Saturday, June 1, 2013

Whew...I made it!

Well, it's offical.  As of 2:30pm yesterday I am on SUMMER VACATION!  Although, this summer promises to be a summer vacation like no other now that I've got Little Man C around to keep me on my toes.  With the start of summer vacation, it also means that I'm back to blogging about my adventures in reading.  Over the winter the stress of teaching full-time, creating products for Teachers Pay Teacher (check out  my shop!), and taking care of Little Man C just got to be too much and something had to give, so I took a step...well several giant leaps...away from blogging for a moment.  But, summer promises to be a much more relaxing time.

I signed my son up for the local libray's summer reading program.  Even though he's only 10 months old my library offers a program for kids his age.  (I'm so grateful to live in a community with an amazing library!)  I picked up my list of literary activities for kids his age yesterday and we've already done three of them.  I'm sure I'll have more to post about the list of activities later as we accomplish a few more of them.

My husband and I are also signed up for the adult summer reading program and while we were there we scouted out the library's selection of books on cd's for our trip to the beach this summer.  The adult summer reading program is generous in their guildines and allows you to log audio books as well as books you actually read so we always try to pick up a few to keep our minds occupied as we drive.

I'm busy cooking up some other great book adventures for the family this summer and I can't wait to share them with you.  Plus I've got some books that I'm excited to read.  I'll be sure to let you know about the good ones!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Return of High Contrast Books

High Contrast books were our son's favorite books for about the first four months of his life.  But as his eyesight improved my husband and I move onto other books.  After all, we were a bit sick of looking at the same simple black and white pictures with one word per page.  So when our son started to show interest in other books we were more than happy to put those books aside to accommodate his changing tastes.    However, three weeks ago I pulled out one of his high contrast books to move into our family room for the week.  (We keep most of his books in his room, but actually do most of our reading in the family room so I pull a fresh selection of books to move from the nursery to the family room each Sunday.)  It wasn't that I thought he'd be that interested in the book, it's just that we hadn't read it in awhile and I like to pull a new selection of books each week.  Well, imagine my surprise when he loved the high contrast book.  I pulled it out to read and he was captivated.  His eyes were focused on the page, and his hands were involved too.  He kept slapping the pages, not really pointing at different things but just reaching out to touch all over each page.  I truly hadn't seem him that excited about a book in ages!  I was shocked.  I thought he'd be mildly interested, but mostly just board with the overly simple black and white drawings.  Boy was I wrong!  I thought maybe it was just a fluke.  Maybe he was just excited because he hadn't been read that book in about three months.  So, I pulled it out the next day too, curious to see if his interest would still be high, and it sure was.  There, for the second day in a row, was excited exuberance to look at the pages of this book.  I told my husband about the unexpected response when he arrived home from work and he sat down to read the book with our son and even though we'd just looked at the book about an hour ago, he put on the same display of enthusiasm with my husband that he did for me.  Needless to say, we learned our lesson.  A seven month old is not too old for high contrast books.  We'll be sure to keep our three high contrast books in our regular rotation, at least as long as our son's enthusiasm lasts.

Just in case you'd like to get your hands on some high contrast books, here are a few titles.  The first three we own and love.  The last three we just check out of the library.
  1. Fish and Canoe by Flying Frog Publications
  2. Me and You by Flying Frog Publications
  3. Sock and Shoe by Flying Frog Publications
  4. Cluck and Moo by Flying Frog Publications
  5. Look Look by Peter Linenthal
  6. Hello Bugs!  By Smriti Prasadam

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Favorite Books 7 Months

Yet another month has passed; I can't believe how fast it went!  My son is already another month older.  He still loves to be read to, but he wants to be much more involved in the reading.  He loves to grab for books, reach for pages, close/open books and turn pages.  Although he rarely does these actions when you want him to.  More than once I've had a book closed on me while I'm in the middle of the page.  I mostly read board books to him so he can reach for and play with the books without causing too much damage, but sometimes I still like to read nonboard books.  When I read nonboard books I try to give him a toy to play with to keep his hands busy.  My husband is much more successful than I am when it comes to reading nonboard books because his arms are long enough that he can put our son in his lap and hold the book in his hands far enough away that our son can't reach it.

