Guest Blog – Make A Story in a Bag

Wow, it’s been some time since I’ve opened up my blog – a break I never intended but as life has a tendency to do, it’s been hurtling a few unwelcome things my way to deal with. So I was delighted to be contacted by Seisha Lock from Education.com who requested to do a guest blog and came up with this wonderful story activity and a way to recycle those threadbare socks!

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Make a Story in a Bag

For lots of kids the beginning, middle and end don’t always come so easily. Ask a first grader to tell a story of the day, for instance, and often the result will be hilarious because it’s all mixed up. As fun as it is to listen teaching kids that stories have an order is important. Want to give your kid some practice? Make some puppets and put them to work!

What You Need:

  • 3-4 old socks
  • Glue
  • Markers
  • Construction paper
  • Yarn (for hair)
  • Book of your child’s choice (from school, home, or the library)
  • Brown paper lunch bag

What You Do:

1. Set it up.  Explain to your child that you are going to read a story and then act it out! Let your child pick whatever book she’d like and start by reading the story together. Stop after every 2-3 pages to talk about what’s happening. At the end of the story, ask your child:

  • Who was the story about?
  • Where did the story take place?
  • What happened in the beginning of the story?
  • What happened in the middle of the story?
  • What happened at the end of the story?
  • Help your child write down the answers to each of those questions, to use for a puppet show later on, or take dictation if your child struggles with this task.

2. Reuse those socks! Sure, your toe may have wormed a hole in the tip, but old socks make perfect puppets. Just throw them in the wash first! Once they’re clean and dry, tell your child she’s going to make puppets for each of the characters in her story, and then act it out!  Give your child the craft supplies and let her use her imagination. Yarn makes great hair, googly eyes add a fun touch. And old ties or bandanas serve as great “costumes”. If she’d like, she can use construction paper to make background scenes, houses, or any other important settings from the story.

3. Act it out. Gather the family and announce the performance. Let your child take the lead and tell you whether she’d like to play all of the characters, or whether she wants some acting backup from you or a sibling. Once the show is over, place the sock puppets, scenery and written story summary in a brown bag and have your child write the story title on the front.  Be sure to keep your “story-in-a-bag” for future shows! This is a fun way to see if your child really understands and remembers a story, and who knows? It may become a new family tradition!

Thank you Seisha, it’s always good to pair up with others who enjoy promoting the fun in literacy.

I hope to get back into my blogging soon so watch this space for more to come.

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Nature Narratives

Encouraging your child to write doesn’t mean they have to be stuck in the house chained to a table and told to churn out dozens of accurate lines. Writing is about conveying experiences, observations, reactions and feelings and one way to help children bring all these responses together onto one page is to get them outside and interacting with nature.

Today I’ve simply put together a mini scavenger hunt which purposefully includes things to collect for reactions and feelings, things to spot for observations and things to do for experience.

These templates can be printed and laminated for use in the garden or in the woods. They are best suited for A5 size. I then hole punched the corners and tied them together so they were easy to carry around.

Scavenger Hunt to Collect

 

Scavenger Hunt to Spot

 

Scavenger Hunt to Do

Your child will also need a small bag containing a piece of coloured or plain paper and coloured chalk for the bark rubbing and to collect and carry any of the scavenger items pictured. You can also include a piece of paper for the petal picture or it can be put together on the grass or ground. If possible take a photo of the petal picture to take home with you so your child can remember what it looks like.

Scavenger Hunt 2

When you return from the scavenger hunt ask your child to write a short story using items they saw or found on their scavenger hunt to inspire them. Tell them they can include as many of these things as they like. Let them think about the following questions to give them more ideas.Writing Nature Narratives

Don’t concentrate on grammar or sentence structure too much this is a light-hearted activity designed to encourage your child to use their imagination and create some crazy stories by showing them how to look for new ideas in unlikely places.

Books About Things We’re Not Taught in School – Part 2: Visualisation

Perhaps you’re not a big fan of the idea that you can determine your life path through creative visualisation, after all that would need to be accompanied by belief. It’s a subject which is often dismissed as a little new age and far out. However, whether you warm to the idea or not is irrelevant here as regardless of your beliefs there is no doubt that we all use visualisation on a daily basis. That may be to remind ourselves of the next turning we need to take when finding the right route home for example, picturing the choices we have for breakfast, formulating ideas for a flyer for a new business, imagining stories or our next holiday. We may not always be aware of it but we are regularly using it to get to where we want to be and our children are no different. However the more aware we become of the images that we’re creating and thinking about the more power we have to change them or strengthen them to our advantage. Today I’m reviewing a book called Nightlights which can help a child do just that.

