The Children's Book Compass

Archive for January 2010

Duck! Rabbit! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal & Tom Lichtenheld.   (2009). Chronicle Books.  Pages not numbered.  Grades 1 and up.  Picture Book.

Rhyming Dust Bunnies by Jan Thomas.  (2009). Beach Lane Books.  Pages not numbered.  Grades 1 to 3.  Picture Book.

Here Comes the Big, Mean Dust Bunny! by Jan Thomas.  (2009). Beach Lane Books.  Pages not numbered.  Grades 1 to 3.  Picture Book

These three books are great choices for reading aloud and demonstrating the joy of reading.  When I read Rhyming Dust Bunnies to a second grade class, they demanded two more readings immediately and they laughed delightedly throughout all three readings!  The two books about the dust bunnies feature four dust bunnies that like to play a rhyming game.  In the first book Ed, Ned and Ted each call out words that rhyme with car  – “far, jar, tar.”  But Bob says “Look!”  The other three are quick to correct him – “No, Bob…”Look!” does not rhyme with car!  The game continues each time Bob shouts out a warning and each time he is corrected,  until a broom and a vacuum clean them all up.  The last illustrations shows  the four inside the vacuum asking – “What rhymes with How Do We Get Out?”

The humor and fun continue in the second book, Here Comes the Big, Mean Dust Bunny! This time a monster dust bunny comes along to add a new adventure to the rhyming game.  It was another hit with the second graders.  The illustrations in both books feature bold colors and bright backgrounds.   Speech bubbles for each character feature large size font sometimes with bright colors.  Thomas animates the bunnies with simple, black line strokes that show their emotions.

Duck! Rabbit! offers another way to create a joyful reading experience.  Two voices debate about an animal that appears on the page.  Is it a duck or a rabbit?  Each voice argues for one point of view with evidence for each perspective.    When the argument is solved, there is a new visual puzzle to solve – it is an anteater or a brachiosaurus? 

All three books invite children to join in the reading after the teacher has read them aloud.  Duck! Rabbit! works for buddy reading, two students trading off the reading, alternating the voices.  Give the students lots of time to practice so they can be fluent readers of the text.  Some may want to be featured readers in other classrooms.

Both dust bunnies books can be shared as readers theater.  After  I read Rhyming Dust Bunnies to the second graders, I invited four children to each take the part of one of the characters.  The speech bubbles clearly indicate which dust bunny is speaking.  The children were quickly engaged in reading their parts with gusto.  The different sizes  and colors of the font indicate what words to emphasize.  We then had a sign-up sheet for the children to practice reading the books together.  On Back to School Night, I was delighted to see children reading the book to their parents.  Both Thomas books are excellent choices for readers theater presentations.  Finally, both books inspire students to rhyme themselves building on the rhymes in each book.


Benefits of Reading Aloud in the Home

“The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.”  (Becoming a Nation of Readers, 1985, p. 23).

When you read aloud regularly to your child, he or she discovers the joy and pleasure of reading.  Here are some additional benefits.

1.  Reading Aloud creates a strong emotional bond between the child and the adult reader.  As you laugh or cry over powerful stories, or learn about something new, you are building strong connections together.

2.  Reading Aloud prepares the child to be a successful independent reader by:

  • building vocabulary,
  • furthering the child’s sense of story,
  • producing children who are comfortable with speaking and listening,
  • increasing attention span and comprehension capabilities,
  • broadening the child’s experiences,
  • exposing the child to conventions of language,
  • providing a model of fluency in reading,
  • demonstrating print and book handling concepts such as left-to-right and top-to-bottom directionality, how pages turn and how print and illustrations combine to tell a story.

3.  Reading Aloud stimulates the imagination.

4.  Reading Aloud promotes critical thinking.

5.  Reading Aloud teaches values.

6.  Reading Aloud demonstrates that reading is something worth working at, thereby providing the motivation necessary to become an independent reader.

7.  Reading Aloud builds confidence and self-esteem as the child becomes an independent reader.

8.  Reading Aloud improves standardized test scores.

9.  Reading Aloud encourages older readers to become better readers.

10.  Reading Aloud provides exposure to a wide range of reading materials.

How to Read Aloud Effectively

Here are some tips on making the read aloud experience effective for both parent and child.

1.  The first priority is to make the read aloud time a pleasurable and enjoyable event.

2.  Select a regular time, just before bed, Saturday morning, Sunday afternoon, or whatever fits your schedule.

3.  Take turns with your child selecting the books to read aloud.

4.  Introduce the book with a short explanation if needed.

5.  Remember to read the title and names of the author and illustrator.

6.  Read with expression, experiment with appropriate voices for the characters.  Vary your pace and volume as needed.

7.  Involve the child in the reading by asking questions, inviting her to find details in the illustrations and making predictions about what might happen next.

