Reading Tip: Engaging Children in Books Through Beautiful (or, in my case, awful) Song

Aaaaand now for the newest song by morebooksmama co-author, LUKE!  WOOOOO! YEAH!  ROCK OUT, LUKE!

Sung to the tune of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star:

Mama cannot sing a lick.

She sounds like a duck that’s sick.

Dada’s voice is even worse.

He can’t sing a single verse.

I still like it when they try.

‘Cause singing makes words dance and fly.

Thank you, thank you very much!

I love music, and I know that I’m not alone.  Most kids love singing songs and dancing to music.  My Mama knows this, too, so one of the things that she enjoys doing is using music to make books more interesting.  She goes about integrating music in a few different ways:

1) She uses familiar songs to sing books that aren’t musical: My favorite example of this one is Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?  by Bill Martin, Jr. and Eric Carle.  We sing the words to Twinkle, Twinkle.  Setting the words to music helps to emphasize their rhythmic nature and makes them more appealing.

2) She finds books that have songs built into the text: Many of my favorite books have music written into the stories.  Mama enjoys making up her own tunes, but there are also recordings of many of the books online.  Sometimes music plays a big role, as in Perfect Piggies!by Sandra Boynton, where the book is a song, and Goodnight Songs: Illustrated by Twelve Award-Winning Picture Book Artists by Margaret Wise Brown, which is a compilation of lullabies.  Other times music complements the words, as in Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes by James Dean and Eric Litwin and Let’s Sing a Lullaby with the Brave Cowboy by Jan Thomas.  Still other times, as in Red Ted and the Lost Things by Michael Rosen and Joel Stewart and Belly Button Book (Boynton on Board)by Sandra Boynton, music plays a minor role but helps me hook into the book.

3) She makes up tunes for books that don’t have any music in them: These books are always rhythmic to begin with, and then inspiration hits Mama and she just starts making up melodies.  Books that I might otherwise lose interest in become more engaging and I’m hooked.  My two favorite examples of this type are The Man from the Land of Fandango by Margaret Mahy and Polly Dunbar and Where, Oh Where Is Huggle Buggle Bear? (Picture Books Large) by Katherine Sully and Janet Samuel.

My parents truly cannot sing, so do not feel shy about belting out a melody–your kids will love the books you read all the more!

Happy reading!

–Luke, blog co-author (age 3.5)

 

Books suitable for babies: Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See?, Perfect Piggies!, Goodnight Songs

Books suitable for toddlers: Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes, Belly Button Book, Where, Oh Where is Huggle Buggle Bear?

Books suitable for preschoolers: Red Ted and the Lost Things, Let’s Sing a Lullaby with the Brave Cowboy, The Man from the Land of Fandango

Luke’s 11 Favorite Books for New Readers

Hi there!  It’s Luke (blog co-author, age 3.5).

New readers are a special breed: we are older than babies yet younger than school kids.  We’re in the middle, and our books need to be the same way.  We can read baby books, but the subject matter is too infantile.  We want to read chapter books for school kids, but our reading level isn’t quite there.  Here are a few books that I’ve found that do a good job of meeting us half way.  They are listed from simplest to most complex.  Also, even if your child isn’t quite ready to read independently, these books still make great read alouds with a parent–it’s how they started for me!  Enjoy!

   The Berenstain Bears and the Spooky Old Tree by Stan and Jan Berenstain: With only a few words on each page, a generous dose of repetition, and a spoooooky storyline, this book is really fun to read.  My favorite parts are when the bears get the shivers–Mama likes to hug me and make me shake along with them!

   Come Back, Ben (I Like to Read®) by Ann Hassett and John Hassett: Another book with very simple text, lots of repetition to help new readers feel successful, and a delightful storyline.  Ben’s balloon takes him for a ride, and as he travels up and up and up, objects like a window, a tree, and a mountain plead, “Come back, Ben!”  Illustrations are simple, yet full of expression.  The ending is a nice surprise, too.  Cute book!

   I Can Read With My Eyes Shut! (Beginner Books) by Dr. Seuss: This book was my Mama’s favorite book when she was a kid (Jake the Snake and Foo Foo the Snoo were her favorite characters).  This is a classic that uses a wide variety of words, but they are everyday words that new readers will quickly learn to recognize.  My favorite page is the one with all of the signs at the end of the book–I love to play “can you find” with the signs (click on the “can you find” link to see a description of the game)!

   You Read to Me, I’ll Read to You: Very Short Stories to Read Together by Mary Ann Hoberman and Michael Emberley:  This book is one in a series of books that directly facilitates partner reading.  Different colored text makes it easy to alternate readers, and the stories are very short yet high interest.  “I Like” is my favorite story!

