Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Happy St George's Day!!!

St George's Day is a very special day here in Catalonia. He is the patron saint of Catalonia, although he goes by the name of Sant Jordi rather than Saint George here! It's a beautiful day that focuses on the retelling of the tale of how St George slayed the fearsome dragon just as it was on the verge of munching up a princess, thus saving her and returning her home to her grateful parents. The legend tells that a rose bush grew where the dragon's blood was spilled, and Jordi picked a red rose to hand to the princess. St George's Day has been celebrated in Catalonia as the day of lovers since the fifteenth century, and it is now traditional for men and boys to give a red rose to female loved ones on this day.

23rd April is also the day of the book here. Instated at the beginning of the 20th century to coincide with the deaths of Cervantes and Shakespeare, and to promote books published in Catalan, it is celebrated as part of St George's Day (La Diada de Sant Jordi), and women and girls give a book to their male loved ones.

The streets are lined with stalls selling roses and books, and crowds gather to stroll around, buy flowers and books for their loved ones, and generally enjoy the festival atmosphere, even though it isn't actually a bank holiday. Schools make a big effort to retell the legend and to celebrate books and reading, and children make different crafts around the knight, dragon, rose theme.

My big bug had to choose a book from home to take in for a book swap with the other children in his class. Hard to do, cos it's a permanent swap. He was keen to choose one of his little brother's books for the event but we eventually came up with one of his own! Tomorrow, each of the little ones is paired up with an older child from higher up the school who will help them choose a new book from those their classmates have brought in. Afterwards, older and younger child will sit down and read the "new" book together. I think it's such a lovely way to enjoy books together, and a great way for an older child to read for a purpose: to help a little one to access a book they don't know. Gorgeous!

I like to mark festivities with a little gift for my bugs' teachers at school/ nursery, just to thank them for the work they do, and also as a good excuse to do a craft with the boys! So tomorrow they'll be taking them some homemade roses to school with them:


Sorry, it's a rubbish photo, but I'm too tired to take any more now :-( Do you get the idea? I'm really into peg crafts at the moment, and wanted to make a paper rose of some description to stick onto the painted peg (tissue paper? shiny paper?), but then M bug came up with the hand print idea, so we went with that. Here are the stages:

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Dinosaur Fun with Reference Books!

A friend asked me yesterday how you know if you're encouraging your child in a hobby that the child really wants to do, or if you are just pushing them towards an activity that you want them to want to do. Difficult question! And I'm not about to provide you with a wise answer, either, cos I haven't got one! But I did find myself asking myself the same question last night after I'd put my little book bugs to bed. You see, I love dinosaurs ( see this post, too), and recently my bugs are getting into them as well. Am I forcing them to by giving them cool books about them and wanting to play dinosaurs at any available moment? Or am I just offering them something interesting that they can take or leave? Who knows?! But I'm definitely going to make the most of it while it lasts!

I'm going to talk about two books today, both of them reference books, not stories. This is one of them:

Larousse Enciclopedia Increïble: Dinosaures, 2010

Our copy's in Catalan, and I've found it in Spanish too, but it doesn't appear to be published in English :-(  But I do want to tell you why we like it and what we get out of it anyway, then you can see for yourselves what you can find in whatever language you need! And if you can use it in either Spanish or Catalan, I thoroughly recommend it!

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Storytelling: Any Room for Me? by Loek Koopmans, on a snowy day!


Saturday was a very special day where we are: we woke up to find our world hidden under a couple of centimetres of snow, and more was falling fast. Now, this is a bit like Christmas: it happens but once a year (at most) and it's REALLY exciting! We obviously had to get out there and throw some snowballs!

















I had a storytelling session later on, and had planned to tell The Ugly Duckling, sing 5 Little Ducks Went Swimming One Day and do a cute little make-a-duck craft... Quite spring-like and totally unsuitable all of a sudden! So I went into last minute planning mode, and came up with a (snowy) plan B:

Book: Any Room for Me? by Loek Koopmans (Floris Books, Edinburgh, 1992)
Craft: Make a cardboard snowman
Song: Couldn't think of anything snowy not related to Christmas :-( So we did Hickory Dickory Dock. OK, unrelated, but the planning time was shoooooooort! Here are some of the results:

The kids loved them! (Copyright on the snowmen creations EZ i AA!)

Any Room for Me? by Loek Koopmans is a beautiful, magical, funny story that kids love. An old man drops his woolly mitten in the snow, and several of the wild inhabitants of the surrounding woods immediately see its great potential for a lovely warm house, much to the surprise of the old man's little dog!

