I really love February!
The holidays are over...the children's award books from the previous year have been named, and it's time to look forward to another year of great reading.
As my daughter gets older, I love using books not only for entertaiment, but also as an amazing way of teaching life lessons.
February is Black History Month, and I have found two amazing new books to add to my list of captivating portraits of African American life, both past and present:
Brown Girl Dreaming, Jacqueline Woodson
National Book Award Winner
Jacqueline Woodson, one of today's finest writers, tells the moving story of her childhood in mesmerizing verse.
Raised in South Carolina and New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. In vivid poems, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement. Touching and powerful, each poem is both accessible and emotionally charged, each line a glimpse into a child’s soul as she searches for her place in the world. Woodson’s eloquent poetry also reflects the joy of finding her voice through writing stories, despite the fact that she struggled with reading as a child. Her love of stories inspired her and stayed with her, creating the first sparks of the gifted writer she was to become.
Running out of night, Sharon Lovejoy
A Children’s Book Review Seven Middle Grade Books for African American History Month Pick
Fans of Elijah of Buxton, Trouble Don’t Last, and Stealing Freedom will be drawn to this tale of the incredible journey of an abused twelve-year-old white girl and an escaped slave girl who run away together and form a bond of friendship while seeking freedom.
Every day is a misery for a nameless, motherless Southern girl who is treated cruelly by her pa and brothers. Her life changes forever when a runaway slave named Zenobia turns to her for help and shelter. Longing for her own freedom, the girl decides to run away, and she and Zenobia set off on a harrowing journey. Along the way, Zenobia names the girl Lark, after the bird, for her ability to mimic its song.
Running by night, hiding by day, the girls are pursued by Lark’s pa and brothers and by ruthless slave catchers. Brightwell, another runaway slave, joins them, and the three follow secret signs to a stop on the Underground Railroad. When the hideout is raided and Zenobia and Brightwell are captured, Lark sets out alone to rescue her friends.
Books give us reason to celebrate and to cry...what better life lesson can we share with our children?
Why yes, I do have manners, gracias.
A great approach to find out more about other languages and cultures is learning about greetings and customs. What better way to incorporate a second language into your day than to learn to say 'hello' and 'goodbye' or 'please' and 'thank you' in another language?
When I was a teacher, I got into the habit and still say 'yes, please' in daily interactions. I had to model what I wanted to teach my students. Once the students got some manners down in English, I would start to incorporate other languages into our day. They loved it and would surprise me by saying 'sí, por favor' and 'no, gracias' during meal times. After I subbed at the 'Había Una Vez' bilingual story time at Belmar Library, I was delighted by the children whose parents encouraged them to personally thank me in Spanish!
Here is a link to digital dialects. On it, you will encounter 70 different language games. When you click on the language you would like to practice, the following page has several learning topics. The first learning topic is 'phrases and greetings'. Languages like Spanish, French and Chinese have an audio learning feature. First, you practice the phrases and then you can play the matching game.
Check out books about baby sign or American Sign Language (ASL) like this one by Sara Bingham at the library.
Or, try 21 word or phrase signs to practice with your child, courtesy of parenting.com.
And, my newest discovery! 'El Perro y El Gato' from HBO Latino! Look for these funny, yet educational videos about a cartoon cat and dog practicing Spanish on youtube. The following video is about 'manners' or 'modales'.
Signing 'thank you'? Saying it in Chinese? Have fun and use the words right along with your child!
¡Buen día! Have a great day!
Photo credit: flickr.com
Ahh. Valentine's Day. The day of hearts and flowers, wine and romance... and sticky gluey kiddo fingers making cute V-Day crafts! :)
As a Children's Librarian, I've seen my share of Valentine's Day crafts over the years. I put together this roundup of three sweet little crafts that caught my fancy because they're simple, yet super adorable!
Bling your kids out with these Hershey Kisses rings. Once they're done sporting them, the ring makes a delicious treat!
If you're using sign language with your kids, this card project is a perfect for your family!
Hoo Loves You, indeed! I've done many paper plate animal crafts before, but never a Valentine Owl!
I hope you all have a wonderful Valentine's Day making memories with the family!
Image Credit: History.com
Gimme an R! Gimme a W! Gimme a T! Gimme an S! Gimme a P! Or maybe I'll give them to you. How can these letters help you help your child become a good reader? Let me tell you:
Read! --Books Always Everywhere by Jane Blatt helps families see that books and reading can be a joyful part of their day.
