Posts Tagged ‘children’s books’

Since we recently finished a book during our nightly read aloud time, I decided the girls were old enough to listen to this book without any nightmares. Inside My Feet The Story of a Giant by Richard Kennedy is not a long book, but it grabs your attention entirely. I first heard this book as a read aloud when I was in college. Mr. Newhouse, my instructor for my children’s literature class, read a bit of this book aloud each week at the beginning of class. When I came upon a copy of it, I snatched it up even though I had no children at the time and was not sure I would use it in my own teaching.

In this book a boy’s parents are taken away in the middle of the night, one by one. A knock on the door rouses everyone from bed. The father goes down and finds no one there, but a pair of extraordinarily large boots. He brings them inside, which is his first mistake. The story continues with the boy, of course, being the one who figures out how his parents are taken and manages not to be taken himself. He then must figure out a plan to save his parents and not be taken when the boots come back.

We have just finished reading Meet the Austins by Madeline L’Engle. As I was looking at the comments on Amazon I discovered there is a chapter that I have never read of this book that was not included in the original edition (and not the edition that we have from when I was a kid.) Now I think I must drop by the local used book store this week and see if they have a newer version with this missing chapter or use some Amazon gift cards to get it.

This is the cover I have

Madeline L’Engle was one of my favorite authors as I was growing up, so I was excited to introduce her to my daughters. I figured that the Austins would be a bit of an easier introduction than the tesseracts in The Wrinkle in Time series. I truly enjoyed the family in this series. It is a family of four (plus one more) children with a mother and a father in the home. The family plays lots of classical music (as my father did when I was growing up), they say grace at meals, kids have responsibilities as part of the family, they have fun together, but the kids also get in trouble with some of the decisions they make. L’Engle makes them feel like a real family to me. There are real consequences for making wrong decisions, like a broken arm and mouth from going out on a bicycle after dark. This book in the series revolves around a new child who comes to stay with the Austins because her father has died in a plane crash. There are adjustments to be made by everyone.

Another recent read was A View from Saturday by E. L. Konigsburg. I discovered this one while I was teaching fifth and sixth grade at a private school in Maryland. When I read it aloud to my students there I made a bulletin board to help see the connections between all the characters in the story. This story is written from different perspectives. Each of the four members of the sixth grade academic bowl team tells a story, with intervals between describing what is going on with the team and their teacher. My youngest daughter keeps talking about tea being served at 4 o’clock which comes from an episode in this book. I like how the author shows why each student would know the answer to the questions from the academic bowl championship through the stories of events in their pasts. I made sure we discussed the relationships between the characters while we read this aloud since I am not sure we have read any books before that change who is telling the story during the book.

Read Full Post »

I think I have found a good one. I was at the local used book store searching for American Girl books for my older daughter when I came upon a copy of The 20th Century Children’s Book Treasury selected by Janet Schulman for three dollars.

Upon glancing through the book, I realized that we actually owned many of the books inside. However, I realize at some point we will have to pass on some of our books to other children. With this book in hand, I will be able to still keep the story, but pass on the separate book.

One note, however, several of the illustrations are left out of this book in the interest of space. For example, we own Stellaluna and won’t be giving up our separate copy because there is so much more to the book if you can see all the illustrations.

Some of the books included are: Curious George, Madeline, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, Petunia, Ferdinand, Harry the Dirty Dog, Owen, Babar, Good Night Moon, and Miss Nelson is Missing.

If you need to give a book to a family with a young child, this would be a lovely addition, especially for a family short on space.

I have also discovered in the process of writing this post that the book has its own website.

Read Full Post »

Since my oldest daughter started first grade last week, we made it to the library to get new books on Friday. We managed to get a bunch of books, but my three and a half year old’s favorite, by far, is The Origami Master, by Nathaniel Lachenmeyer and illustrated by Aki Sogabe.

I found this book on the new children’s books shelf at our local library. The illustrations caught my eye and then when I saw it involved origami, I put it in my bag. I am glad that I did since my three and a half year old has had me read it at least five times since Friday and has also been seen “reading” it herself.

In the story, the main character is a man who likes to do origami. A bird decides to build a nest outside his door and watches him create animals from origami. The bird then comes in at night to make its own origami creations. The man is impressed and curious about the origami animals that show up overnight. He discovers the creator and captures it. Of course, this leads to no more origami and the feared loss of a new friend. All turns out okay in the end.

