Saturday, August 6, 2011

Books for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM)

Here are some great book resources on STEM topics for early grades, from the littlest kids learning shapes, numbers and weather terms through advanced elementary!

Birth - Pre-school
Elementary School

For advanced elementary and older kids I really like the Demystified Series that covers chemistry, calculus, stats, physics and more. Subscriptions to Kids Discover, National Geographic and Popular Science are also great ways to augment a book collection whether at home, in the classroom or at a library. With science and technology changing and advancing so quickly, these magazines are a great way to keep up to date without needing to buy a new book every few months!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Survey of Dystopian Fiction

As identified in Scholastic's Trends in Children's Literature, dystopian novels for young people are all the rage at the moment. I wanted to introduce some quality titles within the genre that are worth checking out!
  • The City of Ember (The Books of Ember) by Jeanne DuPrau - Set in a post-apocalyptic underground city, this book, the first in the series, tells the story of two children, and how they find a way out. The cliff hanger ending will likely leave you chomping at the bit to read the next book.
  • The Hunger Games (Hunger Games Series) by Suzanne Collins - The first book in this YA trilogy introduces us to Katniss Everdeen and the two young men who become her closest friends, helping each other to survive in the rough world of the Seam and in the brutal Hunger Games competition.
  • The Giver (Giver Trilogy) by Lois Lowry - Can a world with happy families and no real pain really be such a bad thing? In The Giver a young boy discovers all of the depth of life the people of his community are missing out on, as well as their freedom to make choices for themselves. This is a contemporary classic.
  • Matched (Matched Series) by Ally Condie - At 17 a young woman is matched to her best friend, literally, the boy next door, but when she discovers a mistake from the matching department a seed of doubt is sewn. Could she be happy with someone else? And what is she were free to choose?
If you like these, here are some other similar titles and series worth checking out: Ender's Game (The Ender Series) by Orson Scott Card, Life As We Knew It (Life As We Knew it Trilogy) by Susan Beth Pfeffer and Divergent (Divergent Trilogy) by Veronica Roth.

Here is a little sneak peak at the upcoming Hunger Games movie.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

National Get Outdoors Day

It is National Get Outdoors Day! I hope you will celebrate by getting outside with the kids in your life today. Reading and playing outside don't seem to go hand in hand, but an outdoor story sharing with some of these great titles might be just the ticket!

Here are some great resources for grown-ups who would like some inspiration to get outside.
If it's a crummy weather day in your neck of the woods, and getting outdoors just isn't going to happen, why not bring the outdoors in? Here are some fun outdoor activities to bring inside.
  • Plant herbs, flowers and/or beans in pots. If you have the time, it is also fun to paint and decorate the pots before planting.
  • Have a scavenger hunt. Hide clues all around the house for the kiddos to find leading to a prize like fresh baked cookies or homemade popsicles.
  • Go camping. Set up your family tent indoors or build one of your own out of sheets and furniture. You can put a "yule log" video on to have a fire, or just use an electric lantern. Make smores in the fireplace or microwave. Tell scary stories. Project constellations on the ceiling with a flashlight covered by construction paper with constellation patterns punched in it.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Flag Day

Flag Day kicks off the patriotic summer holiday celebrations, it commemorates the adoption of the Stars and Stripes on June 14, 1777 (almost a year after the signing of the Declaration of Independence), though it is not an official federal holiday. This can be a great holiday, along with the Fourth of July, for a fun and creative civics lesson. Here are some books to help get the wheels turning:

Monday, May 9, 2011

Rainy Days and Mondays

I missed the April showers, but in my neck of the woods May is actually one of the wettest months on average, so if your May is rainy too, here are some of my favorite rainy day books titles, just for you.

  • Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain by Verna Aardema - One of my all time favorite stories, especially for a rainy day. The repetition in this book is great for phonological awareness and pre-reading skill development.
  • Just a Thunderstorm by Gina and Mercer Mayer - Little Critters can get scared by thunderstorms some times, this story shows how Little Critter and family deal with a storm.
  • Lila and the Secret of Rain by David Conway and Jude Daly - If you like Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain then you will love this book too. It tells the story of how a Masai girl saves her village from drought.
  • One Big Rain: Poems for Rainy Days compiled by Rita Gray - This book has poems for all the seasons, rain and shine. It is a good book for developing phonological awareness, as well as for teaching poetry.
  • Rain Dance by Kathi Appelt - This short and simple rhyming book is great for 0-3 year olds as well as early readers. It help introduce numbers as well as having some great word choice!
  • Weather Words and What They Mean by Gail Gibbons - Gail Gibbons is an excellent author of children's non-fiction and this book does not disappoint. This book was one of my favorite weather books growing up, and it still holds up today.
  • Wet Weather: Rain Showers and Snowfall by Jonathan D. Kahl - This is a great non-fiction book about the water cycle and precipitation, especially good for older kids.

Even though I love the rain and we need those showers every year for the plants to grow and for the water we all drink, it is also worth remembering those in the Midwest and South who have been hit hard by the weather so far this spring. Check out the Red Cross for information on how your family can donate money and supplies to the victims of the tornadoes and floods.

Monday, May 2, 2011

National Children's Mental Health Day

Tomorrow, May 3, is National Children's Mental Health Awareness Day!

Sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the day is about awareness of emotional and mental health in children in normally developing kids, as well as kids that have suffered a traumatic experience and/or who have a diagnosed mental health issue.

This day can be a great reminder to check in on the emotional well-being of the kiddos in your life! Below is a list of great books about feelings for kids. These books can help give your child words to describe how they feel so that you as their caregiver can better meet their needs!

This is list is by no means exhaustive, I could (and plan to) write whole blog posts just on books for kids in foster care, dealing with divorce, abuse, etc. These books can hopefully provide a good jumping off point though, especially for normally developing kids, to help them have the words to describe their emotions, feelings and fears. Sometimes just having the words can help immensely! 

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Dia De Los Ninos, Dia De Los Libros

It's April 30 and that means it is Dia De Los Ninos, Dia De Los Libros. Check out the complete 2011 Dia Booklist as well as some of the great suggested titles below!

  • Pio Peep - This is a great book of Spanish language nursery rhymes presented in Spanish as well as with excellent English translations.
  • Lon Po Po - In the story two young girls outsmart a Big Bad Wolf, adapted from a Chinese folktale.
  • Rio Grande Stories - This collection of short stories and essays reveals the diversity of a New Mexico school, from hidden Jews to low rider enthusiasts.

Monday, April 18, 2011


The Jewish holiday of Passover begins tonight at sundown and will continue for the next week. Here are some great books for Jews and Gentiles to share with their families about this tradition.

The Story of Passover by Norma Simon
This book is great for elementary aged children. It explains the story of the Passover, Exodus and Diaspora as well as all the different parts of the seder. Though it is intended more for gentiles and converts who have not grown up with the tradition, Jewish families might find it helpful in explaining the importance of the holiday to younger children. The book even includes recipes and craft ideas!

The Magician's Visit retold by Barbara Diamond Goldin
This is a fun story of a Passover miracle granted to a poor but faithful couple.

Miriam's Cup by Fran Manushkin
This story is another good one for elementary aged children. It tells the story of slavery in Egypt, Passover and the Exodus from the perspective of Moses' older sister Miriam. An empowering story for girls of all faiths.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Spring Bunnies!

It is spring time, the flowers are blooming, Easter is just around the corner - it's the perfect season for bunny tales! (Or is it tails?) Here are some titles you might enjoy.

Forever Friends by Carin Berger
I adore the illustrations in this book! It is a great simple story for all ages, about a blue bird and bunny who become forever friends. This is a great book for building your child's vocabulary of the months and seasons.

Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney
This classic book about the love between caregivers and children is especially appropriate at this time of year.

Little Bunny on the Move by Peter McCarty
The illustrations in this book are adorable and the rhyme and repetition help develop phonological awareness.

And of course, don't forget Peter Rabbit and The Runaway Bunny!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

St. Patrick

St. Patrick's Day has become an holiday combining Irish pride celebration with a bacchanalia, but it is originally a saints day, celebrating the patron saint of Ireland, Patrick.

Tomie dePaola, this year's ALSC Wilder Award Winner, has an excellent book called Patrick: Patron Saint of Ireland which gives a biography of Patrick's life and work, as well as short versions of many of the famous myths and legends that surround him.

Here are some other St. Patrick's Day/Irish themed books that you might enjoy:

St. Patrick's Day Alphabet by Beverly Vidrine
Finn MacCoul and His Fearless Wife illustrated by Robert Byrd
Irish Legends for the Very Young by Niamh Sharkey

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Fractured Fairy Tales

Fractured fairy tales are a super fun genre of books that are twists on the classics many of us learn during childhood. These books can be fun to share with pre-schoolers and elementary students, but can even be fun to introduce a folklore unit in secondary level classrooms. Comparing and contrasting these tongue-in-cheek fairy tales to the more traditional tales can also be a great exercise in narrative skills and is great for cognitive development!

Here are some of my favorite fractured fairy tale books, check them out!

