We are so proud and pleased that My Big Barefoot Book of Wonderful Words is finally here! This great big beauty took more than three years to develop — far longer than the typical Barefoot Books title. What took us so long, you ask? Come along and we’ll show you how we created this complex book!
Since we started without a text in hand, our first job was to decide what kinds of scenes and themes we wanted to see in the book. I drew tiny rough thumbnails of potential scenes on a stack of index cards, which I used to lay the book out spread by spread. Once we had the layout nailed, I wrote the narrative text and a list of words for each spread. Tessa and I enjoyed many lively discussions about which words ought to be found where!
Once the text was finalized, we sent it over to illustrator Sophie Fatus for her to create pencil sketches of the entire book. We did not send along my thumbnails, because we didn’t want to interfere with Sophie’s creative process. It came as no surprise to us that Sophie basically nailed them on the first try, but we were amazed all the same how closely the roughs resembled the thumbnails that Sophie had never seen!
We went through several rounds of revisions to the rough illustrations. Some needed almost no changes (like the cross-section of the house), and others needed tweaks, like adjusting the placement of artwork to make room for text, or revising illustrations to be more clear to young readers. The clothing spread only needed one tweak — changing the twins from a pair of girls to a boy and girl pair.
Once we had Sophie’s pencil sketches looking exactly right, we approved her to paint the book! As if her job was not big enough, we asked Sophie to paint the entire book on two layers. That means that the backgrounds were painted separately from the people and objects. We did this so that we can easily have the artwork animated if we decide to create a digital version of MBBBWW one day.
Finally, our brilliant freelance designer Katie Jennings took Sophie’s final artwork and painstakingly combined the backgrounds and characters, and added the text. And voila!
We hope you enjoyed this glimpse inside the Creative Cauldron! If you could be a children’s book author, illustrator, designer or editor, which would you choose?
–Kate DePalma, Senior Editor
We all know those daily events that serve as epic battle grounds for parent-child contests of will: getting dressed and out of the house, drop-off at daycare or school, toileting, dinner time and bedtime. (Hey, that sounds like all day!) You may notice special difficulties kicking up around each of these “trigger times” in the autumn. Each of these daily events represents some kind of transition, and when they are experiencing larger changes in their lives, children can feel an increased need for control around these smaller daily transitions. Whether your child is in a school programme or not, autumn usually brings about a change of pace along with the change of the seasons.
Predictable routines are a parent’s best friend this time of year; they help children feel safe, reassuring them that some things will always stay the same in the face of any large or small life transition. Incorporating books into these daily routines has the added benefit of providing quality bonding time, as well as practise with pre-reading or reading skills.
You can use a combination of independent book time and reading together to create routines for each of these sensitive times of day.
Here are some suggestions:
- The morning rush: Keep a basket of books for “quiet reading” in the area of the house where you need to prep things each morning (e.g., the kitchen). Get kids into the routine of having “quiet reading” time after breakfast while you finish getting everything ready for the day. This is also a lovely, calm way for children to start the day!
- Drop-off: If younger children are struggling with daycare or school drop-off, establish a routine of reading one book together before you say goodbye. The child can pick the book, but stick to just one! (Obviously, check with the play leader or teacher first to make sure this is okay.)
- Toileting: Keep a basket of books in the bathroom to help make toileting a stress-free experience for children. Read a book aloud or allow the child to read “on the throne”. The more relaxed they are, the more likely they are to “do their business”.
- Dinner time: Turn dinner time into family story and discussion time. Read a short book or portion of a book aloud at dinner and then talk about it together. The rule is: “Reading and Eating” — in order for you to be reading, the kids need to be eating!
- Bedtime: And, of course, books can help with the routine at bedtime. Try as hard as you can to resist attempts at pulling you into a negotiation! Put a firm cap on the number of books you’ll read, and stick to it. You’ll thank yourself later.
It’s not realistic to think that each of these routines will be a walk in the park every day, but “transitioning” even one daily battle into a bonding literacy experience will feel like a huge autumn WIN for everyone.
