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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Snuggle Bug Book Club

A large, spacious room... Chatty moms seated in a group... A stray dad here and there... Strollers and diaper bags parked along the wall... About a dozen little ones toddling about... Another dozen stationary babies cooing next to their parent(s)... And at the front of the room? ... A soft-spoken librarian with an array of books, an easel, a CD player, and a Big Bird doll (I'll explain).

It was our (Isaac's and my) first visit to our local library's Snuggle Bug Club (a storytime for babies ages 0-18 months)! And let me just tell you, a whole load of babylicious fun was had by Isaac that morning. He seemed to be very aware that this was an activity meant especially for him (and people of his age), and not just another big-person outing I had dragged him along for. When I think about it now, this is probably the first truly age-appropriate (fun) outing he has ever been on. Meaning, everything else we've done with him (the zoo, museums, etc.) wasn't exactly designed to be appreciated by a baby.

"There are lots of people my size here!" he seemed to be thinking excitedly. It was so much fun to watch his face light up in delight. It melted my heart.

"And, hey! I know this story!" is what his eyes said to me as the librarian began reading a big book version of Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? Squeals of joy were bursting out of him throughout the entire storytime.

Isaac and me waiting for storytime to begin.

I felt a little bit like an outsider, because I didn't know any of the other moms there. But Isaac and I had fun together. My mother-in-law is in town, and came along and took photos of us. And I did get to briefly chat with a couple other moms.
In addition to hearing a couple stories, we did finger plays, danced to a song, and used these shakers during another song. They were a big hit with the kiddos!
I had to keep pulling these shakers out of Isaac's mouth. I am not a total germaphobe, but we've been sick enough this winter season!
O.K. see that Big Bird doll that the librarian is holding? Look closely... in the background. She used this scary Big Bird doll as her baby. She demonstrated the fingerplays and such with it. The best was seeing her dance during some of the songs while cradling Big Bird like a baby.
Look at this happy face! Ah, the joys of books and reading!
I wish the Snuggle Bug Club met more than just once a month...

If you've got a little one... or a not so little one. Check with your local library to see when their storytimes are. Check with local bookstores too. Our local library has baby storytime, toddler storytime, and preschool storytime. Plus, they have a special pajama storytime every month (or is it every week?). It's a free activity, it gets you out of the house (appealing if you're a SAHM with cabin fever), and it's educational and fun for your child.

Take some time before or after storytime to hang out at the library. Play some games, use the computers, check out some books. Usually the librarian will even recommend some books during storytime! This will probably become an outing your child looks forward to every week, or month, or whatever.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


Yes, you have a book nook. Everybody does... or should! It's that place where you keep your favorite books, where you read with your little one(s), or where you curl up with a cup of tea and a good novel. Maybe it's a humble book case, maybe it's an overstuffed ottoman, maybe it's simply a spot on the floor. Whatever it is, we want to see it!

I love seeing how other people live, and as someone who lives to encourage reading, I really love seeing where they read (or where they keep their reading). So, show us and/or tell us about your book nook. Photos are awesome, but you can describe it to us if you're not able to include a photo.

I plan to make this a regular feature here, so you'll have plenty of chance to show off all of your book nooks overtime! 

Here's one of my book nooks!

This book nook is in the loft in our house (the loft is where my "office" is). I snagged this rocker from my mom when I was pregnant and had someone refinish it for me. The new finish didn't turn out so great though. Ah well, it didn't ruin the functionality of the chair. 
This is where I sit with my son before nap times and bedtime. We read a couple books from the pile and cuddle together. It's one of my favorite spots in the house! 

Standard Mr. Linky rules apply here:
  • Enter the link to the specific post on your blog featuring your book nook, not a link to your blog's homepage.
  • Include a link back to my blog in your post

Monday, February 23, 2009


We've had some major sickies going around our house. My son had them last week, and I thought the rest of us were safe since four days had safely passed since he was sick. Unfortunately though, I got VERY sick yesterday (same stomach bug that my son had). 

I had great ambitions of putting up a new post yesterday, but obviously that was not to be. 

Today I am disinfecting my entire house and helping the hubby prepare for an overseas trip. 

Soooo... A new post will have to wait till tomorrow. Sorry. And thanks for being patient with me.

... Now go wash your hands. I don't want you getting sick too! This stuff is crazy contagious! :)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

A New Kind of Book Banning

Attention book lovers! Please read this article! Here's the main gist of it:
It’s hard to believe, but true: under a law Congress passed last year aimed at regulating hazards in children’s products, the federal government has now advised that children’s books published before 1985 should not be considered safe and may in many cases be unlawful to sell or distribute. Merchants, thrift stores, and booksellers may be at risk if they sell older volumes, or even give them away, without first subjecting them to testing—at prohibitive expense. Many used-book sellers, consignment stores, Goodwill outlets, and the like have accordingly begun to refuse new donations of pre-1985 volumes, yank existing ones off their shelves, and in some cases discard them en masse.
I have been hearing whispers going around about these kinds of bans on children's items, and it has been worrying me, because I am a thrifty mama who loves shopping consignment sales and thrift stores for baby clothes and toys. It didn't even occur to me that children's books would fall under this ban as well!! 

