Because I gave a presentation to awesome librarians this month and I couldn’t resist sharing all the great ideas we came up with, you get a bonus post this month! And because you’re getting a bonus post, I hope you’ll allow me to indulge in a bit of horn-tooting.
My debut picture book, GROUNDHOG’S DILEMMA, illustrated by Matt Faulkner (swoon!) will be published by Charlesbridge this December 1st, and it recently received a good professional review:
“Faulkner’s anthropomorphic animals and vibrant colors recall Uncle Wiggly, and the illustrations are packed with humorous details that repay rereadings. Remenar’s graceful prose and the subtlety of her message, pitched to older preschoolers and early-elementary students, are a good match. A sly and funny take on truth-telling and friendship.” – Kirkus, Oct. 2015
Ok, horn-tooting over.
I spent a morning with a roomful of youth librarians and bunches of new books. We came up with these activities revolving around the key early literacy skills: Talk, Sing, Read, Write, Play. (Look here for lots more good stuff from Every Child Ready to Read.) Many of our activities can be used with a variety of books. I’m including our list of ideas and the books we shared. Enjoy!
* Read Rufus Goes to School by Kim T. Griswell and talk about what you need for school, what you shouldn’t do in school, and favorite books you know how to read.
* Read Groundhog’s Dilemma by Kristen Remenar and talk about your favorite/least favorite parts of winter and spring. Talk about animals that hibernate and those that don’t. Talk about why the characters in the story wanted or didn’t want Groundhog to see his shadow.
* Read Clothesline Clues to Sports People Play by Andy Robert Davies and encourage kids to guess the sport. Discuss unfamiliar terms like foil and quiver.
* Use nonfiction books with photos of bees to go along with Bee Dance by Rick Chrustowski. Bring in a honeycomb and give kids bendy straws so they can act like the bees in the book.
* Read Pepper and Poe by Frann Preston-Gannon and discuss why Pepper feels the way he does.
* Discuss good and bad manners after reading The Entertainer by Emma Dodd.
* Encourage kids to respond to “which would you choose?” while reading Hot Rod Hamster by Cynthia Lord.
* Sing rhyming words, even nonsense ones, after reading Hi! by Ethan Long.
* Sing “Milkshake” after reading Lulu’s Party by Kit Chase.
* Sing the book Old Mikamba Had a Farm by Rachel Isadora.
* Sing “The Days of the Week” song after reading Pepper and Poe by Frann Preston-Gannon, or “If You’re Happy and You Know It”.
* Sing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” after reading Groundhog’s Dilemma by Kristen Remenar.
* Read nonfiction books about groundhogs and Groundhog’s Day along with Groundhog’s Dilemma by Kristen Remenar. (It delights me every time I type it!) Use puppets to help narrate/read the story.
* Use magnetic or felt letters to rearrange and read aloud, after reading Little Bird’s Bad Word by Jacob Grant.
* Kids can decorate the first letter of their name or make pictures with die-cut letters after reading Alphabeasties by Sharon Werner and Sarah Forss.
* Write your own “wumbers” inspired by Wumbers by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld.
* Draw or write about something you cherish after reading Thankful by Eileen Spinelli.
* Trace your shoes and decorate the tracings after reading Whose Shoe? by Eve Bunting.
* Write a letter or draw a picture to convince Groundhog to predict winter or spring after reading Groundhog’s Dilemma by Kristen Remenar. Kids can write and draw about a time when they’ve had to resolve a dilemma. Outside with chalk, or inside on paper, kids can trace their own shadows!
* Create maps of your playground, classroom, school, library, etc. after reading Henry’s Map by David Elliot.
* Paint Q-tip paintings of trees inspired by Fall is Not Easy by Marty Kelley.
* Write your own “word equations” inspired by This Plus That by Amy Krouse Rosenthal.
* Use a string and pin it to a world map to show all the places from Because Amelia Smiled by David Ezra Stein. Compare it to Madlenka and Nothing Ever Happens on My Block.
* Act out Uh Oh! by Shutta Crum.
* Play a version of “Going On a Bear Hunt” after reading In the Canyon by Liz Garton Scanlon.
* Incorporate different dances like The Hokey Pokey and The Twist and act out The Sky Is Falling by Mark Teague. Have a dance party!
* Create hand/body motions and make the sound effects for Niňo Wrestles the World by Yuyi Morales. Come up with other characters who might want to wrestle!
* Move like cats and act out the emotions from Pepper and Poe by Frann Preston-Gannon.
* Have a storytime party where kids act out what should and should not happen at a party after reading The Entertainer by Emma Dodd.
* Paint small boxes like houses after reading Vincent Paints His House by Tedd Arnold.
* Rearrange letter tiles to show how one word can become another after reading One Boy by Laura Vaccaro Seeger.
* Act out Groundhog’s Dilemma by Kristen Remenar. (Still fun to type!) Little ones can curl up in a box and pop out for Groundhog’s Day to look for their shadows, or try making shadow animals on a wall.
It’s almost Halloween, and you want a book to share with your students that will give them shivers, but not nightmares. Pull out these picture books about a scary giant and the clever little boy who defeats him, and you’ll be hitting the Common Core State Standard of Integrating Knowledge and Ideas while you thrill your listeners.
