Sunday, December 30, 2012

Smart Books for Ensmartening the Three-to-Six Age Group

Just posted this on a message board and thought I would share here too. 

This is a list of books I currently favor for suggestions on how to enrich the environments of kiddos ages three to six:

  • How to Raise a Brighter Child, by Joan Beck
  • Help Your Preschooler Build a Better Brain: Early Learning Activities for 2-6 Year Old Children, by John Bowman
  • Teaching Montessori in the Home: The Preschool Years, by Elizabeth Hainstock
  • How to Raise an Amazing Child the Montessori Way, by Tim Seldin
  • MaryAnn Kohl's various art books, and/or Young at Art, by Susan Stryker
  • The Preschooler's Busy Book and the Children's Busy Book, by Trish Kuffner
  • Raising Confident Readers: How to Teach Your Child to Read and Write--from Baby to Age 7, by Richard Gentry
  • Testing for Kindergarten, by Karen Quinn --> don't let the title or the marketing orientation scare you off; this turns out to be a great rundown of games and activities for youngers

I don't have zero-to-three in my pocket now, but off the top of my head:

  • Bright from the Start, by Jill Stamm
  • Baby Play and Toddler Play, by Wendy Masi for Gymboree

And my favorite books about children's books:

  • The Read-Aloud Handbook, by Jim Trelease
  • Babies Need Books and Five to Eight: Vital Years for Reading, by Dorothy Butler
  • Books to Build On, by E.D. Hirsch
FWIW, if you're looking for more reading material, I have a Pinterest board of Preschool and Kindergarten Reading Lists that you can check out for ideas.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Underappreciated Living Books Resource: Garden City/Rathbone's Wonderful World Series (1950s-1960s)

As I've written before in this space, one of my favorite online book resources is Valerie's Living Books. Another great resource is the Living Books Library. However, both sites favor a religious approach to science ("Group science books by the days of creation, light, chemistry, physics for the first day, astronomy the fourth, etc.") which isn't my bag and which I believe makes them less-than-ideal resources for the various STEM subjects.

As such, I try to be alert for those rare resources that I would consider to be both "living books" and scientifically rigorous. I recently stumbled upon a great mid-20th century series of titles, called The Wonderful World books, which I believe gives a very strong treatment to biology, physics, engineering, medicine, et al. I'd peg the books at being best for kids eight years old and up. 

My favorite of the ones I've seen so far is The Wonderful World of Life: The Story of Evolution, by Julian Huxley, which was originally published in 1958. Julian Huxley was the grandson of Thomas H. Huxley ("Darwin's bulldog"), as well as being the brother of writer Aldous Huxley (Brave New World). In addition to being merely a scion of the hugely important Huxley-Darwin-Wedgwood-Galton family of scientific significance, he was a noted evolutionary biologist in his own right. 

Anyway, I scanned a few of the pages, in case they are of interest to my fellow evolutionists:

Cover of the 1958 edition of The Wonderful World of Life by Julian Huxley. I think the horse skeleton series is a bit of an inside joke, since according to Wikipedia, Julian's grandpapa THH did some important work on horse species evolution that helped him accept Darwin's idea of "gradualism."

These are the endpapers of The Wonderful World of Life, featuring a portrait of Julian's grandpa as a young man. Bonus link: Here's a cute picture of a young Julian sitting on his grandpa's lap in later years.

I wonder if Julian knew what he was doing when subtitled the introduction "The Fact of Evolution" rather than "The Theory of Evolution."

Gorgeous illustration of the orchid Cypripedium, showing special adaptations for pollenization; the illustration on the facing page of this spread is of chameleon, and it's equally exquisite but I was too lazy to scan both. Forgive me.

Graphic depicting fossils of the Silurian age.

As per the caption, "The evolution of reptiles from fish may be simply illustrated if we imagine the development of Seymouria (bottom) from a lobe-fin lung-fish (top) through an in-between stage of a typical Carboniferous amphibian."

From what I can tell, most of the Wonderful World books had a single author but multiple illustrators. In the Wonderful World of Life volume, the first artist credited on the list of eight illustrators is Raymond Briggs. Briggs later became renowned for his fairy tale illustrations, particularly his collaborations with Ruth Manning-Sanders and Virginia Hamilton. None of the illustrations are credited to individual illustrators, but based on what I know of his other work, the image of a hyaenodon above is by Briggs. 

Illustration of primate evolution; I love how the gibbon skeleton hangs from a branch!

Back cover, just because who doesn't love a good Tyrannosaurus Rex?

