Post Tagged with: "young readers"
I sometimes ask publishers to send me specific books that I think will “get kids reading.” Here are a few books I think will hook kids into reading and keep them reading.
I’ve included links to each author and illustrator’s website. Author websites can be a great for additional information, resources, teacher’s guides and similar books. You (and your kids) can also send the author questions; you’ll find that most of them will respond–and getting a reply from the author, even if it’s only through Twitter, can be a very exciting thing for a child.
PICTURE BOOKS (Age 3-6)
Some books are better for kids, and some books are better for the parents who read them to the kids—this is great for both. It’s about Melvin, who spends a lot of time at the library, and the librarians who help him with everything from snakes to acting to baseball cards. The book follows him from elementary school to high school… and after. It’s a lovely book, well written, with smart, humorous illustrations and it shows libraries as the warm, interesting, welcoming places they are. In these days of ebooks and tablets, it also shows kids how important librarians are.
Written by Carla Morris, a retired librarian. I couldn’t find her website but I found this wonderful interview in which she talks about what gets kids reading. Illustrated by Brad Sneed and published by Peachtree. They’re @ on Twitter.
A family adopts a dog from an animal shelter. But Norman clearly isn’t very smart. He doesn’t understand even basic commands like “sit” or “come.” It isn’t until the family goes to the dog park that they discover Norman doesn’t speak English—he speaks Mandarin. I love the premise behind this book: that “different” doesn’t mean “wrong” or, in this case, “stupid.” It’s a smart, well-written and well-illustrated book that will stay with you and I highly recommend it.
If this story seems a bit quirky, it may be because it’s a take-off of an old Japanese folk tale (originally about a boy). It follows a plucky girl who was left on a couple’s doorstep, uh, after she burst from a giant peach. (Quirky. Folk tale.) This fierce girl goes hunting for an ogre who supposedly “has teeth like knives and eyes that shoot flames.” Well, of course the ogre is nothing of the sort, as the girl and some pals she has picked up along the way discover. It’s an unusual story and maybe that’s why I like it – and why I think kids will like it, too. Disclosure: the illustrator, Rebecca Bender, is a friend of mine but I requested this book (and wanted to review it) last year, before we’d even met.
I know lots of kids who are fascinated by trains. Those kids, especially, will love this book. And you’ll love it too because there are bits you can read to your child, including lots of onomatopeaic words, and bits you can read just to yourself. And through it all, the illustrations are lovely—detailed, with lots of references to the 19th century. The story is the history of the locomotive as it crosses the United States from Nebraska to California. This is a book you can read in many different ways—as a story, by just looking at the illustrations and talking about them, as a type of history book. It’s a book you and your child can read again and again, for many years—or until they drop their interest in locomotives (which may be never).
The best way to “get kids reading” is to read to them. Sit them on your lap with a good book—as often as possible. But sometimes that can get a bit tedious, especially when what the child wants to read isn’t particularly interesting to you.
Here’s a book that will be as interesting for you as it will be for your child.
A Brush Full of Colour is a vibrant, fact-based picture book about Canadian artist Ted Harrison.
While the book takes you (the parent) through the life of a great painter, it will also take your child on a journey of a different kind—of beauty and exploration. The paintings in the book are colourful and magnificent. You don’t even have to be able to read to enjoy looking at the gorgeous images.
A few tips for parents reading this book to their child:
- Don’t read it word-for-word. You can skim the text and pick out some relevant points to tell the child as you flip the pages. “When he was little, Ted Harrison painted the inside walls of his outhouse!”
- Don’t read it to the child at all. Sometimes the best way to experience a book is to look at the pictures and talk about them. For younger children you can say, “Point to something wintry.” For older children you can say, “What do you think was happening when he painted this?”
- The book includes “prompt questions” under each photo caption. For instance, “What features are missing from the faces of the people?”
- The book also asks the reader to compare different paintings. Flipping back and forth through a book is a great way to enjoy it. You don’t have to read all books from front to back!
A Brush Full of Colour: The World of Ted Harrison was written by Margriet Ruurs and Katherine Gibson and features many paintings by Ted Harrison, who also wrote the foreword for the book. It was published by Pajama Press and is available Sept. 19; $22.95.
Until one day, Mr. Tweedle makes an announcement: “We’re going modern. We’re buying a car!”
The Tweedles don’t buy just any car, however. They opt for an electric car. A green car.
