Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Running Shoes

Just in time for preparing your Operation Christmas Child shoebox, I have come across a lovely book that can help open up some dialog between you and your children.

One of my boys picked this up from the library without my knowing and I am so thankful.

The story, Running Shoes, written by Frederick Lipp is an inspirational story of a little girl and her wish for running shoes. The shoes will enable her to make the long walk to school each day. The book sweetly and beautifully emphasis the absolute gift that is literacy, as well as gently encourages compassion and teaches perseverance.

I cried while reading this story, and then had to laugh as I looked up to see my children perplexed by my emotions!

Here are a few ideas for using this book in a Pre-K Unit Study:

1. Find Cambodia on a map, introduce three unique things about this country, and have fun trying your hands and feet at a bit of traditional Cambodian dancing.
2. Go to different closets in your house and count how many pairs of shoes each person has. Have your children make a chart to record the types of shoes. Does your family own more running shoes or sandals, more dress shoes or slippers?
3. Go outside and have your children try to run in different shoes. Which shoes are best for running and why?
4. Use this book to do a character education study on gratitude, compassion, and hard work.
5. After reading participate together in an activity of service that will encourage your children to give to others. Perhaps, compile a box for Operation Christmas Child and include small picture books that delight and inspire even non-readers. Another great organization that is close to my heart is Ethiopia Reads. 
6. Make molds of your feet into sand, dirt, or dough and measure them (as is done in the book).  Practice using a tape measure and recording the findings. Compare and analyze.

Many blessings!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sunrise Reading (And, how to find the time to read!)

This morning I woke up early and put on the coffee. Little footsteps came quickly behind me.

Grrr. (Just being real for a moment!)

I might have growled inside my head. Sunday mornings are supposed to be my morning to read~ alone~ before heading off to church with the family.

My four year old asked for a cup of coffee, with sugar. I had to laugh.
He has been drinking coffee with me in the mornings for a few months now. A few sips here and a few sips there to emulate Mommy. I don't mind.

I sat down to read and instructed him to find a few books of his own from our library book bag or the shelf in our home library. He stacked a huge pile together and sat opposite of me on the couch, our toes touching.

For an hour this morning my four year old and I sat in quiet, sipping coffee and reading. There was an occasional question or illustrations so funny he just had to share. My planned alone time was interrupted, but for this I am grateful.

My son watched me read. He watched me drink my coffee. He watched me bow my head to pray.

As a result, my son read, drank coffee, and bowed his head to pray.
There are many things in my nature which daily I work to not pass onto to my children. But, reading, praying and a fine appreciation for sipping something warm in the early morning hours, those things I am happy to impart.

One of the very best ways to "teach" your child to read is to let them catch you reading.
If you do it, they will know it is important.

But I am a busy Mom! How can I find time to read? 
1. Get up a little bit earlier. 
2. Read while nursing a baby. 
3. Put books all over the place in your house and pick them up whenever you may get a chance. 
4. Set aside reading time during your day, or at least during your week. 
5. Take your book with you on car trips (when you are not driving!), to appointments, and anywhere you might be waiting for a while. 
6. Read on a blanket while the kids play at the park. 
7. Read before bed rather than computer or TV. 
8. Ask your husband to watch the kids for an evening and go to a coffee shop for an hours just to read. 
9. Join a book club that is Mom/Kid  friendly. 
10. Have a weekly library time with your family and make sure that in those bags full of childrens books there are a handful of books for you too! 
11. Bathroom reading (Hey, you spend 7 years of your life in there, why not read!?) 

Be creative. Let them catch you reading. And, sometimes......break the schedule....toss out the plan...touch toes....drink coffee....and read next to your children when they should be sleeping......

Many blessings,


Friday, October 22, 2010

Lines That Wriggle

Lines that Wriggle (Candace Whitman and Steve Wilson) is plain old fun!

Every page in eye-popping bright, alive and filled with lines that are traceable for curious fingers.

