The Art of Making Friends

Do you remember your very first friendship?  Do you recall your journey to becoming a friend? When was it? How did it start? Where were you? What did you say or do?

I asked a young friend of mine how she makes friends at school. She told me she looks for classmates who have a “sad face” and then she asks them if they want to play with her at recess. She went on to say she has done this three times and now she has two best friends. The third, she told me, found other friends.  

Making friends comes early and easily for some children.  A child may feel confident in their own social/emotional skills to approach another child and begin a conversation or just join the child’s activity.  Some children take longer in reaching out for friendships beyond family. Observing others and interacting slowly is typical of many children. How and when children build friendships vary just as they do in learning to walk and talk.  

Some friendships are fleeting (playing for a few minutes on a playground with a child they just met) and others are based on interest at the moment (sitting down with a classmate who is interested in looking through a book that interests both of them).  And, then there are those “best friends” relationships built on trust, the joy of being together and the ability to be yourself without the fear of being judged.

One of life’s greatest joys is the comfortable give and take of a good friendship.  It’s a wonderful feeling not only to have a friend, but to know how to be a friend yourself.

Mister Fred Rogers

What can we do to help children develop friendships? Model positive social skills such as respect, kindness, cooperation as well as how to listen will help children form positive friendships (short or long). Observe children’s interactions and offer them guidance such as what to say, ask or do.  Remind children that just as they have feelings other have them, too. How do you think he/she feels when you take the toy away? How do you feel when he/she takes your toy away? What could you say to let him/her know you want to play?  Most importantly, remind children to be themselves!

Read books about friendships. All kinds of friendships. Talk about the problems the friends (characters) had in the story and how they solved them.  The list of children’s books describing friendships is practically endless. Here are a few of my favorites:

Forget Me Not (Friendship Blossoms)
by Michael Broad

Stellaluna
by Janell Cannon

Miss Tizzy
by Libba Moore Gray/Illustrated by Jada Rowland

Jessica
by Kevin Henkes

Having friends is important. How to be a friend is just as important. It’s a life skill we all get to learn.  So, be contagious, share your friend-making skills with a child today.

The Art of Making Memories

Recently, we made a trip to Austin, Texas to visit family which included two of our three
grandchildren. Our time together was short, but we packed as much as we could into the 40 hours (16 of those sleeping – recharging). Our activities included picking up children from school, a soccer game in the backyard, swinging, sharing pizza on the patio, a 4 year olds version of football, up the ladder and down the slide, watching the movie Ferdinand, one trip to Toys-R- Us, reading bedtime stories, cooking in the play kitchen, racing Hot Wheels cars and Tech Deck skateboards on the floor in the living room and at the same time shaping and mixing play-doh! In the midst of all that, we enjoyed a delicious brunch outdoors and made it into the city for a birthday dinner at a fine farm-to-table Austin restaurant.

After returning home to Arkansas, our son posted the following picture created by our
grandson (age 4).
A picture speaks a thousand words!
Enough said.

Until next time,
Dear Me

Got Tasks? Add a Little Helper

Our ordinary is their extraordinary! Everyday tasks are valuable and applicable life experiences for children.

Folding the bath towels, matching the socks, sorting the silverware, stacking the bowls, setting the table, pouring a glass of milk, taking out the trash, spreading peanut butter on a slice of bread are just a few everyday experiences young children can participate to learn valuable life skills and benefit their developing cognitive skills (maturing thought processes).

Children instinctively are curious about the routine tasks they observe us perform.  “Me do it” is a typical request of many toddlers. Preschool age children are anxious to “show off” the skills they are developing and well on the way to mastering.  Bonus: children are very eager to help!

Turn your ordinary task into extraordinary – just add a little helper!

Never Too Young To Journal

Several years ago, I started reading books by author, Jan Karon (mitfordbooks.com).  I started with At Home in Mitford (published in 1994), the first in her series of fourteen, where I was introduced to Father Tim, his family, and the other enjoyable characters of Mitford. I was immediately hooked and started reading more in the series. My mother-in-law, an avid reader, enjoys Ms. Karon’s books, too, and as we talked about the series she shared her unique way of keeping track of ALL the books she reads.

