Archive for ‘Uncategorized’

April 1, 2014

March into spring with National Poetry Month by Angela Verges

Spring is in the air (almost) and it’s National Poetry Month. What will you do to celebrate April as National Poetry Month?

Blog Photo

When my son was in the seventh grade his Language Arts teacher transformed their classroom into a poetry café. Parents were invited to the gala. As I entered the room I was immediately immersed in the atmosphere.

The classroom was illuminated with a small table lamp at the front of the room and faux candles on the tables. Thump thump… thump thump, was the sound of the bongos as one student read his poetry. At the end of each spoken word fingers snapped as a form of applause.

After visiting the makeshift poetry café, I realized how much fun poetry can be for all ages. Celebrate poetry month by creating your very own family café. Each family member can create an original poem or recite a favorite one. You can even act out a favorite poem.

If you’re searching for a poem to start you on your way, check out the picture book, Almost Late to School And More School Poems, by Carol Diggory Shields.

Title: Almost Late to School And More School Poems Author: Carol Diggory Shields Illustrator: Paul Meisel Genre: Picture Books

 

 

If you have a pet or have always wanted to have one take a look at few poems about pets. There are a variety of pet poems in the picture book, Who Swallowed Harold? And other poems about pets by Susan Pearson.

Title: Who Swallowed Harold? Author: Susan Pearson Illustrator: David Slonim Genre: Picture Book

Title: Who Swallowed Harold?
Author: Susan Pearson
Illustrator: David Slonim
Genre: Picture Book

 

 

 

 

 

 

As a part of your poetry café, your child may enjoy creating his own I Spy riddles as a form of poetry. Your riddles can even be published online. Learn to write I Spy riddles with Jean Marzollo by clicking here. If you’re looking for funny poems check out Giggle Poetry.

You have the entire month of April to discover your creativity with poetry. Hang an open sign on your door and welcome the family into your poetry café. Do you have a favorite poem or book about poetry?

March 12, 2014

Wedgies, Swirlies, and the Last One Picked

Wedgies, Swirlies, and the Last One Picked
by Katherine Higgs-Coulthard38-FE3-KathyHiggs-Coulthard

“It’s just a natural part of growing up.”
“Sticks and stones, you know?”
“He needs to get thicker skin.”
“Maybe he should join a new sport.”

 These are actual comments I received when I tried to talk to adults about the situation my child was facing in school. My son went from being a bubbly, outgoing, goofy fifth grader to a severely depressed sixth grader. We talked to his teachers. We talked to school officials. We were told things were being handled. And they seemed to be. We stopped hearing about the kid at school who called our son names and pushed him in the hallway. We stopped hearing about the group that shunned him at lunch.

We found out two years later that they hadn’t stopped. Our son had just learned that telling us didn’t change anything, so he quit telling us.

As parents we try our best to do the right thing. We didn’t want to make things worse for our son at school, so we trusted the school when they said they were handling the situation. But here’s the thing…bullying is not just about wedgies and swirlies and other outward acts of aggression—it is sneaky and invisible. It is about lack. Lack of invitations. Lack of compliments. Lack of feeling valued and cared for. And it is institutionalized—supported by a school culture that differentially values athletics over the arts, or the arts over athletics, or popularity over everything else.

So what can parents do? Talk to our kids. Believe what they tell us. Help them build social skills for problem solving and teach them kindness and inclusion. Oh! And read these books!

(Epilogue: My son finally found a place where he was valued for his goofiness. He’s a happy high school senior who landed the lead in Rumplestiltskin!)

ChrysanthemumTitle: Chrysanthemum
Author/Illustrator: Kevin Henke
Genre: Picture book

 

Title: The Hundred Dressesthe hundred dresses
Author:
Eleanor Estes
Illustrator: Louis Slobodkin
Genre: Fiction chapter book, Grades 2-6

 

 

dear bullyTitle: Dear Bully: Seventy Authors Tell Their Stories
Author: Dawn Metcalf, Megan Kelley Hall, & Carrie Jones
Genre: Nonfiction Anthology

 

 

Title: Thirteen Reasons Why13 Reasons
Author: Jay Asher
Genre: Fiction–Middle & High School
Genre: Nonfiction–adult resource

 

What stories have you found to help children learn social skills and avoid unkindness?

