Friday, April 26, 2013

Fingerplay Fun Friday!

Here's a fun old nursery rhyme that works great as either a fingerplay or a big body march: The Grand Old Duke of York

The Grand Old Duke of York

The grand old Duke of York
He had ten thousand men
He marched them all to the top of the hill
And he marched them down again

And when they were up they were up!
And when they were down they were down!
And when they were only half way up
They were neither up nor down!


This rhyme has been a personal long time favorite.  Young children love to move around, and what better way to get them moving in a controlled way than with a march.  The rhyme can be repeated and practiced over and over all around the room.

One of the reasons this is a valuable rhyme for pre-readers is that it teaches the directions UP and DOWN in a meaningful way.  We physically rise our hands or bodies as we act out the actions in the rhyme.  I like to flip-flop my hands in an "I can't make up my mind" manner when the men are neither up nor down.

Print awareness is a child's understanding of how printed words work.  A big part of this pre-reading skill relates to a child's understanding that we read in a specific direction.  In English, we read from left to right, top to bottom.  Rhymes that help children master an understanding of directions contribute to their later reading success!  Pretty cool!!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Fingerplay Fun Friday!

Here's a fun shaker rhyme: We're Going to Shake Our Shakers

We're Going to Shake Our Shakers

We're going to shake our shakers
Shake them so.....
We're going to shake our shakers
HIGH!! and LOW!!
We're going to shake our shakers
Shake the so....
Until someone says.......STOP!

We’re going to shake our shakers
Shake them so....
We’re going to shake our shakers
FAST!! and SLOW!!
We’re going to shake our shakers
Shake them so....
Until someone says......STOP!

We’re going to shake our shakers
LEFT!! and RIGHT!!
We’re going to shake our shakers
LEFT!! and RIGHT!!
We’re going to shake our shakers
LEFT!! and RIGHT
HOLD ON TIGHT!
Until someone says......STOP!
We’re going to shake our shakers
AROUND and AROUND!!
We’re going to shake out shakers
UPSIDE DOWN!!
We’re going to shake our shakers
ON THE GROUND!!
Until someone says......STOP!

We’re going to shake our shakers
SHAKE THEM GOODBYE!!
We’re going to shake our shakers
SHAKE THEM GOODBYE!!
We’re going to shake our shakers
SHAKE THEM GOODBYE!!
Until someone says.......STOP!


You're going to need a shaker for this one.  If you don't already have one, you can help your child make a shaker using our super-simple directions:


Preschooler Tie-ins:

I love this rhyme because it it introduces kids to lots of abstract concepts in an incredibly fun way.  HIGH and LOW, FAST and SLOW, LEFT and RIGHT... these are concepts that take quite a little practice for preschoolers to master.  Left and right are especially challenging (in the video, I shake my directions backward, in case little ones might be watching and trying to imitate).  Print awareness is a child's understanding of how books and printed language work.  Spatial awareness and concepts like left and right are an important part of this critical pre-reading skill.  Rhymes that let kids play with these ideas help them to learn in a meaningful way!

Toddler Tie-ins:
Each section of the rhyme ends with a STOP!  Practicing stopping is very important for young children.  Every time they stop shaking, they are practicing self-control and self-regulation.  This can be extremely challenging for toddlers. Learning to focus is an extremely important skill.  Kids who are able to control their urges and stick with a challenging task will have a much easier time learning to read!

Baby Tie-ins:
Babies love the rhythm of shakers.  Every time you stop and start again, your baby will be surprised and delighted!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Visiting Storyland, Pt. 7

It has been quite an adventure!  In the last seven weeks, we've made a long journey through some of the greatest children's picture books ever made.  This week, we look at our last Storyland title: Where's Spot? by Eric Hill.

It's suppertime and Spot the puppy can't be found! His mother searches high and low trying to find where Spot is hiding.  She gets help along the way from a series of animals and finally uncovers her lost little guy!

Now, in my honest opinion, it isn't the story that makes Where's Spot? so much fun... it's the lift-the-flap technology!!  Toddlers especially enjoy lifting the flaps to see if Spot is hiding in the clock, the closet or in the piano.  Every time we encounter a new hiding place, the book asks us a very simple question: "Is he under the bed?"  Up until the very end, whenever we lift the flap we are met with a different animal who answers one word: "no".  The author's use of speech balloons and the repeated word "no" presents us with a great opportunity to point out how the printed word and books work.  We can point to the word no as we read "no".  After kids have enjoyed the book a number of times, we can more explicitly call their attention to the speech balloons.  We can say something like: "Hey!  Have you noticed that all the animals say 'no' and that they all have this word next to them?  Did you know that this says no?!  Pretty cool!"