Understanding Visualisation

Visualisation is the word we assign to the act of forming images in our minds. It’s in all of us to be creative creatures. How we express that is very individual but to start being creative first requires us to use our imagination. We can form these visual images in our mind as a fleeting natural reaction to a given situation or a deliberate act of intent.

Book Review on Nightlights by author/s Anne Givardi, Kate Petty, Joyce Dunbar and Louisa Somerville.

Nightlights

What’s it all about?

Nightlights begins with chapters dedicated to useful support for the adult on how to use and make the most of the book covering topics such as Imagination and Creativity, Finding Identity Through Stories and The Art of Reading to Children. Next follows twenty interactive stories which encourage your child to relax and concentrate on the story, to close their eyes and purposefully visualise the story as it’s being read to them.

The stories themselves carry an uncomplicated and gentle tone. Each bright and detailed digital illustration maintains a contemporary appearance for a book which tackles such an ancient topic. Each story is between three and five pages long so just the right length to be read at bedtime. This book encourages your child to imagine themselves in the story and in so doing shows them how to mentally create pictures in their mind with purpose to help organise their thoughts, dreams and ideas and help make sense of them. At the end of each story is a list of related affirmations to reinforce the values behind the story, although to me they’re more akin to wise advice than affirmations.

After the stories we’re offered some additional relaxation and visualisation techniques which focus on specific worries. These techniques can be easily remembered and practised when required. The book talks about these skills as the premise for meditation, breathing and concentration techniques. At the very back of the book is an index of values and issues which makes it easier to pick the right story for the right situation or current concern for your child that day.

Which age group is it aimed at?

This children’s book is advertised on Amazon as being aimed at ages 3 to 7. I see no reason why this book can’t have a positive effect on any child’s mindset but to truly appreciate this book I would recommend waiting until ages 5 upwards as any younger I feel they may not have developed the level of concentration required to see the whole story through to the end in the way that’s required of them.

Conclusion: Nightlights has been a permanent fixture on our shelves for some time now. It’s the type of book that I like to dip into every now and again as it’s something quite different to your average children’s book. I consider it an invaluable book for teaching children the skills to be creative with their lives. It covers a complex topic in a very organised and systematic way. It’s a book to be read out loud to a child and in small chunks. To get the most out of this book I’d suggest a little extra time should be taken to orientate yourself around it before sharing with your children.

Story Editor: Anne Civardi.

Author/s: Kate Petty, Joyce Dunbar, Louisa Somerville.

Introduced by: David Fontana.

Publisher: Duncan Baird Publishers (2003)

Our Rating: 4 out of 5

CLICK TO BUY Nightlights: Stories for You to Read to Your Child – To Encourage Calm, Confidence and Creativity

Next week in PART 3 I will be reviewing a book about how to think positively.

Books About Things We’re Not Taught in School – PART 1: Emotions.

Books About Things We’re Not Taught in School – PART 3: Positive Thinking.

Books About Things We’re Not Taught in School – PART 4: Overcoming Fears.

 

NOTE: Books for Children Blog is a participant in the Amazon EU Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising programme designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.co.uk.

You’re a Funny Man Mr. Stanton!

The Cambridge Union Chamber with Mr Stanton

Mr Stanton was an animated middle aged man with a curly black beard, bright spectacled eyes and arms which flapped like an owl trapped in the House of Lords. He was an unexpected surprise who hated being serious or limited to reading one type of book. What he liked was acting the fool, reading books, twisting a tale, having the audience in hysterics, writing stories, being silly, taking the mickey, guzzling water, reading and eating pizza and… did I mention books?

Only those of you who have read You’re a Bad Man Mr Gum may recognise some distant similarities to that quirky introduction.

Mr Gum 1

I’ve just returned from an afternoon in Cambridge with my family having been thoroughly entertained by Andy Stanton, children’s author of the Mr Gum series (published by Egmont), as part of the line up for the Cambridge Literary Festival today. His zany approach was both refreshing and uplifting and cleverly appealed on many levels to both adults and children.

