Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Read-Alouds for the Younger Listener

I have been thinking that Pumpkinpie ought to be old enough to read chapter books with me now, not just picture books. But what to read to a younger child? Something gentle, especially right before bedtime. It's a good time to share old favourites, classics that have endured. I would like some fun stories, something episodic that would be easier to follow, allowing for the reading of one chapter each night, with each being its own little story. These warmer tales I'm thinking of are often animal stories, and with so many children loving animals, those fit the bill perfectly, though not all of them fall into this category. Many of these beloved classic chapters books were developed into series, so I will try to note when that applies, but won't list each title in the series. Instead, I'll let you start with the first one and look further if you enjoyed it. Here's a starter list to remind you of some of those books you may have loved in your own childhood and relish sharing.

Paddington Bear, by Michael Bond (and others in the series)

Stuart Little, by E.B. White

Ralph S. Mouse (there are 3 of these), Ramona Quimby (several of these), Socks, by Beverley Cleary

Winnie-the-Pooh, by A.A. Milne (and others in the series, plus his poetry for children is fantastic)

The Dog Who Wouldn't Be, Owls in the Family, by Farley Mowat for a bit of Canadiana

Babe, the Gallant Pig, by Dick King-Smith (he has about a thousand small chapter books of animal tales (not in series), if this is a hit. Hard-core animal fans might also try James Herriott's tales of life as a country vet.)

These next few I might suggest for children slightly older, in that they might just appreciate them a little more. Many of them are also more wordy, and have a bit slower action, to be sure, though a few are just funnier for slightly older and more worldly kids.

Sarah, Plain and Tall, by Patricia McLachlan

Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, by Betty Bard MacDonald (and others in the series) (These are faster-paced, and very funny.)

Pippi Longstocking, by Astrid Lindgren (and others in series) (also faster and funnier)

Mary Poppins, by P.L. Travers (and others in series)

The Borrowers, by Mary Norton (and others in series)

Moominvalley in November, by Tove Jansson (and other Moomin books)

***Add your old favourites, too! It might be just the thing for another reader.***

Find these and other great books to share at your public library!

Originally posted on MommyBlogsToronto/Better Than a Playdate.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Swimming Upstream with Floaties

Some parents want to do things a different way, a way that feels more like them. Not with an OB and an epi and maybe a c-section, but with a home birth, perhaps. Some parents want not a bottle, but a breast. And sometimes, it can feel like swimming upstream, because while breastfeeding is more and more widely promoted and supported, it isn't considered mainstream by everyone just yet. So how do you talk about these things with your child, especially if you have a new one coming along? How do they see their family reflected in the picture books they read, if most don't show things this way? Indeed, most books don't really address these things one way or another, but I have tripped across a couple of books that don't skip over this stuff, and these can be used as a lovely support in your inevitable discussions to come. It's rare, still, to be sure, but here is a start.

Mama's Milk, by Michael Elsohn Ross, ill. Ashley Wolff

This gentle rhyming book shows mothers feeding their child as a natural thing, and one of the ways in which she both nourishes and nurtures. Many animals are shown in their nest and burrows as well as dining on the go, and families are shown feeding infants in cozy chairs, in bed, and on a park bench. Babywearers might also enjoy seeing one mother carrying her wee one in a sling, while I particularly enjoyed the mother asleep in a chair as her babe nursed. The classic patterned tale of The New Baby Calf (by Edith Newlin Chase, ill. Barbara Reid) also talks about how the baby calf drinks from his mother and grows fat, and though it does not talk about people, it could be a nice supplement to this.

Everywhere Babies, by Susan Meyers, ill. Marla Frazee

This book does not directly address any particular parenting technique, dilemma, or style, but I incude it rather for its message-free inclusiveness. This book is a cute and jaunty rhyme, illustrated to fun effect by the incomparable Frazee's detailed drawings. In it, readers are shown the many ways that babies eat, crawl, are carried and rocked and dressed, and more. What I love is that no judgment is made on how babies are fed, simply noting that they are fed "by bottle, by breast, with cups, and with spoons." Similarly, babies are carried not only in strollers, but also in slings and on shoulders. One of my favourite gifts for new moms, I might add.

