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Friday, January 30, 2009

Children's Home Library Start-Up - My Dilemma.

"Long before children are introduced to the public library, books should be a part of their home lives. Begin a home library as soon as the child is born." - Jim Trelease (The Read Aloud Handbook, 2001)

If you don't have a home library for you child, I strongly encourage you to start one. It doesn't have to be expensive. Want some awesome, inexpensive bookshelves? Craigslist is a great place to search. I think we paid $30 for a nice all-wood shelf for my son's room, but you can find shelves even cheaper than that on there. If you're lucky enough to have an IKEA near you, that's a great place to look too. Or make these shelves. I plan on putting some of these up once my son gets a little bigger and is able to explore books on his own a little more.

Need some books on the cheap? That's even easier than finding inexpensive bookshelves. Visit garage sales, thrift stores, consignment stores, consignment sales, and library book sales. I get amazing deals at these places all the time (Read about it here and here). But I would also encourage you to spend some money on new books when you can. There's a special feeling that comes with having your very own, brand-new, shiny book! You can always request these at birthdays and holidays too, if your family and friends are wanting gift ideas for your little one. (You can check out the Literacy Launchpad Store in the sidebar for some great book-buying!)

I have been working on my child's home library for years now, because as a literacy teacher, I'm always buying books! And as it turns out, this has created a bit of a dilemma for me. I don't know which books are his and which books are mine!

He does have a some books that are definitely his. And I let him chew on these, drool on these, and crumple the pages as he explores them. But there are many books that I consider mine, and I guess I'm just not a good sharer. I know he would enjoy many of my picture books as he gets older, and I want him to have the freedom to look at and explore them on his own. But I'm fearful of what may happen to my precious books!

So what do I do? Do I need to just let it go and share? Books are meant to be enjoyed, right? Hopefully, if I teach him how to properly care for books, he'll treat my books kindly.

... Or do I leave my books put up somewhere for special reading times only? What would you do?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

I'm up for a reading challenge!

Biblio File has posed a great reading challenge. It's based on one of those "1000 Books You Should Read Before You Die" lists. We've all seen those, right? And then felt terrible because we've only read a few, if any, of the books listed. No? Just me?

I've accepted the fact that I will probably (OK, certainly) never read all of the books on the list, but this challenge is a way to feel a little bit better about myself by reading at least a few of them.

Remember parents, it's important to be a reading role model! Come on and join me. You can sign up at the Biblio File blog.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Recycle You Old Horn Book Magazines

Isn't it pretty??

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Audio Books (See Also: How a Stay-At-Home-Mom Stays Sane)

If you're at home with your kids during the day (or even if it's just on the weekends), and you're anything like me, you probably don't like having the T.V. on much, if at all. My sister and I have frequently discussed the dilemma of this, because often the T.V. is the closest thing to adult contact we get during the long, lonely weekdays. Especially during the winter when there's not a whole lot you can go do to get out of the house.

Solution? Go visit your local library and pick up some audio books! It may not be quite the window to the outside world you're used to with the T.V., but it's something to keep you company, it won't put your children into a zombie-like trance (like the T.V. does to my son), and your children will probably enjoy it! Not to mention, it can help improve their literacy skills (much more than T.V. can).

Another perk of audio books? I rarely have time to sit down and just read lately it seems. But with audio books I can listen while I cook, clean the kitchen, fold the laundry, or play on the floor with my son. It's a great way for me to catch up on some of the reading I've been wanting to do.

There are many options when it comes to finding audio books. There are MP3s, CDs, and cassettes. Not many people still have cassette players, but if you do, I've found that there's quite a bit more selection to choose from at the library. Also, podcasts are an option. I like to listen to podcasts from Just One More Book and Children's Book Radio. As well as podcasts from my church, and Mars Hill.

In the photo above, you can see what we've been listening to lately around here. The Phantom Tollbooth and Mama Don't Allow are from the library. Just So Stories and The Story Tree were Christmas gifts from Isaac's Gramma and PaPa.

My son is only six months old, so he only has a very limited appreciation (if any) of audio books, but I still pick up audio CDs of picture books and JV fiction. Partly because I enjoy hearing those too!

The T.V. stays off during the day at our house for the most part (football on the weekends is the big exception). We do the majority of our T.V. watching in the evening, after our son is asleep (thank you, DVR). We aren't totally anti-T.V., but we don't really want our son watching a ton of it. Especially not before he turns two-years-old.

So go ahead, dust off that old boom-box (check out my huge one in the photo above) and turn off Dr. Phil. You'll be glad you did!

