Friday, November 30, 2012

Advent Reading Countdown

Are you looking for a new way to begin the countdown to Christmas?  We do a paper chain (alternating links of red and green), an Advent box with 25 small doors that open to a small item each day, and last year, we started a fun, new tradition—Advent reading countdown!

We gather 25 books about Christmas, wrap them up in Christmas wrapping paper, number them 1-25, and put them in a big basket.  Then, each morning, the numbered gift is opened and read.  It’s a fun event for children to anticipate each day, and helps keep the Christmas books in rotation.  Some of the books we use are on our home library shelves all year, but the thrill of unwrapping a gift adds to the excitement of December!

Our local used bookstore has quite a selection of Christmas books priced $1-$2, so we added some new ones this year.  You could easily modify this to use library books or not do the full 25 days, but wait until the week before Christmas.   To see some of the books we read last year, click here.  We’ll be adding more
Christmas books in upcoming weeks.

The focus for us is to have some meaningful reading time during a busy season.   We hope you will find time to sit down and read with your children during this important time of year!  Merry Christmas!

Santa Paws

If you and/or your children like looking at funny pictures of dogs and cats, then you’ll enjoy Santa Paws, by Rachael Hale.  This board book, written in rhyme, has delightful photos of dogs and cats dressed for Christmas to accompany the story.  This is a great book to introduce very young children to a picture walk.  The photos are cute and fun.  Even primary children will enjoy reading the book.  Have fun!

*What is your favorite picture in the book?
*Do these animals remind you of any pets?
*Can you count how many dogs are in the book?  How many cats?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Cookies, Bite-Size Life Lessons

Cookies, Bite-Size Life Lessons, written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and illustrated by Jane Dyer, is a beautiful book exploring character traits.  Cookies are used as the item to depict how the character traits (examples:  respect, compassion, loyalty, etc.,) are defined in various situations.  The book can be read in its entirety, but it a page or two can be read and discussed when needed.  I think this book is a great teaching tool for families and classrooms.  The pages are interesting while also exemplifying how our actions affect others.  And, as an added bonus, a recipe for chocolate chip cookies is included in the back of the book!

*Which part of this book did you like the best?
*Have you shown any of these character traits?
*Which character traits are important in a friendship?

Monday, November 26, 2012


A beautiful story of friendship and great illustrations characterize Otis, a book written and illustrated by Loren Long.  The friendship of Otis (a tractor) and a calf is developed through the beginning of the story.  The reader is drawn into the story by the tractor’s positive outlook on life.  He likes to work and enjoys his life.  The calf is calmed by Otis and follows him around the farm.  Sadly, a big yellow tractor eventually replaces Otis.  However, when the calf is stranded in Mud Pond and no one else can rescue her, Otis comes to the rescue.  Once again the friends are united!

*Why do you think Otis and the calf became friends?
*How do you think Otis felt when the yellow tractor came to the farm?
*What do you think Otis and the calf are doing now?

Monday, November 19, 2012

Thanksgiving Review

We hope that you and your family are preparing for a meaningful Thanksgiving!  If you're looking for some more Thanksgiving books to read, here are some that we reviewed last year:

Thanksgiving is for Giving Thanks

T is for Turkey

Five Silly Turkeys

The Littlest Pilgrim

Also remember it's a fun time to collect memories by videoing your children re-telling the Thanksgiving story in their own words.  You can create some great memories by doing this and showing them to your children and extended family members each year.  
Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Leaves on the Trees

Learning more about nature is a high priority in our home!  We love to look at nature guides to learn more, but it is often difficult to find simple words and illustrations.  The Leaves on the Trees, by Thom Wiley, is a good way to introduce leaf identification to young children.  The simple text is accompanied by illustrations of different kinds of leaves as seen in the fall.  The repeating refrain that autumn is here reinforces the changes that are taking place in the leaves’ color.   This is a great book to take along on an autumn walk!

