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A Handful of Numbers

Written by Christinia Cheung & Han Tran
illustrated by Tong Wu

This is a great little board book. The counting and numbers are all related to things about the Earth and our universe. Example: 2 poles (north and south); 5 geologic layers; etc. The illustrations are beautiful!

On the left page is the number written in large type. Then, there is a description of what the illustration shows, and in the bottom left corner of that page is the corresponding number rod. On the opposite page is a beautiful illustration. Example: 3; three oceans; description of the oceans and what they do; the third number rod.

It is especially nice in the way that it is connecting counting and numbers with our geography studies. Children at the primary level and older toddlers will enjoy this book.

A Montessori Workbook:
Volume 1

by Dr. Punum Bhatia
Dr. Bhatia has created three volumes in this set. She designed these workbooks as a resource for parents of three-to-six-year-olds. Her intention, as she described it to me, was to give parents and children something fun to do during the summer to keep ideas and concepts from the Montessori classroom fresh in the child’s mind during the time away from the classroom.

Since most parents are not trained Montessorians, Dr. Bhatia has a two-page introduction in how to use these books. Many of the illustrations in the book are of classroom materials such as: the Pink Tower; the Metal Insets; parts of plants and continents; etc. She has also included a section on sounds to reinforce the symbol and the sound. There is also a math section for counting skills.

While I congratulate Dr. Bhatia for the clear and crisp illustrations in her workbook and her idea to help parents keep children engaged and reminded of their Montessori learning materials during times when school is out, I must pose the following questions to her and to other teachers and parents:

Are workbooks in alignment with what we know about child development and the needs of young children?

Would other activities such as nature walks, picnics, gardening, cooking, going to Gramma’s, making puppets, doing a skit, building a fort, drawing a map of the backyard, caring for animals, etc. use the same skills and support the child’s continued development, while building relationships in a concrete, meaningful way for the young child and family?

Would a workbook be more appropriate for a child in the elementary years?

Please use your answers to these questions as a guide when considering activities for children during the early childhood years.

California the Magic Island

Written and illustrated by
Doug Hansen

This is a beautifully illustrated, mythical history of California. Each vignette highlights a part of California history using a letter of the alphabet. The legendary Queen Calafia was outraged at first, when some people from a place far away began to use the name of her island for their land. When the emotion passed and she could think more clearly, she commanded, “Go and find 26 creatures who will tell me the story of their land from far past to present. If their stories are worthy of my name, then they will not be punished but will be able to use my name, and I will watch over them forever.” Each creature represented a letter from the alphabet like “B” was the monarch butterfly.
This is a fun, fantastical history of California and would capture the imagination of elementary children. If California is not the state where you live, you and your children may be inspired to write and illustrate a creative, magical story of your state.

Do Unto Animals: A Friendly Guide to How Animals Live, and How We Can Make Their Lives Better

by Tracey Stewart
illustrated by Lisel Ashlock

If you are an animal lover and want to encourage and support children in their development of love for animals, this is an especially good book for children in the middle elementary years. Tracey divides the book into three sections: Animals at Home; Backyard Wildlife; and Falling in Love on the Farm, and she uses catchy titles for sub-sections, such as: The Perfect Pig Palace; Be Nice to the Bugs; or Meow-sage Me.

Tracey has a nice sense of humor coupled with lots of good information about animal behavior, ways humans can better the lives of animals, and crafts such as a “t-shirt tug toy” for dogs or ideas for enhancing a cat’s home by planting cat grass.

The illustrations are very realistic drawings with color rather than cartoons or photographs. They are very pleasant depictions of the animals the author is spotlighting. The illustrations make you want to love any and all of the animals in this book and more. It is a good resource for home or school.

Moving With Numbers

written by Christinia Cheung illustrated by Tong Wu

Wow! This is a gorgeous book! It can be used to learn about Chinese calligraphy, counting, and movement. Once again, Christinia and Tong have teamed up to create a lovely board book.

This time, they are illustrating each number on the left page with calligraphy, red dots similar to the cards and counters (upper right corner of page), and the corresponding number rod (bottom left corner of page). On the opposite page, there are people dressed in beautiful costumes doing movements from walking on a tight rope, riding a unicycle, acrobatic poses, and more.

The numbers are textured so that the child can feel them similar to Sandpaper Numerals from the classroom. There is a map of China in the back of the book, and it shows where each of the 55 minorities live in China.

Young children will be fascinated by the illustrations, will learn about a country and language in Asia, and practice their counting skills.

The Big Disconnect

by Catherine Steiner-Adair, EdD with Teresa H. Barker

In the fall of 2015, I had the distinct privilege of attending a talk given by Catherine Steiner-Adair, Ed.D. She is a dynamic, humorous, and informative speaker. The 90-minute talk was done in what seemed like only a few minutes. Her topic was that of her book, The Big Disconnect. Her concerns are the same as the concerns of many parents and educators. They are about the effects of technology on our ability to communicate and to form relationships. Dr. Steiner-Adair does not just point out the dark side of technology but actually gives her readers ideas and suggestions to deal with our new technological lives.

For example, in her book, she sites texting as a huge communication problem because it takes away not only our auditory cues (tone of voice) but also our visual cues (facial expressions, hand gestures, posturing). The two or more people involved in the ‘conversation’ can easily misinterpret the message being sent and find themselves in a text war. Also, people are much more likely to say things that they would not dare say face to face. She suggests that parents never engage with their children (or their spouse) in an emotional conversation by text. When it begins to feel touchy, just say something like, “This sounds important and like something that we should talk about in person. Are you on your way home?”

In her book she discusses the effects of technology on children at different developmental stages. We are beginning to see how parent screen time is damaging the building of relationships and gives the message that “this gadget is more important than you,” however unintentional it is. Children are feeling abandoned. Look around at any restaurant where families gather. What do you see?

When you read this book you will find out Dr. Steiner-Adair’s seven suggestions for sustainable families in the 21st century. It is a must read for every parent!

PS. You can listen to a live interview that I recorded with Catherine Steiner-Adair on the Montessori Family Alliance resource center. If you don’t know how to access it, talk to your Head of School. If you receive Tomorrow’s Child magazine you’re already a member!

Tomorrow’s Child/Nov 2016/pg 32