He began by reading various amusing excerpts from his childhood schoolwork followed by some story ideas he’d written for Mr Gum which never reached the final book. A great message I thought for all writers young and old, that even though not all ideas will come to fruition keep writing them down. You never know how they may be used in the future.

Mr Gum 2

Mr Stanton was able to mix the trivial with the serious and jump from wacky to informative in the flip of a coin and was almost lyrical about his expulsion from Oxford University. He said “picture a vast meadow where you might want to look at a tree, a stream and a patch of grass or a flower.” For him reading is like being able to look at each of these elements separately or combined but he felt the university was putting constraints and limitations on which elements he was allowed to focus on. I see an even greater message lurking here. One that says you should always follow your heart – or maybe I’m misinterpreting it when really Andy is saying that “the truth is a lemon meringue.” Friday from Mr Gum would understand.

Mr Gum 3

It was clear Mr Stanton enjoys performing. He was consistently engaging as he continued to tease and interact throughout. He even got those who don’t like putting their hands up to put their hands up. My youngest particularly loved the conversation between the crow and Old King Thunder Belly. Andy continued his light hearted pantomime approach right through to the grand finale of question time.  He is a true entertainer and it was hilarious to experience his personality.

If you liked the sound of this event, please follow me on Twitter Amanda Lonergan (@lonerganbooks) and Facebook to hear about other upcoming author events, book crafts, news on children’s book releases and much more.


CLICK TO BUY You’re a Bad Man, Mr. Gum!

NOTE: Books for Children Blog is a participant in the Amazon EU Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising programme designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.co.uk

Rabbits & Bunnies in Picture Books

In the run up to Easter, I’ve found some super bunny themed picture books to pop in a bag with a chocolate egg for Easter. So hop on over and take a seat to choose your favourite one from my bunny line up.


What Small Rabbit HeardSheryl Webster (author) & Tim Warnes (illustrator); Published: OUP Oxford, 2 Sept 2010.

An adorable rabbit who just wants to play. Follow Small Rabbit having fun whilst his mum is running along behind him trying to keep up and look after him.

CLICK TO BUY What Small Rabbit Heard


The Rabbits John Marsden (author) & Shaun Tan (illustrator); cover design by Tony Gilevski; Published: Lothian Children’s Books, Hodder Children’s Books, 16 Sept 2010.

A picture book aimed at older children and adults depicting the effects of colonization on the environment. Although not a cheery bedtime read and this book has attracted much debate and criticism due to the subject matter it remains an extremely relevant topic in today’s political climate. The quirky illustrations successfully add to the impact of the message.

CLICK TO BUY The Rabbits


The Rhyming RabbitJulia Donaldson (author) & Lydia Monks (illustrator); Published: MacMillan Children’s Books, 24 May 2012.

A glittering publication filled with rhyme and a gentle story of how being yourself and being different is special. To successfully distinguish between the character’s rhymes and the story the text is written in part rhyme and part prose accompanied by clear and vibrant illustrations.

CLICK TO BUY The Rhyming Rabbit


The Black RabbitPhillipa Leathers (author/illustrator); Published: Walker Books, 6 Mar 2014.

I love the contemporary illustrations in this original rabbit and wolf tale. Rabbit is afraid of his own shadow but soon finds out that his shadow is his best friend.

CLICK TO BUY The Black Rabbit


That’s Not Funny Bunny!Bethany Rose Hines (author/illustrator); Published: Top That Publishing, 18 Feb 2015.

The message this story conveys is clear. Don’t try and be something you’re not, always be yourself. The lovable characters, text repetition and soft illustrations all help to make this an easy book to remember.

CLICK TO BUY That’s Not Funny Bunny (Picture Storybooks)


Big Bad BunnyMelanie Joyce (author) & Maurizia Rubino (illustrator); Published: Igloo Books Ltd, 1 Dec 2014.

A rhyming story about a new bunny in the wood who persists at creating havoc with his loud and rude behaviour but goodwill and kindness from the other creatures prevails in the end. A sweet story with bright illustrations. Sadly the rhyme at times feels a little out of sync but the message is spot on.

