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This Little Light of Mine
Illustrated by E. B. Lewis
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers


This picture book springs forth delightfully from the lyrics to the old African American spiritual. The words are an affirmation of the power and uniqueness each human being possesses and they reinforce a belief in oneself even in the face of adversity. Lush illustrations depict a day in the life of one African American boy. We witness the boy celebrating his individuality with family and friends and taking the time to raise the spirits of another little boy to help him recognize the value of his own inner “light”. This book conveys a simple but vital message for everyone – no matter what age. At the close of the book, you will find the sheet music for the song along with four verses of lyrics.


Potluck of Fun:
If it's comfortable and enjoyable for you, sing the book to your child. Children tend to love it when parents and others sing to them. As they get older, children often spontaneously begin to hum or sing along with you. So, if you want to sing out, sing out!


Talk to your infants or toddlers about their unique gifts and strengths, about the light that shines within them. Make weekly “Celebrating Ourselves” signs that say, “We celebrate your...” and fill in the blank each week with a different trait or ability, such as sweet smile, contagious laugh or willingness to share. Involve family members and friends by asking them what they want to celebrate about your children. Be sure to refer to and read aloud the signs throughout the week and to teach your children that every person, no matter what they look like or where they live or anything else, is special.

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A Splendid Friend, Indeed
Written and illustrated by Suzanne Bloom
Boyds Mills Press

Bear is trying to spend a quiet day reading, writing and thinking, but this plan is soon interrupted by the arrival of Goose, who can't help but talk about how exciting these activities are. It seems these two are complete opposites, but their shared love of books just might make each A Splendid Friend, Indeed.

With just a few words alongside delightful illustrations, Suzanne Bloom delivers an important message not only about friendship and how true friends accept each other's sometimes annoying behavior, but also about a love of literacy. Little ones will be charmed by the interactions between the characters and will hopefully grow to emulate their enthusiasm for reading and writing.

Potluck of Fun:
The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog (Hyperion) is another humorous yet simple picture book that demonstrates the importance of tolerance and sharing in a context little ones can relate to and understand. Mo Willems, a six-time Emmy award-winning writer and animator for Sesame Street, is the author and illustrator of this follow-up to Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus (Hyperion).

One of the best ways to encourage and engender a love of reading in your children is to lead by example. Let your children see you reading and keep books, magazines, comic books – all sorts of age-appropriate reading materials – in baskets all over your home, even in the bathroom. And, of course, read aloud to your children every day. As little as 15 minutes can do the trick.


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Chicken in the Kitchen
Written by Tony Johnston
Illustrated by Eleanor Taylor
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers


The rhythm and meter of this text, along with the rhyming words and hilarious illustrations, all contribute to a joyful read-aloud experience.

Potluck of Fun:
Tony Johnston is an award-winning author of more than 100 children's books. Additional books of hers that your 3- to 6-year-old might enjoy are: 10 Fat Turkeys (Cartwheel), The Worm Family (Harcourt Children's) and Isabel's House of Butterflies (Gibbs Smith).

Rhyming books are great for reading aloud and can be terrific tools for supporting phonemic awareness (the ability to hear and manipulate the sounds in spoken words, and the understanding that spoken words and syllables are made up of sequences of speech sounds). For more humorous poems and stories told in rhyme, check out selections by Shel Silverstein, Jack Prelutsky and, of course, Dr. Seuss.

Play with rhyming words with your children. This can be done simply by giving your children a word, such as “top,” and asking your children if they can think of words that rhyme. Adjust the difficulty of the words you provide according to the children's ages and language abilities. If necessary, you can also provide a couple of rhyming words to help them get started. Even nonsense words they might give, such as “nop” or “zop,” suggest an understanding of the rhyming concept. It is important to recognize the rhyming quality of such words, but also to differentiate them from rhyming words that have meaning.

