Friday, August 26, 2011

The kids nobody wants

Right now I'm reading Ask Me Why I Hurt: The Kids Nobody Wants and the Doctor Who Heals Them
He operates a mobile van and serves homeless kids in Arizona. Anyone who cares about children and their outcomes should read this book. It is absolutely shocking to realize that so many children have been discarded like stray animals. One boy was put on a bus to Arizona from Alabama with little else than a piece of paper with a nonexistent address. It's the most compelling page-turner I've read in years. I will confess, though, that his story of a little gray cat in Hurricane Katrina made me cry more than anything else.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Somebody loves you, Mr. Hatch!

Here is a great book for Valentine's Day! Mr. Hatch leads a sad existence, alone and friendless and working at the shoelace factory. One Valentine's Day, he gets a giant box of candy, with a card saying "Somebody loves you". Of course Mr. Hatch wonders who sent it to him, and becomes outgoing and friendly with everyone he sees, thinking this may be the person who sent it. He shares the candy at work, and gets friendly responses. He helps people he knows, and even gives parties. By the time the postman arrives with the news that the package was delivered to the wrong address, Mr. Hatch has completely transformed his life. I love Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch.

Friday, July 11, 2008

You need this book!

It's impossible to raise children without this book, so I HOPE you already have it! It explains the importance of reading aloud,in Jim Trelease's inimitable and readable style. In the back of the book is a "Treasury" of hundreds of the best books to read aloud, for children from birth through high school.(Parents and teachers stop reading aloud by middle school, when coincidentally reading achievement plummets.) This book has been invaluable to me as a parent, a teacher, and a librarian, and has steered me to fantastic books I would never have found otherwise.
I bought the first edition when my oldest child, now 26, was two years old, and own all 6 editions, and have used them when teaching, working in a library, and choosing books for my own children. While the fifth and sixth edition are still available from Amazon, earlier editions can be found at used book stores and libraries. Older editions have unique articles and list wonderful books that may now be out of print but can still be located.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Teach your kids to eat healthy

I have been freaking out about a kid at the preschool where I volunteer this summer. Someone brought in ice cream and cake for a treat, and several kids requested cups of water to drink with it. Another child asked for either chocolate milk or Kool-Aid, and said "I don't drink water". That was astounding to me. Bad enough to have ice cream and cake as a preschool snack, but the thought that they would have to be washed down by a sugary drink...
There are a lot of great books around that help to teach kids about nutrition
Eat Healthy, Feel Great by William Sears, is a good one. Despite its emphasis on meat and dairy, which are not essential for a good diet, it does discuss the concept of foods that should not be consumed, or only be consumed occasionally, the idea of green light, yellow light, and red light foods.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Duck for President!

What a great book to use when discussing the Presidential election with children! It's hilarious, with humor that can be appreciated by both adults and children. Look for the parody of the famous photo of President Kennedy in the Oval Office, when you read Duck for President.
When I worked as a school librarian during the 2004 election, I found Duck for President campaign buttons on the Simon & Schuster website, and soon students were streaming out of the library, proudly supporting Duck for President.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The Cow Buzzed

Now this is a funny book, warning of what could happen when you don't cover your mouth when you sneeze. A bee sneezes and the cow catches the cold—and his buzz. Then the cow sneezes and the pig catches the moo, the duck oinks, and the dog gets the quack. Kids of a certain age think this is hilarious. Don't miss The Cow Buzzed, by Andrea Zimmerman.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

2008 Newbery and Caldecott winners

The Invention of Hugo Cabret,by Brian Selznick, won the Caldecott medal. What an unusual book! As the author says,
"My new book, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, is a 550 page novel in words and pictures. But unlike most novels, the images in my new book don't just illustrate the story; they help tell it. I've used the lessons I learned from Remy Charlip and other masters of the picture book to create something that is not a exactly a novel, not quite a picture book, not really a graphic novel, or a flip book or a movie, but a combination of all these things."

The people choosing the top books are looking for something that stands out, is different from other books, and this time they have outdone themselves!
The Newbery medal book has an interesting story too. It began as a reader's theater sort of set of monologues, written by a school librarian, Laura Amy Schlitz. Good Masters! Sweet Ladies is a masterpiece.

Caldecott Honor books are Henry's Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad, illustrated by Kadir Nelson, written by Ellen Levine; First the Egg, by Laura Vaccaro Seeger, The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain by Peter Sis; and Knuffle Bunny Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity by Mo Willems. (My students, preschoolers through fifth grade, all loved Mo Willems. This book is a winner.)

