Author Archives: Star Bright Books

Exploring the Wonders of Clay

There is an abundance of freedom and creativity when it comes to crafting with clay. It can be an amazing way to bond with your child and let them experience the joy of artistic expression. Working with clay can help improve fine motor skills in children and, as with any form of art, help to cultivate creativity and inspire confidence. Plus, you’ll be able to keep your child’s creations for years to come.

 

Clay is an easy enough material to work with that anyone, from novice to master, can experiment and create something fun. We’ve provided some activities below to introduce your child to the wonderful, magic world of clay. These activities are accessible for families with any level of skill in working with clay. All you really need is some clay, which you can get either online or from a local craft store, and some imagination.

 

For younger children ages 4 and up who are still learning the alphabet, a great hands-on way to help them learn is to practice making letters out of clay. Help them form the letters and tell them what each one is. Or, alternatively, you can show a picture of letter and say, “Can you make me the letter L?” and have them try to make it themselves. This activity will make letters more tangible to a child by putting shapes into the child’s hands.

 

Another wonderful way to introduce older children, roughly ages 6 and up, to more classic techniques of pottery-making is to teach them how to make a coil pot. Help your child roll clay into a snake-like shape, commonly referred to as a coil. You can even encourage them to score, or carve, eyes and scales if they want to make the coil really look like a snake. You can use specific ceramic tools to score or even just some toothpicks or forks. Then, have your child begin to layer the coil around and around over itself until it forms the structure of a pot. There can be multiple coils or just one depending on the length of the coil(s) and the desired size of the finished pot.

 

If you want to go even more in-depth, you can help your child “slip and score” the coil pot as they create it. If they’ve already made scores in the clay by adding in scales or other designs, then they’re good to go. Otherwise, have them add in some scratch marks along the top and bottom of the clay in between each coil layer. The scoring allows for the coils to interlock, but also for slip to slide into the scores to create even more of a binding.

 

What is slip, you might ask? “Slip is liquid clay. Slip is made by mixing clay with water to create a creamy liquid,” to quote from The Magic of Clay, written by clay artist and illustrator Adalucía. Slip essentially acts a glue to attach clay pieces together. You can pre-make the slip yourself before beginning the craft, either alone or involving your child. Once the slip is ready, help your child put some in between each of the coil layers.

 

If you find your child enchanted by clay, consider reading them books on the subject to enhance their knowledge. A great book that covers a variety of clay techniques, terms, and science is the aforementioned book The Magic of Clay.

 

There are a ton of available resources and activities involving clay. Keep an open mind when exploring various activities—and don’t be afraid to experiment! Allow the freedom of artistic expression thrive between you and your child.

Bird-Watching Can be Family Fun

Bird-watching is a fun and educational way to for children to bond with parents while connecting with nature. Not only does the activity encourage children to explore the biodiversity in their area, it also helps develop patience and respect for the environment.

 

Parents and kids can gather and learn about the many different types of birds living around them. Families in rural areas can find good bird-watching spots near nesting trees and other fruitful vegetation. If you live in an urban environment, you can explore your local park or garden. Or, if you prefer to stay indoors, you can transform a window into an observatory.

 

Here are some tips to help you get started on your own bird-watching adventures:

 

Prepare Your Equipment

Bird-watching is an activity that requires a lot of time outdoors. Make sure to pack a bag with water, snacks, sunscreen, and first-aid remedies. If you’re staying at home, keep the items you need with you at all times so the bird-watching experience isn’t interrupted. You can also build or purchase a birdfeeder in your yard if you’d like to attract more birds.

Michelle Coxon (Grandma Is a Slowpoke)

What Should You Pack?

Along with basic necessities, you should pack a guidebook, a sketchpad with coloring pencils and crayons, a camera, and an observation tool. These items are useful no matter where you go bird-watching—whether it’s at home or at your local park.

 

      • The Guidebook – It’s important to research the different kinds of birds in your area for each season. Local bird guidebooks can offer an accurate visual representation of birds you might observe. Use the guidebook to create a list of birds you and your child want to see. Kids can use the guidebook as a reference to help identify the birds. The National Audubon Society also has an app that helps identify birds in your area.

 

      • The Sketchpad – Illustrating birds is an engaging way to enhance the bird-watching experience. This activity is great for kinetic learners as they can create their own personal guidebook. You can also ask your child to point out key identifying details for each bird. Alternatively, you can purchase coloring books featuring the birds in your area.

