Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Mamma Never Knew

My sister and I were sitting in my front living room sharing a cup of tea and memories. We enjoy reminiscing of when we were young, often comparing our children's lives with our own childhood. One of the things that continually amaze us is how much more freedom our parents gave us as opposed to the amount of freedom we give our own kids.

“You know, Shawna. We don't let our kids out of our sight. I know where Derek is all the time. There's no running off with neighborhood kids for hours on end. Where were mom and dad anyway when we were kids?”

Shawna stretched out onto the sofa across from the chair I was sitting in, took a sip of Darjeeling and said, “They let us out in the morning and called us in at night.”

This got me to thinking of all the things I did when I was a child that, to my knowledge, my parents never found out I did. Playing with the horses across the street comes to mind.

When my family was stationed in Bitburg, Germany we lived on the edge of the army/air base there. Catty corner across the street from our building was a horse pasture. I loved to visit the horses and pick long-stemmed grass for them to eat out of my hand. Sometimes I would bring carrots, sugar cubes or even an apple for them to eat.

By the time I was eleven, I had gotten so comfortable with these beautiful creatures that I would climb over the fence and walk around with them. One horse in particular was my favorite. He was a tall black horse of breed I know not and I named him Midnight.

My friends and I would spend all afternoon walking around the pasture with the horses. Midnight would follow me around, nibbling on my shoulder. In my mind, he was my horse.

Well, one day we got it into our heads that one of us needed to ride Midnight. Midnight turned out to be an unbroken horse, as we were later to find out. Day after day Midnight would quietly stand, presumably unaware of our intentions, as we would try to hoist one of us up onto his broad back without success. Without success, that is, until we were joined by a new girl who had just arrived from Texas. We all agreed to try to get her to ride on Midnight. It's hilarious to recall now, but my friends, Terri, her brother, Michael, some others whose names I don't recall, and I faked German accents to persuade this Texan that we were kids from the German farm who owned the horses and already knew how to ride them, but would she like to try?

So with one hoist from us, she expertly climbed atop Midnight's back. This, ladies and gentlemen, was the moment in time when we discovered that it was highly doubtful that Midnight had ever been ridden before. If chaos had ever been bound before, it broke loose now. Everything happened in a blur and it will actually take longer to write down what transpired than it took to occur. Midnight took off bucking and snorting. I had the misfortune of being in front of him and I turned and ran for all I was worth. It took me very little time indeed to comprehend the foolhardiness of trying to outrun a horse. I think it was when his hoof hit the bottom of my foot that this particular epiphany struck. My difficulty lay in that I had a fence on one side of me and Midnight behind, a little to the right of me. The fence blocked my only means of escape unless I wanted to take my chances throwing myself in front of the horse, in the remote possibility that he would leap over me rather than the likely possibility that he would grind me into the ground as he galloped over me.

God was truly with me that day because without thinking I grabbed a fence post and clung to it as Midnight thundered past me. Luckily, the girl from Texas knew how to ride bareback and even better, she knew how to fall because she did not stay very long on that horse.

To this day I don't think I've ever told my mom about that incident. Not because I was trying to hide it from her but because it simply never occurred to me.
My foot was sore for a few days and shortly after, we moved back to the states. Since then, I've never been much involved with horses until my son started riding last year. Going out to the ranch every week has renewed my interest and rekindled my love for one of God's most beautiful creatures. So much so that I've begun wondering how much it would cost to get a horse.

If I ever get a black horse, I think I'll name him Midnight.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

More Thoughts about Adopting

I was looking at the TARE network the other day. I first read all the success stories of people who had adopted. It also included people who had been adopted and how much it meant to them. I read these stories to buoy myself up; sometimes I feel so nervous about what I'm planning to do. It was truly encouraging to read the different accounts people gave of why they adopted and how they arrived at adopting the children they received into their family. Many of them used the term "forever family", a phrase I'm sure that the adoption agency coined. It is a wonderful way to describe how these children have been given a permanent home.

I was especially heartened to see that a number of single men and women adopted- some of them adopted quite a few kiddos. One women lives on a ranch and adopted several children. There is a photo of them, each on a horse. One little guy is on a small burro- so cute!

After reading the stories I then went to the TARE gallery. This is a listing of children who are already up for adoption. It includes children's photos, biographies, medical conditions as well as what sort of home would best suit each child. Most of them are sibling groups and teenagers. There's no shortage of older children who need to be adopted.

