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Saturday, May 31, 2014

10 Books to Read to a Kindergarten Class

Hi, friends. Is school out where you are? School is out for us and we are a week into summer. As I looked back on this school year, I realized it was something special. After all, your oldest child's first year of school only happens once. So much about this year was new and thrilling for Benjamin, and for me as his mom. Jacob agrees that it was an exciting year -- especially watching Benjamin learn to read.

Two or three Fridays each month I went and read to Benjamin's class. I meant to get a babysitter for my other two kids when I first started volunteering, but I never did and that worked out alright. Levi (age 3) loved hearing the stories just as much as the Kindergarteners and learned, over time, to sit quietly with them on the rug.  Jubilee grew from 5 months old to 12 months old over the course of our time in the classroom. The Kindergarteners just adored her and, prompted by whatever new skill she was showing off, they often told me about their own siblings or baby cousins.

But let's get down to business here! What did I read to them? What do I recommend if you ever find yourself reading to a class?

We mostly read picture books. I typically read 5-7 of them in the ~40 min that I read to the group. Part-way through the year I began a longer chapter book, My Dad's a Birdman by David Almond, illustrated by Polly Dunbar, but reactions were mixed. I kept reading a chapter or two each time I went, to appease those who loved it, but most of the class wanted to read picture books and I was ok with that.

Books to read to a kindergarten class

10 books to read to a Kindergarten class:

(Titles are affiliate links.)

  1. Petite Rouge by Mike Artell and Jim Harris (My personal favorite read-aloud for any audience. I've developed voices and honed my delivery. And this book is worth it.
  2. Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina (A classic!)
  3. Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale (and sequels) by Mo Willems (Just SO fun. Benjamin's review here)
  4. Elephant and Piggie books by Mo Willems (I gush about these here and here)
  5. The Spaghetti-Slurping Sewer Serpent by Laura Ripes and Aaron Zenz (Well-loved in our house, but not very well known. Check out my full review here!)
  6. Carnivores by Aaron Reynolds and Dan Santat (Guaranteed to get some toothy grins.)
  7. Curious George  books by Margaret & H.A. Rey (I recommend the originals over the more recently released titles. I find them infinitely more engaging.)
  8. Fly Guy  books by Ted Arnold (Benjamin's class loved to chorus, "Eeww!" at all the right places.)
  9. Click, Clack, Moo books by Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin (This series even has a Halloween volume: Click, Clack, Boo!)
  10. I Want My Hat Back and This Is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen (Gorgeous art and simple text make these ones a treat to read aloud. Ashley's review here!)

Basic principles of reading to a Kindergarten class:


1. Take time for introductions. Introduce yourself and to ask the kids their names. It's nice, and it if you do it a few times you'll get to know the kids, which is fun (and handy! See #3).

2. Don't be afraid to read them a book they already know. They love books they've read before and re-reading is a joy to them. I think they love knowing what's going to happen next.

3. If you sense you're losing them, pause. Call out a disruptive kid if needed (much easier to do if you know the kids' names!). Or, point out an interesting illustration. Ask students to "Do [this] if [that]." For instance, "Put your hand on your head if you like spaghetti."  -- avoid open questions like "Does anyone like spaghetti?" Once you say something like that, every individual Kindergartener will need to tell you that they like spaghetti (or that they hate it and prefer hot dogs) and they'll need to tell you with a deep, internal fire that is as urgent as a potty emergency.

Add your own read-aloud recommendations and tips in the comments, friends! I would love to hear them.


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Storytelling inspiration

This evening I'm content. I've just done a bang-up job at turning something I dreamed up into a real thing. That is always a guaranteed mood-boost for me.

Specifically, Jacob showed me how to use Inkscape a little bit, and I made a graphic organizer  a document I'm calling "Story Club worksheet" right now. Basically it will help you organize your thoughts of Who, What, When, Where and Why so that you can start your Story Club. :-)

As you can see, the printed version is much more beautiful and readable than the first draft.

Anyway, tonight I wanted to share some of the lovely storytelling quotes I have begun to collect. The first comes from an author whose books I love, the second from an author whose work I have not read. Both are lovely.

"Stories make us more alive, more human, 
more courageous, more loving.”
  Madeleine L'Engle 

 "Stories can conquer fear, you know. 
They can make the heart bigger.” 
 Ben Okri

Do you agree with the quotes above? Is there a time when a story has helped you in one of those ways? Hearing my mom tell stories about her childhood helped me conquer some of my own fears when I was young. Tell me your experience.

Got any great storytelling quotes? I would love to put them in my repository. Share in the comments, below!


Thursday, May 22, 2014

Bluffton

Bluffton by Matt Phelan

The art is gorgeous, of course. Have you seen his other books? Both Storm in the Barn and (my personal favorite) Around the World also feature the gorgeous watercolor, pencil, and ink of Matt Phelan.

Bluffton is about the summers that famous film pioneer Buster Keaton spent in Bluffton, MI. We hear about these summers from the perspective of a fictional main character, Henry. I wouldn't have known that Henry was fictional except that it says so right in the back of the book. The relationship between Henry and Buster (and others) feels very authentic, as does the plot in general. Of course, the book is born of Phelan's lifelong fascination with Buster Keaton, so you know, there was a lot of research.

