board books · reading · reading conveys love · siblings · slice of life

Turning a Corner

On Friday, Ari grabbed a board book, handed it to Isabelle, and said, “Read this book.”

“No,” she replied.

“What do you mean ‘no’?” I asked from the kitchen where I was preparing a side dish for dinner. “If your brother asks you to read him a book that you can read, then you read it to him.”

Maybe that shouldn’t have been my response, but it was. I understand reading is hard for Isabelle, but she has made enormous progress this year thanks to her classroom teacher pulling her a few extra times a week, the in-school reading specialist, and an after school reading tutor twice a week. So, honestly, I think my response was measured considering the anger I felt bubbling up inside of me when she told Ari “no.”

“Fine, I’ll read it to him,” she replied.

She read to him begrudgingly. Yes, she read the words, but there was no warmth. I said nothing. After all, she was reading to him.

Like many classroom teachers, I often told my fourth and fifth graders who struggled with reading to read aloud to their younger siblings. Little kids don’t judge. They don’t point out mispronounced words or when you miss a word entirely. Many times, I found that the kids who actually did read aloud to their little brothers and sisters improved at a faster rate than kids who weren’t reading aloud to anyone.

There have been several occasions when Isabelle has read aloud to Ari in the past couple of years, but she hesitates. I think she genuinely worries that he’ll say something if she doesn’t get the words right.

On Sunday morning, Ari asked Isabelle to read to him again. This time, she said “yes.” She read book after book to him on the couch. I shot some videos clandestinely. I asked her if I could share them (I was thinking with her grandparents.) since she read beautifully. She said “no.” This time, I didn’t fight back.

This morning, Isabelle doesn’t have school. I asked her to get dressed. She said, “I want to go and see what Ari is doing.” I didn’t argue with her since, after all, it’s a national holiday. AND, I knew Ari was reading board books on his bedroom floor.

A few minutes later, I overheard Isabelle’s voice reading books aloud to Ari. I tiptoed into the bedroom and took a video. Then, I took a photo (since I haven’t been restricted from sharing those) of Isabelle and Ari reading a book together. My heart was bursting when I noticed them surrounded with a pile of books.

board books · consulting · food · motherhood · slice of life · weather · writing

Yesterday and Today

Yesterday was cold.

Today is snowy.

Yesterday I was busy: driving on back-country roads and working with teachers.

Today I am moving slowly: staying at home and playing with Ari.

Yesterday I ate in a hurry: turkey sandwich, yellow peppers, Sumo orange, and trail mix.

Today I had a leisurely meal: breakfast tacos made with spinach, eggs, queso fresco, and hot sauce.

Yesterday I debriefed classroom visits and talked about minilessons.

Today I’m reading board books again and again and again.

Yesterday was good.

Today is good.

board books · books for little hands · read aloud

10 Board Books Beloved by My Baby Boy #pb10for10

pb 10 for 10 015
The Reflect & Refine and Enjoy & Embrace Learning Blogs are hosting their annual picture book extravaganza today.

Today’s the day… it’s time for PICTURE BOOK 10 FOR 10, an event co-hosted by Cathy Mere and Mandy Robek.

Isabelle seemed to love being read to more than Ari does. While Isabelle munched on her board books more than her baby brother, Ari likes to turn his board books upside down, crawl on them, and smack the pages as he’s being read to. Despite his babyish (He is a baby, after all!) reading habits, he does have favorite board books! Here are ten board books the little man in my life loves to listen to (and flip through) right now.

  1. Bear on a Bike by Stella Blackstone and Debbie Harter (Barefoot Books, 1998) –> Great rhyming and adorable illustrations.
  2. Hair by Leslie Patricelli (Candlewick Press, 2017) –> This is the first book Isabelle learned to read to Ari so, naturally, he loves it!
  3. I Love You, Little One by Patricia Hegarty and Thomas Elliott (Tiger Tales, 2017) –> Sweet, loving rhymes made even cuter by touch-and-feel pages.
  4. I Took the Moon for a Walk by Carolyn Curtis and Alison Jay (Barefoot Books, 2004) –> Stunning illustrations match the soothing cadence.
  5. In My Forest by Sara Gillingham and Lorena Siminovich (Chronicle Books, 2010) –> The plush baby deer on every page delights my little guy.
  6. Making Faces: A First Book of Emotions photos by Molly Magnuson (Abrams Appleseed, 2017) –> It has a mirror on the final page. Need I say more?
  7. My Little Cities: New York by Jennifer Adams and Greg Pizzoli (Chronicle Books, 2017) –> A favorite way to prep the little guy for his first trip to Manhattan.
  8. Peek-a Moo! by Nina Laden (Chronicle Books, 2017) –> Cute rhymes, bold illustrations, and another mirror!
  9. Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star illustrations by Yu-hsuan Huang (Nosy Crow, 2015) –> An interactive book that mommy sings is always a hit.
  10. Where is Baby’s Yummy Tummy? by Karen Katz (Little Simon, 2011) –> Squeals of laughter come from every flap that’s lifted.
Ari’s Board Book Stack
board books · OBSERVATIONS · slice of life · touch and feel books

