Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

The power of favourite colours

Saturday, April 26th, 2008

Reid wanted toast with peanut butter Friday morning and I told her she’d have to wait until Saturday. I’m worried that we’d miss a spec of peanut butter when we washed and she’d touch a kid at daycare who would then go into anaphylactic shock. She asked if anyone in our family was allergic to peanut butter and there isn’t anyone – thank goodness. Next, Reid wanted to know to what we *were* allergic. I said that Ken is allergic to flowers and pine trees and, before I could think of how to explain “pollen generally”, Reid interrupted me. “But not his favourite colour flowers,” she said. Favourite colours, in Ken’s case that would be red, are strong talismen in Reid’s life. It makes her happy to wear, colour with or eat from anything that is yellow. It even makes her happy to see Ken or me wear, use, etc. something that is our favourite colour. Reid has great empathy for the little girl in the book Red is Best by Kathy Stinson. Like that little girl, Reid knows that she can take bigger steps in (yellow) boots, throw snowballs farther in (yellow) mittens and that (yellow) paint puts a song in her head. Red is Best is one of Reid’s favourite books and that doesn’t surprise me at all.

Changing cultural references

Wednesday, April 9th, 2008

The last time we visited the Canada Agricultural Museum, I noticed that I’m not merely “unhip” in adult culture but also in kid’s culture. Reid and I were talking about “Eeyore” and I made a comment about Winnie the Pooh and his friends. I love how the farm has named their donkey after the Winnie the Pooh character. Kids don’t require originality. They prefer the comfort of what is known.

A bit later, another family was enjoying their time with Eeyore. I heard the dad say, “Look, it’s like ‘Donkey‘ from Shrek.” I was tempted to rush over and say, “No, no. It’s ‘Eeyore’ from Winnie the Pooh. Don’t you read A.A. Milne?” But I remembered:
1. It was none of my business.
2. I don’t appreciate parenting tips from strangers.
3. The characters in the A.A. Milne stories have some flaws* that I’m not so keen on. Maybe ‘Donkey’ and Shrek offere a better set of role models.

* At the risk of sounding like I over-analyze things, which I do, of course I offer the following character assessments, with some ideas supplied by Ken:

- Winnie the Pooh: obsessed with honey, greedy and selfish about it, one must wonder if Winnie the Pooh represents an alcoholic;
- Rabbit: perpetually in a bad mood, rude and hostile, Rabbit is one of those “so called friends” that takes much more than they give from a relationship;
- Piglet: timid and small, Piglet relies on others rather than seeking self-sufficiency;
- Eeyore: clearly a character who needs hugs and possibly even psychiatric treatment, his friends are too self-absorbed to offer comfort or counselling;
- Tigger: not such a major player in the original stories, self-aggrandizing – “the most wonderful thing about Tiggers is that I’m the only one”;
- Owl: know-it-all who clearly doesn’t know nearly so much as he claims;
- Kanga and Roo: the only female character, Kanga, is given relevance and completion only by virtue of being mother to Roo; and
- Christopher Robin: if he really loved these stuffed animals, why would he leave them in a forest to molder and rot?

I should go and choose a Winnie the Pooh book to read to Reid tonight.

Have you read a banned book this week? – Freedom to Read Week

Saturday, March 1st, 2008

Freedom to Read Week is almost over but I wanted to mention it, nonetheless. The Freedom to Read site has many resources that describe various ways that members of the public – alone and in groups – and various governments have attempted to limit what people are able to read. My favourite sections, though, are the list of banned books and the results from the survey that the Canadian Library Association, in partnership with the Book and Periodical Council, sends to Canadian librarians about which books, magazines and DVDs have been challenged in the past year. I used it as inspiration to purchase a book for Reid. None of the picture books challenged or banned in Canada since 2000 were available at an Ottawa-area Chapters, Coles, etc., although they were available for order. I did find a copy of And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson at After Stonewall, a bookstore that specializes in literature with gay, lesbian and bisexual themes and a copy of And Tango Makes Three and The Basketball Player by Roch Carrier is available through the Ottawa Public Library.

