Category Archives: educational

Sharing a World of Books

Finding books that open a child’s mind to the larger world around them has always been important to me. For a long time, I brought books like that into our lives without even really thinking about doing it. Then, 5 years ago, I became a part of a blogging movement called Multicutural Children’s Book Day, because I came to realize that not many children had the benefit of a crazy mom like me bringing such a wide variety of book into the home. This year, in addition to being a co-host of the online event, I am working with my daughters’ school to bring Multicultural Children’s Book Day alive for everyone.

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Multicultural books have been important to me because my family is not the norm. Although we are white, we are also Jewish, and raising children in the rural south while being Jewish can be a challenge. I try to make being Jewish a source of pride for my children and part of how I do that is through tons of wonderful books that help them realize that Jews are a vibrant community, even though we are such a small minority. We make being Jewish fun and part of that comes through a wealth of really great literature. For us, PJ Library has helped immensely in revitalizing the world of Jewish children’s literature. Continue reading →

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Let it Snow!

Here in the south we don’t get a lot of snow, and that’s a good thing, because when we get even the slightest warning of a trace, the entire area FREAKS OUT! The problem is that people here don’t know how to drive well in the snow and there are not a lot of plows available, but it is kind of funny to watch.

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With all that said and the fact that it is January, the snowiest month, I thought it would be appropriate to put together a collection of books about snow.

its snowignGail Gibbons is a master at writing non-fiction texts for kids that are still fun to read. In her book, It’s Snowing, young readers get a complete lesson in snow from how it forms, where it falls, different types of snow storms, and how to stay safe and have fun. Gibbons does a great job of breaking up the info so that kids of all ages can enjoy this book and get useful information that they are ready for. Continue reading →

The World of the Bible – an Archeological Approach

bible stories coverFrom time to time I receive books from National Geographic Kids to review. I’m always super amazed by the imagery they use and some of the books present really amazing information in a very fun way. Of all of the books I have received from them, The World of the Bible: Biblical Stories and the Archaeology Behind Them might be my absolute favorite.

The Bible is an important book, no matter how you look at it. The Old Testament is studied by Jews and Christians alike. What makes this book amazing is that it takes specific passages from the Bible and then looks at them from a historical and archeological viewpoint. Add in that there are amazing photographs and paintings that transport you to a different time.

The description from the publisher reads as follows: “Have you ever wondered about the real location of the Garden of Eden?  Or how Moses could have parted the Red Sea? The World of the Bible takes the reader back to ancient times to revisit classic Bible stories from the Old and New Testaments, learn fascinating facts about biblical history, and explore that same landscape as archaeologists are studying it today. Stories include the Samson and Delilah, Joseph in Egypt, Noah and the Flood, the birth of Jesus, Paul’s conversion, and many more.  Classic paintings and photos of the Middle East today enrich the archaeological explanations. Additionally, this book was reviewed by biblical scholars to ensure the most up-to-date and accurate information and includes profiles of important Bible personalities, analysis and explanation of key archaeological sites and maps of the Middle East to provide context to the stories and sites. Kids won’t just revisit classic Bible stories in this book … they’ll dig deeper into the history behind the tales to learn more about the biblical world.Continue reading →

Dorothea Lange – Picture Book Biographies

We have lots of picture books come in and out of our house. My 5th grader still loves to see a new pile from the library and settle in to see what she can experience. Lately, I have been getting a  lot of non-fiction, I just haven’t had a chance to write about them all. But there is something special when a random selection from the library proves meaningful to something she is studying in school.

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In one of my recent library trips, I discovered Dorothea Lange: The Photographer Who Found the Faces of the Depression, by Carole Boston Weatherford. I have long been fascinated by the faces that Lange was able to capture with her camera and the way she put such emotion into the reality of the Depression and her role in the Farm Security Administration. Photojournalism has long been a passion of mine, and she is vital in the field.

So I found it comical when my 5th grader came home with an assignment about the Depression that featured Lange’s iconic photograph, Migrant Mother, and she recognized it because she had read this picture book. Continue reading →

Picture Books that Make Math Fun

I will admit, I loved math as a kid. Wait, I loved math after I finally mastered borrowing – for some unknown reason, that was a major challenge for me, enough so that I remember it 30+ years later. But algebra, loved it. So I want my kids to feel comfortable with math and to enjoy it. The problem is, math is not as simple as it used to be, or at least, it doesn’t feel like it. By trying to make math accessible to everyone and to a variety of different learning types, they have somehow made it more complicated, especially to parents! But at least there are a number of picture books that attempt to bring some fun back to learning math.

