Lighthouse Life

“While the idea behind the lighthouse was a practical one there’s just something elusive about them which fascinates many people. Perhaps it’s their link with the past; perhaps, that they served a heroic purpose.”  — The Door County Pulse

When I toured the Split Rock Lighthouse on Minnesota’s north shore a couple of years ago, I found myself pulled by the window into the past—into a very specific sort of life. I tried to imagine myself living in such a remote place with only very few people to call your community, and I’m not sure I could place myself there. As a suburban-raised urban dweller, the lighthouse life might well be another plane of existence. It’s smaller than I can envision while also promising some sort of perspective that we can only seem to get from a very particular, very tall, vantage point.

Since then, I’ve fallen for lighthouse stories again and again. It feels almost cliché, frankly. My romanticized view of the past surely wasn’t what it was actually like. Nonetheless, I cheered when Hello Lighthouse won the Caldecott. There was something about the quiet, nostalgic story that spoke to me. I read Hazel Gaynor’s novelized version of Grace Darling’s life in The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter and found myself comparing fact and fiction as I read. (Yes, I actually read a book written for grown ups. It happens occasionally.) From there, I discovered “The Lighthouse Family” series by Cynthia Rylant. These early chapter books begin in The Storm with a cat named Pandora living a lonely life in a lighthouse until she rescues a dog named Seabold. The two of them along with some orphaned mice they rescue become a family. If it all sounds overly sweet to you consider that the story explores the sort of loneliness that adults, whose lives often leave them disconnected and devoted to their work, feel in a way that will keep young readers’ attention. This is a series that parents will delight in reading aloud to young listeners. Or at least I hope they will.

Perhaps between the picture books and other books that tell the stories of lighthouse life, real and imagined, the magical draw to them will sustain the imaginations of another generation of readers.

Language Fun (Ready for Kindergarten)

My girl is a word girl.  If you know my husband and me, it probably isn’t a huge surprise that our daughter might have a particular interest in language.  So the Ready for Kindergarten theme for March–Language Fun–was mostly just business as usual for us.

  • Sounds & Letters – Alphabet books are fun, so why not make your own?   Ours is in progress… Meanwhile, we like to read The Sleepy Little Alphabet by Judy Sierra and LMNO Peas by Keith Baker.
Our alphabet book in progress
  • Words – My daughter fell in love with Fancy Nancy from the moment she pulled the book off the library shelf.  It’s pink and girly in all the ways that catch her eye, but the best part (in my opinion) is Nancy’s “fancy” vocabulary.  It’s where Ladybug learned that “stupendous” is a fancy word for “great” and “parfait” is a fancy word for “sundae.”   It’s one of the few overtly girly picture books I’ve read that I don’t mind in the slightest. We’ve also liked Dashing Dog by Margaret Mahy and We’re All in the Same Boat by Zachary Shapiro for the inherent vocabulary lesson within.
Reading Fancy Nancy

How do you explore language with your preschooler? Any books or activities that you have enjoyed?  I’d love to hear from parents or educators about what has worked for them!

See more posts for Parents & Educators here or follow my Kids Activities & Education Board on Pinterest for more preschool fun.

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Wildly Happy Read-Alouds

Ladybug helped me out with my Books in Bloom post last week, which featured Read-alouds for Your Littlest Listeners.  I wrote,

In Reading Magic Mem Fox advises parents to “Spend at least ten wildly happy minutes every single day reading aloud.”

With this quote in mind, I set out to find some happy picture books to recommend as read-alouds to Books in Bloom readers. My three-year-old very graciously agreed to help. Her job was to listen and weigh-in on the “read-aloud-ability” of the picture books I chose. You should know that she is very serious about the “wildly happy” aspect of reading.

We shared a couple of our favorite authors, Karen Beaumont and Marsha Wilson Chall, along with a few others that were new to us.    Check it out, and be sure to tell us what some of your favorite read-alouds are.

Teachers, librarians, and anyone else who reads books to groups may also be interested in my list of Great Picture Books for Groups.  They all have big, bold illustrations that work even from a distance.  Most are fun–perfect for a group storytime at a library or preschool.

As I said in my Books in Bloom post, “Whatever you choose for your next read-aloud, be sure to enjoy it. Don’t worry about counting the minutes. The important thing is the ‘wildly happy’ part.”