Words such as sprout, tickle, curve, wiggle, wave, bend, and swish appear to jump out at the reader. This makes for good reading and a lot of invitation to move and groove to good words.

"What would it look like if we swirled?"
"How could we make lines in threes with these pieces of yarn?"
"Are their any lines hiding in this room?"

Lines that Wriggle is a fantastic early math book disguised as pure entertainment.

Here are several ideas you could use in a unit study with this book:

1.  Simply open the book and have little fingers trace the textured lines. Encourage the kiddos to express what they feel, see, and think. Talk about lines, lines, lines!

2. Cut up pieces of yarn in variety of sizes. Let your kiddos play with the string to make lines similar to those in the book.  They can make the string wavy, criss-cross, and mend for starters. Plus, let them do a free for all and have fun making the yarn into whatever they want!

3. Open the back door and have your kiddos pick up leaves that have fallen to the ground. Using tape secure the leaves to your table. Assist your children in using the yarn to replicate the lines on a leaf. You can do this on a table top of make a really big replica on your wall!

4. Go on a "line" scavenger hunt. Look for lines in your house and about in the world.

Many blessings!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Best Children's Bible Storybook Ever!

Perhaps I can not make the statement that I know the best children's Bible ever with absolute certainty but, I can say that I have been blown away by the insight, poetic language, intelligence, thoughtfulness, and presentation of truth from one in particular.

The Jesus Storybook Bible written by Sally Lloyd-Jones and illustrated by Jago is my all time favorite Bible devotional book for children.

As the mother of two boys we have been happily on the receiving end of several children's devotional bibles.  Being a family of color I am very sensitive to the illustrations. I tend to get myself all flustered when the books depict the men and women of the Bible with blond hair and blue eyes. There is none of that in Jago's  illustrations!

My little guys and I sat on our front porch this afternoon, soaking up the October sun, and read these words:

And Adam and Eve joined in the song of the stars and the streams and the wind in the trees, the wonderful song of love to the one who made them.

An opportunity was created for us to dash around our yard finding bits of creation that sang to us a song of love. Pumpkins! Grasshoppers! Falling leaves! Spiders! Flowers! Squash! Clouds! Air!
We were excited. I wrote down everything and we read the list again and again to Daddy when he came home.

But all the stars and the mountains and the oceans and galaxies and everything were nothing compared to how much God loved his children.

Another opportunity arose.  We named off all types of people. Small. Tall. Blind. Round. Dark. Light. Mean. Loud. Smelly. Silly. Interesting. Two legs, one leg, no legs. Believers. Those that do not believe. And, how much God loves them all.

One chapter, one book, two powerful teaching moments about creation and worth.

 These stories are beautiful, they gently whisper the coming of the Messiah into the heart of the readers and I felt an anticipation to turn the page, to read on despite having "known" these stories all of my life. That same delight was experienced by my children today through this book. The best part, though, is that these delightful, powerful, sensation filled stories are....true.

I adore this book.  I need to say it again. The best Children's Bible Storybook ever!

Monday, October 11, 2010

A Tradition of Reading

Moose used to stay in bed until I, or his father, came and gave him permission to get up. He would often wake and remain as content as a clam for an hour, singing, talking, reading to himself in those early morning hours.

He knew when the time came, usually right around 8am, that he would receive the invitation to get up for snuggles, breakfast, and all things toddler~ chaos, exploration and giggles!

Before my husband and I would go to bed ourselves we would place several books in his crib and at the foot of his toddler bed once he had transitioned to the big boy stuff. Waking up in the morning was a daily activity in surprise. Which books did Momma and Daddy  set out this morning?! 

We do this now for our baby, Finn, who receives only board books as he still spends more time slobbering on things than actually manipulating pages. At ten months old, however, he also wakes up and spends a good half an hour playing delightfully in his crib with books as the beginning of his morning activities.

This behavior, or rather, habit, did not come naturally to either of my kiddos. The natural habit looked something more like this ~ Good morning. I am awake feed me, entertain me, and for goodness sakes turn the cartoons on (please). 

