Category Archives: Picture books

appreciating and exploring poetry in lower primary classrooms

Appreciating and exploring poetry in lower primary classrooms – reblogged from readilearn

Poetry is a wonderful tool for learning language. When children listen to or recite poetry, they are learning the rhythms and sounds of language, exploring ideas and how to express them, expanding vocabularies, deepening understanding in nuances of meaning, and having fun with thoughts and their expression.

Children are exposed to rhythm and rhyme from their earliest days through nursery rhymes, chants and songs as well as the text of picture books. It is important for children to have opportunities for appreciating and exploring poetry into and throughout their school years. The Australian Curriculum places poetry firmly into the literature strand of English teaching each year. But it is not necessary to relegate poetry just to a poetry unit of work when stipulated by the curriculum. Poetry, rhymes, chants and songs can be easily incorporated into the daily class program.

Michael Rosen, who you may know as the author of Going on a Bear Hunt and who I previously introduced to you in this post, shares some recommendations for teaching poetry on his blog. Although the suggestions were written for a year one teacher, I think the suggestions could be extended out to other years. Following his recommendations would more than cover the expectations of the Australian Curriculum, and what a wonderful way to turn children (and yourself) onto poetry.

I’m only sharing a few of his recommendations here. Please visit his website to read the others.

Michael Rosen’s suggestions for teaching poetry

  • Get as many poetry books into your classroom as possible. Encourage the children in pairs to browse, choose and read.
  • Read poems to them every day, use vids of poets (check out Michael Rosen’s YouTube channel) , use national poetry archive. Writing poems with no poems in your head is too big an ask. Fill their heads with ‘What poetry can do’ ie loads of poems.

Continue reading: Appreciating and exploring poetry in lower primary classrooms – readilearn

Death - It's just a stage we're going to flash fiction

Death — It’s just a stage we’re going to

The Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Rodeo is over for another year and the weekly flash fiction challenges have resumed.

Carrot Ranch flash fiction challenge Day of the Dead

This week Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about the Day of the Dead. It can be the Mexican holiday, a modern adaptation of it, a similar remembrance, or something entirely new. Go where the prompt leads!

I would have to say that, here in Australia, we have been rather insulated from the Halloween phenomena until recent years and it was only very recently that I became aware of the Mexican holiday Dia De Los Muertos, which celebrates the dead, remembering them and celebrating with them as if they were alive. What a wonderful way of keeping the memory of loved ones who have passed, alive.

We are not very good about discussing death in our culture, especially with children. Rather than accepted as a normal stage of life, it is kept secret as if to be feared. Yes, none of us want to go before we’re ready, but there isn’t one of us, as far as I know, who has found the secret of living (in this Earthly lifetime) forever.

The Tiny Star

The-Tiny-Star by Mem Fox

Last week I had the absolute joy of attending the launch of a lovely new picture book The Tiny Star, written by Mem Fox and beautifully illustrated by Freya Blackwood. The book is a joyous celebration of life’s journey from the beginning when ‘a tiny star fell to earth and turned into a baby’ until its return to the night sky where it would be ‘loving them from afar and watching over them … forever.’ The book provides a beautiful opportunity for discussing, even with very young children, the passage of time and the passing of loved ones in a way that is sensitive, respectful and meaningful. It is a book, just like each ‘star’, to be treasured. You can hear Mem read the book by following the link in the book’s title above and listen to her discussing the book with illustrator Freya Blackwood in this video.

The Fix-It Man

The Fix-It Man by Dimity Powell

Another lovely picture book that deals well with the topic of death for young children is The Fix-It Man, written by Dimity Powell and illustrated by Nicky Johnston. The book deals, sensitively and honestly, with a child’s grief at the loss of a parent. The child discovers that her father, who is usually able to fix any broken thing, is unable to fix her sick mother. Together the child and father find a way to support and strengthen each other through their grief and come to terms with their loss.

The Forever Kid

The Forever Kid by Elizabeth Cummings

The Forever Kid, written by Elizabeth Cummings and illustrated by Cheri Hughes, is another lovely picture book that sensitively tackles the topic of death, this time with the loss of a sibling. Each day, on the ‘forever’ child’s birthday, the family keeps his memory alive by celebrating with his favourite activity—lying on their backs on the grass telling cloud stories. Families who have experienced the loss of a child may be moved to find their own ways of remembering and celebrating the life that was. (I interviewed Elizabeth about The Forever Kid for readilearn here.)

