Reading Little-by-Little

45675785_10155911576738059_3982809025682079744_n.jpgLittle Fox is starting to read. I’d mentioned in the spring, he’d read almost the entirety of Green Eggs and Ham to me over a half hour, with little help from me, but then he refused to read much again after that.

I don’t believe in pushing kids too hard. When they’re ready, they’re ready, and especially when it comes to fundamentals of education. They need to build these bit-by-bit without feeling pressured to do so on a deadline–give them tools, encouragement, and the occasional nudge, and they’re likely to find their way through academics (and sometimes even life).

Sometimes it’s difficult to convince my partner of this, but I keep reassuring him that with being read to daily, and offering him opportunities to figure out the sounds of words in his environment, there’s a strong chance he’ll learn by age 7, even if he isn’t reading before then. (We have a similar discussion about maths, but that’s for another post.) Pushing kids too hard before they’re ready can lead to harming their long-term reading success, and as parent, teacher, and writer, and I want to ensure my kids not only can read for future careers, but for the pleasure of reading.

flipawordThat being said, this year has been filled with “reading prep” that’s engaging and Little Fox keeps asking for more. He’s ready every single “Flip-a Word” books available, and now looks at words in terms of their “families” (based on shared suffixes).

While his dad reads picture books or pop-up science books to him each night, since spring, I’ve been reading him novels. Though I’d read a couple of Nurse Matilda books (that inspired the Nanny McPhee movies) to him last year, he wasn’t able to follow them chapter-by-chapter each night. But when my copy of Catherynne Valente’s Space Opera arrived, I read him the first chapter, and he was hooked.

We don’t read novels every night–he doesn’t always get into bed early enough for my portion of story time–but since Space Opera, we’ve read five other novels, and he’s had me buy him copies of each one. I can tell he’s paying attention because he asks questions, and the characters come up again in our talks later in the week. His novel reading list thus far:LittleFoxNovels2018

2. Bunnicula

3. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH

4. My Pet Human

5. Catwings

6. Catwings Returns

I’m hoping we’ll get through the other two Catwings books and The Neverending Story before the end of the year, especially since I’ve reinforced an earlier bedtime than we’ve had in months.

51u3xvbhv9l-_sx384_bo1204203200_Also, to supplement his other forms of learning, we purchased a Sylvan kindergarten book that focuses on math and reading. He’s required to two pages of each four or five times a week (a great activity when I need quiet time or to get some work done without too much distraction). He’s so far ahead on the math games that we’ll be jumping into cuisenaire rod games and origami, and he’s discovered a love of word search puzzles because of the reading section. I was skeptical about adding a workbook that wasn’t just mazes and activities so soon, but he’s really taken to it. What he began a couple of months ago (a school year’s worth of pages), will likely be done soon after the new year.

Every day, he’s looking at words like puzzles to solve, and asking me questions about the sounds they make, what happens if we replace a single letter, and what they’d sound like if we read them backwards. There’s no doubt now, he’s ready, and he’s loving every moment of it.

SIDE NOTE: It’s nearly the first anniversary of the launch of The Grasp of Time. If you’d like a chance to win a free, signed copy, follow me on Twitter.

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Pick a Book!

Next year, I’ll be attending Norwescon 40 for the first time as a panelist.  One of the sessions I volunteered for is reading a book to children 3 – 5 years of age.  One book, plus a related craft project.  I’d originally been told I would need to make my selection by February, but since have been asked to turn in all of my panel decisions by December 15th.

I’ve narrowed it down to the following four beloved books:

norwesconbooks

Dragons Love Tacos
https://www.amazon.com/Dragons-Love-Tacos-Adam…/…/0803736800

Children Make Terrible Pets
https://www.amazon.com/Children-Terrible-Starr…/…/0316015482

The Curious Garden
https://www.amazon.com/Curious-Garden-Peter-B…/…/0316015474/

Olivia
https://www.amazon.com/Olivia-Ian-Falconer/dp/0689874723

Craft ideas so far: make a paper dragon, make your own terrible pet (puff balls and paper plates), plant seeds in mini pots, something with ribbons or coloring pages.

So, dear readers, what book should I pick?

