Families and reading

On the 15th May it is the UN’s international day of families. Families play a vital role in the education of their children. Families are the first educators of their children and it is within the family group where the love of literacy can blossom.

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Reading is a gateway to imagination, being literate and developing empathy. If you can take the time to read as a family then these skills are being embedded into your child and also reinforced within yourself. Reading as a family gives you time to be close together and to discuss things that aren’t happening in your daily lives (imagine talking about dragons, talking trees and magical stones!)  

Show your children that reading is a pleasurable activity, show them how important searching a  library for the perfect book is. There are no bad authors or books, you just need to take the time to find the books that suit you or perhaps open your mind to new ideas.

As a family take the time to visit your local library, the school library or even the online library catalogue. Borrow some loved books and books that will stretch your mind. Read together or read apart and then discuss what you have read. Reading is the key.

As Albert Einstein once said: “If you want your child to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairytales”

My magnificent jelly bean tree

If I had a Jelly Bean tree, I would care for it while it was small. 

Do you wish that jelly beans grew on trees? 

I’m sure we have all had the dream as a child that if we planted a single jelly bean and cared for it that it would, with a bit of magic, grow into our own little tree full of sugary delights!

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Tantalising all of the senses, this book makes every young person’s dream a reality. Maura Finn’s rhyming texts outlines the reasons why freshly grown jelly beans are so much better than the store bought ones and how within the jelly bean tree there are so many other delights that perhaps you never imagined!

Aura Parker’s illustrations bring out the sugary smell of the jelly bean tree and leave the reader wanting to rush out and plant their own tree once the book is finished!

We did….

Not only does this picture book takes us off to a magical land, it also teaches the reader how to care for a plant and enjoy the fruits it bears. My magnificent Jelly Bean tree is a delight to read to inspire imagination and some gardening!

So what can you do at home? 

Nature

 – Grow your own beans or sunflowers. These are easy seeds to grow and monitor even when you don’t have a veggie patch. Keep a seed diary and draw a daily picture of what is happening to the plant.

 – You’re the head of the CSIRO in 2050 and the world is running out of food. Invent your own type of plant that could feed a family for a week and fit into a small sized garden.

 – Investigate seeds, what they look like at different stages and in different species of plants.  Life cycles of seeds can also be looked at here.

Mrs White and the Red Desert by Josie Boyle.

Mrs White and the Red Desert by Josie Boyle, illustrated by Maggie Prewett is a fascinating story about life in the desert for three children and the trouble with the red dust that blows in and over everything in it’s path!


This group of desert children invite their school teacher, Mrs White, home for dinner to show her why they always bring in grubby homework. BUT – little do they know what mother nature has in store for them all!

They live in a higgledy-piggledy house with a higgledy -piggledy garden but they play outside, tell stories in the sand, have vivid imaginations and love learning.

Maggie Prewett’s illustrations highlight the spareness of the desert and dominance of the red sand after a sand storm! It reminded me of the many times I have spent in the desert and the fact that even months after returning home, I still found that red dust in pockets of clothes and gaps in the car seals!

I loved reading this story to my children and to classes at my school during library lessons as I was able to tell them about the desert and the amazing landscape we have in Australia. We were able to discuss how theses people live near waterways and if they don’t – water needs to be trucked in – a very foreign concept to city based children.

When we read books to children we open their minds to how other children live and therefore increase empathy and awareness of the world around them.

So what can you do with this story at home or in the classroom?

  • Look at a map of Australia and see where remote communities live. How do these people live in these areas?
  • How do children go to school when they live remotely? Explore School of the Air and Central schools. Compare how you go to school to how they do. Look at this school in Broken Hill 
  • How did the children in this story pass on stories and learn? Have you ever told a story without writing it down? Try and tell a story or two using only spoken word and perhaps a drawing or two as you talk.
  • How did they use their imagination when they heard unusual sounds? Close your eyes and listen to the outside world – imagine what those different sounds could be.
  • Explore personification throughout this story. How does making the objects alive add to the story? Create your own personification sentences.

Looking further:

 

 

Rhino in the house: The true story of Saving Samira by Daniel Kirk

One of the things I love about picture books is that they can bring real life stories to young readers all around the world through pictures and simple words.

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Rhino in the House by Daniel Kirk is an empowering story about a women named Anna Merz and her lifelong dedication to saving endangered animals in Africa. Anna had always been involved in wildlife conservation and it was when she retired and moved to Kenya that her journey into saving Rhinoceroses began.

The relationship between a baby rhino named Samia and Anna is at the heart of this conservation story. We learn how their relationship develops over time and how her story has inspired many to pursue careers and action in the area of wildlife conservation.

Children will adore this book as the images are colourful and the story is sweet and entertaining. There is little mention of the dangers from poachers which is lovely and allows the children to enjoy this story without fear. We did discuss who poachers are at the start of the story but were then able to focus more on the wonderful work Anna did in her sanctuary.

Rhino in the House is one of those picture books which stays with you long after it has been read and with historical facts at the end of the story it allows the adult reader learn more about Anna and her rhinos.

So what can you do?

SUSTAINABILITY

  • Why do we need to take care of all animals in our world?
  • Which animals are endangered in your country? Why are they endangered and can this be changed?
  • Why are books like this important? How do picture books give all readers this important message? How do they make us read and learn when compared to wordy articles?
  • How is nature fragile?
  • How can animals be protected when humans don’t want to change? Investigate an endangered animal that is effected by human action – write a letter or create a campaign that will change minds and attitudes.

