A “Berry” Good Read-Aloud

I know… “Berry” good… Such a cheesy line. But seriously, if you want a fun read-aloud for your children or students, please pick up the book Jamberry by Bruce Degen. It is playful and imaginative and kids adore the illustrations!

Degen’s inspiration for the book are his own memories of berry-picking with his grandfather as a child, then returning home to bake or can the fresh fruit. In Jamberry, a boy imagines that he and a bear are in their own incredible, magical world of berries. Berries pour from a waterfall, overflow train cars and make up a rainbow. My daughters delighted in looking through the pictures each time we read the book to find something new!

Best Ages: pre-k – 1st grade

For Parents:

  • Make toast or pull out some crackers topped with your favorite jam. Or make a berry smoothie like this one. Then eat the yummy snack as you read Jamberry together.
  • Choose one or more of these “25 Super Sweet Berry Crafts for Kids.”
  • Set up plans for the summer to go berry picking in your area.

For Teachers:

  • Share the health benefits of berries with your students – great information available from a Registered Dietician in these articles: Boost Up with Blueberries and Superfoods: Cranberries.
  • Write out 5 common berries on the board and then take a vote of your students’ favorite berries (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries and cranberries). Make a chart to mathematically and visually demonstrate the information.
  • Coordinate with your art teacher (if necessary) and have your students make these Berry Sweet Handprint crafts. Display in your classroom!

 

Zoooom!!

Children love to learn about airplanes, trains, cars, trucks and other means of transportation. Despite gender stereotypes, my daughters are no exception to the rule. They love to read books about all kinds of traditionally “boyish” topics!

A fun book we recently read in this genre is Planes Fly! by George Ella Lyon. Ever since our family trip to visit my husband’s family in southern California last March, our daughters are intrigued by airplanes. Given that we live in a large city with major air traffic, we see and hear planes fly overhead regularly throughout the day and night.

Planes Fly! has rhyming text that describes various types of aircraft and the jobs that people have related to air travel. My two-year old particularly liked connecting this book to her own experience on an airplane.

For any parents or family members planning to travel by air sometime this year, Planes Fly! would be a great precursor to the trip. It also makes an excellent addition to a transportation unit or learning center for the classroom.

Best Ages: pre-k – 1st grade

For more reading on means of transportation and construction equipment, check out two of my previous posts, Summer Bike Rides & Means of Transportation and Mighty Dads.

Talking with Kids About Bullying

My husband and I discuss emotional health and boundaries in age-appropriate ways with our daughters, who are ages 2 and 4. We especially appreciate using books and Bible stories as practical tools to help our children gain understanding of how to best handle conflict.

Even with kids who are not yet in school, like mine, or children who are homeschooled, bullying is an important topic to address. We’ve dealt with minor instances of bullying at the park, the children’s museum and the public library. Having conflicts with other people is unavoidable! But we can prepare our children and our students for the best way to handle those conflicts.

As a side note, my husband and I also teach our children to check their own behavior and make sure they aren’t bullying others… or even one another!

My favorite picture book for introducing this topic with younger kids is Llama Llama and the Bully Goat by Anna Dewdney. Not only is the book cute and relatable, but it outlines 5 important aspects of bullying:

  1. Clear description of bullying behavior.
  2. Clear boundaries established by an adult (the teacher) that apply to all the children (students in the class).
  3. Simple and clear language to say, “That’s not okay.”
  4. Adult involvement and appropriate consequences for the child who demonstrates bullying behavior.
  5. Opportunity for forgiveness and a “second chance.”

For many children who encounter bullying and/or domineering behavior, this is a great way to break down the way to handle that behavior. Llama Llama and the Bully Goat is an excellent resource for home or school use.

Note: If there is a serious, ongoing issue with bullying and your child is involved, please use your discernment on how to ensure your child’s safety and emotional well-being. Don’t be afraid to seek assistance from appropriate people such as a classroom teacher or school counselor.

