phd mama

from diapers to deconstruction


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Butterfly Books

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Tomorrow might be the first day of spring, but this winter is unrelenting. One sure sign of the seasonal shift, though, is the monarch migration—and they’re already on the move! We’ve been learning about monarchs’ amazing inter-generational journey as we studied butterflies of all sorts. These beauties have inspired artists, writers, and scientists for centuries with their incredible feats of metamorphosis. So flit through this list, which includes fiction as well as non-fiction, and transform your reading with these bedazzling bugs.

  1. The Beautiful Butterfly: A Folktale from Spain by Judy Sierra and Victoria Chess
  2. Watch BBC Nature’s Monarch Butterfly
  3. Watch Butterfly & Moth by DK Eyewitness
  4. A Butterfly is Patient by Dianna Hutts Aston and Sylvia Long
  5. A Blue Butterfly: A Story about Claude Monet by Bijou Le Tord
  6. The Butterfly Alphabet by Kjell B. Sandved
  7. The Butterfly Alphabet Book by Brian Cassie and Jerry Pallotta
  8. Butterfly House by Eve Bunting and Greg Shed
  9. Caterpillar to Butterfly by Laura Marsh
  10. From Caterpillar to Butterfly by Deborah Heiligman and Bari Weissman
  11. How to Hide a Butterfly & Other Insects by Ruth Heller
  12. Hurry and the Monarch by Antoine Ó Flatharta and Meilo So
  13. Track Monarch Migration with Journey North
  14. Color with Crayola’s “Make Your Own Color Code” Butterfly
  15. Monarch and Milkweed by Helen Frost and Leonid Gore
  16. Monarch Butterfly of Aster Way by Elizabeth Ring and Katie Lee
  17. My, Oh My—a Butterfly! All about Butterflies by Tish Rabe, Aristides Ruiz and Joe Mathieu
  18. Watch National Geographic’s Monarch Butterfly
  19. Open House for Butterflies by Ruth Krauss and Maurice Sendak
  20. Summer Birds: The Butterflies of Maria Merian by Margarita Engle and Julie Paschkis
  21. Waiting for Wings by Lois Ehlert
  22. Where Butterflies Grow by Joanne Ryder and Lynne Cherry


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Good Eats, Good Reads

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My family lives in a fantastic area for foodies; we’re not far from The Culinary Institute of America, and our region is rife with farm-fresh pickings. We’ve made it part of our lifestyle to pick our own fruits and vegetables, to purchase from farmers’ markets as often as we can, and to celebrate food that is healthy as well as delicious. When I started looking for children’s books about healthy eating, I knew I wanted a holistic approach that accounts for food as cultural, social, and historical as well as nutrition. Each of these books gave an interesting spin on health, nutrition, and the important roles food plays in our lives.

  1. Crayola’s Craft “Food for Thought…and Energy, Too!”
  2. Dinosaurs Alive and Well! A Guide to Good Health by Laurie Krasny Brown and Marc Brown
  3. Eating the Alphabet by Lois Ehlert
  4. Eat Healthy, Feel Great by William Sears, M. D., Martha Sears, R.N., Christie Watts Keyy, and Renee Andriani
  5. The Edible Pyramid: Good Eating Every Day by Loreen Leedy
  6. The Food Parade: Healthy Eating with the Nutritious Food Groups by Elicia Castaldi
  7. Good Enough to Eat: A Kid’s Guide to Food and Nutrition by Lizzy Rockwell
  8. Good for Me and You by Mercer Mayer
  9. Growing Vegetable Soup by Lois Ehlert
  10. How Did that Get in My Lunchbox? The Story of Food by Chris Butterworth and Lucia Gaggiotti
  11. Oh, the Things You Can Do that Are Good for You! All about Staying Healthy by Tish Rabe and Aristides Ruiz
  12. Little Pea by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Jen Corace
  13. My Amazing Body: A First Look at Health and Fitness by Pat Thomas
  14. Plants Feed Me by Lizzy Rockwell
  15. The Vegetable Alphabet Book by Jerry Pallotta, Bob Thomson, Edgar Stewart
  16. The Vegetables We Eat by Gail Gibbons
  17. What’s So Yummy? All about Eating Well and Feeling Good by Robie H. Harris and Nadine Bernard Westcott
  18. The Yummy Alphabet Book: Herbs, Spices, and Other Natural Flavors by Jerry Pallotta and Leslie Evans

