Saturday, October 22, 2011

Rereading and Reviewing The Read-Aloud Handbook - Chapter 4: The Dos and Don'ts of Read-Aloud

I do so love a good bullet-pointed list, and this chapter of Jim Trelease's The Read-Aloud Handbook is bullets as far as the eye can see. Whee! Here are some of my favorite read-aloud "do" guidelines from Trelease, along with my helpful commentary.

With infants and toddlers, it is critically important to include in your readings those books that include repetitions; as they mature, add predictable and rhyming books.

My husband thinks repetitive and predictable books are dullsville, but Jackson loves them, of course. There was a period when we were plodding around a variety of literary barnyards for weeks and weeks and weeks, just because the animals said their noises on each page in a predictable and repetitious way, every single time. (The Animals of Farmer Jones and The Very Busy Spider, I'm looking at you.) I've also found that the littles like books that make their parents sing. Sometimes these books are simply illustrated versions of actual songs, like Old MacDonald Had a Farm (we enjoyed this oversize edition from Child's Play), other times they might be something like a particularly sing-songy Sandra Boynton (e.g., Snuggle Puppy), but especially since I'm not much a natural performer, "singing" books are great. P.S. A fellow mom referred me to an audiobook version of Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling, read by Carl Reiner, and even though it's theoretically for much older children, I seems ideal for toddlers because of the constant mellifluous repetition. Last but not least, I love these little finger-puppet books. They make the kids spaz out, and again, they're a great crutch for moms like me who aren't natural performers.

Read as often as you and the child (or students) have time for) and Set aside at least one traditional time a day for a story.

We're good at reading all day long, but I must admit that a traditional bedtime story sometimes gets away from us because I just want to get the dang kid in bed! We read most often at mealtimes (especially lunch), second-most at potty-time, and third-most often at bedtime, thanks in part to the bookcase being right next to the dining table and the four small book baskets in Jackson's room. The book baskets generally contain favorite board books, while the bookcases have most of our larger storybooks and a funkier variety of board books. I've heard tell moms who do bathtime reading, but I've just never figured out what to read in there that would be more fun than "Splashing! Splashing!"

Encourage relatives living far away to record stories on audio cassettes that can be mailed to the child.

Awww, audio cassettes. Isn't he precious? Hee. My in-laws have a weekly Skype call with Jackson's cousin, and grandma L. almost always reads a picture book aloud to cousin K. The practice is, by all accounts, a big hit.

Follow the suggestion of Dr. Caroline Bauer and post a reminder sign by your door: "Don't forget your flood book." Analogous to emergency rations in case of natural disasters, these books should be taken along in the car or even stored like spares in the trunk. A few chapters from "flood" books can be squeezed into traffic jams on the way to the beach or long waits at the doctor's office.

You know who always had a flood book? Rory Gilmore. A quick Google reveals this YouTube compilation that explains it all perfectly. (Hermoine Granger and Lisa Simpson would also be able to demonstrate this for you if you asked.)

As for myself, I've really be meaning to put together a "car library," but I like having all the current favorites in the house! I'm thinking maybe some kind of 500-page anthology would do the trick, but we'll see.

But wait there's more! Come back soon for the rest of the interesting "dos" in this chapter, along with some notable don'ts. To be continued...

What are your favorite read-aloud tips, tricks and "rules"? 

Budget Bug Cage for Backyard Nature Study

Are you on a budget but still want to house captured insects for further examination by the kiddos?

Grab a berry box out of the recycling bin and upcycle it into a bug box! Berry boxes already have built-in airholes, and since they're clear on all sides, your little scientists can even view the underside of the bugs in question, which is sometimes a hard view to get otherwise.

We found not one, not two, but three grasshoppers in the raspberry-mint bed today, and Jackson got to see up-close view of a little green guy as well a mature gray bird grasshopper (which I believe is the largest insect native to Southern California). He was very gentle with the bug cage, which is to say that he stopped shaking it as soon as I explained that it was a living creature that we should be gentle with. He also decided when the grasshopper should be let "out." He came away from the experience knowing the word "hopper," and having heard about antennae and the six legs common to insects. (FWIW, the other major new word he gained today was "taco.")