I was pondering about teenagers. You know, if you adopted teenagers, they would only be with you for a few years and it would give them a home at last. Then you could adopt more kids after the first group grows up and moves on. I don't know, just thinking. On the other hand, the younger you got them the less wounds they would have to heal from and you will have saved a child from a lot of potential suffering. God has people He wants to adopt the teenagers and He has people He wants to adopt the younger ones. Each of us is called to fullfill a specific purpose so we can perform all the good works that He has prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10)

I wonder, though: are all God's people surrendering their will to His as far as adopting children goes?

It seems to me that the families who do adopt, adopt A LOT of children. I know families that have adopted 6-14 children. Obviously, they have surrendered to the mission God has purposed for them to do. Nevertheless, my question is: If every Christian family out there was truly listening to God's voice about whether they should adopt or not, would the few families that do adopt need to run virtual orphanages out of their homes? Are there not some children who would thrive better in a small family where they could receive more individual attention? This is not a criticism of those who adopt so many, by the way. They have crowns with many jewels waiting for them in heaven. I'm just saying that there seems to be an extreme disparity here. Surely, more Christian families should be adopting. I don't believe God has purposed every Christian to adopt, but I fervently believe that every single Christian should be on their knees praying to God about whether they should adopt or not. For some that answer will be, "no". For many more out there, that answer will be, "yes"!

After all, what does the Bible say about the orphans and the widows? Is there not a warning to us all in Matthew 25:31-45? What about James 1:27? In fact, get out a concordance and look up all the scripture that has the word, "orphan" in it and see what it says. Excuse me, see what GOD says.

Adoption is not something to jump into, but there should be praying and perhaps even fasting to seek out God's will to be completely sure whether we are submitting to God's will in this respect.

Back to the TARE gallery: There were two brothers that caught my eye. One was a teenager and the other 9 or 10 years old. They weren't what I imagined for Derek and myself but I keep thinking about them. I just have to pray for God's guidance. I'm not wise enough in myself to decide. God has already planned for the children He is going to put in our house. I figure He'll give us someone easy at first since I've never done this before. Famous last words, maybe?

I was a stranger and you invited me in.

...whatever you did for the least of these brothers of mine,
you did for me. Matthew 25: 35, 40

I was a stranger and you did not invite me in...
...I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for the least of these,
you did not do for me. Matthew 25: 43, 45

A religion that is pure and unstained is this:
to take care of orphans and widows.... James 1:27

Sunday, July 12, 2009

With Some Trepidation...

Well, I have all the paperwork in and sent it to the CPS worker. Friends have told me that they have received and are filling out questionnaires about me and my home to send back to the agency.
Generous friends have given me a bunk bed frame and I've spent (in my opinion) more than a little money buying mattresses, sheets, comforters and the like. In fact, I've spent a bit of money to get my house inspected and making it safe: smoke detectors in all the bedrooms, fire extinguishers, $75.00 fee to the Fire Marshall etc..then there's getting CPR/First Aid certified, finger printed $$$! I'm a naturally frugal person and so I've gotten a little disgruntled at the money I've been spending. Yes, I'm someone who stresses about finances. Maybe because for so many years as a freelance musician, I had to live on the edge. Even now, with a stable job, being a single mom who receives no outside financial support I feel sometimes as though I'm just living paycheck to paycheck. Maybe that's normal, I don't know.
I just remind myself that what is going on here is more important than my sense of financial security. Can I imagine the lives some of these children are living and really decide they're not worth it? Isn't that rather like all those religious leaders who passed by the man broken and bleeding on the side of the road because it just wasn't convenient? Am I a good Samaritan or a pharisee? God is my provider. If I'm doing His will by seeking to foster/adopt then He will bless my endeavor. As long as I'm being a good financial steward and spending my money how the Lord wants me to then everything is going to be all right.
I've been reading other blogs from people who have adopted and the challenges they are facing. Part of me thinks, "Lord, don't give me a child like that". The other part is reminded that God will not give me or my son anyone that is beyond our ability to care for. He is completely and minutely involved in my life and that includes the process of fostering and adopting children. God works in and through our lives with purpose. Nothing God plans is random or haphazard. Even though whatever child/children He brings into our lives will have its challenges I also know that God has promised to equip us for everything that happens.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not unto your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths." Proverbs 3:5,6.