March 2, 2014

Make an appointment with the doctor – Dr. Seuss

by Angela Verges

March is reading month and its Dr. Seuss’s birthday. This is a time of year that many libraries and schools create a celebration around the man of lyrical language, Dr. Seuss. Born on March 2, 1904, Dr. Seuss books have entertained and enriched many generations.

Dr. Seuss B-day

This year for Dr. Seuss’s birthday, I challenged by sons to select and read a Dr. Seuss book that relates to them in some way. Together we found Dr. Seuss books that we had never read before. I have labeled our reading challenge as an appointment with the doctor.

My fourteen-year-old son chose the book, Marvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now! In this early reader, Marvin is encouraged to “Go”, whether it is by skates or skis he is asked to just go…Please! Although my son is past the picture book stage, he felt this book reminded him of me asking, no demanding, that he go and clean his room.

In the story, Marvin looked like a lovable character who got into mischief at every turn. He was asked to “go” and each time he was given ideas for a grand exit – by balloon, broomstick or even a Bumble-Boat.

Marvin K. Mooney by Dr. Seuss

Title: Marvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now!
Author: Dr. Seuss
Illustrator: Dr. Seuss
Genre: Picture Book

My seventeen-year-old son thought it was quite amusing that he had to read a “kiddie” book. However, he was able to come up with a fitting picture book selection, If I Ran the Zoo. My son liked this book because he felt that our house is sometimes like a zoo. I’m sure he meant it is a home filled with excitement and fun (wink).

In the book, If I Ran the Zoo, the character, Gerald McGrew told how he would run the zoo. He would open every cage, unlock every pen, let the animals out and start over again. His animals wouldn’t have just four feet. They would have ten, wouldn’t that be neat.

Title: If I Ran The Zoo Author: Dr. Seuss Illustrator: Dr. Seuss Genre: Picture Book

Title: If I Ran The Zoo
Author: Dr. Seuss
Illustrator: Dr. Seuss
Genre: Picture Book

The story I chose to celebrate Dr. Seuss’s writings was, Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are? I like the title of this particular book. For me the book taught a lesson of how to appreciate who you are.

Title: Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are? Author: Dr. Seuss Illustrator: Dr. Seuss Genre: Picture Book

Title: Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are?
Author: Dr. Seuss
Illustrator: Dr. Seuss
Genre: Picture Book

After reading our selection of Dr. Seuss books, our celebration was not complete without a meal of green eggs and ham and a side of toast. My boys did not eat much of their green eggs, but they had fun creating them.
If you have young children, why not add a craft project to your celebration?

Make a Cat-in-the-Hat, hat craft. If an edible project is more appealing, create a snack based on the book One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish. It’s as simple as making blueberry Jell-O and dipping in Swedish Fish candies.

Do you have a favorite Dr. Seuss book? What will you read to celebrate March as reading month? Make your selection and celebrate Dr. Seuss’s birthday the entire month.

February 10, 2014

Tooth Fairy Pillows & Kissy Lips

by Katherine Higgs-Coulthard  38-FE3-KathyHiggs-Coulthard

My daughters were supposed to be brushing their teeth and getting ready for bed. Instead, they were ransacking the bookshelf. The youngest, Hannah, cried while Laura murmured words of comfort. As I approached the doorway, the words “She won’t forget. It’s a tradition” stopped me in my tracks.

Although the “she” must mean me, I could not imagine what tradition Laura expected me to remember.

I silently cursed Laura’s second-grade teacher. Traditions were a big focus of her family heritage unit each year. With two older children, it was a project I had come to dread. Many families could trace their lineage back to Germany or Sweden, Japan or Africa. Their children made cute little cutouts, decked out in cultural regalia. Presentations involved tea ceremonies and recipes for Wiener schnitzel.

My ancestors had not kept track of lineage. And, as for tradition . . . well, did watching football and eating turkey on Thanksgiving count?

Luckily, my husband’s family is English and Irish. They have whole books on their family history. So far, our children always survived the heritage unit, even if their family trees were a bit lopsided.

