Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Reading with Little Miss Muffet: April 2015

New Book Behavior

  • Distractions. One of the things librarians know best about toddlers is that their attention spans are very, very short. Up until now, Little Miss Muffet has been fairly content to sit for a whole book almost any time, but as she becomes more interested in exploring the rest of the world, her patience for books is beginning to dwindle. I have been prepared for this, having done so many toddler story times, so I'm being careful not to let it discourage me from continuing to read with her. Sometimes I find myself finishing a book while she runs a lap around the living room or wanders off to check on a stuffed animal. Other times, we abandon a book mid-story because Miss Muffet decides she would rather climb the stairs or dig through the kitchen garbage, or do dangerous somersaults, than sit and listen. It's definitely easier to read to a child who will sit in one place and listen, but it's also fun to see her developing other skills, and I know it won't be long before she comes back around to being able to sit still again. 

Current Favorites

  • Things That Are Small
    I received a batch of review copies (all board books) from Little Bee Books recently, and I will be doing a review of them in a few weeks, but until then, I just want to mention this tiny little book that came as part of this set. Miss Muffet absolutely loves that the book fits so perfectly into her little hands, and she has been carrying it all around the house with her - sometimes even to bed! It is a very simple board book, with just one word and one image on each page, but she asks to have it read over and over again, and she especially loves trying to say the word "fish" and identifying the ball and bug. 
  • Stanley the Builder, Stanley's Garage, and Stanley the Farmer by William Bee
    I originally learned about these books from Jennifer's reviews at Jean Little Library, and they have turned out to be some of Miss Muffet's favorites. We own a copy of Stanley the Farmer (which was sent to me by the publisher - review coming soon!) and have had both Stanley's Garage and Stanley the Builder out of the library. Miss Muffet loves to wave to Stanley at the beginning and end of each story, and she is just fascinated by the names of the different machines and tools he uses. We have already asked Grandma for a copy of Stanley's Diner (due out in September) for Miss Muffet's birthday this Fall. 
  • From Head to Toe by Eric Carle
    This is one of my favorite books to perform, and Miss Muffet is happy to let me make a fool of myself acting out all the animals' movements. Her favorites - and the ones she will actually imitate herself - are the buffalo, who raises his shoulders, and the gorilla who thumps his chest. I especially like this book as an alternative to the many, many toddler books out there about making animal sounds. And it helps a lot that Miss Muffet thinks it is funny - few things are cuter than a toddler belly laugh. 

One Tip from Mom 

  • Read poetry! I have had poetry on the brain this month, because it was National Poetry Month and I have been sharing poems on my Facebook page. But even when it's not April, poetry is a great way to share language with kids who have very short attention spans. Generally, poems are pretty short, so your toddler only has to listen for a brief moment, and they often use rhymes, vocabulary, and interesting sentence structures that kids don't usually hear in everyday conversation or regular prose. My go-to poetry books for the one-year-old crowd are Here's a Little Poem, Read-Aloud Rhymes for the  Very Young, and Good For You: Toddler Rhymes for Toddler Times. I also make it a point to recite nursery rhymes throughout the day and to memorize a few poems to break out whenever there is a free, quiet moment. 