 


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Early Reading Instruction

I decided that my older daughter was ready for more formal reading instruction when she started picking out common words in our stories and asking more questions about the texts themselves. She seemed to be initiating a move toward more independent reading, and I wanted to support and encourage her efforts appropriately. The resources I provide here represent what I found useful in helping my elder child start reading independently. I can imagine a different list of resources for a different child, but this post covers a lot of basic principles that early readers need to master in order to achieve independent literacy.

We started by building on PHONEMIC AWARENESS, the ability to isolate individual sounds within a word. Here’s what we used: Meet the Phonics! (Letter Sounds, Blends, and Digraphs) from the Preschool Prep Company. They can be played in full or broken in to lessons, and they helped my daughter connect her visual understanding of letters to the many sounds they can make, alone and in combinations. The animation is helpful and the sounds are instructive as well as cute.

From there, we moved to Meet the Sight Words! (also from the Preschool Prep Company). This series covered words commonly appearing in children’s picture books. Many of the words are not phonetic, so memorizing them as SIGHT WORDS (words that a reader recognizes instantly, by sight) is useful. The sheer volume of sight words also gave my daughter confidence that she could look at a page in her picture book and already know many of the words.

Once my daughter had a large repertoire of sight words, we worked on RHYMES. We made lists starting with a common sight word (like “at”) and added letters (“cat, bat, mat,” etc.). We practiced this with written lists and letter magnets, and I saw the way it built my daughter’s confidence to branch out from the sight words. It also gave us the chance to talk about words that contain sight words but change the sound (like “one, bone, gone”). Getting accustomed to those shifts takes awareness of the context and lots of repetition, just like so many other skills. For books that highlight rhymes and building on sight words, we turned to a lot of Dr. Seuss books, and the series of Bright and Early Books and Beginner Books.

Knowledge of sight words also helps with a skill I call CHUNKING, where my daughter can break up a longer, more daunting word into its parts. This works well for compound words (like “daytime”) and longer ones like “bringing” where she can sound out the digraph and the double “ing.” Strong readers always have multiple strategies for approaching a text, and phonemic awareness, sight words, chunking, and things like visual cues that children use even as pre-readers can work together to strengthen literacy skills. We used these skills at first with simple board books and books with only a few words (like Jez Alborough’s Hug, Tall, and Yes or Peggy Rathman’s classic Goodnight Gorilla). The idea of reading entire books on her own gave my daughter a sense of pride and accomplishment.

As she has advanced, we’ve worked with the I Can Read! Series that provides books at different levels depending on a reader’s ability, and my elder child especially likes the silliness of the Elephant and Piggie series, another great option for early readers. I also returned to a lot of board books that we haven’t read in years to balance books that push my daughter’s abilities and books that build her confidence. I encouraged her to sit down with copies of Little Bear and Frog and Toad, which we own in print and audio format; her task was to keep up with the audio version while following the printed text. Since she already has many of these stories memorized, the process reinforced the connection between phonemes and graphemes (the sound of the word and the written word); it also encourages FLUENCY, because she had to keep up with an expressive, experienced reader. We also love Barefoot Books story and CD combinations for the same emphasis on great stories with great storytelling for fluent, expressive reading. We also co-read with her and read aloud to her ourselves to demonstrate expression and fluency, not to mention our familial love of stories. We still regularly read aloud from books well beyond her own reading level (like chapter books) because, for most people, auditory comprehension is strongest and she can enjoy many levels of stories this way.

