In a bold move, children’s publisher Barefoot Books announced this month that it is removing the minimum sales threshold for its Ambassadors, making it easier than ever for passionate individuals to start their own business through Barefoot’s direct-selling opportunity.
With the Ambassador community growing quickly, President Jessica Kim says, “We know that every person joins Barefoot Books with their own personal goal and time commitment in mind. We’re excited about this change, as it will enable us to offer this exciting opportunity to more people, including those who simply love children’s books and want to share stories in their spare time.”
In the past, Ambassadors were required to maintain a minimum of $500 in sales every 6 months to remain active. Now, Barefoot Books is removing this requirement, while still offering one of the industry’s most generous compensation plans.
“The Barefoot Books Ambassador program is a wonderful opportunity to earn income in a way that fits your family needs and lifestyle,” says Barefoot Books CEO and Co-founder Nancy Traversy. “Ambassadors have the flexibility and freedom to run their business in their own way without any sales minimums or hidden fees.”
Thanks to this increased flexibility, teachers and students can earn extra cash over the summer; budding entrepreneurs can grow their businesses and enjoy a supportive, like-minded community; and parents and literacy advocates can earn free copies of beautiful, multicultural books. Whatever your goal is, now is the perfect time to join Barefoot Books.
Do you ever wonder how you’ll keep up with our ever-changing, information-saturated world? How you’ll teach the children in your life to navigate its twists and turns? How they will gain the skills they’ll need to thrive in our complex present and uncertain future?
We do, too. Through recent chats with teachers, we’ve discovered that encouraging your children or students to read nonfiction is an effective way to prepare them for our brave new world. In addition to opening “possibilities” for children, nonfiction builds skills vital to twenty-first century literacy, particularly the ability to teach themselves. “The ability to discover information and tools for yourself,” as technology teacher Vanessa Vosburg explains, “is absolutely vital in our constantly-changing world.”
Whether you’ve got an avid or reluctant reader on your hands, it’s easier than ever to find great nonfiction books your children or students will love, thanks to the recent boom in children’s nonfiction publishing. So help give him or her a headstart on developing twenty-first century literacy by following these easy tips:
- Find nonfiction books that “specifically relate to his or her interests,” Ms. Vosburg says. “The topic could be a traditional academic area, such as a scientific book about animals, or just something the child is passionate about, such as a favorite movie or music group.”
- Don’t shy away from nonfiction picture books, Ms. Vobsurg suggests, as they “grab kids’ attention”—even the littlest ones!
- “Encourage your children or students to share any interesting facts they learn while reading,” Ms. Vosburg says. “Ask them questions about the topic. Having kids retell parts of books to you will help build their paraphrasing skills and cement their understanding of the material.” It’ll also give you an opportunity to ask discussion-starting follow-up questions. The more practice kids gain discussing topics that interest them now, the more capable they’ll be as adults of participating in the conversations that will shape our world’s future.
- Read intentionally—and interactively! Walk your children or students through how to navigate a print nonfiction book, from the Table of Contents to the Index and everything in between. Ask them how the book’s organization makes the topic easier to understand, as in Wonderful Words—or, as in our World Atlas, even adds meaning (Find out how here!). Grab multiple pens in various colors and index cards; in one color, write each of the book’s main ideas or major sections on a different index card; then, in a different color, write each individual section’s main ideas on a different index card. Work your way through the book like this, then lay all the cards out on the floor. What can you see now about how the author constructed the argument or narrative? Then grab all the cards and toss them in the air! Rearrange them at random on the floor and take another look. How does reordering the cards show new relationships between the ideas? Then, imagine that you’ve just Googled a keyword related to this topic; all the cards on your floor represent a small fraction of the different webpages that appear in the search results—and they may be buried under hundreds of less reliable, relevant or interesting results. How would you find the pages you need? How would you know which ones to read? Which is most important? Which is most relevant? Finally, without referencing the book, try to reorder the cards to reconstruct the book’s main narrative or argument. How does this help you think about the way you gather, analyze and synthesize information online?