Author Monica Kulling and illustrator Marie Lafrance take us into the world of the 20th-Century Tweedles and their wondrous green, electric car.
Kulling has written more than 40 books for children and is known for her Great Idea series of books on historical inventions.
Her writing is often delightfully subversive. By which I mean that she tends to quietly introduce the subversive notion that girls can do anything.
Meet, for instance, 12-year-old Franny Tweedle:
Like most girls, she is more interested in higher education. Speed gives Frances nosebleeds, and adventure seems to go along with getting lost, which makes her nervous. There’s only one place Frances puts her nose and that is between the pages of a book.
In The Tweedles Go Electric, Frances will end up discovering that she finds speed exhilarating. In fact, (spoiler alert), she saves the day in that electric car.
Oh, and later she will become so exhilarated by speed that she will drive right across the country, “from the Atlantic to the Pacific.” (Sub-ver-sive!)
This is one of those books that—through its weavy, clip-along plot and stylishly flat, folksy illustrations—helps you to feel, taste, smell and understand what went on in another century.
It’s a book that begs you to put your child on your lap for a thoughtful read-along.
The Tweedles Go Electric was written by Monica Kulling, illustrated by Marie Lafrance and published in 2014 by Groundwood Books which always makes such “beautiful and thought-provoking books” as they so correctly state on their website’s home page. Purchase the Tweedles online here.
uKloo is a terrific literacy game. Incredibly–wonderfully–they somehow managed to top it.
Toronto game-maker Doreen Dotto recently launched uKloo, Riddle Edition.
The premise of uKloo is simple—it’s a treasure hunt. You (the parent) hide cards around the house that kids find and which lead them to the next clue.
For instance, the first clue is “look in your shoes.” The child goes to her shoes and finds the next card, which says “look on the kitchen table,” and so on.
It’s a brilliant strategy to get kids reading because it gives the child a fun reason to read (they want to find the next clue) as well as an instant reward (they find out where the next clue is hidden, and ultimately a grand prize). Fun + reason to read = reading.
Dotto has taken this simple equation and made it even more fun. And she’s added problem-solving to the skills the child will acquire without even knowing they’re learning.
With the Riddle Edition, kids find a card and have to solve a fun riddle to figure out where the next card is hidden.
Depending on the age of the child, the riddles are very easy or quite challenging.
A level three riddle: “Not of shell, of turtle or snail, but made of cloth to hike a trail.”
Did you get those? The answers are at the bottom of this post if you want to double-check.
The wonderful thing about uKloo is the way Dotto has adapted it for various reading levels. If the child can’t figure out a clue, she can get a hint: “Lather up for shiny locks!”
If she still can’t quite get it, she can hold a special booklet (in which the answers are written backwards) up to a mirror and find the answer reflected there.
Three levels of clues, a hint and a fun solution give kids the success that is so important for new or struggling readers.
And with different levels, brothers and sisters of different ages or reading abilities can play together. It’s also great for playdates.
As with the original uKloo game, the Riddle Edition ends with a surprise that the parent provides. It could be a chocolate or small toy, or—as Dotto found out from one parent—it could be the announcement that the child is going to have a new baby sister.
uKloo Riddle Edition includes blank cards so parents can write their own riddles (Dotto provides tips on writing riddles) and it includes Surprise cards so that instead of a toy or candy the grand prize could be “a trip to the ice cream store” or “pillow fight with daddy.”
If uKloo is one of the most perfect literacy games, uKloo Riddle Edition takes it one step further. Both are must-get games for any parent who wants to get their kids reading.
You can also check out the new uKloo Early Reader App, currently free (that may change) in the iTunes App Store.
Read my review of uKloo here.
Oh, and I’m sure you figured out that answers are: Shampoo and Backpack.
Lastly, Doreen was on Dragon’s Den. Guess what happened? Check it out:
If your kids could use a little brush-up on their spelling, beezi might be the game that does it.
My son and I took the game for a test drive. He figures he’s a better speller than his mother (who is a writer by trade, a-hem).
We really enjoyed beezi. For off, it was easy to figure out how to play it–a huge plus. I hate having to read through two pages of directions to figure out a game before you can even play it.
And it was fast-playing. Another plus.
Essentially, beezi takes you around a board; you select cards and spell words. The harder the word, the further you go on the board. Special spaces on the board let you roll again, skip a turn or advance.
