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April 2010 Archives


Thursday Three: Poetry

Posted by Pam on April 29, 2010 at 5:46 PM in
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As we wrap up National Poetry Month, let's talk about bringing more poetry into your child's life.

1. Read It: Next time you're at the library, take a turn into the poetry section. Most likely you'll find it under Dewey's famous decimal system at either 811 (for single author) or 808 (for collections). While poetry books may have been limited when we were growing up, the choices now are amazing. There are collections about cats, oceans, sports, friends, apologies, and world records. You'll also find styles and forms just as varied, along with a broad illustrative range. It's a new day in children's poetry from what you might remember as a somewhat stale past. Take a chance and bring some home for your nightly reading time.

2. Write It: Inspired by the poems you read, try your hand at writing a few. Don't worry about perfection or natural talent. Simply have fun with words. With your child, play with rhythm and rhyme to make up some silly poems. If they don't really make sense, maybe they'll make you laugh. I amused my three year old niece with a quick ditty about a little black dog that was running down the street, with a baseball cap on top of his head and sneakers on his feet. From there, we could have looked at the rhyming word family of "feet" (note: Learning Alert), or come up with a new story. (As it was, we turned into Applebees.) Another easy form to investigate is the haiku with its three line, 5-7-5 syllables format. It's surprising how many lovely turns of phrase can be changed slightly to fit the form. Or:

Changed slightly to fit,
Many lovely turns of phrase
become the haiku.

And I didn't even try there to get the original sentence to work. So think what could be done with your child's observations about clouds, spiders, or crayons.

3. Find It: Once you start to look, you'll find poetry all around. Song lyrics come through more clearly as poetry. (Well, some at least. I wouldn't suggest the works of Lady Gaga as being rich in material.) Picture books can be poetic, even when they're aren't categorized as poetry. Phrases you hear on the playground or words you see at the store, fragments of lists or sentences of novels can spark your imagination. You could tuck those pieces away for a future poetry venture, or acknowledge them in the moment and let them go. But truly, allow yourself and your child to recognize the magical and musical quality of words, because that is poetry.


Bookworm Basics: Growing Readers of All Sizes

Posted by Terry on April 28, 2010 at 8:00 AM in PoetryRecommendationscreative literacy
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jkrROUNDUP.jpgNo sooner had Jen Robinson finished her Ten Tips for Growing a Bookworm series and her daughter arrived - ten weeks early. Ten tips ... ten weeks. Coincidence or just an anxious bookworm? Ah, the mysteries of life.

When Jen announced the birth of her little bookworm, she also explained that she was taking a hiatus from blogging. On Mondays, Jen often starts us off with Literacy 'Lights, a quick roundup of family-reading related ideas and tips from around the kidlitosphere. For the next few weeks, while Jen is enjoying all of the joys that come with bringing home a new baby, Susan Kusel will be here on Mondays and I'll stop by on Wednesdays with Bookworm Basics.

Jen and her passion for growing bookworms is the inspiration for my column. I wanted to do something that complements what she does AND celebrate bookworms of all ages. So each week I'll offer ideas about literacy and reading in the context of how a reader grows, from emergent literacy (infant/toddler) through fluency (third grade). I will incorporate my Prompt Ideas, too, when they fit. This week, I thought I'd round out National Poetry Month with ideas that draw on a poetry theme.

Emergent Literacy - Babies, Toddlers, and Preschoolers
When we think of poetry for kids, we often think of rhymes, which are perfect for this audience. At these ages, kids are exploring, testing, and repeating sounds ... a lot! The sillier or sing-songy the sound combinations, the better. In the process, these pre-readers are learning how to make sounds and give them meaning (gurgles to dada); discerning words and vocabulary (recognizing that shluba is a silly word and tuba is a real thing); and beginning to connect a letter sound with the symbol.

Nursery rhymes and silly words - like the ones we think of as "classic" Dr. Seuss - are great ways to combine poetry and learning. In this YouTube video, a young boy is "reading" by exploring the sounds in Dr. Seuss' ABC Book An Amazing Alphabet Book. The video is about 4 minutes long, but you can get the idea of how he is exploring words and sounds with about 45 seconds.

