Monday October 15th, 2012

It’s Monday! What are you reading? Link up and share your week’s reading from  picture books to young adult reads on Jen and Kellee’s meme. I always find my TBR piles grow and grow as I sift through all of the fabulous titles shared!

This week I was able to share some favourite picture books for the first time as read alouds and I also read many titles new to me.

I shared The Hueys in the New Jumper by Oliver Jeffers with our primary SR (Social Responsibility) gathering this week (3 classes together). We often read books to the children that spark discussion about all kinds of topics that fall under the social/emotional umbrella. I chose this book because of its message about daring to be yourself and not always having to be the same as everyone else around you. It also reminds us that we do not need to be afraid of those “rule breakers” who aren’t worried about being unique and standing out. The students were very intrigued with the funny little Hueys and they loved learning that a sweater to us is a jumper to someone in another part of the world. Loved it so much that every time I said “the bright orange jumper” they joined in so that we were a little chorus! This book has BIG time LITTLE kid appeal.

I also read one of my favourite books to my class this week: Hunwick’s Egg by Mem Fox and illustrated by Pamela Lofts. One of my students showed me a treasure he had found – a stone shaped jut like an egg. “It’s really just a rock,” he told me in a whisper. “But maybe kind of magic because it seems like an egg.” Well . . . I hardly need an excuse to say “There’s a book for that!” But in this case . . . my , my, my . . . there sure is a book! Hunwick’s Egg is an absolute treasure about a little bandicoot named Hunwick who finds out that his special egg is actually just a stone but loves it deeply still. Although his egg never hatched, it provided him with companionship, faith and an important secret. Egg or stone, this was his friend. It was such a pleasure to share a favourite title with a new group of children. And then when we got to pass the stone around that had been shared with me. Well . . . sometimes magic happens during a day for just a few moments and this was one of those moments.

I also found a number of wonderful new to me picture books at the library this week:

The Potato People by Pamela Allen This book is about a Grandma and grandson who make creatures out of potatoes. As time passes, the potato creatures begin to wither and sprout. Grandma buries them in her garden and wow . . . Lots of learning about how potatoes are grown! I also love the bond between Grandma and grandson and that they sing the potato song: “One potato, Two potato, Three Potato, Four.” I recited this poem as a child and sang it twenty years ago when I was teaching children in Slovakia! A little nostalgic moment 🙂

Don’t Worry Douglas  by David Melling A sweet little story about Douglas the loveable bear who learns that telling the truth is most important when asking for help to solve a problem.

You are a Lion and other Fun Yoga Poses by Taeeun Yoo I shared this book with my seven year old niece and she instantly got down on the floor and tried out all of the poses, giggling all the while. A very fun, interactive book that introduces yoga poses to young children.The page layout is ideal: a two page spread with instructions: “Sit with feet together. Hold on to toes. Legs flap! You are a . . . ” Flip the page and find out: “. . . Butterfly” Would be perfect for a rainy day story time when everyone needs some movement!

One for All – All for One written by Brigitte Weninger and illustrated by Eve Tharlet. The illustrations are delightful – very endearing little animals. A story about being courageous, identifying inner strength and relying on the strength of friendship.

Can Hens give Milk? by Joan Betty Stuchner and Joe Weissmann This book is a hilarious exploration of the question . . . Can hens give milk? It logically approaches how to have hens start giving milk. The only problem is the premise to begin with is completely without logic! It goes something like this:

I see cows giving milk. Cows graze on grass. If chickens were fed grass, they would produce milk! Let’s give our chickens grass to eat! 

This story is about Tova and her family who live in the town of Chelm (a mythical village, populated, according to Jewish folklore by fools!) Cannot wait to share this with my class and see how they respond!

I also just finished Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George. A wonderful suspenseful middle grade read: part mystery, part fantasy, part intrigue . . . And it seems this title will be the first in a series. Since I am reading my daughter’s copy, I think I see some future book gifts ahead! She is a big Jessica Day George fan and now I understand why! The most interesting thing about this book for me? The fact that the castle itself was a main character! Next book up? The Raven Boys! I just picked it up from the library!

