Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Sheep in a Jeep

Sheep in a Jeep by Nancy Shaw. This book just makes me laugh. 
A group of very silly sheep take off on a quick adventure in a red jeep. Unfortunately, they forget to steer and "Jeep goes splash! Jeep goes thud! Jeep goes deep in gooey mud!"

Rhyming lines and hilarious colored pencil illustrations tell the story, keeping young listeners engaged and ready for the next page. The sheep are drawn with such expression! My favorite sheep in the bunch always has a knitting project in tow.
Careful, you may giggle as you read aloud.
Thankfully, Nancy Shaw has published several "sheep" stories since this original so the fun can continue. Check one out today!

Language Extension Idea:
Rhyming Chart
After reading the book through a couple times, ask the children if they heard any rhyming words.
On a piece of chart paper or white board, write the rhymes they can give you from memory. (sheep, jeep)
Go through the book page by page, letting the children stop you to write down the rhymes they hear.
Look at the list together when finished and point out the rhyming words that have the same ending.
Let the children use those ending sounds to make up new nonsense words as they play with initial letter sounds. 
Add new words to the list and post it in your classroom. Refer to it as you read more of the Sheep books by Nance Shaw and keep growing your rhyming chart.
These games help young ears and eyes gain information about the reading process.

Monday, February 27, 2012


I was in a classroom today that is studying the world of fish. It's part of a larger theme of "Animals", and the class has already discussed and investigated mammals and birds. They are planning a fun art project for later this week called Gyotaku, Japanese Fish Printing.
The book that came to mind as I thought about all this was Swimmy by Leo Lionni.

This beautifully illustrated book tells the story of a tiny fish who not only survives in the dangerous ocean, but helps a whole school of fish like himself. Working together, they are able to swim safely,  and even scare the big fish away!
A question to ask after this read aloud might be, "What kinds of things can a family or class do together that one person cannot do alone?"

Art Extension Idea:
Fish Prints
Check out this somewhat stinky, one of a kind printing experience here!

Photo courtesy of In Art Class

Sunday, February 26, 2012


The Quilt Story by Tony Johnston is a favorite book of mine. I love it for many reasons.
I love it because of quilts. They connect me to my grandmothers who both quilted, and to the many nights I laid awake tracing the designs and colorful prints that covered my bed, made by them.
I also love this book because of the family warmth it portrays through the quilt. It provides a safe haven for the little girl in the story as she faces unfamiliar places. Several animals take comfort in the quilt as well, as it lays forgotten in an attic.

I also love this book for the illustrations by Tommie dePaola. I love the color palette and how the quilt ages through the story thanks to time and use.
While this book is set in both pioneer days and more current times, the themes of family, home, and warmth stay the same. It's a relevant tale for any young child who has a favorite blanket to hold onto, or an older child who depends on familiar routines. This story is a great read-aloud before bed or quiet time of day.

Art Extension Idea:
Many teachers and parents feel that young children are not ready to tackle sewing skills.
I believe that given the appropriate materials to work with, and a focus on process instead of product, even young children can enjoy participating in this art form.
Check out this blog post for a great example of sewing with young children!

Saturday, February 25, 2012


One simple book about colors.
One simple book about numbers.
One simple book about overcoming adversity (or bullying).
One simple book about working together.

One by Kathryn Otoshi.

Don't be deceived by the simple look of this book. It touches many concepts and can be used in many different ways.  It can be shared with much older children as well as the preschool crowd. The modest watercolor illustrations keep the focus on the colors and numbers and add emotional impact.
Adults may enjoy this book even more than the children.

Art Extension Idea:
Shaving Cream Colors
Shaving cream, paint in primary colors (red, blue, yellow), plastic sandwich bags that close tightly, spoon
Give each child a plastic bag and have them open it (assist if they need help). Spray a "handful" of shaving cream into the bag. Add a squirt or spoonful of one color of paint.  Close the bag tightly.  Encourage each child to squeeze and manipulate the bag to mix the color into the shaving cream.
Repeat the process with a second bag but this time add two primary colors. Watch and listen to the children as they observe what happens inside the bag as the two colors mix.
Non messy and it doesn't require drying time!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Picky Eaters

If you ever had a toddler in your home, chances are you've had a picky eater.
There are lots of gimmicks to try to encourage your child to eat a balanced plate of food; fun shaped plates and utensils, food in plastic squeeze tubes, tiny cut-out shapes and gourmet flavors.
Sometimes it just takes a new idea to get that little one to eat a new food.

