Tag Archives: Children’s Books

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How to Raise Readers in the Digital Age

A lot of us parents worry that the expansion of digital technology into our children’s lives will result in them reading less than kids of previous generations. It turns out that we needn’t worry at all. Children today are reading more than ever, in both digital and print forms, says a Scholastic Kids and Family Reading Report.

What steps can parents take to ensure their kids become enthusiastic lifelong readers?

Embrace the e-Book

Half of children ages 9-17 say they would read more books for fun if they had greater access to e-books, according to the Scholastic report. E-books, in particular, are motivating boys and reluctant readers, who are reading e-books for fun in record numbers. E-books needn’t replace the printed book – 80 percent of kids who read e-books still read print books for fun. Having multiple options simply means more reading opportunities in many children’s lives.

Take your Reading with You

Tablets and e-readers make it easier than ever to take your reading along wherever you go – in the car and during other travel, in waiting rooms and local parks. And there are increasingly more great devices for reading e-books. The digital subscription service Bookboard provides access to a library of children’s books (audio and non) for the tablet, in a playful system that harnesses the natural interest kids have for technology and helps motivate them to read by rewarding them with books appropriate for their age, reading level and interests. Audio books, in particular, have proven a very effective tool for kids who have difficulty reading.

Use your Public Library

Libraries are still extremely popular, says a Pew Report on Library Services in the Digital Age. As many as 91 percent of people say that libraries are important to their communities and families. Libraries provide early literacy programming to support parents’ role as their children’s first teachers. They serve as community hubs and help bring families together. They invite hands-on experiential learning that prepares kids for reading and school. They provide access to technology and support digital learning in a way that may not be available to families at home. All this makes libraries a great place for readers and pre-readers alike to enjoy the array of services and foster a lifelong love of reading.

Look for “Readable” Moments

Books aren’t the only places kids learn to read. Reading opportunities are all around us. When you’re walking with your child, point out letters and read signs out loud. Make a game of this by searching for certain letters and words (or have children search while they’re in the car). When your baby or toddler is playing or when you’re performing chores at home, narrate what you or they are doing. “You’re building with blocks.” “I’m washing the dishes.” It might seem silly at first, but children initially learn the skills that lead to speaking and reading by listening to you.

In addition, kids often enjoy making lists. Even if the “words” consist of scribbles and lines, that’s the way they begin to read and write. Lists can be used to make menus for playing restaurant or receipts for playing store. Older children can help read recipes and make shopping lists and then help read the items in the store.

Set a Great Example

One of the most effective tools for encouraging kids to read is to be readers ourselves. Try to set aside time for your own reading where your children can see you (and read side-by-side with them when they’re older). Read a variety of media. Make a habit of reading to your kids as often as possible. Some of my family’s fondest memories involve bonding over childhood books. Bedtime is a natural time for winding down and cuddling through reading, but some kids enjoy bath time so much that that can be an ideal time to share a book. Young children treasure time with their parents and when you spend some of that time reading, they’ll associate it with your presence and physical closeness and the sound of your voice.

Enjoy fostering your child’s lifelong interest in reading.

This post originally appeared in Dot Complicated.

Origami Boat Race

My family has long been fans of making and sailing paper boats, an idea we got from our beloved book, H.A. Rey’s Curious George Rides a Bike. In the book, George secures a paper route, which leads him to make and sail a whole flotilla of folded-newspaper boats. Over the years, we’ve taken our origami boats down to a local creek, where they indeed sailed along once released, on the gently flowing spring stream. We were thrilled to learn that our local Mill Valley Public Library was teaching kids how to make their own origami boats (which they cleverly dipped in wax), before holding a boat race in the local creek.

What better way to celebrate Children’s Book Week than by making a version of Curious George’s paper boat and joining local children in releasing the boats into a creek for a race?

 

Follow these directions to make your own paper boat.

This activity was adapted from Fed Up with Frenzy: Slow Parenting in a Fast-Moving World, which contains 300+ fun family activities.

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Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman

How to: Make a Paper Boat

My family first got the idea to make a paper boat from our beloved book, H.A. Rey’s Curious George Rides a Bike, in which sweet and loveable George secures a paper route, which leads him to make and sail a whole flotilla of folded-newspaper boats. Wondering if a newspaper boat could really float, we got out some old newspaper, folded it into boats using the directions in Curious George, and took our boats down to a local creek, where they indeed sailed along once released, on a gently flowing spring stream. You can make your own boat, using any kind of paper.

You’ll need:

A sheet of any type of paper, roughly the same scale as an 8 ½” by 11” sheet
Adhesive tape, optional

Place the paper on a surface the long way, and fold it in half, top to bottom.

Fold the paper in half again.

Unfold the fold you just made.

