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August 2010 Archives

Terry

Reading Aloud: Picking Books to Read with a Mixed-Age Audience

Posted by Terry on August 30, 2010 at 10:30 AM in Nonfiction BooksPoetryRecommendationsSeriescreative literacy
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As you may have seen, Gina announced last week that we're winding down here at Booklights. Susan has brought some cake, and I'll bring something to the bon voyage soon, but today I'm going to finish up talking about reading as a family.

541417081_7960714e0a.jpgAs I mentioned last week, reading with your kids - even when there are many years between them - can be enjoyable for everyone to share together. Sometimes it may be about the book, but every time it is an opportunity to connect with your kids and connect them with each other!

In The Read Aloud Handbook, Jim Trelease emphasizes that as readers, we have a listening level and a reading level. In Hey! Listen to This! (an article on his website), he re-emphasizes this point.

ReadAloudHandbook.jpg"A consistent mistake made by parents and teachers is the assumption that a child's listening level is the same as his or her reading level. Until about eighth grade, that is far from true; early primary grade students listen many grades above their reading level. This means that early primary grade students are capable of hearing and understanding stories that are far more complicated than those they can read themselves."

What does that mean? Well, you don't have to read just simple picture books. Young audiences can be enticed to enjoy text-heavy picture books and chapter books alike. There are a number of genres that naturally lend themselves to reading to mixed-age audiences, including ...

UMaryland.jpgNonfiction. More specifically, nonfiction picture books. One of the best ways to hook kids of any age on reading is to give them some nonfiction books. The great thing about nonfiction picture books is that they have something for everyone. These are books that invite exploring, so whether you read all of the text or just talk about the illustrations, you're in for an enjoyable, shared read.

poetrybooks.jpgPoetry. Jack Prelutsky and Shel Silverstein write poetry that is meant to be read aloud. Their poems are very "graphic," allowing readers to "see" what they describe, and they often have a nonsensical quality that strike kids' funny bones.

Humor. Despite the dictionary description, defining "funny" is a matter of personal taste. Still, a good laugh is something we all enjoy. As a parent, you understand the types of humor your kids enjoy ... and you can decide what types of things you want to share together.

roscoe-riley.jpgBooks with lots of dialogue. "Dialog books" aren't a specific genre, but a lot of short chapter books use conversation among the characters to tell the story. There are usually only a few characters (often school-aged kids and an adult or two) so it is an opportunity for everyone to take a role and read together.

These are by no means the only genres. On her website, storyteller Mary Hamilton offers a handy checklist that describes reading interests for various ages, from preschool through high school.

Before we go, we'd love to hear what books you like sharing with your kids. What books would you bring to our party?

image credits

Mom reading with kids: Family Story Minute by Sean Dreilinger on Flicker. Copyright. Some rights reserved.

Collage of nonfiction picture books: University of Maryland News photostream on Flickr. Copyright. Some rights reserved University of Maryland Press Releases.

Bookshelf with poetry books. Thingamababy Awesome Wall photostream on Flickr. Copyright. All rights reserved.

Roscoe Riley by Katherine Applegate. Book cover image by Mr. Biggs photostream on Flickr. Copyright. All rights reserved.

Susan

Another slice of cake

Posted by Susan on August 29, 2010 at 12:00 AM in Fun and GamesPicture Books
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It's time to start our going away party here at Booklights. Time to reminisce and say goodbye. But, before we go any further, it's time to offer you a piece of cake.

One of the posts I enjoyed writing the most for Booklights, was this one about cakes based on children's books. I've searched long and hard to come up with more books good enough to eat.

I've got just the thing to start us off. Once upon a time, there was a beautiful cake.

princessstorybookcake.jpg

No revolting recipes here. Look at this amazing Roald Dahl masterpiece by Cake Doctor Lise Bonin. It's five books in one cake!

Roald Dahl.jpg

Look how Lise manages to to capture the spirit and essence of The Cat and the Hat with this wonderfully chaotic cake.

Cat in the Hat cake.jpg

Lise also made this incredible, edible version of the Wonderful World of Oz, complete with a blue gingham background. (I found all three of these cakes separately, and was amazed when they turned out to all be made by the same person!)

Wonderful World of Oz.jpg

Speaking of The Wizard of Oz, here's the nicest Wicked Witch of the West I've ever seen. Check out the tutorial on the baker's website, it's amazing how much detail work went into this cake. All of that effort, and it was made for a school bake sale!