Best Ages: pre-k – kindergarten

 

 

Celebrating MLK Jr. & Coretta Scott King

On Monday, January 16th, the United States will celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

And what a perfect timing.

Many Americans experience genuine and ongoing pain surrounding the events of 2016 that revealed ongoing racial tension in our nation, from police shootings to a gut-wrenching and divisive presidential election. On Monday, we need to be reminded of the incredible dedication of those who have already lived out how to charter these waters of injustice and division…. peacefully.

In a previous post, I wrote about an excellent children’s book on the life of MLK Jr. This week, my children and I read the book Coretta Scott by Ntozake Shange.

Beautiful illustrations and poetic text make this book a wonderful read-aloud.  While is not religious in tone, the book describes how Coretta and her husband prayed together for peace and equality, and also referenced the work MLK Jr. did as an ordained minister. This background information helps children to understand an important reason the Kings chose to fight against injustice in a non-violent way. They were acting in obedience to Jesus’ call to Christians to “bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (Luke 6:28).

The book also references Ghandi, who held very different religious beliefs, but chose to act and lead in non-violent ways. Ghandi’s example in India was a source of inspiration to many civil rights activists in the United States.

Coretta Scott proclaims a timely message for our children and for this nation: We can be agents of change within our families, our communities and our country.

And we can do it with respect, dignity and peace.

Best Ages: pre-k – 2nd grade

The Life and Work of Diego Rivera

I have personally seen the work of Diego Rivera as painted in the Palacio Nacional in Mexico City… And it is spectacular. How delightful to be able to share that with my daughters with the children’s book Diego Rivera: His World and Ours by Duncan Tonatiuth.

Surprisingly, my two-year old liked this one even more than my preschooler!

This book is a biography of Diego Rivera but also explores themes of art. For those of you who know a bit about Rivera, he was classically trained in Europe before returning to Mexico when he was commissioned by the government. He often selected everyday people and scenes, or important events in his homeland’s history, to paint in public murals. The author ends the book by asking the reader to consider what Diego Rivera might have chosen to paint if he lived today.

Author-illustrator Duncan Tonatiuth created illustrations that imitate Rivera’s style. And the back of the book contains some educational bonuses: a glossary of words and references in the order in which they appear in the book, an author’s note, a list of some places where you can find Diego Rivera’s artwork, a bibliography and a list of Rivera’s artwork which inspired the illustrator of the book.

This would be an asset to any unit on Hispanic Heritage study, intercultural unit, art, history or multiculturalism. Or simply a stand-alone for home or classroom use.

Best Ages: kindergarten – 2nd grade

For Parents:

  • Print off a coloring page of one of Diego Rivera’s more well-known murals. See if your child can find that same artwork in the book, or if there is another illustration that is similar. Then allow your child to color in their own artwork.
  • Use an atlas world map (print or digital) to look up some of the places where Rivera’s artwork is displayed. Refer to in the index of the book! 🙂

For Teachers:

  • Have student volunteers locate the various countries that are mentioned in the story on a globe or world map. Ask students what prior knowledge they have about these places, or if any of them have traveled to those countries.
  • Use a DocuCam or projector to go through this “Inside Scoop” on Diego Rivera with your class, as published by the National Art Gallery in Washington.
  • Check out this amazing idea for creating a classroom mural based on Diego Rivera’s famous artwork! The teacher here suggests swapping with another school through the mail, but you could do it as your own grade level or with another class in your school.

Calendar Practice

Happy New Year! January is the perfect time to practice calendar work with your child or students. The book When Lucy Goes Out Walking: A Puppy’s First Year by Ashley Wolff provides a great platform to kick off learning or practicing months of the year.

calendarpractice
Having fun learning with the calendar…Although my 4 year old would only smile AFTER taking the picture 😉

My daughters both enjoyed this book. They are dog lovers (although we don’t have one ourselves… yet!) and liked seeing the different activities that puppy Lucy does in each month. They also liked the rhyming text that could be easily incorporated into a poetry unit.

