Sunday, February 15, 2015

A Pause in the Story

I want to thank everyone for reading my blog and I have greatly enjoyed sharing my storytime ideas, songs and activities with you over the past months.  I am taking a health break and will not be posting for awhile.  I cheer you all on as you continue to read and be creative with your children!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Season for Special Days!

Before  we explore The Season for Special Days, I would like to remind those of you who were reading Every Day Is Storytime in September and announce to those of you who are new to my blog:  This fall I published my first picture book, Miss Lucy Jane.

The text is a lyrical poem about a fanciful girl who creates whimsical adventures for every day of one wonderful week.  The imaginative and inviting illustrations are by my cousin Emmeline Hall and include a mouse hiding in each scene and clues in every picture that lead you to the next adventure.  I wrote Miss Lucy Jane for you to read aloud so that you can best enjoy all the rhythms and rhymes.  The book is available on Amazon or from me at  Emmeline and I have had great feedback from people of all ages from two to eighty-four!  One reader wrote: "It is just so much fun!"   Another reader wrote:  "We love to look at the pictures over and over."  One grandmother shared: "Miss Lucy Jane is the kind of book I was always looking for our children.  I am glad to be able to read it to my grandchildren!"

It is December, almost winter and The Season for Special Days for people all around the world.  When I was doing library preschool storytimes, I searched for an interesting way to teach young children about a variety of holidays without endorsing one culture over another.  I discovered a wonderful set of traditions common to at least four holidays  celebrated at this time of year and found books to share and wrote songs or chants to go with them.  I hope you can find ways to use these ideas in your home, school or library.

I usually offer a BOOKLIST at this point in the blog but will, for this subject, just include the books that I used for each explored holiday and in conjunction with my song or chant.  Gather up your own holiday books and create a cozy reading corner.  Ask your librarian for suggestions for other books about any holidays and celebrations throughout the year and around the world.

Start your day with a good book.  Take turns choosing the first book of the day.  When you get to the end of the week, talk about the books you have shared and find out if there is a favorite choice and read that one again!!  Study the illustrations and find out if everyone has a favorite picture.  If you are reading books about celebrations that are not a part of your family traditions, talk about what you find most interesting in another culture's holiday.

The celebration of each one of these holidays involves the traditions of the gathering of family and friends, music special to the holiday, food special to the holiday, gift giving, candles and special lights, expressions of thankfulness,  and the assurance and sharing of love.  The books I used feature these elements of the celebrations.  The songs and chants that I wrote and taught with hand movements were approved by friends from each culture represented.  For each holiday, I made a felt set of candles and built a picture on the flannelboard to represent each celebration.

HANUKKAH      Book:  Eight Days of Hanukkah   by Harriet Ziefert
Felt set:  a menorah candleholder, 9 candles to match the candles in the book, 9 yellow flames so we could add a candle each day and light it as we read the book. Each day of celebration shown in the book ends with "It's Hanukkah tonight!"  Everyone says those words together. At the end of the book, we sang to the tune of the old counting song, One Little, Two Little.... (or make up your own tune) as we counted the candles on the felt menorah we created.  Count on your fingers as you sing.

                                                          LIGHTING MY MENORAH
                                                     One little, two little, three little candles,
                                                     four little, five little, six little candles,
                                                     seven little, eight little, nine little candles
                                                                    lighting my menorah 
                                                                    on this Hanukkah!

CHRISTMAS     Book:  The Carolers    by Georgia Guback

Felt set:   an advent wreath of green felt  leaves,  3 purple candles, 1 pink candle, 1 white candle, and 5 yellow flames.  As I read this book showing carolers visiting many households in their town, I added a candle around the wreath after each scene, saving the white candle for the center of the wreath.  As the carolers start to the house, everyone says "Merry Christmas!"  Then we "lit" the candles and sang a song I wrote for our familu in honor of the Christmas tradition of putting a candle in every window to welcome visitors. This song makes a wonderful round.  Make up your own tune or speak the words in a chant!  If you have enough older people in your group to quickly learn the words, try it as a round: one half of the group starts and the second half starts when the first group begins the third line.  Go through the words twice.  It is great fun to do and to hear!!
Hold up one finger on each hand for candles and wave them to the rhythm for the first two lines.  Hold your arms out to your sides and slowly bring them together to cross over your heart.