Laura’s comment about traditions must have meant the cursed unit was upon us. What tradition could be relevant at 8:30 on a school night? The beginning of February didn’t exactly call for Easter eggs or a candlelit Mass. It wasn’t anyone’s birthday. Sparklers were reserved for July; costumes for October. I still had a few weeks until Valentine’s Day.

By the time I entered Hannah’s room, the girls were cuddled together in bed. They scooted over to make room for me. Hannah’s gap-toothed grin accentuated the air of expectation. “Ready, Momma?” Laura asked.

Just as I was about to break down and admit that I apparently had forgotten some vital family tradition, Katie ran in and plopped a book on my lap: “The Real Story of the Tooth Fairy.” In her other hand she held a lace-pocketed pillow. “You can use mine, Hannah. Mommy’s still working on yours.” She gave a grown-up wink, indicating she knew that I hadn’t even bought the fabric yet.
After tucking Hannah’s tooth into its little pink pocket, Katie snuggled in with us. I gave her a special hug.

At 14, she is already aware of something I hadn’t realized: Tradition is not always spelled with a capital T. It’s the little things, quirky family rituals, that mean the most — not just to children, but to us all.

The next day, I brought up the subject over breakfast, asking the children what other traditions we had.
They all shouted ideas at once.
Hannah: “Catching snowflakes on our tongues.”
Katie: “Family game night.”
Laura: “Birthday candles in our Pop-Tarts.” (Okay, so this is not the most healthy of traditions.)
“Dad’s haunted trail.” This from our teenage son, Chris.

The list grew and grew. Christmas stories with Dad, gingerbread with Grandma, Frisbee golf with Uncle Jerry. Snow cream and snowball fights with one grandpa, putt-putt with the other.

As they named all of the ways our family stayed close, I realized many of the traditions had been initiated not by me or my husband, but by one of the children.

It was Katie who suggested last Thanksgiving that we create small gift boxes out of wood for each family member. In them we put little notes praising each other for our contributions to the family.

In kindergarten our son, Chris, told us about St. Nicholas. If it weren’t for his enthusiasm, we would never have known to leave our shoes on the stairwell each Dec. 6, so St. Nick could fill them with treats.

Laura’s tradition involves planting a tree each Arbor Day. That, and sneaking Nana’s cream wafers faster than they come out of the oven.

Hannah, young as she is, has already influenced our family to put “kissy lips” on all the mirrors every Valentine’s Day.

If tradition is the glue that binds families, we’ve concocted our own adhesive out of flour and water, so that we are the sum of the little moments we create together. And while Tooth Fairy pillows and kissy lips may not be as exotic as tea ceremonies and Wiener schnitzel, they define our family better than any hand-me-down ritual.

A few Tooth Fairy Books:

night before tooth fairyTitle: 
The Night Before the Tooth Fairy
Author: Natasha Wing
Illustrator: Barbara Johansen Newman
Genre: Picture book

Title: What Does the Tooth Fairy Do with Our Teeth?what does tooth Fairy
Author:
Denise Barry
Illustrator: Andy Boerger
Genre: Picture book

Ask your children what your family’s traditions are? Surprised by their answers?

February 4, 2014

A celebration of hearts – 7 Valentine’s Day activities for families

By Angela Verges

Blog Photo

Do you remember the little Valentine conversation candies? They had messages such as – I Love You, Be Mine and Kiss Me. This Valentine’s Day you can have fun messages such as those found on candy hearts.

Below are 7 fun activities to try with your family. Of course reading can be incorporated into each activity.

1. Heart shaped notes – help your child cut out heart shapes and write messages on them. He could hide a note the day before Valentine’s Day for a sibling or parent to find. A lunch box is one location for a hidden note.
2. Family scavenger hunt – hide heart shaped notes with clues, around the house. Have the final note lead to a special Valentine treat.
3. Read a Valentine story – read a story and a scene from the story (use an animated voice).
4. Make Valentine Play dough – make a batch of white dough and add food coloring or liquid watercolors of your choosing. Click here for a play dough recipe. Don’t forget the heart shaped cookie cutters.
5. Musical Hearts – create a game of musical hearts by cutting heart shapes; number each heart, then place them in a circle on the floor. Write a set of numbers on smaller heart shapes (equal to the number of hearts on your circle. Start the music playing, then stop it at random intervals. Use the smaller hearts with numbers to call a number at random when the music stops. The number called is the winner.
6. Conversation hearts craft – glue conversation hearts to a heart shaped piece of paper. Glue them in a heart shape or create some other design.
7. Valentine message in a bottle – decorate a clear plastic bottle with peel off valentine shapes. Help your child write a message to roll up and slip into the bottle. Tie a ribbon around the neck of the bottle.
After your activities are complete, sit down and enjoy a good Valentine’s Day book. If you’ve read, There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly, you must read There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Rose by Lucille Colandro.