A Love of Reading Starts Between Us

This post was originally published on the Nerdy Book Club blog on February 24th 2012.  Next week my Grade 2/3 class begins reading with their Kindergarten buddies for the 2012/2013 school year and I am excited about the magic bound to happen once again!

A Love of Reading Starts Between Us

I teach at a tiny inner city school, located in Vancouver’s downtown eastside. The school is located in what some have described is the country’s poorest postal code. Looking at factors from census statistics like parents’ educational attainment and the number of families living below the poverty line, our school is described as vulnerable even amongst schools who also have inner city status.  So, like all teachers my mission is to teach children to read and hope that I can also make them passionate life long readers. But I know the statistics that link poverty to limited access to books and limited access to books to levels of school achievement. So I feel an urgency to create a community of readers in the classroom. And . . . I want that community to extend into children’s homes and futures.

We do a lot of fabulous things at my school to ensure that our children read and have access to fantastic books. What I am particularly passionate about this year is the buddy reading between my Grade 2/3 class and the K/1 class. (“Really? We’re the big buddies? Wow!” my students marveled when I revealed our buddy reading plan) We meet together Wednesday afternoons for forty minutes but my class spends time everyday making sure this weekly reading is as successful as possible.

My role is collecting books, modeling reading aloud, nurturing the joy and providing feedback. I have raided my home bookshelves for early picture books I read to my children. Beautiful alphabet books so letters can be chased all over the page, Thanks to Audrey Wood for the popular Alphabet Adventure.  I brought in lots of rhyme and repetition like Phoebe Gilman’s feisty Jillian Jiggs, Mem Fox’s Where is the Green Sheep? and all of the Five Little Monkeys books written by Eileen Christelow.

Recently I received some designated funds for my classroom book collections. I purchased board books for our buddy reading. My students will tell you that board books are great for little five year old hands and you don’t need to remind anybody to be gentle turning pages. Each morning I read a new book to my students with the intention of doing a few things. Of course, sparking excitement and interest in the new book is a priority. But I also model. “When you read to your little buddy you could ask them to guess which animal is on the next page,” I point out while sharing Monkey and Me by Emily Gravett. “Ask your little buddy to do the animal sounds with you,” I encourage as we read Alice Shertle’s Little Blue Truck. Now I have students coming to me with classroom books. “Look Ms. Gelson I could read this book to my little buddy and they could say the parts that repeat with me!” One girl found a Fairy Tale book told in rebus style. “This is a good one for little kids, you can ask them what the picture is.”  Thinking about our little buddies is hardly just a Wednesday afternoon event.

Now as I watch my students together with their little buddies, I am delighted to hear them trying out new things we’ve talked about. My eight year olds are encouraging choral reciting, asking little ones to guess, predict and turn the page to find out. There is reading, laughing, talking and much joy shared.

I have one student who won’t read to any adult who visits our class but he is a star in buddy reading. A little kindergarten girl who struggles a lot with managing her emotions in class and often needs breaks and extra supports makes a beeline for this boy every Wednesday afternoon. She sits engrossed in their book sharing for forty minutes. None of us can believe it. But of course we should. It is the magic of books doing their thing!

This boy in my class who shines as a buddy reader is reluctant to accept compliments. So I sneak them in casually but my feedback is specific. “Erich,” I say. “It is amazing to watch you read to Kayla. You involve her in the stories. You listen carefully to her questions. Reading with you is such a happy time for her.” Erich grins cautiously but his pride radiates. Now I am passing him books to take home and read to his younger siblings. “You are so great at this. It is such a wonderful thing to be able to share books.” He doesn’t tell me a lot about reading at home to his siblings but he brings the books back and he asks for more.

I know these Wednesday afternoons mean a lot to all of us. The little buddies and the big and the lucky teachers who witness it all. A love of reading starts between us and it spreads. Together my students and I are passing on the joy of reading. We are letting books work their magic. Books are the tickets to our future and we are loving every step of the journey!

Read more here about some of the board books we love for buddy reading.

My picture book 10 for 10 for 2012

Picture Book Love!!

This is the first year I am participating in the Picture Book 10 for 10 event hosted by Cathy from Reflect and Refine: Building a Learning Community and Mandy from Enjoy and Embrace Learning.

Any opportunity to celebrate a love for picture books, count me in!

