Feed Me Books Friday: Answers to All Your Questions

Friday, July 22, 2011

Well, Almost All…
You won’t find suggestions here for the doozies – like where babies come from or what happened to the hamster – but I do have two good book suggestions for most of the others. Preschoolers and kindergarteners are notorious for their curiosity, and enormous cognitive growth occurs during these years as they explore, discover, and question the world around them.
Busy Minds, Lots to See
Richard Scarry's What Do People Do All DayOne of B’s favorite books for some time now has been Richard Scarry’s What Do People Do All Day? It started out as a library check-out, which we renewed until our limit was up, and then I purchased a copy of our own. It includes a collection of stories that take place in Scarry’s famed Busytown. Stories include fighting a fire, building a house, and baking bread, among others. In typical Scarry fashion, the narrative is accompanied by lots of details and labels within the illustrations. B loves reading and re-reading individual stories – some he relates to experiences he is somewhat to thoroughly familiar with (like construction of a road) and others are adventures into new territory (like a trip on a cruise ship). I discovered when I went online to look for it that there is actually an earlier edition that includes some extra stories that might seem a little “dated” or “non-p.c.” to a modern audience. We didn’t miss them, since the library version we had checked out was the later edition, but I am curious – I don’t see a whole lot of value in “revision” of literature carried out by editors.
Lots of Options, Lots to Learn
This week we got to pick out a new book as a prize at our library as part of the summer reading program. All About Things People Do, by Melanie and Chris Rice, is like a slightly younger cousin of Scarry’s collection. Its copyright is 1989, meaning some advances in technology, diversity, and gender equality, but still outside the age of laptops and cell phones. Each page spread has a different theme, including Doing Repairs, Entertainers, and Bringing the News. Many themes include a sequence of tasks, some simply have snapshot-style descriptions of various professions. Many pages also include insets that highlight activities children can try within the theme, like making a clay pot in the Hands at Work theme or identifying athletic gear in the Sports theme. There is also a useful index of professions that helps when your little one gets curious.
Appropriate for: preschoolers, primary grades.
We’re enjoying a variety of activities and other rewards as part of the summer reading program at our library. My explorer, B, is really enjoying the travel theme. Are you signed up at your library? I’d love to hear what’s going on in other places!


Feed Me Books Friday: Bring on the Bravery!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Curing the Cowardly

B started swimming lessons this week. He was totally looking forward to it, thrilled by the idea of learning new skills to use in the pool at home. We’ve been talking about class starting for weeks. He made it in the pool for the first class, was in tears by the end, and has refused to return. His cowardice has nothing to do with actual fears – he’s a decent swimmer already, he can touch the bottom of the pool, and he dives for toys in our pool like they’re pirate treasure. His teachers are friendly young women energetic enough to motivate a snail. So what’s he so afraid of? It’s COLD (relatively). We keep a solar cover on our pool, and thanks to our sunny climate, we enjoy balmy pool temperatures all summer long. The public pool is outdoors and considerably less like bath-water. I’ve tried all sorts of reasoning (the ocean, the sprinklers, and the slip-n-slide are all colder, but fun, he’ll be warm once he gets moving, etc.) I’ve tried bribery (we’ll stop for a treat after if he gets in for lessons.) I’ve regrettably resorted to threats (we won’t be able to sign up for sports any more if you don’t keep your commitments.) Nothing seems to entice him. So for now, T and I are splashing away in the parent-tot class I signed up for thinking I’d need to keep T busy while B swam. Help! What’s a mom to do?
Humor Helps
The Tale of Custard the DragonIt’s easy to get wrapped up and weighed down by frustration like I’ve experienced this week with the swimming lesson stand-off. I’m trying to walk a fine line between taking it seriously enough to show B that his fear is irrational and his commitment is required, and taking it lightly enough to not let it ruin my day. Books that turn expectations upside down are just the thing to lighten the mood. One we recently enjoyed that fit right into our discussion of bravery is Ogden Nash’s The Tale of Custard the Dragon. I came across it on Brimful Curiosities during poetry month (yes, mentioned Janelle last week too – she’s awesome) and requested it from our library. Loved the funny, rhyming verses, vibrant language, and entertaining illustrations by Lynn Munsinger. Custard is a cowardly dragon belonging to a young lady named Belinda. She and her other pets find cowardice a surprising trait for a “realio, trulio” dragon and he even endures some teasing from them. However, in a moment of truth involving a menacing pirate, Custard and his mouthy friends show their true colors. There’s not a moral here about bravery or friendship – don’t look for it. Instead, enjoy it for the fun rhymes, silly language, and curious plot. And when life has you rolling your eyes, try to face each challenge with a “realio, trulio” smile.
Appropriate for: preschoolers, primary grades
How do you coax a reluctant child to try something new? We’ve got one week left!

photo credit: capl@washjeff.edu


Feed Me Books Friday: Sky Watching

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Day and Night

Summer is the perfect time for gazing up at the sky. Whether it’s laying in the grass and soaking up the sun, or staying up past bedtime on a balmy night to study the stars, summer skies are hard to beat.
On the Horizon
I am celebrating my win from Brimful Curiosities by pulling my telescope out of the attic. B has become super interested in planets, stars, and space lately, so I was thrilled to win the contest on the Brimful blog for the Klutz Guide to the Galaxy. It arrived just before our vacation so we haven’t had a chance to “dig in,” but a flip though the pages is very enticing – can’t wait! Must mention – love the contests Janelle hosts and the round-ups she puts together every week – if you’re not following @Iambrimful, you should be! This particular contest involved guessing the time shown on a backyard sundial – our recent sundial crafting seems to have paid off in helping me estimate closely!
In the Rearview
It Looked Like Spilt Milk By Charles G. ShawWe’ve experienced some unusually humid weather this week. And while not especially comfortable, it has been accompanied by some gorgeous cloud formations and thunderheads. Beautiful to behold, and fodder for the imagination. It takes some complex cognitive development for children to expand beyond the literal (it looks like a cloud) to the imaginative (it looks like a sailboat). It Looked Like Spilt Milk, by Charles G. Shaw was an ideal choice for the weather and the creative nudge we needed. Very simply stated but a brilliant conversation piece, each page features a cloud resembling an object that is identified, then dismissed: “Sometimes it looked like a rabbit, but it wasn’t a rabbit.” The illustrations are a great way to discuss how we each perceive things in our own way. If you’ve ever cloud-gazed and had trouble describing what you saw, you’ll appreciate the ability to physically point to the features and say, “this looks like a ______ to me.” Literal and concrete toddlers developing into abstract and imaginative preschoolers will benefit from the practice in visualizing and accepting multiple interpretations.
On the Wall
As a fun extension, we did some abstract painting and then considered what it might resemble or represent. I had seen this idea for string painting and itching to try it, so I was glad the opportunity came along. 
  • Begin by laying several 10-12” lengths of string across a tray, cardboard scrap, or even some heavy paper. 
  • Squeeze dollops of tempera or acrylic paint next to one another on the string. 
  • Carefully pick up the now rainbow string and lay it on your paper. 
  • We chose to crease the paper first, then lay all the strings on one half and fold the paper over and smush the paint between the two sides. 
  • You can also drag the string, but the rainbow effect gets muddled with too much movement. 
Hoping to pick up some white paint this weekend to make some spilt milk style paintings on blue paper.
Appropriate for: toddlers, preschoolers
Do you prefer to sky-gaze in the day or night – what’s the most interesting thing you’ve seen?

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