Monday, February 28, 2011

Happy Read Across America Week!!

This Saturday I was able to spend the morning celebrating the kick-off for Read Across America. Reading Dr. Seuss books at Target and helping The Literacy Council and Better Basics with their Birmingham Reads event at Books-A-Million. This week is the perfect reason to take a few moments out of our days to devote to reading with a child. 

Did you know? According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, Thirty-eight percent of all fourth graders in the United States can't read this simple poem:

The sun did not shine. It was too wet to play.
So we sat in the house all that cold, cold, wet day.
I sat there with Sally. We sat there, we two.
And I said, "How I wish we had something to do!"
-from The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss -

By reading to a child, you will increase his or her chances at developing a love for reading and writing. Begin the week by pledging to be a part of this Nation-wide event! 

Try some of these books to get you Read Across America week started! 

Yertle the Turtle
by: Dr. Seuss
Summary: Yet more wisdom cast down from high atop Mt. Seuss, this cheerful trio of tales teaches some valuable lessons in humility--thanks to a sharp-eyed worm, a bragging bear and rabbit, a fuzzy-tailed bird, and a couple hundred turtles led by their foolish King Yertle.Yertle the turtle is the king of the pond and not satisfied with his kingdom as it is. So he piles his subjects one on top of another until he can see as far as he can see, convinced of his superiority and ignoring the throne of turtles piled under his four feet:
Your majesty, please…I don’t like to complain. But down here below, we are feeling great pain.
His stands high on his perch until one subject, the unlucky turtle at the bottom who has been trying to negotiate with the king, sneezes and brings the hundreds-tall pile of turtles tumbling down. The king quickly learns his lesson. Dr. Seuss brilliantly shares impactful lessons through engaging, catchy stories that appeal to kids of all ages. (Ages 4 to 8)
  !!Fun Activity alert!!
Try to tie this book in with a rousing game of JENGA. That game is tons of fun without the book, think of the fun you can have with the idea of Yertle on top of the pile!

If I Ran the Zoo 

by: Dr. Seuss
Summary: "It's a pretty good zoo," said young Gerald McGrew, "and the fellow who runs it seems proud of it, too." But if Gerald ran the zoo, the New Zoo, McGrew Zoo, he'd see to making a change or two: "So I'd open each cage. I'd unlock every pen, let the animals go, and start over again." And that's just what Gerald imagines, as he travels the world in this playfully illustrated Dr. Seuss classic (first published back in 1950), collecting all sorts of beasts "that you don't see every day." From the mountains of Zomba-ma-Tant to the blistering sands of the Desert of Zind, Gerald hunts down every animal imaginable ("I'll catch 'em in countries no one can spell, like the country of Motta-fa-Potta-fa-Pell"). Whether it's a scraggle-foot Mulligatawny or a wild-haired Iota (from "the far western part of south-east North Dakota"), Gerald amazes the world with his new and improved zoo: "This Zoo Keeper, New Keeper's simply astounding! He travels so far that you think he would drop! When do you suppose this young fellow will stop?"
Ironically, Seuss was trying here--in his wild, explosive, and sometimes careless manner--to celebrate the joys of unconventionality and the bliss of liberation! (Ages 4 to 8)
!!Fun Activity alert!!
Talk to your child about how they would run the zoo. What would YOU do?

Scrambled Eggs Super

by: Dr. Seuss
Summary: Starring the same perky boy who captured Thing One and Thing Two in The Cat in the Hat, this is a first-person tall tale about cooking. Peter T. Hooper is bored to bits by his mother's habit of always making scrambled eggs out of hen's eggs. "And so," he informs his friend Liz, "I decided that, just for a change, I'd scramble a new kind of egg on the range." We're off on an epic journey to parts (and birds) unknown, all told in classic head-over-heels Seussian style: "Then I went for some Ziffs. They're exactly like Zuffs. But the Ziffs live on cliffs and the Zuffs live on bluffs." Finally, after capturing a small mountain of different types of egg--from Moth-Watching Sneths, Long-Legger Kwongs, and others--it's back to the kitchen for a 99-pan scramble, with all sorts of bizarre ingredients added just for fun. To be precise, it's time for "Scrambled eggs Super-Dee-Dooper-Dee-Booper, Special deluxe a-la-Peter T. Hooper." Somehow, you get the impression that Liz doesn't believe a word of it. (Ages 4 to 8)

!!Fun Activity alert!!

