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Friday, October 26, 2012

Picture Book Round-Up: What We've Been Reading Lately

Here's a few pics from our latest library haul. I've been trying to mostly include the books we have enjoyed, and skip the ones we didn't like so much... since we tend to check out a lot of books from the library and I can only post about so many of them.

This wasn't necessarily one of my favorites, but my boys loved it. I'm not sure what made them like it so much, but I think it was the sparse illustrations that combined photos of food and simple black and white drawings. They asked me to, "please find more books like this one."The book contains various food-related idioms that the illustrations depict in a very literal way. It's cute, but I didn't care for the flow of it. It was more of a list than a story, and reading it aloud felt a bit awkward to me. I was actually surprised my boys liked it so much because I thought most of it would be confusing to them, since I wasn't sure they had actually ever heard any of these idioms. The illustrations were pretty fun though, and I think that was what really sold my boys on this one. 

The style of this book reminds me The Jolly Postman, it's full of all kinds of fun pockets and letters to open and explore. It's probably a little more appropriate for a bit of an older reader than The Jolly Postman though. The story is a conversation that occurs over the course of a summer between a boy at summer camp, and his father at home. I read it to my preschooler and he really liked opening the envelopes and discovering the contents of each. It's a great book to use when studying correspondence or writing in general. My son has a little writing station where he likes to create letters for his friends, and this book provided some great inspiration for his work there! If my ESL third grader were a more proficient reader, this would be great for him to read and enjoy independently. Actually, he might be capable of tackling this one; I think I might let him have a go at it. The unusual format of the book makes it an extra-fun read!

I love a book that invites some good listener participation, as well as some good extension activities. And this is a great one for that! The story is about a little monkey that sets out a walk to his grandma's house and experiences a series of events along the way that alternates between good and bad, or "fortunately and unfortunately." It's great for inviting predictions from the listener. And it's fun for the listeners to "read" the "fortunately/unfortunately" parts aloud with you. I always love a book that lends itself to a good chart-making activity afterward, and this one is perfect. I would love to make a chart where the kids review each event from the story and sort them into "fortunately" and "unfortunately." 

What a cute story, perfect for Halloween time. A spooky, but not too spooky story! When the monster that lives under a little boy's bed goes on vacation, a substitute shows up. But the substitute is not scary enough for the little boy to sleep (funny!), so another substitute comes, and then another, and another... Finally the little boy's regular monster under the bed returns from vacation and he is able to sleep well once again. The various monster substitutes look pretty intimidating initially, but when they fully reveal themselves they're actually pretty funny and/or cute! This would be a fun read aloud, because it gives lots of opportunity to give the monsters some fun voices! I was going to use this one with my Literacy Launchpad students this month, but I decided it was a little too wordy and long for some of their attention spans... and for the little bit of time we have in class in each week. Definitely a good for bedtime at home though!

This is not your typical book about trucks. Yes, the illustrations are full of various construction trucks and machines. Yes, there are lots of fun truck and machine noises. But also, it engages the reader by asking them to answer a question/make a prediction on every other page. The page then fold open to reveal the answer in both text and illustration. I like that it gives interesting info about these trucks and machines that children readers/listeners might not have known. It keeps them interested and turning those pages! Plus, pages that fold open into large illustrations are always a kid pleaser too! 

Here's a fun secret agent story that any kid could appreciate. The style it's written in true secret agent style, and makes for a really fun read aloud. A stolen painting, flying to another country, parachuting off planes, being tied up and thrown off a boat... This book is full of awesome adventure, but it's not too long or wordy. It has a perfect pace! And your kids will enjoy trying to predict how it will all work out in the end. Will Jack save the painting and return it safely to the museum? You're kids will end up wanting you to read it again once it's done! Oh, and there's some great info at the end of the book about  the actual Mona Lisa and a time it was truly stolen; it was interesting for both me and my kids to read!

