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Reading Rockets' children's literature expert, Maria Salvadore, brings you into her world as she explores the best ways to use kids' books inside — and outside — of the classroom.
I have always liked the books by Mem Fox, the Australian author whose stories have been popular among children for a long time.
There's often a spark of magic in Fox's books, sometimes in everyday situations. And sometimes there's "real" magic like in Possum Magic (Harcourt). Here, a young possum and his grandmother search for just the right food to make him visible again (something he ate made him invisible, of course).
There's a special kind of magic in the story of friendship between a young boy (with a big name) and his 96-year old friend in Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge (Kane Miller).
But the greatest magic of all is evident in her chatty, can-do approach to reading with young children shared in Reading Magic (Harvest). Fox creates just what the title says, Reading Magic with her anecdotes and information for adults about reading with children. An updated edition is being released just in time for summer. In this book, Mem Fox describes the magic that reading aloud creates, and makes that magic come alive in the stories she tells.
Mem Fox's passion for reading and children becomes absolutely contagious in Reading Magic. Hope you become inspired and find some summer reading magic, too.
Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of summer. It's got a serious side that should not be forgotten: to honor those who have died in service to our country.
But the start of summer represents another important period — when children's learning begins to drop off .
Making books and reading an important part of children's summer activities can prevent reading loss — and may even improve it.
Libraries are a great place to start. They're likely to have a summer reading program — and the materials to support it.
If your child is going to camp, find out if books and reading are built into the schedule — no matter what the camp's focus is. From general to specialized, books fit well into daily activities — even if the camp is in your own backyard.
It's always fun to read about this season and its special goings-on.
There's humor in the old camp songs that are probably still sung, vibrantly illustrated by Frane Lessac in Camp Granada: Sing-Along Camp Songs (Holt).
And there are sweet memories of summers past in books like Donald Crews' Bigmama's and Shortcut (both Greenwillow) in which the author/illustrator recalls summer visits (and adventures) to his grandparents' Florida home. Lynne Rae Perkins evokes equally warm memories from a very different time in Pictures from Our Vacation (Greenwillow).
No matter where children spend their summer, here's hoping books and reading are a part of it!
The adult world has a way of creeping into children's lives. I meet children and young people whose lives are impacted by the issues adults like to think are exclusively adult problems. But that just isn't true.
A recent report released by First Focus discloses that an estimated two million children will lose their homes during 2008-09 as the mortgage crisis continues. The report goes on to suggest that the impact will be felt in school and elsewhere as these children will demonstrate behavioral problems, health difficulties, and lack of readiness to learn.
The report specifically finds that these children are "only half as likely to be proficient in reading as their peers" (which puts them at risk of dropping out of school).
I wonder how reading and books can be used by teachers and parents to help equip children emotionally — children who are directly experiencing this and children who know others who are.
Beverly Cleary's poignant but funny book, Ramona and Her Father (HarperCollins) in which Mr. Quimby loses his job and times are really tight comes to mind immediately, as does Fly Away Home by Eve Bunting (Clarion). In this picture book, a boy and his father live in an airport as they have no permanent home.
A girl goes from living in a comfortable home to living in a car — and dealing with her conscience — in Barbara O'Connor's affecting and funny How to Steal a Dog (Farrar).
And I wonder if the orphan protagonist in The Invention of Hugo Cabret (Scholastic) could be considered homeless?
Let's hope that books, reading, and maybe the shared experience they can create will lend some relief if not support to children and their families in these unsettled times.
How can an annual celebration take place twice within seven months? Well, that's what's happening with Children's Book Week (CBW)! First adopted in 1919, CBW has traditionally been held in November, but has now become a spring thing.
One thing hasn't changed; CBW remains based in the belief that books change lives.
And they do.
I remember a boy named Robert who discovered that he could read when he laughed over Oliver Butterworth's The Enormous Egg (Little Brown). How Michelle — a parent who couldn't read — memorized Ezra Jack Keats' Peter's Chair (Viking) so that she could read it to her two sons, and talk with them about being jealous over a younger sibling. I think of Eric who saw a child that looked like he did in Molly Bang's Ten, Nine, Eight (Greenwillow) — and whose grandmother added this book to the one book in their home (which was the Bible).
Books touch people; they change lives. And so it's good to be reminded that they deserve a special time to be celebrated.
The Children's Book Council, the organization that administers CBW, also works with the International Reading Association (IRA) to come up with Children's Choices, lists "with a twist!" The books are selected and evaluated by kids.
It's a great way to fine out what books children like though we may not know until they're older why they do or how the books have touched them.
Check out the 2008 Children's Choice list on May 14 or download earlier lists. It's always interesting to see where adult and children's choices intersect — and diverge.
El día de lost ninos/El día de los libros or Children's Day/Book Day — also known simply as Día — has officially come and gone for the year.
Día celebrates children, books, families, and reading. Though it officially culminated on April 30, this fete deserves the entire year!
You can share ideas as well as gather them — sharing "Bookjoy" on a blog devoted to it. (I like the idea of joy in books — delight in all kinds of books. It's an idea that holds a special place on my shelf.)
I take great joy in cooking. And when combined with a good story and children, it seems that there are two terrific, enjoyable, and even tasty, activities.
One of my favorites is Cook-a-Doodle-Doo by Janet Stevens (Harcourt). It's a take-off on the traditional tale of the Little Red Hen with a pot-bellied pig, an iguana, and a turtle as willing and hungry helpers. Not only is the story clever and quite funny, the directions for strawberry shortcake is clear, easy (with adult supervision, of course), and absolutely delicious. (I know; I've made it.)
So is the recipe in Honey Cookies by Meredith Hooper (Frances Lincoln) in which a grandmother and grandson make honey cookies as the child learns about where the ingredients begin. Good information and another good recipe for children and adults to make together. (I know; I've tried this one, too.)
