How to Choose Quality Children’s Books

Did you ever wonder how the Alberta Prairie (AB) C.O.W. Bus staff choose the books we give as a Legacy Library to every community we visit? Well, here is your chance to find out! Our shelves are stocked with a new selection of books to give to our partner communities this year.

Each Legacy Library consists of 50 different books – 15 hardcovers, 15 paperbacks, 15 board books, and five others that might include flashcards, a CD, or any other format of books we think families will enjoy. Last year we gave away 4350 books, so you can imagine how much time is spent choosing the books that we use in the AB C.O.W. program.

Choosing good quality children’s books can be difficult as there are no guidelines for what can be published as a children’s book. Not all books are appropriate for all children. At the Centre for Family Literacy, we try to keep three things in mind when we are considering the purchase of a new title. These tips are very helpful, especially when buying multicultural books because we may not be familiar with all aspects of different cultures.

1)   Is the book truthful and respectful?
2)   Would this book hurt or embarrass anyone?
3)   Does this book perpetuate a stereotype?

To help us choose good quality books that are age-appropriate, we keep in mind the following:

1)   How realistic are the pictures in board books?
2)   How wordy are the picture books?
3)   How well are the books are made?

When we see a new book from a familiar author, we generally know if the book will be a good fit for our program. A great example of this is Hervé Tullet’s newest book, Mix it Up! His previous book, Press Here, is a favourite of many of our facilitators and we knew that Mix it Up! wouldn’t disappoint us. Parents and children can explore the wonder of colours in a new, fun, interactive way.

Some of our favourite books that you can expect to see in the AB C.O.W. Legacy Libraries this year, from January to June, are:

1)   Mix it Up! by Hervé Tullet
2)   Can’t You Sleep, Little Bear? by Martin Waddell
3)   Duck & Goose: It’s Time for Christmas! by Tad Hills
4)   The Very Best Daddy of All by Marion Dane Bauer
5)   Boy + Bot by Amy Dyckman

MixItUp Can't You Sleep? DuckGoose BestDaddy Boy&Bot

Remember, everyone does not have to like the same books. You know your children best, and what is okay for some children may not be okay for others. However if you enjoy the book, your children probably will too. Please share some of your favourite books with us!

Visit our website for free tip sheets on how to choose children’s books

Alberta Prairie C.O.W. Bus schedule

Make a donation to the Legacy Library

hashtag: #ab_cow

Did You Know Some Children’s Books Can Be Dangerous?

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A visit by the Alberta Prairie C.O.W. Bus is not the only service offered by our program. At each visit, a Legacy Library containing approximately 50 books is presented to our community partners. The Legacy Library is a mix of books for preschool children, with an emphasis on Canadian authors and a portion of Aboriginal stories.

Each year, the Alberta Prairie C.O.W. Bus leaves over 5,000 books in communities across Alberta. In addition to all the other criteria for choosing quality children’s books, safety is an important consideration. Since books are not classified as toys, they don’t have the same safety regulations. Following are some hazards we watch out for:

  • Books for babies and toddlers might have choking hazards. Books for young children are made to be so entertaining that sometimes the safety of its pieces is not considered in the design. Any pieces small enough to fit through a paper towel tube are a choking hazard. These pieces are usually fastened to the page with glue that may be toxic, so it’s doubly important to ensure they are securely stuck to the page. Always monitor the child closely if playing with a book of this design.
  • Some books might have lower quality binding and pages. If you can easily pull apart a book at the seams, or take apart the layers of cardboard in a board book page with your fingernails, so can babies.
  • Some books that teach textures will have a fuzzy fabric attached, often on the cover. Don’t be afraid to pinch at the fuzzy material to ensure that it won’t come off and present a hazard, as is often the case.
  • Bath books can be a fun way to introduce reading to a child, but they are often filled with toxic materials. Before each use, check them over for any punctures or tears. If there are any, throw the book away. Repairs might not hold, and the chemicals from any glue or tape used could also be toxic or pose a choking hazard.
  • When buying, consider how easily the book can be cleaned. Books can become very grimy, and little ones want to chew on the books more than anything else. If you can’t clean the book, not only can it grow bacteria but also toxic mould.
  • One more thing to consider is the edges of the book. Are they sharp, or nicely rounded? If the edges are sharp, babies can cut their gums.

Shopping for books with safety in mind may seem a little daunting, but it’s worth the extra time. If you happen to have some books in the house that don’t pass the test, there is no need to throw them out—unless they’re toxic—just be sure to keep them out of the hands of your little ones.

