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Friday, July 20, 2012

Start a Preschool Book Club

What if we could create a book club experience for our little ones similar to the kinds of book clubs that we adults participate in? Yes, there are plenty of library preschool story hours (and I love them), but I'm talking about a small gathering of friends, meeting in a place like someone's house, each family contributing to the planning, reading, and discussing...

This has been a little dream of mine for a while. I honestly don't see it happening anytime soon for me and my son, but the fall would be the perfect time to launch your local preschool book club if you might be so inspired.

Here's what to do:

1. Invite neighbors, friends, your child's classmates, church buddies... you decide what kind of group you want to form. Use Evites, old fashioned paper invitations, email, word of mouth, Facebook (how fun would a little Facebook group for your book club parents be?). Get the word out and make it easy for people to respond and keep in touch with you about details.

2. Decide where you'll meet. It doesn't need to be formal. A home, the park, church space... Maybe you even rotate locations?

3. Choose a book to begin with and let the group know where they can find it, and when it needs to be read by. This can be any format, genre, or length depending on the ages and interests of the kids in your group. Maybe you want to assign a little activity for parents to do with their child at home, post-story, and then the kids can discuss the book and how the activity went for them. Make sure it's an open-ended activity so there's lots to chat about and there's likely to be variety in how it went for each family.

4. Plan a little discussion. Depending on the ages and attention spans of the kiddos in the group, the amount and type of questions you ask may vary. But just like any good book club, you want to talk about the book! So brainstorm or research some discussion starters.

5. Personalize your book club. What makes a book club different from a library story time is that it's meant to be more intimate and personalized. Choose a theme that interests your kids, let the kids give book talks and bring in some of their favorite reads to share with the group, develop special interests and opinions about various authors and illustrators together, give the kids some ownership and say-so in club plans.

6. Make it fun. Have parents take turns planning an activity and/or game to do with the kids at the club meeting. Scour the internet and Pinterest (and Literacy Launchpad) for ideas; you'll find more than you need! Serve snacks during book club and make them coordinate with your theme or specific book, if possible. Maybe let the kids help make the snack as part of book club. Maybe everybody can bring a snack to share that they feel coordinates with the story for that meeting; this would be a great discussion starter. Plan field trips, bring in special guests, have all kinds of fun!

The possibilities are endless, it makes my head swim. I think this would be something your kids would look forward to every week, or couple weeks, or month... or however often your group decides to meet.

Here are some ideas for a book club meeting for The Very Hungry Caterpillar (just as an example):

Have everyone bring one of the foods the caterpillar ate? (idea and photo from Offbeat Mama) Maybe do a taste testing together and you can make a chart, or discuss which foods are everyone's favorite. 

Get fancy with your storytelling? (idea and photo from A Wednesday Afternoon)

Plan an art project? (idea and photo from SmArt Class)

Learn something? (idea and photo from Busy Bees)

You get the idea, right?

Are you already doing a preschool book club? I would love to hear about it! Have some ideas to add to this list? Put them in the comments!

And here are a few more The Very Hungry Caterpillar ideas from me!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Summer This and Thats

Summer time = No time. At least that's how it feels for me as a mom. We travel, we swim, we go here, we go there... and I entertain children (Any other moms feel like a cruise director during the summer months?). As a result, I don't get to spend as much time here. I'm still alive though!

We have been visiting the library and doing better (though not great still) with logging our summer reading hours than we did last year. Who else hates reading logs in all ways, shapes, and forms? My kids have been enjoying choosing books on our library visits, finding books to practice their reading with, and listening to audio books.

I haven't been real jazzed about what we've brought home form the library over the summer months. With other kids out of school and frequenting the library more, it's usually pretty slim pickings. But here are a few selections that seemed worth mentioning:

I think we might read this next month during our last Literacy Launchpad Summer Session. My boys were initially expecting a certain type of ending, and were surprised when about half way through when they realized they had no idea what kind of ending this book was going to have. Unique, weird, and fun. It has helped inspire my theme for our next Literacy Launchpad session. 

What a darling story about the joys and benefits of reading. This one might get used in a Literacy Launchpad lesson too. When we finished reading this one, both my boys and I all said, "That was a really good book." :)

Dots, dots, dots! Can you think of all the places you might find dot shapes? This book will help get your kiddos brainstorming! Love the colors used, and the simplicity of the illustrations. And I've got some Bingo dot painters that are just begging to be used for a fun project with this book! 

Fun play with words. My boys needed some help figuring the word plays out, but really enjoyed the challenge and the fun of it. They asked their dad the next day, "Have you ever read this book? You should!" It would be fun to see what other kind of word plays you could cook up with your kids or students. 

My Little Reader "reading" me Carl the Dog at bedtime. 

Big brother reading to little brother.

Big brother "teaching" little brother how to read.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Keep 'Em Writing: Summer Pen Pals

My lovely cousin, Holly, asked me if my kids would like to be pen pals with her kids over the summer and I hastily replied, "Yes!" Holly is a teacher and knows what good writing practice this will be for our kids. I'm thankful for her initiative, as this was one of those things I was wanting to do this summer, but wasn't sure I was going to get around to starting.

Our kids have never met, and so this is a great way for them all to get to know each other. It's also fun for them all to get real mail in the mailbox. And coming up with interesting things to write about, or clever letter-writing ideas, will be cool too!

Holly's kids sent fun little pen pal boxes to mine to get it all going. My kids were psyched to open their package and start using their stuff. My older son did great with reading his letter he received, and my daughter got to writing back immediately (my littlest one was most excited about coloring in his new coloring book)!

My kids of course wanted to pick some fun things out too, and we sent those off to their pen pals last week. I found I fun little "All About Me" worksheet (thank you Pinterest) for my kids to fill out and include in their package they sent. It was a good prompt for them, as they were suffering from a bad case of What-should-I-wriiiiite-itis the day we sat down to write our first pen pal letters.

We're already planning to find some fun postcards to send while we're on vacation later this month. Photos from summer activities will be fun to send as well. I'm hoping we can get creative and keep it fun. Any writing practice is great, and pen pals are a great way for kids (especially little ones) to understand some of the purposes of print.

Share your creative pen pal writing ideas in the comments. How/what are your kids writing this summer?