Early and Transitional Literacy - Kindergarten to Second Grade

poetrymosaic.jpg Now that they can recognize individual letters and sounds, readers-to-be are ready to start combining them into words and learn how one letter (silent e) affects the sounds of others around it (star becomes stare). Rhyming and repetition often remain central to helping kids build vocabulary and pronouncing words they don't quite know yet. Shel Silverstein, Jack Prelutsky, and Kenn Nesbitt are wonderful children's poets who combine rhymes, recognized song lyrics, kids' favorite (and least favorite) things, and silliness to engage kids as readers - without them even knowing it!

One way to engage kids in creating their own poems (and silly words) is to add a set of poetry magnets to the fridge. Every time someone reaches for the milk they can create something new! This is an activity that lest kids stretch their imagination, explore language, and work on spelling all at the same time. It's also a game that everyone can play ... including Mom and Dad. To help with the (dreaded) weekly word list, you might try making some magnets of your own using materials from a craft or hobby store.

Fluent Readers - Third Grade and Beyond
This is the group of independents (in more ways than one). Once kids are reading at a third grade level, they have mastered the strategies they need for reading without help. They have the tools to put understanding, vocabulary, and spelling together and combine them in whatever format is presented. They also compose lengthier original works, from synopses to full-length stories and reports.

Those rhyming books they loved last year are now "for babies," though there are exceptions. The magnets on the fridge can come in handy, because they let your reader independently explore their creative side. And Mom and Dad sneak in a little writing!

Another idea would be to pull out their old alphabet letters and let them "text" on the refrigerator. I know, it confuses me too, but there is research that suggests texting can help kids with spelling. If the study doesn't convince you, maybe this video by Mr. J.A. Gill, an ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher, will add a perspective that makes sense.

There are some great resources to help you engage kids as readers across the spectrum of development. Reading Rockets, for example, has some wonderful parent guides with tips in English and ten other languages. I have always loved their practical ideas, and I was tickled to find their new parent tip sheets for babies and toddlers.

One of the great things about growing a bookworm, as Jen has explained, is that the old can become new again. Reading aloud to them as infants and beyond (Tip 1) might just lead to them sneaking a flashlight to stay up late and read under the covers (Tip 10) . At least we can hope!

Note: Dr. Seuss ABC Book title link goes to and the Reading Tub affiliate. Purchases made through that link may generate income for the Reading tub, a 501c3 nonprofit.


When I was your age...

Posted by Susan on April 26, 2010 at 12:00 AM in Classics
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Here's a common situation that happens several times a week in the children's section of the library and the bookstore.

Dinosaurs Before Dark.jpgA parent or grandparent comes in and says that their child loved the Magic Tree House series (or another series at a similarly easy reading level), but now can't seem to get them interested in something else. When asked what they tried next, the answer is almost always Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys or Dick and Jane, because the parent loved to read them when they were growing up.

I've got nothing against these books. Lots of people (me included) learned to read with Dick and Jane or tried to read every single Nancy Drew book when they were a kid. There are still kids that like them and enjoy them, but these books are far less requested these days.

Secret of the Old Clock.jpgAn adult's memory of reading a book or series may be wonderful and magical. But when recommending a book the important thing is to make sure that it's the right book at the right time for the right kid. For more about the right time, see my post about reading Charlotte's Web to my five year old son.

I'd recommend the Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew to third graders and above who enjoy mysteries and long series. If you hand it to a kid that has just finished Magic Tree House (grades K-2) they are going to be completely overwhelmed. Take one of those yellow or blue books off the shelf at a library and read it again. The books are triple the length and the vocabulary is much tougher. For a kid interested in early chapter books, I'd try something from this list instead. Or, if they're really interested in the subject matter, there are now multiple Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys series in early chapter format and with contemporary characters.

Children's literature is an always developing and ever changing field. A lot has happened since I was a kid and there are thousands more choices available now than there ever were before. Let your children revel in all the great new books.

Of course, there are classic books that are always recommended, but read them again or ask a librarian before handing them to a child. They were all products of the time in which they were written, reflect those attitudes and prejudices, and they might be harder, easier, longer, or shorter than you remember them. There are those wonderful magical books too, that do hold up when you reread them. Books like Winnie the Pooh and Charlotte's Web have been in print for decades because they're timeless and a joy to share with a child.

I Am Going.jpgSo, sure, Dick and Jane gets the job done if you're teaching a child to read. But why not use Dr. Seuss or Elephant and Piggie? Both Dr. Seuss and Mo Willems revolutionized the beginning reader field with books that not only contain good, easy to read vocabulary, but that are also bright, silly and funny. If your child is very interested in something, there are now books for beginning readers available on nearly every subject. They can learn to read with a controlled vocabulary book about Star Wars, princesses, riddles, trucks and lots more. Picking something that they want to read will make all the difference.

It's impossible to keep up on all the changes in the children's book field. Here's where a librarian or a children's bookseller can be very helpful and do something that Google and Amazon can't. We know the new titles, we know what's hot, we know what sits on the shelf, we know the latest award winners, we know which books parents and kids come back for again and again. We're also extremely experienced in listening to readers about the things they like and the books they've previously enjoyed and helping them find something new. And we're happy to help you.

Got a book you remember loving as a kid that didn't hold up when you re-read it as an adult? How about one that was just as good or better than you remember it? If you shared it with you kids, what did they think about it?

Need a recommendation for your budding reader? I'm all ears... please leave a comment below.

And if you read the books mentioned above as a child, here are the complete lists of the original series in order for Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. Enjoy!


Thursday Three: Poem Picture Books

Posted by Pam on April 22, 2010 at 8:17 AM in Picture BooksPoetryRecommendations
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For National Poetry Month, I've given you poetry links, collections, and picture books. Today I have a set of books where one poem is made into a picture book. Enjoy.

Me I Am!
by Jack Prelutsky, illustrated by Christine Davenier

Me I Am!I know, another Prelutsky book that seem different from the style that I attribute to him. I may need to give the man more credit. For this book, I love the way this poem expresses the uniqueness of each person and celebrates our individuality. It's like a personal anthem. "I am the only ME I AM, who qualifies as me; no ME I AM has been before, and none will ever be."The poem carried through the pages is lovely, but the artist, Christine Davenier, has taken it another step into a celebration of childhood. Each two-page spread is a story in itself, told in the pictures. Over two pages, we see a girl trying on a frilly dress, rejecting it, putting on play clothes, skating away, falling, and getting up again happy. There is another story for a little boy, and then another little girl, and then in the end they all come together. So much more is going on in this book than the words, and it's all good.

All the World
by Liz Garton Scanlon, illustrated by Marla Frazee

All the WorldThe poetic text is simple - "Rock, stone, pebble, sand; body, shoulder arm, hand; A moat to dig a shell to keep, All the world is wide and deep." The book takes a multicultural family through a day that focuses on their connection with each other, with friends and neighbors, and the world around them. There are beaches and parks, gardens and restaurants, the big outdoors and the cozy space of home. The sentiment is lovely and is made more so by the detailed illustrations and breathtaking panoramas. This title encourages repeat readings to expand on the stories contained in the pictures, and the beauty contained in the message.

The Moon
by Robert Louis Stevenson, illustrated by Tracey Campbell Pearson

The MoonRobert Stevenson’s poem - "The moon has a face like the clock in the hall;/She shines on thieves on the garden wall,/On streets and fields/and harbour quays" - is brought to life by illustrator Tracey Campbell Pearson. She turns this poem about the moon and the world at night into a story where a father wakes up the boy (or girl with short hair - it could go either way) and takes him out on a nighttime adventure. They say goodbye to mommy and the baby, but take the dog and cat along. They drive through the country to a dock, get on a boat, and go on a nighttime ride. You can imagine what a treat this would be for an older sibling to have a special trip with daddy after bedtime. Pearson has made each picture such a feast for the eyes, with incredible attention to detail and to the mood. A fantastic book that may inspire your own nighttime adventure.

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


Baby Storytimes

Posted by Susan on April 21, 2010 at 12:00 AM in Libraries
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Question: Did you read the title of this post and think it was a typo? Did you wonder how on earth it is possible to do storytimes for kids that little?

Answer: Actually, libraries do baby stor times all the time. (Sometimes they're called lapsit programs.) Personally, they're one of my very favorite things to do as a children's librarian. No matter what you do, the babies never complain.