Slowing Down Because of the Snow

Around 9 a.m. I found Isabelle amusing herself by looking through one of her baby photo albums. Perfect! She was occupied and I could write this slice of life story.

Before the snow started falling again…

Before I watched her devour an English muffin with cream cheese for breakfast…

Before she played with her toys…

Before we walked downstairs…

Before I applied liquid bandage to the cut on her foot…

Before I got her dressed for the day…

We read.

Isabelle kinda whiny this morning.  She heard something scraping outside.  (It was my husband shoveling the driveway before he departed for work.)  Seeing as all of the schools were on a two-hour delay, I knew we weren’t in a rush to go anywhere this morning.

“Would you like Mommy to rock you?” I asked her.

“Yah,” she whined.

“Yes or no?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said.

I scooted back in the glider, picked her up, and placed her on my lap.

“Reeeeeeeeeeeead!” she said grabbing the nearest book in her board book basket.

“We have time to read,” I said wishing that was true every morning.

noodlelovesthefarmShe handed me Noodle Loves the Farm by Marion Billet.  I glanced at the back of the book.  Ages 1 – 3.  We’re getting close to the end of the age range on this one, aren’t we? And then I shifted my thinking. Don’t be like that. She can use this book as her reading skills develop. The age range thing is just a guide.

We began by talking about the cover of this touch and feel book. Then, as I read the text on each page, Isabelle delighted in touching the animals. We talked about how each animal felt, the color of their mane/fur/feathers, named them, and described the sounds they made.  We lingered on each page and then read it again.

Slow, snowy mornings are wonderful.  Just wonderful.

Go to to read more slice of life stories.
Go to to read more slice of life stories.
board books · OBSERVATIONS · picture books

What makes a toddler want to pick-up a book?

I’m that mom who scoffs at the licensed books when she sees them in the bookstore. I don’t purchase any book that has a TV show. I don’t hunk that makes me a picture book snob. I think that just makes me someone who wants to put quality literature in my daughter’s hands.

But we get gifts. Gifts from well-meaning people. Often those gifts are books about he adventures of characters Isabelle has never seen before since she only watches “Sesame Street” 2-3x/wk. and that’s it. But yet, she seems to gravitate towards these books that are devoid of plot, well-developed characters, and beautiful illustrations. We have hundreds of gorgeous picture books in this house, but yet she wants the ones that often don’t even have the author or illustrator’s names on the cover!

I let her read these books despite my objections. (I secretly think about hiding them daily, but never go through with my plans!) All I can do is continue to expose her to as many high-quality picture books as possible and hope this is just a phase.

It’s just a phase, right?

bedtime stories · board books · OBSERVATIONS · picture books

Bedtime Stories: My 2013 #PB10for10 List

Check out the Fourth Annual Picture Book Event at Reflect & Refine or at Enjoy & Embrace Learning.
Check out the Fourth Annual Picture Book Event at Reflect & Refine or at Enjoy & Embrace Learning.

20130805-145354.jpgI line three throw pillows up on our bed each evening. Each of the brown ones are for me and Marc. The blue, brown, and cream patterned pillow is for Isabelle. It sits in the center of the brown ones. Once she’s finished brushing her teeth, she arrives in our room, picks out some bedtime books, and settles into our bed for story time.

Isabelle selects bedtime stories the way I pick out what to eat for breakfast. Just as I eat the same meal day after day ’til I get sick of it, she has us read the same book night after night after night until she moves on to something new. While we’ll try to slip other books into the mix each night, she seems to have one book in particular that she MUST hear every night until she’s tired of it. Sometimes she’ll cycle back to a beloved bedtime book at nap time, while sometimes we have to reintroduce a book at bedtime.

Here are ten favorite stories, from our house, perfect for lulling a child off to dreamland and/or for reminding them they are loved.