LITERACY

Compare and contrast other books that use a true story and place it in picture book form. With these books: Phasmid, One small Island, The Hairy Nosed Wombats

– Identify the true story in each book.

– Identify the human actions involved – positive and negative.

– Identify the impacts on the world if this animal/s was to become extinct.

– Compare and contrast the 4 picture books and decide which one makes more of an impact on you.

– What does sustainability mean in regards to these stories?

– Teach another group of students about your story or of another animal that is endangered.  Think of an interesting way that grabs their attention so they listen and learn.

Links to Rhinos

http://rhinos.org/books/

https://www.savetherhino.org/rhino_info/species_of_rhino

https://www.worldwildlife.org/species/rhino

http://www.bagheera.com/inthewild/van_anim_rhino.htm

 

 

Curriculum outcomes
OI.3 – Sustainable patterns of living rely on the interdependence of healthy social, economic and ecological systems.
OI.6 The sustainability of ecological, social and economic systems is achieved through informed individual and community action that values local and global equity and fairness across generations into the future.

Making a difference in Australia.

There is still low education achievement outcomes for Indigenous children in Australia. Indigenous children deserve to learn how to read and write as much as any one else does so that they can choose to move out of poverty cycles and educate the next generation.

In many indigenous communities books are scarce and literacy levels are low.

You may have heard in the media about the low literacy rates and perhaps wondered how you can make a difference? It is really important that we as an affluent nation look towards helping developing nations but we need to look at our own communities who at times are functioning at a developing nation level – which should not be happening.

Through education, empowerment and support anyone can achieve anything.

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The Indigenous literacy foundation are an amazing group who raise money and work with indigenous communities. Through their programs they empower communities to learn how to read by giving them books and publishing books that have indigenous links.

We are a national book industry charity, which aims to reduce the disadvantage experienced by children in remote Indigenous communities across Australia, by lifting literacy levels and instilling a lifelong love of reading.

Please check them out at www.ilf.org.au  and see if your school or community can  participate in the great book swap in August:  www.greatbookswap.org.au

May – focus on sustainability and storytelling

During the month of May my intention is to help parents and teachers build awareness of how we can act more sustainability and how education in this area can be part of their daily routine.

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The world we live in now needs more people to start reflecting on how we are living and how that living is effecting the way others live now and how are future generations are going to be able to live.

Through picture books, small activities and short discussions we can all start to raise awareness in ourselves and our children.

Have you ever read a book about our underground farmers?

Do your children know why earthworms exist and how what we spray on our backyards can drastically effect their health? Try reading Yucky Worms to inspire your own backyard warrior!

Have you ever stopped to look at the detail of a tree?

Many children do have a short attention span but ask them to touch the tree and give you an adjective about how it feels, looks and smells like. You will be amazed! Inspire yourself and your child to appreciate trees and perhaps plant some extra in your own yard or during a community event such as Plant a Tree day.

Try reading Last Tree in the city also – an inspiring read about the power of determination to make a difference.

How about inspiring your child to be more sustainable in order to save an endangered species?

Many adults and children are oblivious to the animals that we effect by the chemicals we pour down the drain, water we waste, plastic waste we throw out and land clearing for housing, farms and business. Try reading a story that inspires someone to tread a little more carefully. The Hairy Nosed Wombats Find a New Home is a very inspiring story as is Phasmid!

Join me in May on instagram and Facebook as I learn how I can make my life more sustainable so someone else in the world has a better chance and so that my children live in a better world.

 

The tomorrow book by Jackie French and Sue Degennaro.

Written on a solar-powered computer and printed on recyclable paper The tomorrow book by Jackie French and Sue Degennaro is a story filled with hope for tomorrow.

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Many environmental books are filled with doom and gloom – as the media tells us that is where we are headed. BUT with imagination, creative thinking, problem solving and open minds, tomorrow can be a wonderful day where we harness the sun’s energy, we repair things instead of throwing them away, we each have our own veggie patch and wind power is just another form of easy to use energy.

Jackie French is a marvellous story teller and through this book she ignites ownership of the world in children and a belief that they can all make a difference to the world they live in.

Many of us are too caught up in what we are used to doing and find change so difficult but as we can see through this story that sometimes it is only the simplest of changes that makes a difference to our human world, the animals and natural habitats within in.

Sue Degennaro’s illustrations are an energetic mixture of pastel and collage (using recycled materials of course!) and add so much more to the story being told. Degennaro’s illustrations really highlight the fact that tomorrow isn’t just about humans.

So what can you do?

SUSTAINABILITY

  • Redesign your day: How would you get to work or school if you made one change? What would your meals look like?
  • How can Easter be packaged better? Reflect on the waste over Easter and how you can make a change for next year. Re design an Easter egg package so it is better for tomorrow.
  • Check out my long list of sustainability books. 
  • Check out this great program on Self-sufficiency in the suburbs!  Tell Laura I sent you.

Visual Literacy

  • How to the illustrations add more depth to the story?
  • Does the use of recycled paper change how you see the story? Why aren’t more books printed this way?
  • How does collage add a different dimension to this story – can it be used in all stories?

 

Reading books to children is a great place to start igniting ideas to make changes in the world we live in. Start conversations and take responsibility together to make a difference in the world we live in.

 

More from Harper Collins: http://static.harpercollins.com/harperimages/ommoverride/The_Tomorrow_Book_TN.pdf