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Why Your Littles Should Love Lit

Just in case you didn't believe I have over 100 books about King Arthur...

Just in case you didn’t believe I have over 100 books about King Arthur…

It is a breathtaking, sunny morning here.  The meadow is lit up golden, the birds are singing a symphony, the morning light is reflecting on the pond.  A sense of quiet calm drapes the countryside.  It’s got me doing a little reflecting myself.

I’m always telling you that you should engender a lifelong love of learning in your littles and giving you tips on how to go about doing that.  But maybe you should explain to your littles Why it is So Important for them to read.  And maybe you can’t articulate it so well.  It is a fact and you just know it, and putting the reasons into words eludes you. If so, let me try to do it for you. Maybe you don’t really understand why or maybe you’re one of those people who feels books aren’t really that important. If so, let me try to change your mind.

My crush on books started long before I could read.  My brother (who is almost 3 years my senior), my mother, and my father were all readers.  They set an example that I appreciate now more than I can put into words.  When I was 4, I couldn’t take it anymore, so I asked my brother to teach me to read.  The rest of this lifelong marriage is history.  I can still remember the first time I picked up a Raggedy Ann and Andy book in the library.  The second grade when I met Nancy Drew.  The very first book I read about the Arthurian legends in 6th grade. (In fact, I purchased that book–and the rest of the trilogy–when I reached adulthood and have read it many times since.  It is a magical tale called Guinevere by Sharan Newman.)  Ah… finding a dusty, cloth-bound copy of The Count of Monte Cristo in the middle school library.  My first Dickens (if you’ve been visiting this site long, you already know it was Great Expectations).

fairy and waterfall book

So I’ll give you your first reason for teaching a love of literature to your littles.  Clearly, judging by the paragraph above, books have lifelong impacts on us.  When I first started reading, it was the stories.  I was very young, with no experience in the world outside the walls of my own home.  Hearing and reading stories taught me what was going on Out There.  They taught me the possibilities of what Could Be going on Out There, and that I might see them if I squint my eyes and avert my gaze in just the right way.  I learned of fairies, elves, dolls that come to life, elephants, bears, squirrels, lions… You get it.  If you have any fond memories of a book you read as a child–or of hundreds like I do–then you know what that impact can do for a person.

Reading also provides us an escape from reality when things are tough.  And it doesn’t harm us by giving us that escape.  When things are going wrong and you know you can stop thinking about them for a while just by grabbing a good book and reading, you’re not destroying brain cells or inviting epilepsy.  It may sound odd, but reading can keep your littles from becoming screen addicts or worse.  In my humble opinion, who needs mind-altering drugs or alcohol when it’s so much more fun to read a book?  Maybe, just maybe, if you teach them to love reading, you are teaching them a truly healthy form of escapism.  And maybe they’ll never need anything to take its place.  So reading might just save their lives.  A stretch?  Hmm.  I don’t really think so.

Grimm fairy tales cutout book

Reading teaches us about places we might never get to see.  When the Littles and I read Oliver Twist last year, they learned so much about 19th century British politics, the geography of London, the history of Britain.  They may never get to see Britain, but reading books about it can help them not feel like they’re missing it.  If you encourage your littles to read books about other lands or written by authors from those lands, you are encouraging geography.  You’re making the world smaller for them in a way the interweb really can’t.  You’re putting it at their fingertips and in their minds.  Literature touches our brains differently than images do.  So send them to foreign countries.  Often.  Through the eyes of all different kinds of characters.  They will appreciate you for it all their lives.

