The perfect book to introduce sending Valentines!

It’s amazing how the incredibly simplistic text and illustrations of a picture book can truly warm your heart.

February in my elementary school library translates into a run on books about Arctic animals and Valentine’s Day.  (Both teachers and children are inspired by the snow and ice out their windows, I suppose.)  As the school librarian, I strive to make sure that I meet every anticipated need and, after experiencing this trend year after year, it became obvious that my selection of penguin books was woefully inadequate.

In my efforts to update, I stumbled upon a heartwarming story of friendship that perfectly combines the sentiments of Valentine’s Day with an Arctic animal, the title character, Penguin.

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Not only does this book present the difference between an arctic climate and other climates in a way that completely accessible to my preschoolers, but it also presents an opportunity to discuss friendship, a timely topic for the upcoming Valentine’s Day holiday.

In deceptively simplistic text and illustrations, Salina Yoon tells the tale of how Penguin finds and befriends, Pinecone, even demonstrating his love by knitting him a scarf to keep him warm.  Their “close-knit” friendship soon faces the ultimate challenge, separation, when Penguin realizes he has to return Pinecone to his home in the forest.  Though he misses his friend very much, Penguin realizes that love sometimes means letting go.  This loving choice is rewarded by Pinecone’s growth into a mature tree.

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“When you give love, it grows.”

The beautiful and lyrical message of being far apart yet always staying in each other’s hearts is irresistibly sweet and a great way to introduce making and sending Valentine’s Day cards for friends and family that may be far away.

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Introduce your preschooler to punctuation!

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Sometimes, I underestimate a book.

My superhero-obsessed preschooler received a copy of Max the Brave as a Christmas gift this year and our family immediately fell in love with the fearless kitten and his creator, Ed Vere.

After Christmas break ended all too soon, I immediately set about trying to borrow a copy of each of this British author/illustrator’s picture books.  The first of Ed Vere’s masterpieces to arrive at my school library was Banana!

Upon first reading, this book appeared far too simplistic for my four-year-old twin sons.  Described best as “nearly wordless,” this book relies heavily on the facial expressions of its primate characters and the two words contained within its pages to tell the story of two monkeys learning how to share.

Cute story, great lesson, but it should be in board book format, right?

In short, perhaps yes, perhaps no…

Yes, this would make a fantastic board book.  It meets all the criteria for a book for young toddlers: there are few words per page; the characters are familiar animals; the illustrations are brightly-colored and engaging illustrations; the author tells a simple story.

I must admit, however, that I also underestimated the power of Banana! by Ed Vere as a picture book.

Banana! is a fantastic book for preschoolers for several reasons:

It’s hilarious!

Anything that causes my sons to belly-laugh is worth reading aloud over and over again in our house.

It’s perfect for non-readers to “read”.

Because this book has so few words, it is easy for preschool-aged children to memorize and “read” it aloud to themselves.

It’s a great book to teach preschoolers about punctuation.

Even though Banana! only contains the words “banana” and “please,” Ed Vere uses those words very economically.  Each is used, in conjunction with varying punctuation marks and facial expressions, to demonstrate a variety of emotions: intense desire, confusion, disbelief, frustration, joy.

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Leading preschoolers through a careful examination of those punctuation marks becomes a natural, rather than forced, conversation.  After helping my children recognize that the word that appeared on nearly every page, “banana,” was recurring, were able to focus on the differences in punctuation marks in combination with the characters’ facial expressions, body positions, and the color of the background.  nan

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Banana!

“Banana!” is read with an excited voice to show the strong feelings felt by the character.

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Banana?

“Banana?” is read with a questioning voice.

I love it when I prove myself wrong and am able to think about something in a new way.  Because the illustrations and storyline in Banana! are so simplistic, preschool-aged children are able to think critically about basic conventions of the English language while still enjoying the book.

Can you think of any other simplistic picture books that are great for the dual purpose of entertaining and educating?

 

 

Before you share that story…

The scene is familiar.  You and your little one (or ones) are ready to share a story.

You have found the perfect space to cuddle up in.  Perhaps, it’s the living room sofa and you’ve tuned out the chaos of toys and clutter around you…  Or, you may be nestled in the cozy little reading niche you so carefully designed with these moments in mind…  Are you tucked under the covers of a bed much too small for your adult frame, but absolutely perfect for the growing readers in your life?

You’ve found the perfect book (or stacks of books) to share.  It may be a brand new book carefully chosen for your children by a beloved family member.  It may be an old favorite, read on a nightly basis.  Are you opening a book chosen by your child from his or her school library?

Truly, it matters neither WHERE nor WHAT you plan to read.

To make the reading experience more meaningful for both you and your child, DO THIS before you share that story.

biblio_parenting VTS(1)STEP 1: Examine the cover of the book with your child.

Take a moment to encourage your child to look closely at the cover of the book.  Ask your child to look at the cover illustration, look at the title, look at the author and the illustrator.

STEP 2: Ask your child, “What do you notice?

Listen carefully to their answer and repeat it back to them, paraphrasing as necessary.

STEP 3: Follow with this question, “What makes you think that?

Again, listen carefully to their answer.  Respond meaningfully.  Connect their ideas to shared experiences.  Encourage them to elaborate when necessary.  Correct inaccuracies gently.

Repeat Steps 1-3 until you have thoroughly ignited the child’s interest in the book.

This strategy is based on a method known as Visual Thinking StrategiesOriginating from the visual arts, Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) value the child’s perspective  and encourages increased engagement and critical thinking.

When applied to the world of picture books, biblio|parenting VTS transforms the child at from a passive participant in the experience of sharing a story, to an active participant whose thoughts are valued and whose background knowledge is primed to make connections.

This strategy can be also be utilized with individual illustrations within the book and in an educational setting with classes of students.

Stay tuned for a video demonstrating biblio|parenting VTS in action!