Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Introducing Laura Doherty

It is with great pleasure that I introduce to you musician Laura Doherty.  Based in Chicago, Laura has been with the Old Town School of Folk Music for ten years and currently is the director of and a teacher for the popular Wiggleworms program which offers music classes geared for early childhood.  Laura offers concerts in the Chicago area - check out her show calendar here which includes also dates for shows on the east coast this fall.  Her songs for children are filled with lively rhythms, easy to sing along with melodies and child-centered themes.  Her latest CD, Kids in the City, was released in May of this year and she has also contributed to the two Wiggleworm CD's.  All of three CD's are featured below.  

Children's music can play an important role in literacy development.  It's another way to play with and to explore language, words, rhythms, and story in an energetic and active environment.  Music opens up the avenue for dance, movement and play.  It also taps into all the different ways that children learn and builds on children's experiences and understanding of their own world. Additionally, songs can also support or complement books when matched up by theme as seen in a previous post

Recently, Laura shared some of her thoughts and ideas about the important role that music can play in child development as well as in literacy development.  Please read further for the interview and enjoy the music of Laura Doherty.

1. Why do you think children's music is important for children and their families? What impact have you seen in the children's development (social, emotional, motor skills, etc)?
I have been teaching and making music for children for 10 years and I believe it is an very important part of a child's development. It's great to expose children to all kinds of music, but music specifically written for kids has proven to build a child's language, motor and social skills, and can be something enjoyed by the whole family. When specifically working with babies and toddlers, I use melodies that are simple and easy for kids to learn, at that time in their life when they are learning to walk and talk. Also, songs that have body motions that accompany the song are memorable for children. I mainly teach children between the ages of 6 months and 3 years and it's amazing to watch what happens in the classroom. Even before they can talk, I'll see an almost one year old
doing the hand motions for Itsy-Bitsy spider or clapping on cue during "Happy and You Know it".

2. Do you see a role that music plays in children's literacy development?
I love children's songs that are created as books. The illustrations come alive and reinforce the lyrics to the songs. There's a ton of them out there. My favorite is a book I have on "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star". And for learning about jazz music there's a great book called "Charlie Park played Be-Bop" by Chris Raschka.

3. What or who is your inspiration for your children's music?
Chicago and the city in general was my inspiration for the songs on my debut kids CD "Kid in the City". I love living in the city and I wanted to write about it as seen through the eyes of a child. Chicago is a city rich in history. When you see the El train, you think Chicago. When you hear the blues, you think Chicago, and always a city that stands on its own, Chicago has it's own version of a hot dog. All these themes are explored in my songs.

I also wanted to make a record that used all acoustic instruments so that you can really hear the words and it gives it a more homey feel, like I'm on the back porch strumming some tunes! I teamed up again with producer Rich Rankin of Mosaic Music in Chicago to record the CD; we co-produced "Wiggleworms Love You" released on Bloodshot Records in 2005.

I moved to Chicago from New York in 1992 and got into children's music in 1998, when I started teaching at the Old Town School of Folk Music. There I met Ralph Covert, whom I consider one of the masters of children's music! He produced by first grownup record (Days Without Maps c2000) and he has been an inspiration to me over the years. He has a way of crafting the perfect song, of engaging children, and he really knows the ins and outs of the business of music.

Another Chicagoan whom I'd admire greatly is Ella Jenkins, a children's music legend! I've had the opportunity to meet her and see her perform at the Old Town School of Folk Music several times. I love the way she can take a simple song and have a crowd of several hundreds singing along with her, call and response, completely engaged. Keeping it simple is what I learned from her. And she really has command of the stage, or classroom. I love that her music explores many cultures as well.

4. Do you have any favorite children's books or authors from your
childhood that you would like to share?
One of my favorite children's authors from my childhood is Richard Scarry. I loved the busy-ness on all the pages learning about all the different kinds of automobiles, for example. And recently, I've been really into books by Todd Parr. I love his bold illustrations and his books all have a message, with a focus on diversity. I especially like "The Family Book" and "The Peace book".

You can catch Laura on these CD's.  Check out the songs by clicking on the links.

Songs for Wiggleworms 
(Full bibliographic info: Songs for Wiggleworms. Old Town School of Music, 2000.)