We call a child's understanding of how books and printed words work print awareness.  Print awareness involves many different concepts, such as how we read text from left to right and top to bottom.  It also includes a basic understanding of how a book works!  Books with moveable parts, like Where's Spot?, give kids the chance to explore the mechanical side of books.This will ultimately help them when they begin to learn how to read.

It can be great fun for kids to create their own books.  Check out our super-simple directions on making a book:


You can easily tape or glue some paper flaps onto the pages and turn your child's book into a lift-the-flap book!  When children play with books in meaningful ways, their enjoyment of books grows.

Check out our recent Fingerplay Fun Friday blog post for some information about peek-a-boo and why little kids love it so much: Here's a Ball for Baby

The Storyland exhibit is on display at the Portland Children's Museum until May 5, 2013.  Visitors can sit on top of Spot's trunk, flip tiles to reveal Spot and play with Spot's basket.  To visit the Children's Museum for free, contact your local Washington County library today and arrange to check out a Cultural Pass.

(photo above provided by Portland Children's Museum and used with permission)

Here is a little list of some lift-the-flap books I especially like:

Title: Baby Danced the Polka
Author: Karen Beaumont
Illustrator: Jennifer Plecas
Find this book at your library

It's nap-time on the farm... but baby just isn't tired.  Flaps can be lifted to reveal baby getting down with a host of funny animals.
Title: Baby Faces Peekaboo!
Author: Dawn Sirett
Find this book at your library

Baby faces are hiding behind the flaps in this over-sized board book.  After seeing babies in all kinds of moods, a mirror lets the reader practice making faces.
 Title: Duck's Key: Where Can It Be?
Author: Jez Alborough
Find this book at your library

Duck has lost his key.  Lift-the-flap and help him find it.  Few books do such a good job helping kids prepare for later life as an adult.
Title: Even Firefighters Go to the Potty
Author: Wendy Wax and Naomi Wax
Illustrator: Stephen Gilpin
Find this book at your library

Demystifying the world of the potty, flaps lift back to show how everybody uses it.  Potty training doesn't get any better than this!
Title: Peek-a-Moo!
Author: Marie Torres Cimarusti
Illustrator: Stephanie Peterson
Find this book at your library

Q: What is the best way to learn animal names?
A: Play peek-a-boo with them!!!
Title: There Are Cats in this Book
Author: Viviane Schwarz
Find this book at your library

A series of flaps let the reader interact with a bunch of playful cats.  An extremely creative lift-the-flap book!
Title: Tuck Me In!
Author: Dean Hacohen
Illustrator: Sherry Scharschmidt
Find this book at your library

A different take on the lift-the-flap book... this time, the flaps are used as bed covers to tuck in animals!
Title: Where is Baby's Belly Button?
Author: Karen Katz
Find this book at your library

Baby's clothes hide her many body parts and provide kids with a fun way to learn their names!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Fingerplay Fun Friday!

This week's rhyme is a fun little song-and-dance called The Story Stomp

The Story Stomp

(sung to the tune of The Humphrey Hop (In the Bag))

 First you touch your nose, then you touch your toes -- Stomp-Stomp!
Then you bend your back and you start to clap -- Clap-Clap!
That's the way it's done, it's a lot of fun -- Stomp-Stomp!
Doin' the wiggle-waggle story stomp!

Next you touch your lips, then you touch your hips -- Stomp-Stomp!
Then you bend your back and you start to clap -- Clap-Clap!
That's the way it's done, it's a lot of fun -- Stomp-Stomp!
Doin' the wiggle-waggle story stomp!

Then you touch your tummy and hop like a bunny -- Stomp-Stomp!
Then you bend your back and you start to clap -- Clap-Clap!
That's the way it's done, it's a lot of fun -- Stomp-Stomp!
Doin' the wiggle-waggle story stomp!

