.
Another book that helped me to make sense of the weather was the children's non-fiction book Weather Words and What They Mean. This book gave me words to put the phenomena I saw around me.
Recently I used these two books, in addition to Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, to teach two different programs for preschoolers about the weather. The weather here in Colorado this summer has been rather crazy, and often severe, so I thought some of the kids I see each day might be struggling with the same fears I once had regarding the weather.
Here are the crafts we did:
Drawing the Weather
blue construction paper
blue, grey, white and yellow crayons
glitter (glitter pens or rolling glitter)
school glue (or glue sticks)
The kids were each given a sheet of "sky" and then were encouraged to use their imaginations and the supplies provided to draw the weather. Many drew lightning, made glittering rain and had lots of fun gluing cotton ball clouds to their papers.
dixie cups (or other small disposable container)
white school glue
blue construction paper (which we glued to paper plate frames in advance, to add support)
craft sticks (to stir and stick with)
Put one part school glue per two parts shaving cream in a cup, then have the kids mix the shave cream and paste together - this will be their cloud foam. They can then plop it on their papers and shape their very own clouds, big or small, globby or thin, thick or sparse.
Next time - one of my other favorite parts of summer, Camping!!
Thursday, June 18, 2009
In my years as an educator and library staff I have developed a passion for children's literature and literacy. Woke up one morning and decided: Hey! Why not blog about it? Maybe parents and educators would find it useful, and if nothing else, it would be writting about something you care are passionate about.
So here it is. More entries to come, but this is enough to at least get her started.