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Saturday, February 23, 2013

Just Add Picture Books!

Looking for an easy way to make an ordinary activity in your home or classroom something special? Just add a picture book! Literally, that's all you have to do.

You might assume I spend my days when I'm at home with my preschooler doing all kinds of creative, throughly planned out, educational activities. I don't.

But when my son pulled his finger paints out of the art cabinet this past week and wanted to get messy, it made me think of Leo Lionni's book Little Blue and Little Yellow. I went and grabbed it off my bookshelf thinking it might be fun to show him a story about mixing colors to inspire him with his paints.

This led to my son mixing his colors, and narrating his own little story as he worked. It was fun and beautiful to watch. I hadn't planned or prepped anything. He asked to do an activity and I just added a picture book!

And here's a short video of my little guy's creative process!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Which Picture Books Should I Keep?

I'm a bargain shopper to the max, even (especially?) when it comes to picture books. I spend a lot of time haunting yard sales and thrift stores, looking for a diamond in the rough. Honestly, it usually doesn't take much digging or searching to find great picture books for a steal. And I can't help but wonder why people get rid of some of these great books I find.

Granted, I teach books, so I hardly ever toss any picture books from my collection. I suppose not everyone has that same inclination, eh? So unless you're aiming to be featured on an episode of Hoarders someday, how do you sort through all those books that your kids have outgrown? Do you get rid of them all? Should you save some? If you save some, how many and which ones?

My in-laws recently came for a weekend visit and brought along two big boxes of books from my husband's childhood. It was like Christmas for me! I had so much fun looking through them all, seeing vintage editions of some classics, and hearing my mother-in-law tell me about where they came from and which ones were most treasured. I've been reading them with my kids and delight in telling them, "This was one of Daddy's favorite books when he was little!" That is gold! I am so thankful that my MIL hung onto those books all these years.

You don't need to save all the picture books on your shelf, but I think you should save some. Here are a few reasons why:

  •  They make wonderful family heirlooms.
  •  What are you going to read the grandkids   if you get rid of all those picture books?
  •  It's great reading motivation for kids to be able to hold, and feel, and experience a picture book from their parents' childhood. 
You probably can't, or don't want to, save them all though. So here are a few things to ask yourself, as you consider each book in your personal collection, that might help you decide which ones to keep and which ones to pass along.
  • Was this one of my child's favorite books? Did they ask to have it read to them often? Do I know it by heart? Was it special to them for some reason?
  • Was this book special to me as a mom or dad? Did I particularly enjoy reading this one to my child? Does it remind me of my child for a particular reason? 
  • Is there special meaning or significance to this book? Was it a gift from someone special? Was it received on a special occasion? Does it have a personal inscription penned inside the cover?
  • Is there a personal story that goes with this picture book? Was it the first book your child ever read themselves? Did it get them through a difficult time? Did it help them grasp a difficult concept?
Answering "yes" to any of these questions means it might be worth keeping that book. Even if a book is not a classic, or perhaps not even that good, if it's special to you or your child, it could be worth keeping. Write down on a notecard what makes that book special, why you kept it, and paperclip it into the book. You'll be glad you did, and likely your family will be too!

I'm probably preaching to the choir here when I ask you to not to throw away your unwanted picture books as you sort! Pass them onto friends, family, schools, or Goodwill! I've also seen these bins pictured below that you could drop them in!

My mom was great about saving books from my childhood too. I wrote this post  about one particular book that I was so glad she hung onto for us kids! 

Have you hung onto picture books your children have outgrown? How do you decide which ones to keep?

Friday, February 8, 2013

A Wintery Print Awareness Unit

January turned out to be one of those fabulous teaching months where all my lesson plans went even better than I could have imagined when I planned them! The kids had an awesome month of learning and loving books! We focused on print awareness as we read tales that took us to winter wonderlands. (Hey, at least we got to experience winter weather somehow, right?).

We one we read All You Need for a Snowman by Alice Schertle There are so many wonderful snowmen books out there, but this on remains a favorite of mine... and my students! They always love the interactive quality of it - insisting on the additional elements you need to complete a snowman. It's a great discussion starter with the group and keeps them fully engaged.

 We talked about different forms of print we use and see: newspapers, letters, grocery lists, etc. We also talked about words in the books we read and how they never change. We did crayon-resist watercolor painting with this lesson, and had to discover what pictures and words were hidden on our paper. The kids thought this was absolutely magical!

Week two we read The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. I love sharing this classic, especially since many of my students usually haven't read it yet. This year I checked out a bunch of copies from the library (yay for there always being lots of copies of Caldecott books) and each student was able to follow along with me as I read it aloud. As I read the story, I had the students hunt for certain words and/or letters within the text - like a little scavenger hunt. They loved this, and did so great with it!

 Then we played in the snow! Woohoo! Faux snow is always a hit! We had to get all suited up first and put on all the same kind of snow gear that Peter wore. We tried to do the things Peter did in the snow (but on a smaller scale - we used our fingers). And then we just were silly and played. I could barely tear the kids away from the snow when it was time to leave class. What a special lesson that always is!

The last week we read The Snow Globe Family by Jan O'Connor. This was a new one for our winter-reading repertoire, but was a big hit! It was probably everyone's favorite for January. The kids just really enjoyed the wonder of imagining the people inside a snow globe being real and having their own little life. They loved the part where the baby shakes the snow globe and sends the snow globe family flying, along with all their furniture!

Somehow I managed not to get any photos of this week's lesson. But we used our imaginations to create our own little snow globe world. We used paper plates as our globes and drew on them with crayons. Then we added cotton balls (stretched and torn) to make snow in them. We used construction paper as the stand for the snow globe and put our names in glitter at the bottom. You can't do a print awareness unit without having some print fun with the students' names! I let the kids do the glitter process, and they thought it was the coolest when they finally shook the excess glitter off and there was their name - all SPARKLY! They were positively beaming!

A fantastic unit... and now I have to try to stay on par this month. I've got my work cut out for me!

What's your favorite wintery book to read with your students or kiddos at home?