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Best of the Bookshelf: Sibling Stories We Love

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Charlie and Lola. Beezus and Ramona. Max and Ruby.  There are many memorable siblings in children’s literature, but here are some of my recent favorites. These titles are all imaginative, sweet, and beautifully illustrated- perfect for children who have siblings (or those expecting a new sibling). Do you have a great sibling story to recommend? We’d love to hear from you. -Rebecca


Maple by Lori Nichols: A nature-loving little girl’s favorite playmate is her maple tree, until the day she’s surprised with a baby sister. (Sequel: Maple and Willow Together)

One Special Day by Lola Schaefer: An energetic and imaginative boy becomes a big brother.

One Busy Day by Lola Schaefer: Mia’s big brother Spencer never seems to have time to play with her. But with a little imagination and lot of love, Mia shows Spencer it’s a lot more fun to be busy together.

Lola Reads to Leo by Anna McQuinn: Lola reads story books to her new baby brother Leo, and even though Mommy and Daddy are busy, they still have time to read to Lola at bedtime.

Train Man by Andrea Zimmerman and David Clemesha: A young boy imagines what it would be like to drive a train and take his little brother along for the ride. (also: Digger Man & Fire Engine Man)

Want more sibling books suggestions, particularly on sibling rivalry? Little Parachutes has a great booklist on this topic.

Best of the Bookshelf: 1 to 20, Animals Aplenty by Kate Viggers

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BestofbookshelfRecently I discovered a unique counting book called 1 to 20, Animals Aplenty by British author Kate Viggers, who also wrote and illustrated Almost An Animal Alphabet. Readers count to twenty using rhymes with animals wearing or doing silly things. Whether it’s 5 goats wearing coats, 7 pigs wearing wigs, or 17 ants in their underpants (plus a hungry anteater with his tongue hanging out), Viggers captures your attention with her detailed and stunning illustrations. Each number is depicted in both print and quantity. Some of the animal species are labeled, adding another layer of information. This is a whimsical and sophisticated counting book, with an understated humor appealing to kids and adults. It’s a nice title for ages 3 and up, but I’d recommend sharing one-on-one versus with a group. With young kids, picking a few pages to enjoy without necessarily reading through the entire book in one sitting works well. I can’t wait to see more from this talented author/illustrator! -RebeccaAnimals Aplenty

Early Literacy and Writing

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Boy with CrayonWriting among young children develops over time from random marks to scribbles and shapes (emergent writing) to eventually forming letters and words. Children need to develop and practice fine motor skills in order to write (some great fine motor skill activities here). They need strength, dexterity and control to handle small objects, as well as hand-eye coordination. Have your child start with drawing- scribbles, shapes, etc. Remember, the lines and pictures your child draws has meaning to them. Reading Rockets shows interesting writing samples from young children demonstrating the progression of this skill.

Other things you can do:

Draw attention to print in every day life: cereal boxes, traffic signs, store banners, etc.

Read stories that focus on rhyme, alliteration, and sounds. (like Dr. Seuss) Point to the words and pictures as you read.

Help your child make grocery lists, menus, cards, etc.

Play with different materials- finger paints, crayons, clay, markers, etc.

Want more info? Read Resources for Early Childhood: The progression of learning to write

The Write Start: A Guide to Nurturing Writing at Every Stage, from Scribbling to Forming Letters and Writing Stories by Jennifer Hallissy

Ideas for Pre-Writing Activities for kids under 5 years from Childhood 101

Books that promote print awareness & pre-writing:

Bunny Cakes by Rosemary Wells

Chester’s Masterpiece by Melanie Watt

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin, Jr.

Dr. Seuss’s ABC

Eating the Alphabet: Fruits and Vegetables from A to Z by Lois Ehlert

Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson

Letters From a Desperate Dog by Eileen Christelow

Wallace’s Lists by Barbara Bottner

Write On, Carlos! by Stuart J. Murphy




Valentine’s Mailbox Activity at Cedar Mill Libraries

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ValentinesactivityDoes your child love the library? Does she fancy Fancy Nancy? Is he crazy for Curious George? On February 9-14 at Cedar Mill Libraries, kids can write a Valentine to their favorite book character or author, or to the library. Decorate and “mail” it in the special mailbox near the Youth Services desk.  Besides being fun, this activity helps your child develop:

PLAY: Children learn about language and how the world works through pretend play.

FINE MOTOR SKILLS: He’s practicing hand-eye coordination and fine motor control needed for writing.

