Monday, 28 July 2014

Wilbur's Book of First Words

I'm always on the look out for books that will engage Abigail (who is 6 and not that fond of books), so I was quite pleased when I found Wilbur's Book of First Words in Emily's man-sized pile of books that she wanted to bring home from the library today.
Wilbur, if you've not met him before belongs to Winnie the Witch, a bit of a hapless witch who lives in a black house. Abigail likes her because she like silly things and that's a very good description of what Winnie gets up to. Silly. Emily quite likes her too, even though the books are a bit long for her, which I guess is why this was in 'the pile' at the library. There are a whole series of Wilbur books but I stuck with the first words as our taking home one as it's one of those books that you can file under 'two birds with one stone'. Emily take it can quite happily on face value with its silly pictures and opposites to look out for; Abigail can use it as a simple independent reader which features characters that she is familiar with. I do find it difficult to engage her with independent reading because her comprehension is far above her reading level. This book gives her the satisfaction of being able to read a Winnie book all by herself; even though it's not a 'whole story' as such, it is definitely more engaging than just a list of words. We all know that a happy reader is one that will read more, so I'm quite sure we'll be working our way through this series. I'm also hoping Emily will use her pester power to get Abigail to read it to her. There's something special about seeing the two of them snuggled up sharing a book.

Friday, 25 July 2014

Mind Your Beeswax.

This week we've been learning all about the bee. There's a lot of interest in bees at the moment because the planet needs them and they're disappearing. Even the man who works in the honey aisle in Tesco was telling us that in China they were fertilising flowers by hand as there weren't enough bees. So, Project Bee was launched.

First up we had  bit of reading time with  The Beeman. It's the story of a boy whose grandfather keeps bees, earning him the name 'The Beeman'. There's lots of reasons to love this book: it features grandparents; it could feature a white family, but it doesn't; it has a nice cumulative narrative like 'This is the Train to Glasgow' (or This is the House that Jack Built). It has beautiful illustrations and is packed with information about bees; it even has the recipe for grandma's muffins for you to try at home. There are many directions you could take with this book but we're sticking with the bees for now!

Abigail was interested in the life cycle of the bee and the different roles that bees have in the hive. There are also notes on beekeeping and bee behaviour which we'll go back to later. I had a look on Ted Ed for videos about bees and picked out this one, which explains why bees use hexagons in their honeycombs.

We finished off for the day by having honey sandwiches (of course), but there's so much more to explore on this subject. Colony collapse disorder, building a bee bath and baking those muffins are all on our to-do list!

Monday, 21 July 2014

Tip For Reading With Kids #2142

OK, so this is a bit outlandish...... have a book store in your living room!

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Welcome to Seussville!

I can't quite believe it myself, but I've managed to get this far without a post on anything from the Dr (Seuss, not Who)! No Green Eggs and Ham, no Lorax, No Red Fish or Blue Fish. I find it hard to believe myself, but there you go; sometimes we neglect the things we love the most. Sorry about that.

If I'm honest, I really have to wrack my brains to think of childhood memories of anything other than a vague meeting with The Cat in the Hat, and perhaps with a Fox in Socks but it's all very vague. No, I'm an adult convert, straight down to the marvellous work that is Green Eggs and Ham.  Here's a picture of it.

Abigail was bought a copy of this by a friend of mine on a fairly frantic trip to Waterstone's when she was about two and a half. I thought it might be a bit long for her age but no, she took to it with delight and it was read over and over for many, many months. Quick plot run down: the pesky little Sam-I-Am pesters a rather grumpy grumpy thing in a hat to eat some green eggs and ham until he capitulates and decides he likes them. It was particularly effective in getting Abigail to try new foods, and we still say it to the girls now - You do not like them. So you say. Try them! Try them! And you may. Try them and you may, I say. I prefer some of the other lines, but I don't have the facilities for eating with various mammals or up trees, so that's the line I stick with. 

