This week in our preschool arts program, Little Makers, we did two projects to help us celebrate and appreciate nature for Earth Day! First, we created nature journals by punching holes into paper and practiced our fine motor skills to string yarn through the holes. Then, we used markers to decorate and name our nature journals.
The second project we worked on was a set of binoculars. We used recycled toilet paper rolls and secured our binoculars with glue. After the glue dried, we decorated each pair with words and drawings. Although the binoculars have no magnifying effect, with a little imagination it worked just fine! After completing the projects, our little makers were excited to give them a go!
These projects not only helped us appreciate nature, but also centered on the early literacy practice of writing. By writing descriptions or drawing pictures of what they see in nature, a child is working on building the skills they need for writing and reading.
Writing is like learning a code. Each letter has a meaning and those individual meanings strung together create a word. Did you know that when a child scribbles, they’re practicing writing? A shape may represent a letter or a mark on a piece of paper can represent a word. It may not look like words to us, but to the child it has meaning. It’s building their print awareness, which means knowing that print has meaning, and helping them build the skills they’ll need when they’re ready to read.
Now that we have a trusty pair of binoculars and a brand new nature journal, why not play and build up some of our early literacy skills from Every Child Ready to Read’s five daily practices: reading, writing, singing, talking or playing? Ask your child to describe a bug they see! Is it fluffy or solid? What color is it? How many legs does it have? Make up a silly song about the bug! Another fun way to explore an early literacy skill is to draw a picture and label it. Have a child draw a picture of an animal and label the head, eyes, tail, arms, or paws. Make it a game, early literacy should be fun!
Here in the Children’s area, I have the privilege of working with caregivers, parents, and children almost every Tuesday at a program called Little Makers. This is an arts-based program where we strive to engage children and their caregivers with open-ended projects that support early literacy skills, an inquiry-based learning style and foster creativity. This week we did pasta painting and used pasta noodles in exchange for paint brushes!
Whether you’re using the noodles as a brush or using them as stamps, this is a exciting project to explore. It’s a great way to discover different materials and how they interacted with each other as well as incorporate everyday objects into your child’s play and literacy. We were ready to experiment and talk about the different shapes and textures of the pasta and had a variety of noodles including spaghetti, macaroni, fiore, and rotini.
In addition to building creativity, art is a great way to build early literacy skills. It can incorporate some of Every Child Ready to Read’s five daily practices: reading, writing, singing, talking or playing. While experimenting with our pasta paint technique, we combined early literacy practices by engaging in talk and play by asking open-ended questions such as: What are you drawing? What’s happening in your painting? Creating an abundant verbal atmosphere, while having fun, gives preschoolers an advantage for when they enter kindergarten.
Early literacy shouldn’t be a chore, so make it fun! Bring out the markers, paint, and chalk. You are your child’s first and most important teacher and enjoying art together can help build the skills that lead up to reading. Come join us at Little Makers or ask us at the reference desk about other programs that incorporate early literacy skills!
2015 Coretta Scott King (Author) Book Award Winner
2015 Newbery Honor Book Award Winner
Jacqueline Woodson's recollection of discovering the picture book Stevie by John Steptoe at her local public library when she was a young girl encapsulates one of the motivations for the We Need Diverse Books campaign: increasing the possibility for young people to find a book/read a story about "someone who looked like me."
The campaign was launched in April 2014 by several authors to address the lack of diverse, non-majority narratives in children’s literature. The website for the campaign states: "We Need Diverse Books is committed to the ideal that embracing diversity will lead to acceptance, empathy, and ultimately equality. Our mission is to promote or amplify diversification efforts and increase visibility for diverse books and authors, with a goal of empowering a wide range of readers in the process."
Empowering a wide range of readers... because the flip side of discovering that someone who looks like me has a story, is learning that someone who doesn't look like me has a story. Or as one supporter of the "We Need Diverse Books" initiative notes: "We need to meet our familiar selves in stories, and we need to meet our unfamiliar selves."
Over the years, the American Library Association has established a number of awards to help promote awareness of stories written and illustrated from the "non-majority" perspective.
The Coretta Scott King Book Award, founded in 1969, is presented annually to outstanding African American authors and illustrators of books for children and young adults that demonstrate an appreciation of African American culture and universal human values.