This one's a charming non fiction picture book that tells about many different kinds of seeds there are. It's a fun read that helps stretch kids' minds and take notice of all the kinds of seeds around us, even things in nature that might not realize are seeds! Again, another one that has a nice flow too it and isn't too wordy or long. I could definitely use this with my Literacy Launchpad preschoolers. It would be lots of fun to read and then head out on a nature hunt looking for seeds! Or perhaps just bring in a variety of seeds to let the kids explore after you read the story. There are also some good, brief, discussion-starting notes at the back of the book that help take the learning even farther. 

A modern spin on a favorite nursery rhyme. The original nursery rhyme is taken and elaborated on, but we see the old-fashioned concept from it (buying live animals at a rural market) put into a present day context (modern day grocery store and home with all our modern, present day amenities). Hilarity ensues as we witness these two things clash - live farm animals being brought into a modern, suburban-ish home. I found my boys and I having a discussion as we went through the entire story. "Oh my goodness, what's going to happen when she brings home that goose?" "Where's she going to put the cow?" "What does she need all these animals for?"It would be a great start to discussing all the various types of stores people shop at for the various different goods we buy. The kids could discuss where they buy their food and clothes, etc. This would be a fun one to put in your home living center! 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Books About Books... For Teachers and Parents!

I love a good book about books... or about reading! I love gleaning new insights and wisdom, and discovering new picture books that I have yet to read (there are many of them believe or not)!

Anita Silvey, that authored this book, worked for years as a reviewer and editor for The Horn Book Magazine. She also worked as a children's book publisher. So this is a fantastic list, very thorough in the information it provides. Contains both picture book recommendations, as well as chapter book recommendations. I love reading people's lists like this, and comparing my own list with it! You can bank on this author's expertise and the recommendations she provides in this book!

I love this book! It's one of my go-to's. It's full of inspiration, information, tips, reviews, recommendations, lists, ideas. It's awesome. I love to read through it from time to time and then also keep it handy for referencing! In fact, that's why it's not in the photo at the top of this post; I didn't have it on my shelf, I had it handy for referencing!

This is THE book for teachers and parents that care about helping kids become lovers of books and readings. The research and data in it is extensive and sobering, and put out there in a way that is easy to understand and apply in meaningful ways. It also has ideas, suggestions, tips, inspiration. My copy is full of notes and highlights. It also has a treasury at the back of read-aloud book suggestions. If you only get one book about books, get this one! Everybody should read it!

This book was written by a 6th grade teacher that is passionate about helping her students learn to enjoy reading, now and for the rest of their lives. She details her methods for working toward this goal in her classroom with her students, and it's very brilliant and inspiring! I wish all teachers and schools were like this! The book might seem like one that would be geared more toward teachers, but I think it would be very helpful and motivating for parents. The ideas and techniques could be used in the classroom, or adapted to be used at home too! This one's a quick read too!

This one is written more as a teacher resource book. But again, as parents, we are also teachers of our children, and so that's why I feel these books are so relevant for parents as well. Reading especially is something that is essential to encourage at home, and to cultivate as a lifestyle in our children. This book has a lot of ideas for setting up the classroom, and coming up with literacy-rich lessons. But all that can so easily be modified from a classroom environment into your home environment. There are lots of photos, and the layout is easy to read and navigate through. Lots of great info and resources are provided in this one!

Written by an awesome children's book author, this one is a quick, easy read that's great for parents that don't have a lot of time to sit down for some of these bigger reads. It focuses on parents, but is great for teachers too, and could really help teachers with ways to encourage parents and families to be reading together at home. Small, but potent, this might be a great one to start with! No book lists of recommendations in this one, but it does include a list of Mem Fox's books which are great ones to go read!