The book also features the directions to make an origami bird at the end of the book. I will be trying this out, perhaps tomorrow, for my three and a half year old.

Read Full Post »

Young children are just beginning to discover the world around them. For toddlers and preschoolers, the neighborhood is their world. So, learning signs for the places and people in their neighborhood seems like an important theme.


I had a hard time finding the perfect book or set of books for this theme. Perhaps one day I will try to write a book called, “A Walk Through the Neighborhood.” There were several good books to help teach about each of the places and people in the neighborhood, but finding a good, simple book that included most of the words for the signs I included in this theme was difficult. Perhaps I will come upon one later, or a reader of this blog will share one he or she discovers.

The Post Office Book: Mail and how It Moves shares many details about mail. With young children, looking at the pictures and paraphrasing might be best.

Although I did not use The Jolly Postman with my playgroup, it is a fun read to do one on one with a child. It has fun letters inside the book that can be taken out and read. In our household, my daughter took them all out and now I am not sure they are back in the correct spots, lol.

My three year old loves Froggy Goes To The Doctor, which is a good book to use to introduce or remind a child about doctor’s visits.

This is another book with quite a bit of detail. Depending upon the age range of a playgroup, it might be used to look at the pictures of the different areas of the store and to review food signs.

I would suggest the board book version of Policeman Small because it is much shorter and more manageable for young children.

For those really interested in firefighters, this book contains much information. With its large photos, this book is good for glancing through the pages and sharing some of the information along with practicing the sign for firefighter in a playgroup setting.

All Around Town! : exploring your community through craft fun has several ideas for crafts, songs, and activities to go along with this theme.


For this theme, I set up the room as a walk through the neighborhood. I had the following stations set up:

1. Mailbox: Kids get a chance to play with the mailbox, getting mail, and delivering mail. At this station I share a book about the mail and practice signs for mail/letter, stamp, mail box, and letter carrier.

2. Doctor kit: Children can play with a doctor kit, taking turns being doctor, nurse, and patient. We practice the signs for doctor and nurse.

3. Beanbag/ball toss: I use paper plates as targets. Each paper plate has a person from the neighborhood on it, which are paper dolls found at Making Friends. Each child tosses a bean bag or suction ball onto a plate. Whichever person the ball/bag lands on must be signed. I used firefighter, doctor, nurse, and police officer.

4. Store: For this station, I have a cash register, along with a basket of groceries. Kids take turns using items and we practice the sign for store. Other signs that could be taught include: buy, money, food signs. At this station I may also share a book about the supermarket.

5. Restaurant: A table with dishes, cups, and utensils makes this station. Kids take turns having their orders taken at the restaurant. We practice the sign for restaurant and can also practice food signs and signs for cup, plate, fork, spoon, knife.

6. Library: For this station, we go to the table kids are used to using for stories and we learn the sign for library and read one or two books. I found a magazine with a library scene to use here and read Policeman Small and perhaps share a fireman book. I happen to have some small fire trucks and police cars from kids’ meals that I let the kids play with here as well.


I have some community stencils that I picked up on clearance from Oriental Trading Company that I use for this theme. Another option is having the kids color and/or glue clothes on paper dolls from Making Friends.


1. Signing Time! has two songs appropriate for this theme: “In My Neighborhood” and “My Job.” I usually start the playgroup by watching those two songs on dvd and then end by listening and trying to sign along with one or both at the end of the playgroup. These are found on the My Neighborhood dvd.

2. The All Around Town book mentioned above has two song ideas in it. One is about a policeman and is to the tune of “I’m a Little Teapot.” The other is about a postman and is to the tune of “Jingle Bells.”

With every theme, I find pictures of the items we will be learning the signs for, laminate them and hold them up as I teach the signs. These pictures can then be used in various simple games since they are laminated.

If you have found other resources for this theme, please let me know. I would love to add new ideas to each of these themes.

Read Full Post »

I showed you these a few days ago, so now it is time to show you my finished puppet. I am really happy with how he turned out. He is a lovely shade of bright green, with a huge smile. His crown is complete with red and purple beads.