Welcome With Love, by Jenni Overend, ill. Julie Vivas

This is the only story book I've seen that even comes close to talking about home birth, let alone with illustrations of a birth. These are not photos, nor are they overly graphic, but they are enough to help prepare a sibling who might attend a birth, as they do depict some of what a child might see if they were present. The family is preparing for the birth and waiting for the arrival of their midwife at the beginning of the book. The child narrator talks about the preparations and some of the midwife's equipment, as well as the mother's labouring and the emotions of the moment. After the birth, the mom is tucked into bed and puts the new babe to her breast while the placenta is delivered and the cord cut, and then the whole family sleeps together in the warm light of the fireplace. It's a lovely book, really, and one I would recommend as good preparation for anyone who might be considering sharing a birth experience with a sibling or having a child at home.

These and many non-fiction titles on parenting topics can be found at your local library!

Originally posted on MommyBlogsToronto/Better Than a Playdate.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Pattern Language

We in library service to children are talking a lot these days about preliteracy skills, and I will start to post about them once in a while here, too, to share the information and some supporting titles with you online. Today I am talking about one of the types of books that can help support one of the six narrative skills. (For a quick and dirty rundown on them, see here. For a more formal version, see here or visit a local public library.)

I am talking about pattern stories. One of the things a child needs in order to get ready to learn to read is what we call narrative skills. This essentially means that a child understands how a story works. That a story has a certain structure, that events happen in a sequences, that there is a beginning, a middle, and an end. One of the types of stories we recommend for really highlighting a specific story structure is the patterned story. These have repetitions that create an obvious internal organization, an old storyteller's device. Encourage your child to chime in. Once the child is anticipating what comes next, you are seeing the growth of narrative skills, and it makes for a more fun and interactive storytime for you both, too.

Instead of a few titles with annotations, I will give you a few types of patterned stories, each with a few titles I like.

Folk and Fairy Tales

As repetition is an old trick used by storytellers to recall stories, to draw in an audience, and to emphasize important parts of the tale, it is found in many old stories. These also have a beginning, middle, and end, and the pattern helps draw the story along that path. A few examples are:

The Three Billy Goats Gruff (I like Janet Stevens' version, as well as the older version by Paul Galdone) ; The Little Red Hen (I also like Philemon Sturges' updated The Little Red Hen Makes A Pizza) ; The Gingerbread Man/Boy/Baby/Girl (My favourite is Egielski's boy, who romps through the city and does get eaten in the end, though some may prefer Jan Brett's baby, who does not) ; Too Much Noise (a great old tale that lends itself to silliness, by Ann McGovern) ; The Mitten, by Jan Brett ; and The Great Big Enormous Turnip (there are also versions with potatoes and carrots, but my favourite is a Hallowe'en adaptation, The Big Pumpkin, by Erica Silverman).

Eric Carle

Yes, this classic picture book master gets his own section for the simple reason that he has time and time again created beloved stories with strong patterns, while also having a flow from beginning to end, as with fairy tales. He also manages to imbed concepts like time, days, counting, and more without ever being obvious about it. Genius. Favourites include:

The Very Busy Caterpillar ; The Very Busy Spider ; The Very Lonely Firefly ; Pancakes, Pancakes ; The Grouchy Ladybug ; Rooster's Off To See The World.

Simple Rhyming Books

These are books that carry strong patterns, but less of a story. They may, in fact, be entirely about the pattern in some cases, but children do love that. In a bedtime book, it is soothing, while in other storytime favourites, it makes it easy for them to join in. A few treasures are among those must-have titles:

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? (and the accompanying Polar Bear and Panda Bear titles) ; Chicka Chicka Boom Boom (and many other Bill Martin titles, but most notably the Chicka Chicka's) ; Time for Bed (my favourite bedtime book, one that every new mom I know gets) ; Goodnight Moon ; Goodnight, Goodnight, Sleepyhead (a new treat by Ruth Kraus and Jane Dyer) ; Gifts by Jo Ellen Bogart, ill. Barbara Reid ; The Deep Blue Sea, by Audrey Wood.