                                               CHRISTMAS CANDLES ROUND
                                                 Candles, candles, light and bright.
                                                 Candles, candles in the night. 
                                                 Let the people know that they
                                                 are welcome on this Christmas Day!
                                                                                 copyright 1974 Jane Willis Johnston

KWANZAA     Book:  Seven Candles for Kwanzaa     by Andrea Pinkney Davis 
Felt set:  a kinara candleholder, 3 red candles, 3 green candles, 1 black candle, 7 yellow flames.
I read the book and placed the candles on the kinara to match the sequence explained and shown in the pictures.   At the beginning of each tradition shown,  everyone says "Habari gani?  Habari gani?" which means "What's the good news?" in Swahili.  After we learned about this celebration of the African-American culture, we learned this chant.  Keep a rhythm going by patting your knees twice, then clapping twice.  PAT PAT, CLAP CLAP throughout the chant, finishing with your hands over your head.

                                                     KWANZAA CANDLES CHANT
                                                            Kwanzaa candles bright
                                                                lighting up the night,
                                                            Shining through the day
                                                                show us all the way.
                                                            Black and green and red
                                                                 help us look ahead.
                                                                             copyright 2000 Jane Willis Johnston

This is getting too long, I know, but this is probably my chance to share these things with the world.  This last song (again, make up your own tune) is written to be a circle dance.  Hold hands in a circle and alternate going to the right for one verse, then to the left for the next.  For the Chorus each time, move into the middle of the circle and hold hands up and touch, then move back into your circle.

                                                   CELEBRATE TOGETHER
                                           Come gather friends and family now,
                                                    let's sing a song together.
                                            We've so much to be thankful for,
                                                    let's celebrate together!

                                           Come gather 'round the candles now,
                                                     let's keep our faith together.
                                                            (Repeat chorus)
                                           Come gather 'round the table now,      
                                                     let's eat a meal together.
                                                             (Repeat chorus)

                                           Come gather 'round the circle now,
                                                    let's give our gifts together.
                                                             (Repeat chorus)

                                           Come gather on this holiday,
                                                   let's share our love together.
                                                             (Repeat chorus)  

Be sure to tell each other lots of good holiday stories from your family traditions!  Thank you all for being a part of my life and allowing me to share my gifts with you. 
                                                    HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Such a Silly Day!

I hope everyone is feeling especially full of the sillies after all the fun of Halloween.  Heading into the holiday season and looking forward to all the sharing and meaningfulness of celebrations of all cultures at this time of year, be sure to include the pure joy there is in having simple, silly fun together.  We all know the holidays become as stressful as they are wonderful! Some people say that humor is the highest form of intelligence.  That could well be!  I am sure it is the most successful form of communication and a good way to good health.  Laughter truly is the best medicine!  So see how many ridiculous things you can squeeze into Such a Silly Day!  And if that feels good, try it again and again!!

Check out books from your library.  Be sure to ask the librarian to tell you about some funny, silly books.  Look through your books at home and find the most ridiculous books you have.

There is no better way to start a silly day than with a silly book or two.  Try some of these favorites of mine on for size. If your library does not have them, ask for them through interlibrary loan.  They are all worth the wait.  (Teachers and librarians:  Books noted with * are books I used for my library storytimes, some better for younger groups, some for older groups.)  All these books make me laugh!

Benjamin's 365 Birthdays   by Judi Barrett
Farm Flu   by Teresa Bateman
The Mouse and the Apple*   by Stephen Butler
Stuck in the Mud*   by Jane Clarke
Mrs. Wishy-Washy's Farm   by Joy Cowley
Muncha! Muncha! Muncha! *  by Candace Fleming
Cat's Cake*   by Richard Fowler
The Magic Hat *  by Mem Fox
Monkey and Me*   by Emily Gravatt
Big Chickens*   by Leslie Helakoski
Pigs to the Rescue!*  by John Himmelman
What! Cried Granny*   by Kate Lum
Pigs in the Mud in the Middle of the Rud*   by Lynn Plourde
One Duck Stuck*   by Phyllis Root
What Baby Wants*  by Phyllis Root
The Cow Loves Cookies  by Karma Wilson
Silly Sally*   by Audrey Wood

GET READY TO GET SILLY!!   In 1988 I wrote an ACTION RHYME titled Froggy, Frog.  It features rhyme and rhythm and ACTION.  I now have two more like it and hereby place them under  the general title SILLY STACKS!  Someday I would like to put these in a book.  Publishing them today in my blog establishes copyright.  For the time being, it will be up to you to imagine illustrations, maybe draw some yourself, or collect the animals and objects in the rhymes. Create three-dimensional illustrations  in your house or at your library or in your classroom, wherever you find yourself when you are using SILLY STACKS! to be especially silly!  Be sure everyone knows what a bog is and what a fog is before you begin. 

                                                          Froggy, Frog
                                                   Frog, frog, froggy, frog,
                                                   the frog was on the dog.
                                                   Dog, dog, doggy, dog,
                                                   the dog was on the log.
                                                   Log, log, loggy, log,
                                                   the log was in the bog.
                                                   Bog, bog, boggy, bog,
                                                   the bog was in the fog.
                                                   Fog, fog, foggy, fog,
                                                   Frog, Dog, Log, Bog, Fog!  
                                                                             copyright 1988  Jane Willis Johnston

ACTIONS FOR Froggy, Frog: Sit cross-legged.  Put your hands together in a double fist and put them on your head.  Rock side to side as you say the first two lines.  When you get to dog, change your hands to floppy dog ears.  Now flop your hands and rock side to side as you say the dog lines.  When you get to log, drop your arms and hands in front of you and lay one arm, hand to elbow, over the other and rock side to side and you say the log lines.  When you get to bog, open your arms out and bring them back together to the rhythm of the words.  When you get to fog, stretch out your fingers and place your hands in front of your face.  When you say the fog lines, move your hands, one up and one down in front of your face. When you get to the last line, put your frog back up on your head and do the motions for each word.  Practice the words and the motions until you can do it all really fast and just as silly as possible!

Now that you know what SILLY STACKS are and how they work, you take the next two and create your own ACTIONS to fit the words.  When you have been silly over and over again,  go around the house and find things to stack up.  They don't have to rhyme.  They just have to be fun to put together and make a SILLY STACK!  And remember, you can be a part of a STACK yourself.  Or you can set them up and march around them being silly and saying words to the rhythm.

                                                             Batty, Bat
                                                        Bat, bat, batty, bat,
                                                        the bat sat on the rat.
                                                        Rat, rat, ratty, rat,
                                                        the rat sat on the hat.
                                                        Hat, hat, hatty, hat,
                                                        the hat sat on the cat.
                                                        Cat, cat, catty, cat,
                                                        the cat sat on the mat.
                                                        Mat, mat, matty, mat,
                                                        Bat, Rat, Hat, Cat, Mat!           

                                                                                copyright 2013  Jane Willis Johnston

                                                               Peary, Pear
                                                        Pear, pear, peary, pear,
                                                        the pear sat on the hare.
                                                        Hare, hare, harey, hare,
                                                        the hare sat on the bear.
                                                        Bear, bear, beary, bear.
                                                        the bear sat on the mare.
                                                        Mare, mare, marey, mare,
                                                        the mare sat on the chair.
                                                        Chair, chair, chairy, chair,
                                                        Pear, Hare, Bear, Mare, Chair!  
                                                                               copyright 2013  Jane Willis  Johnston       

Before you go to bed at the end of Such a Silly Day, read one more silly book and laugh yourself to sleep!                       

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Halloween Night Starts with Halloween Day!

Miss Lucy Jane, my newly published picture book for all ages, is available on Amazon.  Please see my previous post for details.  If you do purchase the book (and I thank you for that!), be sure to email me at for suggestions on more ways to enjoy and explore Miss Lucy Jane.   Storytime presentation and craft ideas are included and are great for parents, librarians and teachers.  You can also find news of Miss Lucy Jane and my suggestions on the blog Sturdy for Common Things, a follower of this blog.

Now on to Halloween Night Starts with Halloween Day!  Most of the Halloween books, stories, poems, fingerplays and action rhymes I used for my storytimes at the library were all about pumpkins. PUMPKIN is such a fun word to say and saying it over and over is even more fun!  Make sure everyone knows what a PUMPKIN is and what a JACK-O-LANTERN is.  You could draw one,  make a paper one, carve or draw on a real pumpkin,  look at one in a book,  make pumpkin or jack-o-lantern cookies, or do it all.  Here are a few good Halloween books to start your day.