This is a tragedy! Some of us have started discussing it on Twitter. We're asking, "What can we do?" 

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Reading AND Writing

We all know how important it is to read to children. But what should we be doing for the children in our lives when it comes to encouraging writing? Isn't writing also an important part of literacy?

The Duluth News Tribune recently featured an article on this very subject. (I wanted to put a link to the article in here, but it looks like they are now requiring a password and such to access it.) A reader wrote into an advice column of the paper's, asking what they could do to encourage their 4-year to be practicing writing. I really loved the answer that was given. Judy Swedberg, a Head Start teacher for ISD 709 at Lincoln Park Elementary, responded by encouraging the reader to give their child "natural" writing experiences, explaining that, "kids learn best when they are doing something that is meaningful to them - and fun." How true, not just for writing, but for all kinds of learning!

Swedberg also explained that scribbling is where writing begins. The best thing we can do as parents (and as teachers, educators, or anybody who works with children) is provide our children with opportunities, and supplies, to practice writing/scribbling!

Photo by freeparking

Some of Swedberg's suggestions for encouraging writing included...
  • Give them a pad and paper to make their own lists.
  • Help them write letters to friends and family.
  • Help them make signs to hang around the house ("Keep Out!").
  • Make a little office space for them to do writing. Include paper and envelopes from junk mail offers, a play phone, pads of paper and pens/pencils, cheap reading glasses with the lenses popped out (wouldn't this make for the perfect photo-op!), etc.
  • Make a book together.
  • Play school, but let the child be the teacher and write on the chalk board, or dry erase board.
  • Play with shaving cream on the table or counter, and let them write letter in the shaving cream.

Those are some of the ideas Swedberg gave. What ideas do you have for encouraging little ones to practice writing?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Children's Books As Heirlooms

What if you had something in your family to pass down through the generations that was truly beautiful, appreciated, practical, valued, and could make your children (or grandchildren) smarter and more successful? I bet you do! Children's books!

Jewelry, furniture, quilts, photographs... These are the kinds of things that usually get handed down from generation to generation. Your typical family heirloom usually ends up sitting in a hope chest, closet, or attic, collecting dust and smelling funny. They're rarely used, or even touched for fear of being ruined. So really, what's the point?

Create a family heirloom that many generations can enjoy. Save your children's books to pass down to them or your grandchildren. I know this can be tricky, because children aren't always careful and gentle with their books (that's O.K.), and sometimes they don't survive one generation, let alone many. But this doesn't have to be the case with all your child's books. Keep some in a separate location from the rest of the children's books (not accessible to your child on their own). Reserve these books for special viewings together. So not only will these books stay in better shape, but they will also have sweet, sweet experiences and memories associated with them.

Don't feel you have to keep these books in pristine condition though. Your children and grandchildren will think it's fun to see the family member's name that was scribbled in there in their first-grade handwriting. And it's neat to be able to tell which pages were favorites from the creases and little finger smudges.

I already know one of the books I'll be setting aside for my son, Isaac, to read with his kiddos. Snuggle Puppy (Sandra Boynton) is one we've been reading with him pretty much since he was born, and he loves it (see him enjoying this book here)! And this books was already used when I bought it. Doesn't matter though! (Oh books, how I love you... Let me count the ways).

My mother-in-law did a great job of saving some of her children's favorite books from when they were little. The grandkids read them now, and I think they are just so special! Below you can see photos of a few of them. Goodnight Moon was my husbands favorite, my mother-in-law says.

My mom also still has a few from our childhood. I've snatched most of them and have them on my bookshelf now (sorry, family). You can see those photos here too (below).

So don't put that beloved book into the garage sale pile! No! Stop! Put it in a hope chest, closet, or the attic temporarily. Then pull it out again for the grandkids, or nieces and nephews, or neighbors' kids (whomever) and read and enjoy it again! ...And again, and again, and again!!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

This Week's Lesson Round-Up

We continued our author study (Mo Willems) yesterday with a read-aloud of Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus. During this interactive story, a handful of my students thought it was funnier to say "yes" to the pigeon's pleadings to drive the bus, than to say "no" (of course). It was very entertaining, made for great discussion.

The best was hearing them describe to me (after the story) why a pigeon shouldn't drive a bus. They gave me very detailed (and sometimes gory) descriptions of what destruction the pigeon might cause. I have to admit, some of their comments disturbed me a bit.

I was so impressed that so many of my students remembered Mo Willems as the subject of our author study. They came into class talking about Mo, before I even mentioned him. And these were some of my younger students too! One of them told me that he saw Mo at the grocery store! I'm sure that he didn't (we live in Tennessee), but it was cute nonetheless.

We tried our hand again at being illustrators like Mo, and dreamed up what we might write about if we were authors. It was great fun, and the kids all loved hearing another story of Willems'. They love his stuff, and I can't wait to read them Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed next week.