And Tango Makes Three was identified by the American Library Association as the most frequently challenged book in U.S. public libraries. It was also removed from the collection of the Calgary Catholic School District here in Canada. More importantly, perhaps, it has received a number of national book awards, including:

* ASPCA’s Henry Bergh Award (2005);
* Gustavus Myer Outstanding Book Award (2006);
* American Library Association Notable Children’s Book (2006); and
* Quite a few others, but you see where I’m going.

Having read the book, I have to say that I don’t agree that the book should have been banned but I do think that I understand why it has received so many awards.

And Tango Makes Three is the based on the true story of two male Chinstrap Penguins in New York’s Central Park Zoo who were observed trying to hatch a rock that resembled an egg. Zookeepers gave them the second egg of a mixed-sex penguin couple and Roy and Silo hatched and raised the chick as a family.

And Tango Makes Three features lovely watercolour illustrations of the zoo animals. The story tells of  “two penguins in the penguin house [who] were a little bit different” in that they were both males who liked to do everything together and the zoo keeper thinks to himself. “They must be in love”. And that is all of the talk of the sexuality of two of the three protagonists in the story. They don’t march in parades and wave placards demanding equal rights for same-sex couples; they don’t paint rainbows on their bellies and seek acceptance. The authors could have had their characters doing these things and would have been within rights. If the book tended toward activism, objections would be easier to understand. I wouldn’t agree with them but I would understand them better. What is especially troubling for me, is that this book is based on a true story. Those demanding it be banned are asking that the truth about part of nature be denied to children. If you have a chance, you should read it to your kids. They, and you, will appreciate the message about the importance of families - regardless of how they are constituted.

I have a history of reading banned books. When I was in highschool, Angel Dust Blues was pulled from the curriculum and I was one of the many who rushed out to the bookstore to buy a copy for myself. It seems to me that it was a letdown – a decent enough story with a mention of drug use. I’d never been into drugs but I didn’t see it as particularly outrageous and it certainly didn’t promote drug use. The bookseller told me that it wasn’t particularly popular until after it was pulled from the curriculum.

In addition to reading a banned book, you can free one through The Freedom to Read Week site describes this as particularly appropriate since banned books are often passed furitively around in cafes, on park benches and the like and those are the places where books are passed around through

Suggested Reading by Dylan

Friday, February 22nd, 2008

My niece, Melissa, sent along the following and it semed like the perfect “guest post”. To help with the reading, Melissa’s dad and Dar are Uncle Chris and Aunt Dar when I am writing:

Dylan slept over the other night at my dad & Dar’s and the following night he proceeded to tell me some bedtime stories.  I called my sister after he had fallen asleep to ask her about the stories he told and she said that they were books that she and my dad had read to him the night before.  He really likes them and was able to nearly recite them to me a full 24 hours later.  So, I thought that I’d let all you parents and grandparents know the titles of the books in case you happen to be looking to pick up some books for your (grand)children whether it be at a store or the library.
Happy Reading!!
Drat that Fat Cat by Pat Thomson
A tale of a cat that can’t seem to get enough to eat until he swallows a bee.  VERY CUTE!
Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes
About a mouse who’s name is Chrysanthemum and LOVES her name until she starts school and the story unfolds from there….another cute one.

Reid’s reading skills

Thursday, February 7th, 2008

Overheard at our house at bedtime:
“Row, row, row your gg-ohhh-tt. Row, row, row your ccc-ow-wuh.”
And so it continued as Reid “read” a favourite board book. I’m not sure why she decided to sound out the animals’ names but not the other words on each page. It was fun to hear her reading this book, which she has been able to recite for a year or two, in this way. I’ve taken it as a sign that I can show her words and ask her to sound them out.