It wasn't until a good deal later that I found out that the book itself was written because of a bet between the author and his publisher, that Dr. Seuss couldn't create a book with only 50 words. Well, I'm sure you realise that he did. I'm very grateful for it, because it blows the idea out of the water that using simple vocabulary has to be in any kind of functional and boring manner. Reading should be FUN, and with this, it is.

We've since purchased a LOT of Dr. Seuss books because they deserve to be on our bookshelves, and I think he's a little neglected here in the UK, Grinches that we are!  If I haven't convinced you, then have a read of this review on Read It Daddy, it always makes me smile.

Saturday, 5 July 2014

A Metaphorical Lesson.

Abigail has recently discovered Ted Ed and has been working her way through lots of sciency lessons. She now knows the best way to get ketchup to pour from a bottle, why chillies make your mouth feel like it's on fire, and how a computer works.

This week we've moved on to a lesson on metaphors.

What do you think? Some of it was a little beyond Abigail's ability, but the visuals really helped her take some new concepts on board. At 6, she's still very literal (the answer to my recent 'play your cards right' was a forlorn 'but I don't HAVE any cards') so this as nicely placed to introduce the idea of 'saying what is not true to describe what is true'.

There is space to Dig Deeper on the Ted Ed site, but I wanted to link in with a book that we already had in the house: Elephant Dance.

Elephant Dance is the story of Ravi, who is listening to some of his Grandfather's stories from India, using lots of metaphorical description. Ice cream mountains, tiger suns, and curtains of rain; the descriptions are all big and exotic, perfect to capture little minds. There are also pages of facts about life in India to come back to, but today we were concerned with all the metaphors dripping off the pages. I've tasked Abigail to to describe her world, using her new-found skills of metaphor. She's working om it now, and I'm quite sure it will come back marvellously illustrated.

You might also like The Barefoot Book of Classic Poetry, which is packed full of the finest poetry which takes you on a journey from birth to death, and lots in between. If you give describing your world in metaphors a go, I'd love to hear what you came up with.

How We Kept Reading in the Holidays

Since she first brought a book home from school, I started to do what I *promised* myself I wouldn't do and started worrying about Abigail's reading. She just didn't want to do it and at times would fight me tooth and bone rather than look at a book. Trips to the library stopped, bedtime stories stopped and the only saving grace was that she would listen to the CDs that come with our Barefoot Books. Lucky her that I'm a Barefoot Ambassador then!

So this summer I have decided to really stop with all the trying and have a more relaxed three prong plan. I like things that come in threes. My first idea was just to read books aloud whether anyone was listening or not. Emily is usually pretty quick to come listen, and Abigail has been snuggling in too (she sometimes has a listen when she thinks I'm not looking too). Over this year reading has lost it's fun, so that's the first thing we need to get back. 

The second prong in my fork (I know, I need better metaphors) is heading down to the library to get us booked into the summer reading scheme that Libraries NI is running. It fell a little flat for us last year when the library closed for most of the summer, but we did get a shiny new library out of it for this summer which means there are lovely new sofas to relax on and choose your books.This year's theme is the Mythical Maze, and you just call into your local library to join.


Lastly, we're using Abigail's love of all things gaming to make reading fun. I heard about a website called Reading Eggs from people in the HE community, we logged on and we are all loving it (even Emily, who is only 3). It's a game based reading tool which so far has been enjoyed by both girls. Abigail already had good mouse skills, but Emily has picked it up really easily. Some games as too fast for her, but she is only 3 and it's helping her patience and persistance too. What has really impressed me has been the range of reading materials. We've spent the last 2 years with the same books coming home over and over but Reading Eggs has plenty of variety, including fact books, which interest Abigail the most. Some of the books have fairly long sentences built out of simple words, which is great because A's comprehension is far above her reading level and they hold her interest much better. If it interests you, they have a free two-week trial so you can see if iy works for you.

The results? It's early days, but I can see a change already. Abigail is actually starting to see a value to being able to read and has decided it's something she WANTS to be able to do. And now that she wants to learn, well... I'm not sure there will be any stopping her.