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March 2010 Archives


Tips for Growing Bookworms: #10 Let Them Stay Up Late Reading Under the Covers

Posted by Jen Robinson on March 30, 2010 at 6:00 AM in Literacy NewsRecommendations
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This is Part 10 of a continuing series on encouraging young readers. These ideas were originally captured in a post that I did on my blog in 2007, 10 Tips for Growing Bookworms. Here at Booklights I'll be expanding upon and updating each idea, and adding links for more information. Then we'll recap, and see what we can do to come up with some more.

ReadingAtNight.jpgTip #10: Once in a while, let your kids stay up late reading under the covers. Pretending you don't know is probably acceptable in this case, though I'm not generally a big advocate of deception. Staying up past bedtime reading a great book under the covers makes reading fun. It's a special treat. It's a way to keep reading a joyful experience. It feels sneaky and grown up at the same time. It's the kind of thing that kids remember, and helps them to associate reading with pleasure as they grow older. [Image credit: Microsoft ClipArt Gallery]

redpyramid.jpgI think that this idea could tie in to the whole concept of "social reading", too. Say, when the new Rick Riordan book (The Red Pyramid, featuring Egyptian mythology) comes out in early May, or the next Diary of a Wimpy Kid book by Jeff Kinney is released. If your child stays up late reading that buzz-generating book under the covers, and can brag about that at school tomorrow, well, I think that could go a long way.

As kids get older, one of the challenges is that reading isn't always perceived as "cool." I say, if your child wants to read enough to sneak a flashlight into bed - you should consider yourself very lucky. (See Tricia's post about this at The Miss Rumphius Effect. That post was the inspiration for this tip.) Of course sleep is important, too. But I think that the occasional bending of the rules about bedtime could be a real asset in growing bookworms.

What do you all think? Do you ever let your kids stay up late, reading under the covers?

Links to books in this post are affiliate links for the Amazon Associates program, for which the site Jen Robinson's Book Page may receive a referral fee.


Books for Passover

Posted by Susan on March 29, 2010 at 12:00 AM in RecommendationsSeasonal Books
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Tonight is the first night of Passover, and the perfect time for me to share some of my favorite Passover books with you. Of course, as mentioned a few weeks ago- they might be hard to find at your library today, but there's always next year.

A Tale of Two Seders.jpgI really enjoyed Rabbi Mindy Portnoy's new book, A Tale of Two Seders. It talks about how a child with divorced parents is able to celebrate in different and special ways with both of them. Plus, it also includes many different Passover traditions and some great charoset recipes from many different countries and cultures.

I always recommend the Sammy Spider books written by Sylvia Rouss and illustrated by Katherine Kahn for Jewish holidays. They're fun to read, creatively illustrated with great holiday descriptions and they always introduce a new concept such as colors, shapes or the five senses. There are three books for Passover: Sammy Spider's First Passover, Sammy Spider's Passover Fun Book and Sammy Spider's First Haggadah. I also like The Mouse in the Matzah Factory by Francine Medoff that explains how special handmade shmurah matzah is made.

For next year's Passover, Jaqueline Jules has a great new board book called Going on a Hametz Hunt due to be published in September. In simple, rhyming text it makes a fun counting story and Rick Brown's illustrations visually guide you to turn the next page.

Matzah that Papa Brought Home.jpgThere are several other books I'd like to recommend, but they all seem to have gone out of print, even those published in the last few years. Check your library (in a few weeks) for Passover! by Roni Schotter, This is Passover illustrated by Santiago Cohen, The Magician's Visit: A Passover Tale retold by Barbara Diamond Goldin and The Matzah that Papa Brought Home by Fran Manushkin.

Looking for a cookbook you can share with your kids? Try the Jewish Holidays Cookbook by Jill Colella Bloomfield and Matzah Meals: A Passover Cookbook for Kids by Judy Tabs and Barbara Steinberg.

There are many Haggadah options ranging from simple to complex. No matter which one you use, read it out loud to your children before the seder. This will help them prepare and know what to expect. If you're invited to someone else's house for Passover, ask if you can borrow their Haggadah to help get your kids ready.

Happy Pesach! Do you have any favorite Passover books? I'd love to hear them.


