From the Read Aloud Basket

“Do you need some water, momma?” Ah, my sweet, precious children so concerned about my dry, dry throat. They are so eager to keep my water bottle filled with fresh, cool water so that I can read just one more book….one more chapter.

After reading Once Upon an Alphabet by Oliver Jeffers, I decided to surprise my little ones with a few more selection from Mr. Jeffers. I was able to grab three at the library last week and they might have been a bit excited.

Book selections from Oliver Jeffers:

How to Catch a Star – a little boy loves the stars so very much. He decides that he will catch a star for himself but is faced with how to catch that star. Climb a tree? Life preserver lasso? In the end, my little ones loved how he caught a star.

Up and Down – Two friends: a penguin and boy. Always together until the penguin needs to do something by himself. After the penguin ventures off alone, he realizes that he misses his friend. But where is he? How does he find him again? Never fear. The boy shows up at just the right moment.

This Moose Belongs to Me – When Wilfred meets a moose he decides to claim the moose for his own. With a name tag of Marcel on the moose’s antlers, Wilfred begins to teach Marcel all the important pet rules on Being a Good Pet. But it appears that moose isn’t really Wilfred’s….. Hint: If you want a pet moose, have apples.

It Wasn’t Me starring The Hueys – The Hueys are interesting little fellows. Even though there is a lot of similarity with the Hueys, disagreements to happen. It is really hard to settle a disagreement when no one can remember why they are fighting. I made a note of the ending to use the next time my little Hueys get in an argument.

The simple sketches and simple text are the beauty of these stories. Mr. Jeffers does an excellent job of capturing the minds of young children. Sam (5) and Martha (3) are loving these books. At some point in the day, you will find them on the couch, cuddled up, and sharing the stories with one another.

Another for the young ones is I Saw an Ant on the Railroad Track by Joshua Prince. This is just a fun little story that will quickly capture the interest of your little ones. Rhyming text tells the story of an ant walking down a railroad track. The problem? He is walking eastbound on a westbound track. Thankfully, Switchman Jack, who is enjoying his lunch, sees the ant and hurries to switch the train. Will he switch it in time?


“I’d just settled down with my brown lunch sack,

napkin spread, lunch unpacked,

when I spied that ant on the railroad track,

hungry hunting, tickety-tack.”

As soon as you begin reading, the rhythm kicks in and makes for a fun read. Switchman Jack is quite the guy…saving an ant and in the end sharing his lunch. If you are looking for a fun read, grab this one on your next library trip.

We read more books this past week but I think I’ll put those in a separate post so check back!

Wednesday with Words – Memory and Imagination

Oh the plans of man….my reading list has had a bit of a shift in order. A book that I have been wanting to read is finally in my hands. Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child by Anthony Esolen  is not a new book; it was published in 2010. Unfortunately my library does not have it within the county library system. I finally requested it via inter-library loan and have enjoyed what I have read so far.

And there is the trouble. A good book is a dangerous thing. In the wrong hands, it is like a bomb housed within a couple of red pasteboard covers. It can blow the world wide open; it can, if it’s Dante’s Divine Comedy, blow the reader as high as heaven. It carries within it the possibility – and it is always a possibility – of cracking open the shell of routine that prevents us from seeing the world.

Normally I am a quick reader no matter what text is in my hand. I have quickly found that using a Commonplace Book has really helped me to slow down and really savor what I am reading. It is very easy to feel rushed and compelled to get through a chapter as quickly as possible. I have nine children to parent and guide, books to pre-read, laundry to fold, a baby to rock….I need to finish the chapter quickly and move on.

No. No, I don’t. I can linger, study, and enjoy little snippets if necessary. One small bite here and there… a bit of literary grazing….yes, I think books might become a very dangerous thing for me now. Very dangerous, indeed.

A quote dealing with the importance of a child reading and not memory being the most important:

How, then, to do away with the Facts? The first thing is to keep the memory weak and empty.

That may sound counterintuitive. ‘We don’t teach by rote memorization,’ say our educators today, raising their chins in pride. ‘We prefer to teach critical thinking. We prefer to tap into the imagination.’

So long as teachers keep harping on that one string, we won’t have to fear that our schools will turn out the next Dante or Mozart. That is because a developed memory is a wondrous and terrible storehouse of things seen and heard and done. It can do what no mere search engine on the internet can do. It can call up apparently unrelated things at once, molding them into a whole impression, or a new thought. The poet T. S. Eliot understood this creative, associative, dynamic function of a strong memory. The developed imagination remembers a strain from Bach, and smells spinach cooking in the kitchen, and these impressions are not separate but part of a unified whole, and are the essence of creative play. Without the library of the memory – which the Renaissance poet Edmund Spenser compared to a dusty room full of wonders in the attic of the mind, where a wise old man pores over his books, and  a little boy called Anamnesis, “Reminder,” sometimes has to climb a ladder to go fetch them – the imagination simply does not have much to think about, or to play with.

The only bad thing? Because this book was inter-library loan, I have a short window to read it. All other reading has been bumped down the list so I can finish this one by mid-February. I am looking forward to many more days of interesting reading and writing. Why did I wait so long to implement a Commonplace Book for myself?

Conversation and Current Events

Over the past year or so, my older students have been required to stay informed on current events. We can very easily allow our children to live with a narrow view; only interested or concerned about what is important to them. Studying current events provides many benefits – to help them to understand the role of people, the consequences of our actions, how events from history are playing a part in what is happening today, and what is happening right now across the world and at home.

When Current Events became a regular part of their requirements, the girls were not exactly excited. However, over time, I believe they are beginning to see the value in this area. They are becoming more aware of politics and government. They have shared in fun news such as the time capsule in Boston or the Queen of England’s procession to Parliament with all the royal fanfare.

My requirement for Current Events is very simple. At least three days a week, they need to read or watch the news. They have a journal where they write about an article or topic that they found interesting or thought provoking. Simple but effective. They often surpass the three day requirement. And of course, we must chat about it all, right?

For me, one of the top benefits of the study of current events is the conversations. This past week, one topic that came up in the news was President Obama’s plan to make two years of community college free to those who meet certain standards or requirements.

One of my girls shared with me about this proposal and pointed out valid reasons why she did not agree with this plan. Her thoughts were not random or frivolous. Her thoughts were well-formed and reasonable. We had a great conversation about college, students, expectations, diligence, work ethic, governments role in education, etc.

Here are a few of our Current Events resources:

I’m currently looking for a few more sites to add to our options above. If you have a reliable online news site, I’d love to hear about it.

I do recommend discretion when allowing your child to access different news media sites. Not all news sites are family friendly. Only my high school students have current events on their schedules for this reason. We have regular talks about how to handle inappropriate content that may be in view and media bias as well.

I do have plans to add current events for my middle school level children. My approach for that will be a bit different. I’ll share how we handle that once I have it implemented and see how well it flows.

Do your students stay up with current events? Do you?