The Pura Belpré Award was established in 1996 to recognize a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth.
The Schneider Family Book Award was first presented in 2004 to honor an author or illustrator for a book that embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences.
This year, the major awards for Children's Literature - the Newbery and Caldecott Awards - made a point to honor stories from a variety of races and cultures. The Crossover, by Kwame Alexander, received the Newbery Award for most outstanding contribution to children's literature. This story about African American brothers also was named as a Coretta Scott King Honor Book. Viva Frida, the Belpré Illustrator Award winner, also earned recognition as a Caldecott Honor Book for the most distinguished American picture book for children. El Deafo, which describes in graphic novel format the author's experience with hearing loss as a young child, was named as a Newbery Honor Book, along with Brown Girl Dreaming.
It's awards season! And in the world of Children's Literature that means it's time for the American Library Association to announce the most prestigious awards of the year. Early tomorrow morning a few hundred Children's librarians will gather at the ALA Midwinter Conference to witness the Youth Media Awards in person. The rest of us will congregate impatiently in front of a live stream of the event, waiting to see if our favorite titles will show up on screen!
The Randolph Caldecott and John Newbery Medals are probably the most well known of these awards, but other important honors to be announced include the Coretta Scott King Awards (for outstanding African American authors and illustrators), the Michael L. Printz Award (for excellence in Young Adult literature), the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award (for the most distinguished American book for young readers), and many more. Today we're talking about the Randolph Caldecott Medal, or in reality, our favorite picture books published in 2014. From the ALA website, here's the official description:
The Caldecott Medal "shall be awarded to the artist of the most distinguished American Picture Book for Children published in the United States during the preceding year. The award shall go to the artist, who must be a citizen or resident of the United States, whether or not he be the author of the text.
The Caldecott committee may also award an unlimited number of Honor books, aka the runners-up. Last year there were three Honors awarded, all to wordless picture books. So which books do we think could win? There were a ton of fantastic picture books published last year so, for the sake of organization, we've broken them down thematically into a few very general groups.
First up, a perennially popular theme, Animals and Pets.
Gaston - written by Kelly Dipucchio, illustrated by Christian Robinson – A clever and very sweet book about mixed families. Sparky - written by Jenny Offill, illustrated by Chris Appelhans – This is a lovely book about a girl who wants a pet and, after a little help from a friendly librarian, ends ordering a Sloth by express mail (I think this is how we ended up with Henri…) Kathy felt a special connection to this fun book. A Boy and a Jaguar - written by Alan Rabinowitz, illustrated by Cátia Chien – A beautifully illustrated and incredibly moving autobiography about Dr. Rabinowitz, a conservationist with a stutter and a special connection to animals. If I Had a Raptor - written and illustrated about George O’ Connor Have You Heard the Nesting Bird - written by Rita Gray, illustrated by Kenard Pak – Lisa says this is a great book for inquisitive preschoolers with a lovely mix of images, sounds and informational content. Big Bug - written and illustrated by Henry Cole Born in the Wild - written and illustrated by Lita Judge
Books on the human condition, or books about navigating the minefield of childhood emotions and experiences!
And Two Boys Booed - written by Judith Viorst, illustrated by Sophie Blackall – We love Sophie Blackall’s richly detailed and interactive illustrations. They are a great complement to Viorst’s spot on story of childhood stage fright. Bad Bye, Good Bye - written by Deborath Underwood, illustrated by Jonathan Bean – This one drew mixed reactions (one librarian says ‘Meh’). But I enjoyed how Bean’s picture move across each spread, which, along with an aggressive color palette, illustrate the sometimes traumatic experience of moving. The Adventures of Beekle : the Unimaginary Friend - written and illustrated by Dan Santat - Kathy thinks this one might win, and Ellen wants a Beekle of her own. The Baby Tree - written and illustrated by Sophie Blackall – Another beautiful book full of fantastic little details. Blackall’s book about where babies come from feels so true to real life. Hug Machine - written and illustrated by Scott Campbell Where’s Mommy? - written by Beverly Donofrio, illustrated by Barbara McClintock – This one’s a real winner. Ellen loved the parallel worlds of Maria and Mouse Mouse, who are both missing their mothers, and the beautiful setting of a mid-century modern home. Coming Home - written and illustrated by Greg Ruth
Books about the seasons, three of which happen to be books of poetry!
