Monday, June 29, 2015

Reading with Little Miss Muffet: June 2015

New Book Behavior

  • "Read!" This month, at 1 1/2, Little Miss Muffet started to verbalize what she wants done with her books. Now when she flings a book at me, it is usually accompanied by a demand of  "Read!" or "Lap!" While she often changes her mind just a few pages into a book, it's nice to see her developing the vocabulary to talk about reading - and to ask for a story when she wants one. 

Current Favorites 

  • Once Upon a Potty by Alona Frankel 
    We have not started potty training yet, but this was my favorite potty book as a kid, and we found a copy at a used book store that was in great condition, so we figured why not see what Miss Muffet thinks? And she loves it! She is very interested in Prudence, the main character, and even claps when Prudence successfully uses the potty. 
  • Baby's Mother Goose illustrated by Alice Schlesinger 
    This tall board book is Miss Muffet's most frequently requested read-aloud right now. She is beginning to know some of the rhymes so well, she can fill in the blanks if I leave out words, and she spends a lot of time pointing at the characters in the illustrations and labeling whether they are boys, girls, babies, animals, and/or asleep. 
  • Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin, Jr. and Eric Carle 
    Miss Muffet does not yet seem to understand that each color is a different entity, as evidenced by her identification of every color  as red. I took this book out in the hopes that it might help her start to make sense of the concept, and it became an instant favorite. The repetition makes it possible for her to fill in words as I read, which tends to keep her more interested than just reading it myself. She can also label almost all of the animals, and she learned the word "teacher" after just a couple of readings. This has been a long-time story time staple for me, so it's wonderful to see her falling in love with it, too! 

One Tip from Mom

  • Act out your books! Toddlers are busy people, and sometimes they literally can't slow down long enough to sit through an entire story. With Little Miss Muffet, I have found that it helps during her "wilder" moments if we can act out a story together. We just borrowed a new book from the library: Baby Love by Angela DiTerlizzi. The baby in the story is described in terms of his body parts - tiny toes, sleepy eyes, etc. When I read it aloud to Miss Muffet, I asked her to follow along by pointing to each body part as it was mentioned. For the first couple of pages, I had to prompt her, but then she caught onto the game right away and really got into it. I also enjoyed it because there are several places in the book where the baby gives a hug or a kiss, and she happily shared one with me each time! 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Early Literacy in Everyday Places: The Campground

Going camping is a favorite summer pastime in many families, and it's a great way to take a break from the stresses of regular everyday life, including technology. Bond with your kids during this screen-free time by sharing some of the following early literacy activities.

  • Tell stories around the campfire. Besides eating s'mores, this is the best way to enjoy a campfire. Though it might be traditional to tell spooky stories, if these are too much for your little guys, try telling your own versions of fairy tales, funny stories from your family's own history, or round-robin stories, where each member of the family takes a turn adding to the story. 
  • Look up the names of the plants and animals you discover. Borrow or buy a field guide for the region you will be visiting. This will help you identify unfamiliar animals and plants you may encounter at the campsite or on a hiking trail. (This is actually a fun activity to do at home, too. My husband and I still talk about the day a brown thrasher popped out of a neighbor's bush and scared us half to death!) 
  • Talk about the names and stories of the constellations. On a clear night, without the light pollution of more heavily populated areas, you might be able to show your kids some of the constellations. Identify the ones you know, and tell their associated myths, then have your child look for his or her own pictures in the stars and make up stories to go along with them. 
  • Sing call and response songs on hikes. Though I never went camping as a kid, I did go to Girl Scout day camp, and I can remember singing many call and response songs as we walked the hiking trails. Here are some good ones to get you started: 
For more outdoor early literacy activities, check out my posts about early literacy in The Backyard, The Mud, and The Park.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

48 Hour Book Challenge: Finish Line

My 48 hours expired this morning at 8:15, when I was still fast asleep. I managed to read for a good chunk of time last night, though, including 15 minutes before bed, which left me with a final total of 14.5 hours spent on the challenge.

During that time, I read 10 middle grade novels:
  • Bandit's Moon by Sid Fleischman
  • Bull Run by Paul Fleischman
  • Saving Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea
  • Fuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar 
  • The Sister Solution by Trudy Trueit 
  • Secret Coders by Gene Luen Yang
  • Ava and Taco Cat by Carol Weston 
  • A Handful of Stars by Cynthia Lord
  • Boy with a Pack by Stephen W. Meader 
  • Drive Me Crazy by Terra Elan McVoy 
Some of these have been sitting on my Nook for months, so it was great to finally get through them. I wish I could have done more, but considering I was chasing a toddler all day Friday and out half the day celebrating Father's Day yesterday, I think I did pretty well. I'm definitely not disappointed! 