Now I just need to decide which puppet to create next. I am not sure whether I will keep going with the fairy tale theme, or branch off into some other animals that might be useful for the preschool Vacation Bible School theme at our church this summer.

I have just realized that the only Frog Prince book we own is The Frog Prince Continued by Jon Scieszka. I guess I need to head to the library and check some more of them out to pick my favorite version. I do enjoy the Scieszka version, which tells what happens after the story ends.

ASL Sign for the Post: To sign frog, you put your dominant hand under your chin and flip out your index and middle finger a couple times.

Read Full Post »

Teaching toddlers and preschoolers to recognize colors by name is a popular theme without even considering teaching the ASL signs to go with them. There are many resources available to teach colors that can be adapted to learning the ASL signs. I have compiled a few of my favorites here that I have used with toddlers and preschoolers.


I do not own as many books with colors as a theme as I do farm animals; however I do have a couple that we really enjoy. I have also discovered some at our local library while researching this theme.

1. Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin, with illustrations by Eric Carle is a classic. There are two versions of this book. We happen to own both. I have one version that ends with a teacher and one that ends with a mother. I personally like the illustrations better in the mother one, but our teacher version is larger, so I may use that in a playgroup with several children to help with seeing the book. This book has lots of animals that you can sign as well.

2. Mouse Paint by Ellen Stoll Walsh is another great colors book. In this one, some mice end up playing with paint. Children can learn about mixing colors with this book as well.

3. Dog’s Colorful Day by Emma Dodd involves a dog getting into different messes throughout the day that add colorful spots to his coat. The colors can be identified as well as counted.

4. My Crayons Talk by Patricia Hubbard, with illustrations by G. Brian Karas is a new find today at the library. It has a catchy rhyming quality to it and the illustrations look like they could have been done with crayons, at least in part.

5. Leon the Chameleon by Melanie Watt is the story of a chameleon who cannot turn the correct color. He always turns the opposite color. Since the whole page is one color and Leo is the opposite, it makes it easy for kids to find Leo and sign his color. You can also sign the color he should have turned.

6. Magpie Magic by April Wilson is an absolute delight to read, although there are no words.. The illustrations jump from the page as the story unfolds, just as the magpie in the story jumps from the page. This one might be hard for sharing with younger kids, but my three year old told me tonight that I needed to share it with the playgroup. I think the person sharing it would have to ask lots of questions of the kids as the pages were shown to get them to figure out the story.

7. A printable book of colors is available at kiddyhouse. You may need to search under Lesson Plans and then Colors to find the page. You need a pdf reader to print the book.

I also made a book of colors using my Cricut cutting machine. I made the animals from Brown Bear, Brown Bear and just put the color word with the animal. I added the colors that were not in the story that I also wanted to teach.


There are several games for a variety of age groups available on the internet to print out with a color theme. I will try to compile the ones I have used here, although it is a year since I printed some of them out and I may not be able to find them all again.

1. Fishing Game: I cut out fish in each color that I was teaching with my Cricut machine, but you could easily draw a simple fish to cut out by hand. I then laminated the fish and attached magnets to them. For fishing poles, I use dowels with a string that has a nut tied to the end. As each child catches a fish, he or she must sign the color that was caught.
2. Memory/Matching Game: I found graphics of various items that were in each of the colors as well as drawings of each of the signs. Match the sign to the correct color graphic.
3. Board Game: I found a website that offered simple one page board games to print out. I printed out a couple on card stock and laminated them. I then used some more of the graphics as cards for the game. Kids pick a card, sign the color, and then roll the die to see how many spaces to go.
4. Parachute play: I have a parachute with the colors. Kids can be asked to go to their favorite color and then sign it. The instructor can sign a color and have kids go to the color. An object can be placed in the parachute and the group works together to make the object go to the color that is signed.
5. Go Fish Card Game: For preschoolers, the cards at this ESL site could be used. They also have a BINGO game on the site for colors. Many ESL sites have simple games that can be adapted for use in learning ASL.


1. Signing Time! has “Do You Know the Colors of the Rainbow?” as well as the “Box of Crayons” song.
2. There is also a “Colors” song on Games, Games, Games from Wee Sing.


For a craft for this playgroup theme, I found a book of colors, “My Itsy Bitsy Colors Book” at kidzone. They also have minibooks on individual colors available for printout.

