Monday, March 15, 2010
We're all big readers in this house, including the smallest chick. The living room shelves are brimming with kids' books, and we have more piles in every room. This means that there is never a shortage of reading material, but it does mean that some books tend to be overlooked due to the abundance of choice.
To solve this problem, and because I strive to help my children connect with the changing seasons, I keep a stack of books separated in our "book basket." I've been doing this for about a year, and it's a huge success. We keep the book basket in an easily reachable spot conducive to reading (on the radiator behind the couch), and those books are in constant use.
I choose the books based on two different sets of criteria:
1. Seasonal books (these are switched as we move into a new season)
2. Books that fill one of the other thematic requirements I came up with because I'm a little anal that way.
After I go through and find all the books about the upcoming season, I choose one book for each of the following topics:
A. An alphabet/letter book
B. A number/counting book
C. An arts/crafts book
D. A science book
E. A physical activity-related book
F. The current issue(s) of any kids' magazine(s) we receive
G. A poetry book
H. Any books we have related to upcoming events (like holidays, trips, etc.)
Here's a list of what's in our winter basket, which will be rotated out on Friday in anticipation of spring.
For the winter-themed books:
**Snowballs, by Lois Ehlert. This is a fun board book about decorating a snow family with all kinds of unusual accessories.
**Winter Friends, by Carl R. Sams II & Jean Stoick. This very simple but sweet board book of photos of birds, squirrels, and deer visiting snowmen has captivated Bojey this winter.
**The Cat in the Hat Comes Back (Beginner Books(R)), by Dr. Seuss, of course. This sequel to the original, better-known Cat in the Hat book is much more insane than the first (which is pretty crazy itself as far as I'm concerned). It falls into the "winter" theme because it takes place in the winter, opening with the two children shoveling snow. The Cat returns to cause mischief which culminates in his getting spots all over the snow in front of their house.
**Owl Moon, by Jane Yolen. This peaceful, slow-paced story about a child and her father who go owling at night in the winter is a hit with Ninna.
**The Snowman (Picture Puffin), by Raymond Briggs. This story was new to us this year, and I can't believe it's taken me this long to read it. It's a wordless picture book, drawn in a style similar to a comic book, about a child's magical fantasy in which a snowman comes alive at night. It's very, very sweet.
**The Mitten 20th Anniversary Edition, by Jan Brett. This retelling of a Ukrainian folktale is great, but the illustrations are even better than the story itself. Brett tells a side story in the margins that coincides with the central tale, and she gives us a hint on every page of what's to come next.
**Annie and the Wild Animals, by Jan Brett. Illustrated in the same visual style as The Mitten, Annie and the Wild Animals tells the tale of a little girl who tries to find a new pet from the woods when her cat disappears for the winter.
As for the other themes, here is what we've been reading:
An alphabet/letter book--The Four-tongued Alphabet, by Ruth Brown. I wish this were still in print, but unfortunately it's not. I found it at the Salvation Army (where I've bought approximately 2/3 of our kids' books). Each page contains a wonderful illustration along with the chosen word in English, French, German, and Spanish. She uses more unusual words to illustrate many of the letters (L, for example, is "labyrinth.") I really love this book.
A number/counting book--My First Counting Book, by Lilian Moore. I personally find this to be kind of a run of the mill counting book, but the kids seem to like it.
An arts/crafts book--I Design: Sullivan Topic Series Level 2, by Anne Adden. This book is unreal. Also a Salvation Army find, published in 1972, it is the most amazingly, delighfully 1970s thing I've ever seen. I have no idea of the intended age, but I'm going to guess it was written for middle elementary. Ninna adores this bizarre, conversational walk through what a "design" is, covering abstract design, patterns, and more. It's so great. I'd tell you to buy it, but I probably have one of the only copies left in the world. It was published by the Behavioral Research Laboratories in Palo Alto (the small suburb in which we used to live, coincidentally.)
A science book--Ant Cities (Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science 2), by Arthur Dorros. Whenever possible, I try to choose books that connect to upcoming events or things we are doing. We're about to order the ants for an ant farm we've had sitting in the closet for a year, so it's a good time to learn about ant colonies.
A physical activity-related book--Little Yoga: A Toddler's First Book of Yoga, by Rebecca Whitford and Martina Selway. Ninna loves this simple book of basic yoga poses. I think it's pretty good. My only complaint is that the authors chose to use cute names for the poses rather than using their more commonly used names. I would much prefer to have had the kids learn the correct names from the start. Other than that, I have no complaints. The drawings are simple and the poses chosen are certainly age-appropriate.
The current issue(s) of any kids' magazine(s) we receive--Ladybug Magazine arrives in our mailbox every two months, and Ninna reads them until they're falling apart. I think the stories are hit or miss, but there are enough good ones to make it worth it. There are also often games, decent poems, and cute illustrations. There are also two comic strips, which I like because it has introduced her to a type of narrative we hadn't read before. The final page is always a tear-out project of some sort. We also keep our back issues of Babybug Magazine and Wild Animal Baby from the appropriate months in the book basket. Both girls read these over and over.
A poetry book--If Not for the Cat (Horn Book Fanfare List (Awards)), by Jack Prelutsky. Each Haiku in this book is written from the perspective of the animal picture accompanying it. It's great fun, and I'm proud to say it was signed by the author to Ninna at her first book signing when she was 1 1/2 :).
Phew. That was more books than I realized were in there! I just love our book basket, and it has become such an important part of our daily reading. Although I imply that I might actually switch out the books on a weekly basis, I usually do not. The seasonal books stay in for three months, and I aim to change out some of the others every couple of weeks.
Friday, Ninna and I will exchange the winter books for the spring ones. I had so much fun writing about those books that I may just have to write another marathon book post this weekend!