One of my favourite things about Christmas is the fresh new stack of books that I know will be waiting for me under the tree. I wait in delicious anticipation for the moment that I get to unwrap the adventures that await me over the course of the next year (or at least until my birthday!). To me a book is one of the most thoughtful and personal gifts you can give; knowing that the giver spent time perusing the multitude of books to find just the right one makes me deeply happy. In turn, I love choosing just the right book for each person on my list, considering their interests, reading styles and so much more to find the one that fits. If all I gave and all I got for Christmas were books (and love, lots of love), I would be one happy mama!
Since it's not always easy to sift through all of the options available, we thought we would bring you our 2014 Book Giving Guide. We hope it helps you find just the right book for each person on your list!
I am Malala (Young Readers Edition) - Malala Yousafzai, Patricia McCormick. A very well crafted account of the life & work of Malala Yousafzai, 17 year old winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. A must-read for all kids who are even remotely interested in social justice issues and world events. 9-15 years old.
The Seven Realms Series - Cinda Williams Chima. Looking for a new series for the fantasy fan on your list? Look no further - The Seven Realms Series is perfect! Magic, royalty and adventure blend together in to a wonderful read. 12-17 years old.
The Book With No Pictures - BJ Novak. Looking for something that is just plain fun? You can't beat this book for it's silly, completely ridiculous, giggle inducing text. We will be buying one for all the kids on our list! 3-9 years old
Press Here - Herve Tullet . This book is whimsical and fun for kids of all ages. Consider pairing it with the latest from the same author - Mix It Up. 3-5 years old
Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site - Sherri Duskey Rinker. For the younger readers on your list, this book is a wonderful bedtime read. The rhyming text leads you through the process of putting all the big machines at the construction site to bed in a peaceful, soothing manner. One of my youngest daughter's favourites. 3-5 years old
My Brave Year of Firsts - Jamie Lee Curtis. If you have a child on your gift list who is in kindergarten or grade one, this book is a fabulous choice. Chock-full of connections for all those firsts they run in to in those early years. 4-9 years old.
Rosie Revere, Engineer; Iggy Peck, Architect - Andrea Beaty. Love, love, love these books! The rhyme scheme is fun and the message of perserverance and passion (not to mention women in STEM!) is fantastic! 3-9 years old
The Most Magnificent Thing - Ashley Spires. Another great choice for the budding engineer on your list, with a powerful message of perserverance and success. 3-9 years old
What Does it Mean to Be Present - Rana DiOrio. An amazing present for both adults and children alike. In our busy world it reminds us what it means to enjoy where we are and take every moment as a gift! 5-10 years old
Ish - Peter H. Reynolds. A great little book which teaches us that its ok to try and be "ish". Peter Reynolds does an amazing job of teaching the power of our words. A great book for teaching inference or just a cute read. 3-9 years old
The Way I Feel - Janan Cain. This book is a great one for young kids and is especially helpful for parents looking to help kids identify and deal with some of their big emotions. The bright, colourful drawings draw kids in and the words open the door to bigger conversations about feelings. 3-9 years old
Tap the Magic Tree - Christie Matheson. A fun, interactive book that needs to be shaken, wiggled and touched! Great fun for little ones! 3-5 years old
Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays to all!
The final countdown is on. Report cards are finished, the Christmas concert is mere hours away and exhaustion is showing on everyone's faces. The last week before winter holidays is always one of high emotion in an elementary school - most kids are excited but some are worried, stressed and anxious about the days ahead. What everyone needs, in and amongst all the fun and excitement, is a moment of calm; an oasis, no matter how brief, from the high that everyone is running on.
The last week is also one of flagging energy for many teachers, myself included. I have been sitting here for quite awhile, trying to come up with a list of soothing books to read to your class or your kids to calm them down at this busy time of year but to be honest, I am struggling. So in that spirit, I have one book that I really want to share with you, one that might just help calm things down for a moment, in your class or at home. After that, take a cue from my husband who, when asked which books he found most soothing, replied "Any book I have read a thousand times."
Switching on the Moon, A Very First Book of Bedtime Poems (collected by Jane Yolen & Andrew Fusek Peters) - These wonderful poems, arranged in three categories - Going to Bed, Sweet Dreams and In The Night - are soft, soothing and wonderfully calming. This collection is a refreshing break from your usual collection of Mother Goose nursery rhymes or school readers. A gift from my parents to my oldest daughter, this book has given us many quiet moments curled up on the couch.