Complete list of Wonderful World titles
Britten, Benjamin & Imogen Holst, The Wonderful World of Music
Calder, Ritchie, The Wonderful World of Medicine
Fisher, James, The Wonderful World: The Adventure of the Earth We Live On
Fisher, James, The Wonderful World of the Air
Fisher, James, The Wonderful World of the Sea
Haskell, Arnold L., The Wonderful World of Dance
Hogben, Lancelot, The Wonderful World of Communication
Hogben, Lancelot, The Wonderful World of Energy
Hogben, Lancelot, The Wonderful World of Mathematics
Huxley, Julian, The Wonderful World of Life
Jackson, David, The Wonderful World of Engineering
Jessup, Ronald, The Wonderful World of Archaeology
Lee, Laurie & David Lambert, The Wonderful World of Transportation
Orr, John Boyd, The Wonderful World of Food
Priestley, J.B., The Wonderful World of the Theatre
Swinton, William Elgin, The Wonderful World of Prehistoric Animals

These books were published by Rathbone in the UK and Garden City in the United States (Garden City is/was an imprint of Doubleday). The series seems to come in two versions. The first, from the late 1950s and early 1960s, has illustrations like the Life pictures above. The late 1960s editions replace the illustrations with photographs and have white covers. (Guess which style I like better?)

The authors for the Wonderful World series were a veritable Murderers' Row of mid-century British intelligensia: Benjamin Britten was a major conductor and composed The Young Persons' Guide to the Orchestra, Imogen Holst was his long-time collaborator on musical education projects and the daughter of composer Gustav Holst. Lancelot Hogben was a notable scientist and writer who invented the modern pregnancy test while researching frog endocrine systems. (He also has one of the best British writer names short of Plantagenet Somerset Fry.) John Boyd Orr won the Nobel Peace Prize; J.B. Priestley was a notable novelist and playwright; William Elgin Swinton was the leading British paleontologist of his day, etc, etc.


Friday, November 30, 2012

Great Tools for Encouraging Child Labor

Just a random product endorsement in light of the oncoming holiday season. I was reminded of these this morning as I cleaned up the brown sugar that was scattered throughout the house. Sigh.

This morning notwithstanding, Jackson has actually become somewhat proficient and enthusiastic about cleaning up his own messes. He barrels into the kitchen screaming, "I WANT MY DUSTPAN!!" He also has a little child-size push broom and a set of child-size garden tools we got him to go with his farmer costume for Halloween. He's very attached to all of them, and I've been very impressed with the quality of the Toysmith brand, which includes details like a beautiful paint job, good hardware and having a little leather loop at the end for easy hanging.

Anyway, if you (a) just like your house clean and expect your kid to help like a responsible citizen, or (b) are a Montessori partisan, here are some recommended "practical life" pieces:

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Born Learning PSAs

Pregnancy has crushed my productivity so sorry for the general lack of blogging! I'm posting right now because (a) I can't sleep, and (b) to "bookmark" these videos, since I'm so fond of them. (The Internet is vast and deep and it's easy to lose things!)

Friday, October 19, 2012

Teach Your Baby by Genevieve Painter (Simon & Schuster, 1971)

I found this old early-learning treasure in the free pile at the library (!), and I thought you guys would be interested in some excerpts.

Teach Your Baby by Genevieve Painter (Simon & Schuster, 1971)

p. 14

"In average homes, most parents act similarly during the first year. According to Burton L. White, Harvard's Preschool Project Director, it is during the baby's second year that the behavior of parents begins to differ widely from one family to another. He claims that a toddler's curiosity, his zest for learning and grasp of language, all lead the effective mother to speak to the baby and try to satisfy his now more sophisticated needs. However, to other mothers the grown of the baby only means that he may endanger himself and thus will require more attention and care from her. In large families of small dependent children, the mother is likely to concentrate on keeping the baby out of the way.

"From the studies of the Harvard research team, it is obvious that the child of the mother who is able to provide a variety of experiences and who is able to play with and teach her child in a calm manner is most likely to do well emotionally and intellectually in infancy and in nursery school, not to mention later in school."

Background of the Program in This Book

pp. 15-16

"In 1963 I became interested in the field of special education at the university level, particularly in the problems of non-learning children in school. I had already worked in the Community Child Guidance Centers in Chicago, and for three previous years in therapeutic recreation. Both of these experiences pointed toward the correction of specific educational problems in nursery school and kindergarten through remedial play activities prior to school. Along with other researchers, I was alarmed at the number of children who arrived at nursery school at age three or four, at kindergarten, and at first grade unable or unwilling to learn what teachers tried to teach.

"At about this time I was invited to develop and supervise an educational research program undertaken by the University of Illinois and funded by the United States of Education. Our research was divided into two phases. In the first, professional teachers entered the child’s home for an hour a day for a year. The object of both phases of the research was to determine whether babies who were tutored for a year would show significant IQ increase over those who had no tutoring.

“In the first phase, two professional teachers and I began simply by playing with babies in their homes, much as a mother might do. However, we applied psychological principles of infant development, aiming for the most effective method of teaching the things we considered necessary to the baby’s success in future schooling: use of their senses, of their bodies, particularly their hands; use of language; ability to solve problems; picture comprehensions, etc.

“The thirty babies selected for the program were eight- to twenty-four-months-olds, healthy, and normal in IQ. They were tested and randomly assigned to two groups--those to be tutored, called the experimental group, and those not to be tutored, called the control or comparison group. At the end of a year of tutoring by professional teachers, the experimental group were found to average ten points higher in IQ than the control babies, whose IQs remained at the level of the previous year.

“In the next year, mothers were trained in the educational activities and child-rearing methods used by the professional teachers in the previous year. These mothers then began to teach their own babies, ages five months to twenty-four months. Mrs. Erladeen Badger, who had trained the mothers, made home visits and was impressed to see the babies working happily with their mothers for as long as an hour. At the end of the year, the babies who had been tutored by their own mothers averaged sixteen points higher in IQ than the control babies who had received no special tutoring.

“There were differences more obvious than IQ scores between both groups of experimental children and the control children. The children of the experimental groups were more alert and were able to do many more things. A teacher or a parent taught each experimental child who to use his hands and body, and stimulated his imagination, his ability to reason, to abstract and to make associations, etc. The children were encouraged to feel that they are capable of learning and of doing many more things; therefore, they were willing to learn and to work, and they were also willing to perform for the text examiner--they were 'motivated' to work.

“The child’s capacity to learn or his potential is not a fixed quantity. If his environment is active and stimulating, his capacity or potential is greatly increased.”


Sunday, September 9, 2012

Montessori-Inspired Toddler Activity Trays

According to the sun, the moon, the stars and the school-supplies setup at Target, it's back-to-school time! I'm feeling the peer pressure to get back to work, so for the first time in months I put together some Montessori-style work for Jackson. Herewith:

Jackson has never evidenced even the least interest in threading anything, but I'm trying again. This is a plastic lanyard string from the dollar store and plastic spools I ordered from S&S Worldwide. Orange is his favorite color right now, so maybe that will entice him to play with these a little.

Inspired by an excellent Montessori Minute post about using the hardware store as a resource for DIY educational gizmos, I hit Culver City Industrial Hardware today for a collection of hex nuts in different sizes. I was skeptical about the value of this exercise at first, but as I was selecting the nuts, I realized was straining to distinguish the sizes and that I was naturally drawn to stack and sort them--hopefully J will have the same reaction. Then I took the collection to FedEx Office and arranged them on a photocopier and then laminated the copy. That way (a) J has a matching activity to work on, (b) when pieces are inevitably lost and roll under the couch etc. I will have a reference with which I can determine the missing pieces that need to be replaced!

I had every intention of this activity being cutting straws, which I read somewhere is the first step in developing scissor skills, but then I discovered I'd thrown out our straws during a decluttering binge. Bah. In lieu of that, I turned to the printable cutting worksheets page on the School Sparks site. This should make a fine mess and he might even get a fine-motor workout in the process, which is just the way I like it.

Monday, September 3, 2012

What Your Toddler/Preschooler Should or Could Know, According to Engelmann's Give Your Child a Superior Mind

I learned in blogging school that provocative posts get the most clicks! So, just to needle my dear readers, allow me to circle back to Engelmann's Give Your Child a Superior Mind (1965). As promised in my last post, here is his list of various rules and "what your preschooler should know by milestone X" statements. There may be others but these are the ones I noted and marked on my first pass through the book.

Note: I do not endorse these assertions, I just find them fascinating and uniquely, crazily blunt, because setting academic standards for the 0-5 set is considered verboten in contemporary society. Do with them what you will, and by that I mean: Enjoy the added awareness, please be nice to your kids, and don't you dare stress about this stuff! Amen.
  • By the time the child is 34 months old, he should know his capital letters perfectly.
  • By the time the child is 3 years old, he should be able to identify all of the small letters except b, d, p and q.
  • The child should know all of the more obvious colors thoroughly by the time he's 3.
  • Introduce relation some time after the child is 2½ years old. Begin with the prepositions in, on, next to, behind, over, under, around and between.
  • The child should learn to count to ten by the time he is 30 months.
  • [At three to four years old], the child should spend about half an hour a day on formal material. His reading lesson should last 10 to 15 minutes. Other lessons, which should be handled more casually than reading, consume another 15 minutes.
  • We suggest purchasing at least four simple books. The child should read each of them at least twice before his fourth birthday.
  • By the time the child is 4, he should have a sight vocabulary (words he can recognize without help) of about one hundred words and he should read very hesitantly.
  • One body of knowledge should be required [for five-year-olds]--facts about the human body (the name of bones and muscles, the functioning of the various body systems).
Also, just because I have it in front of me, here's the text from the dustjacket:

About the authors: Siegfried Engelmann, a Research Associate at the Institute for Research on Exceptional Children at the University of Illinois, specializes in developing material and courses for preschool-age children. He is the author of two concept-comprehension tests and has developed a number of programs for culturally disadvantaged, deaf, mentally retarded and gifted children. Mr. Engelmann has served as a preschool consultant to the states of New York and Pennsylvania. Therese Engelmann, who has degrees in psychology and law, helps develop and test teaching techniques. She also studies various learning problems confronting the preschool child.

Front and back flap: Give Your Child a Superior Mind is a programmed, step-by-step guide--how to increase your child's intelligence. If you are a parent, or a prospective parent, this may well be the most important book you will ever read! Based on the Engelmann's extensive practical experience with preschool-age children, Give Your Child a Superior Mind is the expression of a new philosophy of teaching. But more than this, it is a complete course in itself, giving lessons, examples, experiments and guidelines for each age group, from the eighteen-month-old infant (who must be taught such concepts as shape and direction) to the four- and five-year-old (who can be handling algebra and geometry with practiced ease). The rules are simple and easy to follow, the method is one of logic and common sense, rooted in the games, the play, the everyday life of the home. If you have ever helped your baby grasp an object, told him it is a ball, described it to him as round, you have given him the first lesson. For by giving your child, from the beginning, an active and realistic environment in which learning is an extension of the activities you share, you are taking the first step to giving your child a superior mind. In the words of the authors: "The purpose of this book is to give conscientious parents a program with the confusion, doubt and uncertainty removed--a program that tells what to do and say, what mistakes the child will probably make, what long-range effects to expect, a program based on facts, not on theories."

Sunday, September 2, 2012

My New Happy Place on the Internet

This online gallery of Little Free Libraries around the country and the world is the most heartening thing I've seen in ages. It's like Cute Overload but with substance and civic meaning! I love seeing all the earnestness, not to mention the creative designs and the regionalism.

If you're new to the Little Free Libraries movement, USA Today and NPR and the L.A. Times and the N.Y. Times have nice primers.

Concrete Experiences

Field trips are expensive. And time-consuming. And incredibly tiring. And I think we're going to do more of them.

We just had a run of daily field trips--DH was away last week, and I needed to get the stir-crazy toddler out of the house every day or risk losing my mind--and I think this fall we're going to switch from Park Day to Museum and/or Cultural Institution Day. Kiddo is old enough now that he's able to react to at least some displays and exhibits, and he has enough of a speech baseline that we can really converse about what he's seeing. Also, to his credit, he has a great attention span and interest level for a little dude. We went to Griffith Observatory and he sat through the entire 30-minute planetarium show, exhibiting interest and reacting appropriately throughout. Yes, maybe he just liked watching TV on the ceiling, but I think it bodes well for future such outings.

Truth be told, I am a vocabulary fanatic. If there's one thing I want to do for the kiddo before he fully escapes my clutches, it's build the most complex word-based brain framework that I possibly can for him. Research shows, and I personally believe, that understanding the meanings of many words allows for deeper learning throughout life. (I could refer you to actual science-y papers so you think I'm really educated and stuff, but in lieu of overdoing it, I will simply point to this perfectly adequate Q&A.)

ANYWAY, I'm told that concrete experiences help reinforce book-learned word knowledge, as well as presumably building separate neural connections about the time and place of the concrete experience. I want my kid to have those opportunities! And if I'm being honest, I might as well admit that I am terrified of my kid not having those opportunities.


Because of articles like this 2009 piece from the New York Times about how Harlem kids are taken on special outings to farms so that they can encounter sheep and wool and eggs and chickens in situ, so when they encounter questions about multiplying cornstalks on a standardized test, they won't go, "Wuh?," which is apparently a genuine thing that happens. (This whole article makes me want to sit on a concrete floor rocking back and forth and humming.)

In the same vein, my parents are docents at the Getty Villa in Malibu and my dad just told me this: As part of their educational mission, the richer-than-Croesus Getty pays for school buses to bring kids to tour the museum and gardens. As you may know if you've been there, the only way to get to the Getty Villa is along Pacific Coast Highway. Apparently it is common knowledge among Getty staff that many of these Southern California schoolchildren are amazed to find themselves confronted with the ocean, which they have never seen before. They live in SoCal, and the Pacific Ocean is...I can't even deal, people! Aaah!

FWIW, Hart & Risley indicates that vocabulary-building via direct instruction and hands-on experience is effective, although it doesn't seem to alter overall vocabulary growth trajectories.

Long story short, we are lucky enough to live in a vast megalopolis full of cultural institutions that can reinforce learned words and introduce new ones, and I think this year we're going to pony up the $15-$20-$25 admission fees (plus parking, sigh) and go see some more museums and zoos and stuff.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Steal Time to Read-Aloud

Encouraging words for mamas from Dorothy Butler, mother of eight, grandmother and great-grandmother of untold dozens, noted authority on children's literature and literacy, on why the housework can be abandoned in favor of taking "leisure-time" for reading with your kids:
"Don't worry about leaving the dishes, or any other chore undone at this point; nothing is more certain than that the dishes will be washed and the next meal prepared, whereas no certainty at all attaches to the inclusion of story-sessions unless they are placed firmly at the top of the list. I've never been able to understand people who doggedly do the so-called 'essential' things first. If you have undertaken to assume a housekeeping role, you must, before all else, capitalize on the advantages; you are, after all, saddled with the drawbacks. And the one advantage that you have over most of the working world is that you can plan your work to suit yourself. Train yourself to smile confidently at neighbours' and relations' surprise or disapproval; tell them, if you need to explain yourself at all, that you would be ashamed to neglect your children whereas you don't feel emotionally involved with the breakfast dishes. You will get through as much as work as they, in the end, and the profits of your good sense will be as obvious to your critics as to yourself. With any luck, some of them, at least, will join you."
Dorothy Butler, Babies Need Books, page 67, "When I was Two, I was nearly new"

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Rojankovsky's Just So Stories Series: "How the Leopard Got His Spots"

I had never heard of Feodor Rojankovsky in my life before I started collecting children's books. Suffice it to say, getting to know his work has been a great pleasure. A copy of Rudyard Kipling's How the Leopard Got His Spots that was illustrated by Rojankovsky just fell into my lap recently and I wanted to share the full-color illustrations with the Interwebs.

Should you care to look for them, the other volumes in the Just So Stories Series from Garden City Publishing Company are The Elephant's Child, The Butterfly That StampedHow the Camel Got His HumpThe Cat That Walked by Himself and How the Rhinoceros Got His Skin. These illustrations are copyright 1942, all rights reserved to the creator, etc.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Czech-Illustrated Children's Folklore and Mythology Books, English-Language Editions

From the annals of obscure scholarship...

I mentioned in a previous post that I am fascinated by Czech illustration (of children's books) and since I just recently found another lovely example of this genre, I thought it was finally time to share the Google Docs spreadsheet I've been compiling for a while now that lists titles, authors, illustrators and subject matter in this area. (And don't think I didn't slave over those Czech diacritical marks!) Behold and rejoice, Internets:

GOOGLE DOCS SPREADSHEET: Czech-Illustrated Children's Folklore and Mythology Books, English-Language Editions

Just for background, during the Cold War, British and American publishers discovered that they could produce and print high-quality translations of fairy-tale books (et al) in what was then Czechoslovakia for much less than they would pay if they used homegrown authors and illustrators.

Paul Hamlyn was apparently the pioneer in this field, and I think many of the imprints of these books are either his or his corporate descendants. His big discovery was Jiří Trnka, who is often described as the "Walt Disney of the East," although I think that gives his importance--not to mention his completely unique style--short shrift.

Beginning with a multi-volume run starring Trnka, the business of cheap Czech imports seemed to take off in the late 1950s. As far as I can tell, it carried on briskly throughout the 1960s and 1970s, until it apparently petered out in the early 1980s. (Although it's possible I just haven't found the relevant post-1982 works.) (FWIW, I suspect that economic conditions on both ends of the bargain changed sufficiently to just kill the business model.)

Anyway, as a treat for reading this far into a blog post on Czech-illustrated children's books what the hell, here are some scans for you art junkies to enjoy:

"The Owl King" by Karel Franta, from The Book of Goodnight Stories

"Kŕesomysl and Horymír" by Jiří Trnka, from Legends of Old Bohemia by Alois Jirásek

"Seigfried and Beautiful Kriemhild" by Vojtěch Kubašta, from Folk Tales and Legends
Have any further knowledge or insight on these artists? Please share it in the comments!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Rereading and Reviewing The Read-Aloud Handbook - Chapter 8: Lessons from Oprah, Harry, and the Internet | Chapter 9: TV, Audio, and Technology: Hurting or Helping Literacy?

CHAPTER 8: Lessons from Oprah, Harry, and the Internet

Chapter eight isn't my favorite Read-Aloud Handbook chapter (because it's not really about books, per se) but Trelease does make some compelling statements about how, for a variety of reasons, schools often do a miserable job of "marketing" reading to children.

The love of reading is more caught than taught and best caught in groups.

