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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Show Me Your Book Nook!

It's that time of month again! Time to show off your book nooks! You know, that favorite spot where you kick back with a good read, keep your treasured novels, or make fun books accessible to your little ones. I wanna see!!

Above is a photo of one of my book nooks. This is my favorite bookshelf. I bought it at IKEA, and I really wish I had bought two, because after I got it home I realized all my books don't fit on it. Sad day!

I love that I can show off my cute plush toys here though.

And it's also a handy place to store my lesson plan bags (in the basket).

Now that you've seen mine, it's time to show me yours! Paste the link to your book nook post (not your blog's homepage) in the Mr. Linky below. Be sure to leave a comment here, and link back to my blog in your post!

Monday, April 27, 2009

What Do You Think of Interactive Digital Books?

I recently had the chance to check out Story Fort's latest digital interactive book, What Is Bothering Carl? 

I don't have much experience with digital interactive books. There was one I used with some children I used to babysit for called The Smelly Mystery (Mercer Mayer). I loved this interactive storybook. Cute! Cute! Cute! So entertaining, and so funny! It's one that's truly enjoyable and entertaining for adults as well as children. I wonder if I still have it somewhere...

Anyhow, I mention The Smelly Mystery because it has set the bar pretty high for what I expect to get out an interactive storybook. I want a solid story, good narration, lots of interactive features on each page, and text that is highlighted as it's read (narrated). I expect at least this much. 

What Is Bothering Carl? met most of my expectations, and pleasantly surprised me in some areas. I had pretty high hopes when I learned about Story Fort. Did you know Story Fort was founded by Andy Hull, a former toy designer at Melissa and Doug? He has created several best-selling toys that have won Toys of the Year at Family Fun and Child magazines and have been featured on The View and in Cookie Magazine.  So I knew this storybook he created had to at least be pretty fun, right?

Fun it was indeed! It started off a bit rocky to me. The writing seemed a bit awkward. I wasn't quite sure where the story was trying to go. But it started to click for me part way through, and I was loving it. I was actually giggling out loud as I read through it. 

There were a couple interactive features on each page, and these usually directly correlated with what was going on in the story. For example: there was a page that talked about Carl scaring the gnomes that nibbled on his toes. The illustrations shows silly little gnomes on Carl's toes, making nibbling sounds. Then when you click on Carl, he makes a scary (more silly, actually) face at the gnomes and they shriek and fall off the page. 

I was expecting more interactive features because The Smelly Mystery had a ton of them, but I did like the fact that you weren't overwhelmed by all the interactive features on each page in What Is Bothering Carl?. They didn't distract from the story, they enhanced it. I think the simplicity of these features makes What Is Bothering Carl? appropriate and appealing to a younger audience than The Smelly Mystery. Story Fort's target age is 3+, but I think even two-year-olds could enjoy this read.

Some other notes about What Is Bothering Carl?
  • Charming illustrations
  • Highlighted phrases as it was narrated
  • Option for reading it yourself or having it read to you
  • Could click on selected words for definitions
  • There were a couple songs (with music videos, I'm told) with the story, but they didn't work on the copy I received. I did view one of the music videos they had on their website. Catchy!
  • Memory game included 
The What Is Bothering Carl? ebook is available through Story Fort for $15. Unfortunately, it is only currently available for a PC. I'm a Mac gal myself so I had to view it on a friend's computer. :( 

And you can find The Smelly Mystery on Amazon, but there are also some cheaper copies on ebay. 

What do you think of interactive digital books? Like 'em? Use 'em? Buy 'em? Share!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Puppet Storytelling - Easier Than You Think

Using puppets to tell a story can be an intimidating idea for some mommas and teachers. But the truth is, puppets are a guaranteed win! Seriously! Kids love 'em! They're something different, something silly... something highly tangible. You don't have to be anything even close to an expert storyteller to make a big impression when using puppets. 

When telling a story (not reading one), I make sure I know the general gist of the story, and then I add my own touch to it. I DO NOT memorize the way I'm going to tell the story. This never works well. Instead, I have a basic idea of the story I'm going to tell, and then I just let it naturally flow. So the story is never told the exact same way twice. Telling a story this was is easy, and it's fun for both your audience and you!