CLICK TO BUY Big, Bad Bunny (Picture Flats)


Lion vs RabbitAlex Latimer (author/illustrator); Publisher: Picture Corgi, 7 Feb 2013.

A brilliant and funny story which keeps you chuckling beyond the last page. Lion is a bully. So who is brave (or tricky) enough to stop him being mean? You don’t want to beat a bully with fists or weapons so it’s a delight to see how the clever rabbit thinks differently to the other animals and ends up out smarting the lion.

CLICK TO BUY Lion vs Rabbit

I won’t rabbit on anymore (oh groan) but don’t forget to carrot rate your books with Ralfy Rabbit (book by Emily MacKenzie).

Sources: Library or private copies.

 

NOTE: Books for Children Blog is a participant in the Amazon EU Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising programme designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.co.uk.

 

Fabulously Festive Picture Books

I couldn’t resist putting together a list of some of my favourite Christmas themed picture books around at the moment. Some excellent present ideas. There’s nothing better than reading a Christmas book to add to the excitement and anticipation of the family festive spirit. As usual these have been rated by my two boys of 6 and 9 years. The first rating is from my eldest.


Father Christmas on the Naughty Step – Mark Sperring (author) & Tom McLaughlin (illustrator); Published: Puffin 2013. Rating: 6/10; 8/10.

Who’d have thought Father Christmas can be naughty too! This is a brilliant spin on the usual Christmas Eve tales and a lesson in how to say sorry – something every child can relate to – and worth remembering that even Santa has to say sorry sometimes too!

CLICK TO BUY Father Christmas on the Naughty Step


Norman the Slug who Saved Christmas – Sue Hendra (author) & Paul Linnet (illustrator); Published:  Simon and Schuster Children’s UK 2015. Rating: 10/10; 10/10.

Norman is a surprising yet adorable hero for Father Christmas. He’s a very thoughtful snail who does a good deed and expects nothing in return. Although I can’t help feeling a little sad that Father Christmas completely forgot about Norman. Nonetheless it’s a fun, happy story with cute illustrations and all in all a humorous delight to read.

CLICK TO BUY Norman the Slug Who Saved Christmas


Socks for Santa – Adam and Charlotte Guillain (authors) &  Lee Wildish (illustrator); Published: Egmont 2015. Rating: 8/10; 9/10.

Santa gives out millions of presents every year but nobody stops to think about giving Santa a present – except George. George is a little boy who reminds us that Christmas is about giving and not receiving.

CLICK TO BUY Socks for Santa (George’s Amazing Adventures)

 

The Tooth Fairy’s Christmas – Peter Bently (author) & Garry Parsons (illustrator); Publisher: Hodder Children’s Books Ed. 2015. Rating: 10/10; 10/10.

Beautiful bold and bright illustrations accompany this sweet rhyming story about how the Tooth Fairy and Santa help each other out one Christmas Eve.

CLICK TO BUY Tooth Fairy’s Christmas


Tales from Christmas Wood – Suzy Senior (author) & James Newman Gray (illustrator); Published: Lion Children’s Books 2015. Rating: 8/10; 9/10.

As the animals of Christmas Wood are busy preparing for the upcoming Christmas festivities, this magical collection of five stories and pretty illustrations shows that Christmas is about gathering together and spending time with friends and family closest to us with the final story depicting a pretty nativity scene to remind us of the meaning of Christmas. A longer than average picture book which could be read over several nights.

CLICK TO BUY Tales from Christmas Wood


The Christmas Carrot – Alan Plenderleith (author/illustrator); Published: Ravette Publishing Ltd 2013. Rating: 9/10; 10/10.

He’s running for his life as everyone wants a bite of the Christmas carrot. Enjoy some light-hearted fun with this funny and engaging vegetable chase.

CLICK TO BUY The Christmas Carrot


Kipper’s Christmas Eve – Mick Inkpen (author/illustrator); Publisher: Hodder Children’s Books Ed. 2014. Rating: 9/10; 10/10.

The lovable character Kipper charms the socks off us again with another gentle, heart warming story which captures the warm festive glow of friendship, anticipation and excitement perfectly.

CLICK TO BUY Kipper’s Christmas Eve


The Lighthouse Keeper’s Christmas – Ronda & David Armitage (authors/illustrators); Published: Scholastic Children’s Books Ed 2014. Rating: 7/10; 5/10.