Picture Books that Make Math Fun

The book that inspired me to write about this is Let’s Estimate: A Book About Estimating and Rounding Numbers, by David A. Adler. I am going to start of by saying that it would have made more sense to title this book about rounding numbers instead of estimating, but it does talk about both things, their similarities and their differences. The best page in this book is when it defines the two concepts and explains that “estimating is not rounding. Rounding is not estimating. But rounding can help you to estimate.” The majority of this book focuses on place value and how to round numbers, but with a colorful cast of dinosaurs, it is a great book for the K-2 crowd.esimate inside Continue reading →

Learning about Weather from Bel the Weather Girl

With all of the hurricanes swirling around the east coast, my girls and I were curious about weather, so we of course checked our local library. One series that we found does a really amazing job of taking complex weather systems and breaking them down in a way that any child can understand – Bel the Weather Girl.

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This creative series was written by Belinda Jensen, a meteorologist based in Minnesota. Believing that knowledge is power, Belinda developed a series of engaging and enlightening presentations that reveal the science behind weather, and discovered, just as she hoped, that children aren’t nearly as frightened when they are informed. We managed to get our hands on 4 of the 6 books in the series. They are a great way to educate children about big weather concepts and hopefully help them have less fears about harsh weather patterns. Continue reading →

Learning with Usborne Lift-the-Flap Question and Answers

I am in the midst of getting ready for a book fair so I have been going through all of my books for Usborne Books and More (disclaimer – I am an Independent Consultant with UBAM). Because I’ve been making piles and packing up all of my baby and toddler books, E has been able to go through some of the other ones that she had sort of forgotten about. Her discovery of our Lift-the-flap series is an example of why these books simply rock.

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Our Lift-the-Flap books are a great way to teach children factual information while completely engaging them. E discovered two of the Questions and Answers series books and first read through them completely and then felt the need to ask us all of the questions. She got me last night with the book on time and sat at the table this morning quizzing her father on science knowledge.

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There is such a wealth of information in these books and it is presented in such a marvelous way. What is also cool is that when kids get excited enough to share these books with their parents we often learn things ourselves!

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The funny thing is that there is a definite push to have kids be reading informative texts, but in kindergarten and first grade they really still have to be lured into the subjects. There are times when they are going to gravitate to a specific non-fiction topic and might want to read a full book on it, but when they are just discovering all that there is to know, these books are a wonderful overview filled with amazing knowledge.

Want to learn more about our lift-the-flap Question and Answer books? You can check them all out here and I am always happy to explain the differences.

Happy Reading!

The Wondrous Non-Fiction of Jason Chin

Back in June, I finally read Jason Chin’s beautiful work Grand Canyon. I was completely blown away by his illustrations and methods used to capture a child’s attention and teach them a wealth of information on the Grand Canyon. When I learned about the other titles he has written, I decided that I had to gather them up to see what there was to learn. Not surprisingly, his other books were just as beautiful and just as important for young researchers, adventurers, explorers, and inquisitive minds.

The Wondrous Non-Fiction of Jason Chin

Island – A Story of the Galápagos is a fascinating look at the evolution of the Galápagos Islands and of the animals who lived there. Chin, in his remarkable way, takes the reader from birth to death of an individual island in a manner that is both entertaining and educational. Continue reading →

I Love You Americanly

Happy 4th of July! My family just finished walking in our local parade and it was fun to wave at everyone and wish people a happy 4th of July. We are such a rich, diverse country and this is a great time to celebrate that fact. So given that today is the day that we celebrate America, I give you the really wonderful book I Love You Americanly, by Lynn Parrish Sutton and illustrated by Melanie Hope Greenberg.

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I Love You Americanly is a tribute to the United States as well as a love story between parent and child. As Lynn Parrish Sutton explains, “It is a declaration of love for family and country that includes America’s geographical wonders, cities and monuments, as well as its founding ideals and quintessential experiences.” Continue reading →

Life in the Ocean – Sylvia Earle and a lesson in protecting our earth

ocean coverOur earth’s surface is about 71% water and 29% land, yet much of our seas have barely been explored. Life in the Ocean is the true story of Sylvia Earle, an oceanographer and activist. While the book is about how she fell in love with the sea at an early age, it is also a message that we need to take better care of our oceans.

The start of the book tells of Earle’s early life in New Jersey and her natural curiosity that developed while she was  living on an old farm. Earle investigated the world around her and studied nature and animals. A move to Florida and a pair of swim goggles showed her the amazing life that lived in the ocean and would forever change her life.

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The book then takes a quick turn by briefly describing Earle’s achievements. Between being the only woman doing the kind of research that she was involved in to developing equipment that would allow her to dive deeper in the water, she was obviously an important force in her field. I would have liked to have seen this developed more, but that is where the book becomes less of a biography and more of a book about the ocean and its future. Continue reading →