8.  Engage the child in discussing the book when it is finished.  Here are some examples of questions that will encourage appreciation of the book and not test the child on what has been read.

  • What did you like about that book?  What did you not like?  Why?
  • What will you remember about the story?
  • Did you notice anything that you are wondering about?  If so, what?
  • Was there anything in the book that puzzled you?

9.  Give the child time to study illustrations, to notice details and make connections.

10.  Respond to the child’s body language.  Be flexible if the child is not interested in the book, find another.

Selecting Books to Read Aloud

1.  Select books that are appropriate for the age of your child.

2.  Know your child and select books that match her interests and needs.

3.  Choose books you will also enjoy.

4.  Read all kinds of books: adventures, poetry, song books, mysteries, fantasies, stories from real life and more.

5.  Remember there are great sources of pieces to read aloud in the newspaper and magazines.

6.  Visit the public library and get acquainted with the resources in the children’s section.  Choose from the free brochures that feature recommended books for your child’s age group and interests.

7.  Borrow The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease and Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to Children Will Change their Lives Forever by Mem Fox for ideas for books to read and suggestions to enhance your read aloud time.

8.  Borrow audiobooks for both adult and child to enjoy.

Books Too Good to Miss

Each year, I read thousands of children’s books.  Those that I find are good choices to share with children I list on a booklist for each year.  Visit my web site to access booklists for the last ten years or my blog to see reviews of wonderful books.

Picture Books

Anno                                       ANNO’S COUNTING BOOK

Fox, Mem                                TOUGH BORIS

Gravett, Emily                      MONKEY AND ME

Hughes, Shirley                     ALFIE’S  1 2 3

Rosenthal & Lichtenheld    DUCK! RABBIT!

Rylant, Cynthia                       SNOW

Sakai, Komako                        THE SNOW DAY

Somar, D. & Davis, J.             LADYBUG GIRL AND BUMBLEBEE BOY

Swanson, Susan                      THE HOUSE IN THE NIGHT

Thomas, Jan                            RHYMING DUST BUNNIES

Wild, Margaret                        PUFFLING

Willems, Mo                            THE ELEPHANT AND PIGGIE SERIES

Poetry and Rhymes

O’Neill, Mary                        HAILSTONES AND HALIBUT BONES

Opie, Iona, ed.                     MY VERY FIRST MOTHER GOOSE  Illus. R. Wells

Sidman, Joyce                    RED SINGS FROM TREETOPS: A YEAR IN COLORS

Folk Tales

Aylesworth, Jim                    THE MITTEN

Galdone, Paul                         THE THREE PIGS

Pinkney, Jerry                         THE LION AND THE MOUSE

Wiesner, David                       THE THREE PIGS

Books of Information

Bishop, Nic                             BUTTERFLIES AND MOTHS

Dennis, M. B.                          NUBS THE TRUE STORY OF …

Cassino, M. & Nelson. J.        THE STORY OF SNOW

Martin, Jacqueline                   SNOWFLAKE BENTLEY

McMillan, Bruce                     NIGHTS OF THE PUFFLINGS

Before Columbus: The Americas of 1491 by Charles C. Mann.  (2009).  Atheneum.  117 pages.  Grades 5 and up.  Nonfiction.

Do you know about the Mound Builders who built huge earthen structures that were bigger than Egypt’s Great Pyramid?  Theses people settled along the Mississippi River over 900 years ago.  Their town, Cahokia once stood near the present-day St. Louis.  It was home to more than 15,000 people.

This book is packed with fascinating facts and discoveries about the history of native people in North and South America before the arrival of Columbus.  I first picked this book up to give it a short perusal; however I was quickly captivated and read it carefully.  Mann writes with a clear voice and has organized his information in a most readable fashion with the answers to three questions:

  • How Old Was the “New World?’
  • Why Did Europe Succeed?
  • Were the Americas Really a Wilderness?

The answers to these questions are startling.  For example, the ancient natives of Mexico were genetic engineers who invented maize, or corn, over 6000 years ago.

The book is elegantly crafted with full-colored photographs, maps, archival paintings, sidebars, and detailed illustrations.  The narrative is enriched by the glossary, a list of resources for further reading and exploration of websites.  In addition there is a complete list of credits for photos and illustrations as well as an index.

This book can be shared in the classroom in a variety of ways.  First, read excerpts aloud to capture students’ interest.  Second, use the book to augment Social Studies texts that give brief coverage to the history of the Americas before 1492.  Third, the book can be utilized as a mentor text.  Guide students who are writing reports to consider the structure of the book with questions that provide an organizational framework for the in-depth information.  The book is an excellent example of how to use inquiry to discover new information.  Fourth, show students how text features in the book assist the reader in navigating through the text.

