Fizz, Boom, Read!

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“The universe isn’t made of atoms. It is made of stories.”

~ Muriel  Rukeyser ~

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Science surrounds us. Thanks to advances in science and technology, the world today would be almost unrecognizable to people living just a century ago.  But before there was science, there were stories. This summer, children in Connecticut and across the country will be reading stories, real and fictional, about animals, oceans, and rockets. They’ll read about the creative minds behind the discoveries, large and small, that have shaped our world. And they’ll be reading about ordinary kids whose curiosity and wonder take them on amazing adventures.

Science is very clear about the importance of reading, especially over the summer. Not only does reading build vocabulary, improve concentration, memory, and creativity, it also helps us develop empathy and interpersonal skills. Students who read at least 20 minutes a day will have read for the equivalent of 60 school days by the end of sixth grade!

There are several easy steps parents can take to encourage their children to read this summer:

  • Start by helping your child find books about topics that interest them.
  • Visit your local library. Librarians are happy to help children find good books, and chances are good that they will be sponsoring a summer reading program.
  • Show an interest in what your child is reading by asking questions about the books they’re reading.
  • Magazines are also a great option.
  • Set aside time each day for “family reading time.” By reading yourself, you’ll be setting a good example.
  • Reading aloud, even if your child is old enough to read on their own, is another way to encourage your child’s reading habit.
  • Don’t forget audiobooks! These are always a good choice, especially if you’ll be traveling.

Many booklists are available to help you and your child locate entertaining titles. The Connecticut State Library has created several, organized by grade level:

Nominees for The Nutmeg Award, Connecticut’s state book award, are also good choices. Lists of nominated books for the 2015 award can be found here.

TeachingBooks.net and the Collaborative Summer Library Program have an extensive list for all ages available here.

The American Library Association also has grade level lists available:

Kate DiCamillo, National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, shared her suggestions for great summer reads on NPR recently.

No matter which books your child chooses, remember DiCamillo’s wise words: “Reading should not be presented to children as a chore, a duty. It should be offered as a gift.”

Happy reading!

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Indies First Storytime Day with Deborah Freedman

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One of the best ways to inspire young readers and writers is to find opportunities for them to meet published authors. Children’s book authors love to meet and talk with children, answer their questions, and, of course, read to them. 

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Children in the New Milford area have an incredible opportunity this Saturday, May 17th. Noted author and illustrator Deborah Freedman will be reading “picture books old and new” at Bank Street Book Nook as part of Indies First Storytime Day. This national event, sponsored by the American Booksellers Association, is part of Children’s Book Week, “the annual celebration of books for young people.” For ninety-five years, Children’s Book Week has been “dedicated to instilling a lifelong love of reading in children.”

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Ms. Freedman, who lives in New Haven, is the author and illustrator of three picture books, Scribble (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2007), Blue Chicken (Viking, 2011), and The Story of  Fish & Snail (Viking, 2013). These books give young readers a peek into how the stories and picture books they love are created. But they are also filled with characters, both human and animal, who find themselves in situations that are instantly recognizable to the picture book crowd. Disagreements between sisters? Scribble has them. An over-enthusiastic chicken who just wants to help? Look no further than Blue Chicken. Or a snail who likes his home just fine and doesn’t want to leave, even if it means losing his friend? The Story of Fish & Snail helps readers learn that home isn’t really home without our friends, and that friends can help us find the courage to try something new.

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Want to learn more about Ms. Freedman and her work? Visit her website, or read this interview with librarian, writer and children’s book blogger Julie Danielson.

Be sure to stop by the Bank Street Book Nook and join the fun starting at one o’clock tomorrow.

National Poetry Month & Mother Goose

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“Mother Goose rhymes, baby verse-that kind of singsong, sing-along rhythm-is as important as a heartbeat.”

~ Jane Yolen and Jane Dyer ~

April is National Poetry Month and there is no better way to introduce young children to the joys of poetry than with Mother Goose.

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Although the true origins of Mother Goose are lost to history, experts agree that Charles Perrault was the first to record the poems and songs we now think of as Mother Goose rhymes. They became popular in England in the early 18th century, and the first English editions were published in the late 1700s.

Reading and singing nursery rhymes is more than fun and games, though. Noted reading expert and researcher Maryanne Wolf notes that “teaching a child to enjoy poetry and music is serious child’s play.” When parents and caregivers read poetry and Mother Goose rhymes to children, they’re helping them develop an awareness of the rhythms and rhymes of language. This helps children develop phonological awareness, “a sensitivity to the sound structure in language,”  a skill that plays a central role in the becoming a successful reader. Sharing these timeless tales also builds young children’s vocabularies and gives them a sense of story structure.

Mother Goose also provides children with a shared cultural knowledge they will need as they encounter more sophisticated literature. Fractured fairy tales like The Stinky Cheese Man and The True Story of the Three Little Pigs are very popular, but without knowledge of the original stories, much of the humor is lost. Imagine watching Shrek! without knowing any of the nursery rhymes and folk tales being alluded to throughout the movie. 

