You Are a Lion! and Other Fun Yoga Poses written and illustrated by Taeeun Yoo is one of my recent favorites for the preschool and kindergarten crowd. I’m glad they included the word “fun” in the title, because this book embodies it. I like the gentle playfulness of it- the way it shows children in common yoga poses along with the animal they imitate (lion, cobra, cat, etc). The text gives easy direction, such as “Lie on your stomach/Hands next to shoulders/Push Up!” It’s so effectively combined with the illustrations that you’ll want to stop after each page and do the pose, along with the sound effects of roaring, hissing, etc. The book introduces the mind body connection in a very digestable way for youngsters as well as the concept of Namaste. Perhaps this book will inspire children to learn yoga, or simply some good stretches. Maybe it will promote peace and mindful breathing. Any way you look at it, it works beautifully and is a must-have for your personal collection. Check out other lovely artwork by Teeeun Yoo at his Etsy site.
“Readers aren’t born, they’re made. Desire is planted- planted by parents who work at it” -Jim Trelease
“To read with your lungs and diaphragm, with your tongue and lips, is very different than reading with your eyes alone” -Verlyn Klinkenborg (from “Some Thoughts on the Lost Art of Reading Aloud“)
A crucial step in “growing a reader” is taking time to read aloud to your child. One of my favorite books as a librarian and parent is The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease. It’s a helpful resource full of tips and suggestions, as well as opinions about education, literacy and the learning process. I am fortunate that both of my boys love books- since they are both pre-readers, we read aloud every day, throughout the day. We read in bed. We read in the car. We read in the bathroom. We read at the table. You get the idea- books can be found everywhere in the house; I can’t think of a room right now that doesn’t include a book. We read beloved favorites over and over as well as new ones from our local library (it doesn’t hurt that I work there and cannot limit myself when I see a book my kids would love). Reading together has always been a salve for my oldest son, now 3 years, when he’s upset. It helps calm him and comfort him like little else does. Both my kids are very verbal- I’d like to think that it has something to do with all those hours reading (and talking and singing too!).
Only 60% of parents with children under 5 years say they read to their children every day. Early language development and reading skills are closely connected. Reading Rockets, one of my favorite websites, has some great tips for reading aloud to children. Have a pre-schooler or kindergartener you’re reading to? Check this out. If your child is older and reading on their own, browse their list of suggestions titled “103 Things to Do Before/During/After Reading”
During a recent visit to the library with my kids, I discovered a non-fiction picture book that’s so incredibly cool I have to share. It starts with the quote “If they can dream it, they can build it” by Madhu Thangavelu, an architect and engineer who is an expert in the design of complex space projects. Titled Dreaming Up: A Celebration of Building by Christy Hale (Lee & Low Books, 2012), it depicts children of multiple ages and ethnicities at play, building various structures such as cup towers, cardboard houses, sand castles, and blanket forts. Each illustration has a corresponding page with a real photo of an architectural treasure akin to the child-built structure. A basic stick teepee has the structural origins of the Bamboo Church in Cartagena, Columbia. A painted cardboard box used as a playhouse is compared to the Box House in Telluride, Colorado designed by architect Maya Lin. A simple blanket fort, something all children can relate to, shares a shape with Yoyogi National Stadium in Tokyo, Japan- world famous for its curving suspension roof.
The text is rhyming and rhythmic (“Cup on cup stacking up, smaller, smaller, and growing taller!”) and visually mimics the structure. One of my favorites describes creating an igloo: “Balls of snow, bags of land, bend down low, fill your hand. Pack them, stack them, circle round. Dome is, home is, built on ground” (the real life structure shown is Mars One, a dome-like circular shelter built with sandbags full of soil and held together by velcro). The final pages have a picture and description of the real structure, a brief bio and illustration of the architect as well as a quote. For those who believe, as I do, that child’s play is really about working out an understanding of life experiences, dreams, and realities, this book will be an inspiration. Children ages 3 and up will love looking through this, especially if they spend hours building with blocks or legos. And adults? Watch out! This book will inspire you to be a kid again- creating, traveling, and dreaming.
I can’t remember how it began. One day, I just started making up stories on the spot and incorporating the habit into my son’s bedtime routine. I always loved stories that started with “Once Upon a Time…” and I think my parents occcaionally told stories this way when I was little, always using my brothers or I as the “star” character depending on who requested it. Now, every day, my husband or I tell our three year old a “Once Upon a Time” story as a transition to nap or bedtime. My son usually has a specific request, like “I want one where I see a volcano erupting” or “Tell me one where little brother and I are driving big trucks at a construction site”. Sometimes, it gives us a unique chance to peer into his psyche- he’ll ask for a story about potty training success or failure, arguing with a friend about a toy, or one of his fears, like a run-in with a mean giant or a house fire. We often use these on-the-spot stories as a parenting tool to reinforce values and morals we want to communicate, or explaining how to deal with conflicts or express feelings. Sometimes the stories are simply fun. My preschooler has begun critiquing them, saying “Thats a really good one!” or “That’s not the story I asked for!” which allows him to practice being a critic and allows me a chance to experiment with what elements make a good story (I’ve learned that subject matter is less important than a good narrative with clear beginning, middle and end, for example).
Fortunately, my son is very verbal and has always loved books, but our family tradition has increased his interest in reading and telling stories himself, and his narrative skills have blossomed in the past year. I’ll catch him in a room playing with toys and making up stories about them. We often use toys or stuffed animals around the house as props to make up stories or act out a narrative. One of my favorite websites, Zero to Three, discusses some more ideas about increasing narrative and other early literacy skills and behaviors. I highly recommend this website as a resource for helping choose books that match specific ages and developmental stages.
One of my favorite writers is Mem Fox, a Southern Aussie children’s author and literacy advocate. I am in love with her picture book, “Hello Baby!” featuring gorgeously cut/torn paper illustrations of wild animals by Steve Jenkins. The text is sweet, rhyming and playful; the reader asks “Who are you, baby?” then guesses, “Are you a monkey with clever toes?”/”Perhaps you’re a porcupine, twitching its nose” (and so on). It concludes with, “Are you my treasure?”/”The answer is Yes!” As I read it to a group of preschoolers yesterday, I realized it was a perfect way to end my story time about Mommies. It’s full of warmth and love, and the images are captivating.
“Read with passion and expressive abandon…” Fox declares in her essay “If I Were Queen of the World“. My love for “Hello Baby!” doubled when I listened to her reading it. Check it out! There are parent/teacher resources on her website, including a list of “Must-have classics“. She even has her recipes for Chocolate Mousse and Chocolate Fudge on there if you need a big edible dose of sweetness. Go to the nearest library and get her books- she is truly a treasure!