Tag Archives: gifts

Back to School

26 Jul

It’s almost back to school time here in my little piece of the midwest. It’s a time simultaneously dreaded and celebrated by teachers, students, and parents. The end of July marks the start of back-to-school sales, the last days of summer vacation, and the final hours of personal freedom. Although I’ve been retired for three short years now, my teacher’s soul still aches for the beginning of a new school year.

For me, July is a time when I really start to value the gift that is summer vacation. The minutes of extra sleep in the morning, the carefree hours of dilly-dally, the days and weeks of unfettered sojourn. One of the most precious gifts of summer vacation has always been the endless supply of library books and hours upon hours of relaxed reading enjoyment. I never understood people who didn’t love reading. As an educator, I studied this alien phenomena. Why did so many children hate reading? Why did they avoid reading? Why did they find it so laborious?  Kids are not born hating reading. As a matter of fact, I’ve never met a kid who didn’t enjoy sitting on someone’s lap and listening to a story. Even as they got older, toddlers and preschoolers still enjoy hearing a story from the criss-cross position on the floor, so it’s not just the human touch of the lap which makes reading enjoyable. Actually most kids don’t start disliking reading until school-age. Which begs the reason so many kids dread the beginning of another school year. Do they equate school with achievement in reading, writing, math, or failure, embarrassment, and boredom? I made reading success my mission. What could I do to foster a love of reading in every child I met? How could I make reading an enjoyable activity? How could I turn reluctant readers into successful readers?

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So, contrary to popular beliefs, I and countless other teachers across America spent July and August preparing for the next school year. Before the first #2 pencils hit the sales rack, I attended classes and workshops dedicated to helping me be a better teacher. Prior to the last days of vacation, I spent days researching new titles and finding just the right books for my students. In lieu of the last hours of personal freedom, I scoured thrift shops and discount stores for things to make our reading time special. Because for me, nothing was more important than helping students find their own joy and self-worth in a book. And although I won’t be joining you in another adventure this school year, I will always value and respect the passion and dedication of teachers everywhere.

Tradition holds the back to school time as a season in and of itself. The end of July marks the beginning of a clean slate for a new year, the hopefulness of new or renewed friendships, the promise of fresh ideas and discoveries, and the anticipation of a precious gift. Wishing all my young and young-at-heart friends the gift of a wonderful school year!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Newest Christmas Picture Books of the Year

17 Dec

The library and bookstore shelves have been looking very festive for quite a while now.   Many are filled with classics we still adore… A Christmas Carol, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, The Polar Express, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, and T’was the Night Before Christmas, to name a few. But right up front you’ll find the pick of the season… the brand-new releases. Browse the titles. Drink in the artwork. Taste the flavor of the text. I bet you’ll go home with one or two new favorites this year.

Happy Reading!

Below are six new picture books I summarized for you, along with a few fun activities you can do with your little readers for each story. Be sure you click on the title of each one for the link to that page.

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The Christmas Quiet Book 

by Deborah Underwood and Renata Liwska

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Dear Santa, Love Rachel Rosenstein

by Amanda Peet, Andrea Troyer, and Christine Davenier

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How to Catch Santa 

by Jean Reagan and Lee Wildish

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The Knights Before Christmas

by Joan Holub and Scott Magoon

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Over the River & Through the Wood

by Linda Ashman and Kim Smith

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Waiting for Santa

by Steve Metzger and Alison Edgon

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by Linda Bailey and Genevieve Godbout

Batteries Not Included

8 Dec

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What might be in this small package, you say? The answer: 2 packages of AAA batteries and 1 package of 9V batteries. They should have been included in the gift I dropped off at the church last Sunday, but I forgot them. Now, I have to rummage through the pile of gifts to find the box of battling boxing robots for a dear little 7 year old boy who asked Santa for a robot for Christmas. And who wants two robots with remote controls and no batteries? No one, that’s who! I should have opened the box and put them in the controllers before they were wrapped. Ah, well, I’m pretty sure a 7 year old can handle that part himself. And when he gets tired of playing with his robots, he’s also got a Star Wars Mad Libs and a Jedi Academy interactive journal to keep him happily occupied.

Merry Christmas, Little Buddy! (sorry about the batteries)

Here Comes Santa Cat

1 Dec

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Here Comes Santa Cat written by Deborah Underwood and illustrated by Claudia Rueba (2014)

Cat dresses up as Santa Claus so that he can give himself a present. As his pie chart indicates, Cat has been very, very naughty. As a matter of fact, it shows that he was only about 4% nice. He still needs to practice coming down the chimney and how to use a jet pack to fly without getting hurt. But worse yet, he finds out that Santa gives presents to other people, not himself. So Cat does what he can to redeem himself at the last possible moment, Christmas Eve. Christmas caroling doesn’t go so well, neither does gift giving (it seems children don’t especially like fish for presents), and decorating the tree in the town square is disastrous. Poor Cat, things aren’t looking too good for him. Then he receives two cans of tuna tied up with pretty green bows. Just then, a crying kitten shows up. Reluctantly, Cat gives the kitten one of his cans of tuna. And because Cat did something nice, Santa brings him an official Santa’s Helper suit. Donning his new outfit, Cat finds a gift to give Santa and ends up riding in the back of Santa’s sleigh.

Deborah Underwood uses her own unique way of asking questions and talking directly to the main character to tell Cat’s story.