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Find a Face
Created by Francois and Jean Robert with Jane Gittings
Chronicle Books

This clever and inventive book is an open invitation to imagine. Photographs of a wide variety of objects – from headphones to ice skates – are taken from specific angles so that they magically transform into faces. Each item is identified in small upside-down type at the bottom of the photo. As you go through the book, you might want to conceal this information and see if you and your children can guess what the objects are. The bright colors of the items and of the backgrounds serve to further engage the eyes. This approach will encourage children to see things from different perspectives and to look at them more deeply. Perhaps there's a subtle message here that not everything – or everyone for that matter – is as it first appears.

Potluck of Fun:
On trips to the grocery store, the post office or just about anywhere, take some time with your children to observe different shapes and objects. You can even do this in your own home. Play a find-a-face game by searching for and identifying objects that resemble faces. While enjoying this game, your children will also be developing their observational skills.


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Cora Frear (Brave Kids/Ready-for-Chapters series)
Written by Susan E. Goodman
Illustrated by Doris Ettlinger

Cora awakes one morning to the smell of fresh-ground coffee beans and the clanging of the oatmeal pot on the stove. Her father, Doc Frear, invites Cora along on his afternoon house call to the Iowa countryside, but when Cora comes home from school, she finds the house call has become an emergency. As she and Papa hurriedly set off by horse and buggy, the darkening skies don't signal a storm, but warn of an impending calamity that could destroy Cora's beloved prairie. All too quickly, Cora and Papa find themselves in the midst of great danger. Will this young pioneer girl be able to rise to the occasion and help save Papa, herself and their horses? This fast-paced true story is not only exciting, but also holds an important lesson of courage and self-assurance.

Potluck of Fun:
Cora Frear Hawkins, who lived from 1887 to 1985, wrote a memoir of her experiences traveling with and assisting her father: Buggies, Blizzards and Babies (Iowa State Press). The memoir also addresses such issues as the life of a doctor's wife, attitudes towards women in the late 19th century and prairie medicine.

At the Web site of the Illlinois State Museum (, you and your child might enjoy At Home in the Heartland Online, which you can link to from the Online Exhibits page. The periods of 1800-1850 and 1850-1900 may be of particular interest. With information about specific historical figures, objects found in frontier homes and even newspaper ads, there is a lot to absorb here. You will also find an area for Teachers that includes related lesson plans for different grade levels.

For more true stories of brave children in American history, pick up the other books in the Brave Kids series: Hazelle Boxberg and Robert Henry Hendershot (Aladdin) by Susan E. Goodman, or the Prairie Skies trilogy (Aladdin) by Deborah Hopkinson.

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Landscapes (A First Discovery Art book)
Created by Claude Delafosse and Gallimard Jeunesse
Illustrated by Tony Ross

The design of this book is simply ingenious! Cut-out holes show detailed elements of paintings or represent windows. Transparencies show how a painting might progress, or transform a landscape altogether. Paintings are sequenced to lead you from outside of a house into a room within or to show how the changing light of the day affects color and perspective. Straightforward text directs you to search for or note specific elements of the paintings. An art gallery is created so you can see examples of more artists' works. The book closes with a twist on hide-and-seek, whereby details from paintings in the book are shown and you are encouraged to figure out to which work of art each detail belongs. Additionally, there is a listing of all of the artists and paintings represented. Budding artists will delight in this book, and others might just discover a new interest.

Potluck of Fun:
The final line of this book provides a perfect springboard suggestion: “Now that you have seen all these landscapes, you could try drawing the view from your window.” Encourage your children to draw and paint. They could start by imitating an artist or style they like, or simply by trying to draw their unique vision of what they see around them. One of the wonderful things about kids and visual arts is that you don't have to impose any hard and fast rules. Just let your kids run with their imaginations! Do talk with children about their creations – ask why they chose particular colors or what is happening in the picture; point out artistic principles like texture, form, contrast and so on. If children express significant interest in drawing and painting, or any other type of visual arts, consider enrolling them in hands-on classes offered by local art studios, youth and community centers or museums.