The Fierce Yellow Pumpkin  by Margaret Wise Brown
The Bumpy Little Pumpkin  by Margery Cuyler
The Mystery Vine by Cathryn Falwell
Pumpkin Eye  by Denise Fleming
It's Pumpkin Time! by Zoe Hall
Apples and Pumpkins  by Anne Rockwell
Plumply Dumply Pumpkin by Mary Serfozo
Mouse's First Halloween by Lauren Thompson
Five Little Pumpkins by Iris Van Rynback
Pumpkin, Pumpkin by Jean Titherington
The Little One Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything by Linda Williams
Five Little Pumpkins  by Dan Yaccarino  (This is a Board Book.)

Now everyone should be ready for my PUMPKIN CHANT!  I always taught this right after reading Plumply Dumply Pumpkin. (See booklist above.) I wrote these fun words in 2001 and have used it with great silliness and energy and success with all ages every since.  It always takes quite a few words to describe the suggested movements for my ACTION RHYMES.  (And remember, you can always make up your own movements!)  So let's just start with the CHANT to get to know the words and rhymes and rhythm.  Then I will get down to the  ACTION details, and we will get really silly!

                                                                PUMPKIN CHANT

                                                               Pumpkin, pumpkin,
                                                                   pumpkin bread!
                                                               Pumpkin, pumpkin,
                                                                   pumpkin head!
                                                               Pumpkin, pumpkin,
                                                                   pumpkin pie!
                                                               Pumpkin, pumpkin,
                                                                   pumpkin eye!
                                                               Pumpkin, pumpkin,
                                                                   pumpkin cake!
                                                               Pumpkin, pumpkin,
                                                                   pumpkin shake!
                                                               Pumpkin, pumpkin,
                                                                   pumpkin stew!
                                                               Pumpkin, pumpkin,
                                                                   pumpkin BOO!

                                                                                2001 copyright Jane Willis Johnston

ACTIONS: Sit down on a chair or cross-legged on the floor  All the way through the chant you will keep up a rhythm of PAT PAT, CLAP CLAP, PAT PAT by patting your knees, then clapping you hands, then patting your knees again for the words "Pumpkin, pumpkin, pumpkin. . ."

For "bread" hold hands flat in front of you, palms up, one lying on top of the other
For "head" put hands on head
For "pie" hold hands in a big circle
For "eye" make "eyeglasses" curving hands around eyes
For "cake" hold hands flat, one palm up, one palm down held five inches above the other hand
For "shake" hold fists up close to ears and shake them as hard as you can
For "stew" curve one arm out and in toward chest in shape of stewpot, stir with other hand

When you get to the last "pumpkin" instead of patting your knees, hold your hands over your eyes and get ready to pull them away to shout BOO! as loudly as you can!!!  

To add a little fun, I usually pause and hold on the non-pumpkin words, and I usually let my voice get a little spooky (if nobody seems worried about that) on "head" and "eye" and "shake" and "BOO!"   Now see how fast you can say the words and do the actions!!

Put on your Halloween or any kind of costumes and try out this idea for making up stories using who or what you are all dressed up to be as characters in a circle story. Before you begin this activity, cut BIG shapes from construction paper.  Make squares, circle, triangles, rectangles and whatever other shapes you like.  Give everybody one or two or three shapes.  Sit down in a BIG circle.  Now you are ready to make up a story that will create a JACK-O-LANTERN face in the middle of the circle.

Decide who will start the story.  That person, who might be dressed up like a robot and have a triangle,  might say "One morning when I was feeling very hungry I ate a great big piece of pizza for breakfast!"  Then the robot will put a triangle out in the circle to start a JACK-O-LANTERN face.  It might be a nose or part of the mouth or an ear.  The robot can put it wherever he wants.  Then it is, maybe, a fairy's turn.  Maybe the fairy has a circle.  So the fairy might say, "When the fairy saw the piece of pizza for breakfast, it made her think of a whole pizza and that made her think of a whole cake and so she baked a big round Halloween cake for lunch."  Or the fairy might say, "When the fairy saw the robot eating breakfast, she knew she was hungry, so she climbed on her magic wheel and rolled down the hill to the bakery for a donut."   Then the fairy will put her circle out to make part of the JACK-O-LANTERN face.  Obviously stories can take you anywhere. And wherever this story takes you, in the end a fine JACK-O-LANTERN will appear!