Learn about book safety and more by attending one of our parent workshops, another service we provide. The C.O.W. Bus facilitators will discuss a variety of early literacy topics. If you would like to arrange a C.O.W. Bus visit to your Alberta community, please call the Centre for Family Literacy at 780.421.7323.

2014 C.O.W. Bus schedule 2015 schedule coming soon!

Make a donation to the Legacy Library

hashtag: #ab_cow

The Edmonton Literacy C.O.W. (Classroom on Wheels) Bus is coming!

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Tuesday, September 16th, was the kickoff for our fall program on the Edmonton Literacy C.O.W Bus. Back again for the 2014-2015 season, the C.O.W bus staff – Eileen, Joanne, and Maureen – are excited and ready to sing, read, and sign out books with all of the families who come for a visit when the bus stops by their neighbourhood!

For us, coming back to the Edmonton Literacy C.O.W bus ignites many cheerful feelings, like the happy feeling of back to school we once had as children. We look forward to  seeing old friends and families on the bus and welcoming new ones as well. Moms will once again hear the routine question from their little ones, “is it C.O.W bus day?”

We have kept our old traditions of giving a stamp to the children as they leave the bus and giving out prizes to families each week, at each site, for returning their borrowed books. We have some new things on the bus as well. You will find several new books such as Teach Your Buffalo to Play the Drums by Audrey Vernick, and new robot puzzles that challenge balance, gravity and your imagination!

Teach your Buffalo

Every month, whether you have been coming to the bus for years or will be coming by for the first time, there is a variety of changing things that will challenge and engage your children, at any age or stage. We hope to see you soon on the Edmonton Literacy C.O.W Bus!

Check our website for the bus schedule and more information: http://www.famlit.ca/programs_and_projects/programs/cow.shtml

Watch a video of a program on the bus: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Wmo628paVg

hashtag: #edm_cow

Alberta Prairie C.O.W. (Classroom on Wheels) Bus

As summer winds down, the Alberta Prairie C.O.W. (Classroom on Wheels) Bus shifts into high gear! Many preparations have been made for our fall visits – everything from purchasing new bus tires to putting together a wall of Legacy Library boxes.

The bus begins the month with a trip to Cypress County where it will stop at Taber, Irvine, Ralston, Seven Persons, Schuler, Acadia Valley, and Oyen. Bentley and four communities in Flagstaff County are also on our schedule for September.

We are really looking forward to meeting with families across the province and sharing family literacy activities and ideas with them. One example is a matching game booklet, made from an old calendar!

COW craft

A Legacy Library, a collection of 50 books for children ages 0 to 6, is left behind in each community we visit and includes a number of new books. Some of our new titles include: My Heart is Like a Zoo by Michael Hall, Baby Touch and Feel Park by DK Publishing, Little Noisy Trucks by Barrons Publishing, Cranes by Aaron Frisch, and ish by Peter H. Reynolds.

Please check out our AB C.O.W. Bus website for the remainder of the 2014 schedule. We look forward to visiting with you soon!

http://www.famlit.ca/programs_and_projects/programs/acow.shtml

hashtag: #ab_cow

Edmonton C.O.W. Makes Do-it-Yourself Popsicle Puzzles!

On the Edmonton COW (Classroom on Wheels) bus, we try to create our own games and puzzles to encourage the families who visit the bus to do the same at home.

One of our newest do-it-yourself activities is to create popsicle stick puzzles. These are great because they require few supplies and are very inexpensive to make. After an internet search, I found these easy, step-by-step instructions on www.mamamiss.com

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I even found a DIY Mod Podge recipe (50% white glue & 50% water) and was able to start within minutes.

Step 1: round up the supplies

Step 2: line up the popsicle sticks and tape them in place

Step 3: coat the popsicle stick picture space with a first layer of Mod Podge

Step 4: immediately add the picture and a second thin layer of Mod Podge over it

Step 5: after it dries completely, use an exacto knife to separate each stick

popsicle2

This was my first attempt.  It was not a success, but I learned that thick paper tends to curl up and is harder to cut; normal paper worked better.

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I added the alphabet and numbers to make it a sequencing activity as well.

Now that I had the technique figured out, I decided to make another puzzle. For this one, I printed a photo of myself so the kids could have fun putting me back together.

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The glue dried clear and it turned out pretty well!  I added magnets to some of them and I store them in a ziplock bag.

Some other ideas I want to try are:

  • Paint or draw a picture on the sticks instead of using a photo
  • Put several face puzzles together so the kids can mix and match the faces

I am excited about bringing the puzzles on the bus for the children to try, and I hope they will be inspired to go home and make puzzles with their families.

hashtag: #edm_cow