Thursday Three: Easter

Posted by Pam on March 25, 2010 at 10:48 AM in Picture BooksRecommendations
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I'm approaching today's post on Easter books like a wedding tradition - with something old, something new, something borrowed, and something out-of-the-blue.

The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes
by Dubose Heyward, illustrated by Marjorie Flack
The Country Bunny and the Little Gold ShoesA little girl bunny defies the odds to become an Easter Bunny, even though she isn't high-born or well, male. Her good upbringing, hard work, and perseverance take her beyond what others think a country bunny can do. You go, girl! I loved this book as a child, and it was one of very few books about Easter at the time. Of course, this was before every cartoon book and TV character got their own holiday story. Does this older tale still win over the young readers? With a wink, I have to say that it doesn't really matter. We parents have to reserve the right to share a few books just because they spoke to us as children, and I'll put this one top of my list for its great story, lovely illustrations, and classic classicness.

The Easter Egg
by Jan Brett
The Easter EggSeriously, I have to wonder what took Jan Brett so long to tackle an Easter story because this is a natural subject for her amazing artwork. Look at the possibilities in decorated eggs! And so she did, with this new book where a bunny finds that his real talent isn't in egg-decorating, but in something else altogether. It's a sweet story, and of course beautifully illustrated. If you like some behind-the-scenes, check out the short video where Jan Brett talks about her process - while holding a chicken. She also has a contest, coloring pages, and more fun at her website.

Junie B. First Grader: Dumb Bunny
by Barbara Park, illustrated by Denise Brunkus
Junie B. First Grader: Dumb BunnyHere's both the something borrowed (from my MotherReader site) and out-of-the-blue (if you were expecting another picture book). Junie B. and her class are invited to an egg hunt at richie Lucille's house. There's a special prize if you find the golden egg, and that lovely prize is a playdate with Lucille in her indoor pool and everyone wants to swim in that fancy, hot water pool. But things take an unfortunate turn for Junie B. - as they often do - putting the poor girl in a pink bunny suit. A fun book for Easter, or really any time you need a laugh. As a little bonus today, I'll share my favorite passage:

"I just don't get it," Lucille grouched. "How could anyone forget the Easter Bunny? The Easter Bunny brings candy right to your door."
Lennie did a frown at her.
"He doesn't bring candy to my door, Lucille," he said. "The Easter Bunny is a different religion than me. I'm Jewish."
Shirley nodded.
"I'm Jewish, too, Lucille," she said. "I've never even been to an Easter-egg hunt before. What do you wear to something like that, anyway?"
Lucille stood up and fluffed herself.
"Well -- since the Easter Bunny and I are the same religion -- I'm going to wear a fancy Easter dress, Shirley," she said.
Shirley though for a minute. Then she nodded.
"Hmm. Then I guess I will wear a fancy Jewish dress," she said.
Lennie's eyes lighted up.
"Really, Shirley? You mean we have our own clothing line?" he asked.
He smiled.
"Then I think I will wear some fancy Jewish pants," he said.

If you have a favorite Easter book, share it in the comments. And with both Passover and Easter coming up next week, enjoy your holiday - whether it involves an Easter dress or Jewish pants. (giggle, giggle)

Links to books in this post are affiliate links for the Amazon Associates program, for which the site may receive a referral fee.


The Monkey in the Middle

Posted by Susan on March 24, 2010 at 12:00 AM in Authors and IllustratorsBook EventsClassics
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Sit back. I'm going to tell you one of my favorite children's book publishing stories.

No, wait. I already did. Go and read it or this post won't make much sense. I'll wait here.

What took you so long?

Journey that Saved Curious George.jpgIsn't that an amazing story? (I mean the Curious George story, but I love all three of them.) It's been a favorite of mine for a long time, even before I read Louise Borden's wonderful book: The Journey That Saved Curious George.

I happened to be in Manhattan this past weekend and luckily stumbled across an extraordinary exhibit at The Jewish Museum that thoroughly documents the Rey's four month trip from France to the United States via Brazil. There are countless original sources including the journals that H.A. Rey meticulously recorded. There's the hand drawn wedding invitation and incredibly creative New Year's cards. There are the letters from various publishers. There are the videos of interviews with the Reys. But there's so much more than that.

You get to see the artwork.

