You are currently browsing the monthly archive for December 2009.

All right, I give up.

I’m so not posting here due to holidays. So I’ll quit pretending and see you all again after the first of the year!

And whatever your winter’s celebration, I do wish you a very blessed one!

As always, have fun!


I showed you my 4 points fridge magnet in a previous post; now let me tell you about it!

I designed it to be a simple reminder to parents of the things they can do to help their children be ready to learn to read when they begin school. I selected points that required little or no prep, that could be done even when a parent was tired, and that could be done in many settings (while waiting at the doctor’s office, while shopping, while in the car or on the bus, etc.).

I also selected points that research shows really, truly DO make a difference AND that are not rocket science. Any parent can do these–and I mean any. Illiterate, low literacy, low education, low income–even the high income, much too busy parents. Non-English speaking parents with access only to English books could also do the 4 Points and make a difference in their children’s lives.

First, TALK:  Children who are talked with develop larger vocabularies. How many words a child knows when he or she enters school is a predictor of reading ability in later years. Vocabulary is one of the six early literacy skills. Children acquire vocabulary through conversation. This does not include giving children commands or saying “no.” It means conversing with your child. How big a difference are we talking about? The difference between 3,000 words and 20,000 words!

Second, GET BOOKS:  You don’t even have to do anything with them. Just get them. Have them in your home. And it doesn’t have to be just books–newspapers, magazines, comics, cookbooks, any kind of printed materials. Just having printed materials in the home increases a child’s chances at becoming a reader. Why? Partly because one of the early literacy skills is print motivation or liking books. It’s hard to like books or be interested in learning to read them if you’ve never seen them or had them around. (Folks, don’t kid yourself. This is more common than you’d think. It’s why our Friends of the Library gives books to homeless kids.) And remember, books are free from the library!

Third, TIME WITH BOOKS:  This isn’t as hard as it sounds. Allow children time to flip through, gaze at, look at books. Take books with you wherever you go. Turn the TV and the computer off for a little while every day. Put them in the bathroom (they are a great “aid” to potty training, btw). Let kids “stay up late” as long as they are quiet in bed with a book. 😉 And finally, sit down yourself and spend time with a book. (Tell folks that if they can’t read, pretend; it’s that important).  Being a role model for reading is essential–especially for boys. Boys need to see men reading!

Finally, the one you’ve been expecting, READ ALOUD:  Children who are read to become readers. Period, the end. And continue reading to them even after they learn to read. It prepares them for the next level because they hear words and syntax above their current reading level, making it easier to decipher it when they get there.

And I tell parents who are poor readers, who don’t like reading, or who can’t read that when their child is between the ages of birth and five, they can too read to them. Pretend. Snuggle up with kiddo, go through the book as if reading, look at the pictures and talk about them, maybe even make up your own story to go with them. Kiddo can’t read; they don’t know. They just know that you are spending time with them and that this must be important and fun or you wouldn’t be doing it with them. Those are the important factors that grow readers. Not whether or not the parent can actually read the book!

So print the 4 points off. Put it on your fridge as a reminder. Share it with others. Use it as a visual for talking about early literacy. Be passionate!


I love the Onion! If you are not familiar with the Onion, they are spoof and parody par excellence! Most of their “productions,” however, I would not let children watch without previewing first. This one is “safe” although young children won’t “get it,” and elementary kids might think it’s “real” (so now you can talk about what a parody is).

So this one is for you! It’s your laugh for the day! But Beverage Hazard Alert: Put it down while viewing. (You’ve been warned!)

Click here to view.

(And this video nails why I am teaching about what makes a good story in my class for children’s librarians. :-))

I’m cheating again. 😉 I’ve actually got FOUR best books for December!

I’m really quite surprised because I usually find kids’ holiday books are either sappy, too wordy, or dreadfully illustrated. Someone got it right this year!

In no particular order, they are:

The Christmas Magic by Lauren Thompson–I bought this one because of the hype. It kept turning up on lists, and I knew if I didn’t get it, some parent was going to come in and ask for it! Oh, how pleasantly surprised I was! I grew up steeped in the magic of a secular Christmas. My family was dysfunctional nuts 364 days of the year but Christmas and Santa? They were always done right, year after year. There’s no dysfunction in this book but it does sooooo capture the feeling of magic. And the last double page spread of Jon Muth’s illustration made me gasp.