Eat Up Gemma is about a picky eater who causes every meal time to be a bit of a struggle until her big brother finds a creative way to entice his baby sister to "eat up".  This book is about the relevant topics of family and food that make it a great read aloud to young children.

Cooking Extension Idea
Fruit Salad
For larger groups:
You need:
1 apple, cored and diced
1 orange, peeled and diced
1 cup grapes, sliced in quarters
1 banana, sliced
1 cup sliced strawberries
1 cup blueberries
1 cup diced peaches
1 cup diced pears
Let your child help in the washing and peeling process, and allow older children to cut soft fruits with a table knife. Place each fruit in a separate bowl, and ask your children to name the colors of the fruits. Place individual spoons into each of the fruit bowls, and let your children select the fruits they would like into their own bowl to make their own fruit salad. After the children are all settled in their chairs, ask the children, "Who has apples in their bowl?" "Who has strawberries?" and so on.

Thursday, February 23, 2012


I know it's still winter according to the calendar.
Yet, when the temperature reaches past 60 degrees and the tulips have pushed up several inches tall already, it's a little hard not to think of spring.
As difficult as it can be for adults to wait for things, it is even more so for young children.
And then it's spring, by Julie Fogliano, is a lovely book about waiting for a garden to grow.

The softly colored illustrations are by Erin E. Stead, winner of the 2011 Caldecott Medal Award for  A Sick Day for Amos McGee. The woodblock and pencil technique compliment the quite tone of the story as a young child waits with a little worry and a little hope. "All around you have brown" changes to "all around you have green" and then it's spring.

Gardening Extension Idea:
While it's too early to begin gardening outside, you can still experience the wonder of sprouting seeds inside. Opening the window to what happens to a seed underground is fascinating and this experience only takes a few days to keep the waiting short.
plastic sandwich bags, lima beans (their size make them a good choice), cotton balls, tape, water and a sunny window.
 Give each child a small cup of water and a cotton ball.
Have them place the cotton ball in the water to get it very wet.
Gently squeeze out some of the water and then place the lima bean on the cotton ball.
Carefully place it into the sandwich bag, placing it towards a bottom corner.
Close the bag tightly and tape it to a sunny window.
Check on the bag each day and watch the bean break open with roots and a sprout forming.
Once your sprout has a couple leaves, take it out of the bag and place into a small container with potting soil.
When it really is spring, you can transplant it outside!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


Young children can't wait to be "bigger".
They love to compete with one another to see who is the "biggest".
Kevin Sherry writes about a giant squid who thinks he's the "Biggest Thing in the Ocean".

Swim through this story and see lots of ocean life. The squid is bigger than a lot of the other animals, but is he really the biggest? Even when he gets swallowed by a whale, he remains optimistic about his size!

To see a puppet show based on this story, click here.

Math Extension Idea:
Go on a hunt around your home or classroom looking for similar items in two sizes (Big and Small).
Some examples from home could be; socks, shoes, cups, books, toys
Examples from school might include; paintbrushes, blocks, baby dolls, dinosaurs
Using a piece of poster board or easel paper, divide it down the middle labeling one side BIG and one side small.  Ask your child to choose which side of the board to place each item.
For more of a challenge, add a third column and label it Medium!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Dress Up

As parents and teachers, we look forward to the day when a child becomes independent. We praise their efforts and applaud their success.
In Ella Sarah Gets Dressed, Margaret Chodos-Irvine shows us what happens when that independence is mixed with a strong fashion sense!

 Her family members try to impose their suggestions on what she should wear, but Ella Sarah has her own ideas. She stands firm, and it turns out that she is perfectly attired for her tea party with friends.
Young children will enjoy seeing Ella Sarah in control. The illustrations carry the story and the bold prints provide a colorful backdrop for all the clothing choices.

