Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Book Club: A Little Leap Forward

With Chinese New Year on the horizon, our January book club choice was ' A Little Leap Forward '. We chose this book to enable our book loving children to step inside Chinese culture and gain a little insight into what life is like in China, ahead of the new year festivities.

Experience this coming-of-age tale that brings to life the time of the Cultural Revolution. A young boy growing up in the hutongs of China discovers the heartache of loving and having to let go when he captures a bird, only to discover that she will not sing in confinement. The book is aimed at ages 10 + and is the first in Barefoot's young fiction series. Dependent on you child's capabilities and understanding, I think this book can be suitable for younger readers if extra guidance is given. Children will easily relate to the central character and how he likes the simple things in childhood, such as flying kites and skimming stones in the local river. Simply asking the children at book club their favourite activities and what they like about being a child is a great opening discussion, to put them at ease and create open conversation. The story is a sweet and gentle one, to which children can emotionally attach to. The story of Little Leap Forward befriending  a bird down by the river and the will to look after it is beautifully written. As the book progresses, Little is torn as to what is best for the bird and despite wanting to keep him, he recognises the need for freedom. Opening up discussions about how the children feel about setting the bird free and what things in life make them feel torn, adds great depth to your book club discussion.

Despite it's sweetness, the book does have darker undercurrents as it tells the story of China's cultural revolution and the impact it had on family life in China. The afterword does give a brief explanation of the revolution but you can adapt/extend on the explanation, depending on the age of the children in the group. Whilst you do not have to go into detail about Chinese history, there are definite opportunities to educate. The feelings of being confined, restricted and torn that are felt in relation to the bird are the same with the impacts of the revolution. Discussing these parallels is great way to talk about metaphor in stories and how we can draw upon metaphor to make some of the deeper aspects of life appear more relative. Due to the levels of understanding at different ages, this book is definitely one to read again as children grow older and are able to grasp the full intent of the book.

Once discussion has ended it is always good to incorporate an activity or age appropriate craft that can explore the themes from the book. There are lots of great creative ideas over on Pinterest. We created some lovely paper lanterns at a toddler story time for Chinese New Year celebrations but you could step your lantern making up with more intricate patterns and embellishments on your lantern. Activities and crafts are a good way of ending book club as it allows for extra discussion, once children have had time to digest what they have discussed. It will also enable 121 discussion for those children who make not have wanted to question something in the group. To accompany your activity, why not introduce a few Chinese treats, so that children can sample the local cuisine. Think lychees, Chinese Pears, new year cake, almond biscuits and, of course, fortune cookies for that extra bit of fun.

February's book club choice is 'Finn At Clee Point '. Finn's whole village is buzzing about the school fishing competition, and ten-year-old Finn is determined to win. But when he goes out to Clee Point to set his lines and befriends the Finer family, he learns a difficult lesson about loyalty, friendship and long-hidden secrets. Set at Spurn Point, on the River Humber, this coming-of-age story vividly evokes life in a small fishing community in the 1930s. To book on to one of our Merseyside sessions contact us here or purchase online to hold your own book club at home or a community venue near you. We have 6 or 12 month subscriptions or you can buy a one month trial, to see how you like it. Subscription includes book of the month, discussion guide and a book related activity. As a new year special, we are offering 10% off your first subscription by using CLUB10 when you checkout. Online discussion guide will be posted 1st February.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Storytime: Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year is a time of celebration with an abundance of bright colours, feasts, well wishes and positivity about the year ahead. Traditionally the festivities last for fifteen days, ending on the date of the full moon. If you want to join in with the celebrations and introduce children to Chinese culture and traditions, a Chinese New Year themed storytelling session is a great way to get started. The Great Race is an excellent book for children to have fun learning about the Chinese Zodiac and to find out what their year is.

Which animal will win the race and get the first year of the Chinese calendar named after them? Race along with Rat, Monkey, Dragon, and their companions while discovering the origin of the Chinese Zodiac. This bright and colourful book includes intriguing notes about the Chinese calendar, the festivals, and the animal that rules each year. The book is ideal for 4-9 year olds but can be adapted to fit toddlers. Whilst older children will appreciate the educational aspects of the story, younger children will love the interaction between the different animals. The book is quite lengthy for toddlers but there are lots of opportunities to get them involved in the story by asking them what sounds and movements the animals make and getting them excited about who they think will win the race.

If you can, use puppets to to help bring the story alive. This great dragon puppet is quite expensive but is a great resource for lots of books and it certainly adds wow factor to this story. Musical instruments are also great for this session, I picked up small drums for a punt or two at our local Chinese supermarket, where you will find lots of goodies to decorate the room for your storytelling session.

If you plan ahead, you could always ask the children to dress up as then animal for the year they were born or for each of them to take on the role of one of the animals, so they can act out the race and really get them to step inside the story.

This is guaranteed to be a fun storytelling session and you can easily incorporate activities to the session. Older children can enjoy making dragon puppets, intricate lanterns, fact finding sheets or painting and younger children can enjoy making paper dragons or these simple paper lanterns.

Find out what year each child was born and they can draw their animal onto the paper, before adorning with lots of glitter and sparkly bits and making your lantern. Here's how to make your lantern.

