“Willoughby wallaby wee, an elephant sat on me.
Willoughby wallaby woo, an elephant sat on you.
Willoughby wallaby Wustin, an elephant sat on Justin.
Willoughby wallaby Wania, an elephant sat on Tania.”
Raffi may sound like he’s singing nonsense (well, I suppose he really is!), but there’s a method to his silliness. What he is playfully introducing and emphasizing is a pre-reading skill called Phonological Awareness. In other words, the rhyming and alliteration he so wonderfully uses helps a child hear and play with the smaller sounds of words, which, in turn, lays the foundation for sounding out words when beginning to read.
If the crayons can’t stop the scribble monster, then this picture book might be cancelled!
How can a picture book be cancelled?
Kate, a very young kindergartner, came home from school one day and asked, “What’s an ‘elementoe’?” Her mother was a bit confused and said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Kate continued with a child’s sense of desperation, “You know when you’re going over it, over the chalkboard, when you sing that song.” Kate knew that whatever an “elementoe” was, it was important, and she was right!
Many of us learned the alphabet by singing the “ABC Song.” Some of us knew the song so early in our lives that we assume we just always knew the ABCs. Others credit mothers, siblings, and teachers for teaching them the alphabet and have fond memories of not only singing, but playing with alphabet blocks, flash cards, watching Sesame Street, and bringing items for Show and Tell on “letter days” at school.
One of my favorite things to do when reading with young children is to pretend that I’ve forgotten how to hold a book. Do we start in the middle? No, that’s funny! Can we read the book backwards or upside down? Of course, not!
Children love to make connections between written language and the words that they hear spoken aloud, especially while having fun and enjoying books together. Understanding how books work and that the text on a page has meaning is called print awareness, an important early literacy skill for children to develop on their way to reading.
During the day, Abe practices his violin to please his Jewish grandfather. His African-American neighbor Willie works to be as good at baseball as his father, a starter in the Negro leagues. But at night, the two boys meet Across the Alley in this story by Richard Michelson. Leaning out their bedroom windows, they swap hobbies and share dreams, until the night they are discovered.
Joyce Sidman’s and Rick Allen’s Winter Bees & Other Poems expresses in verse the wonders of wintertime while teaching about what is going on while the world is frozen. The poems themselves are delightful for young readers as they look out at the forest through the animals’ eyes:
When a blizzard buries her hometown of Geoppolis, it’s up to tough tractor Katy to switch from pushing a bulldozer to pushing a snowplow.
A hunting party tiptoes through the dark woods, nets in hand. They spot their quarry, a beautifully colored bird, resting on a branch. The littlest member of the group greets the bird, but the others hush him. "Shh! We Have A Plan."
Home is a visual exploration of the many dwellings in our world. Each illustration shows the sheer variety of places where we live. Some people make their homes in the country, while others might live in apartments.
The book is not limited to people or even planet Earth. We see beehives, moon colonies, and the old woman who lived in a shoe. Many of the homes we visit are depicted as intricate, double-page spreads, giving the reader much to discover.
Druthers whisks us to the rainiest of days, where a young girl is bored beyond belief. Her father asks her, "If you had your druthers, what would you do?" The girl has never heard of the term before. Her father explains that druthers are what you would rather do if you could do anything at all.
In a matter of seconds, the girl and her father imagine all sorts of exciting adventures. The pair visit the zoo, ride ponies in the Old West, and sail a fearsome pirate ship to the island of dinosaurs!