World Read Aloud Day – What Are You Doing?

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Celebrate the power of words by reading aloud and sharing stories!

Go to litworld.org for inspiration.

Children’s Books Ease the Way into Difficult Conversations

GG and Mamela page 13-1As you may have noticed, I have not been actively blogging the last couple months. Other things—good, bad and confusing—have claimed my attention (I guess that’s called life!). Anyway, I hope to be on here more frequently.

One fun and interesting aspect of blogging is the ability to check your stats to see which are the most popular posts. One of my most visited and shared posts is Books for Sad and Scary Times written in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon Bombing; in fact, I was gratified to find out that a prominent center for children and family treatment had distributed copies to their therapists. Continue reading

A New Year’s Wish…and a last-minute idea

I had planned to repost this earlier, but have had a busy week—ironically, tonight should be pretty calm for us. I would like to offer my good wishes for a wonderful, happy and healthy New Year to all my readers and supporters. I sincerely hope that you are able to realize your best visions for 2015.Unknown-9.

Sometimes the young children in our lives miss out on a New Year’s Eve celebration since they can’t stay up until midnight. How about arranging a New Year’s Noon celebration for your minis? Read or tell stories, sing songs, do a simple craft and engage in a countdown leading to noon. Wear something fancy or fun—maybe a boa and tiara à la Fancy Nancy. Silly hats are de rigueur. Sip sparkling grape juice or cider. Bring out balloons at the stroke of noon. Toddlers and preschoolers will happily participate.

You can cut up colorful construction paper or old magazines to make confetti to throw at noon. Use sparkly stickers or crayons or eco-friendly markers to decorate 2015 paper calendars and keep them up all year to remember your celebration.

Don’t forget noisemakers. Since this is a last-minute suggestion, you can find lots of safe things in your kitchen that the kids can use, such as a wooden spoon and a pot to bang on. Some empty food canisters also make good drums and even better noisemakers with dried beans inside to shake. If you are a bit more ambitious, you and your little guest can make a noisemaker by decorating two paper plates and taping or stapling them together. Before they are fully closed, slip in some dried beans and use a popsicle stick for a handle. Voilà!

I am reminded of one long-ago New Year’s eve when we all stayed in a hotel in downtown Chicago. Our son was having a hard time staying up after swimming and our other activities, so my husband turned on the New York countdown, and we celebrated at 11 p.m. (CST)!

Here are 3 suggestions for books with a New Year’s theme for young children:

Squirrel’s New Year’s Resolution by Pat Miller

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 The Night Before New Year’s by Natasha Wing

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Bear’s New Year’s Party: A Counting Book by Paul Owen Lewis

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Cheers!

Illustrator Interview: Marilyn Scott-Waters & Blog Tour

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About the Book

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Title: A Year in the Life of the Secret Garden | Author: Valarie Budayr | Illustrator: Marilyn Scott-Waters | Publication Date: November, 2014 | Publisher: Audrey Press | Pages: 144 | Recommended Ages: 5 to 99

Book Description: Award-winning authors Valarie Budayr and Marilyn Scott-Waters have co-created A Year in the Secret Garden to introduce the beloved children’s classic, The Secret Garden to a new generation of families. This guide uses over two hundred full color illustrations and photos to bring the magical story to life, with fascinating historical information, monthly gardening activities, easy-to-make recipes, and step-by-step crafts, designed to enchant readers of all ages. Each month your family will unlock the mysteries of a Secret Garden character, as well as have fun together creating the original crafts and activities based on the book. Over 140 pages, with 200 original color illustrations and 48 activities for your family and friends to enjoy, learn, discover and play with together. A Year In the Secret Garden is our opportunity to introduce new generations of families to the magic of this classic tale in a modern and innovative way that creates special learning and play times outside in nature. This book encourages families to step away from technology and into the kitchen, garden, reading nook and craft room.

Amazon * Audrey Press * Goodreads

Continue reading

Learning a Second (or third) Language As An Adult

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In previous posts, I’ve discussed how tackling brain-stimulating activities and engaging in sustainable hobbies, such as learning a new language, can help protect your brain and perhaps delay the onset of age-related memory loss. Speaking two languages benefits the aging brain, according to new research, and it can be just as beneficial to learn one later in life as in childhood: In being bilingual, you’re activating a whole range of different mental functions.  Linguists compare the act of switching between languages to a physical workout. Well, my husband and I have decided to follow that advice, ourselves, and are now studying español. Continue reading

Tips for Making Smoothies with Children

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Now that we’re enjoying crisp autumn days, have you put away your blender or Vita-Mix? Have you stopped making smoothies as your thoughts turn to steaming bowls of oatmeal? While there’s no denying that hot breakfasts can be a wonderful way to start the day when there’s a chill in the air, you still might want to mix it up. Smoothies are nutritious, portable, easily digestible, colorful and well…fun to make, especially with children. Or indulge in that hot breakfast, and offer the kids a nutrient-rich smoothie as an after-school snack. Continue reading

Congratulations, Malala!