Finish of your session by inviting the children to taste some traditional Chinese foods. Check with parents for any allergies, as I find that a lot of traditional  Chinese New Year biscuits contain nuts. Think lychees, Chinese pears, New Year cakes and of course fortune cookies. This is a great opportunity to open children's senses to different cultures and no matter what the child's age, they are sure to take something away from this great tale.

Happy New Year

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

International Book Giving Day 2014

February 14th is, of course, a day of love, romance and gifts. It is also International Book Giving Day, so why not spread a little book love this year and give something that can last a lifetime. International Book Giving Day is aimed at getting new, used and borrowed books into the hands of as many children as possible. The idea was conceived by a 6 year old American boy, who wanted a holiday in which his friends and family gave books to each other. The day has now developed into a 100% grassroots celebration, brought together by enthusiastic volunteers around the world. Book lovers, bloggers, businesses and organisations all over the world will be hosting events and coming up with imaginative ways to celebrate. Think book swaps, fun days, themed play dates, donations to charities or random acts of kindness. If you want to get involved, check out the Book Giving Day website for information and ideas.

Little Scribbles will be hosting a Book Giving Day Event alongside Big You, Little You in Liverpool. We are still ironing out details but there will be a book swap shelf for children and parents, storytelling sessions, book crafts and snacks. We want the session to be free and fun, with a chance to take a new book home to enjoy. As Book Giving day is also about raising awareness to literacy projects across the world, we will also be fund-raising for Book Aid International by taking small donations from those who would like to support the charity. Any books left over on our ' swap shelf ' will be given to local charities.

To add to our on the day fundraising, Little Scribbles will also be donating £1 to Book Aid for every book bought throughout February from either Little Scribbles' Stories or our Barefoot Books ambassador site. Keep your eyes peeled for book reviews and recommendations for books to read on the day, including some great global books that will give children an insight into some of the countries Book Aid support.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Storytime: We're going on a Bear Hunt

We're Going on a bear hunt, we're going to catch a big one! Recognise those words? If you do, then you will know then, like me, you will probably never tire of hearing them. We're going on a Bear Hunt is a favourite book on the shelves of children and adults alike. It is such a fun book. The book will keep your attention if you are reading on your own but it is most definitely best when reading aloud to little ones. Whether you have one child or reading to a small and large groups, Michael Rosen's retelling of the story will have your audience engrossed.

If you are looking for storytelling ideas, this story is perfect for outside reading, where children are free to move about and really get to grips with the swishing and swashing through the grass and stumbling through the forest. If reading outdoors is not possible, you don't have to worry, the book can kick start the a child's imagination in any setting. Little Scribbles has read this book over and over and it is a firm favourite on our storytelling schedules.

The story is great for children of all ages, from toddlers through to adults! This classic book is a great read aloud that will engage various age groups, so it is a sound choice if you are reading to a mixed age group. Younger children can enjoy the engaging adventure through it's magical rhymes and older children can get lost in their imagination when looking at Helen Oxenbury's thought provoking illustrations. With an abundance of resources and activities to accompany the book, it is sure to be a favourite for years to come. You can choose to colour in a simple image taken from the books, invite older children to write their own bear adventure or get to work on fun educational play with work on understanding of the grammar used. I love to work with the onomatopoeia, whilst working with different colours and textures. All you need is a piece of plain card, a pen to write the 6 different stages of the bear adventure and lots of bits and bobs to create your own grass, river, mud,forest,snowstorm and cave. Of course, you will need an abundance of glue and scissors to cut lots of different shapes for those imaginative little minds.

This We're Going on a Bear Hunt craft activity is so simple but is so much fun to do, especially accompanied by lots of little ones shouting " hooo wooo '" and " Splash Splosh " as they create their pictures.

If you and the children have a little energy left, why not finish the session with a sing a long version of the story, just like Michael Rosen himself!

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Barefoot Book of the Month for January

As we enter a new year, Little Scribbles will providing you with lots more book reviews and recommendations. As an ambassador for Barefoot Books, I will be continuing to choose my Barefoot Book of the month but the blog will feature lots of our other favourites, that we will be stocking over at our Little Scribbles' Stories shop. For most of us, New Year has been and gone but for those who celebrate Chinese New Year, the festivities have yet to get into full swing. Barefoot Books have a great selection on books that introduce children to different cultures and that includes a selection of stories that can give children an insight into Chinese culture and traditions. The Great Race is a great book for Chinese New Year story time as it introduces children to the signs of the Chinese zodiac, with a fun and engaging story. Whilst this is a great read aloud story, I have chosen Lin Yi's Lantern as my Barefoot Book of the month for January as it is such a beautiful tale with lovely artwork to engage all ages.

Meet Lin Yi — a little boy with a big heart and a talent for bargaining. Tonight is the moon festival and he wants nothing more than a red rabbit lantern; but first he must buy the things his mother needs at the market. This heartwarming story shows the rewards of putting others first, and includes educational notes at the end about the Chinese moon festival, life in rural China, and the legend of the moon fairy.

Little Scribbles will be holding  Chinese New Year storytelling sessions this month and will be posting a guide on how you can hold your own session to get children involved in the festivities. If you are in the Merseyside area, drop us a line and we can book you into one of our great sessions, where we will be reading stories, learning about the zodiac and having fun with fortune cookies.