Of course I could have listed hundreds but I tried to select the first ten that came to me. My list for 2012:

Pete and Pickles by Berkeley Breathed. Oh how I love this book that celebrates love! I gushed about it here. This book is quite possibly my favourite picture book ever. And that is really saying something!

The Giant Seed by Arthur Geisert. Geisert is a master at telling a beautiful and whimsical fantastical story through a wordless book.  How the pigs happen to be saved from volcanic disaster is a reason to share this story many times. Gorgeous.

Stuck by Oliver Jeffers. I really liked this book on first read. But after sharing it with my class I quickly grew to love it. My students went crazy for this book! Read more here. This book read aloud in a classroom of book lovers is a force to be reckoned with.

All the World written by Liz Garton Scanlon and illustrated by Marla Frazee. This book could be read daily and one would never tire of it. I have blogged about it before: “The images are comforting, saturated with details and evoke our own memories attached to the experiences suggested by each picture. These pictures are so easy to connect to, I felt like I had taken a journey through some of my own most happiest of memories.”

Hunwick’s Egg written by Mem Fox and illustrated by Pamela Lofts. I have blogged about this book before as it is one of my favourites: “Hunwick’s egg never hatched although it provided him with companionship, faith and an important secret. Yes, he realized his egg was not an egg at all but a perfectly shaped stone and he loved it all the more. This book is beyond endearing and my heart lifts just pulling it off the shelf.”

The Gardener written by Sarah Stewart and illustrated by David Small. It is wonderful to have historical fiction wrapped up so beautifully in this illustrated book. My own children wanted to study this book again and again.

House Held up by Trees written by Ted Kooser and illustrated by Jon Klassen. This book celebrates the power of nature and how we are naturally drawn to it. Efforts to keep it at bay are often futile. Nature finds its way. This book is stunning.

Leaf by Stephen Michael King. A story of the friendship between a boy, a dog and a plant. Simple, sweet, endearing. The best thing about this book? It is nearly wordless – the only text  – sound effects – Whooosh, Boing, Sploosh, Glurg glurg .

Hello Goodbye Window written by Norton Juster and illustrated by Chris Raschka. The vibrant colours in this book are pure joy! I love the celebration of the relationship between grandchild and grandparents. “Hello World! What have you got for us today?” We still quote this line frequently in our house!

Wilfred Gordon Macdonald Partridge  written by Mem Fox and illustrated by Julie Vivas. A favourite of mine for years. Every time I read it aloud to a new group of students I sit back and enjoy their discussions of all the special kinds of memories. A book every house and classroom should own.

New Books for Buddy Reading

Thanks to a generous donation towards books for our classroom and funds matched by Adopt a School, we have some amazing new titles to share when our Grade 2/3 s invite the K/1 class up for buddy reading once a week. It is an important time we all enjoy and now we have some wonderful new books to share together!

Hug Time by Patrick McDonnell is a tiny little book all about having a huge heart. A little kitten so filled with love decides to give the whole world a hug and sets out with friends and a Hug-To-Do-List to travel the world from pole to pole and do just that – hug every living thing he comes across. My favourite? Hugging a big blue whale!

Monkey and Me by Emily Gravett has wonderful rhyming, repetitive text perfect for sharing with our 5 year old little buddies.

Monkey and me, Monkey and me,

Monkey and me, We went to see,

We went to see some . . . .

Flip the page and who knows what you might find? Bat! Elephants! Penguins! All beautifully illustrated in classic Gravett style.

Antoinette Portis created the extremely clever Not a Box. Little Rabbit is in the first picture sitting in what looks like a box. “Why are you sitting in a box?” the text reads. Next picture, little rabbit is in a race car, “It’s not a box,” he explains. And so the book continues. The power of imagination means that a box is really anything a child can make of one. Fun to read and more fun to begin a conversation. What else could a box be?

Hello Baby is written by one of my favourite authors for young children, Mem Fox and illustrated by the incredible Steve Jenkins.

Hello, Baby! Who are you?

The book begins with this first question and goes on to ask many more, Are you a . . . ? Everything rhymes, images are striking and often surprising and at the end, you want to go back and read it all over again. Yes, our 5- 8 year olds aren’t babies but many of them are intrigued by animal babies and Fox and Jenkins have created an engaging delight in a tiny little book.

