Under Construction (Soon)

Over the next week or so, I’m hoping to do a little blog construction.  Suey at It’s All About Books and Danielle at There’s a Book are hosting Bloggiesta, an opportunity to participate in some challenges, discover new friends, and basically do some cleaning up.

I went round and round about participating.  This little venture is maintained during my free time (also known as “naptime”).  The rest of the time I’m controlling the chaos that Preschooler and Baby bring to the household.  I don’t typically blog on weekends, and this weekend in particular we have an Easter egg hunt to attend and the celebration of my very soon 30th birthday.  So I won’t be around much during the day, but it seems as if there is so much knowledge out there and I’m up for getting a little more of that.

All this to say, I’m going to do my best, and if I’m a little late and playing catch up on some things, you all will understand, right?

With that said, here are a few of my personal goals:

  • Change the look a little.  My web design knowledge is pretty limited, but I’m a quick learner and open to suggestions.
  • Develop a rating system for the books I discuss.  Almost all of them are on my Goodreads list, but not everyone hops on over there, ya know?
  • Create a blogroll with some of my favorite book pages (both old and new!)
  • Update my About page
  • Revamp/improve sidebar
  • Meet new friends!
  • ???  Let’s just see where this takes us, shall we?

So I’m in.  If you’re stopping by for the first time, please let me know you were here!  And if you’re a regular, pardon the dust.  Hopefully I won’t break anything permanently.

An Alternative to Toddler Tunes

We are a busy family.  Even during the week, I try to line up some activity every morning, whether it’s a trip to the playground, a visit to animals at the farm, a weekly library trip, or a playdate.  My kids and I are both happier if we have an “outside the house” activity.

Which means that we often spend short amounts of time in the car, traveling from one place to another.  Does this ring a bell with anyone?

I’ve long since given up trying to listen to “my” music when Preschooler is in the car.  She prefers rockin’ to her own toddler tunes, and I prefer a happy passenger.  It’s just not a battle worth fighting.  Besides, like many mothers, I’m used to tuning out the background noise.  If I wasn’t, I wouldn’t be able to make it through the day.

My husband, though, has a more difficult time tuning out the excess.  And he can’t stand listening to the same nursery rhyme cd for the tenth time in a row.  Trying to find a balance that would keep everybody happy, I tried something new…and had great success.

A trip to the library shelves revealed that there are, in fact, audiobooks for the preschool/early elementary age group.  For the last couple days, we have been listening to audiobooks in the car, and you know what?  Preschooler loves it!  We’re currently listening to a series of Bernstein Bear stories, and I also have a couple of early reader books, and one classic picture book.  Wouldn’t it be nice, as she got older, if we could dive into chapter books that we could listen to together?

I also want to pull together a couple of the audio-with-book kits, so that she can “read” along with the cd. Add that to the to-do list.

This doesn’t mean that the music cds are gone for good.  I’m sure we’ll be back to those again in a little while.  But in the meantime, this is a nice alternative, and she’s getting to hear a few stories while I drive in peace.

Which means I might actually get to have a thought of my own.

Who knows what I can accomplish now!

Share-A-Story: Letters to My “Readers”

I’m back for another day of Share-A-Story.  Today’s topic involves breaking down the stereotype of what a “reader” looks like.  The prompt I chose for today is a little more personal, but relevant for this blog, which is a combination of literacy and family chat.

Is there a young reader (or reader to be) in your life? Write them a letter expressing what you hope for them as readers.

Dear Preschooler,

In just three short years, I’ve already seen the beginnings of your evolution as a reader.  When you were little, you loved to chew on books.  Well, really, you loved to chew on anything, but you particularly loved the way that cardboard felt on your gums.  As you got older, you were fascinated by the pictures, and would spend (short) times on my lap as we talked about what we saw on each page.  A little bit older, and you would tolerate actually listening to short board books.  In the last 6 months, you’re attention span has increased so that you will listen to much longer picture books.  We’ve even started reading fairy tale anthologies, one story at a time.  Recently, you thrilled me by reading tome.