If your child connects with one or more of the artists introduced in the book, take a trip your library to find children's books about the artists or books that display the artists' works. You can also Google an artist's name and search with your child for related books and Web sites. You might want to add the phrase “for kids” to your search to narrow the results.

At the Web site of The Baltimore Museum of Art (, you’ll find an entertaining, informative and interactive exploration of Henri Matisse. Click on Families under the Education link menu and look for the link to Launch Matisse for Kids. You and your child will then be taken on an interactive tour of Matisse's life led by his dog, Raoudi. As you continue along, you will add props, patterns and colors to your portfolio, which can be used later to create Matisse-like works of art.

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Shape Up! Fun with Triangles and Other Polygons
Written by David A. Adler
Illustrated by Nancy Tobin
Holiday House

Attention parents and kids who feel that math is boring or too complex: This book's for you! When you get ready to read this selection with your child, make sure you have the necessary supplies on hand, such as pretzel sticks, graph paper and pieces of bread (a full list is included at the beginning of the book). By using the specified items and following the simple directions, you will discover a world of polygons – from triangles to quadrilaterals, all the way up to dodecagons. Along the way, you'll learn how the number, size and position of sides and angles determine the type of shape. This practical, hands-on approach makes learning geometry enjoyable and easy to grasp. To reinforce the concepts, the book closes with a quick review page that defines the different types of angles and shapes.

Potluck of Fun
As the book suggests, encourage your kids to “Keep on the lookout for polygons. They're everywhere!” Riding around in the car is a terrific time to play lookout. Stop signs are octagons. Yield signs are triangles. License plates are quadrilaterals. Take turns with your kids identifying objects and naming their shapes. You'll soon find it's true: they really are everywhere!

Another exciting and enjoyable way to explore polygons is by trying origami, the Japanese art of folding paper into shapes representing animals and other objects. Check out The ABC's of Origami by Claude Sarasas (Tuttle Publishing). In this book, each letter of the alphabet is assigned a corresponding origami project, from albatross to zebra. Clear step-by-step diagrams will help you and your children create these wondrous objects.

Visit and click on the cat. Enter Math Cats Explore and look for the Polygon Playground. Here your children can create all sorts of pictures by selecting from hundreds of colored polygons and clicking and dragging them into the desired position. With a kick-start from their imaginations, kids can create animals, designs and patterns while exploring principles like symmetry. It's fun for adults, too.


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Jackie's Wild Seattle
Written by Will Hobbs


Shannon and her little brother, Cody, are off to Washington state in the summer of 2002 for some amazing and occasionally reckless adventures with their Uncle Neal. Uncle Neal is an ambulance driver for a wildlife rescue center called Jackie's Wild Seattle. Initially, neither Shannon nor Cody is particularly excited. Their mother and father, both doctors, are in Pakistan working for Doctors Without Borders. The children are filled with trepidation at leaving their home in New Jersey, being separated from their parents and dealing with the emotional fallout of the events of September 11th. But as they grow closer to their uncle and the staff of the rescue center and become animal rescuers themselves, Shannon and Cody discover that they each have more strength and courage than they ever imagined.


Potluck of Fun:
The Sarvey Wildlife Center in Arlington, Washington (about 50 miles north of Seattle) served as the real-life inspiration for this book. At, you can find out about the history, goals, needs and projects of the center; read stories about specific animals and staff; view animal photos and videos of animals being released back into the wild and more.


Will Hobbs writes outdoor adventure stories for children of all ages. At, you and your kids will find a “clickable” list of Will's Books that connect you to summaries, pictures and information about how Will gets his story ideas - a great way to decide which book to read next. Your children can learn more about Will through the Meet Will Hobbs and Favorite Questions pages. In the For Teachers & Librarians area, there are countless resource materials and activity ideas connected to his books, including nine activities for Jackie's Wild Seattle. A Just for Fun section contains a literary trivia quiz for kids who have read a number of Will's books.