Friday, April 24, 2015

Every Hero Has a Story: Chapter Book Reading List

In my final list for this year's summer reading theme, I have recommendations for those kids in the transitional phase between easy readers and middle grade novels. Kids who love these books will be in luck, because all but one are part of a series.
  • Agent Amelia: Ghost Diamond by Michael Broad
    Amelia Kidd, a child secret agent, must fight evil and ego-maniacal villains who want to take over the world. 
  • Gloria Rising by Ann Cameron
    When Gloria meets her hero, astronaut Grace Street, at the grocery store, she is thrilled, but when she writes about the experience for a school assignment, she is disappointed to find that her teacher doesn't believe it really happened. 
  • Jake Drake, Bully Buster by Andrew Clements
    Jake Drake is frustrated that no one ever seems to be able to curtail bullying at his school, so he decides to find a way to end it himself. 
  • Mercy Watson to the Rescue by Kate DiCamillo
    When Mr. and Mrs. Watson's bed crashes through their bedroom floor in the middle of the night, they assume their pet pig Mercy is going to alert the authorities, but Mercy's heroic mission is interrupted by her intense love for buttered toast. 
  • The Princess in Black by Shannon Hale
    When monsters attack, Princess Magnolia becomes the Princess in Black, but she must do her best to keep her alter ego secret from the prim and proper Duchess Wigtower. 
  • Superduper Teddy by Johanna Hurwitz
    Teddy is a shy little boy who clings to his superhero cape as a security blanket. As his story unfolds, life experiences slowly bring him out of his shell. 
  • Andy Shane, Hero at Last by Jennifer Richard Jacobson
    Andy Shane wants to be a hero, but he isn't sure how to make that happen until he enters a bike parade and sees something wrong that he can fix. 
  • Zapato Power: Freddie Ramos Takes Off by Jacqueline Jules
    Freddie Ramos's whole life changes when he comes to own a pair of super-fast shoes that give him Zapato power! 
  • Captain Awesome to the Rescue by Stan Kirby
    Eugene McGillicudy, also known as Captain Awesome, uses his superhero alter ego to cope with his move to a new school. 
  • Kung Pow Chicken: Let's Get Cracking! by Cyndi Marko
    When trouble strikes in Fowladelphia, Kung Pow Chicken, a second grade superhero, and his sidekick, Benedict, who is only partially hatched, are on the case.  
  • Roxie and the Hooligans by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
    Roxie Warbler wishes she could be brave like her adventurous Uncle Dangerfoot, but whenever she comes up against Helvetia's Hooligans, she runs scared. When she and the hooligans are stranded on an island together, however, it is Roxie's resourcefulness that saves the entire group. (Note: This is the only book on this list that is not part of a series.) 
  • Calvin Coconut, Hero of Hawaii by Graham Salisbury
    When a tropical storm hits, one of Calvin's friends is swept out to sea, and he must act quickly to save his life. 
  • Jinxed, A Topps League Book by Kurtis Scaletta
    In his job as a bat boy for the Pine City Porcupines, Chad meets his hero, Mike Stammer, who is convinced he is jinxed until Chad finds a way to make him feel confident again. 
  • The Quirks: Welcome to Normal by Erin Soderberg
    Every member of the Quirks family wants their newest town, Normal, to become their permanent home, but if that means having to control their strange magical quirks, which range from invisibility to bending time,  they’re sure it’s just a matter of time before they’ll be forced to move again. 
  • Melvin Beederman, Superhero: The Curse of the Bologna Sandwich by Greg Trine
    Though Melvin Beederman graduated at the top of his class in superhero school, he has some trouble flying and a sensitivity to bologna that keeps him out of delis. He finds himself with a real problem when his superpowers suddenly fade away. 
  • Ellray Jakes, the Dragon Slayer by Sally Warner
    EllRay Jakes doesn’t like bullies, so he is naturally very upset when he learns that his little sister Alfie is being bossed around by a friend at her day care center. While he works on a plan to rescue Alfie from her unhappiness, he must also fight off an accusation that he has been bullying one of his own classmates during recess.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Every Hero Has a Story: Middle Grade Reading List

