Sunday, September 22nd, 2013
Every family has their favorite authors and in many homes, these are the books that you find yourself reading over and over again to your children night after night after night. While they may get old to you, they’re never old to your kids. The words and pictures often leave them clamoring to know more about the author, their inspiration, and favorite characters.
Thanks to the wonders of the internet, many authors enable families to continue the education beyond the book thanks to interactive sites featuring games with delightful characters, videos, answers to the questions your kids have probably asked you about their favorite author, tutorials on drawing the creatures on the pages of the dog-eared book you so often read, and printables to color and adorn their walls. Here are six popular children’s book authors and illustrators whose phenomenal sites allow for families to explore a world beyond the book. As always, parents should preview the sites first to ensure they’re age appropriate for their child and then introduce it by sitting down together to take a look.
Kevin Henkes— Kids who identify with Owen’s attachment to his yellow blanket, delight in Lily antics with or without her purple plastic purse, and are inspired by Sheila Rae the Brave will love learning more about their favorite author on his beautifully done website that is chock full of videos where you can meet the author and get his perspective on your favorite books. A six minute video called Meet Kevin Henkes is fun to watch together to get a look inside the author’s studio, his early inspirations, and creative process. Homeschooling parents and teachers will love downloadable activities for many popular books, including the Lily books, along with teaching and discussion guides for books like Penny and Her Song, Bird Lake Moon, Olive’s Ocean, and Junonia.
Grace Lin— For many years, Round is Mooncake was my daughter’s favorite book. The beautiful illustrations by Grace Lin captivated her while teaching her about our Chinese heritage. I love Lin’s site because it allows families to learn about a different culture. Kids can learn Chinese with the correct pronunciation audio guides and character studies from The Ugly Vegetables and Where The Mountain Meets the Moon and are treated to a new Chinese word a day on her blog. It’s also fun to go on a virtual field trip of her studio, get ideas for crafts inspired by her different books, and read about the other careers she could have pursued based on her interests though she’s glad to be a children’s book illustrator!
Eric Carle— Well known for over 40 books, Eric Carle is a favorite in many homes across the country where children have memorized the words of his stories. While the text is memorable, so are his unique illustrations. Slideshows featuring how Carle paints his tissue papers, creates pictures, and made collages for Mister Seahorse can be found on his site. There’s also a short video of Carle reading his famous The Very Hungry Caterpillar that is fun for young fans to see. For families teaching their kids another language, there’s also an audio gallery of The Very Hungry Caterpillar in simplified and complex Chinese, Dutch, French, Japanese, Lithuania, Maori, and Norwegian on his site.
Jan Brett— This fall Jan Brett is visiting 24 cities and towns as part of a tour for her new book, CINDERS a chicken Cinderella. Her site provides dates and locations of tour stops for her book talk and illustration demonstrations. If Brett isn’t visiting a city near you, her site features a wealth of activities for her many books, video drawing tutorials to help her fans learn to draw favorite animals from her stories, virtual ecards and printable cards, coloring pages, and so much more! It’s easy to get lost on her site looking at the amazing resources she’s made available for fans of all ages.
Mo Willems— Mo Willems’ site is just as fun as his books. Sure, kids can get to know Mo but the content is really the shining star of Willems sites. There are multiple links from the main MoWillems.com that lead kids and parents to different microsites with tons of content. GoMo.net features interactive games, like the Bedtime Game, Spot the Dinosaur, Alligator Wants to Play, and Knuffle Bunny’s Baggage Claim Game, that include audio cues where the directions are read to young learners who aren’t quite reading independently. They’re easy for preschoolers to play plus provide plenty of encouragement thanks to positive reinforcement. Parents will love that the audio can also be turned off. Fans of the Pigeon books will enjoy an entire website devoted to Pigeon-centric activities like games, coloring pages, information about favorite characters, and teacher and parent stuff like teacher guides and event kits.
Tomie dePaola— Having written and/illustrated over 200 books for children, Tomie dePaola is truly an inspiration for kids. Kids can learn more about Tomie (the frequently asked questions section is particularly fun!) while also learning about his creative writing and illustration process on his site. Mr. dePaola’s website also provides contact information for young fans and classes to write him a letter.
Portrait of happy family with two children reading at home via Shutterstock
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Friday, August 31st, 2012
Learning is always more fun when done with a favorite friend. New apps from Disney Publishing and PBS allow preschoolers to engage in early reading, math, and foreign language lessons with familiar Disney characters like Winnie the Pooh and the cast of Toy Story. PBS provides cross platform learning by reinforcing concepts in their shows, on PBSKids.org, and also through apps featuring favorite characters. These 6 new apps are easy for young learners to navigate and fun at the same time. You might never get your iPhone or iPad back again!
Pooh’s Birthday Surprise
Features he beloved characters of the Hundred-Acre Woods in an interactive storybook that focuses on early literacy and pre-math skills. Kids ages 3-5 are invited to join in Pooh’s birthday party planning where they practice activities such as identifying and extending simple patterns, problem solving, vocabulary awareness, and story comprehension. $1.99 from iTunes until September 12.
