Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Reading with Little Miss Muffet and Little Bo Peep, July 2016

It has really been a book-filled summer for us so far! Here are some of the highlights: 
  • For the Fourth of July, we visited my mother in New York, and she had lots and lots of books waiting for us. While we were there, Little Miss Muffet enjoyed The Tub Grandfather by Pam Conrad, the Bing series by Ted Dewan, and Grandma Loves You: Stories to Share, among others, and we came home with Little Owl's Day, the final title we needed to complete our collection of Divya Srinivasan's owl books. Both Little Miss Muffet and Little Bo Peep also got to visit the children's section of the library where I used to work, and it was wonderful to see everything come full circle as they played with toys and paged through board books.
  • We signed up for the summer reading program in three different local library systems, but I quickly decided not to bother participating. One system expected me to track how many minutes it takes me to read each book, which was a nightmare from day one. Another offered lots of learning tracks, but none of them had anything to do with reading. I would have been okay with early literacy tasks, but I had a hard time seeing the value in finding my local fire station or visiting with a neighbor. The third system has a fine program, but we would have finished it in a day, and I didn't want the prizes badly enough to go through the motions. I suspect we will be coming up with our own challenge in future summers. 
  • Possibly inspired by the publication of my book, Little Miss Muffet has started her own writing career. She has written and illustrated two titles so far: The Happy Deer, about a deer we saw while we were out walking, and Dear Butterfly, Happy to Meet You, about a butterfly we found by a tree, which we initially thought was injured but turned out to be fine.  
  • Little Bo Peep is starting to appreciate books as more than just tools for teething. She enjoys turning the pages of board books and I notice her dropping everything to listen when I start to read aloud and she is in the room. She really liked Leuyen Pham's illustrations for All Fall Down, which I borrowed from the library recently, and she also likes the shiny foil accents in the My First books from Little Bee Books, which I reviewed back in May.
  • Miss Muffet has many favorites these days, but the ones I have been reading most frequently are If the Dinosaurs Came Back by Bernard Most (which has inspired an interesting in learning everything there is to know about dinosaurs), the Little Miss and Little Mister books (which also came home up with us from Grandma's), and The Fourteen Bears in Summer and Winter by Evelyn Scott, which was my husband's when he was a kid.  I have also started sharing some longer easy readers with her, and she has become fond of Poppleton by Cynthia Rylant and Dodsworth in New York by Tim Egan.  When she listens to audiobooks, she often request the Frances series or Blueberries for Sal. All in all, I'm pleased with her good taste and enjoying seeing how these books influence her play.
  • The other thing we have discovered this summer is the neighborhood pool. We used a book called Signs at the Pool to help prepare Miss Muffet for following the pool rules, and I have adapted many of our favorite songs and rhymes as pool games. We have done Old Joe, Go In and Out the Window and Ring Around the Rosie in the water, and Miss Muffet has really enjoyed it. 
  • Finally, if you haven't seen it yet, I had a guest post at Pages and Margins all about the impact of books on young children. If you enjoying reading these posts each month, I think you will like what I had to say in my piece, The Influence of Books in Early Childhood

Monday, July 25, 2016

Summer Camp Story Time, 7/1/16

I visited my parents in New York for the Fourth of July, and, as I did last year, presented a story time for my mom's summer camp while I was there. Though this isn't likely to be useful to anyone else until next year, it was a great story time and worth writing up!

Opening Song: Hello, how are you?
I had started using a new hello song for the story times I was doing for my Moms Club, but for this group, where the kids were ages 4 to 6, I went back to my original song. In this situation, the hello song was really just a means to an end rather than activity unto itself, so I wasn't that worried about it. 

Book: Wow! America! by Robert Neubecker
This book follows two sisters as they run across a map of the United States, discovering different landmarks and customs associated with each state. Because each page is so simple, with just one sentence about each state followed by an exclamation of "Wow, lobster!" or "Wow, canyon!" I knew I would have to make it super interactive if I wanted to use it. So I came up a motion for each "wow" and had the kids repeat after me on each page. It worked really well. It also helped that my mom was on hand to hold the book for me because it's a huge picture book, and I could not have held it and done the motions. 

Song: The Irrational Anthem by Jim Gill
I had never done this song before without or without the recording, and I was skeptical about whether I could pull it off. I practiced it for a week or so at home and finally decided it was doable. It functions in a story time similarly to Taba Naba, which I did for this group last year, but whereas Taba Naba proved difficult for them, the Irrational Anthem was just right. I did it a cappella so I could take it at my own pace, and I think that's the way I would always do it.  

Book: Crankee Doodle by Tom Angleberger and Cece Bell
I debated a lot about using this book because while I remembered it being hilarious, I wasn't sure the kids would find it that funny. Going against my usual story time style, I decided to assign voices to the two characters, Crankee Doodle and his horse. The kids were silent through the whole thing, so I had no idea in the moment whether this was a hit or a flop, but when my mom got home from work later in the day, she informed me that when she asked the kids their favorite part of camp at the end of the day, several named this book as a highlight. So I guess it was worth the risk. 

Song with Ukulele: Yankee Doodle
The last page of this book is told in the voice of the horse, who sings the song, so we sang it twice through just for the fun of it. (I asked my mom ahead of time if she could sing the song with them during the week before I came. I have had bad luck using this song with groups that don't know it.)

Song: Visor, T-Shirt, Shorts, and Shoes
This worked just as well as it always does. It is truly a secret weapon. 

Book: Song for A Summer Night: A Lullaby by Robert Heidbreder and Qin Leng
I checked this book out of the library on a whim and my first thought was that it would be perfect for a story time because all of the repetition. I assigned a motion to each sound that makes up the summer lullaby and had the kids repeat each one each time the sound was made. I doubt this book would have gone as well with a group in a less structured environment, especially since there are a lot of quiet moments between repeats of the refrain, but it worked really nicely in this situation. 

Goodbye Song: We Wave Goodbye Like This
I used the goodbye song to put a period at the end of the sentence, so to speak, but I and my husband and kids actually stuck around to sing Down by the Bay with the campers after the story time, which was really fun, especially for Little Miss Muffet, who has recently discovered that song. 

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Old School Sunday: The Wonderful Year by Nancy Barnes (1946)

The Wonderful Year
by Nancy Barnes
1946. Julian Messner.
Ellen's father has been ill recently, and the doctor has recommended some time away to regain his strength and mental health. Therefore, Ellen and her parents move west from Kansas to Colorado to start a ranch. Ellen has many wonderful and new experiences: sleeping in a tent while the house is being built, learning to ride a bicycle, getting lost in unfamiliar territory, and most important of all, developing a friendship with a much-older neighbor boy named Ronnie who happily humors Ellen's youthfulness and treats her as a pal and an equal. Through the day-to-day trials of planting and growing fruit and laying down roots in a new place, Ellen's entire family changes for the better and they finish their wonderful year with a fresh new outlook on life.

For any contemporary reader, the one element of this book that will immediately stand out is the friendship between Ellen and Ronnie. Our culture is so conditioned to believe that males are predators that the thought of an eleven-year-old girl palling around with a teenage boy instantly makes us uncomfortable, even when there is nothing in the text to suggest inappropriateness. Personally, I'm glad to see a purely platonic and fully wholesome relationship like this in a children's book. It's becoming more and more difficult to find books for tweens that don't incorporate crushes and romance in some way, so those of us who wish to avoid introducing a lot of those themes to our children have to seek out these older gems that take a more age-appropriate and innocent approach to boy-girl friendships. There truly isn't anything strange about Ronnie's connection to Ellen, and unless someone teaches them to read too much into it, kids won't think anything of it at all.

The other issue many reviewers seem to comment on is sexism. There is a lot in this book about rigidly defined gender roles. Ellen constantly thinks about the behaviors she needs to exhibit to be a worthy companion to Ronnie, and he comments now and then on how beautiful she will be someday. I tend to take these things with a grain of salt, especially with books like this one that were written in the 1940s and set even before that, and I think, as is mentioned in the review of this book from Semicolon, these old-fashioned ideals make great conversation starters for discussing the book with kids.

I enjoyed The Wonderful Year very much. It is similar in style to the Betsy-Tacy books, and in subject matter to books like Miracles on Maple Hill, Strawberry Girl, and The Open Gate. I look forward to sharing it with my girls when they reach the target age range.

I borrowed The Wonderful Year through inter-library loan.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Story Time Secrets Reader Survey 2016

It has been two years since my first Reader Survey, so I thought it would be a good time to do another one before I return to a regular posting schedule next month.  Please take a moment to fill out the form below and let me know how and why you access this blog, what you like about it, and any other feedback you might have. Your comments are greatly appreciated! (If you would prefer to open the form in a separate window, click here.) Thank you! 

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