I have to admit, one of the reasons I have such an easy time being silly and hamming up my puppet storytimes is because there are no other adults present during my Literacy Launchpad lessons; there is nobody to really be embarrassed in front of. So, if this is part of your hang-up, kick the other teacher out (nicely) if you can. Just for story time. OR (and this is probably the more realistic option) pretend they're not there. This is easier said than done, I know. Just remember this though, they will most likely be in awe of your successful storytime, and wishing they were brave enough to tell such an amazing story with the puppets!

Warning: your kiddos are going to want to grab the puppets. Mine also seem to always have the urge (at least one or two of them) to hit one or both of my puppets. Why, I don't know. But for this reason I make sure I explain to the students that they will have a chance to give the puppets each a hug after the story. 

So go ahead and grab that puppet (or two) I know you've got lying around your house. Use it to tell a favorite story, or make up a new story to tell with the puppet. Try it, and see how easy it is. You kiddo(s) will love it, and be begging you for another performance!

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention that we heard "The Tortoise and The Hare" this week. Hence the photos. :)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A Goldilocks Lesson

Our fairy tale unit continues with Goldilocks and the Three Bears! This story was told using both storyboard pieces used with the traditional telling of the tale, and an alternative telling of the story by Brinton Turkle. 

Here's an idea for presenting fairy tales to your children/students: compare two versions of the same story. There are many interpretations out there (check your local library) of most fairy and folk tales. Pick similar interpretations, or vastly different versions of the same story. Let your students point out the similarities and differences. Make comparison charts. Have everyone vote on their favorite. 

I'm always surprised when I present two versions of the same story. I think I know which will be the favorite, but I'm often wrong. You just never know which interpretation will speak to each student, or group of students. It's different every time. 

You Can Help!

A bit off topic but...

Help a cause near and dear to my heart! Fourth Watch Productions needs your help to tell the world the fascinating story of an amazing family! Please visit this link and view the awesome promo for this proposed documentary. It's a story that needs to be told, but it can't be told without your help!

Go visit now and see for yourself!

I'm sorry about the lack of posts this past week. I had friends and family in town, and didn't get around to posting like I had hoped. Regular posting has now resumed again. :)

Friday, April 17, 2009

I HEART Children's Bookstores

I don't know how many children's bookstores are still out there... Does anybody? I'm guessing less than we would all hope, unfortunately.

We spent the weekend with my in-laws in Memphis and my mother-in-law and I were looking to kill some time Monday afternoon. There was a little used children's bookstore we used to frequent (I love a good deal), but my MIL told me it is now closed. No wait! I just looked it up, and I think she's mistaken. It's still open

Well anyhow, we thought it was closed and so I inquired as to whether or not there might be an independent children's bookstore in the area. She told me that she used to take my husband and his sister to a place called Pinnochio's when they were young. But she assumed it was now closed. 

She went and grabbed the phone book to look it up, and guess what? It's still open! (I told her she needs to have a little more faith in her local children's bookstores!)

So, of course, we headed out to Pinnochio's. (I'm sorry, they don't have a website, or I would link it.) This store has been open for 31 years, and it's the same women working there now that opened it! Sweet women, and so helpful. Shopping an independent bookstore is truly an experience. 

We were greeted the moment we walked in the door. We were asked if we needed help finding something, but we weren't pestered. It's a very small shop, located in an old house, so you don't have to go searching for someone to help you when you need it. The women in the shop let us browse all we wanted, and gently offered helpful info and suggestions from time to time. 

There were other shoppers in the store as well. One was a father, there with his children. The shop owners told him how happy it made them to see a dad taking interest in his children' reading. I heard them tell another customer that they wanted them to be excited about their purchase, so they would be excited to go home and read it with their child. I love these ladies!

These ladies knew their stuff, and had a great selection of quality books displayed. I spent a bit of money in there (more than I had planned to), and there was still so much more I wanted to buy! Another day... Another day...

So what did I purchase?