Song Books

Songs lend themselves naturally to patterns as well, with choruses and repetitious verses. More and more songs are being illustrated in book format, making it easier to find these for storytime sharing. I love to use these because they help me remember the words to less familiar songs, give visual cues to the child to help them join in, and ties words to pages more strongly. Look for Raffi's many books (Down By The Bay, etc.), a few by Nadine Bernard Westcott (Skip To My Lou, I love), and some old favourites that include:

Old MacDonald ; Three Little Kittens ; BINGO ; Little White Duck (I love the Joan Paley-illustrated version); The Wheels On The Bus (Zelinsky's is fun) ; Over in the Meadow (and luscious new versions for the ocean and rainforest by Marianne Collins Berkes) ; and so on.

Look for these and other patterned pages at your local library!

Originally posted on MommyBlogsToronto/Better Than a Playdate.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Feelings, Nothing More Than Feelings

Emotions are a tough thing to explain sometimes, being so very intangible. An illustration of facial expression certainly helps, as do examples of when you might feel a certain way. These books have a few novel ways to address the discussion, and help children learn to identify and name their feelings.

My Many-Coloured Days, by Dr. Seuss, ill. Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher

This book uses the idea of feeling like different animals and colours to talk about emotions, and the swirling paintings carry the mood even further. Example: When my days are happy pink, it's great to jump and just not think! He even mentions "mixed-up days" when a child might not know what they feel, which I haven't seen elsewhere. In the end though, the book reassures that no matter what our mood, we go back to being ourselves.

Walter Was Worried, by Laura Vaccaro Seeger

This book uses a few devices to help bring forth and express different feelings. Each child has a different reaction to different types of weather, and both the weather and the face are illustrated. The fact that the letters of the emotion are painted into the form of the face is a bit gimmicky, but can be totally overlooked unless you have one of those children who likes to find things in pictures (as Pumpkinpie does). Example: Walter was worried when the sky grew dark. This book goes through a nice range of emotions as the weather grows first wilder, then clears up, and the chldren react accordingly.

How Are You Peeling?: Foods with Moods, by Saxton Freymann and Joost Elffers

Easily dismissed as a novelty item, I actually quite like this book, in which fruit and veg are turned into creatures with extremely communicative faces. I like the simplicity of the text, and the clarity of the facial expressions, and I like that the tone is light and there is some giggle factor. It's a great way to get kids trying out making those faces themselves, and seeing what they look like on you. The physicality of that exercise can really help make the connection between the face and the feeling.

Today I Feel Silly & Other Moods That Make My Day, by Jamie Lee Curtis, ill. Laura Cornell

As I've written before, Curtis is one of the celeb authors that gets it right for kids, and this book is a fun one. What I like most about it is that each mood - and there is a wide range - is illustrated with a jaunty rhyme about some of the things that might help create that mood or some of the kinds of reactions a kid might have while feeling that way.

Sometimes I Feel Awful, by Joan Singleton Prestine, ill. Virginia Kylberg

This story of a crummy day is told by a young girl who has trouble expressing her feelings. As she looks back on how her day went from good to bad to worse, she identifies in each episode what made her feel bad, how she reacted, and what she could have said to make the person involved understand her. It is a bit on the heavy-handed side in terms of the reptitive message that she was not making herself understood, something I normally hate in a picture book. In this case, though, I think it does something useful and tricky - models how a child might put feelings into words. This skill is so useful, I give the message-y aspect a pass here. (Also, I found myself extra touched by the expressiveness of the girl's face, as she looks quite a lot like my Pumkinpie. Aww.)

Sometimes I Feel Like a Mouse, by Jeanne Modesitt, ill. Robin Spowart

This simple book features a child noting how sometimes they feel like different animals, and then identifying the feeling. Sometimes I feel like a mouse hiding, Shy. The paintings in the books are soft-edged, boldly coloured, and nicely evocative.

Lots of Feelings, by Shelley Rotner

This book features Rotner's signature sunlit, bright photos, and has children showing the faces associated with a nice variety of feelings, some of which I have not seen in other books. There is a nice variety of faces, too, which I appreciate, though some of the faces look quite like the child is approximating, and the emotions then are not quite as clear. Mostly though, this is a nice one for teaching children about expression and how it reflects feelings.

Look for these and other books about feelings at your local library!

Originally posted on MommyBlogsToronto/Better Than a Playdate.