Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Eric Carle Week

Well, I've told you about Dr. Seuss week, and it was such a big hit that I decided to turn around and do an Eric Carle themed week the very next week.  The author choice was spurred by a couple of things.  One - the next week's theme in our Picture Book Preschool was bugs, and there were a few Eric Carle books on the week's list.  We also have several Eric Carle games, and I liked how we used themed items the week before.  So there it was.
We read many, many Eric Carle picture books in that week, including all of the standard books - The Very Hungry Caterpillar, The Grouchy Ladybug, Walter the Baker, Papa, Please Get the Moon for Me are all titles that we own (among others).  We also checked books out of both of our local libraries (our public library and a school library that we are lucky enough to have access to).  Our family probably had between 15 and 20 individual titles in our book pile that week! 
Here are some other resources we used that week.  We borrowed a puppet kit from our public library which included the book Mister Seahorse and a seahorse puppet.  We had a stuffed ladybug that went along with Carle's book The Grouchy Ladybug.  At our house, we also have a Very Hungry Caterpillar puzzle, an Eric Carle's ABC game, and a Very Hungry Caterpillar Card Game (again, keep in mind that I was a children's librarian for many years - I tend to collect this sort of stuff!).  I mentioned the Reading Rockets website in connection with our Dr. Seuss week, and there is a Very Hungry Caterpillar Family Literacy Packet.  I did print it out, but forgot that I had it, so we didn't use it.  I do really like the Reading Rockets Family Literacy packs, so I recommend it.
We did two activities related to Eric Carle's books.  The first one was related to Walter the Baker.  We read the book, in which the baker is asked by the king and queen to make a roll that the sun can shine through three times.  In frustration, he creates a pretzel.  After reading the book, we made pretzels using the recipe from Hungry Monkey by Matthew Amster-Burton.  If you haven't read this book, it is a stay-at-home dad's cooking memoir (he is also a food critic), and he tries some really cool foods with his daughter.  My one negative comment is that the recipes are created using a food scale, and my first attempt to make pretzels with 8 ounces of flour without a scale wasn't so successful!  But the girls and a friend enjoyed rolling out the pretzel snakes to then create the pretzel shapes.  We talked about making the sun shine through three times while we made them.  In fact, each time we've made pretzels subsequently we've had the same conversation.  The biggest plus about the recipe from this book is that it can be made in under 2 1/2 hours (including rising time) and the ingredients are so standard that they are in my pantry at all times.  This activity was definitely a success!
We also tried to create pictures in the Eric Carle method.  First, we read Draw Me a Star (warning - this book is about the creation of the world and does have naked humans in it).  I chose this book because it had a nice large sun in it, and I had decided that's what we would create.  There are lots of other Eric Carle books with suns in them, though, so feel free to use something else!  We started early in the morning creating the papers.  The girls got white paper and yellow and orange paint.  They just spread the paint across multiple pieces of paper, trying to cover as much of the paper as possible.  Eric Carle uses tissue paper when he does his collage, but I thought that wouldn't hold up as well to toddler fingers.  We let those pieces dry until after naps.  Then we cut the paper into smaller pieces to use in our sun collage.  I traced a plate for the sun, and then cut strips for the sun's rays.  At this point in the day, the girls weren't so interested in creating the collage.  I had to really talk Frances into finishing, and Gloria ended up using a pencil to just scribble all over the paper.  But I think in another year they will be more developmentally able to follow the project all day.  If you're interested in doing something like this, Carle has several books with descriptions of his work process on the back of the title page, or in his author's note.  There is also a book (which I just remembered I own!) called You Can Make a Collage produced by Klutz Press.  This book has some tissue papers created by Eric Carle himself, so you can just cut those up and go for it!
One of the ways in which these themed weeks have been successful for us is in recognizing the authors' work at the library and other places.  My girls are likely to call out "Look! It's Eric Carle!" or recognize the Cat in the Hat on the spines of books whenever we're at the library or bookstore.  It's fun to see.  We will definitely be doing additional weeks - maybe Margaret Wise Brown will be next, as I am a huge MWB fan and have many of her books.
A few other things - in the past few weeks, Kohl's has had the stuffed Eric Carle plushes and books as the $5 option.  We are looking forward to receiving some new plushes from friends who live in towns with Kohl's (we, sadly, do not).  I would be remiss if I didn't direct you to the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art .  If you live on the East Coast, it would be worth a trip, but the website is really neat, too.  It includes book lists, class information, exhibition information, and a link to the museum shop.  It's great.
Finally, on Barnes & Noble's website, there is an online storytime that Frances loves.  It's The Very Hungry Caterpillar read by Eric Carle himself.  Frances really enjoyed hearing his voice and seeing his picture.  This week was a whole lot of fun - let me know if you decide to do something similar!  Next up is our birthday-themed week.  See you soon!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Dr. Seuss' Birthday Week