Next time you are in the market for a children's book, I encourage you to try to find an independent children's bookstore (unless you must buy it online... then buy it here). It'll cost more, but it's worth the money... for yourself, your children, and your community!!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Green Veggies and Princesses

Last week my students came into class asking (literally), "What kind of adventure are we going on today?" Is that not the coolest thing? The answer was: a fairy tale adventure! Our adventure unit has wrapped up, but our fairy/folk tale unit is just beginning. It's difficult for me to pick a favorite unit, but our fairy tale unit ranks pretty high. 

We read The Princess and the Pea (Lauren Child) last week. It's a long story, so I always paraphrase when presenting it. The children seem to enjoy the story all the same, and it keeps us on time with our lesson. The illustrations are what make this book (if you haven't seen this book yet, leave your computer now and head for the nearest library or bookstore), so I don't feel too bad about not reading the text word for word. 

All my students (that's not an over generalization) love this story, boys included. I think it has a lot to do with Lauren Child's own telling of this classic tale. Those photographs of her beautiful paper princesses, prince, king, and queen amongst each detailed dollhouse-esque scene... It leaves even me gazing at the illustrations utterly mesmerized. 

Some photos from our lesson are below. Can you guess what we were doing?

You can purchase your own copy of The Princess and the Pea at the Literacy Launchpad Store.

A couple other unrelated notes:
  • I was told that there might be a problem with the link to subscribe to my blog via email. I'm looking into that. 

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Imagination Library

We get free books in the mail! Do you?

When my son was a month or two old, I registered him for the Imagination Library program here in Tennessee. This is a FREE program that mails each participant (child) a picture book once a month (for their first five years of age). How cool is that? Who doesn't like to get something in the mail!? Another great way to get your child excited about reading!

The Imagination Library seems to do a really great job with the books they select to be used. My son has only received a handful of books from the program at this point, but has loved each one. I was actually surprised by how much he enjoyed some of these stories, especially at his young age.

The first book each child receives when they join the program, regardless of their age, is The Little Engine That Could. Isaac doesn't care for this one much yet, but I'm hoping he will enjoy it more as his attention span increases. After that, the book selections seem to be chosen based on developmental appropriateness.  

So far, Isaac's favorites are Kitty Up, Lull-a-Bye Little One, and Wake-Up Sleepy Bear. Not only are these Isaac's favorites from The Imagination Library, they are also some of his favorites from his entire home library. He gets a huge grin on his face when I pull one of these out for us to read. Sometime I recite some of the text from Lull-a-Bye Little One when he's in the bathtub (there's a part about bubbles and a rubber duck), and he gets a real kick out of that! I love that we've read this book enough that he recognizes the words, even without the book in front of him.

The Imagination Library is a free program, like I mentioned early. The aim is to provide all children with books of their own so they can be reading at home. I think that is simply awesome. This program is unbelievable! Obviously, they take donations, and I plan to donate at least the amount it costs to cover the books Isaac receives (somewhere around $20-$30/year). 

I'm not sure how far reaching this program is beyond Tennessee (Dolly Parton started the program here). So if you live here, be sure to check and see if the program is available in your area and sign-up! If you live elsewhere, see if something like this is available. You might be surprised. If it's not, perhaps you can be part of the founding of some kind of program like it!

You can find some of Isaac's favorite Imagination Library books in the Literacy Launchpad Store!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Your Baby Can Read Program - Good or Bad?

A friend asked me this weekend about the Your Baby Can Read DVD program. She had just bought it for her daughter, who is little over a year old, and was wondering what my thoughts were on the program. Unfortunately, I don't know a ton about the program. At least I didn't yesterday. I sat down today and did some research on it though. All I had known about it previously was what I had seen about it on some morning news shows (marketing the program, so all glowing reviews of course).

At this link you'll find a great review of the program from the Literacy, Families and Learning blog. I tend to agree with Trevor Cairney's thoughts on the program, though I have no first-hand experience with it myself. 