This little green fellow is a gray bird grasshopper in the nymph stage

This is a full-grown gray bird grasshopper; we found a second one a while later but let him be.

The two grasshoppers back in the "wild"; the mature specimen is in the dried-grass mulch on the left and the little greenie is clinging to one of the trellis wires on the right side.
On a personal note, I was thrilled to find these guys in my yard, since it means I'm not completely failing in my pursuit of an ecologically dense backyard! (We currently have much more lawn and concrete than would be my personal preference.) If these fairly demanding insects are here, it means they must be finding something fairly substantial in the way of food and shelter in our garden beds, which means that we haven't eradicated too many other microorganisms from the garden. Yay!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Theme Week Idea Cheat Sheet

Delightful Learning's
ridiculously cute balloon bouquet
 for Goodnight Moon
Aha! I just trawled through Delightful Learning's archives and stumbled across her rundown of all the many ways she approached her Before Five in a Row unit studies.

Her post Fun Things to Do with Five in a Row covers the gamut of approaches to theme weeks/unit studies, with her photos illustrating what you can do with food, field trips and hands-on projects.

She always makes me want to do such ambitious things, but if I just read the book five days in a row I'm usually ahead of the curve!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Library Book of the Week: Knuffle Bunny

Mo Willems doesn't need any promotional help from the likes of me, but we just read Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale for the first time, and oh! We both like it so much. I find it more personable than the Pigeon books, although of course I love them too. There's so much to act out here, and Jackson loves it when I say "Aggle flaggle klabble" and "snerp" and doing the "Trixie bawled" and "Trixie went boneless" parts. By the time we read it a second time, he was mumbling "Knuffle...knuffle" as I turned the first page. And I'm pretty sure if I were to take him into a laundromat in the near future he would immediately know what it is.

Runner-Up: When I Was Young in the Mountains by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Diana Goode, was an impulse grab this week, based on the feeling I'd seen it recommended somewhere on the Well-Trained Mind forums, and it's lovely. We've been reading Tikki Tikki Tembo as part of an extension of China Week, wherein of course the two brothers fall down a well, and Jackson immediately recognized the word when it came up in this very different book! When I Was Young in the Mountains seems like it ought to be for older and/or more sophisticated kids, but somehow the images and the language really connected with the kiddo.

Dud of the Week: A Very Special House by Ruth Krauss, illustrated by Maurice Sendak. Gibberish, and not  even fun gibberish. I adore the Krauss-Sendak collaboration A Hole Is to Dig, but this (and the A Hole Is To Dig sequel Open House for Butterflies) are nonsensical and disappointing.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

200 Kindergarten "Prerequisites," aka Everything You Need to Know to Preschool Your Own Child

I think of these two lists often, so I wanted to share them with my tens of readers out there, in case you haven't seen them yet.

There's 100 Things To Do Before Kindergarten as well as 100 Books to Read Before Kindergarten. If you're looking for the pre-K canon, the latter list will do you right, and if you're looking for a list of memory-making, character-building, stimulating, vocabulary-and-neuron-enhancing childhood experiences, the former list has you covered.

They say that children who have been read a thousand books before kindergarten are best prepared for school (it sounds like a lot, but it's just one book a day for three years). I feel strongly that reading these 100 books 10 times each would provide many of the same benefits, although of course you should treat yourself to much broader reading.

My favorite unusual suggestions from amongst the "to do" list suggestions are:

10. Try ice-skating
29. Hold a newborn baby (to see how much they've grown)
88. Learn to twirl spaghetti on a fork

Your faves? Do you have a baby bucket list? Please share your ideas in the comments!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

This Week's Used Children's Book Finds

Real Seuss (Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose was first published in 1948!), and a cobbled-together inauthentic Seuss-themed lift-the-flap book, a Shel Silverstein (diabolical! genius!) book called Giraffe and a Half, the classic growing-up book Little Gorilla in baby board-book form, two new-to-us Where's Spot? books by Eric Hill, and well-loved copy of The Bear Detectives. (I like Berenstain Bears morals books, but I love Berenstain Bears easy readers.)

I also found four pristine Japanese-language children's books (three Pénélope and one Curious George) that I will donate to the local elementary school's Japanese-language immersion program, in hopes of developing a relationship with the office ladies and because books that don't get adopted from the Goodwill get pulped, so I try to bring home as many foster children as I can, LOL.

