Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Oprah's Reading Lists

Sorry I deserted you, my faithful readers, this past weekend. I ended up having some gallbladder issues that left me barely wanting to parent, let along blog. You can read more about it on my weight loss blog. So anyhoo...

Photo courtesy of Oprah.com

For those who are a fan of The O--Oprah, you know that she is a big proponent of reading. She created Oprah's book club to encourage us "old folks" to crack a book for pleasure. I suspect that she may continue her book club now that she's has her network OWN, however it does not appear that she has named a book since 2010. Click here for a complete listing of Oprah's book club picks, and if you're feeling crafty, you can even create a custom Oprah's book club bookmark here.

But what you might not know is that Oprah is also a proponent for getting young kids to read. And to help parents in choosing the best books for their children, she (with the help of Target and the American Library Association) has compiled book lists for kids broken down by age group. You can find those links here

But if your child is picky, and only wants to read books on a certain subject or within a certain category, O also has a list of books categorized by subject, and then further broken down into age groups.

I myself get a little uncomfortable "grading" books, I don't like kids to feel like they are bound by limits. I personally think that "grading" also take a little bit of the fun out of reading--it makes reading for pleasure much more like school. So if you do decide to use these lists, I strongly suggest using the age ranges as suggestions. If your child is reading above or below the books in "their range", allow them to delve outside of it. As long as they are reading, and it's fun for them, there's no reason to put constraints on the books they can read--pending age appropriateness, but I leave the judgement on what is age appropriate up to you.

But overall, what Oprah is doing is fabulous, both for the young reader, and their parent. I mean, who doesn't like having the guess work taken out? These lists will certainly assist you and your child in choosing their next book--who knows, you may find an old favorite, or discover a new one!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

A New Diet Book For Kids--"Maggie Goes On A Diet"

When news of this book was released, I had to do a double take. I couldn't even believe there is such a book.

Maggie Goes on a Diet, by Paul Kramer is touted by the author as a book that chronicles Maggie's journey to a healthy weight through eating right and exercise, and is aimed at the Tween, Pre-Teen demographic.

I understand that childhood obesity is on the rise, and I agree that as a nation we need to take steps to curtail the obesity trend. Kids should be taught healthy eating practices and get enough activity in their day, HOWEVER, it should not be done by a book. It should be done by their parents and/or physicians.

If you ask me this book does more harm than good. One look at the cover, and you see a "robust" Maggie looking into a mirror desiring to be thinner to fit into a dress. This depiction plays to young girls who have issues with body image and exploits them, all to make a sale. Not to mention, "Maggie Goes On A Diet"? Who the heck came up with that title? The word diet, implies a temporary change in eating habits to achieve a desired result. If this book were really concerned about healthy eating, wouldn't a title like "Maggie Eats Healthy" be better suited?

On top of all of these other tasteless representations of what health and fitness really are, I'm left wondering, why does Maggie have to go on a diet? Why can't Johnny go on a diet? After all, the book is written by a man. Wouldn't a man be more in touch with male issues with body image than female? I'd say so. So why pray on young girls? Probably because women are more easily manipulated by this type of propaganda. We are constantly bombarded with "the perfect female" in every sort of media, and this bombardment fuels the multi-billion dollar diet, health, and fitness industry. It all plays in to woman's desire to please.

Maggie Goes On A Diet, won't be released until October. And though I don't believe in censorship in media, or banning books, if I had a daughter, I'd keep her away from this one. No child ever needs to be told that they need to be skinnier, it is up to the parents to make the adjustments within the HOUSEHOLD--preparing healthier food and promoting activity TOGETHER--and let nature take it's course. I guarantee our kids would all be healthier if everyone adopted this strategy.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Best Piano Players Play Pants-less

Copyright EarlyLiteracyMama.blogspot.com
I turned my back for one second this morning, and magically the pants were gone! Apparently, they were a hindrance to playing piano...

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Graduation From Storytime

A few days from now Lil Man turns 17 months. And a month from then 18 months. I don't know where the time has gone. I swear I was pregnant yesterday, so I'm not quite sure how I ended up with a toddler. The time is flying by so fast, and I feel like I've missed so much, when I know that I haven't.