For the first time he's really showing interest in the book Peek A Who?  We've had this book for awhile, but he loves it right now.  I think he likes the cut outs that he can grab onto and he always spends sometime looking in the mirror at the end of the book.  Previously he really hadn't cared much about the mirror, but now he's into it.

Here are a few more of our favorite books for him right now:
  1. Eating the Alphabet: Fruits and Vegetables from A to Z by Lois Ehlert
  2. Sheep on a Ship by Nancy E. Shaw
  3. Pajama Time by Sandra Boynton
  4. Peek a Who? by Nina Laden

Monday, February 18, 2013

Library Time for Babies

Today I took my 6 month old son to a program my local library does called Wee Wonders.  It is specifically designed for babies 0-18 months.  I've wanted to take him for a long time, but as a full time working mom, I'm not usually around on a Monday morning to take him.  Well, boy am I glad I finally found the time to go.  We had so much fun!  The librarian who ran the program did a lovely job.  She started by having us sing a simple song as she went around an introduced a Lamb Chop puppet to all of the babies.  Then we sang some more songs with simple hand motions.  Sometimes I helped my son do the hand motions other times I just did them with my hands in front of him so he could see what I was doing.  After about 3 songs she read a story to the babies and then we sang a few more songs.  Just like before all of the songs had simple melodies and hand motions to go along with them.  For the last 10 minutes of the program she passed out bubbles and we could blow bubbles for our babies.  This was my son's first experience with bubbles and he was fascinated.  Unfortunately he doesn't yet move fast enough to reach the bubbles before they pop, but I think that's part of the mystery of bubbles for him.

If I was around on Monday mornings this would become a regular part of my baby's week.  It was fun for him to be around other babies and fun for me to watch him explore and interact with me and other babies.  Lucky for me, summer is just a few months away, and then we'll be able to make library time a regular part of our week.  In the mean time, at least I've got about five new songs (with hand motions) that the two of us can sing together.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Graeme Base

Allow me to introduce you to your new favorite picture book author...that is if you haven't already met!  Reader meet Graeme Base am amazing, fantastic, wonderful, author and illustrator of stunning picture books.  He is both an author an illustrator of all of his books and all of his illustrations are done with elaborate detail.  I was first introduced to Graeme Base books when, in high school, I read the Sign of the Seahorse.  Shortly there after I came across the book The Eleventh Hour: A Curious Mystery and that was the book that truly turned in into a devotee.  I was in college at the time and my boyfriend (now he's my husband) and I spent a few happy hours engrossed with the book pouring over the pictures tyring to solve the mystery.  It was his first encounter with Graeme Base and he was instantly hooked as well.   Over the years I've developed a small collection of his books.  What makes them so great is their wide ranging appeal.  The rhyming language in books like the Sign of the Seahorse appeal to the very young, even though they have no hope of following the plot.  The story is suitably complex for older readers (say fourth grade on up) and the pictures are just stunning and make reading the book a treat for any adult.  The Eleventh Hour: A Curious Mystery has the same appeal.  On the surface, the story is simple enough to appeal to a young reader, but the mystery and again the stunning pictures (which this time play an important part in the mystery) keep even older reader enthralled.

When my husband and I found out we were expecting we added one more book to our Graeme Base collection, Animalia.  This ABC book puts all other ABC books to shame.  The book is filled with Base's brilliant pictures.  Each page features alliterative tongue twisters.  The pictures, as in all of his books, seem to unfold in layers.  Just when you think you've found all of the hidden quirks in his illustrations you'll notice something you over looked the first hundred times you read the book.  I would say if you had money to buy only one ABC book this would be the one to buy.  Long after your child has lot interest in other ABC books, he'll still love to read and look at this one.

Here's a mini-list of some of my favorite Graeme Base books.  Get your hands on one (or all) of his books soon.  They are perfect for filling the time on these cold winter days and nights!

Sign of the Seahorse
The Eleventh Hour: A curious Mystery
The Water Hole

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Sitting Up On My Own

Whew!  It has been a busy week!  Parent teacher conferences always throw off my whole week even though they only take a two days.  I sure am glad the weekend is here, but I can't believe it's Sunday afternoon already.  How did that happen!?