Middle grade literature is filled with heroes of all types. This list includes superheroes, an Army lieutenant, a spy, a babysitter, a lunch lady, and a Jedi in training.
  • Fake Mustache by Tom Angleberger
    When Lenny Flem, Jr.'s best friend, Casper, buys a fake mustache and uses it to brainwash the entire country into committing robberies, Lenny teams up with TV star Jodie O’Rodeo to  unmask his friend as the fraud he really is. 
  • El Deafo by Cece Bell
    When she starts public school, Cece's Phonic Ear hearing aid makes her stand out as different from her classmates, until she discovers that the device also gives her a superpower - access to the teachers' private conversations.
  • Star Wars: Jedi Academy by Jeffrey Brown
    The learning curve is steep for Roan, a native of Tatooine when he is accepted to the Jedi Academy instead of the Pilot Academy.
  • Ruby Redfort: Look into My Eyes by Lauren Child
    Ruby Redfort, a precocious middle schooler is recruited into a secret society known as Spectrum, where she finds herself in pursuit of a truth others have died trying to uncover.
  • Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary
    In letters addressed to his favorite author - some sent, others saved in diary - Leigh Botts records the details of the events in his life, such as a classmate routinely stealing from his lunchbox, and his struggle to cope with his truck driver dad’s long absences. 
  • About Average by Andrew Clements
    Jordan Johnston, a girl who feels terribly average, becomes an unlikely hero when disaster unexpectedly strikes her school. 
  • Crunch by Leslie Connor
    When Dewey is left to look after his parents' bike shop, he never imagines that a gas shortage will make their business crucial to the town's survival, or that he will catch a thief stealing parts from the shop.
  • Hunter Moran Saves the Universe by Patricia Reilly Giff
    Troublemaker Hunter Moran and his twin brother, Zack, suspect a local dentist is planning to destroy the town with a bomb, and they begin gathering evidence to expose him. 
  • Superheroes by Jimmy Gownley
    Disguised as their superhero alter egos, Amelia McBride and her friends wage war against a rival group, the Legion of Steves. This is third of eight books in the Amelia Rules! series. 
  • Fashion Kitty by Charise Mericle Harper
    On her birthday, Kiki Kittie makes a wish and suddenly becomes Fashion Kitty, a superhero with the power to solve fashion crises. 
  • Babymouse: Our Hero by Jennifer and Matthew Holm
    In this second book of the beloved graphic novel series, Babymouse faces off against her nemesis, Felicia Furrypaws, in a game of dodgeball, which she hates.
  • Squish: Super Amoeba by Jennifer and Matthew Holm
    An amoeba named Squish imagines that he is his favorite  superhero, Super Amoeba, as he goes through his regular day-to-day life at school.
  • The Problem with Being Slightly Heroic by Uma Krishnaswami
    In this sequel to The Grand Plan to Fix Everything, Dini and her best friend, Maddie, reunite in Washington, DC for a movie premiere starring their favorite Bollywood star, Dolly Singh, whose many bizarre troubles they must try to solve. 
  • Lunch Lady and the Cyborg Substitute by Jarrett Krosoczka
    In this first book of a series, Hector, Terrence, and Dee discover that the lady who serves their lunch is actually a superhero with a variety of kitchen-themed gadgets which she uses to defeat enemies such as a robot substitute teacher. 
  • Mary Anne Saves the Day by Ann M. Martin
    When Mary Anne's babysitting charge comes down with a very high fever, her quick thinking saves the little girl's life.
  • Capture the Flag by Kate Messner
    While stranded in an airport due to snow, Anna, José, and Henry discover that the Star Spangled banner has been stolen from a DC museum, and they take it upon themselves to uncover it from the thieves, who are also snowed in. 
  • Postcards from Pismo by Michael Scotto
    In this contemporary epistolary novel inspired by Dear Mr. Henshaw, Felix Maldonado writes to Marcus Greene, an Army lieutenant serving in Afghanistan whose advice helps Felix when his own brother decides to enlist. 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Every Hero Has a Story: Easy Reader Reading List

While there are lots of media tie-in books for beginning readers that suit this summer's theme, many parents (including me!) are not crazy about books that promote TV shows and movies. On this list are a dozen great books featuring community helpers, unlikely heroes, a couple of detectives and regular kids dressed up as superheroes - without a licensed character in sight.

  • Extraordinary Warren: A Super Chicken by Sarah Dillard
    This easy reader in graphic format follows the adventures of a chicken named Warren who, in an effort to become Chicken Supreme, hero, nearly becomes Chicken Supreme, dinner! (This book was a 2014 Cybils finalist in the Easy Reader category.)
  • Wedgieman: A Hero is Born by Charise Mericle Harper, illustrated by Bob Shea
    Veggieman, a superhero who wants kids to eat and enjoy vegetables is given an unfortunate new name by a group of kids who love toilet humor.
  • When Pigs Fly by Lisa Wheeler, illustrated by Frank Ansley
    Fitch is nervous about showing up to school on Hero Day dressed as Timberwolf when everyone else in the class is a fan of Hyper Hog. When he and his friend Chip actually become heroes, however, they realize that helping others feels good no matter what they wear.