Title: There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Rose! Author: Lucille Colandro Genre: Picture Book Ages

Title: There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Rose!
Author: Lucille Colandro
Genre: Picture Book

The old lady not only swallowed a rose, but some lace, glitter, candy and other stuff. As you near the end of the story you discover why she swallowed the rose and how everything fits together.
Another picture book that I had fun reading was Ruby Valentine Saves the Day by Laurie Friedman. Colorful pictures and clever rhyme brought this story to life.

Title: Ruby Valentine Saves the Day Author: Laurie Friedman Genre: Picture Book Ages: 5-9

Title: Ruby Valentine Saves the Day
Author: Laurie Friedman
Genre: Picture Book
Ages: 5-9

Do you have a favorite Valentine’s Day story or activity?

January 13, 2014

Snowed In

by Kathy Higgs-Coulthard38-FE3-KathyHiggs-Coulthard

Remember the trapped-in-a-snow-globe feeling of watching huge snowflakes float outside your window as you drifted off to sleep? And waking with the anticipation of seeing your school’s name scroll across the screen, officially making the day a snow day? In my house, snow days are more than a day off school. They are a magical gift.

Of all the ways to spend those snow-kissed days, here’s our family’s top ten choices:
*        Make snow cream
Grandpa’s snow cream recipe
You need:
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 cup powdered sugar
1  1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 to 6 cups clean, freshly fallen snow
To do:
In a large bowl combine half and half, vanilla extract and sugar. Stir until sugar is dissolved, about 3 minutes.
Stir in snow, a cup at a time, until ice cream forms.

*        Mix up homemade hot chocolate
Nana’s homemade hot chocolate recipe
You need:
1 lb powdered sugar
8 cups powdered milk
1 container (30 ounces) Nesquick
16 ounces powdered coffee creamer
To do:
Mix all ingredients in large container. When ready to make hot chocolate, add 2 heaping tablespoons of mix to warm milk. (Don’t forget the marshmallows!)

*        Look for animal tracks in the snow (and make our own)

*        Make snow angels and snowpeople

*        Build a snowfort and spray paint it with colored water in squirt bottles (use food color)

*        Make fairy castles by packing snow into gelatin and cake molds & decorate with nature

*        Snow Marbles
In an effort to give our older son something to aim at besides his three little sisters, we invented this winter version of marbles. Use a stick to draw a circle in the snow, then take turns tossing snowballs into the circle. Extra points if you can hit your opponent’s snowball.

*        Blow bubbles and watch them freeze

*        Watch Frosty the Snowman (okay, so this one is a sanity break for Mom)

*        And of course… read snow-related books. Our favorites are below.

Black snowman   Title:  The Black Snowman
   Author: Phillip Mendez
   Illustrator: Carole Byard
   Genre: picture book
   Ages: 7-10 years

Title:Snowmen at Night   snowmen at night
Author: Caralyn Buehner
Illustrator: Mark Buehner
Genre: picture book
Ages: Listening 3 yrs and up; Independent 8 and up

stranger in the woods   Title: Stranger in the Woods
   Author & Photographer: Carl R. Sams, II and Jean Stoick
   Genre: picture book
   Ages: Listening 3 yrs and up; Independent 8 and up

December 9, 2013

Calm, wintry nights

After seeing the chaos of Black Friday reflected in the news, I pulled my children close and reminded them that we don’t have to be like that. My oldest (who just turned eighteen) said, “Isn’t it ironic that the day after we give thanks, we trample people to death to get a better deal on something we probably could have afforded anyway?”