- Help your child or student follow her interests from one medium to another. If she’s already adept at navigating a print nonfiction book, help her research the same topic online, at the library, even on YouTube or Netflix. It may sound counterintuitive, but reviewing the same or similar content on a different platform—such as reading our print World Atlas and then exploring the mobile and tablet app—opens up new avenues of understanding. By interacting with a topic on more than one medium, you’ll not just learn new facts about the topic, but you’ll begin to see how authors have to structure their text differently on different media platforms, and how that difference impacts what you learn from the text as the reader.
However you incorporate nonfiction into your children or students’ reading routines, keep it fun! As media theorist Henry Jenkins explains, “In a hunting society, children learn by playing with bows and arrows. In an information society, they learn to play with information.” So give them children’s nonfiction, and let them play! With strong twenty-first century skills, your children or students will find today’s fast-paced, information-saturated world an endless source not of worry, but of wonder. Empowered by children’s nonfiction, they’ll keep on teaching themselves, learning and adapting and thriving, all throughout their lives.
“What does print nonfiction do for children that a web or mobile resource can’t?”
This question concluded our previous post about children’s nonfiction, in which we chatted with three teachers about why nonfiction is great for kids. Among other things, we learned from elementary and middle school technology teacher Vanessa Vosburg that children’s print and digital nonfiction work together to build vital twenty-first century literacies.
What is twenty-first century literacy?
Ms. Vosburg defines twenty-first century literacy as the ability to participate in and contribute to our information society. “It’s not just creating a PowerPoint based on information you’ve read about animals,” she says. “It’s starting a discussion on the topic, noticing trends and patterns. It’s understanding why those patterns are important and what they mean in the big picture.”
“Previously,” she explains, “elementary school students would memorize facts, like the fact that polar bears live in the Arctic and penguins in the Antarctic. Now, we’re teaching children to participate in discussions and use their innate reasoning skills to understand why a polar bear lives in the Arctic, and why that fact is relevant to their lives.”
Developing twenty-first century literacy is thus as complex a goal as our twenty-first century world. But, parents and teachers: don’t feel overwhelmed! Children’s print nonfiction lays a strong foundation on which kids can build the twenty-first century skills they need to succeed in school—and the rest of their lives.
Reading print nonfiction teaches children “how to teach themselves.”
When asked which foundational twenty-first century skill is most important for children to learn, Ms. Vosburg says, “I want my students to know how to teach themselves.”
So Ms. Vosburg prioritizes showing her students how to “use their computers for research, especially finding reliable sources and incorporating information from multiple sources,” she says. It’s no easy task. “For children, researching a topic online can be overwhelming,” she explains. “There’s so much information readily available in our digital age that narrowing down where to look and then deciphering a digital source can frustrate students, especially younger children. Not only do they need to comprehend the material, but they also need to judge whether or not a website can be trusted as a reliable source. But I’ve found that the wider the variety of nonfiction children have read, the easier it is for them to grasp these skills. Early exposure to nonfiction empowers children to find answers to their own questions for themselves.”
One way reading nonfiction empowers children is by teaching them how information is structured. A novel’s structure is emotional and story-driven; a website or app’s information architecture is intuitive and user experience-centric; but one can argue that a print nonfiction book’s structure is rational, designed to present content in a logical way. Often, a book begins with an introduction that provides context for the argument and ends with an epilogue that recaps the argument and its importance. In between, chapters discuss related, but distinct topics, which logically progress from beginning to end.
For example, our World Atlas begins with three introductory spreads that provide context: “The Story of Our Planet” offers geological context; “Mapping the World,” historical context; and “The Oceans and Continents of the World,” geographic context. The Atlas ends with a glossary that reinforces key terms used throughout the text. Between, distinct spreads feature each region of the globe, moving from oceans to land mass, with Oceania as a transitionary region. Each spread includes the same categories of information—“Physical Features,” “Climate and Weather,” “Natural Resources,” and so on. The spreads move in a logical order from region to region from beginning to end. And the structure itself has meaning: the ocean-to-land organization emphasizes the fact that Earth’s five oceans, despite their lack of permanent human civilization, are just as diverse and important as the seven continents.