China Week Wrap-Up

Jackson knows where China is now. It's on the blue thing that spins, aka the globe. Heh.

And he knows what 42 looks like, because he was very interested in Ping's 42 cousins, so we counted out 42 links every day and hooked them together into a long, fun chain. He also learned about "swooping" and "diving" from Ping, and he heard the song "Row Row Row Your Boat" every day, in conjunction with "the jerk, jerk, jerk" of the oars. He learned that boats can have wise eyes. He knows that ducks dive for fish, and that it's uproariously funny when mama makes sounds like the boat boy or Ping's master, who says "La-la-la-lei."

The Story About Ping is the longest book he's ever let me read him, and it's fairly complicated--there's at least four separate "acts"--but he sat through it every time, so long as his tray was full of food. This was a great experience because it make me certain that Jackson's attention span is expanding and that we can continue stretching it further. He didn't take to either the fingerplay or the longer stories, but I might try to slip in Tikki Tikki Tembo (another quasi-Chinese childhood favorite of mine) and see what he thinks. Plus, we need a reason to stretch out "China week" a little longer: I still owe him a bowl of wonton soup, and we haven't even seen grandma and grandpa's China slide show yet.

In other news, Jackson starred blankly at the Montessori-style sized-cup nesting activity for the first three days we did it, and then on day four, he just reached out, nested them himself and then looked at me expectantly, waiting for me to increase the level of difficulty. I was overjoyed, because he was genuinely befuddled at first, and then, after three days of demonstration and (then a couple of days off when we were camping), it clicked and he got it. I've seen book-related learning take place, but this was my first spatial-relations lesson that had a real effect and it was so cool. Definitely continuing with these. I think next we'll do "sorting silverware" since Jackson loves playing in the dishwasher anyway and because I have about 25 McDonald's fork-and-knife packets that I don't have anything else to do with.

I don't know what theme week to do next, mostly because I'm paralyzed by the possibilities. Trains? The five senses? Art? I also want to do a billion craft projects, like making Play-Doh and fingerpainting and ironing autumn leaves between wax-paper sheets and so forth. There is so so much to learn and do at this age, not to mention that there are so many parks to visit, adventures to have, and grandparents to socialize with. I'm pretty sure just hanging out and doing stuff and reading sometimes is an overabundance of stimulation, but you wanna do as much as you can, right?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Muller's WORLD FAIRY TALE COLLECTIONS Series: An Alternative to the Oxford Myths & Legends Series - Muller's Folk & Fairy Tales

The Oxford Myths & Legends series from the 1960s is (rightfully and deservedly) recommended by the authors of the Well-Trained Mind (more on OM&L in a future post), but if you need an alternate or addition to any of those books, there's another series I've recently come across, also from the 1960s, that seems like it was a fairly equivalent competitor to what Oxford/Walck were doing: Frederick Muller's World Fairy Tales Collections series of books, sometimes called Muller's Folk and Fairy Tales series. Some were published in the United States by Follett, out of the Midwest. The Muller books don't have color illustrations like the Oxford, it's all black-and-white line drawings, usually by Harry and/or Ilse Toothill, but the text is good stuff. The dustjackets are usually illustrated in the style of the region in question, almost always by someone other than Toothill.

Update, Oct. 16, 2011: Was just thrilled to find this recommendation of the Muller fairy tale series in Dorothy Butler's Five to Eight, London: Bodley Head, 1986. She writes, "A series published some years ago by Muller entitled 'Folk and Fairy Tales' provides a rich harvest of stories from almost every country in the world, suitable in language and level for children of seven and over. Sadly out of print, it is still well represented in good libraries. (Turkish Fairy Tales is at this moment providing visiting grandchildren with a source of good stories in my house, and I am impressed all over again with the standard of both content and presentation in these fine collections.)"

Update, April 9, 2012: Laid hands on my very own copy of a 1973 printing of Turkish Fairy Tales and added several more titles from the series, as listed on the back flap of the book.

