Saturday, August 29, 2009

A Moment to Mourn . . .

I had planned on doing my blog this week about going back to school and starting school for the first time, I will still post that blog, but I had to change my plans when I heard the news that Reading Rainbow will no longer air on PBS. After 26 years of encouraging literacy and a love of reading on public television, the funding for the program has run out.

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

Over the River and Through the Woods . . .

I love camping.

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:

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
  • peas
  • sweet corn
  • mushrooms
  • 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

Lightning and Thunder and Tornadoes, Oh My!

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)
cotton balls
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.

Making Clouds

dixie cups (or other small disposable container)
white school glue
shaving cream
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!!