Two Books and an Update

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The Dragon and Fox out on a Pokéwalk

Much happened since my last post, and it’s taken me a bit to come around to all of it.  A dear friend passed away, I visited my best friend who attended the death ritual, our family started playing Pokémon Go, and I completed my solo debut novel’s manuscript after letting it slide for over a year.

 

Why include Pokemon?  Because my feet have blisters, and it’s changed how we spend our days, even those we consider “at home” days.

Since all of these changes have left me rather ill, I am working on resting before throwing myself too hard into my next project, so this post will be brief.

My son has been enjoying two books from the library this week.  One helps us talk about death in a gentle way, and the other keeps us playful and bright.

81ow8gvvh6lA serendipitous find, we stumbled across Mrs. Huggins and Her Hen Hannah by Lydia Dabcovich from a recommendation at just the right time.  The gentle pictures of a rural life shared between an elder woman and her best friend, shows the joys one can have in daily tasks when in good company, and the life that goes on even after death and grief.

follow-me-9781481471473_lgThe other book, Follow me! by Ellie Sandall, shows a different sort of life: a communal life of ring-tailed lemurs as they move from waking to sleep and all the joy and danger in between.  The images are bright and clear, the language simple, yet allowing for a lot of variation in delivery, which is great for my drama prince who giggles when my theatrical training comes through during storytelling.

 

EDIT: Since my daughter will be celebrating her 16th birthday (and my partner his 46th, on the same day), we’ll be extraordinarily busy next week.  There will be no post, but the following Wednesday, I’ll have a new update about the party.  Thanks for your patience.

Call of the Wind

In March, a great series of wind storms crashed through our town, knocking down trees and power lines.  We’re accustomed to windy days and we know come late fall until May, power outages are something to prepare for.  We have an abundance of candles, matches, and other needful things.  After a day without lights, refrigeration, or wifi, we become humbled.

Spring can bring wind storms to many places, and to honor the wind’s power in our lives, I’ve compiled a short list of children’s picture books on the subject.

Mirandy and Brother Wind by Patricia McKissack – Mirandy wants to dance with Brother Wind at her first cakewalk. Her family and neighbors give her different ideas for trapping Brother Wind, for they say if she can trap him, he’ll grant her wish. Her friend, Ezel, a boy known for his clumsiness laughs at her attempts. When the cakewalk happens, everyone is in for a surprise. Excellent storytelling, lovely artwork, and true regional accents bring this folk tale to life.

Wind Child by Shirley Rousseau Murphy – The East Wind falls in love with a mortal woman, and together they make a child in a house made of reeds and clouds. When his wife dies, the East Wind brings their baby to a mortal woman to raise and care for. Resshie, named for the sound her father makes when blowing through the trees, grows to be a weaver of fine fabrics, never knowing who her father is. Too odd to befriend or marry, Resshie tries to weave her dreams to life. What this story lacks in the flow of writing it makes up for with the story itself and exquisite art. As I read the clunky text (it really needs a better editor), I retold it in my head as an animated film with the patterns of her fabric moving in the background.  

Story of the Wind Children by Sibylle von Olfers – A young boy named George is playing with a toy boa when the wind stops. A wind sprite comes to play, and together they go on an adventure. Her art has been described as akin to that of Beatrix Potter, and this story like others in the series anthropomorphizes natural forces. The story is full of whimsy, not heavy on substance, but reminds me of a child’s daydream. I’m looking forward to trying more of her books in the future, though my library seems bereft of her work.

When the Wind Stops by Charlotte Zolotow – A boy asks why the wind stops, and his mother explains it doesn’t — it simply moves to another part of the world, much like the sun, rain, etc. She tells of unending cycles of nature, a allegory for teaching about life cycles, and a contemplative introduction to natural sciences and pagan spirituality.

Whirlwind is a Spirit Dancing by Natalia Belting – Kept last in the list, this book contains the translated poetic tales of multiple Native American nations. While not all are about the winds of the world (there are three or four), they all tell stories about nature, weather, and the seasons. Each poem clearly shows both the originating tribe and its location in the Americas. Lovely illustrations complement the prose.

Bonus: For adolescents, I wish to turn you toward the Fables series by Bill Willingham, wherein a set of wind children are born to two famous fable characters.  The entire series is excellent, weaving classic fairy tales into contemporary urban life, but these children are especially remarkable for being the grandchildren of the North Wind.  They appear somewhere around volume 17 of the series.  