How a Book Is Made.jpgCreating picture books is a very involved process and there are numerous steps that have to happen in order for you to hold the finished book in your hands. For some great children's picture books with details and illustrations of every step, see Eileen Christelow's What do Authors Do? and What do Illustrators Do? and Aliki's How a Book is Made.

Original picture book art is the actual illustration that's used to make the image you see in the book. It's magical stuff. No matter how well you know the book, the real artwork will always surprise you. It will be smaller or bigger than you expected. It will have many more or less colors than you expected. It will have colored pencils where you thought there was paint. It will have texture and fabric that you're not able to fully appreciate in the book. At the same time, the image is so familiar to you that it feels like an old friend.

The remarkable thing about this exhibition is that there are nearly eighty original works. That's right, almost eighty. Usually, if you're lucky, you'll get to see a few pieces at a time or maybe even ten. But with this exhibit we get to see so much more than that. We get to see our friend George in pictures you'll recognize immediately. And not just him. There's Katy Kangaroo, Pretzel, Spotty and Whiteblack the Penguin and many other delightful characters that the Reys created. What does it look like? Hop on over to the exhibition's main page to see a tantalizing sample.

Okay, hop back. What struck you the most? For me, it was the physical shape of the of the pictures... which is the most obvious in the picture of George swinging from the trees and eating bananas. I'm so used to seeing the white pristine background but in reality the pictures were cut out (much more than in that one image you saw) and glued on to the pages. It makes perfect sense but was so surprising to see nonetheless. George himself was fairly small suspended in the middle of a huge white space. Once I got over that, I wanted to spend all day looking at the artwork. It was so beautiful I really can't put it into words.

This exhibit showcases many treasures from the extensive archive of the Rey's papers at the de Grummond Children's Literature Collection at the University of Southern Mississippi. Take a look at the H.A. and Margret Rey Digital Collection. It's fascinating.

Curious George Saves the Day:The Art of H.A. and Margret Rey is at the Jewish Museum in New York City through August 1, 2010. It's appropriate for all ages and completely accessible to kids. There's a comfy reading area filled with many of the Reys' books which are begging to be read aloud.

Percy Jackson cover artIf you can't make it to New York, the best substitute is The Journey That Saved Curious George which contains lots of the archival material found in the exhibit.

And keep your eyes open for picture book art. Ask around. Maybe your local library (particularly if it's a large, central, urban library) has a few on the wall of their children's room. Maybe you'll find a picture or two in a children's bookstore. Watch for exhibits that come through your city. Visit the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, Massachusetts.

The artwork above that you're drooling over is for sale at the legendary Manhattan children's bookstore: Books of Wonder. It's all of the original cover art work for Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson series. The artist is John Rocco. There are also pictures you may not have seen before that were created for the deluxe edition of The Lightning Thief. You can see better pictures here and even order your own prints.

Whenever or wherever you find it, it will always be magic.


Literacy 'Lights from the Kidlitosphere: March 22

Posted by Jen Robinson on March 22, 2010 at 6:00 AM in Literacy News
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Last week I shared some links from the Share a Story - Shape a Future literacy blog tour that I thought Booklights readers would be particularly interested in. This week, I have just a few quick links for you to other recent posts dedicated to helping parents grow young bookworms.

Amytshirt.jpegAt Literacy Launchpad, Amy shares Part 4 of her series on tips for fostering a love of reading, about the joys of reading aloud. Of course we've talked about the importance of reading aloud many times here at Booklights (it's #1 in my Tips for Growing Bookworms series, for example). What I like about this particular Literacy Launchpad post is that Amy adds specific tips for the parent who "discovers the power of reading to their child a little later", and feel a bit awkward about starting. Like "Read interesting articles you find to your child (articles you think would also interest them)." [Image credit: a pro-reading t-shirt that Amy designed. You can order it from Literacy Launchpad.]

Speaking of reading aloud to older kids, I posted yesterday on my own blog about a father and daughter who read together for 3218 nights in a row (from fourth grade until the daughter's first day of college). It's an inspiring story, well worth a look!