  • Super Fly Guy! by Tedd Arnold
    This second installment in the Fly Guy series follows Buzz and Fly Guy to the school cafeteria, where Fly Guy saves the day!
  • The Fire Cat by Esther Averill
    This classic book for beginning readers tells of Pickles the cat, who strives to be a great feline firefighter.
  • Oliver the Mighty Pig by Jean van Leeuwen, illustrated by Ann Schweninger
    Oliver Pig is thrilled when he receives a Mighty Pig cape, which gives him the power to accomplish all kinds of household missions, from setting the table, to emptying the trash. When his cape goes missing, however, he fears his powers are gone for good.

  • Sparky and Tidbit by Kathryn O. Galbraith, illustrated by Gerald Kelley
    When Sparky receives a K-9 badge for his birthday, he is excited to become a hero, but has trouble finding a problem to solve. When he finds that Tidbit, a puppy is struggling with learning to read, he decides to take on the challenge of helping him.
  • Young Cam Jansen and the Dinosaur Game by David A. Adler, illustrated by Susanna Natti
    In this and subsequent titles in the Young Cam Jansen series, Cam uses her photographic memory and deductive reasoning skills to save the day for friends who have mysteries in need of solving.
  • Nate the Great by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat, illustrated by Marc Simont
    In this beginner's noir story, Nate the Great solves his first of many cases, all of which take place in his neighborhood.

  • The Best Teacher in Second Grade by Katherine Kenah, illustrated by Abby Carter
    Luna adores her second grade teacher, Mr. Hopper, because he champions her creative idea for family night when no one else in the class likes it.
  • The Littlest Leaguer by Syd Hoff
    The smallest boy on the little league team, Harold has trouble keeping up during games - until an important game comes along, and Harold proves he can make a big impact.
  • Molly the Brave and Me by Jane O'Connor, illustrated by Sheila Hamanaka
    Beth idolizes her brave friend Molly, but in a dangerous situation, Beth proves to be the hero that gets them both safely home. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

13 Literacy Activities About Community Helpers

The CSLP Summer Reading theme for this year - Every Hero Has a Story - lends itself so well to story times and other programs focused on community helpers. Here is a collection of rhymes, songs, games, and other literacy activities which focus on the people who work to keep our communities safe, clean, and healthy.



  • Workers and Their Tools
    I wrote this song to be sung to the tune of "The Wheels on the Bus", but it could also work as a chant. Preschoolers really like pretending to use the different tools. 
  • Hurry, Hurry Drive the Firetruck
    This is one of the least obnoxious children's songs ever to appear on Barney. Kids love pretending to drive the truck, climb the ladder, and put out the fire. 
  • Who are the People in Your Neighborhood?
    This Sesame Street favorite has a lot of lyrics, but singing just the chorus and substituting in different helpers' names is usually perfect for toddlers. 

Games and Crafts

  • Community Helper badges (from
    Kids can label themselves as sheriff, state police, or members of the fire department with these badges to color and cut out. 
  • People in the Community Mix and Match (from
    Match each community helper with the sentence describing his or her job.
  • Whose Hat is That? Guessing Game
    Print our clip art pictures of different hats, and ask kids to tell you who wears each one. 

Flannel Boards

  • One Brave Firefighter
    This flannel board (which I wrote) tells a simple story of firefighters teaming up to put out a big blaze. 
  • Neighborhood Sorting Activity
    On the flannel board, sort various tools according to where they might be used, and by whom.
  • Clothesline Clues to Jobs People Do (from Storytiming)
    This picture book makes a perfect flannel board. Cate provides the paper dolls she used to make her flannel board pieces in the linked post. 

Monday, April 13, 2015

Booking Across the USA: Graham Salisbury's Calvin Coconut Series (Hawaii)

About Booking Across the USA

Today I'm participating in Booking Across the USA! This year, we're highlighting authors and illustrators from all 50 states. The other participants this year are edSnapshotsIncredibly Confident KidsChild Led LifeCrayonbox LearningEnchanted Homeschooling MomThe Educators' Spin On ItThe Art Curator for KidsMy Little MeKathys Cluttered MindTrue AimThe Jenny EvolutionPrimary InspiredKC EdventuresChicken BabiesMosswood ConnectionsCountry Fun ChildcarePicture Books & PiourettesMama SmilesBuggy and BuddyWise Owl FactoryBambini TravelInspiration Laboratories Kids Yoga StoriesElementary MattersJust Another MomTeaching With GraceAll Done MonkeySomething 2 OfferALLterNATIVE LearningCutting Tiny BitesJDaniel4's MomLiving Montessori NowPragmatic MomKid World CitizenTeach Beside MeKitchen Floor CraftsMama MissA Book Long Enough, and Brain Power Boy

I have claimed the state of Hawaii so that I can spotlight one of my favorite chapter book authors, Graham Salisbury.