Follett Publishing Company * Frederick Muller Ltd.
  1. African Fairy Tales - Kathleen Arnott
  2. Arabian Fairy Tales - Amina Shah
  3. Burmese and Thai Fairy Tales - Eleanor Brockett
  4. Celtic Fairy Tales - Joseph Jacobs, ed. by Lucia Turnbull 
  5. Chinese Fairy Tales - Leslie Bonnet 
  6. Danish Fairy Tales - Inge Hack 
  7. English Fairy Tales - Joseph Jacobs
  8. Fairy Tales from the Barbary Coast - Peter Lum
  9. Fairy Tales from Bohemia - Maurice and Pamela Michael 
  10. Fairy Tales from the Pacific Islands - A.W. Reed
  11. Fairy Tales from Sweden - Irma Kaplan - Carol Calder 
  12. Fairy Tales from Switzerland - Roger Duvoisin - originally published as The Three Sneezes and Other Swiss Tales 
  13. Folk Tales from North America - Peter Lum
  14. French Fairy Tales - Roland Gant - Patricia Morriss 
  15. German Fairy Tales - Maurice and Pamela Michael 
  16. Greek Fairy Tales - Barbara Ker Wilson  
  17. Heroes of Kalevala - Irma Kaplan
  18. Indian Fairy Tales - Lucia Turnbull
  19. Indonesian Fairy Tales - Adele de Leeuw
  20. Italian Fairy Tales - Peter Lum 
  21. Japanese Fairy Tales - Juliet Piggott
  22. Mexican Fairy Tales - Juliet Piggott
  23. Norwegian Fairy Tales - Gert Stringberg 
  24. Persian Fairy Tales - Eleanor Brockett 
  25. Polish Fairy Tales - Zoë Zajdler 
  26. Portuguese Fairy Tales - Maurice and Pamela Michael 
  27. Russian Fairy Tales - E. M. Almedingen
  28. The Sea-King's Gift and Other Tales from Finland - Zacharius Topelius, retold by Irma Kaplan 
  29. South American Fairy Tales - John Meehan
  30. Spanish Fairy Tales - John Marks 
  31. Turkish Fairy Tales - Eleanor Brockett
  1. Famous Fairy Tales of the World (a selection from the series) - Juliet Piggott
  2. Myth and Moonshine (a collection of magical tales) - Juliet Piggott
  3. Old European Fairy Tales - Irma Kaplan
Originally published Aug. 18, 2011.

A Must-Read for All You Education Paranoiacs Out There

Love, love, love this new post from my blog friend (and coincidentally, fellow class of 1999 Stanford alum!) Jen Beardsley about how to figure out your home school/school district situation, and what to do about it if it's not ideal. Jen is a former public school teacher (K/1st grade), and she's got some excellent insider insight into what you need to know and why.

READ IT: What School is this House Zoned For?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Museum Colors, Gisela Voss

I love Museum Shapes (bought used) and Museum 123 (library), so I ordered Museum ABC and Museum Colors online. I was expecting to get the Metropolitan Museum of Art-published Museum Colors book with the same cover pictured on Amazon and the Met site, but instead I got a very interesting board book with the same title, published by the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston in 1993, authorship credited to Gisela Voss, sometimes listed as Gi Voss. (As far as I can tell the Met book doesn't have a named author.) I think the Amazon listing has the two books conflated. Anyway, here are some selections from the Boston book in case you like fine art-based concept books as much as I do. I'll be interested to see what's in the Met book when it eventually wanders into my life!

Museum Colors by Gisela Voss, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1993; front cover and stair-step colored pages.
Museum Colors - Tom Browne, Two of Holland's

Museum Colors - Joseph Boze, Portrait of Two Boys

Museum Colors - Ito Jakuchu, Cockatoo

Museum Colors - Donald Oenslager, Off the Ballroom of the Windsor Hotel

Museum Colors by Gisela Voss, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1993; back cover.

Further Reading: Little-Kid Concept Books That Use Fine Art; Lucy Micklethwiat Bibliography

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Rereading and Reviewing The Read-Aloud Handbook - Chapter 3: The Stages of Read-Aloud

I am skipping most of the first section of this chapter in favor of a referral to the excellent quasi-spinoff book Baby Read-Aloud Basics, which covers the 0 to 24 months age in much more depth than Trelease is able to do here. Have I reviewed Baby Read-Aloud Basics here yet? I suppose I haven't and I should, but suffice it to say, both this book and that one explain what various ages are able to comprehend, how much wiggling to expect, and so forth.