My love of books has grown with me.  As I said, it began with the stories, then it became an escape, then I realized how much I was learning by reading… But I’ve discovered something new recently.  (Just like any good marriage, I’m constantly discovering new things to love.)  As we grow older, this love of books comes with us.  And you know, admit it, the more years there are behind us, the less we notice things.  We’ve seen them before.  A Lot.  Think of how often you pay attention to the landscape when you’re driving to work or to the same grocery store, department store, post office.  Life kind of gets like that too, doesn’t it?  It might be a beautiful morning, but you’ve seen them before and you’re pretty sure you’ll see one again, and you’re just too busy to really stop and appreciate it.  Right?  It happens.

ballet cutout bookBut books–they remind me to pay attention.  Ever notice how a really good description puts a picture in your mind?  You can see it, smell it, taste it, even if all the author has given you is a visual.  Well, when that happens, I want to experience that place again in real life, or something as close to it as I can get.  So I start to pay attention.  Simply put, if an author describes a country lane to me in full detail–the periwinkle of the roadside flowers, the heat of the asphalt, the shade of the overhanging trees–the next time I leave my driveway, I’m going to look at my country lane as I drive down it, not think about the dozens of things I have to accomplish that day.  Books bring me back to my senses, literally.

I am reminded to look at the fields, the flowers, the sunlight, the gloaming and its fireflies.  I’m reminded to breathe in the scent of fresh-mown hay, the honeysuckle, the sharp scent of snow, the dew-covered grass.  I remember to appreciate the feel of cool water against my skin, the precious brush of a loving hand, the grass under my feet, and even the stinging slap of an Arctic wind.  Books make me listen.   They remind me how much I love the sound of cicadas, birds singing, spring peepers, airplanes, and the voices of my loved ones.  Especially fantasy novels with a good quest remind me to appreciate the flavor a good stew, roasted meat, tender vegetables.  Just as importantly, books remind me to understand other people’s motivations, to find my empathy.  To remember that every story is told from multiple points of view and every character I meet in real life is seeing that story in a different way.  Think of the differences between The Wizard of Oz and Wicked.  Of course the wicked witch had her own side of the story.  Everyone does.  Books remind us of that.  And  that is a Very Important Thing.

Reading also helps combat the whole ‘instant gratification’ problem that technology is causing.  It helps kids learn to appreciate anticipation.  You can’t cheat your way through a book or you’ll miss something.  In fact, in this era, that may be the most important reason to read.  It teaches patience.  You can’t get from this page to that page without reading every paragraph.  Kinda rocks, doesn’t it?  They can get instant gratification later.  For now, let them slow down.

So if your little ever whines about reading time and asks, “Mom (or Dad), why is this so important?  It’s boring,” you now have some decent answers to give.  They may not be very scientific, but they are real.  Teach them to love it and that love will get them through the next 80 years or so.  You know it will, because

Love wins,

KT

 

25 Days of Lit in Your Homeschool: Day 6 Bears

ohr4bEver wonder exactly why bears hibernate? Or how exactly they make such good fishermen?  A bear study can teach your littles so much about nature, conservation, and mammal habits.  You can cover black bears, grizzlies, polar bears, Kodiaks.  There are so many varieties of bear.  You can learn about their cold weather habits, their warm weather habits, their diets, their sense of family.  Bears are a great addition to any animal or nature study and adding literature to your study can make it ever so much more fun.  You know it can.  You’ve read it here before.  And I don’t lie to you.

There are a lot of books about bears, and some of them have been favorites in our house for a long time.  You’ll have heard of most of these, maybe.  That’s okay, maybe you forgot how great they are.  Maybe you remember them from your own childhood and haven’t yet had the chance to introduce them to your littles.  Maybe it didn’t occur to you to make them part of your bear study.  Lucky you, you have the Lit Mama to remind you. 🙂

 

Little Bear by Else Holmelund Minarik

We love these books.  They are sweet, simple stories with an almost lyrical feel to them.  Even the illustrations are sweet and simple.  They’re easy readers, so they can give your lower elementary child reading practice or your preschool child a good chance to cuddle up next to mama and follow along as she reads.  Nothing bad happens in Little Bear’s world and happiness shines through all the family interactions.  Little Bear’s antics will help your littles relate to bears and make their studies even more rewarding.

