Here in the mid-Atlantic, summer has definitely made its presence known, and many of us are spending much of our day around the pool. While the kids are splashing, we moms are sweltering and exchanging ideas on other ways to fill their time.
One of the most common things I hear is "I wish I were a crafty mom," meaning I don't do arts and crafts. Well Mom, with a few easy steps, you can be crafty ... in all senses of the word!
Buy a bound book. Spiral-bound books work great, because the pages "fold back" out of the way. The key is that it looks nothing like a school notebook. Get one for you, one for each child. Look for books with pre-printed lines or blank pages. Pick your books based on your child's preferences, as well as your own. Some kids like drawing, some like writing, some can draw on pages with lines, others can't see past them.
Pull out the boxes of crayons, markers, pencils, pens, watercolors ... whatever drawing or writing tools you've got lying around. We just "refreshed" our stash with all of the stuff that came back from school.
Put everything into a basket or plastic tub. Grab one big enough to hold the notebooks and the tools so that it is always accessible. Keeping the stash where kids pass it regularly and see it may be just enough to get them to pick it up regularly.
Sit down together and go to it. There are no rules for the books, except that the contents can't in any way resemble schoolwork (e.g., no practicing letters or math). Kids can jot down their stories and poems, doodle, scribble, and/or create incredible art. You can do the same ... or just generate the grocery list.
That's where the true craftiness comes in ... kids are using their imagination and you are showing them the way just by writing or drawing. Modeling literacy is an easy way to encourage reading and writing. And the bonus? You earn your crafty mom badge and you have a personalized book to remember this summer, all without glue, scissors, or sticky fingers!
So, how would you fill your book?
Shelf of Notebooks from P.W.'s "stationary" photostream on Flickr.com
Drawer of crayons by Taylor Schlades on Morguefile.com
Father and child drawing together by Lori L. Dunbar, Copyright Marzipan, Inc. Used with Permission.
Books are great to share every day, but it is also nice to keep a few books in reserve for those times when you need to jump-start some interest in literacy activities and can't get to the library or bookstore. This is a stash of books - and it doesn't need to be many - that are the perfect response to "Mom, I'm bored!"
Joke books and riddles keep the kids talking to each other and laughing for hours. These books are essentially anthologies. They have lots of content, there is no required order of reading, they are (usually) good for mixed-age audiences, and everyone will find at least one thing that tickles their funny bone and/or stumps them.
Activity books are titles that engage the reader to use the book. Although workbooks fall into this category, I'd recommend keeping the fun in the books on your rainy day shelf. Coloring books and learn-to-draw books are always fun, as are books of word games (crossword puzzles, word hunts, and word scrambles). These types of books can often be found in a dollar store.
A kid-friendly craft or project book can offer hours of activity, too. A quick check at Amazon.com returned nearly 800 craft/project books for kids - 756 of them for kids ages 4 to 12! So if you want to find fun in a subject that interests them ... there is probably a book for that! Some need more unique supplies, so you may want to read carefully through the book to make sure you will have what you need on that rainy day.
Last but not least, books with blank pages (bound or spiral) are also good to have on hand. You may even think about adding a special set of crayons or pens to keep with it. Kids can turn the "empty book" into art or story portfolios, reporter's notebooks, lists of their favorite (or least favorite) things, journals ... anything their imagination dreams up.
Do you have any favorite books you like to save for rainy days?
Note: Book cover images link to the Childrens and Young Adult Bloggers Literary Awards (CYBILS) affiliate account with Amazon.com. Purchases made through these links can earn income for the Cybils, but there is no obligation to use those links or to purchase the product.
Creating a starter library can be lots of fun, but it can also get very expensive. Kids are interested in more involved stories and the list of bedtime stories is endless. There are bedtime-themed books that cover their worries (monsters, the dark) or their favorite things (dinosaurs, unicorns), as well as quiet, soothing stories that have nothing to do with sleep but are perfect just before lights out.
Because there are so many options, it may help to borrow a couple from the library to see if any become instant treasures and then make a buying decision (or not). This is also the time that many families introduce chapter books into their bedtime routine. I'm a picture book gal, myself, but I have discovered some great early-reader chapter books that allow us to share reading with our daughter.
To start, you can't go wrong with any of Pam's Beginning Bookshelves recommendations. You'll find some favorite characters from our childhood, like Curious George, Madeline, and Frances; and new friends like Fancy Nancy, Knuffle Bunny, and the Pigeon. Some of these stories now have multiple editions, too. For example, there is an easy reader edition of Bread and Jam for Frances by Russell Hoban. Here are a few more recommendations ...
Susan Thomsen and her son like Anatole by Eve Titus. Anatole, a mouse who lives in France, rides his bicycle to the cheese factory each day. He earns his living tasting cheese and offering suggestions on how to improve it. Anatole is a 1957 Caldecott Honor Book, and Anatole and the Cat is a 1958 Caldecott Honor Book. There are two other titles in the series: Anatole and the Toy Shop and Anatole and the Piano. These last two books are out of print, but probably available at your library.