Reading a nonfiction book like the World Atlas or Wonderful Words, Ms. Vosburg says, “gives children an overarching view of how information and themes are structured. Instead of seeing facts in isolation—which is easy—they can see how each fact ties into the next, how larger topics flow together and how all the parts combine into the whole.” Children who understand how facts relate to each other and to larger concepts will have greater success doing Internet research, where one keyword search leads down a rabbit hole into a network of diverging, overlapping and intersecting tunnels. When children understand how one small fact can contribute to a larger argument or narrative, they can more readily identify which of the dozen scattered scraps of information they’ve found is most important, and can more effectively combine those scraps into one holistic whole.
As it provides this “big-picture view” of information, Ms. Vosburg explains, reading nonfiction helps children learn to think for themselves. Children who read nonfiction find a larger realm of understanding open before them: they can use their “critical thinking skills to form their own opinions about the information presented and see how it relates to themselves,” Ms. Vosburg says.
Moreover, reading nonfiction helps children use critical thinking skills to identify reliable sources online. “Being exposed early to print nonfiction material increases a child’s understanding of the structure, language and style of digital nonfiction,” Ms. Vosburg says. Since a logical argument or unbiased historical account has the same basic characteristics in any medium, a child who is familiar with print nonfiction will be more likely to gravitate toward logical, unbiased information online. Thus, reading nonfiction in elementary school helps children “overcome many of the common struggles they have with independent research in middle and high school,” Ms. Vosburg says—and throughout the rest of their lives.
Ready to wield the power of children’s nonfiction to empower the kids in your life to build twenty-first century skills? Keep your eyes open for our next post on nonfiction—Ms. Vosburg will share her top tips. You won’t want to miss it!
Barefoot Ambassador Jessica Romick has been hard at work in the kitchen creating a tasty new recipe that is sure to warm your tummy as the chilly winter air approaches. This stew contains a variety of savory vegetables including turnips (of course!), potatoes, carrots, and more! Jessica was kind enough to write to us about her new creation that is inspired by the The Gigantic Turnip by Aleksei Tolstoy and Niamh Sharkey. She writes:
I recently began sharing a story time with the homeschooling cooperative my four-year-old son is a member of. It’s been such a joy to read [Barefoot's] beautiful books to the children and see the excitement on their faces when I pull out a new book or a puppet. We’ve discussed the changing of the seasons with Listen, Listen; we’ve learned about dinosaurs through I Dreamt I Was a Dinosaur; and we’ve enjoyed learning how children around the world say “Hello!” using the Children of the World matching game.
In September, I shared one of my favorite stories—The Gigantic Turnip—and wanted to bring the story to life for the children in a unique way. I began looking around Pinterest to see if any other ambassadors (or anyone) had created a Gigantic Turnip Stew like the one mentioned at the end of the book. To my surprise, I found nothing! I hunted around for other recipes that focused on root vegetables and then set about creating my own take on what a Gigantic Turnip Stew would be.
After several trials I’m happy to share my recipe here with you. It has become my favorite fall meal (I’m eating a bowl of it right now as I write this)! Feel free to share this recipe with your friends, family, and clients. Bon Appetite!
Download Jessica’s “Gigantic Turnip Stew” recipe here!
Curl up with a copy of The Gigantic Turnip while eating a this delicious stew!
Find out what happens when the old woman, the old man, and all twenty-one animals on the farm try to harvest a rather large root vegetable. This well-loved Russian tale uses humor, counting and repetition to appeal to beginner readers. Book with CD editions include story read by Ellen Verenieks.
Children’s Book Council NOT Just for Children Anymore! Winner
If you would like one of your Barefoot-inspired creations to be featured on the Living Barefoot blog, message us on Facebook!
Every year, Barefoot Books selects one of their beloved illustrators to decorate the main tree at a local fundraising event*. With an emphasis on art in all that Barefoot does, our tree is a reflection of the creativity and imagination that runs through all our books. This year Rachel Griffin, illustrator of the brand-new Twelve Days of Christmas, is designing original ornaments based on her book and will be travelling all the way from England to celebrate this special event with us! Rachel’s artistic style includes hand-sewn fabric collage illustrations made from a variety of different materials and vibrant colors. Unlike most versions of Twelve Days of Christmas, she incorporates imagery from various cultures including pipers from India and drummers from Africa. Her artwork and new take on the classic story makes this the perfect book for the holiday season!