 

Corduroy by Don Freeman

This book.  I remember it inspiring me when I was little.  I still kind of believe stuffed animals come to life behind our backs, thanks to Corduroy and the Raggedy dolls.  This one fed my imagination, and it fed Big’s imagination, and it fed the Littles’ imaginations in turn.  Corduroy comes to life in the department store after it closes at night and climbs down from his shelf to look for his missing button.  He has a series of adventures before he’s discovered by the night watchmen and put back on his shelf.  The next morning, a little girl buys him and takes him home to be her friend.  Such an endearing story, and the bright illustrations are sweet while leaving a little something to your little’s imagination.

 

 

A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond

Paddington is another bear I grew up with.  Traveling to England from Darkest Peru with only a jar of marmalade?  Darkest Peru?  It sounds so intriguing.  (And Peru Actually Is intriguing, so this book with work well with a South America study, too.)  This bear is one adventurous guy.  Luckily for him, he meets a family who accepts him at face value and welcomes him into their hearts. There are more than fifty books about Paddington and this is the first.  If you haven’t already fallen in love with this bear, you will from the first page.

 

Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen

This riveting story about a young troublemaker who is sentenced to Native American ‘circle justice’ for beating up another kid gives some insight into the nature of bears.  When Cole is sent to live on an island off the coast of Alaska, he is warned of a Spirit Bear who will share the island with him.  Cole, in a typical act of rebellion, tries to kill the bear when he sees it.  The bear mauls him, breaking several bones and nearly killing him.  As he lays alone on the island, surviving on worms and other nasty things, the bear returns twice without hurting him and her realizes it had just been protecting itself.   His journey from being an angry, violent teen to being a more humane person is amazingly well-written.  A wonderful additon to your bear study.

 

East by Edith Pattou

Pattou is one of the authors who inspired me to make my first novel, Frog’s Princess, fairytale-based (the other was Shannon Hale).  This particular book, based on the tale ‘East of the Sun and West of the Moon,” is brilliant.  Pattou makes her reader fall in love with the polar bear who takes Rose from her home and you stay cheering Rose on until the very end of her adventures.  Sure, it doesn’t really teach much about bears, but my book doesn’t teach you about frogs.  You should still read it. haha

 

There Will Be Bears by Ryan Gebhart

Nerdy, sweet Tyson just wants to be in the in-crowd.  Unfortunately, he just doesn’t fit in.  His best friend is his Grandpa Gene, a roughneck who has promised to take him on an elk hunt.  When Grandpa Gene gets sick and has to move to a nursing home, Tyson feels like he’s lost his only friend.  Together, they come up with a plan to sneak off to the Grand Tetons for the promised hunt.  But there’s a vicious grizzly in the area, and they’ll have to contend with that, too.  The most exciting part of the book is the encounter with the bear, but kids who love hunting will enjoy it all the way through.

On another note, just in case I haven’t complained enough about how much it’s rained this summer, this meme says it all:

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True story.

Love wins,

KT

Day One: Donkeys   Day Two: Summer

Day Three: Water   Day Four: Insects

Day Five: Owls

25 Days of Lit in Your Homeschool: Day 5 Owls

This post contains affiliate links

This post contains affiliate links

So elusive that even if you live in the country mostly all you get is a ghostly hoo-hooo in the very late evenings or very early mornings, owls are amazing creatures.  The sheer size of the great horned owl is awe-inducing.  Here on the farm, we become aware of their presence when a chicken or rabbit mysteriously disappears overnight.  I don’t know if I’ve told you this, but we only cage our rabbits when they are pregnant.  We release mama and babies into the yard when the babies are about half grown.  I love rabbits.  I can’t stand to see them in cages.  So we have a large fenced area by the barn where they are able to dig burrows and nibble grass and really live.  Mostly without fear of predators.  But the downside of all that freedom is that owls can swoop into the yard at night and snatch them up.  It doesn’t happen often, but it happens.  And don’t even talk to me about raccoons.

