Isn’t it incredible that God has given us an orderly world and given some people the incredible capacity to study and further understand that beautiful world?
One such person is Dr. Jane Goodall. Her interest and work in animal studies and environmentalism have inspired many people to take greater responsibility in taking care of wildlife and our earth’s natural resources. You can share her story with your students or children by reading the book Me… Jane by Patrick McDonnell. He tells the story of Jane Goodall’s growing up years in a lovely, simple way. The illustrations earned the book the Caldecott Honor and uniquely included some of Jane’s childhood notes/illustrations in addition to a photo of her as a young adult for the ending. My children really liked reading this book – and so did I!
Check out my post Snowflakes and Science for another excellent children’s biography of a scientist. Sharing these life stories of scientists with children, who already have a natural curiosity, helps to encourage their spirit of inquiry and exploration.
When we checked out the book Alphabetics from the library, my two-year old was IN LOVE! We renewed it twice before finally returning it for another child to have a chance to enjoy the book. 😉
Suse MacDonald, author and illustrator, won the Caldecott Honor for her bright and creative illustrations she developed based on the letters of the alphabet. I admit, even I had fun looking through the pages to see how the shape of the alphabet morphed into a completely different shape…. beginning with that same letter, of course!
Not only is this an outstanding read-aloud, but what a fun book to include in the class library or in a learning station for letter work!
Parents and teachers have an enormous influence on the lives of children – and some people overlap these roles as homeschooling parents. (Kudos to those of you who are doing or have done this!)
When my children and I recently read the book Hands: Growing Up to be an Artist by Lois Ehlert, I thought again of the powerful influence parents have on a child’s life. The author/illustrator shares from a child’s perspective how her own parents encouraged her to grow in her artistic talents, going so far as setting up a table for her in her mother’s sewing area so that Lois would have a place to complete her own projects (a lovely example of encouragement that ties to my previous post Encouraging Your Child’s Abilities). Lois also beautifully describes how she witnessed her parents using their hands to create, cultivate and care for their home and world. Their own modeling of creating and support for Lois’ budding talent is inspiring.
My children loved the outstanding illustrations of this book with unique page layouts. (Lois Ehlert has received the Caldecott Honor for illustrating other children’s books.) I hope that you are able to check out Hands: Growing Up to be an Artist and see the pictures and pages for yourself!
Best Ages: pre-k – 1st grade
Think of what your family does with their hands. From raking leaves to baking, find an activity to do tighter with your child this week. Remind him/her of the book Hands: Growing Up to be an Artist and discuss what you used your hands to create together.
Using fabric scraps or felt, cut out gloves like the illustrated pages in the book. Allow students to decorate their gloves. Point out that they are using their hands right now to create! (Coordinate with the art teacher for materials or reach out to parents for donations if necessary.)
Show students this wonderful video interview with the author/illustrator, Lois Ehlert.
With a background in Spanish Education, I always find it fascinating to hear stories of real families who are raising multilingual children. And I’m impressed by the tenacity of many people who continue to pass along their heritage and culture through their mother tongue.
Of course, there are many factors at play and so many diverse family scenarios that raising multilingual children does not always happen, even for parents who speak more than one language. Take my family as an example. My husband is Filipino and his first language is Tagalog. I am a certified Spanish teacher. Although we each speak two languages, only one is common: English. Despite our idealistic (and sometimes good-humored) dream of raising trilingual children, the reality is that we speak predominantly English in our household. It is very challenging to teach our daughters a second language that the other parent does not understand or speak well. (Kudos to parents out there who are doing this in spite of the challenges!)
So if we aren’t raising bilingual or trilingual kids based on our own language abilities, what can we do to expose them to other languages? There are obvious answers such as enroll them in language classes, purchase software or utilize online programs… even access free apps like DuoLingo and FluentU. These are all wonderful resources and ideas, but there is another essential way we can help our children become multilingual: exposing them to other cultures and languages through good, solid children’s literature.
Jambo Means Hello: Swahili Alphabet Book by Muriel and Tom Feelings is an outstanding example of good children’s literature that will teach our children something basic while setting a foundation for a multilingual future. Although I doubt many of our kids will grow up to study and speak Swahili fluently, they will undoubtedly be more eager and open to learning a new language when they are exposed to many languages and cultures in a respectful manner. And don’t let your inability to speak Swahili (or any other language) hold you back from reading it to your children or students: this book contains straight-forward phonetic clues for pronunciation, as do many other books like it.
So are you ready to set a multilingual foundation through children’s literature?
Check out my other posts for another Caldecott Honor book and great ABC book. To read more about the reasons that learning another languages is useful, click on this link from the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL).
Best Ages: pre-k – 2nd grade
C is for Chakula (food)- Use magazine pictures or grocery store ads to create a collage of the foods that your family likes to eat. (Bonus points if you include embe or mango, which also appears in the book!) Write the word “chakula” in Swahili somewhere on the paper and practice saying it. And for more gluing and grocery ad fun, check out a wonderful blog post by Angela at MOMtessori Life… With a great explanation of how kids learn through the use of glue sticks!
H is for Heshima (respect) – Use cut-outs of colorful paper handprints to have students write one way that they show respect to others in our school/community. Create a respect bulletin board and include the Swahili word “Heshima” for other students to see.
J is for Jambo (hello) and K is for Karibu (welcome)- As a class, brainstorm other phrases we use in English to greet one another, then think of words we use to say goodbye. (Include non-verbals such as waving.) Ask for student volunteers to demonstrate kind and polite ways to greet one another and say goodbye.
R is for Rafiki (friend) and W is for Watoto (children) – Get together with another class at your grade level to play group games together at recess or a free period in the day.