 

      • The Camera – Cameras can be useful if you want to capture an image of the birds you observe. However, clicking sounds may spook birds so it is better to use cameras with silent image capturing.

 

      • Observation Tool – Determine what observation tool is best for you and your child. There are various kid-friendly binoculars on the market. Adult binoculars and spotting scopes may be hard for children to use so acquiring a monocular lens is a good alternative too. You can also add an ocular lens adapter to a smartphone for a broader view.

 

When Observing

    • Be Respectful and Responsible
      • If you’re in a public area, don’t stray from designated paths when finding a place to observe. It is important the habitat is kept in the same condition you find it. Find a comfortable place to observe and be mindful of the space you’ll occupy. It’s always safer to observe from a distance.

 

      • It is just as important to be respectful of the bird’s habitat when observing in your backyard. If you’re using a birdfeeder, make sure the food you provide is the best diet for birds in your area. Otherwise, do not feed wild birds, as their diets are very specific to their habitats.

Brian Wildsmith (The Owl and the Woodpecker)

    • Listen!
      • Study the different sounds your local birds make. Have your child focus on identifying the sounds of birds by closing their eyes and picturing the bird’s location. This will help spot birds as they are often heard before they are seen. It’s important to be quiet while listening. If a bird approaches, try not to make any sudden movements.

 

      • Indoor observers can choose to keep their windows open or closed when listening. An open window will allow bird sounds to travel easily, but a closed window can act as a barrier, which may allow for more birds to be seen.

 

    • Be Patient! And Play Games
      • Bird-watching is an activity that requires a lot of patience. It will enhance mindfulness through waiting and observation. To keep your kid engaged, actively ask questions, play an “I Spy” game, or create a simple outdoor-friendly scavenger hunt.

The more you practice bird-watching together, the better you and your child will be at spotting birds. It takes time to familiarize yourself with local birds so don’t be discouraged if the first few times are difficult. Bird-watching is an activity you can always come back to for a unique experience, and the more you do it, the more fun you’ll have! Birds are featured in a variety of our books including The Owl and the Woodpecker, City Birds, Grandma is a Slowpoke, and more!

Taking Time to Reflect on Holocaust Remembrance Day

Today, January 27, is International Holocaust Remembrance Day. It is a day dedicated to remembering the atrocities of the Holocaust, with the ultimate goal being that the memory of these crimes will, hopefully, enable us to prevent such a tragedy from occurring again in the future. It is important that today we take a moment to reflect on the history of the Holocaust and how this day came to be.

 

Photo courtesy of FreePik.com.

The Holocaust was the systematic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of six million Jews by the Nazi regime and its allies. Nearly 2 out of every 3 European Jews were killed. Other groups who were targeted for persecution included Roma, people with disabilities, Slavic peoples, and homosexuals, to name a few. People were rounded up and sent to Nazi concentration camps on cattle-car trains where they were either immediately killed or forced to live and work in horrific conditions. It was, in short, genocide fueled by racism and oppression.

 

January 27 was specifically chosen by the United Nations to commemorate the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, one of the most notorious concentration camps. This year, 2020, marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. The International Holocaust Remembrance Day was launched by the Holocaust and United Nations Outreach Programme in 2006 through the passing of United Nations General Assembly Resolution 60/7. The resolution rejects any denial of the Holocaust as an historical event, either in full or in part, and commends nations that have actively engaged in the preservation of sites once used as Nazi death camps, concentration camps, forced labor camps, and prisons during the Holocaust. In 2006, the first ceremony drew over 2,200 people, and was viewed by countless others globally via webcast and live television broadcast.

 

Regarding the importance of this program, the United Nations says: “The Programme works to ensure the voices of survivors are heard and heeded as warning against the consequences of anti-Semitism, racism and other forms of discrimination and prejudice. The disturbing spread of neo-Nazism and other extremist groups and the growing climate of intolerance and anti-Semitism makes the work of the Programme particularly urgent. Through its educational activities about the Holocaust, the Programme calls on all generations to use their voice to stand up for human rights, challenge discrimination, anti-Semitism and racism, and defend essential democratic values in their communities.”

 

While the United States does participate in International Holocaust Remembrance Day, it also has the Days of Remembrance between April 28 and May 5. These days serve as the annual commemoration of the Holocaust in the US.

 

The Holocaust was a devastating and tragic series of events that should have never occurred. The world began to say the phrase “never again” after these events—and we need to remain constantly vigilant and outspoken to ensure they never do.