Dramatic Play Extension Idea:
Add some new items to the Dress-up center in your classroom or pull out some fun items from your closet at home for dress-up fun. Hats, aprons, scarves, ties, and vests are easy to put on and take off and the size doesn't really matter.  Halloween costumes are more trouble to put on and take off, but lots of fun! Go simple with capes and masks.
If you don't have a full-length mirror, place a sturdy step stool in front of a wall mirror so that your child can see their outfit and admire their choices.
You can have a fashion show (yes, boys can have fun with this too),  a tea party, or just play pretend.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Too Many Toys

Can a child have too many toys?
Is that a trick question?
If you've ever stepped on a Lego® brick in the middle of the night, vacuumed up Barbie® shoes, or noticed that the bucket of "fast food" toys are multiplying and overflowing at an alarming rate, I think you'll answer that questions with a strong "Yes".

Too Many Toys by David Shannon is a familiar story. While the problem can seem overwhelming, the solution is one that children and parents alike will find redeeming.

Here's a quick video synopsis of this very entertaining read aloud selection.
Click to watch.

Community Service Extension Idea:

Clean out the toy box, closet, or room!
Let your child help you label three cardboard boxes; Donate, Trash, Keep
Set a time limit that is appropriate for your child to help. (10 minutes, 20 minutes - you know best)
Once the toys are separated, immediately take the Trash box to the trash, and then take the Donate box to the nearest Donation Center in your area.
If you're part of a school or co-op, organize a Toy Swap day, a yard sale, or a pick-up site for a Donation Center to benefit others.
Enjoy the newly reclaimed floor and shelf space and let the imaginative play begin.

Saturday, February 18, 2012


This winter has been so mild, we already have many "spring" birds in the yard. While I can't identify all the different types by name, I enjoy the colors and shapes of the little creatures as they hop about the feeder.
A simple beginner book for young children on this topic is Birds by Kevin Henkes.

As an introduction, the text deals with basic characteristics of birds. It also considers imaginative questions about them, "If birds made marks with their tail feathers when they flew, think about what the sky would look like?".
The bold acrylic paintings by Laura Dronzek are lovely and convey the simple beauty of the birds. This is an excellent read-aloud choice that provides both fact and fantasy.

Field Trip Extension Idea:
If you live in the area, make a date to visit the Louisville Nature Center.
You can visit the Bird Blind, take a hike, or try one of the preschool programs.
Here's one coming up: "Beaks and Squeaks: All About Backyard Birds"

If you're from out of town, set up a feeder in your own backyard and let your child observe the birds who come to visit you!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Mouse Paint

Mouse Paint by Ellen Stoll Walsh makes learning about primary and secondary colors almost as much as fun as actually painting with them! That's one reason why it has stood the test of time.
In her story, three white mice happen upon some jars of paint. They experiment and play, discovering what happens when colors mix. They even clean up, washing off in the cat's water bowl.

The simple text and brightly colored illustrations make this as popular a read aloud today as it has been for over 20 years. Timeless and endearing. Share with a young artist today!

Art Extension Idea:
Color Mixing (of course)
Materials: fingerpaints or tempura paints, paper, brushes, water, and towels for cleanup
Procedure: Place small amounts of two primary colors (red and yellow) of paint onto the paper. Allow children to move the paint around using fingers or brushes. Watch as the colors begin to mix together. Talk about what is happening. Ask your child to describe the colors they see.
Repeat this procedure with another pairing of primary colors (red and blue). You can follow the sequence in the book, drawing your child's attention back to the story.
Let your child experiment until they have exhausted all the possibilities or their fine motor muscles.
Display their artistic work proudly!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Predictable Books = Good Reading

A predictable picture book doesn't mean you can guess the ending or that there's a lack of suspense in the plot.
Predictable books for children have few words, a good deal of repetition, and pictures that reinforce the story. Sharing these types of books provides an opportunity to practice decoding words, better know as reading.
What Shall We Do With the Boo-Hoo Baby? by Cressida Cowell is a predictable book.