–Stefanie Paige Grossman, Global Program Director
This summer we released our very first wordless book, Out of the Blue. This seaside adventure, beautifully illustrated by Allison Jay, has prompted many people to ask, “How do I use a wordless book?” Luckily, our Ambassadors are here to help! Saffron Team Leader Laurie Mattaliano wrote this post on her team’s blog Footnotes that will let you in on the wonders of a wordless book:
The Many Benefits of a Wordless Book
Are you intimidated by a wordless book? I recently opened my eyes to the genre and have been blown away by the research-based benefits attributed to these little wordless wonders.
Wordless Book Benefits in General
- understanding the elements of story structure
- developing visual literacy
- thinking and writing creatively
- cultivating language and narrative abilities
- increasing literacy and vocabulary skills
- accommodating special needs and learning styles
- inspiring storytelling
- developing book-handling behaviors and confidence for emergent readers
Additionally, “wordless books are well suited to contemporary children’s strengths” (Early Childhood Education Journal, Vol. 29, No.3). Today’s children live in a society dominated by visual images, which are broadcast via television, computers and so forth. Because these books relate a story entirely through the illustrations, they encourage children to apply visual literacy skills, and not only draw inferences from what is pictured but also respond to the quality of the pictures and note details that adults sometimes miss.
Wordless Book Benefits in the Classroom
Sometimes a small change in classroom practice can put a new focus on an old habit. By replacing the books in their story corner with wordless books, two teachers rediscovered the joy and wonder that books inspire. Both the children and their teachers benefited from the use of wordless picture books. If you haven’t introduced them into your classroom book corner yet, we hope that our account of this experience will motivate you to visit your local library and check them out!
Wordless Book Benefits for Children with Learning Differences
Health News Digest reported that “Books without text can increase literacy vocabulary skills in children with developmental disabilities”. Additionally,
‘We found that when creating a story or just responding to pictures, the parent used many words and complex sentence structures while engaging with their child. That level of engagement wasn’t as present when reading books with text,’ said Gillam. ‘These results fall in line with the generally accepted belief that less structured activities, such as playing with toys or creating things with Play-Doh, elicit more productive language interactions between parent and child. These findings in no way diminish the importance of reading printed books, but incorporating interactions with wordless books is a way to build a more solid literacy foundation in children with developmental disabilities’.
Additionally from the same article and of considerable benefit to all children:
An overview of recent research found parents used many more words and complex sentence structures while engaging with their children over a wordless picture book versus a picture book with text. This level of adult-child dialogue is known to increase literacy and vocabulary skills in developmentally disabled/delayed children.
The benefits cited, and countless more like them, are beyond eye-opening. I have a newfound and robust appreciation for wordless books and the subtle power they posses. Most clearly, they deserve a place in the hands of children and all of those who share reading with them.
Thank you for sharing, Laurie! You can read more of Laurie’s thoughts and wisdom over at the Footnotes blog.
One of the things that sets Barefoot Books apart from other publishers is our fantastic list of books in Spanish. Ambassador Jennifer Bennett discovered us for just that reason, and wrote this great blog post over at Footnotes about using Spanish books in an English-speaking home:
Only Spanish Books for my Kids!
Hi! Hola! My name is Jen, and I am a wife and mother of two, Michael (4) and MarySol (3). I used to be a high school Spanish teacher, but now my passion is to share the gift of a second language with my favorite students — my kids!
This has had its challenges; don’t get me wrong! My husband does not speak Spanish. Our families do not speak Spanish. We live in Michigan, which is not a predominantly Spanish speaking part of the country. So I had to get creative. How would I get my children to learn Spanish in this English-dominant environment?
I had to create our own Spanish environment. Singing. Speaking. Watching TV. Reading. We do all of these in Spanish.
Any song I know in English, I translate, sometimes a little roughly, into Spanish. I always speak to them in Spanish and encourage them to speak to me and to each other in Spanish. If they get to watch a show or movie, I only let them watch it in Spanish.
But mostly we read together. I only read to them in Spanish. If a book is in English, I translate it. But Dr. Seuss just does not sound as nice when I translate it. So I started looking for good quality books in Spanish.
That is when I discovered Oso en bicicleta by Barefoot Books.
This book is a sweet journey about a boy and a bear to different places on different modes of transportation. The text is simple but has an amazing rhythm and rhyme with some great repeating texts. We read this book so many times that eventually my 2-year-old son read it with me! This was extra special because he didn’t really speak at that time, possibly due to the two languages or possibly because he is a boy. So when he started repeating with me as I read, it brought tears to my eyes! Finally, something was sinking in! I was reading, and not only was he understanding, he was learning!
We are also very fond of music and were so happy to discover tons of singalong books in Spanish also by Barefoot Books. Singing and reading is such a wonderful way to develop language, and to do them at the same time is even more powerful! One of our favorites is Vivamos la granja. This song is pure sweetness, and the story of kids on the farm is a wonderful way to teach them about farm life. My kids often sing the song by themselves or together, even when we are not reading. It is great to build their vocabulary and I learn so much myself! At the end of the book , you will find extra information to expand on daily life on the farm.
Another great sing-along book we love is El loro Tico Tango. This is a fun story that also teaches about sharing. In the story, Tico Tango takes fruit from his friends. In the end he drops all of the stolen fruit and despite what he did to his friends, the friends still agree to share with him. This has been a great story in my house — having two toddlers, we often struggle with sharing and taking things from one another. It has become fun to say “Don’t be a Tico Tango!”, and my children understand immediately that it is not nice to take things from others.
Reading with my children has been a wonderful way to share special time and to also build language skills. I love finding new books to share with them, and they love it when I bring new books into our home.
Thank you for sharing, Jen! You can learn about how our Ambassadors use our books over at Footnotes. If you’re interested in bringing Spanish into your home, you can shop our Spanish titles available in North America here, including our latest bilingual title Bear on a Bike / Oso bicicleta, releasing next week!
Although there’s never a bad time to host a Barefoot Party, summer is a particularly great time to gather your family and friends for a fabulous few hours of stories, crafts and fun. So we talked to hosting extraordinaire Ambassador Dena Davis to learn about what makes hosting a Barefoot Party so unique. Working out of Maine, Dena has been with Barefoot Books for almost seven years and as one of our Turquoise Leaders works with and inspiring entrepreneurial women all over the country. Take it away, Dena!
What is your favourite part of hosting Barefoot Parties?
- I love so many things about Barefoot parties, honestly! I love collaborating with my party hosts and creating the type of event that fits their family’s needs. I’ve had super creative hosts who’ve wanted to plan every detail, to hosts who prefer an open house-style event. I love working with children, and watching their enthusiasm as we sing and dance to the singalongs. I also love being the one to introduce parents and grandparents to the best-kept-secret in children’s books.
Where do you host your parties and who do you host them with?
- I either host parties in my own home or at a host’s home, both inside and outside. Some parties have children present and others don’t.
What’s one particular party moment you LOVE to share? Hopefully it’s not a party foul!
- One party moment that stands out is an Animal Boogie party at a friend’s house. She went crazy creating the cutest snacks and binoculars for her guests, and her mom dressed up in safari gear and led all sorts of songs. Another favourite party memory was a party hosted by a little girl (and her mom) who invited everyone to come in pjs and bring their sleeping bags. They had tea and cookies, and then listened to the anthologies on CD while the moms gathered in the basement to learn about Barefoot and shop.
What makes a Barefoot Party different from other home parties?
- There is so much room for creativity. If the host wants to include her children, we can do that. If she wants it to be just for other moms, we can accommodate. If she wants to discuss parenting issues such as raising compassionate children, we can go deep with our Open Hearts & Minds party theme, or we can keep it light with Fairy Tales & Cocktails. I love all the possibilities!
What is your advice for individuals considering a Barefoot Party?
- My advice is to have a plan but be flexible, especially if it’s a party with children. Don’t feel you have to know everything about Barefoot or every book. It’s okay to say, “I don’t know, but I can find out.” Be sure to listen; avoid talking too much! Most importantly, be yourself and have fun!
Last week, I went to a neuroscience-meets-psychology seminar in London about infant-parent relationships. It was delightful to be reminded how even the smallest babies are ready and eager to engage with the adults in their world and to tune into what is being shared with them. In the wake of this experience, I was very happy earlier this week to read the news from the American Association of Pediatrics that it will now be a requirement for health professionals to give guidance to young parents of the value of reading to their new babies.
