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.
As 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.
"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 ...
Nonfiction. 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.
Poetry. 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.
Books 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?
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.
No 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
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 Amazon.com and the Reading Tub affiliate. Purchases made through that link may generate income for the Reading tub, a 501c3 nonprofit.
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
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
The 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.
by Robert Louis Stevenson, illustrated by Tracey Campbell Pearson
Robert 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 MotherReader.com may receive a referral fee.
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
Whether 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
This 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
Poetry 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.)
Links to books in this post are affiliate links for the Amazon Associates program, for which the site MotherReader.com may receive a referral fee.
A blank page can be quite intimidating whether you write a lot or are a beginning writer! That is why we all need prompts for writing. As I think about it, my monthly postings for Booklights have been prompted by those of the other bloggers' postings throughout the previous month.
Terry started March out by giving great suggestions for prompting young writers. As she reminds us, a picture is truly worth a thousand words (or at least 20 if you are six-years-old). And while I don't want to "steal" any of the ideas for prompts for April that Terry might share, I think a delightful prompt for today comes from Megan McDonald, author of Judy Moody books.
Her prompt is an illustration of a practical joke the Judy Moody plays on her brother Stink. Young writers are then invited to write about a practical joke played on someone or make one up.
Pam's posting earlier today reminds us that we will celebrate National Poetry Month during April. Here is a website that provides great prompts for writing poetry. It includes a 40 minute webcast of Jack Prelutsky and interviews with Maya Angelou, Karla Kuskin, and J. Patrick Lewis.
Pam also reminds us that this is a wonderful time of the year to bring off the bookshelf Beatrix Potter's Peter Rabbit. While the book is rather dense in text, don't postpone reading it to young children. They catch on to language quite quickly. I tell my university students of the child who, after hearing Peter Rabbit numerous times, was overheard telling his tired, old dog, "I implore you to exert yourself!"
Susan has introduced me to several Passover books that are excellent. And the "old" Easter book of which Pam reminds us, The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes, was a favorite of an author I mentioned last August. I told about a visit with author Jean Davies Okimoto. She talked about The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes, by Dubose Heyward and illustrated by Marjorie Flack (who later won a Caldecott Honor). Although first published in 1939, this is a very progressive book. Jeanie remembers how she knew this was a tale with a truly feminist perspective. She noticed the ranges of bunny colors and the inclusiveness of the story.
In that same August posting, I suggested that parents and teachers might want to read Jeanie's picture book Winston of Churchill, One Bear's Battle Against Global Warming, which is illustrated by Jeremiah Trammell. As I said , the book brings forward concerns for the environment in an interesting way for children and their parents.
So that brings me to look ahead to April 22 which is Earth Day. While I don't usually start our recommendations for books to get for special days, I will go ahead and get us started this month with three books released this year that you might check out.
Fancy Nancy: Every Day is Earth Day, by Jane O'Connor. An "I Can Read!" book for beginning readers.
Where Do Polar Bears Live? by Sarah Thomson. This is a piece of non-fiction with challenging concepts written for primary graders. Be sure to notice the end papers!
Global Warming, by Seymour Simon. A publication by the Smithsonian and written by my favorite writer of science picture books. Wonderful photographs!
I would add to that list an older book, one that I mentioned in September, Peter, Pamela and Percy in the Big Spill. The story relates the oil slick off of Cape Town that harmed many sea birds in 2000.
It seems appropriate that this month, I have gone back to postings from March as well as throughout the year. For the day after Earth Day, April 23, was the day in 2009 that Gina first welcomed everyone to Booklights. So, happy anniversary to a wonderful group!
Happy Reading, Ann
I was going to follow my own tradition and give three bunny books to read if you missed the Easter selection at your local library, but then I looked up such books in my own library's catalog and found over three hundred picture book titles. Clearly, you don't need my suggestions as you would be much better off planting yourself in front of any picture book shelf and pulling out books at random - though as a hint, you'd have an easy time in front of the Rick Walton or Rosemary Wells books.
Okay, actually I will give one suggestion. (And if you count the Walton and Wells books than we're up to three recommendations.) Beatrix Potter books. You probably have this lovely collection on your bookshelves, and may always be looking for the right time to read it. There is a lot of text for younger kids, but the stories themselves are perfect for this age, so it can be a hard book to bring out. Here's your chance.
Now, today is the first day of National Poetry Month. Don't leave. Maybe you don't see how poetry applies to you and your kid, but stay with me. I used to think of posting about poetry as the Right Thing to Do. An educational experience I should share. The broccoli of children's books. But I have come to discover in a personal way that I was wrong.
In my inexpert, parental opinion poetry can be a great choice for slower, maybe less-than-strong, readers. I missed this because I read quickly and find it hard to take the time that a poem requires. My first daughter is the same way. But with my second daughter, now almost eleven, I'm seeing where poetry can be a perfect fit for a deliberate reader. This isn't even to go into the benefits of exposing your kids to all kinds of literature or the inherent beauty or playfulness or craftmanship of language in poetry.
So today I'll point you to the KidLitosphere Celebration of Poetry Month, and break it down in to three beginner sites that you simply must visit this month.
1. Poetry for Children is reviewing a poetry book a day during the month of April and will give you some fantastic recommendations.
2. 30 Poets/30 Days will introduce you to some of the fantastic poets for kids with an original poem a day.
3. Poetry Makers offers a series of interviews with poets, starting off today with Mary Ann Hoberman, our own Children's Poet Laureate. (You didn't know we had one, did you? Learned something already.)