We have also been playing a new game that Reid has devised. If I’m reading my own book and she wants to join in the fun, Reid will have me say a letter and then she will find it on the page. The text in my books is (obviously) small are more crowded than what Reid is used to but she finds the letters quite quickly. I’m sure this is an important pre-reading skill but sometimes she’d let me finish a chapter.

Speaking of chapters, the teachers at daycare noted on the activity board last week that they had read part of a chapter book to the kids. When we discussed it at home, Reid was talking about the tractor books at daycare. I don’t stop and correct Reid’s pronunciation, I just make sure to ennunciate clearly when using the word causing her trouble. Apparently I am not always subtle when I do this. I said, “And did you like the ‘CHAP-ter’ book that Christina read?” Reid replied, “The ‘TRAC-tor’ book was good.” Stalemate.

I followed the lead from Reid’s teachers and chose chapter books when we were at the library on Friday. I hadn’t ever noticed them but when I looked, they were hiding in plain sight next to the French board books in a section called “early readers”. I grabbed a few and noticed that early readers are in stages – if you can remember your own kids’ experiences at this age, indulge me for a bit – and while the level one is good for a child learning to read, it’s not what I want to be reading. I’m looking for novelty, folks, and books that are long enough that we don’t zoom through 10 at a sitting. An extended narrative would be nice. Level 3 early readers seem to work well for us and I’ve also borrowed Sarah’s copy of The Littles to see if Reid is ready for a book with a picture every couple of pages. I’m pretty sure Ken and I are.

Milestone my What to Expect book seemed to miss

Friday, February 1st, 2008

Reid has long been obsessed with bubble gum. I blame it on Aunt Karin and her bubble-blowing habits. Until the last few days, though, Reid has employed a chew-chew-swallow technique on those rare occasions that she has been allowed gum. There was that time that she tried to blow a bubble but spit the gum across the porch instead…  Just recently, though, I’ve discovered that Reid will chew and chew her gum. On Saturday the nice lady at Costco gave each of us a stick of Trident gum in some unmemorable flavour just before we got into the checkout line. I popped the whole piece in my mouth and reminded Reid that she needed to chew but not swallow and she nodded. When I was putting her into her car seat, Reid was still clutching half of her stick of gum and chewing on the other half. We drove home, unloaded and put away our groceries and then Ken made her throw the gum away before coming to the table for lunch. I was tempted to say, “No, let’s save it. It’s the first piece of gum that she chewed without swallowing.” (No, I wasn’t quite that sentimental but I’m sure that all of the piles of stuff around my house make more sense now.) She’s growing up, my little Reid, in many ways.

As a small digression: Where is my latest What to Expect book anyway? I remember looking at it when Reid was 2 for something or other.  Does it even cover girls who are 3 AND A HALF? I know that I read the pregnancy and baby versions cover to cover, along with the Mother of All Pregnancy and Mother of All Baby books, not to mention the Girlfriend’s Guides for the same periods while I was still pregnant. Once I had a kid, I was too busy parenting to read about how to do it.

Family Literacy Week, day 4

Friday, January 25th, 2008

I love the idea of calendars and lists and was excited to develop a list for our family based on the Kingston-based Centre for Expertise in Family Literacy in honour of  Family Literacy Week. We read a scrapbook based on things Reid has done on Monday just like my list said. Tuesday, though, was the puppet night but Reid wanted another scrapbook and we were late getting Reid to bed and so I didn’t mention the puppets again. The activity for Wednesday was making goop but we had a very slow supper and, well, no goop was made. Life interferes with my lists. I guess that is what I’m saying. And also that we’re not going to make it to the public library tonight per the list.

I *am* going to write about the library, though. Maybe that will count. The Ottawa Public Library Web presence is split in two: the libarary catalogue and the rest of the information. I spend most of my time on the catalogue site since I’m figuring out what books I have out, what fines I owe (it’s true, I do) and that sort of thing. When I was thinking of Family Literacy Week, I poked around the main site and discovered and re-encountered some good children and family literacy resources. I would encourage you to spend some time on your own library site but there are some good resources on the Ottawa Public Library site to see what you might be able to benefit from, even at a distance.