Hoping that the last week treats you well and that you enjoy a well-deserved holiday with family and friends!
In the lead up to my husband's Christmas party (part of which we hosted) last week, we pulled out the decorations and, more importantly, all of our Christmas books. As fate would have it, my parents also brought the girls a new Christmas book so we continue to add to our collection - yay! Since my kids can't yet read this, I can also safely reveal that we will be adding several more to our collection in the next few days as part of our Countdown to Christmas. We lost our refillable advent calendar somewhere between here and last Christmas so I scanned Pinterest (of course!) and found these three great ideas (click images to follow links):
I've added a gift/treat/activity element to the blessings jar, including lots of books and most of the activities on the Christmas Bucket List, and ba-da-bing, ba-da-boom, I have a new Christmas tradition. So far, the kiddos seem to like it, so that's a win for me!
So, with all of these Christmas books floating around the house, it seemed only fitting to share them with you. Here are some new picks and old favourites:
A Porcupine in a Pine Tree (Helaine Becker) - Canadiana at it's Christmas finest! This book is a hilarious version of the popular song, complete with Canadian cliches galore. My favourite? The ten Leafs-a-leaping...but never quite reaching... the 5 Stanley Cups. Awesome, just awesome. Perfect for all the Canucks on your list!
Dashing Through the Snow (Helaine Becker) - Porcupine is back in another healthy dose of Christmas in Canada. Although not quite as cheeky as the first book, this one is still a lot of fun as the uber-Canadian animals try to figure out which present belongs to whom. The illustrations in this one include beautiful backgrounds representative of the Canadian north, something which was not there in the first book. If I had to choose, I think I would pick the first one as my top choice but I certainly am happy we own both!
The Christmas Birthday Story (Margaret Laurence) - This one may be a little unfair to share, as it is out of print. If you can get your hands on a copy, however, you will be rewarded with a wonderfully told version of the birth of Jesus, a version which focuses on the family, the travel and the birth of the baby rather than the religious aspects of the story. The writing is wonderful and soothing and the illustrations are stunning, simply rendered line drawings coloured with bold, beautiful colours. One of my favourite Christmas books. I'm thrilled that my parents saved it to allow me to pass it along to my kids. Thanks mom and dad!
The Polar Express (Chris Van Allsburg) - This classic Christmas story is one of my favourites. I have read it to children of all ages and have always been able to hear a pin drop while I do; kids love the magic and mystery of this book and it's illustrations, which are just stunning. I have yet to see the movie and may never do so; this book is just so magical to me that I fear wrecking it if I see the movie. If I read nothing else at Christmas other than this and The Christmas Birthday Story, I would be happy.
The Christmas Orange (Don Gillmore) - I must confess I have yet to read this one but it comes highly recommended by Kristi, so that makes it a must-read this year! It's the story of a greedy young boy who hands Santa an extraordinarily long Christmas list, only to find a single orange under the tree come Christmas Day. Being the charming child that he is, he sues Santa and in the process discovers the true meaning of Christmas. I am looking forward to sharing this one because every year the onslaught of presents feels overwhelming to me (especially with little ones) and I silently crave a simpler, less materialistic season that focuses on family, friends, peace and joy.
Note - The Christmas Orange has been made in to a made for TV movie (released in 2002) and an adaptation featuring Al Simmons, filmed in Manitoba (find it here).
Snowmen at Christmas (Caralyn Buehner) - This fun book takes a peek at holiday traditions from a snowman's perspective - caroling, tree trimming, dancing and singing all take place while people sleep snug in their beds. The rhyming text is fun and the illustrations are quite cute. Perhaps not a Christmas classic, but certainly a fun addition to your collection.
It's Christmas, David! (David Shannon) - Who can resist the mischievous little David, especially as he runs down the street bare naked?! Shannon's portrayal of what a young child might hear at Christmas time is spot on, especially for little monkeys like my almost-3-year-old. The heartwarming ending to this book reminds me of how tiring the holidays can be for wee ones and how important it is to remember to say Yes to them more often than we say No, even if it's just a simple reframing of our answer. Once again, David is a winner.
Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!
We blew it again. Last week, Monday came and Monday went. Neither Kristi nor I managed to eke out a measly blog post. Chalk it up to being busy moms with busy personal and professional lives. Chalk it up to an unexpected meeting that got dropped in during the time Kristi had allotted to writing the post. Chalk it up to, well, life.