Well, enough about my life and onto reading.  It seems my little baby is starting (already) to grow up and push away from his parents.  He has recently mastered the art of sitting and that seems to be all he wants to do, and that includes when it's story time.  Until recently my baby would sit in my lap and enjoy looking at books and listening to me or my husband as we read them, but (temporarily, I'm hoping!) that doesn't seem to be the case.  He still loves to look at books and listen to stories, but he wants to sit on the floor, not on mom or dad's lap.  I know I should be happy that he still loves to listen to stories, but there is a part of me, okay a large part of me, that's sad when I take out some books to read and I try to put him in my lap and he just squirms and wiggles until he's happily seated on the floor.  I'm sure this is just going to be one of many reading phases my son goes through, but for now I can't wait until he's happy to sit in my lap again.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Reading Junk Mail

The strangest things happened about a week ago.  While my son was sitting on the floor playing next to me, I was trying to multi-task and look through an advertisement for a grocery store.  As I casually glanced between my son and the flier in my hand I noticed that my son was paying closer attention to the advertisement than I was.  I thought maybe he was bored and I tried to give him a new toy to play with but he kept staring at the ad in my hands.  After puzzling over this for a moment a light in my head went off and I realized he probably liked all of the bright colors on the flier.  So, I picked him up, set him in my lap and the two of us "read" the grocery store ad together.  I didn't actually read the words on the ad, but I pointed out pictures and named foods.  I added a few other details like how we might use an ingredient in a recipe, or if it was something I didn't like to eat I'd tell him that I thought a particular food was yucky.  He loved it.  He babbled along with me and kept reaching his arms out to grab paper.  When I was all done I let him hold the flier in his hands.  If I thought he'd enjoyed "reading" the advertisement with me it was nothing compared with how much he enjoyed holding it in his hands and crinkling it in his tiny fists.  As a result of this accidental discovery we have been reading grocery fliers together for the past few days.  Finally a use for all of the junk mail that arrives at my house!  We, like you, get tons of advertisements, fliers, and catalogues at our house some of which we've requested but most of which we haven't.  Before I would casually glance through about 3% of what we got, while the other 97% wouldn't even make it through the door before it hit the trash can.  However, for the past few days I've sorted though our junk mail looking for good "reading" material that I think my son will enjoy.  Grocery store ads are my favorite because they include bright colorful pictures of foods.  This is especially fun for me since he's just starting to eat solids so when we look at the pictures of produce I talk to him about what they taste like and how much he's going to enjoy eating apples, pears, sweet potatoes, or whatever picture we are looking at.  I point out the fruits he's tasted and the one's he'll taste soon.

Who'd have thought, I finally found a use for all of those fliers and junk mail after all!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Favorite Book 6 months

It's hard for me to believe, but my son is 6 months old as of this week.  I'm not sure where the time has gone.  He's changing and developing in so many ways and that goes for his reading interests as well.  At this age he definitely shows a preference for books with bright, bold colorful illustrations.  He won't sit on my lap indefinitely anymore, so shorter books works best.  He's also at a stage where he grabs for books and can turn pages (not always the right way but he can turn them).  So, board books are the perfect fit.  He really enjoys any book that has bright, bold illustrations with limited text per page.  I'll list a few of the books that my husband and I particularly enjoy reading to him, but he's not showing a great preference for any specific title at this point.

Just for fun, my husband does make a point of reading something with more print fewer illustrations to him before he goes to bed.  This week he's been reading from our collection of Berenstain Bears stories.

Some of our favorite board books to read to our son:
  1. Dr. Seuss's ABC by Dr. Seuss
  2. Moo Ba La La La by Sandra Boynton
  3. Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney
  4. Sheep On A Ship by Nancy E. Shaw

Monday, January 21, 2013

Forgotten Titles

My mother-in-law came to visit this weekend and brought with her a whole box of books.  They had been in storage for years and the box contained many "oldies but goodies".  Looking through the box was so much fun.  The box was a mix of childrens classics and books I'd never heard of.  But, mixed into the box were some books that brought back special childhood memories.  These are not books that make it onto "best books" lists, but they are books that I remember my mom reading to me when I was a child, and that makes them special.  So, if you're looking for some great picture books that you've probably never heard of check out some of the titles below.  Fair word of warning though, some of these books are old and out of print.  So, even though I've included a link to amazon, make use of your local library and check them out and enjoy them for free!