Owls make for a great study.  There are so many books about them, so many characters based on them… you can even purchase owl pellets to examine in your homeschool.  If you don’t know what those are, they’re the clump of bones and fur an owl spits back out after it eats an animal whole, keeping only the good stuff to digest.  There are so many amazing things to do when studying owls.  So here are a few really good books to include in your owl study.  You know, to make them seem less like rabbit thieves and more like the majestic creatures they really are.

 

Owl Moon by Jane Yolen

Jane Yolen is one of my favorite authors.  She writes so man different things for children, she can’t be put into a genre.  Owl moon is about a father who takes his child ‘owling.’ That is, looking for owls under the moonlight on a clear winter night.  One of the things I love about this book is that it is told from the child’s point of view in the first person, and it never reveals the gender of the child.  So whether you have a boy or a girl, he or she can relate to the child as his or her own gender.  A cool touch to a truly lovely book.  The story is told in free verse, and the imagery is there even without the simple, haunting illustrations by John Schoenherr.  Just don’t be surprised if your little asks you to go owling.   So dress warm.

 

Owl and Moon by Heather Swick

This cute book, told in rhyme, has perhaps the most expressive owl I’ve ever seen.  The grumpy guy hates being the only person up at night.  He wants a friend.  But the is moon only other thing awake all night like he is.  Thing is, he’s stuck down here, and the moon is stuck up there.  What’s an owl to do?  I think your littles will enjoy looking at illustrations as much as they will enjoy the story, and this book definitely reminds them how different life is for nocturnal animals.

 

The Owl Who Became the Moon by Jonathan London

This beautiful book is one of our favorites.  The Littles made me read it to them over and over for years.  Not that I minded.  It is a slow-paced, sparsely worded poem set against a backdrop of gorgeous illustrations.  It’s actually a great bedtime story because of its pace, but don’t doubt that it will engage your littles any time of the day.  It makes the owl even more mysterious than we already think it, and a little mystique is a good thing.

 

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh by Robert C. O’Brien

The owl in this tale is mean and frightening (but he would be from the eyes of a mouse.  Mouse is a delicacy for owls.) but he also Has The Answers, as any good owl would do.  I don’t know why owls became a symbol of wisdom in our culture, but it makes for some interesting characters.  Like the Tootsie Roll Pop owl.  Who is very cool.  This book could spark discussions about owl diet and habitat, and maybe even get your littles interested in researching the folklore about owls.  Not too shabby for a story about a bunch of rats.

 

The Guardians of Ga’Hoole by Kathryn Lasky

This is the first book in a series of 15.  We read it several years ago, and were fascinated by all the information we picked up from it about owls.  It actually sparked our first owl pellet dissection, and we were just reading it for fun.  It’s about Soren, a young owlet who gets pushed out of the nest by his greedy older brother (my doves do this, so there’s really a basis in reality).  Rather than getting mauled by a predator, Soren gets picked up by mysterious owls who take him to St. Aegolius Academy for Orphaned Owls, and there his adventures begin.  When he realizes there is something very wrong in the school, Soren and his friend have to fight against the teachings and discover what is going on.  Lots of owl science here, as well as a look at human nature and politics.

 

Hoot by Carl Hiaasen

This amazing environmetally-charged book is about Roy, who moves to Florida and discovers a mysterious running boy.  He follows the boy, curious as to where he’s always running.  What follows is an adventure in anti-development.  Roy and the running boy team up to stop developers from destroying the habitat of burrowing owls.   This is great for discussions about being kind to the environment and protecting habitats and species that sometimes get pushed aside in the name of progress.  Plus, it’s big fun, and your littles will enjoy the antics of the boys as they try to stop the construction of a new pancake house.