I know that life will be irreversibly changed after bringing more children into our lives. I remind myself that I felt the same way when I was pregnant with Derek. I'd never been pregnant before and I knew that my life was about to radically take a turn. The unknown was scary. Looking back, however, I recall that first year with Derek as one of the happiest years of my life. There was so much joy and excitement! Before I had Derek I was afraid because I knew I couldn't live only for myself anymore. So much independence and freedom would be gone. Now I can't imagine life without him. The days before my son was born are almost a kind of dark ages. Not that I wasn't happy, I just am so glad he's here.
Fostering children isn't going to be exactly the same thing, but I believe that, if this is God's will, it is going to be better than anything I can imagine. I'm still nervous-rather like when I was waiting to go down that steep slide at Hurricane Harbor where it seems as though you just drop off the edge and free fall-I am holding God's hand. He is walking alongside us and everything is going to be exactly according to His purpose.

"When we walk with the Lord
in the light of His word
what a glory He shines on our way.
When we do His good will
He abides with us still
and to all who will trust and obey."

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

When I Was Very Young

I was privileged to have a mother who read to me from as early as I can remember. She joined the Parents Magazine Book club where she accumulated a sizable collection of children's books including most of Dr. Suess as well as others which are now out of print. Some books we received from neighbors who were moving and trying to get rid of excess baggage. One of these was a prized treasure- but I didn't realize that until much later.

When I was eleven years old, on an impulse of generosity, I gave all these books away to a friend whose mother kept a daycare in her home. Years later I came to regret it. So much so that, after I had my son, I began a personal quest to find and acquire these books that meant so much to me.

Dr. Suess wasn't a problem since they are still hugely popular. I got them by joining a book of the club month. Many of the others, however, were out of print. Nevertheless, one by one I began to collect them. Some I found in places like the Salvation Army or Goodwill. A number I found on eBay. It's wonderful what a google search will do. Many of the books I could not recall the title but I simple googled in a description of the story and voila! There they were!

I still haven't found all of them. One of my favorites I actually found at a church library and offered to pay for it but they refused. I have not been able to find that one anywhere-probably because I cannot remember the title. It's about a Dutch boy who helps work locks at a dam as the boats go through. Any help on that would be greatly appreciated.

One of the most interesting aspects of reading a book as an adult that I had also read when I was little is to compare my adult perception of the story with how I perceived the same story as a child. Children are much more sensitive to the sensation they receive from colors and images. Also, because they are interpreting stories from a concrete operations stage of development they visually process what they are seeing and reading differently than adults. I think that's where a lot of the wonder and magic comes in for a child when reading. It's almost sad to reread the same books grown up because much of the mystery is no longer there.

Even though I'm still missing the Dutch boy, here is a list of the books that I have so far managed to obtain. I am going to describe what I as a child got out of them rather than give a dry recounting of the story.

1.Miss Suzy by Miriam Young; pictures by Arnold Lobel
One of my all time favorites. I made my mother read this to me until she couldn't stand the sight of the book (that's what she told me years later). Lobel is the writer and illustrator of the Frog and Toad books. His drawings of Miss Suzy's little house with its furniture and also the doll house that she later had to move into after the red squirrels kicked her out of her home appealed to me as a little girl in the same way playing with a doll house would. It seemed so cozy. Besides that, the heroism of the toy soldiers coming to her rescue and fighting off the red squirrels captured my young heart because I think all girls (big and little) want a hero.

2.The Cookie Tree by Jay Williams; illustrated by Blake Hampton
Of course, children love sweets so one can see why a child would love to read about a tree that grew cookies. All the people, especially their facial expressions, were drawn in a dramatic way that fascinated me. The story ends with the smiling of a magician that only deepens the mystery. The story is set in medieval times so children get the added benefit of seeing what a village from the middle ages would look like as well as the costume of the time. As an adult I was able to appreciate the message that adults can rob themselves and others of the joy of a thing by thinking too much. In "The Cookie Tree", the adults refused to eat the cookies on the tree. Instead,they stood around it arguing with each other about why such a tree would be in their midst while the children simply concluded that a cookie tree exists so the cookies can be eaten.The Cookie Tree

3.Alexander by Harold Littledale; illustrated by Tom Vroman
Alexander is a big candy-cane striped horse that sometimes has a bad day and gets into trouble. Or so the little boy tells his father. Of course as a child, I didn't understand that the horse was a figment of the boy's imagination and every naughty thing the horse did was actually the boy recounting his own behavior. The drawings are simple and outlined with black around bold solid colors. Being young, I was amazed how a horse could jump on a sofa, hide under a table or sulk behind a slide.

