Thursday, August 31, 2017

Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge: Can an Aardvark Bark?

I've decided to take the Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge presented by my fellow Pasadenan Alyson Beecher and today I'm sharing the book Can an Aardvark Bark? by Melissa Stewart and illustrated by Steve Jenkins.

The whole book is so beautiful and so simple that it could be shared in a storytime, and then pulled down from the shelf later by curious children who can pore over its information about animals in solitude and wonder.

What makes this book so perfect for storytime is that it lends itself to interaction and noise! You could ask the kids if they can bellow like a giraffe, or bark like a seal, or whine like a porcupine! You can find sound clips of the animals making these sounds too, but it might be better for developing preschoolers to start by using their imaginations to invent what they think a giraffe bellow sounds like.

Learning animal sounds has many benefits for early literacy. I've especially seen benefits for children with special needs. My son, who is autistic, was unable to say more than 30 words at age 2 1/2, but he could say many animal sounds. Animal sounds were a substantial portion of his early vocabulary.

Here is one of my favorite flannelboards dealing with animal sounds. First, I put all the sounds up haphazardly and incorrectly, and ask the preschoolers to help me put the words where they are supposed to go. Kids get print knowledge, phonetic awareness, and so much fun out of doing this!

Want to find more great nonfiction picture books? I post new nonfiction books to the Pasadena Public Library's Children's Book Suggestions LibGuide as we get them. I also have archived lists available for download as PDF files.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The Benefits of Introducing Kids to Published Authors

Over the past few years of teaching and facilitating writing workshops for kids, I've noticed there are two kinds of young writers: the underconfident, and the overconfident. This is totally normal. Children lack perspective. (Even adults sometimes lack perspective!) Children often have difficulty imagining that the way they write now is not the way they will write always, and that the older they get and the more they practice, the more their writing is going to change.

(Personally, I was the overconfident type--I was the kid who was sending my handwritten manuscripts to Big 5 publishers and couldn't imagine why they wouldn't publish them! I may not have struggled with getting words on paper, but that didn't mean I was ready, and it was sometimes hard for me to see what improvement was needed. I didn't know any published authors, so I had no way of knowing what the road ahead would look like.)

Amazingly, for BOTH types of young writers, the same approach can work wonders: introduce them to someone who has lived longer and accomplished more, and let her tell them about the changes she had to make along the way.

This is why it's so vital to me in my work as a librarian to not only make a case for kids reading lots of books, but for meeting lots of authors. I do my best to bring published authors to the library at least a few times a year (given budget restraints). It's important to me that kids get moments like this, when they got to see author Kristen Kittscher describe the hardest thing she had to learn as a writer, and how learning this improved her plots.

Then she gave kids an effective, simple formula for crafting better plots:

What if...
And then...

You can read more about her plot exercise and view photos and videos of Kristen and the kids at Pasadena Public Library's Kids Blog.

And if you don't have the resources to be able to hire authors to visit your classes, that doesn't have to stop you from bringing authors to your library or school! Many authors are willing to skype with classes, or do chat interviews or Q&As. Ask around and find out what authors live in your area, and start there. Kristen Kittscher is a longtime Pasadena resident, so we lucked out there!

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Writing Parties for Primary Grade Kids

Many children's librarians consider summer their busiest season, but for me I tend to do my programs during the school year, and I usually promote them at schools. I've been doing writing programs for kids of different ages for several years now, but this year I decided to get all of my programs for the school year on flyers, along with blurbs or details about what each workshop will be about. I'm using lessons I created for my book, 36 Workshops to Get Kids Writing: From Aliens to Zebras.  It's going terrific so far! Last week, kids created a made-up language and then wrote dialogue for wordless picture books. They loved it. I gave them sticky notes shaped like word bubbles and they filled up the picture books with dialogue in no time.

They also took more picture books and sticky notes home to do more writing. They get so excited about writing at these programs! It's one of the most rewarding things I do!