Despite having been well researched, the book never feels like it was written by a robot. Also, the book is not so perfect and glossy that you're like "how was that even made?" No, you can see how it was drawn, complete with tiny imperfections. I noticed one panel in particular where the coloring went outside of the border:



That sort of thing would be easy to clean up, digitally or otherwise. But I feel like it adds to the character of the book, and maybe even helps establish the book's setting -- a century in the past.

Bluffton is certainly appropriate for ages 8 and up, but my guess is that it will appeal more strongly to teens and adults (especially those who already know a little bit about Buster Keaton). I don't know how the book would read for someone who has no idea of who Keaton is. Speaking for myself, Bluffton made me want to re-watch some of Buster Keaton's films; I got my first taste of them in my college's Intro to Film class. I want to share them with my kids and watch their faces. It looks like there are some on YouTube.

This book is so well done. That's really the bottom line. In Bluffton, Matt Phelan perfectly mixes dialog and illustration. Let me show you what I mean. An interaction like this one could be totally hackneyed with extra descriptions. ("... she said. Suddenly, Henry realized he was sitting on a heart-backed love-seat with a girl who had just said the L word..." No.) The pictures just do it so well.


I hope you'll check this one out, if it interests you. If not, may I once again recommend Around the World? My review is here, and I also recorded my book club's reaction.

UPDATE: I watched The General with our five-year-old son and it was priceless! My review of that is here.
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If you make a purchase after following one of these links, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Amazon - Bluffton: My Summers with Buster KeatonBarnes and Noble - Bluffton: My Summer with Buster Keaton 

Monday, May 19, 2014

Betsy-Tacy

betsy tacy review maud hart lovelaceBetsy-Tacy by Maud Hart Lovelace

This is a charming little book. I heard about it from Melissa Wiley -- she's always talking about what she's reading with her kids over on her blog (and I'm so glad! She is an author of books for young kinds including Fox and Crow are not friends, which I reviewed last week).

Betsy-Tacy was just the book I needed right now. So light and charming and true to life. My life is a little bit hectic at the moment, and I found my reading was totally suffering. "I've just got to read something," I'd say to myself, because I know how reading makes me feel so good. "But everything seems unmanageable!" especially Words of Radiance, which I know Jacob wants me to read. :) Anyway...

Betsy and Tacy are two sweet five-year-old girls who meet when Tacy moves to Hill Street. What made the story extra interesting to me was that it is written in the 1940's and set a bit further back than that, being autobiographical for the author. "Betsy is like me," the author says in the back of the book. "Except I glamorized her to make her a proper heroine." I love it.

betsy tacy review maud hart lovelace
The illustrations are by Lois Lenski and are also totally charming.

The book features chapters like "The Sand Store" and "Playing Paper Dolls."  Though I wouldn't describe the book as a page-turner, it was fascinating to read about the daily activities of little girls in the olden days
.
betsy tacy review maud hart lovelace
I mean paper dolls you cut out of magazines? That's old school.
All my paper dolls came from punch-out paper doll books.
The book did make me laugh with how totally realistic it is -- I loved the complicated relationships that Betsy and Tacy had with their older sisters. The book was as real to me as Hilary McKay's books about the Casson family (and that's high praise).

betsy tacy review maud hart lovelace
Here, their older sisters are taking Betsy and Tacy
to the first day of school.
Kindergarten?
No. They go to "the Baby Room."
I was SO intrigued to find out the the series continues all the way until Betsy gets married! Now I like that. In so many of these series, the protagonist never gets much older. To follow someone through childhood and into adulthood, that's interesting. I'll be looking for the next books, but not in a great rush. I have a feeling I'll want to savor these slowly, and I won't forget about them in the meantime.
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Related posts:
A Reader's Guide to the Betsy-Tacy books by Melissa Wiley
Old-fashioned books reviewed on Everead
Everead reviews of Hilary McKay's books about the Cassons: Book One, Two, Three, Four, Prequel.
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Affiliate links:
If you make a purchase after clicking one of these links, I will earn a small commission. Thank you!
B&N has a treasury!
Amazon has a different cover


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Story Club: You Don't Join It, You Start It.

Ok. I have figured something out about Story Club that I want to share with you. It's been settled in my mind for a while and I haven't changed my mind about it, so here it goes:

You don't "Join Story Club" here on Everead.

Back in April, my awesome mom commented, "I can't wait to join Story Club!"

I love you, Mom.

In May, Ashley said,  ...the title, story "club." [...] To feel like you're being asked to "join" a "club" ... I'm not sure. That seems to suggest there's more commitment involved, somehow. It's a very cute name, though, so I'm on the fence.

I've thought about it, and, at this point, with the skills and resources that I have, I simply can't make Story Club something where we, the readers of this blog, come together and tell stories and have a story club made out of us. Remember the missions of story club? (It's the part with bullet points.) I just can't fill those missions by having you join Story Club here on Everead. Even if you did pay fat dues to the overlord (which would be me, muahaha!).