Flash fiction challenge

So, back to Charli’s challenge to write about the Day of the Dead. While Halloween and the Day of the Dead have similarities (perhaps more to the uninitiated than to those in the know), they are not the same thing. However, my story is probably more like Halloween than the Day of the Dead. Oh well, that’s where the prompt took me, maybe because of the discussion about Halloween not being an Australian tradition that arises at this time every year, and perhaps because, in the 80s (anyone else remember that far back?) we teachers were instructed to not do anything involving Halloween or witches in our classrooms. That has now been revoked and many teachers work a little fun into their program with Halloween-themed activities. (As I suggested on readilearn recently.)

Anyway, here goes.

Full Bags, Dying Heart

From his room, Johnny watched the parade of monsters and ghouls wending from door to door. They laughed and giggled, whooped and cheered, clutching bags bulging with candy.

“Get inside,” she’d admonished.

“Why?”

“It’s the devil’s work. Dressing up like dead people. It’s not our way.”

She’d dragged him inside, shut the door and turned off the lights.

“We don’t want those nasty children knocking on our door.”

“But, Mum. It’s Graham and Gerard and even sweet Sue …”

“Enough! Get to your room!”

He watched, puzzled—How could it be devil’s work? They were his friends having fun.

Thank you blog post

Thank you for reading.

Note: I would have liked to write a sequel to this where Johnny sneaks out and joins his friends, but I ran out of time. Maybe another time.

I appreciate your comments. Please share your thoughts.

 

empowerment through reading instruction

Empowerment through reading instruction – reblogged from readilearn

The importance of reading to children every day is never far from my mind. It comes from a passion for all things literacy as well as the knowledge that reading means empowerment. Reading is the key that unlocks so much that is meaningful in today’s world.

Whether at home or in the classroom, children need to listen to stories read aloud to them every day. It should be non-negotiable and prioritised. I would also add time for independent reading of self-selected material to that non-negotiable list and, in the classroom, time for independent writing on self-chosen topics.

Listening to stories benefits children in many ways; including, but not limited to:

  • Sheer enjoyment
  • Connection with others and other ideas which leads to understanding, respect and empathy
  • Exposure to language and vocabulary which in turns develops language and vocabulary
  • Positive feelings for books as a source of pleasure and information and a stimulus for imagination and creativity
  • A model of fluent and expressive reading behaviour that can be aspired to and emulate
  • A desire to read for oneself.

Keeping in mind that reading aloud to children and making time for their independent reading are non-negotiable and occur in the classroom every day, children also require purposeful instruction in the process of reading.

While some children appear to learn easily and without effort before starting school, as my own two children did, others struggle to understand the marks on the page. Most children fall somewhere on a continuum between, benefitting from instruction along the way.

The readilearn collection of teaching resources for teachers of the first three years of school includes many to support your teaching of reading. Many resources are free, others are available for no more than a few dollars, or you can access all the resources for one low annual subscription of just A$25. (That’s about £13, €15, US$17 or CAN$22) I’m sure you’ll agree that’s great value.

Browse resources now

readilearn supports teachers teaching reading

Reading aloud

As part of our support for reading aloud, on the readilearn blog we regularly conduct interviews with authors and illustrators about their new books. Many of these interviews are available to download free from the Author and Illustrator Spotlight resources.  We also publish free lists of books on different topics for you to download; for example,

multicultural picture book

Continue reading: Empowerment through reading instruction – readilearn

Pamela Wight discusses her new picture book Molly Finds Her Purr

A Purr-fect new picture book by Pamela Wight – readilearn

Today, I am talking with author Pamela Wight about her new picture book Molly Finds Her Purr. I previously introduced you to Pamela when her first picture book Birds of Paradise was released in 2017. You can read that interview here.

The importance of being true to yourself and the acknowledgment of the strength of friendship, even when differences exist, are strong themes in Pamela’s books.

Birds of Paradise is a delightful story of two sparrows Bert and Bessie who discover that friendship can unite even for two with very different attitudes to life.

In Molly Finds Her Purr, Molly the cat discovers that a purr comes from finding a circle of friends, and that friendship can be strong despite their outward differences.

Both books are beautifully illustrated by Shelley Steinle who has added a secret character for children to find on every page.

I am delighted that some of my words of praise for Birds of Paradise were used on the back cover of Molly Finds Her Purr. I wrote, “Shelly Steinle’s illustrations are gorgeous and perfectly complement Pamela Wight’s lovely story.” I could say exactly the same in praise of Molly Finds Her Purr.