At, The National Audubon Society has complied listings of affiliated chapters. Under States, Center & Chapters, select States & Chapters and then click on the Interactive Map. When you click on a particular state in the map, the site returns the associated listings of programs. These listings often include direct links to the programs’ Web sites, which can lead you to local wildlife centers and sanctuaries. You can also Google (or use your favorite search engine) your state, city or town and the phrase “wildlife refuges,” or the words “sanctuaries” or “centers,” to find out about such organizations in your area. Then plan a family outing and visit some of nature's wondrous creatures!


Parents and older children might want to visit the site of Doctors without Borders ( to learn more about this Nobel Peace Prize-winning organization's humanitarian efforts around the world.

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A Single Shard
Written by Linda Sue Park
Clarion Books

Twelve-year-old Tree-Ear is an orphan boy living under a bridge in the potter's village of Ch'ulp'o, Korea with his elderly friend, Crane-Man. Tree-Ear passes his days rummaging through trash heaps for food. He is irresistibly drawn to the workplace of master potter, Min. When Tree-Ear is discovered in Min's workshop standing over a broken celadon pot, he must work for Min to pay for the damage. After working off his debt, Tree-Ear convinces Min to let him stay on as his assistant. Tree-Ear endures a year-and-a-half of back-breaking labor and Min's hot temper before he is sent on a long, solitary voyage in the hopes of securing a royal commission. Due to the hazards of his journey, when Tree-Ear arrives at the royal court, only a single shard of Min's work remains. Will it be enough to convince the emissary of the brilliance of Min's art? Will Tree-Ear return to Ch'ulp'o with good news? And will he ever have the chance to be a potter himself?

Set in 12th century Korea, this is a tale of determination, endurance, courage and hope. Linda Sue Park weaves great suspense into this story and vividly conveys the hardships and challenges of an orphan's life, the exquisite beauty of celadon pottery and the culture of an artist community. Children will come away from this book feeling empowered to believe in and pursue their dreams.

Potluck of Fun
Encourage your children to read the Author's Note at the close of this book to find out more about Korean history, celadon potters and folklore.

To discover more about celadon ceramics, enter the Museum of Metropolitan Art Web site at and click on The Timeline of Art History. On the timeline, select 1000-1400 A.D., East Asia and, finally, Korea. This will lead you to a number of links with historical information along with photographs and descriptions of Korean arts of this period, including celadon ware. You will find more photographs and information if you select Arts of Korea from the Themes and Cultures area of the Explore & Learn section of this site.

Linda Sue Park was awarded the Newbery Medal for A Single Shard. In the Books section of, click on A Single Shard and then select the If You've Read the Book link for a quiz and Behind the Scenes information on and photographs of the works of art referenced in the book. At this site, you can also read about other Linda Sue Park books that revolve around Korean characters in historical times, such as The Kite Fighters and Seesaw Girl (Yearling).

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The Weather Detectives:
Fun-Filled Facts, Experiments and Activities for Kids
Written by Mark Eubank
Illustrated by Mark A. Hicks
Gibbs Smith

Bryan Bronson and his two best friends, Rudy and Olivia, get to travel to outer space and return to Earth for all sorts of weather-related expeditions. They decide to form a club and record their experiences, dubbing themselves the Weather Detectives. As you travel through space with them, you'll learn how an atmosphere, or the lack thereof, impacts weather. Back on Earth, the detectives take you along on trips throughout the U.S. where they encounter and survive different weather phenomena from freezing rain to tornadoes, the Northern Lights to flash floods. In addition to the compelling and exciting story of each new experience, chapters contain sidebar items with weather facts, experiments, activities, safety tips and more. The cartoon-like illustrations add a flair of liveliness and humor. This book explains weather in the context of adventure and is sure to electrify budding scientists and meteorologists, or any child who wonders how weather works.

Potluck of Fun
Get into this book by trying the experiments and activities that are woven into each chapter. Let your children take the lead by selecting the experiments and activities they'd most like to do.