Wicked Witch cake.jpg

Here's a lovely, creative version of Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree. The poor tree has given all it can, and now it's going to be eaten!

Giving Tree.jpg

I've saved the best for last. Here it is, the pièce de résistance.

Favorite Children's Book Cake.jpg

Here's a look at every angle of this unbelievable cake, made for a Children's Care Awareness Expo, and large enough to feed 300 people!

Parting is such sweet sorrow... but hopefully this post has helped make it a little bit sweeter. And remember my motto: you can have your cake and read it too.

Now, will someone make a cake for me? =)

Gina

Saying Goodbye to Booklights

Posted by Gina on August 26, 2010 at 5:14 PM in Kidlitsosphere
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booklights_team.jpgWe've had a wonderful and wonderfully informative run at Booklights, and sadly, it's time for us to bring the blog to a close. Although we'll all miss getting our weekly dose of wisdom from Jen, Pam, Terry, and Susan (we're all pictured at right with Ann Neely), we'll still be talking shop at Twitter.com/Booklights and archiving and featuring posts right here on PBS Parents.

In the next several days, come here for some thoughts and goodbyes as we wind this down. And afterward, please explore other PBS Parents blog resources like the dynamic Supersisters and the ever-resourceful Craft Apparent with Vickie Howell.

And so you don't go through any serious book-love withdrawal, keep up with the bloggers individually:
* Jen Robinson's Book Page
* Pam Coughlan's MotherReader
* Terry Dougherty's The Reading Tub
* Susan Kusel's Wizards Wireless

Pam

Thursday Three: Classroom Reading

Posted by Pam on August 26, 2010 at 11:45 AM in
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This week Terry talked about reading aloud as a family, and I'd like to build on that concept with ideas for reading aloud to groups. With school starting, parents may find themselves presented with the opportunity to share books in the classroom as guest readers. It is something I've done in my kids' classrooms from preschool through fifth grade, and have always enjoyed. While parents are usually aware of reading with expression and showing the book to the students, there are other tips that can help you shine as a guest reader:

1. Try it out
Before reading a book aloud to a class, try it on your own child. As you read notice factors of the book that are relevant reading it aloud to a group. Is it appropriate in length and topic for the age group? Is it is keeping your child's interest? Are there any words or concepts that need explanation? Are there key parts where you might pause the story for impact or to ask questions? Are the illustrations big enough that they could be shown to a group? Are you comfortable reading it? Some of these questions seem obvious, and yet I've seen a teacher grab a book from a shelf to read it to the class with apparently no knowledge that it was about the death of a family pet. Oops! I've also had parents come into the library looking for a book to read to the class that same day, so I know that these are mistakes that people make. But you don't need to make them. Go in prepared and you'll feel better.

2. Plan the order
If you are reading multiple books, keep in mind the order in which you'll present them. Read longer books first while the kids are at their maximum attention. If you have a funny book, save it for last. If you are reading on a theme - like seasons or apples or ocean life - start with the more informational book, and progress to a more storylike title. Also, if the book is not working well, allow some abridgment. You can also allow for a break where the kids can talk about their favorite part, share a connection, or ask a question. Remember that kindergartners and first graders tend to be unclear about what constitutes a question, but will take any chance to raise their hands to share something.

3. Bring a back-up
You may arrive with your carefully chosen selection to find that the librarian has read that book the previous day - which the kids will be delighted to tell you. Always have an extra book that you can use instead or can toss in the mix if you have more time than you think. If you don't have enough books on the particular topic of the day, have a seasonal or a school story. I'm particular to A Fine, Fine School because it's a lightly funny book that translates to a variety of ages, but there are many other books that would work.

Most of all, have fun!

Terry

Reading Aloud: Sharing Books with Audiences of Mixed Ages

Posted by Terry on August 23, 2010 at 10:32 AM in Chapter BooksPicture Books
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family reading togetherWhen it comes to sharing a book with young kids, reading aloud seems the natural thing to do. They can't read the words on the page, so you do it for them. Once young readers become independent, though, we sometimes forget that they still enjoy - and can also benefit from - listening to you read.