This is a great resource book, and I think especially helpful for parents. Keep it on hand and browse through it and jot a few titles down before heading out the library or bookstore. Or bring it along with you to the library! Focuses on lists of various book recommendations from varying genres, but also includes splashes of info about reading and author info, and some interesting little trivia facts. A great book to keep your kids reading books they'll like!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Using Digital Scrapbooks to Turn Kids Into Authors

I remember how much I loved creating my own story books as a kid. But they were never very fancy; usually they were just some pieces of plain white paper, or maybe some colored construction paper, stapled together. And not that there's anything wrong with that; it's great. But I have been amazed lately by how easy it is these days to help your child create a beautiful storybook, that looks and feels like it was actually published!

My son loves creating his own books. I stuffed his Easter basket this past year with some blank books for him to create in. He filled those quickly. So when he was asking the other week to create another book and asking if I would buy him more blank books, I had an idea. I suggested he create a story with his Legos, that I would take photos to use as illustrations, and that we could use the computer to compile them into a book that he could write the words for.

He loved the idea, and went straight to work coming up with his Lego story. I figured he would need some help and prompting with arranging his Legos for the photos, but he didn't want or need help with that. He readily created a story, arranging and dictating continually as we plugged away at it. It was so fun to witness, I was really proud of him and his storytelling!

Sitting down at the computer with him to lay it out in a photo book was entertaining. He again needed no help coming up with what words he wanted to pair with each illustration. He came up with hysterical character names. (One character was named "Donkey Rash." I have no idea where he came up with that one.) And the dialogue between all those characters was adorable!

The completed book came in the mail this past week and he is so proud of it! He has me read it to him every day (his brother is getting really sick of it.). He can't get enough of hearing his story told over and over again!

My son loves when we talk about how he's the author and illustrator of this awesome book! He almost can't believe it! Unfortunately, this particular photo book we made didn't allow us to put his name (or even a photo) on the cover. In fact, I wasn't pleased with the website we used in general; I really struggled to figure out how to lay out the book the way I wanted, and was never quite satisfied with it. Then when it arrived in the mail, there were even more errors in it. But my son doesn't notice those things. He just loves it.

So if you're looking for something fun to do with your kiddos, here's a great activity to try. Plus, it encourages literacy! Plus, it makes for a great keepsake for you as a parent!

Let your child come up with creative ideas for making their illustrations. They could use photos of toys, people (themselves/their friends and family), artwork they create... Lots of possibilities!

Have you ever made a book like this with your kids? How did it turn out? What kind of process did they use to make it? Or have you used another method for helping your child create their own book? I would love to hear about it in the comments!!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Picture Book Round-Up: Trying to Stay Ahead of the Pile

I do these picture book round not only so that others might stumble upon a fun, new read, but also to keep track of what I'm reading with my kids. I like that I have a record of some notes about the books we've read from the library. I can refer back to these posts if I need or want to. It has proved very helpful! I guess I could accomplish the same goal using Goodreads... or even just an old fashioned notebook. But I like sharing my reads with you guys! The trick is to keep up with posting about our pile of books before they are due back at the library! Ha!

A tale of a unlikely friendship between a gorilla and a cat. I really liked the simplicity in which the story was told, it was just beautiful, a kind of beauty that even my little preschooler could appreciate. The illustrations are stunning, a mix of detailed artwork and a more simplistic style. It worked so well with the story. I thought this book would work great for a "beginning/middle/end" lesson with preschoolers, or even elementary students. The story clearly divides into these three distinct parts in such a perfect way. Great book. And it definitely leaves you with the warm fuzzes!

I loved this book! What a great story for my kids - and all kids! A little boy needs new shoes, but can't afford the cool ones he's been eyeing, the ones everyone else at school is wearing. He ends up with embarrassing hand-me-downs from his school, but then discovers a pair of the coveted shoes at a thrift store! Score! But they are the wrong size. After trying to squeeze his feet into them for a while, he notices that his friend's shoes are falling apart, but that his feet are a smaller size. Aha! He ends up surprising his friends by leaving the cool shoes on his doorstep for him. I like that it features an African American protagonist, because I feel that I have a hard time finding those kinds of books for my Ethiopian son... at least ones that I think he would be interested in reading. The illustrations reminded me of animations for some of those clever new cartoon shows that are always popping up on TV (and my Netflix homepage). This book was a hit here in our house.