Though the links in this post lead to Amazon listings, please look for these titles through Barnes & Noble during their Teacher Appreciation Days.  All teachers (homeschool educators with a Declaration of Intent are included) get 25% all books and many other items through April 17th!

3 More Transportation Books for Young Children

In early March, I shared three book titles about transportation to delight your vehicle-loving child.  Here are another three for your family.

61epasarq9l-_sx258_bo1204203200_Truck Duck by Michael Rex

An adorable rhyming preschooler’s book in which a variety of animals are found driving different vehicles.  My son loves talking about transportation, and I’m happy talking about the animals.  (Though I had a huge collection of Hot Wheels as a kid, these days I much prefer focusing on nature and living beings.)  Also, the rhymes are cute, like Rig Pig and Tow Crow.  It’s quick, it’s informative, and my son thinks it’s a lot of fun.

9780439050234_xlgDuck on a Bike by David Shannon

A little boy leaves his shiny red bike and goes into the house, and Duck gets an idea.  Filled with bright images of larger than life animals share a community where each animal has different opinions about Duck’s bike riding.  This amusing book is full of silliness and though each animal thinks of Duck’s riding in their own way, their opinions don’t sway  Duck from enjoying himself.  The link includes both book and CD, and if you like it enough, there’s even a video.

61h3iuxawul-_sx258_bo1204203200_The Little Engine the Could by Watty Piper

Nothing beats a classic.  The poor little engine that breaks down and can’t bring the toys and good foods to the boys and girls on the other side of a mountain.  As they ask for help of various engines that pass by, each one gives some reason why they can’t — or won’t — assist those in need.  Then a kind little engine comes by who has never been further than the train yard.  Recently, my son has begun saying, “I can’t,” about all sorts of things he can do.  It’s an annoying but not uncommon behavior, and since he loves vehicles, I figured this classic train story could give him motivation to think of himself as capable in a variety of situations.  When I read it, I give each engine a distinct voice and personality, and try to make the repetitive train dialogue (e.g. “I think I can”) sound like train noises.

10 Books for Spring Equinox

wbOstara2016

March 20th marks the Spring Equinox for 2016, and our family adores this time of year.  Much like the traditions marking Christmas festivities in the U.S. and Europe, the symbols of pagan spring celebrations are reflected in Easter.  While we throw around the name of goddess Eostre or Ostara around easily, the history and origins of many of our traditions aren’t actually so clear.  Nevertheless, the symbols of seeds, eggs, rabbits, and baby animals remain a constant in modern practices, though their origins are scattered across multiple cultures and pre-Christian periods.

Though we discuss the history in our house, sometimes it’s just easier to call the holiday Ostara to differentiate it as both a sacred time yet somewhat separate from Easter, which comes relative to the Lenten calendar of the Catholic Church and subsequent Christian sects. Since our path is one embracing nature, these symbols are in line with the spring when seeds are planted, eggs are laid, lambs have gained their hoofhold on the land, and bunnies are, well, plentiful. At least in our yard.

To help you share the wonders of this season of rebirth and renewal, here are ten excellent books related to these symbols and ideas.

duck_and_gooseDuck & Goose (and its sequel Duck, Duck, Goose) by Tad Hills – Oh my goodness, these books are adorable. The first book in this series features a duck and goose who stumble across a polka dotted ball and believe it to be an egg, and they each wish to claim it.  It’s not only amusing to see two birds the equivalent of children fighting over rights to an egg, as characterized in this bright, cheery artwork, but it teaches its readers how to collaborate and compromise.

51h2b9m1o8nlThe Boy Who Didn’t Believe in Spring by Lucille Clifton – It’s hard to see evidence of the changing of the seasons when one lives in a big city.  A lack of exposure to green, growing things and the life cycles of animals can make spring feel like a fairytale adults tell children.  A young boy and his best friend set out to find evidence of spring, convinced it’s all a lie.  It takes pushing past the boundaries of what’s safe for them to find proof of what they seek.

9780805069709_p0_v1_s192x300How Robin Saved Spring by Debbie Ouellet and Nicoletta Ciccoli – Lady Winter doesn’t wish to pull back the blankets of snow and wake Sister Spring for she feels winter to be far more beautiful.  Led by Robin, the animals join together to wake Spring or else have a year of winter.  Sometimes a worthy cause requires a sacrifice.  Lovely, gentle artwork accompanies this long tale of heroism.