  • A Book of Sleep by Il Sung Na (Knopf, 2011) — A perfect book for helping children understand that all living things sleep, though they might do it differently. Some animals sleep standing up, some huddle together, and some sleep with one eye opened. Regardless, everyone sleeps (and implicit reminder that said child must turn-in after the book is read) — even the owl who watches over everyone in the book, but sleeps during the daytime.
    • Gifting opportunity: Great for a first or second birthday.
  • Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late! by Mo Willems (Hyperion, 2006) — I used to read this book to Isabelle when she was in the bedtime avoidance stage. I thought it was a comical way to shed some light on the issue since the pigeon in the book uses a variety of stall tactics to avoid his inevitable bedtime. The final page shows the pigeon, fast asleep with Knuffle Bunny, dreaming of hot dogs, which is a great way to talk about the wonderful things that await us in dreamland.
    • Gifting opportunity: Mo Willems book lovers and/or kids who don’t want to turn-in at night.
  • Good Night, laila tov written by Laurel Snyder illustrated by Jui Ishida (Random House, 2012) — This is Isabelle’s present favorite for bedtime reading. It’s the story of a family who journey to the oceanside for a vacation. They’re an environmentally conscious family who can be seen planting trees, pitching a tent, picking berries, and living in other eco-friendly ways. This lyrical picture book has a refrain, “good night, laila tov,” every few pages. As a result, I think laila tov might be one of the first phrases Isabelle masters since she’ll have heard it again and again in this beautiful picture book.
    • Gifting opportunity: Buy for an environmentally conscious/”green” family!
  • Good Night, Sleep Tight written by Mem Fox illustrated by Judy Horacek (Orchard Books, 2012) — Bonnie and Ben’s favorite babysitter, Skinny Doug, is watching the duo one night. He tells them popular nursery rhymes (e.g., Pat-a-Cake, This Little Piggy, & Star Light Star Bright) at bedtime. They love his nursery rhymes so much that he keeps telling them new ones until it’s way past their bedtime. The book ends with Skinny Doug tucking them into bed and then falling fast asleep himself.
    • Gifting opportunity: Buy this for any child who enjoys nursery rhymes.
  • On the Night You Were Born by Nancy Tillman (Feiwel and Friends, 2005) — I purchased this book long before Isabelle was born. I’ve read it to her so many times since I brought her home from the hospital so I can engrain in her how unique and special she is. This book helps young readers understand there has never been and never will be anyone else like them in the whole world. I think this is a book we’ll revisit again and again as she gets older since it’s a great reminder of how special each person is and how everyone has a special place in this world.
    • Gifting opportunity: Give this book to an expectant parent as a baby shower present.
  • Steam Train, Dream Train by Sherri Duskey Rinker and Tom Lichtenheld (Chronicle Books, 2013) — I had no doubt, when I received the review copy of this book, that it would soar to the top of The New York Times Bestseller List. And it did. With lyrical verses, carefully selected words, and gorgeous illustrations, it’s a book that appeals to all of the senses. Plus, with monkeys filling boxcars and elephants spurting paint into tanker cars, Steam Train, Dream Train also fosters a sense of wonder.
    • Gifting opportunity: For any train-loving child.
  • Sweet Dreams Lullaby by Betsy Snyder (Random House, 2010) — For 100+ days, this was the only book we could read to Isabelle to get her to bed without crying! I’ve posted so much about it (Click here to view all Sweet Dreams Lullaby/Betsy Snyder is my hero posts.), so I won’t sing it’s praises endlessly in this post. Even though this isn’t Isabelle’s go-to book of the moment, she still loves the bunny in the story and enjoys filling in words she knows.
    • Gifting opportunity: Buy this as a first or second birthday present.
  • Tell Me the Day Backwards written by Albert Lamb illustrated by David McPhail (Candlewick, 2011) — Timmy Bear wants to “play that game we used to play last summer” when Mama bear tucks him into bed. Together, the two of them relive the day that is ending by talking about the things that happened in reverse order. The most important pieces of the day include a reminder from Mama Bear not to touch things, like dusty old beehives, without consent, and thinking about the hibernation the bear family just woke up from that morning. Sometimes my husband, Isabelle, and I tell our day backwards using this book as inspiration.
    • Gifting opportunity: Any child who loves bears or needs practice with sequencing.
  • The Crown on Your Head by Nancy Tillman (Feiwel and Friends, 2011) — This book serves as a reminder of the unique gifts each of us brings to the world. This book tells of the crown s/he wears, which tells the world s/he is magnificent, was born to shine, and to believe in him/herself. The second-to-last page of the book includes a note from the child’s crown, which says, “I’m made out of magic most people can’t see/(which is really quite clever, if you should ask me)./But if ever you’re worried and really must know,/you can tell that I’m there by the warmth of my glow./Press your hand to the top of your head./Feel me? Okay. Put your worries to bed.” And finally, as with other the other Tillman books we read and love in our family, this one ends with the words “you are loved.” What an important message to send to a child again and again and again.
    • Gifting opportunity: A holiday or birthday gift for any child two and up.
  • Wherever You Are My Love Will Find You by Nancy Tillman (Feiwel and Friends, 2010) — The book begins with the following stanza, “I wanted you more/than you ever will know,/so I sent love to follow/wherever you go.” I couldn’t have captured that sentiment better if I wrote it myself, which is why — yet again — I love Tillman’s books. Young readers learn that even though they cannot see their love from their parents, it’s always with them wherever they travel and no matter how old they get. My favorite page, which always gets me verklempt, reads: “And if someday you’re lonely,/or someday you’re sad,or you strike out at baseball,/or think you’ve been bad…/just lift up your face, feel the wind in your hair./That’s me, my sweet baby, my love is right there.” I can’t think of a better message I can give to my daughter about love.
    • Gifting opportunity: I love buying this book for friends who have had a new baby to give to their older child(ren) since it’s a great bonding book!