Claudia Rueba tells the reader everything that Cat cannot say for himself. Cat communicates with his signs. His every thought is captured in his expressions.

I loved Easter Cat published earlier this year and couldn’t wait to get a copy of Here Comes Santa Cat … I was not disappointed! This book is just as charming as its predecessor. Cat is  an open-hearted character who, despite his flaws, is lovable and honest.  And I love the question and answer format of the storytelling. It’s fun to read and leaves opportunity for the readers to discuss as they go along.

Thank You, Santa

26 Dec

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This is one of my favorite after-Christmas storybooks!  It is almost 10 years old now, but just as relevant as it was when it was first published.  I used to read it every year in my classroom when we returned from our winter break.

A little background for you…Before the kids left in December, I sent home a note saying they were allowed to bring one item to school in January that they could share with the class.  And I talked about it with them ahead of time.  They understood that meant only one item, that said item must be something they received over the holidays, that we were going to talk about our items during the morning meeting (which meant morning meeting was going to go on, and on, and on that day… oh well, if you can’t beat them join them), and that it should not be the most expensive item they had received because we were going to share these items in the group.  This was actually a pretty popular homework assignment, and we hardly ever had anyone who forgot to bring something.  On occasion, some poor child did forget, but they still got a chance to talk to the group about their favorite gift.

So, now we’re all up to speed… On the first day back, the kids were exploding with excitement and I was prepared!  We sat in a circle, read the morning message from me welcoming them back for the new year and describing a special item I had received that year.  I would share my item, usually a book or scarf or new ornament for the tree.  Then I would tell them who gave it to me and why I liked it so much.  Then it was their turn.  Every child told us about a special gift they had brought to class. We would pass it around the circle and the child would talk about who gave it to them and why it was special.  There were lots of gifts from Santa, mom & dad, grandparents, etc.  Seriously, this took ALL morning!

After lunch, I read Thank You, Santa by Margaret Wild and illustrated by Kerry Argent.  This book was published in 1994 and is simply one of the best books I have read to introduce students to letter writing.  The illustrations are gorgeous and the kids are mesmerized by the story.  In this story Santa and a little girl, Samantha, exchange letters every month for a year, so there are a total of 12 letters written in two hands spanning two pages each.  Starting in January, Samantha writes a thank you letter to Santa for the gifts she received.  He is so thrilled to actually get a letter in January, that he writes her a letter in February.  They continue back and forth writing letters each month for the whole year.  Another wonderful element of the story is that Samantha lives in Australia so her seasons are the opposite of those in the northern hemisphere, giving us another layer to enjoy in this story.  Santa teaches her about the animals living near the north pole and she is worried about Santa’s littlest reindeer at the North Pole and the polar bear living in the zoo in Australia.  Many of the letters are part of gift packages that Santa and Samantha send to each other throughout the year as well.  Her last letter to Santa is her wish for snow for the polar bear at her zoo (in her December summer).  The final illustration shows us how Santa grants her Christmas wish.

Of course in the classroom, we talk a bit about the 12 months of the year.  But the biggest lesson I prepared is letter writing.  We spend another good portion of the day introducing letter writing – the reasons to write a letter and the five parts of a friendly letter.  Before the students go home for the day, they draw a picture of the gift they shared with the class and make a very quick word web surrounding the picture including the name of the person who gave them the gift and some important information about the gift.

All of the gifts go home at the end of the day with another note from me asking parents to send me the complete name and mailing address of the gift giver.  We spend the rest of the week writing our thank you notes and envelopes.  At the end of the week, I send these home to parents with instructions to read their child’s letters and to please add the stamp to the envelope.  Some children have informed me that their parents also sent a photo of them playing with the gifts to the gift givers.

I hope you get a chance to read and enjoy this fabulous book!

On a note of full disclosure…. in my last few years of teaching, I had a scripted reading program which left me no time during reading class to be creative.  However, and I’m sure some of you have already figured this out, I started using only our writing time and used this book to introduce the concept. The point is, if it is something you love, you make time to do it!  I used great books to introduce writing, science, social studies, and even math concepts.  You can too!

If you like this post, don’t forget to comment and please share it with your friends!

Dear Santa

7 Dec

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Dear Santa,

Books, Books, Books!  I love books!  Here are some of the top picture books for this year and some websites for you to look at for more ideas.  I know books are heavy, so if you want to save your back, I would be just as happy with gift cards to local bookshops!  Thank you, Santa… you’re the best!

Love,

Paige Turner

P.S. When you’re finished with these don’t forget to peruse the adult aisles for mom and dad.

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mr-wuffles

Best Picture Book Lists for 2013

Association for Library Service to Children

http://www.ala.org/alsc/awardsgrants/notalists/ncb

Goodreads Choice Awards                  

https://www.goodreads.com/choiceawards/best-picture-books-2013

Huffington Post

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/minhle/best-picture-books-of-201_b_4378532.htmlNPR’s

Best of Kids Books                                                      

http://apps.npr.org/best-books-2013/#/tag/kids-books

New York Times                                        

http://www.slj.com/2013/11/reviews/best-of/slj-best-books-2013-picturebooks/#_

Publishers Weekly

http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/childrens/childrens-book-news/article/59926-pw-s-best-children-s-books-of-2013.html

School Library Journal

http://www.slj.com/2013/11/reviews/best-of/slj-best-books-2013-picturebooks/#_

 

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