The Night Before Christmas by Rachel Isadora–I love clever creativity, but it also has to be done well (which is why I’ve so fallen for the group Straight No Chaser and their Christmas albums, hint, hint!). Those three elements are hard to come by. Rachel Isadora pulls it off here though. The poem is Clement Moore’s but the pictures are of a village, home, and family in Africa. There’s even a dark skinned, dreadlocked Santa. Sounds hokey but I was more taken by it than any Victorian/Coca-Cola version I have ever seen. This is fresh and will be a family classic. I may buy it for my grandkids (no, I have none and am a good five to ten years away from any).

Merry Christmas, Splat by Rob Scotton–I want to know HOW he draws all those fine hairs poking out from all over Splat! Ok, now that that’s out of my system, on to the book. I sheltered and protected my kids from everything having to do with the “naughty and nice” syndrome of Santa culture. And yes, I’ll admit, I’m a bad librarian. I censor the same from books I read to children during the holidays. But I may break that ban with Splat. It’s just too funny, funny, funny. Splat wants to be good so he can get a big present. So he “helps” his mom–with things she doesn’t need help with in typical preschooler style. “Being good is very tiring,” Splat eventually says. “It certainly is,” says his mom. I can just hear the loving exasperation in her voice.

Finally, A Pinata in a Pine Tree by Pat Mora–I wonder if anyone knew how much mileage The Twelve Days of Christmas would get over the decades. It can be a pretty obnoxious song (I do like Natalie Cole’s version) but this keeps the rhyme, rhythm, and fun of it while substituting in Spanish words and culture for the twelve gifts.

Whew! Go shopping!


Jewish or not, holiday or not–these are two of my favorite books, whatever the not category. They even read-aloud well up through 6th grade. So gather all the kiddos together and read:

Hanukkah at Valley Forge by Stephen Krensky: Based on a remark in a letter by George Washington, this book tells of a lone Jewish soldier at Valley Forge who is “discovered” lighting Hanukkah candles by General Washington. Krensky does a masterful job of weaving together the Jewish and American hopes for freedom. It’s realistic, not heavy handed or sappy, and tacks on no moral. No need to; the story says it all.

One Candle by Eve Bunting: A story that moves me so, sometimes I have a hard time getting through it. Again, no sap here but lots of truth about the things that are most important in life–and how they make us human.

Both are in picture book format so even preschoolers will probably follow along if they can see the pictures. But the stories are really for the older ones (even you and me).

Happy Hanukkah!


Here’s the “fridge magnet” I created to give to parents to remind them of the essentials for developing early literacy in their children.

It was created in Publisher and printed on card stock. I stuck a magnet strip on the back (the kind you buy in a roll at a craft department).

It also makes an easy visual for talking to any adult about early literacy. Non-English speaking parents and low-literacy parents are also a great audience. It is very reassuring and encouraging to them to learn that there ARE things they can do to help their children be ready for learning to read and write.

Click here or scroll down the left column to click for a larger version. Feel free to use, giving credit as able and appropriate (a referral to the blog is a good credit giving method :-)).


I used to send Christmas cards, and I would spend hours picking out the perfect one each year.  The costs and my handwriting got so out of hand, however, that I finally switched to the often maligned email Christmas letter.

This card by David Malki (who gives much joy to my life with his strip Wondermark) is sorely tempting me, though, to pick up the pen and plunk down the postage stamp cash just for the pleasure of providing a seasonally appropriate spiritual laugh to all my family and friends.

While I dither my decision, you take a look: Click here.

With joy,


PS–Yes, you are not mistaken. My posts are a bit on the short and fluffy side right now. I’m behind from the holiday (somehow) and up to my ears with preparation deadlines either for the class I’m teaching in January or my family’s holiday celebrations. I do have some good stuff in line to blog about; just biding my time until I have time to do it justice. You please bide too! Thanks!

Mother Goose and Grimm comic really nails it in this strip! Ok, so I may be a little biased but it’s still true :-))

Click here to read.

No matter which holiday you might celebrate at this time of the year, this quote captures the meaning and intent of so many of them:

If our lives demonstrate that we are peaceful, humble and trusted, this is recognized by others. If our lives demonstrate something else, that will be noticed too.

– Rosa Parks, civil rights activist (1913-2005)

With thoughtfulness,


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