Monday, 24 March 2014

The Windy Beach

Lazy Sundays are made for family time, long walks and even longer lunches. Last Sunday, the sun was shining, the air was crisp and the beach was calling us. A visit to the beach during summertime, for me, is a bit of a nightmare but when you can pop on a warm coat, cosy wellies and look forward to the wind in your face it is a different story. Boy was Sunday windy! Crosby beach was our destination of choice, a family favourite, especially with the addition Anthony Gormley's Another Place. We were hit with a big whoooooosh as we got out of the car and swirled away down the beach for our walk. Kicking the soggy sand, making pictures and searching for shells made us smile and watching the high tide swish onto the sand was mesmerising. Getting out and about can be fun at any time and should not be dictated to by the weather. Wrap up warm, run around, discover nature and blow away those cobwebs.

Obligatory ice creams were in order on our walk back to the car, where we sat and watched the world by go by and did our best to stop the strawberry sauce from dripping all over us. Then home to bring out the paints and create our very own beach on paper, Gormley's statues included. With lots of swooshing, swishing and howling noises made as we painted, we had nearly as much fun as our walk on the beach. As well as painting, there are lots of fun and educational crafts and activities relating to wind and beaches, that you do as a family. Ask children how they felt at the beach, what noises they heard? what did they see? All of which make great material for a beach inspired poem. Or perhaps collect seashells and make your own musical instruments. The list is endless and a fun, fresh walk will certainly inspire your creativity.

If your next walk in the wind inspires you and your children to read about nature, here are a few of our favourite picture books about wind.

Blowin in the Wind by Bob Dylan
The Windy Dat by Anna Milbourne
The wind Blew by Pat Hutchins
The Boy who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Storytime: Ladybirds

'Oink!' said the cats ...With all the MOOing and HISSing and BAAAing and CLUCKing, the farmyard is full of noise. But when Hefty Hugh and Lanky Len hatch a plot to steal the fine prize cow, it's the quietest animal of all who saves the day! ' What the Ladybird Heard is a Julia Donaldson classic that entertains children and adults alike. A book that is full of fabulous alliteration and fun rhymes, that makes it a perfect for reading aloud to toddlers and young children. 

The vibrant images are engaging and are simple enough so that toddlers can recognise the different animals. As we meet each animal, there are opportunities for children to interact with the story by making different animal sounds or, if there is a lot of energy in the room, you can stand up and act out the animal movements. The repetition in the book allows for children to have lots of chances to act out the noises, have a sing song and really step inside the story, anticipating what comes next.

We were prompted to use this book for a story time session after seeing a wonderful production at our local theatre, inspired by the book. With lots of singing, dancing and audience participation, it really made us chuckle. It also reminded me of our lovely ladybird puppet that has been hidden in our storytelling box since last summer. Spring is a great time of year to explore books and rhymes about animals and nature, so I think out little ladybird will be hanging out with us a lot now the sun has come out. This puppet is a great when used alongside the book, especially as it is a glove puppet that can dance around as he children imagine what is says to the other animals.

Once you have read the book once, you be eager to read again and again as the infectious rhyme plays over in your head. If you are brave enough to show of that wonderful voice of yours then take inspiration from Julia Donaldson herself and hold a little sing along session, once you have finished reading the book. If you are not so brave, just play the song!

We always like to incorporate a craft activity in to our storytelling sessions. This simple twirling ladybird allows children to bring a little of the story to life, whilst getting all of their creative energy. All you need is two paper plates, glittery red paint, paper spots, googly or paper eyes and string plus little messy hands to put it all together. Simply cut out two semi-circles out of black paper ( for the face), along with lots of small black circles to stick on the body of the paper plate, once you have covered it in red paint. You will need a little glue to stick on your eyes and once the paint and glue have dried, cut halfway through each plate, on opposite sides, then slot one plate inside the other to make your twirly ladybird. Add string and hang from the ceiling and there you go, your very own glittery ladybird that can hang about in your room and potentially save your day! Once you are done making your ladybird, you are sure to want another rendition of the song. Soooo…… the hen said cluck…………but the ladybird said, never a word.

I couldn't resist ending this post with a cute picture of our little ladybird! Hope you all have lots of spring fun!

Friday, 7 March 2014

International Women's Day Picture Books

International Women's Day is here, so we thought we would share some of our favourite children's books that feature strong female characters and challenge traditional female stereotypes. More than ever, we see bookshelves full of books that are marketed towards one sex or the other, with an abundance of pink princess books for girls and blue pirate books for boys. Even putting aside, the pink and blue divide, male characters in books far outweigh those of girls, who are generally seen as superfluous characters who can compete with male leads. Of course, girls and indeed boys can be princesses if they want to be but they can be also firefighters, superheroes, rescuers, activists, pirates and much much more. More importantly, they can be whatever they want to be without the constraints that literature places upon them. There are so many great authors and publishers challenging the ' norms ' but here are a few of our favourites

In Rickshaw Girl we meet Naima, a young girl living in Bangladesh who longs to earn money for her family, in a world where males dominate and females are expected to concentrate on domestic duties. Disguising herself as a boy, Naima takes herself on a journey of discovery and empowerment as the world around her begins to change.