Read Full Post »

I just finished making this pillow for my youngest daughter. She loves purple and picked out the yarn with me at the craft store. She brought it with her to bed tonight and as we were saying our good nights, she turned it upside down and told me, “This is what a W looks like.” Pretty good for a three year old.

I also made a letter L for my oldest daughter, but she has not let me have it to take a photo yet; she currently has it wearing a pink leg warmer as a sweater. Hers is made from yarn that changes colors and was my first attempt at following the letter patterns I found. If I have a reason to do “L” again, I think I will make some changes to it because either my gauge is off (pattern did not mention gauge), or some of the pattern has some problems.

A few children’s books come to mind that start with M. My daughter loves reading Jan Brett books, which have incredible illustrations. The Mitten is very popular with preschool and kindergarten teachers, so if you have not read it with your child, I am sure a teacher will. The author has an awesome website, with many, many fun activities.

One we have read aloud with my six year old is Morning Girl by Michael Dorris. This story has short chapters, so it is good for a child just learning to listen to books that take more than one sitting to read. It goes back and forth between two characters as well, which is another, more advanced way of storytelling that could be introduced with this book.

I read The Midwife’s Apprentice by Karen Cushman to my sixth grade students when I taught about the Middle Ages. I look forward to sharing it with my daughters when they get a bit older. Because of the unfamiliar setting, there would just be too much explaining to do with each page for my daughters to get much out of it yet.

ASL sign for the post: The letter M is made by putting your thumb under your index, middle, and ring finger, and over your pinkie. You do not need to fold your index, middle, and ring fingers all the way down. This would take too long when fingerspelling. (I tried to copy the free image from wikipedia, but it kept turning out black, so you can click on the link above (letter M) to see it.)

Read Full Post »

Easter cookies 1

My mother in law was kind enough to purchase some Easter themed cookie cutters for us to use this year. We made the dough yesterday and rolled, baked and decorated today. As you can see from the different cookies, I have a three and a six year old. We used plastic bags with the corners snipped out as our decorating bags since that seemed like a better idea than trying to use something more complex that required more cleaning and greater dexterity.

Easter cookies 2

The cookie cutters worked fairly well, except for the basket. It seemed to have too much pattern to it and the dough got all stuck in it. So, only two baskets. The chicks also had difficulty coming out with legs attached, as you can see from the photos.

Another part of preparing for Easter involved reading a book called The Easter Story retold and illustrated by Carol Heyer. This book was a great one for my six year old daughter; she was very excited to pick it out from the new books section of our home library as a reward for a great day.

Read Full Post »

Why are farm animals so popular in children’s books and why do we spend so much time teaching our babies how to make animal noises? I am not sure, but I do know that animal themes are easy to plan and great for engaging young children. I like doing a farm animal theme in the spring; sometime I would like to coordinate a field trip to the local farm park to practice signing our animals as we see them in person.


There are many books that include farm animals, so most families with young children probably know or own a few. Here are a few of the ones I have used with my playgroup:

1. Peek-a-Moo is a simple lift a flap book with several farm animals playing peek-a-boo. To get the children engaged, ask them to sign which animal they think will be under the flap. This is a good book for the very young because there are lots of clues to make it simple to guess the animal.

2. Big Red Barn by Margaret Wise Brown and illustrated by Felicia
Bond was a new book for me last year, even though I was familiar with the author and had read several of her books with my girls. Look for the stuffed animal that reminds me of Ernie from Sesame Street laying out next to the haystack in this one.

3. The Very Busy Spider by Eric Carle is a book that we actually have two copies of at home. One is available as a lift a flap, while another has texture to feel the spider’s web. I had forgotten to get this one out last week. I may grab this one for next week’s playgroup.

4. I Went Walking is another simple book great for signing farm animals. I was introduced to this one by one of our speech therapists.

5. Old Macdonald Had A Farm by Carol Jones is a great book version of the song. It has small peeking circles to look through to guess which animal will be next in the song. This is a book that might involve lots of noise as the kids get excited about guessing. Remind them to sign the animal when they know it instead of yelling.

6. Skip To My Lou is another book version of a song that has plenty of farm animals in it. You could use either the book or the song, or both in a playgroup.


