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

Learning About India: Family and Clothing

My preschooler fell in love with the book My Dadima Wears a Sari by Kashmira Sheth after checking it out from the library. The story tells two granddaughters who wonder why their grandmother – or Dadima (pronounced DAH-dee-mah) – only wears saris even though her children and grandchildren wear western clothing now that they live in a western country.

Dadima explains the many things she can do with a sari, the traditional clothing for women of India, and then shows her granddaughters her most precious saris. The girls try some on and feel a connection to their grandma and their family’s culture.

The illustrations are beautiful and the relationship between Dadima and the two children is heartwarming. My Dadima Wears a Sari is a delightful read-aloud and provides insight to another culture.

Best Ages: kindergarten – 2nd grade

For Parents:

  • Ask your child what types of clothing he/she likes to wear every day and if there is a particular outfit he/she prefers for a special occasion.
  • Print and color this free page of a woman wearing a sari. (This educational site has lots of other free coloring pages of traditional clothing from countries around the world.)
  • Watch the beginning of this dance at an Indian wedding, featuring children wearing saris and dancing to Indian music. Discuss the video with your child, including the style of clothing, music and dance. How is this similar or different to how your culture celebrates a wedding?

For Teachers:

  • Discuss the importance of clothing in our everyday life. Review appropriate clothing based on weather and setting (school, home, church, party, etc.).
  • Show the first 1-2 minutes of this dance at an Indian wedding, featuring children wearing saris and dancing to Indian music. Discuss the video as a class, touching on the style of clothing, music and dance. How is this similar or different to how your students’ culture celebrates a wedding?
  • Use this free Hot and Cold Weather Clothing Sort with your students. Compare that clothing to the clothes you saw the characters wear in the book.
  • Find India on a map and review some basic information about India from National Geographic kids.

African American History Month

African American History month is a time to reflect on the contributions of African Americans and important events that have shaped our nation. Although African American history is should not only reflect the Civil Rights Movement of the mid-twentieth century, this is a period that deeply moves and inspires our family.

Our latest read to recommend is A Sweet Smell of Roses by Angela Johnson. It tells the story of two sisters who join others in their neighborhood to march peacefully for equal rights, and their experience listening to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The illustrations are incredible charcoal drawings that add to the greatness of the historic moments the book encompasses.

Please feel free to share a book that you are reading for African American History month!


Best Ages: kindergarten – 2nd grade

*For further exploration and ideas on how to explore African American History this month, check out this website, with contributing work from the Library of Congress, the National Gallery of Art, the Smithsonian Institution and more. You can access easy links for audio and video archives and teacher ideas from the top left panel on the home page.

Check out my previous post to read more books featuring African American children.


Patience and Generosity

Counting Chickens by Polly Alakija tells the story of an African boy named Tobi, who patiently waits for his new hen to lay eggs… And then waits patiently for the eggs to hatch. Meanwhile, his other friends from the village watch as their various livestock have baby animals. The story underscores the vast number of people around the world who live in rural areas and depend on raising animals to provide for their families.What a gem! A book that is multicultural, educational and can be easily used to encourage patience as well as generosity in the home and in the classroom.

What a gem!

This book allows you to teach or introduce:

  • Days of the week
  • Ordinal numbers (i.e. first, second, third)
  • Names of animal babies (such as “kid” for baby goat)
  • Patience

At the same time, the book provides a look at another culture. Although it takes place in Africa, a similar story could be told in many villages around the world.

Best Ages: pre-k – 1st grade

For Parents:

  • Throughout the week, reflect on the times that your child waits patiently (in the line at the supermarket, dinner being prepared, etc.) and praise him/her for demonstrating patience just like Tobi did in this book. Maybe even give your child a high five!
  • Take a look at options available through  World Vision or Ox Fam to donate animals to families in need around the world. This is an incredible way to be generous, and many options begin around $20. If it’s financially possible for your family, allow your child to pick out an animal to donate to a family like Tobi’s somewhere in the world to provide a sustainable way to support themselves.

For Teachers:

  • Explain (or remind, if it’s already been taught) that our world has 7 continents. On a map or globe, point out the continent on which you live. Then point out the continent of Africa, where the story takes place.
  • Practice ordinal numbers with an activity like this free Winter Ordinal Numbers and Positional Words or these free Ordinal Number Picture Cards.
  • Fundraise money for your class to purchase an animal through a non-profit organization such as World Vision or Oxfam. Hold a bake sale, invite students and parents to donate with an announcement in your class newsletter, or organize a Valentine’s Day candy gram! See how many animals you are able to purchase with the money you raise.



