Literacy Lalapalooza #1 – Gifts & Tips November

Happy birthday! Welcome to the official kickoff of our year-long celebration of sharing the gift of literacy. From now through 2013, we will open each month with a post offering literacy-related ideas and tips for reading with and engaging kids with reading and writing.

Not everything will be about children’s books nor will it necessarily be a product. Our goal is literacy engagement: finding ways to engage WITH our kids as they begin their own journey as readers, writers, creators, and successful people. Each post will have …

  1. Idea for literacy and reading.
  2. Tools and/or Resources suggestions (e.g., websites, games, toys)
  3. Book ideas, one for each reading group: 0-4, 5-9, 10&Up

Suggestions for children’s books are drawn from our family reviewers. Each month’s collection will vary, but could include a picture book, picture book for developing readers, easy reader, illustrated chapter book or full length chapter book. We also hope that if you have seasonal favorites in a given month that you add your recommendations in the comments!

1 Literacy Idea: Draw Pictures as a Family

This one is silly, fun, works with glum teens, and can be done at the dinner table. You’ll need a piece of paper and writing tools (crayons, markers, pens, pencils). Fold the paper accordion style so that each person will have their own “fold.”

Everyone adds a section to your new family member. One person each for the head, mid-section(s), legs, and feet. The key is that the ful character is hidden until everyone is done. One person draws their part, uses the fold, and then gives it to the next person.

When everyone has stopped laughing, give your new family member a name and then create a story about “it” together.

2 Literacy Tools / Resource Suggestions

ABCya! This is a teacher-created website offering free educational games from Kindergarten to Fifth Grade.

The activities are age appropriate and fit with a student’s abilities. For example, a kindergartener doesn’t have instructions she can’t read. There is lots of variety, and the site now offers apps that can be downloaded.

Two summers ago a friend hooked me on Bananagrams. Oh, the possibilities! First, it is completely flexible. Yes, you can play the “standard way,” but you can also make up your own games. Three-Letter-Tree (a game we made up) helps developing readers by focusing on word families. Slow down the pace and people of all ages and abilities can play together. Or you can just play with the letters by themselves to create word lists … like the ones that come home from school. Last but not least, it is easily portable (read: no board to carry)!

3 Books Recommendations

November is synonymous with Thanksgiving, but it is also National Adoption Month. We’ll also celebrate Book Lover’s Day (first Saturday), Young Readers Day (second Tuesday), and my personal favorite: Stay Home Because You Are Well Day (November 30). Lots of reasons to enjoy children’s books together.

Infant / Toddler Audience (ages newborn to 4)

The Perfect Thanksgiving
by Eileen Spinelli, illustrated by Joan Adinolfi
Henry Holt & Company, 2003

Our young narrator contrasts Thanksgiving at her house with the celebration at Abigail Archer’s. Although the events are different, they still share many similarities.

This picture book offers young readers a very vivid, fun description of opposites – all with a holiday twist. Read the Reading Tub review.

Emerging & Developing Readers (ages 5 to 9)

Adoption is for Always
by Linda Walvoord Girard; illustrated by Judith Friedman
Albert Whitman & Company, 1986

A young girl (about 5) struggles with what it means to be adopted. With her family’s help, she works through fears of being unloved by and returned to her birth parents.

This is an excellent story not only for explaining the adoptive process, but for reassuring the child about his/her identity, recognizing their fears and re-iterating how loved they are. It is a text-heavy picture book. Read the Reading Tub review.

Middle Grade & Young Adults (Ages 10 and Up)

Solstice: A Mystery of the Season
written and illustrated by Jan Adkins
Wooden Boat Publications, 2004

Charlie and his dad are in their whaler headed to Loud’s Island for the holidays. The family cabin is a special place where one can relax and sort things out. Within sight of the island, the motor stopped. Without oars, the whaler is at the mercy of the wind and currents. It’s cold and getting dark.. What’s going to happen to them?

This is a seasonal chapter book that has story elements that give it year-round value (e.g., impact of divorce on kids). Jan Adkins knows how to write stories that captivate the adolescent reader from the opening sentence. The characters, plot, and pace are so well crafted and coordinated that reading the story is an enjoyable and thought provoking experience. Read the Reading Tub review.

Wrapping it Up

We hope you’ve found some great ideas this month, for yourself and for the young readers in your life. Every Reading Tub review includes a recommendation for three other similar children’s books, so be sure to click through and check those out too.

To those who have also subscribed to the Literacy Lalapalooza newsletter we hope that the new ideas here complement the recommendations and tips you got in your mailbox. Its not too late … we have another thirteen months of Literacy Lalapalooza celebrations ahead.

Have some favorite children’s books that make great gifts or new family traditions? Please share! Its not a party without you.