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Celebrate with books

It's earlier than it's been in the past and the location has changed from the National Mall to the Washington Convention Center but once again, it's back. If past is prelude, then it will be just as much fun (with the benefit of indoor plumbing and air-conditioning against the dreaded DC humidity).

I'm talking about the National Book Festival, of course.

2014 National Book Festival

Digging for Little House Treasures in Pepin’s Attic

Remember Laura’s first trip to Pepin? In Little House in the Big Woods, Wilder writes, “Laura stood up on the board and Pa held her safe by the arm, so she could see the town. When she saw it, she could hardly breathe. She knew how Yankee Doodle felt, when he could not see the town because there were so many houses.”

Little House in the Formerly Big Woods

When readers first meet Laura in Little House in the Big Woods, she’s a little girl living with her Pa, Ma, older sister Mary and baby sister Carrie. The real Laura Ingalls was born in a little house deep in the forests surrounding Pepin, Wisconsin, on February 7, 1867. Since Pepin is Laura’s birthplace and the setting of her first book, this village along the Mississippi River seemed like the place to visit first.

Little Journey on the Prairie: We're Off!

Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote one of the most beloved series in children's literature. Her "Little House" books, which recount her childhood during the late 1800s, have provided generations of readers with a look at what life was like for our pioneering ancestors.

If you've always wanted a closer look at the Big Woods, wondered what it would be like to play along the banks of Plum Creek or dreamed of wandering the shores of Silver Lake, you're not alone. My mother and I have talked about walking in Laura's footsteps ever since I first read the books as a child.

Top 5 ways to make the best of snow days

Those of us on the east coast are bracing for (yet another!) winter storm that promises to close schools for several days and leave parents at home with wet gloves and bored kids! Here are a few suggestions for sprinkling some reading and writing in-between sled rides.

Learning from graphics

There's real value in spending instructional time helping kids decipher the information found in graphic form. Textbooks, nonfiction books, and magazines are chock full of diagrams, tables, charts, and graphs. Visual information used to be limited to bold words and captioned pictures, but nowadays infographics, maps, and interactive tools carry a lot of the content weight within a piece of text. Successfully navigating these graphics, especially in STEM and content-area subjects, will lead to greater comprehension.

Getting mind and body ready for school

It's a fact. Good nutrition leads to healthy bodies and to healthy minds — minds and bodies that are ready to learn (and grow and play and do everything else that children do).

All schools seem to be moving toward more healthful lunch and snack choices. Some schools use the notion of healthy food in ways to support the curriculum while building community. Last year, about 80 schools in Washington, D.C. had school gardens.

Books just in time for vacation

The weather says it is definitely summertime — often travel or vacation time.

Lots of families will take road trips; many will visit some of the wonderful national parks across the country. And a great time it is, too; after all, July is Park and Recreation Month.

In addition to summer pleasure reading, two recent books are must-haves on these excursions.

Poverty and planning skills

A recent study in the journal Child Development suggests a link between students living in poverty and poor planning skills that extends into several academic areas, including math and reading. Using scores from a strategic puzzle-based task that requires advance planning and tactical moves, researchers found that scores on the planning task in Grade 3 predicted children's reading and math outcomes at Grade 5, even while controlling for IQ.

No screen required

Many are best done outdoors while others are really intended for indoor use; some require special accoutrements, others none. They were once called "diversions" and although the names have changed, games are still around and in fact, have never gone away. (There is even evidence that ancient people in Greece, China, and even Sumeria played them.)

And summer is the time when there's more down time for children or even adults to learn or revisit games.

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"There is no substitute for books in the life of a child." — May Ellen Chase