Here's some commonly asked things you may be wondering right about now...

Question: What do you do in a baby storytime?
Answer: Lots of things, including songs, nursery rhymes, tickles, bounces and lullabies.

Susan Kusel storytime.jpgQuestion: Do you read books?
Answer: Yes, but usually only one or two (as opposed to three or four books in a preschool story time). If books are used, they're typically very short or they're sung aloud.

Question: How old does the baby have to be?
Answer: Ask your librarian.... but the answer is almost always that there's no age limit. Newborns are fine.

Question: What if I bring my baby and they take a nap through the whole program?
Answer: Let them sleep. Baby storytimes are as much for the adults as they are for the kids. Children's librarians are great at offering tips, teaching songs and making recommendations to help adults use books and songs with babies.

Question: What if I'm exhausted and haven't gotten out of the house for a week?
Answer: Then baby storytimes are the perfect place to go... because all the other adults are just as tired and worn out as you are. It's a great place to meet other parents and caregivers experiencing the same things. Plus, it's nice to have a reason to get out of the house.

Question: Does my local library have a storytime for babies and toddlers?
Answer: Find out! Check their website and call or e-mail the children's department. Better yet, stop by... there's almost always a story time schedule flier available.

How much do these programs cost?
Answer: You get a trained librarian familiar with child development and early literacy skills, plus a thoughtfully planned, fun and educational program for the low, low, low price of: nothing. Library story times are always free.

Question: Have you ever been to a story time designed for babies? Did you and your baby enjoy it?
Answer: I'd love to hear all about it! Please leave a comment.


Thursday Three: Poetry Picture Books

Posted by Pam on April 15, 2010 at 9:33 AM in Picture BooksRecommendations
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Last week I had some great poetry collections, and this week I have some great poetry picture books. If you have some favorites, share them in the comments.

If Not for the Cat
by Jack Prelutsky, illustrated by Ted Rand

If Not for the CatThe title begs to be finished, so here is the poem of the mouse:
"If not for the cat, And the scarcity of cheese, I could be content." Every time I reference this book, I have to double-check that the poet is indeed Prelutsky because it doesn't fit with the sillier style I've come to associate with him. But yes, it's him crafting these perfect poems about seventeen different animals. The poems are accessible for children, but take some thought too - along with offering some challenging, evocative words. The illustrations are beautiful, with a great use of detail and color to support the haiku. Purists will note that it isn't true haiku as they don't all feature the requisite seventeen syllables, but I don't feel the need to split hairs with someone who thinks to describe jellyfish movement as "gelatinously." Brilliant stuff, this.

Speak To Me (And I Will LIsten Between The Lines)
by Karen English, illustrated by Amy Bates

Speak To Me (And I Will LIsten Between The Lines)I loved this book when I first saw it a few years ago, and it sticks with me. I don’t know that I can verify that it captures the feel of an urban school - though it sure seems that way - but I do know that it really captures the feeling of third graders. Feeling pride in an eighth birthday. Worrying about losing a best friend to another girl in the class. Daydreaming. Saving a seat at lunch. Each poem is told from the point of the view of one of the kids in the class, most of whom are African-American. The illustrations capture the feel of the kids and the poems in every nuance of expression. A perfect classroom book, for sure, but also a wonderful book to share at home.

Red Sings from Treetops: A Year in Colors
by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski

Red Sings from TreetopsWhat can I say about this book but lovely, lovely, lovely, lovely and oh yes, lovely. And that’s from someone who doesn’t care much for poetry as a rule. After checking out a library copy based on the book’s Caldecott silver medal and Cybils win, I had to buy my own copy. (Which I did through the Cybils site, because every book that you buy there gives a little bit back to that award.) Taking us through all the seasons in colors, these short poems by Joyce Sidman pack a velvet-covered punch, while Pamela Zagarenski’s illustrations invite long-lingering looks and sighs. Truly, I want to live in the world that Zagarenski sees and sink into the descriptions of Sidman's words:

Red sings
from treetops:
each note dropping
like a cherry
into my ear.

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


Thank a Library Worker Today and Every Day

Posted by Susan on April 13, 2010 at 9:57 PM in Libraries
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Ah, National Library Week. It's one of my favorite celebrations. The best part of the week is always National Library Workers Day. It was yesterday, April 13, 2010, but I celebrate it at my library every day.

