Thursday, January 24, 2013

Picture Books for Learning at Home

A Is for Musk Ox
by Erin Cabatingan
As I posted earlier, S. is learning the alphabet. We are on "A". The second I read this little gem, though, I became anxious for her to reach the end of the alphabet, because I got so excited about possible extensions.
When Musk Ox is caught eating Zebra's apple, he points out to the irate Zebra that EVERY alphabet book says "a is for apple". He then proceeds to show Zebra how every letter - almost - can be for "musk ox".
Besides teaching letter sounds and descriptive words, this lends itself to a fun story-writing extension: Have each of your kiddos choose an animal, or pick one collectively, and rewrite the book to fit. Or, you could use your child as the main character - A is for S., for example, because she is Amazing and Awesome and likes to do Art!

Hair Traits: Color, Texture, and More
by Buffy Silverman
Eye Color: Brown, Blue, Green, and Other Hues
 Also in this series: Body Parts, Facial Features, Unusual Traits, and Vision. Lerne is slowly but surely taking over our Junior Reader section. They have some fantastic nonfiction series that are at just the right reading levels, and their photographs and bright colors draw kids like magnets. We forget sometimes that young kids are fascinated with "what's really real", and feed them a limited diet of fiction (not that there's anything wrong with a heavy dose of Elephant and Piggie, mind you!)

All the books in this series begin with a brief explanation of genetics, using very simple vocabulary. In many households (mine included), not everyone is related by genes, so I was very pleased to see the blurb, "Birth parents are related to their kids. Adoptive parents take a child into their family and become his or her parents." Simple and straightforward, no platitudes or apologies. Perfect!

When S. is a little bigger, I plan to read through the whole series together, then do some graphing and charts with the whole family - what traits do we have that are the same? Where do we think some of those traits came from? We know that C. gets his height from his birth father, but Daddy is tall, too. His hair color matches Daddy's and M.'s, while S.'s fairy blonde hair is a complete mystery. Some children may not know anything about their birth families, but approached in the right way, this can still be a fun exercise in exploring how members of your family are alike or different. While the traits explored are all physical, it could easily turn into a discussion of things like hobbies, food preferences, etc., and who may have influenced those. Well done, Lerner!