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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.

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

You’re invited to a Book Look–anyone, everyone, the more the merrier! I will be highlighting books that are great for grandparents to give for birthdays, holidays, or any day you want to make a kid feel special. Forgo the toys that will break or get forgotten. Get a book for a gift that lasts a lifetime.

So join us this Thursday, June 28, at 5:30 p.m. at my house. Don’t know where that is? Email me at babette(dot)reeves(at)gmail.com for address and directions. No RSVP needed and come as you are. This is informal, fun, and I’ll do all the work for you. There are few things I love better than helping find the right book for a kid!

(And if you really, really, really can’t come, you can order online. Email if you have any questions.)

See you then,

Babette

I don’t usually post on the weekends but this is how I started my Saturday, listening to this wonderful song. I didn’t want anyone to miss it.

After you start the song, scroll down so you can read the lyrics. 

Sing on,

Babette

Librarians promote summer reading programs with research and statistics that show that summer reading prevents “summer slide, ” the loss that children experience in reading and other academics if they “do nothing” during the summer.

If you want visuals to demonstrate the effects of “summer slide” year after year, this video is tremendous.

Two points to remember:

  • We’re not just talking about losses in reading. This happens in all subject and learning areas.
  • And this is not a promotional for summer schools. Every kid needs downtime and free play and a break from very “schooly” activities and routines. But they also need exposure to new things, and constructive, developmentally appropriate activities, and fun enrichments– things that are not very often present for children in lower income or poverty families. The video shows how these things make a difference over the years.

So support summer programs for all kids but especially those who do without so much.

Share the video!

Babette

The Millennium Cohort Study in England, following 19,000 young children, has issued a report on the connections between poverty and cognitive development. It’s one of the first studies of its kind and confirms what most of us would “guess”–but even more so. Here are several interesting findings.

  • First, while any poverty will affect children negatively, persistent poverty and poverty at birth are even worse.
  • The differences between children in poverty and those who are not are as large as what you would find in children from homes with college educated moms and moms with minimal education.
  • Persistent poverty has a greater impact than whether parents read to their children, take them to the library, or help them with schoolwork.
  • While previous studies have shown that parenting affects children’s cognitive development, this one shows that poverty affects not just the child’s cognitive development (no matter what the parent does) but also the parent’s ability to parent.
  • Finally, being born into poverty has worse effects than intermittent or episodic poverty.

Focusing on test scores and even on early childhood education are less than drops in a bucket when poverty and its effects are ignored. Anyone who’s committed to improving education for children has also got to be committed to eradicating poverty–for the children’s sake. Else we are just throwing money at the problem and spinning our wheels.

Think about it,

Babette

Leave it to the BBC to post a treasure trove of resources for early learning! Rhymes, audio, video, lyrics & pictures! What more could you ask for! It’s called School Radio, and it’s all free. The website is a little tricky to navigate (I’ll walk you through, though), some items are posted only for a limited time, and of course, some materials might not be as applicable for you depending on cultural differences (like accents).

The good parts, though, are very, very good.  :-) Here’s a brief tour of what I found, liked, and will use myself.

Opening the link, you’ll find a menu list on the left. Clicking on Early Learning, you’ll see five choices.  The best are Nursery Rhymes and Stimulus Sounds. I’ve actually linked you (above) to the Nursery Rhymes page so it’s already open for  you. Rhymes are mid-screen and grouped alphabetically. Click on “Baa, baa black sheep” for starters, and take a listen. Pretty snazzy, huh? (I’ll be using this one at the SLV Fiber Fest in July!). Scroll down and you can click on a link to print out the photo and the lyrics.

If you are in the U.S. like me, some of the rhymes will be unfamiliar–but that can be a nice way to freshen up your storytimes. Most of the songs and rhymes are repeated twice, always a nice feature. I found that the British accents were not overwhelming in the nursery rhymes but were probably too much in the “Listen and Play” and “Playtime” story links for early learners here in the U.S.

Finally, if you select the “Stimulus Sounds” link, you’ll find audio files for sounds that children can listen to and then identify. Hearing individual sounds is absolutely key to being able to read later. It is one of the two skills (the other is vocabulary) that is almost always missing in elementary aged children who are struggling to read. (Want to know more? Click on the “phonological awareness” tag in the left column on my site.) So this is a great resource especially on days when you can’t get outdoors to listen for “real” sounds. And kids think this is really fun! Be patient though. It is a skill that has to be learned and it takes time so give lots of encouragement and keep it fun.

Have fun exploring!

Babette

This wasn’t too hard. YA has really not been around that long, and subsequently there’s not that much really good stuff out there.

Now don’t get me wrong. I *love* reading YA novels. I actually prefer browsing YA shelves first when I’m looking for a new, good read. I consistently have better luck than with adult books.

But all in all, it didn’t take me long to come up with my list. And as I looked over other people’s lists, I was struck with how many of theirs were really new books.

Have me do this in about twenty years, and I’ll likely run screaming into the night. But for 2012, here my list:

  • Antsy Does Time by Neal Shusterman
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • The Hungry City series by Philip Reeve
  • Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork
  • Crazy Beautiful by Lauren Baratz-Logsted

Yeah, I recognize that most of my books are not on others’ lists. I don’t think I’ve ever recommended one of these books, though, to a teen (or adult) and not had them love it. And while they are not Nobel prize winning literature, none of them are fluffy beach read either.

In other words, I HIGHLY recommend these five.

And they should win.

So there!

Keep reading,

Babette

PS–So what are your favorite YA books? No, seriously I want to know. I’ll even read them. :-)

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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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