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.

How Did We Get Here?

As with most passions in life, there is a history.

Over 30 years ago, I began amassing a collection of children’s books. And not for the sake of merely collecting them. No, my love for them went far deeper than simply collecting them. The stories, the illustrations, the discoveries the characters make – all these things drive my affection for children’s books. 

During my teaching career, it was typical for me to say “now, there’s a title for a children’s book” when talking with my colleagues.

When I found myself no longer teaching, it seemed like the right time to give writing a whirl. Lots of people were doing it: entertainers, journalists, athletes, politicians, television personalities, musicians, and so forth. If they could do it, I felt that I could, too. 

So I sat down over a year and a half ago and started jotting down ideas, quickly realizing I had no earthly idea the steps involved in writing a book (much less publishing it). 

Honestly, at the time, I really wasn’t thinking of publishing. An item on my bucket list was to write an appealing story for children. I wrote several before the characters in one began to come to life for me. I protected this story and shared it with very few, recognizing even then how personal it felt to introduce my characters to others.  

In 2016, I met a local, talented illustrator, Josh Wise, while working on another unrelated project.  Once I mustered up the courage to contact him later that year, we arranged to meet.  I remember how nervous I was to share the story with him because I felt protective of my characters. But I loved them so much that I wanted to share them, and that meant letting them out into the light. 

Thus, happily, our journey began.  

We started meeting weekly to discuss and develop the characters (appearance, personalities, background, friends, environment). He took the words I used to describe my vision and put them on paper in the form of beautiful illustrations. He introduced me to storyboards, points of visual reference, and many other concepts related to illustrating a book.

Hours, days, weeks and months have been consumed with:

  • Researching, Reading, Rewriting.  
  • Field trips to book stores and libraries.  
  • Conversations with published authors.  
  • Researching literary agents and publishers.  
  • Writing query letters and synopses.  
  • Joining the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and looking for opportunities to attend conferences and workshops for writers.
  • Debating Traditional publishing vs. Self-publishing

Which brings us to today. Josh and I are excited to now be working with Mascot Books in the editing process. Over the coming weeks, we look forward to introducing our characters to you. We hope you will love them as much as we do.

We’re glad you’re here with us.  We hope you’ll stick around.  Feel free to tell your friends.   

Let Them Express Themselves

Children enjoy opportunities to be creative and to express themselves all year round.  Activities such as building cities with blocks or boxes, composing original lyrics to familiar tunes, creating masterpieces on paper, or telling imaginative stories are all examples of creative expression.  As children work to develop these life skills, we can offer simple materials to aid in sharing their ideas, enhancing their experiences and developing problem solving aptitudes.

Simple supply list:

  • Child-size scissors (for cutting paper and playdough)
  • Crayons
  • Pencils (short stubby pencils help children learn to grasp the pencil for more control)
  • (simple pencil sharpener – hand held works)
  • Transparent tape
  • (extra fun – painters tape, masking tape, craft tape, etc.)
  • Craft glue and glue sticks
  • Watercolor paint and variety of brushes/sponge tips
  • Washable markers
  • Paper (variety: copy, tissue, construction, cardstock, wrapping, wax, tracing)
  • Paper plates (endless uses!)
  • Sponges
  • Wooden sticks
  • Ruler
  • Recycle materials – clean – plastic bottles, lids, newspaper, boxes, magazines

This rather inexpensive list is a place to start. You can pick up items at a discount store, resale shop, garage sale, or digging through the drawers at your house, and asking friends or family to clear out their drawers at home. Find a drawer, box closet to keep the supplies handy.  Establish rules about when and where the supplies are used.  Especially the more messy materials.

As an early childhood educator for 27 years, let me add one more important piece to offering children opportunities to express themselves. Let them do it. Provide assistance when asked.

PROCESS OVER PRODUCT
Allows children to build confidence in themselves and their abilities.

What other materials would you add to this list?

Later this week, I’ll share some of my favorite children’s books related to creativity and some books to help teach children about giving and perseverance. I hope you’ll join ME.

A Thankful Book

The Thankful Book
Todd Parr’s “The Thankful Book” along with a creatively made “My Thankful Book”.

What are children thankful for?  When asked, a child most often replies their toys and other possessions, and Mommy and Daddy.  Being thankful is a difficult concept for young children.

As adults, we get to teach and model what it means to be thankful.  We can involve them in our day-to-day actions of generosity, actions of kindness, and sharing, thus modeling another quality we hope to instill in our children.

You don’t have to wait until the holiday season to talk with your child about the things they are thankful for.  “The Thankful Book” by Todd Parr is a great story to share any day of the year.  Each page begins with “I am thankful . . .”, then the words and pictures provide children with many ideas of things to be thankful for.  The words Mr. Parr uses connects their senses and feelings. I feel it introduces children to the idea that being thankful can include a variety of things. Some of those things they can touch or taste.  Others they feel or hear. And some are things they see daily.

Making a book to reflect the things your children are thankful for is a fun way to involve  them .

  1. Start with a few sheets of paper.
  2. Staple the sheets together on one side so that they’re bound and give your child this blank, makeshift book. You can add pages as your child’s list grows.
  3. Encourage them to participate. For example, if you’re participating in a food drive, let them help select and carry the items to the donation site.  Explain that other children and families need food, and that you’re helping fill that need.
  4. Take your child to the food drive so they can see the act of donating and serving.
  5. Then, invite your child to draw a picture about the experience and/or write about it.  Or take a photograph and have your child glue the print to one of the sheets in their  makeshift book. Alternatively, include the photograph in an inexpensive photo album (another simple way to make a book).

Your child can add to their “Thankful” book all year.

I’m sure you can share with Me all sorts of ways to teach children about being thankful.  You probably have a favorite children’s book that talks about being thankful, too.  I invite you to share it with Me.