You are most definitely a reader.  My hope for you, as you grow, is that you will enjoy a wide variety of texts, whether it be graphic novels, picture books, chapter books, or audio selections.  I hope that you enjoy some of the selections I send your way, but also develop relationships with characters of your own choosing, as I did with Laura Ingalls, Nancy Drew, the Wakefield twins, and that close-knit gang of babysitting friends.  I hope that in the next few years, we are able to continue our Special Time of reading at bedtime, expanding to chapter books that we are eager to return to in the evenings.

Sometimes hearing “Read this to me, Mommy!” for the 600th time in a day causes me to do an internal eye roll because, really, I need a Mommy Break.  But even so, I love that you want to be read to, and that our bookcase is overflowing with books that you actually use. I’m proud of that, and I’m proud of you.

Love,

Mommy/Mama/Mom

Dear Baby,

You are too tiny to have much of a reading history yet.  You do listen as stories are read to your sister, but you listen anytime you hear my voice, so that’s nothing new.  Maybe this is the start of your literacy journey.  Hearing a pleasant (why, thank you!) voice in connection to books will hopefully trigger a positive experience in your memory.  As you get older, I hope that we can share some of your sister’s favorite books a second time around.  I hope you will also smile over the antics of a silly puppy, and search for your favorite barn animals among the pages.

I’m looking forward to seeing you toddle over to the bookshelf (but not too soon, okay?) and developing your own interests.  Will you also be a Thomas fan?  Will you also want to read/watch Curious George ad nauseam?

You have a ways to go.  We’re not even at the book-chewing stage yet.  But when you get there, I’m sure we’ll find a whole new world of characters to explore.

Love,

The Lady Who Comes to Get You in the Middle of the Night (aka “Mommy”)

The Way Daddy Tells It

When I was a grad student studying for my library science degree, I took a class in storytelling.  The class was an elective, and I picked it with the intention of stepping outside of my comfort zone.  Which I did.  Waaaayyyy  out.   I am convinced that more than just entertainment, a gifted storyteller could enhance a child’s learning experience in the classroom, library, or even at home.  I tested my new-found skills during my internship in an elementary school library the following semester, and the kids loved it.

But it just wasn’t my style.

As the stay-at-home parent, I’m typically the one who reads with our almost 3 year old.  Our picks consist of selections from her overflowing bookcase, as well as picks from our regular trips to the library.  Some of the books we’ve read so many times that she now “reads” them along with me.  But with the exception of editing the occasional word or phrase to aid her understanding, or to make more appropriate to words we allow in our household (you know how that “potty word” sometimes manages to slip in there, despite your best intentions to screen the book before reading?), I read directly from the text.

Cuddling with one or two or twelve book had become our norm.  We read throughout the day, including both right before a nap and right before bedtime.  Then, in the last couple months, the Toddler has had to rely on Daddy to meet some of her read-aloud needs, as I’ve had my hands (literally) full managing a newborn.

Enter “Daddy-telling.”

Her Daddy can take the same book, one I’ve read a hundred times, and turn it into something I’ve never heard before.  The characters are renamed to people in her own life, the locations are changed to places she’s been, and even some of the scenarios are changed to provide a double meaning that goes over her head, but has me biting my lip to keep from laughing as I listen to them.  It’s a completely different reading experience, a time she’s come to enjoy just as much as our own storytimes.  And the next time she and I read that book together, she will make sure to correct my “inaccurate” tellings with the new telling her daddy has taught her.

That’s alot of new tellings to keep up with.  Thanks, hon.

I think this is a skill special to dads.  My own dad also does it, when we visit their home.  There’s just something about breaking out of the mold and doing it their own way that seems to appeal to the those men in our children’s lives.  In our house, it’s something I encourage.  Not only is it good bonding between father and child…it usually means I can sneak in a shower longer than 5 minutes.

Everyone wins.

 

 

Friday Confessions: Looting

Today’s Friday confession is about looting.  As in,

I scored some serious loot this morning.