Hi everyone! Welcome to everyone who has come to check out my blogs after seeing my friend Alisa's posts - love that lady!!  I'm going to try and catch up with the month of March, if you can believe that!  We had three "theme" weeks in our house in March, so let's start with the first week, the week of Dr. Seuss' birthday.  In case you didn't know (and want to get a head start on next year!), Dr. Seuss' birthday is March 2nd,  so we celebrated beginning on February 26th.
The first thing we did was go to a fun storytime at our local Target store.  I had seen the Dr. Seuss storytime advertised in a newspaper insert, but being that we live in a smaller town, I wasn't sure our Target would be included.  When I went in to the store the week before, the employees told me that they would be doing the storytime, and that there would be GOODY BAGS.  Well, goody bags are my favorite thing!  The storytime started at 9am, and we were there at 9:02 (a pretty big feat considering we usually don't even get out of our pajamas until 10!).  Frances and Gloria were the first two children there, and we enjoyed a couple of stories before anyone else showed up.  The reader was dressed like the Cat in the Hat, and she read us I Can Read With my Eyes Shut! and The Cat in the Hat.  Then as other children came, we went on our way.  By the way, Target had its Dr. Seuss books on sale for $5 that week - we scored The Cat in the Hat for ourselves.  The goody bags were terrific and included a really nice lunch-bag sized reusuable bag, stickers, a bookmark, juice box, granola bar, fruit snacks, crayons....the girls were happy!
On Sunday I got our Dr. Seuss station ready.  There is a table by our couch where I stack the books we are reading that week for Picture Book Preschool, and that week I made it into our Dr. Seuss station.  It included stuffed versions of Sam from Green Eggs and Ham, the Wocket from There's a Wocket in my Pocket and the rein-dog from The Grinch Who Stole Christmas (all of these were from Kohl's at one point or another).  We checked out as many Dr. Seuss books as we could from our local library, but we also own Green Eggs and Ham, The Cat in the Hat, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, Marvin K. Mooney, Will You Please Go Now?, One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, and There's a Wocket in My Pocket.  We also have a couple of plastic totebags from Target that have Dr. Seuss books on them that we hung on various doorknobs.  Finally, I put out some Dr. Seuss games we have, including the Green Eggs and Ham board game and a rhyming game that I found on the Internet from someone's blog (but can't find the link now - I'll keep looking!) and a Fox in Socks puzzle.  These were fun games to keep Dr. Seuss on our minds all week.
During the week, I used this TERRIFIC resource from Reading Rockets.  If you haven't been to their site, take a look around.  I am very impressed with all of the activities and supporting resources they have for literacy.  This resource is for a Family Literacy Bag, which would be given with a copy of Green Eggs and Ham, and is really more to learn about different kinds of food.  But it worked perfectly as part of our week.  One of Frances' friends came over during the week while her mom was doing errands, and we made the mobile that is in the literacy bag.  I just made four copies of the fruit and vegetable page (two copies for each of the two girls).  The rest of the materials I already had - yarn, paper plates, crayons, scissors and tape.  It was very easy for the girls to do, and now our mobile is hanging in the girls' room.  It was a neat way to reinforce the ideas of the book in a different way. 
Wednesday was Dr. Seuss' birthday and Read Across America Day, so I made sure that we read some of his books on that day and talked about him a little bit.  Ordinarily we would have celebrated his birthday that day, but our friends were not able to come on Wednesday, so instead we scheduled his birthday party for Thursday.  On Thursday we had the best day.  We watched our DVD of Green Eggs and Ham (which includes some other Dr. Seuss stories) and then had Green Eggs and Ham.   I made them pretty simply by just adding green food coloring to the scrambled eggs before cooking, and we ate sliced deli ham too.  After lunch (which was served in Dr. Seuss bowls from Target), we had brownie cupcakes and sang Happy Birthday.  It was a lot of fun! 
I was surprised not only by how much Dr. Seuss stuff we had floating around our house (after all, I was a children's librarian for 15 years - I tend to collect that sort of stuff!), but by how enthusiastic Frances and Gloria were about a "themed" week.  Since we had returned home from vacation in January, we had been struggling with preschool activities.  It seemed like I bought workbooks and intended to use them, but we never did.  And the piles of library books at our house were getting bigger and bigger by the day because we were in our regular library routine of selecting books, but we just weren't reading very often at home.  Now my girls recognize the distinctive Dr. Seuss symbol on other books, and tend to select his books from the library.  This "themed" week got us all excited about learning again, and paved the way for our next "themed" week - stay tuned for the Eric Carle week in our next post!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Picture Book Reading Challenge

Hi everyone!! Once again, it's been way too long since I posted, but I swear that there will be THREE more posts coming in the next couple of days to catch you all up on what we've done in March.  But this post is to let you know about the Picture Book Reading Challenge.  I just found out about this challenge, but we are up for it!  Here's the link to the challenge post - it's hosted at There's a Book.  We are going for the Harvester level - that's 200 books, people! 
I am hoping that this will jump-start several things for us.  We haven't been doing as great with our Picture Book Preschool - we're a couple of weeks behind, and most weeks we do read the books, but not in any sort of organized method.  Also, we have been checking out lots and lots of books from the libraries we visit, and we need to read them and get them back so other people can read them!  Thirdly, I am really trying to keep up our bedtime routine of reading a few books - some days we do this and some days we do not, and I can see it makes a big difference in getting them settled down for the night.
So I am keeping track of the books we read on this page (it's located to the right of this post, but here's the link ) if you'd like to take a look at what we are reading!!   Hope your week is going well!