Oh, and let me know what some of your favorite audio books are!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Hat - Lesson Reflection

The Hat, by Jan Brett, was a hit... as anticipated (See Tuesday's post for a review of the book). Here are some thoughts about yesterday's predicting lesson:
  •  My first group session was a little crazy. The students just got so excited during our activity we did during the read-aloud. They had a difficult time staying seated and staying quiet long enough for me to read each page. I mean, I love that they're so engrossed in the story and our activity, but I don't enjoy having to say, "On your bottom, please," over and over... and over.
  • I gave the students complete creative freedom with their "hats" and puppet. No regrets there.
  • Keeping the order during a unit on predicting proves to be quite tricky, because each child is eager to get their prediction out first as we go through each story. I hate to enforce strict rules about raising hands and what-not too much, because I want them to feel free to chime in and say what they're thinking, and I want it to be fun. But perhaps I need to put more focus on this?
  • Conversations between the puppets were a riot!
  • Yesterday we used some paper puppets to do predicting during The Hat. The students each couldn't wait for it to be their turn to predict with their animal puppet. After one student's turn had passed, he immediately said, "Can we read the story again?" I said, "We still are reading the story!" I love when they are so blantantly excited about our story and what we're doing. Motivating and Empowering readers?? Check!
  • The clothesline activity I came up with added the perfect element of fun, and helped with comprehension. I loved it. 
  • This lesson would be so much fun with even one child. Oh, the possibilities! I can't wait till Isaac is old enough to play around with these activities!

  • Yes, he purposely put the stocking over the hen's eyes.
Again, detailed instructions for this read-aloud and activities will be available soon!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Hat, by Jan Brett... A Review

Thanks goodness for a great children's book to warm me up on a winter day. Oooo... how I love me a Jan Brett story! The Mitten is usually a staple of every preschool teacher's library, and it should be. It's a beautiful book. So beautiful, that for a long time, I ignored Jan Brett's book The Hat. Big mistake!

The Hat opens with a little girl, Lisa, hanging all her woolen clothes on the clothesline. When the wind blows one of her stockings off the line, it ends up stuck on the head of an adorable hedgehog, Hedgie. An embarrassed, Hedgie, tries to casually pass the stocking off as a hat when he is mocked by various other animals he runs into throughout the story. Do the other animals buy into Hedgie's story? You'll see when you reach the fun surprise ending!

Brett's illustrations are in her signature style, complete with detailed vignette's that add important details to the story beyond the text. In these vignettes we see Lisa searching for her missing stocking. We also see what's happening with the animals Hedgie visits with, after they have run off.

A big part of what makes Brett's books so much fun is the expression she conveys on the faces of the animals she illustrates. I love seeing the silly story of what's going on in the animals' fictional world, juxtaposed against the tale of Lisa, going about her business in a realistic human world. When these two worlds mingle at the end of the story, it's a perfect climax to the book. I really love that element Jan Brett uses in her books.

This story works great with our predicting unit because the details of Brett's illustrations give many clues which we can base our predictions on. And I think my students love this story even more than The Mitten. In previous years it's been one they have talked about for months after hearing it. They just love Hedgie! And who wouldn't?

We'll be reading this story in class tomorrow. Stay tuned to hear how our lesson went. I'll be posting about it later this week, complete with photos!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Ever Wanted to Write Your Own Children's Book?

Photo by bingbing

Come on, we've all dreamed about it... writing your own children's book! Well, I've at least dreamed about it. A lot. The idea is very intimidating though. Plus, the ins and outs of the world of children's book publishing seems complex, and is something I know zip about.

Well, be intimidated no more! Simple Mom recently introduced five new columnists on her blog, and one of them is Maya Bisineer. Maya has started an online picture book bazar - Memetales. It is the coolest idea! She's genius! You'll have to go visit and check it out, because my description won't do it justice.

And after you've checked out Memetales, stop by the comments section here and let me know if you've ever dreamed of writing (or illustrating) a children's book. 

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The First Day of Winter Lesson

Photo by MGShelton

I am such a fan of Denise Fleming's work, that every turn of the page makes me giddy when I'm using one of her stories for a read-aloud. Her depiction in The First Day of Winter of the start of the winter season makes me long for snow... and I hate snow... really hate snow! That's how good she is! If you haven't read The First Day of Winter yet, go pick it up at your library. Or you can purchase it at the Literacy Launchpad Store. This book was the center of yesterday's lesson and activities. Our focus this month has been predicting.

During yesterday's read-aloud, the children helped me with a calendar activity that allowed us to practice predicting. I love letting them interact with the story as I read it. Although, depending on the group, the interaction with the story can sometimes be distracting to the actual story itself. We had a little bit of that going on yesterday. I think next time, I might do the calendar activity after the story, and use it to enhance our discussion.

After our story we had a great discussion about winter and snowmen. It was interesting to hear the children's thoughts about winter. Many of them didn't think it was winter here right now. I'm guessing that has to do with the fact that we hardly ever get snow 'round these parts. I wonder if their responses would have differed if we actually had snow on the ground. Hmm... perhaps I need to bring in some books about what winter looks like in various parts of the country, or the world, and go into more depth on that (if only our classes were a little longer)?

