Reviews and projects

1st-3rd Grade Readers, Preschool-Kindergarten

Someone Needs a Friend Today.

“Can I be Your Dog” is a sweet book that my whole family enjoyed. It is basically a compilation of letters written between the dog and various community members as the dog searches for a home and family. Troy Cummings does a great job of taking a serious topic of helping animals in need and making it bringing it to the attention of children in a heartwarming way. Don’t worry, I won’t give away the ending, but I will tell you that at the very end of the book Mr. Cummings shares lots of ideas of how you too can help animals without a home, and of course, we were inspired! But first, the review…

  • Age appropriate words and tone Yes
  • Age appropriate messaging – Yes
  • Engaging illustrations – Yes
  • Inspire growth, imagination, or thought- Yes
  • Sustainable interest over multiple reads- Yes,
    • I would rate this book a 5 out of 5!

You’ve read the book, now what?

The Value of Working for a Gift

They made their sign, they knew their message (“the money is to help the lonely puppies,”) and they mixed their product. By 10am my little entrepreneurs were ready to open their first business. Let me say, we have some very generous neighbors! I have never in my life paid so much for a glass of lemonade as some of the kind souls that drove by this sale over the weekend did, but my children were so excited and so grateful! In under two hours, they raised $45 to take to donate to the SPCA! I don’t know who benefited more from this project, the homeless puppies, the people who were able to donate and many of whom commented on being proud of the kids for taking such initiative, or my children, who got to work for something other than themselves. They got the satisfaction of the joy that comes from working hard for something other than yourself. They were so happy to give all that money away, knowing it was for a good cause. I was so proud of them. After it was all said and done, it was very late, and I did treat them to a Happy Meal, which was almost providential because inside they found a dog of their own to take home!

Letters Lift a Lonely Heart

Great Grandpa has terrible Alzheimer’s disease, he won’t remember which great- grandchild Lydia is when this had written card reaches his complete care home, but he will remember that he is loved. He will know that he is remembered and treasured even though we are far away. If you know someone who might be lonely, write them a letter. Don’t send a text. Don’t rely on a Facebook post. There is something special about the extra effort of putting a stamp on an envelope and taking those few steps to the mailbox that really spark our hearts. Let’s revive the dying art of letter writing!

Read together and Do together!

1st-3rd Grade Readers, Preschool-Kindergarten, Uncategorized

Indoor fun for your little monster

Is your May weather as moody as ours is? One day we are outside enjoying the full beauty of Spring, and the very next day we are hunkered down listening to the storms from the safety of our inner most rooms. It is days like that when we are very thankful for our recent trip to the library. I love libraries for so many reasons, but one of the most obvious is the chance to discover new books for FREE! This week we found a book called “Have You Seen My Monster?”

It was written by Steve Light, and while the story-line is incredibly basic, we are talking a few words per page, this book has two elements that make it extra fun. There is the basic “find” aspect on each page, as the children get to hunt for not-so-hidden monster, and there is a new and exciting intro into the world of geometry. This book goes well beyond the basic square, circle, triangle shapes that picture books commonly offer children, by simply naming and coloring shapes like “curvlinear triangles” and “nonagons” on otherwise black and white illustrations. I think it is this distinction that blends the book across the age groups, making it appropriate for preschoolers and also interesting for the 1st-3rd grade readers who are still mastering geometry terms.

  • Age appropriate words and tone -Yes
  • Age appropriate messaging – Yes
  • Engaging illustrations – Yes
  • Inspire growth, imagination, or thought- Yes
  • Sustainable interest over multiple reads- Maybe
    • I would rate this book a 4.5 out of 5!

You’ve read the book, now what?

Shape your Monster (then hide and seek it!)

Give your kiddos the opportunity to practice their fine motor skills by cutting out shapes that you’ve pre-drawn for them on a variety of colored paper. Let them clue them together to create a monster from their own imagination. Meanwhile, make one of your own so that when they are finished with their creations, you can hide your monster and you can spend the next 30 minutes (or…hours!) playing “Have you seen my monster?”