Here's my slant on this issue though:
  • Motivation is the most important literacy skill. If your child's not motivated to read, they won't do it... unless they have to. Motivation comes from having fun and meaningful experiences with words, books, and reading. These types of programs always seem to fail in creating meaningful and fun literacy experiences. And when I say "meaningful," I mean that children should be connecting with what they're reading - experiencing it, and understanding it. 
  • The one source of motivation these kinds of programs seem to provide is the motivation to please the parent. I feel that when reading instruction is introduced too early, often a child learns that reading is something that you do to please your parent, or to gain your parents' approval. Instead, the motivation to read should come from knowing that reading has a purpose (I can learn things when I read), and that it brings one pleasure (I enjoy a good story). (See the book Motivated Minds: How to Raise a Child that Loves Learning for more on this.)
  • Programs like these usually leave a bad taste in my mouth because I feel they can encourage parents to view their children as a kind of status symbol (My child can read already, can yours?). It's hard in our day and age not to feel like you're in competition with the rest of the world to have the best and brightest child. We put too much pressure on our children to grow up too quickly, and this seems like yet another product to encourage that. 
  • What children need is someone to snuggle up with them everyday and read them a good book, or two, or ten! They need you to talk about the story with them, point at the words sometimes, ask them questions, do an activity that relates to the book, etc. Make books and reading come alive for them and they will want to read. They will love to read. And they will learn to read when they're ready. 
  • Research has shown that children who learn to read early don't necessarily do better in school or have any advantage over children who learn later (at the usual age). In fact, forcing reading instruction too early can sometimes have the exact opposite outcome. 
  • I like to think of a life of reading as a marathon. Think of "The Tortoise and The Hare." Slow and steady wins the race, right? When formal reading instruction is introduced too early, reading and learning can become a sprint instead...
So, to the friend that asked me about this yesterday. I'm sorry I didn't have a better, more informed, response at the time. Again, I have no experience with the program myself. So I would love to hear thoughts from those of you who do! Tell me what you think. Do you disagree with these thoughts? Perhaps I'm way off base here. Please leave a comment and share your thoughts!

For more Literacy Launchpad info and goodies, find us on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest!!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

I Won An Award!

The Bookworm's Booklist gave me this awesome blog award! Yay! What an honor! If you haven't visited The Bookworm's Booklist, you need to! Now! Be sure you check out her photos of her gutter bookshelves while you're there.

Now I get to bestow this award on a few of my favorite blogs. And the award recipients are:

Here are the Rules:
1. Add the award logo to your blog.
2. Add a link to the person who awarded it to you. (That's me!;-)
3. Give the award to other blogs. (However many you choose!)
4. Add links to those blogs on your blog.
5. Leave a message (in the form of a comment) for your award recipients on their blogs.

How To Lead an Adventurous Storytime!

Anybody is capable of taking their child/student/niece/nephew/grandchild/etc. on an imaginary adventure. Just pull out at great book to read with them - the book does all the work for you! But don't stop at simply reading them the story; be sure you play with the story afterward. For example, here are a couple adventures we went on in March. Another example: last week we read a story about "cowpokes;" then we dressed up in cowboy bandanas and rode a stick horse while we pretended to do cowboy things!

Here are some things to remember when you're bringing a storybook adventure to life:

  • Keep your read-aloud full of energy and enthusiasm. You can't expect them to get excited about it if you're not.
  • Don't be afraid to be silly. They're kids - they'll love it! Silliness can draw even the most reluctant participant into the story and play.
  • Use voices. This can be anything from reading each character's part in the story in a unique voice, to using a special accent (appropriate to the story and/or adventure).
  • Use props. They can be simple or elaborate. Just use what you've got. If you tell the kids the box is a spaceship, they'll go with it! 
  • Commit to the part. If your storytime is interrupted by the dryer buzzer going off either ignore it, or blast your spaceship over to the laundry room and get the other astronauts to help you sort laundry in space!
  • Don't forget your adventure, even after it's over! If you visit the museum and see a space exhibit, say, "Remember when we were astronauts last week? We went to the moon just like them!" 
Special adventures like these are sure to be the kind of things your kids will remember for years to come. And you'll be growing and stretching their minds and imaginations! Bonus!