It is hard to resist the humour in Jeremy Tankard‘s Grumpy Bird. Grumpy Bird wakes up, clearly on the wrong side of his nest, too grumpy to do anything. He won’t eat, play or even fly. His grumpy march across the land looks lovely to every other animal who joins him as he trudges along snipping and quipping at everyone he meets.

“WHY DOES EVERYONE WANT TO KNOW WHAT I’M DOING?” shouted Bird.

In the end, as you might guess, Grumpy Bird has found a cure for his grumpiness and he gets to share it with his friends. Lots of fun, especially for those of us that work really hard to stay mad even when we aren’t anymore . . . .

Little Blue Truck is written by Alice Schertle and illustrated by Jill McElmurry. In this sweet little story, Litle Blue Truck shows a Big Dump Truck the power of many helping hands. I think this book will be a favourite as it is full of rhyme, repetition and animal sounds! So fun to read aloud and have a little buddy join in as they are able: Oink! Quack! Baa! Moo! Cluck! Peep! Neigh! Croak! Maa!

I absolutely adore this book by James Mayhew and now, happily have a copy for the classroom! Saber-toothed tigers. Wooly mammoths. Sleepy dinosaurs. A little boy exploring the world around him. In Boy, author James Mayhew explores a little guy’s yearning for independence while at the same time honouring his deep connections to home (and the happy snuggles from Mom and Dad). Where in the world do we find warmth? In the security and love from our own family.

How fun is this book by Edward Gibbs?! In I Spy with My Little Eye, we turn page after page of eye spy riddles – on each page, we get a clue, the name of a colour and that same colour in a perfect circle that turns into the eye of each creature.

I spy with my little eye . . . something that is gray. I have a very long trunk.

Flip the page and of course you find . . . an elephant! So much fun to look through a spy hole to discover an exciting parade of gorgeously illustrated animals in bright and beautiful colours.

Note: I purchased many of these books in board book version – to give them more lasting power and to be easily held in tiny hands. 🙂

Thanks to our generous donors and the Adopt a School fund for supporting early literacy at Seymour! We are keen to put the remaining funds into other important book purchases to share with our students.

Dusted off treasures

When I think about the tangible things I value, books top the list hands down. My whole house can be disorganized, but my books never are.  I consider books to be treasures. They each have a story, an experience and many memories attached. I looked through my picture books last night and selected ten little treasures to dust off and share. These are some of many books that line my family book shelf that I adore – books that often have sat there for quite some time and bring inevitable joy in being reread and shared. Nobody loves new books more than me, but this is about honouring beautiful books that have been with me for some time. Their stories tell mine.

Ten treasures that line my shelves: (in no particular order)

The Tale of Urso Brunov written by Brian Jacques and illustrated by Alexi Natchev

This book was a gift from me to my son about four years ago when he was 5 years old and ready for the longer picture book. Urso Brunov is the Little Father of All Bears, a Brunov Bear only the size of your thumb but wiser and stronger than all living creatures. During the time of the long winter sleep, four tiny bears go missing and it is up to Urso Brunov to find them and bring them home. Such a dramatic and beautiful adventure story full of clever heroics.

Hunwick’s Egg written by Mem Fox and illustrated by Pamela Lofts

When my children were toddlers and we lived in the land of picture books, Mem Fox was easily one of our very favourite authors. We read many of her books countless times. Hunwick’s Egg came into our lives later than other of Fox’s stories. We were already expert on many of her captivating Australian animals and fell hard for Hunwick, the little bandicoot who happened upon a very curious egg and fell quickly in love. Hunwick’s egg never hatched although it provided him with companionship, faith and an important secret. Yes, he realized his egg was not an egg at all but a perfectly shaped stone and he loved it all the more. This book is beyond endearing and my heart lifts just pulling it off the shelf.

Oscar and Hoo written by Theo and illustrated by Michael Dudok De Wit

Oscar and Hoo was sent to us by a dear friend who frequently gifts us with beautiful books. This is a book of comfort about a little boy Oscar who gets lost and is befriended by a lone little cloud Hoo who has also lost his flock. These two lone creatures tell stories, share dreams and give new meaning to the phrase “head in the clouds.”

