Sing your way to early literacy

By Camille Thompson and Jacqui Dempsey-Cohen

This month, we’re celebrating early literacy with our Winter Reading activities for children birth-age 5.  Early literacy skills are the building blocks children acquire before they learn to read and write which help them on their journey towards literacy.  One of the ways caregivers can help children develop early literacy skills is through singing.  Singing, reciting nursery rhymes, and reading books with rhyming phrases helps children hear the smaller sounds in words, which will help them sound out words when they learn to read.  You don’t need to be a virtuoso to sing with your child– whether you can carry a tune or not, you and your child will reap the benefits of singing for early literacy, all while having fun together!  Try out more fun activities from our Winter Reading Activity Sheet, and once you’ve completed it, turn it in to any JMRL location for a free book.

These books are wonderful for rhyming and singing with your child:

Every Little Thing by Cedella Marley: An exuberant picture book adaptation of Bob Marley’s song that illustrates the reassuring story of a bouncing, dreadlocked boy who won’t let anything get him down.

Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star by Jerry Pinkney: A lavish rendition of the classic song following the adventures of a curious chipmunk who embarks on an imaginary voyage to the stars.

Barnyard Dance by Sandra Boynton: Adorably silly farm animals dance and prance across board book pages in a frolicking read-aloud with foot-stomping rhythms and rhymes.

Goodnight Songs by Margaret Wise Brown: A collection of charming lullabies by the celebrated  author of Goodnight Moon, illustrated by 12 award winning artists.

Baa Baa Black Sheep by Jane Cabrera: Black sheep graciously offers bag after bag of wool to Miss, who hand-knits mittens, a tea cozy, and other fuzzy gifts for her friends. Includes music for piano and guitar.

Inch by Inch by David Mallett: Inch by inch and row by row, a boy and his dog help their garden grow in this playfully illustrated version of the classic song.

Seals on the Bus by Lenny Hort: What will the people on the bus do when raucous animals hop on board and add their voices to the din? This beastly twist on a favorite song will have young readers errping and roaring and honking along.

I Went Walking by Sue Williams: A melodious guessing-game concept book in which a shock-headed child goes for a walk and collects a procession of surprisingly colorful animals.

Great New Picture Books to Give as Gifts

The Airport Book

What to get that young child in your life who already has a library full of classic picture books?  These titles from 2016 make it to the top of my list:

The Airport Book by Lisa Brown would be a great gift for a child flying for the first time.  Brown leads us through each part of the airport with simple text, and detailed descriptions that lead to lingering– a sort of picture book version of the great people watching an airport provides, mixed with comforting text about the process of getting on the plane. Recommended for ages 3-7.

Bloom by Doreen Cronin (illustrated by David Small) is the tale of a glass kingdom in disrepair and the messy mud fairy who enlists the help of an “ordinary” girl to save it.  Elegantly illustrated with a flourish of creative typography, this is the best kind of grit and girl-power-fueled empowerment story.  It’s fun, it’s messy, it’s fabulous. Recommended for ages 4-8.

A Child of Books by Oliver Jeffers celebrates the wonder of getting lost in a great book.  Filled with beautiful collages– oceans and mountains are formed from the typed lines of classic literary works– we join a young reader as she shares the adventure of story with her traveling companion.  This has the potential to start great conversations about stories and art. Recommended for ages 5-8.

Parachute by Danny Parker is about a boy named Toby who never does anything without wearing his bright orange parachute.  The strength of this story is in the illustrations, which give a striking sense of how big the world seems to a little person– how impossibly far up a tree house seems, how far down it looks from the bathroom stool, and how as Toby learns to feel safe, his perspective changes. Recommended for ages 4-8.

Penguin Problems by Jory John (illustrated by Lane Smith) presents us with Penguin, who has a bone to pick about, well, everything– “My beak is cold… The ocean smells too salty today.” Though a wise walrus tries to help him focus on the good things in his life, his triumph over griping appears to be short-lived.  This book is hilarious in its snark, and genius in its ability to make readers identify with a cranky penguin. Recommended for ages 3-7.

Worms for Breakfast: How to Feed a Zoo by Helaine Becker (illustrated by Kathy Boake) will disgust and delight young readers as they learn how animals are really fed at the zoo. From mealworm mush to predator popsicles, recipe cards detail what goes into the animals meals, while superimposed images of creatures up to crazy antics like raiding refrigerators and drinking from milkshake glasses keep it lively. Recommended for ages 7-10.


Spooky books to share


The days grow shorter, there’s a chill in the air, let’s all settle in for a creepy-good scare.  We’re changing things up this week with recommendations from our children’s collection.  Whether you fancy a short classic like “High Beams” from Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, or you’re in the mood for something with just a touch of Halloween spookiness, light a candle, get out a flashlight or gather around the fire and enjoy these tales together.

Half-Minute Horrors, Edited by Susan Rich
These short stories, each about a page long and penned by a variety of popular authors, will satisfy your need for all things thrilling, creepy, and darkly humorous. Recommended for ages 10 and up.

Pumpkin Eye by Denise Fleming
Take a walk down a dark street on Halloween night, filled with werewolves, spirits, and skeletons.  The rhyming couplets and vivid language (“swooping bats, hissing cats”), paired with the rich, yet worn look of the illustrations, creates just the right atmosphere to set tiny spines tingling.  Recommended for ages 4 and up.

Doll Bones by Holly Black
Creepy dolls– need I say more?  Zach, Poppy, and Alice have created and elaborate world with their dolls and figurines.  They launch into a haunting adventure together when a porcelain doll named the Queen communicates to them that she must be properly buried in order to put a ghost to rest.  Recommended for ages 10 and up.

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz
If you’re looking for that scary story your friends told you in middle school, it’s probably in this book.  Alvin Schwartz brings to life standbys, like “The Babysitter” and “Room for One More,” alongside spooky black and white illustrations (by Stephen Gammell).  Don’t miss the sequel, More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.  Recommended for ages 9 and up.

For beginning readers who would like to take a turn telling stories, consider In a Dark Dark Room, and Other Scary Stories and Ghosts! Ghostly Tales From Folklore, also by Alvin Schwartz.

Looking for more? Try these:

515-oixesnl-_sx329_bo1204203200_The Night Gardener
by Jonathan Auxier

23436913Thirteen Chairs
By Dave Shelton

2294984All the Lovely Bad Ones
By Mary Downing Hahn