National Library week 2010.jpgLibraries are enormous and complicated systems to run. It would be impossible to have a library if not for all the amazing people that work so hard. Some of them you might see regularly, such as librarians or people at the circulation desk, but there are so many unsung people you may not even know about. Here are a few I'd like to highlight. All of these positions exist in my library system and I'm sure they do in yours as well. At smaller libraries, there might be one or two people who play several of these roles.

Let's take a walk around the library and meet some of them. We've got to start with the custodians. I can't begin to tell you what a valuable part of the team they are, particularly in the children's section. They take care of all kinds of spills and accidents that happen all day long and they also set up for various events. There's the security people who keep the library safe for children and everyone else. And the facility managers and repairmen who make sure that everything is in working order and up to code.

Let's go in the back room and say hi to all those great people who work in circulation. You only see them when they're at the circulation desk, dealing tirelessly with a variety of issues and patron complaints and keeping numerous policies straight in their heads. But they're not done when they're off the desk. They also spend quite a bit of time checking in returned books and processing holds and transfers.

Shelver.jpgWave hello to the shelvers as they sort and place in order all the books, DVDs, CDs, and everything else on their carts. Then they'll go shelve them... something that takes a surprising amount of time, particularly with thin picture books. This picture of a shelver is from the Abilene Public Library.

Stop by and meet the branch manager. This is the person responsible for everything happening in their branch including budgets, schedules and fire alarms. They're who the staff call if there's ever a major (or minor) problem. At smaller branches, these folks also do circulation, shelving, reference and everything else.

Here are the people who deal with interlibrary loan. They get books and other materials from all around the country for you, usually for free or at a low cost. You'll also see lots of green boxes back here for audio books for the blind and physically disabled. WTBBLgreencassettes1.jpgThis picture is from the Washington Talking Book and Braille Library in downtown Seattle. Did you know that many libraries also provide service to home bound patrons?

As long as we're back here, do you see that enormous bookcase full of DVD and CD cases, with each one missing a disk? Be sure to thank the folks who handle the audiovisual problems and match up the hundreds of disks returned with their empty cases, so that the material is still available for the rest of the patrons to use.

Hey, look at all the brand new books on the shelves! They didn't appear there by magic. Let's walk over to the technical services department, which is usually at a library's central branch. Don't interrupt the selectors, they're incredibly busy reading reviews and new books. As they purchase, they are trying to make a balanced and current collection for the library and to stretch every dollar of the materials budget. Often there are only one of two selectors for the entire library system.

Look at all those boxes of new books. Someone has to unpack them, pay the invoices and report problems and damaged books. The catalogers and book processors are over here too. They make sure that every book has correct labels, stickers and an accurate catalog record.... an extremely time consuming job. Then the books have to be sent to each individual branch.

Step onto the loading dock. Here's the driver who visits every single branch, every day and brings new books and holds. They also pick up and return all the books returned to branches other than the ones they were borrowed from. (The drivers in this picture are from the Metropolitan Library System).

Also, back here, there's a spot where books get repaired so that the library can hang onto each book as long as possible. The irreparable books that have fallen apart are being replaced constantly so that the materials can be made available to more patrons.

Let's go upstairs and say hello to some more unsung heroes. Here we can find the people who answer the phone, order the supplies, pay the bills and keep the library humming. Thank the tech support department, who work tirelessly fixing endless computer problems and keeping the website current. Did you attend a good program at the library recently? Thank the person who put all the effort into coordinating and planning it. Odds are that you heard about the program because of the work of the publicity department. They find ways to advertise everything happening at the library, in a variety of different ways including Facebook, Twitter, blogs and press releases. The human resources, training, and budget departments are also invaluable pieces in the puzzle. Here's the library system's director... the person who has to make tough budget and management decisions and who works with the community and elected officials to advocate for the library.