1. Every Kid a Card initiative – Encouraging children to use the library is a good thing to do in it’s own right but it’s also a bit about cash. The number of patrons affects budget decisions. Even if you’re not in Ottawa, I’d encourage you to go and get a library card for all of the people in your family. Your community will be all the better for it. If you’re a teacher in Ottawa, there is an Every Kid a Card Class Challenge running through February 28.
2. 123 Read with Me - Program to focus on infant literacy, in cooperation with the City of Ottawa, that gives new parents a cloth bag filled with information about literacy and libraries, The Incredible Directory (a parents resource list) and a certificate redeemable at any library branch for a free board book. 
3. Every Child Ready to Read intitiative, there are events and resources that focus on developing 6 pre-reading skills, including: vocabulary, narrative skills, letter knowledge, print motivation, print awareness and phonological awareness. The information is presented in easy-to-understand terms and is offered for children under 2, 2-3, 4-5.
4. Ready to Read Backpack - There are a selection of books (3 English and 3 French) chosen by librarians and grouped together in backpacks that are available near the checkout at pilot libraries. I’ve signed out a backpack a couple of times and am working on a review.
5. Newsletter and Preview, a quarterly magazine – The library offers many activities, like readings by authors, educational sessions for parents, contests and others, book clubs and much more. The newsletter and magazine help to keep track of these.
6. Podcast book reviews – Librarians do book reviews for a local radio station and they post them as podcasts.
7. Study Zone – Homework resources are always welcome.
8. Kids’ site – Split into a site for kids 5 and under that offers games that reinforce pre-reading skills and a “book club” for kids 6 and over, that allows them to publish book reviews, create online word games, publish Lost Chapters to your favourite books and create quizzes about books. Unfortunately for folks outside of Ottawa, the book club requires an Ottawa public library card to participate in a some of the activities.
9. Resources for book clubs – When I belonged to a book club, we tended to spend more time eating and talking but maybe with these resources, we would have talked more about the books.
10. Library Elf – The Ottawa Public Library catalogue works with this Internet-based tool for keeping track of what’s due, overdue and ready for pickup. You can have multiple cards associated with your email and not need to worry about your kids having books long after their turn is up. Or at least you will know what books to be looking for under the bed, the couch and elsewhere.

Does your library have something that you would like to share?

National Literacy Week, day 2

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2008

As I wrote Tuesday, National Literacy Week is underway. We didn’t do the puppet activity tonight as Reid was too interested in continuing to read scrapbook stories about herself. She is also asking for stories about when she was a baby (in my tummy and tiny on the outside), a little girl and a big girl. The latter category can include what she did the current day.

 A friend shared a link to an article listing 100 books every child should read. The list was produced in Great Britain but is sure to have books that you’re familiar with and others that you can look for. It is divided into the following categories:

* ‘If children are to become readers for life, they must first love
* 100 books every child should read – Part 1: Early years
* 100 books every child should read – Part 2: Middle years
* 100 books every child should read – Part 3: Early teens

The essay about instilling a love of reading is especially well-written. The writer talks of a boy listening to his mother read: He could hear it in her voice, in her laugh, in the tears in her eyes. He loved the fun, shared the sadness. He loved the music in the words. He never wanted storytime to end.

Then “unwillingly to school” he went, trudging the leafy pavements through pea-souper London smogs. From then on the stories were not magical, and they weren’t musical either. Words were to be properly spelled, properly punctuated, with neat handwriting. They were not story words any more, but nouns and pronouns and verbs. Later they were used for dictation and comprehension, and all was tested and marked. A multitude of red crosses and slashes covered his exercise books, like bloody cuts.

I dropped English as a major in university because of the way that books I enjoyed on the first read were detested by the time we were done covering them in class. I’ll have to remember this lesson as I read to Reid.