Wiggleworms Love You
(Full bibliographic info: Wiggleworms Love You. Old Town School of Music, 2005.)

Kids in the City by Laura Doherty
(Full bibliographic info: Doherty, Laura. Kids in the City. CD Baby, 2009.) 

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Dog Days of Summer

Those dog days of summer are upon us so as you're hunting up some new books to check out, take a look at these books which feature man's best friend and all of the fun antics that dogs usually bring to the table.  For more titles, check these books that have been featured in previous posts:  What Pet to Get by Emma Dodd, and Dogs and Cats by Steve Jenkins.  And these are certainly not all the dog books out there, so ask your librarian for more suggestions and keep an eye out here for another posting that will include books featuring pets in general.  

Stella, Unleashed: Notes from the Doghouse  by Linda Ashman
Stella is the new dog in town in shares all about her life from her perspective through 29 clever and engaging poems.  (Ages 4-9)
(Full bibliographic info: Ashman, Linda. Stella Unleashed: Notes from the Doghouse. Sterling Pub. Co., 2008.)

Wet Dog! by Elise Broach
This poor dog is so hot in the middle of summer, but once he finds opportunities to soak in water, he shakes and shimmies in heaven.  It's too bad he's getting everyone else soaked as they prepare for a fancy, too-hot wedding.  The lively illustrations have the reader falling for this sloppy, messy, enthusiastic pooch.  (Ages 4-9)
(Full bibliographic info: Broach, Elise. Wet Dog! Dial Books for Young Readers, 2005.)

Bathtime for Biscuit by Alyssa Satin Capucilli
Although this book is formatted as an easy reader for beginning readers, the playful story line draws in preschoolers.  Biscuit the mischievous pup does not want to take a bath and you'll have to guess who splashes into the tub in the end.  The Biscuit books are a series, so if you enjoy this one, you'll have plenty more to check out.  (Ages 3-7)
(Full bibliographic info: Capucilli, Alyssa Satin. Bathtime for Biscuit. Harper Collins, 1998.)

The Five-Dog Night by Eileen Christelow
Although this book goes from the first winter's chill to the sub-zero nights and doesn't exactly portray summer in any way, the story which is filled with friendship is heartwarming and fun.  And you'll have to read to find out exactly what a five-dog night is.  (Ages 4-8)
(Full bibliographic info: Christelow, Eileen. The Five-Dog Night. Clarion Books, 1993.)

Fred Stays with Me! by Nancy Coffelt
Sometimes children's picture books can provide a way to read about and talk about really difficult circumstances.  In Fred Stays with Me!, the reader sees the life a little girl who sometimes lives with her mom and who sometimes lives with her dad in a joint custody situation.  But Fred, her faithful companion, always stays with her no matter where she goes.  Fred Stays with Me! is a realistic and matter-of-fact story that is neither apologetic nor overly sentimental.  (Ages 4-9)
(Full bibliographic info: Coffelt, Nancy. Fred Stays with Me! Little Brown, 2007.)

Katie Loves the Kittens by John Himmelman
Katie, the dog, has new company.  Sarah Ann has brought home hree tiny, fluffy, wonderful kittens and Katie is so very, very excited that she cannot possibly contain herself (or her frantic tail) and she just wants to love the kittens so much!  (Ages 3-7)
(Full bibliographic info: Himmelman, John. Katie Loves the Kittens. Henry Holt and Co., 2008.)

Oh, Tucker! by Steven Kroll
Tucker is Thelma's enthusiastic dog who charges the house when called in for breakfast.  Tucker's flapping tail causes a lot of commotion in the early morning, but you can't help by love him.  (Ages 3-8)
(Full bibliographic info: Kroll, Steven. Oh, Tucker! Candlewick Press, 1998.)

Show Dog by Meghan McCarthy
Ed, the mangy mutt, is not your typical show dog, but the Hubbles enter him into the state county contest.  Ed's unorthodox behavior is hilarious as are the illustrations.  (Ages 4-9)
(Full bibliographic info: McCarthy, Meghan. Show Dog. Viking, 2004.)

The Great Gracie Chase by Cynthia Rylant
Poor Gracie is disturbed from her restful day by noisy house painters, so her strategy is to run, create a ruckus to get folks to chase her and then head on home to the peace and quiet. (Ages 4-9)
(Full bibliographic info: Rylant, Cynthia. The Great Gracie Chase. Blue Sky Press, 2001.)