The story is a tender and amusing reflection on sharing, even with the most unlikely of companions, with a fun will-he won't he? can he can't he? cliffhanger on every page that all children I've read this story with just love. I enjoy building up this sense of anticipation as we wonder if yet another, even bigger, animal will be able to snuggle into the mitten. And there is a real sense of delight and satisfaction when, time after time, he can and he does! Look how warm they are all snuggled up together!

Friday, 22 February 2013

Storytelling: Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see?, Eric Carle

As well as reading to my little book bugs at home, I also do storytelling sessions for non-English-speaking 2 to 6-year-olds and their carers in my local bookshop. The aim is for families to take part together in fun activities, share as many lovely books as possible, and learn and/or practise a bit of English!

I want the sessions to be fun and participative, and not too hard on tender, non-native attention spans, so we mix stories, songs, crafts and games for 45 minutes a time.

So this is the first post about these sessions. See what you think.


Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see?

Hamish Hamilton, London, 1996

Main Target Vocabulary: animals, colours, same/ different

Session One
·   Starter: Sit in a circle and greet each child individually by name.

·      Read Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see? book with different voices and sound effects for each animal. Check out the author reading it himself on Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pdHCYgO9zh8

I expressed surprised at the blue horse and the purple cat (isn’t that strange?!) and we laughed, but otherwise read it straight through so as not to lose the children’s attention. I tried to get my listeners to join in with the last page when the children list all the animals they see looking at them. They are non-natives with little to no exposure to English, so they joined in in Catalan: I read, “A yellow…?” with rising intonation and paused for them to fill in the animal, which they did in Catalan, I repeated the target word in English, and onto the next animal. For me, the most important thing is that the children enjoy the story and follow as much of it as they can, so if they’re participating, even in their own language, that’s great! A round of applause and “Bravo!” ends each activity.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

International Book-Giving Day, Feb 14th 2013



Inspired by Zoe at Playing by the Book, I decided to mark International Book-Giving Day in a couple of ways. Firstly, to give my little book bugs a new book each (any excuse is good, and I'd had a couple hidden away in the cupboard since our last trip to the UK that I was dying to give them!) For MBug, George and the Dragon by George Wormell, and for LBug, Alfie's Feet by Shirley Hughes.


More about those another day...

Secondly, I wanted to get some friends involved and celebrate such a great day with them. Here in Catalonia, St George's Day, 23rd April, is the day of the book and of loved ones, but again, any excuse is good to get together and give or share books, so we made a treasure hunt for our little ones to find books we'd hidden around the house and garden.

Our children range in age from 1 to almost 5, and they'd never done anything like this before, so we didn't want anything too complicated (emphasis on fun and sharing books rather than complicated rules)...

Monday, 20 August 2012

Botas Nuevas, Guido van Genechten

EDITORIAL JUVENTUD S.A. 2002
Original edition: Nieuwe Laarzen, Clavis Vitgeverij, 1997

This post may not be much use to anyone, which is a shame as it’s my “comeback” after quite an absence! We’ve got it in Spanish, and I can’t find an English translation anywhere! L If anyone knows of one, please let me know. I tell it in English, and the Spanish isn’t difficult if you have just the very basics.

Botas Nuevas is my 2 –year-old’s latest obsession. I think we read it four times a day at the moment, so it seems a good book to come back with! It’s great for little ones, and good fun to work with with early leaners of English. The story’s simple and the illustrations are beautiful: bright and bold and conveying the most wonderful sense of life and energy and fun.

The title and the first page say it all: Jan’s got NEW BOOTS, big, bright red wellies, and in these new boots he can do all that a child could possibly need to: run, jump, dance, climb, kick a ball around and splash in puddles! My little one loves jumping up and showing me how he dances and runs and jumps, just the same as Jan. Various animals (real and stuffed) look on or take part in the action, making for a great book to point things out in and talk about.



I like this page best of all: doesn't it just make you want to jump up and run around with them???!

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Press Here, Hervé Tullet

I absolutely fell in love with this book this week when my 4 year-old's best friend lent it to us to have a look at as a possible birthday present for another friend. We read it straight away, and both my boys were enthralled, as was Eva, the book's owner, who'd heard it a thousand times before. Originally written in French (we've borrowed it in Catalan) it works perfectly well in English, and I'm sure in any language you'd care to translate it into. It's really really simple, a brilliant idea that looks lovely on the page and is great fun to read. Especially with an enthusiastic, expectant tone of voice for the instructions, and one of excited surprise for the results.

Instructions??? Results??? What happens when you press here? Have a look: