Favorite Books to Read Aloud: “Where Is the Green Sheep”

Sometimes on the Alberta Prairie C.O.W. bus we have Kindergarten and Grade one classes or daycares that come to visit us.  When this happens we like to read the kids a story before letting them play with the rest of the activities on the bus.  It’s always great to see how engaged children can be when they are being read a good book.
One of my favourite books to read to the under five crowd is “Where is the Green Sheep?” by Mem Fox. Mem Fox has written dozens of books for children and certainly knows what appeals to her audience.  The story is light-hearted, we see at all sorts of different kinds of sheep, wave sheep, scared sheep and brave sheep, as we look for the green sheep, and the text is full of rhyme, rhythm and repetition, which help develops a child’s “ear” for language.
When we read it on the bus we often have the whole group of kids chiming in “where is the green sheep?”.  Children also enjoy the cartoon-like drawings by Judy Horacek as they look for the missing green sheep. It’s really a fun, playful book to share with the kids in your life.

Books: Friends for Life

I cannot remember a time when I could not read. I have always been an avid reader, ever since I was very little. As an only child living on acreage, I did not have the social networks that some kids did. I didn’t mind; I had books!

Very early on in life I learned that books were my companions. The characters in my books evoked real emotion.  They were my friends, my adventures, my escape and my home.

To this day, I read every single day. When I was studying at NAIT, my reward to myself for completing assignments or homework was to read my “real” book. People thought I was crazy. But I love reading that much.

Today, I am very lucky to work at the Centre for Family Literacy. We have a library that I can read books from every day! And I do. I take out our smaller quick reads, and on my breaks I read. Every day I get to learn a new story. It’s so fun and interesting to explore the wonderful world of fiction and literature.

Over my life, friends have come and gone. Circumstances change. But there are always books to keep me company and take me away.

A Story All Your Own

Working as a facilitator on the Alberta Prairie Classroom on Wheels Bus (the C.O.W. Bus) I often hear questions about the different types of books and how to get children interested in reading.  There are a lot of different responses that I can give to this question.

There are interactive books that are great for catching and keeping the interest of a child (see Kim’s previous post on Press Here by Hervé Tullet), “touch and feel” books that provide a multitude of textures that entertain kids, especially young kids, and “seek and find” books like I-Spy and Where’s Waldo that can hold a child’s interest for hours while they try to find all the different items listed and as well as the other items unlisted.  Truth be told, they still entertain me for hours.

However, my favorite response is to make the books personal.  Create a story featuring your child.  You can use photos of your child as the illustrations and create a story around the pictures.  It can be as simple as linking colors to outfits (insert photo) or as complex as a novel.  Creating a personal story can also be a great way to spend time, and to interact with your children.  Involve them in the process – have them pick out the pictures they want to use or have them create the story and you write it down.  Small photo albums work perfectly for holding the photos as well as cue cards to write the story on.

One mom shared a great idea she uses for personalizing a story.  She used her children’s photos and pasted them over the existing faces in the book.  Her children instantly became part of their favorite stories and will have fantastic keepsakes for when they grow up.  She found that board books worked better due to their durability.



I am an avid reader averaging at least 2-3 books weekly and could never imagine not being able to go to my bookshelves and pick out a book I am in the mood to read.  The physical act of holding the book and turning the pages and being able to take it and prop it up on the cereal box or read it in the bathtub are pleasures I would not want to replace.
But it turns out that the act of reading is enjoyable whether you do it with an eReader or a paperback.  I have recently started reading eBooks and realize I can now enjoy both ways of reading.  My eReader is much lighter to carry when I am packing for a trip –  no more husband complaining I have packed too many books in my suitcase!  There is a wide  variety of eBooks you can download free or request from your library and then have with you for whenever you feel like reading or one of those waiting room opportunities pops up!  It also addresses the different reading moods you might be in. I have all kinds of different genres to match my mood. My eReader also  physically props up very well when I am reading lying down and only needs one finger to turn the pages.
 So, have I replaced my book shelves with my eReader?   Not a chance!   But I have added my eBooks to my choices when I am reading.
Have you tried reading on an iPad or eReader?  What have you discovered?

Summer Reading

Okay, this will seem like an odd choice for summer reading, but I’m going to tell you about it anyway.  I recently catalogued and shelved a complete set of Apprenticeship Support Materials for our library.  These study materials cover every competency in the “Entrance Level Competencies for Apprenticeship Programs”.  There are manuals or guides for reading comprehension, math and science – 11 guides in all covering exam levels 1 through 5.

Partly my interest was piqued because if there is one thing we know in Alberta, it is that there is a driving need for skilled trades people.  Industry scours the world looking for them.  So I was interested in what is involved in becoming an apprentice in one of the trades.  I opened the Math Module 1 – Foundations.

Right away I was impressed with how clearly the guide was written.  Everything is explained, words are defined and there are tips and helpful pieces of advice all along the way.

These guides are designed for independent study.  There are 5 levels from foundational concepts of numbers and operations in Module 1 to the complexities of equations & patterns, vectors, and statistics & probability in Module 5.

Parameters are clearly defined: it stresses that what will be assessed at each level is “what you know” rather than “how you learned it”, and that only what you need to know for entrance into a trade will be assessed.

In a side bar is the tip: “Don’t waste time. Only learn what you need to know.”

I flipped through the guide to the section on “Bases, Exponents and Square Roots” and started to read.  Neurons that hadn’t fired in decades lit up and the next thing you know I was working on a problem:

“Calculate the cube of 3 ¾. Express the mixed number as an improper fraction and multiply.”

Okay, so that’s 3 times 4 = 12 plus 3 is 15 over 4.  Then 15 cubed is 3375 over 4 cubed is 64.  Then divide 64 into 3375 and I get 52.73.  Uncover the answer – yes I’m right.  Eee-haw.

Okay, I know this is pretty basic math but it was actually fun.  Getting a problem “right” is a good feeling.  I mean everything else in life is in shades of grey, but in math you’re either right or you’re wrong.


(And now I’ll wait for the math whizzes to tell me of the complexity of the mathematical language, its nuances and shades all that it contains.  Gulp.)

For more information, go to these websites:



Come On – You Know You Want to Press the Button!

What do a preschooler, a six, nine and eighteen year old, and any adult I’ve seen so far have in common?  We all have to press the button!

Here at Centre for Family Literacy, we recently came across an excellent children’s book called Press Here by Hervé Tullet.  Anyone who knows me at all knows that I like to press buttons and ring bells, so of course the book landed on my desk very quickly.

As I went through, following the directions on each page – pushing and rubbing dots, shaking the book, blowing on it – I kept thinking, “my kids would love this! Who am I kidding – I LOVE IT!”

In the end though, it did make it home and I tested it out on my niece (4), my daughter (6), and my son (9).  It started out tentatively; they pushed the button as I held the book.  As it got more interactive, suddenly the book was ripped out of my hands in their anticipation to shake the dots to the other side of the page.  Pretty soon, I didn’t even need to be there (but I was, because I was doing it all too of course).

I took the story of my family’s response back to the office and was informed by one of our team that she had walked in on her 18 year old interacting just as enthusiastically with the book as my kids and niece had.

I have heard nothing but the same stories of fun family interaction more times than I can count now in relation to this book.  As I watched one young teenage girl self-consciously start looking at the book and doing what it asked, I could tell that she really wanted to get into it, but was asking herself if it was a cool thing to do.

“Isn’t it weird that you know it’s a book, but you really feel the need to do everything it asks?” I asked her.  She nodded in agreement and I said, “go ahead, we’ve all done it”.

I sat back and smiled as she made the decision that it was fun and okay and had a blast with the rest of the book.

Now that’s how you take the measure of a great book!


Marina Endicott’s Book: Good to a Fault

The Centre was recently invited to speak at an author reading at McDougall United Church.   Marina Endicott read aloud some of her favourite passages from her second book, Good to a Fault.

It was an interesting read exploring what it means to be “good,” but what was really intriguing was hearing the author speak about living with these characters and how she didn’t like many of them, but felt sorry that she kept making bad things happen to them.

Having the author explain how she came up with the characters’ motivations and beliefs was fascinating and changes the way you have understood and perceived the story originally.

Have you heard an author speak about their book before?  What did you think?

Baby’s Favourite Book

(0 – 6 months)

Did you know your baby can have a favourite book? Long before they can talk or read, and even before they can turn the pages, babies will show a preference for certain books. And what they like best might surprise you.

We like all different kinds of books as adults: they might put us inside an adventure or romance, they might help us put our lawnmower back together, or maybe they help us feel a part of something bigger than ourselves. Young babies, on the other hand, they like pictures of faces.

Yep, almost as much as they like staring up into your eyes, a book with nice big photos (not drawings) of faces will hold a baby’s attention for sometimes minutes at a time. Baby can’t see very far away, so hold the book roughly 12 inches away from them while you are cuddling or playing on the floor.

The book won’t do all of the work for you. These books typically have little to nothing to read in them, and what’s written is not very exciting. So, instead of reading to your baby, play with the book and your baby, talk about the pictures, and have some goofy fun. Watch and listen for your baby’s reaction, she will tell you what she likes, and when she’s had enough.

One of my favourite books of this type is What’s On My Head!by Margaret Miller. The photos are clear and not too busy. It’s a good size for when babies begin holding things. And, it’s silly:

·      Does the baby like her hat?

·      Who wrapped this little girl up like a present?

·      Why is there a duck on that baby’s head?

This book raises a lot of questions and doesn’t offer many answers. Still, it is fun to explore with your baby for at least as long as his little attention span holds out.