So while this might look like it's aimed at the toddler crowd (a good choice), it provides great reading practice for older children, like Kindergartners.
The pastel illustrations are simply delightful and add to the story as they show the well-meaning animal friends huddled on one side of the page, and the distraught baby on the other. New parents can relate. After some trial and error, the baby is soothed and everyone gets a much needed rest.

Language/Writing Extension Idea:
After reading the story once or several times, ask the question; "What makes you sad/cry?"
Make a list of everyone's suggestions on a piece of chart paper.
Take a look and note which suggestions are similar to things the book mentioned, or which children had similar ideas to each other.
Then ask the question: "What makes you feel better?"
Make another list of everyone's suggestions on another piece of chart paper.
Look for similarities again.  Talk about the things that friends can do to help each other.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Actual Size

Did you know that the atlas moth is so large that it is often mistaken for a bird?
Did you know that the eye of a giant squid is the size of a basketball?
Did you know that the Goliath frog is big enough to catch and eat birds and rats?
Neither did I until I read Actual Size by Steve Jenkins.

A nonfiction choice for young children, this book does not get bogged down in lengthy descriptions or boring text. The eye-popping cut paper collage work is enough to get any reader interested in the amazing animals showcased. Brief statistics are mentioned for each one (height, weight, length, etc.) on the double page spreads. In the back of the book, additional information is listed for the cast of characters, sure to inspire more investigation.

Math Extension Idea:
Measuring is a math skill. Let your child or group of children experiment with different types of measuring devices.
Materials: measuring tape, ruler, string with knots tied at 12" intervals, bathroom scales, paper, and pencil
Procedure: Choose some items around the house/classroom and write their name/draw a picture on the paper. Let your child use the different measuring devices to see how "big" the item is. Use the terms; height, weight, length, inches, feet, and pounds to introduce new vocabulary and record your measurements.
You can talk about what items are "bigger" than your child, and which items are "smaller". Older children can organize the items by size (largest to smallest, lightest to heaviest). They can convert number of feet to number of inches for more math practice.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Giving Love

On Valentines Day and every holiday, we can struggle with all the giving and receiving.
Developing a generous heart in our children is a trait that benefits them and everyone around them.

In Ivy Loves to Give, a little girl practices the skill of giving. Not every gift is appreciated at first, but they all find their way to the correct recipient and even Ivy receives something she wants.
This gentle story is a sweet read aloud to the youngest of listeners. The watercolor illustrations are soft and simple adding more warmth to the story
In the end, Ivy gives a wonderful gift that never goes out of style, is affordable, and the perfect fit for all.

Poetry Extension Idea:
This poem is full of gross motor fun and easy to learn! Ask the children to think of movements that fit the words in this poem. It's a great way to end group time after everyone has sat quietly for a story.

For children who are sensitive to touch, you can hug yourself and blow a kiss from your hand.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Owl Moon

We live near some woods and are lucky enough to hear the call and echo of owls at night.  I've never seen them, but just the other night when it was bright with a full moon, I thought about taking a walk outside.

In the book Owl Moon by Jane Yolen, a young girl and her father go "owling" one night together.
The girl knows you have to be quiet, brave, and have hope when you go owling. The anticipation builds and is rewarded in the end.
The watercolor pictures by John Schenherr depict a frozen landscape and lend a serious tone to this quiet adventure story.

Guest Appearance Extension Idea:
Owls make for a fascinating theme study.
To learn more about owls and other birds of prey, visit this website.
Click on the Educate tab to see how the Raptor Rehabilitation of Kentucky can come to you ( your school or home school cooperative) with an age appropriate program and the actual birds. 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Lion and the Mouse

Wordless picture books are somewhat rare but useful tools in the world of literature. How can they teach without words to read?
They provide an open door to storytelling and elaboration on a well-known tale. They provide an opportunity for using imagination and personal vocabulary as well as sequencing skills. They promote the connection and importance of illustrations. They can be recognized as works of art and encourage artistic exploration.