The brilliantly gifted artist is hard at work creating her decorations for this year’s Twelve Days of Christmas tree and graciously shared with us some insight into her creative process.
Where do you get your inspiration?
My inspiration comes from books, museums, art galleries and my magpie eye always on the lookout for inspiring images.
There is so much detail in your artwork, what has the process been like for you creating these decorations?
The process has been quite straightforward forward as I am using the book I illustrated as a reference to work from, the visual and color scheme work had been done so it is just about using inspiration from the book to come up with 3-D images for each verse. I have sketched out the elements from each verse and created patterns for the birds and hearts, they seem to come together as I am sitting at my desk creating. I have all the materials I need for each verse laid out on my desk and by the time I have finished every inch of my studio is covered with materials: sequins, beads, etc.
Your art features many different materials, where do you find such interesting pieces? Which are your favorite to work with?
I find all my collections of material from travelling, going to antique markets, charity shops, and unusual shops in cities. I never buy online as part of my process is in the collecting and finding. On this project I have found some amazing wool felt which is a dream to work with and the colors are amazing.
Three French hens — I love the colors I have used and the 3-D images I have thought of to go with the three fat French Hens!
*Each year, the Concord Museum located in Concord, MA fills its galleries with over thirty uniquely decorated trees featuring artwork inspired by acclaimed children’s storybooks. If you’re in the area between November 25 through January 3, be sure to check out the exhibit for yourself! For more information about Family Trees or the Concord Museum visit www.concordmuseum.org.
Read the book that inspired the decorations!
A sparkling version of the popular Christmas song, in a new edition embossed with silvery-gold foiling and beautiful fabric illustrations by Rachel Griffin. This book includes an insightful note from the illustrator, information about the celebration of the Twelve Days of Christmas (history, including the pre-Christian tradition, and customs), and the history and meaning of the song itself.
For babies to 10 years; Hardcover ($14.99)
Have you heard of “book extensions”? During this year’s Summer Reading Program, our Global Program Director Stefanie Paige Grossman explained that “book extensions…are activities based on books that further enhance learning.” From pretend play to Big Kid Book Reports, book extensions reinforce the story’s characters, imagery and themes by prompting children to interact with them in a new way.
“One of the most common ways to follow
up on a book is with a creative art activity,” Stefanie says. “While working on a book-related art activity, you might notice that
your child narrates her own story or talks about new creative ideas, sparked by the book. She’s making valuable cognitive connections!”
A coloring book is a no-stress art activity that can easily fill that rainy-day recess or antsy pre-dinner hour. With this coloring activity starring Barefoot’s favorite cat Cleo, kids can grab their favorite crayons or colored pencils and bring Cleo’s black-and-white backyard back to life.
Get started coloring Cleo here!
Looking for more adventures with Cleo? Check out these Barefoot favorites:
Meet Cleo the Cat’s new housemate Caspar. When Cleo finds out that another animal has joined the household, she isn’t happy, but she soon discovers that new playmates can be fun. The simple, rhyming text is full of action verbs.
Follow Cleo as she investigates the world around her. Cleo wakes up and makes her way outside where she climbs, skips and bounces until she is finally called inside for kisses.
If you fell in love with fiction as a kid, you might be surprised to learn that children’s nonfiction is booming. This summer, Publishers Weekly suggested that children’s nonfiction is “having its moment,” due in part to Minecraft’s continued popularity and Common Core’s emphasis on nonfiction. Meanwhile, literacy advocates like the Federation of Children’s Book Groups and Scottish Book Trust are raising the profile of children’s nonfiction in the UK.
Still, when you imagine reading nonfiction with your children or students, you might be a bit bewildered. Curling up with nonfiction sounds about as exciting and enlightening as reading a phone book. Why even have the Yellow Pages in the Google age?