For twenty-five years, she has kept a log of her reads in a now-tattered notebook. Under an author’s name, she records the title of the book and the date she reads it. This treasured journal is filled with hundreds of book titles.

In our story, Remy’s constant companion is her journal. Coincidence? We’ll soon find out.

In the meantime, someone you know might want to begin journaling. Following are a few ways to encourage journaling and why it’s a useful practice:

  • Early literacy activities (dramatic play, music/finger plays/nursery rhymes, books/audio books, engaging conversation, art/drawing/writing, print-rich environments*) motivate children to try to READ and WRITE.
  • Beginning readers and writers can draw pictures in a journal to represent their thoughts and feelings. Draw shapes and pictures in a journal (expressing themselves in symbolic ways) and verbalize their thoughts to someone who can write the words (modeling writing and reading).
  • Encourage young readers to start a journal of the books they read.  Record books by the author, or record the dates the book is read. Add a sentence about why they liked the book or list the characters or record the moral of the story (the possibilities are endless).

*There is no need to postpone children’s functional writing until they know the alphabet letters since many children develop strong writing skills simply through exposure to a print-rich environment (Schickedanz, J. A. (1998). What is developmentally appropriate practice in early literacy? Consider the alphabet. In S. B. Neuman & K. A. Roskos (eds.), Children achieveing: Best practices in early literacy (pp.20-37). Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

A print-rich environment is one in which children interact and explore many forms of printed materials (books, labels, signs, etc.) which allows them to see that reading and writing serve real, everyday purposes. Adults using printed materials model to children that print carries meaning. Abraham, C. (2003) Literacy – Creating a print-rich environment(p. 1)Texas Child Care Quarterly (Fall 2003)

Owls and the Backdrop of a Super Moonlit Night

January 31, 2018 (and morning of February 1) is a lunar eclipse of a “Super Blue Blood Moon.” I know very little about such things, yet I am fascinated by them. Local meteorologists have been sharing their knowledge of the upcoming event and our fingers are crossed for no cloud cover.

This awesome celestial occurrence provides a wonderful opportunity to share Jane Yolen’s book Owl Moon.  It’s a poetic story of a little girl and her father taking a walk into the nighttime world to go owling, and it features  beautiful illustrations by John Schoenherr.

Side note:  I’ve never been owling, but I have experienced the nighttime shadow of an owl swooping down towards its chosen perch and listened to their familiar “hoots”. Several years ago, tree-trimmers found a nest of owlets in one of our backyard trees. And, to our delight, several weeks later we had the fortune of watching those same owls leave that nest.

A few ideas for sharing Owl Moon and/or the Super Moon with children:

  • Read the story with a soft, slow voice to create suspense.
  • Point out the long shadows, the full moon and the brightness of the night.
  • Talk about nighttime and what makes it different from daytime.
  • Take a quiet, nighttime walk without talking. Afterwards, ask, “What did you hear, see, smell, feel?”
  • Listen to the call of an owl and try to imitate the sound.
  • Introduce words like: roost, nocturnal, prey, perch, raptor.

I hope you enjoy the story, the Super Moon, and a quiet, nighttime walk.

More about the barn…

As previously mentioned, the barn itself is a character in the stories of Remy and Louis.  As Josh and I began discussing the characters and their respective personalities, he tutored me on how environment is often a character itself.  So, knowing that a barn would be a setting in the stories, I began imagining how it looked, and not long after had a fateful happening.

I went to visit a good friend.  During our time together, she shared a story about a barn her father and mother had built many years prior. She described the colors of the barn and told me why those colors were chosen, as well as why the barn had three stars on its face. The more memories she shared, the more intrigued I became, especially when she explained that the barn was still standing and that I would pass it on my drive home. Excitement to see the barn grew as I drove.

