It’s official. I’m putting this blog on indefinite hold.

Why? Because I’m back to school (yes, again), this time to complete a MSW. It combines a great deal of what I’ve done over many, many years (including those before I became a children’s librarian). I’ll still be working with children and families. And there will probably be another blog at another time.

It’s been marvelous, some of the best time of my life.

I’ll keep you posted. :-)

Happy New Year (and more),

Babette

P.S. You can still find me on Twitter @BabetteR.

Ok, you know I love flash mobs–especially the ones involving dancing.

But this might just be better! With over 3 million hits on YouTube, maybe you’ve already seen Matt and I’m just behind the times. But then maybe you haven’t. ;-)

Where the Hell is Matt? follows Matt as he dances with folks all around the world. It’s way better than it sounds. It’s a total feel-good.

What is it about these dance videos that grabs my heart so? Perhaps it’s that

  • they show everyone, no matter who they are in life or how different they are from one another, doing something together,
  • they knit people together; you can all but feel the community that’s being built, however briefly,
  • they are fun; it’s hard to feel sad or angry or bitter when you are dancing or when you watch others dance,
  • they engage us deeply even if we can only watch,
  • they connect us to something bigger and better than our individual selves.

What about groups dancing together touches you?

Dance on,

Babette

 

Costumes–your child does not need costumes.

Notice, I did not say he or she does not need dress-up clothes. I said pass on the costumes.

What’s the difference? Dress-up clothes are multi-purposed and the purpose changes with your child’s imagination. Your child is in charge. The plain cape can make him or her a superhero or a knight or Little Red Riding Hood or Zorro or a bad guy or a good guy or a princess traveling on a mission. A Superman cape with logo is only a Superman cape.

Dress-up play is immensely important.

  • Imaginary play develops a child’s language skills. Think about it: Whether your child does it silently or out loud, he or she can’t become part of a story unless and until they put words to it.
  • Thinking of multiple uses for an object is a trait of creativity.
  • Dress-up and imaginary play puts a child in charge. In a day to day existence where children are told so often what to do and when, imaginary play lets them be the boss.
  • It also helps children develop impulse control.
  • Finally, in imaginary play, children can tackle what’s frightening and overcome it, they can be aggressive and discover their limits, they can be powerful–and on and on. The agenda is theirs.

If you buy a Snow White or Spiderman costume, that’s the end of the story–literally. Save your money and buy oodles more of all purpose dress-up clothes instead (many can be picked up at your local thrift store).

What’s your favorite addition to the dress-up box?

Have fun,

Babette

I had a blast at the SLV Fiber Festival this past weekend in Monte Vista, Colorado. I had storytimes with kids, demo’ed cat’s cradle string games, and sold the best and most fun kid’s books related to sheep, llamas, yarn–)and one chicken book ’cause it’s my favorite).

If you’re in the San Luis Valley and are interested in purchasing some books before I ship them back, shoot me an email at babette(dot)reeves(at)gmail.com. You know you’ve got birthdays, holidays, baby showers, and other special occasions coming up! And there’s nothing better than a book! :-)

Here’s a list of what’s still available:

  • Feeding the Sheep–a little girl follows her mother’s activities through the year, learning along the way where her warm and lovingly made sweater came from.
  • Sheep in a Jeep (book & CD)–silly sheep try to drive a jeep, great rhymes and pictures, good for reading aloud or for beginning readers.
  • Where is Green Sheep–a Mem Fox classic with more silly sheep doing silly things (skiing down a sliding board?!), available in board book bilingual version.
  • Extra Yarn–brand new story about a magical yarn box and a girl who transforms her grey world with it, I think we’ve got a classic in the making with this one.

 

  • Tillie Lays an Egg–I am ga-ga over this book, Tillie lays her eggs all over and kids get to hunt for it in the photos created with retro farmhouse collectibles.
  • The Shepherd’s Trail–a cultural treasure, fabulous photos and just enough text to capture the dying art of the shepherd with the sheep in the back country, a real treasure. Only one copy left!
  • The Surprise–gives me giggles to even think about it and elicits an “awwww” every time at the ending, and don’t you want to see a sheep on a bathroom scale, with a blow dryer, and on a motor scooter?

 

  • The Dogs of Bedlam Farm–I generally despise children’s books written by adult authors (because they are usually just dreadful) but Jon Katz pulls this one off with just the right combo of photos and text to introduce children to Katz’ four farm dogs and their individual personalities and jobs.
  • The Littlest Llama–an overlooked gem, the littlest llama in an Andean herd can find no one to play with, wanders off, escapes trouble only to hurry home and discover she’s not the littlest any longer, bonus points for being told in well-structured rhyme.

 

  • Llama Llama Red Pajama–first in the series of Llama Llama books, if you don’t have this one yet for your little one, you need it (especially for bedtime “llama dramas” at your house).

If your budget necessitates getting these at the “big A,” I understand. Getting books to your kids is the most important factor.

But for now, you can get them from me with no shipping and only a dollar or two more. (And you’ll be supporting a local business with this mission).

