10 TIPS to Foster a LOVE of READING in LITTLE ONES

  1. Make bedtime storytime a nightly ritual.  I can think of no better way to associate reading with cozy comfort and love than to snuggle up and read with your child at bedtime. It was a nightly ritual/tradition at our house with at least three picture books read each night. As the kids got older and started reading on their own, bedtime reading continued to be a favorite tradition and my son even requested a special reading flashlight because he loved it so much (and so he wouldn’t keep his little sister awake as she drifted off to dreamland in the lower bunk).

2. Have a sunrise storytime. Both my kids loved this when they were little. Since I was up early too with my tea, when they came down for that first morning hug, we often kicked off the day by reading a picture book or two together before they wandered into the back room to play. My son’s favorite sunrise storytime books were the DK Eyewitness books. We both learned so much! My daughter preferred books about fairies and mermaids.

  1. Celebrate reading as a treat rather than a chore. If you treat reading and books as something special and wondrous – your littles will grow up with that mindset as well. This means avoiding the urge to set the timer or enforcing that they read a certain number of books each day. Instead, make reading time a special time to be treasured each day. 
  1. Let your kiddos catch you reading… and have books nearby (that interest them) so they can imitate you. Kids follow our lead – humbling but true. I’m certain one reason I’m a life-long reader is that as I child I saw my parents reading. This concept is so close to my heart that I wrote a whole post about it: https://laurasassitales.wordpress.com/2014/10/13/do-your-children-ever-catch-you-reading/
  1. Take a weekly trip to the library. I wrote a whole post about this too: https://laurasassitales.wordpress.com/2016/01/18/ten-tips-to-encourage-little-ones-to-become-library-lovers-for-life/
  1. Bring along a bag of picture books for long car rides as a form of old-fashioned or, as I prefer to call it, timeless entertainment.  These days, with all of our devices, it’s so automatic to let your kids mindlessly and endlessly plug into their favorite entertainment programs. May I suggest, instead, opening books and reading on the road?  Even if they can’t read on their own yet, they can “read” the story aloud in their own words.  Audio books that pair with picture books are another option. When they grow up, if they are at all like my kids, they will fondly remember the books they read on the road. Reading will become part of the trip!
  1. Participate in a summer reading challenge. My favorite is the Read, Discuss, Do Summer Challenge because it’s all about having fun reading, rather than about keeping track of hours etc. Some kids thrive on that, I’m sure, but for my kids, keeping track felt very much like school and my goal over the summer was to show them that reading was fun (and a treat in and of itself – hence tip #3).
  1. Go on a picture book picnic. This is as easy including a picture book (or several) when you pack a summer lunch to take anywhere. When the kids get hungry, unfurl the picnic blanket, feast on yummy sandwiches and have an impromptu outdoor storytime.

9. Host a weekly neighborhood story time on your porch (or backyard or wherever). Have your kids help you pick two or three books to read each week, then spread out a cozy quilt and invite the neighbor kids over for stories. Add lemonade, cookies and a craft and you’ll be the hit of the neighborhood! 

10. Go on a hunt for your local Little Free Libraries. Stop and read a selection from each one. For extra fun, have each child bring along a book to donate and let them pick one to bring home. (I love doing this too!)

Celebrate NATIONAL SKUNK DAY with GOODNIGHT ARK (and a QUIZ!)

Did you know that in addition to being Flag Day, June 14th is also National Skunk Day?! And since a pair of the little stinkers play an important role in GOODNIGHT, ARK, I’ve grown especially fond of the species.

So now, in celebration of skunks, not just once a year, but every day, here’s a fun quiz to test your skunk expertise.

1. TRUE or FALSE:  All skunks have black and white stripes.

2.TRUE or FALSE: A batch of baby skunks is called a litter.

3. TRUE or FALSE: Spraying that stinky mist is a skunk’s first defense mechanism.

4. Which of the following predators are IMMUNE to the skunk’s stinky spray?

A. foxes         B. coyotes             C. great horned owls       D.badgers

5. TRUE or FALSE: Bathing in tomato juice is the best remedy for “de-skunking”.

ANSWERS: (Skunk’s honor: no peeking until after the quiz.)

1. FALSE: All skunks are black and white which acts as a warning for predators to keep away. The specific fur patterning, however, varies.  Different types of skunks have different black and white patterns including stripes, spots, and swirls.

