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

Dog Safety for Kids

My daughters, like many children, absolutely LOVE dogs. Although we don’t own a dog, we have many friends and family members who do, and our girls always look forward to playing with and petting the dogs when we visit those homes. But my kids’ natural curiosity and enthusiasm about dogs doesn’t translate to an innate understanding of how to respect and interact with dogs safely. (Ever seen a kid yank on a dog’s tail, try to ride a dog, get in a dog’s face when they are sleeping or eating? Yep, my kids have tried to do all that and more!)

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My oldest daughter and I pose for a photo with my cousin’s lovable Saint Bernard, Molly (March 2014).

So how do we encourage our kids to enjoy these wonderful pets while staying safe?

Teaching some basic precautions can go a long way. And if you’re not sure where to start, or you think your children or students could use a refresher, I highly recommend the book May I Pet Your Dog? by Stephanie Calmenson. This book teaches dog safety in a way that is easy for children to understand without stirring up an unhealthy fear of dogs.

What makes the book extra fun is that it’s told from the perspective of a dog talking to a little boy. My daughters really enjoyed reading this book and I appreciated the clear presentation of dog safety guidelines. Some of those guidelines include:

  • Do not interact with an unknown dog if his/her owner is not there.
  • Always ask to pet someone’s dog before touching them or getting too close.
  • Be considerate of dogs who are sleeping, eating, caring for puppies or chewing on a bone, toy or stick.
  • Be gentle and be kind – remember that dogs have feelings, too!

(Taken from pages 30-31 in May I Pet Your Dog?)

Do you have suggestions for helping kids learn how to interact safely with dogs? Please leave a comment!

 

Best Ages: pre-k – 2nd grade

 

Exploring Our World with Dr. Jane Goodall

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.

Happy reading! 🙂

Best Ages: pre-k – 1st grade

 

Study Your Heart

Hear Your Heart by Paul Showers teaches children about the importance and function of the heart in our bodies. The illustrations include easy-to-read diagrams to show how blood flows in and out of four chambers of the heart, what veins and arteries look like in our bodies and more. The author also explains that heartbeats vary by age and activity, and that your heart is actively pumping blood all the time, even while sleeping!

My daughters really enjoyed reading this book and completing the suggested activities. We pumped our fists as a tangible connection to the work our heart, as a muscle, does every minute of every day. We listened to each other’s heartbeats using an empty toilet paper roll. Finally, we tried various physical activities and monitored how they increased or decreased our heart rate.

What a great learning resource!

Hear Your Heart is a helpful addition to a unit on science, health or non-fiction books. Enjoy! 🙂

Best Ages: pre-k – 1st grade

For Parents:

  • Use an empty toilet paper roll to listen to your child’s heart beat and allow them to listen to yours.
  • Try various exercises that are listed at the end of the book and then listen to your heartbeats again. Did your child notice his/her heart beat faster after physical activity?
  • Print off and color in this free human heart coloring page from Crayola.

For Teachers:

  • Check out this great idea for a visual demonstration of how the human hearts takes in blood and pumps it out. You will need a bucket of water and a tennis ball with a hole in it to show your class how our hearts work.
  • Play a clip of the Magic School Bus episode “Inside the Human Heart.” (This may be available through your school district or even available at your public library – it is at ours!) Otherwise show this online educational video clip (approximately 6 minutes) about the human heart with an animated red blood cell that acts as a host.
  • Brainstorm your classroom’s favorite sports/physical activities. Remind them that being active keeps their hearts healthy! Then divide students into pairs to play a matching game with sports and equipment (pre-k and kindergarten) or this Olympic Winter Sports matching game (1st-2nd grade).

 

 

Non-Fiction Winter Book

It’s important to expose our children to non-fiction, at home or in the classroom. I found a fabulous one for this time of year at our public library: Let’s Look at Winter by Sarah L. Schuette. The book explains the weather patterns of winter and how animals and plants go through changes in this cold season.

My preschooler liked reading this book multiple times and we were able to discuss our own observations of winter – both from memory and in light of the current and increasingly cold weather here in the midwest!

This book would be a great read-aloud for young children and an excellent read-to-self book for emergent readers. And it could be easily integrated with a science lesson or unit on climate, weather or seasons.

Check out my previous post, Animal Hibernation, for more winter learning fun.

Best Ages: pre-k – 2nd grade

For Parents:

  • With your child, take out family pictures from last winter. While you look at them together, talk about the activities you did together.
  • For young children, print out and play with this free warm weather/cold weather clothing sort from Teachers Pay Teachers.
  • If possible where you live, find some time to play outside in the snow together 🙂

For  Teachers:

  • During calendar or circle time, discuss the 4 seasons. Ask students to describe the weather in each season.
  • Prior to reading the book, take out a box of clothing and ask students to sort the clothes for warm weather and cold weather as a whole class. Then show students the cover of the book and ask which collection of clothes the characters in the book should wear to stay healthy and safe.
  • Set up learning station with activities for winter. Include this warm weather/cold weather clothing sort or these Snow Much Fun Task Cards, both free at Teachers Pay Teachers.
  • During recess or free time, have students complete a relay race. Set piles of winter clothing at one end of the gym and then instruct students to run across the room and put on one item at a time, then give to the next person in line, until all the winter clothes are worn by one team member.