The game includes spelling challenges at different levels. That’s good because it means that your eight-year-old can play with your 10-year-old at the same time. And it makes it extra flexible for playdates.
There’s also a Teens and Parents edition, which we will definitely have to get (we were given this one by beezi, for review). We did find that the younger game was a bit too easy for my 12-year-old. Although, he did not—I stress, did not—win against his mother.
Because kids write down their answer, rather than just spell it out loud, the game can definitely help kids improve their spelling. The game provides a real incentive to sound words out and try to get them right. It also gives adults a chance to explain why certain words are spelled the way they are.
Some kids are shy or embarrassed about not being able to spell very well. Even my son, who’s a pretty good speller, didn’t like to admit it when he couldn’t spell certain words, and I can see that. So you may want to keep that in mind when you’re playing. Usually, I was able to explain that “everyone gets that one wrong,” or “that spelling rule is tricky” and then roll the dice and keep the game moving.
The game is themed around bees, a riff on “spelling bees.” The bee theme continues with the die, which features six types of bees (from honey bee – the easiest words to spell, to killer bee – the most challenging). My son likes “Shaggy Fuzzyfoot” the best; Shaggy’s a wildcard. And the object of the game is to reach the “beehive” in the middle of the board.
The illustrations are quirky and modern, and the dice is one of those big, chunky ones that are such fun to roll.
Bonus: The next time I go to a restaurant or a long car ride with my son, I’m going to bring along the card deck. It will be a terrific quiz-me activity, even without the game board. beezi would also be a good game to take to the cottage, because everyone can play it, using different level card packs.
beezi: the s-p-e-l-l-i-n-g game sells for $29.99 and is available at toy stores and Chapters/Indigo. You can also purchase it from the beezi website ($10 to $15 shipping within Canada).
(If you’re in Toronto, buy it from my friend Sam at her Playful Minds toy store. Tell her I sent ya.)
On the beezi website, click on Take the Beezi challenge for a fun online spelling challenge.
That’s every grade one student — more than 500,000 of them. No matter what school board they’re with, whether they’re homeschooled, whether they live in a remote community. Everyone gets a book to take home and read over and over again and keep.
The program is funded by TD Bank and it’s administered by the Canadian Children’s Book Centre. The CCBC selects wonderful books. Just the right books, in fact. And this year’s gem is no exception.
Author/Illustrator Philippe Beha’s little grey cat once went missing. He put up signs around the neighbourhood in hopes of getting him back. Several people called with cats – however, they were always the wrong ones.
Beha’s story folds into a brilliant and beautiful picture book, “I’ve Lost my Cat,” with charm and depth and sensitive wit. The half-million children in Canada who will be receiving Beha’s book will love it.
In the book, our protagonist is handed many animals – and even a melon – that fit some part of the description of his cat. He accepts them all graciously, finding a home for the elephant, the penguin, the bird and even the sheep he’s presented with. And just when he least expects it… he finds his cat. (Didn’t think you’d mind the spoiler.)
The book is “J’ai Perdu Mon Chat” in French.
Every child deserves to have a book of their own. Not only does owning a book promote literacy, but it promotes self-esteem. TD and the CCBC began their Grade One Book Giveaway Program in 2000. Since then they’ve given away millions of books.
It is a very, very good thing.
Visit the CCBC here, and get a list of the previous years’ books – you know they are sure-fire winners, every one.
You can also pre-order it on Amazon here.
Gabby is illustrated by the wonderful Jan Dolby and published by Fitzhenry & Whiteside.
Gabby is a smart, quirky little girl with a special reading book. When she accidentally drops it, all the letters fall out. When she starts putting the letters together into words, whatever she spells — she creates! As you can imagine, this gets her into quite a muddle. What can she do to put things right?
Visit my author blog for Gabby here. The author blog has lots of fun illustrations, colouring pages and information about Gabby.
She would scatter letters around the room. Each letter had a price on it.
“Easier” letters like E might be worth a penny or five cents, whereas “harder” letters like Q or Z might be worth a quarter.
(Are you seeing where this is going?)
The kids would run around the room, collecting the letters; they would then put them together into words or phrases.
Then they’d add up the “money” they’d earned and… cash them in, using their parents as the bankers.
My niece said the game succeeded in making her friend much more interested in words and in reading.
And, presumably, in banking.
Here’s another case in which a mom successfully bribed her daughter into reading.