Life, as busy as it may be, always holds moments of time that can be repurposed or multi-purposed, freed up for things other than that for which they were intended. Which is how I find myself writing this when I don't really have the time. Multi-tasking as I wait for my youngest to fall asleep. I've been really thrilled lately to have received several compliments on our blog, a few (surprisingly, to me anyway) from non-teacher friends. So I feel like these stolen moments are important moments; I'm no longer writing just for me (which was fine, I enjoy doing it) but for others who are reading it too. Wow! So no matter how late, no matter how busy, I want to get something down, for me and for you. Thanks for reading!
Lots of professional reading going on this week but we'll throw in a couple of picture books to round it out.
Bear Says Thanks (Karma Wilson). I love all of the Bear books. Their rhyme and rhythm is so wonderful, I could read them over and over again (which is good, because my kids love to do just that!). Recent events in the world and in my own life have reminded me of how important it is to be thankful for the little things and this book is just perfect for that. Kind-hearted Bear discovers that, even though his cupboards are bare, he still has something wonderful to offer his friends, just as they have something to offer him. A beautiful book to use simply as a read-aloud, this book could also spark discussion about materialism, gift-giving and the importance of being thankful. A definite must-read.
Read, Write, Lead: Breakthrough Strategies for Schoolwide Literacy Success (Regie Routman). I've had the pleasure of hearing Regie speak when she came to Kelowna last year so when this book was presented as an option at a recent in-service I was excited to read it. The thing that struck me the most about this book was the focus on changing the culture of your entire school, from principal right down to student, to embrace literacy success. While this might seem to be rather obvious based on the title of the book, Routman's book goes deeper than just strategies and structures; beginning with establishing the communally held beliefs (even if, as she says, you can only agree on one!) of your staff about education, Routman charts a course towards a place where every teacher believes that every child will learn to read and does everything they can to make it so. Although not as easy and enjoyable a read as Donalyn Miller's Reading in the Wild, Read, Write, Lead is an excellent choice for instructional coaches, principals and other teacher-leaders looking to forge a way towards excellence in literacy instruction in their schools.
If I Built a House - Chris Van Dusen. One of the most powerful structures that we have in place at our school is deliberate chunks of time set aside for collaboration. Called, simply, collab blocks, these are two blocks per week where Kristi and I have intentionally scheduled nothing; this allows one (or both!) of us to cover a classroom teacher so that that teacher can meet with whomever they need to - usually one of us, since we do a lot of co-teaching, but occasionally with their grade partner. We have found this time to be invaluable to ensuring a responsive and flexible support schedule for our kiddos, allowing us to meet their needs quickly and accurately. What it also means is that one of us is frequently called upon to deliver a somewhat impromptu literacy lesson (that, or cover centres in Kindergarten, cringe). This is how, just the other day, I found myself reading If I Built a House to a rather large group of Gr. 2s and 3s. What fun! We talked about visualization, imagined what the rooms would look like if the book had no pictures (which, as a total aside, is a book I would love to read to this group!) and then got to draw out the rooms we would have in the houses we would build. Fun was had by all; I think I'd like to go back and do If I Built A Car!
Math Work Stations: Independent Learning You Can Count On K-2 (Debbie Diller). This is a book filled with practical strategies and ready-to-use activities for setting up math stations in your classrooms. I picked it up as part of our staff professional reading lit circle in the hopes that it would give me (and my co-teacher) some great ideas for the math pit. In reality, it has not been a great fit for us because it focuses on K-2 (I know, I know. It's in the title! I had hoped that some of the activities could be repurposed for older kids) and uses a somewhat different definition of stations than we do in the Lit Pit/Math Pit. That being said, there are tons of great ideas and activities in here if you do teach K-3 and prefer more of a centers-based approach to stations (Diller pairs students up and allows them, in a guided fashion, to choose their activity, rather than run stations on a small-group rotation basis.) or if you are just starting to explore the idea of math learning stations. I love that she guides you through everything, right down to the purchase and storage of your materials. I also love that most of the strategies can be implemented right away with very little work - as far as I'm concerned, that right there is worth the price of admission!
Thanks again for reading! Still filled with gratitude that others are taking the time out of their day to read what we write.
I'm Bryn, teacher, mom, book lover, athlete. I am passionate about living life with my family, teaching and learning something new all the time. I hope you find something that speaks to you here on my blog and would love to hear from you too!