A book is a baby’s first theatre. Among the many benefits of reading with your baby is the way this kind of sharing gives the baby space, intimacy and a shared, multisensory experience all at once. Babies may well want to treat the books in their own way – chewing and bashing them a bit is all part of the fun and is not to be discouraged. But the sound of a carer’s voice, the security of being held, the colours and contrasts in the art, all combine to lay strong foundations. This is not just about literacy, it’s about bonding, and it’s about emotional, psychological and spiritual wellbeing – for both parties.
Many of our board books are great for sharing with babies, but here are my current favourites:
Also, read a commentary from ‘The Guardian’, where ‘Bear on a Bike’ is warmly recommended – hurrah!
Brain drain, also known as summer learning loss, summer slide, or summer holiday ‘unlearning’ refers to students’ loss of skills and knowledge during the summer weeks when school is out.
Unfortunately, summer learning loss is very real. Research shows that:
- Students lose an average of one month of school learning over summer vacation/holiday.
- Some students — especially from disadvantaged backgrounds — lose up to three months of learning.
- Summer learning loss is greatest in math computation, reading and spelling.
- Teachers of all grade levels often need to spend the first several weeks of each school year reteaching what students learned the year before.
Why do students lose learning over the summer? Limited access to books and a lack of positive reading experiences are two of the main reasons. The good news is that, according to the research, there are some clear solutions. Educators and parents can help:
- Reading just 6 books with your children over the summer can help retain learning from the preceding year.
- Build your home library. Have a selection of books on hand from which your children can choose — children are more engaged when they select the books they read.
- Include books that reinforce basic learning concepts, especially math.
- “Unpack” the books through discussion and activities.
Our summer reading list below gives some great suggestions for building your home library and keeping the dreaded brain drain at bay. Want to extend the books further? Download our “Book Report” printable (US version/UK version), which gives children of all ages a chance to practice their writing/language skills and explain why they love a book!
Barefoot Books Summer Skill-Building Reading List
Anthologies to Read Together
The Barefoot Book of Animal Tales US / UK
The Barefoot Book of Buddhist Tales US / UK
The Barefoot Book of Earth Tales US / UK
The Barefoot Book of Jewish Tales US / UK
The Barefoot Book of Pirates US / UK
The Barefoot Book of Princesses US / UK
Indian Tales US / UK
Tales from Old Ireland US / UK
The Wise Fool US / UK
Early Independent Readers:
Monster Stories #1: The Feathered Ogre US / UK MS #2: The Mother of Monsters US / UK
MS #3: The Abominable Snowman US / UK
MS #4: The Terrible Chenoo US / UK
MS #5: Rona Long-Teeth US / UK
MS #6: Grim, Grunt, and Grizzle-Tail US / UK
What are you doing to fight Brain Drain this summer??
In Out of the Blue, children comb the beach for seashells and other treasures, which they then use to create art. Where do seashells come from? How many different types of seashells are there? In this activity, learn fascinating facts about seashells, work on early math skills with sorting games and create a beautiful, beachy keepsake.
Our best selling illustrator, Clare Beaton, was kind enough to create an activity just for us. It is such a treat to see her hand-drawn instructions!
In this craft, you will create your own sparkly seahorse inspired by her illustrations in Secret Seahorse. Experiment with bright colours and quirky beads for a unique under-the-sea ornament!
- Brightly colored felt
- 8″ or 20cm wool or ribbon
- Sequins and buttons
- Tracing paper or vellum
- Pins and glue
What to do:
3. Glue the two seahorses together, first placing the ends of the ribbon in between the layers at the top of the seahorse. Tip: For fine motor practice, sew the seahorses together instead. Punch evenly spaced holes around the edges and sew together with lacing thread.
4. Decorate both sides with sequins and buttons, and hang it up once the glue has dried!
I love the way books travel; the way they crop up in quite unexpected places. But when I went over to New Zealand last month to tread in my grandmothers’ footsteps, I never expected to encounter our very own Barefoot bear! You can probably imagine my surprise and delight when I learnt that Bear on a Bike was the very favourite book of two three-year-old twins whose Mum works with my cousin Jeremy Jones in Blenheim. Here are the twins, Isabel and Alice, with me and their grandmother and of course, Bear!