 What books would you put on your list of the 100 books all children should read?

Family Literacy Week has begun

Monday, January 21st, 2008

When I was noodling around for information about Family Literacy Day – this coming Sunday, if you’re keeping track – and I learned that many people celebrate the full week. It’s a bit like a kid’s birthday that goes on and on, I guess. Still the Centre for Expertise in Family Literacy site had activities for each day worth sharing with you and trying myself. They have activities for 0-3, 4-6, 7-9 and 10-13 year olds and their families. Reid, Ken and I will be trying:

* Monday – My Story: use family photos to make a book and read it together
* Tuesday – Puppet pal: Make a puppet using a sock or wooden spoon and do different voices and tell nursery rhymes (Today’s Parent has ideas if you’re stuck)
* Wednesday – Goop: Mix cornstarch with water to make a thick sauce. They don’t say this, but it would be fun trace letters in the goop if your child knows how to make letters or you could guide her/his hand.
* Thursday – Book look: Visit the public library and get a library card for your child. We renewed Reid’s library card in September as part of the Every Kid a Card campaign but she likes visiting the library whenever the opportunity arises.
* Friday – Moo Baa Fun: Sing Old MacDonald or other favourite animal songs
* Weekend – Clap, Snap, Tap: Dance to loud and soft music, dancing according to the rhythm. Clap or tap as singing a favourite song or nursery rhyme.

Some of the ideas for 4-6 year olds appeal to me, too, like playing I Spy for things that begin or end with the same sound, tracing the letters of Reid’s name using playdough snakes, and acting out a favourite story. I wonder if Reid would be able to help tell a story based on toys we pulled out of a bag. This sounds like an early version of the silly, collaborative stories that we did in school.

I’m planning to cheat a bit for today’s activity. Reid and I won’t get back from gymnastics until 6:45. I’ll read to Reid from a book that I’ve put together about watching sheep-shearing, baking cookies with Grandma Joyce and skating with the Sens or one about our trip to San Diego. We’ll make a new one together this coming weekend.

Edited to add link to the official site for Family Literacy Day.

If you give Reid black icing, don’t be surprised if she uses it

Tuesday, December 11th, 2007

Sari brought Dylan and Zachary over to visit first thing on Wednesday morning while Melissa was quilting. Poor Melissa was quilting like a madwoman to finish before she went on vacation but Reid and I were happy to take Dylan and Zachary even without her. I popped both Dylan and Reid into a stroller and took them to Auntie M’s while Sari put Zack to sleep. Dylan was feeling under the weather and so Reid offered him the seat but Dylan declined and climbed into the basket. Midway to Auntie M’s, he asked to switch and Reid did so happily. Since Dylan has about 6 centimetres on Reid, it was probably a good idea. At the yellow house, the kids ate the last 2 peanut butter-oatmeal-chocolate chip cookies that Auntie M had baked and Reid also talked Auntie M into giving her a tomato although not into letting her eat it like an apple. I took some pictures of Corey, the cat, under the Christmas tree. Some were really nice and I only did a bit of “staging”. Corey spends a lot of time under the tree, I’m told, and she looks to be in her element. I tried a couple with Max Doggy but the set up wasn’t right and I invited him to Grandma Joyce’s for a photo session instead. While I snuck downstairs to post a couple of blog entries, the kids watched part of the Poler Express. When we headed back to Grandma Joyce’s for lunch, we had the movie and a candy cane. Neither Dylan nor Reid wanted to leave. Auntie M was a good hostess. When Uncle Roger asked Reid later if she’d been at his yellow house, she said she hadn’t been.  He was at work and she was at Auntie M’s house. Uncle Roger tried to explain the concept of ownership in absentia but I’m not sure Reid bought it. I wonder who owns our house when Ken and I are both at work. They sure aren’t paying their share of the mortgage.