This inclination to wake up and begin the day with demands and rush did not sit well with me. I felt that my children were missing out on a valuable opportunity to learn to capture moments of stillness and reflection, moments of learning and peace, that could come in the morning hours of a quiet house before it turns into the beautiful cacophony of boyhood that it is throughout the day.

Here is what I did (and do!) to turn the mornings into a time of reading:

1. We eliminated morning cartoons, except for Saturday mornings. 
     I do adore PBS. They work hard to have a delightful line up of witty, entertaining, and very educational childrens shows on that begin early for the early riser. As soon as my son woke up he was ready to watch the cartoons. Although I do think that he was beginning his day with quality programming, it was still TV. And, there was often a sense of urgency to get down stairs and turn on the tube! We stopped, cold turkey, morning cartoons and replaced that time with reading. Instead of couch potatoing the morning hours away I give my oldest son the opportunity once a day to get onto PBSkids.org and choose one show to watch. He enjoys selecting his own show while sitting at the computer and I  enjoy getting the dishwasher unloaded! The exception comes on Saturday mornings in that on this day we do permit cartoons once it is time to get out of bed. Eliminating TV during the weekdays reduced competition on my children's time. Books were not competing for attention with cartoons.

2. Begin early and Use Increments!
Our baby is ten months old. Little Finn wakes up to books at the foot of his crib. We make certain the the books are safe for him to have, as he still chews, sucks, and slobbers on everything. If he likes it, be sure its going in his mouth! As a nursing mother I did not begin this training with my baby until he was physically capable of waking up and post-poning breakfast. Both with Finn and Moose we began with baby steps.
The morning "stay in bed and read until we come get you" began with five minutes, then ten, then fifteen. Once we reached fifteen minutes our boys did a natural transition to longer time. Currently, Moose (4) reads for an hour each morning and Finn (10 months) "reads" for a half an hour.

3. Model Reading. 
"Mommy, why can't I get up with you?"  Moose has asked it, Finn probably thinks it. The answer that I give them is clear.  Mommy needs time in the morning to prepare for our day, to read a book, pray, and think a linear thought. And, this is what I do. Although hard especially on these coming dark and chilly winter mornings I resist the urge to begin my day with urgency (or to stay in bed!). I sit, coffee in hand, and begin my day with stillness, peace, and a book. On purpose I leave the evidence of this tradition out so that my children stumble upon it. At breakfast I share what I read.

4. Make A Book Club out of Breakfast 
If you are fortunate enough to be able to share breakfast together then use that time to talk about the books of the morning.
"What did you read?"
"Tell me about the funny parts." 
"Oh, my goodness that character is always doing silly things. What do you think he would do if he lived here?" 
"What was your favorite part?" 
And, share about your book.
It might be surprising how much insight your young ones have on topics you think would not interest them. If nothing else, you are teaching them listening skills, expanding their vocabulary, and encouraging them to think for themselves.
If doing this at breakfast is not possible, find another time to have a quick chat about the books. In the car. At the store. While getting ready. Whenever!

5. Keep it Uplifting.
This is not a time of punishment, consequence, or drudgery. Reading is a delight. There have been mornings where my children just could not stay in bed to read because their little bodies were full of excitement. For example~ on vacation!  Using empathy goes a long way. If you do not want to stay in bed on Christmas morning and read because you are too eager to get downstairs to the hot cocoa and festivities then imagine the excitement of your children! Loosen up on vacation and holidays, perhaps Saturdays too. 

6. Dance, Sing, and Silly them Up. 
Once reading time is through, enter your kiddo's room with a happy face. Let them know they did a terrific job. Let them know that by reading they have chosen to begin their day on a good note, which also let you begin your day well. Give them hugs, kisses, tickles, squeezes, and pats. And, go forth. The day began in peace, now the wild rumpus can begin!

Best wishes raising bookworms, life long learners, and global thinkers! 

~ Katie