 

Today, in honor of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, please take a moment to reflect on the global impact of the Holocaust. Do some research using reputable sources, such as on the websites for the UN or the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Read books on the subject. At Star Bright Books, we’ve published books such as Hidden Letters, Lonek’s Journey, Defying the Nazis, and I Only See the Person in Front of Me, which all provide different perspectives of the Holocaust. Watch a Holocaust documentary or videos of survivors talking about their experiences. Have a discussion with family and about the Holocaust, what it was, and why we remember it. If you can, go to a Holocaust Remembrance event near you.

 

We will never forget.

Using Books to Teach Children Kindness and Acceptance

Image depicts a teacher showing an illustrated book to a group of young students.

Bibliotherapy is usually used to address common childhood and adolescent concepts (Image from Layla’s Head Scarf by Miriam Cohen).

Books entertain, inspire, and educate. But they can even go beyond that. Through a process known as bibliotherapy, books have become useful tools to aid in social and emotional growth for a wide range of people.

 

Bibliotherapy uses different books to aid with different issues, and thus, there are many ways it can be applied. The basics of how bibliotherapy works stay the same, though. Bibliotherapy is composed of three stages: identification (an individual reads a book and relates to a character or situation in the text), catharsis (that person becomes emotionally involved in the text and experiences an emotional release through discussion), and insight (the reader is more aware of their own situation and has gained some new perspective).

 

In academic settings, bibliotherapy is known as developmental bibliotherapy and is usually used to address common childhood and adolescent concepts such as puberty, bodily functions, and developmental milestones. However, bibliotherapy can also be adapted to help children understand a variety of subjects including disabilities.

 

While there is an inherent lack of research on using developmental bibliotherapy to teach children about disabilities, studies have found that bibliotherapeutic instruction can help improve the self-efficacy, feelings, and productivity of children with disabilities. For children without disabilities, bibliotherapy can help create a better understanding of those with disabilities. As a result, a more accepting and inclusive classroom environment can be built.

 

In order to establish an inclusive classroom, two teachers named Ms. Schild and Ms. Stone took part in a 2014 study that analyzed how students in their multiage classes responded to bibliotherapy. The teachers were motivated to try bibliotherapy after realizing how students without disabilities struggled to interact with and respect those who did.

 

Ms. Schild’s class of second and third graders started by reading a book called In Looking after Louis. Through their conversation about Louis’s disability and his behavior, it became clear the children viewed “disabled” and “non-disabled” as rigid categories with set characteristics. However, as the study continued, this outlook started to change.

 

Since the students perceived “disabled” and “non-disabled” so differently, Ms. Schild led a conversation about the meaning of “normal.” Prior to discussion, the class read the books Crow Boy, My Brother Sammy, and Ian’s Walk. After analyzing these works, the students were able to consider the individual differences of the characters in the story, along with differences in how the characters’ disabilities were expressed in each story. This challenged the previous mindset of the class and helped students understand how there are “more fluid boundaries to the definitions of disability and normality.”

 

By the end of the study, the teachers observed a change in how their students with and without disabilities interacted with one another. Students who were once annoyed by their classmates with disabilities became more understanding and respectful of their needs. A few students with disabilities also went through changes during this study. One student who usually did not participate in class discussions felt more inclined to speak up. Seeing himself represented in a book character made it easier for him to voice his opinions since he could look at the character and say, “That’s like me!”

 

While this study can be considered a success, it is admittedly difficult to measure the effectiveness of bibliotherapy. Between a lack of substantial research and the fact that interpretations of literature are highly subjective, results can vary greatly. Because of this, there is no way to guarantee bibliotherapy will prove successful for everyone; however, the worse outcome is that no change occurs. With that in mind, this technique is worth studying in more classroom settings.

Support Your Child’s Math Development, Part 2: Preschool and Up

In last week’s math blog post we talked with Audrey Martínez-Gudapakkam, an associate researcher at TERC who evaluates K-12 STEM education programs and develops programs for Spanish-speaking families, about specific ways parents and caregivers can introduce math to their babies and toddlers.

 

In this post, Audrey and Marlene Kliman, a senior scientist at TERC, explain how adults can support a child’s learning as they enter school and begin interacting with math in the classroom. Marlene notes that as children begin working with addition, subtraction, and other math concepts, they develop a relationship with math that can follow them throughout their lives. Fostering a positive attitude toward math is one of the most important things an adult can do for their child.

 

Here are some suggestions for two age groups.