Other ideas to celebrate books and reading with children? Take a minute to post it to Bookjoy or right here. I'd love to hear from you.
Not since Eric Carle's The Very Quiet Cricket (Philomel) chirped at me have I been as surprised when I opened a book.
Frankly, I read a lot of books for young readers, so one specific title doesn't usually surprise me…but that changed this week when I opened a book called The Adventures of Cali (Omniscent Corporation).
The book talked to me — literally.
Inside the book was a small device called the "iRead2You Interactive Voice Recorder" which can record up to a four minute message. It can be placed inside a book as it was in Cali or record a message about the book.
Just think of the possibilities!
Books read on video are used to unite military parents and their children , but this device may make that even easier.
It can also help connect incarcerated parents with their children.
Children can practice reading aloud and then listen to themselves.
Young readers can be encouraged to listen for a specific part of a book or make verbal recommendations, sort of a mini-commercial for a book.
What do you think of this little device? Is it a wonderful development or another gimmick? How might you use it with children to encourage reading and connecting with and through books?
I think you may find it a sound surprise!
When I was a kid, a bunch of us would go to the local creek and collect tadpoles. My mother wasn't really keen on the idea, but she always let me watch the tadpoles grow into baby frogs — in the room I shared with my sister. (Now, my sister was another story all together…) Once the babies were developed, we returned them to the same creek.
At some point, I became aware of Earth Day, but surely it was later when I learned that the health of our environment could be determined by the health of frogs. They've been called the canaries of the modern age (harking back to the days when coal miners took the little yellow birds with them to assess the health of the air).
Much more recently become aware that many of the 5000 (plus) species of these amphibians are in decline, some extinct. There are even organizations to help save frogs!
An exhibit at the National Geographic Society introduces museum visitors to a range of real, live, and incredibly interesting frogs. (You can visit them in DC until mid May.) It's a fascinating exhibit (the frogs I raised sure weren't this colorful!).
It also reminds me of what we'd lose if we lost any of these fascinating creatures.
If you don't believe that frogs are fascinating, just take a look at the range of them through the lens of Nic Bishop. His Frogs (Scholastic) will make your eyes pop — as will Sandra Markle's Slippery, Slimy Baby Frogs (Walker) for slightly older readers.
I personally will remember the frogs of my childhood in honor of this year's Earth Day: April 22, 2008…but I'm not sure how else I will mark the 38th Earth Day? Any ideas?
What combines a smidgen of science, a bit of biography, a taste of poetry, a speck of art, and even a dash of athletics mixed with a whole lot of outdoor fun and can be inspired by an activity that takes place anywhere?
America's favorite pastime: baseball, of course!
If you can't go to a game or if your children aren't playing T-ball or baseball, here are a few suggestions to get you and your kids into the game.
How Baseball Works by Keltie Thomas (Maple Tree Press) is a fine way to dip into the science of baseball. Slightly older kids will read it independently, while snippets of it are ideal to share with younger children.
Return to baseball of yesteryear with Casey at Bat, Ernest Thayer's dramatic ballad of baseball in Mudville. Christopher Bing's version (Handprint) was awarded a Caldecott Honor for his illustrations that clearly put readers in the late 19th century.
Did you know that not even a World War could stop baseball? David Adler's Mama Played Baseball (Harcourt) — historical fiction for younger children — tells the story of a girl whose mother played while her father was away during WWII.
Meet Roberto Clemente: Pride of the Pittsburgh Pirates (Atheneum) in a handsomely illustrated picture book biography by Jonah Winter.
And younger children will empathize with Froggy as he experiences the ups and downs of sports in Froggy Plays T-Ball (Viking) by Jonathan London.
A bounty of books to share the fun, science, and history of the game are only as far as your local library or bookstore. So open a book — and a box of Crackerjacks — and champion your favorite team!
This week marks the 40th anniversary of one of the saddest events in American history during a particularly difficult period: the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Like other momentous incidents, those old enough to remember this probably can recall what they were doing when they heard the news.
For young children though, last week is ancient history; even for older children (like my teenaged son) the 'black and white' days seem to have little impact today. But they do.
Not only is the past is always with us, but we and our children learn from it. Often the world is shaped by regular people who turn into giants because of their convictions and courage — people like Martin Luther King, Jr. History reminds us of the power of one person.
And books allow us to revisit these people again and again.
Martin's Big Words by Doreen Rappaport with stunning illustrations by Bryan Collier (Jump at the Sun) — for which he won a 2002 Caldecott Honor — introduces children as young as five years old to the power of words by MLK, Jr. using the weight of words and image on large pages. It remains a unique introduction to the man and the enormity of his contribution.
Not only can children (and adults) glimpse Dr. King's life and the strength of his words, they have an opportunity to discover a way of self-expression through one author and one illustrator's approach. Both the author and the artist add personal notes about their response to King.
Words can be bigger than the typeface in which they're printed.
Museums — large or small — enrich any spring break no matter where you live or how old the children. Plus, there's some research which suggests that the study of art enhances literacy skills, including critical thinking.
While museums provide a unique, shared experience — regardless of previous exposure or experience — sometimes it can be difficult to physically get there.
And that's when a trip to a library or a bookstore comes in.
Books are not a substitute for an actual museum visit, but it is possible for them to enrich a visit, prepare for one, or allow you to see work from faraway galleries.
You can see and talk about an entire exhibit in Tell Me a Picture (Francis Lincoln), explore similar themes in a range of art in books by Lucy Micklethwait, or meet an individual artist in an interactive book like Hello Rousseau (Birdcage Books).
Let me know about your favorite museum or art book — or what you're planning for this year's spring break!