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.

All Kinds of Children

One amazing benefit of reading aloud to your your child/students is the opportunity to share other cultures and perspectives with them. And Norma Simon’s book All Kinds of Children is a terrific resource to help young children understand that people around the world (and in our own communities) have differences… but also similarities that tie us together.

All Kinds of Children has straightforward and engaging text that explains that all children have similar needs – such as eating and sleeping – and how those needs are fulfilled in many ways from family to family or from country to country. There are also phrases such as “all children” and “just like you” that helps young readers grasp that despite those cultural and regional differences, children everywhere have many similarities. The illustrations are colorful and clear, featuring children and people of many nationalities and races.

My daughters and I have read this book over and over again. We have fun comparing foods, clothes, activities and more to what we see in the book and our own lives. This has initiated conversations surrounding diversity and respect for differences while being able to uphold our family’s faith values (although the book itself is not faith-based). With a background in education, I also appreciated that the section on families included step-parents and foster parents because many children have these adult family members.

If you have other recommended books to help young children gain understanding and respect of other people, please share in the comments. 🙂

Best Ages: pre-k – 1st grade

For Parents:

  • As you read through All Kinds of Children, ask your child to point at the foods, houses, beds, means of transportation that your family uses. Which ones in the illustrations would your child be interested in trying?
  • Have your child fill in an “All About Me” printable using this free one or creating your own. For children who cannot independently write, ask them the questions and then fill in the paper. Allow your child to color or draw a picture when you’re done.

For Teachers:

  • Prior to reading the book aloud, brainstorm with your students what types of things they think children all over the world do every day. Write the ideas on an easel pad or the whiteboard.
  • After reading the book together, review the ideas your class had about what “all kinds of children” do around the world. Which ones were seen in the book? Were there any that your class thought of that were not included?
  • Make copies of a printable “All About Me” – such as this free one or this one for purchase for $1 on Teachers Pay Teachers – and then display on a bulletin board or around the room. Or simply have students write about themselves in their daily notebooks and draw an accompanying picture.





Discover Thailand with a Book!

I had a college roommate who spent much of her growing-up years in Thailand and I have relative and friends who have traveled there. After hearing about Thai culture from several people over the last decade, I was excited when I found a picture book at our library to explore Thai culture with my children.

Peek! A Thai Hide-and-Seek by Minfong Ho has rhyming text and adorable pictures. My daughters loved finding the little girl in each picture, who is playing hide-and-seek with her father. They also liked the animals that appeared on each page as part of the storyline. The illustrations showed vegetation and architecture that is native to Thailand.

I really liked being able to show my children a little bit of another culture while at the same time emphasizing the similarities among children around the world, who all love to play!

Best Ages: pre-k – kindergarten

For Parents:

  • Point out the Thai text on the inside covers of the book. Ask your child if it looks similar or different from the English text in the story. What do they notice about each type of writing?
  • Many animals appear in this peek-a-boo book that are native to Thailand. Elephants are especially prominent in Thai culture. Play this children’s song in Thai (only a minute and a half long) featuring an elephant.
  • Print out and color one of these free elephant coloring pages.

For Teachers:

  • Find Thailand on a map or globe together. Explain that Thailand is located on the continent of Asia and the weather is warm and tropical there. There are also many different types of animals that live in Thailand!
  • Check out these websites as a whole group or during computer lab time to learn more about Thailand: National Geographic Kids and TIME for Kids.
  • Elephants are especially prominent in Thai culture. Play this children’s song in Thai (only a minute and a half long) featuring an elephant.
  • Print out and color one of these free elephant coloring pages.


Musical Styles & Instruments

Music is such an integral part of each culture across time and place. It has been called the “language of the soul” and for the hearing world, music can communicate beyond spoken words. Music and innate musical ability is prominent enough that developmental psychologist Howard Gardner considers it to be 1 of 9 multiple intelligences outlined in his theory of the unique abilities each individual has at birth.

I look back fondly on my days playing in middle school and high school band – even one semester of university band. Being involved in music for eight years rounded out my educational experience and allowed me to develop wonderful friendships with other music students. Participating in concerts, competition festivals and other events gave me perspective on how to perform publicly and appreciate other performances as a member of the audience.