But it’s easy to get caught up in the hype of Christmas—stores start piping in the music shortly after Halloween. This year a few stores snuck Christmas ornaments on shelves next to cornucopias and Indian corn. I bet they sold more than a couple, too, because Christmas is like pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving—yes, you just stuffed yourself and probably should wait, but why? There’s the pie right there…

But there is a certain joy in waiting.

Of quieting your heart in expectation of what is to come.

To me, that’s what the season between Thanksgiving and Christmas is, quiet expectation. Expectation reflected in the manger scene by our front door—Mary and Joseph near an empty cradle, waiting.

That expectation is also reflected by the pile of books under our Christmas tree. It waits for dinner to be done, dishes to be cleared, hot cocoa to be marshmallowed, and the fire to be crackling. Then the children gather around Daddy and he reads one story each night between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

My favorites are the calm, quiet stories. Here are a few on the top of the pile:

Quiet Christmas coverTitle: The Quiet Christmas Book (New this year!)
Author: Deborah Underwood
Illustrator: Renata Liwska
Genre: picture book
Ages: Listening 3 yrs and up; Independent 8 and up

If you haven’t yet discovered Deborah Underwood, you’re in for a treat.

Her characters are gentle natured woodland animals getting ready for Christmas, but without the hustle and bustle of other books.

Check out the book trailer below!

onewintrynightTitle:  One Wintry Night
Author: Ruth Bell Graham
Illustrator: Richard Jesse Watson
Genre: picture book
Ages: Listening 3 yrs and up; Independent 8 and up

Gorgeously illustrated story about a boy hearing the Christmas story for the first time.

littlefirtreeTitle:  The Little Fir Tree
Author: Margaret Wise Brown
Illustrator: Jim LaMarche
Genre: picture book
Ages: Listening 3 yrs and up; Independent 8 and up

Another sweet book. A little tree wishes to be part of something—anything—and winds up being part of something he never could have imagined.

Image

How about you? Which Christmas books make your family’s must-read list?

November 14, 2013

The Most Valuable Player

November is the month of giving thanks or a celebration of thankfulness, as one blogger describes it. I am thankful everyday for Blog Photofriends and family who are the most valuable players in my life. However, this month I am giving thanks for my love of reading (and writing).

Sometimes it’s hard to make time for the little things we love most. When you finally carve out time for the thing you love, is it a warm fuzzy feeling, a rush of adrenalin or does it simply bring a smile to your face?

Ellie McDoodle book cover

Author & Illustrator: Ruth McNally Barshaw
Ages: 8-12 yrs

As I sat down with a new book to read, a smile appeared on my face from page one. The Ellie McDoodle Diaries-Most Valuable Player, by Ruth McNally Barshaw was a fun book. In the beginning Ellie talks about the Breakfast Games that her family plays. In the game, Balloon Bobble, they bump the balloon in the air while eating…and mayhem begins.

Do you remember the dreaded words that you never liked to hear your teacher say? For Ellie it was when the teacher announced that they would have to work on “group projects.” Of course best friends couldn’t be together.

Although Ellie couldn’t be in the same project group with her best friend, she could do other things with her. When Ellie’s friend decides to try out for the parks and rec soccer team, she encourages Ellie to do the same. After giving a lot of excuses, Ellie finally decides to give soccer a try.

Guess who coaches Ellie’s team…? You’ll have to read the book to find out. And who is the Most Valuable Player? It’s revealed at the end of the book. If you get to the end of the book and want more, there are other Ellie McDoodle books in the series.

For a little family fun, choose a most valuable player (MVP) in your family each week (until everyone has a turn to win). Create your own guidelines. Maybe your MVP is the person who completed all of her chores without complaining, or completed a task without being asked to do it.

Your MVP could also be one who went to bed on time for an entire week. You could even take a lesson from Ellie McDoodle’s family and initiate your version of Breakfast Games. That’s one way to make meal time interesting.

As a reward, treat your MVP to a lunch of his or her choosing or some other small token.

While you celebrate the month of giving thanks, build in time to do something you love. Know that it’s okay for you to be selected as the Most Valuable Player.

How will you celebrate the month of giving thanks with your MVP?

November 13, 2013

Reading with Dad

Hi! Check out these great ideas by Jake Ball (bio at the end of the post), and settle down with a book and a dad. (Or, as he indicates below, DON’T settle down, but still read.) 

