board books · current events · Jewish

Repairing the World

Tikkun Olam Ted_tnGoing to the mailbox is a big deal around here.  Isabelle watches me nearly every day.  She gets excited when she has mail, which happens maybe once a week.  (If she doesn’t officially have mail, then I bequeath a catalog to her.)  Today she had mail from the PJ Library.  I figured it was a book about Shavuot.  As I opened the envelope and presented her with the book inside, I was shocked by the title.

Tikkun Olam Ted,” I announced!  Tikkun Olam Ted? That doesn’t sound like a Shavuot book!  “Do you want to read it?” I asked.

She nodded her head.

I popped a squat on the floor next to her and began reading the story of a boy, Ted,  who spends every day of the week, except Shabbat, repairing the world.

His family calls him “Tikkun Olam Ted” because he wants to help fix the world and make it a kinder, better, place (2).

And that was when I knew this book was the perfect book for what’s going on in the world right now.  I cannot comprehend senseless acts of violence that rip limbs off of bodies and tear apart families.  The bombings at the Boston Marathon sought to terrify people from gathering and celebrating the preparation and conditioning that goes into running a 26.2 mile race.  So rather than focus on what was lost on Monday, I am prepared to focus on the light in the world.  And the way to find light in the world is through acts of kindness.

And that’s where books like Tikkun Olam Ted come in.  As a Jewish parent I want to teach my daughter what repairing the world looks like.  It’s hard to instill that sense into a young child.  They have to see their role models being kind to others in order to show kindness to others themselves.  But, just like anything we can teach through literature, tikkun olam is no different.  By learning about Ted and how he recycles, walks dogs from the animal shelter, waters the plants, and feeds the birds, my daughter can learn simple ways she can work to repair the world we live in.  If we can teach our children how to make their corner of the world a better place, then perhaps this world won’t feel as broken as it does right now.

Tikkun Olam Ted is written by Vivian Newman and illustrated by Steve Mack (Kar-Ben, 2013). Isabelle enjoyed the story and “read” it by herself after I finished reading it aloud to her.  It is my hope this becomes one of her favorites.

board books · meme · picture books · poetry · reading conveys love

More Books That Show Love!

This meme was started by Sheila at Book Journey and the kids’ version has been adapted by Jen and Kellee at Teach Mentor Texts.

Last month I posted about a couple of books that convey love to a child.  Valentine’s Day is coming this week and I realized I hadn’t posted any additional titles.  Therefore, I’m posting two more today.  (While I’d like to post more, we’ve had some drama relating to a new router that we installed that’s been misbehaving.  During the router trouble, my keyboard tray broke off from my desk. Hence, I can’t sit at my desk to work on the computer for long periods of time since it’s just not comfortable.  My new keyboard tray cannot arrive fast enough.)  But I digress…

mommyhugsFirst, Mommy Hugs by Karen Katz is a giant board book I’ve enjoyed reading with my daughter for months now.  This book accounts for ten different times of day that moms and babies can exchange hugs with each other.  My daughter loves to read this book with me while snuggled on my lap.  (NOTE: Katz has a book especially for Valentine’s Day, Where Is Baby’s Valentine? A Lift-the-Flap Book, too.  I haven’t personally seen it, but as someone whose kid loves Katz’s books, I’m figuring it’s another good pick!)

I HAIKU YOU_COVERSecond, Betsy Snyder’s I Haiku You contains 20 haiku poems that focus around childhood friendship and things kids love.  It’s adorably illustrated and can serve as an inspiration for kids to craft their own Haiku poems.  Betsy wrote a guest blog post over at my other blog, Two Writing Teachers, last week.  She talked about how I Haiku You went from an idea to a project to a book.  Click here to read what she wrote and for a chance to win a copy of her book.

board books · picture books · raising strong girls · touch and feel books

Transportation & Construction Books That Feel a Little Less Boyish

A friend recently asked, “What would Isabelle like for her birthday?”

“Honestly? She likes cars and trucks, so that could be a good present,” I replied.

This friend has a son who loves trucks. She recently gave birth to a daughter and is trying to figure out how to navigate the girly-girl world. Therefore, she didn’t respond in a judgmental way. Instead she said, “How about a dump truck?”

“That would be perfect!” I said.

This friend did buy Isabelle a dump truck for her second birthday. She loves putting things in the back of it and making it go.

Yes, that’s my daughter. She plays with cars, looks out for buses and trucks, and reads about construction vehicles. She isn’t into princesses, nor is she into dinosaurs. But, she wears pink and plays with trucks!

I’m constantly on the lookout for transportation and construction books that don’t feel overly boyish. (Not that there’s anything wrong with those books. Heck, we have them and we read them. However, girls can be into these things too!) I’m not talking about books with Barbie riding on a pink truck. (Does that even exist?!!?) I’m simply looking for interesting, well-made books that will honor her interest as a girl. Recently, two books that fit the bill came across my radar!

construction kitties

Construction Kitties written by Judy Sue Goodwin Sturges and illustrated by Shari Halpern (Henry Hold and Company, 2013): Four cool cats live and work together in this book that is filled with bright illustrations and easy-to-read prose. All of the cats, even the one who wears a pink hard hat, operate heavy duty machinery like a backhoe and a roller. All of the kitties eat breakfast together, drive to work together, hang out on a park bench after eating lunch together, and play together. I may not be a cat person (allergies — ugh), but I have quickly come to adore reading this book to Isabelle.


Go! Go! Go! by Nicola Bird and Fiona Land (Scholastic, 2012): This board book encourages young readers to touch and feel their way through the vehicles that go. There are motorbikes, semitrailers, ambulances, steamrollers, tractors, planes, and hovercrafts to see and touch. What I really like is the way each new page invites young readers to say the words that are colorfully illustrated on each page. That is, each page spread starts off with the words “Baby, say.”

Both books have females on the pages. In addition, there’s enough pink and purple to satisfy the tastes of any girly-girl without being nauseating or unrealistic.

board books · books for little hands · meme · OBSERVATIONS

A favorite finger puppet book

This meme was started by Sheila at Book Journey and the kids’ version has been adapted by Jen and Kellee at Teach Mentor Texts.

Isabelle selected a few books to have me read to her this afternoon: The Alphabet with Wild Animals by Mélanie Watt, Discover Opposites, which is a Smithsonian Institution board book, and Trucks, which is a Bright Baby Book. But perhaps the one she loves the most (that she selected) is The Very Hungry Caterpillar’s Finger Puppet Book by Eric Carle. It contains an endearing, 3D caterpillar who can wiggle (& talk when impersonated by yours truly). We read the book several times with more and more giggles on every subsequent read. It may be a basic counting book, but there’s a lot of ad libbing one an do to add-on to each page, which contains illustrations of fruits, to make it a more enriching read.


bedtime stories · board books · OBSERVATIONS

Best Bedtime Book. EVER.

SWEET-DREAMS-LULLABY_COVER-300x300Our little girl began protesting bedtime in early November. Nothing that we seemed to do made the transition into her crib for the night easier. At first I blamed the time change. Once we got her back to bed at her normal time, and the problem still persisted, I blamed her age. Maybe bedtime was just going to be tough.

Everything changed ten days ago when I tried something new. I grabbed a copy of Betsy Snyder’s newest board book, Sweet Dreams Lullaby, which was already a beloved picture book. I put the board book version in Isabelle’s crib at bedtime with the hope she’d enjoy flipping through the pages after I kissed her goodnight.  On December 20th, Isabelle was calm when I put her in her crib. Therefore, I grabbed Sweet Dreams Lullaby from its place on her crib mattress and began reading it to her as she stood in her crib looking at the illustrations and listening, calmly, to the soothing rhythmic verses.  Once I was finished reading it to her, I turned off the light, kissed her goodnight, and closed the door.  Not a peep was heard.  Every night since December 20th we’ve been reading Sweet Dreams Lullaby aloud to her right after we place her in her crib.  It doesn’t matter who puts her to sleep (i.e., me, my husband, or a grandparent), she goes right to bed after she listens to Sweet Dreams Lullaby read aloud to her!

I had tried reading the picture book version of Sweet Dreams Lullaby to Isabelle, with her on my lap, once this whole tough transition to bed thing started.  However, the picture book version didn’t soothe her like it had in the months prior.  (In fact, no other book soothed her either!)  It seems Snyder’s board book has become the secret to calming Isabelle down and getting her to bed without any tears.