Toy Story Showtime!
Toy Story is an interactive storybook aimed at children ages 4-6. Learners explore essential early reading concepts through engaging with content. For example, “Toy Story Showtime!” features Buzz Lightyear as he sets out to impress Jessie the Cowgirl in a talent show. Readers can assist him with his comedy and juggling acts while they discover new vocabulary words through context and story-based repetition. $1.99 from iTunes until September 12.
SUPER WHY! ABC Adventures: Alphabet
Kids ages 3-6 can travel around the world on an alphabet adventure with SUPER WHY! friends. Young learners will enjoy an around-the-world alphabet adventure while playing an engaging collection of five mini-games with a literacy curriculum. $2.99 for iPhone and iPod touch or $3.99 for iPad.
All Aboard the Dinosaur Train!
Have some Jurassic Park fun on the iPad with All Aboard the Dinosaur Train! The Dinosaur Train is getting ready to leave and needs passengers! Children ages 3-6 are needed to match the passengers with the right train cars, challenging them to problem-solve by estimating dinosaur sizes and comparing them with the train cars’ capacity. $1.99 for iPad.
Portrait of a young child in a home interior engrossed in a game on a digital tablet via Shutterstock.
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Friday, June 29th, 2012
LeVar Burton introduces Reading Rainbow app
For those who grew up watching LeVar Burton on Reading Rainbow, the classic show is back but in a new format as an iPad app designed for ages 3-9. Like the original series that ran for 26 years on PBS, the app takes kids on real life adventures where they travel to islands to find books and videos that are suited to their age and interests.
“I come from a family of teachers, and when I was offered the opportunity to host Reading Rainbow in 1983, I recognized immediately the value in using technology to inspire kids to read,” said Burton. “Reading will never go out of style, but the tools used for learning are changing. I am excited to bring Reading Rainbow back so that parents who watched the show can now share that same feel-good experience with their own children but on a platform that resonates with today’s digital kids.”
The app is free to download and includes access to all themed islands, a preview of the entire Reading Rainbow library, the ability to select and read one free book, and watch island introductory videos that star LeVar Burton. A subscription component is also available for $9.99/month or $29.99 for 6 months. The subscription includes:
- Access to the entire Reading Rainbow library
- Video field trips featuring LeVar Burton
- Interactive stories and play based book activities
- Ability to collect stickers towards the reading reward program
ReadingRainbow.com offers a website and dashboard where parents can view the amount of time their child spent reading, the titles of books read, and receive suggestions for new stories based on the child’s interests. The Family Reading Time hints provide opportunities to discuss themes and lessons explored in each book.
Image courtesy of Reading Rainbow.
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Monday, May 21st, 2012
If you’re planning a vacation to Walt Disney World, chances are your kids are pretty excited about your upcoming trip. Seize upon their excitement to sneak in a little learning. Kids will be highly motivated to complete activities involving their favorite characters or to learn more about the parks. Here are 5 wonderful websites that contain free printables and tutorials that can help you integrate learning into your upcoming Disney vacation.
- Earlier this month, Disney launched their Spoonful site that serves as a wealth of free content available for kids of all ages on a daily basis. Visitors can always browse through the tabs- cook, create, play, and celebrate- or subscribe via email to keep up to date with the changing content. The printables section is where to find Disney themed coloring pages that are perfect for preschoolers who are practicing fine motor skills like how to hold a pencil or crayon and coloring. Older children will enjoy helping with Disney themed cooking activities that serve as a way to practice math and reading by having to measure ingredients and practicing sequencing to add them in the right order.
- Creating a countdown paper chain out of paper rings not only provides younger kids with a very concrete visual about the number of days left until your trip but also gives them practice in counting backwards. PlanaMagicalVacation.com has a free PDF with numbers on one side and trivia on the other to integrate a little math and reading into your pre-vacation excitement or create your own. Cut colorful strips of construction paper and have your kids practice patterning (another math skill) to create your paper chain.
- Visit your local craft store to assemble supplies to make your own Disney autograph book. You could purchase one in-park but save yourself some money and have fun making your own with thanks to the tutorial on Juliverse. Labeling the book with your name and address in case it get lost not only ensure that it will find its way back to you but is a way for children to practice knowing and writing their name and address.
- Teach your kids fun facts about the parks before you leave. TeachMama.com’s Amy Mascott created free Disney trivia printable lunchbox notes with fun facts to teach your kids a little park trivia. Cut out the strips and put them in your child’s lunch box for a little meal time trivia or print, cut, and place in a basket on your dinner table to read them together as a family.
- TeachMama also has free printable word searches available based on Disney characters and one for each of the following parks: Animal Kingdom, Epcot, and Magic Kingdom. These are a wonderful way to help kids practice word recognition amid the excitement over their Disney vacation.
Mickey Mouse at a benefit screening via Shutterstock
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