 

I would like to add my voice to those congratulating Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan for winning the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts to promote and protect girls’ rights to education. Seventeen-year-old Malala, who survived an assassination attempt by the Taliban in 2012, is the youngest person to ever win the Nobel Prize. She shares the prize with Kailalsh Satyarthi of India, another advocate for equal access to education and children’s rights.

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Continue reading

Have a Grand Day: September 7

Enjoy this update of a previously run post ~

 

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Do you know that the first Sunday after Labor Day is National Grandparents Day? This special day is meant to celebrate the important bonds between grandparents and grandchildren.

You can mark this day in whichever way suits your family best. Grandparents might give and/or receive presents. You might gather for a festive meal or make cards for each other. Be as creative as you like in how you celebrate, but I recommend that you let the usual suspects know that this special day is soon approaching. Continue reading

Interview with Nili Yelin, The Storybook Mom

 

 

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Today I have the pleasure of speaking with Nili Yelin, A.K.A. the Storybook Mom. A Wilmette resident and NU graduate, Nili is known throughout the Chicagoland area for her interactive style of storytelling and ability to communicate her passion for literature to her listeners. She has an extensive background in performing and developing her own material. I first became acquainted with Nili when she accepted my request to entertain at the opening of the Little Free Library in Highland Park. We bonded over our shared love of books, kids and literacy. Animated, enthusiastic and engaging, she brings stories to life, mesmerizing both mini-bookworms and reluctant readers. Some of her many activities include recording podcasts for the Field Museum, running the children’s stage at the Chicago Tribune’s Printers Row Lit Fest and serving as Chicago Ambassador for Lit World’s World Read Aloud Day. Continue reading

Books for Sad and Scary Times…Redux

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The news provides us with a daily dose of what is wrong and going wrong in the world. And the news is no longer confined to a half-hour at 6 P.M. and 10 P.M.—continuous coverage is on all social media. We all want—and need—to know and understand what is happening here and in other parts of the globe, but the words and images can be disturbing and confusing. Within a few minutes’ time, we may hear of drive-by shootings in Chicago, crazed gunmen, an outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus, child abuse, and terrorist organizations bent on destruction.

Very young children need to be shielded from the nightmarish images on the news; the older the children, however, the more difficult it is to completely protect them. The trusted adults in their lives will be called upon to help them cope with their feelings and attempt to answer their questions.

Some of you might find your answers in religion and through prayer, and if you can provide comfort in this way, that’s great. But be aware that children are experiencing most of the same feelings that you are, even though they might express and deal with these feelings in different, age-appropriate ways.

I looked for books that might invite children to consider and discuss their reactions to scary and sad events and this is what I found:

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Feelings by Aliki (ages 4 – 8) is good for children who are struggling with identifying and expressing their emotions. Different stories and engaging illustrations accompany each feeling and will, hopefully, spark discussion.

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How Are You Peeling? by Saxton Freymann and Joost Eiffers (ages 4 – 8) offers a creative and whimsical way to explore feelings. Photographs showcase foods with moods; this team has found various fruits and vegetables that each appear to convey an emotion and then attached two black-eyed peas for eyes, the results being surprisingly effective (I considered saying appealing, for my husband’s amusement). You and your grandchild might want to experiment similarly with produce—all mistakes being edible.

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A Terrible Thing Happened—A story for children who have witnessed violence or trauma by Margaret Holmes and Cary Pillo (ages 4 – 10) wisely never shows what the main character—Sherman Smith— witnessed, so it can be applied to any appropriate scenario.Through the story, children will be reassured that it is normal for a whole host of emotions, such as sadness, anger, fear, confusion, frustration, to arise from witnessing violence and trauma. When Sherman opens up to the school counselor, they will also understand that while we often try to hide from such scary feelings, it is best to talk about it with a trusted adult. Pillo’s poignant illustrations complement the telling. An afterword written for parents and other caregivers offers suggestions and lists resources for helping traumatized children.

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Sometimes Bad Things Happen by Ellen Jackson (ages 4 – 8) features bright photographs of sad and bad things happening and children’s facial reactions; the book offers simple coping strategies such as hugging a friend, singing a brave song and planting a flower. As you read together, encourage your grandchildren to acknowledge their feelings and then brainstorm positive ways to respond.

When Bad Things

As for me, I am thinking of rereading the classic When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Harold Kushner. Rabbi Kushner wrestles with this issue in a very personal, clear and intelligent manner after his young son is diagnosed with a terminal illness. Actually, this would be a valuable suggestion for teenagers, if they are receptive.

I encourage you—and the children in your life— to unplug occasionally, take some deep breaths and spend at least a little time outside.