Poetry Friday is a tradition at many of the children's book blogs. People review poetry books for kids, share original works, and post short, copyright-friendly excerpts of other authors' poems. It's a lot of fun; I call Poetry Friday a literary happy hour.
So, today is a Friday, and a perfect time to mention The Frogs and Toads All Sang, a picture-book collection of ten poems by Arnold Lobel (HarperCollins, 2009). Yes, the very same Arnold Lobel of the Frog and Toad beginning readers. The characters in the new book, very much their own amphibians (and different from the beloved Frog and Toad Are Friends guys), dance, bake, eat, and, in general, celebrate life. One even leaps to the moon.
Recently a couple of first-grade buddies and I were reading the book aloud. Suddenly, one little girl stopped and asked if she could sing the one of the poems. I said, "Sure." In the sweetest high-pitched voice, she began, "A bright green frog/With slippery skin/Played waltzes/On a violin." I clapped at the end. Good books inspire kids time after time.
Arnold Lobel died more than twenty years ago, but had written and drawn what became The Frogs and Toads All Sang as a single-edition gift for a friend. The work eventually found its way to Lobel's daughter, Adrianne, a Broadway set designer. She added watercolor to her father's original sketches and used them, along with the poems, to create a new book.
Publishers Weekly said that the poems and illustrations are the "progenitors" of the Frog and Toad series, but I didn't go into the publishing history with the first graders. We just enjoyed the book together. I bet you and yours will, too.
Feel free to sing.
If you would like to read more of the entries for today's Poetry Friday, Diane May is gathering all the links together at her blog, Random Noodling.
In the library, these are the days when we get frantic parents looking for a Halloween book to read at their child's school and finding that all the books are gone. This may be you. But no fear, there are some great monster books around that will fill the Halloween gap and that are often overlooked by parents heading only to the shelf with the big pumpkin sign.
Where's My Mummy?
by Carolyn Crimi, illustrated by John Manders
When Baby Mummy heads outside for a late-night game of "Hide and Shriek," he ends up searching for Mama Mummy in the deep, dark woods. Different monsters advise the little wrapped guy to go to home, but he trudges on unafraid, until a tiny creature gives him a big scare. But Mummy - or mommy - is there to give him comfort and take him to bed. The wonderful illustrations have just the right comical touch to take the edge off the spooky subject, and the story adds just enough suspense to the fun. Great for preschoolers.
Inside the Slidy Diner
by Laurel Snyder, illustrated by Jaime Zollars
Edie is trapped inside the Slidy Diner for stealing a lemon drop, and gives a youngster a tour of the scary restaurant where patrons eat pig's heads and pies are garnished with eyeballs. This is definitely a book for the gross-out crowd, who will delight in the bug-filled flooded restrooms, the wall-mounted huge cockroach, and the most-questionable "chocolate milk." Detailed illustration supports the story with odd-looking patrons and clever visual jokes. Gruesome, creepy, and loads of fun for the school-age set.
Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich
Frankenstein Takes the Cake
by Adam Rex
For some reason, people insist on giving these books to their preschoolers and then denouncing them because their precious tots aren't interested in these poems about various monsters. The smaller ones somehow fail to grasp the cultural and literary references or get the jokes. They aren't wooed by the detailed and varied artistic styles. So clearly, these parents claim, these books are not all that. HAH! And I say again, HAH! While shaking my head, of course, and noting that just because a book has pictures, it does not make it a "picture book." Sure, read it to your preschoolers if you feel the need, but it's the bigger kids who are going to appreciate the brilliance, the humor, the artistry of these amazing books. These are the perfect books to share in higher grades when the kids are wanting stories - especially to mark special times like Halloween - but parents don't think about sharing books in the classroom. I read the first one to my daughter's fifth grade class and they loved it. It was apparently very popular for the week I left it there, and I heard groans when I picked it up. Don't miss these fabulous poetry books, but do think about the right age of the reader. By the way, adults fall into that "right age" group.
"Here we go round the mulberry bush, / The mulberry bush, the mulberry bush; / Here we go round the mulberry bush, / On a cold and frosty morning."
On your next jaunt to the library, add Here Comes Mother Goose to your list. Young children will love thumbing through the pages of this big, beautiful book of nursery rhymes. Some of the poems, like the one above, may be familiar to parents and caregivers, but Here Comes Mother Goose also includes some lesser-known (at least to me) gems:
"My Aunt Jane, / She came from France, / To teach to me the polka dance; / First the heel, / And then the toe, / That's the way / The dance should go."
Published ten years ago by Candlewick, the handsomely illustrated classic is still available at online booksellers and, of course, at public libraries. Rosemary Wells, of Max and Ruby fame, is the artist, and many of the colorful pictures, bustling with funny animal characters, take up a whole page. (The large print is especially easy on the eyes, too.) The children's literature expert Iona Opie compiled the rhymes.
Wells and Opie also collaborated on My Very First Mother Goose (1996) and Mother Goose's Little Treasures (2007).
Anything by Shel Silverstein is pure magic, but his classic The Giving Tree holds a special place on a lot of bookshelves. Today's pick comes from mom Leigh:
"I love the message of the book and sharing it with my own kids," Leigh said.
Is The Giving Tree a favorite of yours? What Shel Silverstein gems have stuck with you over the years? My favorite of his is Where the Sidewalk Ends, and I always think of the girl who wanted the pancake in the middle of a huge stack, and the wonderful welcome to the book: "If you are a dreamer, come in ..."