But the fact is that nonfiction is good for kids. So is fiction, of course; the two are complementary, not mutually exclusive. As teacher and storyteller Karyn Keene puts it, “Fiction opens other worlds; nonfiction opens this one.”
To find out how nonfiction “opens” our world for kids, we asked teachers to share the concrete ways they see nonfiction impact their students. Here’s what we learned:
Nonfiction sparks kids’ inherent curiosity.
Has a preschooler ever driven you nuts by repeatedly asking, “Why?” If you’ve ever been around a four-year-old for even four minutes, you’re probably nodding. As elementary technology teacher Vanessa Vosburg explains, “Children have a natural desire to learn about the world around them and are highly motivated to explore materials that will answer their questions.” Thus, giving kids easily-accessible knowledge in the form of children’s nonfiction ignites their natural desire to learn.
For example, the labelled illustrations in Wonderful Words give children an easy way to learn the names of different objects, people and places. Familiar sights are labeled, like swings and skateboards; as are potentially less-familiar ones, like hummus and a hearing aid loop sign. When a child learns words for objects she’s never seen, her world expands. With a jolt of joy, she realizes that the adventure of learning will never end.
Nonfiction develops contextual knowledge, helping kids to make connections.
It’s difficult to absorb new information when you have no context for it—no place to put a city on your mental map, or no culture in which to place a person. For this reason, young children have a distinct disadvantage when encountering new places, people or ideas. Fortunately, nonfiction books give children the factual knowledge they need to process new ideas effectively and face the world around them with curiosity instead of fear. As history teacher Emily Anderson explains, reading nonfiction in early grades “helps kids to make connections more easily as they get older.” In other words, the more you know, the more you can know—and the more fun learning becomes!
For example, our World Atlas’ illustrations locate familiar people and places in their geographic context alongside less familiar landmarks, which enables a child to weave new facts into her existing purview. With each colorful spread, the reader’s tapestry of knowledge expands, and with it, her comprehension of our complex world.
Even today’s world needs to be understood in the context of yesterday’s. Since we can’t understand the present without the past, our Atlas explores how each region’s climate and geography has influenced its cultural development. By introducing kids to the forces that shaped the past, we prepare them to understand the present and identify ways that they, too, could impact the future.
Kids discover real-world heroes.
Speaking of the past: There’s nothing more motivational than a true story. Nonfiction shows children “real heroes and real people in both ordinary and extraordinary circumstances,” Ms. Anderson says. When a child reads about the incredible achievements of real people like Rosa Parks, Ada Lovelace, Cesar Chavez or Leonardo da Vinci, he realizes that even he, too, could do the extraordinary.
“Seeing these real people gives kids heroes to look up to, people whose heroics they could achieve themselves,” Ms. Keene says. “Nonfiction could inspire our future social activists or research scientists.” In this way, she adds, nonfiction “opens doors of possibility for children.”
But wait: what does print nonfiction do for children that a web or mobile resource can’t? That was our next question for elementary technology teacher Vanessa Vosburg. Find out her answer in our next post!
A spooky fruit and gelatin recipe straight from Dracula’s kitchen. Wash your hands before you start! Always have a grown-up in the kitchen with you when you cook. Ages 8 and up.
QUANTITY Makes 3–4 small glasses (tubs)
• 1¼ oz packet unflavored gelatin (enough to set 2½ cups liquid); For a vegetarian version, use agar-agar, following the instructions on packet
• 1½ cups blueberries or blackberries, or any fruit you wish
• 2¼ cups dark red or blue berry juice (e.g. blueberry or cranberry)
• ¼ cups boiling water
• Mixing bowl
• Measuring cup
• Containers (for gelatin)
1. Wash the fruit and pat dry with a paper towel.
2. Put the gelatin into the measuring cup. Pour ¼ cup boiling water over the gelatin and stir carefully with a spoon, to dissolve it.
3. Add the berry juice to the dissolved gelatin so that it fills the measuring cup up to 2½ cups.
4. Divide the fruit between the containers and pour the gelatin mixture over the fruit.
5. Put Dracula’s gelatin in the fridge for about 45 minutes to set.
Tip: Add more fruit than gelatin for set fruit.