  1. Popcorn A Frank Asch Bear Story
  2. Seven Froggies Went to School by Kate Duke
  3. The Day Jimmy's Boa At the Wash by Trinka Hakes Noble (Illustrated by Steven Kellogg)
  4. Because a Little Bug went Ka-Choo by Rosetta Stone
  5. The Berenstain Bears and the Missing Dinosaur Bone by Stan and Jan Berenstain (okay, I know everyone loves the Berenstain Bears books, but I'd forgotten about this particular book until I saw it in the pile.)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

I Won!

The first week of the adult Winter Reading Program at my local library has come to a close and I WON!  Monday afternoon a very kind librarian called to tell me that one of my book reviews had been randomly drawn and I had won one of the weekly prizes.  YES...I LOVE WINNING!  Just to build suspense they didn't tell me over the phone what I had won, so it made driving to the library even more exciting since I got to anticipate what prize I might have won.  And, I must say, I was quite happy with the prize that I won, a $10 gift card to a local restaurant.  How fun, the library managed to combine two of my favorite things, reading and eating!

It's so much fun to win a prize, but I know I should say, just reading the books is the real prize.  Get real, I love to win (and if you're being honest, I know you do to!).  So, celebrate with me an my first week victory for winning a prize at the library.

And, just in case enquiring minds want to know, I've logged three book reviews since the program has started:
  1. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
  2. When Come the Spring by Janette Oke
  3. Olive Kitterage by Elizabeth Strout

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Reading Rotation

Thanks to many generous friends and family our son already has a fairly good size library, but I noticed that I'd fallen into the habit of reading the same books to him.  The problem is that most of the time when we read, we read together in our family room and his library collection is in his nursery.  For the first four months of his life I kept the same 5 books in our family room and only occasionally added a new book.  So at this point we've only read a few of the books that he has in his book collection.  My new plan is to set out three to five new books each Sunday in our family room and return the previous week's books back to his bookshelf in his nursery.  By keeping a constant supply of new books where we usually do his reading I hope that I'll start putting his library to better use.  So far, the plan seems to be working.  I started rotating the books two weeks ago, and already it's made a big difference.  For the past two weeks I've tried to pull books that have some sort of common theme, such as books about trucks, or books by Sandra Boynton (a favorite author in this home!).  I don't know if I'll always pull books with a common theme/author, but I'd like to try to continue to do it that way.  Now, I just have to stick with the plan and remember to change the books that we have in our family room!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Winter Reading Program Reading Plan

As stated on Monday, the Adult Winter Reading Program at my local library has started and that means the heated reading competition between my friend and I has also started.  I am nothing if not strategic, so I've used some time to create a list of books that I want to read during the Winter Reading Program.  Because the library rewards you for the number of books you read and not the number of pages, this is not the time to start a long classic like Les Miserable by Victor Hugo (although I do highly recommend it, it is an exceptional book...and musical...and movie/musical).  This is a time to pick up the shorter, easy reads that only take a few days to read.  With that in mind here are the books I've lined up to read so far (there will likely be some additions to this list depending on what I can get from the library). 

  1. When Comes the Spring by Janette Oke
  2. When Break the Dawn by Janette Oke
  3. Olive Kitterideg by Elizabeth Strout
  4. The Eighty Dollar Champion by Elizabeth Letts
  5. The Son by Lois Lowry
  6. The Dress Maker of Khair Khana by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
  7. Catch In the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  8. Heaven Is For Real by Todd Burpo and Lynn Vincett
  9. The Great Fire by Jim Murphy
This list is more than I'll probably be able to read in just four weeks, but it's best to be over prepared.  I'd hate to find myself with time to read, and no book to read!  Wish me luck...maybe for the first time ever I'll win a grand prize.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Winter Reading Program