The Lion & the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney provides a rich and glorious story of illustrations, with only a few animal sounds in print. A Caldecott Award Winner, this adaptation of one of Aesop's Fables is a grand choice to share with your listeners and to add to your child's library.

Dramatic Play Extension Idea:
After sharing The Lion & the Mouse, allow the children to portray the story by acting out the parts. They may even choose to add additional animals to the story. Simple props can be made by the children to add to the drama. Paper masks ideas can be found here.
With no written script to follow, they can enjoy the opportunity to develop their own thoughts and words as they retell this famous fable.

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Little Red Hen (again)

You probably remember the tale of the Little Red Hen.
Here's an updated version by Philemon Sturges with many similarities to the original. The twist, instead of homemade bread, this chick is baking pizza. Yum! Kids will tune in to one of their favorite foods and enjoy a tried and true story.

When the Little Red Hen realizes that she's missing an ingredient, she makes a run to the store but ends up buying a lot more than planned. It's a bit wordy for preschoolers in a read aloud, but older children will especially enjoy her thorough shopping trips.

Cooking Extension Idea:
Cooking with children is a great way to develop many skills (measuring, counting, dicing, mixing). It provides an opportunity for them to take a big role in helping the whole family, rather than waiting to be served. Let them learn to help before they grow up saying "not I".
Click here to see a healthy and fun pizza recipe you can make with your kids.

Photo courtesy of Cooking with my Kid

Thursday, February 9, 2012

5 Little Monkeys

Five Little Monkeys Play Hide and Seek by Eileen Christelow is one in a series of books about the antics of five brothers and sisters and their mama.
In this story, the fun-loving siblings work together to stay up past their bedtime playing just one more game. Sound familiar?

The rhyming, repetitive text encourages the audience to join in and read along. Expressive illustrations show the silliness of the monkeys and their cooperative sitter. Counting together is just another bonus of this engaging book. It begs to be read aloud to one, five, or a whole room full of "monkeys".

Game Extension Idea:
Hide and Seek is an easy game to play outside or inside, with a couple children or a whole class.
Math skills are practiced as the person designated as "it" counts from 1 to 10 or higher. To add some challenge for older children, you can count backwards from a chosen number, or count by 2s, 5s, or 10s.
To add another element to the game try one of these ideas:
Hide a music box and and have the children try to locate it by listening.
Hide several objects with a common characteristic (color, shape, size) and have the children look for something that fits that description.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


Valentines Day is only a week away and today's book is a sweet treat to share with no extra calories.
You can read it or sing it!

Set to the tune "Clementine", it follows the many creative ways that a love-struck writer tries to share his feelings with someone special. This is a good introduction to letter writing and a discussion on all the different ways you can communicate something important.
It's also just a sweet story to share on a day dedicated to love.

Art Extension Idea:
Martha Stewart Kids - Making Valentine Cards

Materials: Colored paper, paint, stamps, ink pad, crayons or markers, scissors
 Procedure: Trace your child's hand or paint their hand and let them make a hand print on paper.
Cut out and decorate with stamps, crayons, or markers. Help your child to write a simple message of love on their hand. Share!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


This is the perfect "first" book about cars specifically, or transportation in general, for toddlers.
I love this book for that very reason.  There are many informational books about modes of transportation; some too busy, some too long, but this one is just right.

My Car by Byron Barton is so appropriate with it's personal narrative by Sam, the bold primary colored illustrations, and the simple facts about the car and driving. The double page spreads give little ones ample space to look while the brief text is read. Even the square shape of the book itself is the right shape and size to be held comfortably on a lap.

Manipulative Extension Idea:
Car Wash in a Dishpan
In the book, Sam keeps his car clean by washing it. Using a plastic dishpan, a small amount of water and a squirt of soap, you can create your own carwash. Small sponges make for a little less water on the floor and give some extra fine motor muscle work out.
Place "dirty" cars and trucks into the dishpan, give them a good scrubbing with the sponge, and then you can add some excitement with a small spray bottle for rinsing! Dry on a big towel and repeat.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Rapunzel, Rapunzel

Falling for Rapunzel by Leah Wilcox will have you and your listeners giggling in this twist of a classic fairy tale.
Rapunzel has trouble hearing the Prince ask her to, "let down her hair". She makes some close guesses as she tosses items out her window, but never gets it quite right.