George has an unexpected Christmas stranded at the lighthouse. How will Santa know to come to the Lighthouse? How will Mrs Grinling reach them? Christmas songs, decorations and treats (including chocolate biscuits for breakfast apparently – perhaps this should be made into a national Christmas tradition!) but the best presents are the things that matter most to each of us. Making Christmas special no matter where you are.

CLICK TO BUY The Lighthouse Keeper’s Christmas

There’s so many fantastic books out there to choose from. What are your favourite Christmas picture books?

Source: Private or public copies.

NOTE: Books for Children Blog is a participant in the Amazon EU Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising programme designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.co.uk

Child Authors: Learning from Children

Express Yourself Through Writing

Lately, my eldest has been devouring books like a caterpillar expecting an immanent leaf shortage. So much so that despite his shelves being laden with books his hunger for new, uncharted territory is proving hard to keep up with. With our library being a decent drive away and not wanting to rush out and buy new ones each time, I had a brain wave (they may be scarce but they do happen!). I remembered that my husband had read a fantasy fiction book called Eragon a few years back by the author Christopher Paolini who was fifteen years old when he wrote it. I thought perhaps it would be a good contender to satisfy this insatiable hunger. So we sifted through some old boxes in the garage and managed to find Eragon and Eldest, the first two from a series of four books. Both are fairly hefty books so I gave myself a pat on the back for successfully slowing him down until Christmas!

My eldest and I share his bedtime reading of Eragon and it keeps us both suitably engrossed. Some sentences sound a little over written in places to me but the story line is original and the vocabulary is impressive. It is hard to imagine a fifteen year old wrote such a book. As an older writer I like to think that life experience is my advantage in that it has given me greater empathy and expanded my mind since I was fifteen years old. However being a parent, I can also see many advantages for a child to read a book which is written by a child. So my curiosity has been tweaked.

The age of an author is not something a reader would readily know. It’s not emblazoned across their book cover (thank goodness!). Nor is it normally of particular importance to the reader – if the book is good, the book is good regardless of the author’s age. However, who is it that truly knows what makes a child tick? Who knows what is cool, awesome or totally pants? Who knows the latest hot topic in the playground? It can only be a child of course. They don’t have to rely on memory; they are the ones in the thick of it. They are experiencing childhood right now and by recording such moments their points of view can become an invaluable source of understanding for other children.

An excellent example is Help, Hope and Happiness which was written by Libby Rees when she was nine years old. Having gone through the pain of her parents getting divorced she wrote the book to try and help other children cope with divorce. Similarly nine year old Alec Greven’s idea to write How to Talk to Girls came from his playground observations and desires to help his classmates get credit for their chat up efforts. Jason Gaes wrote My Book for Kids with Cancer when he was diagnosed with Burkitt’s lymphoma at age seven. It’s a book which continues to help many children of all ages.

Another one I’m particularly interested to get my hands on is The Strand Prophecy written by Brianna and Brittany Winner (otherwise known as the Winner twins). The book tells the tale of Strand the superhero with a troubled past battling to save the world. Though not a self help book the twins wrote this book when they were twelve years old despite both having been diagnosed with dyslexia and dysgraphia. In a past blog on dyslexia (The Dancing Book) I once wrote “if you think differently to the average person, you have the power to achieve more than the average person so how can we teach children with dyslexia to draw out their unique abilities?” What an incredible example these twins are of what can be achieved and overcome. Since publication they have also became co-founders of the non-profit organisation Motivate 2 Learn which aims to promote literacy and inspire children with learning difficulties such as dyslexia.

Child authors have been getting recognition since way back. One of the most well known being Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl written by Anne as a Jewish teenager in hiding during the war. It was later published in 1947 and gives a true view of what it was like to live in constant fear of being caught whilst simultaneously attempting to maintain a small sense of normality in her childhood.

One of the youngest, if not the youngest writer was American born Dorothy Straight who was just four years old when she wrote How the World Began which was published in 1964. Obviously this and many others are exceptional examples of young writers. After all most four year olds haven’t even mastered writing single letters let alone a whole book! So don’t expect miracles from your tiny tot but if they do love writing let them write and express themselves in their own way. They may surprise you and have something outstanding to say. Something which could one day help many children navigate their way through the confusing path of childhood.