   I’m a Frog! (An Elephant and Piggie Book) by Mo Willems: As I wrote in my Mo Willems post, he is a children’s book genius.  All of the Elephant and Piggie books are hilarious, but they are also absolutely perfect for beginning readers: very few words on the page; simple, kid-friendly story lines; and exaggerated text that helps new readers get a feel for inflection.  And they are hilarious–oh, I already said that.  It bears repeating!

   The Big Honey Hunt, 50th Anniversary Edition (The Berenstain Bears) by Stan and Jan Berenstain: Brynn and I both like this book (although she can’t read quite yet).  The reason?  A bee.  A buzzing bee.  That Papa Bear and Baby Bear follow throughout the entire story as Papa Bear  attempts to show Baby Bear how to collect honey (and fails…over and over and over again in most hilarious fashion).  Nice repetition, fun rhyme and rhythm, and easy sight words make this book a good one for beginners.  Buzzzzzzzzz!

   The Big Wet Balloon: TOON Level 2 by Liniers: I’ve recently become interested in these TOON books–basically comic books for little kids.  Not all of them are very good, but I really liked this one (we borrowed it from the library for about twelve weeks!).  Two sisters, about five and two and a half years old, find all kinds of fun things to do on a rainy day.  The big sister is clearly in charge, and she does a great job teaching her sister Clemmy all about puddles and umbrellas and rainbows.  The relationship between the characters is fantastic, and the illustrations are very expressive.

   Hi! Fly Guy by Tedd Arnold: The Fly Guy books are technically chapter books, but the chapters are very short, more divided in order to be called “chapter books” than for any structural or story telling reason.  Fly Guy is a pet fly, and he can say his owner’s name, Buzz.  Buzz and Fly Guy go on all kinds of adventures, usually smelly, gross, and involving garbage or road kill, but they’re also funny.  Really!  These books are great!  Simple words, short sentences, and quick-moving, big-kid action are all appealing for the slightly older beginning reader (kindergarten).

  Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa by Erica Silverman and Betsy Lewin: The books in this series are also chapter books, and they ARE divided into chapters for a reason.  The chapters are all linked (but not necessarily chronological) in order to tell a longer story, thus making the stories more involved with more character development.  Words and sentences are more advanced than the Fly Guy series, too.  Cowgirl Kate is a spunky girl whose horse is her best friend.  Cocoa is a character who gets into all kinds of mischief and plays tricks on Kate.  Their interactions are quite amusing!

   Buster & Phoebe: The Great Bone Game by Lisze Bechtold: There is a book before this one, Buster, and although I liked Buster, I really really really like Buster & Phoebe (Mama actually bought this book for me since we checked it out of the library so many times).  This book is also a chapter book, and while the chapters are linked by a common theme (bones!), they are actually mini stories.  Phoebe is the older dog, and she is selfish, greedy, and all about tricking Buster into giving up his bones.  She’s hilarious.  And Buster, well, he’s the younger dog, and while he’s trusting and gullible, he’s also smart and gives Phoebe a run for her money.  Their interactions are laugh-out-loud funny, and the illustrations perfectly capture Phoebe’s slyness and Buster’s innocence.  Great book!

   Pinky Dinky Doo: Where Are My Shoes? (Pinky Dinky Doo Series) by Jim Jinkins: Pinky Dinky Doo is a storyteller.  She makes up crazy stories for her little brother. In this book, everyone shows up to school with a different kind of food on their feet because they can’t find their shoes.  Within the stories you will find zany multiple choice questions, a few big words (Mr. G., Pinky’s pet guinea pig, looks up the definitions), a longer story with longer sentences, and a kid-friendly plot.  Probably best for slightly older readers (kindergarten or first grade).

Happy reading!

-Luke, blog co-author (age 3.5)

Clicking on the book will take you to Amazon.com, and if you decide to buy the book, a portion of your purchase comes back to me.  I, in turn, will use the profits to purchase books for our local library or for a children’s literacy project.

The Bookshelf–Books for Babies by Baby Brynn

Another short list of a few of my favorite books!

   I Love You, Stinky Face by Lisa McCourt and Cyd Moore:  The classic question: “Mama, what if I were a super smelly skunk and I smelled so bad that my name was Stinky Face.  Would you still love me then?”  Answer?  Resounding yes!  Reminiscent of Margaret Wise Brown’s The Runaway Bunny, this book is written and illustrated with a modern reader in mind.  Green aliens from Mars, giant scary apes, slimy swamp monsters, all there to test a mother’s love.  I love this book in part because Mama makes up all kinds of goofy sound effects for each creature–her alien voice and smelly skunk “pee-u!” are my favorites!

