Saturday, January 29, 2011

Library Books We Are Sad to Return

Oh, Ann Arbor District Library! You have such lovely books. Since I have 166 items checked out and 29 on hold, I think it's time for a bit of returning. Some books we have had checked out for so long, they felt like a part of our own library. But at close to 200 items, some pruning was necessary. Too much makes it hard to use what you've got!

The Pencil by Allan Ahlberg (Quirky story. A pencil caters to his creations until the eraser starts causing some problems. Ahlberg is a gem.)

Lights Out by Arthur Geisert (Fabulous pictures for a Rube Goldberg in training. Nearly wordless.)

Dogs by Emily Gravett (Clever concept book about dogs with a surprise narrator. Short text, I always enjoy Gravett's pictures.)

The Odd Egg by Emily Gravett (Clever book about Duck waiting for the egg he found to hatch along with the others. The hatching pages are use a cut-away-stair-step. Typical with Gravett's work, a surprise waits at the end. Very satisfying.)

Wolves by Emily Gravett (Rabbit is worried about wolves, so he checks out a book about them. I really relate to the library usage! Two endings.)

Chickens to the Rescue by John Himmelman (Cute, repeating phrase, day of the week structure, great use of pictures-especially for the ending)

Red Rubber Boot Day by Mary Lyn Ray (Perfect poetry. Celebrates the little things in life. I love how the child fills the day, simply and with joy. The perfect gift for a toddler- of course accompanied by red rubber boots.)

Duck! Rabbit! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld (Clever book- two off the page characters are arguing over whether they see a duck or a rabbit.

My Baseball Book by Gail Gibbons (Short little nonfiction book. Great for introducing a sport- nice features, such as diagrams, captions and labels.)

Millie Waits for the Mail by Alexander Steffensmeier (Sweet story- fabulous pictures. Millie the cow enjoys scaring the mailman until the day she takes it too far! Nice story arc.)

One Boy by Laura Vaccaro Seeger (Counting Book. Great cutaways to frame pictures and for word work.)

The Circus Ship by Chris Van Dusen (Amazing pictures- the kids loved the page where the animals are hiding. We fell in love with the illustrations in Mercy Watson books- and so we looked up his work. Does not disappoint!)

If I Built a Car by Chris Van Dusen (Funny- great book for a kid in Detroit!)

Chester by Melanie Watt (Melanie Watt and Chester the cat share the pen. It doesn't always go so well... And it's a hoot. Watt never disappoints.)

Every Friday by Dan Yaccarino (This starts with a note about the author eats breakfast with his son every Friday- the text is perfect, simple, and tight. The pictures are retro and modern at the same time. I love the celebration of ritual in our daily lives.)

Thank you, books! You will be missed, and we hope to see you again!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

More on Play

"It's interesting to me that when we talk about play today,
the first thing that comes to mind are toys.
Whereas when I would think of play in the 19th century,
I would think of activity rather than an object."

I ran across an old interview on NPR that talks about play and it's recent focus on toys rather than activity and the resulting negative impact on self-regulation. Self-regulation is the greatest indicator of academic success, but I also think the social implications are important, too. Kids who can self-regulate feel good in groups- and alone. And this is important, too. Imaginative play really fosters growth in self-regulation. We must protect play.

It's interesting to me --as a classroom teacher and as a parent-- to see kids (and adults) who consistently can't fill time alone. Their play is about stuff; it's not about ideas. They need electronics, TV, structured activities, some outside stimulus.

Kids need less
stuff. Kids need to have time and space for sustained play. Kids need breaks from screens (their own and their parents' cell phones, computers, TV). Kids need to breathe fresh air and to exercise their bodies and their minds. Kids need to connect- in person- with others and also themselves.

It's interesting to me that people will elevate play when facing studies that link play with academics
, but, really, we should just have children playing because they enjoy it and it's what they are supposed to do.

I'm not sure if schools alone can "fix" this. If self-regulation isn't learned in play, it takes much longer to develop. How do we fix this? I think carving some time in lower grades for play, protecting recess and special areas, looking at supporting play in child-care environments, and by starting conversations with families about play in all it's simplicity and necessity would be a great start. Another great start is teaching grown-ups to personally embrace play: hiking, sewing, tap dancing, singing, joking, wine-tasting, pond skating, and coming together with others.

Maybe this rant isn't about protecting play. Maybe it's really about why I don't need to clean our basement. It's not a mess; the kids are just self-regulating down there.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Idiot Box

Yesterday was one of those days. Claude was up early. So we let her watch a few shows.

What started as an early-morning ended up being a running-late-morning.

Clearly, TV and mornings don't work in our house. During winter break, we put morning TV on holiday hiatus. By 8:30 am the children had eaten breakfast, read books, gotten dressed, played play-doh, and made holiday cards. It was amazing.

So after yesterday's shenanigans (and seeing Claude stare slack-jawed at the youtube clip on the computer at Childwatch), I have reinstated the morning hiatus. And today, it was greeted without a fuss. Instead, Claude climbed in our bed at 7:15, snuggled for a spell, and then asked her Daddy to read her a book.

Now, we live in a house where the TV rests in a cabinet with closed doors. It is not played after school-- we are too busy with the ice rink and dress up and the park. We are careful and cautious about media usage. That being said, I have relied on TV to make dinner, place a work call, or get through a sick day. But it's disturbing to add up a child's weekly media usage (iphone games, computer, TV, etc) and realize they essentially have a part-time job. And it's also upsetting to see TVs in schools, restaurants, child-care environments, airports, and stores just providing noise. Also, children are so impressionable to advertising. After watching a hockey game on TV, Francis insisted, in an Australian accent, that I needed the Jupiter Jack.

So, today, we turned the TV off and had a very peaceful start to our day. It did mean that Blaine and I had to drag our tushes out of bed a bit sooner, losing that respite that Dora the Explorer could provide.

To that I say: Roderiques, 1: TV, 0.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

More Mo!

A while ago, Francis made this sweet card for Mo Willems at 826 Michigan drop-in writing (for ages 6-8). I scanned it because it was so cute, but Mo got the original.

Fran even wrote a thoughtful note with suggestions for Mo's next Elephant and Piggie book.

So you can imagine our surprise when this came in the mail today for Fran:

All we can say is, we want more Mo! We can't get enough of that guy! And we loved his shout out to 826.

Monday, January 10, 2011

First the Good News...and Then the Bad.

Now this is good news.

An Ann Arbor illustrator has won the Caldecott!

And here's the bad news: there are now 25 holds on the lovely book I have checked out.

Update (1/14/10): 65 holds!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Two Great Articles on Play

Watching screen time and having big chunks of time for sustained play are always on my mind. I think play is what makes great writers, happy people, self-directed learners, risk-takers, and enhances your socially savvy.

Here are two great articles: one from The New York Times and one from

It kind of makes me want to build a fort.

December Was Busy...

December will need a wrap up post (at some point.) We had a spontaneous production of "A Charlie Brown Christmas", an "ice rink" in the basement, a book party, lovely dinner parties, and Claude's insistence on reading everything by her-own-self.

But we were also busy doing stuff like this:

Happy New Year from The Reading and Writing House!