At Getting Kids Reading, Joyce Grant suggests that parents read the books that their children are reading. This was #2 in the Tips for Growing Bookworms series, and is something that I highly, highly recommend. I was thus happy to see Joyce promoting it, too. She says: "My son's copy of Percy Jackson has two bookmarks in it--his and mine. We're both reading it. Not only is it a great series and a lot of fun to read, but I'm realizing there are huge benefits to reading what he's reading."

frog.jpgMama Librarian has a thought-provoking rant about why parents shouldn't be reading early chapter books aloud to their kids. She says: "Books like Frog and Toad and Mr. Putter and Tabby are written especially for children who are learning to read on their own. They don't have any significant concept challenges, so readers can focus on decoding and fluency... As a media specialist, I suggest you save junior fiction for beginning readers to enjoy on their own." The basic idea is that kids will likely be interested enough to read those easy reader-type books on their own anyway. Parents can instead read aloud more advanced books, books that kids wouldn't have discovered on their own. All of which makes sense to me!

Just in case you missed it, Terry Doherty had a great post here at Booklights earlier this month about letting kids write wordless stories, using images. She says: "For children who struggle with reading or writing, sharing and creating stories with just pictures may be just the thing to get them excited about literacy. First, they let kids stretch their imaginations. It also gives them a chance to tell a story in their own words ... the way they see it, without feeling hemmed in, overwhelmed, or intimidated by the actual text. There is a list of wordless and near-wordless books at the end of this post that may help you find books of interest."

And, in a link suggested by Terry, Barbara Freedman-De Vito, at Activity Village, shares several ideas for sharing stories aloud with children. She says: "despite a panoply of print and electronic media, purely oral forms of storytelling do still exist and are in fact used every day by talented entertainers, by skillful teachers and librarians, and by loving moms and dads quietly sharing good books with their children at bedtime. The purpose of this article to suggest some variations on the concept of bedtime stories and to offer some additional ways that parents and others can both share precious moments and create some precious memories with their children."

BunchOfBoysReading.jpgIan Newbold at the Tidy Books Blog has an interesting post about his policy of limiting reading time to encourage reading (the idea being that he feels that kids, especially boys, are more likely to desire something that they get a "little bit too little of"). While my gut instinct is to reject the idea of limiting reading time out of hand, I can see the appeal of making more reading time a reward, something to aspire to... Food for thought. What do you all think about that? [Image credit: Microsoft ClipArt Gallery]

I hope that you've found some articles worth checking out today. For anyone who would like even more children's literacy and reading links, this week's children's literacy round-up from Terry Doherty and me is available at Jen Robinson's Book Page.


Thursday Three: Thrifty Reading

Posted by Pam on March 18, 2010 at 8:55 AM in creative literacy
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I have discovered that the one advantage to losing your job is that you can close down pushy salesmen immediately. Apparently there is no answer in the sales patter that matches, "Now that I'm unemployed, I just can't spare the money."

Nobody is going to argue that we're in tough times and even if your finances haven't changed, you've probably become a bit more cautious and thrifty in response to the economic situation. Here I have another advantage, because I've always had a frugal streak and a nose for bargains. When I hear about kids in our country without books at home, I'm upset that these kids are missing this important literacy exposure, and I'm also frustrated knowing that it doesn't need to be expensive to have books.

Maybe feeling the pinch lately, you've cut restaurant outings or Starbucks grandes or - sigh - new, cute shoes. But you don't need to cut books, though you can change the way you get them.

1. The Library - Duh. You may roll your eyes at my noting the library as a place to get books, and that's okay. I can take it. Of course you know it exists, that it's there as a source of free books, but that doesn't mean you're taking full advantage of this generous resource. Yes, you can check out books. You can also take your kids to programs, including some for older children that might not require your actual presence in the room allowing you to skim the magazine section. When my kids were young, we sat and read some of the books there and then took a few of those home. It made reading time special to be doing it in the library, and offered a chance to try some new titles. Utilize the librarians to get suggestions on good books for the kids, instead of wasting money on something disappointing. And don't forget all of the resources in the library that can save you money by giving you information in the form of home repairs, craft projects, exercise programs, and financial planning.

2. Book Sales - There are many kind of book sales, and which works best depends your own needs and free time. Libraries often run book sales, either as an event or an ongoing sale. You can do extremely well here, picking up some great hardbacks for a buck or two while supporting the library. Win-win. Thrift stores also sell books, though the selection and quality varies from place to place. I find the special kid consignment stores rather pricey on books, but I do have to admit that they are generally better organized. When I feel like heading to the bookstore, I do so mostly to browse the bargain books and overstocks. I'll also use some mindless Internet time - maybe while supervising homework - to browse the bargain books section on Amazon. I've bought some amazing books this way, including standards that must be temporary overstocks or something. Otherwise I can't explain the continual appearance of titles by Mo Willems, Rick Riordan, and Neil Gaiman.