The Monster Trap by Dean Morrissey was a favorite in our house for about a year! Paddy, a young boy, is staying with his grandfather. His house seems different - spookier - than he remembered. Paddy can't sleep because he is sure he heard a monster. Together, they build traps to catch the monsters, each trap becoming more elaborate than the last. When they finally snare a monster, they learn just how much fun these critters are. This book turns the monster theme upside down. From Publishers Weekly: "The pictures comically reveal benign, silly-looking creatures as the source of the boy's fears."
Cynthia Rylant's easy reader series - Henry and Mudge, Mr. Putter and Tabby, Annie and Snowball, the High Rise Private Eyes, and Poppleton - are wonderful stories that allow you and your audience to share the reading. The stories are light, build on each other, and have a twist that make it fun for adults and children alike.
Note: The bookcover images in this post link to Amazon.com and include an affiliate code that, through purchases, may earn income for the Children's and Young Adult Bloggers Literary Awards (aka Cybils). The Indie Bound List and aStore include an affiliate code for the Reading Tub that, through purchases, may earn income for this literacy nonprofit. You are not obligated to use those links or make purchases through them.
Reading is a lot like exercise. You need to do it regularly. When you take a vacation from your workouts, it takes some time to get back to where you were before. If I skip exercising for just ten days, I feel like I'm starting over when I get back. The same thing happens on a reading vacation. For kids, that can last three months! Ouch! To help prevent "injury," schools often send home a "reading list" so students can keep "fit" over the summer.
There are lots of opinions about the lists, particularly when the list hasn't changed since you were in school. Just know they are singular in their plea: please keep your child reading this summer. It can be tricky finding books that will keep them reading through the summer, especially with one of those stagnant, age-old lists! So what's a parent to do?
First, introduce yourself to the librarians! Libraries across the country will be launching their summer reading programs over the next few weeks, and these programs are a great way to connect kids with books and keep them in tip-top reading shape. Another option is to seek out some books from ... lists of recommended books.
That's a reading list by another name, right? Yes and no. Yes, it is a list of books, but it isn't a standardized group of books. These are collections of books created by people who have road-tested the books and believe in their value. The recommended lists are often built around a theme. For example, Reading Rockets (and many other websites) have lists of books by theme or by award or recognition. At Reach Out and Read, you'll find books by developmental age. I love Reading Rocket's guide for how to find that 'just right' book. Hint: read page 2!
Yesterday, Susan Kusel took us behind the scenes of creating a book list. She not only shared how book lists are created, but also shows why librarians are the go-to resource for reading ideas. What I love about What's Next, a resource created by the wonderful librarians at the Arlington Public Library, is that it is part reading list, part idea box. I can find suggestions by book format (e.g., picture book), audience (infant through teen), and/or subject (apples to zoos and beyond) Here are two other all-inclusive resources I recommend.
Children's Picture Book Data Base - Miami University (OH) maintains a database is filled with more than 5,000 picture books, complete with abstracts! It is designed for educators who are building their curriculum, but it is a very handy tool when you're a mom looking for books about tractors.
Toddlers Booklist - On this Montgomery County (MD) Public Library list you'll find books that the librarians likely have used at storytime ... with great success. There is a bookcover image and short description with each title listed.
Early and Transitional Literacy - Kindergarten to Second Grade
Info Soup - This is a multifaceted, cooperative website maintained by a group of Wisconsin Public Libraries. You can find books via the page of book lists, or you can start at the InfoSoup.org home page and search any or all collections by title, author, keyword, or topic.
Zuckerman's Barn Kids Lit - This site offers a searchable database of book reviews by students for students. The goal of the site is to "create a community of readers across classrooms and schools, including both students and supportive adults." Search books by title, author, subject, grade level, and more.
Fluent Readers - Third Grade and Beyond
Little Willow's Booklists @ Bildungsroman - Little Willow's lists are my go-to recommendation when someone asks for a list. You'll find recommendations sorted by audience, themes, and topics, as well as her personal recommendations.
Best Books List @ Children's Literature Web Guide - The University of Calgary (Canada) maintains this site (link takes you to the Guide's topical list). What I love is that the topics go beyond the norm and focus on traits or interest for older kids, like books with artistic protagonists.
Many libraries create and maintain their own lists, too, so check out their sites. The Monroe County (IN) Library hosts a Children's Booklists on the Web page, where you can find a bunch of them in one place. Not all lists are created equal, and your librarian can point you toward some great ones or offer some "read alikes" that might work for the list you have.
Now for the Million dollar question: Will my child will like the books on these lists? Odds are they won't like every book on any given list. They may not even like the first book from a list. Don't give up. If you get a couple pages in and the book isn't working, drop that one and find another one. If you've narrowed your options to things your child likes, it doesn't mean the entire list won't work, only that book. Just keep reading ... it's good exercise!
Image credit: Toddler and infant reading - Beach Book Trip by Kristi on Flickr.
Clipart - Open Clip Art Library: card catalog (Steve Lambert); library cart (Steve Lambert); pile of books (J Alves); question mark (Purzen)