My favorite part of the early-stages section of this chapter is a transcript of a parent reading aloud from Blueberries for Sal, with the verbatim text underlined, which allows the reader to see that active readers-aloud are in dialogue with both the text and the child, commenting on pictures, explaining difficult vocabulary and adding and subtracting language as is age-appropriate for the wee bebe.

Ooh! Ooh! So glad I'm re-reading. We're in the "labeling the environment" stage right now and for this Trelease recommends The Everything Book by Denise Fleming and My First Word Book by Jane Yorke. Oh, I must Bing those. (Just kidding!)

Trelease also asserts: "Prior to age two, repeated readings of fewer books is better than a huge collection read infrequently." (YMMV.) And, in a statement that I cling to on all the days when we do family stuff and life stuff instead of book stuff, Trelease writes, "For as long as possible, your read-aloud efforts should be balanced by the outside experiences you bring to the is not enough to simply read to the child...the words in the book are just the beginning."

This is a handy tip for guesstimating reading levels: "The amount of text on a page is a good way to gauge how much the child's attention span is being stretched. When my grandson Tyler was two years old, he regularly read books with just a few sentences on a page, but by three and a half he was listening to books that had three times as much text...The transition from short to longer should be done gradually over many different books." Conversely, as a parent, you can use this tip to eyeball what the "next stage" book for your kid could/should/would be. First you're doing a four words on a page, and then 10 words per page, and then three sentences per page, and then it's 10 sentences per page, and so on. Also, don't be afraid to start chapter books as early as pre-K (or earlier if your kids are magical), and don't be in a big ol' rush to drop picture books. The chapter books extend their attention span, and the picture books keep their imagination stoked. It's a powerful combination.

If and when you buy this book, do NOT miss page 61, which is Trelease's masterpiece. OK, that may be overselling it, but he lists what books he would use if he were to start reading aloud to a primary class or child that had never been read to before. It's a textured and dense model any parent can borrow from and modify. Good, good stuff.

Last but not least, from this chapter: Read aloud to your children when they are trapped, more or less. This is mealtime with babies and toddlers, chore time with older kids, car time, bathroom time, etc. If they will sit and listen without being imprisoned, fantastic, but if they're always on the run, take your moments and be sure to read aloud to them when you've got them cornered.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Garden Projects with Toddlers

Unrelated picture of Jackson studying "Water! Water!"
Just wanted to report some success employing my one-year-old as an agricultural laborer.

We've been doing some winter planting here lately--our Southern California weather gives us year-round growing opportunities--and Jackson has been an awesome little garden helper. When he sees the dibble he says "Hole! Hole!" because he knows it's used to drill the holes in the soil, and then he asks about "Seeds? Seeds?"

We've had the best success with really big meaty seeds. The kiddo tried to help with planting radishes, carrots and chard, but he just doesn't yet have the fine motor skills to sprinkle anything. On the other hand, he did an absolutely smashing job helping me plant pea seeds, which he could just pinch between his two little baby fingers; fava beans, which are huge, like the size of my thumb; and garlic cloves, which are very easy size for him to grasp.

By the time we were done with our planting projects, Jackson was picking the seeds out of the packet, dropping them in each of the holes in a particular row, and then filling in the holes with soil and tamping them down. Cuteness.

I really hope some of our plantings survive the slugs and the other depredations of the garden because I'd love Jackson to actually enjoy the fruits of his labor!

China Theme Week

Grandma and grandpa are visiting China, so this week is China week! Not all activities are directly related to China, but here is the plan.

Geography: First we'll find China on a globe, and then I'll attempt to explain the concept of globes/planets. I might also try explain that panda bears live in China. We're big on bears around here.

Read-Alouds: So far the plan is five mornings of (a) The Story About Ping by Marjorie Flack, illustrated by Kurt Wiese and (b) a fingerplay called Chinese Fan. On days when he seems to have the patience, I'm thinking of a gentle introduction of "Dream of the Butterfly" from Chinese Children's Favorite Stories, and possibly a look through You Can Write Chinese by Kurt Wiese. (Jackson likes to find pens and wave them around while saying "Writing! Writing!")

