Friday, December 19, 2014

Thanks, and Looking Back to October, November, December, 2013

Thanks, and Looking Back to October, November, December, 2013
by Susan Stephenson,

The Book Chook will be taking a break from today. I want to thank the many people who inspire The Book Chook: the publishers who send books, the publicists who share my enthusiasm for great children’s literature, the authors and illustrators who join forces to produce little pieces of perfection.

My heartfelt thanks too, goes to those who subscribe to The Book Chook - the wise ones who share my love of children’s literacy, literature and learning, and who believe like me that learning can and should be enjoyable. I appreciate your support via social media, word-of-mouth, even pigeon post. Every little helps to spread the word. If you're not one of the 5000+ people following me on Twitter, that's where I tend to publish/tweet most of the useful articles I find - and I find LOTS!

Above all, I want to thank the parents, teachers and librarians who are doing their very best to help our children grow into resilient, creative and thoughtful young people. Despite the ghastly library closures, ever-astounding bureaucratic idiocies, and pressures from all sides, you come back, day after day and do your best. You encourage kids to think, you share your own love of reading, you model acceptance of individual differences, respect and collaborative learning. I salute you!

The Book Chook will be back next year, my seventh. I plan to enjoy my break, but will devote plenty of holiday time to tracking down and writing about all sorts of goodies for you. Expect to read me here again on January 5, 2015, when I’ll have an iPad app review, Puppet Workshop.

Meanwhile, let’s take a look at some popular articles from the archives, mostly October, November and December 2013:

Check out my Pinterest boards and Listly Lists

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Book Chook’s Top Children’s Picture Books Reviewed 2014

The Book Chook’s Top Children’s Picture Books Reviewed 2014
by Susan Stephenson,

Here is a Listly list of my top picks for children’s picture books I reviewed in 2014. I hope this will give you some guidance in choosing outstanding children’s picture books for your children/students. In my opinion, children’s picture books can be read and appreciated at any age. We're never too young or old to enjoy a great picture book! Some of the books on my list were published in Australia; some not. One thing I guarantee: they are all great choices to share with kids.

I hope you’ll seek these books out in stores, and at your local and school libraries. While you’re there, ask a librarian for more recommendations. I’ve deliberately kept this list short, for ease of reading, but that means it scarcely scratches the surface of wonderful children’s picture books.

Happy Reading! If you're looking for books to buy as gifts, take a look at Top Book Gifts for Kids, 2014. For suggestions on toys, apps AND books, check out Last Minute Children's Gift Ideas - Toys, Apps and Books, 2014.

Monday, December 15, 2014

October - December 2014 Children’s iPad App Reviews

October - December 2014 Children’s iPad App Reviews
by Susan Stephenson,

I've discovered it's useful to my readers not only to have access to my app reviews, but to have access to reviews according to theme, or in other groups. Accordingly, I've begun a periodic but regular feature where I curate and share my own app reviews and articles.

Last year, I did a big round-up of my 2013 iPad app reviews and articles.

Earlier this year, I gathered my reviews from January to March 2014 into one post, April to June in one post, and July to September into one post.

Today I’m rounding up my app reviews and articles to do with iPad written in October, November and December, again with the help of Listly. Using Listly means I can update these lists anytime and the post itself automatically updates too. You can embed this list on your own blog, and also vote for apps and articles you like (moderation is on.)