For about the past month, we've been prepping for fall programming at work. And I started to get really excited about this fall's upcoming baby storytime. Over the summer, Lil Man had really started getting into the storytimes, and he participated a lot more than when he was just a bump on a log of a baby.

But then it hit me. Lil Man is going to be 18 months come September. Too old for Baby Storytime. And Ms. Kendra--the Baby Storytime librarian confirmed it, Lil Man is going to be moving up to Me and My Grown Up Storytime. And to be honest, I'm bummed.

Copyright EarlyLiteracyMama.blogspot.com
It's not that I don't like the librarian who puts on the next age group's storytime. I like her, and I know she does a great job. But, Lil Man just got adjusted to Baby Storytime and started to participate. I feel like shoving him in with the older kids, he's not going to be able to participate as well as he could in Babytime. At 18 months, he just isn't as capable developmentally as an almost 3 year old (the upper boundry of the group). Not to mention, he has friends in his group, and I'm friends with thier moms.

I'm torn. Do I take him to storytime and see how it all pans out? Do I keep him home for a bit, and let him mature a little bit more developmentally? Do I just, and I hate to use this term, hold him back in Baby Storytime? Or do I just stay home, and read some stories there?

No matter what, this fall is going to be bittersweet. I'll no longer have an infant or a baby, I'll have a toddler transitioning into a preschooler. And as much as it breaks my heart, I'm excited too, I can't wait to see how my Lil Man grows up.

Monday, August 22, 2011

FREE Online Storytime -- The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn

My poor Mother. I remember my first day of school, preschool, pre-k, and kindergarten. I screamed, I cried, I held on to my mom for dear life. And now that I'm a mom myself, I'm sure it broke my mom's heart to leave me there in the state I was in.

But the fact remains, many kids have a hard time going back to school in the fall. The separation from the fun of summertime, and getting back into a routine takes a heavy toll on their little hearts.

This apprehension about going back to school, can be even worse for kids that have never been to school, like those entering preschool or kindergarten. Separation from home and their parents can be devastating to them.

If your kindergarten bound child is feeling this apprehension, and even if they are not, there are many great stories to aid in this transitional time.

One such book is The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn. Chester Raccoon is feeling apprehensive about going to kindergarten for the first time. But, his mom knows just what will make him feel better. The (somewhat magical) kissing hand. The special bond that is created between this mother and son, eases Chester's transition, and unexpectedly ends with Chester's mother getting a kissing hand of her own.

Until the end of August, Barnes and Noble is offering a FREE online storytime featuring The Kissing Hand. The author, Audrey Penn reads the story while the child watches the illustrations on screen. To access this FREE online storytime, click here.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Free Books for Kids Ages 0-5!

Now, I've never been a big Dolly Parton fan, (the big hair, big boobs, microscopic waist thing kind of put me off) let alone a fan of country music. However, this summer I think I've become one of Dolly's biggest fans.

I only saw the exterior of Dolly Parton, and didn't know anything about her heart. Turns out she has a big one, particularly when it comes to Early Literacy.

In 1996, Dolly Parton founded Dolly Parton's Imagination Library. Dolly wanted every child, regardless of income to have access to books. So to make reading special, she sent a book to every child in her home county in Tennessee. Read the full story here

This tradition not only continues, but has expanded to the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. And Dolly's dream of having children discover a special surprise book, just for them, in their mailbox every month has been realized.

Now, many think this is too good to be true. I know I did. But "Lil Man" is living proof. He received his first book, The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper about a week ago. And he LOVED it!

I can't begin to thank Dolly Parton enough for this beautiful thing she is doing for children. She has an amazing heart.

To get involved, and sign your child up for Dolly Parton's Imagination Library, visit ImaginationLibrary.com

Saturday, August 20, 2011

A Crash Course In Early Literacy

Most parents have no idea what the term "Early Literacy" encompasses, but it is the single most important topic when it comes to laying the foundation for not only reading success, but establishing a love of reading later on in a child's life.

The term "Early Literacy" is what it sounds like; The development of literacy at an early age. But, it focuses more on what I would call "pre-literacy", than being literate itself. Early Literacy lays the foundation for literacy. There are many different aspects of Early Literacy, but it is NOT the formal teaching of reading. It is NOT drills, rote memorization, workbooks, or flashcards.