Food: We may live to regret this one, but I think it's time to finally visit the very "dive-y" Chinese restaurant near our house to see what their heavily advertised wonton soup is all about.

Montessori-Style Concept Introduction: I'm finally getting myself together to do some of the suggested activities from Bright from the Start! I have my "pay attention" placemat all ready, and I pulled out three measuring cups (2 C, 3/4 C, 1/8 C) I can use to illustrate the concepts of large, medium and small. I'll introduce the cups and the words once a day for five days, let him try to nest them, and see where we end up by Friday.

Also on the Docket: (1) Mama needs to work out (and/or wants to collect some wild fennel seeds for her garden), so I'm hoping to find some time to hike the Westchester Bluffs Fire Road again. (2) We need to clean up the house, which looks like a hurricane rolled through it! (3) Tuesday is our first day on our scheduled "tour of exotic faraway parks." Wish us luck.

Friday, October 7, 2011

What I Read on My Autumn Vacation

The Social World of Children Learning to Talk, by Betty Hart & Todd R. Risley: As promised, this is the sequel to Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young Children. To the surprise of no one, including me, it is exceedingly boring. It's going right back into the used-book ecosystem. The only takeaways I can offer you are these:

(1) I thought this was an interesting chronology of grammatical language development in the children, collectively: "At 20 months old, children began adding an article before a 21 months they began adding an -s after a noun to mark 22 months old, children began adding adverbs so 'I do' could become "I do again" or "I do now"...between 20 and 23 months old, the average child's recorded vocabulary more than doubled to 215 22 months, children were using 55 different words per 100 23 months, children began adding -ing after verbs...after 25 months children began putting 'can' before a 27 months, children began adding words to put a two- or three-word phrase after a verb, e.g. 'I get some more eggs' 28 months, the children replaced the present auxiliary with the past, e.g. 'I was playing with it' 28 months old, the children had gained skill with all the grammatical morphemes to be added to nouns and verbs in order to mark possession, number and 29 months, the children began joining two 30 months, they introduced infinitives and 32-33 months old, they began using wh- and relative clauses." (pp 63-66)

(2) "Our data showed that children who practiced more in conversation with their parents used more different words and had larger vocabularies. But talkativeness, amount of practice in itself, did not lead the children we observed to display at earlier ages the grammatical categories listed...This suggests that, as studies of physical maturation have shown, practice may have little influence on a genetically endowed rate of development." (p 194) This is totally comforting to me because while Jackson has a great vocabulary, he has yet to break through to multiple-word combinations or sentences. If it's developmental, I can just let it ride. :)

(3) Overall this book should have been a website, but eh, so it goes. One of the particular elements that would do well online is their vocabulary database for the kids and their parents. I thought the "unique words," meaning words that only one child of out of the 42 said during a particular developmental period (during the observation hours only, of course), were fairly intriguing to word nerds. A selection of ones that caught my eye.

Animals: Octopus, buzzard, partridge
Vehicles: Road grader, hot rod, glider
Food and drink: Soufflé, peppermint, artichoke
Outside things: Crocus, license plate, space
People: Prizefighter, knucklehead, wizard
Other nouns: Design, melody, navy
Description words: Calico, open face, frontward

Ready, Set, Read! A Start-to-Finish Reading Program Any Parent Can Use, by Barbara Curtis: This is a thin volume, but it's also a quality introduction to teaching reading and writing Montessori-style. It did succeed in making me feel bad for teaching my the names of upper-case letters instead of the sounds of lower-case letters. Oh well, we do what we know to do when we know to do it.

In other news, I was relieved to find that this book is only about eight percent Christian proselytizing, compared to a solid 45 percent Christian proselytizing in her book Small Beginnings.

FWIW, her recommended children's books are utterly routine, with a smattering of Bible stories and parables included to mix it up a bit.

Curtis is a former teacher, which might be why she thought to include a pullout box on developing Listening Skills (p 57). Most reading books don't address this directly, but maybe they should!