Sigh. Another vote against institutional school. Truly, did you ever do a literature study in school that didn't make you want to die? I have two memories from high school where English was thrilling for me, both were with the same wonderful crazy-overeducated teacher. I also have a memory of reading the "Followup Questions" for the story "The Monkey's Paw" in a literature textbook, and just thinking, this is the most insulting thing that's ever happened in a year of wasted time.

Series books are avidly read by the best readers, without impeding their skills.

This sounds true, but wait, what about the weaker readers? I don't even know what series books kids crack out on these days (in my day we ladies enjoyed the Sweet Valley High), but do those series have a positive or negative impact on the skills and comprehension of weaker readers? I'm all for lots of reading of whatever flavor, but I'd be curious to know what the science says about the impact of series titles on less fluent readers.

For what it's worth, I remember being distressed in the extreme when I ran out of Nancy Drew titles to borrow from the school library in 2nd or 3rd grade. I had a ravenous hunger for books, and Nancy Drew was one of the things that kept me from feeling starved, and for that I shall always appreciate her. (Plus I learned a fact or two from her, I remember something about gypsum solving one mystery and another book was full of intriguing information about Kachina dolls and Hopi Indian culture.)

CHAPTER 9: TV, Audio and Technology: Hurting or Helping Literacy?

The Trouble With TV: For some of the benefits of TV for promoting early reading, visit the wonderful Teaching My Baby to Read blog for her list of valuable DVDs!

As for the risks, here are some eye-opening stats from Trelease:
  • "The doctors concluded that for each hour of daily TV viewed by the child before age three, the risk of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder by age seven increased 10 percent."
  • "The presence of a television set in the child's bedroom was significantly associated with lower math, reading and language arts scores."
CC Serves a Purpose: Aha! On page 169, we arrive at one of my very favorite pieces of advice from this entire book: Turn on the closed captioning on your television set! Reading benefits to be enumerated below, but just as a grownup adult person, you will find yourself understanding so much more of every episode of TV that you watch. Plot-essential background noises is described, garbled jokes become comprehensible, and you will generally discover things about your programming that you never knew before!

Anyway, as for the kiddos: "The number of words flowing across the screen [via closed-captioning] in the course of three hours is more than the average adult would read in a daily newspaper or a weekly news magazine. Enabling the TV's closed-captioning is the equivalent of newspaper subscription, but, unlike the subscription, it costs nothing." Trelease also discusses evidence from Finland and the deaf community that supports the use of CC, and he references some science involving visual versus auditory receptors. Check out pp 169-171 for more.

Audio Books Are Awesome: Trelease gives audiobooks a big thumbs-up. He says that the average American commute (round-trip) is 50 minutes. I've also just read that the average American is in his or her car 15 hours a week. Over the course of a year or years, if those hours are given over to educational audio, driving delivers a large quantity of newfound "time on-task" that would otherwise be lost to Carly Rae Jepsen, et al.

According to Trelease, "the heaviest users [of audiobooks] are among the most literate people in America [and] 75 percent were college graduates and 41 percent had advanced degrees."

In addition to traditional audiobooks, Trelease gives a shoutout to NPR and the BBC. I've been meaning to do more "carschooling" and in researching have found recommendations for Librivox (free recordings of public domain stuff) and this very charming archive of children's records from the 1950s and 1960s, not to mention usual suspects and the library.

And that's all folks! The rest of the Treasury is Trelease's very valuable compilation of read-alouds by age, interest and reading level, so this concludes our read-along of The Read-Aloud Handbook. Enjoy exploring his many wonderful recommendations, and good luck!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Phonics Pathways Pic

Kiddo hard at work on the Phonics Pathways "train game." We're just getting started but so far it seems to be both productive and fun, and he's been asking to "Do blending! Do blending!"

For the record, that apple he's eating came from our backyard tree. Yay urban agriculture.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Slightly Off-Beat Book Recommendations for Voracious Young Readers

Hubert, Theodore, Edie and Jane,
circa the second book

If your kid liked the Melendy quartet or the All-of-a-Kind Family books...

