Isabella: Girl On the Go and Isabella: Girl in Charge

Political climate, supportive friends and opportunities to share inspiring books have brought me back to this blog after a long hiatus. Now, more than ever, it feels important to revel in the joy and possibilities created by reading aloud to children.

This post begins a new phase for Big Words Matter. My curiosity about and commitment to the idea of harnessing generative language development as a possible panacea to the world’s ills have grown. I’m anxious to find and share books adults can use to teach great vocabulary in loving, playful environments. I’ll still be in search of those books that are fun to read in addition to containing great vocabulary, but my focus is shifting toward the words themselves. Little kids need big words filling their ears in tiny daily doses and playful, loving settings to prepare them for the exciting challenges ahead. Readers have the power to modify and create fun, and the ‘fun to read’ perfection I previously sought is highly dependent on the participants in the moment.

In addition to reviewing and sharing Big Word books, I’ll be using Big Words Matter to ponder the evidence emerging from diverse fields demonstrating that many experts think reading aloud from birth on is the answer to society’s woes.

“Isabella: Girl On The Go” and “Isabella: Girl In Charge” are books I had the privilege of sharing with my adorable and empowered nieces when we met in Washington, D.C. with over half a million other impassioned citizens to protest the denigration of integral members of our society by the newly elected president and his followers. I chose them for their message and their vocabulary and was well-rewarded. My six-year old niece asked, “What is an ‘archaeologist’?” and we had fun imagining and predicting what form Isabella’s side-kick stuffed mouse might take on the next page. My four-year old niece quickly learned the pattern the author uses in both books: responsive parents calling Isabella by her most-recently declared name or persona, to which Isabella declares, “I’m not…….” before enlightening her parent to her newest role. My nieces noticed details in the pictures and humored me as I marveled at the amazing women Isabella imitated in each book.

“Isabella: Girl On the Go” moves our heroine through careers and geographic locations while “Isabella: Girl in Charge” follows her through history and names of women who achieved important firsts in political history. “Girl in Charge” ends with Isabella attending the inauguration of our first Madam President.

These books offer readers options. They have simple, patterned stories that can be completed as quick 5-minute reads. The illustrations are detailed and nuanced with surprises that bring you back for re-reading and new discoveries. At the end, the artists have provided paragraphs on the careers, locations and individuals highlighted in the story, allowing readers to delve more deeply when desired.

Thank you for bringing me back, Isabella.

April Pulley Sayre’s Books

Joyful big words about FOOD! With vibrant photos of edibles familiar and novel, April Pulley Sayre celebrates the fun and fascination of things we eat. The words beg to be memorized, then get stuck in your head and return in the grocery store as you shop. These books are a pleasure for eyes, ears and mouth. Enjoy!

Chicken Little

Rebecca Emberley and Ed Emberley
Author/Illustrator team

Big Words:

brightest
excitable
prone
foolishness
pastime
senseless
gracious
noggin
scrambled
witless
huffed
momentarily
croaked
anxious
rumbled
puffed
rasped
honestly
bother

I remember Ed Emberley drawing books from my childhood. I loved to copy his simple steps to create recognizable animals, faces and objects. So I was thrilled to find a storybook written and illustrated by by Emberley and his daughter.

My friend, Stacy, a thoughtful and purposeful preschool teacher, recommended this book for the great vocabulary. The list of birds joining Chicken Little’s flock as he runs to escape the falling sky is a beautiful example of divergent naming, and Emberley demonstrates synonyms for ‘said’ useful in modeling variety in writing. The art is worth studying and imitating, too. Graphic images and simple shapes convey meaning and emotion without intimidating detail. Young artists will be inspired.

Best of all, Chicken Little is fun to read! This is a quick read with repetitive text and opportunity for read-alouders to use goofy voices as each bird talks to the next. Tongue-in-cheek asides and a surprise ending add extra layers of fun for adults.

Find Chicken Little and read it today!

Thesaurus Rex

Author Laya Steinberg
Illustrator Debbie Harter
I stumbled upon Thesaurus Rex by chance, while searching for books to teach comparison concepts. It was a lucky find. Thesaurus Rex is a great example of the expansion parents can practice with any book. The author uses numerous synonyms or closely related words for many adventures we observe through the story. Author Laya Steinberg gives us four new words for mud:
“Thesaurus Rex lands in mud: slime, slush, mire and muck. Oh no! Now he’s stuck.”
By imitating this strategy in daily read-alouds, parents can increase the number and variety of words their kids hear in a fun and playful way. Changing ‘mud’ to ‘mire’ or ‘muck’ or replacing ‘big’ with ‘huge’ or ‘gigantic’ adds interest and fun for everyone. Thesaurus Rex is a terrific book for learning and practicing this BigWords strategy. Enjoy!