Best Ages: pre-k – 1st grade

For Parents:

  • Read through the book once with your child. Afterward, give your child a calendar and ask them to flip to each new month as you read Lucy Goes out Walking. (If you only have a digital calendar, you could pull that up on a screen or you could purchase a hard copy calendar at the dollar store.)
  • Go through the calendar together, practicing the names of each month in order. Discuss the special events, birthdays or holidays you celebrate during various months each year.
  • Count how many months there are in one year (12).
  • If you speak more than one language, or want your child to learn a second language, this is a great opportunity to practice the months of the year in that language. Check out these fun songs for months of the year in  Spanish and French.

For Teachers:

  • Go through the months of the year as a class. Give students a print-out of the 2017 calendar and ask them to find dates that you say – write out a list in advance. For example, you could say, “Draw a star on April 5th” or “Circle October 1st.” Review as a class.
  • Play this song for your students. Have them point to the month as the song sings each one. (Start at 0:15 to skip ad for the Learning Station).
  • Use this free resource for calendar practice as morning work, a learning station activity, or small-group or whole-group practice.

Building Your Child’s Self-Esteem

Just ask any parent or teacher or administrator out there: We all want to raise children to have self-esteem and ultimately, to be healthy, responsible and productive members of society. But in the midst of many differing resources and views at our disposal – and oftentimes clamoring for our attention – we find ourselves wondering how to help children develop self-esteem. Especially when it seems difficult to find the time to fit one more thing in to the day!

Still, I believe that it is worth giving time and energy to helping our children develop self-esteem.  As a Christian, I believe that it is even Biblical. (Psalm 139:14 comes to mind: “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”) From a standpoint of a parent and an educator, I think that building self-esteem in a child starts with affirmation from the important adults in their lives. This affirmation should be:

  • Genuine. We’ve all been able to tell when someone is half-hearted in their praise of us or others. Kids can tell, too! Make an effort to be honest with your child/students, and don’t feel compelled to say something you don’t mean in order to boost their self-esteem. If it’s hard for you to think of things to praise, set aside some time in your day or week to write down ideas. Ask your spouse or family members for ideas, or your colleagues if you are a teacher working with students.
  • Clear. There’s nothing wrong with saying “Good job!” or “Way to go!” but long-term, those phrases don’t give specific feedback to your children or students. Even though it takes more effort – and possibly a little more time – look for opportunities to clearly affirm specific behavior, decisions or character traits you see in your child/student. Name and praise the exact instance of taking initiative, completing a task, demonstrating strength of character, etc.
  • Frequent. No, we don’t need to give children a gold star for every little thing they do in the classroom or at home, or pat them on the back every five minutes. But we should sincerely praise them on an individual and group level with regularity. For parents, it should be on a daily basis. If it’s hard for you to remember, put a sticky note somewhere you’ll see it or program a reminder in your phone. For educators, individual affirmation will vary on the number of students you work with and will take some self-reflection – and maybe discussions with your colleagues – to come up with a frequency that works for you . Whatever that may look like, try to provide whole-group and small-group encouragement on a daily basis. Put a reminder in your lesson plans or attendance records to challenge yourself to meet this goal.

Remember that the more you practice providing genuine, clear and frequent affirmation for your child/students, the more natural it will become. And the more meaningful that affirmation will be to each child’s growing self-esteem.

I can’t end a post without a book! 🙂 For those of you who have young children or work them professionally, I highly recommend the book When I Feel Good about Myself by clinical social worker Cornelia Maude Spelman. There is a wonderful note for adults that precedes the story. The story itself has great sentence starters to encourage your child/students to express what they like about themselves. (And may give you some ideas of what things you can look to praise!)

I’d also love to hear any thoughts you have about building self-esteem in children or resources you’ve found to be helpful! Please share in the comments.

Best Ages: pre-k – kindergarten