   From Head to Toe Board Book by Eric Carle:  A book about body parts and how they move, all mimicking different animals.  I’m not quite old enough to do the actions in this book (kick my legs like a donkey, shrug my shoulders like a buffalo), but I love watching Mama do them!  She’s crazy.  She helps me do some of the actions, and I love it!  Great fun!

   Doggies (Boynton on Board) by Sandra Boynton:  Woof!  Yap yap!  Ar-roof!  Counting, dogs, and barking.  What could be better?  I love this book because of all of the great sound effects.  Watch out for that cat at the end though–he’s feisty!

  Chicka Chicka Boom Boom (Chicka Chicka Book, A) by John Archambault and Bill Martin, Jr. and Lois Ehlert: “Chicka chicka boom boom!  Will there be enough room?”  Without a doubt, the best alphabet book on the planet!  Rhyme and rhythm meet the alphabet in a coconut tree.  My favorite part is when all of the letters fall out of the tree and end up in a big jumbled pile.  I like trying to find the “b” for my name!  Mama likes to trace the letters as she reads and she loves bouncing me on her legs to the rhythm.  No other alphabet book even comes close!

  Where’s Peter? (Peter Rabbit) by Beatrix Potter: Yes, it’s a touchy-feely book, and yes, it has flaps to lift, but this book also has the golden trifecta: rhythm, rhyme, and repetition.  This book is my favorite of my touch and feel books because the pieces to touch are so big.  It’s hard for my tiny, uncoordinated hands to touch small pieces of textured fabrics, and it’s even harder to touch textures that are set into the page like velvet, so this book is a huge hit with me.  Best page?  Squirrel Nutkin–his bushy tail is huge!

Hope you found something new to read with your little one!

Happy reading!

–Brynn (blog co-author, age 9 months)

Clicking on the book will take you to Amazon.com, and if you decide to buy the book, a portion of your purchase comes back to me.  I, in turn, will use the profits to purchase books for our local library or for a children’s literacy project.

 

The Bookshelf: A Wordless Wonder, A Leaping Peep, A Stuck Duck, and A Silly Songster

Hi!  It’s Luke (age three and a half).

Every once in awhile, Mama and I do very well at the library. We come home with several books that I end up really enjoying. Three weeks ago was one of those trips, and here are four books that I have been requesting over and over again since then.  Enjoy!

   The Farmer and the Clown by Marla Frazee: If you haven’t read any books by Marla Frazee yet, then let this one be your first and you will be hooked.  It’s a wordless picture book about a little clown boy who falls from his clown train car and ends up staying with a sour, lonely farmer.  The farmer wants to make the sad, lost little clown happy, so he does all kinds of things for the boy that seem quite out of character.  By the end of the book when the clown is reunited with his funny family, both the farmer and the boy are happy.  Not only is the message a good one, but the illustrations are beautiful.  If you like this book (Frazee’s most recent), try Boot and Shoe next–it’s one of my all-time favorite books!

   Peep!: A Little Book About Taking a Leap by Maria van Lieshout:  Recently, I’ve had to take some huge leaps out of my comfort zone, and this book helped me feel a lot better about them.  It’s about a little chick who has to screw up his courage to take a huge leap off of a curb in order to follow his mother and sisters.  Despite a few (very accurate and humorous) attempts at avoidance and with some encouragement from his mama and siblings, he finally takes the leap.  “I DID IT!” he shouts.  Since reading this book, “I DID IT!” has become my mantra.  Very simple text and spare illustrations make this book easy to read and digest.

   One Duck Stuck by Phyllis Root and Jane Chapman:  A counting book with jaunty rhythm, rhyme, and repetition that keep me engaged and tapping along with the beat!  A poor duck gets stuck in the muck, down by the deep green marsh, and he pleads for help from his fellow marsh dwellers who cheerfully answer the call.  Skunks, fish, moose, dragonflies–all work together to push an unlikely stick closer and closer to the stuck duck’s free foot.  I LOVE this book!  If you are looking for a 1-10 counting book, check out this one!