For more terrific weather-related books that might interest your kids, check out Weather by Brian Cosgrove (DK Eyewitness Books), The Kids’ Book of Weather Forecasting by Mark Breen and Kathleen Friestad (Williamson Publishing) and Scholastic Atlas of Weather by Marie-Anne Legault.

If there isn't a science museum near you, don't despair. You can visit many of them online and explore interactive experiences, experiments and activities. For example, you can visit The Franklin Institute Online at and click on Resources for Science Learning. Then enter the word “weather” in the Search box. This will lead you to Franklin's Forecast, an area that contains all sorts of weather-related information, activities and links. There is even a section of Curriculum Connections linking the online activities with National Science Education Standards for grades 1 through 12.


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Making Toys for School-Age Children
Written by Linda G. Miller and Mary Jo Gibbs
Illustrated by Kathy Dobbs
Gryphon House

With more than 100 homemade toy designs, this book presents endless possibilities for fun and learning, or perhaps better said, fun in learning. While directed at teachers of school-age children, this book is equally suited to parents and other caregivers. The project plans encompass more than materials lists and instructions for making toys from everyday items: they provide guidance for how to use the toys to engage children in active learning. The projects are organized into categories or “zones” such as
Drama Zone, Creativity Zone and Games and Problem-Solving Zone. These toys are about much more than playtime: they are designed to support children's interests, encourage interaction, boost self-confidence and challenge children's minds. And when you work together with your children creating and using these toys, fabulous, fun experiences are sure to follow.

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Parent's Guide to Literacy for the 21st Century:
Pre-K through Grade 5

Written by Janie Hydrick
National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE)

This comprehensive guide to literacy is straightforward and accessible both in its presentation and its content. The author draws on her experiences as a parent, a 30-year classroom teacher and a former NCTE president. In each of the five sections of the book (Basics, Language, Reading, Writing and Across the Disciplines), you will find an introduction to the concepts within the section, definitions of the concepts, vignettes demonstrating what the concepts could look like in a classroom or home environment and practical at-home activities to support the concepts.
Janie Hydrick suggests that you try the activities that feel comfortable and appropriate for you and your children and that you view them as springboards to your own ideas. She further suggests that you simply open the book to an area of interest and “…let the literacy adventure begin.”


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Donna Sullivan advises concerned parents to educate themselves about language-based learning differences and suggests reading:

Overcoming Dyslexia: A New and Complete Science-Based
Program for Reading Problems at Any Level

Written by Sally Shaywitz, M.D.

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Ronnie Cristiano recommends math-themed books by authors Marilyn Burns and Greg Tang, such as:

The Greedy Triangle
Written by Marilyn Burns
Illustrated by Gordon Silveria






The Grapes of Math
Written by Greg Tang
Illustrated by Harry Briggs







Math Appeal
Written by Greg Tang
Illustrated by Harry Briggs







The Missing Piece
Written and illustrated by Shel Silverstein






The Missing Piece Meets the Big O
Written and illustrated by Shel Silverstein

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Diane Francis suggests looking for children's books that explore different artists, like:

The Getting to Know the World's Greatest Artists series
Written and illustrated by Mike Venezia
Children's Press














The Artists in Their Time series
Various Authors
Franklin Watts
















My Name Is Georgia
Written and illustrated by Jeanette Winter
Silver Whistle
















Tar Beach
Written and illustrated by Faith Ringgold
Crown Books
















Degas and the Little Dancer
Written and illustrated by Laurence Anholt
Barron's Educational Series
















Uncle Andy's
Written and illustrated by James Warhola


















When Pigasso Met Mootisse
Written and illustrated by Nina Laden
Chronicle Books

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Raelyn Viti and Brian Kelly based the Bounders activity on the book:

The Bravest Dog Ever: The True Story of Balto
(Step Into Reading series)
Written by Natalie Standiford
Illustrated by Donald Cook
Random House


2006 Words That Cook   All rights reserved  Box 411, Natick, MA  01760  USA

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