So. If you don't "join story club" here, what do you do? You buy the guides and you form your own Story Club. In your own life. With your own people. You are the leader of your very own story club.

I sketched this up.
Let's go back to commitment, like Ashley mentioned above. Forming your very own real-life club is going to require commitment -- but, I think it's a different kind of commitment, and pays different dividends. Story Club is not going to be like the Disney Movie Club, where you join and you have to stay in until you can quit. You won't need to make a certain number of purchases or pay dues. Story Club is going to be like . . . Story Club, where you buy the guide and form the club on your own terms, and have a great time (bonding with others, getting smarter, more empathetic and resilient). And if you want to buy more guides you can, and if not, well, you've had fun. And just like that big sign in my elementary school gym said, "If you had fun, you won!"

...what do you think? (It doesn't matter, it's settled.) (But tell me anyway.)



Monday, May 12, 2014

Story Club: thinking positive thoughts


Hi! So, remember how I said I was working on Story Club five days a week? Well, I fell off the wagon. But that's ok. Remember how I said I might need help to stay excited once the initial rush of the project wore off? Well friends, that day has come.

With life being what it is, and with some new responsibilities at church, my tidy work schedule got derailed. But then this afternoon I got a lovely message from Marie. She said that she had never thought of telling stories with her preschooler until I mentioned it here on Everead. She started telling stories with him at lunch, and now they're hooked! They love it! That just thrills me. It warms my heart.

I turned to my co-author here on Everead for some encouragement this morning, before I got Marie's message. I had let Ashley look at some Story Club stuff a couple weeks ago. I said this morning, (looking for motivation to carry on) "was it fun for you to read those story ideas? Do you think having story ideas like those might be valuable to a person?"

I loved her answer: "Yes, I enjoyed reading the ideas. Yes, I think they could definintely be valuable. I would love more of them myself."

Yippee! Ok. I can do this. I was kind of (quite) worried, since it was all crickets over on the post about the story that started it all.  But I totally trust Ashley's judgement. If she wants more of something, it is something worth having.

Can you relate to the feeling of having the excitement wear off of a project?  Tell me your best tips for keeping yourself motivated, please. :)

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Fox and Crow are Not Friends

Fox and Crow are not friends melissa wileyFox and Crow are Not Friends by Melissa Wiley, illustrated by Sebastian Braun

Benjamin is learning to read and, as you can imagine, this is thrilling for me! Back in February he picked Fox and Crow are Not Friends for a kindergarten book report.

I'd been wanting to get my hands on this book for some time when I finally found it at the library. Why was I so eager for it? I fell in love with Melissa Wiley's blog after being on the Cybils 2011 graphic novels panel with her. She knows her stuff when it comes to graphic novels and when it comes to writing for children. I take her reading recommendations regularly*. And let me say: we will definitely be looking for her other books!

Fox and Crow are Not Friends retells Aesop's fable about Fox and Crow, wherein Crow has a piece of cheese and fox covets it, so he flatters Crow into singing. Crow opens his beak to sing, drops the cheese, and Fox gobbles it up. Lesson learned: beware of flattery. But the retelling is only the first chapter of Fox and Crow are Not Friends. In chapter two, Crow gets his revenge. In chapter three, Fox thinks it's payback time -- but the surprise ending is awesome.

Last night I told Benjamin I was going to review it on the blog today, and asked him if he had anything to say about it.

"I think it's funny when [total spoiler of the surprise ending]!" Benjamin was grinning.
"Maybe we shouldn't say that, because it's a surprise." I said.
"Oh, yeah. . . . So. I know what you should do. You should get the book and take a picture of it--"
"I did that."
"Then put the picture on your blog so that people can really find the book and read it. And tell them they have to read the book and find out the ending!"

I am right there with ya, buddy. :D

Without further ado, here is the book report:

fox and crow are not friends book report
Two sentences about the story:
"Fox and Crow are definitely not best friends. They both love cheese."

fox and crow are not friends triorama
L to R: Mama Bear, Fox, Crow, Cheese.
Two things (other than my own eyes) recommend Sebastian Braun's illustrations to me.

1. Last night Benjamin asked, "Who was the illustrator again?"
2. The fact that Benjamin's triorama is populated so well. Benjamin avoids changing crayons unless it's absolutely necessary. Obviously the colors and illustrations really brought this book to life for him. He worked diligently, modeling his figures after those in the book. And I can tell you for certain that he wouldn't have bothered with many other books. (This ain't his first book report.)

Simply put, It's a good book. If you've ever tried to write an easy reader -- heck, if you've ever read your child's homework with them! -- you know that crafting a good story with limited vocabulary takes talent. And with limited vocabulary, often the illustrations must convey essentials of the plot. Hats off to Melissa Wiley and Sebastian Braun for this favorite!

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*more on this here!
bonus: I reviewed another adaptation of Aesop's fables, back in 2008.
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update: Want to buy it? If you make a purchase after clicking through my affiliate links, I'll earn a small commission. Thanks!
Fox and Crow Are Not Friends
Fox and Crow Are Not Friends (Step into Reading)

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