This unit is going better than I could have imagined. They're even asking if there are more books that Willems has written. I've been encouraging them to visit the library and check some of his stuff out (hmm, once I return it all), and I REALLY hope they do!

Check out the nose-pickin' going on in the back here.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

My Least Favorite Children's Book

I love children's books. And since you're here visiting my blog, you probably do too! But we all have likely read some children's books that we don't love as much as the rest. Perhaps it's a book that annoys you; perhaps it's a book whose message you don't agree with; maybe it's a book that was pushed on you in childhood and has left a bad taste in your mouth; perhaps it's a popular book that was hyped up and left you disappointed... There could be many reasons you don't care for a particular book.

I had a college professor that really dislikes I'll Love You Forever by Robert Munsch, mainly because it makes her cry (Ha! Ha!), but also because she feels its nostalgic story line is appreciated more by mothers than children.

One if my least favorite children's books is Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr. I'm not a fan of the flow of the story, especially not as an alphabet story. But I'm definitely in the minority, because it seems that everybody else loves this book. Maybe there's something about it I just don't get. Please enlighten me, readers!

I'm not advocating book-bashing here. My mission is to encourage reading, not discourage. And that's part of the reason I'm asking this question. I'm curious (as a teacher and mother) about what makes us not like a book. We're all different. We all have different tastes and preferences. I would love to know more about what makes us all tick when it comes to what we like and don't like in a book (especially as children).

So... What is (was) your least favorite children's book? And why? Share in the comments!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Knuffle Bunny Wannabes

We're working on an author study right now (Mo Willems). Yesterday we read Knuffle Bunny, and then tried our hand at being illustrators using the same technique as Willems. Check it out!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Knuffle Bunny - A Quick Glimpse

photo by popofatticus

Tomorrow in class, I'll be reading my kiddos Knuffle Bunny (pronounced with a hard "k" according to Mo Willems). This will kick off our author study of Mo Willems! Woohoo! I'm so excited about this author study. I'm anxious to see how the students will respond to Willems' humor. His books are very Pixar-esque in that their is humor aimed at both children and adults. So it will be interesting to see which jokes are appreciated by my audience tomorrow, and which go over their little heads.

I chose three Mo Willems books for this author study (the next two will be revealed in later posts... or go see them in the Literacy Launchpad Store), all with varying types of illustrations. This is one of the things I love about Willems' work: he has diversity in his illustrative work, while still maintaining a signature style.

So onto Knuffle Bunny... that's what this post is supposed to be about, right? Such unique illustrations! Willems took photographs of his neighborhood, set them in a sepia tone, enlarged them, and used them as the backgrounds for the illustrations. I heard him say in an interview that he enjoyed this technique, because he hates drawing backgrounds. Ha! The characters and such in this book are all still his classic-style ink drawings, placed onto the photographs.

I also heard him say in an interview (perhaps the same one I just referenced?) that this was an autobiographical story. The family in the book is supposedly based on his family. How cool!

What happens in the story is that Trixie, a toddler, goes with her dad to the local laundromat. She brings her Knuffle Bunny along with her (we are to assume that Knuffle Bunny is a much beloved stuffed animal of hers). Trixie then accidentally leaves Knuffle Bunny at the laundromat. She tries to tell her dad, but since she can only babble jibberish (remember, she's a toddler), her dad does not understand her.

Upon returning home, Mom asks where Knuffle Bunny is, and dad suddenly realizes what Trixie had been trying to tell him on the way home. They all rush back to the laundromat and eventually find Knuffle Bunny. The story concludes with Trixie exclaiming, "Knuffle Bunny," as her first words.

Much of this story is told with the illustrations. The dad's expressions are just priceless. And the sarcasm used throughout the narration really makes me giggle. Like I said earlier, I can't wait to see how much of it my students pick up on.

Obviously, this is a tale that I think most little kiddos (and parents) can probably relate to. It's simple, yet clever and engaging. I really enjoyed it! And will be enjoying it again, and again, and again tomorrow!

Have you read Knuffle Bunny? How 'bout its sequel, Knuffle Bunny Too? Do ya like? Dislike? Do tell!

Stay tuned for photos from our lesson we'll be doing tomorrow.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Pre-Reading Skills Parents Can Teach From Birth

There are a set of basic pre-reading skills that are necessary for reading success, and parents can begin teaching these skills at birth. I recently read an article from the Calgary Herald that laid these skills out in an easy to remember way:

1. "I Like Books" - Motivation/Having Fun Reading

2. "I See Words" - Print Awareness

3. "I Hear Words" - Phonological Awareness

4. "I Know Letters" - Letter Knowledge

5. "I Know Words" - Vocabulary

6. "I Can Tell A Story" - Comprehension/Story Structure Knowledge

I feel that number one on the list is most important. But these are all skills you can easily be helping your child build as you simply spend time reading to them on a daily basis.
"The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for success in reading is reading aloud to children. If an adult they respect and love reads to them regularly, involves them in significant conversation and is seen reading, the child will turn into a really good reader." - Dariel Bateman, a retired principle and executive director of CalgaryReads.