A little about Pamela Wight

Pamela S. Wight writes fiction for children and adults. She is the published author of The Right Wrong Man and Twin Desires, and pens a popular weekly blog called Roughwighting (roughwighting.net). She teaches creative writing classes in the Boston and San Francisco areas. Her first picture book, Birds of Paradise, published in 2017, was a finalist in the 2018 International Book Awards.

About Molly Finds Her Purr

Continue reading: A Purr-fect new picture book by Pamela Wight – readilearn

Library For All - a Force for Equality through Literacy

Library For All — a Force for Equality through Literacy – readilearn

What is Library For All?

Library For All is an Australian not for profit organisation with a mission to “make knowledge accessible to all, equally” through a digital library of books that is available free to anyone anywhere in the world. The focus is on providing high quality, engaging, age appropriate and culturally relevant books to children in developing countries and remote areas.

Who can access Library For All?

Library For All found that, even in “communities where history, poverty or remoteness are everyday barriers to accessing knowledge”, many children have access to mobile phones, e-tablets and readers. Recognising this, the digital library was created which allows children anywhere to freely access reading material through the app, available in the Google Play Store on any Android device.

Teachers can also use the app with children in their classrooms. What a great way of accessing a range of culturally diverse books from simple beginning stories to chapter books.

In addition to their availability on locally owned smart phones and tablets, through the support of development organisations around the world, the books are available to many schools and communities in developing countries and remote areas through the Spark Digital Library Kits.

Continue reading: Library For All — a Force for Equality through Literacy – readilearn

I Can Swim a Rainbow by Kim Michelle Toft

Swim a Rainbow with Kim Michelle Toft – readilearn

Kim Michelle Toft is the author and illustrator of a collection of beautiful environmentally-themed picture books focussing on the conservation of marine environments. I have previously introduced you to Michelle when we spoke about her books The Underwater Twelve Days of Christmas and Coral Sea Dreaming.

Kim illustrates all her books with unique and beautiful silk paintings. You can view Kim’s painting process in videos that show 40 hours of work in two minutes on her website here.

In this post, to coincide with a special giveaway, we discuss her beautiful book I Can Swim a Rainbow.

About I Can Swim a Rainbow

I Can Swim a Rainbow adapts the lyrics of Arthur Hamilton’s song I Can Sing a Rainbow, with which most young children are familiar, to the colours of the ocean and its inhabitants. As are all Kim’s books, it is illustrated with her magnificent and unique silk paintings which highlight the beauty of the ocean’s colours. As always, the environmental message of this book is as strong as its pages are beautiful as it calls us to protect the world’s fragile reef environments.

Continue reading to find out more about Kim’s beautiful book and a special giveaway until 18 October: Swim a Rainbow with Kim Michelle Toft – readilearn

visiting with illustrator Helene Magisson

Visiting with illustrator Hélène Magisson – readilearn

This week I’m visiting with illustrator Helene Magisson to chat about her latest book Sarah’s Two Nativities written by Janine M Fraser and published by Black Dog Books. The book is due for release this month with a launch scheduled for the 21st.

About Helene

I first introduced you to Helene in 2017 when she chatted about her process of illustrating, especially as it related to the beautiful book of poetry Magic Fish Dreaming written by June Perkins. You can read that interview here.

Since the publication of Magic Fish Dreaming, Helene has illustrated a number of other books and now has eleven published books in her portfolio, with more on the way. I am not surprised that Helene is sought after as an illustrator. I think you’d have to agree that her, mainly watercolour, illustrations are exquisite and possess an almost magical quality.

Although Helene now calls Australia home, she has lived in countries all over the world, including Africa, France, and India. That her travels both inspire and enrich her work is obvious in her delightful illustrations that perfectly complement Janine Fraser’s story Sarah’s Two Nativities.

About Sarah’s Two Nativities

From the publisher:

‘Sarah loves her two grandmas – Grandmother Azar and Grandmother Maria. Grandmother Azar tells Sarah stories from the Holy Koran, while Grandmother Maria tells her stories from the Bible. At Christmas time, Sarah snuggles in each of her grandmothers’ laps and listens to two nativities stories about the birth of baby Jesus. They are the same in some ways, and different in others … but both can be Sarah’s favourite.’

Continue reading: Visiting with illustrator Hélène Magisson – readilearn