3. Book Exchanges - Some schools or community centers have a Leave-a-Book/Take-a-Book plan, but if not you can start your own. Set up a book exchange for your own school, preschool, playgroup, neighborhood, or workplace. Having a dedicated shelf for the book exchanges is a small way to start. You can set up systems of one-to-one exchanges or credits, or be more loose about it, hoping that books simply find a good home. You could arrange a larger scale trade at your child's school and donate the books that aren't chosen to a charity that can get them into the right hands.

What book ideas do you have for the frugal family?


Library Tip: Check Out Your Books Early and Often

Posted by Susan on March 17, 2010 at 12:00 AM in LibrariesSeasonal Books
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Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Did you visit your library this week to find a book for St. Patrick's Day? Did you find anything? I'm guessing that you didn't. Or if you did, it was an old battered book that was published many years ago.

St. Patrick's Day.jpgHow can I be so telepathic? Because at every single library, on every single holiday, the relevant books are all checked out by the actual date of the holiday. And this doesn't just go for holidays. If you go into my library today, you'll find that all the books for spring are checked out. Pretty soon, as caterpillars start crawling onto the sidewalks, every book about how a caterpillar turns into a butterfly will be gone from our shelves.

Here's a tip: Never wait until the last minute to find seasonal books. Check them out a month before the season or event (even earlier than that is fine too). If you look at the Christmas books in November, you'll find all the newest and most popular books available for your perusal. If you wait until the middle of December, you'll find the dregs that other people decided no to check out.

I can certainly understand the desire not to spread out the holiday. However, most libraries lend books out for three weeks (with the option of renewal for another 3 weeks.) Many libraries let you renew twice, which means that if no one is waiting for the book, you can have it for up to nine weeks (over two months).

Don't forget to be considerate and remember that you're not the only one looking for books on that subject. Try not to take more than one or two holiday books so that there's enough for everyone else. (Unless, of course, you check out all the Passover books in September, when no one's looking for them). Also, as soon as you're done with a seasonal book, return it to the library so other people can check it out. For example, even though the St. Patrick's Day books got checked out already, we were able to find a couple that recently came back to give to the people who were looking for holiday books this week.

Where is the Green Sheep.jpgIf the library is completely out of the books you're looking for, be creative. A book like Mem Fox's beautifully crafted Where is the Green Sheep? works perfectly well. Or try one of Tomie dePaola's Irish folktales.

My library has the holiday books in the regular collection, but not every library has the shelf space to do that. If yours doesn't, ask the librarians where the books are when they're not on display. Many libraries keep their holiday books in their storytime rooms.

Have a lovely holiday.


Share a Story - Shape a Future 2010: A Blog Tour for Literacy

Posted by Jen Robinson on March 15, 2010 at 6:00 AM in Literacy News
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It_takes_a_village_2.jpgAs Pam mentioned on Thursday, the Share a Story - Shape a Future literacy blog tour was held last week. Share a Story is an annual celebration of literacy and reading - a cross-blog forum for idea-sharing and community-building. Share a Story was founded last year by Booklights contributor Terry Doherty. This year's theme was "It Takes a Village to Raise a Reader". [Image created by Susan Stephenson, The Book Chook, at]

I hardly know where to begin telling you about this year's celebration. There were amazing giveaways (such as two sets of RIF's collection of 50 multicultural books), interesting daily writing prompts (to allow a wide range of people to participate), and contributed posts on topics ranging from The Many Faces of Reading to Creative Literacy to Nonfiction to Reading through the Ages. I hosted Day 5, Reading for the Next Generation, with a dozen parent-friendly articles from reading advocates from around the Kidlitosphere.

Here's a quick tour through the posts from Share a Story that I thought would be of the greatest interest to Booklights readers (though of course every post is worth a look, if you have the time):

Terry_readingtubfinal_1.jpgStarting on Day 1 (hosted by Terry Doherty), The Many Faces of Reading, Lee Wind shares Dads! The 3 Secrets to Reading with your Daughters at I'm Here, I'm Queer, What the Hell do I Read. He talks about overcoming one's aversion to "Sparkle-Fairy-Pixie-Dust-Pink-Glitter" books, coping with the child's desire for repeat readings, and treating reading together as a shared experience. Great stuff, well worth a read for Dads or Moms. Also on Day 1, Dad Greg Pincus from Gotta Book has a lovely post about how sharing stories together is the gift that lasts a lifetime.