51pfr0ta6vl-_sx258_bo1204203200_Spring Equinox: The Greening of the Earth by Ellen Jackson – This lovely compendium of Spring Equinox traditions help showcase cultures across time and place.  While a longer book, meant for 4 – 8 year olds, toddlers and preschoolers will enjoy the pictures, and can read two or three pages at a time.

518ie2b6twgl-_sx258_bo1204203200_Just a Duck? by Carin Bramsen – We didn’t know this was a sequel to Hey, Duck! until after enjoying it.  These two sweet friends, a cat and duckling, are getting to know one another.  Though Cat has learned what Duck enjoys playing, this book focuses on Duck attempting to play like Cat. Considering their different physiology, the challenge for Duck is considerable.  Be warned, the cuteness factor is high with these illustrations.

lucygreenman.jpgLob (a.k.a. Lucy and the Green Man) by Linda Newberry – Lucy helps in her grandfather’s garden, where his tales of the Greenman come to life through the invisible forces making the plants grow. Though people can’t see him, Lucy feels his energizing presence skipping through the garden. This is a chapter book and great for readers ready to branch out.


51xhxczidql-_sx258_bo1204203200_One Little Seed
 
by Elaine Greenstein – We found this as a board book at the library. A sweet, simple tale of a seed selected, planted, nurtured, and grown until the next little seed can be collected for the following year. The cycle of life and the growing seasons presented simply enough for toddlers to appreciate.

71qjdqcaflsSeeds of Change: Wangari’s Gift to the World by Jen Cullerton Johnson – Based on the true story of Wangari Maathai, who grew up with a curious mind and a reverence for nature. The rare opportunity to get an education as a girl helped ignite her passion for learning.  After studying abroad and returning home, she used her wisdom to help her people recover their land from destruction. Wangari is the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.

51-0-el9pml-_sx258_bo1204203200_The Golden Bunny by Margaret Brown – A hard to find classic (KCLS doesn’t have it!) from the author of Goodnight Moon and Runaway Bunny, this collection of poems and short tales of rabbits continues to delight  our family.
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The Wonderful Habits of Rabbits by Douglas Florian – A playful book about the day in the life of rabbits. It has a happy rhyming rhythm perfect for young children.  Since the day ends with the rabbits snuggling in to sleep, it makes an excellent bedtime story.

3 Transportation Books for Young Children

My son adores certain things: music, performing, My Little Pony, cooking, Stephen Universe, and cars.  Not just cars, but any vehicle or mode of transportation. While he enjoys cooking in his play kitchen, building things with blocks, and banging on percussion instruments while making up his own melodies, most of his play time is spent smashing cars together or having them talk to each other.

As with so many of my daughter’s passions, we have turned to the library for assistance in finding books to appease his constant desire to play with, build, or talk about cars.

Here are three he greatly enjoyed recently:

littlebluetruckbooksLittle Blue Truck by Alice Schertle and Jill McElmurry

This sweet little book with its moping cow, perky pig, and bicep flexing frog features the daily drive and “conversation” of a little blue truck and the animals along the way.  When a rude, road-hogging dump truck comes along and gets stuck in the mud, it learns a lesson.  An excellent book to explore manners, kindness, and the interdependence of a community. In writing this review, I also discovered, there’s a sequel!

9780064467285_p0_v2_s192x300Beep Beep, Vroom Vroom by Stuart J. Murphy and Chris Demarest

Little sister Molly loves watching her big brother Kevin play with his cars, but he won’t let her play.  When he’s called down to set the table for dinner, Molly starts to play with them anyway, even after being warned he’d better find his cars as he left them.  Reasons to lvoe it: cars aren’t gendered toys in this book, siblings are shown in an honest manner when it comes to sharing, and the subtle pattern recognition about the cars and which ordered they’re placed and played in each time.


freighttrain1Freight Train
by Donald Crews

Why is this simplistic art so appealing?  Ah! It makes me giddy to see it.  This lovely little book appears incredibly simplistic, and yet it teaches about different portions of a train, colors, motion’s visual effect on objects, counting, and is cleverly written to give the ending a nice pop! of a finish.