Try this quartet of books about childhood in small-town Massachusetts in the 1910s: A Lemon and a Star (1955), The Wild Angel (1957), Terrible Horrible Edie (1960), and Edie on the Warpath (1966), by E.C. Spykman. Spykman is an outstanding writer, and the four children of her story--Theodore, Jane, Hubert and Edie Cares--seem to live in the kind of barely supervised idyll that invariably leads to the most vivid and exciting experiences of childhood. Spykman was born Elizabeth Choate, and her family was Boston Brahmin from way back. This extremely comfortable lifestyle reveals itself clearly through the lives of the children of her book, even though they themselves don't seem to recognize their own privilege--they have a rambling farm to explore (complete with their own ponies!), and their farm is surrounded on all sides by other rambling farms owned by other family members, and their every need is met by a small team of servants: the housekeeper, the cook and the nurse. The father is distant but Kind and Important, the mother is dead, and the children have all they could ever want from the world in terms of pets, books, food and "free-range adventures." The series devolves a tiny bit as the last two books focus on Edie, who is determined to become and stay a spoiled brat at any cost, but Spykman gets points for honestly and unapologetically portraying the authentic and passionate self-involvement of 10-year-old girls. The youthful adventures in these books are good ones, and the language of the author, and the psychology of the characters are excellent.
Note: These books are out of print and possibly expensive, but they were quite popular in their day, so they should be widely available in larger libraries.

* * *

If your kid liked My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell...

Try Dune Boy: The Early Years of a Naturalist by Edwin Way Teale (1943). Although this Indiana-set memoir lacks the exoticism of Durrell's pre-war Corfu, the two future naturalists had many of the same childhood experiences. Both went on long unsupervised walkabouts through the countryside, collected nature specimens from hither and yon without running into restrictions or suspicions from adults, and both have clear memories of how they began to learn to identify and understand the natural world around them. Teale spent summers and holidays with his grandparents in the Dune Country of Indiana, and his adventures here are split between the strange wildlife of the dunes, the woods and marsh immediately adjacent to his grandparents' farm and the nooks and crannies of the farm himself. He also describes a long-lost pre-petroleum world where root beer was actually made from roots, wintergreen was a plant and not just a flavoring, farmers raced to meet the late train with their strawberry crop for the big cities, and where township grandees purchased "140 volumes of the world's classic books" bound in leather to be shared by any local resident an interest in learning. Full of warm memories as well as big adventures like building a flying machine and trapping a seven-foot blacksnake, this is great reading for any boy's boy or anyone who enjoys rural Americana.

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If your kid liked the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder...

Try Little Heathens: Hard Times and High Spirits on an Iowa Farm During the Great Depression by Mildred Armstrong Kalish (2007). My personal favorite parts of the Little House series were the old-time how-tos, stuff like how they made straw hats and what it meant to them when Ma got a sewing machine and so forth. Mildred Kalish's fabulous memoir of rural life in the 1930s contains delights like these and many more--recipes for applesauce cake, home cures that called for spider webs and egg membranes, and a whole chapter on the delights of laundry day. Mildred, her sister and her mom moved in with her "19th century" grandparents after their father dropped out of the picture, and they never looked back. Why would they? At the farm they got to sleep with tame raccoons, hunt down bumblebee nests and eat fresh food right out of the ground with nothing for garnish but a splash of well water and a sprinkle of salt from the salt lick. This is truly one of my favorite books ever, and while there's something for everyone in this book, if you have an appreciation for the good, slow life, look no farther than the Urmy farm near Garrison, Iowa. Wonderful stuff, recommended for absolutely everything.

Fair warning: This was not written as a children's book, although I strongly believe it could easily be read by anyone at a fourth-grade reading level or above. That said, cautious parents may want to know that the author discusses some topics which may or may not be appropriate for their children's reading, notably: There are at least two gruesome animal deaths (which are true to farm life but may be difficult for sensitive kids to hear about); there is a very very oblique reference to a neighbor's self-induced abortion--I was on my third re-read before I put it together, and I'm an adult, so I assume that most young people wouldn't have the slightest idea what was being referenced, but still; and lastly, the author is frank about her doubts about religion and God at a couple of points in the book, which may or may not lead to discussions or doubts on the part of your kid. But seriously, blow all that off and read the book. It is heavenly, I swear!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Cookie Monster's Famous Cookie Dough

Don't ever say we don't do nothin' fun around here. :)

Tonight at the library book shop (had to go in on a Tuesday on account of the holiday falling on storytime Wednesdays!), I found a copy of Big Bird's Busy Book, which is a Sesame Street activity book from 1975. It's full of fabulous activities that teach the alphabet, shapes, nature, colors, people in your neighborhood, feelings, numbers, body parts and opposites, and this copy is in great condition. (Hat tip to Wendy Kliener, apparent previous owner, for her excellent coloring skills and penmanship and her apparent lack of interest in the overwhelming majority of pages in this volume!)

Anyway, wanted to share Cookie Monster's Famous Cookie Dough with you all. Cookie recommends that you moms and kids out there cut the dough into strips for to be making letters and numbers from!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Used Book Report: Savers & Goodwill

After a crazy morning yesterday, the universe decided to offer some balm in the form of used book blessings.  I learned the phrase "fisher of books" from the Collecting Children's Books blog (RIP) and I think some of these were very good catches!

