Wednesday, November 30, 2011

We've Moved!

It has been ages since my last post, and all for a good reason. We have rethought, redesigned and relocated our blog, all with the purpose of providing you with the best tips, tricks and information focused on children's literature and reading.

We offer our latest blog post just in time for the holidays-

Please visit our new blog to read this timely article. If you like what you read, be sure to follow us!

Thank you!

PS- This is the last time we will post to this blog. Be sure to follow our new blog today so that you don't miss a thing.

Friday, September 30, 2011

October Giveaway: Follow and Win!

We are celebrating Halloween all month long! During the month of October, all followers of this blog will be automatically entered in a random drawing to take place on October 31st.
The winner will receive:
Monster Mayhem
A monster sized collection! Meet Frankenstein, ogres, and the elusive "monster at the end of the book." Learn how to scare a monster, care for a monster, and all about how a monster is born. Monster Mayhem is a collection of 7 ridiculously funny books perfect for the monster aficionado.
This gift collection includes: 6 hardcover and 1 paperback picture books and Laughing Giraffe Books; exclusive motivating game, all of which will arrive beautifully wrapped. Upon completion, kids will enjoy receiving a pair of Monster Feet in a separate package. Retails for $114.
To enter, select either of the following options located on the right hand side of the blog:

Follow by e-mail:

Enter your email in the space provided. Don't forget to forward your verification message to to complete your entry.

Join this site:

Click this option and sign in using Google, Twitter or Yahoo! This is the only step you need to take.

And, don't forget to comment on our posts for extra chances to win. Each appropriate comment is an additional entry.

Pass it on!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Timeless Authors, New Tales

Everyone can name a book or two that they remember fondly from their childhood. For many, these were written by prolific authors including Shel Silverstein, Maurice Sendak and Dr. Seuss. Lucky for us, each of these authors has released a new book within the past month - some posthumously- to delight and inspire us. Take the time to revisit these favorite authors from your childhood, or to introduce young readers to these new tales.

Shel Silverstein (1930-1999)
A poet, singer-songwriter, musician, composer, cartoonist, and screenwriter, Silverstein was best known for his children's books. He is the author of "The Giving Tree," "Where the Sidewalk Ends," and "A Light In the Attic" among others.

His newest collection, released September 20th, features never before seen poems and drawings carefully selected by his family from his personal archives.

"Every Thing On It"
Learn about the 28 uses for spaghetti, what happen when a hair dryer runs in reverse, and the symptoms of the disease "lovetobutcants." This newest volume of poems and illustrations by Silverstein will amuse and delight as much as his much loved classics.

Maurice Sendak (1928 - )
Maurice Sendak is an author/illustrator of children's books and a producer of operas and ballets for both television and stage. Best known for his books "Where the Wild Things Are" and "In the Knight Kitchen," Sendak has written and/or illustrated an impressive number of memorable children's books.

"Bumble-ardy," released on September 6th, is the first books that Sendak has both written and illustrated in 30 years. The story evolved from an animated segment on "Sesame Street" that originally aired in the early 1970s.

Bumble-ardy has missed his first eight birthdays due to his parent's dislike of anything fun. Living with his aunt-divine, Adeline, on his ninth birthday, Bumble-ardy is determined to celebrate. He rounds up every grubby-swine he can find and parties while Aunt Adeline works at Smith & Klein. How will it end? Humorous rhyming verse and animated pictures will have children delighting in the antics of the birthday pig.

Dr. Seuss (1904-1991)
Theodor Seuss Geisel was a writer, poet and cartoonist who often wrote under the pen names of Dr. Seuss and Theo LeSieg. The author of 46 children's books, Dr. Seuss counts "Green Eggs and Ham," "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," and "Horton Hears a Who!" among his works. His most famous work is arguably "The Cat and the Hat," a children's primer created using only 225 "new reader" vocabulary words.

His most recent book, released posthumously in September 2011, features 7 rarely seen stories originally published in magazines between 1950-1951.

"The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories"
A collection of seven original stories from one of America's favorite authors. Children and adults will delight on the stories of scheming cat engaged in tricking an innocent duck, a boy with "far-flung career fantasies," and the story that was the inspiration for the bathtub-ring scene in "The Cat and The Hat Comes Back."

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Rosh Hashanah: Books to Celebrate With

Sundown on Wednesday, September 28th signals the start of Rosh Hashanah, one of the most important holidays in the Jewish tradition. A celebration of the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah is full of symbolism, sweet treats, and reflection. Here are a few books perfect for introducing young children to this important holiday:

Happy Birthday, World: A Rosh Hashanah Celebration by Latifa Berry Kropf
This board book focuses on the parallels between a little boy and The World celebrating their respective birthdays.  On your birthday you eat cake, blow out candles and get birthday presents. On The Birthday of the World,  Rosh Hashanah, we eat apples dipped in honey, light candles and give presents (or tzedakah). A unique spin on the holiday that young children can relate to.

