Hi friends! This blog is for teachers and families- all for the sheer joy of literacy. When we are enthusiastic about reading and writing our students and our own kids become excited to read and write. I hope that we all can be models for those in our care- how did you show your passion for reading, writing, learning, language, or words today?? It's in those small, daily moments that we teach kids to love literacy.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Recent Book Favs (3)

Hey all! I have to admit that I am usually nursing during story time at night these days...so my hubby has been reading with our 3yo. We're still enjoying Vera's New School (from my last post), a real winner with my daughter. Here's another recent fav:

Pumpkin Jack,  by Will Hubbell

My daughter chose this one at the library a couple weeks ago. Who picks a pumpkin book in March? I love that preschoolers have no preconceived notion of what is in or out of season...reading though this book right now made me think that it is a great any-time-of-the-year book...despite this not being pumpkin season!

Pumpkin Jack has great, quality writing. And the book is moving-- you almost become friends with this pumpkin that is alive, dies slowly, then brings new life again. I'm not sure why my daughter likes it so much (she's asked for it night after night recently)- but the story is quite compelling. It unravels some of the mysteries of the life cycle and shows how a seed creates a new (pumpkin) plant.

A boy carves a pumpkin. He is captivated by the light the pumpkin casts on the wall of his room and the smell it makes when a candle is placed inside of its carved shell. He's reticent to throw out the pumpkin when it starts to mold, so he puts it out in the dead winter garden- "with the brown ghosts of last summer's plants." The pumpkin completely decomposes. The boy is delighted to see pumpkins grow the next summer and fall from the seeds of his dead pumpkin. He shares the pumpkins he's grown with his friends.

This would be a great book to read in the spring, to show kids how seeds grow into something amazing. Here's to my daughter! So glad she chose this out of season book- what a great read, any time of year!

Hope you're well!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Recent Book Favs (2)

Little man is 7 weeks old today. I feel like life is becoming more routine. Sadly, I have to return to work in a couple of weeks. I'm feeling horrible that I have to leave my baby so soon! He's starting to smile and have a sweet personality. We just purchased a Woombie and he only woke up one time last night (at 1am) to nurse! WOW! That's the first time I haven't been up in that 2-4am window in 7 weeks!! Okay...on to literacy...

These favs are all library books. These were the 4 that my daughter chose to check out for a second time. I concur with all the choices, except the Caillou book. It's a satisfactory counting book, but my daughter is in love with the PBS Caillou show, and loves the book for this reason alone.

Recent Book Favs:

Vera's New School, by Vera Rosenberry

I thought this book was a little over my 3 year old's level (the character laments her pet chicken dying from ingesting dry cement {there's a picture of this}), but she loves it. We even picked up more in this series because she enjoyed it so much. Vera does't fit in at school, but she makes a new friend quickly. During a school presentation outdoors, Vera sits on an red ant hill, as does another little girl. They are sent to the bathroom and strip down so the nurse can tend to their bites (see below)- which I found a bit odd, but my daughter loved this part. This tough experience brings these two girls together as friends. My daughter had all sorts of questions after studying the illustrations in this book. This book is different than most children's book- it seems more like real-life (maybe that's why it feels a bit odd at parts) and strays away from some standard children's book conventions. I enjoy reading this book to my daughter. It would be a great book to read in a classroom, if your students can handle the girls having to strip to their undies to deal with the ant bites. Fun fact: Rosenberry's husband is a Noble Laureate, with a Noble Prize in chemistry. Best for kids in preschool- grade 2.

Of course my daughter that these girls love strip down to their undies!

Tiny Little Fly, by Michael Rosen, illustrated by Kevin Waldron

This book is playful, with large illustrations and colorful writing. A great read. this book has energy, created by rhyme and repetition. It's also a fast read- perfect if you're looking for a quick read for class (for teachers), or if you've had a long day and need to get the kidlets to bed quickly (for parents). Best for kids age 2-1st grade.

Oh, No!, by Candance Fleming and Eric Rohmann

This one is really fun! Go out and get it for your home or class! The illustrations are great, and the writing is fun and perfect for early literacy learners. Here's a sample, "Frog fell into a deep, deep hole. Ribbit-opps! Ribbit-opps! Frog fell into a deep, deep hole. Ribbit-opps! Frog fell into such a deep hole, he couldn't get out to save his soul. Croaked Frog, 'Help! Help! I can't get out!' Oh, no!" And so on...animals keep falling into the said deep hole. Tiger is pacing near the hole, getting ready for a mouth-watering dinner! Elephant comes to save the animals, and tiger gets trapped in the hole. The plot isn't anything new- the writing and illustrations make this book exceptional. Best for kids preschool- grade 2.

These books went back to the library. Good, but not favorites! Adios libros!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

My Daughter's Literacy Journey, 3 years 3 months

For me, a reading specialist, it's great fun to see how my daughter's literacy is developing. This series follows her literacy development every few months.

At this stage in her life, we don't do much explicit teaching of letters-- with a lit specialist for a mom and an English teacher for a dad, we haven't been too concerned about teaching her to read and don't want to bombard her with games or drills that practice these skills- I'm hoping she'll show interest when she's ready. But, of course, we like to create a home environment that celebrates reading and literacy. It's always great fun to peek in on my daughter's playing-- this is where I get a true picture of her literacy development.