Rhymes, word play, and bright acrylic painted illustrations make this a hilarious read aloud for older children as well as the preschool set. In the end, you realize that Rapunzel never needed any help at all and the Prince rides off into the sunset pretty happy as well.

Dramatic Play Extension Idea:
Set up a beauty/barber shop in the dramatic play area. Use hair clips, headbands, and sponge curlers for accessories. Add a hand held mirror, empty spray bottles, and a small blow dryer (with the cord cut off) for styling equipment. Let the children take turns giving all the Rapunzels and Princes in the room a new hairdo.

Sunday, February 5, 2012


All young children struggle with feeling angry sometimes. It can be scary to feel such an overwhelming emotion. Parents and teachers of young children can also be overwhelmed with helping a child handle those feelings in an acceptable way.

This read aloud provides a safe way for children to see what happens when Sophie gets angry, and allows them to follow her lose of control to a calm and peaceful resolution.
Molly Bang's illustrations are fierce as they portray Sophie's feelings. The intensity of color mirrors the action, and encourages another discussion about how we associate colors with feelings or moods.
It won a Caldecott Honor Book award and a Charlotte Zolotow award, both great honors.

Social/Emotional Extension Idea:
Using hand held mirrors, encourage children to make faces showing different emotions (sad, mad, happy scared, etc.) Ask them to use their bodies in addition to their faces to show those emotions.
Make a list of things you might do if you were really, really angry.
Talk about which of those things are good choices (squeezing playdough, punching a pillow, crying)
and which ones are not good choices (hurting someone, hurting yourself).
End with hugs and kind words for everyone in the group.

Saturday, February 4, 2012


If you're looking for a gift for that next baby shower invite, this could be it. A good book is always the right size and you can never have too many of them!

Author Mem Fox and illustrator Steve Jenkins blend their talents to give birth to a book about baby animals.  The animal choices are unusual as is the vocabulary. It's rich in novel sounds, words, and cut paper artwork.
Hello Baby is a great addition to any child's library and interesting enough to entertain big brother or sister. This book is a good read aloud choice for large groups of listeners far beyond the infant set.

Language Experience Extension Idea:
After reading the book and noting the descriptive language it uses, talk to your children about what those words are describing, what they mean. (They're learning the parts of speech, but in an authentic way.)
Give some examples, describing things readily available. After a little practice, ask the children to describe something they can find in the room. You can continue extending the experience by writing what they say on a large board or chart paper.

Friday, February 3, 2012

PB & J

A favorite on the lunch plate of many children, this popular sandwich is constructed in a play rhyme. What's a play rhyme? Simple actions or motions set to a rhythmic chant. It's fun to say and fun to play. 

Perfectly silly illustrations by Nadine Bernard Westcott add to the rhyme as elephants, a chef, and two children bake a giant sandwich together. The final page gives suggestions for actions for each verse and the refrain. So slap your knees and clap your hands, as you read aloud today.

Movement Extension Idea:
Add some gross motor movement to this rhyme. Use your whole body instead of just your hands for the actions. Ask the children to give their suggestions and make it their own. Try working in pairs.
To add more interest and help keep their focus, change the volume of your voice as you chant. Whisper the refrain and shout the verses as everyone performs the actions. Children learn by doing.

Thursday, February 2, 2012


We're missing snow this year.
We're missing all the fun things you can only do with snow.
We're missing snow days.
Today's book can help us to remember all the wonder and joy of a snow covered world.

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats is celebrating it's 50th anniversary this year. It won the Caldecott Medal in 1963 for beautiful cut paper and watercolor artwork. How wonderful that this timeless story is still available for today's children as it was for their parents and grandparents.
Share it with someone you love today and dream of snow.

Science Extension Idea:
While we can't make real snowflakes, you can create a very cool science experiment that results in a
Borax Snowflake. It's not as complicated as it might seem and once the snowflake is complete, you can use a magnifying glass to look at the beautiful crystals that have formed. Give it a try!