Tag Archives: books

Advent Books

Advent is a big deal at our house.  I LOVE Advent calendars.  Some years it takes us a good 20 minutes each night to tour the house opening each little box or hanging each tiny ornament for all of the Advent calendars.  Well, as if that wasn’t enough, this year I’ve added a new Advent tradition to the mix: wrapping a Christmas book for each day of Advent and then opening up and reading one each night.

I found this idea on Pinterest a few years ago, and now that we have our own child I couldn’t wait to try it.  Although I could also see doing this with Christmas and Hanukkah books at school to count down to Winter Break.  I started by gathering up 25 Christmas books.

Advent Books

Advent Books

Now, I must admit I have a children’s book buying habit, so it was no trouble for me to find 25 books in my own collection to wrap.  If you don’t have that many Christmas books, you may want to start collecting now for next year!  A couple tips on book choices… Don’t pick anthologies.  You want to be able to read one quick story a day.  Also, I suggest that you don’t pick your most favorite stories to wrap.  You will want to read those over and over throughout the month rather than just once when you get to that wrapped package.  Besides, this gives you a chance to be sure you get to read all of your Christmas books – even the more unfamiliar ones you might normally forget.

After you have chosen your books, wrap them.

Wrapped Advent Books

Wrapped Advent Books

Don’t put bows on them so you can stack them in a pile and watch the pile get smaller over the course of the month.  Put numbers on the packages instead.

Advent Stamps

Advent Stamps

I used this set of numbered Christmas stamps from Stampin’ Up to number my packages, but you could also use stick on numbers or just write the numbers with a Sharpie.

Kids will love this new Advent tradition!  (At least I can only assume they would love it… Our one year old is perhaps still a bit too young to fully appreciate it as she tends to jump up and run off a few pages into each night’s book to do something vitally important such as blow on the tinsel on the tree or move the peppermint candy window clings from the patio door to the front of the dishwasher.)  I am LOVING reading a Christmas book each night though, and I hope you will too!

December Author of the Month: Laura Numeroff

Hard to believe it’s December already!  Time for this month’s Author of the Month.  Laura Numeroff is my pick for December.  She is the author of the wonderful If You Give a Mouse a Cookie series.  Her books are great for the busy, hectic, crazy month of December because they are quick, simple, funny, and engaging enough to grab those little attention spans distracted by visions of sugar plums this time of year.  There is even a Christmas themed book in the series: If You Take a Mouse to the Movies.

Laura Numeroff Books

Laura Numeroff Books

The books are so much fun to read aloud, and they are repetitive and predictable enough that kids reading at just about any level can read them on their own without frustration.  They are great for teaching about cause and effect.  Kids can even write their own cause and effect stories based on Laura Numeroff’s books.  Her books also provide opportunities to make treats that go along with them: cookies, donuts, muffins, cupcakes, etc.  And everyone needs more treats in December, right???

Have fun reading!  And remember, if you read a kid a Laura Numeroff book… he or she will probably want to read another one!

November Author of the Month: Lois Ehlert

It’s November already – time for a new Author of the Month!  My choice for November is Lois Ehlert.  She is an author and illustrator.  Her illustrations are collages, and they are beautiful and creative.

Lois Ehlert Books

Lois Ehlert Books

Her books cover so many topics that they would work well at any time of the year.  However, her fall themed books are my favorites, so I save her for November.

Fall Lois Ehlert Books

Fall Lois Ehlert Books

Here are some activities I like to use with these fall books in particular:

Boo to You! – This book is good to use at the end of October actually since it is about Halloween.  Use it to accompany any fun Halloween activity!

Nuts to You! – This is a darling book about a squirrel who visits a kid’s house.  Make squirrels from rolled construction paper and have kids write their own stories about their own squirrels.

Paper Squirrel

Paper Squirrel

Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf – This is a book about the life of a maple tree.  Make bird feeders from bread, peanut butter or Crisco, and birdseed.  There is a recipe in the back of the book.  Works great except for the time one of my students ate his bird feeder on the bus on the way home from school.  Oops!  A not so gentle reminder that some kids may not have enough to eat at home and may need extra food from school.

Leaf Man – The illustrations in the book are some of my favorites – all kinds of animals made from fall leaves.  Go on a leaf hunt.  Collect leaves, acorns, etc. and have kids make their own leaf creatures.

Snowballs – So it may be a little early for snow in November, but it will be coming soon enough!  This is a cute book about a bunch of different snow people.  Clean out extra miscellaneous art supplies by giving kids a random assortment of “stuff” and see what snow people they can create themselves!

 

 

October Author of the Month: James Marshall

Happy October!  Time to share October’s Author of the Month.  In my opinion, James Marshall (aka Harry Allard) is the perfect author for October.  His book are hilarious as well as a bit spooky and mysterious at times too.  Here is a list of some of his books and related activities.  Happy reading!

James Marshall Books

James Marshall Books

  • Miss Nelson is Missing, Miss Nelson is Back, Miss Nelson Has a Field Day: These popular stories about a sweet teacher with a class full of unruly students and her creepy substitute who whips them into shape are made for October.  Kids might need a reminder of how to behave once the “honeymoon period” of back to school time is over.  These books provide a great opportunity to review those classroom rules.  I always like to have kids write their own stories about their own teacher being missing.  Put their stories together for a cute class book.
  • Hansel and Gretel, Cinderella, The Three Little Pigs, Red Riding Hood, Goldilocks and the Three Bears:  James Marshall’s versions of familiar fairy tales are so funny and silly, and kids LOVE them.  They lend themselves nicely to comparing and contrasting different versions of fairy tales.  It’s also fun to have kids write their own versions of fairy tales after reading these books.
  • Space Case:  This book is just right for wrapping up October’s author study.  It takes place on Halloween and November 1st.  It is about an alien who comes to Earth on Halloween just in time for costumes and trick or treating.  He is then disappointed when things are back to normal on November 1st.  This book is great for helping kids explore the idea of point of view.

Reflecting on September 11th

September 11th (or Patriot Day as I have seen it called on some calendars) may not be a holiday that puts me in a celebratory mood, but I do believe it is important to take time to remember the events and heroes of September 11, 2001.  I also think it is important to share these memories with children.  Even though it still seems to me like it just happened, it is amazing to realize that children in elementary school and younger were born after 2001 and may not know anything about 9/11 at all.  As the anniversary approaches each year, they may see pictures on the news and be confused.  Fortunately, there is a wonderful book to help.

September 12th Book

September 12th Book

September 12th: We Knew Everything Would Be All Right was written by first graders in Missouri right after September 11, 2001 happened.  It is beautifully written, and I love it because it focuses on hope and the future.  Be warned – it can be a tearjerker, so practice reading it alone before you sit down to read it with kids.  It so perfectly captures the thoughts and emotions I remember feeling in 2001.  The book transports me back to the end of the school day of September 11, 2001 when I put my third graders (now college students!) on the bus and told them no matter what they saw on TV that night to know they were safe because their parents and teachers loved them.  As you can see, the drawings in the book are so similar to the pictures my own third graders drew.

Page from September 12th Book

Page from September 12th Book

Student 9/11 Drawing

Student 9/11 Drawing

The book talks about taking pride in the USA and being united.  It describes seeing flags and red, white, and blue everywhere.  Those positive patriotic feelings are what I hope to help kids today experience.

I still wear red, white, and blue every year on September 11th, and I always encouraged my students to do the same.  After reading the September 12th book, I would have my students make red, white, and blue posters and write about why we are so lucky to live in America – because we are so lucky!

Even though September 11th is a solemn day, it provides the opportunity to reflect on why we are so fortunate to live in America, a country built on the ideas of freedom and respect for all people, regardless of how different from each other we may be.  I am grateful for that yearly reminder and hopeful that by sharing it with children, they will grow up remembering to live with empathy, compassion, and appreciation every day.

August/September Author of the Month: Kevin Henkes

In my classroom, I always love to have an “Author of the Month.”  I choose a different children’s author each month, and we read books by that person and do activities that go along with the books.  The kids always LOVE the Author of the Month books.  They rush to check out the books for themselves in the library, and they always look forward to seeing who the next new author will be.  It really helps them to be excited about books for the whole school year.  (By the way – Author of the Month doesn’t have to be just a classroom thing!  You could always do this at home with your own kids, focusing on a single author for a month.  You could even start a book club for your kids and their friends and have monthly parties to celebrate different authors.)

I like to start the year with Kevin Henkes as the Author of the Month for August and or September (depending on when school starts).

Kevin Henkes Books

Kevin Henkes Books

If I had to pick one (and PLEASE don’t make me pick just one!) Kevin Henkes is probably my favorite children’s author.  His books are perfect to get the school year off on the right foot and create a good classroom community.

Kevin Henkes Bulletin Board

Kevin Henkes Bulletin Board

Here is a list of the books and activities I like to use:

  • A Weekend with Wendell – After reading the book about a naughty mouse, make a list of rules for the classroom.  Perfect for discussing why good behavior is so important!
  • Wemberly Worried – Read this book about a mouse who worries about everything at the end of the first day of school and discuss how children feel their first day went.
  • Chrysanthemum – After reading this book about a mouse who gets teased about her name, make a list of nice and mean words (or put ups and put downs) and discuss how only the nice words will be used in the classroom.  Then have kids interview each other in pairs and introduce their partners to the class using words from the nice list.
  • Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse – This book about a precocious mouse who has trouble using self control is perfect for reviewing the rules on the second day of school.  Review the classroom rules the kids wrote and discuss which ones Lilly broke.  Another fun activity with this book is to have kids survey what they want to be when they grow up (like Lilly discusses in the book) and then use cheese balls (like they eat in the book) and graph paper to make graphs of the survey results.
  • Chester’s Way – This book is about some very particular mice who like things just so.  I like to use it as a springboard for the children to share some of their favorite things with the class as a way to get to know each other.
  • Julius the Baby of the World – Another good book for getting to know each other.  It is about families, so after reading it kids can share about their families.
  • Owen – This story about a little mouse and his favorite blanket is a good introduction to a first homework assignment.  Kids can go home and write about their favorite toys.  Homework isn’t so bad when it’s all about toys, right?
  • Lilly’s Big Day – Lilly the mouse is back again and in a wedding in this book.  After reading it, kids can write about their own special days.  This makes a good initial writing prompt to help assess where kids are with their writing skills.
  • Sheila Rae, The Brave – This book about a mouse who overcomes her fears is a good introduction to having kids write goals about what they want to accomplish for the school year.
  • At the end of the month after kids have come to love all the different Kevin Henkes characters, have them invent their own mouse characters!  Give them patterns and have them trace them on “mousey” colors of paper.  Then have them add embellishments to their mice to create new and unique characters.  After that, have the kids write stories for their new mice.  My experience is that when kids have little “characters” to inspire their writing, the writing they produce is amazing!  These stories can be assembled together into a great class book that kids will like to look back on fondly as they move through the school year.
Make Your Own Kevin Henkes Mice

Make Your Own Kevin Henkes Mice

Late Summer Sunflowers

Late summer can be a tough time for finding fun things to do with kids.  If they are still on summer break, all of the summertime activities that were once fresh and exciting back in June are all “been there, done that” by now.  If kids are back in school already, they are thinking about all the last bits of summer fun they are missing.  (Besides, with school starting so early these days, it feels to soon to jump right into apples and other fall topics that are traditional for the start of school in September.)  Well, to solve both of these dilemmas, let me suggest sunflowers – perfect for late summer fun in any setting!

Eve Bunting’s book Sunflower House is a great place to start.

Sunflower House by Eve Bunting

Sunflower House by Eve Bunting

It is a cute story about kids who plant sunflowers and then play in them as they grow.  You could easily get a whole day of activities from this one book!

After reading it, have kids map out plans for their own sunflower houses on post-its.  Be sure to stick the post-its to next spring’s calendar so you remember to actually plant the seeds!

You could talk with kids about how sunflowers grow so tall.  Make a model of a sunflower and have kids estimate how tall it is.

Sunflower Model

Sunflower Model

Then have them lay out sunflower seeds to see how many it takes to make the length of the whole sunflower.

Sunflower Seed Measuring

Sunflower Seed Measuring

You could also have kids “dissect” sunflower seeds and look at them with a magnifying glass.  (Everything is more scientific and exciting with a magnifying glass, right?)  Better yet, if you can get a whole flower head from a sunflower plant, have the kids examine that!  Be sure to have the kids sample sunflower seeds or sunflower butter as a snack too.

Finally, have kids glue sunflower seeds to construction paper to make designs or mosaics.  The possibilities are endless.

Whether in school or still out on summer break, sunflowers are happy flowers that can definitely brighten the end of summer blahs.

 

A Very Hungry Birthday!

Caterpillars, butterflies, fresh fruit – all perfect for summer, right?  We recently celebrated our daughter’s first birthday with a The Very Hungry Caterpillar themed party.  We had waited a very long time for our daughter to arrive.  I found Very Hungry Caterpillar plates and napkins probably 3 or 4 years ago.  I went ahead and got them at the time in hopes that we would have a baby, and that baby would need a first birthday party someday!  It couldn’t have been more perfect that our daughter ended up having a summertime birthday just made for a The Very Hungry Caterpillar themed party!

This party was so much fun to prepare.  Eric Carle’s book provides so many great possibilities!

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

A lot of my ideas for the party came from Pinterest.  Check out my Pinterest page to see my inspirations! http://pinterest.com/alwayswonderful

One of my favorite projects was making a caterpillar with pictures to show how our daughter had grown each month throughout her first year.

Month by Month Caterpillar

Month by Month Caterpillar

For the food, I chose foods from the book like apples, oranges, strawberries, watermelon, swiss cheese, and salami as well as butterfly shaped crackers and brownies.  (By the way, this would work for more than just a party – gathering up food for a Very Hungry Caterpillar picnic would be a fun activity for any summer day!)

Very Hungry Caterpillar Food

Very Hungry Caterpillar Food

The cake was a lot of fun to make: individual cupcakes decorated to look like the caterpillar and fruit from the story.

Very Hungry Caterpillar Cupcakes

Very Hungry Caterpillar Cupcakes

Finally, I filled the goody bags with rainbow lollipops, m&m caterpillars (I filled a long skinny plastic bag with red and green m&ms), and fruit snack butterflies (I filled a small bag with fruit snacks, pinched it in the middle, and twisted a pipe cleaner around it).  I could also see making these as part of a The Very Hungry Caterpillar lesson at school.

Very Hungry Caterpillar Favors

Very Hungry Caterpillar Favors

It was a very special day.  I can’t think of a better way to celebrate summer or our precious baby!