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!