Sebastian and the Balloon - written and illustrated by Philip C. Stead Quest - written and illustrated by Aaron Becker – Beautiful, but doesn’t quite live up to its predecessor, the Caldecott Honor winning Journey. Gravity - written and illustrated by Jason Chin – A strikingly illustrated book that simplifies the concept of gravity for young childen. Voyage - written by Billy Collens, illustrated by Karen Romagna Three Bears in a Boat - written and illustrated by David Soman – We loved the large format of this clever yet tender book. And the sneaky references to other literature are very fun. Sam & Dave Dig a Hole - written by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen – This book is a serious trip. Written and illustrated by previous winners, this could walk away with an honor. The Storm Whale - written and illustrated by Benji Davies – Okay this one isn’t actually about a journey, in fact it’s a touching story about lonely boy who adopts a beached whale. Check this one out.
And finally the outliers. These books didn't quite fit in with the other titles, but the category includes a few of our favorites.
Kid Sheriff and the Terrible Toads - written by Bob Shea, illustrated by Lane Smith – This book is laugh out loud funny but we wonder if the length might turn off the Caldecott committee. Telephone - written by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jen Corace Rules of Summer - written and illustrated by Shaun Tan - Once again, Shaun Tan explores the truly epic proportions of the childhood imagination while crafting an intimate narrative of the intensity of family relationships. The Rules of Summer pushes the boundaries of the picture book without becoming inaccessible. Read it, then check out the rest of his remarkable work. The Farmer and the Clown - written and illustrated by Marla Frazee – We saved the best for last. This amazing wordless book by Marla Frazee is our pick (and the pick of many Mock Caldecotts around the country) to win it all. Frazee’s moving story of found family is spare yet punctuated with tender humor. If this one doesn't earn at least an honor we will be shocked.
For weeks now, I have been carrying around two new picturebooks about friendship. The stories serve as bookends - one describing a burgeoning friendship; the second depicting not an ending of a friendship, but a realization that the friendship will change when one friend moves away. Of all the many picturebooks about friendship that landed on our shelves in 2014, these are two to remember:
Two Speckled Eggs by Jennifer K. Mann presents the dilemma familiar to many grade school children whose parents insist they invite all their classmates to their birthday party - or none at all. "Since 'none of them' wouldn't be a very fun birthday party, Ginger invited all of them - even Lyla Browning." It's obvious that Lyla, who has arrived at the party with her magnifying glass in hand, is not someone Ginger considers a friend. Instead of joining the party games, Lyla looks through her magnifying glass at a ladybug she's found in the house. But after some of Ginger's friends spoil the party games and disapprove of her cake, it is Lyla who cheers Ginger up and presents her with a unique home-made gift. After pretending to be birds and pecking at leftover birthday cake together, Ginger and Lyla have formed a friendship that continues to grow on the school playground.
In The Good-Pie Party by Elizabeth Scanlon, we meet three close friends (Megan, Mae and Posy) who are gloomily packing Posy's belongings. Posy doesn't want to move - and she really doesn't want to say goodbye to her friends. How do you say goodbye when you don't want to? The girls decide to console themselves by baking a pie together and determine that instead of throwing a good-bye party for Posy - they will host a good-pie party. You're invited to Posy Peyton's Good-Pie Party, We'll say so long, but not good-bye We'd love it if you'd bring a pie. And a wonderfully eclectic group of friends responds to their party invitation with a diverse array of pies to share. Perfect. For isn't that what we do to honor our friends and their unique gifts - whether celebrating the anniversary of their birth, remembering them at their end of life, or even reluctantly saying goodbye to the dear friend retiring after 40 years? We bring out the sweet breads and casseroles, the cookies and cakes, soups and pies - the comfort foods that spread good cheer and soothe our sorrow. And we lift a glass and offer a toast as Posy does: "To good friends."
These two books resonate with me even more now as the old year rolls into the new and I reflect on a friendship shared with a colleague and speckled-egg friend who retires next week. Salud dear Pat Firenze. And thanks for all the chocolates.