Here's a picture of my daughter's writing. It's developed a bit from several months ago. She's picked up on a couple conventions in writing, simply by observation: words go across the page left to right, we write in horizontal lines, there are spaces between paragraphs. It also seems like she's starting to group some of her "letters" together to make "words". When we ask her what she's written, she always has something to say. For example, her scribblings may represent certain letters (E, A, K...), or at times they represent a message ("Come play with me"), or a purpose (an invitation to a party). It's clear that she understands that we write letters and we use this writing to communicate in a myriad of ways. I look forward to these symbols becoming actual letters!

Over the past couple of months, there's been a couple other ways my daughter's literacy had morphed:
  • She's retelling favorite books, sometimes summarizing pages, and other times retelling word-for-word. Hmmm, I curious to know if she retells word-for-word when the words chosen by the author are especially enticing and playful. When retelling Madeline the other day she said, using the exact language in the book, "the girls break the bread," as the characters were eating dinner. When never use this alliterative phrase around our house- but it definitely stuck with her as an interesting phrase. 
  • She has definite opinions on books she wants to read. She dislikes certain books too.  
  • She's taken with Bible story books, especially with stories about Jesus. She asks to study these pages in any given Bible story book- this habit started after Christmastime.
  • She loves visiting the library- but mommy has lost a library book (ahh!)-- so unfortunately I've been avoiding the library until i can get my hand on said book!
  • She "reads" board books to her little brother (4 weeks old). This usually involves jamming the book in his face so he can see the pictures.
  • She writes cards and letters and "mails" them, or plays birthday party with them (these letters function as party invitations).
  • She sings her abc's as she washes her hands (a way to keep our case germ-free with a new bambino). We suggested she does this, but it's cute to hear her doing it on her own.
  • She also plays homework and classroom - this has become a new favorite after hanging out with a Kindergartener. 
Every child learns at a different pace. I thought it would be fun to track my daughter's literacy growth to see how she's growing and changing. I'd love to hear how your kids are developing too. I know some kids that can read at 3!! Impressive!! What do you notice about your child's literacy journey?

Perhaps I should be more explicit about teaching my daughter numbers, letters, words-- but at this point it's just fun to watch her discover these skills on her own!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Welcome Baby E!

My little family is expanding! Baby boy E was born this past Thursday, making him 1 week 1 day old today. So far we're trying to get the sense of who he is as a little person, reading his cues, etc...and balancing all of that with our lively 3 year old. 

But whatever life brings...reading together takes priority. Here we are reading Llama Llama Wants His Mama. My daughter also chose a board book to read to the baby.

Life is good. 

Be well! Get your read on!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Year-Round Read Aloud Book Box

My daughter's preschool had their annual auction in early December. For the auction, I put together a read-aloud book box to give away. I had a lot of fun gathering some of my favorites and aligning books to certain seasons/months. These books are appropriate for kids 4-8, some more appropriate for the lower/upper of that age range. Here's what I ended up with--

January: Frog and Toad All Year, by Arnold Lobel
Arnold Lobel is an excellent author. many beginning readers fall in love with the Frog and Toad series. And what a better way to get your kids hooked on reading than to get them interested in a lovable series-- they'll keep coming back for more!

February: The Year at Maple Hill Farm, by Alice and Martin Provensen
Take your child on a journey through a year on a farm. She will get a sense of the changing seasons and how farmers care for the animals on the farm.

March: Planting a Rainbow, by Lois Ehlert
beloved author and illustrator, Lois Ehlert writes about a child and mother planting a rainbow of flowers. This book brings us into spring (at least for us in the Bay Area!), but also reminds us that flowers need tending throughout all seasons. Ehlert illustrated Chicka Chicka Boom Boom- a favorite.

April: An Extraordinary Egg, by Leo Lionni
Leo Lionni, another favorite author- tells a spring tale of friendship and mistaken identity. Lionni's writing is beautiful, filled with poignant moments and rich vocabulary.

May: Hair Pelitos, by Sandra Cisneros
I taught The House on Mango Street to my middle school students. Sandra Cisneros is an excellent author and has a magical way with language which has the ability to capture both adults and children. "Hairs" is a vignette from House of Mango Street- I love this one!

June: Freedom Summer, by Deborah Wiles and illustrated by Jerome Lagarrigue
This book tells of a beautiful friendship between two boys. Joe is white and John Henry is black- the year, 1964. Despite challenges they face together, they decide to remain friends. best suited for kids 4+, so that you can discuss some of the historical background of this book more meaningfully.

July: Koala Lou, by Mem Fox
No children's book list is complete without a title from Australian author, Mem Fox. She is one of my favorite authors for her sweet characters and dynamic writing that improves early literacy skills in young kids. I also love the Australian animals in this book.

September: The Name Jar, by Yangsook Choi
It's time to go to school for the first time in America, but Unhei, a recent immigrant, has a name that baffles her classmates. A story of inclusion and diversity and an excellent addition to a child's home library.

October: BATS, by Gail Gibbons
Gail Gibbons is a prominent non-fiction children's book author. All of her books are simple enough for young kids to enjoy, but also provide interesting factual information on many subjects. This book is especially spooky for Halloween.

November: In November, by Cynthia Rylant
Rylant does it again in this beautiful book about the month of November. Her writing is beautiful and paints an elegant picture of this season of warmth and love.

December: The Trees of the Dancing Goats, by Patricia Polacco
Polacco, my absolute favorite children's author, is also an Oakland native. two families from different religious traditions come together to show love to each other at the holidays. I love Polacco's vocabulary choice and her meaningful stories.

What book would you add to this list? What literary-themed items would make good auction items for an elementary school or preschool?
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