The recipe shown in the picture is of Cran-Grape juice gelatin with blackberries. Yum! Download this fun Hallowe’en recipe and more here.
Encourage budding chefs to create tasty meals with 40 laminated recipe cards that feature nutritious vegetarian dishes from around the world. Unique recipes ranging from the familiar to the exotic are divided into five color-coded categories to reflect the major food groups. Simple step-by-step instructions put kids in control as they learn that cooking is more than an art — it’s a science! Includes 8-page booklet with information on nutrition, kitchen safety and terminology. This edition has been updated with even tastier recipes.
A craft to make you say “Ahhh!” Bring the friendly monsters from Grim, Grunt and Grizzle-Tail to life with a paper plate mask! While you’re creating your mask, think about a Monster Story for your own monster. How will your monster sound? Is your monster friendly or misunderstood, like Grizzle-Tail? Let your imagination shape your mask and the story to go with it. Ages 5+
WHAT TO FIND
- Paper Plates
- Tissue paper cut into small pieces
- Glue, tape and a stapler
- A small bowl with some water
- Construction paper
- Popsicle stick
- Any additional art supplies you have
WHAT TO DO
1. Sketch out the monster you’d like to make on a paper plate. Have an adult help you cut out holes for the eyes.
2. Put a small amount of craft glue into a dish and add water in equal parts. Stir together and paint the surface of the plate with the glue mixture. Layer your cut tissue paper onto the wet glue. Secure any loose ends or overlapping pieces with additional glue where necessary. Set aside to dry.
3. Use construction paper to cut out features for your monster, like big eyes, a nose and mouth. Create pointy teeth by cutting out lots of triangles. Add ears and horns to your creature by glueing them on the back of the plate. Use paint, pipe cleaners, puff balls and your imagination to make your monster unique.
4. Glue a popsicle stick to the bottom of your monster and reinforce with tape. Make your mask sturdier by stapling another plate to the back. Have an adult use scissors to make sure you can still see out of the eye-holes.
5. When you’re finished, walk around the house and pretend you’re a monster! Then, share your masks with us @barefootbooks on Instagram!
Ready to scare? Download the activity here.
Check out these Monster Stories perfect for the Hallowe’en season!
Meeting monsters on the page helps children realize that many of the scary things in life are less frightening than they appear — and that monsters can have feelings too! Inspire young readers with these adventures that teach courage, compassion and kindness.
You can’t help but wonder at the mystery surrounding All Hallows’ Eve. From Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein to the upcoming Pride and Prejudice and Zombies film, Halloween has inspired popular culture for ages, spreading from Northern Europe to as far as Hong Kong!
But how did Halloween become the holiday we know today?
- Halloween as we know it evolved from the ancient Celtic tradition of putting out treats for spirits who roamed the streets during a sacred festival that honored the dead, called “Samhain” in Ireland and “Nos Calan Gaeaf” in Wales.
- Samhain festival-goers started dressing in ghost, witch and goblin costumes to escape the notice of real spirits wandering the streets. To this day, these remain revelers’ most popular Halloween costumes; just ask the spooks from our very own Barefoot Book of Giants, Ghosts and Goblins!
- Jack o’ Lanterns originated in Ireland where people placed candles in hollowed-out turnips to keep away spirits on the Samhain holiday.
- If you’re the last one frolicking about the bonfire on Nos Calan Gaeaf, watch out! According to Welsh legend, the spirits of a giant black sow and headless woman might carry you with them back to the spirit world!
- According to tradition, if a person wears his or her clothes inside-out and walks backwards on Halloween, he or she will see a witch at midnight.
- Scottish girls believed they could see images of their future husband if they hung wet sheets in front of the fire on Halloween.
Not so keen on wearing your clothes inside-out or hanging wet sheets by a fire? Celebrate instead with our monstrously fun Halloween craft, spooky recipes or scary-fun books! Befriend a not-so-scary giant (above), gallant heroes, fiendish folk and more in Tales from Old Ireland.
Wishing you and your family a safe and spooktacular Halloween!