 

Children Ages 3-5

As children get older, they make connections to math concepts by talking through what they are doing and why. Asking children open-ended questions, Marlene says, helps them develop a deeper understanding of how math works instead of a right or wrong answer.

 

Audrey offers these ideas for engaging children in activities full of math learning.

 

Size and Measurement

“When we sort clean laundry, we talk together about clothing sizes for each person and how big belongs to Daddy, medium-sized is for Mommy, and small is for you,” Audrey says. “As we pick up clothing, I ask my daughter, ‘How do you know it is small, medium, or large? Check to see if it fits you.’ She can measure it by putting it on top of herself and measuring it against her body.”

Sorting laundry is a great time to talk with children about sizes. (from Rosa’s Very Big Job)

Numbers and Counting

While preparing food, Audrey talks about numbers with her daughter. She asks, “How do you know how many tomatoes we have?” Then she says, “Okay, let’s count them together.” As Audrey explains, “Counting physical objects helps them understand the concept of the number of elements in a set or group.”

 

Sequencing

While getting dressed or doing other routine activities, Audrey asks her daughter, “What do you need to put on first, second, third . . . last?” Or, “What do you do first, second, third . . . last?” Audrey says, “This awareness of steps in a process helps her learn about sequences, which in school can help her with computer programming.”

 

Children Ages 6 and Older

When children enter first grade, adults can help their children with homework by asking open-ended questions that prompt them to explain their thought process. Audrey says, “Whenever my daughter is doing her math homework, even if she gets the right answer, I always ask her, ‘How do you know? Show me how you know.’ I try to avoid telling her she’s wrong when she makes a mistake (which is hard because sometimes just by the tone of my voice she guesses it!). Instead, I try to help her notice the mistake herself as she checks her work, or we check the work using a different strategy. That way she can see where she made a mistake. Sometimes I might have her draw it or demonstrate it for me.”

 

Some other ideas Audrey suggests are:

  • Play a Game: “I tell my daughter, ‘I have a total of ten stones.’ I put three on the table and then have her explain how she knows how many stones are hiding in my hand.”
  • Count in Groups: “When we do counting, I ask her to count in groups of two, five, ten, et cetera. I tell her, ‘You know that your hand has five fingers, so you don’t have to count each one since you already know they add up to five.’”
  • Teach about Fractions: “At school my daughter is learning about quarters and halves so when I give her a cookie I ask her how she knows if a half or a quarter is more. Then I show her what each looks like by cutting the cookie.”

Several small parts can add up to one HUGE whole. (from Small Medium Large)

How do these strategies benefit kids for math learning and beyond? Audrey explains that by learning through practice, children discover they can continue to improve their math skills. When adults praise kids for not giving up even if they feel frustrated, it helps them develop social emotional skills for managing strong feelings. And children who can entertain themselves for long periods of time with building or creative projects develop strong reasoning and concentration skills.

 

Most importantly, instilling a positive attitude toward math helps children enjoy learning about it throughout their lives. “At one point,” Audrey says, “my daughter said, ‘I love math, and when I grow up I want to be a mathematician!’” This is the kind of enthusiasm we all want for our kids!

Fantastic Gifts for Fantastic Dads

 

Dads are great!

 

Whether they’re pretending to be an astronaut chasing little aliens, teaching proper ball-throwing techniques, helping with homework, or doing the cooking and laundry with their own flair, today’s fathers are playful, involved, and engaged. One of the best ways for dads to spend time with their kids is snuggling up and reading together! These special times build strong, lasting bonds and benefit kids in so many ways!

 

Books make wonderful Father’s Day gifts that kids and their dads can share long after the holiday. Here you’ll find books that are just right for wrapping up a perfect day with dad! There are board books for little ones from ages 2 to 5, chapter books for kids ages 5 to 9, and a novel for young readers ages 9 to 12.

Daddy’s Busy Day

Written by Miriam Cohen | Illustrated by Ying-Hwa Hu
Ages 2 – 4

In this sweet story, a child spends days with Dad while Mom goes off to work. As the little one says “Good bye, Mommy,” Daddy dishes up a breakfast favorite. The day flies by as they make chores fun, visit the park, have lunch, and dance. When Mom gets home, it’s time to cook dinner, take a bath, hear a story, and finally drift off to sleep with kisses from Mommy and Daddy. Gender neutral, this book is perfect for all children.