Someone thought they were too old for their once carefully curated Calvin & Hobbes collection and donated it to Goodwill. I'll be happy to add this to our book stock for what I hope will be the inevitable C&H phase/obsession. (J's dad loved reading Calvin & Hobbes.)
Did you know there was a companion to The Golden Book of Fairy Tales? Me neither. Meet The Snow Queen and Other Tales, also by Ponsot & Segur. (For the record, I spent many hours of my childhood reading a version of The Snow Queen, illustrated by Susan Jeffers. I can still see many of the pages in my mind!)
I believe when I saw the Provensens' Aesop's Fables on the shelf at the Goodwill I actually shouted, "NO WAY! SHUT THE FRONT DOOR!" Or something exclamatory to that effect. I love Provensens. I love Golden Books. I love illustrated classics. I am veryveryvery hapy to have found this.
Here's just one example of the high-'60s illustration style. Check out the orange and pink and avocado color scheme on the fable of the crow and the pitcher. The layout of the book is one black-and-white full-page spread with two fables, and then a cartoon-like full-color spread on the next page that illustrates one of the previously described fables.
Apparently Norman Bridwell wrote more than Clifford the Big Red Dog...The Witch Next Door is simple and cute. Next is a Gail Gibbons non-fiction about the sun and light. I have mixed feelings about her output, but a few extra facts won't kill us. And Grandfather Twilight by Barbara Berger gets a lot of love on some message boards I follow.
Some Parents Magazine Press Read-Alouds written or illustrated by Quakenbush, Calemenson, Asch and Jerry Smath. 

Syd Hoff I Can Read books (love the Barkley cover!) and one easy reader about a tortoise and hare sorting out their friendship.
More Parents' Magazine Press, including How Fletcher Was Hatched by the Devlins, The Great Sea Monster, and Granny's Fish Story, all of which have been featured on the great Vintage Children's Books My Kid Loves blog.

Some latter-day Golden Books published or reprinted in the 1970s and 1980s: Whales , written by Jane Werner Watson (she is a Golden goddesss) and illustrated by Richard Amundsen, a Sesame Street science book for very little kids called The Whole Wide World: A Question and Answer Book, and a Patricia Scarry-Tibor Gergely collaboration called Animal Friends All Year Long. I also picked up a Little Golden Books compilation (not pictured) that I thought had some stuff that was new to us, but then I realized I had all the titles in another compilation. Oh well! (P.S. I will send cookies to anyone who can 'splain me the official relationship between Golden and "Merrigold Press." I find the reprint relationship between the two institutions intriguing and baffling.)
One lone Best in Children's Books, volume nine, hard-to-clean cover either dirty or slightly mildewy, but no smell. :)
Just for fun, from the Best in Children's Books above, a Kate Seredy illustration for "The Princess and the Pea."

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Used Book Report: $1-a-Book Store

I told myself I'd quit. But I just needed one more hit. I think I have to relisten to The Power of Habit or take methadone or something. Anyway, here are a bunch of yellow-tinted images of today's haul:

Seven volumes of Doubleday's Best in Children's Books, which is enough to make me quite giddy! 
Donald Crews, Helen Oxenbury, Byron Barton, Hans de Boer, whee!

A cute picture book from the Leo the Late Bloomer people, a Feodor Rojankovsky Golden Book reprint (I love you Feodor!), and a bizarre, quasi-Freudian '70s book about dreams that was translated from the German. I cannot resist out-there semi-psychedelic '60s and '70s children's books, even if they're always too weird to ever actually be given to the kid.
Four Little Golden books, include The Three Bears illustrated by Rojankovsky, and My Little Golden Word Book, illustrated by my guy Joe Kaufman.

Our first Virginia Haviland fairy tales collection! Appears to be everything I've heard and more. Must refrain from ordering others online...
But look at that list of illustrators! Duvosin, Weisgard, Ness, Cooney, Hyman, Adams, aaaah!

ABC's of Nature, which will serve as another nature study handbook (we already used it to look up "owl pellets"!); The Book of Goodnight Stories, which I almost cried over because I have an unlikely affection for Czech illustration and that's what this is; and Usborne's The Time Traveller Book of Long Ago. I kid you not, just a couple of months ago I was visualizing some of the images from the Rome & Romans volume included herein and thinking to myself, man, "I don't know how I'll ever find that book again, but it taught me everything I know about life in ancient Rome." And here it is, in the company of similar books on the Vikings, the middle ages and ancient Egypt. As it turns out these books are still in print, but I'm very happy to have found this beat-up old compilation!
More Parents' Magazine Press. I need more bookshelves. Don't tell my husband. (As if he doesn't know, LOL!)

PETER SPIER! PETER SPIER! Never less than magical, and this title is no exception.