Inspired by a South African folktale, Abiyoyo is a storysong written by the folk music master Pete Seeger and illustrated by Michael Hays. A little boy is always in trouble for making noise with his music. His father is shunned by the neighbors for playing too many pranks, making things disappear with his magic wand. But when fearful Abiyoyo comes, the little boy sings until the giant falls down from dancing, and the father uses his magic wand to make Abiyoyo disappear.
Compare this classic to its sequel, Abiyoyo Returns written by Pete Seeger and Paul DuBois Jacobs, and illustrated by Michael Hays. The little boy who made Abiyoyo disappear is now a grown man, and his town needs a giant’s help. With the help of the magic wand, Abiyoyo returns and the townspeople teach him to help rather than to harm.
There’s a terrific “Reading Rainbow” video of Pete Seeger telling/singing the first book (available for free on Youtube) and an audio cd available as well. Share the audio recording of Abiyoyo along with the book so your students can listen to a master storyteller. (You’ll enjoy listening to him as much as your students do, and it’s amazing how listening to a different voice than the one they hear all the time can perk up ears during a read-aloud.) Before reading Abiyoyo Returns, predict with your students how the people will handle Abiyoyo when he comes back. Contrast how Abiyoyo is the problem in one story and the solution in the other.For a fun art extension, get dowels from the hardware store (you can find them for less than $1 – cut them in half and they’re even less expensive!) and decorate your own magic wands. If your students are plagued with Halloween wiggles, let them sing the Abiyoyo song and dance around until they fall down. When you wave your wand to magically transport students back to their seats, their Halloween wiggles will have vanished!Read More
When I see the words “O beautiful for spacious skies”, I automatically sing in my head “for amber waves of grain”, but I didn’t know some of the other verses of this song that, for me, are so moving:
“O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved,
And mercy more than life!”
Katherine Lee Bates wrote the patriotic poem America the Beautiful in 1893, and Wendell Minor illustrated the verses to make the perfect book to help us celebrate our Independence Day. An introduction at the beginning of the book gives a bit of history about the poem, but the rest of the book is filled with Minor’s gorgeous paintings that bring to life the words we’ve sung for over 100 years.
Before reading the book, sing the familiar first verse of the song with students. The imagery is lovely, but may be hard for young ones to envision. What do amber waves of grain look like? Or purple mountains above the fruited plain? Ask students to do a quick draw of what the song makes them picture in their minds. Then, read aloud a bit of the introduction where we learn that Katherine Lee Bates wrote this poem after traveling from Massachusetts to Colorado. As she traveled, she wrote in her diary about the amazing, diverse landscapes she saw in our big, beautiful country. Read/sing the book once straight through with your students without stopping to comment just for the enjoyment of the book. Then, go back and revisit how the artist interpreted the poet’s words.
Minor includes in the endnotes the settings for each of his paintings. On the map in the back of the book, show students where you might see those fruited plains, those purple-shadowed mountains. Bates wrote her poem back before Alaska and Hawaii were part of our country – what might she have said about those states in her poem? Talk about your state and what its natural features look like. Have students draw and write about the beautiful state they live in, and celebrate the America in which we are so lucky to live.Read More
May 8, 2012, the children’s book world lost an honored artist/author/illustrator, Maurice Sendak. Most people remember his book Where the Wild Things Are, but Sendak was by no means a one-hit wonder. He wrote and/or illustrated dozens of children’s books, so today, I’m mentioning a few of my favorites by the master from his 1962 collection, “The Nutshell Library”.
Pierre: a cautionary tale in five chapters and a prologue is a favorite from my childhood. Pierre is so apathetic that he answers “I don’t care,” in any situation, even when a lion asks, “Then I’ll eat you, if I may.” Don’t worry, Pierre is fine when he’s shaken out of the lion by the doctor, and his close call with death has made him realize that he does care after all.
Alligators All Around is Sendak’s clever, alliterative alphabet book. It is short and snappy enough to keep the interest of the littlest ones, but the humorous art is sly enough for older kids as well:
“A: alligators all around
B: bursting balloons
C: catching colds
D: doing dishes”
It’s a great writing prompt for a whole class or small group activity, writing two word alliterative phrases for each letter of the alphabet, choosing an A animal as the character to tie all the letters together.
whoopy chicken soup
I adore Chicken Soup with Rice: a book of months. I visited a first grade classroom where the teacher had a poster for each month with the verse by Sendak for children to illustrate. Every month has the repetition of (something) once, (something) twice, (something) chicken soup with rice, so even emerging readers can chime in with confidence.
The “Nutshell Library” books were set to music by Carole King. You can find the songs on her cd “Really Rosie”, and you can find the animated television special made in 1975 on VHS if you roll old school. I love how kids instantly spot the similarities of Pierre and the boy on the cover of Chicken Soup with Rice to Max from Where the Wild Things Are. Share some Sendak books with your kids and talk about the similarities and differences in the art and in the plots. Play the music from “Really Rosie” and let your students sing the “Nutshell Library” books so your students can be, to paraphrase Alligators All Around, “S: singing Sendak!”Read More