Talk! --Froodle by Antoinette Portis shows how to have fun with language and sounds.
Sing! --I Got the Rhythm by Connie Schofield-Morrison shows us how to celebrate sound and music all throughout the day
These are the 5 early literacy practices that when used regularly will help a child be prepared to learn to read. For more information about the 5 practices and 6 early literacy skills check out CLEL's website.
The 5 books shown with each practice are the 2014 CLEL Bell award winners, announced today, February 5th! Each book has an early literacy activity sheet that will help you continue the experience after the book is closed. Go to http://www.clel.org/#!2015-bell-awards-titles/c1wgl to see the list of winners and links for the activity sheets. For more great books exemplifying each practice, take a look at the shortlist, which has 5 titles in each category. And be sure to take a look at last year's winners!
The Monster at the End of This Book is the first book I read all by myself. Well, I memorized it and could recite it before I could really read it, but memorization is a part of a child's literacy development, so it totally counts. After all, reading is knowing that this group of letters makes this sound. While early literacy development has traditionally begun with sharing books and other literacy materials like paper and crayons, we now have access to apps that can enhance the story experience.
Last week I found The Monster at the End of This Book and it's sequel, Another Monster at the End of This Book, on the shelf at the library and decided it was time to share them with the kids. Later that night, Little Sister sat on my lap, Big Brother sat next to me, I did an appalling impression of Grover's voice and they couldn't have been more delighted. We tickled and giggled our way through both books. Little Sister would only agree to go to bed once I promised we'd read them again in the morning. Lest I forget, she came into my room at o'dark thirty and plopped the books on top of me. I'd created a monster of my own.
Fortunately, I remembered that we'd once had an app of Another Monster at the End of This Book ($3.99 idevices and Kindle, sometimes offered for free), I redownloaded it and her brother showed her how to use it. Picture this, if you will, 2 kids, 1 iPad: no fighting! They were giggling! They were sharing! Real sharing! We had an App Store credit which I used to download the original Monster at the End of This Book ($4.99 idevices) as well.
If you don't already know, in both stories, Grover is trying to prevent you from turning the pages because he doesn't want to meet the (presumably scary) monster at the end. In the apps, Grover (or Elmo) narrates and the text is highlighted as each word is spoken. Unlike the book, you (or your child, I don't judge) have to manually disassemble the obstacles Grover puts in your way - tap to unclip the paper clips, swipe to wipe off the glue - in order to turn the page.
Now, in my heart of hearts, I am a children's librarian - so you can't say you didn't see this coming - a physical book shared with a child should always be our goal and is the very best practice for getting our children ready to read. However, if in the course of your day, you find yourself needing to make a phone call, or dinner, or use the bathroom alone, I highly recommend these interactive story apps.
Don't want to buy the apps? I don't blame you. The vast majority of apps we have were free for a limited time when we got them. I use Apps Gone Free (idevices - search the App Store/Android) and the hardest part is just remembering to check it - well, that and managing my storage space. For now, check out the videos for a very-close-to-the-real-thing Monster app experience!
Check back next month for another APPily Ever After!
Children learn and experience the world around them by using all of their senses: Sight, sound, smell, touch and taste. I have two boys, a four year-old and a two year-old. What is the first thing my two year old does with a newly discovered object? Yep, it goes right in the mouth. I remember the first time he found a worm. He literally almost ate it.
How can we teach our kids to use more than just their sense of sight to interact with the alphabet, a sight word, or a book? How can we turn reading into a hands-on sport? Here are a few ideas I found helpful for my little guys!
Preschool and Kindergarten:
- Trace letters in a pie pan of sand or a salt and sugar mixture. Make the sound of the letter while tracing.
- Fill a Ziplock bag with colored hair gel. On an 8.5x11 sheet of paper boldly write various letters of the alphabet. Place the paper under the gel bag and have your child use their finger to trace the letter through the gel.
For Kindergarten and older:
- Write letters of the alphabet on a piece of cardboard. While you say and repeat the sound of the letter, your child can skip, wiggle, or jump their way to the corresponding letter.