Consider having your child assist you in making your own super recipe with scrambled eggs. Set out a variety of adult-approved ingredients to add (probably not sardines or 55 cans of beans), and then let your child choose which ones to put in. Your child can help with the egg cracking, scrambling, pouring, and so on as appropriate. (Of course, adults are in charge of the stove.) Here I am making Teriyaki stir-fry eggs! Yum!

Monday, February 21, 2011

President's Day Celebration Books!

Happy President's Day!! In honor of today's holiday, President's day, here are some fun books that showcase our Commanders in Chief. 

Smart About the Presidents (Smart About History)

by: Jon Buller, Sally Warner
Summary: Gr. 4-7. From the Smart about History series, this book is similar to other recent titles that quickly delineate the presidents with cartoon-style illustrations and a few fast, fun facts. However, this also presents a paragraph or so of solid information along with the fluff. Students will learn, for example, that Jimmy Carter was humble, honest, and down-to-earth--just what the country needed after Watergate. They will also find out about the taking of the hostages in Iran and that Carter negotiated a treaty between the Egyptians and the Israelis. Each president also gets a few lines about his life before the presidency. All in all, there's a surprising amount of information offered in a kid-friendly style. The artwork is better than average, and although it's played for fun, it's not disrespectful. Different fonts and a peppy layout add appeal. A bibliography, a map showing where the presidents were born, and spreads on White House kids, First Ladies, and more are appended. An easy way to interest kids in the presidency.

So You Want to be a President?

by: Judith St. George
Summary: Tired of books about the presidency that present themselves as history books? Author Judith St. George--along with Caldecott Honor-winning illustrator David Small--has created a book about the presidency that's serious fun. The basic theme is that anyone can be president: a fat man (William Howard Taft) or a tiny man (James Madison), a relative youngster (Teddy Roosevelt at 42) or oldster (Ronald Reagan at 69). Presidential hobbies, sports, virtues, and vices all get a tongue-in-cheek airing, perfectly matched by Small's political-cartoon style of caricature painting. It's fun, but the underlying purpose is clearly serious: to remind kids that the American presidents have been a motley group of individuals, not a row of marble busts. Ironically, that message makes the presidency far more interesting (and appealing) than it seems in some of the more traditional books. There's a factual addendum at the back giving all the dates and names, with a one-line bio for each past-president. (Ages 8 and older)

The Everything Kids' Presidents Book Puzzles Games and Trivia - for Hours of Presidential Fun 
by: Brian Thornton
Summary: Did George Washington really cut down his father's cherry tree? Who was the last president to have facial hair? Which U.S. president had a country's capital city named after him? Which president earned the nickname, "His Accidency"? With The Everything Kids' Presidents Book, you'll be at the head of your class after learning about the lives, legacies, and impact that our country's 44 leaders had on the history of the United States. Filled with fun facts, trivia, and 30 puzzles, The Everything Kids' Presidents Book introduces you to everyone from our first president, George Washington, to the man currently residing in the White House, George W. Bush. Learning about the people who shaped the history of our country has never been so much fun!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Parents, here is some reading for you! From Parenting Magazine.

5 Ways to Make Reading Fun

Help your child develop a love of reading with these easy tips
By Barbara Rowley
1. Resurrect the read-aloud.
Reading out loud is not simply a stepping-stone to learning to read silently; it's also a way to build vocabulary, attention skills, and comprehension, as well as--perhaps most important--a love of reading. If you're already doing the one-on-one bedtime story, think about ways to switch up the sessions: Read over breakfast. Encourage siblings to read out loud to each other or to the family pet. Alternate pages or chapters with your child. Or gather the whole family together for a group read-aloud.
2. Take it on the road.
Books are the ultimate portable entertainment--they're durable and impervious to a few drips of water (at least the non-electronic variety), and easy to read in the sunlight. Keep a chapter book in your bag to pull out while you're waiting at a restaurant, sitting poolside or on the beach, hanging out in a tree house, or while camping in a tent with a flashlight.
3. Bring stories to life.
Read horse books before your child goes to horseback-riding camp, Little House on the Prairie before you tour a pioneer village, a bio of a favorite baseball or football player before you visit a sports hall of fame.
4. Be a reading buddy.
If you see your child reading when you aren't, grab your own book and cozy up (well, as close as he'll let you) to read beside him. Prefer a scheduled approach? Try DEAR--Drop Everything and Read--sessions, in which the whole family reads at the same time.
5. Make books a basic.
Look at reading material like food and clothes: You wouldn't leave the refrigerator or the closet empty, so don't let the bookshelf go bare, either. Find a librarian or a teacher who keeps current with what's new and popular for kids, or play the cool card: Get a respected teen to tell your tween what books he enjoyed.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Celebrating Love!