*How many of the leaves can you find?
*Which leaf is your favorite?
*Are there any other ways to describe the different kinds of leaves?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

One is a Feast for Mouse

Teaching gratitude is important to our family.  The book, One is a Feast for Mouse, A Thanksgiving Tale, written by Judy Cox and illustrated by Jeffrey Ebbeler, is a fun, engaging story that lends itself to good family discussion.  Mouse goes searching for Thanksgiving leftovers with the mantra, “Give thanks….One will be a feast for me”.  But as more tempting foods appear, one becomes more and more.  The author and illustrator paint vivid pictures as Mouse starts accumulating more than he needs or can handle.  Mouse has to scramble quickly as Cat challenges his feast. We like this book because we enjoy reading about Mouse and the lesson he learns about giving thanks for what is sufficient.  We hope reading this book will help you and your family as you contemplate giving thanks!

*What’s your favorite Thanksgiving food?
*What is the moral of this story?
*Have you ever felt like Mouse?

Monday, November 12, 2012

Fall Mixed Up

Fall Mixed Up, written by Bob Raczka and illustrated by Chad Cameron is a humorous look at fall happenings.  Using a rhyming pattern, the author tells about fall, except the events are all wrong!  For example, “apples turn orange, pumpkins turn red” according to the rhyme.  Primary school age children will especially enjoy the humor and be quick to point out what’s wrong.  We had some good laughs reading this book!

*Which “mix-up” did you think was the funniest?
*Which picture did you like the best?
*How many “mix-ups” did you find?
*Can you think of a rhyme to add to this book?

Friday, November 9, 2012

Gobble Gobble Crash!

Gobble Gobble Crash! by Julie Steigmeyer, is one of my favorite read alouds!  The rhyming and cadence of the words just enhance the humorous tale of turkeys that crash into a sleepy farm.  Although not specifically a Thanksgiving book, it’s such a fun book to read about some hilarious turkeys!

 Gobble Gobble Crash! is also a counting book as counting numbers are used as the farm is described.   The word choice used by the author paints vivid pictures of the turkeys’ actions.  Children can cheer on the animals as they decide to help the turkeys from becoming the Farmer’s feast.  It is just a laugh out loud book that we hope you enjoy!

*What’s the funniest part of the story to you?
*Can you find the turkeys that are hiding from the Farmer?
*Can you remember some of the rhyming words from the story?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Take Care, Good Knight

Take Care, Good Knight, written by Shelley Moore Thomas and illustrated by Paul Meisel, is an entertaining book that will make a connection with beginning readers.  A wizard asks three dragons (who don’t know how to read) to take care of his cats.   They readily agree.  However, because they can’t read, they look at the picture of water beside the words that tell them to give the cats fresh water and mistake it for a lake.  They assume that means to take the cats swimming!  You can imagine the hilarious pictures of the cats in water. 

More funny scenes follow as the dragons can’t read the instructions.  Finally, their friend, the Good Knight, reads the note to the dragons after they admit they can’t read.  A happy ending is revealed when the dragons receive a book to learn how to read.  This is a book that makes us laugh out loud as we read about the dragons’ adventures with the cats.  We hope you find some laughs too!

*What’s the funniest scene in the book?
*Why do you think the dragons didn’t tell the Good Knight sooner that they couldn’t read?
*Have you ever had to ask help with something you didn’t know how to do?

Monday, November 5, 2012

Fisher Price Little People Thanksgiving Celebration

We love having items/toys in our home that promote retelling of stories.  Retelling is a great way for children to make stories become their own stories.  We like to tell the story initially, let play times happen with the items, and then see if the stories will be told.  If they’re not, then we give prompts.  Usually, though, children start retelling stories they’ve heard. 

A Fisher Price set we’ve used for several years is the Little People Thanksgiving Celebration.  It’s much like the Christmas set that we use to retell the Nativity story.  This set comes with two Native American figures and two Pilgrim figures along with a table, benches, food (turkey, of course!), scenery, and a donkey with a wagon.

It’s so much fun to hear a child’s perspective on the First Thanksgiving!  Another fun way to collect memories is to record your child retelling the story, especially recording it as part of your Thanksgiving tradition.  We hope you enjoy this set as much as we have and make your own family memories with it!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Recap of 31 Days of Children's ABC Books

Thank you for your visits, comments, and emails during 31 Days of Children’s ABC Books!  It’s been fun for us to re-read old favorites and to find new ABC books.  There are so many good choices out there!  We appreciate the recommendations we’ve received and look forward to checking them out too.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this as much as we have!  Please let us know if you have other recommendations for us.  We’re looking forward to continuing to add to our learning collection and hope you will join us!