- On the index cards, write the name of objects in your house. For example: chair, door, or sofa. Your child can match the “Chair” index card to the chair at your kitchen table. Let’s throw a little acting in with the reading. How about using action words on the index cards. Oh, my boys love this. They see the word “run” on the card and immediately take off running at full speed across the living room. Little do they realize, they are reading! Be ready to demonstrate these action words! You know our kids love to see us run around the house!
- Using American Sign Language (ASL) is another awesome way for our kids to learn to read or spell a new word. You can sing and sign the alphabet song. The library has many great books and DVDs to help children learn American Sign Language. Try the popular Signing Time DVDs. This DVD series is designed to help hearing kids learn ASL.
Image Credit: Melanie Holtsman
PHONOLOGICAL AWARENESS: hearing and playing with the smaller sounds of words
What is more fun for your tongue than saying Zizzer Zazzer Zuzz? That awesome tingly feeling you get when your tongue is making that snakey snakey sound.
Now say it 3 times FAST!
Zizzer Zazzer Zuzz...Zizzer Zazzer Zuzz...Zizzer Zazzer Zuzz...
See you're smiling aren't you? Your tongue is happy and now you are happy, too!
According to The Colorado Libraries for Early Literacy (CLeL), that's why ECRR (Every Child Ready to Read) highlights PHONOLOGICAL AWARENESS as one of their 6 early literacy skills designed to promote early literacy in young children.
Why Is It Important?
Children who can hear how words "come apart" into separate sounds will be more successful at "sounding out" words when they start to read.
What Can You Do to Help Build This Skill?
Sing songs; most break words up into one syllable per note. Reading works with syllables also.
Recite rhymes; rhymes depend upon ending sounds.
Play with tongue twisters.
Pick a sound for the day. Notice it at the beginning of words and at the end of words.
Have FUN!!! Make lots of sounds and know you are creating a little reader.
Attention caregivers of four-year-olds! As your child's first and most important teacher, reading together helps them get ready for kindergarten. The One Book 4 Colorado project wants to make this possible by giving every four-year-old his or her own book to keep. During April 13-27, JCPL will join with this community-based partnership to distribute books to four-year-olds. First, we need your help to choose the giveaway book!
By March 1, check out fun videos of Colorado celebrities reading each of this year's One Book 4 Colorado options, in English and Spanish. After watching, vote for your favorite to be the 2015 winner.
Last year, over 75,000 books were given away at libraries and clinics in Colorado. JCPL is planning special events during the April giveaway period to celebrate the book with readings and activities. Look for more information on our website, on this blog, and at your local library.
Drumroll please....will the winner be:
Now that all the craziness of the holidays is over, you might have the January blahs. It's cold and snowy, and some days gray, and there's not much going on. One way to beat the January blues is to help someone else out.
Ever notice how doing something kind for someone else can make you feel good? Show your kids how to do that and the rewards are endless: You get to spend quality time with your kids while teaching them the values that are important to you. Somebody gets helped. Depending on where you're helping, important conversations about how the world works and what their place in it is could come up.
There are many ways that you and your children can get involved in your community and I'll give you a few ideas to get you started:
- Now that everybody has new toys, how about cleaning out some of the old stuff and donating what is in good condition to an organization that will put it to good use? Both Arapahoe and Jefferson counties have Santa Shops that low income families can shop at for free in December. Contact them and see if they take donations all year round.
- It can be hard to find an organization that will accept children as volunteers due to liability/insurance issues. However, you are interested in doing something for a charitable or local institution:
- The Action Center (formerly known as The Jeffco Action Center) will accept kids to do certain tasks, such as sorting food. They also have ideas on their website if you're interested creating your own project.
- Feed My Starving Children is a "non-profit Christian organization committed to feeding God’s children hungry in body and spirit. The approach is simple: children and adults hand-pack meals specifically formulated for malnourished children, and we ship these meals to nearly 70 countries around the world." To join a packing session here in Colorado, you need to find a MobilePack event to join--or if you're really ambitious, set up your own! Our family did this and we felt we did something meaningful and useful and found it very rewarding.
- Why not call a nursing home near you and see if they have any need for visitors?
- Next time it snows, grab your shovels and help out a neighbor or two, especially if you know of someone who might have a hard time shoveling themselves. Make their day!
Want to start a bit smaller? Check out this book:
It's fun to read; read it with your kids and pick one or two--or all!--to do together.
Whatever you choose to do, big or small, the important thing is that you are showing your kids that they matter--to you, most importantly, and to the world at large. Show them that what they do can have an impact on the world they live in. And everybody wins.
Photo Credit: Jill Hinn
2001 Colorado Blvd
Denver CO 80205
Open (nearly) Every Day
Closed Christmas Day
Adult (19-64): $14.95
Junior (3-18): $9.95
Senior (65+): $11.95
Family Membership: $90/year*
I know, barely 2 posts in and I've already gone a little off-message.
No, the Museum isn't in Jeffco, and it's also not super budget-friendly, but I am so impressed by what they're doing for kids over there, I had to share it with you!
The Museum is a big part of my elementary-school memories (remember when it was the Natural History Museum? Me too). I went to a Denver Public elementary school and lived near City Park. In high school, my Biology 2 class went on the very best and most educational field trip ever to the zoo and Museum. I learned a TON and had more fun than I thought possible while doing such a challenging assignment. (Thanks, Mr. Fredell!) I love the Museum and was really excited to share it with my kids. Maybe over-excited.
We bought a membership and took the kids in 2012. Unfortunately, Big Brother (then 3) and Little Sister (then baby) didn't think the Museum was as awesome as I do. To be fair, Little Sister would've happily gone wherever we liked, as she was in a carrier and didn't have a choice. Big Brother was content to spend All Day Long in the Space Odyssey exhibit: putting on space suits, piloting the shuttle and playing with "moon rocks."
I was eventually able to coax him into the Prehistoric Journey, but he tore through it at break-neck pace and seemed a bit underwhelmed that the dinosaurs were mostly bones (we tried to prepare him, but 3 isn't a great age for listening - am I right?) We took him on a forced march of the Gems & Minerals (my favorite) before going back to Space Odyssey. On the way home, we reluctantly admitted that perhaps we'd tried to make the museum happen a bit too early for our intended audience.
Fear not, dear readers, the Museum had a master plan for families like mine and it is the Discovery Zone. This space is intended especially for 3 to 5 year-olds, but includes activities for younger and older siblings. On Level 2, it's set about as far away from the front entrance as it could be and still be in the same building. This seems like bad planning at first, then you realize that there are acres and acres of stroller parking just outside the exhibit. It's genius.
Oh, where to begin? There's a sand pit to dig for dinosaur bones and other fossils. They've even thoughtfully included a dino to climb on. There's a waterworks, where kids can get elbow-deep and splashy while learning about currents, surface-tension and density. The construction corner has blocks of varying shapes and materials, as well as a magnetic wall where kids manipulate tubes and bumpers to create a vertical ball-maze. The Science Kitchen features puzzles and art projects (and is home to the exhibit's Family Restroom).
We arrived about halfway through a well-attended production at the Explorer's Clubhouse, which we decided not to try to squeeze into, but it looked super fun. We also did not explore the Big Backyard, but it is perfectly charming and the parents and tots in the space seemed quite content.
Big Brother is 5 now. Like the boy in the photo above, he was compelled to climb on the dinosaur first thing, and couldn't resist the lure on the way out, either. He enjoyed digging for fossils, but had to be reprimanded for flinging "sand" too enthusiastically. Little Sister is almost 3 and she spent most of her time in the Construction Corner. We built a monster and we built a road with the blue foam blocks.
The Water Way was a big hit with Big Brother, but too crowded for Little Sister. They do provide these thick, dentist-x-ray-type smocks, but the kids will come away damp (and happy). Both kids made straw sculptures at the moon table in the Science Kitchen.
I say this in the most delighted way possible, but it's really almost too much for one visit. When we come back, I hope Little Sister will try the Water Way. I hope we can get to another of the art tables in the Kitchen. I hope we can build a vertical maze from scratch without impacting anyone else too much.
While the Discovery Zone alone is practically enough to fill a day, I also noticed other little things the Museum is doing for its smallest visitors. In the Wildlife Exhibits, there are more manipulatives than I remember. We found some 12x12 picture blocks to build and knock down, alpacas to arrange by size, a python to test your strength - and that was just while we tried to find a short-cut to Whales!
We didn't see everything we wanted to see this visit. We didn't do everything we wanted to do. But we were able to say, in all confidence, "Next time, we'll be back very soon!"
* We renewed our Family Membership in late November to take advantage of a 30% discount. Also, keep an eye out for Free Days.
Photo credit: Denver Museum of Nature and Science