Story time is the best time of the day. Whether we're snuggled up on the couch or cozy in our pjs before bed, reading stories with my little ones is one of my favorite things to do. Everyone has a favorite book they remember from their childhood, and every day, parents and kids are discovering new classics of their own. There are many fabulous children's books out there, some of which everyone knows about and others we would have never discovered had my son not simply pulled a random book off a library shelf. I created this blog to share some of these wonderful stories with you. Think of it as a year's worth of the best children's books around, since no day should be without a great story. In the end, I hope we'll all have discovered at least a few new titles that will have made their way onto our list of family favorites. Enjoy!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Day 234: Owl Babies

My cousin passed this book along to us a few years back, but for some reason, we didn't read it much until recently.  My daughter pulled if off her shelf a few weeks ago, and it's been one of her most requested bedtime stories ever since.

Three owl siblings, Sarah, Percy, and Bill, awake one night to discover that their mother is gone. Sarah thinks their mother must have gone off hunting ("To get us food!" Percy adds), while Bill, the youngest, simply cries, "I want my mommy!"  Together, the three owlets watch and wait, hoping and wishing that their mother will return.  Sarah remains the reassuring optimist (at one point suggesting that they all sit on her branch), Percy seems to follow Sarah's lead (I love when he reaches out to hold Bill's wing!), and poor, worried Bill continues to cry, "I want my mommy!" In the end, of course, the mother owl does return to the sheer delight of her little ones, comforting them with the knowledge that she will always come back. I love the way the owls' personalities show through in Martin Waddell's charming story, and Patrick Benson's illustrations are remarkably expressive.  I adore listening to my daughter chime in as Bill each time we read, too.  It's natural for children to feel a little separation anxiety from time to time, so they will likely find both comfort and humor in this sweet, lovely bedtime story.  

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Day 233: The Salamander Room

I bought this gem of a book for only 50 cents at our last library book sale, and it has since become one of my children's favorites.  I bought it based on only two things: the fact that it was a Reading Rainbow book, and that it is about salamanders. My little naturalist of a son is always out in the yard digging a hole with the hope of creating a salamander pond, so I had a feeling he would love this book no matter what.

What a lovely story this is!  A little boy finds a salamander in the woods and decides to bring it home with him. The dialogue consists of the subsequent narrative between the boy and his mother: the boy naturally wants to keep the salamander in his room, and the mother naturally tries to convince him that perhaps that isn't the best of ideas.  Instead of simply telling him no, however, she asks a series of gentle questions -- Where will he sleep? What will eat? -- and encourages him to think about what such a decision would mean to the little creature. The boy, of course, always has a logical answer, and I can't help but picture my son as the boy in this story when we read.

    "And when he wakes up, where will he play?"

          "I will carpet my room with shiny wet leaves and water them so he can slide around and play. I will bring tree stumps into my room so he can climb up the bark and sun himself on top. And I will bring boulders that he can creep over"

    "He will miss his friends in the forest."

          "I will bring salamander friends to play with him."

    "They will be hungry. How will you feed them?"

          "I will bring insects to live in my room. And every day I will catch some and feed the
          salamanders. And I will make little pools of water on top of the boulders so they can drink
          whenever they are thirsty."

In the end, the boy has dreamed up the perfect woodland paradise for his little friend and himself. The way the story depicts a child's imagination and love of nature is simply fabulous, and the illustrations portray the magical wonder of the salamander room perfectly. I have no doubt this is one story we will always remember.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Day 232: Animal Infographics

If your kids are like mine, they are incredibly inquisitive and ask more questions than I can count in a day.  (More than I can usually answer, too.)  I just love seeing how much information their amazing little minds can hold and how much they love learning new things. And their capacity to remember it all simply astounds me, especially since my memory is like that of a goldfish these days.  My kids also love animals -- my son, especially -- and we've learned so much together about the world's amazing creatures.  I wasn't surprised, then, when he brought this book home from his last visit to the library.  We renewed it in order to bring it on vacation with us, and have enjoyed learning some great animal facts along the way. While the parent in me thinks that this book is one worth featuring here on the blog, it's the teacher in me who really thinks it's post-worthy.

If you are unfamiliar with infographics, they are pictures that give you information in a very visual way. They can take the form of maps, graphs, or charts, among other things, and aim to make information easy to understand. I'm sure you've seen them everywhere: in magazines, ads, newspapers, etc. As a geography teacher, I can honestly admit that I love a good infographic! Here's an example, courtesy of PBS:

Source: PBS Nature

I realized once I became a teacher that as an adult, it is easy to assume that children know how to make sense of this type of visual information; after all, we can look at such pictures and understand them (and probably don't remember ever learning how to do that in school.) Interpreting this kind of data, though, is really its own literacy skill; one which we can help our children learn and which will, in turn, nourish their growth as thinkers and readers.

Animal Infographics is a perfect first book for this very thing, featuring plenty of fun animal facts in a visually simple way.  (I would have featured a page from the book itself, but couldn't find any examples online and didn't want to risk violating any copyright rules or anything.) It starts out with a simple pie chart about the number of different types of pets in the United States, and goes on to show all kinds of other information: a comparison of the weights of different animals (for example, that 1 blue whale = 22 African elephants), the world's biggest and smallest animals (compared to a human), food chains, food webs, life cycles, life spans, you name it.  There is even a page that shows a timeline of prehistoric animals, easily demonstrating, for example, the fact that Stegosaurus and Tyrannosaurus Rex did not live in the same time period.  There is a short glossary at the end, as well as other sources for learning more about the topics in the book.  The only thing that seemed a little confusing to my kids was that things are not pictured in their actual size, but rather in comparative scale to one another.  (We have and love Steve Jenkins' book Actual Size, which might account for some of their initial confusion.)  But that's the whole point, really; to teach them how to interpret visual information in a new way so that it makes sense! There is a series of these books featuring other topics such as population and the environment, as well, so I'm sure we'll be bringing home some of the others in the months to come.

If you're looking for a great non-fiction book to add to your little one's library or if you are an elementary teacher, be sure to check out this book.  The more we can expose our kids to a range of reading materials, the better!