Big Words:

sup
swill
extending
foraging
frolic
rollick
frisk
romp
slither
skid
mire
yowl
bathe
scour
gnaw
raw
bundled

Cookies: Bite-Size Life Lessons

Author Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Illustrator Jane Dyer
Vocabulary, manners, and smiles are wrapped into this treasure recommended by fellow bibliophile, Antje. Each page of Cookies introduces a new word and defines it in terms of cookies. For example, a sheep in a purple sweater tells readers: “HONEST means, I have to tell you something. The butterfly didn’t really take the cookie–I took the cookie.” As a cookie fanatic, the definition that resonates most with me is: “REGRET means, I really wish I didn’t eat so many cookies.” Other important words we want our children to understand like envy, loyal, open-minded, content, wise, pessimistic and optimistic are all defined in terms of cookies. Jane Dyer’s watercolors add meaning and depth to Rosenthal’s brilliant words as a diverse cast of children and animals demonstrate meanings by cooperating, sharing, lamenting, and consuming cookies. There are also several instances of contrasting words: Greedy/Generous, Pessimistic/Optimistic, Fair/Unfair: defining opposites side by side helps kids to develop deeper understanding of words by seeing what they are not.

Author Amy Krouse Rosenthal has written two other Cookies books. Sugar Cookies: Sweet Little Lessons on Love and Christmas Cookies: Bite-Size Holiday Lessons are on my list to check out soon.

Cookies: Bite-Size Life Lessons is short, sweet, and ends on a thoughtful note; just right for a bedtime story.

Big Words:
cooperate
patient
proud
modest
respect
trustworthy
compassionate
greedy
generous
pessimistic
optimistic
honest
courageous
envy
loyal
open-minded
regret
content
wise

The Falling Raindrop

by Neil Johnson and Joel Chin
The Falling Raindrop is deceptively simple. It has few words per page and is a quick read with simple illustrations. Despite its simplicity, its themes are numerous and important: the water cycle; phase change; enjoy the moment; change is inevitable and can be good; life goes on. Read it to your toddler to teach new vocabulary and the concept of the water cycle. Read it to your older kids for the vocabulary layers and to teach them to conquer fears and enjoy the ride. Thanks to Elizabeth for the recommendation.

 

Big Words:
gathered
howled
flashed
boomed
rumbled
vanished
skimming
roaring
wisp
steam
airy

 

Miss Alaineus: A Vocabulary Disaster

Author and illustrator Debra Frasier
If you’re in search of books on a specific topic, ask a librarian!  The lovely children’s librarians in my home town had the perfect suggestion for my BigWords Books list.  Miss Alaineus: A Vocabulary Disaster is funny and empowering.  In this book, the ten-year-old who narrates the story is the wordsmith.  She uses great vocabulary to tell the story of a mistake and her glorious recovery.  She defines words within the text, and shares her extra credit vocabulary sentences along the edges of the illustrations.  To further empower and connect with kids, author/illustrator Debra Frasier ingeniously uses simple lined paper and markers to create fifth-grade-style drawings.  Miss Alaineus might be a little long for toddler listeners.  Set aside 15 minutes to read it to a relatively quiet, engaged listener.  5-year-olds enjoy much of this book, and older kids will relate to the social faux pas and word play.  Definitely check Miss Alaineus out!

Big Words:

obliterate
oblivion
pathetic
precious
capable
apprehend
certainty
undertook
unforgettable
restraint
precipitation
astonishment
investigator
mysterious
zest
glee
strands
gruesome
inevitable
improve
insanity
knowledge
pronounce
museum
exhibiting
prehistoric
extinct
sage
mournful
miscellaneous
humbled
devastated
hypothesis
croak
catastrophe
definitions
unduly
transport
consisting
defective
dwindle
delirious
swollen
pasteurization
endure
extraordinary
ancestor
ancient
ailment
agony
thicket
luminous
celestial
berserk
bacteria
constrictor
reptile
herpetologist
fossil
carnivore
herbivore
species
theory