Uncle Chris came to Grandma Joyce’s for lunch and carrot pudding. Grandma Joyce has stopped making carrot pudding on holidays because people tend to fill up on pie and not eat much of the pudding. Instead, she makes a carrot pudding a bit later and shares it with Chris. This plan makes a lot of sense unless you’re a carrot pudding lover who lives far away and isn’t still around when the pudding is eventually made. Sometimes when I come, I ask for the carrot pudding. I had an interesting conversation with someone (my memory really is that bad) during this visit and the other person said that Grandma Joyce doesn’t make carrot pudding anymore. I had to explain about the delayed carrot puddings and Chris. Poor things, didn’t even know they were missing out.

When we got up from our nap, Brianna and, finally, George were there. When Reid spoke with Brianna at the Christmas party on Sunday, she asked about George. When we got to Aunt Pam’s on Tuesday night, Reid asked Brianna where George was. Perhaps Brianna was afraid that she wouldn’t be welcome at the family supper on Friday without George if he hadn’t made an appearance first. Reid enjoys spending time with George and was glad to see him, whatever the reason.

Once Sari was back from school, we got ourselves ready to decorate the sugar cookies that Grandma Joyce had made. Reid started with black icing and spread it on thick. I wasn’t as vigilant as might have been and suddenly noticed that the icing was thicker than the cookie in places. Reid did an admirable job of covering the whole cookie and just needed to remove some of the excess depth. Dylan was equally careful with his cookie but he was more fastidious. When his hands got icing on them, he washed them immediately. Reid continued with other cookies and other colours, as evidenced by the colours accenting her clothes and exposed body parts, but she returned often to the black. Someone joked about Reid being in a goth stage and we decided that it was good for her to get it over with early.

Sari had helped Grandma Joyce colour the icing and pointed out that a pot of orange icing was yellow. Reid and Dylan looked at Sari funny when she said it but seemed willing to go along with her. After a while, though, they were getting confused and so Sari decided that it would be acceptable to call it orange. All of the colours, even the yellow/orange, were beautifully vivid and Reid and I were certainly appreciative of Sari’s efforts.

Sari and Grandma Joyce took care with the cookies that they were decorating. They used toothpicks for the detail work. I hadn’t realized that it would be so hard-core. Melissa admitted that she had trouble watching Dylan do this sort of thing because she is a perfectionist. We all agreed that the restraint she showed in not directing his efforts made her a better person. Melissa’s cookies were beautifully decorated.

Reid volunteered to eat the first cookie to be sure that they would be good for the rest of us. Her mouth was soon as vividly blue as some of the smears on her arms. She gave Zachary a kiss and shared the blue. After one cookie, Reid asked for another but didn’t protest when her request was denied.

After supper, Dylan put on Reid’s Santa suit and posed for some pictures in front of the Christmas tree. With the natural light and tree lights, the pictures turned out to look as though they were taking in the 1970s. Dylan was super cute in any decade. Reid was interested in climbing on me while I took pictures of Dylan but she wasn’t tempted to take her turn in front of the camera.

I’d decided that Reid needed to get back to going to sleep and getting up at her usual times and so wasn’t sad that Grandma Joyce went shopping with Aunt Karin. Reid and I spent some time in the hot tub and then headed for bed. At 9:00, Reid was still awake and announced that she needed to go to the bathroom. I wasn’t sure if I was being scammed but it’s a pretty risky bet to take and so I let her get up. Just about the same time, Uncle Roger stopped in and I can imagine Reid pumping her arm and saying “Woo hoo!” very quietly. We got up and I had a tea with Uncle Roger while he played with Reid. Uncle Roger said that he’d read a story and then had to go home. “Why?” asked Reid as she rubbed her eyes (finally!) Uncle Roger explained it was late and began to read I Want a Dog for Christmas, Charlie Brown. Reid listened quietly for all but 1 page and 2 sentences and then came to snuggle with me while Uncle Roger read the last bit to himself. Reid and I were asleep before Uncle Roger finished the short trip to his house, I’m sure.