Read Together & Do Together

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“STOP” Should Mean “STOP!”

Well, ladies and gentleman, the time has come for me to put on my big girl pants and tell you about a book I didn’t like. This is my first negative book review for two reasons. First, I am not a confrontational person. As a matter of fact, for all of you who are loving all the talk about Enneagram personality traits, I tested as a 9-the Peacemaker, with second place scoring as the Helper, and third, the Loyalist. It is Not in my nature to call someone out in a public forum to say negative things about work they obviously put effort into. (Trust me! Publishing books, “even” children’s books, is hard work!) That said, if I am going to review children’s books, I have to toughen up! No one is going to trust a reviewer who thinks all books are wonderful, because let’s be honest, they aren’t. Secondly, I wanted to open the blog with as positively and as upbeat as possible. But now it is time to get to it!

The great news is that even a book that I don’t love can still be an excellent teaching moment for my children!!! Did you hear me? Just because I review a book and score it with a 3 or less, please don’t think that means I don’t think you should read it. If anything, I think it means you should be prepared, and consider reading it to yourself before reading it aloud to your children (if you choose to do that). It might mean you have to prepare to answer some questions or maybe even ask some yourself. Being ready to engage them is key, and that is precisely what I encourage you to do with this week’s book.

Ugh. Can you see it? Can you see from the eyes of a mother who is desperately trying to teach her toddlers about the dangers of running into the street, why I cringe even looking at the cover of this book by Adam Lehraupt? When a parent struggles to make his or her children that “no” means “no,” and “don’t” means “don’t,” the last thing those parents need is a book that breaks all those rules, and encourages the exact opposite. Some parents will think I am overreacting, but when we live in a society where even our precious babies are not safe from predators, whether it is a traffic sign or the spoken word, I want my kids to know the power that should be in the word “STOP!”

Unfortunately this book begs the children to stop at every page, showing these realistic images of traffic warning signs they recognize as pointing out danger, but of course, logic dictates they are really meant to turn the page anyway. While I read this with every ounce of drama and enthusiasm as the book called for, (as all true book lovin’ mamas do), I absolutely hated myself for it on the inside. Even knowing that I had role play and field trip activities in place to “erase” any mixed messages they may have received, I couldn’t help but cringe at how much the kids liked being rebellious. Yes, it is true. The kids giggled and jumped at every chance to ignore and disobey the narrator. They have asked to read it more than once, but after a couple reads, I had to conveniently hide it in the library bag. (Out of sight, out of mind.)

  • Age appropriate words and tone -Yes
  • Age appropriate messaging – NO
  • Engaging illustrations – Yes, but not necessarily appropriate use
  • Inspire growth, imagination, or thought- Yes
  • Sustainable interest over multiple reads- No
    • I would rate this book a 3 out of 5!

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You’ve Read the Book, Now What

Role Play Games

Do you remember “Red Light/Green Light?” Now is the perfect time to introduce that game to a new generation! You might even go so far as to help them make “lights” out of paper plates, construction paper, tape or glue, and a couple of wooden skewers or popsicle sticks.

CALL YOUR CITY

Lastly, I highly suggest calling your city’s Public Works office! I was so happy I did. Honestly, I wasn’t sure what I was going to even ask them, but I knew I had an agenda they would think was important- I wanted to teach my kids about the importance of the safety/traffic signs they would see around town. I am so glad I called! It just so happens they too think it is a critical mission, and have a public event coming up THIS month! Call the office, or check out their website/facebook page, or send someone an email, maybe you will find an event like ours is on their schedule, or perhaps you will inspire them to plan one! If you live in the Kansas City area, you should come check out what is happening in Blue Springs.

