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Catitude: Celebrate “Respect Your Cat Day” with Cat Stories

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Cat StoriesMarch 28 is “Respect Your Cat Day”.  If you have a cat, you already know that most every day is Respect Your Cat Day – at least your cat thinks it is!  There are some famous felines in children’s books who have more than their fair share of “catitude.”  These titles are “purrfect” for sharing. -Ginny W.

Pete the Cat by Eric Litwin and James and Kimberly Dean: Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes is the first in the series. He is a mellow fellow who always keeps his cool while movin’ and groovin’.   Pete has six picture books, several song books and early readers.  Check out Pete’s website too.

Rotten Ralph by Jack Gantos and Nicole Rubel: Ralph is the world champ at being a bad cat.  Ralph’s adventures in misbehavior are available in picture books and easy readers.  Do you like Ralph? Learn more about his creators, Jack Gantos and Nicole Rubel.

Bad Kitty by Nick Bruel: Bad Kitty lives up to his name!  In his first story, big trouble ensues when his favorite food is all gone.  Big trouble, four times over.  This series has picture books for reading aloud and chapter books for newly independent readers. You can visit Bad Kitty’s website too.

Splat the Cat by Rob Scotton: Splat is more nervous than naughty.  Seymour, his pet mouse, comes along to give him courage.  Splat stars in picture books and early readers.  And of course, Splat has a webpage and a Splat app.

Skippyjon Jones by Judith Schachner: Skippyjon has a flair for the dramatic.  He sees himself as more than an ordinary Siamese cat.  He is El Skippito – Zorro on four legs.  The Skippyjon Jones series has picture books and beginning readers.  Skippyjon Jones is also on the web and Facebook.

Chester by Melanie Watt: Armed with a red marker, Chester is going to draw the story his way, no matter what author-illustrator Melanie Watt wants.  Lock up the crayons!  Chester returns in two more stories: Chester’s Back and Chester’s Masterpiece.

Yoko by Rosemary Wells: Yoko is a sweet and gentle cat who is starting school.  Her mother makes sushi for lunch box and her fellow students make fun of it.   A thoughtful teacher and a new friend help make things better.  There are six Yoko stories, each with a loving lesson for children.  If you like the Yoko stories, find out more about Rosemary Wells and her other books.

 

Growing Readers with Graphic Novels and Comic Books

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ComicbookGraphic novels and comic books continue to be popular among kids, but many parents are leery. Books in traditional format are perceived to have more literary value while comics have long battled the perception that they are low quality reading.

In fact, comics and graphic novels are an important literary tool because they blend creative storytelling and sophisticated language with inventive, imaginative illustrations.  Not only can advanced readers benefit from reading graphic novels but reluctant readers may find the combination of words and images less daunting.

Scholastic’s articleA Guide to Using Graphic Novels with Children and Teens” highlights the value of comics: “The notion that graphic novels are too simplistic to be regarded as serious reading is outdated.  The excellent graphic novels available today are linguistically appropriate reading material demanding many of the same skills that are needed to understand traditional works of prose fiction.  Often they actually contain more advanced vocabulary than traditional books at the same age/grade/interest level.  They require readers to be actively engaged in the process of decoding and comprehending a range of literary devices, including narrative structures, metaphor and symbolism, point of view, and the use of puns and alliteration, intertextuality, and inference.  Reading graphic novels can help students develop the critical skills necessary to read more challenging works, including the classics.”

Jim Trelease, author of The Read-Aloud Handbook, notes that Finland has one of the highest rates of literacy in the world and comic books are the “most common choice for recreational reading” among Finnish nine-year olds.  Not a reader of comics or graphic novels yourself but want to support your child? Ask your local librarian for recommendations. Do you have a reluctant reader at home? Stop by the library today to introduce your child to a comic book or graphic novel. - Wendy

Ruby’s Studio Shows: A Preschool (and Parent) Favorite

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Friendship showSafety ShowFeelings show

As a parent of two small boys and a selector of children’s media at the library, I am immersed in kid’s shows. Much of it is entertaining- yet often lacking the educational content I wish would accompany the storyline.

However, there’s a breath of fresh air in a world full of mediocre animated characters and dizzy, low quality plotlines: Ruby’s Studio- The Friendship Show, The Safety Show and The Feelings Show. Ruby’s Studio uniquely and creatively blends fun and learning- a bit reminiscent of Mr. Rogers, but with a refreshingly modern twist (picture less puppets and more crafts!). Hostess Ruby invites real kids over to her comfy cottage studio for stories, dialogue, songs and art projects focused on social-emotional life skills. Children see a supportive, engaging adult role model and entertainment that brims with positive messages. In The Friendship Show, for example, the “golden rule” is discussed along with empathy and conflict-resolution- two skills every kid needs to be successful in life.

Produced by The Mother Company, whose motto is “Helping Parents Raise Good People”, this is screen time I can feel good about. Their company goals include developing “Programs that model good behavior. Entertainment that is fun, stylish, and educational all at the same time. Content and pacing that doesn’t make kids – or parents – freak out. “

These shows are great for 3-6 years. Remember Ruby’s Studio next time you’re at the library- you and your kids will be glad you did. -Rebecca

Hey Baby, Let’s Talk and Read Together!

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EL Spotlight4Early Literacy Spotlight: Language and Vocabulary

One major developmental milestone that babies and ones are working on is the development of language. Babies learn to understand what we say (receptive language), before they can produce words themselves (productive language). How does a baby develop language? Through interactions with the loving adults that share their day to day lives: throughout the day, we talk to the baby and she coos back at us while moving her arms, legs and tongue. It’s a conversation!

Research has shown that the more parents talk with babies and toddlers, the more vocabulary the children had. By the time they were two years old, the children whose parents had a high level of speech with their children had a vocabulary five times as high as those children whose parents had a low level of speech. Early language serves as the beginning of a foundation in vocabulary which affects a child’s achievement as a reader and learner.

Mother, baby reading cloth book on sofa dreamstime_m_2555688Reading with babies helps develop their language, lets them hear your loving voice, tells them books are fun, and nurtures your relationship.  Babies love:

  • Board books with high contrast
  • Baby pictures (especially faces)
  • Simple rhymes
  • Books that picture familiar things they see during their busy days

Share sturdy board books, cloth books, or plastic books as you rock in your living room, sit in the car, and quiet down for bed. Talk about the pictures and relate it to your baby, “Look! That baby has a nose; you have a nose; I’m going to give your sweet nose a kiss!” Sometimes having two books is helpful: one for you to read, and one for baby to chew!

Mobile one-year-olds often learn while on their feet and in motion. Find that quiet moment when your child is receptive to sharing a book for just a few minutes, or keep reading while your little one cruises the room. He’ll gravitate back to you to find out what’s happening in the book that makes that crazy ribbit or woofing sound. So snuggle up with a book to share the language and the love!

Here are a few great board books to share with your child. Be sure to look for other titles by these authors. -Jody

HugsandKisses  Hugs and Kisses by Rachel Hale

BabiesontheBus  The Babies on the Bus by Karen Katz

LookatBabysHouse  Look at Baby’s House! by Peter Linenthal

BrownBear  Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See? by Bill Martin, Jr.

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

Siblingstories

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