Saturday, August 6, 2011

Rainbow Fish

The Rainbow Fishby Marcus Pfisher has been a classic since it’s release in 1992. It’s the story of a fish who, because of his sparkling silver scales, has become vain and feels he is more beautiful and above the other plain looking fish. Although the other fish are in awe of him and want to be his friend, the Rainbow Fish just wants to parade around showing of his shiny scales, thinking he should be liked for his beauty alone. After getting angry when a small blue fish asks Rainbow Fish for one of his scales, all the fish stop talking to him. Soon Rainbow Fish is sad and lonely and asks himself "I really am beautiful. Why doesn't anybody like me?". He seeks council with the wise old octopus who tells him he needs to learn to share in order to be happy. At first Rainbow fish doesn’t like the Octopus’s advice, but when the little blue fish asks for one of his scales again, he thinks to himself that he won’t miss just one. Soon other fish come to him asking for a scale and with every scale he gives away the happier and more delighted he becomes. Soon, he only has one shiny scale left. He isn’t the prettiest fish in the ocean anymore, but he’s happy and he has friends. This story helps children learn that being vain isn’t a good thing and that it’s better to have less and be happy than more and be lonely. Although the summary inside of the book says the most beautiful fish in the entire ocean discovers the real value of personal beauty and friendship, I think it also teaches them the value of sharing—or about not letting your possessions possess you—which is a good lesson to learn early on. Good for children ages 3–7.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

I Am the Book

 I Am the Bookis a new book by Lee Bennett Hopkins, just released this past March. It is a collection of poetry by thirteen different well-known children’s authors and poets. All of the poems celebrate books and the joy of reading. Through wonderful figurative language, the authors convey how they feel about the magic of reading. Each poem has a different form and different voice depending on which author wrote that particular poem. If a child loves to read, this is also a good book to introduce them to poetry since it’s all about what they love best—books! For any child that likes artwork, the whimsical pictures are interesting, too, and help add to the meaning of the poems. In every illustration, Yayo uses books as part of the scene. In one picture the book is the dog’s nose and whiskers, in another the boat. Although I enjoyed reading this entire book, and recommend it as an addition to everyone's collection, I especially loved the following poem, “Don’t Need a Window Seat,” by Kristine O’Connell George.
Riding home from the library, 
don’t need a window seat.
Got a great new book to read,
eleven more beneath my feet.
Bus’s wheels are turning fast,
I’m starting Chapter One,
hoping I won’t reach my stop
before this book is done
Riding my imagination,
Flying down city streets.
Got this great new book to read––
who needs a window seat?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Summer Reading

With school out and summer in full swing, libraries across the country have started their summer reading club. In 1987, ten Minnesota Regional Library System workers started The Collaborative Summer Library Program (CSLP), a summer reading program for children. They chose themes and created artwork that other public libraries in the region could utilize. This grassroots movement spread throughout the country. Today, most libraries have a reading program to help keep children reading through the summer. This year's theme is One World Many Stories.
The U.S. Secretary of Education (Arne Duncan) stated in 2009 that summer learning loss is “devastating.” By joining a local library's summer reading program, learning loss can help be prevented. Many studies have shown that if I child continues reading they will have better writing skills and a larger vocabulary. 
No matter what the medium, reading is important, but I think a good old fashioned book is vital in a young person’s life. It creates a tactile experience and deepens the child’s connection to the written word. Reading helps develop critical thinking and problem solving skills. It teaches children responsibility and how to resolve conflict. It also allows children to dream, to use their imagination, and to travel to different places and other cultures in their minds. 
Although e-books and the internet can also foster better reading skills, it takes away the magic of reading a “real” book. Unfortunately, readily available access to books may become more difficult. I was just contacted by an owner of a bookstore. He has been calling people to bring attention to the fact that that there are still privately owned bookstores, and the importance of reading. Years ago, small bookstores were upset with the opening of chain bookstores such as Borders Books and Music and Barnes and Noble. Now, these chain stores are also being hurt by people turning to the internet to read and buy books.
Please encourage your child to read, not just during the school year, but also in the summer when important learning skills can be lost. And don’t forget to support your local bookstores and libraries!