Early Learning Books & Activities

Three Promises as Solid as Rock

Sydney Hanson’s charming illustrations are the perfect pairing for the sweet message Christie Thomas has conveyed through her story “Quinn’s Promise Rock.” In the story, little Quinn begins to worry, and her father calms her fears by reminding her of the promises of the Lord’s direction, protection, and presence in her life. He does so by highlighting similarities between God and three different formations of rock. I highly recommend reading it. I genuinely hope the analogies bring as much comfort to your little ones as they do for Quinn!

  • Age appropriate words and tone Yes
  • Age appropriate messaging – Yes
  • Engaging illustrations – Yes
  • Inspire growth, imagination, or thought- Yes
  • Sustainable interest over multiple reads- Yes,
    • I would rate this book a 5 out of 5!

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You’ve read the book, now what?

A Wise Man Builds His House upon the Rock

“The foolish man built his house upon the sand. The foolish man built his house upon the sand. The foolish man build his house upon the sand and the rains can came tumbling down.

The rains came down and the floods came up. The rains came down and the floods up. The rains came down and the floods came up and the house on the sand went SPLAT!

The wise man built his house upon the rock. The wise man built his house upon the rock. The wise man build his house upon the rock and the rains can came tumbling down.

The rains came down and the floods came up. The rains came down and the floods up. The rains came down and the floods came up and the house on the rock stood firm.”

Singing with your little ones is fun, but it is even more fun with hand motions. If you are not sure of the tune or how the hand motions go, check it out on YouTube and learn this simple, but meaningful song alongside your kiddo.

Owl Vision

I try to avoid technology during these purposeful moments with your children, but go ahead and pull out your phone and google Owl night vision, and depending on their age, choose a video that would be most appropriate to show them how unique an owl’s night vision is. There is a short video that shows some trees through a night vision monocular to simulate what it would be like to see like an owl, or there is a longer video that explains (and briefly shows) how the owl makes an excellent night hunter because of his exceptional night vision abilities.

A “Promise Rock” of your own”

After finding the right rocks, the girls used glow in the dark paint to decorate their reminders that God is always with them. We used glow in the dark paint so that, like the owls, we could see our little reminders even in the dark! Because Matthew was at school, I made him one and added one of the verses Christie Thomas adds in her letter to parents at the end of the book. Joshua 1:9 is written on Matthew’s rock to remind him that he does not need to fear because the Lord will always be with him!

I hope these ideas have inspired you to Read Together and Do Together!

1st-3rd Grade Readers

You’re Big Enough to Make a Difference!

Easter holiday is over, but the joy and hope remain. This year the festivities were marred with the deep sadness for the people of Sri Lanka. Whether you, dear reader, are a Christian or not, I hope you agree that terrorism is the most EXTREME form of bullying there is. I also hope that you agree that it is part of our job, as parents or educators, to teach our children that even when we don’t accept or believe the same as others, we can, and SHOULD, be kind.

Crystal Bowman’s book “The Boy on the Yellow Bus” has been my go-to tool for launching off all lessons or conversations involving kindness for nearly a decade! It was published in 2010 while I was a preschool teacher, and I couldn’t wait to read it with my students. Well, as you know, I am now a mom of three, and this book has been read so many times the binding has started to fray, so I have had to hold it together with tape. We can’t get enough! The illustrations by Karen Lee are sweet and engaging, the rhyme scheme is entertaining and catchy, but most importantly, the story’s valuable message is shown throughout the book in a way that makes it clear that (SPOILER ALERT) through kindness,”(they) can do important things, no matter what (their) size!”

  • Age appropriate words and tone Yes
  • Age appropriate messaging – Yes
  • Engaging illustrations – Yes
  • Inspire growth, imagination, or thought- Yes
  • Sustainable interest over multiple reads- Yes
    • I would rate this book a 5 out of 5!

You’ve Read the book, now what?

My son is nine years old, and while we love reading chapter books like the “Harry Potter” series, or “Treasure Island,” sometimes we have just enough time for a quick little bedtime story. Last night, it was his turn to read me his bedtime story. He read “The Boy on the Yellow Bus.” As I mentioned earlier, we had the people of Sri Lanka on our minds, so of course one big act of kindness we could do right then and there was PRAY!

Praying with your children for other people and other nations is a big deal. I think there are at least three ways it will benefit them. 1. Any time spent in prayer is time spent growing their foundation for a strong relationship with the Lord. 2. Prayer for different nations reinforces little minds with the truth that God loves all people. 3. When we are intentional to come alongside our children and help them grow in their relationship the Lord, I truly believe He honors that time by using it to grow and bless our relationship with our children.

While prayer is powerful, and we believe God can do BIG things with little prayers, Matthew wasn’t satisfied. He wanted to do something more hands-on. We brain-stormed together for a few minutes, and building off his worry that the Christians might feel scared to be lights for Jesus, now that they were being targeted, we decided to send them a little reminder not to let Satin blow their light out!

I found a Christian Ministry with an offices in the US and Sri Lanka. I contacted the US office explaining our plan, and they gave me the address to which we could send Matthew’s gift. The unfortunate part is that internationally is EXPENSIVE, so I could only afford to send a small number of flashlights with his message of hope, but the point is still valid…one small act of kindness will inspire another, and then another, and another. One small act of kindness can make a big difference!

Read Together and Do together

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1st-3rd Grade Readers, Early Learning Books & Activities, Preschool-Kindergarten

What is Easter all about?

There are so many reasons to read Michelle Medlock Adams’ “What is Easter” this week! First, you will likely be looking for a great Easter book. I highly recommend this one! Here is why: it admits to the fun of all the egg hunt, bunny and candy elements without putting them down, but it definitely admits that those are NOT the reason we celebrate Easter in the first place! This book is not shy in gently discussing Christ’s death and celebrating His resurrection! A second reason could be the lovely flow and rhyme; after all, it is National Poetry Month!

  • Age appropriate words and tone Yes
  • Age appropriate messaging – Yes
  • Engaging illustrations – Yes
  • Inspire growth, imagination, or thought- Yes
  • Sustainable interest over multiple reads- Yes, though seasonal
    • I would rate this book a 5 out of 5!

You’ve read the book, now what?

Now’s the Time to Hunt for the Rhyme!

In honor of National Poetry Month, I decided this book was the perfect time to integrate an activity I learned from the “I Can Teach My Child to Read” Pinterest Board. The only thing I added was the hunting element before the reading element of the word families. Do you see how it works? For my preschooler who is just learning the basics of sounds and reading, we stuck with three letter words. I put the second two letters, maybe “AT” on the larger side of the egg and all around the smaller side, I wrote the letters of the word family that would make the rhyming words; “C,” “B,” “S”…and so on. She loved the activity, and even my three-year-old, who is too young to read, was old enough to match the colors, and enjoyed taking them apart and putting them back together. ( NOTE: I did buy the cheapest eggs I could find, and I would not recommend that for this game. It was rather annoying as they would not twist well and even would not lock into place as securely as the stronger plastic would have.)

A Constant Reminder of the Cross

There is nothing sweeter to me than hearing the young voices in my house talking aloud to themselves or each other about “the cross of Jesus” and that is exactly what I have enjoyed everyday since we read “What is Easter” and the put up these window clings I purchased at the Dollar General. Sure, after about two minutes it looks like chaos, but they are having fun, and they are thinking about what Jesus did for them on the cross, and that is all I care about!

A week focused on Jesus

Tuesday: Jesus spent the day reminding us of the wisdom to be found in the scriptures. (Matthew 21, Mark 11, Luke 19-20, John 2) So we made verse scrolls that also remind us of the value of scripture. “Thy word is a lamp unto our Feet and a light unto our path.” Psalm 119:105 We used glow sticks as the scroll turners to really play up the LIGHT of God’s word, but this is just as great of a craft with dowels, plastic straws, or sticks from the backyard!

Would you have been a Mary? Martha? or Judas?

Wednesday: Today we read the story of Jesus’ visit to Bethany when he stays with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. We enjoyed the story retold in the “Children’s Illustrated Bible” as it is retold by Selina Hastings. I talked briefly to the girls about the Martha served Jesus by taking care of everyone’s needs, and how Martha served Jesus by washing His (probably STINKY) feet with her hair and expensive perfume! Then we spent the bulk of our time talking about how Judas was angry and betrayed Jesus for the same price that someone would have sold a slave in those days. We made the amount of silver pieces one by one, and even at 3 and 4, they decided that no amount of “treasure” would have been enough to sell Jesus over to “the bad guys” who were trying to hurt Jesus.

Thursday: So the bread for our Last Supper celebration is rising now, but I wanted to give you the details ASAP so that you would have time to join in on the fun if you wanted to break bread and share in some grape juice with your littles this afternoon. We used a recipe that I found on Pinterest from Mel’s Kitchen. Not only are the ingredients simple and easy to find, her instructions are easy to follow. Best of all she offers wonderful suggestions for all who may not have fancy baking tools such as baking stones and such. https://www.melskitchencafe.com/rustic-crusty-bread-a-simple-how-to/

Once you have your bread made, re-read “What is Easter” and go ahead and I suggest reading the story of the Last Supper with the family. Page 264 in the beautifully illustrated Bible I mentioned yesterday or of course you can find it in the Bible itself; Matthew 26, Mark 14, Luke 22, or John 13.

Good Friday: Today we focused on our hearts and the salvation message. Do you remember using the colors black, red, white, yellow, and green to sing the salvation message in Sunday school growing up? Well, we invited some friends over this morning to use heart beads in those colors, and of course, a wooden cross, to make bracelets or necklaces to remind of what Jesus did for us on the cross. I hope you are finding a way to celebrate the shed blood, the symbolic torn curtain, the direct access you have to the Heavenly Father today because of Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice for you.

Happy Easter everyone! Enjoy some of these activities or others as you celebrate the risen Lord! If you have any questions about any part of this salvation message, please feel free to email me directly. I will be happy to get you more information.

email: Rebecca@booksbroughttolife.com

Read together & Do together!

Early Learning Books & Activities

Let’s Find a Way to Play Together

Michelle Lee wrote a charming story about a pig, named Pip, and a bear, named Nico, who want to play together, but have two entirely different ideas of how to play. The fun in the book is watching Pip’s continued creative efforts and growing frustration at the disconnect, while Nico stays steadfast in his desire to play his way. Will they solve the problem, and find a way to play together before the time for fun has passed?

  • Age appropriate words and tone Yes
  • Age appropriate messaging – Yes
  • Engaging illustrations – Yes (sweet and simple for young children)
  • Inspire growth, imagination, or thought- Yes
  • Sustainable interest over multiple reads- Potentially
    • I would rate this book a 4.5 out of 5!

Playtime Re-imagined!

If you have been following along with this blog, you know my goal is to give you ideas for some activities for children’s books, so that you might be inspired to further engage with your young readers, and keep them growing and learning after the story has ended.

I think reading “Play with Me” offers a perfect opportunity to teach the children about compromise! Today, we put a bunch of games and activities in a jar, and I let each girl pick one. Then I let THEM figure out how best the two activities could be played together. We ended up with “Face paint-Park play.” The girls decided that meant they wanted to paint their faces like a cat and dog, and then go to play at the park for the afternoon. That is precisely what we did!

For extra fun…

If it is a more inside kind of day, or the idea of compromising and blending two activities is a little out of reach for your kiddos, don’t feel overwhelmed! Maybe this is the perfect day to make your own band! We have plenty of toy instruments, but just for some crafty fun, we thought we would show you our colorful rice maracas. All you need is an empty water bottle (small ones work best), a drop of food coloring, and some rice!

Now you’re all set to Read Together & Do Together!