When I asked one of my groups where the snowman was going at the end of the story, one little girls told me, "to the winter." Another little boy told me, "to the North Pole."

And when I asked them why the boy's friend in the story gave him all those items that we saw, one little boy told me, "so he could put them on his snowman to protect him so he wouldn't melt."

Since the focus of this lesson was predicting, we also played a predicting game which involved building our own snowman (after we had some predicting fun)! After I hit some snags with this activity with the first group of children, I changed it up a bit for the next couple of groups, and it was awesome. We had so much fun! Lots of giggles and laughs. These kids crack me up!

Oh, and by the way... my detailed plans for each of the original activities and games I do with my students will soon be available for you to purchase (a la carte style) and use with your own readers!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A Bit Off Topic...

It's a bit off topic for this blog, but I just had to enter the photo contest @ I Heart Faces with this photo I took this week.

Monday, January 12, 2009

My Little Reader

So now that my teaching load has lightened up significantly due to motherhood, my number one student has become my son, Isaac. I try to make a point to read to him everyday, but I'll admit there are busy days that speed by with no reading (gasp)! This happened a lot during the first four months when were battling through colic and then reflux. Anybody that has experienced either of those can feel where I'm coming from, I'm sure. But those days of missed readings are few and far between now that he's getting older, and appreciates his books more and more.

When he was only a few months old, I was most successful with my readings if I propped him against a pillow and snuggled next to him. He really liked seeing my facial expressions as I read the story, and if I really immersed myself in making the appropriate faces and voices, I would often get a giggle out of him!

Now he likes to taste everything, and so it's often a struggle to read much of a story before it goes into the mouth and is covered in drool. Books that come from the library are not allowed in the mouth for a couple reasons: they're not ours, and germs, uh... gross! So that can make things tough sometimes too. All in all though, he seems to enjoy being read to. And he is an expert page-turner. I love showing off his page-turning skills to others!

Check out these photos of my little reader:

This is one of his favorite stories. We have the CD with the song on it too, and I often find myself playing it over and over and over again for him in the car. Ever seen the movie Big Daddy? Remember the "Kangaroo Song" in it? I fear we may be headed that direction with Snuggle Puppy. Yikes!

We started a tradition this year of giving him a Christmas book to open on Christmas Eve and read together. I think it will be neat for him to accumulate a collection of Christmas books as he grows up, one from each year of his life.

O.K. so this one's not exactly a photo of him reading a book. He's browsing some kind of an AV catalog with his daddy. It's... kind of reading. Ha!

Do you have a reading routine with your little one(s)?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

A Literacy Launchpad Nursery

I always knew that when I had a baby, I wanted to have some kind of a reading theme in the nursery. I also knew that I didn't want to spend much money. So here's a little glimpse of what the hubby and I created for our little guy.

I really like this mobile. It was part of a whole bedding set, but I only needed the mobile, and it sure does look nice with the rest of the room (IMO). It's an elephant with the word "BABY" dangling from the legs (one letter from each leg). Our crib and changing table were purchased from a friend for a steal!

The letter blocks came from a garage sale, and are attached to a super-cheap curtain rod from Lowe's.

Isaac's Gramma made him this quilt. She let me choose the fabrics and theme, so of course, I love the way it turned out. She used a really cute story book fabric to back the quilt. Wish I had taken a photo of that also. Gramma also made the bumper, bed skirt, and window valance.

These are framed prints from a Children's Literature calendar I had. I think it was titled Celebrating Children's Books, or something like that. I don't think they make these calendars anymore. I wonder why. I loved them! I actually had these calendars from a few years, so I had quite a few prints to choose from. I figure I can rotate the pictures if I want, but I'm pretty happy with the ones I chose. The frames came from Michael's. they were on sale for $5 a piece.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


I've never really been much of one for New Year's resolutions, but I've made a bunch this year. I'm not sure what inspired them all, but I thought I would share some:

- BLOG! BLOG! BLOG! - Adjusting to life with a baby (6 months old now) has made it a challenge to get much done during the days. My to-do list is just so much longer, and there is so much less free-time. Since blogging is never at the top of the priority list, it ALWAYS gets forgotten. But I'm making it a priority this year!! My goal is to post AT LEAST once a week.
- More photos - I love reading blog posts with photos. I want more of them on mine.
- Update blog - This is long overdue. I love that photo, but it doesn't even look like me anymore!
- Learn more about blogging - Any tips are welcome. Isn't it obvious that I still don't know much about all this?
- Launch my new business venture - More about this to come in future posts.

Some other goals:
- I would love to sew and craft more
- plant a garden this summer
- cook more from scratch

I'll be talking to you again real soon!