TV and Reading

Many years ago, Finland purchased old American TV shows.  One was “McHale’s Navy”. The problem was, they didn’t have the money to change the language from English into Finnish on the show.  Instead,  they put in subtitles.  The printed word in Finnish was on the TV.

And guess what happened?  Children learned to read, in a natural way.  The people in Finland are strong in reading.  Adults always have a book in hand, which is a terrific role model for children.  Formal instruction in reading doesn’t begin until age six.

Finland is #1 in reading in the world.  America doesn’t even come close.  We’re #26. That’s pretty sad.

Closed captions on TV does exactly the same thing.  Did you know that every TV has a closed caption component?  Do you want to help grow a reader, one who prefers TV?  Turn on closed captioning!


Posted in America, Early Education, preschool, reading | Tagged , , , , , , | 62 Comments

The Best Children’s Christmas Books

This is a repost of my favorite Christmas books.  Every year they grow stronger, because children love them.  These are the books children and adults want to read over and over again.  That’s why they’re the best.  Please, go to the library and get some of these books and read them aloud to your children.  You will be hooked, too.

I want to share with you my favorite Christmas books.  I love books, and I love reading to children.  After a gazillion years, these are the ‘tried and true’, stories that children love. Me, too!

Grab tissues, laughter, and wonder, and some history.  Some books you will recognize. Others might seem new, but they’re not— they’re just better.

The first time I read The Polar Express, by Chris Van Allsburg was in 1985, when the book was published.  I was at a huge family Christmas gathering. Someone put the book in my hand and asked me to read it to the crowd.  This was a new book for me, and as I read the words I was on that train ride.  The ending was hard to read aloud with my heart in my throat. The movie is good, but the book is superior.

On Christmas Eve, by Peter Collington is a captivating wordless book, in the style of The Snowman by Raymond Briggs.  It is based in England, with fairies and Santa Claus traditions.  It is fascinating to follow the fairies helping Santa!

Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree, by Robert Barry is a delightfully predictable tale of a tree that is too tall.  Each time the top is snipped off, it goes to someone else who has the same problem, and so on.  The mouse gets the very last tree top.  The story is done in rhyme, always a delight to the ears of children.

Morris’s Disappearing Bag, by Rosemary Wells is the story of Morris, the youngest in the family, who is too little to play with his sibling’s gifts.  He discovers one last present under the tree, a disappearing bag.  I wonder if J.K. Rowling read this book- perhaps it was the inspiration to create Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak.

Carl’s Christmas, by Alexandra Day is one of the Carl book series.  It is beautifully done with full color illustrations.  Of course Carl is a dog who is often left to look after the baby.  That beginning alone is a story grabber.  Best of all, it is a wordless book, leaving much to speculate and talk about.

Santa Bruce, by Ryan T. Higgins is the newest book on this list.  Bruce is a grumpy old bear, and is again the victim of mistaken identity.  He is not the real Santa, yet all the animals are convinced that he is.  The book is absolutely hilarious.

If I had to pick only one out of the pile of books, it would be Apple Tree Christmas, by Trinka Hakes Noble.  The story takes place in New Hampshire in the 1800’s.  A blizzard, a farm, a tree, and a child who loves to draw.  It is thrilling from beginning to end… grab the tissues, it’s a true story.

My almost number one book is The Year of the Perfect Christmas Treeby Gloria Houston.  The story takes place in rural Appalachia, close to my roots.  It is a story of rural traditions, WWI, a train, and what a mother does on Christmas Eve.  And, it’s a true story. Recommended for kindergarten and above.

Merry Christmas, Strega Nona, by Tomie dePaola is a favorite. Everyone loves Strega Nona and Big Anthony.  This book incorporates the culture of Italy and Christmas, and the lessons of life.

Night Treeby Eve Bunting is a modern tale that tells the story of a family and their tree in the woods.  Every Christmas Eve the family bundles up and heads from their house to the woods.  They find “their tree”, the one they have decorated every year for the animals.  It is a well written story, weaving adventure and giving, and family being together.

Dr. Seuss has always been one of the best.  He outdid himself with How the Grinch Stole Christmas.  The message of the true meaning of Christmas shines through in this book.  Please skip the movie, it doesn’t hold a candle to the book.

Every adult should read these books.  Period.  They are that good.  Then, spread the joy and learning by reading aloud these books to children, young and old.  They will love the stories.  You will, too.

Merry Christmas!


Posted in Book Review, books, children's books, Early Education, picture books, reading, reading aloud, reading aloud, Teaching young children | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 69 Comments

Joy, at the End of the Day

It’s Friday at 5:00 PM.  We’ve had a full day (and week) at school.  In the last hour we painted a gigantic box that will become a lunar module next week and fly to the moon. Yesterday was the Cold Moon, December’s full moon.  Today we learned the names of every month’s full moon.  Children were excited to know which moon name was their birthday month.  And, we finished holiday gifts to families, learned how to spin a top, wrote letters…. and much more.

It was time to chill.  I had already read aloud three books.  I knew exactly what to do.

I showed “Joy”, An Oscar winning best animated short film. It’s less than five minutes… but it’s the best five minutes I’ve ever seen.  Teachers love it, and children can’t get enough of it.  Perfect for Friday at 5:00 PM.

Warning: You will be hooked, in the best of ways.

Joy is the magic word!


Posted in behavior, Early Education, Expressing words and feelings, joy, preschool, Teaching young children | Tagged , , , , , , | 77 Comments

How The Grinch Stole Christmas

One of the most beloved children’s Christmas stories is How the Grinch Stole Christmas, by Dr. Seuss.  It has been a child favorite ever since it was written in 1957.

I read the book aloud to my preschool class today.  When fellow blogger and friend Robbie Cheadle heard me read aloud The Poet’s Dog over a number of blog posts this fall, she asked me to read this book aloud, as it is her favorite. Thank you, Robbie.  Merry Christmas!

Posted in Book Review, books, children's books, Early Education, Expressing words and feelings, Giving thanks, Inspiration, Kindness, picture books, preschool, reading aloud, reading aloud, Teaching young children | Tagged , , , , , | 71 Comments

The Tree, The Moon, and The Rainbow

Leaving school this evening

I was greeted by a full moon and a glistening tree.


They were one.

They spoke to each other.

They spoke to me.

This tree is a giver, at least to me.

Last fall it held a glorious rainbow.

And like the full moon tonight, I was the only one to see it.

”Always be on the lookout for the presence of wonder.”  -E.B. White-


Posted in E.B. White, Giving, Inspiration, Mother Nature, Nature, wonder | Tagged , , , , , , | 60 Comments

The Crossing Guard Chronicles: “Don’t You Mean ‘Ate’?”

Steve is at it again, teaching like a master at his ‘Curbside Classroom’. The depth of his teaching is intuitive and rich. There is so much here in his post, I had to read it over again. Enjoy!


The ‘Curbside Classroom’

Johnny Carson had Ed McMahon, Groucho Marks had George Fenneman. My ‘straight man’, here at the ‘curbside classroom’, was a middle schooler with a contagious laugh, perfect for the role.

Me, to a group of kids gathering at the crossing post: “Joe’s pizza is so good, I ‘et’ seven pieces!”

My ‘straight man’: “Don’t you mean ‘ate’?”

Me: “Hmmm, maybe it was ‘eight’ I ‘et’.” (drumroll, please)

Confused looks, then some smiles and an occasional, ‘oh, I get it’!

‘Get it’, or not, for me it was ‘mission accomplished’: a few smiles, some laughs, a language lesson and a feel good moment to start the school day.

The morning banter offers an opportunity for kids to communicate with an adult, me. For most, it’s easy, for some it’s awkward, and for a handful, it’s difficult. However, as days turn to weeks, weeks to months and the school…

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Pearl Harbor Day

Today, December 7th, is Pearl Harbor Day.  I think of the children and their families on that day, caught up in the excitement of Christmas, only to have their lives abruptly changed.  Suddenly Santa must have been a far away thought.  Could they decorate a tree with the spirit of Christmas?  What gave them strength to keep going, one step at a time?

The American flag must have been a powerful symbol of strength.  I wonder if children made flags that Christmas.  Children in my class often make flags.  There is always strength in doing so.

Today I think of those children and their families, seventy-eight years ago.


Posted in America, American flag, Early Education, history, young children | Tagged , , , , , | 49 Comments