With the creased side on top, fold both top corners in towards the center crease. This leaves a triangle shape, with a rectangular bar along the bottom.

Fold the bottom rectangles up on each side, creasing at the bottom of the triangle shape.

Place a thumb and forefinger on the inside of the shape, at the center of each triangle, and carefully, completely open out the shape from the middle.

Keep opening the shape until it flattens again into a perfect square. (Your two fingers should now be on opposite sides of the square.)

Lay the square like a diamond. The side pointing up should be the one that doesn’t have any other folds over it.

Fold each side in half, width-wise, bringing each bottom triangle up to the point at the top.

Place a thumb and forefinger into the center of each triangle, as before. This time, as you pull the bottom opening apart, use the other hand to stretch out the two top triangles from the other side of the figure, so that they become the bow and stern (back and front) of the boat.

Flatten the inner triangle slightly to create a sail.

If you like, you can line the bottom of the boat with adhesive tape, which may make it more waterproof and help it float longer.

Float your boat in a bathtub, creek or other body of water!

Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman and Michael Lipman

Illustration by Margaret and H.A. Rey

Join me for more activities at the Family Book Festival at Jump Into a Book

 See boats in action in an Origami Boat Race!

New Bookboard App Helps Inspire a Lifelong Love of Reading

Our whole family adores books. Especially children’s books. And with that comes delightful, but groaning, shelves (and piles and boxes and an attic full) of books.

What if there were a way to cut down on the volume but still enjoy current and classic children’s books that were available as easily as streamed movies, that challenged our children to grow and discover new titles, and that made books as accessible, interactive and fun to use as the latest game app? There is. Bookboard brings you all of the above and more in a well-designed new system that lets kids read books and participate in fun online progress metrics that they unlock through their reading achievements. Book titles are based on personalized suggestions and are immediately available for download, the same way Netflix movies are available for screening.

Parents can also follow their children’s progress and help them find new titles. Bookboard encourages many of the traits that help create lifelong readers, even among those who are reluctant. These include variety and choice of materials, social interaction, and both new and familiar experiences.

On a test-run, we found Bookboard’s books and graphics attractive and its interface appealing and easy to use.

As a book-loving mom in a family of lifelong readers (hence the groaning bookshelves), I’m thrilled that there are new opportunities for new generations to enjoy reading and books in a way that is comfortable, natural and appealing. Neither Michael nor I would give back any of the hours that we spent with Anna, reading her multiple bedtime stories night after night. The time we spent reading together helped create an intense bond that lasts to this day, a bond due both to our physical closeness and to the wonderful books we all discovered together and still talk about.

Bookboard is free for a limited time. A subscription service is planned.

Sign up and read a book from Bookboard between now and February 11, 2013,  and you’ll be entered in a giveaway for an iPad Mini. When you sign up, you’ll have access to Bookboard (and their current slate of titles) free of charge for one month. See Bookboard for rules and details.

This post is sponsored by Bookboard. The opinions expressed are my own.

Images: Paper Tigers, Bookboard

Enter the “First Peas to the Table” Pea Growing Contest

Each Spring, in the colonial U.S., founding father and extraordinary gardener Thomas Jefferson held a friendly contest with his neighbors to see who could grow the most peas. The first person to grow a bowl of peas was declared the contest’s winner and hosted a dinner for the other neighbors.

Now a children’s book and a school contest celebrates this tradition. First Peas to the Table: How Thomas Jefferson Inspired a School Garden, by Susan Grigsby and Nicole Tadgell, illustrates the life cycle of peas, while taking readers through a friendly modern-day competition modeled on Jefferson’s.

There is also an accompanying pea growing contest that encourages children in grades 1-4, growing individually or in teams, to be the first in their USDA Hardiness Zone to harvest 2 or more cups of peas. The contest opens March 1, with different end dates, based on Hardiness Zone. The First Peas Contest web site has all the contest rules, as well as links to lots of growing tips and information. Winners in each gardening zone will receive a set of four garden-themed books and will be featured on the Albert Whitman Publishers web site.

Since my foggy Bay Area, CA, climate is uniquely suited for peas, and we’ve grown more than our share of them, we’re eager to grow along with the contest and see how we do. (We usually grow peas in the Summer or Fall, so March planting is new for us.)

Before planting, we soaked our pea seeds in warm water for 24 hours, which should give them a good start on sprouting. (This works especially well with large, soft seeds like pea.) We planted both soaked and dry seeds, alternating every other one, to see if the soaking really makes a difference. We marked the two different types with stakes. We figured that, by planting every other seed rather than in bunches, we would account for any differences in sun or soil. You can see that the soaked seeds are much plumper than the others.