Another one I loved. It tells the story of two families: one living inside a snow globe, and then the family that owns the snow globe and lives outside of it in the real world. It shows the relationship between the two families; similarities and differences. The concept was just so much fun, showing how the family in the real world could affect the family in the snow globe so drastically. This book gives the reader so much to think about, and is such a conversation starter for you and your kiddos. I love the idea of taking something simple - a snow globe - and saying "what if..." 

I will SO be using this one in December with my classes. How cute! I love the graphic novel/comic-type format, and so did my boys. I don't typically enjoy reading aloud graphic novels, but when the style is done in a picture book it's a little different. And the words are so fun in the books it all just works for me! There are various characters that give me a chance to come up with fun voices. Then there's the new twist on the gingerbread man refrain that repeats throughout the tale and I like that participatory element. And then of course, there are endless fun ideas for story extensions when you've got a gingerbread man story. What new adventure could your kids dream up for the gingerbread man? Maybe they could create their own graphic novel-style picture book! 

One of my absolute new favorites. This one gets mentally filed in the same place as Press Here - as a really fun interactive book. The reader is invited and strongly encouraged to prove to the cats in the book that they are also cats so that the cats in the book will divulge their book of cat secrets. So hilarious and fun. My boys really loved it, and we had so much fun reading it several times. Having a cat around the house to read it with you makes it extra fun and you give her snuggles and imagine and joke about what her cat secrets might be, like we did when we were reading this book. I really, really loved this one, and will figure out the perfect place to fit it in my lesson planning because my students need to experience this one too! Can't wait!

What happens when a tennis ball falls down a prairie dog hole? The great fuzz frenzy!!! My boys and I giggled as we watched the prairie dogs pull the ball apart and dress up in the fuzz. I liked the large format of the book and the entertaining illustrations that gave us lots to look at, observe, and laugh about on each page spread. It was neat to get to turn the book vertical for some of the page spreads too and glance deeper down into the prairie dog hole. This was a great tale about friendship, and about making the right decision and doing the right things, even when it's not easy. 

This story gained a special place in my heart since we just got a dog this past weekend. It's about Mister Bud, the dog, and his comfortable little doggy routine that he enjoys each day. But when Zorro joins the family, his beloved schedule gets thrown off and he's not happy about it. Mister Bud eventually realizes that Zorro is not so bad, and that the two of them have actually become friends, and that sharing your day with someone else can improve it! Another warm fuzzy tale with adorable illustrations. Mister Bud is just the cutest in my opinion. I'm going to add this book to my list of potentials to use for my up-coming Pet Unit. It would be fun to use this book to do some list making by recalling Mister Bud's schedule from the book and writing a list of what a dog does all day, and all the things you typically have to do to take care of a dog. 

I love a good book about a book! I love that this one isn't simply about pointing out the joys of reading like so many of these particular kinds of books are, but is actually about book selection! Charlie is trying to help Lola find a new book to read after they go to the library and discover that someone else has checked out her beloved go-to book that she always brings home with her. It's time for her to broaden her horizons, and what a great idea for little preschoolers who so often like us to read them the same book over and over and over again. It would be a great title to read during a library unit, or when getting ready for a library visit, or on before giving some book talks to your kids to encourage them to check out a book you or someone else has enjoyed. I just love Charlie and Lola and this was a really fun read aloud, and is another one I will be incorporating into my Literacy Launchpad curriculum somehow. 

A little bit of a different flare to the favorite construction themed picture book. This time the big machines are tearing down an old building, and replacing it with a playground. Right away my son started asking great questions about why they would "break" a building, and what else they might put there instead. I like the contrast in the illustrations between the dull grays of the building they're tearing down and the bright colors of the trucks, machines, and clothes of the demo and construction crew. How fun would it be to retell the story with your kids using building blocks; tear down a building with flare, then building something new? What kind of building might you tear down? What kind of structure might be cool to build in it's place?