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It’s National Poetry Month! Featuring Kid-Friendly Poetry

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(This is a repost from last year. Happy National Poetry Month!)

In honor of National Poetry Month in April, we’re featuring poetry for young children, ages 2-8 years. Exposing young children to poetry helps build a very valuable early literacy skill called phonological awareness, or the ability to hear and play with the smaller sounds in words, such as rhymes and syllables. The ability to recognize and play with rhyming words is important as it helps children sound out words when they begin to learn to read in elementary school.

These picture books contain beautiful illustrations and poems from favorite authors on a variety of topics: a toddler’s day, bedtime, bees, books, clothes that animals wear, solving plot riddles, twins, cats, dogs and…more cats! Enjoy!   -Marianne


Switching on the Moon: A Very First Book of Bedtime Poems, collected by Jane Yolen and Andrew Fusek Peters:  A wide range of well-known writers contribute to this collection of bedtime poems featuring topics such as night-time noises, images and bedtime rituals.


Spot the Plot: A Riddle Book of Book Riddles by J. Patrick Lewis:  Children and parents will enjoy naming the familiar stories based on plot clues and clever illustrations.


I Am the Book: poems by Yayo:  A book is an amazing adventure. These poems written by well known writers such as Jane Yolen, etc. celebrate the journeys and adventures that books inspire.


Take Two!: A Celebration of Twins by J. Patrick Lewis:  Original poems that pay homage to twins in a beautiful collection, including fun facts.


I’m Small and Other Verses by Lilian Moore: This book is a celebration of the joys of childhood, great for individual lap time or sharing as a group.


UnBEElievables: Honeybee Poems and Paintings by Douglas Florian:  “Come inside the honeycomb–a busy, buzzy, bee-filled home–and learn about the unexpected wonders of these tiny insects’ lifestyles, families, and communities. In fourteen funny, fact-filled honeybee poems and paintings, Douglas Florian explores the natural history of these often-unappreciated critters, revealing them to be a totally cool–and totally important part of our ecosystem.”


Button Up!: Wrinkled Rhymes by Alice Schertle:  A unique collection of poems told from the perspective of various articles of clothing- one that will inspire lots of smiles and laughter.


Pug and Other Animal Poems by Valerie Worth:  “In the follow-up to the well-received Animal Poems, Pug: And Other Animal Poems examines a wide range of animal behavior, from the fleetingness of a fly sipping spilled milk to the constant steely presence of a powerful bull; the greedy meal of a street rat to a cat’s quiet gift of a dead mouse on the doorstep. Steve Jenkins’s bright collage art brings these small moments to life”


Bees, Snails & Peacock Tails: Patterns & Shapes…Naturally by Betsy Franco and Steve Jenkins:  “The duo behind Birdsongs (2007) teams up again in this winning introduction to the patterns and shapes found in the natural world. From the dazzling eyes of the male peacock’s feathers to the hexagonal chambers of the bee’s hive, Franco’s spirited poems explore the many forms and functions of nature’s geometry”. -from Booklist starred review


Dogku by Andrew Clements: “Wandering through the neighborhood in the early-morning hours, a stray pooch follows his nose to a back-porch door. After a bath and some table scraps from Mom, the dog meets three lovable kids. It’s all wags and wiggles until Dad has to decide if this stray pup can become the new family pet. Has Mooch finally found a home? Told entirely in haiku by master storyteller Andrew Clements, this delightful book is a clever fusion of poetry and puppy dog”.


Cat Poems by Dave Crawley:  “Cats: They wake you up at dawn, nap on your lap, perch on the book you’re reading, and sometimes act as though they don’t know you. They are a constant source of puzzlement—and joy. In this collection of poems, Dave Crawley pays tribute to the fabulous, finicky felines he has known and loved since childhood”.


A Curious Collection of Cats by Betsy Franco:  “Words and pictures blend in these concrete poems about cats, written in forms that include haiku, limerick, and free verse. Once kids get the feel of how to follow the lines—up and down or in curving jumps or around the page borders––they will have fun with the playful images”. – Booklist


A Dazzling Display of Dogs by Betsy Franco:  “From the award-winning team behind A Curious Collection of Cats comes a new collection of visual poems celebrating all things canine—from obedience school, to backyard break outs, to flatulent Fidos”. –

Amazing Authors: Beverly Cleary

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amazingauthorsBeverly Cleary is probably best known for her endearing character Ramona Quimby as well as her Henry Huggins series. Mostly set in Portland, Cleary’s books are perennial favorites because her insight and respect of a child’s world makes her characters authentic and her stories enduring.  She was born in McMinnville, Oregon on April 12, 1916 and lived on her family’s farm in Yamhill before moving to Portland when she was six years old.  In her autobiography, A Girl from Yamhill and her memoir My Own Two Feet: A Memoir, we learn, through her familiar and reassuring style, that she struggled with ups and downs, a lack of means and long stretches of uncertainty- which makes her as relatable and timeless as the characters in her books.

“[Beverly Cleary] has the rare gift of being able to reveal us to ourselves while keeping an arm around our shoulder… Cleary is able to sketch clearly with a few perfect strokes the inexplicable adult world as seen through a child’s eyes.” -Katherine Paterson, Washington Post Book World

On April 12 Beverly Cleary celebrates her 99th birthday, a day that has been designated “National Drop Everything and Read (D.E.A.R.) Day“, reminding people of all ages to make reading a priority. (Cleary wrote about D.E.A.R. in her book Ramona Quimby, Age 8). Reading Rockets has a fun resource page for D.E.A.R. with reading tips, booklists, and printable activity sheets. If you’re a Portland local, Ramona Quimby takes the stage May 9-31, presented by Oregon Children’s Theater.

Author Beverly Cleary
Author Beverly Cleary

Happy Birthday to amazing author Beverly Cleary! -Wendy

STEM Saturday: Building and Engineering books for Preschoolers

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STEM Saturday2My young boys are obsessed with tools, construction vehicles and building. After carefully fastening their safety goggles and reminding each other to “keep it safe!” they spend hours playing out imaginative construction project scenarios with each other- building with blocks, Lincoln logs, and drawing “plans” on their chalkboard easel.  I bring home lots of books with STEM themes since they are so curious abut how things work. These are some of our favorite titles about building and engineering. What are your favorites? We’d love to hear from you. –Rebecca

Building Our HouseBuilding Our House by Jonathan Bean: A young girl narrates her family’s move from the city to the country, where they have bought a piece of land and live in a trailer while they build a house from the ground up, with help from relatives and friends. Also available: Building Our House DVD

Let's BuildLet’s Build by Sue Fliess: “Lets build a fort! Grab a pencil, draw the plans. We’ll construct it with our hands. Dad and son hit the hardware store. And then they start to build! Raise the walls up, hoist that beam. Real construction takes a team! When they’re all done, they’ll have the coolest fort ever!” – Amazon

Rosie Revere EngineerRosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty : A young aspiring engineer must first conquer her fear of failure.

Iggy Peck ArchitectIggy Peck, Architect by Andrea Beaty: Ever since he was a baby, Iggy Peck has built towers, bridges, and buildings, which comes in handy when his second grade class is stranded on an island during a picnic.

Dreaming Up Hale

Dreaming Up: a celebration of building by Christy Hale: “A collection of concrete poetry, illustrations, and photographs that shows how young children’s constructions, created as they play, are reflected in notable works of architecture from around the world. Includes biographies of the architects, quotations, and sources”–Provided by publisher.  

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.