Thursday, February 17, 2011

Captain Jack and Firefighter Chris!

Soren, Annika and I have had an enormously fun run of very busy days and weeks. My wonderful mother-in-law came to visit, we went on exciting field trips, read some awesome new books (gifts from MeMaw) and some great borrowed books from the library. I learned that I don't enjoy solo trips to the library with two kids, and that even the most angelic two-year-old is a little more two on some days than on others.

For three weeks, we read a medley of books on the themes of firefighting, the beach, and farms. I find that even after we "end" a book theme, we keep reading on it. A lot of the books I got from the library on this week's theme, firefighting, did not pass the Soren test: he must pick it out of the book box and ask to read it twice. If he doesn't like it enough to ask for it again, it doesn't make it onto this blog.

So here's the list! This week's heavy hitting winner was:

At the Firehouse, by Anne Rockwell. Little Jason the Dalmation goes to visit Captain Jack and the crew at his neighborhood firehouse. Soren had just been to visit our friend and firefighter, Chris. He did all the same things dalmation Jason got to do: sit in the fire engine, look at the tools, hold the big heavy hose. Soren loves Captain Jack, and regularly references the heroic firefighter while playing with his fire truck, sometimes even out of the blue, while eating lunch for example. I am sad to say this book must be returned to the library.

Fiction pick #2 is "Firefighters: Speeding! Spraying! Saving!" by Patricia Hubbell.  This one was a welcome break from "yet another story about a tour at the fire station." We brought home several that we only read once, and quite frankly, weren't impressive (including, I'm sorry to say, "The Little Engine that Could and the Fire Rescue", which was boring and hard to read).  The cartoon firefighters in this story rush to a fire and save the day. It's poetic, fun to read, and permanently embedded "Wee-ah-woo" as the sound of a Siren in my little guy's brain. Another book I'm sad to say the library owns on our behalf.

Soren's grandma got him a few books from the "Snapshot Picture Library" and I am very impressed with them. They appear to be a little hard to find, but well worth every penny. They are full of beautiful photographs, action shots, and exciting and easy to understand explanations of fun concepts. We read this one often and stop to talk about details in the pictures. Soren adopted the word "someday" as a staple in his vocabulary after reading this book for the umpteenth time. Every time he'd ask "Want that?" while pointing at a helicopter or fire engine, I'd encourage him that it's possible that someday he could have one if he grew up smart and strong and became a firefighter. He now proudly answers his own requests: "Want that fire engine, Mom? Someday..."

This was the best of the nonfiction "about fire engines" books we brought home from the library. "Fire Truck" by Caroline Bingham is comprehensive, again with great pictures of firefighters in action, some basic information about fire safety and lots of interesting facts.

Nothing makes Mommy happier than getting to read a book that Soren loves that also has STUNNING illustrations. "Firefighters A to Z" by Chris Demarest is a work of art and I highly recommend it if you're reading about firefighters. For a kid who's moderately obsessed, I'd say it's a home library staple.

I've included this last choice, "Hannah the Helicopter" as a friendly reminder that good books are ready available in the dollar section at your local Target. I read a nearly life-changing article about the link between reading in early childhood and literacy and life success. It stated that the average child in a middle class neighborhood owns an average of 13 books. I was stunned. While the books in the dollar bin aren't Pullitzer Prize winning by any means, this is one of many $1 books that captivate my little guy's attention. We've read this book scores of times, watching Hannah rescue firefighters battling forest fires, receiving recognition, getting down and dirty while doing hard work. I work our little home library on a tight budget. I rely on the library and great deals. If you aren't reading to your kids because of a similar tight budget, it's time to think outside the box (and read that article!!!).

When Soren and I read books on a theme, we read as many books as we can (at least seven new books a week), and then I incorporate a craft, a field trip, or a movie (last resort) to make the learning experience as tangible as possible.  We were delighted to visit a firehouse in our town. My biggest mistake? Soren is now under the impression that he can walk into any given firehouse at any time and go sit in the driver's seat. We're working on clarifying this small misunderstanding.

When we go on field trips like this one, I take video snapshots of what Soren does and learns, and we refer to them regularly. Take for example, lifting the heavy hose. I remind Soren how heavy it was, and encourage him to eat healthy meals so he can grow big and strong and use heavy tools like that one. I show him the pictures of the neatly organized tools and equipment in the fire truck, and we talk about being orderly at home, putting things where they belong.

I've found that combining books with a little hands-on learning and then some imaginative play is a winning combination! We are having a blast, Soren's interest in books is growing, his vocabulary is exploding, his imagination is blossoming. I must say, all of this is a lot easier with someone to help me. Mom went home to New York City, and she's very missed. This field trip business is a little challenging with 15 lbs of infant strapped to my chest!


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