It's Shofar Time! by Latifa Berry Kropf
Filled with full-color photographs, this informative book focuses on the symbolism of Rosh Hashanah. Learn about the sounds the shofar makes (translated to mean "Listen!," "Get ready for the new year!" and "Let's make this year a good one!); the tradition of tashlich (throwing crumbs into the water to say "I'm sorry"); and why we eat sweet foods (for a sweet new year). Preschoolers will enjoy learning about this important celebration.

Sammy Spider's First Rosh Hashanah by Sylvia A. Rouss
Sammy the spider learns all about Rosh Hashanah by watching the Shapiro families' preparations. He admires the beautiful cards the family receives, the round challahs Josh and his mother bake, and the apples and honey the Shapiro's will eat for a happy new year. What will happen when Sammy gets too close to the honey?

Shanah Tovah! Happy New Year!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Playing With Color

Children are back to school, Fall activities have started up again, and the focus is once again on the ABCs and 1,2,3s. Take advantage of a few minutes of afternoon downtime to focus on colors with these charming books and fun activities.

Mouse Paint by Ellen Stoll Walsh (Ages 0-3)
Three white mice find some jars of red, blue and yellow paint. The mice have fun playing with the paint and learning about colors.

My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss (Ages 0-4)
Colors and moods are paired together in this creative book by prolific children's author Dr. Seuss. A great springboard for talking about feelings.

Little Blue and Little Yellow by Leo Lionni (Ages 3-8)
Little Blue and Little Yellow are best friends who hug each other so hard they turn green! What will they do when their parents don't recognize them?


Finger Paint: Place a dollop of blue, yellow and red paints on a paper plate. Give children a large piece of easel or butcher paper and encourage them to mix the three primary colors to create new colors. When the paint has dried, be sure to label each new color with its formula (i.e. red + yellow = orange).

Make A Mood Collage: Select a piece of colored construction paper to represent a favorite mood. Create a collage using images from magazines and other sources that you believe fit with your chosen mood. For example a collage of rainbows, beaches, birthday hats and dogs mounted on yellow construction paper might represent "happy." Be sure to label your collage.

Mix Frosting: Begin with a few small containers of white frosting. Carefully add drop of food coloring to the frosting, making sure to stir after each addition. Let children experiment with adding different colors, different quantities of food coloring, and mixing the jars of food coloring together. For extra fun, be sure to use your new frosting colors to decorate cookies, cupcakes or cake.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Remembering September 11th, 2001

As the decennial anniversary approaches, we are surrounded by reminders of September 11th, 2001. TV stations replay horrifying footage of the plane hitting the twin towers, newspapers are filled with personal recollections of the day, and follow-up stories on the families of victims populate the web. So vivid are our recollections, that many of us remember exactly where we were and what we were doing at 8:46 that September morning.

But, what about our children who weren't around on that fateful day 10 years ago, yet are still privy to these circulating images and stories? Children who may not be familiar with the tragic events, or who might be confused by the sniptets they have overheard. How do we broach the topic of 9/11in an informative way that is age appropriate and not overly graphic?

The following two stories focus on touching responses to 9/11 that treat the destruction and devastation of the day as a background story, not as the main topic. As a result, you can determine how deep you want to delve into the events of 9/11, and adjust to your child's needs and reactions.

"14 Cows For America," by Carmen Agra Deedy and Wilson Kimeli Naiyomah
This story focus on a Maasai tribe member who happened to be studying in New York City in September of 2011. Haunted by the devastation and injustices of the day he returns to his tribe for permission to gift his cow- a symbol of life- to America in an international show of support. Not only does the council grant Kimeli's request, but gifts an additional 13 cows.

While the story focuses on Kimeli's trip back to Kenya and the gifting of the cows, the events of 9/11 are referenced. Kimeli speaks of an event that "burned a hole in his heart," refering to "buildings so tall they can touch the sky," "fires so hot they can melt iron," and "smoke and dust so thick they can block out the sun." These descriptions provide a spring board for discussing the tragic event, but do not make them the focus of the story.

"Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey," by Maria Kalman
Past its prime, The John J. Harvey is pulled from his duty as New York Harbor fireboat, slated to be scrapped. A group of eight friends, eager for a piece of history, save the historic fireboat and work to restore it to its former glory. Now a pleasure vessel, the Harvey is well known in the rivers it frequents. On September 11th, when firetruck scramble to fight the flames at the World Trade Center due to damaged and destroyed hydrants, the John J. Harvey answers the frantic call for help. For four days and nights Harvey helps to fight the flames along side New York's remaining two fireboats.

Although the story mentions to destruction and devastation of the day- "The sky filled with fire and smoke. The buildings exploded and fell down to the ground. Many people were hurt. Many lives were lost."- it focuses on the response of the people, and the heroic role of the John J. Harvey as they all came together to help in the aftermath of the tower collapse.

These read alouds provide a perfect opportunity to discuss the events of September 11th, 2001 in a safe, comforting environment. References to the events of that day encourage conversation and discussion, but are truly just a sidebar to the heartwarming central stories. Just be sure to keep a box of tissues nearby!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

7 Essential Skills Every Kindergartener Needs: The Role of Children's Books

As Labor Day approaches, and the end of summer draws to a close, our thoughts turn to the first day of school. And while parents of children of all ages worry about their kids as a new school year begins, parents of soon to be kindergartners are particularly susceptible. For many, kindergarten is the official start to their academic career and will set the pace for how they progress through school. The good news is that one of the best ways to prepare our children for kindergarten is through exposure to books and read alouds, something many parents have likely been doing since their children were born.  Here is a look at seven essential skills every kindergartner needs, and how children’s books play a critical role in helping to build those skills. 

Teachers at every level look for students who ask questions and are eager to explore and discover. Picture books play an essential role in helping develop this curiosity in young children. Start by reading books focused on your child’s favorite topic, and follow the connections and tangents that organically occur. For example, an interest in Cinderella might lead to reading about Cinderella stories from other cultures and countries, which in turn might lead to learning about those countries or plotting them on a map. It might also lead to an interest in other fairy tales- classic and modern versions as well as fractured fairy tales. Or, it might spur an interest in ballerinas, leaning about ballet steps and terminology, and discovering the stories behind the classic ballets. Exploring a variety of books and topics is a fun way to build enthusiasm towards learning.

Reading (and read alouds) is the perfect way to develop the attention skills necessary for success in kindergarten- the ability to listen to the teacher, follow directions and focus on learning. These skills are learned through time spent with parents enjoying books, and are built up gradually. Do you remember the first time you read to your child? Think of how far you have come! Children who enter school without these skills are at a distinct disadvantage, both academically and behaviorally.

Exposure to children’s books and read alouds is essential for vocabulary development. At its most basic, the more you hear words, the better your vocabulary, and the easier it is to learn new concepts and information. On a deeper level, books expose us to a different and more specialized set of vocabulary words than we hear during every day conversation. For example, “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle, includes the word “cocoon.” When was the last time you worked cocoon into a conversation with your pre-schooler? The more books you expose your children to, the better prepared they will be for kindergarten.

Books are a fun, non-threatening way to foster basic letter and number recognition, as well as introduce shapes and colors. Favorites such as “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom” and “Mouse Paint” directly teach young children these basic concepts. However, these concepts are also learned indirectly through repeat exposure to the printed word and spoken word. Again, children who enter school without being exposed to the above are at a disadvantage compared to their peers.

This is the most obvious benefit from early exposure to children’s literature, an intuitive understanding of how books work. How do you hold a book? Which way does a page turn? Pre-readers must understand that there is a word / text correspondence (what you are reading is what is written) as well as a picture/text correspondence (the words directly reflect the pictures). These are essential pre-reading skills that are easily picked up by children who are frequently exposed to books.

Phonemic awareness is the ability to hear and break down the subtle sounds in words. The foundation for this skill is built through exposure to rhyming and repetitive refrains. Dr. Seuss’ nonsense words help children focus on the individual and changing phonemes of each word. And, repetitive refrains in nursery rhymes and books based on favorite songs allow children to accurately predict the next word or rhyme. By calling attention to the subtle sounds in words, we are teaching our children valuable skills for reading and academic success.

Through the sharing of books at a pre-reading stage, children learn to think critically at a very basic level. Modeled by their parents, and reinforced through discussion, they learn to ask themselves questions such as: What do you think happened? How would you feel if that happened to you? The ability to ask and answer these questions builds the foundations for more complex critical thinking skills.

Whether you are preparing to send your child to kindergarten next month, or in a few years, you can be confident in knowing that the time spent browsing through libraries and books stores, the nights curled up re-reading a favorite story, and the hours spent searching for yet another book about trains have been wisely spent. Children’s books are an essential element in the preparation for kindergarten. So, the next time your child asks for “just one more story” be sure to say yes!