Despite the drizzly and once again chilly weather, I loaded up The Toddler, the stroller, and an armload of snacks this morning.  We headed to our local library,  and the children’s/teen book sale.  Trying to navigate a stroller, even a small one, through the limited space in which the sale was held was no easy feat, but we all managed, and I came home victorious.

Several of these titles are classics that I came across in my time in the classroom.  At one point, I had my own copies, but I gave many of my books to another teacher when I left the classroom several years ago.  Time to restock! Do Princesses Wear Hiking Boots? is new to me, but fits my cute-but-rough-and-tumble daughter perfectly.  And if you haven’t read A Chair for My Mother, try it out.  It’s tissue-worthy. 

Isn’t Stellaluna a wonderful story?  For those of you who read to your children at bedtime, this is a sweet bedtime story.  Also, if you’re two, apparently At the Zoo is a must-read.  The Toddler grabbed this one off the table, and it kept her entertained while I continued browsing.

16 books, for a grand total of $10 and the money goes back into our public library system.

Not bad for a Friday morning outing.

(And another confession?  Husband just called to tell me he was coming home an hour early.  Wonder if I can sneak out again to browse toddler-free…?)

Friday Confession: Youth Revisited

Hello Friday friends.  How has your week been?  Ready for today’s confession?

After hearing the rumors for weeks, I almost bought the new Sweet Valley:Confidential book.

I have always been an avid reader.  By the time I was in later elementary school, this actually created a little bit of a problem.  I was reading several years above grade level, so the books that were on my reading level were not always developmentally appropriate.

When I was in fifth grade, my slightly uninformed grandparents sent me several Sweet Valley High books as a birthday gift.  My parents, after scanning the content, placed them away till a more age-appropriate time.  And then when that time came?  I devoured the series.  I loved Elizabeth, and Jessica, and Steven, and Todd, and Enid.  I loved the romance, and the scandal, and drama, and the teen angst.  Like many series books, the stories follow a predictable format, but that was okay.

So how thrilled was I when I started hearing about the publication of a NEW Sweet Valley books for adults?  Trailers promised the opportunity to connect with old friends, find out where they are now, and lots of not-so-teen angst.

Except the reviews?  They’re iffy.  And the spoilers I’ve seen tell me that the Wakefield twins and their friends didn’t make all the decisions I’d hoped they would.  It’s unfortunate that we can’t still read these novels with the same slightly blinded obsession we had in our youth.

And so my bank account is safe, though I haven’t ruled out possibly coming back to this one when I can buy it used (and cheap), or if it ever makes it to the library shelves.

But it begs the question: ever wonder where your favorite characters are now?  I’d also love to follow up on Nancy Drew.  Did she and Ned Nickerson (what is it with boyfriends named Ned?) ever settle down and have 2.5 kids?  Is she still busting crime in her accidental-on-purpose manner?

I’d like to think so.  Sometimes maybe it’s best we don’t know the outcome.

Teaching Your Child to “High Five”

While in a bookstore recently, my sweet husband excitedly approached me with a teaching aid explaining the five finger rule for teaching a child to pick a book at his/her in reading level.

Somewhere in my teacher training/time in the classroom/library science training, I had come across this method before.  So the technique was not new to me (much to my husband’s disappointment), but if you’re reading this and NOT familiar with the Five Finger/High Five rule, keep reading. It’s important that children make personal selections, even if that selection occasionally falls above or below the child’s independent reading level.  However, children should also be taught to make good independent reading choices.  Teaching a child to “High Five” is simple and provides a visual aid when considering book selection:

Step 1: Open the book to any page and start reading.

Step 2: Hold up one finger for EVERY word that you don’t know or have trouble pronouncing on that page.

0-1 fingers- book is too easy

2-3 fingers- book is at independent reading level

4 fingers-book is at challenge level and may be too difficult

5 fingers-book is at frustration level and a poor choice at this time

 

That’s it!  Easy, right?

Any other tips for helping children select appropriate reading materials?  Add them to the comments below so that we can all learn from you!

Hiatus

I’m enjoying some vacation time with my family this week. We’re enjoying spring weather, neighborhood parks, reading with the grandparents, and a trip to the zoo.

I’ll be back this weekend. See you soon!