About Graham Salisbury

Though Graham Salisbury was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, members of his family have lived in Hawaii dating back to the 1800s. Graham spent his own childhood in Kailua, Oahu, and he attended Hawaii Preparatory Academy in Kamuela. He now lives in Oregon, but has said that being away from Hawaii "makes it all the more enticing"  and that the state is "rich and exotic and full of stuff to write about." His love for Hawaii is evident in all of his books, but perhaps most of all in his chapter book series about Calvin Coconut.

About Calvin Coconut 

Calvin is a mischievous fourth grader who lives with his single mother, younger sister, and his mother's live-in teenage helper, Stella. His father is a famous singer named Little Johnny Coconut whom Calvin rarely gets to see, but he has a good relationship with his mother's boyfriend, Ledward. In the nine books of the series, Calvin gets into a fair amount of trouble as he investigates why his dog smells, tries to figure out how to negotiate with bullies like Frankie Diamond, works on respecting and getting along with girls, and even has the chance to be in a movie and save a friend's life. Calvin is himself an irresistible character, but his books are made that much more appealing by the descriptions of Hawaii's beaches and the way Salisbury incorporates pidgin English and Hawaiian phrases into each story.

List of Calvin Coconut Books

There are nine books in the Calvin Coconut series (links are to my reviews):
  1. Trouble Magnet (2009)
  2. Zippy Fix (2009)
  3. Dog Heaven (2010)
  4. Zoo Breath (2010)
  5. Hero of Hawaii (2011)
  6. Kung Fooey (2011)
  7. Man Trip (2012)
  8. Rocket Ride (2012)
  9. Extra Famous (2013)

About Hawaiian Lingo Bingo  

This fun game is designed to teach elementary readers the meanings of some of Calvin's Hawaiian words and phrases, including 'ukus (lice), obake (ghost), and hamajang (all mixed up.) There are five bingo cards with words filled in, and one blank card which can be customized to include any vocabulary you want to focus on with your kids. Also provided is the call sheet, which gives the English definition for each word, and a set of markers shaped like leis. 

To play: 
  • Distribute a Bingo card to each child.
  • Cut apart the call sheet and toss the words into a basket face down.
  • Choose a word from the basket and call it out. 
  • Have the children mark it on their cards using the lei markers. 
  • The first child to reach three words in a row, either across, down, or diagonally, wins. 
Variation #1: Call out the English words and have the children locate the correct Hawaiian words.
Variation #2: Make the game more challenging by having the children fill the whole card to win. 


Each of the printables required to play this game is available for download from the following links: 


    • Clip art images used in the printables came from and 

    To see activities for all 50 States, visit the Booking Across the USA page at Growing Book by Book. Visit Graham Salisbury online at

    Thursday, April 9, 2015

    Every Hero Has a Story: Picture Book Reading List

    This year's summer reading theme is all about heroes! Get your youngest readers into the spirit with these great picture books, organized into four heroic categories.


    • Princess Super Kitty by Antoinette Portis
      A little girl named Maggie uses her imagination to transform herself into the feline superhero Princess Super Kitty.
    • Question Boy Meets Little Miss Know-It-All by Peter Catalanotto
      A boy who has the ability to ask question after question meets his match in a little girl who seems to have an answer for everything.
    • Superhero ABC by Bob McLeod
      A series of silly superheroes illustrates the letters of the alphabet and their sounds.
    • Ladybug Girl and Bumblebee Boy by David Soman and Jacky Davis
      Preschooler friends Lulu and Sam become Ladybug Girl and Bumblebee Boy and save the playground from imaginary enemies.
    • Super Hair-o and the Barber of Doom by John Rocco
      Rocco is convinced his hair provides him with superpowers, so the prospect of a haircut is worrisome.