   The Baby Beebee Bird by Diane Redfield Massie and Steven Kellogg:  Bee bee bobbi bobbi!  Bee bee bobbi bobbi!  The call of the baby bee bee bird will be lodged in your head for days after reading this book.  A new arrival at the zoo, the baby beebee bird, keeps the other residents up all night long with his singing.  As day breaks and the bird decides to finally take a nap, the other animals plot their revenge.  They gang up on the baby and chorus their own “bee bee bobbis!” all day long.  The baby bee bee bird can’t sleep, of course, so when night falls, everyone finally gets some rest. Not only is this book funny for kids because we love books with animal sounds and other strange sounds in them, but adults will also enjoy the parallels with their own comical efforts to wrestle babies (and toddlers and preschoolers) into a normal sleep schedule.  A great book!

Hope you enjoy these books!  I certainly did!

Happy reading!

–Luke (blog co-author, age 3.5)

Clicking on the book will take you to Amazon.com, and if you decide to buy the book, a portion of your purchase comes back to me.  I, in turn, will use the profits to purchase books for our local library or for a children’s literacy project.

The Bookshelf: Brynn’s Debut Post

Hello, blog world!  I’m Brynn, I’m eight months old, and this is my first book blog.  Woo!

In the past few weeks, I’ve really begun to understand why books are better read than chewed.  I’ll actually read several books in a row now, and I definitely have favorites.  You know, the ones that I nearly fall off of Mama’s lap lunging for?  The ones that I refuse to release after reading?  The ones that I know lines from already and look intently at the person reciting them?  These are my current favorites:

  Barnyard Dance! (Boynton on Board) by Sandra Boynton: “Stomp your feet!  Clap your hands! Everybody ready for a barnyard dance!”  I LOVE this here book!  Mama gets her legs movin’ up and down, her feet swingin’ in circles, and her mouth makin’ the funniest darn animal noises, all while I’m balanced precariously on her lap.  It’s just a tad bit alarmin’, but I’ve learned to enjoy it.  A lot.  Catchy rhyme and rhythm are the best things about this book.

  Peekaboo Dress Up (Touch-And-Feel Action Flap Book):  Mama is usually not a huge fan of gimmicky books, but I certainly am.  This books has things to touch, too, but my favorite part of the book is the peekaboo flaps.  Mama reads, “Where has the baby gone?  Is she behind the jungle cushion?” and then she sloooooowly lifts the flap, building anticipation to a fever pitch as I lean forward…and forward…and forward until she grabs me to keep me from toppling over.  Every page is like that.  And the babies in their costumes are SO cute!  Well, maybe not quite as cute as me…

   My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss: Mama thinks that this book is really well done, but I think this book is just plain fun!  It’s all about moods and colors and how everyone has good and bad days.  The art is both beautiful and beautifully wedded to the text.  My favorite color is yellow: “Then comes a yellow day and weeeeeeeeee I’m a busy, buzzy bee!”  I also have a lot of fun wacking the page when it says, “Then comes a mixed up day and WHAM! I don’t know who or what I am!”  It’s great!

   Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes by Eric Litwin and James Dean:  This book is probably too old for me, but I don’t care.  I love that CAT!  He’s blue, for goodness sake!  That’s crazy!  I especially love trying to pet his curly tail and trying to grab the yellow bird that appears on most pages.  For a book about colors, it’s pretty fantastic.  Plus, it has a nice life lesson at the end: “No matter what you step in, keep walking along and singing your song…because it’s all good!”

   Pajama Time! (Boynton on Board) by Sandra Boynton:  “Pajammy to the left.  Pajammy to the right.  Jamma jamma jamma jamma P! J!”  The alpha and omega of this post: the forever amazing Sandra Boynton.  There are some colors and qualities (fuzzy vs. not) thrown into this book to lend it some substance, but really, it’s mostly about the rhyme and rhythm.  Catchy, catchy!  Mama and I dance our way through this book every other night.  Definitely makes going to sleep a lot of fun!

Writing this post was pretty cool!  I hope you enjoyed reading my debut, and I can’t wait to get going on the next one!

Happy Reading!

–Brynn (blog co-author, age 8 months)

Clicking on the book will take you to Amazon.com, and if you decide to buy the book, a portion of your purchase comes back to me.  I, in turn, will use the profits to purchase books for our local library or for a children’s literacy project.

 

 

The Joy of Jumping on the Bandwagon: The Book with No Pictures

Hi there!

My name is Luke, I am three years old, and I am a bookaholic.

This past Christmas, Mama gave me B.J. Novak’s The Book with No Pictures.  She also gave it to three other friends of mine.  Clearly, she loves the book and put her money where her mouth is.