Good Boy, Fergus! by David Shannon
From the author of No, David!, Good Boy, Fergus! introduces Fergus, the dog.  A typical dog who does exactly as he wants when he wants without regard to his owner's commands.  In fact, even is Fergus is failing over and over to follow instructions, he keeps on earning the "Good boy, Fergus!". (Ages 3-8)
(Full bibliographic info: Shannon, David. Good Boy, Fergus! Blue Sky Press, 2006.)

The Stray Dog by Marc Simont
One weekend afternoon, a family comes across a playful dog while on a picnic in the park.  The parents assume that the dog is well cared for and therefore must belong to someone, so they leave the dog behind.  The dog is not forgotten by anyone in the family and the following week during a return trip to the park, the children rescue the dog just in time before the dog catcher snatches him up by claiming that the dog is theirs.  And now he is.  (Ages 3-7)
(Full bibliographic info: Simont, Marc. The Stray Dog. Hi Marketing, 2001.)

The Hound from the Pound by Jessica Swaim
Miss Mary Lynn MacIntosh is lonely and has decided to liven up her home and life with a dog. When she goes to the dog pound to choose her new friend, Blue the Basset Hound, Mary has no idea what shenanigans she's in for.  (Ages 4-9)
(Full bibliographic info: Swaim, Jessica. The Hound from the Pound. Candlewick Press, 2007.)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Resource Spotlight: Leading to Reading

Leading to Reading is a newly launched website from the non-profit Reading Is Fundamental organization.  This website is intended for caregivers and parents of babies, toddlers and preschoolers and is developed to promote and enhance early literacy skills. The interface is easy to navigate, bright and simple.  When you're navigating the website, mousing over a section has a verbal cue read aloud as well as the text label.  For example, when you pass over the Babies and Toddlers section, the website says "babies and toddlers".  The website also has the capability of being displayed in Spanish.  There are three main sections - Babies and Toddlers (0-2), Preschoolers (3-5), and Parents.

The Babies and Toddlers section contains finger plays, nursery rhymes, games and stories.  The finger plays provide a short video clip to demonstrate the song - some are old favorites and some are new gems.  The stories are audio readings of actual picture books such as The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats and the illustrations are displayed as the book is read aloud.  The nursery rhymes include the written text as well as an audio reading.  And the games such as matching picture pairs are simple for early computer experiences for very young children.  

The Preschoolers page is laid out similarly to the Babies and Toddlers page.  The sections include "Read", "Sing", "Play", "Doodle" and "Explore".  You can also meet Leading to Reading's hosts, Riffy and Rita.  The games are age-appropriate and encourage literacy skills as well as beginner computer/mouse skills for young learners.  All of the sing-a-long songs have both the audio and the visual text.  The stories are read aloud and include the text.  There is enough content here for preschoolers to visit multiple times and explore.

The page for Parents is still partially under construction, but it includes additional articles, author interviews, activity ideas, resources and videos.  All are quick reads and easy to access.

And what's great about Leading to Reading is that there are no advertisements and the activities are all linked specifically to developing literacy.  This is not a jazzy, media promoting site - it's simple, straightforward, easy to navigate and developmentally appropriate for the young child audience.  Additionally, a lot of the activities require or encourage a grown-up to participate making this a time to spend together with your child.  Enjoy!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Introducing Literacy Lava

Presenting the first issue of Literacy Lava, a digital resource for parents to support, promote and celebrate children's literacy.  When you follow the link from here, you'll be directed to Susan Stephenson's website where you can open the pdf file of Literacy Lava.  The magazine is filled with useful tips, short articles, and to-the-point information that you can begin using today.  This issue contains information about reading aloud, reluctant readers, literacy through play, activities and more! You can share it, save it, print it - it's free, so please pass it along!  And let us know what you think about this new resource by leaving a comment here or at The Book Chook.

To check out more, these are the amazing contributing authors to Literacy Lava and links to their blogs:

Kim ChatelChatel Village
Terry DohertyThe Reading Tub 
Dawn Morris, Moms Inspire Learning
Susan Stephenson, editor, The Book Chook
Amy Watson, Literacy Launchpad  

Monday, June 1, 2009

Down on Grandpa's Farm

Down on the farm is a popular theme with young children - all the animals and sounds, tractors and equipment, big barns and fields, gardens and planting - how can you go wrong?  There are countless farm related books to choose from - here are a few titles to check out from your library this summer!

Old MacDonald Had a Farm by Jane Cabrera
You will never run short of Old MacDonald books.  Jane Cabrera's signature illustrations are lively, colorful and engaging for a wide range of ages.  (Ages 2-5)
(Full bibliographic info: Cabrera, Jane. Old MacDonald Had a Farm. Holiday House 2008.)

The Very Busy Spider by Eric Carle
One day on the farm, a spider is too busy spinning her web to possibly participate in any activities with any of the other farm animals.  The webbing in the book is an engraved texture and children will be familiar with all the visiting animals and their sounds.  Also available in board book.  (Ages 1-5)
(Full bibliographic info: Carle, Eric. The Very Busy Spider. Philomel Books, 1984.)

Click Clack Moo Cows that Type by Doreen Cronin
Poor Farmer Brown has got some problems.  The cows and chickens have joined efforts and through the use of a discarded typewriter they are making some demands to upgrade their quality of life in the barn.  Duck is the neutral party...or is he?  This book also has an audio edition which is lots of fun.  (Ages 4-9)
(Full bibliographic info: Cronin, Doreen. Click Clack Moo Cows that Type. Simon and Schuster, 2000.)

Color Farm by Lois Ehlert
Similar to Color Zoo, Ehlert introduces farm animals through cut-out picture collage in her bold, vibrant colors.  You only need to provide the animal sounds!  (Ages 2-5)
(Full bibliographic info: Ehlert,Lois. Color Farm. Lippincott, 1990.)

Barnyard Banter by Denise Fleming
Barnyards are noisy places - you'll have a great time visiting with all the loud animals here.  Using her stylized collage illustrations, you will be introduced to a array of animals while you watch the goose chasing a butterfly in every scene.  (Ages 1-6)
(Full bibliographic info: Fleming, Denise. Barnyard Banter. Holt, 1994.)

The Cow Who Clucked by Denise Fleming
Also by Denise Fleming, The Cow Who Clucked, is the story of a cow who has lost her moo and she travels all through the barnyard looking for it.  (Ages 2-5)
(Full bibliographic info: Fleming, Denise. The Cow Who Clucked. Holt, 2006.)

Ten Red Apples by Pat Hutchins
The text for this simple count-down book bounces along as a farmer is alarmed when all the barn animals are taking the apples one by one.  This is a great story that you'll be able to memorize and then 'sing' to your child when you're out and about.  (Ages 1-5)
(Full bibliographic info: Hutchins, Pat. Ten Red Apples. Greenwillow Books, 2000.)

Barn Dance! by Bill Martin, Jr.
A boy is awakened in the night and sneaks out of his room only to follow the sound of music and the scarecrow plays pied piper on his fiddle leading all the farm animals to a hoe down in the barn.  (Ages 2-6)
(Full bibliographic info: Martin Jr., Bill. Barn Dance! Collins, 1987.)

Hen Hears Gossip by Megan McDonald
One morning Hen overhears Cow talking to Pig and gets the story all wrong, but no knowing this, she passes it along to the other barn animals.  The story becomes so confused in the whisper-down-the-lane that it comes back to Hen that she has eaten all the corn in the corn crib which is simply not true.  By the time it gets sorted out, the animals discover that Cow has a new baby.  A great story to introduce the idea of gossip and spreading rumors.  (Ages 2-5)
(Full bibliographic info: McDonald, Megan. Hen Hears Gossip. Greenwillow Books, 2008.)

Farmer Brown Goes Round and Round by Teri Sloat
Farmer Brown's farm has a twister storm roll through and all of the animals and Farm Brown get mixed up until another twister comes along to undo the damage.  The illustrations contain a lot of fun movement and the rhyming text bounces along.  (Ages 2-5)
(Full bibliographic info: Sloat, Teri. Farmer Brown Goes Round and Round. DK Pub, 1999.)

This is the Farmer by Nancy Tafuri
Large bold type with simple text accompanies the distinct illustrations as we follow along on a morning on the farm. (Ages 2-5)
(Full bibliographic info: Tafuri, Nancy. This is the Farmer. Greenwillow Books, 1994.)