2. TRUE: Skunk babies are born in the spring. Mother skunks typically give birth to between two and ten babies per year.  The babies follow their mother around until late summer when they are ready to be on their own.

3. FALSE: Lifting the tail and spraying is a skunk’s LAST line of defense. Before resorting to spraying, skunks give several warning signs including growling, stomping feet and, finally, raising  tails and hind legs while stomping. These advanced warning signals give predators time to back-off without getting sprayed.

4. C. Great Horned Owls, and most larger birds of prey, are immune to the skunk’s stinky spray.

5. FALSE: Actually, according the Humane Society plain old tomato juice isn’t all that effective because it lacks the acidity necessary to neutralize the chemicals in the stinky spray.  Adding vinegar helps somewhat, but the best way to  “de-skunk”, according the Humane Society, is to make your own odor neutralizing home remedy.  For more on that, visit this helpful post from Humane Society.

To learn more about skunks check out these great resources from National Geographic, the University of Michigan and the Humane Society.

VIRTUAL STORY TIME: Little Owl visits OKLAHOMA!

In the totally FUN department, about a month ago my lovely publicist at Zonderkidz alerted me that Love Is Kind, Little Ewe and Goodnight Manger had all made the Oklahoma Bestsellers list. Here’s proof:

Seizing the moment, I asked my publicist if one of the indie bookstores that tally this list might be interested in having me for a virtual story time. She kindly reached out to Best of Books in Edmond, OK to ask and the answer was…. YES!

The story time took place yesterday at 1pm central. Since I’m all about natural lighting and Little Owl is all about staying cool, we picked this lovely spot by our front corner window and close to an air conditioning vent as our storytelling spot.

What was extra special about this reading, besides the fabulous lighting =), was that after the reading I got to share some neat behind-the-scenes artifacts PLUS I read excerpts from two different translations. So if you want to hear me read a snippet in Spanish and French and learn how to say “Love is kind” and “Little Owl” in those languages, here’s your chance.

I’m sharing the story time below in the hopes that you and your littles might use it for your own story time this summer. See if you can get of the book ahead of time from your favorite store or your local library. And if your local library doesn’t have it, please recommend it for purchase.

After the storytime, extend the experience with one of these extension activities or pick your own. Have fun! And if you really want to bring joy to a certain Little Owl, post a picture of your project on your favorite social outlet and tag us! We LOVE seeing kid-created book-themed art. =) NOTE: If you prefer not to click this embedded link, you can also go directly to the Best Of Books Facebook page and search their videos for this story time.

INVITATION: It’s Time for the Read. Discuss. DO! Summer Challenge!

INVITATION! I’m so excited to be a part of a fabulous reading initiative geared to families, librarians, teachers and anyone, really, who enjoys reading picture books with their kids.

Created by founder and picture book author Rebecca J. Gomez, Read, Discuss, Do! exists to help you extend the magic of story time beyond the last page by following three simple steps:

Read a book. 

Talk about the book. 

Do a simple activity inspired by the book.

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, or are on social media, you may already be familiar with Read. Discuss. Do! Since its inception in 2017, Rebecca has created 60 graphics like these, offering simple, fun suggestions for extending the reading experience with your child in three fun steps.

And now she’s supercharged the whole experience by launching a website with newsletter devoted to all things #ReadDiscussDo! providing a wonderful landing place for book-themed lists, reviews, activities and more. And she’s asked a team of us to help! (Can you tell I’m excited!)

And she’s kicking things off with a fabulous summer reading challenge doesn’t involve setting the timer or counting books. Rather, it’s about connecting with your little ones through reading together and doing fun book-inspired activities. Curious about this week’s challenge? Here’s a clue. It has to do with this! Find out more about the summer challenge here. Head straight to this week’s challenge by pressing here.

Four FRUIT and VEGGIE-Themed Activities to Pair with GOODNIGHT ARK

Did you know that in addition to all sorts of extra pairs of animals (including two mice hidden on every spread) illustrator Jane Chapman has also added a yummy assortment of fruits and veggies to several of the illustrations in GOODNIGHT, ARK?  What a lovely opportunity to explore this delicious food group with your child! With that in mind, here a are FOUR fun food-themed activities to pair with GOODNIGHT, ARK.

Play “I Spy a Fruit (or Veggie)”. As you read the story with your child, be on the lookout for fruits and veggies. On the pages where you spot them, pause to play mini-rounds of “I Spy”.  Ex:  “I spy a carrot.” Take turns, seeing if the other person can find it.  For an extra challenge, instead of naming the fruit or veggie, describe it. Ex: “I spy a food that begins with B.”

Go on a fruit and veggie hunt. After reading the story, go on hunt in your kitchen (or better yet the produce section of the super market or a farmers’ market) and see if your child can spot any of the fruits and veggies they saw on the ark.

For even foodier fun, ask them what other fruits or veggies they think the animals on the ark might have liked and why? Then see if you can find them. (Make a mental note of these for reference in the next activity.)

Eat some fruits and veggies! After reading the story (and perhaps taking a trip down the produce aisle with your child), have fun brainstorming yummy snacks you could make together using the fruit and veggies depicted in the story (or the extra ones your child thought might also be enjoyed on the ark). Then prepare a fruit or veggie snack using those foods! Ex: Serve up sliced apples or bananas or carrot sticks.

For even more fun, use one of the fruits or veggies as inspiration for a simple cooking activity. Ex: Make apple pie with the apples or simmer up some carrot soup. Oven-roasted potatoes drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper might also be fun and tasty treat. Or something better that you and your child decide upon… together!

Create stamp art using fruit and veggies. Cut a couple of oranges, apples, or even potatoes in half, then dip them in paint and use them as stampers to create beautiful works of art. Here’s a link with instructions: https://www.scholastic.com/parents/school-success/learning-toolkit-blog/how-to-use-fruits-veggies-to-make-stamps.html Enjoy! 

FOR EVEN MORE IDEAS AND ACTIVITIES (including coloring pages) check here: https://laurasassitales.wordpress.com/books/goodnight-ark-extension-activities/

PICTURE BOOK SUNDAYS: The Lord’s Prayer (A Faith-Sparking Lesson)

When I was Children’s Ministry Director at a small church, I planned a Sunday morning children’s program called PICTURE BOOK SUNDAYS:  Sparking Faith Conversations using Picture Books and Scripture. Each week, using an engaging picture book as the spark along with games and a craft, children ages 3 – 10 delved into Scripture as we investigated what it means to be a beloved child of God. The kids enjoyed the lessons so much, that I have decided to continue with a monthly series focusing on picture books that can be used as the spark for conversations about faith with your children.

Today’s lesson uses THE LORD’S PRAYER (Zonderkidz, 2011) illustrated by Richard Jesse Watson
with commentary by Rick Warren
as the picture book hook. I hope it sparks thoughtful conversations with your kids.

PICTURE BOOK SUNDAYS: A Faith-Sparking Lesson

featuring

THE LORD’S PRAYER

illustrated by Richard Jesse Watson
with commentary by Rick Warren

PURPOSE:  To understand that God wants to be in conversation with us. This conversation is called prayer. Jesus thought it was so important that He showed his disciples (and us) how to pray. This prayer is called the Lord’s Prayer.  Let’s celebrate and give thanks that we can talk to God by… praying!

OPENING PRAYER AND GATHERING GAME: Telephone (… a communication challenge!)

Open in prayer, then explain that in today’s book, we will be learning about how we communicate with God. But first, a game to see how effective it is (or isn’t) to communicate to another through a whole line of people! To demonstrate play a few rounds of the old-fashioned classic “telephone” in which all the children sit in a circle and one child is selected to whisper something to the child beside him/her.  The whispered message is repeated around the circle and when it comes back to the originator, the group can see if the message is correct or if it got jarbled along the way. Use this as a tie-in today’s story, where we’ll be learning about how we can communicate directly with God from his very Son, Jesus!

INTRODUCE THE STORY: Begin by saying one of our greatest privileges as teachers and parents is passing along our love for the Lord with our children. And one of the ways we do this is by learning to pray together. Ask if they know what prayer is?  When do they pray?  What do they pray? Do they know that prayer is actually talking to God – directly!?! (As opposed to the way we shared our message in the game we just played.)  Do they know that God LOVES it when we pray and wants us to pray to Him?  Yes, He does! Prayer is so important to God that He had His Son Jesus teach us how to do it while he was here on earth. That prayer is called the Lord’s Prayer and it is the focus of our book today. Explain that first you will just be reading the prayer through, and then you’ll go back and think about the meaning of each part of the prayer. 

FAITH-SPARKING CHAT TIME: After reading through the whole prayer, return to each spread. Have a child read that portion and then ponder together how the illustrations help us to understand what each part of the prayer means, using Rick Warren’s wonderful guide at the end of the book as an aid.  