To further enhance the link between auditory language that she’s been learning since the womb and the world of print, we watched familiar movies with captions on. We also enjoyed Scholastic’s Storybook Treasures series that features a read along option, and lots of sing-alongs from Disney that show the word-by-word connections in some of their favorite songs. We have also co-written a lot of stories together, where my daughter dictates and I type, or she writes and draws. Using her own language and “publishing” her own books strengthens the relationship between her own reading, writing, and awareness of print.

For more information about the academic research behind a lot of these concepts, see Dr. Bonnie Armbruster’s “Research-Based Instruction in Reading.” As I write about this process, everything seems quite orderly and sequential, but I want to stress that learning to read is not always (or even often) linear and regularly involves doubling back. My daughter started to read long before we began working on phonemic awareness or even learning the alphabet, and her journey will continue long past sounding out words. My greatest desire is to instill in her a love of learning, to foster her creativity and curiosity, and to facilitate her entrance into worlds of wonder as she opens each book; this most recent adventure is one step along that path.


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“Mad about Matisse”

And here’s another tangent from our study of France, a list dedicated to the masterpieces of Henri Matisse.

  1. Bonjour, Mr. Satie by Tomie dePaola
  2. Colorful Dreamer: The Story of Artist Henri Matisse by Marjorie Blain Parker and Holly Berry
  3. Crayola’s Craft “In Matisse’s Garden”
  4. Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists: Henri Matisse by Mike Venezia
  5. Henri Matisse (1869-1954) by the Metropolitan Museum of Art (includes slideshow of images)
  6. Henri Matisse: Drawing with Scissors by Keesia Johnson, Jane O’Connor, and Jessie Hartland
  7. Henri’s Scissors by Jeannette Winter
  8. The Iridescence of Birds: A Book about Henri Matisse by Patricia MacLachlan and Hadley Hooper
  9. The Life and Work of Henri Matisse by Paul Flux
  10. Matisse the King of Color by Laurence Anholt
  11. Matisse: Life and Painting
  12. Oooh! Matisse by Mil Niepold and Jeanyves Verdu
  13. When Pigasso Met Mootisse by Nina Laden


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“Delighted by Degas”

Here’s an offshoot of our study of France–a list devoted to Edgar Degas, complete with delightful ballerinas!

  1. Chasing Degas by Eva Montanari
  2. Crayola’s Craft “Dancing Sculptures”
  3. Dancing with Degas by Julie Merberg and Suzanne Bober
  4. Degas and the Dance by Susan Goldman Rubin
  5. Degas and the Little Dancer by Laurence Anholt
  6. Edgar Degas: Coloring Book by Annette Roeder
  7. Edgar Degas (1834-1917): Painting and Drawing by The Metropolitan Museum of Art (includes slideshow of images)
  8. Edgar Degas: The Complete Works
  9. Edgar Degas: Paintings that Dance by Kristin N. Cole and Maryann Cocca-Leffler
  10. Tour: Edgar Degas at the National Gallery of Art


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Feasting in France

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My elder daughter and I have a pact to visit the Eiffel Tower together some day, so it’s no surprise that she chose France for our country-a-month study. We previously did a unit study called “Paris in the Springtime,” so I’ve tried to expand to France more broadly here, and I’ve avoided duplications from that list. During our study, we discovered that we wanted to explore two artists in greater depth, so I made separate lists for Edgar Degas (“Delighted by Degas”) and Henri Matisse (“Mad about Matisse”). My daughter is still delighted by the Eiffel Tower, but one of our favorite parts of studying France is, of course, the food. Bon appétit!

