Celebrating Birthdays with Our Kids

Birthdays are special times! They are important to children because it is a day to remind them how loved and special they are, that they have been created in the image of God and that we are so grateful to have them in our lives.

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Our youngest daughter’s 1st birthday, celebrated with a picnic in the park.

We celebrate by telling our children how much we love them, naming specific things we appreciate about them, remembering times we shared with them, looking forward to what is to come in the next year and praying for God’s blessing in their lives.

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Our oldest daughter’s 4th birthday, celebrated in our home.

Two of my favorite Scriptures to use to pray over my children are:

  • “The Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you. The Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.” (Numbers 6:24-26)
  • For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father.” (Colossians 1:9-12)

Here are some fun books to read with young children or as a family as part of your birthday celebrations:

Little Miss Muffet’s Count-Along Surprise by Emma Chichester Clark

Taking the traditional nursery rhyme of Little Miss Muffet, the author creates clever rhymes to bring many animals and items to a celebration of Little Miss Muffet’s birthday… With a surprise ending!

Click, Clack, Surprise! by Doreen Cronin

 Join the barnyard animals to celebrate a birthday! Repetitive text keeps young readers engaged. Both of my children were delighted by this book – and the funny twist at the end is something they still remember and recite!

Happy Birthday, Curious George by Emily Meyer

This book is very cute and has various poems about the aspects of Curious George’s birthday that every child will relate to. The illustrations are modeled after the original Curious George books published in the 1960s, which I like, and the book doesn’t include anything too silly or disobedient on George’s part. 😉

Note: In the classroom, you can read one of these books on your birthday or to honor the birthdays of students in any given month.

Please comment with any birthday books you’ve read or special birthday traditions in your family!

 

 

 

Where Do You Turn When You’re Afraid?

Happy Memorial Day, everyone! We have been back from California for a week… Time is flying by! By the way, I previously – and erroneously – wrote that we were going to the Sunshine State, which my husband lovingly teased me is Florida. Oops! He is from the Golden State on the opposite coast. Don’t worry, I’ve updated the last blog post already. 🙂

We had a good time with family and were able to attend two weddings at the beginning and end of our trip. Congrats to each of my brother-in-laws who recently got married!

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Always learning and exploring! Petting sting rays at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, CA, with my hubby’s beloved aunt.

You will probably not be surprised to find out that while we were in the Golden State 😉 I borrowed my mother-in-law’s library card and took the girls there twice during our two-week stay. We read many lovely books that I don’t have time to share about, but one was particularly meaningful: Safe in a Storm by Stephen R. Swinburne. This book has comforting text that will reassure young children that their loved ones are with them, keeping them safe, even when they feel afraid. It ends sweetly and has the most touching dedication, remembering the lives of the students and teachers lost at Sandy Hook Elementary. (Yes, I always read the dedications of books!)

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Reading in the beautiful outdoors, just northwest of Malibu, CA.

As we celebrate Memorial Day in the United States, honoring those who have given their lives in service to our country to keep us safe, I think it is appropriate to consider the question: Where do you turn when you’re afraid? Reading aloud Safe in a Storm to my precious girls reminded me of Jesus, who kept his closest friends safe in a storm, too, and who has often been my refuge in uncertain times. (See Matthew 8:23-27 and Psalm 46.) I truly believe that God’s love is strong and powerful and peaceful, the kind of love that I long to give my children when they feel scared. And I desire with all my heart that someday they, too, will experience the safety and comfort of God in their lives.

Safe in a Storm is not a faith-based book, so whatever your family’s beliefs, it is a tender and powerful reminder of the love we desire to show our little ones, a protective and strong and enduring love… A love that all our hearts long for.

Best Ages: pre-k – kindergarten

 

 

Marvelous Books for May

Things have been very busy around the Sunshine Readers home! We are getting ready to fly to the Golden State tomorrow for an extended visit with my husband’s family and attend two weddings. Since I’m not sure if I’ll be able to post while we’re away, I thought I’d pass along some recommendations for books to read this month. 🙂

Please share a book that you and your children/students are reading in the month of May!

At the Beach by Huy Voun Lee

A boy and his mother practice writing Chinese characters in the sand as they spend the day at the beach. The illustrations are wonderful and provide concrete connections between the forming of the character and the word it represents. This is a fascinating book that can be used for multicultural units or linguistic exposure!

Casey and Derek on the Ice by Marty Sederman

Do you have children or students who love sports? This rhyming text uses lots of sports jargon but the pictures make the plot understandable even for those who are less familiar with hockey. A fun read about teamwork that showcases the fact that we can work to change the outcome of a game (or anything in life) as long as there is time left on the clock!

The Perfect Dog by Kevin O’Malley

This is a book that is so fun to read aloud! If you have an expressive voice, your kids/students will be laughing along with you as a girl tries to determine what exactly makes the perfect dog. My daughters enjoy reading this one aloud to each other.

Police Officers on Patrol by Kersten Hamilton

Many young children aspire to be firefighters and police officers when they are grown-up. What a wonderful aspiration! Here is a sweet narrative story that shows a few of the things that police officers do to help our community. This could be used as part of a community social studies unit for lower grades and it would be great to read near your school’s scheduled Career Day, too.

Do You Know Which Ones Will Grow? by Susan A. Shea

I love this book! (Did you notice it as the image for my post?) Do You Know Which Ones Will Grow? is so fun to read and has creative flaps for older children that will help them to grasp the concept of animate vs. inanimate objects. My kids really like this book as well.

Little Kids First BIG Book of Animals by Catherine D. Hughes

National Geographic Kids always puts together excellent resources with stunning photographs. Little Kids First BIG Book of Animals is no exception. It highlights 5 regions of the world and gives information for approximately 6 animals in each region. This is an excellent non-fiction book to include in a learning center, use for a geography or animal habitat unit, or simply give to a child who like animals.

My First Book of Hindi Words: An ABC Rhyming Book of Hindi Language and Indian Culture by Rina Singh

That lengthy title says it all! Want to introduce your child to other cultures or languages? This book is a perfect choice. My pronunciation may not have always been the best but the words are used in fun ways and include swing, lunch, journey and even phrases such as topsy-turvy!

Best Ages: pre-k – 1st grade

Arbor Day and Tree Activities

Friday, April 28, is National Arbor Day in the US. It’s a perfect time to read A Tree is Nice by Janice May Udry, and spend some time studying trees!

A Tree is Nice is a lovely book that won the Caldecott Medal in 1957, with illustrations alternate between color and black-and-white. The text describes the many ways that trees are a part of our lives. It even ends with planting a tree, which would be perfect if you plan to plant a tree with your class or at home!

You can easily use this book as a way to explore nature and scientific concepts of plant life, conservation and environmentalism.

Best Ages: pre-k – 2nd grade

For Parents:

  • Take a walk with your child. Make observations about the trees that are becoming more green and full in the spring season. Collect leaves from the ground.
  • At home, place a blank white paper over the leaves you collected on your walk and gently rub a crayon over the paper. You will create a raised image of the leaf. Talk about the difference in the shapes of the leaves and display your final artwork!

For Teachers:

  • Teach your students the parts of a tree. Use a free handout like this one if desired.
  • Explain the differences between coniferous and deciduous trees with this free slide show from Teachers Pay Teachers.
  • Discuss how trees are used to make products that we use. Here is a wonderful, free lesson plan from Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences.

Finding a Book for Disinterested Early Readers

Do you have a child or a student who struggles to find something interesting to read? Try non-fiction!

It may sound counter-intuitive to adults out there who love fiction, but in my experience as a teacher, I noticed that many young readers love non-fiction. Find a topic that interests your child/student, and check the library for some great reading material for you to read aloud or for your child to practice reading independently. This can be an especially powerful motivating tool for boys who don’t always like what their female teachers or moms like to read. 🙂

Looking for a book to start off with? Try Michelle Wie by Mary Dunn. This book is a biography of a Korean-American female golfer, which may interest students who like sports. Michelle Wie is a dedicated athlete who has made records for her achievements in golf at astonishingly young ages.

This book works great as a read-aloud and can be showcased as an example of non-fiction and a biography. It includes a table of contents, page numbers, headings, a timeline, glossary and index. Early readers can use this book to practice, too.

Another benefit of the book is that it is a part of series on athlete biographies for children, so you can keep going in the series if your child/student likes this one!

Best Ages: kindergarten – 2nd grade

Get Your Kids Interested in Science with Tractors

Sometimes a good book can get your child or students hooked onto a new concept. When I taught full-time, I enjoyed using literature to kick off different units and generate more interest in a particular study topic.

The book I’m posting on today has two attractive features. First, it’s a children’s book written and illustrated by a man!  (Have you noticed that women tend to dominate this arena?) Second, it is a book with unique illustrations. As a final bonus, I couldn’t help but notice the sweet dedication to his college art professor – an inspiration to all of us educators out there! 🙂

Big Tractor by Nathan Clement has computer graphic illustrations that further convey the enormity of the modern tractor machine. Simple text provides great information about the many types of work a large modern tractor completes in various seasons. This book would be a good read-aloud to introduce unit on agriculture, large machines or plant life. Check out some of my ideas below to explore with your child or students!

Best Ages: pre-k – 1st grade

For Parents:

  • Make a tractor craft out of painted popsicle sticks or this super cute keepsake that uses your child’s footprint as part of the tractor.
  • Purchase grass seeds and plant them in a plastic cup with potting soil. Water and place next to a window. Allow your child to make observations about how long it takes to grow. You can even try cutting the grass when it gets long enough!

For Teachers:

  • Play the “Farmer in the Dell” game with your students in the gymnasium or outside. If you’d like to teach your students the song or play it in the background, here is one of many versions of the song on YouTube, featuring a farmer on a tractor.
  • Plan a field trip to a farm or a local children’s museum with a farming exhibit. (We have visited two locations in the midwest that have fun, hands-on exhibits relating to agriculture!)
  • To further explore how crops grow, take a day of science to implement this free lesson from Scholastic titled “From Plant to Seed.”

Reading Fun that Makes Children Laugh!

Kids love to giggle, and they love to be silly! So why not harness that and get in some reading time, too?

Riddle Rhymes by D.J. Panec is a fun book that encourages interactive reading with parent and child. The parent reads the riddle, which shows a photograph clue, and the child answers with a word that rhymes. When you turn the page together, you can find out if your child solved the riddle correctly!

My kids were instantly hooked on this book and after reading it several times together, they were practicing it on their own. Very sweet!

This can also be used in a classroom setting for a cooperative read-aloud or practice for an emergent reader. Or if you have a reluctant reader in the home or the classroom, this might be a book to catch his/her interest!

Best Ages: pre-k – kindergarten (read aloud), 1st-2nd grade (independently read)