2013 Missouri Building Blocks: Who’s Who?

picture of the book cover, Who's Who? by Ken Geist“Over in the meadow in the sand, in the sun, lived an old mother turtle and her little turtle one…” You may recognize this rhyme from an old counting rhyme called “Over In the Meadow.” This particular rhyme served as one of the inspirations for Ken Geist’s book, “Who’s Who?” Geist’s rendition uses the same rhythmic pattern, but his version is all about twin animals (his other inspiration – his joyous twin children). So flap, swing and swim along with your child through a fun version of this familiar story and see if you can tell “Who’s Who?”

Don’t forget to vote for your favorite Missouri Building Block nominee!

Websites We Love: Age of the Dinosaurs and Dino Dictionary

Dinosaur Dictionary logoDinosaur A-Z” is a favorite bedtime read in my house, and by the time I get to Zephyrosaurus, I’m totally winging the pronunciation. That’s one reason why I appreciate the Dino Dictionary website: when you click on a dino’s name, it plays an audio file of the correct pronunciation. For the budding paleontologist in your family, there are descriptions of the more than 300 known dinosaurs, discussion of the latest theories in dinosaur research, dinosaur clip art and links to other resources for learning more facts and finding out where you can visit dinosaur bones in person! (Missourians can head to the St. Louis Science Center, where admission is free and prehistoric exhibits are always on display.)

And because we can’t recommend just one online home for dinosaur facts, we also suggest Age of the Dinosaurs from the BBC. This comprehensive site covers the rise and fall of dinosaurs and sea monsters and includes simple games for young fossil hunters and science buffs.

This season of Summer Reading is a perfect time to “dig into reading” about dinosaurs online!

Classics for Kids: Charlotte’s Web

Book cover for Charlotte's Web by E. B. WhiteOnce again, I’ve learned the great joy of revisiting a book from my childhood. I thought I remembered the story of E.B. White’s “Charlotte’s Web” but it turns out those memories were muddled by images from the animated film based on the book and largely revolve around the spider Charlotte and the pig she saves, Wilbur. On a recent road trip, my family listened to the audiobook version of this classic, read by White himself—a real delight as his New England accent and warm voice are a perfect match for the text and create the feeling of being told a story by one’s grandfather. I was surprised to learn that the pig’s initial savior is 8-year-old Fern. Mr. Arable, Fern’s father, is set to slaughter the runt of the litter, but Fern pleads for Wilbur’s life to be spared.

“Fern was up at daylight, trying to rid the world of injustice. As a result, she now has a pig. A small one to be sure, but nevertheless a pig. It just shows what can happen if a person gets out of bed promptly.” When I heard this line, I really, really hoped my 9-year-old was listening. Getting her out of bed in the morning is torture. Continue reading

Are We There Yet? The Family Zoo Trip

Book cover for Life-Size Zoo by Teruyuki Komiya“Someone told me it’s all happening at the zoo.” – Paul Simon

Ah, the family trip to the zoo. Mom would throw together bologna sandwiches, pick up some store-brand soda and chips, toss them all into the cooler and load up the station wagon for the two-hour drive to the zoo. “I get the front!” “I get the back!” “I get the way-back!” I always got the ‘way-back’ and didn’t really have to call for it – no one else wanted to squeeze in between the cooler and the stroller back where you couldn’t roll down a window, but I knew that was the best place to be seen by the truck drivers and to get them to blast their horns by pumping my fist. “Honk! Honk!”

For us, “the Zoo” meant The St. Louis Zoo. We’d find a parking spot along a street in Forest Park and hike our way to the entrance. As soon as we walked past the vertical ZOO sign, we would get a balloon. I always thought it was extravagant to pay for a big balloon, especially when we scrimped on our lunch and such. I eventually learned the reasoning; the balloon was like a homing beacon that allowed the adults to spot us if we ventured too far away from the group. Brilliant!

The Zoo had a train…a bright red train. While seeing the animals was free, riding the train was not. We always begged and wheedled to get to ride the train. My savvy mother would hold her cards pretty close to her chest, saying, “Maybe if you’re good.” Years later I learned that she always planned on walking to the back of the Zoo and catching the train back to the entrance. “I didn’t want to walk all that way!” Tricky, tricky survival-mode mama. (The Zooline Railroad celebrates it’s 50th anniversary this year!)

We’re fortunate here in Columbia, having two zoos close enough for a day trip; The St. Louis Zoo, a leader in animal conservation and education, and the ever evolving Kansas City Zoo. Check out their websites, consider joining their Friends groups and get your plan on! Meanwhile, check out these zoo reads at DBRL: Continue reading

Science Books Your Kids Will Want to Read

Kids need more exposure to science. We’ve all heard the news reports. And, while some of us have fond memories of looking at boogers under our first microscopes, I know some of you groan under the remembered weight of textbooks full of big words. How can you make science fun for your children? Check out the National Science Teachers Association’s recently published list of Outstanding Science Books for K-12 Students for 2013.

How do books make the cut?  Continue reading