Imagination Library

Dolly Partons Imagination Library

While this is not a BigWords title, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is such an important resource for families and communities, I need to post about it here to spread the word.

Dolly Parton established Imagination Library ten years ago as a gift to the world. She mails a book a month to every child from birth to five in participating communities. It is offered worldwide and is currently serving nearly a million kids. Researchers have studied the effects and found daily read-alouds increased in Imagination Library communities increased dramatically!

Schools, faith groups, United Ways, community foundations, and individuals sponsor the programs and take donations. Participating communities commit to serving all children within a defined geographic area, insuring that kids from all socioeconomic strata receive the same books. Parents describe joyful kids racing to the mailbox and insisting on hearing the stories over and over and over. Family connections are built and brains are developed in homes receiving these incredible books.

New magic happens when Imagination Library children meet in kindergarten classrooms. They see familiar books, race to the bookshelves, and yell, “I have this book!” Friends circle, declaring, “So do I!” An instant connection is formed around the shared experience and passion. These children begin with a shared lexicon from which to grow and learn together.

Big words matter.

I’m working to get Imagination Library in my community. Check here to see if it is in yours. If not, contact your regional director to find out how to get it there.

The Pout-Pout Fish

Author Deborah Diesen
Illustrator Dan Hanna
Children’s librarians are an asset to any book search. Amber, the outreach librarian at Sheppard Library, recommended The Pout-Pout Fish. I have to admit I would never have guessed, based on the title, that this book would meet my big-word and fun-to-read goals. But Amber knows good books.

Reading this book is so fun! The title character is that miserable, moaning person we all know. Giving voice to such challenging behavior through a cartoon fish allows mockery without meanness.  Be careful, though, kids are perceptive and often know just the person you have in mind as you turn on your Pout-Pout voice. As the whiny fish swims through the ocean, spreading gloom, he meets cheerful sea creatures. Each well-described friend shows up for one page, so read-alouders can be flamboyantly playful with voices, knowing we don’t have to remember and replicate them for return appearances of the characters.

Thankfully, the helpless Pout-Pout fish finds reason to smile and abandon his petulance, providing parents talking points about resilience, resourcefulness, and purposefulness. It could be a useful tool when talking about whining.

In addition to rare words, fun reading, and meaningful message, The Pout-Pout Fish presents the figurative phrase, ‘pearl of advice’. Figurative language is the foundation of humor and is fun to explain and enjoy with kids. The rhyming text is repetitive, and the illustrations are bright and bold, so it’s good for all ages. Start early. Read often.

Big words:

gloomy
glum
ever-present
winning
crosstown
tentacles
locomotion
scaly
slender
squiggly
squelchy
impolite
kaleidoscope
underside
unattractive
grimace
sulking
destined
brilliant
approaches
astounded
aghast
stone-faced

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

WORK: An Occupational ABC

Author and Illustrator Kellen Hatanaka

My mother-in-law sent me this BigWords book. It is fabulous! Each letter of the alphabet is associated with a career. These are not your everyday teachers and firefighters. “WORK” gives kids images of unusual occupations: Horticulturist, Naval Architect, and Xenologist. Where else in children’s literature will you find Xenologist?! The illustrations are simple, graphic representations incorporating letters as career props. Kids love finding and labeling surprise actions and characters while learning about unusual job options.  Parents enjoy bringing new words and employment opportunities to kids. Everyone giggles at the punny Want Ads listed at the back of the book.  This is a great one for every bookshelf.

Big Words:

Aviator
Cyclist
Detective
Explorer
Forest Ranger
Grocer
Horticulturist
Vendor
Lumberjack
Mountaineer
Architect
Oceanographer
Umpire
Vibraphonist
Xenologist
Yogi

Why Big Words Matter

24,000 Words

That’s how many words kindergartners should understand.
To achieve that incredible number, children must learn 13 words a day before age five!

Then vocabulary grows to at least
50,000 new words by middle school and 80,000 more words by high school.

To learn a new word, a child needs to hear it as many as 12 times,
but adult conversations only use about 3,000 words.

Reading aloud is the best way to expose children to new words!

I am working to learn about the power of reading aloud in everyday life. The questions that fuel my curiosity:

How and why do families use books in their daily lives?

What information do parents want and need to make read alouds as effective as possible?

What are the developmental consequences of listening to loving read alouds every day?

What books can parents use to make sure their children are exposed to a variety of big, empowering words?

How do we, as a culture, make reading aloud a part of our very fiber? And what are the ramifications of such a culture shift?

Who is already doing the work to empower parents with the tools and information they need to read aloud and to make the most of their read alouds? And what can we learn from their successes and struggles?