Last Chance for the Alphabet Forest (until next year)

Today is Last Chance Day at the Minnesota State Fair.  It’s your last chance to eat state fair food on a stick, to ride the rides on the Mighty Midway, or wander through the giant sea of fair-goers until next year.  Perhaps most importantly for families with young children, it’s the last day to win a blue ribbon by collecting fair words a la The Fabulous Fair Alphabet by Debra Frasier.

Ms. Frasier started the Alphabet Forest at the 2010 fair as a way to highlight literacy at the fair.  She writes on her web site,

“I write and illustrate books for children but my real work is to spread the joys of literacy everywhere I go. Developing innovative ways to strengthen vocabulary acquisition for young people is at the heart of my mission. “

I was privileged to work in the Alphabet Forest this past Friday afternoon & evening.  I watched families make banners with fair letters, color alphabet ferris wheels, and get their photos taken in the alphabet photo booth.  It was awesome.  The best part, though, was getting a chance to talk about books to parents and teachers who came to the Forest with their kids.  We paged through the picture books excitedly talking about how they could be used in a classroom and the amazing group of local children’s book authors we have right here in Minnesota, including the featured author of the day Catherine Thimmesh, whose book Friends: True Stories of Extraordinary Animal Friendships is very adorable.  Today’s author is Catherine Urdahl.  Her book, Polka Dot Fixes Kindergarten, is a great choice for new kindy kids.


My little one enjoyed the activities:


She also enjoyed “helping” me sell the books:

All in all, it was a great day at the fair.  :)

See more about the Alphabet Forest in this video or read about my adventures at last year’s state fair.

On the Day You Were Born’s Lasting Connections

On the Day You Were BornMy heart is poetry, but my world is explained by science. I want my daughter to know that both are important in our family. There is no better book to show her how science and poetry can co-exist than Debra Frasier’s On the Day You Were Born.

OTDYWB is twenty years old this year, and it remains a favorite of many families and a popular baby shower gift. The text imagines a world in which the animals and the earth all celebrate the birth of a child, and along the way it introduces scientific ideas gently to even the youngest of readers/listeners.

My family owns the board book version, which ends with the birth of the baby, but the hardcover includes several pages of back matter that gives more information on the natural phenomena covered in the story/poem from gravity and tides to photosynthesis and more. There are so many possibilities with this book. It could be a poetic look at a baby’s birth or a jumping off point for a larger discussion about nature.

The poem really came alive for my preschooler as we watched it performed by the Heart of the Beast Pupper Theater at a local library recently. She was delighted at the baby spinning on the earth and the interactive elements of the show (water and confetti were splashed on the audience). I appreciated that the performers introduced the various unusual intruments they used (harmonica, zyls, slide whistle, etc) to the young audience at the end of the performance. They also talked about how they made the puppets with simple materials–cardboard, paper mache–so that kids could try to make similar creations themselves.

If you have the opportunity to see the performance, I highly recommend it. Or put on your own performance with these stage directions from the author’s web site. I also really like the idea of creating your own version of the book. What was happening in nature on the day your child was born? Was it day or night? What season was it? Look for opportunities to connect books (not to mention science, nature, and poetry) to your child’s personal experience.

More book recommendations about religion and science on the For Secular Families page.