She also talks about "reading three ways" (p 102); I love this breakdown and it's yet another reason to read-aloud many times, allowing multiple approaches to the book!
1. Comprehensively: spending time on each page to discuss and ask questions
2. Technically: noting sentences, words, letters ("Do you see an 's' on this page?') 
3. Dramatically: presenting materially uninterruptedly, with focus only on the story, holding any questions or comments until the end

Last but not least, she has one interesting tip in her section on "providing enrichment" (p 117): "Art reproductions hung at eye level offer opportunities for many open-ended questions, encouraging your child to think and use his imagination. Boys especially love Winslow Homer's work; the boys playing crack-the-whip and the fishermen racing home before the storm are rich in conversation possibilities."

Babies Need Books, by Dorothy Butler: I saved the best for last. Oh my goodness, I adore this book! Dorothy is a New Zealander who has owned a children's bookshop, written children's books, mothered about 10 kids of her own plus 20 or so grandkids. She first published this book in 1980 before what she was saying about the paramount importance of early reading was either trendy or buttressed by MRI studies.

In any case, Dorothy's tone is the tone of a wise old friend who has forgotten more about children and their books than you will ever know. Plus, not only are many of her book recommendations hard to find in the United States, they are all totally "out of date" (even in the revised edition) and therefore they are often past out-of-print and into the range of impossible-to-find-at-any-price. Naturally, I am in bliss at the thought of tracking them down and providing my kiddo with a slightly off-center Anglophilic or Antipodean-style education!

Beyond hundreds of unique storybook recommendations, she knowingly reveals information like which of the complete Beatrix Potter tales are best to read at which ages, which of the "beast fairy tales" are best to read when, and which should be saved for later, and she's delightfully cranky about the literary merit of Richard Scarry.

The book is divided into sections, with a chapter each for each year between one and six, although she combines the booklists for the fours and fives because she says there is such a developmental range in those years that it's hard to say what particular kid should be reading at that age.

There is a sequel, Five to Eight: Vital Years for Reading. Suffice it to say, that one's already been ordered, and I'm also eyeing her two-volume autobiography, but that'll be pleasure reading for another trip!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Birds of the World, Golden Press, 1961

As far as I'm concerned, I just got a first edition of Audubon for $3.99.

Above is a photograph of Western Publishing's authoritative compendium Birds of the World (1961), illustrated by Arthur Singer, which I just picked up at the Savers in Las Vegas for $3.99, and Western Publishing's field guide Birds of North America, also illustrated by Arthur Singer, which was given to me as a gift by my bird-loving grandpa many years ago.

The smaller book has been one of my greatest treasures for many years, and I hope that the larger one will get just as much use as the years go by. (This copy of Birds of the World was obviously previously owned by a bird lover as well. His notes are all over the book, and his handwriting actually reminds me quite of bit of my grandpa's handwriting.)

Click to enlarge and see the detail on any of these beautiful spreads.

Birds of the World title page with ibises
Birds of the World table of contents: the previous owner made notes and checkmarks throughout the book in neat pencil.

Birds of the World: Eggs and hatchlings
Birds of the World: Eagles and ospreys
Birds of the World: Toucans
Birds of the World: Cockatoos and macaws

Birds of the World: Birds of paradise

Birds of the World: Bluebirds and robins
Birds of the World: "Herons and Their Allies"
Birds of the World: Pelicans

Birds of the World: Cardinals and buntings



I took Jackson to see his grandparents in Vegas, and my mother-in-law took me to something called Savers, which is like a SuperGoodwill. But much neater. And nicer. And bigger. And not picked over. And cheaper. (Like 75 percent cheaper than in L.A.!) Suffice it to say, I picked up a few books. And then I got a few more later that day at the local library bookshop. (I just barely came in under the weight limit on my luggage on the way back!)

I was just lamenting that you never find Mo Willems books used. Never mind. I found a set of Pigeon discards from the Las Vegas Library system. Great condition, you can hard tell they were ever used, much less as library books.

And some of the interesting baby and board books: Two of Helen Oxenbury's sense books (I just read this wonderful book called Babies Need Books* that spoke very highly of Oxenbury, so I grabbed these); a Baby Einstein book called Language Nursery that has basic phrases in five languages, including Spanish and Japanese, the two languages taught at the immersion-language school around the corner; three Little Golden Books: Another Monster at the End of This Book, Ruth Krauss' I Can Fly and Perriot's ABC Garden by Anita Lobel; a vintage Sesame Street colors book; Madeline in London; an incredibly abused/well-used library-binding edition of a new-to-me book called Socks for Supper, from the old Parents' Magazine Press (very sweet story, reminiscent of O. Henry's Gift of the Magi); The Berenstain Bears' A Book (we love their B Book), and Gallop! which has fun moving pictures of animals.