Before Columbus demonstrates one reason why we read – to learn and discover!

Connecting Books:

  • The Life and Times of Corn by Charles Micucci.  (2009). Houghton Mifflin.  32 pages.  Grades 2 – 6.  Nonfiction.

A comprehensive look at the history of corn, how it grows and is harvested and how it used in more products than any other grain.

  • Squanto’s Journey: The Story of the First Thanksgiving.  by  Joseph Bruchac, illustrated by Greg Shed.  (2007). Voyager Books.  32 pages.  Grades 2-6.  Nonfiction.

A contrast with the information about Squanto offered in the Mann book.  The illustrations enhance the text. .


“The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.”       Becoming a Nation of Readers

  • Read aloud to your students every day.
  • Emphasize the enjoyment of the read aloud time.
  • Plan a regular reading time when the children are ready to be engaged.
  • Select the material to read carefully keeping in mind the interests and developmental levels of your students.
  • Vary the kinds of materials to read, include a wide variety of genres, and topics.  Also, share selections from newspapers, the Internet  and magazines.
  • Keep poetry anthologies, riddle and joke books handy to bring out when there are extra minutes to read aloud.
  • Read with expression and animation.
  • Prepare the students for the reading by introducing the story, inviting predictions and making any needed explanations.
  • Remember the discussion about the reading is an important part of the read aloud experience.  Open-ended questions will launch a discussion.  i.e. What will you remember about the reading?  What connections did you make with the reading?  What did you like or not like about the reading?  How was the story different or the same as the predictions you made before we read?
  • Consult The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease for more ideas about reading aloud.  Or, look at

The Rights of the  Reader by Daniel Pennac, translated by Sarah Adams.  Illustrated by Quentin Blake.  (2008).   176 pages.  Candlewick Press.  For adults.  Nonfiction

Quentin Blake writes in the foreword to the new translation of Daniel Pennac’s The Rights of the Reader,

… we are now in an era of tests and targets.  There is nothing wrong with accountability; properly understood we need it.  What is disturbing is the withering effect of its demands when they are not properly understood.  …  In reaction to this, many well-known authors who write for children and young people have spoken up for a tradition of real books and real poems, one might almost say for real life.

Good books are the antidote to a mindless curriculum that is oriented towards testing.  We need an affirmative action program to revitalize the love of reading.  Pennac suggests such a program in reading aloud:

As a teacher, you will only patch up your students’ relationship with reading on one condition: that you ask for nothing in return. Nothing.  Don’t bombard them with information.  Don’t ask any questions.  Don’t add a single word to what you’ve read.  No value judgments, no glossing the meaning of difficult words, no textual analysis, no biographical information.  Ban any talking around the subject.

Reading as a gift.

Read and wait.

Curiosity is awakened, not forced.

Read, read, and have faith that eyes will open, faces light up, that a question will be born and lead to more questions. (p.119)

Don’t miss Pennac’s ten Rights of Readers at the end of the book.  I have made a handout of those rights and give them to my literature classes on the first day.

Today teachers need to bring children and books together as an antidote for the mind-numbing curriculum resulting from demands for higher test scores and mandated programs. The story of Lynn provides a vision how to connect a child with literature and improve her reading abilities. Lynn was a 6th grader who began the year reading at a first grade level. She had recently emigrated from Viet Nam and was still transitioning to English. By the end of that year she was reading novels appropriate for her grade and experiences. One day, I passed her desk as she finished a novel she looked at me with her expressive, brown eyes and said, “It touched my heart.” Because she had been listening to and reading books that touched her heart throughout that year, she had become a proficient, fluent reader. Those heart-touching books provided her a goal to work towards and demonstrated that books were an essential part of life. When children are immersed in a rich literate environment they are motivated to acquire the tools of literacy because they have discovered that books bring pleasure and enlightenment. Without such opportunities, literacy becomes a hollow skill and for some, never acquired. From the first days of school, children need to listen to books read aloud and have time to immerse themselves in literature. They need to have access to a variety of books that match their interests: books that touch their hearts, tickle their funny bones, set them dreaming or expand their vistas. Such experiences propel children into a life enriched by reading. After they have discovered the power of reading, they can be guided through an instructional process that demonstrates how books are models of reading and writing. Attracting children to experiences with literature isn’t the exclusive purview of the early grades, the fires need to be stoked throughout the child’s school career. Teachers who read aloud daily, providing time to read as well as an environment that promotes reading and writing, make it possible for children to become accomplished literate citizens who turn to reading for pleasure and information.

Pointing the Direction to New Books for Children and Teens

Marilyn Carpenter, PhD.

Contact Marilyn

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