Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Back-to-School: 6 Great Books to Mark the Occasion

As the days grow noticeably shorter and the weather slightly cooler, our thoughts turn to the beginning of the school year. Shopping for school clothes and new school supplies,  reuniting with old friends and anticipating making new ones encourages us to look forward to the bittersweet end of summer and the first day of school.

For children just starting school (or starting at a new school) and their parents, however, the first day of school can be an overwhelming and even scary prospect. Laughing Giraffe Books suggests 6 books to help prepare for, and to celebrate the first day of school:

First Day Jitters
Written by Julie Danneberg, Illustrated by Judy Love

The first day jitters are not just for students! It is Sarah Jane Hartwell's first day at a new school, and she doesn't want to go. Children will enjoy following along with her antics, and will love the surprising twist at the end.

Wemberly Worried
Written and illustrated by Kevin Henkes

Wemberly worries about everything- especially the first day of school.Will her teacher be nice? Will she be able to find the bathroom? Will she like her snack? It turns out that Wemberly didn't need to worry!

The Kissing Hand
Written by Audrey Penn, Illustrated by Ruth E. Harper and Nancy M. Leak

Mrs. Raccoon has a unique way of helping her son, Chester, prepare for his first day of school. A special kiss in the palm of his hand provides love and reassurance throughout the day. School-bound children will love facing their first day armed with Chester's magic kiss.

Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten
Written by Joseph Slate, Illustrated by Ashley Wolff

Miss Bindergarten and her 26 students prepare for the first day of kindergarten. Fun illustrations and rhyming verse will carry children through an alphabet of school day preparation.

I am Too Absolutely Small for School
Written and illustrated by Lauren Child

Lola isn't sure that she is quite ready to start school. Youngsters will laugh along as big brother Charlie convinces her that school will be a lot of fun- even for her imaginary friend Soren Lorensen.

Richard Scarry's Great Big Schoolhouse
Written and illustrated by Richard Scary

A great big resource for everything related to school! School-bound children of all ages will love following Huckle Hat as he spends the day in Miss Honey's classroom; learning the alphabet, days of the week, numbers, shapes and colors in the process. A perfect way to prepare new students for what to expect at school.

Anyone interested in these back-to-school books may want to check out three collections that Laughing Giraffe Books offers. Back-to-SchoolA is for Apple and School Rules! (click on links for pictures and additional information) contain the highly captivating books featured above, and come with a fun game as well as a fabulous prize. Each selection is offered as either a book bundle or a book of the month club and comes fully wrapped and gift ready. A perfect way to celebrate the first day of school!

Click here to visit our website.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Frequently Asked Questions: Suggested Reading Levels

How can a book be recommended for ages 0-4 (or 4-8)? Isn't it ludicrous to think that a book might be a good fit for both a 1-year-old and a 3-year-old? Or, that a 4-year-old and 8-year-old might read at the same level?

Use these suggestions to help gauge the interest level instead of the reading level of a book. And, keep in mind that these are guidelines only!

According to the publisher's website, the suggested reading level for Felicia Bond's charming book Tumble Bumble* is ages 2 to 5 for the board book version and ages 4 to 8 for the paper back version. Interestingly, the two versions are exactly the same in terms of text. Below I have suggested some ways that children of varying ages might enjoy this fun book.

  • Chewing on the pages (board books are almost indestructible, and are literally toys at this age)
  • Brightly colored illustrations
  • Cuddling with parents or caregivers during story time
  • Hearing the voice of a loved one
  • The rhythm and cadence of the story

  • The rhyming text (either the rhythm the rhymes create, or shouting out the last word of the sentence)
  • Identifying all of the familiar animals in the story
  • Counting (9 animals and 1 boy)
  • The humorous illustrations

  • The story itself
  • The funny characters
  • The surprise ending
  • Matching the text to the illustrations
  • "Reading" or retelling the story (or their version of the story)
  • Eventually reading the story independently

As you can see, there are aspects of Tumble Bumble that make it an enjoyable read for all ages. Felicia Bond's animal filled walk was a favorite of both of my girls from a very early age, and continues to appear in our nightly reading rotation. Had I strictly adhered to the publisher's recommended reading level, I would still be waiting to introduce this favorite to my children. Let your knowledge of your children and their interests be your guide.

Laughing Giraffe Books includes Tumble Bumble in the following collections: Little Books, Big Fun and Books For Little Hands. Click on the links to order, or for more information.