 

 

Introducing Hellen Keller

As a teacher, I have worked with children of varying ability levels and needs. And I find it very important to make my classroom (and as a parent, my home) a welcoming and safe place for every person who enters. It is a priority for me to teach my children to love and accept people of all backgrounds and I was very pleased to find this beautiful book at our local library to read with my daughters at home: Helen Keller’s Best Friend Belle by Holly M. Barry.

The book describes Helen Keller’s childhood, including information about her teacher Anne Sullivan and the journey to discovering a world while blind and deaf. In a touching manner, Holly M. Barry describes the constant friendship Helen found with her dogs and most especially a dog named Belle.

Helen Keller’s Best Friend Belle is one of the best non-fiction picture books I have read in recent months and an exceptional biography for the primary grades. The book includes information on the American Sign Language alphabet, braille system and further reading on the life of Helen Keller.

I hope that you are able to check out this book for your home or classroom!

Best Ages: kindergarten – 2nd grade

For Parents:

  • Review the 5 senses with your child. Imagine what it would be like to lose one or more senses (like Helen Keller did as a small child). Which senses would you need to rely on?
  • Find things in your home that you can experience with each of your 5 senses. Put them in a large bag and then sort them into small containers or shoe boxes with your child. Remind your child that some things can be experienced by more than one sense!
  • Read this article for more information about hearing loss and your child’s health.

For Teachers:

  • Have a discussion on the differing abilities all people have. Reiterate the need to demonstrate respect for everyone and not be afraid of those differences.
  • Review the 5 senses. Which senses did Helen Keller lose as a young child?
  • Set up learning stations with these wonderful ideas on 5 senses activities or select one activity for the entire class to do together.
  • Check out this funky learning song on the 5 senses.

The Influence of Parents and Teachers

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

For Parents:

  • 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.

For Teachers:

  • 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.

Friendship in Hard Times

I believe that personal suffering can bring out the best in a true friendship. In facing difficult circumstances, my closest and dearest friends have shown their love and care for me, as well as my family, in profound ways.

One of the most touching examples of this is found in the events surrounding our second child’s birth. Since both sets of grandparents live across the country, we had close friends from church who were “on call” to take our oldest daughter whenever I went into labor with the second. In an unexpected turn of events, during an appointment to check the baby because I was 11 days overdue, my midwife came into the examining room and said that I was to report to the Labor and Delivery floor immediately. She had reviewed the results from the ultrasound completed a few days prior (standard procedure in their practice with an overdue baby) and discovered that the levels of amniotic fluid were dangerously low. They were planning to induce me within an hour if my contractions didn’t begin to pick up.

Thankfully, the contractions did pick up. And approximately four hours after arriving at the Nurse’s Station and signing forms, our second precious baby girl was born.

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Love at first sight.

And then came the post-labor hemorrhage at 9 PM. The single most frightening event I have experienced in my life. Hearing nurses call for the crash cart, doctor and midwife paged to my room, nearly ten people surrounding my bed as my husband cradled our newborn in the corner and watched and prayed.

Once I was stable, we found out that we had a slightly longer stay in the hospital because of additional monitoring of my health. Our friends gladly took care of our eldest daughter a little while longer, with my husband going back and forth to spend time with her.

And once we arrived home, it was only 48 hours before the varicose vein that had bothered me so much during the pregnancy became hard and swollen, painfully red and warm to the touch. I went to the Emergency Room and was admitted overnight.

My 5-day old baby girl couldn’t stay with me.

I was hormonal and scared to be alone in a hospital room by myself, longing to take care of my sweet little girls but unable to.

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Best friends from the start.

Again, friends happily stepped in to help. One couple gladly took our eldest for a “sleepover” while another brought my husband formula and taught him how to make bottles and feed our infant (we had only breastfed our first child and he didn’t know how to use formula). That same friend later came to the hospital late that evening and stayed with me, bringing me a cell phone charger and my Bible, helping me to pump and dump breastmilk while my arms were hooked up to an IV for round after round of liquid antibiotics to fight the blood clots that had formed in the varicose vein in my leg. The following day more friends came with cookies, hugs, a card game and lots and lots of love.

And once I was released from the hospital again, friends brought us meals, gave gifts to both our children, prayed for us, sent us emails and cards. Friends took me to the pharmacy to get my prescription injections and blood thinners to help dissolve the remaining clots in my leg and prevent them from spreading to my lungs or brain. They helped take care of our children when I needed to go to regular follow-ups with my physician and even offered to take my eldest for a couple hours at a time so I could get some rest.

Our friends showed us the love of Christ during one of the most difficult times in our family’s life, when I was physically weak and but emotionally sustained by the care and support we received.

