Monday, June 25, 2012


Here's a cool alphabet book for all the "car riders" of the world. (Actually, you could ride a bus or a bike and still enjoy it.)  
Backseat A-B-See by Maria van Lieshout.

Many children are plugged into video games and DVDs during car rides. I understand why.
We're all in our cars more than we'd like to be, and finding a form of entertainment can be challenging sometimes.

This book encourages us to unplug and look out the window to see what we can see as we ride down the road.
As if that's not good enough, it offers practice identifying letters. A great pre-reading skill.

While it was written with young children in mind, especially those fascinated with the theme of transportation, older children can benefit from this book as well.

What do all those signs mean? Are they new or have they been around for a long time? How do they assist us as we travel?

You could turn it into an "I Spy" game for signage, keeping track of how many of those from the book you can identify on the road.

The author shares additional information in her book.
Did you know...
The graphic design of road signs has an impressive history.
Some were designed by a team of graphic artists and received the Presidential Award for Design Excellence in 1984.

I told you it was cool.

Writing Extension Idea:
Create your own road sign.
Materials:  Heavy Paper, markers, scissors, glue, masking tape or other strong tape, magazine pictures, photos, paint sticks, etc.
Procedure: Create a sign for a road in your neighborhood or your own driveway! Think about what you want the sign to do. Give a warning. Give directions. Share other information. (Pet Crossing, Watch out for bunnies!, Steep Driveway, Tricycle Lane)
After you complete your sign, tape it to your paint stick.

Sunday, June 17, 2012


Papa. Father. Dad.
Different names that all mean the same thing. A central person in a child's life.

The Apple Pie that Papa Baked by Lauren Thompson is a cumulative tale (think The House that Jack Built) about a young girl, her father, and an apple pie.

The story builds as the pages turn. It begins with a small thing, the apples, and grows to includes the whole world.

This is the book, warm and sweet...
It's a tale of the love between father and child, and a celebration of how things in our world work together for good.

The illustrations are unusual for the current market, using only three colors. I personally think it's a nice departure from full-color picture books. Thank you Jonathan Bean.

The vintage style still provides plenty of detail and the sparse use of red helps young readers focus on those apples.

I recommend this charming read aloud for all those celebrating a Happy Father's Day!

Field Trip Extension Idea:
Pick Your Own Farm
Go apple picking.  If you can't find a farm,  head to the grocery story and take a little time admiring all the different types of apples there.
Notice size, color, weight, and names of apples.
Choose some to take home and enjoy them together.
You don't even have to bake a pie.
Slice them up. Use a corer. Cut the apple in half to find the "star".
Add peanut butter or caramel for dipping.
Cook them down in a pan and mash for applesauce.

Saturday, June 16, 2012


Swimming. A favorite summer pastime.
Doesn't everyone love to swim?
No. Not when it means making the swim team.

As adults, we often forget about the incredible concerns young children have when it comes to "being on a team". We assume that just because a child enjoys an activity, they will enjoy that same activity at a competitive level.

Make the Team, Baby Duck by Amy Hest is a story about a little duckling who would like to try for the swim team, but doesn't feel quite up to the task.

Her parents say all the things most of us would say when trying to coax our children into the water.
"Don't you remember what fun you had last summer?"
"Be a big girl now, and jump right in!"

 But Grandpa Duck is wiser. He listens and then responds to Baby Duck.
"Perhaps when you're ready, you'll be on the team."
Teams are great. They teach both useful skills and life lessons.
Sometimes I wonder...
Perhaps we need to be a bit more like Grandpa Duck, waiting till the child tells us they're ready.
Then they can enjoy the activity and the team as well!

Take a look at all the books in the Baby Duck series by Amy Hest and Jill Barton. They're charming read alouds with a touch of thoughtful Grandparenting woven into each one.

Sensory Extension Idea:
Rubber Ducks in the Water Table
Materials: Water Table or some type of tub or shallow plastic container, water, rubber ducks, small pitchers or cups, towels for cleanup.
Procedure: Fill the water table or container with water, add ducks and other items. Allow children time to explore and find ways of moving the ducks around in the water. Move them in a group or one at a time. Can they race each other like a swim team?
Talk about swimming under the water and over (on top) of the water.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

On the Farm

I've always wanted to live on a farm.
It's kind of like the perpetual dream of getting a pony for your birthday.
The idea is romantic. The reality is work.

Summertime is farm time.
4-H clubs are in high gear. "Pick Your Own" is in full swing, and Farmers Markets are bustling on Saturday mornings.

Reading about the farm is almost as good as being there. Especially if you have a beautifully illustrated book full of short, sweet poems about the various animal life that resides there.

On the Farm by David Elliott is a perfect read aloud for summer. 
Each double page spread highlights a different animal on or about the farm.
The poems, while very brief, give a wink to the true nature of the beasts they describe.
The illustrations are by Holly Meade. Woodblock prints and watercolor give the book a nostalgic appeal. Vivid and eye-catching, but calming as well. 
I love the colors and texture. Light and shadow. Young children will spend time looking into the pictures as they read the book again and again.

Art Extension Idea:
Foam Tray Prints
Materials: foam trays (recycle those from the grocery - clean with bleach/water solution first), tempera paint, roller, paper, plastic knives, shallow dish for paint, clean up supplies.
Procedure: Draw your farm animal (or whatever you choose) onto the back of the foam tray. "Score" or etch the drawing with the plastic knife. The knife should not cut all the way through the tray, just make an indentation over the drawn lines.
Using a paint roller and a shallow dish of paint, cover the roller with paint. Roll the paint over the back of the tray, covering the drawing/etching. Turn the tray over and press onto a sheet of paper.
Remove the tray and see your print!