Let's walk out to the reference desk. Here we can meet the people (librarians, library assistants, library associates and substitutes) who answer every kind of question you can possibly imagine. Listen in for a minute: "Where's the bathroom?", "Where's the nearest store that sells a particular product?", "I have a problem with my water bill. Who do I call?", "What book would who recommend for a second grader who reads on a fifth grade level and likes fantasy?", "What's a good, new mystery novel?", "I recently got diagnosed with an illness. Can you help me find everything there is to know about it?", "I just invented something. What do I do next?", "I need a county map from 1850", "Can you give me a list of local daycares?", "Which tax form do I use?", "What's the name of that new blockbuster movie that came out last week? Can I put the DVD on hold?"

Lots of public libaries have archives and goverment records. Take a look at the work room where the archivists preserve and take care of all the original documents, maps and pictures. Do you see all the storage? There are lots of documents back here that don't fit on the shelves.

book sale.jpgDon't forget to thank a friend... the Friends of the Library. These tireless volunteers sort used books for book sales and help with shelving and circulation and much more. They also do various fundraisers... and every penny goes back to the library. This money helps provide all kind of programming such as summer reading and author visits that wouldn't be a possibility otherwise.

Our tour could go on forever, you would be amazed at how many people it takes to run a library. We only met a few of them today. The next time you're at a library, take a moment to thank these folks. Even if you don't run into them, realize how much work it takes to get each book on the shelf, every day.

And then, tell someone about it. Let the branch manager or library director know. Let your elected officials know. In these troubled economic times, virtually every library system in the country is facing reduced hours, major budget reductions, staff layoffs and branch closures. If your library is important to you, speak up to the people who can do something about it.

Thank you to every single person at the Arlington Public Libraries. I am in awe of the work all of you do everyday. Without you, there would be no library.

Is there someone at your library that stands out? Do you work at a library? What do you do? I'd love to hear all about it.


Happy D.E.A.R. Day!

Posted by Jen Robinson on April 12, 2010 at 6:00 AM in Book Events
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dear-logo.jpgToday, April 12th, is National Drop Everything and Read Day (known as D.E.A.R. Day). D.E.A.R. Day is held on April 12th every year, in honor of Beverly Cleary's birthday. It is "a special reading celebration to remind and encourage families to make reading together on a daily basis a family priority." Partners in D.E.A.R. Day include The National Education Association (NEA); Parent Teacher Association (PTA); the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association; Reading Rockets; The General Federation of Women's Clubs (GFWC); the Newspaper Association of America Foundation (NAA); First Book; HarperCollins Children's Books; Read Kiddo Read; Walden Media and, of course, Ramona Quimby.

This year, the official spokesperson for D.E.A.R. Day is Joey King, who plays Ramona in the Ramona and Beezus movie, due in theaters July 23rd. Ramona, of course, advises on the D.E.A.R. website that kids "check out all the great books Beverly Cleary wrote about me and Read It Before You See It!"

While there will be D.E.A.R. events held at schools and libraries around the US, all you really need to do to participate is take 30 minutes out of your day, wherever you are, to drop everything and read. Here at Booklights, of course, we suggest spending those 30 minutes reading with a child, if you can. But reading on your own counts, too (though I'd suggest reading books over reading blogs, if you want to be true to the spirit of the day).

The D.E.A.R. website has some wonderful lists of Drop Everything Reads, organized by age range, and compiled by "children's reading experts from Reach Out and Read, NEA, and Reading Rockets". In addition to the somewhat classics-heavy favorites lists, there are also suggested multi-cultural read-aloud titles for D.E.A.R. families, compiled by the Quicklists Consulting Committee of the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association.

How great is it that there's a day set aside to celebrate the sheer joy of reading? The fact that the irrepressible Ramona is the face of D.E.A.R. Day just makes the whole thing that much more fun. Happy D.E.A.R. Day. Enjoy!!


Thursday Three: Poetry Collections

Posted by Pam on April 8, 2010 at 10:00 AM in PoetryRecommendations
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In continuing from last week with National Poetry Month , I'm sharing three poetry collections for kids of all ages. It's possible - and I'm not tossing out blame here - that you've thought of the poetry progression as Mother Goose, Shel Silverstein, and whatever they hand out in middle school. That's okay, because I was once like you. But now you can start your foray into poetry with these incredible collections.