4.Never Tease a Weasel by Jean Conder Soule; illustrated by Denman HampsonWhen I sought this book out on the internet I saw that there is a later edition with different illustrations. I don't know if it is a better or worse version, but the illustrations painted by Hampson is the edition I had. It was important to me to get the original because, as I said, a young child is extremely responsive to the visual more than the abstract symbolism of the written word since they don't yet have enough information in their minds to associate the words with images. The colors are very bright and the concepts imaginative. The story is done in rhyme with the refrain being, “Never tease a weasel! Teasing isn't nice. A weasel will not like it and teasing isn't nice.”
The verses are nonsensical and stir a child's imagination because for the very young the line between reality and fantasy is blurred. They state that you can give a fox mittens or a mink coat to a goat or a pink wig to a pig and so on, accompanied by brightly colored pictures depicting what the verses are describing. These verses were tantalizing notions to me yet entirely acceptable for this reason.

5.Harvey's Hideout by Russell Hoban; pictures by Lillian Hoban
This book 's theme of loneliness and the need for friendship resonated with me. Probably because living on military bases, my friendships could be ephemeral with all the coming and going of neighbors. I don't think I had a friend longer than a couple of years before one of us moved. Being alone and the need to create my own imaginary worlds to amuse myself allowed me to relate to Harvey. Also, I don't know why but the anthropomorphizing of animals is really effective.

The story is about a muskrat named Harvey and his bossy older sister, Mildred. School is out and Harvey and Mildred's friends, for various reasons, are gone for the summer. Like most siblings they spend the day getting on each others nerves and for Harvey everything is exacerbated by the fact that he is lonely and has no one to play with. Not so, Mildred. She has a party to go to every day. She carefully selects a pretty dress for herself and her doll before going off somewhere in the woods.

 Harvey also goes off in the woods where he makes a hole (his hideout) and tries to enjoy playing by himself. It simply doesn't work and finally Harvey sits on the floor and cries out of sheer frustration. Then he hears noises next to his den. He digs a little hole and discovers that next to his hole is another one. Guess who's there! His sister, alone, playing with her doll. Some conflict ensues when Mildred discovers that Harvey has been “spying” on her but, as you can guess, it is resolved and the two siblings realize that they can actually be friends and enjoy each others company.

6.The Tall Book of Make Believe selected by Jane Werner; illustrated by Garth Williams
I still cannot believe my good fortune at getting this book. This is the book that was given to me by a neighbor who was just getting rid of stuff before they moved. As I said, I didn't realize what a treasure it was until I began looking for it as an adult.  I got a shock. This book is not only out of print but treasured by many, many people.

You can't buy it for under a hundred dollars and many are being sold for considerably more than that. How I rued the day I gave that book away! I scouted many a used bookstore and charity outlet but to no avail. Finally, on a lark, I looked it up on eBay. I was actually looking for something else but typed it in on an impulse. As usual, most people were selling this book for at least a hundred or even two and three hundred dollars.

By chance I noticed one copy for sale for fifty dollars and there was only fifteen minutes left.  I bid for fifty one dollars and thought I had it made in the shade. I'd never bid on eBay before so I figured the book was mine. At just a couple minutes before the bidding closed I saw that someone else had bid! The nerve of them! I bid another dollar. With thirty seconds to go I began a frantic race to out bid the other guy. Through plain luck,I was the last to click "enter" and got the book for sixty-two dollars.
Then of course, I panicked. Was it a trick? I prayed for God to make it right. (I'm ashamed to admit how often I pray that prayer.) All's well that ends well. I got the book and it's in very good condition, considering its age (1950, first edition).

Some of you may wonder what's the fuss about. This is really a wonderful book. It's an anthology of some of the most imaginative and colorful short stories and poems written for children. They really don't make stuff like this anymore and Harper and Brothers really needs to reissue this book because it's not right that such a valuable collection of children's literature should be so unattainable to the average parent of young children. Until that happens if you can come across a copy that's not outrageously expensive appreciate your good luck.

That is all I have. Which is to say I possess in my hands and in my memory a treasure trove of literary riches that have filled my mind and imagination with the richness of color and fantasy that added so very much to the joy of being a child (and also an adult).

Book Blogger Hop
How many books in my TBR pile?  Over one hundred!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Gotta Add One More: Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson

I realize I forgot one of my favorite books and a must-read for two years old on up until a child can read on their own. The book is Harold and the Purple Crayon written and illustrated by Crockett Johnson. I personally have Harold's Purple Crayon Treasury: five adventures with the purple crayon.
When I was young, my favorite color crayon was red, or so my mother informs me, and I, too, enjoyed expressing myself on the living room wall behind the couch... or so my mother informs me. I actually don't remember this, at least on a conscious level, but something in me resonates with Harold because as an adult I thoroughly enjoy following Harold as his crayon takes him from adventure to adventure.
The illustrations are very simple just a little boy and the pictures he draws on his bedroom wall. His scrawlings always seem to get him into a fix of some sort but are able to resolve, usually with Harold drifting off to sleep.
Anyway, you've got to add Harold to your library.

Friday, July 3, 2009

A Few of My Favorite Things

Book list for preschoolers

This list comes from my own collection of children's books and is in no way exhaustive. I have not even included every children's book I ever owned or read to my son. Even though I cannot resist buying books, many good children's books are in your local library. I don't know how many of these books are out of print because I bought them several years ago when my now teenaged son was little but most books can be looked up on the internet and somewhere, someone is probably selling them.
I have compiled a relatively brief list of books each under the age when my son could comprehend and enjoy them. Every child is different, however, and that is why I have offered a two or three year age span for age appropriateness. Play it by ear with your own child; be sensitive to what sort of books interest them. Don't force them to listen to a story they are clearly not interested in. In addition to teaching through books you want to develop a love of books.

First and Second Year:

1.Black and White booksThese books offer the sharp contrast that experts say babies need to discern shapes. They include everyday shapes of a baby's world. They contain no words so you simply tell baby out loud what each object is: Teddy bear, sailboat, rubber duck etc.

2. Opposites by the National Geographic Society
Actually any book with opposites that have simple clear-cut illustrations with solid colors will do. This one has animals such as the front of a raccoon on the cover and his back on the back cover, an owl awake and asleep, a hippo's mouth open then closed, a billy goat climbing up a mountain then down and so on.

3. In Out: a Disney book of Opposites illustrated by Richard DuerrsteinAnother great opposite book starring Mickey and the gang that is very appealingly illustrated.In-Out: A Disney Book of Opposites

4. One Mickey Mouse: A Disney book of numbers illustrated by Richard Duerrstein
This is a book from the same series as the aforementioned book but, as the title suggests, deals with sequence and quantity concepts.
There is another book in this series about feelings that I don't have but I'm sure is very good as well. One Mickey Mouse: A Disney Book of Numbers

5. Dr. Suess books
I will not list all of Dr. Suess's books here but suffice to say that the simplest of the books will appeal to babies and toddlers: The ABC book, The Foot Book, Run, Dog, Run to name a few.

6. The Little Dog Laughed and other nursery Rhymes by Mother Goose illustrated by Lucy Cousins
This book contains all the best known nursery rhymes that every child should grow up knowing. Cousins uses a primitive, childlike method of drawing and uses bold solid colors that will make it easy for the very young to perceive and enjoy.

7. Good Dog, Carl books by Alexandra Day
These are a series of books about a rottweiler and a baby and the simple adventures they experience together while the parents are away. They are sweet stories and appeal to toddlers.
They have no words so you can talk to your toddler concerning the events on each page.

Second and Third Year

8. Eric Carle books
These are fabulous books with wonderful illustrations made out of collage. They include: The Angry Ladybug, The Hungry Caterpillar, The Busy Spider, My Apron and many others.

9. Bill Martin Jr. Books
Again all these are wonderfully illustrated while teaching concepts in an understandable way for preschoolers. A few titles: Chick a chick a Boom Boom! Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do You See?

10. Books by Audrey and Don Wood
These books are fun to look at because of the detail (that two and three olds are ready to comprehend) and the comical scenes. Some of the books are: The Napping House, Piggies, and King Bidgood's in the Bathtub.

