Story in a Box

There are so many ways to engage children with books. One example is our “Story in a Box” craft. We have used the board book “Barnyard Banter” by Denise Fleming, as our starting point for this activity. We created the barnyard setting in the box, as well as the animals found in the story, using materials from a local craft store. This craft provides opportunities for children to interact with the story, or make up their own.
*This craft would work with other children’s books of your choosing as well.
Materials Used:
– 1 Pizza box
– Various colours of felt
– Animal pictures found online
– Hot glue gun and glue
– 1 Permanent black marker
– 1 Pair of scissors
– Take your pizza box (or a box of your choosing) and make sure it is clean and empty.
– Cut out the pieces of felt according to the scene you are creating.
– Using the hot glue gun, glue the pieces of felt into the box. It is best to glue the background colours on first and then glue the smaller felt objects on afterwards.
– Using the animal pictures you found online, glue them onto pieces of felt. It is a good idea to cut and leave a small edge of felt around the animal picture. *You may want to use pictures from flyers, newspapers, magazines, old photographs, etc. instead of pictures found online. Or you could always hand-draw the characters yourself.
–  Using the marker, draw in any extra details you would like.
Now you and your child have created the setting of the story and its characters. Have fun interacting with the story together as a family!

12 days of Holiday Books for Children

The CFL is getting ready for the holidays by compiling a list of our favorite holiday books for kids! Whether reading to a child about your own traditions, or exposing them to different ways of celebrating the holidays, reading together is a great way to have fun and get into the holiday spirit!

The 12 Days of Holiday Books:

1 ) A Porcupine in a Pine Tree– A Canadian 12 Days of Christmas, by Helaine Becker

2 ) Bear Stays up for Christmas, by Karma Wilson and Jan Brett

3 ) Happy Hanukkah Corduroy, by Don Freeman

4 ) The Polar Express, by Chris Van Allsburg

5 ) Seven Spools of Thread- A Kwanzaa Story, by Angela Shelf Medearis

6 ) How the Grinch Stole Christmas, by Dr. Seuss

7 ) A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens

8 ) The Night Before Christmas, by Clement Clarke Moore

9 ) The Latke who Couldn’t Stop Screaming, by Lemony Snicket

10 ) The Mitten, by Jan Brett

11 ) Scaredy Squirrel Prepares for Christmas, by Melanie Watt

12 ) The Little Fir Tree, by Margaret Wise Brown

What are your favorite books to read during the holidays?

A Voice for Male Boomers!

Male Baby Boomers’ Midway by Don Clevett

A Voice for Male Boomers!

Between 1946 and 1966 sixty-seven million Baby Boomers were born; for them, midlife is either here or rapidly approaching!  Local author Don Clevett writes candidly about his own experiences with midlife; he deems it a ‘midway’ rather than a ‘crisis’ and encourages his readers to “take control” of this time of life.

Since men are typically reluctant to discuss personal problems with their partners or friends, this book encourages them to learn about the issues surrounding midlife and to share with others.  Female readers will benefit by understanding what men are going through and hopefully opening up discussions with their partners.

The book is available through Amazon, including an e-book format.  Check out the author’s webpage at for further information.

Life on the Refrigerator Door: By Alice Kuipers

I read this book today. It is written in an unusual style and had me hooked right away. The story is told entirely through notes left on the refrigerator door by a mother and her daughter. They both lead busy lives and the notes are one of the main ways they communicate. These notes and letters run the gamut of light items (like “Please give me my allowance!”) to far more serious issues.

I don’t want to tell you what happens and give the whole thing away, but I will say that it is a thought provoking, short novel that will make you appreciate what you have in life. I personally enjoy these types of stories. We have the book here at the CFL library, and I wish I had taken our librarian Colleen’s advice and read it sooner. It may not change your life, but I do hope you take the time to read it. It will be time well spent.


It’s hard to believe that November is here. I always feel that our beautiful fall days have gone by just a little too quickly. The days are getting shorter and the air more chilly. For me, it is a bit of a quiet time before the busyness of the Christmas season.

Of course, it is also a time for remembrance. Remembrance Day was always an important day in our house. My grandfather had served during WWII, but it is only as I have gotten older that I have come to appreciate more fully the sacrifices that were made by many Canadian families when their loved ones went off to war.

For many children, Remembrance Day can be hard to understand.  Sometimes the right book can help build that understanding. Two books worth reading to children are A Bear in War and In Flanders Field: The story of the poem by John McCrae.

A Bear in War, written by Stephanie Innes and Harry Endrulat and illustrated by Brian Deines, is a touching story told from the viewpoint of a small teddy bear. The bear belongs to a young Canadian girl, Aileen, who sends her beloved teddy to her father who is on the front lines during World War I.  The book was inspired by the true story of “Teddy” who traveled from the family farm in East Farnham, Quebec, across the Atlantic to Europe to be with Lieutenant Lawrence Browning Rogers.

In Flanders Fields: The story of the poem by John McCrae is written by Linda Granfield and illustrated by Janet Wilson.  In Flanders Field is a poem that many Canadians are familiar with, recited during Remembrance Day services throughout the country on November 11.  John McCrae was a medical officer during WWI and wrote the poem after experiencing the death of a close friend.  The book describes details of McCrae’s life and the first World War.

Cooking Up Some New Ideas

The library at the Centre for Family Literacy needs some new cookbooks, so I am looking for suggestions.  They can be old favourites, practical recipes for busy families, or the newest thing in cuisine.  For me personally, when it comes to cookbooks, it is what else is in the cookbook that interests me – I don’t always want just recipes! I want to hear about other countries, thrilling travels, all of the different cuisines the traveller encounters and the history behind their dishes.

One of my favourite cookbooks is Silk Road Cooking: A Vegetarian Journey, by Najmieh Batmanglij. The “Silk Road” was an ancient trade route that meandered west out of China, across Asia and Northern India, to Persia, Arabia, Byzantium and all the way to Italy.  This book is filled with songs, stories and poems – ancient and new. There are beautiful pictures, drawings, maps, and recipes!  Some of the recipes go back 1200 years. I just love this book.

What kind of cookbooks do you like?  Do you have any favourites, any recommendations?

The Book Report – Comprehension tool or a barrier for young readers?

My son is in grade four this year.  He loves to read – he’s like a sponge soaking up every great book he can get his hands on.

This year, he got to join the school’s book club.  He was so excited, especially since the next book he wanted to read “The Lost Hero” by Rick Riordan was on the list.  He got the book, read it in two weeks and proudly handed it in… at which time he was handed a book report sheet and told he needed to fill it out to get credit for it.

He came home and put it on the table and said “I hate book reports.”  I explained, reluctantly, that if he wanted to be in the book club this was one of the requirements (even though I didn’t know about it before and I don’t think I totally agree with it).  He is actually debating not being in the book club because of this. It doesn’t mean he’ll stop reading, but it really killed the joy of it for him.

So what do we do?  I understand book reports are used as a comprehension tool and to double check that someone has read the book, but what a turn off for the already reluctant reader!  Is it so bad, especially for a “club” if they can just say they read the book (I think it’s a different conversation for book reports that are school assignments, which have multiple ways to do them – reports, posters, building something)?

I’m at a loss.  I think I will be talking to the librarian, but what angle to I take?  Any thoughts out there??

By the way, the “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” series by Rick Riordan is a great read for young and old (my son’s the young and I’m the old).


Tangled Ants

Has it ever occurred to you that we appear to live in society like a bunch of tangled ants? Everybody is rushing to and fro, getting frustrated and angry in traffic. People cut other people off and honk their horns, and generally make things worse. Those of you who travel the Anthony Henday know what I’m talking about! This all reminds me of a bunch of tangled ants, every time I see it. I just want to jump up and shout, “read a book and relax”! Obviously, do not read while driving. However, do take the time to read a book, find something that makes you laugh, something that takes your mind off the traffic, the rushing, and the stress. Books are such a great escape!

Reasons To Read

If you’re not a reader, there are many reasons why you should become one.

A large chunk of my adult life did not include reading books for enjoyment. I was too busy, so I skimmed and scanned a lot of magazines and read the necessary work-related articles, never taking the time to enjoy a good book.  I had other things asking of my time. Almost 10 years ago when my father was very ill, I found myself in a hospital room, followed by sleepless nights.  I had to figure out a way to distract myself.

That’s when the book, an old friend, came back into my life. Oh, how I missed this friend! Like a true friend, the book was there for me, (if I hadn’t misplaced it). The book waited patiently for me to find it – I had unconditional love. It didn’t judge me if other priorities came up and I reconnected three days later.  Every day, my friend took me on adventures.  I missed the fun we had together.

If you find yourself in need of a friend, ask a book to be a part of your life.

Reading Books Without Words

When you think about reading with a child, chances are you imagine reading the words on the page out loud while the child looks at the pictures. But what would you do if there were no words in the book to read?

A good picture book will tell most, if not all, of the story through the photos or illustrations.  By describing the things that you see in the pictures, you can bring the story to life. You may not think you are a better storyteller than the author or illustrator, but you know your child better than anyone, so you can add another level to the book that will appeal more to your child.

Try giving the characters the same names as family members and friends, and relate the story to your child’s own experiences. Take turns telling the story to each other, or have your child play the part of the main character and explain what they are doing, or guess what they would be thinking or saying.

If your child doesn’t feel like telling a story, maybe they would rather talk about the pictures. You might be surprised by what they notice and what draws their attention. I had a great time playing I-spy games with my niece; she loved having me guess which tiny obscure item on a page she was thinking of. So, even without a story, there are lots of opportunities to explore all kinds of ideas and language.

Speaking of language, this is a perfect way to share a book that is written in a language that you can’t read.  It’s also great for times when the book is much wordier than you or your child’s patience will tolerate, or even if you just don’t like how it’s written. Don’t be afraid to ignore the words on the page and tell your own story, in your own words.

So please, go and find yourself a nice picture book to read, and tell me how you liked it. I will even give you a short list of wordless books to try, in case you don’t know where to start:

  • Deep in the Forest by Brinton Turkle
  • The Chicken Thief by Béatrice Rodriguez
  • Chalk by Bill Thomson

Let me know how you and your children like them.  Or how it went over in your book club. Don’t let the word count fool you; good picture books have something for everyone.