There are many editions of Mother Goose rhymes available. My personal favorite is the one I read to my own children when they were small, Richard Scary’s Best Mother Goose Ever. (Golden Press, 1964) This edition included fifty rhymes that are illustrated with Scary’s trademark cheerful animals.9780307155788

My Very First Mother Goose (Candlewick, 1996), edited by Iona Opie and illustrated by Rosemary Wells is another popular collection. Opie, a noted folklorist, includes more than sixty rhymes in this volume.

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Jane Yolen, who has been called the Hans Christian Anderson of our day, and illustrator Jane Dyer have teamed up to create Wee Rhymes: Baby’s First Poetry Book (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2013). The collection is organized around the daily life of little ones. Hugs and kisses, food, play, nature, baths, and bedtime are each captured perfectly in Yolen’s original poems. A traditional Mother Goose rhyme introduces each section. Jane Dyer’s sweet illustrations depict babies and toddlers engaged in the joy of childhood.

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Children are never too young or too old for poetry and rhymes. As Jim Trelease, author of The Read-Aloud Handbook, says, whenever we read to children we are “stimulating imagination …and whetting the appetite for a love of reading.” 

Resolve to Read

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By carmichaellibrary [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By carmichaellibrary, via Wikimedia Commons

Let’s face it. Resolutions are easy to make but very hard to keep. Even with the best intentions, we often fall back into our old routines after a week or two. Making the resolution to read every day, though, will have payoffs that can last a lifetime.

There have been several articles in the news over the past few weeks about the importance of reading and its many benefits.

  • A study from Emory University found that reading a novel improved brain function for up to five days.
  • Studies carried out by researchers at the New School for Social Research suggests that reading literature develops empathy and our ability to “understand the emotions, thoughts, beliefs, and intentions of others.” Scientists in the Netherlands have conducted studies that revealed similar findings.
  • Scientists in England have found that reading helps you relax. Just six minutes of reading can lower heart rate and muscle tension. Sleep experts also agree that reading should be part of a “regular de-stressing routine before bed.
  • Researchers at the Rush Medical Center in Chicago have found evidence that developing a lifetime reading habit in childhood can be “important for brain health in old age.

Taken together, these studies seem to support what teachers have know for years: reading is good for you and makes you smarter.

If your family already has a reading routine in place, that’s terrific. If reading isn’t part of your daily routine, start small. Set a goal to read ten minutes a day. Routines take time to establish, so don’t get upset if you miss a day. Just be sure to read the next day. And the next. Aristotle once said “we are what we repeatedly do.” Resolve to read every day, and soon you’ll be a reader.

Season’s Readings!

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“A book can give a child a way to learn to value herself, which is at the start of the process of growing a great soul.”

       ~Katherine Patterson~

By scbailey [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By scbailey [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Christmas is almost here, and if you’re like me, you still have a few gifts to buy. What to get for your nephew? Do you need one more present for each child? Books make wonderful gifts.

Some of my favorite memories of Christmas are the books I received as gifts. I still have the copy of Little Bear my great-aunt gave me when I was four and the copy of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory my grandmother gave me when I was eight.

There are so many options, though, it can be overwhelming to know what to choose. One possibility is to give a book that you loved as a child. Or take a look at any one of these lists for suggestions of current books that kids are sure to love.

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The Horn Book has a list of new Christmas and Hanukkah books for preschoolers  and primary age children here.

A comprehensive list of picture books, chapter books, and nonfiction for all ages can be found at Reading Rockets.

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The folks at NPR have created an great interactive guide to The Best Kids Books of 2013.

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Huffington Post has their list of “Best Picture Book of 2013” organized by categories such as “Best Overall,” “Most Fun,” and ” Best History/Biography.”

If you have a wide range of ages to buy for, The New York Times list of “Notable Children’s Books of 2013” includes books for young adults and middle grade readers in addition to picture books.

Seasons readings, everyone!

Supporting Emergent Writers

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“Through literacy you can begin to see the universe.”

~ Grace Slick ~

Welcome to Mrs. Flynn’s Literacy Corner! Why literacy, and not reading? Literacy has been described as the power over letters, both in reading and in writing. Studies have shown that students learn as much, if not more, from talking and writing as they do from reading and listening. My goal for this blog is to provide parents with ways to encourage and develop all these forms of literacy in their children.

Donald Graves, a pioneer of Writing Workshop, saw children’s urge to write “as springing from a basic need to name our world, to communicate, to participate in social activity.” Very young children will scribble across a page and then beg you to “Listen to my story!” Usually, they do indeed have a story to tell!

Children can write all the words they can say. These first efforts at writing gradually become strings of letters. Soon, spaces appear and individual words emerge. Spellings will be approximate during these early stages, but parents and caregivers should encourage these initial steps toward literacy and not worry about getting spellings exactly right. Early attempts at writing encourages children to think about letters and sounds. This builds phonemic awareness, a key component to success in reading and writing.

Parents can promote writing by writing in front of or with their children. Grocery lists, birthday cards, even emails provide authentic opportunities for writing at home. Another opportunity is to have children share memories to include in holiday letters and cards. More tips on supporting young writers can be found in the latest issue of Growing Readers an online newsletter for parents, published by Reading Rockets and WETA.

Please stop by next week for more tips and strategies to help develop your child’s growing literacy skills. Also feel free to contact me if you have any questions or specific topics you’d like me to address. I’d love to hear from you.