Still focusing on The Many Faces of Reading, we return to the topic of "social reading". Back last summer, I did a couple of posts here at Booklights about the power of social reading (here and here), wherein kids spark each other's enthusiasm for reading. Those posts were inspired by discussions from Sarah Mulhern at The Reading Zone. Last week, Sarah presented more detail on her thoughts and experiences with social reading, including some specific tactics for capturing social reading in the classroom.

BookChookLogo.jpgHeading on over to Day 2, Literacy My Way (hosted by Susan Stephenson) we find a post from Joyce Grant at Getting Kids Reading with tips on getting active kids reading. There's also a fun post by Danielle Smith of There's a Book about using activity and sticker books to promote literacy, and another from Jen Funk Weber of Needle and ThREAD about using math, word and logic puzzles to engage young readers. And, in a useful, tip-filled post, Amy Mascott of teachmama shares some clever ways to sneak literacy learning into your children's daily routines.

it-takes-a-village-pink.jpgDay 3, The Nonfiction Book Hook (hosted by Sarah Mulhern) includes a host of recommendations for using nonfiction to reach readers who might not be as interested in fiction. Many of the posts include book recommendations. There's also an interesting article from Dawn Little at Literacy Toolbox about doing "real world reading" with preschoolers, as well as some tips from Natasha Maw at Maw Books about selecting nonfiction for early readers. [Image created by Susan Stephenson, The Book Chook, at]

ShareAStoryLogo-color.jpgDay 4, Reading through the Ages (hosted by Donalyn Miller), talks about balancing old classics and new favorites on the quest to hook today's kids on reading. Donalyn's contributors ask readers to share favorite childhood books, and favorite first lines from books, as well as suggesting new titles and new methods for reading with today's kids. For those looking for book recommendations, Tess Alfonsin, offers classic and contemporary favorites at The Reading Countess, while The Goddess of YA Literature, Teri Lesesne, suggests several new titles for tweens that have classic themes. [Image created by Elizabeth Dulemba for Share a Story - Shape a Future]

jkrROUNDUP.jpgNow we come to Day 5, Reading for the Next Generation. For this part of Share a Story, I sought posts about the disconnects that can arise between parents and kids on the way to growing young bookworms. My contributors tackled practical issues like what to do when you struggle with reading to your kids, or you have trouble finding time for reading, or you feel silly reading animal sounds aloud, or your kids are obsessed with videogames or Princess books. Our collective goal was not to tell anyone what they "should" do. Rather, we wanted to provide some concrete help for parents and teachers looking to encourage young readers, but struggling with particular issues.

Really, I think that all of the posts from Day 5 should be of interest to Booklights readers, and I hope that you'll click through to see the full list. But, if you read nothing else, I do want to direct you to MotherReader's post, in which she asks moms to give themselves permission to sometimes find reading with your kids ... less than stimulating, and Esme Raji Codell's entertaining piece about ways to keep older kids engaged in family read-aloud time.

We also had a particular focus during Day 5 on a topic that's been addressed before here at Booklights - letting kids read the books that they enjoy, instead of pushing them towards ever-more-advanced titles. This important topic was discussed in different ways by Dawn Little, Melissa from Book Nut, Mary Lee Hahn, and Kate Messner. All of us here at Booklights feel that the key to reading kids who love books lies in making reading an enjoyable experience for them. All of these posts offer help with that.

Thanks for checking out my quick tour of Share a Story - Shape a Future 2010. I hope that you found some useful links, and discovered some kindred spirits.


Thursday Three: Classics

Posted by Pam on March 11, 2010 at 10:33 AM in ClassicsRecommendations
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I was actually going to write an entirely different post today, but then I chanced upon today's installment of the Top 100 Children's Novels and I had to go back to that topic. Last time I wrote about three (or four) books that I had suggested that had made it on the list so far. Now two (or three) more of my choices have come in the same batch, and they are all classics - which fits in with today's Share a Story -Shape a Future theme of Old Favorites, New Classics.