Early Literacy focuses on the "pre-reader". Kids aged 0-5. There are six Early Literacy skills: Vocabulary, Print Motivation, Print Awareness, Narrative Skills, Letter Knowledge, and Phonological Awareness. These skills are practiced in everyday interactions, through conversations, song, telling stories, and sharing books. Fun activities that children don't even realize that they are learning from.

There are many resources for parents looking to work on Early Literacy. One of the best places to check out is your local library's children's section. Let your child peruse books that they think look interesting. Check out some of the children's CDs or DVDs. Your library may even have an early literacy and/or parenting section which will have tons of ideas to aid you on your Early Literacy journey. So explore, dive in, and have fun. As long as you and your child are having fun, you can't "do" Early Literacy wrong.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Is TV bad for kids under two?

According to the AAP, kids under two should be extremely limited in the amount of TV they are allowed to view. And even after they turn two, the amount they watch should be limited.

When it comes to limited TV viewing. I'm all for that. Kids need to get up, run around and be kids. It's true that television is one of the largest contributing factors to childhood obesity, but I wonder if it stunts developmental growth as the AAP suggests it does.

"Lil Man" is just about 17 months. And if I asked the AAP, they would tell me that he is watching waaaay too much TV. Depending on the day he takes in up to five hours of TV. 

But here's the thing.

"Lil Man" isn't catching up on the latest episodes of Grey's Anatomy or Law and Order SVU. He's watching PBS. Wholesome, educational programming. Almost every morning, he watches SuperWhy, Sesame Street, Word World, and Dinosaur Train.

Do I sit with him and explain every episode? No. Does it buy me time to load the dishwasher or get ready for work? You bet it does. Does that make me a bad parent? I don't think so.

Right now, SuperWhy is "Lil Man's" favorite show. He watches on PBS, and when it isn't on TV, he watches on Netflix. It super cute to see him dance along to the music. And the best part? I know he's getting something out of it.

For those unfamiliar with SuperWhy, SuperWhy is the superhero version of Whyatt, who lives in Storybook Village. Whyatt's superpower is the power to read, But he can't find the "Super Story Answer" without his buddies; AlphaPig with Alphabet Power, Princess Presto with Spelling Power, and Wonder Red with Word Power. The 5th member of the "SuperReaders" crew is the viewer with the power to help. The SuperReaders visit different stories, like Peter Rabbit, or Jack and the Beanstalk to find the Super Story Answer. Once the problem is solved the SuperReaders do a dance and close with one final activity.

Lil Man's favorite character is Whyatt. I think he thinks he looks like him, and to be honest, he kind of does. But reguardless of LM's affinity for the show, after he started watching it, he started to do something odd. After every episode of SuperWhy, he would go into his room, get a book, bring it to me, and curl up on the couch while I read him the story! I was amazed, particularly because these actions became a habit. The best part, getting to spend some quality time with my snuggly little boy.

So as for the AAP, and they're take on television watching, I can't be sure that it rings true for every child. I can definitely say that PBS shows like SuperWhy have started to develop an interest in reading in my toddler.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Future of America?

Whether we like it or not, our children [if you don't have your own, someone else's children, which makes this thought that much scarier] are going to grow up and run our businesses and governments. And I hestitate to think what this will bring.

In a world where class sizes are getting larger, schools are closing, and libraries are closing, who is going to teach our kids the necessary skills to run these future businesses and governments successfully?

The answer.


As parents, we owe it to our children to provide the tools they need to become successful adults. It is every parent's dream to provide thier child with the best of everything. And sadly, the best education is becoming less and less attainable as educational public services are cut.

These cuts are forcing parents to step up to the plate. Some parents are opting to home school thier children, having total control over the curriculum, but other parents just don't have the means or the time to do so. I, personally, fall into that second catagory.

Working out side of the home part-time and running a household, is a full-time job. But I refuse to let my child become "underprivledged", because of my financial in-ability to enroll him in daycare. "Lil Man" as I will affectionately refer to him, and I take time out each day, to learn new things and read together. It's created a lasting bond between him and I that I will cherish forever. However, working within a library setting, I have also gained a wealth of knowledge about early literacy and making reading fun. And I want to pass what I've learned onto you, my beloved reader. So saddle up parents, you're about to learn some stress-free ways to encourage a love of reading in your child, and the craziest part about it? You just might find you're having fun too.