Close the time by challenging the children to memorize this prayer as Jesus’ example of good praying. Then pray it together.

STORY-BASED ACTIVITY TIME:   The Lord’s Prayer Bookmarks

Ahead of time, type up the Lord’s Prayer using the columns feature on your computer to create long narrow text that can be cut into book mark shaped strips. Print on card stock and cut. Let the children decorate their book marks using markers and stickers. For an extra special finishing touch, punch a hole at the top and add colorful ribbon or yarn, as shown.

WRAP UP:  As children are finishing up their bookmarks – challenge them to begin memorizing the Lord’s Prayer, phrase by phrase. Then, give thanks that God loves us so very much that He even created a way for us to communicate directly with Him – through prayer. 

10 Book-Themed Crafts and Activities for LOVE IS KIND

TEACHERS! CAREGVIVERS! I’ve rounded up 10 activities created just for LOVE IS KIND, perfect for summer reading, which is just around the corner, or any time of year. Enjoy!

ONE: Bake and decorate Little Owl cookies inspired by the book at Celebrate Picture Books.

TWO: Read the story then spread a little kindness by making book-inspired kindness pots.

THREE: Use the book to teach a kid-min object lesson on the theme “kindness is a choice”. Then make a hanging owl craft with children’s author Denette Fretz.

FOUR: After reading the story with your family, do the heart banner kindness project at Glitter On A Dime.

FIVE: Make character-themed puppets inspired by LOVE IS KIND.

SIX: Make a LOVE IS KIND Jelly Bean Jar using this ReadDiscussDo! Activity in English or Spanish!

SEVEN: Make and send heart-shaped notes using the heart coloring page in the activity kit as your template.

EIGHT: Make Little Owl masks! Template can again be found in the activity kit.

NINE: Bake muffins with toppers created by illustrator Lison Chaperon!

TEN: Put on a LOVE IS KIND Valentine’s Day party (any time of year!

NEED EVEN MORE IDEAS? Then check out this post featuring SIX more!

READ. DISCUSS. DO! with LITTLE EWE!

FUN RESOURCE! Did you know there are two Read. Discuss Do! graphics for my newest picture book, LITTLE EWE? Each one provides families, teachers, librarians etc. with a quick and easy idea to jumpstart meaningful interaction with a picture book – in this case LITTLE EWE!  I hope you will share the LITTLE EWE ideas with others using the hashtag #ReadDiscussDo. And if you want to find more activities like these but for other books, hop on over to Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram and search using the same hashtag. You will be delighted by what you find.

NOTE: The Read. Discuss Do! (hashtag #ReadDiscussDo) campaign celebrates reading beyond the book by creating sharable images that give simple ideas for book related discussions and activities and is the brainchild of picture book author Rebecca J. Gomez.

PICTURE BOOK SUNDAYS: Dream Big my Precious One (A Faith-Sparking Lesson)

When I was a Children’s Ministry Director at the satellite branch of our church, I planned a Sunday morning children’s program called PICTURE BOOK SUNDAYS: Sparking Faith Conversations using Picture Books and Scripture. Each week, using an engaging picture book as the spark along with games and a craft, children ages 3 – 10 delved into Scripture as we investigated what it means to be a beloved child of God. The kids enjoyed the lessons so much, that I have decided to write an occasional blog series focusing on picture books that can be used as the spark for conversations about faith with your children. Today’s lesson uses DREAM BIG, MY PRECIOUS ONE (Worthy Kids, 2021), written by Jill Roman Lord and illustrated by Brittany E. Lakin as the picture book hook. I hope it sparks thoughtful conversations with your kids.

PICTURE BOOK SUNDAYS: A Faith-Sparking Lesson

featuring

DREAM BIG, MY PRECIOUS ONE

by Jill Roman Lord

PURPOSE:  Using DREAM BIG, MY PRECIOUS ONE,  Jilll Roman Lord’s delightful ode to a child imagining all the possibilities for what they might be and do, this lesson will celebrate the dreams God places in each child’s heart, dreams that not only bring them joy, but spread God’s love to others.  