Have you read any of these books? If not, which ones sound appealing to you?

Also, can you recommend some other bedtime books we can add to our collection?

bedtime stories · board books · picture books

10 Bear Books in Honor of #TeddyBearPicnicDay

Three of the teddy bears that live in Isabelle’s room.

Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve loved bears.  Give me a nonfiction text about bears and I devour it.  Show me a fiction book with bears as characters and I’ll most likely love it.  Tell me a story about bears and I’m all ears.  (Though I wasn’t so excited when I heard that the neighborhood bear showed up on my next-door neighbor’s patio last summer, but that’s another story.)

My father sang “Teddy Bear’s Picnic” to me when I was a little girl since I was a teddy bear lover.  It became one of the songs of my childhood.  As a result, I sing it to my daughter whenever we get together with her bears for an indoor picnic/tea party.

Today IS the day the teddy bears have their picnic.  That’s right.  It’s National Teddy Bear’s Picnic Day.  We’ll be celebrating at Bamboo Frozen Yogurt this evening.  They’re hosting a special story time and music in honor of this special day. Once we’re home, we’ll read some books before bedtime.  One of those books is sure to include Tell Me the Day Backwards by Albert Lamb and David McPhail, which is her favorite bedtime book these days.

Want to get your hands on some great bear books for National Teddy Bear’s Picnic Day (or any day)?  Here are tenfavorites:

  1. Bears in Beds by Shirley Parenteau and David Walker
  2. Bizzy Bear: Off We Go! by Benji Davies –> Really, any Bizzy Bear book delights my daughter. However, this is her favorite, which is why I am listing it.
  3. Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle
  4. Courduroy by Don Freeman
  5. Little Cub by Olivier Dunrea
  6. Old Bear and His Cub by Olivier Dunrea
  7. Tell Me the Day Backwards by Albert Lamb and David McPhail
  8. The Bear’s Song by Benjamin Chaud –> I received a review copy of this book, which will be out in October.  I will be reviewing it later this summer.
  9. We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury
  10. When You Meet a Bear on Broadway by Amy Hest and Elivia Savadier

What are your favorite teddy bear books?  Please share.  (We always have room for more bear books in this house!)

board books · bookstore · OBSERVATIONS

I have become one of *those* mothers. Well, kind of.

20130618-154616.jpgI vowed I would never become one of *those* mothers. I never thought I’d use Barnes & Noble as a destination on a gray day. But now that Isabelle is two and I’m looking for something to do on a non-pool summer day, it has become a place to escape. I mean, it’s air conditioned and has books. Heck, there’s even a coffee shop in case we need a snack. What could be better?

When I say one of *those* mothers, I mean the ones who let their children break up the children’s section as if it were a playground. I remember watching parents and nannies allowing their children to scatter books, educational games, and stuffed animals while running around the book stacks when I lived in Manhattan. That really irked me. While Barnes and Noble is not a library, there is a level of decorum and respect one needs to impart top their children when bringing their child to a bookstore.

Isabelle does NOT have carte blanche to run around the children’s section at our local Barnes & Noble. When we arrived she wanted to go over to the train table. However, there were at least five other kids there, most of whom were bigger than her. Therefore, I persuaded her to sit at a small table while I read Ball and Bear and Bee aloud to her. Once I finished the second one, we ventured back to the train table where she took turns playing nicely with the train and two other toddlers. (Well, one of the toddlers played nicely with her. The other one was a menace who kept stealing the trains out of her hand. Eventually his mother put him in a stroller and took him home screaming.)