The Cozy Book written by Mary Ann Hoberman and illustrated by Betty Fraser

I discovered this lovely book of verse about all things cozy at the public library and swiftly special ordered multiple copies – one for us and many to gift as this book is the perfect gift for anyone who has the honour to snuggle into a cozy corner and read to a child. Beautiful illustrations by Betty Fraser take me back to a simpler time of childhood. Relish in all that is cozy by the rhyming master Mary Ann Hoberman:

Calm Unhurried Smooth Unworried

Fine and dandy tried and true

Lovey-dovey Hunky-dory

Cozy feelings Felt by you.

Plantpet written and illustrated by Elise Primavera

This book came into my life when my husband to be scoured old book stores and discovered treasures, purchased them for me and hid them in funny places – under my pillow, in the bathtub, in the oven. This book has been mine for many years and I still delight in sharing it or just savouring it all for myself. Bertie lives all on his own in a junkyard up on a hill. He discovers Plantpet in a cage and vows to care for it. What he thought was a plant confuses him – is it a pet? It walks and digs and grows. What Plantpet does most though is tend to the long-neglected junk yard garden. But when Plantpet’s digging seems to have no end, Bertie banishes him to a corner of the yard and soon finds himself all alone. When he recognizes how much he misses his friend, Bertie races to find him only to discover a withered little green being. The two revive their friendship in the most beautiful of ways.

Our King has Horns! written by Richard Pevear and illustrated by Robert Rayevsky

This book also came into my life back in the days of the hidden books around my apartment by my husband to be that realized he was always going to have to compete with my love of books! How I have loved this book based on an old Georgian folktale. It has found its way into many read aloud situations with various children over the years and nobody ever tires of this very relevant story about the persistent nature of truth. What happens when we are forced to keep secrets too dramatic to hold? Is there freedom in revealing the truth? Such a clever story.

The Bear Under the Stairs written and illustrated by Helen Cooper

Poor little William thought he saw a bear under the stairs. Don’t bears want to eat boys for lunch? Not if they are well fed deduces William and places many food offerings in the space under the stairs where the bear resided. William’s Mom soon sniffs out the smell wafting sourly from under the stairs and together she and William brace themselves to battle that scary bear. But all that they find is an old furry rug and a broken chair. No scary bear. This book was big in our lives when sleep was frequently disturbed by upsetting nightmares and we read and reread it, finding solace in its honouring of the scary places of dark and shadows.

The Three Golden Keys written and illustrated by Peter Sis

Peter Sis brings the legend and magic of his childhood home alive in this story set in Prague. A man in a hot air balloon is blown off course and finds himself in the city of his childhood. But his old house is dark and there are three rusty padlocks on the door. Can he find the lost keys to let him in? We join in with his search through Prague’s beautiful streets and buildings. Steeped in magic, history and wonder, this book leads us through time and mystery. This book was gifted to me by friends who knew I treasure my time teaching in what was then the country of Czechoslovakia and that Prague holds a special place in my heart and memory – part real, part magic still.

Waiting for Gregory written by Kimberly Willis Holt and illustrated by Gabi Swiatkowska

waiting

This book was a gift from me to my husband when our children were small. It captures the wonder of a child waiting for the arrival of a baby cousin – when will that baby come to be and how long can she possibly wait? She states: “Waiting for a baby is like waiting for a show to begin.” So much to anticipate and waiting and waiting and waiting. A beautiful book – the prose and the paintings both thoughtful and gorgeous. Because we waited first long and then anxiously for our babies, this book has significant meaning in our world.

The Hello, Goodbye Window written by Norton Juster and illustrated by Chris Raschka

This book has special meaning to me. I grew up with grandparents far away and my children have been blessed with grandparents, two sets even, close at hand and very involved. This book celebrates the unique bond of grandparent and child told in quirky observations and Raschka’s joyous full colour stories that explode off the page. Childhood simplicity. Intergenerational love. Gardens. “Oh Susannah.” Oatmeal and raisins. Peek-a-boo. And the wonderful line that we still repeat in our house, “Hello, World! What have you got for us today?” Love to love this book.

Books are treasures. Treasures to be shared.