That said, picking the right book can get tricky. The 9-year-old doesn't want to hear "baby" books, and the preschooler isn't ready for some of the subjects nor can they sit still that long! Finding books that interest your 4-year-old AND your preteen may be easier than it sounds.

bozeman public libraryDon't give up on picture books. As Pam points out in her post Reading Aloud: Picture Books Rule! (MotherReader, March 2009) sometimes those pre-teen protests are a surface reaction. After the requisite "that's for babies" teens will still sit and listen to a picture book. They may even surprise themselves with how much they enjoy their little brother's reactions. The secret bonus: you are modeling reading for them so they can read to their brother later!

Chapter books need pictures, too. Illustrated chapter books are helpful because young audiences often need the images which engage their interest while you read pages with a lot more text. In general, the chapters in these books are short, making it easy to read in small spurts and over consecutive nights.

Mix up the formats. Sometimes you have enough time - and the kids' temperaments are in sync - to read something that each child likes, and you can share a picture book and a chapter or two from a longer story. On those days when your energy is low, just pick one. That quiet time reading will probably help you feel better!

Regularly sharing a book as a family will not only let you reconnect and renew a love of stories and books. Who knows, as everyone becomes readers, maybe everyone will want a turn!

Next week: Genres that are good choices for family read-alouds.

Image credit
Toes and a book: Public photo on Flicker.com. Copyright All rights reserved by Tina Cockburn Photography, tcockburn2002.

Picture Books in the library: Bozeman Public Library by JSemenza on Flicker. Copyright All rights reserved.

Susan

Read with Rocket

Posted by Susan on August 23, 2010 at 12:00 AM in Picture BooksRecommendations
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img98697.jpgKnow a child just starting to learn to read? How about one who is having trouble with the process or is discouraged? I've got the perfect book for them.

Tad Hills' wonderful new picture book How Rocket Learned to Read is just right for beginning readers, struggling readers, and picture book fans of all ages.

Beautiful, vibrant and silly paintings fill every inch of the book. Tad did countless sketches of his dog (who just happens to be named Rocket) Tad Hills.JPGand you can see the results throughout the book. There's Rocket in the snow, in the mud and taking a nap (not for long!) He seems ready to leap off the page and into your lap and along with his wonder and excitement about learning to read.

Rocket sets just the right tone for starting school. If anyone asks where you heard about the book.... just tell them a little bird told you.

Tad is also the author and illustrator of the Duck and Goose series, books that are well worth checking out.

Pam

Thursday Three: School

Posted by Pam on August 19, 2010 at 10:47 AM in Middle Grade BooksPicture BooksRecommendations
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All right, I acknowledge the fact the summer is ending and school is beginning. Yes, in many areas, school has already begun, but here in Virginia, we are putting our heads in the sand - preferably at the actual beach - and trying to ignore the whole thing. Admittedly, it's easier to believe summer is endless when it's ninety degrees outside, but for today I'll try to get into the mindset of a back-to-school mom with three titles:

Kindergarten Cat
by J. Patrick Lewis, illustrated by Alice Busby

Kindergarten CatThe kindergarteners come to school to find that there room has it's own cat - and what a smart kitty she is! She may not know her colors or numbers, but she listens to the teacher's lessons and responds. And boy, is she cute. While many books approach kindergarten with a list of all the things kids do, this slight story allows the reader to see what happens in a more natural way. The illustrations are engaging with a childlike feel, rich colors, and a diverse class. The rhyming couplets seem a bit strained, but it's unlikely to bother the target audience who will be thrilled with the idea of a cat in a classroom as even a remote possibility.

The Exceptionally, Extraordinarily, Ordinary, First Day of School
by Albert Lorenz

The Exceptionally, Extraordinarily, Ordinary, First Day of SchoolAs the new student, John, describes his old school to his new librarian, everyone gets the idea that it may not have been the least bit ordinary. Particularly the readers who are treated to the pictures that accompany John's often ordinary descriptions. For instance, while he simply talks about his school being really old, we can see that it is a bizarre castle with talking ravens and hungry stone lions. There is also a sidebar with definitions and facts and related notes about items in the pictures.. The oddities, facts, and little jokes in the illustrations make this a fun book for older kids heading to school.