A Kick In the Head: An Everyday Guide to Poetic Foms
Selected by Paul Janeczko, illustrated by Chris Raschka

A Kick In the Head: An Everyday Guide to Poetic FomsWhether it's starting small with an Odgen Nash couplet and moving on through to a Shakespeare sonnet, or showing a limerick where we all know the form to a pantoum where we learn something completely new, this book both serves as a collection of poems and a primer of forms. Along with a sample poem from a variety of poets, each form is explained briefly, but in a fun, entirely accessible way for the youngest readers to us poetry-deprived adults. The bright, lively, abstract illustrations of Raschka capture the different tone of the poems and lend to the lightness of the collection. You can pick up this book in paperback, so it's a ridiculously low investment for a lifetime of understanding poetic forms.

Poetry Speaks to Children
Edited by Elis Paschen and Dopminque Raccah, Illustrated by Wendy Rasmussen, Judy Love, and Paula Zinngrabe Wendland

Poetry Speaks to ChildrenThis is an amazing collection of modern and classic poems from a diverse group of poets that includes Ogden Nash, Langston Hughes, Sonia Sanchez, and Roald Dahl. I love the eclectic feel where "Gas" by C.K. Williams is one page away from a poem from Macbeth and a Native American poem taken from a Osage prayer is followed by a poem by Rudyard Kipling. The book is accompanied by a CD of many of the poems read by the poets, which means that thanks to archival copies, today's children can hear readings of Robert Frost and Langston Hughes, among others. Three illustrators bring these poems to life, giving us a mix of styles, while still keeping a general consistency throughout the book. Absolutely one of of my favorite poetry books.

Side by Side: New Poems Inspired by Art from Around the World,
edited by Jan Greenberg

Side by SidePoetry and art. Multiple languages and multicultural images. Enriching and educational, this collection is masterful in its presentation. Each poem is written in the poet's native language, as well as in English, and represent a wide range in style and subject. Each page is illustrated by an iconic, related work of art, which is such a natural fit to poetry that it makes the book inspired. The overall sophistication makes this a collection for the older elementary child and on up. While it would be a pleasure to own and peruse in any home library, I have to say that it would be ideal for the classroom.

(Are you checking out the poetry sources online that I suggested? The full list is at KidLitosphere Central, but dip your feet in the poetry pool with 30 Poets/30 Days, Poetry Makers, and Poetry Books for Children.)

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Children's Book Quilts

Posted by Susan on April 7, 2010 at 12:00 AM in Fun and GamesPicture Books
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A few months ago I got a package in the mail. Inside were two handmade quilts from my wonderful Aunt Joan. But these weren't just any quilts. These were special. They were made them from children's books.

Okay, not literal books, but she used book-inspired fabric. Take a look at this amazing Very Hungry Caterpillar quilt that she made for my son.

Very Hungry Caterpillar Quilt by Joan Scherf

Wait, there's more! Look at the back. It's Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?

Brown Bear Brown Bear quilt close-up by Joan Scherf

It's an incredible quilt because my son feels like he's sleeping inside the books. I can't tell you how much fun it is to read these two books as we point out every detail on the quilt. And we can tell the stories without the books too.

Here's the second quilt she made. This beautiful baby quilt is for my younger son. Doesn't it just make you want to curl up under it and read books with your kids? (The lump at the top is the baby sleeping under it).

Baby book quilt by Joan Scherf

Want to make your own? You can find the material from Andover Fabrics. Not only do they have fabric from Eric Carle's books, there's also Maisy and Olivia. If you look around, you can find fabric for Angelina Ballerina, Peter Rabbit, Paddington, the Poky Little Puppy and more.

There are many great children's books about quilts, but one of my very favorites is a book that actually is a quilt itself. Several quilts, in fact. Take a look at Anna Grossnickle Hines' beautiful book 1, 2 Buckle My Shoe. For an in depth and fascinating look at the creation process (which was far more complicated than you can imagine) head over to her website. Click on the picture of 1,2 Buckle My Shoe, and then scroll down to the link that says "see the step by step process." Her account is also an excellent description of how picture books are made. You can also find more information on her website about the other quilt books she's created.

Do you have your own picture of something you made based on a children's book? Tell me about it and e-mail a picture to It doesn't have to be a quilt... I'm fascinated by all kinds of creative things, such as cakes.

All quilts pictured above were created by Joan Scherf.

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