To explain, Share a Story -Shape a Future is a weeklong online event contributing ideas about ways to engage kids as readers. It's not an author or book tour, but instead a promotion of books, reading, literacy, and ideas. And it's fabulous. Tomorrow our own Jen Robinson hosts the theme of Reading for the Next Generation, and I'll be sharing my thoughts with "Reading is Boring (Sometimes)." Don't miss this wonderful resource of reading tips, suggestions, thoughts, and essays.

Coming back to today's post, I thought it was fate that it would be a classics theme on the same day that three of my favorite classics hit the list. It also figures into Jen's request for books for her baby (Congrats, Jen!), because these are the perfect read-aloud books for down the line. In fact, I'd argue that at least Winnie-the-Pooh is intended for reading to your child then waiting for her to be old enough to read it on her own.

by A.A. Milne
Winnie-the-PoohThe nostalgia factor is so high on this title, that I was surprised that it only came in at #30. Though perhaps the years of Disneyfication of Pooh have finally taken a toll on this impeccable, imaginative classic. After years of making the characters preschool fodder, the original stories have all been lost in the shuffle. Kids who are finally old enough to appreciate the sophisticated language and nuance, have tossed aside Pooh as baby books. It's a crying shame. The only advice I have for new parents (Jen), is to own the classic set and ban any and all Disneyfied versions with a fierceness usually reserved for smoking near the baby.

A Little Princess
by Francis Hodgson Burnett
A Little PrincessHitting the list at #28, is a book about triumphing in the face of adversity, and keeping a positive spirit and nature throughout tough times.When I was young, I read it, lost it, didn't remember what it was called, and for some reason didn't seem to ask anybody, but kept looking for the book for years. I remember the joy of finding it again, on the shelves of a bookstore, and going home to read it again and again. Sigh. This book was absolute magic to me in elementary school years, but when I read it again as an adult I couldn't capture that same feeling. That's okay though, because my childhood memories of the tale completely trump my adult sensibilities.

Alice in Wonderland
by Lewis Carroll
Alice in WonderlandI have to admit that I'm cheating by mentioning the book that is #27, because I didn't actually submit it as one of my choices. But it's so much a part of my own favorite books, that I had to go back to my original email to see that I didn't suggest it. I guess it slipped through the cracks - of my mind. Here's a book that is entirely about imagination, and by that I mean one that gives the reader's imagination a complete workout as she visualizes the worlds and events of the story. It's one of the reasons that I see the book as a perfect one to read aloud, because that frees the child from the work of reading the words, allowing her mind the space to imagine the scenes in this fantastic adventure.

You can read the extensive write-ups at Fuse#8 at School Library Journal, which include the variety of cover art and a few video clips as well, by clicking on the links above. You can add your own thoughts on these touchstone classics here in the comments below.

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Board Book Suggestions

Posted by Susan on March 10, 2010 at 12:00 AM in Board BooksRecommendations
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We here at Booklights are thrilled to hear that our fellow blogger Jen will be having a baby soon! In her post announcing the big news, Jen said that she would love to hear book suggestions for babies. I'm more than happy to oblige (for Jen, and for everyone else who has a baby, knows a baby, or who has met a baby).

baby photoIf you're trying to figure out what to purchase as a gift, check out this How to Buy a Book for a Baby guide I wrote a few years back. It's got the answers to a lot of frequently asked questions such as what to buy for a third (or first baby), as well as specific recommendations, how to buy great books in every price range and which formats to choose.

For this post, I thought I'd give Jen and everyone else a list of board book recommendations, although you can certainly buy hardcover books that the babies will grow into. First, let's start with the previous board book posts that have appeared on Booklights. Here's a post I wrote about board books, why to use them, and why you should be a cautious consumer when you buy them. This post tells you how to have fun with two of my favorite board books, and it inspired this one about diverse board books. Pam also wrote a great post with board book recommendations.

Here's what not to buy: Goodnight Moon, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? These are almost always given as baby shower gifts. All of them are excellent board books, though, and feel free to buy them if you are absolutely positive that the parents don't already have them.