Finally, I spotted the barn off in the distance and my eyes teared up. As I approached the barn, the first thing I noticed were the stars she had mentioned. Even though the barn’s colors were faded, it was obvious that at one time it had been painted red, white, and blue. I got out of the car and walked to the barn through the undisturbed tall grass surrounding it. It appeared it had not been visited in quite some time. I studied each of its sides while taking pictures. It was the perfect home for Remy and Louis, I thought.

When I shared the photos with Josh, he was excited to draw this “character” and capture its unique characteristics.

Months later, my friend’s older brother wrote me a letter sharing the barn’s history and his fond memories of it. He expressed the family’s delight that I had featured the barn in the book and even took the time to fashion a cross for me  from one of the barn’s fallen wood slats.

I am happy to know the family is pleased to have the barn serve as a home for the other characters in our book.

Little Golden Books

Little Golden Books still provide a gateway to literacy and a lifetime of future reading.

Recently, I watched a series of videos posted on ReadingRocket.org of an interview with Leonard S. Marcus, a leading scholar of English language children’s literature. In the interview, Mr. Marcus shares his vast knowledge of the history of children’s books.  I particularly enjoyed video #4 (of 24) titled “The Golden Days of Golden Books”.

Little Golden Book publishing began in the 1940’s at an affordable price of $0.25 each.  The convenience of purchasing them in a drug store or supermarket made the books both available and appealing to a wider audience.

The first 12 titles were printed in September 1942* and released to stores in October:

  1. Three Little Kittens, by Marie Simchow Stern
  2. Bedtime Stories, illus. Gustaf Tenggren
  3. Mother Goose, by Phyllis Fraser, illus. Gertrude E. Espenscheid
  4. Prayers for Children, by Rachel Taft Dixon
  5. The Little Red Hen, illus. Rudolf Freund
  6. Nursery Songs, by Leah Gale, illus. Corinne Malvern
  7. The Alphabet from A to Z, by Leah Gale, illus. Vivienne Blake and Richard Peck
  8. The Poky Little Puppy, by Janette Sebring Lowrey, illus. Gustaf Tenggren
  9. The Golden Book of Fairy Tales, by Winfield Scott Hoskins
  10. Baby’s Book of Objects
  11. The Animals of Farmer Jones, by Leah Gale, illus. Richard Scarry
  12. This Little Piggy and Other Counting Rhymes, by Phyllis Cerf Wagner, illus. Roberta Harris Pfafflin Petty

Being born in the 50’s, the Little Golden Book series was a staple in our home, and more recently, the line of books sought to adapt several of the Star Wars movies.

The eighth book in the series and the top-selling children’s book of all time, The Poky Little Puppy, was written by Janette Sebring Lowrey and illustrated by Gustaf Tenggren.  (Mr. Tenggren worked for Walt Disney Productions as a concept artist creating Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,) Little Golden Books are written and illustrated by the best. Others include Margaret Wise Brown’s Goodnight Moon and Richard Scarry’s Busytown.

 

Little Golden Books continue to be popular children’s books today and reading for grown-ups. Several years ago, I was given the book Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Little Golden Book by Diane Muldrow. The title suggests we learned about life through the stories and illustrations found in the Little Golden Books, and the book invites the reader to revisit those stories and reflect on life. It’s a fun read. You might just enjoy the walk down memory lane. You might also be reminded of a favorite Little Golden Book story you could share with a child.

If you’re interested in reading more about Little Golden Books, seek out Golden Legacy: How Golden Books Won Children’s Hearts, Changed Publishing Forever, and Became an American Icon Along the Way by Leonard S. Marcus (Random House, 2007).

We’d also like to offer our sincerest congratulations to illustrator Takako Fisher on the release of Springtime Babies, a Little Golden Book, on January 9! For more information, visit her website at http://www.takakofisher.com.

*Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_Golden_Books

 

Howard and the Wompoopus, by Allison Krieger

In January 2017, an article in the Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette caught my attention.  The headline read Finding the wompoopus – Dad’s tales take life in daughter’s book. Allison Krieger, the book’s author, is a daughter of Howard and Karen Slinkard, and grew up in Northwest Arkansas. The article described Allison’s journey in publishing the story she and her sisters loved to hear their father tell them when they were children. I ordered her adorable book, Howard and the Wompoopus, a fun book to read that stirs the imagination. The illustrations by Laura Ballard are delightful.

In September, I contacted Allison to ask about her process in writing, publishing and promoting her book. Thank you Allison for your time and valuable insights.

Allison’s book would make a great gift and an excellent addition to your children’s literature collection. Visit her site to order. 

Recommended by Dear Me.

How to Raise a Reader

One of my favorite things to do with my grandchildren or with any young child is to read. Reading the words and talking about the pictures is a win-win in my book!  I believe it benefits both the reader and the listener.

Current research affirms the years from birth to age 6 are a critical period for developing literacy skills while learning a language, both spoken (expanding vocabulary) and written (learning how print works).

When children have early experiences with books they enjoy, it is a powerful incentive for them to want to learn to read (Sonnenschein, S., & Munsterman,K. 2002. Early Childhood Research Quaterly). 

Early literacy looks something like this:

  • Talking about the pictures in a board book while holding the infant on your lap.  Singing song lyrics and nursery rhymes.
  • Pointing to and naming the pictures on the pages over and over again with a toddler.  Imitating sounds, describing and feeling different textures, introducing concepts such as shape and color.
  • Reading and pointing to the words. Talking about the illustrations in a picture book. Asking the preschooler what might happen next or how might the character feel. Strengthening letter and number recognition.
  • Sitting patiently with an emerging reader. Listening. Offering lots of encouragement and some assistance.

Opportunities to share literacy skills with a child are in our everyday routines, too.  Recipes, magazines, calendars, newspapers, food packaging, instructions on “how to” (use, repair, assemble, install), store signage, menus, branding on toys, clothing, household items, etc. – the opportunities are endless.

Our oldest grandchild is 4 years old and on a recent visit, he and his Granddad put together a motorized toy car in our garage.  Granddad read the instructions step by step to our grandchild while pointing to the words and pictures in the instruction booklet. The process was slow, but so valuable for our grandson who is developing early literacy skills on his way to becoming a reader.  Not to mention, the moment was priceless!  Listening to our grandson counting the wheels, sort the parts, and helping his grandfather problem solve brought much pride to this grandmother (a.k.a. early childhood professional).

Opportunities to share literacy with a young child are endless and, oh, so valuable!

 

 

A Guide to Stick-To-It-Iveness

Don’t Fear Mistakes; Fear Not Trying

Remember, Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson?  Harold creates his world by drawing it with a purple crayon.

I have listed some of my favorite children’s books intended to inspire children to create, explore and experiment. Don’t be afraid to make a mistake, it just might lead to an inspiration.

Look! Look! Look! by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace

Look! Look! Look! a Sculpture by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace

Beautiful OOPS by Barney Salzberg

What Do You Do With An Idea? By Kobi Yamada/Mae Besom

What Do You Do With A Problem? By Kobi Yamada/Mae Besom

The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds

Ish by Peter H. Reynolds

Sky Color by Peter H. Reynolds

What book would you recommend?

Giving Is The Exercise of Thankfulness

If you have never read The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein, I recommend you read it alone first (tissues handy) and once you have regained your composure, then share it with a child.  I’m serious.  Mr. Silverstein shows us (children and adults) selfless giving by using an apple tree and a growing boy.

Persevere

A characteristic, I believe, we all want to see in our children is perseverance (stick-to-it-iveness).

Author, Vera B. Williams, story A Chair for My Mother, tells of a family’s struggles and how they work together to save for something special even when the going gets tough.

I’ll never outgrow either of these books.  I’d enjoy hearing what children’s books you will never outgrow.