  1. Anatole by Eve Titus and Paul Galdone (part of a series)
  2. An Armadillo in Paris by Julie Kraulis
  3. Beauty and the Beast by Ursula Jones and Sarah Gibb
  4. The Cat Who Walked across France by Kate Banks and Georg Hallensleben
  5. Cézanne and the Apple Boy by Laurence Anholt
  6. Cinderella (Adaptations of Charles Perrault’s Version)
  7. Count Your Way through France by Jim Haskins, Kathleen Benson, and Andrea Shine
  8. Crayola’s Coloring Pages of the French flag, Joan of Arc, and Napoleon Bonaparte
  9. Crêpes by Suzette by Monica Wellington
  10. The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau by Michelle Markel and Amanda Hall
  11. France: The CIA Factbook
  12. The Inside-Outside Book of Paris by Roxie Munro
  13. Joan of Arc by Demi
  14. Kiki and Coco in Paris by Stephanie Rausser, Jess Brown, and Nina Gruener
  15. A Lion in Paris by Beatrice Alemagna
  16. Minette’s Feast: The Delicious Story of Julia Child and Her Cat by Susanna Reich and Amy Bates
  17. Mirette on the High Wire by Emily Arnold McCully
  18. Monsieur Marceau: Actor without Words by Leda Schubert and Gérard Dubois
  19. Papa Chagall, Tell Us a Story by Laurence Anholt
  20. Puss in Boots: A Tale by Charles Perrault and Fred Marcellino
  21. A Walk in Paris by Salvatore Rubbino


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Indian Food for Thought

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(Image includes a page about India from Usborne’s Sticker Dolly Dressing: Costumes around the World.)

My husband and I suggested studying a country each month, beginning with India, largely because we wanted to take our girls out for Indian food. This unit contains a lot of folk and fairy tales from ancient India, but one of the things I love about this unit (and unit studies more generally) is the interdisciplinarity. We read folk tales about mathematics and played related games on our own, explored the geography of a nation and its neighbors, and investigated the animals who turned up in so many stories. I was conscious, as I selected these texts and pursued them with my children, of the complicatedness of studying other cultures; as the Indian feminist Uma Narayan says “[t]hinking about food has much to reveal about how we understand our personal and collective identities. Seemingly simple acts of eating are flavored with complicated, and sometimes contradictory, cultural meaning.” We approached India as outsiders and came away with a cross-disciplinary perspective that gave us a glimpse into the subcontinent—and food for thought about our own place in the world.

  1. Anklet for a Princess: A Cinderella Story from India by Lila Mehta, Meredith Brucker, and Youshan Tang
  2. A Bucket of Blessings by Kabir Sehgal and Surishta Sehgal, illustrated by Jing Jing Tsong
  3. The Elephant’s Friend and Other Tales from Ancient India retold and illustrated by Marcia Williams
  4. Elephant Prince: The Story of Ganesh by Amy Novesky and Belgin K. Wedman
  5. Grandfather Gandhi by Arun Gandhi and Bethany Hegedus, illustrated by Evan Turk
  6. The Gifts of Wali Dad by Aaron Shepard and Daniel San Souci
  7. Grandma and the Great Gourd by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni and Susy Pilgrim Waters
  8. The Hallowed Horse by Demi
  9. I is for India by Prodeepta Das
  10. Monkey: A Trickster Tale from India by Gerald McDermott
  11. The Monkey and the Crocodile by Paul Galdone
  12. Monsoon by Uma Krishnaswami and Jamel Akib
  13. National Geographic Animals: Indian Rhinoceroses (use search function for more animals)
  14. No Dinner! The Story of the Old Woman and the Pumpkin by Jessica Souhami
  15. One Grain of Rice: A Mathematical Folktale by Demi
  16. Listen to Putumayo Presents India
  17. The Rajah’s Rice: A Mathematical Folktale from India adapted by David Barry and illustrated by Donna Perrone
  18. Rama and Sita: A Tale from Ancient Java retold and illustrated by David Weitzman
  19. The Road to Mumbai by Ruth Jeyaveeran
  20. Stories from India by Anna Milbourne and Linda Evans
  21. The Story of Little Babaji by Helen Bannerman and Fred Marcellino
  22. The World Factbook: India by the Central Intelligence Agency
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