Tomorrow is a day that we celebrate our love for one another, and assorted chocolates. It's Valentine's Day! So in honor of this lovable holiday, here are some books that I ADORE!

Junie B. Jones and the Mushy Gushy Valentine

By: Barbara Park
Summary: It's a mushy gushy mystery!
Hurray! February 14—Valentime's Day, as June B. calls it—is just around the corner. Junie B. can't wait to see all the "valentimes" she'll get. But she never expected a big, mushy card from a secret admirer! Who is this secret mystery guy, anyway? Junie B. is determined to find out!

I'm obsessed with anything Junie B. even though the writing isn't ideal for teaching proper grammar. Some argue that using the Junie B. series as a tool to encourage literacy can backfire because of the "baby talk" that is within the dialogue, but I think that these books encourage fun reading, and fun reading can lead to learning nonetheless, so read up, Junie fans!

Lilly's Chocolate Heart

by: Kevin Henkes
Summary: Lilly loves her chocolate heart.
Will she save it?
Forever and ever?
What do you think?

Decked in fuzzy green slippers and pink housecoat, a crown-wearing Lilly has one Valentine's Day chocolate heart and wants to keep it safe. Unfortunately, several locales aren't quite right: under the bed is dusty, inside the dresser is messy, and behind the radiator is warm. Where will she put it? Not to worry, for with a look of satisfied resolution, Lilly decides the best place is right in her tummy. (PreSchool-2nd Grade).

I hope everyone has a great Valentine's Day! 

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Are You the ONE?

I recently received an email from a good friend who is in Elementary Education, and is student teaching. She finds great books to read to her students, and came across the book One by Kathryn Otoshi. She suggested I read this and feature it in my blog, so here it is. The premise behind this beautiful story is so simple, yet so important and so relevant to today's children. So, if you have an opportunity, please check out this book, as well as some other books on the same premise I found.

Special thanks to Lena!

by: Kathryn Otoshi
Summary: This is a deceptively simple color and counting book that turns into a lesson on bullying. Whenever they meet, Blue is picked on by Red: "Red is HOT. Blue is NOT." The other colors like Blue but are intimidated by the bluster so they say nothing, and soon Red is bossing everyone around. But then One comes. It is funny and brave and confronts Red: "If someone is mean and picks on me, I, for One, stand up and say, No." All the other colors follow One's lead and become numbers too. Yellow is two, Green, three, etc. Red begins to feel left out and tries to bully Blue, but Blue ignores him and changes to Six: "Red can be really HOT,' he says, but Blue can be super COOL.'" The rest of the numbers stick up for Blue, but offer Red the opportunity to join in the counting, and all ends well. The book is well designed with bright colored circles and numbers on stark white pages accompanied by black print. The text is very simple but meaningful, and the moral is subtly told. Red is not ostracized but included in the game, and the essential point of one person making a difference is emphasized by the ending: "Sometimes it just takes One."

Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun: Having the Courage to Be Who You Are

by: Maria Dismondy
Summary: How can Ralph be so mean? Lucy is one of a kind and Ralph loves to point that out. Lucy's defining moment comes when Ralph truly needs help. Because she knows what she stands for, Lucy has the courage to make a good choice. This charming story empowers children to always do the right thing and be proud of themselves, even when they are faced with someone as challenging as Ralph.

Check out Maria Dismondy's Book Trailer on bullying and her books. Powerful stuff.