Now you touch your eyes and you wave bye-bye -- Stomp-Stomp!
Then you bend your back and you start to clap -- Clap-Clap!
That's the way it's done, it's a lot of fun -- Stomp-Stomp!
Doin' the wiggle-waggle story stomp!


This little rhyme is more fun and silly than anything else.   It gives little feet plenty of opportunities to stomp around.  And as we know, in general toddlers and preschoolers have a big need for movement.

I like how the first line changes while the rest of the rhyme remains the same.  This gives kids a chance to practice remembering the words and movements all throughout.  Feel free to build on the fun by improvising the body parts and actions found in the first line.  With preschoolers, you can indicate a body part and them ask them to help you come up with a rhyme to go along with it.

Understanding sequencing is a big part of the early literacy skill we call narrative skills.  When kids understand how stories and songs are put together, they have a better ability to make predictions.  This, in turn, benefits them when they begin to learn how to read!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Visiting Storyland, Pt. 6

It's Tuesday evening, around eight... do you know where your frogs are?!  Our weekly Storyland visit takes us into a world of imagination run wild, where lily pads become magic carpets and frogs invade a sleepy little town: Tuesday by David Wiesner.

The story begins as dawn descends on the swamp.  One frog awakens to realize the lily pad upon which it sleeps is flying.  Before we know it, dozens of frogs are zooming all over the place, terrifying midnight snackers, peeking in on TV watchers and playing tag with a dog named Rusty.  The tale ends with a police investigation into curious reports and the presence of lily pads all over the road.  And then we learn that next Tuesday, even more fun is in store!

Tuesday is essentially wordless.  A little bit of text shows up indicating the time and that's it.  The story is primarily told through the pictures. 

Reading wordless picture books with children can be a great exercise for parents and caregivers.  Please note, I said reading wordless picture books with children and not to children.  The great thing about wordless picture books is that they are a perfect for two-way sharing.  Since there are no words begging to be read, we can feel more comfortable encouraging our little friends to help us tell the story.

Here are some great questions to ask your child as they "read" you a wordless picture book:
  1. What is happening here?
  2. What do you think is going to happen next?
  3. Who is that? 
  4. What is s/he doing?
  5.  Why do you think s/he is doing that?
When your child responds to your questions, try to provide positive feedback and help them to build on their thoughts.  If your child says: "The dog wants to eat the frog" you can respond, "Yeah, it looks like the dog is chasing the frog. Why do you think he wants to eat the frog?"  Basically, have a natural conversation with your child about the pictures and ask lots of questions.  When you ask questions you are reinforcing the fact that we use books to learn about the world and how things work.  This helps build critical thinking skills that kids need when they begin school.  It provides an early foundation into the complex world of information literacy.

For younger children who are not able to have a conversation about the story, feel free to go crazy and make up funny stories when sharing wordless picture books.  Little kids look to their caregivers to develop an understanding of how things work.  When they see their loved one really getting into the story, they will naturally equate book sharing with fun. 

Check out this interesting study that was recently conducted by researchers at the Utah State University: Research Shows that Books without Text Can Increase Literacy, Vocabulary Skills in Children with Developmental Disabilities

For more ideas about telling stories with your children, check out our recent blog post: Tell Me a Story!

The Storyland exhibit is on display at the Portland Children's Museum until May 5, 2013.  Visitors can present their own news story on TV or bang on a log and explore the sounds of the swamp.  To visit the Children's Museum for free, contact your local Washington County library today and arrange to check out a Cultural Pass.

Here are a few of my favorite wordless (or nearly wordless) picture books:

Title: A Ball for Daisy
Author: Chris Raschka
Find this book at your library

A little dog has all kinds of fun with a ball in this brightly colored wordless picture book!
Title: Gem
Author: Holly Hobbie
Find this book at your library

The springtime journey of a toad is depicted in this story that beautifully captures a natural habitat.
 Title: Good Night, Gorilla
Author: Peggy Rathman
Find this book at your library

A zoo keeper is shutting down the zoo for the night while, unbeknownst to him, the animals follow him home.
Title: The Lion and the Mouse
Author: Jerry Pinkney
Find this book at your library

A gorgeous retelling of Aesop's fable about how a mouse and a lion help each other.
Title: Truck
Author: Donald Crews
Find this book at your library

Road signs help show a truck's journey from pickup to delivery!
Title: Wave
Author: Suzy Lee
Find this book at your library

A young girl visits the beach and experiences all it has to offer.
Title: What If?
Author: Laura Vaccaro Seeger
Find this book at your library

A series of "what if?" questions accompany a story of a beach ball and group of seals.  The prompts make this is a fantastic book for sharing with a child who is practicing telling stories and describing things!
Title: Where's Walrus?
Author: Stephen Savage
Find this book at your library

Walrus has escaped from the zoo!  While the zoo keeper tries to track him down, we get to practice picking him out in a series of funny locations!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Fingerplay Fun Friday!

This week we feature the classic nursery rhyme Little Boy Blue

Little Boy Blue

Little Boy Blue come blow your horn
(pretend to blow horn)
The sheep's in the meadow
(point over shoulder)
The cow's in the corn
(point over other shoulder)
But where is the boy who looks after the sheep?
(shrug shoulders with hands out, palms up)
He's under the haystack fast asleep
(pretend to sleep)

Will you wake him?
(point out)
No, not I!
(point in)
For if I do, he's sure to cry!
(pretend to cry)

This familiar Mother Goose rhyme is as old as the hills.  It has been entertaining children for countless generations. 

Most Mother Goose rhymes don't lend themselves to acting out nearly so well as Little Boy Blue.  It is super-easy to play along with the little boy who neglects his chores and falls asleep under the haystack. 

There are tons of delightful old rhymes that are terribly fun to say, even if they can't be acted out.  Most grownups will remember them from childhoods.  Sadly, in this busy day and age, it can be all too easy to raise a child with little or no exposure to classic nursery rhymes.

For folks interested in learning more about Mother Goose and her rhymes, I would heartily recommend the rich Mother Goose web site developed by the Information and Library Studies program at Rutgers University: Mother Goose: A Scholarly Exploration

And you could do worse than to check out these fantastic Mother Goose collections:

Title: My Very First Mother Goose
Editor: Iona Opie
Illustrator: Rosemary Wells
Find this book at your library

Many of the most familiar English nursery rhymes are collected in this beautiful over-sized book.
Title: Here Comes Mother Goose
Editor: Iona Opie
Illustrator: Rosemary Wells
Find this book at your library

Continuing the good work, this follow-up to My Very First Mother Goose collects many familiar and unfamiliar nursery rhymes.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Visiting Storyland, pt. 5

Our next Storyland title is a vocabulary-packed picture book all about a busy little, cookie-loving mouse: If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Joffe Numeroff (illustrated by Felicia Bond). 

The story starts perfectly: "If you give a mouse a cookie," is immediately followed by, "he's going to ask for a glass of milk."  And with that, we're off to the races with a rambling tale that would sound perfect coming out of the mouth of a preschooler.  If this happens, then that is going to happen and if that happens, then this is going to happen.

Reminiscent of The Song That Doesn't End, the story wraps up with a wide-open invitation to turn back to page one and start all over again.

What makes If You Give a Mouse a Cookie so wonderful is the pictures.  They are packed with all sorts of fun stuff that most children will recognize from their own homes.  The kitchen contains cookie jars, a toaster, a blender and all kinds of other goodies.  The pictures open up a world of possibilities for growing a conversation between caregiver and child.

To help reinforce vocabulary knowledge in older preschoolers, try playing the I Spy Game while reading the story.  Try to make sure the objects you pick aren't unfamiliar to your child.

Having conversations about what is happening on the pages of picture books is called Dialogic Reading.  Research shows that it can be a powerful tool for improving a child's reading comprehension and understanding. 

For younger kids, it is best to stick with easy-to-answer "closed" questions.  These are the types of questions that basically have one correct answer.  Questions like: "what is this?" or "what color crayon is the mouse using to draw?" 

For preschoolers and older kids, you can ask more complicated "open-ended" questions.  These are questions where the child is asked to predict or provide a more reasoned-out response.  Questions like: "what do you think is going to happen next?" or "why do you think the mouse decided to use the green crayon?"  The predictive structure of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie makes it a perfect fit for asking lots of questions of this sort!

When doing activities like the I Spy Game and Dialogic Reading, remember to encourage your kids and provide them with help when they need it.  Children learn best when they engage in activities that are both meaningful to them and fun, so try to keep things interesting and silly.  If your kids aren't into the activity at the time, try again later.