OPENING PRAYER AND GATHERING GAME: When I Grow Up… (building challenge)

Open in prayer, then explain that it’s time for a game – a guessing game! Ask the children to quietly think about what they want to be when they grow up, but not say it out loud.  Instead, have them give you a thumbs up once they’ve thought of something.  (If needed you can have a whisper conference to help those can’t think of something.)  Then, explain that they will have five minutes (or time of your choice) to build their “when I grow up” dream out of Legos.  Once the dreams are built, give each child a chance to present their project, allowing for guessing and then the reveal. 

INTRODUCE THE STORY: 

Marvel at all the wonderful dreams the children have for their futures, then introduce the story by showing the book cover. Have someone read the title. What do they see on the cover?  What do they think the book will be about? Dreams!  Future hopes! Possibilities! And what might this have to do with God?  Ponder together.Then read the story.

FAITH-SPARKING CHAT TIME:

After reading the story, have a round of “popcorn-style” responses (no hand raising needed) to see how many dreams they can remember from the book. Did they had a favorite?  Then remind them of what you asked them before reading: What do our dreams have to do with God?  Ponder the possibilities together, then open the story book again to reread the three precious spreads remind us that:

 1) GOD is the one who plants dreams in our hearts because and HE is the one who grows us lovingly along the way;

2) that we can count on God to guide us we follow the dreams He plants; and

3) the dreams GOD plants in our hearts will not only bless us, but will BLESS others as well!

And where can we find God’s promises that all this is true? In the Bible!

DIG INTO SCRIPTURE TIME: 

Wrap up the discussion by digging into scripture together to find God’s promises of love and hope as they relate to our dreams.  Use these verses to get you started: 

1 Chronicles 28:20 Jeremiah 29:11 Joshua 1:9 John 6:26

Special note: For first grade and up, I recommend having several children’s bibles on hand so children can work in pairs to find the verses. They LOVE this and in the process learn how to locate biblical passages by book, chapter, and verse – a rewarding and important foundational skill for future bible study.

STORY-BASED ACTIVITY TIME:   Dream Big, My Precious One Paintings

Ahead of time, decoratively print the words “Dream Big, My Precious One” in thick yellow crayon on sheets of water color paper, one per child. Then get out crayons, watercolors and paint brushes, so children can create their own Dream Big, My Precious One images inspired by the Brittany E. Lakin’s gorgeous illustrations. First, have them draw what they dream of doing/being with crayons. Encourage them to use bright colors and to press firmly.  When they finish, have a supervised water color station where, using a thick brush, they apply a color-popping coating of blue water color paint.  

Another option: 

Download Free Activity Sheets on the Worthy Kids DREAM BIG, MY PRECIOUS ONE book page. (Scroll down to find it. ) 

WRAP UP: As children are finishing the activity – give thanks for each child and the dreams God has planted in their hearts. Close in prayer.

TAKEAWAYS from the Write2Ignite Picture Book Master Class

On Saturday, it was my joy to lead a day-long virtual Picture Book Master Class sponsored by the faith-based non-profit Write2Ignite. We opened the day with prayer and a thought-provoking devotional on listening given by organizer Jean Hall. Over the course of the day, attendees participated in three workshops led by me with follow-up break out sessions for each. At the end of the day, attendees were asked to share their biggest takeaways from the experience. And what a delight to read them this morning over on the Write2Ignite blog. And what was my biggest takeaway? Hmmm… it’s hard to pick. Here are a few:

  • There’s a sense of encouragement in gathering with other children’s authors to discuss and celebrate picture books. As many attendees noted, they ended the day (tired) but excited about taking their writing in new directions and maybe even pulling out some old stories to give them a new chance with a fresh eye. I, too, feel refreshed and ready to dig back into my writing- inspired by the energy of our day together.
  • The day re-affirmed for me what I’ve known for a long time – that the kid lit community is a wonderfully warm and supportive one. It was a delight to gather with this group – who all share a heart for writing faith-inspired stories. Thank you for having me!
  • My last takeaway is that as writers on this journey, we are always still learning. I may have been the Master Teacher for the day, but I step into this week re-energized to keep on learning and growing as a writer. That’s why this summer, I’m excited to share that I will expanding my Picture Book with P.U.N.C.H. blog series to include even more structures. I can’t wait to dig in to stacks and stacks of picture book mentor texts to unlock and discover what makes picture books shine. I hope you will join me.

And now, I hope you will grab a cup of tea and pop over to the Write2Ignite blog to see what others took away from our special day: https://write2ignite.com/2021/04/26/takeaways-from-the-master-class-on-picture-books-heres-what-you-learned-by-carol-baldwin/