PRINT AWARENESS & PRE-WRITING SKILLS: She’s learning that printed letters and words have meaning. Marking, scribbling and drawing are the first steps to forming letters. Watch for an upcoming post about this topic, along with more fun ideas to help your child develop pre-writing skills.

Reading Aloud to Older Kids

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Mother, girl reading funny book laughing dreamstime_m_36281429Finally! Claire and Sam turned six, they read by themselves now, and I don’t have to read to them anymore! WRONG! Never stop reading aloud to your children… when they are learning to read, when they read chapter books by themselves, even when they are in middle school or high school… as long as they let you do so. The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease is a fantastic resource to guide you in choosing books to read aloud. It also talks about current reading research.

There are many benefits to reading aloud with older children. New readers build vocabulary when being read to since they can listen at higher level than they can read themselves. Reading aloud as a family can be enjoyable quality time. You are not only building a special relationship with your children, you are also helping them understand different emotions, difficult problems, and sophisticated humor. Don’t wait. Grab a book that you and your child will enjoy and start reading TODAY! -Marta


The Power of Picture Books

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power of picture booksPicture books are valuable for all ages- they offer universal appeal, emotional connection, and increase an understanding of concepts, language, and meaning. Once a child is learning to read, parents often gravitate to early readers, yet picture books offer much richer vocabulary. Early readers intentionally have a limited vocabulary so it’s decodable. There are 3x more rare words in a good picture book than in daily conversation with a child.

Having a large listening and speaking vocabulary has an enormous advantage when learning to read. Research shows that children who start school with larger vocabularies have an easier time learning to read, become better readers, and have higher school achievement. In their 2006 SLJ article, “It’s a Gift to Be Fancy“, authors Renea Arnold and Nell Colburn link the importance of reading picture books (like Fancy Nancy by Jane O’ Connor) with the role of vocabulary in early literacy:

“In his classic. The Read-Aloud Handbook (Penguin, 2001), Jim Trelease sites fascinating research about “rare” words- words that are seldom used in conversation but play a critical role in learning to read. Most of us use about 5,000 words in our daily conversations. There are another 5,000 words that we use less often. “The eventual strength of our vocabulary,” Trelease writes, “is determined not by the common ten thousand words but by how many ‘rare words’ we understand.”

How does a child come to understand rare words? According to the research, in a typical conversation with a three-year-old, an adult uses only nine rare words per thousand. In a conversation with a 10-year-old, the number jumps only to 11.7 rare words per thousand. Guess what happens in a children’s picture book? There are 30.9 rare words per thousand. That’s three times more than in a typical conversation with a three-year-old! So while everyday conversations will help a child learn basic vocabulary, nothing beats reading aloud with her”.

Tips for developing vocabulary while reading aloud with your child:

-Point out the print: Try pointing to each word as you read the story

-Repeat unfamiliar words, followed by a familiar word or explanation

-Read books with repeated phrases and refrains; encourage your child to join in saying them

-Talk about the pictures in the book and ask questions like “What’s he doing now?’ Look for opportunities to relate pictures to the child’s own experiences.

-Choose books you enjoy reading aloud.

For read aloud book recommendations, check out Read Aloud America’s Reading Lists or this list from Madison Public Library.


Reading While Running: Sharing Books with Toddlers

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dreamstime_m_19476877Reading to a child who won’t sit still is a challenge. But it is possible! Here are some tips on what to read, when to read and how to read to a running toddler.

First of all, pick good books for their age.  A 2 year old is not going to sit still for a Dr. Seuss book (I learned that the hard way!), so choose books that are more likely to grab an active kids attention. Good books for this age have few words per page and simple texts that tell simple stories.  Books that rhyme or have a phrase that repeats so that children can join in are good for keeping them involved in the book.  And look for books that coincide with their interests, whether it is trucks, dinosaurs or kittens.   See this list of more criteria and some suggested books for this age.

Turning everyday activities into reading opportunities makes sense with an active child.  Keep books handy, ready to pull out whenever there is a free moment like waiting for a doctor appointment or standing in line at the pharmacy.  For more tips on turning your to-do list into reading fun for your toddler, check out this article from Scholastic.

Lastly, when reading aloud to active children, use sounds and different voices to bring listeners back to the story.  Talking about the illustrations and asking your child questions about the book keeps them engaged.  Here’s a great video of a local couple reading to their active 18 month old child.

One last piece of advice for reading with your active child:  it’s important for children to have a positive feeling for book sharing time.  Don’t feel pressured to finish an entire book in one sitting.  If your child isn’t in the mood to listen to a story, don’t turn it into a power struggle.  Just close the book and come back to it another time. -Teresa