Let me know if you’re growing, too, and we’ll enjoy the contest, the tradition, and our spring pea harvests.

Until then, wishful thinking from a previous year’s pea yield:

Photos: Susan Sachs Lipman

New Childrens Book Reminds us to Play

Ernestine Buckmeister, the heroine of a delightful new children’s book, written by Linda Ravin Lodding and illustrated by Suzanne Beaky, doesn’t have time for childhood. This is so “…because her busy, well-meaning parents had packed her after-school schedule.” Mondays are for clay sculpting, Tuesdays for water ballet, Wednesdays for knitting and Thursdays for tuba playing. The week is rounded out with yodeling, karate and yoga.

Sound familiar? Though slightly exaggerated, Ernestine’s schedule gently acts as a mirror of over-scheduled children whose anxious parents are afraid that childhood is limited and convinced that children are in need of efficient delivery of experiences and skills.

But something happens to Ernestine. She discovers the joy of unstructured play and friends to play with, and influences her parents (and nanny, in a nice touch) to seek a little balance in the process.

The Busy Life of Ernestine Buckmeister is completely charming. Its message is delivered in a gentle, funny way, with cute plays on words and illustrations that are cheerful, colorful and winning. The repetition and order of words and of Ernestine’s routine would appeal to young children. It’s quite easy to imagine this book becoming a favorite of children and parents as well as a wonderful, sly reminder of the importance of slowing down for childhood and for play.

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12 Days of Green Holiday Gifts: Books for Children

While, for many, Winter’s major celebrations have come and gone, others are still celebrating — in ways lavish or cozy – whether by giving and receiving gifts on the 12 days that have just begun, or by simply relaxing together with a little time off from work and school.

Either way, there is hardly a better time to enjoy a book, the most beloved of which provide beauty and provoke thought in a measure that far surpasses their price. I’ve uncovered a few wonderful books for children that share a message of stewardship and of slowing down. In my next blog post, I’ll do the same for adults.

All in a Day, by Cynthia Rylant and Nikki McClure, is a very sweet and beautiful book that illustrates some of the simple things that can be done in a day – planting a seed, gazing at the sky. With pleasing rhymes and gentle and lovely two-color cut out illustrations, the message becomes clear, though never heavy-handed: A day is a gift, full of possibility, companionship and simple beauty. This is a book to be read again and again.

The message is somewhat similar in One Morning in Maine, by Robert McCloskey, an older sweet favorite that follows a girl, her father, and her little sister for a day of boating and clamming on Maine’s shore, only to lose a tooth and have the day go a little differently, but no less adventurously, than planned. It’s a lovely, gentle book (as are McCloskey’s other titles) that’s full of wonder, both of the natural world and in the relationships that pepper a family’s life.

The setting in Jason Chin’s new book, Redwoods, is the U.S.’s west coast, where a boy emerges from a city subway into an ancient, and awe-inspiring redwood forest. Chin offers an adventure story and a lot off information, along with great watercolor illustrations that capture the misty beauty and intensity of these giant trees.

A lot of older children are appropriately concerned about the environment and wondering how they can contribute toward making things better. Heroes of the Environment: True Stories of People Who Help Protect Our Planet,
by Harriet Rohmer, offers a dozen inspiring tales about real people, of all ages, who decided to truly make a difference in their world. They include a teenage girl who acted to remove an industrial pollutant from the Ohio River and a teenage boy who helped his state recycle electronic waste and keep it out of the landfill. Photos and illustrations help carry the stories, which let readers know that they can each have an impact.

Two very lovely and colorful tried-and-true books help children understand the cycle of nature in the garden: Lois Ehlert’s Planting a Rainbow and Ruth Heller’s The Reason for a Flower. Both are brightly illustrated, and simply and wonderfully show nature’s variety and the way each aspect of the ecosystem helps one another.

Aunt Ippy’s Museum of Junk, by Rodney Alan Greenblat, features the highly original Aunt Ippy, an early recycler and highly creative individual who never met an object she couldn’t make something useful and fun from. This is a delightful book, brimming with wonder, resourcefulness and an offbeat style of cheer that speaks to the free spirit in a lot of kids.

Marilyn Singer’s On The Same Day in March: A Tour of the World’s Weather takes readers on a round-the-world tour at a time of year when dramatic and contrasting weather events are occurring. Bold illustrations and simple prose help explain how and why different types of weather occur on the same day, and also help make the planet feel a little more familiar and connected.

Happy exploring through books!

My criteria for a green holiday gift? Items meet all or most of the following: Promotes nature play or care of the earth, Uses all or mostly natural ingredients, Fosters hours of open-ended creative play,  Doesn’t use extraneous plastic or other wrapping, Doesn’t break the bank to buy it.

Photo by Susan Sachs Lipman

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