It is the power of that kind of friendship that I think of as I read Dean Roberts’ book Two Friends aloud to my children. The kind of friendship that builds others up – in this case, Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglas – to be all they can be, to achieve their dreams and highest potential, to influence the world in marvelous and breathtaking ways.

As we read to our children and model our lives in front of them, let us hold true friendship in the highest esteem and encourage them to be good friends with one another.

Best Ages: kindergarten – 2nd grade

For Parents:

  • Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglas regularly met for tea to encourage one another in their work for women’s rights and African American rights. Host a tea party and invite your child’s friends to come and bring a snack to share.
  • Check out this great article on explaining rights to children and share with your child in an age-appropriate manner what rights are.
  • Ask your child how they can show kindness to their friends. Share how friends have shared kindness with you.

For Teachers:

  • Prior to reading, explain what rights are. Refer to this great article for children.
  • After reading, give each student a printable tea cup. Ask them to write one way they can show kindness to a friend and allow them to decorate their tea cups. Ask for students to share what they wrote on their tea cups and then hang them up in your classroom as a reminder to be good friends like Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglas were.
  • Show students photos from the Susan B. Anthony house and the virtual tour of the Frederick Douglas museum.

 

Linking Up Today atmodestmomblog

 

Mom and Me

Books about the precious relationship between a mother and her child are always sweet. Mom and Me by Marla Stewart Konrad is extra special because of its beautiful photos of mothers from around the world that expose children to other cultures while showing that all people have a foundational and valuable tie to their mothers (whether those in mother roles are biologically related or not). The simple text in Mom and Me is ideal for a read-aloud with little ones or as practice for an early reader.

As a side note, the book is published by the non-profit organization World Vision. World Vision provides global relief aid and facilitates child sponsorships that allow children in extreme poverty to have proper access to medical, educational and other resources. They have a 3-star rating with Charity Navigator with a 100% score on transparency and accountability and are an Accredited Charity through the Better Business Bureau. From the time I was in 7th Grade until college, I sponsored a child in Guatemala using some of my babysitting money. It was an amazing experience for me to correspond with this young girl and watch her grow and develop until she finished her schooling and was able to get a sustainable job in her village. For more information about World Vision and child sponsorship, visit their website.

Best Ages: pre-k – 1st grade

For Parents:

  • After reading Mom and Me, discuss with your child which activities you do with your child that you saw in the book. Are there special things you do together that you would add?
  • One of the things the book touches on is helping Mom. Find something to do tighter today and allow your child to help you. It could be baking, dusting or putting laundry in the washer/dryer, setting the table for a meal, etc. Relax and enjoy the time together!

For Teachers:

  • As a pre-reading activity, ask your students what activities they do with their mothers or caregivers. What is special about their mom?
  • After reading Mom and Me, have students draw a picture (write a sentence if they are able to) about what they enjoy doing with their mothers.

 

MLK Jr.

At our library’s annual book sale a couple weeks ago, this copy of My First Biography: Martin Luther King, Jr. by Marion Dane Bauer caught my eye. Finding age-appropriate and engaging non-fiction for young children can be a challenge. I was delighted to discover that this book gives an excellent explanation of the civil rights movement, the life of Dr. King and the result of his work and countless others who tirelessly fought alongside him for the rights of all people in our country.

This book is a great introduction to non-fiction for young children and early readers while providing exposure to the realities that people of color faced, such as separate schools and restaurants. Though the topic may be challenging or uncomfortable for some teachers and parents, I find it important to address the history of racial disparity with our children in a straightforward and simple manner as demonstrated in My First Biography: Martin Luther King, Jr. Although current events and politics in our country have shown that racial tensions are not a thing of the past, this gem of a book reminds me to be thankful that many people are carrying on Dr. King’s legacy.  And the life and work of people like Martin Luther King, Jr. has impacted my family’s life in a personally significant way: my husband and I are a biracial, bicultural couple who would not have been able to legally drink from the same water fountain a century ago, much less be married and raise our beautiful kids. How wonderful to share with our children the incredible contributions of public servants such as Dr. King who inspires us to continue the work of improving race relations and valuing and upholding the inherent dignity of all people.

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Stopping to eat a snack and play at the park during our family bike ride last Sunday.

Best Age: prek – 2nd grade

For Parents:

  • After reading My First Biography: Martin Luther King, Jr., ask your child: What did his mom always tell him? Did Dr. King believe his mom? (Note: this is a powerful reminder to parents of the influence our words can have on our children.)
  • Remind your child of the importance to show respect and kindness to everyone, even if they look different or act different from us. What are ways that your child shows kindness and respect to others at school, the park, the library, etc.?

For Teachers:

  • Create a T-chart with a column for Before and a column for After. Ask students what life was like for Dr. King before he told people they were “just as good as anybody.” And what was life like after people believed his message and the laws changed?
  • Remind your students of the importance to show respect and kindness to everyone, even if they look different or act different from us. What are ways that your class shows respect toward each other? Toward people outside the class/school?
  • Show a clip of the most well-known except of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech (I recommend stopping at 1:47). What was their reaction? Ask them why people were clapping and cheering when Dr. King spoke.