When you are all finished, you can say the PUMPKIN CHANT again while you are sitting in the circle looking at the JACK-O-LANTERN face as the JACK-O-LANTERN face looks at you!!.

Have a full-of-fun Halloween day and a Halloween night full of sweet dreams of the day!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

A Good Day for a New Book!

I know it has been a month now since I shared family activities, action rhymes and stories with you.  It has been a special and especially busy time!  My picture book Miss Lucy Jane by Jane Willis Johnston, illustrated by my cousin Emmeline Hall was published!!  Such an amazing journey making a book has been.  The text is a poem I wrote many years ago, and I was delighted when I was able to partner with Emmeline to bring it all to life.  If you are interested in owning it,  Miss Lucy Jane is available from here from Amazon or from me at

Miss Lucy Jane is a fanciful girl "full of dreams and flap-doodle schemes."  Follow her on one week of wonderful, creative adventures.  And search for a mouse in every picture!  You can also find clues  in each picture that will lead you into the amazing world of the next picture. If you would like, please tell your local library about the book and  perhaps they will add it to their collection...and you can check it out!

I will be back soon with October ACTION RHYMES and story ideas.  I hope your family is having a fun fall.  Fill those autumn nights with warm stories and entertaining ideas!


Saturday, August 23, 2014

A Fine Day for Cats!

Find A Fine Day for Cats in your busy week. 

Cats are most interesting animals and a lot of fun to play with.  They are quite smart, always curious about the world, busy when they are busy and great nappers when they have worn themselves out.  Cats do have minds of their own.  Though cats can become a comfortable part of a home and family, they really believe they are in charge of everything.  They make it clear when they are finished with one thing and ready for something else. They are warm and cuddly and like to cozy up next to you while you are reading a book.  They let you know when they are hungry and when they have had enough.  Cats are definitely nice to have around.  Cats are a lot like children!  Have A Fine Day for Cats...and Children!

Go on a hunt around your house to find any books you have with a cat or two inside.  Take a trip to the library for more cat books.  Here are a few of my favorites.  Be sure to ask the librarian to help you find some of his or her favorite cat books!  Be sure to request through interlibrary loan any titles your library does not own.
Mrs. McTats and her Houseful of Cats  by Alyssa Capucilli
Have You Seen My Cat?  by Eric Carle
My Cat Jack  by Patricia Casey
Kitten red yellow blue  by Peter Catalanotto
Pete the Cat  I Love My White Shoes  by James Dean and Eric Litwin
    (There are more titles in the Pete the Cat series.)
Four Fierce Kittens  by Joyce Dunbar
Angus and the Cat  by Marjorie Flack
Mama Cat Has Three Kittens  by Denise Fleming
Millions of Cats  by Wanda Gag
Three Little Kittens by Paul Galdone
Kitten's First Full Moon  by Kevin Henkes
All for Pie, and Pie for All  by David Martin
Four Hungry Kittens  by Emily Arnold McCully

Curl up together several times during the day for good books and cat naps!

Here is a fun way to create your own story about a cat. 

You be the storyteller and ask everyone else to be the storychoosers.  Start with the following suggestions, if you want, and go from there.  When you come to the questions, wait for an answer from the storychoosers and then repeat it into the story.  So the first line might turn out something like this:

Once upon a time, about (HOW MANY YEARS AGO?), there lived a cat (HOW BIG WAS THE CAT?  WHAT COLOR WAS THAT CAT?  WHAT COLOR WERE THE EYES? HOW LONG WAS THE TAIL?) ) that nobody knew, so everybody just called ( HIM OR HER?) THAT CAT.

(So you put in the choices as you go along:  Once upon a time, about five years ago, there lived a giant orange cat with purple eyes and a very long tail that nobody knew, so everybody called him THAT CAT!)  

