Finding Children’s Books

childrensbooksI am always on the lookout for excellent book selections for the children. We love illustrated books and try to read several throughout the week as part of our school day. I will often find the children reading them together in the evening as well. 

 
While I can scan the shelves or displays at our library branch easy enough, and we do tend to come home with several books that we just grab off the shelves, our library system has several branches and content changes as books are reshelved where they are returned. 
 
I also prefer books that I’ve read some feedback on or that have been recognized in some way for their content. I regularly sit down with book lists compiled from various websites and request them from our library. Then I can pick them up from our branch’s hold shelf. Super easy! Here are some of my “go to” resources for children’s book recommendations.
 
ALA Book Awards
 
Various book medal awards are given each year by the American Library Association to recognize outstanding books. The Caldecott medal is awarded each year for children’s picture book, and the award goes to the artist, regardless of whether they are also the author of the book. The Newberry Medal is awarded each year to the author of the most distinguished contribution to  American children’s literature. The Silbert Book Medal is awarded to the author and illustrator of the most distinguished informational book each year. 
 
Current medal recipients, as well as winners from previous years, are listed on the ALA website. Additional award lists can also be found on the ALA website under Youth Media Awards.  The ALA also puts together a list of Notable Children’s Books. This is an excellent source of children’s book titles to include in your weekly reading.
 
SB&F Prizes for Excellence in Science Books
 
Science Magazine also includes a roundup of science and nature themed children’s books each year when they publish the AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prizes for Excellence in Science Books. Often there are medal recipients included in this roundup. Current and previous years are available here
 
Goodreads
 
Goodreads  is also another great resource for book recommendations. You can “Explore” book selections by genre, and see new releases as well as most read each week. There are also Lists  – Goodread members often put together lists of their own recommendations or contribute to larger lists that are searchable. Each book selection includes reviews and commentaries by members. 
 
Pinterest
 
Pinterest is a great resource for book lists. A simple search for children’s literature will turn up a large selection of blogs and websites that contain children’s book recommendations. These book lists range from the top books “all children should read” to content specific titles such as “books about courage.”
 
Author’s Websites
 
Another way to find books is to explore a particular author. Once we’ve read one book from a particular author, we usually seek out other titles, which are often award winning books too. A simple Google search will usually turn up an author’s website and book list. For example, right now we are reading through several selections by Molly Bang. Look for an upcoming post on a science series she has put out! 
 
 
 

Learning with the Tuttle Twins

I think one of my most important jobs as a parent is educating my children about their inherent rights and liberties that exist regardless of politics or government. I believe that growing up with a firm understanding of their rights will allow them to function more confidently in the world. 

 
This past Spring we discovered a wonderful resource for learning about some of these topics. Connor Boyack’s new series, The Tuttle Twins, presents some of these ideas in a colorful, fun format that is easy to understand by a younger audience but not over-simplified.
 
The first book in the series, The Tuttle Twins Learn about the Law, introduces children to some of the ideas that Frederic Bastiat covered in his well-known collection of essays, The Law. Through colorful illustrations and fun conversations with the main characters, Ethan and Emily, concepts such as legal plunder, which might be a little heavy for younger audiences, are readily understandable.
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Kyri loved The Tuttle Twins Learn About The Law, and carried around Bastiat’s The Law for weeks afterward, reading the essays.
 
We were SO excited when this first book in the series was released! Kyri walked around the house reading this book, as well as her own copy of Bastiat’s The Law, for weeks. We had wonderful conversations about the topics the book introduced.
 
I was excited to learn about the much-anticipated follow-up book that was published just before the holidays – we preordered and Kyri received it as a Christmas gift! In the second book in the series, The Tuttle Twins and the Miraculous Pencil, Ethan and Emily learn about what is really required to produce something simple that we probably take for granted every day – the wooden pencil. Boyack has presented the ideas from Leonard Read’s classic essay, “I, Pencil”  in a fun way for children to really comprehend how the free market works. 
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Kyri was amazed to learn about the complicated family tree of the simple wooden pencil.
 

This series is wonderful and I can’t recommend it enough. Check out the links above and see for yourself – the illustrations are amazing and the stories are powerful. You can also click on my affiliate link to the left of the page to read more about The Tuttle Twins series.

Dreaming Dots

Kyri and I love DK’s My Art Book. This is our main art resource this year and it has wonderful information and projects to work through. Each section has a two page lesson on an art form or particular artist’s style. This is then followed by a detailed art project. The pictures are stunning and really make it easy and fun to complete the projects.

This week we had a lot of fun learning about aboriginal Australian art, and decorating our own rocks.

