Rebecca Purdy

Early Literacy

Books for early literacy

Much to my husband’s amusement, I’ve recently had homework!  I took my first ever online class on early literacy and the components necessary for every child to learn to read.  This wasn’t the first time I learned these concepts, but as I did my homework I was reminded that many believe reading is a one-sided activity.  It shouldn’t be.  Whether a baby wants to stop and chew on a certain page or a preschooler wants to talk about the pictures, pausing a story to meet that immediate need is an important and often fun experience!  Here are some great read alouds with ideas for how to bring stories to life outside the text.

African-American Folktales

African-American Folktales

Although I grew up with the traditional Grimm fairy tales, when my son was young, it was folktales that we read most often.  Passed down from the oral tradition, they’re perfect for children either as a read aloud or a story you retell together.  In honor of Black History Month here are a few of my favorite from the African-American tradition.

Although a picture book, “The People Could Fly” by Virginia Hamilton, is recommended for older children and teens.  The narrator tells us that in Africa, some of the people “would walk up on the air like climbin on a gate,”  but when they were captured, they forgot that magic.  Sarah, a young woman in the fields, was “standin tall, yet afraid” and had “a babe tied to her back.”  That didn’t stop the cruelty of the Overseer or the one who called himself their Master and she turned to fellow slave, Toby, for help.  He told her, “go, as you know how to go” and Sarah “lifted one foot on the air; then the other.  She flew clumsily at first...then she felt the magic, the African mystery” and was gone.  The next day, a young man fell from the heat.  Toby came and spoke words to him and he flew away.  One after the other, slaves fell and there was Toby helping them soar like birds, towards freedom.  Of course, the Overseer came after him, but Toby just laughed and said “we are the ones who fly” and a group of slaves rose and “flew in a flock that was black against the heavenly blue” with old Toby flying behind them towards freedom.  

Get a Read on Summer

Exciting things are happening at your local library. The summer reading club has begun!

There's a program for children and another for teens. Both are free, fun and designed to keep students reading all summer long. After all, whether it's a book, comic or magazine, summer reading equals summer learning.

The theme for this year's children's club and this column is "Amazing Tales." Be they of the animal, tall, folk or fairy variety, all can be found at your library!

Rules: Love 'em or Hate 'em

17 Things I'm Not Allowed to Do Anymore

Rules. Sometimes they’re awful and constricting, keeping us from doing what we want. 

That’s the situation in “17 Things I’m Not Allowed to Do Anymore” by Jenny Offill and Nancy Carpenter. It’s a humorous look at a child learning the rules by doing the wrong things. “I had an idea to do my George Washington report on beavers instead. I am not allowed to do reports on beavers anymore.” The poor girl progresses through a variety of bad ideas like stapling her brother’s hair to his pillow and giving him the gift of cauliflower. All, she learns, are forbidden. Illustrated with pen and ink, actual photographs of the offending items, (the stapler, the cauliflower) are humorously interspersed.
 

Books that are Songs

I Ain't Gonna Paint No More!

I like to sing. I don’t do it terribly well, but I don’t let that stop me! Especially, when it comes to books that are songs. They are fun to share with preschoolers who love to hear them. Even if you read them instead, they will enjoy the rhythm of the words. Here are some favorites.

Graphic Novels for Kids

Love that Puppy! The Story of a Boy Who Wanted to be a Dog

Remember comic books? They’re still popular, but so are graphic novels; stories told using the comic form, but published as books. They can be an original tale or a retelling of traditional fiction. “The Swiss Family Robinson,” for example, was recently published as a graphic novel. Well loved by all ages, these books are great for reluctant readers. The combination of minimal text and many pictures grabs their attention and makes reading more accessible. Try some of these with your elementary school students.   

 Peter decides to become a dog in “Love that Puppy! The Story of a Boy Who Wanted to be a Dog” by Jeff Jarka. Not everyone thought it was a good idea, but Peter was happy. Besides he was good at being a puppy. He knew how to sit, beg and perform simple tricks. There were some downsides. His schoolwork suffered and his excuse? He ate it. He also developed an unhealthy interest in the mail and the mailman! Finally, his parents had had enough. That made Peter sad, but he decided to do what they wanted. He hung in there for a while, but one day he couldn’t contain it any longer. Out it came. “Meow?” This laugh out loud book has vibrantly colored illustrations.

Fairy Tales Find New Life

Beastly

You’re never too old for fairy tales! As proof, “Beastly” and “Red Riding Hood,” two movies aimed at teens, have recently been released.” 

Art Books for Young Readers

Look! Look! Look!

 My week has been filled with art! Last weekend, my husband and I enjoyed the Picasso exhibit at the Richmond Museum of Fine Arts. This week, I have been working with colleagues on the 16th Annual Teen Art Show. Both are awe-inspiring and worth a trip! There is a charge for the Picasso, in Richmond through May 15th, but the teen art is absolutely free and runs through March 30 at the Headquarters Library. If you attend either event, or know a child who’s interested in art, there are books to enrich their experience. 

 Three mice find a postcard that was delivered in the people’s part of the house. “Look! Look! Look!” they cry, in this book of the same name. On one side is a beautiful painting of a woman. “They looked from top to bottom, side to side, bottom to top.” One mouse, cuts viewing frames out of pieces of paper. Using their frames they discover the painting in new ways. They notice the patterns on her dress and the way her hand looks so real. They see each individual color and notice which ones are missing. Inspired, they draw the lady using only lines, but soon they recreate her using shapes and before long, are making completely new art. This book, written and illustrated by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace with Linda K. Friedlaender, is a wonderful introduction to not just looking at art, but truly seeing it.
  

Virginia Reader's Choice: Suggestions for Middle School Readers

The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had

Last week I had the pleasure of witnessing an innovative use for a web cam—book discussion! Spotsylvania school librarians at Chancellor, Freedom, Post Oak, Spotsylvania and Thornburg Middle Schools combined forces, and their own excitement, to virtually bring students together in a way that otherwise would require buses and permission slips. The event, “Cookies and Conversation,” allowed students to discuss books with participants at other schools while eating cookies in the comfort of their home library. 

Picture Book Biographies

Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down

I love reading biographies. Perhaps its sheer nosiness, but I am fascinated by the stories of how someone famous came to be. Unfortunately, finding time to read a 400 page adult biography and keep up with children and teen literature is practically impossible. Luckily, I can combine the two, especially when the biography is a picture book! 

Although it captures only one small part of their lives, Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down by Andrea Davis Pinkney with illustrations by Brian Pinkney, is a biography of sorts. At a Woolworth lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina, David, Joseph, Franklin and Ezell sat waiting to be served. The law, you see, had a recipe for segregation, but these “kids had a recipe, too. A new brew called integration.” This husband-wife team always does stellar work, but this is one of my favorites from recent years. The lyrical prose flows so well into the movement filled illustrations. You can almost see the teens shaking with fear as they sit waiting and as the protest grows so does the lunch counter in the illustrations. People sit waiting to be acknowledged at a counter curving around the two-page spread and off into the distance. The final counter spans three pages, with one huge difference. This time there’s, “a doughnut and coffee, with cream on the side” for them all.