Here is the finish line, where I'll be adding my post in just a moment. 

Saturday, June 20, 2015

48 Hour Book Challenge: Check-In Post #2

I couldn't keep my eyes open long enough last night to read quite as much as I wanted, so in the past 16 hours, I've only read for about four more. My total time now is 10 hours, 10 minutes. Reaching 18 hours is seeming less and less likely, but I will certainly make it to at least 12 and maybe a bit beyond that.

Since last night's update, I have once again read four books (all ARCs from NetGalley and Edelweiss) and started on a fifth. Full-length reviews won't be up for a while, but brief reviews are below:

  • The Sister Solution by Trudy Trueit
    This book has an odd premise - a genius little sister is promoted two grades mid-way through the year, joining her sister as an eighth grader and immediately complicating her social life. The characters were fairly well-developed otherwise, but the far-fetched situation made the overall story feel like it didn't quite hang together cohesively. 
  • Secret Coders by Gene Luen Yang
    This is another strange - but quick - read. Unfortunately, I didn't know it wasn't a stand-alone and it ends on a cliffhanger, so I was somewhat dissatisfied. I did like all the coding lessons within the story, though. There aren't any other books like this one. 
  • Ava and Taco Cat by Carol Weston
    I really liked Ava and Pip, but the sequel is really just more of the same and it isn't as well done. There was also too much cliched cat stuff for me to really connect with it, and though some of the wordplay and jokes are funny, it felt like too much. 
  • A Handful of Stars by Cynthia Lord
    This is not Lord's strongest work. A solid three-star book, but not especially memorable. The main character wants to make enough money for a surgery to save the eyesight of her beloved dog, while her friend, a girl from a migrant family, wants to win a pageant to earn money for college. The story moves very quickly, which interferes with the reader's ability to connect on an emotional level. It will definitely win points with readers seeking more diversity - but I enjoyed last year's Half a Chance more.

Even after being charged all night, my Nook battery is super-low again from this morning's marathon reading session, so my next two books are not ARCs, but library books: Drive Me Crazy by Terra Elan McVoy, which I have just barely started and Boy with a Pack by Stephen W. Meader, the 1940 Newbery Honor book my husband has been bugging me to read for at least a week. (I am heading outside to read that one while he stays in and supervises toddler nap time. It will be a nice change of pace, as the other books I've read this morning involve lots of girl drama!)

And... with the 20 minutes it took to write this post, I am now at a solid 10.5 hours. Time to get back to it!

Friday, June 19, 2015

48 Hour Book Challenge: Check-In Post #1

I am just over twelve hours into my 48 hour book challenge, which I started this morning. I have spent roughly half my time reading so far - 6 hours and 15 minutes - and I have completed four books and started a fifth. Full-length reviews of these books aren't due to post to my blog until the Fall, but here are some quick thoughts:
  • Bandit’s Moon by Sid Fleischman
    This is the 37th book in my Reading Through History Project, and I selected it to represent the 1840s and the Gold Rush. It's a fast-paced story about a young girl who falls in with a band of thieves in order to escape a horrible woman holding her captive. I gave it a solid three stars, as it was fun but didn't have a lot of depth, even though it was based in fact. 
  • Bull Run by Paul Fleischman
    And this is book 38 on my Reading Through History list. Many different voices relate the events of the Battle of Bull Run. I was just in Manassas last weekend, so reading this seemed very timely. I read the book in about 45 minutes this morning while pushing my daughter in the stroller, and somehow I think reading it outside in the heat of summer made me appreciate more what it might have been like. I also love the suggestion from the author to use the book for reader's theater. My full review will have a lot to say about this book! 
  • Saving Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea
    This entire series is something I probably could have skipped. It's obnoxiously inspirational with characters who sound nothing like real kids. This was the least believable of the three titles. I only gave it one star. 
  • Fuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar
    This was short, sweet, and very different. It's not funny in the way of some of Sachar's other titles, but it's a really interesting science fiction story about the impact some strange "fuzzy" mud has first on three kids, and then on an entire community. Definitely compelling. 
The next book I'm working through is The Sister Solution by Trudy Trueit - I'm about halfway through. I'm hoping to get in another solid 2 hours or more tonight, now that Miss Muffet is in bed, so hopefully I'll finish this book and squeeze in one more. Counting the 15 minutes I spent writing this post, my total is now 6.5 hours. Now I'm going back to reading. 