One of my hopes for my children is to allow them to experience various musical styles and instruments as they are growing up. My husband and I plan to start our children in piano lessons around the time they start kindergarten as a gateway to understanding and appreciating music.

And we recently found a terrific book to expose children to many styles of music and instruments: My Family Plays Music by Judy Cox. The child and narrator of the story shares how each of her family members play a specific genre of music, and the percussion instrument she enjoys playing with them when she listens. My preschooler really likes this story! It also has bright and colorful illustrations. I highly recommend it to parents and teachers.

Best Ages: pre-k – 2nd grade

For Parents:

  • Is there anyone in your family who plays music? (Or do you?) Ask that person to play something for your child and perhaps allow them to hold or play the instrument.
  • Play a few of your favorite songs for your child. Dance together or listen to it while you play. Ask what your child thinks of that style of music.
  • Print off and color in the instruments you saw in the book or that most interested your child. Listen to the instrument at this wonderful children’s music site.

For Teachers:

  • Arrange for a staff member or parent to visit your class and play a musical instrument. Remind students of best listening practices (body is still, eyes are watching, mouth is closed, ears are listening).
  • Make copies of musical instrument printables and allow students to choose one that they liked most in the book. Ask volunteers to share which ones they liked best, then listen to each instrument they colored in at this wonderful children’s music site.
  • Set up a percussion instrument learning center. Coordinate with the music teacher in your school or other staff members to borrow items such as mini cymbals, maracas, wood blocks, and more. Add other music books from the school or classroom library for students to peruse.

12 Must-Read Board Books

Are you looking for a new board book to spruce up your collection or to give as a gift? Board books are wonderful for young children because they do not tear or rip the way books with paper pages do, while introducing children to literacy and important concepts such as the ABCs or transportation.

I have compiled a list of 12 must-read board books that our family has enjoyed reading. 🙂

Please leave a comment to share other board books that you and your loved ones have enjoyed!

Best Ages: 0-3 years

 Board Books for Learning

  1. My First Busy Book by Eric Carle. The bright, beautiful illustrations we all know and love from the author of The Very Hungry Caterpillar accompany touch-and-feel learning in this large size board book. My preschooler still likes this one!
  2. Haiku Baby by Betsy Snyder. A charming book to expose children to poetry and literature at a level they can understand! Sweet pictures highlight the lessons on seasons and weather, too.
  3. Montessori: Map Work by Bobby and June George. I absolutely love this book! It provides a great introduction to geography skills in an engaging way. The Georges are Montessori educators who founded an accredited school in South Dakota.

Board Books with Unique Illustrations

4. Busy Little Mouse by Eugenie Fernandes. Very bright and lovely 3D illustrations of clay scenes. This book also teaches animal sounds in a fun way. I found it touching that the book is written and illustrated by a mother-daughter duo.

5. Love my Shoes! by Eileen Spinelli. Multimedia illustrations show the many ways we use shoes. This would be a great book for any kids or parents who really love shoes!

6. Sally at the Farm by Stephen Hughes. My daughters both love dogs, so Sally was a big hit with them. I liked the distinct illustrations that made an otherwise simple story stand out.

Multicultural Board Books

7. Cradle Me by Debby Slier. A board book featuring baby faces and expressions is nothing new, but this one stands out because of the photographs on each page of Native American babies from numerous tribes. There is also cultural information in the back regarding cradle boarding.

8. Quiero a mi mamá porque… by Laurel Porter-Gaylord. (I Love My Mommy Because…) This is one of my favorite board books. It is bilingual, with text in English and Spanish, and accompanied by lovely illustrations of mother and baby animals.

9. Shades of Black: A Celebration of Our Children by Sandra L. Pinkney. A husband and wife team up to create a book with poetic text and beautiful photographs. This is an excellent read-aloud for young children.

Faith-Based Board Books

10. Really Wooly Little Bedtime Prayers by Bonnie Rickner Jensen. My husband and I appreciate the Really Wooly series because it goes beyond the well-known Bible stories commonly seen in children’s Bibles. It contains verses along with poems and prayers to explain and explore each verse… With adorable illustrations!

11. I’m Thankful Each Day! by P.K. Hallinan. This book has profound and heartfelt text. In my opinion, the illustrations are a bit wanting, but the message of the book is what made it land on this list (and what keeps it on our bookshelf at home).

12. God Made You Nose to Toes by Leslie Parrott. Although I don’t love the style of illustration in this book, I included it on this list because it engages young children with its rhymes and brightly colored pictures. My children enjoy reading this one often.