“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
Did you know that octopuses, or octopi (as I like to call them), have beaks? They are also very good at hiding. Sea stars don’t have eyes; they have eye spots. Where did I find these fascinating facts? I learned this information and much more from two nonfiction books on our new books shelf at the library. The Life Under the Sea series has six titles written by Cari Meister:
The colorful pictures and the easy-to-read text make it a snap for younger kiddos to learn facts about life in the ocean. The books even include a picture glossary at the end to explain more about what was just read. A simple table of contents and an index at the end of each book introduce kiddos to using these important parts of nonfiction books. Sea life not your thing? Try the Animals on the Farm series and see what you and your kids can learn! (We have a soft spot for the baby goats - so cute!)
You sit down with your baby and a board book, and she listens for a bit but then tries to eat it or throw it. Or maybe she uses it as a drum. Don’t despair—at this early stage on the road to reading, it’s okay if babies listen and look at the pictures for a while and then lose interest. Stay positive and simply try again another time. If your baby enjoys these short interactions with you and the book, you are actually promoting early literacy!
To support your young child along the path to reading independently, help him or her develop a positive association with books. Researchers call this interest in reading and the enjoyment of books “print motivation.” When you are reading a book with your child, follow these tips for making the experience fun and engaging. Continue reading
I’ve recently been on a “Gaiman binge,” immersing myself in all of the available works of the brilliant Neil Gaiman for weeks on end. I have to say, “Coraline” is the best. It took Gaiman nearly 10 years of writing and rewriting the story to get it just right. Congratulations, Neil! You did it!
Treat yourself, and your older kids, to a modern day Alice in Wonderland with a whole new creepy factor thrown in. Coraline is a girl struggling for her parents’ affections while also trying to be in charge and independent of them. The book is filled with symbolism and dark undertones that echo the theories of famous psychologists like Freud and Lacan. The library’s Academic Search Elite database has the most fascinating paper that explores this book’s themes in terms of psychoanalysis, if you’d like to give it a read as well. (You’ll need your library card to access this resource, then enter “An Eye for an I: Neil Gaiman’s Coraline” in the search box). I listened to the story as an audiobook which was performed by the author himself and even includes an insightful interview afterwards. Continue reading
Practically every kid has dreamed of running away from home, or at least embarking on an adventure of some sort. Personally, I’ve always fantasized about secretly lingering after-hours and spending the night someplace I shouldn’t, like a candy shop, a bookstore or a museum. Perhaps this is why I love, love, love “From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler” (1967) by E. L. Konigsburg.
Twelve-year-old Claudia and her brother Jamie (selected as her partner-in-crime for the sizable sum he has saved in his piggy bank) run away to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. The sharp and responsible (well, except for the running away part) Claudia has meticulously planned their escape, and the kids cleverly use the resources of the museum to get by. They sleep in a royal bed and pilfer money from the fountain. After a few nights in the museum, Claudia sees a statue so beautiful, she feels compelled to identify its sculptor and perhaps become famous in the process. To find out the statue’s origin, she must visit its former owner, the elderly Mrs. Frankweiler.
Snappy, funny dialogue. Living in a gorgeous museum among exquisite art. Running away to one of the world’s most exciting cities. Solving a mystery. What’s not to love? Put this book in the hands of your favorite precocious kiddo (or adult). They will thank you for it.