Super Daisy is a fun and adventurous book, that sees the lead character Daisy use her super powers to travel around the world on a rescue mission to save planet earth. With pop out pages and flaps, children can enjoy interacting with the strong willed and free spirited girl who does not need a boy to help her save the world.

In Paper Bag Princess, we see a twist on a traditional princess tales, with princess Elizabeth bring the one that slays dragons, fights fire and comes to the rescue of her potential suitor Ronald. With fantastic illustrations and quirky humour, this is a fun book for everybody, perhaps even those boys who supposedly will not engaged with female leads!

Often it can be other females that can make some girls feel inferior and we need to find the strength to be happy in our own skin, without the need to push put others. Lola's Fandango is a beautiful exploration of a young girl, having a passion for something that can only be explored when she finds her confidence and her true spirit.

For added feminist fun, this humorous Girls are not Chicks colouring book will make you laugh whilst exploring strong messages with your children. The book is a playful exploration of gender stereotypes . Girls are not chicks, they are thinkers, creators, fighters and healers.

If you have small activists on your hand, then A is for Activist is he book for you and your family to explore together Taking on all manner of issues, not just tied to feminism, you can open up your child's eyes to the differences they can make in life, by fighting stereotypes.

Finally, here is one Princess Book that really does make me smile. Yes the cover is pink, yes the main character wears pretty dresses and is happiest when holding a sparkly bag but the book does certainly not impose gender stereotypes. My Princess Boy is a wonderful exploration of acceptance and unconditional friendship as we learn that glitter and glamour is not just for girls. A great book to read to boys, girls, men and women, after all books should be for everybody.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

World Book Day reading

Thursday 6th March is World Book Day, where we will see children all over the world dressing up as their favourite literary characters and indulging in, reading lots of stories. With the opportunity to snap up some great children's books for just £1, families can discover new tales and enjoy quality story time together. It is great fun to see children reading and talking about their favourite stories and it is always interesting to see the variety of books that children class as ' the best book ever '. As it is ' World 'Book Day that we are celebrating, we  thought it would be good to share some of our favourite books from around the world.

Starting with my favourite Barefoot Book, Mama Panya's Pancakes. The book give sue a glimpse into the life of Mama Panya, her son Adika and the wonderful community spirit in the small Kenyan village they live in. With a strong message about the importance of sharing, as well as tasty pancake recipe at the end of the book, adults will love this book just as much as children.

Barefoot have a great range of books that explore world cultures, with Indian Tales being another favourite of ours. The collection of tales, from various regions of the country, gives us an insight into the colourful and varied cultures that each area brings to the India. As with many Barefoot Books, as well as containing engaging tales to share, the book has end notes that are both educational and fun.

The Wise Fool is another top choice, with wonderful illustrations and heartwarming fables from the  Islamic world. In the book we meet Mulla Nasruddin, a legendary character whose adventures and misadventures are enjoyed across the Islamic world. This witty collection of stories portrays his eccentric, engaging and irreverent character. Nasruddin always has a twinkle in his eye, a sliver of wisdom in his ramblings, and a few good surprises up his sleeve!

Jumping from country to country with the help of stories from different cultures is fun, fascinating and free spirited but deep down we know that we are ultimately all the same wherever we live. My World, Your World, is a vivid and engaging book, where we see children explore different aspects of their friends culture and accept the differences for what they are.

For older children the beautiful Mysterious Traveller is a moving tale of camels, lost princesses and the strength of wisdom and knowledge. The book illustrates the bond between a child and the man who brought her up like a daughter. Both deliciously exotic and yet portraying warmly familiar and universal truths.

The Weight of the Water is another strong book for independent readers. Armed with a suitcase and an old laundry bag filled with clothes, Kasienka and her mother head for England. Life is lonely for Kasienka. At home her mother's heart is breaking and at school friends are scarce.But when someone special swims into her life, Kasienka learns that there might be more than one way for her to stay afloat. The Weight of Water is a startlingly original piece of fiction; most simply a brilliant coming of age story, it also tackles the alienation experienced by many young immigrants. Moving, unsentimental and utterly page-turning, we meet and share the experiences of a remarkable girl who shows us how quiet courage prevails

Whatever you and your children read this World Book Day I am sure you will learn something, have fun and hopefully you will open your eyes to something new. 

Happy World Book Day!

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Book of the Month: March

WOW, we are in March already. The year is going very quickly and we are currently enjoying a little spring like sun, to give us a burst of freshness. Spring is on the horizon, with images of flowers, Easter eggs, bunnies and lambs popping into our heads.For our March Book of the Month we meet a little lamb with a big struggle on this hands.

When a hungry young wolf spots a tasty looking animal in the field above the river, he thinks he has found some dinner…. but the fluffy little lamb is more clever than he bargained for. Will the lamb become a tasty snack, or will she escape the hungry wolf's jaws ? The Hungry Wolf is our Book of the Month for March and what a fun read it is! With plots to make you chuckle and illustrations that jump of the page, this a great read aloud for older children or for children aged 6+ to read independently.

The book has some really good discussion points, around our food consumption, nature, family and overcoming obstacles, so is ideal for book clubs or for parents to encourage children to explore meaning behind books. The vocabulary in the book is varied but not too challenging for children who are starting to read on their own and the speech bubbles add an extra dimension to allow us to really get to know the characters. An engaging and vibrant tale, that I am sure adults will love too.