AND, to top it all off, the title page has a picture of the baby bunny brushing his teeth in his pajamas prior to bed.  Since we went out to dinner with family last night, Isabelle’s bedtime routine was thrown-off.  Therefore, when I got her into her crib to read the book, looking at the illustration of the bunny triggered my memory that we forgot to brush her teeth.  I quickly grabbed her out of the crib, took her to brush her teeth, and then put her back in her crib to read Sweet Dreams Lullaby to her.  Think that flustered her?  Not a bit. She was perfectly content to listen to the board book read aloud and didn’t mind the teeth brushing interruption.  Incredible!

board books · home library · OBSERVATIONS · picture books · slice of life

Garnering a Spot on the “Real” Bookshelf

Some of Isabelle’s books are now housed in a cabinet on the bottom left of our wall unit. She’s responsible for the upkeep of the shelves now, which is why they’re a little disheveled. But that’s okay. She’s not even two yet!

I looked at the our coffee table with disdain, yet again, since it was hemorrhaging books.  Picture books.  Board books.  Isabelle’s books.  It was becoming had become an eye sore.  I had to do something with it.  Before Thanksgiving. Before the night was out.  Before one of us accidentally tripped over another book yet again.

“Isabelle,” I said, tapping my daughter on the shoulder to get her attention.  “Do you want a special place for your books?”

She looked at me strangely.  Not just strangely.  She looked at me with her teenager face.  She had no idea what I was talking about.

“You know how you keep a few of your books here?” I said gesturing to our wall unit.  “Well, what if we take all of your books that are under the coffee table and put them on these two shelves in the wall unit?  Then, these shelves would be all yours!  You would have those two shelves just for books!” My enthusiasm was growing with each sentence.  “You’d like that, right?” I paused. “Would you like to help me move your books from the coffee table to the wall unit?”  She paused.  Maybe I was getting too wordy.  “Do you want all of your books to go here?” I pointed to the two shelves that could belong to her and only to her.

“Ahp,” she said. (That means yes.)

“Yes?” I asked.  (She may say “ahp,” but I always say the word “yes,” since I want her to start saying “yes.”)

“Sssss,” she replied. (That’s what she says when this exchange takes place over 50 times a day.)

“Let’s do it together!  Will you help me?”

I began taking books out from the bottom shelf of our coffee table and placing them on the floor in-between the coffee table and the wall unit.  Isabelle helped me unload the books and put them in a stack.  Then the real work began.  We had to sort the books.  I decided that picture books and larger board books would go on the bottom shelf and that small board books would go on the top shelf.  Why?  Because it needed a system of organization and there was no way I was going to leave it up to chance (or to an almost two year-old).

I explained the system to Isabelle and together we sorted the books.  “This one is a small book so it goes on the top shelf…”  “This is a picture book so it goes on the bottom shelf…”  My husband, who had no idea what we were doing, walked over and handed me a book from the pile.

“I don’t think this is Isabelle’s,” he said handing me a book on adult writing strategies.

“It isn’t, but it is,” I stated. “She adopted it as her own. ” And with that I placed the professional development that should go in my office on her top shelf.

I repeated the top shelf/bottom shelf lines until all of the books that were on the coffee table got stacked up neatly in the wall unit.  And then, I silently hoped that I wouldn’t find the books strewn all about the floor the next day.

* * * * *

This afternoon I got home and found Isabelle and Nancy, her babysitter, reading a few picture books on the couch.

“I’m so sorry I forgot to tell you that we moved Isabelle’s books from the coffee table to the wall unit!”

“Oh, she knew where they were,” Nancy replied. (I glanced over the titles on the couch.  They were the ones that used to live under the coffee table.) “She went right over to the cabinet and took them out herself.”

Atta girl, I thought.

* * * * *

And tonight, when I got home from my board meeting, I scanned our great room and found just an Elmo phone beneath the coffee table.  All of her books are in the wall unit cabinet.  They may not be stacked like they were yesterday, but they’re all there.  Behind the cabinet doors.  Not strewn about. No longer a tripping hazard or an eye sore!