I am SO excited!  Twice a year my local library does an adult reading program and today, Monday, is the kick off of the Winter Reading Program.  Many libraries do summer reading programs for people of all ages, but I am blessed to live by a library that also does an adult winter reading program.  The program works just like most library reading programs.  You get a small prize just for signing up, usually something like a pen or a magnet.  (This year it was an cookie which I ate in the car before I even left the library...yum!)  For each book you read and review your name is entered for a prize drawing.  There are weekly prize drawings and then there are the three grand prizes.  Now this is all well and good, but nothing to write home about.  I mean library reading programs are nothing new.  But, what really gets me is the competition with my friend.  Every winter and summer when the reading program rolls around my friend and I begin a cut-throat reading competition.  I'm a competitive person, and so is she.  Neither of us can stand to lose and so together we spur one another one to read ridiculous numbers of books in short periods of time.  (The winter program only lasts 4 weeks.)  Now, there are two ways in which to win in our made-up competition.
  1. Read the most number of books.  And while this may sound easy, last summer both of use read more than 20 books in about 8 weeks.  We take this seriously.  To win this way you really have to spend your time reading!
  2. Win one of the grand prizes.  Two summers ago I blew my friend out of the water.  I way out read her, but it didn't matter.  When she called to say she had won a grand prize, I knew, as if by some unspoken agreement in our made-up rules, that she had truly won that summer.
Now although the competition is fierce, and the smack talking is doubly fierce, the friendship is stronger than both and ultimately we both want one of us (or preferably both of us) to win prizes.  The ultimate goal to read for is the year that the two of us with 2 of the 3 grand prizes!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Building Early Literacy Skills

Whether you know it or not, when your child arrives at the beginning of the year for kindergarten, your child's teacher will assess your child to see what early literacy skills (s)he already has.  This ranges from everything from the obvious, like does your child know his/her upper and lower case letters, to skills that probably only a teacher thinks about like the return sweep.  One of the best, and easiest ways to begin to develop these early literacy skills in your child is by simply reading aloud to him/her.  You don't need to be an education expert, or even a super reader for your child to reap the benefits of being read to. 

There are many early literacy skills that children pick up just by being read aloud.  (Just one of the many benefits of reading aloud to your children!)  Three examples of these skills are knowing where to find the title of a story, where to find the author, and knowing how to hold a book (and which way to turn the pages..I guess that actually makes four skills, not three).  While these may hardly seem like "skills" to most of us, the fact is that they are skills.  No person was born knowing how to hold a book and which way to turn the pages.  This is where a habit of reading aloud can help build up your child's early literacy skills.  My husband and I have developed the habit of starting each read aloud by saying "The title of the book is..." while pointing to the title and then saying, "The author of the book is..." while pointing to the author's name.  Now, our son is not even six months old yet, so I know this seems extra odd when you figure that in, but one day it will dawn on him when he wants to request a certain book to say the title of the book and he will know where to look for that information.  He will likely never have a formal lesson from us about where to find the title and author of a book on the cover, in the same way that he will probably never sit through instruction about how to hold a book and which way the pages should be turned.  But a lifetime of watching his parents point out the title and author, hold a book a particular way, and always turn the pages the same way will eventually sink in and he'll head off to kindergarten armed with some basic literacy skills that other less fortunate kids won't have.  Reading aloud to your children is so much more than a great way to spend time with your children, it's also an amazing way to teach them some of their first reading lessons.  For all of the money that parents are willing to dump into expensive tutoring sessions, and fancy computer programs promising to teach your preschooler to read, really the best place for your child to learn the basics of reading is in their parent's lap.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!  I don't know about you, but I'm not actually much of a New Year's Resolution type person.  Although, for the past few years I've toyed with the idea of trying to read 52 books in a year (that's one book a week for a whole year).  This year, rather than make that an official resolution, I'm just going to use this blog and the What We're Reading Now page to keep track of how many books I read in a year.  I've always wondered.  I know I don't always read a book a week.  Sometimes I read long books that take more than a week, and other times I read short books where I can chew through two or three books in a week.  And, then of course there are times that life just gets busy and I many not read much at all for a week.  But I am curious to know how many books I read in an average year.  By this time next year I'll know.

Of course, I also want to continue to build a reading habit into my son.  Yes, I know he's still young (as of Christmas Eve he is now 5 months the time flies!) but I don't think it's ever too early to start developing a reading habit.  I'm not sure exactly where that path will take our family, but that's part of the reason for this blog, to chronicle our family's journey into a legacy of family literacy. 

Whatever your New Year's Resolution, whether you have one or not, I hope that you make reading a part of your life and a part of your family's life.  I hope that in some small way this blog can be an inspiration and resource to you and your family as you explore the world of words and imagination.

Happy Reading...Happy New Year!