Books and Reading Time with Dad

Reading has traditionally been an activity young children do with Mom.  However, in so many families reading can fall down the priorities list with both Mom and Dad working outside the home or if Mom and Dad are not together.

It is critical for Dad to be engaged in the effort of creating a healthy reading environment in the home.  Kids look up to Dad, just as they do Mom.  When they see both of their parents involved in literacy activities, it helps them develop a strong love of reading.

Dad reads differently than Moms

Dads tend to have a greater ability to be silly with their kids.  We are more in touch with their 12-year-old self. It’s true, whether we want to admit or not!  Dads are often the ones rolling down the hill with their kids or putting things on their head in the grocery store.  Keep that silliness alive even when you are cuddled up on the couch reading with your kids.

Read with funny voices and accents for each character.  Use costumes and puppets. Get off the couch and recreate the action of the story.  Injecting energy and enthusiasm in the story will make reading time with Dad an event not to be missed!

Father-child bonding time

Having that intimate time with your children is crucial and should be cherished. Read without distractions.  Turn off the TV and leave your phone in another room. Instead immerse yourself in the moment.  Texts and emails can wait – focus on the time you have together.  This strengths your bond and shows your children how special they are to you.

How to set the tone in the home

Make reading a priority.  Treat reading time as any other task or appointment on your schedule.  It is just as, if not more, important than anything other commitment you have.  There is always at least 15 minutes to pick up a book and read with your child.

Seeing how important it is to you will boost their self-confidence and motivate them to pick up a book. Dads have such a great influence on their kids – if you love reading, chances are they will too.

So Dad, pick up a book and share in the wonderful experience of reading with your children.  Read with enthusiasm and without distractions.  Put away your phone and turn off the TV. Below are a few selections for that are wonderful you, Dad, to read with your little ones.  Cuddle up with your kids for

hoponpoppigletHop on Pop – Dr. Seuss

Dads can never go wrong with Dr. Seuss. They are always fun to read, for parents and kids alike. The simple, silly rhymes are perfect for beginning readers.

Piglet and Papa – Margaret Wild

This heartwarming tale of parental forgiveness and unconditional love is a wonderful story for dads to read to their children.  Little Piglet has upset her father and wonders if he still loves her.  She feels unloved and seeks reassurance from other animals in the barnyard, learning that no one love her more than papa.  Piglets loving relationship with her papa will comfort any child who has ever been naughty for attention.

owlmoon

guesshowmuch

Owl Moon– Jane Yolen

This book demonstrates to your little one the importance of family time.  It poetically tells the story of a father and daughter going out into the woods one snowy night in search of an owl.  The little girl is so happy to finally go “owling” with her dad that she doesn’t mind if they never find an owl.

Guess How Much I Love You– Sam McBratney

No collection is complete without this sweet and touching little book.  It is a favorite in many homes and can choke up the toughest of dads.

About the Author:

Jake Ball started childrensbookstore.com in 2006 after realizing that there was no website that was a truly independent bookstore that is 100% dedicated to juvenile literature. He loves engaging with the authors, illustrators and publishers who work hard to produce high quality children’s literature. Jake and his wife have 4 beautiful children. These poor children are often used as product testers and they have more books than might be considered healthy.

October 23, 2013

a stormy, superhero-ific saturday

The best thing about The Best Saturday Ever is the illustrations. Bright colors on a black background give a superhero feel to the book, which is appropriate for a story of a boy who turns into a superhero on a rainy saturday. The colors also do a nice job of giving the effect of a rainy day when the power is out; all the light seems to be coming from the boy’s imagination, which I love.

Tbestsaturdayeveritle: The Best Saturday Ever
Author: Gary Cook
Illustrator: Adam Sword
Genre: Picture Book

A great book to encourage kids to play imaginatively, parents can jump right in with their own encouragement. Get out your own superhero cape and fly around the house. (Kids run faster when there is someone chasing them!)

Power outages might be my favorite times. Of course, there are downsides now that I am the responsible adult (making sure the fish get enough oxygen, picking up dry ice for the freezer and finding all the flashlights). But I wouldn’t trade them for anything, and this books definitely explains why.

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