Friday, December 12, 2014

A List of Picture Books with Strong Rhyme and Rhythm

A List of Picture Books with Strong Rhyme and Rhythm

by Susan Stephenson,

Strong rhyme and rhythm in a children’s picture books is important for good reasons:

  1. Kids respond to rhyme and rhythm, done well. They are more likely to become engaged with a story that gets their fingers tapping and bodies jiggling.
  2. Strong rhyme and rhythm in a picture book helps kids memorise the whole or part of the book, an intermediate step along the road to reading. Repeated reading aloud of such a book over time is also helpful.
  3. Picture books with strong rhyme and rhythm lend themselves to performance. When children become immersed in a picture book because they are involved in practising it for performance, they learn vocabulary, internalise language structures and rhythms, and get to practise group reading.
  4. By practising rhymes and listening to them, kids are developing phonological awareness, another essential milestone on their reading journey. It’s important for children to learn to both recognise rhyme and to generate rhymes.
Because I run a weekly Library Storytime session for preschoolers, I'm constantly on the lookout for great children’s books with strong rhythm and rhyme. A picture book doesn’t need to have rhyme and rhythm to be great, BUT such books are one essential part of children’s reading diet. At the suggestion of teacher librarian Helen Boelens, I’ve begun compiling a list of such books. I hope the list will grow and be of help to both me and others.

Again I’m using Listly to create my list. I love that Listly grabs a thumbnail to give you a visual of each list element. You can vote up any books you like, and add comments too (moderation is on.) You can also embed my list on your own blog or website. Be aware that there can be extra pages in any list, navigable via an arrow bottom right. Some books I've reviewed at The Book Chook; others have been recommended to me by adults who share my passion for children's literature, and whose opinions I respect. Some books will be represented by reviews, others by youtube videos, so you can gain an idea of the books.

If you've enjoyed this post, or any others at The Book Chook, I'd love you to help me spread my literacy, learning and literature ideas by promoting via Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, StumbleUpon, G+ or any other way you decide.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Magpie Baby – a Musical Storybook for Kids

Magpie Baby – a Musical Storybook for Kids
by Diana Weston

Harry is 13 months old. He has just learnt to walk. He heads straight for the CD player and presses (correctly) the ON button. The music is Magpie Baby: A Childhood Suite by Nadje Noordhuis from Blue Skies, Magpies and Goldfish. (His mother has played this CD a few times already). Harry jigs up and down to the music. He’s obviously enjoying it. What’s the significance of this?

At age two and a half he not only turns on the CD player but employs all the actions each song calls for: 'sleeping', wobbling his head, running vigorously around the room. Harry is completely engaged, physically, mentally and emotionally with the music and understands what it means - because the story tells him.

As a medical doctor with young children I was aware of studies linking children's learning capabilities with exposure to classical music in utero (the so-called 'Mozart effect'). Subsequently, many centres for intellectually impaired children used music as part of therapy, and programs for pre-schools incorporating music were developed. Basically, it was recognised that babies, after all, were soothed by lullabies and that toddlers responded to nursery rhymes. Science has now been able to demonstrate that music helps immature brain cells make the connections needed for many types of intelligence -social, physical, creative and for literacy. In other words, music helps in child brain development.

To get back to young Harry:

Harry has demonstrated (aged 1) that music is intrinsically present in the human brain at the pre-language stage. At two and a half, Harry shows that music has impacted on him physically (his movement), emotionally (his enjoyment) and intellectually (his engagement and concentration).

The musical storybook and CD, Magpie Baby, formats music that is rhythmically and melodically quite complex (though not intrinsically beyond the reach of children), and takes it to a new level by 'interpreting' the music through a simple story that children will recognise from their own experience. At the same time, the connectedness with a parent that children feel when a story is read to them is present. Magpie Baby is the complete package.

BIO: Diana Weston is a doctor and musician living in Sydney. She believes that music skills, like language, need to be developed early and that the advantages to the child are incalculable. She commissioned the work Magpie Baby: A Childhood Suite from Nadje Noordhuis, performed the music on harpsichord then recorded it for the CD, Blue Skies, Magpies and Goldfish. At that point she realised its potential as music that could be appreciated by children as much as adults, so commissioned Kym Burrows to make illustrations reflective of the theme, and wrote the words that revealed the underlying story hidden in the music. She then approached publishers, Captain Honey, who recognised the unique and valuable nature of this collaboration and agreed to publish the book.
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