Read on,

Babette

 

Your kids are likely a little more than half way through their summer vacation. You and kiddos resolved that this summer would be different–they would read and they would read consistently throughout the summer. Cuz you know it’s good for them (and tastes better than spinach).

But here it is, mid-summer, and everyone’s resolve is wavering. How do you jump start the reading? It’s an easy, one-step trick.

Let your kid pick the reading material.

Oh no, you wail, tearing into the street, heedless of oncoming traffic. But what if…

  • My kid chooses comic books;
  • My kid chooses books of less than stellar literary merit;
  • My kid chooses a cookbook or a how-to book;
  • My kid chooses a book with a lot of pictures;
  • My kid choose a book that’s not on the AR (or substitute your school’s reading program) list;
  • My kid chooses a book he or she has already read…
  • or a book too easy or a book too hard or a magazine or (fill in the blank with your concern).

What if? Well, bottom line, it does not matter. Really truly, it does not matter what they read. Research shows that what matters is the number of words they read and that they read consistently.

Remember that there are many purposes for reading and therefore many reasons for “teaching” reading. Summer reading, leisure reading, vacation reading, non-school reading develops the fluency and skills that lead to lifelong reading.

Reading is not merely an academic endeavor. Think about it: How would you like it if

  1. someone always dictated to you what you could and could not read,
  2. someone always “quizzed” you on it, either formally or informally, and
  3. someone was always handing you books like Moby Dick (I’d run out screaming into the street!)

You wouldn’t like it one bit, would you? And would you want to read very much if that’s what always happened when you tried? You betcha wouldn’t! :-)

Your kid’s no different.

So recharge summer reading. Let the kiddos do the choosing!

It’s what summer’s for,

Babette

You want the best for your kids.

You als0 don’t want to go broke raising them.

Contrary to what product marketers would lead you to believe, those two are not mutually exclusive. You can provide for your child and save your money for other things. :-)

To start you on your way, I’ll be taking a look at a few things I’ve run across for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers that you are better off not buying. First up:

Baby bottle thermal wraps: If you stick with the principle of why baby bottles exist, you’ll see why this is unnecessary. Baby bottles are for feeding babies; they are a substitute for the breast. Baby is hungry. Baby is fed. Bottle is empty and gets put away. The idea behind a thermal wrap is to keep something cold. But a baby fed from a bottle doesn’t have the bottle long enough for the contents to get hot. And most babies don’t like drinking cold liquids anyway.

If you think you need the wrap because your child likes to “keep” the bottle, you need to know that that can create several problems. First, baby’s saliva gets into the formula or juice and starts to break it down (which is what saliva is for). Left to do this for an extended period of time, it sets up spoilage and can give your child stomach aches or diarrhea.

Second, sucking on bottles of formula or juice for long periods of time causes tooth decay. Yep, even before you can see those pearly whites! And it’s even worse if you let a child sleep with a bottle.

Finally, if your child uses a bottle for water, that’s ok. Most children get enough fluids from nursing or formula, but in especially hot weather, offering water can be good. Just remember, that they will drink more if it is at a lukewarm temperature, not icy cold.

So if you like the wraps for their cute designs, that’s fine. Just know that’s what you are buying them for, just decoration, and not as something necessary.

More later,

Babette

Ramona and Ralph the Mouse love DEAR!

Yeah, you can sing that to Aretha’s RESPECT and I won’t tell.

But DEAR and TCH really are not the latest in pop tunes. They are two great websites I discovered and wanted to pass on to you.

DEAR (Drop Everything And Read) has been around a while and is officially celebrated on Beverly Cleary’s birthday, April 12. But this video (1 minutes long) does a great job of showing how it can become a regular part of a school day–and the same can be done at home, of course!

Some of the things I love about this video are:

  • it’s noisy: reading and storytimes do not need to be quiet; reading aloud and the conversation that goes with it is a noisy kind of learning;
  • it’s wiggly: reading and storytimes do not need to be still; some kids like to sit and some like to move around or stand; they are all soaking it up;
  • it’s fairly unstructured: while reading (and more so storytimes) sometimes need planning and care, just as often all it takes is to pick up a book; some kids are read to solo, some are in pairs, some are in groups and these “reading groups” are not assigned or planned;
  • it’s easy: anyone can pick up a book and read to a child (and even if you can’t read, you can talk about the pictures or make up a story to go along with the pictures–it’s still “reading” for young children).

Finally, TCH Teaching Channel is one of the best sites for teaching and education ideas I’ve run across. Quality stuff! It’s worth exploring.

How could you adapt DEAR in your school, home, or library? Share your ideas with others!

DEAR,

Babette

 

I’m on the run today so I may not get a chance to post.

Here’s 3 minutes of extreme cuteness to tide you over though: NPR dad interviews daughters about “the haircut.”

Give it a bit; they get easier to understand and cuter by the seconds! And if you listen a second time, it’s even better.