Junie B's Essential Survival Guide to School
by Barbara Park

Junie B's Essential Survival Guide to SchoolWhile the Junie B. Jones books begin with her as a kindergartener, everyone knows that books titled just Junie B. indicate that she is in first grade - and so we find in this book of school tips. Fans of the series will enjoy the usual banter and antics of Junie B. (though superfans may miss the artwork of Denise Brunkus). The advice isn't all that vital, tending more toward, "Do NOT NOT NOT pour chocolate milk from your thermos on the head of the person in front of you!" But actually, that chapter summary of riding the bus is right on target, " Sit Still, Behave Yourself, And Be Glad You're Not Walking!" At the end of each chapter is a section for the reader to add his or her own thoughts or drawings on the topic - like favorite clothes to wear or funny ways to get to school. Overall, the book isn't - despite the title - an essential Junie B. purchase, but is a fun way to approach back-to-school with a light touch and a bit of learning. (Because the little parent secret of Junie B. is to see what NOT to do so as to learn and discuss what one SHOULD do.)

For more back-to-school books, look at this earlier Booklights post.

Links to material on Amazon.com contained within this post may be affiliate links for the Amazon Associates program, for which the site MotherReader.com may receive a referral fee.

Terry

Bookworm Basics: The Early Reader Bookshelf (ages 5 to 7)

Posted by Terry on August 16, 2010 at 11:00 AM in Book Buying Early LiteracyEasy ReadersPicture BooksRecommendations
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Oh, how I have procrastinated filling the early reader shelf! This is a very fluid period, not unlike your child's transition from crawling to pulling up to walking independently. Looking back, one probably came pretty quickly on the heels of the other. Finding easy readers that have longevity on your bookshelf can be a challenge.

In this phase of learning to read, children are moving beyond recognizing individual letters to combining them and learning words. Students move fairly quickly from books with one word per page to two or three sentences on a page. From there it transitions to short paragraphs and then short chapters.

Because kids will move through these books at a steady pace,quickly, variety is definitely an ally!Your local library and your child's school library have lots of excellent choices that will engage young readers.

goodnight_moon.gifSo do you need an early reader bookshelf at home? Definitely! It is important for kids to own their own books and to have fun reading at their fingertips. If you still have them, pull out some of those toddler books that have pictures and simple words. They are established favorites, but now your daughter can read them and use them to build a word bank of sight words. Let her create picture/word cards that she can hang up or make her own book with.

You might pull out some favorite picture books, too. If you think your son has memorized the story, then ask him to point to each of the words as he reads. That will force him to look at the page and the content. You might also try reading the book from the last page to the first.

EPNewToy.jpgDr. Seuss is the master of the easy reader classic, but there are other authors who ascribe to his philosophy of great books for new readers. Some of those books, like Mo Willems' Cat the Cat and Elephant and Piggy series have the "I Can Read" imprimatur on them. But some - like Duck! Rabbit! and Little Oink! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal - don't scream "easy reader" but are delightful choices for new readers, too.

When searching for books that can double as read-along stories and developmental readers, look for simple illustrations and lots of white space on a page; short sentences; and/or rhyming text.

cat_in_the_hat.jpgAlthough easy readers are not generally literary classics, Dr. Seuss has shown us that there are are always exceptions! Just like Hop on Pop and The Cat in the Hat, there are easy readers that we keep and enthusiastically wait to share with our grandchildren.

Check your bookshelf - you may already have some favorites!

Pam

Thursday Three: Surprise Endings

Posted by Pam on August 12, 2010 at 11:51 AM in Picture Books
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Because I want to leave the reading experience to the potential reader - whether child or adult - I don't tend to reveal spoilers in my reviews, even in picture books. But today I'm bending that rule to talk about three surprise endings that gave me pause.

The Grasshopper Hopped!
by Elizabeth Alexander, illustrated by Joung Un Kim

The Grasshopper Hopped!The grasshopper does indeed hop from different settings with the help of pull tabs and a cute, quick storyline. The art is sweet, the text is slight, and the tabs are workable. The grasshopper does seem make some questionable hopping choices, including into a refrigerator and the ocean, but that's part of the fun. At the end of the book though, he hops into a frog's mouth. GULP! Wow - I thought to myself on the first read - that's seems kind of dark. But the page turn reveals a safe grasshopper and a smiling frog and the assurance of "Just kidding." I think the surprise ending works here because the age of the intended reader who isn't likely to be thrown by the idea that yeah, the frog would eat the grasshopper. And the surprise stayed with me, though I don't think that it's a real issue.