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We used smaller rocks than suggested in the book (because that is what we had on hand), and acrylic paint to decorate. We outlined our animal shape on each rock and then painted. We paused a few minutes between colors to keep paint from mixing. One optional step we did not do was coat the rock, or at least the painted part, in varnish to protect the decoration. We had a lot of fun with this and will end up doing several more, so we may end up varnishing them after the next batch.

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10 Little Caterpillars: September Virtual Book Club

We have been reading A LOT of books to Ender as part of his early preschool. At 2 1/2  years old,  lots of colorful, engaging books, along with plenty of messy crafts, make for an excellent early preschool curriculum.

I have really been looking forward to participating in the Virtual Book Club for Kids. This month we have focused on several wonderful selections by Bill Martin Jr., the September book club author.
Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See? Board Book
Baby Bear, Baby Bear, What Do You See? Board Book (World of Eric Carle)
Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear?
Ten Little Caterpillars

I decided to plan a craft day for just one of our reading selections (and it was a tough choice!). I cut out 10 caterpillar shapes from white card stock. I free hand drew one and then used it as a template for the remaining caterpillars. This wasn’t really a work of art, I just kind of sketched something that resembled a mix between a jellybean and an oval, approximately 6 – 7 inches long.

I then cut thin strips from various colored paper. I also used a hole punch to make a pile of little dots to be used to decorate the caterpillars. Then I let the kids have at it, saving only one caterpillar for myself. Ender is still getting the hang of the whole “glue stick” thing, so we did end up with paper glued to the table as well as his hands, but he had a blast! I finished each caterpillar with a small eye drawn in with a black marker.

After our caterpillars were finished, I attached small craft sticks to each one to turn them into puppets. We then read through 10 Little Caterpillars several times, using our caterpillar puppets to interact with the gorgeous scenes in the book.

We have read this book quite often since getting it from the library, and it is one of Ender’s favorites – he loves pointing out the caterpillars and other small creatures on each page. Letting him interact with the book using the caterpillar puppets totally made his day!

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Review: Reading Rainbow App for iPad

We love using our iPad in our schooling. I am always looking out for education apps that Kyri will enjoy.

A friend recently suggested Reading Rainbow for the iPad. I grew up with Levar Burton and Reading Rainbow, and I have always loved the way the show brought stories to life.

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The Reading Rainbow app is more than just a continuation of the now-retired television show. It is an interactive library of books which have had animations added, and field trips which are video clips covering a wide range of topics. Many of these video clips are from the original show, and there is also new content as well.

When you subscribe to Reading Rainbow, you enter the names and ages of all the children who will be using the app, as well as three areas of interest for each child. Each child then has their own “backpack” where they can have up to five books downloaded at a time. Books are recommended based on the child’s age, but you access to all the content. You return books to the libary in order to check more out. There is no limit to how often you can check out a book. Backpacks can be personalized by choosing from a selection of patterns and designs.

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In order to select a book, your child clicks on one of the several floating islands on the main screen. Each island is basically a category of books to choose from. The islands include:

Action Adventures and Magical Tales

Genius Academy

Awesome People

National Geographic Kids

Animal Kingdom

My Friends My Family

There is a new island that is labeled Coming Soon – I am excited to see what the new content will be!

When the child select an island they are presented with a sliding selection of books in that particular category. Below the book selections are relevant video field trips.

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After choosing a book to read and downloading it to the backpack, the child can choose to either read it themselves, or have it read aloud. Often it is Levar Burton who is reading the book.

As the pages are turned, the words are read and there are select animations that have been included. These animations may be as simple as the wagging of a dog’s tale, but for many of the National Geographic Kids books geared toward younger kids, there is a lot more interaction with the book – selecting items on the page, counting items, etc.

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Each book has a game that can be played as well. This is a matching game, with snapshots from the book covered under each tile

When a book is finished, the child gets a sticker for their sticker book. The sticker book is accessed through the reward ribbon icon, and each island category has its own page in the sticker book. Stickers can be selected and placed on a picture of the island – and these stickers can be removed and placed again as often as the child wants.

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This is a great app – there are plenty of book selections, the animations really capture the imagination of the reader, and the sticker rewards are a big hit. I love having book categories presented as islands to be selected. As an added bonus, I can go into the settings menu and check on her reading progress. There is a report that tells me what books have been read and what length of time was spent on each book.

Now the details… downloading the app is free. When you download the app, each child you list will get to select one book to try it out. Reading Rainbow has a paid subscription to continue downloading books. The regular rate is $9.99 a month, but you can get six months for only $30 – this is a great deal! I am always a little hesitant about spending money on apps, since there are plenty of free ones out there. In this case, though, I think it is worth the investment. A lot of effort has been put into the app, making it easy for children to use and enjoy.