48 Hour Book Challenge: Starting Line

This morning begins the tenth annual 48 Hour Book Challenge hosted by Mother Reader. I have never participated before, but decided to give it a try this year, as my to-read pile is out of control and I'm trying to get ahead on reviews so I can schedule them before the new baby comes this Fall. My challenge begins now, at approximately 8:15 a.m. on Friday, so it will end on Sunday morning at 8:15. While I think it would be wonderful to get in 24 hours of reading during this time period, I think that is going to be a stretch with a toddler, so I'm probably looking at a more realistic goal of 18 hours. We'll see how it goes. I don't have any playdates or anything else scheduled today or tomorrow, so perhaps I will read more than I think is possible right now.

I'll be checking in periodically today and tomorrow to report on my progress. Now I'm off to start my first book of the day!

Friday, June 12, 2015

10 Early Literacy Resources at Your Public Library (Besides Books)

The journey toward literacy starts at birth, as a child begins to collect information about language through his everyday experiences. The knowledge base surrounding reading and writing that the child develops in these early years is commonly known as early literacy. In addition to books, which are a key component in acquiring early literacy skills, your local public library provides many more resources to support your early literacy efforts. Ten of these are described below.

Children’s Magazines

Most libraries subscribe to at least a few magazines for children. For pre-readers, check out Babybug, Ladybug, Highlights Hello, and Highlights High Five for developmentally appropriate stories, rhymes, songs, and activities which incorporate early literacy practices.

Educator Magazines

At my local public library, there is a section of the children’s area designated for parents and educators. In addition to lots of wonderful non-fiction books about everything from sleep training to fingerpainting, there is also a selection of magazines for early childhood educators. If your library has such a section, look for titles such as The Mailbox and Young Children, which provide wonderful ideas for educational play from early childhood experts.


It is likely that somewhere in your library there is a table, shelf, or desk on which are spread various printed materials for patrons to pick up. Though it can be easy to overlook this area, you might be missing out on some great information. Take a moment to scan through the brochures and flyers and pick up anything referring to reading with young children or promoting early literacy.

Book Lists

Often, among the printed material left out for library users to take is a collection of book lists. These are commonly sorted by grade level, but many libraries also take the time to create lists of suggested books for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers. These book lists are also nice because they often tell you where the items can be found on the shelves at your specific library.


Not all libraries provide workshops for parents and caregivers, but it’s worth keeping an eye on the calendar for opportunities that might pop up, such as a class on creating flannel boards, or a training about the Every Child Ready to Read campaign. Many libraries also provide outreach services and might be willing to provide a workshop to your moms group or other local organization.


Scholastic periodically puts out video adaptations of classic picture books. These are available on DVD, but if your library subscribes to Bookflix, you can also stream them online from home with your library card. Each video of a fictional story is accompanied by a related non-fiction title to help your child explore a given topic in further detail. The books on Bookflix also have a read-along option, where subtitles can be turned on so your child can follow the words as they are read.


Similar to Bookflix, Tumblebooks also provides web-based video versions of picture books. You and your kids can create playlists of your favorites, and the site also provides accelerated reader and Lexile level information for its titles. (Note: Tumblebooks are more like e-books, whereas the Bookflix videos are often fully animated.)


Libraries subscribe to online databases on myriad topics, depending on the needs and interests of their communities. I have used library databases to locate children’s poems and short stories, to find suggested reading material based on things I and my daughter have enjoyed, and even to research early literacy information. Ask your local librarian for detailed information on what is available from your library.

Story Times

Story time is the ultimate early literacy experience! Join in on a session to learn about books, songs, and rhymes you can share at home, and to get helpful hints for reading aloud at home.

Children’s Librarians

While children’s librarians are not reading teachers or experts on child development, many of them have been trained in early literacy skills and practices and can suggest developmentally appropriate activities to do with your child. The children’s librarian is also the go-to source for all the resources mentioned above, as well as every other library resource available for kids. (Read more about the awesomeness of children’s librarians in this post!)

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Moms Club Story Time, 5/13/15

As in April, the date I chose for our May story time was chilly and breezy, despite being surrounded by 80-degree days. This time, though, I did have the story time outside, and though people seemed to enjoy it (including a grandmother who was not part of our group!), it was not an experience I am eager to repeat any time soon. Book pages and flannel board pieces were flying everywhere in the breeze, my hair was in my face when I played the ukulele, and the kids were cold and not shy about saying so. This time, there were three babies under one, 4 toddlers in the 18-20 mos. range, and one almost three-year-old. Here's what we did.

Opening Song with Ukulele: Hello, How Are You?

Song: If You’d Like to Read a Book

Book: King Bidgood's in the Bathtub by Audrey and Don Wood
I don't think anyone in the group loved this book as much as I do, but it is just so much fun to read aloud. I think slightly older kids would have liked it better.

Flannel Board Song: Royal Crowns (based on Daddy's Ties)
I had four members of a royal family - king, queen, prince, princess - and four felt crowns, which kept blowing away. We sang about each one, while trying to keep warm.

Book: Titch by Pat Hutchins
I love Titch, as does Miss Muffet. This book was better received than King Bidgood.

Rhyme: This is Big, Big, Big

Book: Butterfly, Butterfly by Petr Horacek
Pop-up books are always a hit. I had to actually purchase this book in order to get a copy where the butterfly had both wings, but it was worth it.

Song: Fly Like a Butterfly
We flapped our arms like wings when we sang this song. The toddlers were into it.

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

Song with Ukulele: The Little Bird 
I have been singing this song a lot to Miss Muffet and now I'm pretty tired of it, so it probably won't appear in my repertoire over the summer. Still, it's a great winding down song, since the final verse says goodbye.

Goodbye Song: We Wave Goodbye Like This 

My June story time is scheduled for this coming Monday, when the forecast is predicting clouds and warmth. I have 7 moms signed up, and I'm hoping for a more pleasant experience!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Moms Club Story Time, 4/23/15

It was pretty difficult to find easily accessible public places to have story time during this past winter, which was exceptionally cold and snowy for our area. Therefore, I took a little break from story time in February and March and scheduled this one to be held at the park in late April. Unfortunately, though we had some warm days in and around my chosen date, the actual day itself was not one of them! Fortunately, one of the moms graciously opened her living room to the group at the last minute and we were able to have story time without freezing or blowing away. The theme was Spring, there were five kids in attendance (4 mos., 17 mos., 18 mos., 20 mos., and 3 years). This is what we did.

Opening Song with Ukulele: Hello, How Are You?

Song: If You’d Like to Read a Book

Book: How to Grow a Friend by Sara Gillingham
This book is a little bit abstract for toddlers, as it compares friendship to a garden, but the illustrations are so appealing, and it's a good mom-pleaser. I would use this one again for a spring, friendship, or flowers theme.

Song: One Seed
The motions for this are really too hard for toddlers, but they all seem to liked watching their moms do them.

Book: Mary Had a Little Lamb illustrated by Salley Mavor 
It was fun to share this book because everyone knew the song, but not everyone knew there were so many verses.

Song Rhyme: Hands Up High
The tune for this song is London Bridge, but I had trouble singing it on the heels of Mary Had a Little Lamb, so we just wound up doing it as a chant. 

Songs with Ukulele: ABCs / Twinkle Twinkle / Baa Baa Black Sheep 
After this medley, one of the moms added another verse which came from a lullaby CD her son likes. (I think it's this one. The name of the song is simply "ABC Song.") The verse has to do with counting - if anyone is looking for a counting song to this tune, I have transcribed the lyrics and will happily share them by email. I have started singing it to Miss Muffet every day at nap time.

Book: Over in the Meadow by Ezra Jack Keats
I didn't think the kids had the patience for two singable books, so I read this one as a poem. Most of their focus was gone by this point, since there were exciting toys around, but we made it through to the end.

Song: Chickadee 
We got some decent flying action from some of the kids on this one.

Song with Ukulele: The Little Bird 
I really wanted to play this song for an audience, so even though the kids were playing with toys by this point, I played it as background music anyway. (I didn't have a flannel board, so I just played and sang.)

I feel awkward doing a goodbye song at these story times, since we never leave right afterward, and yet I feel like I am not done unless I do one. I'm still working on finding a closing song for this group that is a little less final. 

Friday, June 5, 2015

Early Literacy in Everyday Places: The Pool

With Memorial Day behind us, it is now officially pool season! Make the most of your pool time with these fun activities which promote early literacy skills. 
  • Dive for letters. Label a set of diving sticks with letters - random ones, the letters in your child's name, or the letters in a particular word or phrase - then challenge your kids to collect them in the correct order. 
  • Play Water World Simon Says.  This game, suggested by Creative Connections for Kids, is just like regular Simon Says, except that the leader does water-based movements. Start out playing the leader yourself, then pass the role onto the kids and give them a chance to come up with their own motions for the group to do. 
  • Make a whirlpool and sing. Choose a song like Ring Around the Rosie, Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush, or Round and Round the Village and sing it with your kids as you circle around the pool and make a whirlpool.
  • Write on the deck/cement with a wet finger. Show your kids how to spell their names and other familiar words on the edge of the pool, or challenge their spelling skills by calling out sight words and seeing who can write them the quickest.  
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