Once she was done playing with the trains, she found a board book display. She pointed to Good Night Moon, which delighted me since she recognized the cover of an old favorite. Then she threw all six copies onto the floor. She looked at the pile beside her feet, smiled, and looked at me for a response. “You may bend over and pick up those books.”

She began to scurry off to another display.

I could’ve picked them up myself, but instead I skulked after her. I tapped her on the shoulder three times, took her hand, and led her back to the copies of Good Night Moon on the floor. “We don’t throw books on the floor. Books belong on the shelf. You may pick them up and put them back.”

20130618-154627.jpgAnd do you know what? She did. One by one by one by one by one by one. Granted, I neatened them so their covers were facing out, but she picked them up herself. And you know what else? It didn’t happen again.

How’s that for not becoming one of *those* mothers?

But before you get too excited about how compliant my daughter is, allow me to tell you that five minutes later she removed all five plastic shopping baskets from the holder. She carried one around with a box set of Diary of a Wimpy Kid books for a good five minutes. She wasn’t bothering anybody, but I wanted to pay for the books we intended to buy and leave the store on a good note. I eventually got her to put all of those baskets back. (I even got her to put the box set back by telling her they weren’t just-right books for her. (Pats self on back.)

board books · OBSERVATIONS · seek and find

She’s not outgrowing board books yet!

I’ve been starting to think about unloading the board books from the shelves in Isabelle’s play room.  Other than the Bizzy Bear books and the Priddy concepts books, she rarely looks through them anymore.  She’s more of a picture book gal.  And I guess that is expected since she’s inching her way towards three.  (Though she’s not quite 2 1/2 yet!)

wiggleBut something happened the other day that made me think she hasn’t quite outgrown board books yet.  Review copies of Taro Gomi’s newest board books arrived at my doorstep in a box with some picture books I will most likely review for their writerly qualities on TWT.  Instead of gravitating towards the picture books, Isabelle immediately grabbed Wiggle! and examined it closely since there’s a hole in the middle of the book.  She opened the pages and wasn’t sure what to do.  I initially indulged her by putting my finger through the die-cut to make a penguin’s beak peck or to have a seagull flap her wings.  She giggled in sheer delight at the way I was able to make my finger move like animals’  body parts.

hideandseekAnother new favorite of Isabelle’s are seek and find books.  She enjoys looking for the item on the page so she liked Gomi’s Hide and Seek since it forced her to look very carefully at each page to find the image on each page that was slightly different than the rest.  As a parent, I like the way the page with text asks a simple question (e.g., “Which bird hides a cap?” or “Which turtle hides a scooter?”) since that minimizes me needing to say “Find the _____.”  She knows exactly what she has to look for and she has to examine each page closely to find the hidden item.

As someone who wasn’t initially sold on board books, I’ve come to really enjoy engaging ones like Taro Gami’s since they make my child want to go back and “read” them again on her own.  What’s better than that?

board books · picture books

Bees and Butterflies

DSC_7478Ever since we had an abundance of bees in our shrubs and around Isabelle’s playhouse, she hasn’t been too keen on anything that’s small, buzzes, and has wings.  In fact, everything that flies gets labeled as a “bee!”  At first I thought this problem was just related to bees, but when we took her to the butterfly room at the Phipps Conservatory this past weekend, we realized she was generalizing that anything small with wings was a bee.

Isabelle became agitated as the butterflies flitted around her at the Phipps.  Marc held her hand and talked about how gentle butterflies were, but she didn’t seem convinced.  Therefore, I handed off the camera to him, picked her up, and tried to show her how delicate and harmless the beautiful butterflies were.  Again, she wasn’t convinced.  While she didn’t scream and cry, she did not have a good time visiting with the butterflies.  This is a shame since she used to love the Butterfly House at the Hershey Gardens.

Initially I thought of taking her to the Butterfly House, but I came to realize that may only upset her (and I don’t want her to dislike going to the Gardens).  Therefore, I’m on the prowl for books about bees and butterflies to teach her more about these creatures.  I’m thinking I can get her more familiar with them through books.  However, an Amazon search yielded a mind-boggling amount of results.  Therefore, I’m hoping someone out there in the Kidlitosphere can recommend some good bee and butterfly books for a two year-old.  Please leave a comment if you have a suggestion.  THANKS!