I own a bowling set for toddlers and preschoolers that is mostly farm animals so I bring it along and have the kids bowl. Whichever animals they bowl over (or kick over if they are really young) they need to sign. There is a set at Genius Babies that is all farm animals, but if you are on a budget you could easily make your own using some small sized plastic bottles and pictures of farm animals drawn or printed out from the internet.

For the playgroup that is more preschooler than toddler, try out Farm Bingo at BOGGLESWORLDESL.COM. I suggest using the three by three Bingo boards, otherwise it is too overwhelming and preschoolers will soon lose interest. I sign the animal and then the kids cover up the animal they think I signed. I printed these on card stock and laminated them to make them sturdy and reusable.

To make a matching game, print out the farm animal cards from TeachChildrenESL. I printed one set of the farm animals and then made up a set of cards the same size with drawings of the signs from a book that allowed photocopies for educational use. You could use photos of yourself making the signs or drawings of the signs as well.


1. Old Macdonald is one that most kids know. This makes it easier for them to concentrate on the signs. You could use the song from a kids’ songs compilation like Wee Sing, but I usually just sing it myself and ask the kids to join in. I don’t say the animals, only sign them and expect the kids to sign and sing them.

2. Skip to my Lou is another that could be sung, listened to, or read. Since that one might be a little less well known, you might want to read it, then either sing it or listen to it and try to do the signs for animals mentioned.

3. Leah’s Farm is found on the music for volumes 7-9 of Signing Time!. I like to start out my signing playgroup by playing just the song from the video, then later on play the song and see if the kids can sign the animals along with the song.

4. Hear the Little Doggie is found on the Pick Me Up! cd and book set. This song has great real life animal sounds that really grab kids’ attention.


I have two different crafts I have done for this theme. One is fairly simple, while the other involves some planning and time to complete.

1. Enchanted Learning has a simple Farm Animal Word Book available to print out for each child. I had the kids color the animals, try to write the word (preschoolers), and gave them drawings of the signs to paste into the book.

2. For a more complex idea, I came up with a lift the flap book. I used the eight page book idea found in this pdf file. I used white card stock and premade the eight page books. Then, I used my Cricut to cut out farm animals. You could also find small drawing of farm animals online to use for this purpose. For each inside page, I made a flap in the following manner: I cut out a piece of contrasting card stock approximated 4 by 2 inches. I folded it in half and glued it into the book. I also made copies of drawings of the signs that would fit on the top of the flap.

Once at the playgroup, kids were given the book, the cutouts of the animals, and the drawings of the signs. With a parent’s help, they glued the animals under the flaps and the matching signs on top of the flaps.

Read Full Post »

Doesn’t every little girl love ballerinas? After finishing Rapunzel, I had some new ideas for my puppets’ hair. I decided a ballerina would be the perfect puppet for trying a new design idea. Although ballerinas often wear their hair in a bun, I think girls love dolls with long hair; this ballerina has her hair up and out of the way, but still has all that lovely hair to swing around.

To make the ASL sign for dance, make one hand be the floor and the pointer and middle finger of the other hand the legs dancing. The Lifeprint site shows the sign, with the first row showing dance and the second row showing the part to add to make it dancer. Kindersigns shows the sign for dance, with an animated cartoon. (Don’t count on different baby sign programs to use all ASL; many use some made up signs as well.)

If the special girl in your life loves ballerinas, she has probably already read or seen Angelina Ballerina. We have two Angelina videos in our home as well as one book, a couple sticker books, and matching dolls. The books are actually fairly well done, since they came before the shows and commercial craze for the character. Of course, I have mostly seen the books that came before the show, so ones based upon the show may be of lower quality.

My daughter picked this book at the library, expecting the main character to like ballet. Instead, the main character is a tomboy who likes baseball. She does end up enjoying ballet at the end, but it is mostly her friend who comes to love it.

For those who have daughters who are just coming into the age of ballerina love, check out Bella Ballerina. We actually own this one as well as the Swan Lake version. (I got the Swan Lake one for five dollars due to the box being broken.) They are definitely fun for the girls; although now that my older daughter takes ballet, she does not use it as often. The youngest will sometimes want to just watch the video and whenever there are friends over who do not have it, they want to watch it and get out the dance mats.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »