In the beginning, when we talked as a team about what we wanted to share at Booklights, I knew wanted to do straight, short book reviews. It was a format I had used at my other blog, MotherReader, and I liked the structure it gave me in focusing my selections and my write-ups. It also seemed like the perfect fit alongside the broader posts that my colleagues contributed. They could get people thinking, and I'd come in with a few concrete selections. Also, I had to admit that the essay format was not my comfort zone, which tends more to throwing in phrases that I believe to be hip but are more likely so last year. Like that one. Fo'shizzle.
Anyway, with the closing of Booklights, I wanted to look back. While Jen was so sweet in identifying her favorite posts of all of us, I'm not that nice, and will only share mine. Actually it's less about me being ungenerous and more about me being lazy, but either way it leaves me linking to a few of my own favorite posts and self-quotes. Even though I just remarked on the practicality of my book review posts, they don't leave me with enough words of wisdom to sum up over a year of writing here at Booklights. That said, I at least have to mention my Thursday THIRTY: Summer Books, Tot to Tween, because I'm pretty proud of that contribution. But now I'll leave you with my words of wisdom...
1. Reading Resolutions, 12/09
On modeling reading:
I'm telling you to read during the day, perhaps in the actual presence of your child. I know it sounds crazy. But sometimes the dishes - and yes, even your kid - can wait.
2. Reading Help, 9/09
On teaching your child to read:
Other than potty training, I've found nothing that has tested my patience on a continual basis more than the beginning reading stage. There are wonderful successes, often followed by the third laborious rendering of the word then. (P.S. This impatience doesn't mean you're a bad parent.)
3. Summer Reading, Having a Blast, 6/09
On establishing reading time:
I am asked often enough how I find time to read. My answer is more like a mission statement: You don't find time to read, you make time to read.
And as I say goodbye to Booklights, I continue my theme with three quick, personal thanks: to Susan for getting me involved, to Jen for saying the right things, and to Gina for supporting us tirelessly. I'll miss our collaboration which gave us such a wonderful blog.
As one of the founding bloggers here at Booklights, I'm sorry to see the blog shutting down. I've been on hiatus from Booklights for the past 4 1/2 months (since my daughter was born 10 weeks early, and threw my schedule completely out of kilter), but the blog has remained dear to my heart. I've been grateful to Gina, Pam, Susan, and Terry for keeping things going in my absence, and I'm so sorry that external issues have caused us to have to close down the blog.
Booklights began as a place to celebrate children's books and help parents and other caregivers to get those books into the hands of kids. We've had a lot of fun posting over the past year and a half. We've talked about things like: libraries; summer reading; book awards' picture books, board books, and chapter books; outdoor reading; adventurous girls; reading levels; and creative literacy. We've enjoyed comments from parents, teachers, librarians, authors, and other children's literature and literacy fans. We've been highlighted on the PBS Facebook page from time to time, and we've shared many of our posts on Twitter. Most importantly, we've learned from one another, with many of our posts inspired by and adding to ideas that others initiated. (Image credit: photo by taliesin, made available for use at MorgueFile.)
Here are a few of my favorite posts from Booklights:
Many thanks to all of you who have tuned in over the past 18 months. Special thanks to Gina, whose hard work and dedication got this blog going in the first place. And to my Booklights co-authors, I'll miss working with you on Booklights, but I know that we'll find other ways to work together. It's been a great ride!
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.
Know 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) and 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.
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:
by J. Patrick Lewis, illustrated by Alice Busby
The 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
As 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
While 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.
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.
So 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.
Dr. 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.
Although 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!
If 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.
Gamewright 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.
Melissa & 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! 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.
ThinkFun 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!
Summer Sunglasses by PianoBrad on OpenClipArt.com
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Despite the ads that might tell us otherwise, summer isn't over for most of us. In fact for the Washington, DC area, August is generally the big month for travel. It's likely the trickle effect of Congress being out of session which leads the lobbyists to leave, the consultants to the lobbyists to take a break, and so on. Also after a month home with the kids, travel looks like a saner option than trying to find one more thing to do at home.
It would surprise no one to learn that I approach travel with reading up on the area. I'm addicted to travel guides - both the regular and the "with kids" variety. But I also like to involve my kids in the reading too, as I find it adds to the anticipation of the trip and can make it an educational experience. For those of you who remember the dry nonfiction books of our youth, know that it's a whole new era in informational text with many of them sporting amazing artwork or photography and a fresh approach to writing. So here are some ideas if you are headed to...
1. The Beach
Almost too easy, as the picture book section of your library will have tons of books about the beach and the ocean. Some will have some educational elements blended in, like Over in the Ocean. Check out the nonfiction section for books that talk more about what can be found on the shore - giving you a little scavenger hunt. There are tons of great books about life under the sea, including titles about specific iconic animals like dolphins (try Face to Face with Dolphins). Though I'd steer away from shark books, unless you want to spend your entire vacation explaining again and again how sharks are truly unlikely to swim in ankle-deep water.
2. The Mountains
Or maybe the woods, or wherever you might go to encounter Nature in all its glory. If you're camping, bring along books for identifying trees, rocks, or wildlife tracks. You can also identify the many things that making camping exciting with S is for S'mores: A Camping Alphabet. If you prefer your outdoors in smaller doses and will not be tenting it, make the hikes or even walks more interesting with Fun with Nature by Mel Boring which provides a guide to lots of different bugs, reptiles, animals, and trees.
3. The City
Many big cities will have at least one book about them, but they aren't always the most engaging of titles. Some are certainly better than others, and I'd give the prize to New York City for having the best and most books that will enhance your trip. ABC NYC: A Book About Seeing New York City and 123 NYC: A Counting Book of New York City, by Joanne Dugan pair photographs of letters/numbers in their city environment with pictures of urban representations of those letters/numbers. For city kids, it makes more sense to see H for "hot dog" instead of "horse," and for visitors, it provides a checklist of things to notice about life in the city. Another great and more detailed book is New York, New York! The Big Apple from A to Z which focuses on the attractions of NYC with added facts and point of interest. It's like a kids version of those travel guides I love so much.
With the sale pages shouting about 1c pencils and snappy new backpacks, it is hard to keep that summer frame of mind going. I'm not ready to give up the fun and games just yet, so today we're just going to play!
On Friday nights, our community pool stays open until 9pm. We parents love it because it is a nice time to let the kids run off and play while we chat and enjoy the beverage of our choice. We have also discovered it is the perfect time and place for games.
I am usually behind the times, so I know Bananagrams has been around the world and back a couple times already. I had seen it, but never played it. Now I'm addicted. Playing Bananagrams is great fun and, as it turns out, is a great modeling tool, too. I can't tell you how many times our dripping-wet kids came over to watch us play and "help" us with words.
Between rounds, we talk about other stuff, like the games we play with our kids. Not surprisingly, our favorites are the ones that have some type of educational value and can have lots of players. We talked about our own childhood favorites like Scrabble, Boggle, Pictionary, and Yahtzee, as well as the fun of these new games for our kids.
Scrabble SLAM, a card game, is a natural for kids of mixed ages. Essentially, you rebuild a four-letter word like sand by playing a cards in your hand ... changing it to hand or sane or band, etc. Speed is part of the game, so it may take young players a bit to get comfortable.
Such & Such is for up to four people or can be played in teams. The game's tag line is "the answers to the game come in twos," so players build pairs of things that go together: peanut butter and jelly, guilt and innocence, moon and stars, etc. It's about "clever pairings and witty competition."
Ticket to Ride is a good, old-fashioned board game. Each player is trying to build a cross-country railway route by making city-to-city connections from one coast to the other. There are lots of facets to the game, including geography and strategy. There are individualized versions for several continents.
These games combine fun and literacy concepts on many levels, not just letters. They require creativity, memory, problem solving, and even strategy. With the exception of Ticket to Ride, they are all also very economical investments.
Most of these games are good for kids who are in second through fourth grade. Next week I'll offer some game suggestions for preschoolers and kindergartners. Summer's not over yet ... let the games go on!
It's your move. What are your favorite games to play as a family?
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When I was growing up, my brothers and I shared a set of World Book encyclopedias. Remember them?
When I got my first desktop computer it came with Microsoft Encarta ... 20+ volumes condensed to a compact disc. Now, you don't even need that! Data reliability not withstanding, anything you want to know about can be found with just a few clicks of the keyboard.
I love to surf the Net as much as the next person, but there is something fun about turning pages to find things. Holding a picture of a big hairy spider is completely different than staring at one on the screen.
Hands-on exploring is also more likely to lead to new discoveries - and more concrete recognition - than following a search path on the Worldwide Web. One or both of these references are important to your child's bookshelf.
An illustrated dictionary. Pictures and large fonts make the dictionary an accessible tool for elementary-aged students. Because of their versatility, dictionaries are natural first research books for emerging and newly independent readers alike. Not long after readers start putting words together, they learn how to sort them alphabetically. As readers become more experienced and their content learning expands, the dictionary will also help them find the meaning of words, as well as learn parts of speech, word origins, and pronunciation, too.
A Big Book of Answers. Although we may not need (or have room for) that 20-volume set of books anymore, kids still have lots of questions, and it is nice to have a go-to reference that covers the basics of the history, science, geography, and social studies concepts they will be learning about in those early elementary years. Even when school's not in session, that one-volume illustrated encyclopedia can answer basic questions or whet their appetite to learn more and lead them to other subject-specific nonfiction books.
Illustrated reference books are designed for exploring. Because there is no worry about reading everything cover to cover, your kids may be more likely to pick up the book "just because." They can start with an idea and begin research or just pick a page and go.
Having a reference book handy is also a great way to encourage kids to find the answer themselves, rather than ask you to define a word, tell them if there really is a Transylvania, etc. Just watch out for spiders!
World Book photo by TreeWhisperer on Flickr. Copyright - all rights reserved.
The cover images for the encyclopedia and dictionary link to the Cybils affiliate via Amazon.com. Purchases made through these links may benefit the Children's and Young Adult Bloggers Awards program. From the website: "All Cybils proceeds go to a non-cheesy award for our winners."