 

 

A Fish to Feed

Written by Ellen Mayer | Illustrated by Ying Hwa-Hu
Ages 1 – 3

 

            

Come along with a dad and his little one as they add a new pet to the family! On their walk downtown, they happily talk together about all the fish they see on their way to the pet store—a fish to wear on a T-shirt, a toy fish to play with, and finally a real fish to love…and feed! Kids will love peering and pointing through the die-cut holes that encourage interactive reading and learning. Gender neutral, this book is perfect for all children. Also available in a Spanish/English edition

 

The Jake Series

Written by Ken Spillman | Illustrated by Chris Nixon
Ages 5 – 9

Jake’s Concert Horror | Jake’s Cooking Craze | Jake’s Gigantic List | Jake’s Balloon Blast | Jake’s Great Game | Jake’s Monster Mess

Jake and his dad are on their own in these funny, madcap adventures that younger kids will love to hear and independent readers will want to devour one after the other. Loveable Jake has huge ideas and a colossal desire to make them all come true! When things turn out…well…a little surprising, Jake can count on his dad for a sympathetic ear and encouragement.

Here’s a chapter-book series that all kids—voracious readers and reluctant readers alike—will get excited about. Come on! Join Jake’s world!

Jake’s Concert Horror

star-bright-books-jake's-concert-horror

When Jake is cast as the prince in the class play The Little Mermaid and learns he’ll have to kiss Stephanie (even if it is pretend), he thinks he’d rather be tied to an ants’ nest and force-fed tripe during every school vacation. He gamely learns his lines and gives his character princely manners, but that looming kiss is nerve-wracking! What will Jake do when the curtain rises and every eye is on him?

 

 

Jake’s Cooking Craze

star-bright-books-jake's-cooking-crazeJake’s caught the cooking bug. When his first creation—a boiled sweet potato mashed with baked beans and covered in an everything-in-the-refrigerator-door sauce—isn’t a culinary success, he takes lessons from Nana. Their chocolate mousse, pizza, and mango ice cream are delish, and Jake’s sure he’s got the hang of cooking. So what if his own chocolate mousse is more of a chocolate mess; it still tastes good! Jake’s convinced he can win the school’s cooking competition, and he wants to make something no one—especially Stephanie—will dare. But with only one ingredient from home allowed, what will Jake choose from his garden?

 

 

Jake’s Great Game

star-bright-books-jake's-great-game-cover

Jake knows he’s going to be awesome at soccer. He’ll be super-fast and much too tricky for the opposing teams. But once he’s out on the field, soccer’s not as easy as it looks. Jake’s dribbling looks like bad passing and his passing looks like bad dribbling. The ball just won’t cooperate. Is it possible there’s a position that’s just the right fit for Jake?

 

 

Jake’s Gigantic List

star-bright-books-jake's-gigantic-list-cover

Jake’s birthday is right around the corner and Dad doesn’t know what to get him, so Jake starts a list. Pretty soon the list has 352 things on it, including #65: snow that doesn’t melt, complete with sled; #66: my own beach; #69: friendly pirate; #324: real dinosaurs—no fossils; and #325: fish tank with piranhas. There’s no way he’s getting any of these! But does Auntie Lyn find a way?

 

 

Jake’s Monster Mess

star-bright-books-jake's-monster-mess-cover

Jake’s dad is throwing a dinner party, and he wants Jake to clean his room before the guests arrive. At first Jake’s room is only slightly messy, but putting away his underwear starts an avalanche of toys, furniture, and dust that keeps Jake hopping all day. He’s determined to put everything in its proper place—and help others in the process—but his dad and their guests are in for a surprise!

 

 

Jake’s Balloon Blast

star-bright-books-jake's-balloon-blast-cover

Jake has always wanted to fly! Not in an airplane—that’s basically riding a bus in the sky—but for real. He knows he can do it—he just needs to figure out how. The pair of wings he builds won’t hold him, and his other plans don’t work out so well either. Then he remembers the helium tank his dad has! He enlists the help of his best friend Jonah and soon Jake is pumped and ready to go. Finally, he achieves his dream—with topsy-turvy results!

 

 

The Amazing Spencer Gray

Written by Deb Fitzpatrick
Ages 9 – 12

star-bright-books-the-amazing-spencer-gray-cover

Spencer Gray is twelve—finally old enough to join his father in his glider, the Drifter. Going up and soaring is amazing! Then disaster strikes the glider in mid-air, leaving his father badly injured. Spencer will have to be nothing short of amazing to help his dad in this compelling story of survival, family, and resilience.