*More on Babies Need Books in a future post

Some other treats (counterclockwise from top): The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes, Cranberry Thanksgiving (one of the harder-to-find FIAR books), The Boy Who Was Followed Home, written by Margaret Mahy and illustrated by my guy Steven Kellogg, two old Richard Scarry Picturebacks and a ValueTale! I also found The Value of Truth and Trust: Cochise and The Value of Believing in Yourself: Louis Pasteur at the Vegas Savers--both of which we already had--but The Value of Respect: Abraham Lincoln is new to us!

Oh, and then I picked up just a few other Scholastic paperbacks and other odds and ends. God bless Scholastic paperbacks for making great children's book so widely available. I try not to buy too many flimsy paperbacks at L.A. prices, but I can afford them at Vegas prices. :)

Aardema, Verna - Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears - Caldecott Medal
Arnosky, Jim - I See Animals Hiding
Asch, Frank - Bear Shadow
Asch, Frank - Happy Birthday, Moon
Bennett, William J. (ed.) - The Children's Book of America
Berenstain, Stan & Jan - The Berenstain Bears and the Trouble with FriendsThe Berenstain Bears and Too Much Junk Food
Carle, Eric - Today Is Monday
Crews, Donald - School Bus - We love, love, love his Freight Train book
Cuyler, Margery - Skeleton Hiccups
Danes, Emma - The Usborne First Book of Music - Too advanced for J., but I have no music knowledge at all, so I have to start somewhere.
dePaola, Tomie - The Popcorn Book
dePaola, Tomie - Tony's Bread
Gibbons, Gail - Owls - Jackson LOVES owls, I love Gail Gibbons.
Ginsburg, Mirra - Across the Stream
Gomi, Taro - The Crocodile and the Dentist
Gross, Ruth Belov - The Bremen-town Musicians
Gross, Ruth Belov - True Stories About Abraham Lincoln
Hogrogian, Nonny - One Fine Day
King, Patricia - Mabel the Whale
Masi, Wendy S. - Gymboree Baby Play - I love the Toddler Play book, so I couldn't resist.
Neitzel, Shirley - The Bag I'm Taking to Grandma's
Ness, Evaline - Sam, Bangs & Moonshine - Caldecott Medal
Oxenbury, Helen - Tom & Pippo Make a Mess (2 of 4), Tom & Pippo Go for a Walk (3 of 4)
Pallotta, Jerry - The Skull Alphabet Book
Pinczes, Elinor J. - A Remainder of One
Rey, H.A. - Curious George
Richardson, I.M. - The Wooden Horse: The Fall of Troy
Rylant, Cynthia - This Year's Garden
Steptoe, John - The Story of Jumping Mouse - Caldecott Honor
Testa, Fulvio - A Long Trip to Z
Truss, Lynne - Eats, Shoots & Leaves: Why, Commas Really Do Make a Difference!
Wright, Freire & Michael Foreman, Seven in One Blow

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Judaism Week Recap

Overall, I think Judaism Week was a success, but I never got around either to the glitter bottle or the challah. Jackson loved the apples and honey, he learned what a candle is (as mentioned in one of our topical poems and then demonstrated in real life), he now knows a shofar is a horn (which comes from a goat or a sheep), and he enjoyed a little Barbra. I ended up not liking the Rosh Hashanah story from Ten Holiday Jewish Children's Stories (it was fine, just not quite age-appropriate and too metaphorical), so I gave up reading it after three days; I wish I'd looked a bit further afield. Ideally I can find a copy of Kveller's recommended Apples and Honey before next year. The best resource I had on hand was definitely Jane Yolen's Milk and Honey, which was both appropriate, informative and enjoyable.

I'm not sure J will remember "Shana" (his word for Rosh Hashanah) come next fall, but I think he did learn something, and it was a nice, pleasant week.