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Monday, April 22, 2013

The Children's Book-A-Day Almanac: A Great Tool for Planning Read-Alouds

You say you have a Read-Aloud next week (shall we say April 29?) and haven’t a clue what to do? 

Here’s a blog that can help solve your dilemma. Check out the Children’s Book-a-Day Almanac, written by children’s book expert Anita Silvey. Silvey, one of les grandes dames of children's book world, has worked for over 40 years in the field. She has been a publisher at Houghton Mifflin and a editor of The Horn Book, two renowned names in American publishing for children. 

She began the Childrens-Book-A-Day Almanac about two years ago. It contains one page for each of the 365 days in the year, each day’s posting featuring a children’s book of unimpeachable quality.

The featured book for April 29 is The Red-Eyed Tree Frog.  This is a perfect Read-Aloud anchor book, a short nonfiction selection with large, colorful photos of the red-eyed tree frog and its environment, for children ages 4 years to 7 years. Guess what?  You have a Read-Aloud theme: frogs, or perhaps the rainforest.  A quick check of a library website's catalog will supply many other books on frogs you can also take to your Read-Aloud -- the "Froggy" series by Jonathan London, Frog Went A-Courtin' retold by John Langstaff, Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel or Tuesday by David Wiesner. The Umbrella, by Jan Brett, would be a fantastic take-along, if your theme is the rainforest. 

But, let's say the book featured on the date of your Read-Aloud is just not right. Maybe it's geared for kids older than those at your Read-Aloud, or perhaps it just doesn't appeal to you. (If your Read-Aloud were on April 23, for example, you would find that the featured book is Shakespeare Stealer, a wonderful novel for 11-year-olds, but not useful to you as a Read-Aloud choice.) By clicking on the Tomorrow or Yesterday buttons at the top of the Almanac's screen, you can quickly scan lots of other days and lots of other book choices. While you’re flipping through the days, you’ll notice that Silvey often refers to special months or weeks. She tells us April is Gardening Month, National Poetry Month and Pets Are Wonderful Month. Within April are National Dance Week (April 20-29), Bat Appreciation Day (17) and Drop Everything and Read Day (12). Any one of those topics could spark your imagination and become the theme for your Read-Aloud. And you'll start with at least one book title, chosen with the benefit of Silvey's vast experience. 

Still haven't found the right theme? For even more ideas, take a look at the sidebar "A Few Other Events for . . . " that appears on each page. The sidebars are packed with date-related trivia, starting with people who were born on the date.  Of more Read-Aloud value are the other random events and celebrations listed, all of which are somehow related to the date under consideration. All of these can be mined for Read-Aloud ideas. The selections for April 29 include titles of several wonderful picture books about hair. They give you another set of options for your Read-Aloud, and you don't even need to mention that the musical "Hair" opened on April 29, 1968. 

The information in the "Children's Book-a-Day Almanac" blog is also available in book form.  The book is available at many libraries.

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