Newbery Honor books are The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt; Feathers by Jacqueline Woodson; and Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Learning about art

Some more art books: Feed Matisse's Fish is part of a series called Touch the Art books, which also includes Make Van Gogh's Bed,Brush Mona Lisa's Hair,and Pop Warhol's Top.
These interactive board books bring famous art works to life. They have flaps to lift, fabric to touch, and other 3-dimensional and tactile items, reminiscent of Pat the Bunny.
Kids will love these fun, colorful books and they, as well as their parents, will learn and remember the art works. It will be so exciting for them to recognize the art works when they visit a museum someday.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

I love this art book!

Have you seen Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose: The Story of a Painting by Hugh Brewster? What a gorgeous book! It describes a painting by John Singer Sargent, from the viewpoint of the child model. There are many other beautiful paintings and drawings in the book.
There are so many ways to expose your child to the world of art; back in the 1980's I couldn't resist the books by Mike Venezia, who has beautiful and accessible books about both artists and composers for children.
And who can resist Linnea in Monet's Garden, both the book and the DVD?
And follow these books up by spending a rainy afternoon pushing a stroller through an art gallery.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Two books for parents to read---

Be very afraid...Buy, Buy Baby: How Consumer Culture Manipulates Parents and Harms Young Mindsby Susan Gregory Thomas describes how marketers are targeting young children.
"It’s no secret that toy and media corporations manipulate the insecurities of parents to move their products, but Buy, Buy Baby unveils the chilling fact that these corporations are using— and often funding—the latest research in child development in order to sell things directly to babies and toddlers. Thomas offers other, perhaps even more unnerving epiphanies: the lack of evidence that “educational” shows and toys provide any educational benefit at all for young children; and the growing evidence that some of these products actually impair early development, and could harm our kids socially and cognitively for life."

I've written before about Baby Einstein, a typical one of these products that play into parents' insecurities and hopes for their children, and make them feel that if they buy expensive products they are doing something better for their children...
Think about it. Simply pushing your child's stroller through a shopping mall, or even just down a sidewalk beside a busy street, provides a myriad of sights, sounds, movement and color. And a parent holding a child, looking at him and talking, singing, or reading, is more beneficial to the child than a truckload of videos and gadgets.

My other current favorite book, the one I recommend to everyone, is The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Mealsby Michael Pollan. In it, he discusses factory farmed meats and vegetables and the omnipresence of corn and corn syrup in our diets...and makes a plea for humanely grown meat and locally grown produce. If you read this, you will never think about food in the same way again, and will not feed yourself or your children in the same way. This book was on both the New York Times and the Washington Post's top 10 books for 2006, and is changing the way people think about their food everywhere.
You owe it to yourself and your children to read it.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

I love anthologies!

When I was a little girl, I owned two anthologies of children's literature, both published by Better Homes and Gardens. The first had a variety of poems and stories for younger children; the second had chapters excerpted from famous novels for children. I still own those books, and have read them many times. Does anyone besides me remember the Reformed Pirate? Sadly, they are no longer published, but recently I came across something similar, The Little Big Book for Moms . Not only does it have stories and poems, but it has recipes, songs and activities for children. It has old-fashioned illustrations you may be tempted to cut out and frame. And, there are others in the series, with different content:The Little Big Book for Dads.
Anthologies are wonderful. They will invariably remind you of a wonderful book or author you have forgotten, and must immediately introduce to your child!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Kids Learning Stuff went to Alaska!

I've just returned from a ten-day cruise through the Inside Passage, from Seattle to Alaska. One of my regrets (other than regretting I can't go back right away) is that I didn't take a child along with me. Visiting Alaska would be wonderful for children--from the humpback whales, orcas, puffins, totem poles and glaciers to the Tlinglit and Haida Native Alaskans in their colorful regalia, to the sea lions catching fish in the harbor only a few feet from the cruise ship--and a few feet from a group of bald eagles. Then there were the mysterious petroglyphs on boulders in Wrangell (according to Tlingit oral tradition, these petroglyphs were there when they settled the area, which may have been 10,000 years ago---are they from a people who no longer exist, or are they, as some suggest, carved by visitors from another planet?) The Gold Rush days are brought vividly to life in Skagway, where a movie in the National Park Service visitor's center depicts the hardships of the thousands who carried supplies through the snow over the mountain passes. For the brave (and non-acrophobic) a narrow-gauge train ride climbs past the tree lines (and past bears and mountain goats), through tunnels and to the mountain top at White Pass, for a while through a cleared passage with snow as high as the roof of the train.
There are many books for children about Alaska--one I read wasThe Klondike Cat, about a young boy who goes to the Gold Rush with his family, smuggling along his beloved cat, which turns out to save the day for his father.
Another book my second graders loved, a few years ago, was Prince William about the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Prince William Sound, and a fictional little girl who saves a baby seal.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

A resource for parents and teachers of gifted children

I just discovered the Duke Gifted Letter, which has interesting articles related to educating gifted children. In my view, all children are gifted, so this newsletter is for everyone.
You can bookmark this site, or by providing your email address, have it sent to you online.
The current issue discusses the use of the school library, a subject dear to my heart. More on that later... P.S. I see that the title has been changed to "Digest of Gifted Research"

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Get your child ready for kindergarten!

I just read an article in the University of Florida School of Education newsletter which cites research showing that children who have certain reading-related abilities in kindergarten are much more likely to do well in school.
Most of the students who struggle with reading had a lack of early exposure to print and language development.
Besides the all-important reading to children, the researchers recommend the bookStarting Out Right: A Guide to Promoting Children's Reading Success which provides tips on teaching reading skills to your preschooler.
Such activities as rhyming, clapping out the syllables in their names, and taking apart simple compound words such as starfish (recognizing that it is made up of two other words) are important in preparing children for reading.

Monday, April 23, 2007

It's TV-Turnoff Week!

Ever since 1995, schools and other organizations have sponsored TV-Turnoff Week.
Today is the beginning of this year's turnoff week: seven days of finding other things to do than watching TV.
It's intended to make people think about how much time they, and their children, spend watching TV, and to spend a week focusing on other things to do.
If your child's school doesn't sponsor it, consider starting it yourself---today.
I first heard about this yearly event in Jim Trelease's Read-Aloud Handbook but today's Washington Post KidsPost also discusses it.
According to the article in the Post, pediatricians recommend that kids spend no more than one hour a day watching TV, using computers, and playing video games. "The more time you spend in front of the TV, the less time you spend reading, writing and doing arts and crafts and sports.
If your kids are not familiar with The Wretched Stone by Chris Van Allsburg, this would be a great week to read and discuss it. In this book, sailors find a glowing stone on an island and bring it aboard the ship. Soon they are mesmerized by it, and all they want to do is sit and stare at it. Hmm---what could this symbolize?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

books for Earth Day, April 22

It's so important to teach children about the environment. Even the youngest child can make a difference. There are many books on this subject, but these are some of the best:
The Day the Trash Came Out to Play by David Beadle and the similar story The Wartville Wizard by Don Madden. In these stories, the trash runs amok and gets back at the people who litter.
The Great Kapok Tree: A Tale of the Amazon Rain Forest and A River Ran Wild by Lynne Cherry are beautifully illustrated books with a somber message. The second of the books discusses the pollution, and eventual rescue, of a river in New England.
The Lorax (Classic Seuss)by Dr. Seuss..."I am the Lorax, I speak for the trees", says the Lorax in this, the granddaddy of Earth Day--Hooray! by Stuart J. Murphy --not only a good environmental lesson, but this book is one of the MathStart series, and also teaches about place value.
Just a Dream by Chris Van Allsburg explores two different possibilities for our future. This book is better for older children, and is yet another treasure from one of our most important author/illustrators for children.

Two of my favorite books are The Wump World and Farewell to Shady Glade by Bill Peet. With his instantly recognizable illustrations and clever verse, he brings home the message of caring for the earth. Unlike the animals in Shady Glade, and the Pollutians in Wump World, we may run out of clean places.

Shades of Shady Glade--in Where Once There Was a Woodby Denise Fleming, the animals are displaced by a subdivision.
Earth Day Birthdayby Pattie Schnetzler, is great! This book gives us a song, to the tune of Twelve Days of Christmas, featuring endangered animals.
The Great Trash Bash by Loreen Leedy is an amusing book for younger children that nevertheless has an important message.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Have you heard about the 1000 book project?

The 1000 Book Project is offered through many elementary schools. Families participating in the Project borrow from a series of 100 tote bags each filled with 10 childrens' books. The goal of the Project is for each child to have listened to 1000 books by the start of first grade.

The idea behind this is simple. Imagine that you read one book to your child almost every day from birth on. To make it simple, if you read 300 books a year to your child for 5 years, that will be a total of 1500 books. Many parents do much more than that. I remember that my husband and I each read to our daughters on most days, and on some days it was several books. Just think of the advantage many children bring with them when they start school: they have been read to 1000 or more times, they have favorite books and authors, they know how to sit and turn the pages in a book...And think of the DISadvantage so many other children bring with them to school: What if a child who has never been read to, and has no books in his home, is sitting in a kindergarten classroom next to another child who has been read to daily at home. It is frightening to think of how far behind that child is already, and whether and how he might "catch up".

If you have children in elementary school or preschool or work in a school, it is worth thinking about how such a project could be started very inexpensively. It's my understanding that it does not involve 1000 different books, but only 1000 books. Repetition is valuable, even essential, for children, and even a small number of quality books would be fine. Books and bags could be donated or found inexpensively at yard sales, library sales, and other book sales.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

All parents are teachers...

Yes, all parents are teachers, and as such, it is interesting to read books by the best teachers of our time, describing how they reach and teach children. In his bookTeach Like Your Hair's on Fire: The Methods and Madness Inside Room 56 Rafe Esquith continues the story of his inspired work with impoverished students in Los Angeles that he began in There Are No Shortcuts. Esquith is intense, devoted to his students, a true workaholic, and comes across as more than a little nutty. He spends almost every waking hour working with his 5th and 6th grade students, and achieves dramatic results. His book is both inspiring and disturbing to me.
There are a number of good ideas in the book, such as the best way I've ever seen to prepare kids for standardized testing. He is also to be commended for his accurate belief that all students can learn, and can usually learn a lot more than people expect of them.
On the other hand, he achieves his results by adding several hours to each school day and working with his students on weekends and in the summers. Now I understand the negativity about teachers who do as little as possible during the school day, stay at school as little as allowed by contract, and take no work home; however, his schedule is not realistic for many people. I must assume his wife takes care of things on the home front, which frees him up to do all the extras. His schedule is just not realistic for many teachers. Once I worked at a school where a teacher was repeatedly praised for staying until midnight on many evenings to make costumes for a school play. It was wonderful that she did so, but she lived alone and had no necessity to be home. If one must put in those kinds of hours to be rewarded, it is very discouraging for teachers with families or other responsibilities.
Nevertheless, his books contain good ideas for parents and teachers. Another such author is Ron Clark, whose book The Essential 55: An Award-winning Educator's Rules for Discovering the Successful Student in Every Child gives the 55 expectations he has for his students, 55 rules every parent and teacher should consider.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

My thoughts about IQ testing...

Recently someone asked in an online forum whether she should have her preschool child's IQ measured.
For one thing, IQ tests do not measure everything. There was an article I read several years ago (and remember at one time kids and their parents were not shown IQ test results) about someone who won a Nobel prize in science who went back to his old high school and got a copy of his files for some reason, and learned that his IQ, as tested by the school system was NOT in the gifted range. Obviously, his IQ test did not meaure him properly.

Also, IQ isn't everything. There are a lot of good attributes that are not measured by IQ. When I taught 2nd grade, a parent asked that her son's IQ be tested, and it came out around 100. Her response was to be very upset that he was only "very average". I replied that he was not average, he was a very well-behaved, kind child who was very considerate of others and well-liked by his peers and his teachers, that he was doing very well in his schoolwork, and that she should not focus on that number. There are many people with lower IQs who, by virtue of diligence, people skills, and sheer hard work have been more successful than those who have a higher number on a paper in a file somewhere.
Another issue is that IQ can change, depending on whether a child has an enriched or a deprived environment. I once knew of a child who was adopted at around age 6, after having a very chaotic earlier life of foster homes and adoptive homes that did not work out. At that time, his IQ tested at around 80, which is not indicative of future academic success. He was adopted by someone who gave him a very enriched environment and a lot of help with schoolwork. He eventually graduated from college and thus far has had a very successful career.
If you are concerned about whether your preschooler has a high IQ, your focus should be on giving him the most enriched environment possible, as long as it is done in a fun way, not by force feeding them flash cards or phonics whatever. Reading to them, visiting interesting places, a lot of conversation with older people, toys that require the child to do things (such as Lego, Duplo, and other building toys) rather than toys that the child just watches, are valuable. Arts and crafts which are creative--drawing and painting, rather than coloring in coloring books. (Now, coloring books are not fatal, children enjoy them and coloring within the lines helps hand/eye coordination but they should be a small part of a balanced diet of activities) Helping adults in any way that they can help safely is also valuable (see my earlier cookbook recommendation).

In short, do not be concerned with your child's IQ unless your pediatrician or a teacher has expressed concern about developmental delays. And in that case, they will help you locate testing.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Have you read The Higher Power of Lucky?

I just finished reading The Higher Power of Lucky which won the Newbery Medal this year. That's the prize awarded annually by the American Library Association for the most distinguished American children's book published the previous year. "Lucky" is the story of a little girl who lives in the desert--in Hard Pan California, population 43. The book is very entertaining, with a dizzying array of eccentric characters, including Brigitte, her father's first wife, who came from France to look after her after her mother (the second wife) died in a bizarre accident. I enjoyed it, but I'm wondering if this is one of those books that kids don't like as much as adults do. (Does anyone know a ten year old who has read it?)
Oh--almost forgot. The book's claim to fame, other than the Newbery, is its use of the word "scrotum" on the first page, referring to a dog's being bitten there. It raised a huge controversy in the school library community: some people concerned about age appropriateness (the book seems aimed at 4th graders, in terms of the difficulty and length), and others concerned about censorship...