The Storyland exhibit is on display at the Portland Children's Museum until May 5, 2013.  Visitors can explore mouse's chocolate chip cookie or join him on his powder box and read him a story!  To visit the Children's Museum for free, contact your local Washington County library today and arrange to check out a Cultural Pass.

Here are a handful of books that do a great job of letting kids practice making predictions and are perfect for dialogic reading.

Title: Caps for Sale
Author: Esphyr Slobodkina
Find this book at your library

The classic tale of a peddler (ooh! there's a fun vocabulary word!) and a bunch of monkeys!  Who took the peddlers hats!?  Do you think they will give them back?
Title: I Went Walking
Author: Sue Williams
Illustrator: Julie Vivas
Find this book at your library

The text repeats "I went walking" and "What did you see?"  Visual clues help kids predict and answer.
Title: Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes
Author: Eric Litwin
Illustrator: James Dean
Find this book at your library

Pete loves his white shoes, until he steps into a large pile of strawberries... "What color did it turn his shoes?"  Guessing colors and consequences was never this fun!
Title: What Do You Do With a Tail Like This?
Author: Steve Jenkins and Robin Page
Illustrator: Steve Jenkins
Find this book at your library

Various animal parts are shown along with a simple question "What do you do with a _____ like this?"  The real answers are almost as fun as the answers kids come up with!
Title: What Will Fat Cat Sit On?
Author: Jan Thomas
Find this book at your library

Fat cat is going to sit on something... or someone!  Who's it going to be?!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

International Children's Book Day!!

Every year on the birthday of Hans Christian Andersen, the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) sponsors the International Children's Book Day (ICBD).  It is a day when lovers of children's books all come together to celebrate books from around our great big world!

This year, the US chapter of IBBY (called USBBY) was selected to develop supporting material for the International Children's Book Day.  They created a beautiful poster featuring a poem by Pat Mora and pictures by Ashley Bryan.  Click on the image to the left to see the poster enlarged and to read the poem.

For more details, check out the USBBY blog: Bookjoy Around the World

For a super-fun international book experience, check out the International Children's Digital Library.  It is an online eBook platform that was created over 10 years ago by a group of folks at the University of Maryland working together with the Internet Archive.

Click image to visit the International Children's Digital Library!!
Here is a short list of some recent international picture books I have enjoyed.  Many were originally published in a language other than English.

Title: Seasons
Author: Blexbolex (France)
Find this book at your library

Screen prints show the beautiful flow of the seasons.  Each page includes a fun vocabulary word!
Title: Guji Guji
Author: Chih-Yuan Chen (China)
Find this book at your library

The wonderful tale of a misplaced egg, a group of mean crocodiles and the world's first crocoduck!
Title: I Lost My Tooth in Africa
Author: Penda Diakité
Illustrator: Baba Wagué Diakité (Mali & Portland, OR)
Find this book at your library

A fun story of a young girl who visits Mali with her family and looses her tooth in the process.
Title: Wolf Won't Bite!
Author: Emily Gravett (England)
Find this book at your library

Three pigs host a circus and show off all things they can make the wolf do!  They are quite sure he won't bite.  I'm not so sure, myself.
Title: It's Useful to Have a Duck
Author: Isol (Argentina)
Find this book at your library

A young boy tells just how useful it is to have a duck.  Flip the book over and hear from the duck about how useful it is to have a boy!!
Title: Follow the Line
Author: Laura Ljungkvist (Sweden)
Find this book at your library

A line travels all over the world and invites the reader to explore all kinds of fun stuff!
Title: Black Dog
Author: Levi Pinfold (Australia)
Find this book at your library

A giant black dog shows up outside a family's home terrifying everyone except for one young child.
Title: To Market! To Market!
Author: Anushka Ravishankar (India)
Illustrator: Emanuele Scanziani (Italy)
Find this book at your library

A rhyming tale of a little girl's trip to the market to buy whatever she wants!

Title: No
Author: Claudia Rueda (Colombia)
Find this book at your library

Even though winter is coming, little bear doesn't want to hibernate because he would have to stop playing!
Title: Little Bird
Author: Germano Zullo (Switzerland)
Illustrator: Albertine (Switzerland)
Find this book at your library

An extremely sweet tale of a van driver who tries to teach a little bird to fly away.