Celebrating Thanksgiving with Books

Today’s blog was written by one of our very own children’s storytellers: Miss Alex. You’ll find Miss Alex sharing stories with children of all ages as well as creating wonderful children’s programs at a couple of our branches.

This week, I am thankful to be a children’s librarian. I got to get hoarse reading Holler Loudly by Cynthia Leitich-Smith to a group of 49 kids and get peaceful reading Julie Flett’s Wild Berries to a smaller group. I chose these activities to promote literacy around 51tDYvMpZML._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_Thanksgiving because, as Debbie Reese suggests (2014), “for very young kids, I’d stay away from historical contexts and focus on Native people of the present.” There are links leaf_man_coverbelow to a few interesting reads if you want to explore this topic further. Since I am thankful for this opportunity to share my own post and for your attention as well, I will keep the rest short and sweet.


During my November school visits, I was also blown away by how enthusiastically the kids practiced how to write thank you cards, and I was happy to crack a “Thank You” card joke similar to this quote. Laughing with the kids was a fantastic mood-booster in this time of sniffles and shorter days. 51fKqT-Ze5L._SX387_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

As we did in my storytimes, I also found it was great to focus on shared small joys like crunching on leaves as we walk outside or play pretend. I am sharing my story time handout on fall and winter as well, in case you feel like singing and reading, too. You are always invited to our library 6174fX8kYwL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_and our programs and always welcome to share your feedback and ideas.

Preschool Winter-Seasons Story Time Handout 1



Constant creativity and encouragement are so important when working with kids. Thank you to my colleagues and students and to the parents, teachers, and others who may be reading for your infectious openness, curiosity, and support. I am going to follow this blog’s title and “laugh, play, read” all fall and winter, listen to my kids, look for gifts and resources from others, and share my own. Thank you.



The Braid of Literacy

Reading. Singing. Talking. Playing. Writing. Together all of these actions can help children become skilled readers. Weaving these practices together vocabulary, phonological awareness, narrative skills, print motivation, print awareness, and letter knowledge are acquired.


Strands of early literacy development. Reprinted from Connecting early language and literacy to later reading (dis)abilities: Evidence, theory, and practice, by H. S. Scarborough, in S. B. Newman & D. K. Dickinson (Eds.), 2002, Handbook of early literacy research, p. 98, Copyright 2002, New York, NY: Guilford Press.

We are going to get technical for just a minute, so bear with us. In 2002, literacy researcher Hollis Scarborough released a study dealing with the Braid of Literacy. In the study, Scarborough found literacy could be broken into two simple parts: Language Comprehension and Word Recognition. But more importantly, it is within these two parts that more complex things are at work. As you can see in the illustration, when all of the pieces and parts of literacy come together, they form a tightly woven braid. But it is only when they are working together.

That was too technical. But what does that all mean?

Let’s go back to reading, talking, singing, playing, and writing. When you read with your child or talk with your child, when you play and sing together, and when you write and let your child use a paper and pencil, you are weaving together these different parts of literacy.

Spend a few minutes each day trying to do at least two of these simple practices with your child.

Monthly Activity Calendar

Click on the image below for a printable version.




Monthly Activity Calendar

Click on the image for a printable version.



Just Write About It…

Writing is a very important skill for children to master. Writing involves creativity, comprehension, fine motor skills, sometimes the ability to follow directions, reading, and so much more. Writing is one of the five early literacy practices helping prepare children for school.


Here is a simple activity you can do with your child to incorporate writing into your day.

  • Supplies:
    • Paper
    • Crayons, Markers, or other item for coloring
    • Pencil
    • A favorite book

For my example, we read the story Orange Bear Apple Pear by Emily Gravett. It is a simple story with four words: orange, bear, apple, pear. The author uses the words in fun ways through her illustrations.

Image result for orange bear apple pearAfter we read the story, I asked my group of children to think of four words. They could use any four words. When they had a little trouble thinking of words, I asked them to name their favorite color, fruit, and animal.

We moved to the table. I gave them each a large piece of paper, and I told them to use their four words to write a story and draw a picture to go with it.

The most important part of this activity was letting the children be creative and work on their own. The hardest part of this activity was letting the children be creative and work on their own. Yes, you read that correctly. As adults, we have a tendency to want to make our children’s work perfect or help them the entire way. For this project, it’s important to let them figure it out on their own. Let them sound out the words and “kid spell.” Let them draw an animal the way they “see” it.

We did this with a mixture of age groups from 3 to 8 years old.

This mixes a little bit of process art (letting them create on their own) with a little bit of product art (there’s a specific end result with a few instructions). You will be surprised what your child comes up with!


March Activity Calendar

Click the image for a larger, printable version.



Book Review: Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn

Today’s blog was written by one of our very own children’s storytellers: Miss Elizabeth. You’ll find Miss Elizabeth sharing stories with children of all ages as well as creating wonderful children’s programs at one of our branches. She shares her review of the book Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn by Kenard Pak.

Image result for goodbye summer hello autumnSome say nothing is more beautiful than nature.  There are vibrant colors, lakes and rivers, and animals noisily scurrying or perhaps lazily wandering.  When seasons change, so does the sky, wind, and temperature.  All of those pleasant experiences are captured so masterfully in the beautifully illustrated book Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn by Kenard Pak

Pak uses conversational text between a young girl and nature throughout the book.  The girl greets everything she sees on her journey through her hometown in late summer, and nature responds as it prepares for autumn. 

This watercolor wonder is my top choice for the Caldecott Award this year.



Book Review: Pete the Cat’s Got Class

Today’s blog was written by one of our very own children’s storytellers: Miss Elizabeth. You’ll find Miss Elizabeth sharing stories with children of all ages as well as creating wonderful children’s programs at one of our branches. She shares her review of the book Pete the Cat’s Got Class by James Dean.

51Zg+cghrYL__SX258_BO1,204,203,200_It’s the perfect read for children as they are preparing to head back to school.

Pete heads to math class in this story, which is one of his favorite subjects. He’s such a great mathematician that he volunteers to help his classmate Tom learn to add and subtract using Tom’s favorite toy, racing cars. Using something of great interest to learn a new task was successful! Maybe Pete will grow up to be a teacher?

Be sure to checkout this book at your local library, and let your librarian know how you liked it!


Tall Blocks, Small Animals

Books become more meaningful when you can expand the story to a hands-on activity. Here is one extension activity you can do with very little supplies.


You’ll need to read the book Tall by Jez Alborough. (Hint: Stop by your local library and pick up a copy if you don’t own it.) Tall is about a few jungle animals who help a little monkey feel taller than he really is. This is a great book with very few words. You can use the illustrations to talk about what is happening on each page.

Next, get out the blocks or the LEGOs. You will also need a couple small animals or action figures. Now let your child’s imagination go wild. Let he/she build towers as tall as can be (just make sure no one is on the other side in case it falls!). When he/she is done building, place the small animal on top of the tower. Just how tall can the tower be before it falls over? Experiment with different shapes.

This is a great opportunity to talk with your child about the tower he/she is building. Ask questions like how tall do you think it can go before it will fall? What kind of tower is it? Why is the animal or action figure climbing so high? What is it the animal is trying to see?

Try to avoid yes/no questions as they require no other answer. To help expand your child’s vocabulary and comprehension of the story, you want to ask open ended questions.

Credit for activity idea: Teach Preschool.


Homemade Monday: Story Stones

Here is a simple, fun idea to make storytelling just a little bit different: Story Stones.


As you can see in the picture above, story stones are nothing more than a stone or small rock with a picture on them used to help tell stories. This is a great activity for sequencing and comprehension.

For my story stones, I found clipart through Google, sized it very small, printed it on a color printer, cut the pieces out, and then glued them using Rubber Cement. Eventually, I’m going to use a little Mod Podge on top to make sure every piece is secure and the pictures do not get ruined.

You can find rocks/stones in the floral area of a craft store for just a couple of dollars. Or go on a scavenger hunt in your backyard with your child. No color printer? No worries. If you have paint or paint markers, you can create your own illustrations on the rocks like they did here. You can use magazine or junk mail pictures. You can even create your own illustrations using fun scrapbooking paper or fabric. The possibilities are almost endless.

Once you have the story stones created, place them in a bowl or basket. Let your child pull out the stones and place them in order (either based on the specific story they are telling or the story he/she wants to tell).

In addition to the materials you use to create them, the possibilities for storytelling with these stones is almost just as endless. Create rhyming rocks with pictures that rhyme and tell a story with the rocks as if you are Dr. Seuss. Create a fractured fairy tale with your child’s favorite fairy tale characters. Ask your child for input on what characters or pictures should be on each rock/stone.