Book Review: Shells! Shells! Shells!

If you haven’t had a chance to read any books written and illustrated by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace, you are really missing out. The author has written several books which cover science topics, and her books are geared toward a younger audience. We have read several of her books now, and just love them!

This week we read Shells!Shells!Shells! This book follows the two main characters, Buddy and his mother, as they search for seashells on the beach. Buddy’s mother explains what animals form the shells and what purpose they serve. She points out the different style of shells that are found. Finally, there is a craft suggested at the end of the book.

 

The story is illustrated using a combination of real images (in this book, the images are of various types of sea shells) along with paper cut-outs. It is a wonderful children’s story, with plenty of interesting facts about mollusks and how shells are made. The explanations are simple enough though, so children (target age is preschool through early Elementary) will understand. Wallace does introduce vocabulary that is relevant to the topic, defining words such as mantle, pigment center, operculum, univalve and bivalve.

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Wallace’s books often end with a suggested craft that follows along with the topic. This particular book gave instructions for making a sea shell book marker. We used colored card stock along with some colored construction paper to create ours. We ended up with several colorful and creative bookmarks.

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I would encourage you to include this book in your study of Mollusks, and be sure to check out additional titles she has written on various other topics, including leaves, seeds and rocks. Her other offerings are wonderful and can be a wonderful addition to your homeschool reading selections.

Educating Vegan Children

When we first decided to homeschool Kyri, I wanted to incorporate vegan ethics into our education plans. At this young age, most if not all of what Kyri has learned about our vegan lifestyle has been informal – we discuss what we do and do not eat (or wear or use) and for what reason. She has learned to ask if something contains animals in it before eating it. We talk about why we don’t eat animals – at a level a five year old gets. She knows what it means for an animal to die, as she was with me when I discovered our 20-year-old cat had died. So she does understand that dead means, well, dead. So explaining to her that meat comes from dead animals is simple enough for her. She understands that animals are killed for food and that there are plenty of other things to eat besides animals, so why would you want to?

In our household, vegan is the norm. While my spouse is omni, he eats mostly vegan at home (we have a grilling agreement in place). However, outside of our home, Kyri is bombarded with non-vegan and non-vegetarian messages. From books and cartoons that promote circus attendance to toy food products that always contain meat products, messages about using animals for entertainment, eating meat and participating in the “standard american diet” are all around us. I try to buffer her and use the exposure as an educational opportunity, but I would love to have vegetarian- and vegan- friendly material so she doesn’t feel like she’s the only one. We are VERY blessed with our homeschool associations – at co-op the moms usually make an effort to ensure that there are vegan options for Kyri. This is so appreciated – I never ask for accomodation for our lifestyle (just a heads up so I can plan for an vegan alternative for Kyri if necessary) but it really helps to not have Kyri singled out over something like food.

I’ve begun compiling a list of childrens books that either have vegan/vegetarian themes or characters, or are geared toward vegan/vegetarian children. I’ve also found cookbooks aimed toward young vegetarians, and since Kyri is my kitchen helper and loves my cookbooks, I think these are worth checking out.

Fiction

That’s Why We Don’t Eat Animals: A Book About Vegans, Vegetarians, and All Living Things

Herb the Vegetarian Dragon

Hubert the Pudge: A Vegetarian Tale

Friends Forever: The Story of a Budding Friendship between a Vegetarian Spider and a Feisty Fly

The Secret Life Of Mitch Spinach

Mitch Spinach and the Smell of Victory

Big Bob And The Thanksgiving Potato

Vunce Upon a Time

‘Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving

Growing Vegetable Soup

Non-fiction

I’m a Vegetarian: Amazing facts and ideas for healthy vegetarians

I Love Vegetarian Food: Coloring Book

Cookbooks

Kids Can Cook: Vegetarian Recipes Kitchen-Tested by Kids for Kids

The Jumbo Vegetarian Cookbook (Jumbo Books)

Easy Vegetarian Foods from Around the World (Easy Cookbooks for Kids)

Cooking With Herb, the Vegetarian Dragon

Salad People and More Real Recipes: A New Cookbook for Preschoolers and Up

For Parents: Childrearing

Raising Vegetarian Children : A Guide to Good Health and Family Harmony

 

This is by no means an exhaustive list. Because I am parenting a younger child I was not looking for ethics books geared toward older children and teens. This list will continue to be updated as I find additonal resources. I am also in the process of finding vegan-friendly resources online that would be helpful in a vegan/vegetarian curriculum. Look for that in a subsequent post.