The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales by Jon Scieszka
This book is a Caldecott Honoree for its excellent illustrations. The print is actively part of the story and illustrations, and the stories are hilarious for both kids and adults, including bizarre and funny re-fashionings of tales like Chicken Licken and The Ugly Duckling.

The Frog Prince Continued by Jon Scieszka 
Picking up where the story of the frog prince left off, this story shows what happens after the "happily ever after."

The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs by A. Wolf as told to Jon Scieszka
Told from the perspective of "the big bad wolf," he argues that he was involved in a great misunderstanding and was really just suffering from an especially bad head cold, complete with huffing, puffing sneezes.

Don't Kiss the Frog: Princess Stories with Attitude chosen by Fiona Waters
A great collection of funny princess stories like "The Clumsy Princess" and "Sleepy Beauty".

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Happy Read Across America Day!

Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss!

Today is Read Across America Day, celebrated annually on Thedor Seuss Geisel's birthday, March 2.

Check out the official website at National Education Association. There are some great links there and information about reading, including several articles from Parenting Magazine, such as "12 reading activities to encourage early literacy skills in your kid" which provides some great tips for helping your young children learn to read and get off on the right foot in their education.

Welcoming a New Baby

For many children, welcoming a new baby, a younger sibling, is something they are likely to experience during their childhood. Half-siblings, adopted siblings and foster siblings are all big changes in a family. Here are some books to read that might help the kiddos in your life have their questions answered, and provide a conversational opportunity for parents and children to talk about what it will mean to welcome a new member to the family!

Waiting for Baby
illustrated by Rachel Fuller
Questions within the text are designed to open up dialogue between parents and the new big brother or sister. The board book format and simple text makes the book especially friendly for toddlers.

Other titles in this series:
My New Baby
Look at Me!
You and Me

Favorite Characters Welcome New Babies
Some of kids' favorite characters have also welcomed new brothers and sisters, here are some great titles from popular series.

Arthur's Baby by Marc Brown
Julius: The Baby of the World by Kevin Henkes
The Berenstain Bears' New Baby by Stan and Jan Berenstain

Where Babies Come From
Non-fiction books are also great to share with your kids. Mommy's pregnancy is likely to bring up questions about where babies come from, so this is a great chance to explain the science behind it and begin a healthy family dialogue about human sexuality. Here are some great non-fiction titles that are developmentally appropriate for 3-6 year olds.

Who am I? Where Did I Come From? by Dr. Ruth K. Westheimer (best for 5+)
How Are Babies Made? by Alastair Smith
Where Do Babies Come From? by Angela Royston for DK
First Comes Love by Jennifer Davis (best for 4+)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Girl Power!

There are a lot of princess books on the market right now. Not knocking some of these princess books, but not all girls are into pink frills and fanciness, yet are still girly-girls. (I'm one of these girls myself, if grown up, so I identify).The "Do Princesses...?" book series by Carmela LaVigna Coyle and illustrated by Mike and Carl Gordon is perfect for those girls who love princesses but also enjoy getting dirty and having adventures!

Do Princesses Wear Hiking Boots?
by Carmela LaVigna Coyle

Do Princesses Scrape Their Knees?
by Carmela LaVigna Coyle

Do Princesses Really Kiss Frogs?
by Carmela LaVigna Coyle

Reading series books with characters that are familiar and that your child identifies with is a great way to promote the pre-reading skill of print motivation and encouraging the love of reading.

Friday, February 18, 2011

ALA | 2011 Best of the Best

Check out YALSA's 2011 Best Picks for Young Adult Readers - ALA | 2011 Best of the Best

Great picks for audiobooks, graphic novels, paperbacks and even selections for reluctant readers.

You can also check information on upcoming events: Teen Read Week and Teen Tech Week!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Getting Active!

Unless you live under a rock, you have probably come across at least one news story in recent years about the rising problem of obesity in the United States, in both adults and children. Book reading is often a sedentary activity, so it doesn't spring to mind as the sort of thing that might encourage physical activity, but it definitely can!

Books about every day adventures like trips to the playground, such as Ladybug Girl by David Soman and Jacky Davis, can be inspirations for your child's own activities. Books about their bodies and body parts can also be a spring board for activity, even if it's just singing a song together with actions together after reading, such as The Hokey Pokey or Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes.

Physical activity is an important part of your child's health and motor development, both fine and gross motor.

Here are some great books, read and vetted by yours truly, about kids and their bodies:
Here is a link to a great article about keeping pre-schooler's physically active, a great resource for educators, home educators and parents from the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Reach Out and Read Colorado Literacy Event

The non-profit organization Reach Out and Read is partnering with area libraries to host a literacy event. Check out the Denver Public Library Website for more details.