Really, this one will make you smile all day,

Babette

I don’t often post twice in a day, but today on Betsy Bird’s Top 100 Children’s Novels countdown, Wrinkle in Time came in #2.

Just about everything she says and everyone she quotes rings true for me then and now with Wrinkle. It was such a pivotal book for me (it’s cliched but true–it was life changing) that it is almost a visceral feeling to remember it. And until the last few years, it never occurred to me that it was significant for other people as well. :-) But it was and remains so (and it’s why it’s on my Top 5 YA books list).

All that said, this paragraph really stood out for me and I wanted to share it. Betsy writes:

“It also was science fiction, a rare bird in the world of popular children’s literature.  In her 1982 article “Childlike Wonder and the Truths of Science Fiction” in Children’s Literature L’Engle defends the use of such science fiction and fantasy in the’ reading lives of children.  She writes, ‘Recently I received a letter from a young mother who wrote that a neighbor had announced she was not going to allow her children to make their minds fuzzy by reading fantasy or science fiction; she intended to give them books of facts about the real world. For these children, I feel, the real world will be lost. They will live in a limited world in which ideas are suspect. The monsters which all children encounter will be more monstrous because the child will not be armed with the only weapon effective against the unknown: a creative and supple imagination . . . We do not understand time. We know that time exists only when there is mass in motion. We also know that energy and mass are interchangeable, and that pure energy is freed from the restrictions of time. One of the reasons that A Wrinkle in Time took so long to find a publisher is that it was assumed that children would not be able to understand a sophisticated way of looking at time, would not understand Einstein’s theories. But no theory is too hard for a child so long as it is part of a story; and although parents had not been taught Einstein’s E = mc2 in school, their children had been.’  Then she goes on to talk about Chewbacca (this is true).”

Did you read Wrinkle in Time when you were a child? Or as an adult? What were your reactions? I’d love to hear.

Remembering,

Babette

Teach Your Monster to Read is a free online game for beginning readers. It starts with individual letter sounds, first consonants, then vowels, and then blending into words. Kids who are drawn to learning on the computer will likely enjoy the game. Each player creates his or her own monster who crash lands his space ship in a land of islands. Each island king helps to repair a part of the space ship if the monster can find the king’s missing letters.

Things that work well:

  • Graphics and sounds are fun and colorful without being obnoxious or overwhelming.
  • Tasks are fairly intuitive if you have played any other computer games.
  • You can stop and start the game; it will re-start you where you last stopped.
  • If a child makes a mistake, the game allows him or her to repeat the activity until it is correct.

Things that didn’t work so well:

  • Many of the letters sounds demonstrated were too soft even though other sounds were plenty loud enough.
  • I didn’t work all the way through the game but I did make it to the second island. The routine and the activities were getting a bit repetitive. You seven year old’s mileage might vary.
  • The prizes were on the odd side–clothing pieces for your monster, oh-kay, but underwear? And I really have a thing against good as prizes even if it’s pretend molded jello. ;-)
  • And some child (read–boy) is probably going to point out to great hilarity all around that the monsters seem to “poop” their stars. (Play, you’ll see what I mean. Or maybe it’s just me!) Not a prob at home but if you had your whole classroom playing, this observation could lead to a bit of a class management struggle!

It’s hard to find really excellent computer games and Teach Your Monster to Read is certainly not a bad one–but neither is it an outstanding one. It won’t really teach a child to read but it is free and it may help some children who need a bit more practice and need it in a novel format.

If you try it with your children, post here and let us know what you think.

Babette

I’ve written often about the connection between play and learning. Even more specifically, here (take a look; there’s a supremely cool video with it), I talked about the connection between fun and learning. When there’s a positive emotion or a pleasurable experience paired up with a learning moment, more learning happens and more learning is possible in the future.

How can we work more fun into the things we do with kids? We adults can get a little “fun” challenged especially when we feel like we’ve got to teach something. So take a look at this list of “What If” questions put together by Alissa Marquess (scroll down a bit to see them).

Creative thinking feeds more creative thinking. One type (art work) encourages another type (word games). Play is how humans learn. So relax, drop the worries, and have fun with the kiddos in your life, playing with them and encouraging their creativity.

Play on!

Babette

It’s summer. We should all be outdoors, playing and getting dirty.

But for those moment when you just have to come inside, and someone sits down at the computer, put them in front of the Scale of the Universe 2.

Oh my! There’s nothing like a visual to put substance to a bunch of facts! But be forewarned. The universe is a might large place and you can spend a lot of time exploring it here. :-)

As with all sites I recommend for kids, remember: their visit to a website should provide opportunities for conversation. Scale of the Universe 2 is a case in point. Not only is conversation good for your relationship with your kids (we can all fall into the habit of just giving them commands and never really talking) but it also builds key literacy skills.

So when everyone’s too tired to play anymore, take a stroll around the universe, big and small!

Have fun,

Babette

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Contact Info for Babette

email babette(dot)reeves(at)gmail(dot)com
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73 State Avenue
Alamosa, CO 81101

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