Picture Books vs. Chapter Books

An article in the New York Times suggests that sales of picture books for children are slumping because today’s overeager parents push their children to read chapter books instead.

Perhaps. But I’m in agreement with many of the article’s commenters, who say that picture books have simply gotten too expensive, especially given the current state of the economy. Many say they prefer to buy picture books at garage sales or check them out at the public library.

A commenter who’s a librarian notes that she checked the circulation stats of her library’s  picture books and discovered a 10% increase in check-out rates over the past year. That would seem to indicate that the commenters are on the right track and perhaps the writer of the article was blowing the issue out of proportion.

That said, you can go in any bookstore and see all sorts of books that are quite beautiful, but whose plot lines are lame, if they have plots at all. My kids’ favorite books usually had strong plots, ones that they anticipated every time we read aloud together.

What do you think? Are parents pushing their kids into chapter books, or is it just that picture books cost too much?

Where’s Chimpy?

The next time you buy a picture book for your small children, or for a young relative or a friend, would you consider buying Where’s Chimpy?

It’s the story of a little girl named Misty who can’t find her favorite toy, a stuffed monkey. It’s bedtime but she can’t go to sleep without him. So she and her dad retrace her steps and find an assortment of other treasures she misplaced that day before they finally find Chimpy.

I know this doesn’t sound like an unusually spectacular book, but here’s the thing: Misty has Down syndrome. She’s the main character of the story, and she’s in every photo in the book.

So little children who read this book (or have it read to them) will hopefully see Misty as a little girl, not someone with a disability. You know how little ones like to have books read to them over and over? Maybe after reading Where’s Chimpy? enough times, young children won’t think twice about Misty being any different from them.

And maybe, as they get older, instead of staring at other children with Down syndrome, they’ll smile at them, or maybe not even notice anything different about them. That would be cool….and a nice change.

BTW, we have a well-used paperback copy of Where’s Chimpy?, but I also have my own hardcover copy of this book because I like it so much.  🙂

A Fun New Math Book

Teaching my son math has been a long process. He finally gets the concepts of adding and subtracting, but only in a very concrete way. Taking it to the abstract is too hard for him, so he doesn’t do computations with numbers greater than 100 as his siblings did when they were learning math.

He also tends to lose what he’s learned if he doesn’t review his math facts regularly. So I occasionally pick up new books to use with him. A new book holds his interest even when the concepts it teaches are not new to him.

Recently I picked up a new book for him called “Subtraction Secrets.” It was recommended to me by a clerk in a teacher supply store. This book contains 30 map puzzles that require my son to do subtraction problems, then use the answers to determine how to find a specific point on each map.

He likes these problems because they’re entertaining. I like the fact that he reviews subtraction, he learns very basic map skills, and he enjoys doing the puzzles. This book is reproducible, so I can keep copying the puzzles for him as long as he needs them.

There’s another book in the series called “Addition Adventures.” I didn’t buy it because the addition problems in it require the student to figure out one of the addends instead of the sum. For instance:

Instead of 7 + 5 = ___

It says 7 + ___ = 12

My son’s not there yet; it’s a little too abstract for him. But we’ll work up to it.

Here are sample pages for both “Subtraction Secrets” and “Addition Adventures.” The publisher recommends these books for ages 6-10, but I think the typical 8-10 year old would find them too easy. Six-to-seven year-olds will probably enjoy them as much as my son does.

Giveaway #7: Kindergarten Stories and Morning Talks With Over 125 Illustrations

This is it: the final giveaway! It sure has been fun giving away books, and it helped pass those last few gray weeks of winter 🙂

Kindergarten Stories and Morning Talks With Over 125 Illustrations is our new old book. It’s an 1890 kindergarten story curriculum that we’ve republished, making it larger and easier to read, and adding illustrations to make it a great read-aloud curriculum for children.

This book started selling as soon as it was published: it’s been so exciting to see people’s response to it! Diane Lockman, new classical method columnist for Practical Homeschooling magazine, said on her blog:

Kindergarten Stories and Morning Talks is sure to please your young homeschooler as you snuggle and read about animals, nature, fairy tales, fables, and even how old-timey household objects were made and chores were performed like how to churn butter…. Especially interesting to me are all the references to what we now call “homesteading” and the lost art of homemaking from scratch with whatever resources you have on hand at the time.  My mother-in-law would love this classic storybook, and I’m sure that she would stop every now and then and tell stories from her own childhood.  In fact, this would be a great gift to purchase for read aloud time at granny’s house.”

Here’s your chance to get this new book for free. Just leave a comment to this post answering this question: what’s the best thing about homeschooling with classic books?

Leave your comment here before midnight on Friday, April 23 to enter the drawing. Good luck!

An 1890 Kindergarten Story Curriculum

Kindergarten Stories and Morning Talks With Over 125 Illustrations

Kindergarten Stories and Morning Talks With Over 125 Illustrations

Being homeschoolers, we love books: the older the book, the better. Buying old books is something we just can’t seem to stop doing.

Last summer, my husband and I were at a book sale up in Door County when we found the cutest book. It’s a kindergarten story curriculum published in 1890. The author, a teacher, organized it into a school-year’s worth (September to June) of stories and object lessons for young children.

Our youngest is 17, so we didn’t really need this book, but I just couldn’t resist it. We bought it, and both my husband and I read it. We were quite taken with the animal and nature stories, fairy tales, fables, and simple object lessons that explained how items in daily use at that time were manufactured. In fact, we agreed that it would be a great book for homeschooling parents except that the print is so small that it would be hard to read aloud. And that got us thinking……

What if we republished the book with a larger font and wider margins so it would be easier to read aloud? Then my husband said he thought he could find some nice illustrations, appropriate to the time period and even the specific stories. After all, kids today are very visual. They love storybooks with pictures! So he spent ages finding the coolest illustrations to go with the stories. Being the artist he is, he also came up with a beautiful cover. The whole process took several months.

And the result? We’re happy to announce that the book, Kindergarten Stories and Morning Talks With Over 125 Illustrations, is now in print! It’s available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble and pretty much everywhere you can buy books. It was just published, so it’s not in the homeschool catalogs yet, but we’re working on that. In the meantime, we just put it up on our site if you want to learn more.

I wish I’d had a book like this when I first started homeschooling…. I think it’s an ideal first curriculum for homeschooling parents and teachers of young children who enjoy and appreciate vintage texts.