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  • Stephanie Fitzpatrick

The Building Blocks of Board Books (with 3 Free Resource Downloads!)

For the first post on The Book Links' Blog, it seems only fitting to begin with a post about the books that are our children's literary foundation - the board book. The Book Links aims to link authors to readers and classrooms through digital and downloadable materials. So, for each post I write, I also plan to share at least one free educational resource I have created that "links" to the topic. In writing for young readers, we learn about the Rule of Threes, so it's only fitting that I start us off by highlighting three board books I recently learned about and offering three free resource downloads to accompany the books!


Board books. They introduce our youngest readers (often just listeners, babblers, and beginning talkers, at this stage) to the connection between words and the world. Sometimes in black and white (great for infants whose eyes are still developing), but often in color, board books typically only have a few words, if any, per page, and focus on a particular topic to keep the readers' attention. When my boys were babies and toddlers, we easily had over 100 board books in our house (shhh...we probably still do!) and there were more than a few favorites that we read over and over (and over and over...) again (and many that were not only fun to read, but delicious for the boys to chew...ahhh, teething!).


While my boys are no longer at the age that most board books are designed for, a few weeks ago, our family ventured to New York City's financial district to attend the New York Jewish Book Festival's session on Jewish Board Books. We were here to support our good friend Nancy Churnin, but got so much more out of the event, and met some new authors too. Though our family is not Jewish, my husband and I have always wanted our kids to be exposed to and learn about the views, beliefs, and traditions of others and develop respect for all those with whom we share this world - and this was the perfect opportunity, especially as we look for a way to explain the current events in the world to our elementary-aged kids. Held at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, we listened to Nancy, along with authors Ann Koffsky and Sarah Aroeste, share their recently published board books. All three books were unique in topic, structure, and, as we learned during the event Q&A, in the writing process.


Nancy Churnin's Counting on Shabbat is a counting book that takes young readers through a Shabbat dinner and introduces such special elements as the braids of the challah bread, and the matzoh balls in the soup. Nancy Churnin's books usually focus on the kindness of others, and Counting on Shabbat is no different. Nancy explained that she had to be creative in finding a way to share different parts of a Shabbat dinner, using numbers 1-10 for the book's counting element, all while telling a story of showing kindness and being there for our elders.


Ann Koffsky's Sheep says Shalom is a fun accordion-style book that introduces young readers to the word "Shalom." With the "hello" meaning of Shalom on one side and "goodbye" meaning on the other, Ann as both the author and illustrator of the book, created an easy-to-understand story that also incorporates colorful illustrations, sure to catch the eye of any little one! Ann explained that in her design process, she not only had to think of the story to write, but also a creative way to illustrate it, knowing it would be told on both sides of the fold-out book!


Sarah Aroeste's Mazal Bueno! is a fun rhyming book that not only follows the milestones reached by our littlest readers, but also introduces the audience to the language of Ladino and a new phrase that is sure to be repeated over and over again! After reading it the first time, it was hard not to say "Mazal Bueno!" at each small celebration in my household! Sarah explained that during the writing process, her challenge was using a bilingual text structure while being sure to keep it rhyming!


These books, as with any board books, can easily be connected to everyday life and their concepts made more accessible to your little ones. Putting on my educator hat, here are some of my recommendations:

  • When you read Nancy Churnin's Counting on Shabbat, think of all the ways you can count around a meal - how many people are sitting at the table? What if someone gets up or someone new sits down - how many are there now? Find ways to count the food on the table - how many Cheerios are in the bowl or how many peas on the plate? And it's never too early to start talking to your child about bigger math concepts and involve older siblings in the conversation. Don't be afraid to say, "Mommy has two carrots on her plate, but Daddy has three. Daddy has one more than Mommy. Mommy has one less than Daddy."

  • As you read Ann Koffsky's Sheep says Shalom, talk about the animals in the book. Where do they live? What sounds do they make? What is the difference between the animals? What is the same about them? Older kids can talk about the word "Shalom" and identify times throughout their day when they would say it to someone else.

  • For Sarah Aroeste's book, talk about the different ways to congratulate a special event and look up how to say it in different languages! In English, we can say "Congratulatons!" In Spanish, we can say "¡Felicitaciones!" See if you can get your little ones to say "Mazal Bueno!" to you throughout the day for things you do, and then use this as an opportunity with older kids to talk about the events throughout their day that can be celebrated.



Now for the fun stuff - FREE RESOURCES! If you've read any of these books with your little ones and want an activity that takes the learning a step further, here are free worksheets to download (just click on the image, and a PDF that you can download and print will open). Each worksheet includes an activity and a learning extension at the end!


















As you head off for the rest of your day, I'll leave you with a Book Links staple - the Clickable Author Poster! Click on the poster below to access the documents from this blog post and for links to the author sites, book purchase pages and more! Until we link again...!


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