I could probably go on about owl books all day.  I mean, I didn’t even mention my favorite owl, Owl.  But if you don’t know how much I love the Pooh books, then you need to subscribe and keep reading.  (It’ll probably get annoying, even. haha)

Love wins,

KT

25 Days of Lit in Your Homeschool: Day 4 Insects

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Insects are fascinating to littles.  Bugs lead such different lives than ours, and there are so many different kinds.  Planning an insect study is one of the easiest things to do.  All you need is your backyard and a magnifying glass, maybe a bug catcher if you’re so inclined.  There are tons of nonfiction books out there to teach your littles the basics of the insect world.  There is a plethora of information and free notebooking pages, worksheets, and unit studies on the interweb.  Today I’m going to tell you about some fiction books you can add to your study to help give life to the nonfiction.  And remember, bees are too heavy to be able to fly.  They fly anyway.  So might we.

 

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

No collection of insect books would be complete without Eric Carle.  The Very Hungry Caterpillar is my favorite, but he has many to choose from.   The bold, bright illustrations are without peer, and they lend themselves incredibly well to easy crafting.  If you’re studying bugs other than caterpillars, visit Carle’s website for a full list of his insect books.

 

 

Inch by Inch by Leo Lionni

This book’s simple illustrations put all the focus on its inchworm star. “I am useful,” he says, “I measure things.”  The inchworm happily and proudly measures all manner of things until a nightingale threatens to eat him unless he can measure her song.  “I’ll try,” says the inchworm.  As the nightingale sings, the inchworm measures, inch by inch, until he he inches out of sight.  So cute, and great introduction for littles to these tiny bugs.

 

 

Two Bad Ants by Chris Van Allsburg

In this adventure-filled story, two ants decide to stay in a sugar bowl and eat rather than return to their ant hole.  Their kitchen escapades include being poured into a cup of coffee, a short, heated stay in a toaster, and being stunned by an electrical outlet.  If your littles are curious as to how the ants survive all these exploits, think about that time your kitchen got raided by the tiny insects.  Killing them seems Impossible.  Ants are pretty vigorous dudes.  The tale ends when the ant troop comes back to the kitchen and the two bad ants gratefully return home.  The large illustrations of magnified objects will fascinate your littles.

 

The Summer of the Mourning Cloak by Kathleen Nelson

The Mourning Cloak is a butterfly also known as the Camberwell Beauty.  In this lovely tale, 11-year-old Hyslop and her mother go to England to visit her mother’s old friend for the summer.  A crotchety old man who lives on the property is an avid butterfly collector, and he grudgingly takes Hyslop under his wing, teaching her about butterflies and asking for her help in finding a Mourning Cloak for his collection.  There is a lot of information about butterflies in this book, which makes it one of those that teaches without littles realizing they’re being taught.  There is also a tale about relationships, about surviving in difficult circumstances, and about finding hope.  Hyslop is a lovable little girl who is doing her best to navigate a troublesome world.

 

How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell

My Littles love this book.  Sure, it doesn’t really teach a lot about worms, but worms are in it, and Billy’s adventures in worm-eating are great for belly laughs.  And cringes.  He has to eat 15 of the slimy buggers in 15 days.  Fear Factor for littles!  The different ways the boys come up with to dress up the taste and texture of worms… Classic.  This one will definitely have your littles laughing and engaged.  It’s a great read even if you aren’t studying worms.

 

In Search of Goliathus Hercules by Jennifer Angus

This fascinating fantasy is about Henri Bell, who is sent to America from England to live with his great-aunt.  An accidental conversation with a fly on a boring day reveals Henri’s ability to speak with insects.  What follows is rollicking adventure including a flea circus, a  beetle army, and–of course–the search for the Goliathus Hercules, which takes Henri to British Malaysia.  It’s filled with wonderful illustrations and lots of entomological information, and would make a fantastic addition to any insect study.

There are so many more stories about insects out there, but these are a few of our faves.  Nothing is more fun than imagining what a butterfly is really thinking or picturing having a conversation with an ant.  Oh, and eating… worms?

Love wins,

KT

Day One: Donkeys

Day Two: Summer

Day Three: Water