Now, THAT CAT was (HOW OLD?) and was looking for (WHAT WAS THAT CAT LOOKING FOR?)  THAT CAT looked (WHERE?) and THAT CAT looked (WHERE?) but THAT CAT had no luck finding it anywhere!  Soon THAT CAT decided to climb a (WHAT DID THAT CAT CLIMB?)  and see what there was to see.  When THAT CAT got (HOW HIGH DID THAT CAT CLIMB?) the weather started to change.  (DID IT START TO RAIN OR SNOW OR BLOW OR GET TOO HOT?)  So THAT CAT had to (WHAT DID THAT CAT HAVE TO DO?) to get away from the tricky weatherCats do not like to be too wet or too cold or too hot or too windblown!  THAT CAT ran as fast as he could until he came to a (WHAT DID THAT CAT COME TO?  SOMETHING LIKE A CAVE OR A RIVER OR A SWINGSET OR A TREEHOUSE OR A PICNIC?)  in our neighborhood.  And right there THAT CAT found what he was looking for all along (DO YOU REMEMBER WHAT HE WAS LOOKING FOR?)  THAT CAT was very happy.  He decided to settle down then and there. And that is why, to this very day, THAT CAT lives down the road from our house where he cooks and sells (WHAT DOES THAT CAT COOK AND SELL- PANCAKES OR PICKLES OR WHAT?)  to anyone walking by.  Now everybody is so happy to know THAT (REMEMBER THE DESCRIPTION YOU CHOSE AT THE BEGINNING OF THE STORY?)  CAT!

You can get some good exercise with this ACTION RHYME!  
Stand up, hold your arms out in front  and make a fist for the cat and one for the mouse. 
For the first two lines, swing your arms, twist as far around as you can as your fists chase each other.  Then hold your hands wide apart to show the cat is "large" and clap your hands and hold them together to show the mouse is "thin."
Now swing and twist and make the cat chase the mouse again. 
Rub your tummy when the cat and mouse are hungry, hold your hands in a bowl shape up close to your mouth and lap when they are eating stew.
Lean your head over on one hand and close your eyes when the cat takes a nap. put your other hand across your chest when the mouse sits down in the cat's lap. 
Then MEOW as loudly as you can for the rest of the poem and your swing your arms and twist for the chase again OR run out of the room as fast as you can!
                                                            CAT AND MOUSE

                                               There was a cat who chase a mouse
                                                       in and out a big old house.
                                               That cat was large, that mouse was thin.
                                                      They ran around and back again.
                                               That cat was hungry, mouse was, too.
                                                  They stopped to eat a bowl of stew.
                                                  That cat was tired and took a nap. 
                                               That mouse sat down on that cat's lap!

                                                When cat woke up and saw that mouse,
                                      cat MEOWED and chased mouse from that house!!

                                                                                Copyright 2000 Jane Willis Johnston

Use purchased alphabet flash cards or make your own.  If you make your own, be sure to write the letters in both upper and lower case.  Use one color for all letters that rhyme with B.  Use a contrasting color for all other letters.  With the pre-made cards, make two piles, those that rhyme with B and all of the others.  Figuring that out together is a good activity all by itself!

You could make two cat stick puppets for this or just be the cats yourselves.  Let's start with the rhyme so you understand my idea.  This is based on a nursery rhyme.  Say it together a few times.

                                                              TWO SILLY CATS

                                                       Two silly cats raced up a tree,
                                                       One named A, one named B.
                                                        A clapped her paws.
                                                        B clicked his claws,

                                                        A MEOWED a song,
                                                        B danced along.
                                                        Two silly cats raced down a tree,
                                                         One named A, one named B! 
                                                                                 Copyright 2009 Jane Willis Johnston

Find the A card and the B card and set them on the floor so everyone can see.  Make sure everyone knows what the cards say.
Everybody squats down, ready to be cats racing up a tree.  (Or holding cat puppets to make race up a tree.) 
On the first line, stand up, stretch arms. 
On second line, wave one hand for A and then the other for B.
Make your actions fit the words of the next four lines. 
Then squat down as fast as you can for the last lines, remembering to wave hand for A and one for B.

Now, draw another card from each pile, set them out so everyone can see. make sure everybody knows what they say, and do the ACTION RHYME all over again! 

See how fast and how silly you can be!  And learn about letters on such A Fine Day for Cats!


Sunday, July 27, 2014

Have a Happy Home and Family Day!

Greetings and thank you to all of you who follow Every Day Is Storytime!  I have been slow to post my latest theme as I have been busy finalizing my first picture book, Miss Lucy Jane, which will be published and available in September.  The beautiful illustrations are by my cousin Emmeline Hall.  I am very excited and look forward to sharing Miss Lucy Jane with the world come autumn.