    Heroes in History

    • Heroes of the Surf by Elisa Carbone and Nancy Carpenter
      When a steamship runs aground in 1882 New Jersey, two boys and many other passengers are saved by heroic surfmen.
    • Bill the Boy Wonder by Marc Tyler Nobleman
      This picture book biography tells the story of Bill Finger, the real creator of Batman, who was never given proper credit during his lifetime.
    • This Jazz Man by Karen Ehrhardt and R.G. Roth
      This singable picture book celebrates great men in jazz history.
    • John, Paul, George, and Ben by Lane Smith
      A silly and irreverent look at the childhoods of famous Americans John Hancock, Paul Revere, George Washington, and Benjamin Franklin. 

    Community Heroes

    • Thank You, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco
      Author-illustrator Patricia Polacco pays tribute to the special teacher who helped her discover that she had dyslexia.
    • The Impossible Patriotism Project by Linda Skeers and Ard Hoyt
      When Caleb is assigned to make something that will demonstrate the meaning of patriotism, he ends up creating a tribute to his father's service in the armed forces.
    • This is the Firefighter by Laura Godwin and Julian Hector
      Simple rhyming text describes the work of a firefighter.
    • Police Officers on Patrol by Kersten Hamilton and R.W. Alley
      When people need help, male and female police officers are ready to "rock and roll!"

    Animal Heroes

    • Madeline’s Rescue by Ludwig Bemelmans
      Beloved French schoolgirl Madeline is saved from drowning by a dog named Genevieve.
    • Swimmy by Leo Lionni
      After watching his own friends get eaten by a larger fish, a little black fish named Swimmy helps a group of red fish escape a similar fate.
    • Pretzel by Margret Ray and H.A. Rey
      In this classic picture book, Pretzel, a very long dachsund, rescues a female dachsund who has previously disdained his length.
    • Officer Buckle and Gloria by Peggy Rathmann
      A lively dog named Gloria helps add some excitement to Officer Buckle's otherwise dull safety presentations. 

    Tuesday, April 7, 2015

    Early Literacy Around the House: The Backyard

    It truly is possible to have fun and learn something at the same time right in your own backyard. Next time you're in the backyard (or at a park with a big yard or field) with your preschoolers and beginning readers, try some of these simple literacy activities.

    • Act out verbs. I always use a "bag of verbs" in my beginning reader story times. Each child takes a turn selecting a word from the bag (or basket, or jar, or whatever) and we all act it out together as a group. Doing this activity outside expands the possibilities. Kids can not only sit, stand, and turn around; they can also do a somersault, hop on one foot, run like a rabbit, or kick like a ninja (without hurting anyone else.)
    • Put on a skit.  Backyards (and back porches, and front stoops, and driveways...) make excellent stages. Help your kids write or memorize a short skit, and then have them perform it for your family or even some of the neighbors. If you're feeling especially fancy, add costumes, scenery and props made from household objects. 
    • Play with a “Magic Ball.” In this game, the leader names an adjective (heavy, sticky, cold, hot, light, etc.) then the children pass a ball around a circle, acting as though that adjective applies to the ball. This is a great way to expand kids' vocabularies to include more interesting describing words. (Credit for this idea goes to Mass Literacy.)
    • Play yard games with a verbal component.  Games which involve giving and following directions and asking questions help kids to develop speaking and listening skills, which in turn lead to better reading skills. Here are just a few suggestions, with links to instructions on how to play. 

      Friday, April 3, 2015

      Flannel Friday: One Brave Firefighter (Every Hero Has a Story)

      Coming up on two years ago, I wrote an original rhyming flannel board story about firefighters for a community helpers story time. In my post about the session, I promised to share the flannel board on an upcoming Flannel Friday and then got busy and forgot all about it. When I started thinking about what I could contribute to the summer reading round-up,  I realized that story would be the perfect fit. It's called One Brave Firefighter, and it goes like this. (If you repost the story, please credit me - thanks!)

      One brave firefighter putting out the fire.
      Swoosh goes the water... 

      ...but the flames climb higher.
      The firefighter calls for a friend with a shout.
      “Help me put this fire out!”

      Two brave firefighters putting out the fire.
      Swoosh, swoosh goes the water...

      ...but the flames climb even higher!
      The firefighters call for a friend with a shout.
      “Help us put this fire out!”

      Three brave firefighters putting out the fire.

      Swoosh, swoosh, swoosh goes the water...

      ...but the flames climb even higher!
      The firefighters call for a friend with a shout.
      “Help us put this fire out!”

      Four brave firefighters putting out the fire.
      Swoosh, swoosh, swoosh, swoosh goes the water...
      and the flames stop climbing higher.

      The firefighters clap their hands and shout,
      “Hooray, we put the fire out!”

      Flannel Friday is hosted this week by Miss Meg's Storytime. For more about Flannel Friday, visit the official website.

      Thursday, April 2, 2015

      15 Literacy Activities for Rainy Days

      I don't enjoy wet days that much, but I love doing literacy activities about rainy weather. Enjoy these with kids at home, in the library, or at school as April showers fall!


      • Rain by Robert Kalan and Donald Crews
        In this classic picture book, a blue sky turns gray and rain falls on everything. When the storm ends, a rainbow appears. The illustrations are especially appealing because the individual rain drops on each page are actually the word rain typed over and over. This book also makes a really good flannel board. 
      • Tap Tap Boom Boom by Elizabeth Bluemle and G. Brian Karas
        This rhythmic story tells how, when a storm descends upon the city, people seek shelter in the subway and make friends with strangers while they wait out the rain.
      • Split! Splat! by Amy Gibson and Steve Bjorkman
        The sing-song text of this book includes lots of fun sound words that describe what it feels like to be out in the rain and mud of spring. A bit of a tongue twister, but worth the practice it takes to pull it off!
      • Rain Dance by Kathi Appelt
        This toddler-friendly picture book counts animals as they react to a rainfall.

      Action Songs & Rhymes

      • I Like to See the Raindrops Fall
        In this song, kids can create a storm of their own with simple hand gestures. Fingers wiggle in a downward motion to make raindrops, hands open and close to make lightning flashes, and loud claps serve as thunder.
      • Itsy Bitsy Spider
        This favorite nursery rhyme tells a simple story about what happens to a spider in the rain and how he bounces back. 
      • Rain is Coming Down
        This action rhyme from the May 2009 issue of Highlights High Five Magazine emphasizes the sounds rain makes as it falls. (Link is to the audio version of the magazine.) 

      Songs with Props 

      • Rain Rain Go Away (with zoo puppets)
        When it rains at the zoo, some of the animals wish they could play! Sing this song as follows: "Rain, rain, go away. / Come again another day. / Little lion wants to play. / Rain, rain, go away!" Substitute any zoo animal for lion. Use hand, stick, or finger puppets to show kids the animals.
      • It's Raining, It's Pouring (with a rain stick)
        Use a store-bought or homemade rain stick as an accompaniment to this soothing rainy day song.
      • I Can Sing a Rainbow with colored flags
        Play a recording of the song, or learn it for ukulele or guitar, then invite the children to wave colorful flags as they sing along. 

      Flannel Boards


      • Paper Plate Umbrellas
        Use half of a paper plate as the top of the umbrella, and a pipe cleaner, straw, or candy cane as the handle. Decorate with pictures of objects beginning with the letter U, or with decorative stickers. (I originally adapted this idea from these two pins on Pinterest for use in this story time.)
      • Rain Cloud Sewing Cards
        Provide pre-cut clouds with pre-punched holes and encourage kids to sew around the edges using yarn. (This idea was originally used in my Up, Up, and Away preschool story time.)

      Wednesday, April 1, 2015

      MOPS Easter Story Time, 4/1/15

      It has been a long lonely winter for this story time performer. I have been fighting morning sickness (baby #2 is due September 30th!) and pouting over subzero wind chills, and the last time I did a story time, until today, was in January! (And it occurs me to that I never wrote it up. I'll have to do that.) Thankfully, my local MOPS chapter invited me to do a story time at their Easter playdate, which took place this morning. There were around 15-20 kids in attendance, ranging in age from birth to 6 (including my own 16-month-old), and lots of moms. I initially thought I would try to do an Easter theme, but there really just aren't enough good books, so instead I focused on Spring. Here is how it went.

      Hello Song: Hello, how are you? 
      I wanted to try a different hello song, because I was never fond of this one, but I was nervous, so I decided not to mess with something I know works well. The kids were great about waving and clapping along with me, and I was glad I didn't try something new.