11. Circles, Triangles and Squares by Tana Hoban
This book is typical of the many books that Hoban has created for preschoolers. They contain photographs of scenes around a city The child is to identify the various shapes they see. E.g. a child will notice (with guidance from an adult) circles inside of pipes, hula hoops, eyeglasses; triangles on a swing set, trellises of a railroad bridge, and the roof of a house sidewalks containing squares; etc..

12. Tell Me a Rhyme illustrated by Pamela Storey
Another book of nursery rhymes with realistically drawn figures and containing more detail then the previously listed nursery rhyme book. This book allows children to see how people dressed in bygone days and also develops a knowledge base of how the events in the rhymes actually look as compared to the more “surrealistic” drawings of The Little Dog Laughed.

13. The Little Engine that Could by Watty Piper
I am a great proponent of classic stories and believe there are some stories that every child should be familiar with. The Little Engine that Could is one of them. This is a classic story of determination winning out in the end.

14. Books by Margaret Wise Brown
Brown attempted to write stories in a way that a child would express himself. They are excellent in conveying everyday concepts that are on a preschooler's level. My favorites are, Good Night Moon, The Quiet Noisy Book and the Winter Noisy Book.

15. First Discovery Books by Scholastic
These books are fun not only because they teach interesting facts (titles include Airplanes, Fruit, Colors, The Earth and Sky) but because they have transparent sheets with the outside of the object being studied (e.g. an apple) on one side of the page and then the inside of the object on the other side combined with illustrations on opaque pages as well.

16. Go Away Big Green Monster! by Ed Emberley
Emberley illustrated many wonderful books of which quite a few are of well known folk songs – always valuable for children to learn as it teaches them about their own heritage. This book is not about a folk song but is cleverly created through cut out illustrations that slowly “create” a monster and then make him “go away” as each page turn first adds a detail of the monster's face for the first half of the book, then takes them away page by page for the second half.

17. Zoom and Re Zoom by Istvan Bantai
Zoom and Re Zoom have no words but are extremely interesting illustrations that grow out of each other with each turn of the page showing children (and us) that things are not always as they first seem.
Search Amazon.com for zoom istvan banyai

18. A boy, A Dog and a Frog by Mercer Mayor
This is the first of three books by Mayor that are pencil drawn without words. They are endearing illustrations of the various adventures a boy and his pets go on. In the first book, the boy and dog try to catch the frog and find out that sometimes to catch something you have to let it catch you. In the second book, the boy, frog and dog, now all fast friends meet a new "smaller" frog who eagerly joins the group much to the jealous consternation of the "older" frog. A good book for young children coping with the advent of a younger sibling. As with other books without written narration they are an enjoyable way for a child to develop their own powers of expression and ability to describe in their own words details of a given event.

Search Amazon.com for a boy a dog and a frog

19. Tuesday by David Wiesner
Another book without words (mostly) that delves into the fantastical. Without giving anything away, lets just say that it starts with some frogs flying around on lily pads. This sort of book spurs a child's imagination.
Search Amazon.com for tuesday by david wiesner

Third, Fourth, and Fifth year

20. Colors, Places and People by Phillip Yenawine
Three different books by Yenawine who at one time was the director of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. They are very interesting and set in a way to help a child think about the works of art (all from M.O.M.A.) he/she is looking at. Finally, they are an invaluable tool in cultivating a taste for fine art.

21. Time for Bed by Mem Fox
Fox is an Australian children's book writer. This is an excellent book to read before going to bed. It contains endearing illustrations by Jane Dyer depicting various animals being put to bed by their mothers. This also shows the concept of how animals look fully grown and as babies.

22. Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star illustrated by Michael Hague
Books that illustrate folk and children songs are a must in any children's library and Hague is a phenomenal illustrator. His paintings are full of rich color and detail (which a child this age can visually process) He has also illustrated an ABC book entitled “Alphabears” a book on Unicorns and at least one Fairy Tale book. Little girls especially will love his beautiful paintings.

23. Yankee Doodle illustrated by Steven Kellogg
Another book illustrating a folk song. Kellogg's illustrations contain a lot of detail so make sure your child is at a stage of cognitive development to visually process the pictures.

Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Year

24. Pop up books by Nick Bantok
These books can seem a little weird if not creepy to some, but they are ingeniously engineered to make interesting pop up illustrations. What also makes them worthwhile is that Bantok chose famous poems from Alice in Wonderland, the Merry Adventures of Robin Hood and even Kubla Khan by Coleridge. A probable favorite for children this age will be his pop up book of There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly.
Search Amazon.com for nick bantock pop up books

25. Yo! Yes? by Chris Raschka
This book contains a word a page and simply drawn illustrations, so it could probably be read to even younger readers. The concept of friendship and accepting people different than ourselves, however, is a good teaching model for the older preschooler and school age child.

26. Toot and Puddle books by Holly Hobbie
I love all these warmly painted books with their touching stories about two pig friends. Most children will, too.
Search Amazon.com for toot and puddle books

27. Peter and the Wolf by Sergei Prokofiev, designed by Barbara Cooney
This is another pop up book , brilliantly done, depicting the famous orchestral piece by Sergei Prokofiev. The pop ups unfold as each page is turned over as if they were a scene on a stage. It is painted in such a way as to convey a rich Russian backdrop to the observer and teachers would find this a wonderful classroom prop as they played this musical work that is intended to teach the different instruments in an orchestra.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

When We Were Very Young

I am now going to indulge in one of my all time favorite topics. If you are like minded you might hopefully find this post not only interesting but informative. It concerns books. More specifically, children's books and when and what you should read to children.
I started reading to my son when he was two months old. First I started with picture books. Illustrated books with stark contrast are your best bet. Tana Hoban black and white books are wonderful. I also showed him pictures of paintings by Edouard Manet because a lot of his paintings depict a single figure sharply outlined, usually in black. I joined the Dr. Suess book club and two books in particular were his favorites: "The Foot Book" and the "ABC book". Derek was also responsive to nursery rhymes. Yes, even at two months old Derek showed interest (or a lack thereof depending on what I was reading to him) in books. He would focus on the pictures as I read to them when he was interested and he would start looking around the room when he got tired or wasn't interested in what I was reading. I accordingly found out that he could pay attention to someone showing him pictures for up to forty-five minutes and that he had particular books that he enjoyed looking at. Let me point out that other than the short rhymes I was not reading stories to Derek but labeling the objects in the pictures. Another similar activity to develop your child's vocabulary is to take your baby around the room and pick up objects and label them. (“This is a cup, this is a spoon, this is a teddy bear et al.”)
By the time he was a year old, we would start the day with me reading to Derek for about forty-five minutes and then he was content to play by himself for quite a while and I could get things done. That's a word to the wise: put your children first. Play with them; read to them; give them attention first thing you do in the day and you'll find they will not be whining for your attention the rest of the day but be content to play by themselves for a good while. I was blessed to be able to stay home with Derek the first couple of years of his life. The dishes and housework could wait (they weren't going anywhere, it was all there waiting for me when I got to them) but I found Derek never whined or demanded my attention because he got it without having to ask for it. Because he had that security he was willing to play by himself for a long time before needing me again.
Because I started reading to Derek at such a young age he developed quite an attention span. When he was seventeen months old I started teaching at a preschool half days. We were living with my parents at the time so I would stay up late reading to him so he would sleep late while I was at work. By the time he got up it was only a couple of hours before I got home so most of his waking hours were with me.(I was sleep deprived but it was worth it.) In the evenings, I would sit on the floor and he would come towards me walking backward until he plopped his diapered bottom on to my lap. We loved to look at pictures of paintings by Mary Cassatt because so many of them portrayed a woman holding a young child in her lap. We continued to read all the Dr. Suess books and Mother Goose's nursery rhymes.
There are so many excellent books for preschoolers that I will post all the books I read to my son tomorrow. Generally, they need to have simple pictures, not a lot of detail and very simple sentences that briefly describe the illustration or photo on the page. At this point you want books that clearly point out concepts such as prepositional relationships, colors, days of the week etc... Young children are responsive to rhymes and chants. I found that most nursery rhymes were originally songs so when I knew the melody I would sing the rhyme. Another thought: my son liked me reading him books in Spanish and French- he especially liked French and preschool is the best time to get your child language CD's with books. They still need to be age appropriate and of the same content I have just described for books in English. My son loved Teddy Berlitz. It was a French language tape with a book and we “went to school” with Teddy, “played on the playground”, “visited friends” and learned all sorts of vocabulary.
Well, that's all for today. I hope this was interesting and helpful for those who want to read and develop the intellectual potential of the children.