The AFTER Picture (There’s no chance of a before photo!): Now that I have our coffee table shelf back I have to figure out what to put there. Hmmm… Can’t put the Scrabble game back there since its pieces are a choking hazard. Will keep thinking about this.
board books · books for little hands · OBSERVATIONS

Bizzy Bear is in the house (again)!

Thank you to the folks who left comments on my post earlier this week. I took your advice and purchased three new Bizzy Bear books to replace the one that broke. They arrived today while Izzy was napping. I brought them up to her when she woke up. The expression on her face was sheer delight. Her face lit up. Her little hands began manipulating the cardboard pages immediately. What a priceless literacy-related moment!


After I read all three of the books to her, she handed one of them over to her bear, Schlepp. He asked her, “Would you like me to read these to you?”
“Yes,” Isabelle replied.
So, using my best bear voice, I read them aloud to her. (Do you know how hard it is to manipulate books like these using a stuffed animal’s paw? Not complaining, just saying.)

Time to put my iPhone down and get back to reading with Isabelle. 🙂

board books · books for little hands · OBSERVATIONS · slice of life

Board Book Repair Tips Needed

How do I fix this?

Every now and then my daughter lifts the flap of a book one too many times or a bit too quickly and it rips off.  There’s a quick fix for that: clear packing tape.  However, one of her beloved board books, Bizzy Bear: Let’s Get to Work! by Benji Davies, has come apart.  The page that invites her little hands to “push that sand” has fallen out of the book.  I can only imagine it happened when she pushed it too hard.  Or perhaps it was because she pushed it too often.  Regardless, the cardboard has fallen out of the book.

This piece of cardboard was laying on our kitchen counter, staring up at me, for two weeks.  I wasn’t sure how I’d manage to fix it.  Last night, after watching my daughter’s sad face when she couldn’t interact with that page of the book, I decided to try to put the cardboard back into the book.  I couldn’t manipulate it so that it would fit.  My husband tried and tried and eventually got the cardboard back into its track in the book.  Success!

But then today, she was sitting on the floor reading Bizzy Bear: Let’s Get to Work! when I heard a whimper.  And then I was being handed something.  It was that pesky piece of cardboard — again.  It had fallen out — again.  I have no idea how to fix it — again.

A book board mender, I am not.  Is the solution going to be buying a new Bizzy Bear book?

board books · OBSERVATIONS · slice of life

The Good Kind of Toddler Silence

20121008-155115.jpg A few times a day, for the past few days, I’ve heard silence. While I like a quiet, calm, peaceful house, I don’t like a silent house. Silent usually means someone (Isabelle) is usually involved in something they shouldn’t be doing. For instance, yesterday I found her up in her closet happily ripping the one piece of tissue paper into many tiny pieces. (It was left inside a shoebox and somehow she found it!)

When I didn’t hear anything from Isabelle for about two minutes after washing the breakfast dishes this morning, I went looking for her, expecting the worst. Had she figured out how to disengage the child lock on the bathroom door so she could unroll the toilet paper? Was she trying to climb up or into something? Did she wiggle her way behind the wall unit to play with the lamp cord? My mind raced as I tried to find her. She wasn’t in her usual spots. Knowing that she couldn’t climb the stairs, I looked around the first floor of our house a second time. She wasn’t on the other side of the kitchen island. I circled my way into the dining room from the kitchen. Not there. I peeked into her play room and didn’t see her. But, I heard something. It was the sound of cardboard scratching on fabric. I looked down and almost directly under my line of vision was Isabelle. She had sidled her way into the corner of the room and was flipping through her board books. There were several board books on the floor in a semi-circle around her body. She was reading a Bizzy Bear book, playing with the cardboard pieces that move. Ahhh. This kind of “silence” was golden. Whew!

board books · OBSERVATIONS · picture books

Happy Home Reading Moments

From the moment my daughter woke up this morning, which was at the glorious time of 8:15 AM, she wanted to read! Our day has been full of reading. Here’s are the top three bright spots:
1). She helped put her board and picture books away in the appropriate baskets, with my guidance, after she read them.
2). She attempted to repeat words my husband said as they read aloud to each other.
3). She began pressing the correct dots in Hervé Tullet’s Press Here.