      Song: If You'd Like to Read a Book 
      I was torn about whether to include this, but I decided it was a good idea to warm the group up a little more, and threw it in before the first book. It was smart to do, I think, because it gave the kids a chance to get some extra wiggles out and got them in the frame of mind for reading stories.

      Book: Where is the Green Sheep? by Mem Fox and Judy Horacek
      I was never able to use this book when I worked in the library because all the copies were missing, so I was excited to have the chance to use it now. The kids listened attentively, but only a couple of them truly seemed to care where the sheep went. I found myself wishing the sheep were funnier.

      Song with Flannel Board: Mary's Lambs
      I brought my handheld homemade flannel board with me, and used it to share this song about Mary's lambs, which were white as snow, red as a rose, blue as the sea, and green as a frog. (I wanted it to be green as the grass, but I apparently do not have a flannel board piece for grass. I'll work on that!) This was the best activity of the whole story time. The kids called out the colors nicely, and most of them sang along.

      Book: Whose Chick Are You? by Nancy Tafuri
      The moms were talking during this book. I didn't address it because it didn't bother me that much, and it's not like there are any rules I can really enforce when I'm the guest of an organization. This is the book I would have cut, though, had I known how it would be received. The kids seemed not at all interested in knowing what kind of bird had hatched from the egg, or who its mommy was, but the moms did "awww" at the final scene of the swan family cuddled up together in the pond. I'm starting to think Nancy Tafuri is not as great a story time choice as she appears.

      Rhyme: Five Eggs and Five Eggs
      I wanted to be careful not to just sing the entire time, since I wanted to save my voice for a ukulele sing-along at  the end, so I decided to use this rhyme, even thought it is not my favorite. Interestingly, these kids liked it more than any group I've ever done it with, and they loved following along with the hand motions.

      Song: Hands Up High
      The kids were in chairs (which was not my decision, but was okay with me), and they were going to have a demonstration by a local gym following story time, so I didn't want to incorporate too much physical movement. I chose Hands Up High because even one-year-olds can do the motions, and because kids who aren't that skilled at getting out of chairs could participate without having to stand. We did this once twice.

      Rhyme: This is Big, Big, Big
      One of the kids in this group is also in my regular MOMS Club story time audience, and his mom always talks about how much he loves this rhyme. He hasn't been feeling well, so he wasn't as into it as usual, but I was still glad I could stick it in here because the other kids loved it , too.

      Book: My Garden by Kevin Henkes
      This book is longer than it looks, and I worried about them making it to the end, but the idea of chocolate bunnies and jelly bean bushes seemed to snap everyone back to attention. Most of the kids were not old enough to answer questions, but I still asked them whether they thought a seashell would grow more seashells, and one little boy informed me that the girl in the story was using her imagination. You got it, kid.

      Song: One Seed
      We did this song (just the chorus) three times because it's not well known and has an unfamiliar tune. The moms were into this one as much as the kids, and I didn't blank on the hand motions as I did each time I practiced at home. This is one of Laurie Berkner's better songs for sure.

      Book: That's Not My Bunny... by Fiona Watt
      I didn't feel like I could do story time at an Easter playdate without mentioning bunnies, so I did read a fourth book. It was really short, so it didn't require much more attention from the kids, and it was nice to have one basic book for the really little ones to enjoy. (We also own this book, so it was readily available, unlike every library bunny book this time of year!)

      Rhyme: Hop Your Bunny
      The kids loved this. It will never get old. We did it once with one bunny, and a second time with two bunnies.

      Songs with Ukulele: ABCs / Twinkle Twinkle Little Star / Baa Baa Black Sheep

      Song with Ukulele: The Little Bird by Elizabeth Mitchell
      My husband and I figured out the chords for this song after listening to it and singing it to our daughter a million times. My performance was not perfect, but the group was mesmerized, so I think it's a keeper. (I also really love this song and sing it to amuse myself as much as my daughter.)

      Goodbye Song: We Wave Goodbye Like This 

      After the story time, I received such a nice compliment. A mom told me that she works full-time and has to use annual leave to attend playdates like this with her child. And then she said that this was the first time she'd taken time and felt like it was worth it. I was nervous about the story time, but her comment made me realize that it truly had been a success.

      I will be doing monthly story times again from now through the summer, so hopefully, I'll have more posts like this to share soon! Stay tuned...
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