Every day, whether it is filled with activities away from your house or busy with lots of house and yard moments, is wonderfully framed with the comfortable look and feel and smell and spirit of the home you create with your family.  Take time to take a few photographs (or make drawings) of favorite spaces in your house, making sure everyone gets to add their special places to the list.  Take a photo (or draw a picture) of each person and pet in your family.  Use your photos or drawings to make a banner all about  The Story of Our Home and Family.   Write under each picture why that place was chosen, who chose it, and what special things you can do there.  Tape your pictures to a string or ribbon and tape your banner across a window or pin it to a curtain.  I hope at least one of the pictures shows an especially good place to read a book!!

Collect books from around your house that have something to do with home and family.  Check your local library for the following titles.  Request them from the interlibrary service if necessary.  Be sure to explore the library shelves for books that look good to you1

Castles, Caves and Honeycombs  by Linda Ashman
I Want to Say I Love You  by Carolyn Buehner
Does a Kangaroo Have a Mother, Too?  Eric Carle
A House for Hermit Crab  by Eric Carle
Big Brother, Little Brother  by Penny Dale
Where's My Mom?  by Julia Donaldson
Ask Mr. Bear  by Marjorie Flack
Moving Day  by Robert Kalan
Peter's Chair by Ezra Jack Keats
What Baby Wants  by Phyllis Root
We Were Tired of Living in a House   by Liesel Skorpen
This Is the House that Was Tidy and Clean  by Teri Sloat
Raise the Roof!  by Anastasia Suen
This Is the House that Jack Built  by Simms Taback
Bunnies on the Go  by Rick Walton
The House That Jack Built  by Jeanette Winter

After you have shared a few books and talked about your own home and family, have fun with my HOME ACTION RHYME.  I wrote it many years ago to use in my Home and Family storytime.  It is one of my favorites because the hand movements flow so smoothly from one to another.  Try it and see how it works for you.  My teaching suggestion is to talk about the individual homes that appear in the poem and who lives in them so everyone knows what you are talking about.  Then read the poem, learn the actions, then put them all together.  Face your child to model the actions, or do them together in front of a mirror, or do both!


                                                               A king lives in a castle,
                                                                   A bird lives in a tree,
                                                          A bear lives in a deep, dark cave,
                                                                   And a fish lives in the sea.

                                                          A mouse lives in a mousehole,
                                                                 A hive is fine for bee,
                                                          A turtle crawls under a shell,
                                                              But a house is home to me!
                                                                                Copyright 1999 Jane Willis Johnston

Substitutions:  Replace "king" with queen or prince or princess in the first line.
Replace "house" with any other kind of human home, such as igloo, treehouse,  houseboat, tipi, tent, apartment, trailer, or anything else you can think of.  Be sure to create a motion for your new word.  Take turns being inventive.

Castle:  Stretch fingers and hold hands on sides of head to show a castle tower.
Tree: Stretch arms way out at your sides.
Cave: Hold arms in arch over your head with hands together.
Sea:  Keep your hands together and make them wave up and down as you bring your arms down in front of you.  You are making a wave and a fish swimming at the same time!
Mousehole:  Now open your hands and touch fingers to make a circle for the hole.
Hive:  Close your hands together into a double fist.
Turtle shell:  Move one hand curved over the other.  Stick out your thumb and little finger of the covered hand to show the turtle's head and tail (unless you want him to stay pulled in under his shell!)
House:  Lift your arms over your head and bring your hands together in a point for a roof.

Choose a few small stuffed animals or dolls or action figures, gather up whatever building supplies you have (blocks, legos, boxes, plastic food storage containers, plastic cups, straws, plastic spoons, etc.) and build a differently shaped house for each figure.  Consider their size and shape and what their needs might be.  When you are finished, you will have neighborhood all ready for you to tell a story about each house and who lives inside and what they like to do when they are home.

Get a little exercise by moving all around your house to the rhythm of my poem about going home.
You might want to get a lot of exercise and move in all the ways described in the poem.  Choose a place that is going to be "home" and when you get to the last line, run to that place and plop down!!

                                                     ALL THE WAY HOME

                                       I like to go walking and skipping and riding,
                                       I like to go climbing and jumping and hiding,
                                       I like to see all of the world when I roam,
                                       Then I like to go running all the way home!

                                                                                 Copyright 2003 Jane Willis Johnston

Take a look at your The Story of Our Home and Family banner before you settle down in a cosy corner of your home for a good bedtime book.  Sweet dreams!