Sometimes Mama’s taste in books does not coincide with mine (see A Sick Day for Amos Magee), but in this case, we are in complete agreement.  The Book with No Pictures is AWESOME!  So, there are literally zero pictures in the book (unless you count the penguin symbol for Penguin Books, in which case there are exactly THREE pictures on or in the book–trust me, I counted them).  But there are crazy words that the person reading the book HAS TO SAY.  And the “person reading the book” is usually an adult, so listening to an adult make weird noises and say weird things is really quite entertaining.  Try it!  And to make that adult read the book over and over again is the ultimate power trip.  Think about it: the adult thinks that she is doing something educational for you, something “beneficial for your development,” but in reality, the adult is making a complete fool of herself and making you laugh and laugh at her as she stumbles through words like “ma-grumph-a-doo” and sings nonsense songs about her face being a bug.

Silly parent.  The joke’s on you!

I’m just sitting here enjoying the show, enjoying the book, enjoying the words, en…joy…ing…read…ing…awww, man!  I’ve been had!

   The Book with No Pictures by B.J. Novak

 

Clicking on the book will take you to Amazon.com, and if you decide to buy the book, a portion of your purchase comes back to me.  I, in turn, will use the profits to purchase books for our local library or for a children’s literacy project.

A Bookish Christmas Story

Once upon a time, my family used to travel up to Mt. Prospect, IL on Christmas Day to celebrate the holiday with my Great Aunt Rosie, Great Uncle Bob, and their daughters, Carmen and Kathy.  As we feasted on a Honeybaked ham, scalloped potatoes, Aunt Rosie’s famous layered Jello dessert, and her VERY merry spiked punch, she charmed everyone around her with her glorious smile, sparkling blue eyes, accepting attitude, and gift for making you feel important as she listened carefully and thoughtfully to everything you said.

Both Uncle Bob and Aunt Rosie loved books.  Uncle Bob was an English teacher and Aunt Rosie was an elementary school teacher, so they both understood the value of books.  For Christmas, Aunt Rosie always gave me a book.  But not just any book.  A children’s picture book.  I don’t know how she knew, even way back when I was in high school, that one day children’s books would be so important to me, but I’ve learned that you can’t question the wisdom of a perceptive soul.  For years, I kept those books with their personal Christmas inscriptions on my bookshelves amongst the Faulkner novels, Rand tombs, and Dickens masterpieces…until Luke was born.  Then I went back to them with a more discerning eye for quality, and I found them to be amazing. The Eleventh Hour: A Curious Mystery by Graeme Base, The Three Questions [Based on a story by Leo Tolstoy] by Jon Muth, and Stranger in the Woods: A Photographic Fantasy (Nature) by Carl Sams and Jean Stoick are just a few of the books she gave me.

Uncle Bob passed away a few years ago, and Aunt Rosie is now in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s.  When I saw her last Christmas, she recognized us, but she couldn’t remember our names.  She’s in an assisted living home in Arizona, and I don’t know if I will ever see her again.  But I can’t forget the books and the kindness that she showered on my family and me.  So this year, I sent her books.  Children’s picture books.

The first is called Grandpa Green by Lane Smith.  A gorgeously and cleverly illustrated Caldecott Honor Book, it’s told by an old man’s great grandson, and the reader follows the boy through an elaborately shaped topiary garden where Grandpa Green has carved each bush to represent an episode from his life.  Throughout the book, the little boy collects random things that his grandpa has forgotten: glasses, a hat, gloves, a trowel.  At the end, the boy recognizes that even though Grandpa Green is old and sometimes forgets things, the garden will always remember the important things for him.  The metaphor is just too strong to ignore.  I am the garden for Aunt Rosie.  We all are–her daughters, my family, her many friends.  Even though she can no longer remember us, we are a repository for all of the wonderful parts of her that she shared with us through the years.  She shaped us, and what’s more, her influence is now going beyond just one generation, for I am reading the books she gave me with my own children.

The second book that I sent to Aunt Rosie is one that I mentioned in my last post: Journey by Aaron Becker.  It’s the exact type of book that Aunt Rosie would have given to me–beautifully illustrated with a timeless storyline that a reader will never tire of revisiting again and again.  In it, a young girl is bored and no one in her family has time to play with her.  She discovers a piece of red chalk in her room, though, and draws a door on her wall.  She steps through the door and into a magical land where she goes on a grand adventure of imagination.  It’s a wonderful book.  I hope Aunt Rosie loves it as much as Luke and I do.

So, even though Alzheimer’s has stolen away Aunt Rosie’s memory, it does not mean that nothing of her remains.  Her appreciation and instinct for great children’s picture books will live on through me and my children.

Love you, Aunt Rosie!

–Erin, Christmas 2014

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