* Bond, Felicia, Tumble Bumble. New York, NY: HarperCollins Children's Books, 1999.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Baby Books: What to Look For During The First 12 Months

Elementary reading specialists and co-authors of Baby Read-Aloud Basics, Caroline J. Blakemore and Barbara Weston Ramirez, have studied the language and physical development of babies up to two years of age, and through their research have identified a number of read-aloud stages and the types of books best suited for each stage.

STAGE 1: THE LISTENER (birth - 2 months)
  • Books with rhymes
  • Books read aloud before baby was born
  • Your favorite children's books
  • Board books with black-and-white patterns
  • Any reading matter of interest to you
*(Blakemore and Ramirez, p.53)

Examples include:
  • Tomie's Little Mother Goose, by Tomie dePaola. A great collection of over 24 wonderful rhymes and verses that have been childhood favorites for generations.
  • Black & White, by Tana Hoban. An accordion style fold out book featuring graphic black and white designs on contrasting backgrounds. Featured everyday items are a perfect conversation starter for the very young.

STAGE 2: THE OBSERVER (2-4 months)

  • Wordless picture books
  • Rhyming and song books
  • Board books with contrasting primary colors or bold black-and-white designs
  • Soft cloth books
  • Books that can be chanted with rhythm
*(Blakemore and Ramirez, p.70)

Examples include:
  • Let's Play!, by Michale Blake. Beautiful black and white photographs with everyday objects highlighted in contrasting primary colors. A fun introduction to common play items.
  • Fuzzy Bee and Friends, by Roger Priddy. Develop sensory awareness with this adorable cloth book full of textured fabrics, bright colors and rhyming text.

STAGE 3: THE COOER (4-8 months)
  • Homemade books with faces of family members and friends or pets
  • Mini board books that baby can easily hold and turn the pages
  • Rhyming books
  • Books with words and pictures about routines such as bathing, eating and sleeping
  • Old books or magazines that the baby can hold, manipulate, and tear
  • Touch-and-feel books that stimulate senses
  • Large books with colorful pictures and sturdy pages
  • Plastic or cloth books that can be used in the bathtub or put in mouth (teething books)
  • Books that label objects, toys, or parts of the body
  • Books with illustrations well matched to the text
*(Blakemore and Ramirez, p.87)

Examples include:
  • Farm: Touch and Feel, Dorling Kindersley Publishing. Little hands explore the textures of favorite farm animals. A fun sensory experience.
  • Baby Faces, by Margaret Miller. A great substitute for homemade books with faces, this board book features spectacularly photographs of demonstrative baby faces. Each photograph clearly illustrates the accompanying text.
  • Where is Baby's Belly Button?, by Karen Katz. An adorable lift-the-flap book focused on parts of the body.
  • Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You?, by Dr. Seuss. Sounds come alive in this brightly illustrated, lively mini board book from one of our most cherished children's authors.

STAGE 4: THE BABBLER (8-12 months)
  • Books with accompanying CDs and tapes by artists such as Raffi, with favorite children's songs like "The Wheels on the Bus" and "Old McDonald Had a Farm" and many other favorites that have repetitive choruses.
  • Homemade books about baby's first birthday or other experiences
  • Rhyming books
  • Books that label objects, toys or parts of the body
  • Books reflecting baby's daily experiences, such as animals at the zoo, construction site vehicles, or shopping with parents
  • Speciality books with different shapes, textures, and sizes, with mirrors or noise buttons
  • Books exploring space and time concepts, such as inside, under, after, and next
  • Books illustrating action words, such as running, jumping, or sliding
  • Books that encourage children to chime in and repeat a word or phrase
*(Blakemore and Ramirez, p.103)

Examples include:
  • Wheels on the Bus, by Raffi. Rhythm, rhyme and repetition unite in this version of a favorite childrens' song. Even very young children will love singing along to its repetitive chorus and joining in with accompanying hand motions.
  • Yummy, Yucky, by Leslie Patricelli. Children will love repeating "yummy" and "yucky" in response to a spirited toddlers antics- spaghetti is yummy, but worms are most definitely yucky!

Anyone interested in books targeted to infants in their first year may want to check out three collections that Laughing Giraffe Books offers. Oh Baby! , Peek-a-Boo Baby! and Books for Baby (click on links for pictures and additional information) contain the highly captivating books featured above, and come with a fun game to play with baby as well as a fabulous prize. Each selection is offered as either a book bundle or a book of the month club and comes fully wrapped and gift ready. A perfect baby shower or new arrival gift!

Click here to visit our website.

Laughing Giraffe Books' Book Bundles make a perfect gift!

** Read aloud stages and suggestions on the types of books to read at each stage are from the following source:

Blakemore, Caroline J., and Barbara Weston Ramirez. Baby Read-Aloud Basics. New York, 2006.