Here's some books that are less likely to be purchased by other people:

Goodnight Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann is a wonderful picture book that adapts very gracefully into a board book. 10 minutes till bedtime.jpgSee this post about how to find every last thing hidden in the illustrations of this book. After you've found them all, try Rathmann's other terrific board book 10 Minutes till Bedtime. The gorilla is hiding on every page and so is the banana. Can you find the zoo keeper's house or Officer Buckle and Gloria?

The Lady with the Alligator Purse: Remember this song? The book is great too, and is so much fun to sing. For other fun board books featuring songs, Raffi has some great versions of old classics, such as The Wheels on the Bus.

Elmo's Big Lift the Flap Book: I'm not just mentioning this book because this blog is on PBS, home of Sesame Street. It's truly an excellent board book, and one the best lift the flap books available. It's sturdy, over-sized, has great variety and pictures, and I've never met a child who wasn't immediately mesmerized by it.

No discussion of board books would be complete without mentioning Sandra Boynton. It's not just that her books are funny. Barnyard Dance.jpgIt's not just that her books are very purposefully written for babies. It's not that the writing and illustrations are good. It's that her books are funny and well written and well illustrated and great for babies. Adults can read her books again and again without going crazy, something very unusual in the board book field. Start with Barnyard Dance, Moo, Baa, La La La! and Blue Hat, Green Hat... which will lead you to many more.

Nina Laden has several baby friendly board books. My favorite is Peek-a Who?

Click Clack abc.jpgBoard books have come a long way in the last decade. The quality has dramatically improved as more publishers are creating books for babies, as opposed to just abridging old classics and jamming them into a board book. Check these great contemporary books out:

Click, Clack, ABC and Click, Clack, 123 are both fun to read, plus they feature Betsy Lewin's buoyant illustrations that jump right off the page.

EyeLike Nature Leaves.jpgBabies love looking at other babies and there are many board books that fulfill that need. But, usually, the pictures are rather bland. The EyeLike Nature books solve that problem. The pictures of the babies are great and the background pictures are even better. Excellent use of photography and color make these books feel so realistic that you want to jump in the leaf pile.

Babies and toddlers love to play with their books. Lift the flap and touch and feel books are great for this age. But be careful. Babies can do amazing damage to board books (nope, they're not indestructible). Keep an eye out for books that have sturdy pages that make it hard(er) for a baby to destroy as they lift the flaps or feel the texture.

Fuzzy Fuzzy Fuzzy well loved version.JPGI mentioned Sandra Boynton above, and her book Fuzzy Fuzzy Fuzzy was the first book my son ever showed interest in. As hard as it is to write a novel, think about how difficult it is to write a coherent, funny and educational book with only 26 words (or less). Here's my Fuzzy Fuzzy Fuzzy review, and see the picture on the right to see what my copy of the book currently looks like. Like I said, nothing is truly indestructible.

Choo Choo.jpgThe irony is that while board books are made for babies and need to be sturdy enough to (attempt) survival from their demanding clientele, the stiff pages make it hard for a baby turn the the pages. Petr Horáek (yes, it's Petr, not Peter) has written several delightful board books with attractive shaped pages that are very easy for babies to turn. Plus, they feature great onomatopoeia and bold, colorful illustrations. Take a look at Choo, Choo to see what I mean.

Baby says peekaboo.jpgDK's Peekaboo! board books have lots of things that make them perfect for a baby who enjoys playing with their books. They include touch and feel; large, sturdy flaps; easy to turn pages; and bright colorful pictures of babies, all in the same book.

The most solid and sturdy touch and feel books (that I know of) currently on the market are Usborne's That's Not My... series. By this point, there are so many titles in this series that you can pick any animal or object you want such as That's Not My Kitten, That's Not My Train or That's Not My Monster. As an added bonus, a little mouse is hiding (in plain sight) on each page.

Dear Zoo.jpgI love Rod Campbell's Dear Zoo and Karen Katz's books such as Where is Baby's Bellybutton? have great flaps and simple illustrations, but the flaps are easy to rip off. Try those a little later after your baby has (mostly) gotten over their tearing apart books phase.

It's lovely to see so much progress being made in this genre. Several publishers have really stepped up to the plate with excellent board books.

What are your favorite board books? Which ones do your kids enjoy the most? Jen and I would love to hear all about them.

The adorable photo at the top of this post is of my kindergartner. He just walked in, looked at the picture and pointed out that it looks nothing like him.

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