Barry, the Fish with Fingers
by Sue Hendra

Barry, the Fish with FingersIt's a boring life under the sea, until Barry the fish shows up with fingers stuck on his fins. He explains to all the other fish how many things he can do with these new fingers, and soon everyone wants them. The question of supply and demand is answered with a timely drop of a box that falls to the bottom of the ocean and allows all the fish to enjoy this new discovery. The box also reveals to the reader that the fish fingers are fish sticks - which is funny and clever, but at the same time a little disturbing. Which of course, is what makes the reveal funny and clever. I liked the book and the art, but the ending kept coming back to me. Should I explain to my four year old niece that the ending is funny because the fish are wearing fingers made of other fish - dead, cut-up fish made into sticks for kids' dinner? See when I write it out like that, it feels kind of wrong. But yet, I don't know that it's so wrong.

It's a Book
by Lane Smith

It's a BookAt the very beginning of this book, we are introduced to the characters - a monkey, a mouse, and a jackass. That's the tip-off. The rest of the slight story involves a lack of understanding of what a book is, does, and requires as the monkey keeps up the refrain that "It's a book." The book trailer that portrays this part of the story got a lot of rave reviews for the cleverness of the concept, especially in the irony of it being on a video or presented on a Kindle. The official press and media reviews of the book itself were very positive. But here's the thing, the books ends with the line "It's a book, jackass." Okay, I get the joke in that the donkey clearly is being a fool in not understanding what a book is and the monkey is clearly tired of explaining it and yes, we all know that jackass is both another word for a donkey and a expression for a dummy, so it's allowed to be in a picture book. Right? I don't know. I'm having a lot of trouble with this, and it's not just me. I did note that the Amazon reviews are very divided, with many parents uncomfortable with the ending. And I wonder if all the positive reviews are looking at this in that higher level of literature as Art as opposed to actually reading this book to a preschooler. Or a classroom of kids. Or having to explain it to a parent at the front desk of the library.

What do you think?

Terry

Don't let Summer Fun Slip-Slide Away (Part 2)

Posted by Terry on August 9, 2010 at 11:30 AM in Early LiteracyFun and GamesRecommendationscreative literacy
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Summer_2010_ClipArt9_SunWearingGlasses.pngIf your house is like ours, you're quickly approaching "the wall." That place that says summer has gone by too quickly, but man, am I ready for the kids to go back to school. It is also the time when we look around and say we've had a blast, but I should have been preparing the kids for learning. Don't worry, games are here to save the day!

In selecting literacy games for preschoolers and Kindergartners, there are three things to look for - the level of fun, the amount of time it takes to play (think: attention span), and how well it disguises learning. For some kids, Scrabble Junior is a blast; for others (like my daughter) it took too long and looked too much like her spelling list.

It is also good to find entertainment that not only introduces concepts (rather than memorization), but also isn't about winning or losing or "racing" to the finish. Picture puzzles are great for that, because they help kids create a complete image from just pieces of it, they don't require any letter or spelling knowledge, and they can be done independently or with help. Here are a few other ideas.

hiss-cards.jpgGamewright Hisss Card Game With this card game, kids learn sequencing, logic, and colors. There is no spelling or letter recognition required, but it does make kids think: Does a blue head go with a red tail? Do snakes really have two heads? Where is my snake's tummy? Like Wig Out! (below) this game lasts about 15 minutes.

see-and-spell.jpgMelissa & Doug See & Spell It is hard to beat Melissa and Doug products for durability and educational value. What I love about these puzzles is that kids can create words by placing the letter on the word board, but they can also use the letters independently to create new words, too. For example, slide "bug" off the board, swap out the "b" for an "r" and they have rug ... or any other silly words they'd like to create.

wig-out.jpgWig Out! Here's a matching game that will have everyone rolling with laughter, making it perfect for mixed age players. You get a series of bald heads and your job is to play all your hairstyle cards faster than anyone else. Of all the games in the list, this is probably the most marginal for this audience. Not because of content, but because of its speed. Each game takes 10 to 15 minutes, which is good for kid with short attention spans, but it also is played quickly.

zingo-preschool.jpgThinkFun Zingo We had a blast with this game when my daughter was in Kindergarten. It is a combination of picture and word Bingo, and you can make it as easy or as complex as you want. We would also use the little plastic cards to play matching games (think Jeopardy).

Not to sound trite, but the name of the game for kids this age is developing their thinking skills. Whether it is learning to put things in order (i.e., sequencing), separating and/or categorizing things by similarities or differences, or beginning to see things spatially from just little pieces, it all contributes to their future success as readers.

So have fun ... Remember. Don't worry, be happy!

Image credit
Summer Sunglasses by PianoBrad on OpenClipArt.com

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