Join us for . . .  Read and Romp Denver

Saturday, February 26, 2011
10 a.m. - 2 p.m.
PPA Event Center, 2105 Decatur Street, Denver
Admission $10, children under 2 are free. Includes lunch.

Check out the literacy line-up! Spend some time with Frog and Toad and The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Eat the Alphabet and play I Spy! You and your kids will be enriched by this massive exposure to literacy.

Reading to an infant, a toddler, a pre-schooler, or a young child affords a multitude of benefits to children, parents, families and communities alike. Over time, you'll see the time spent reading with children taking positive effect. Shared reading promotes:

  • Early brain development
  • Emotional bonding and the parent-child relationship
  • Language development
  • Regular bedtime routines
  • Early literacy skills

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Introduction to the 6 Pre-Reading Skills

The focus of pre-reading skills is not on teaching children to read at an early or young age. If your child does learn to read before they get to school, then great! The point of pre-reading skills for parents, caregivers, librarians and early childhood educators is to lay a strong foundation of literacy skills necessary for learning to read successfully once a child reaches school. The 6 Skills we build through singing songs, talking a lot (even before our kids can talk back!) and of course - sharing books together!

These are the 6 skills, with a short description, check back in coming weeks for more books and activities to help foster these skills with the kiddos in your life!

Print Motivation - I like books!

Print Awareness - Those squiggles on the page mean something.

Phonological Awareness - I know the sounds of language.

Narrative Skills - Telling stories is fun!

Letter Knowledge - Now I know my ABCs!

Vocabulary - I know a lot of great words.

Monday, January 24, 2011

It's National School Choice Week

Though the primary focus of this blog is children's literature and literacy, every once in a while I like to pipe in with a general education topic, hence today's post. It's the first annual National School Choice Week!

As an educator and future parent I am pro-school choice. To quote fellow blogger, Andrew Coulson, "Events are being held all over the country to celebrate the idea that families should be able to easily choose the best schools for their kids, and that schools should have to compete for the privilege of serving them."

Check out the website here and the YouTube video below!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Shelfari and Social Media

These things are already featured in the side bar are of this blog, but I wanted to highlight them in a blog post as well. Shelfari, Twitter and Facebook are all great ways to keep up with what I'm reading, book reviews on quality children's lit and interesting and exciting headlines in the education and library world.

Check out my Shelfari Bookshelf here. I only add books that I would give 3+ stars, these are the best books I've read and each is reviewed. Those books which are great for young children (0-6) are also highlighted with pre-reading skills they help to develop. Beyond young children I've also read and reviewed juvenile and young adult chapter books and non-fiction.

Click on the links in the sidebar to follow my tweets or check out the facebook page for this site!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

For the Teens in Your Life

The Young Adult Library Services Association has released their list of the 2011 Best Fiction for Young Adult Readers. If you are the parent, teacher or mentor of a teenager be sure to check out these great titles!

Also, the sure to check out the 2011 Notable Children's Books!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Great NPR Feature on Vocabulary Development

Closing The Achievement Gap With Baby Talk

Children from low-income families hear significantly fewer words in childhood on average than children from more well-to-do backgrounds. This disparity often effects their ability to learn to read once school starts and in so doing perpetuates the cycle of poverty.

If the value of reading to your children was never clear, I hope this article will help to highlight the importance!

Monday, January 10, 2011

2010 Wilder Award Winner - Tomie DePaola

Reading Rockets, one of my favorite literacy organizations, with a great web presence, posted this video of an interview with children's author Tomie DePaola. You can check out the full page on the Reading Rockets website here, but the video is embedded below!

Book Awards

This year's Caldecott and Newbery Award and Honors books were announced today!

This year's Newbery for children's book writing went to "Moon Over Manifest," written by Clare Vanderpool, published by Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Children's Books, a division of Random House, Inc.

The Caldecott for excellence in children's illustration went to "A Sick Day for Amos McGee" illustrated by Erin E. Stead, written by Philip C. Stead, a Neal Porter Book, published by Roaring Brook Press, a division of Holtzbrinck Publishing.

Another highlight of this year's awards was the Wilder Award, named for Laura Ingalls Wilder, which is awarded to a children's "author or illustrator whose books, published in the United States, have made, over a period of years, a substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children". This year's honoree was Tomie DePaola, one of my favorite children's authors. If you aren't familiar with his work one of my personal favorites is  the Big Book of Favorite Legends, which includes The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush.

Check out the complete list of American Library Association - Association of Library Services to Children honored books and media for this year here.