As we are heading into our final days of the fundraiser, I wanted to spotlight fantastic books related to our theme “Around the World.” As we did last year, PTO will be giving out prizes to a few lucky Geckos, and again Heidi McCormick, the PTO treasurer, and I have prepared 14 buckets filled with awesome books and other prizes! There are two buckets per grade level, although students can try to win any bucket they want. Two of our buckets feature Spanish language books, and one mega prize is a bucket containing the ENTIRE HARRY POTTER SERIES! Students can earn raffle tickets by participating in activities around the theme and helping to raise funds for their school! There’s still time for students to earn more raffle tickets!
Even if your child doesn’t bring home a book bucket, I hope you check out some of the books we’ve included. A couple of buckets feature bundles available by Scholastic. At the higher level, we have books bundled as “Diverse Stories” including The Gold Cadillac by Mildred D. Taylor and Hachiko Waits by Lesléa Newman. At the lower level, books in “Diverse Picture Books” include Mama, Do you Love Me? by Barbara M. Joosse and Anansi the Spider by Gerald McDermott. These Scholastic book bundles are very affordable. Students can work on their literacy skills as well as learn about different cultures—a win-win all around!
Just as we did last year, our family donated a bucket of some of our favorite books. We included the Julie of the Wolves trilogy by the prolific author of children’s literature, Jean Craighead George and The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley. Older readers (4th and above) can read these books on their own, or parents can read them to younger children. I believe I read these books to my sons when they were 5 and 7, and they worked great. Julie of the Wolves tells the story of a teenaged girl who is both Eskimo and American. She lives in Alaska and gets lost in the tundra when she runs away from home. She manages to befriend a band of wolves, who adopt her and help her to survive. Although I had to skip a few pages in the first book that detailed Julie’s unfortunate domestic situation, the rest of the trilogy was fantastic for our family reading. The boys were especially transfixed by the details that told of the wolves’ behavior and way of life. The Egypt Game is at a similar reading level but with a different urban setting. A group of children from various ethnic backgrounds become friends over an invented game of Egyptian goddesses and ceremonies. Through the process, they learn about one another and themselves.
We’ve also included many geography- and science-themed books. The series called “Where is…” and “Learning about My World” look really fun and appropriate for readers in the first to third grades. A couple of great atlases are up for grabs: First Atlas for lower grades and The Atlas Obscura for upper grades. Finally, the mega prize is the book bucket containing the entire Harry Potter series. The PTO decided to splurge on this one, because we couldn’t just include a few books in the series. Given that these books turned an entire generation of young people into readers, we wanted one VERY LUCKY Gecko to have them all!
Best of luck to all of our students as turn their fundraising efforts into precious raffle tickets for these fabulous prizes. If you want to support our students or if you found this post useful, please give to our fundraiser at https://www.givemn.org/organization/Greenvale-Park-Elementary-Pto
Sun Hee Lee
Playing games is a fantastic way to educate, connect, and have fun with your child. We often think educational opportunities solely exist within the boundaries of books, worksheets, and flash cards. But let’s not underestimate the power of games….
Games foster valuable social and academic skills like taking turns, following directions, respect for rules, team cooperation, strategy, and really just having a good time playing and connecting with others.
As kids play board games, they are learning how to manage their competitive side, master new skills, and are also picking up important life lessons – persistence being just one of those. Persistence is key because you never know when the game will turn and be in your favor…or not. How many times have you played Candy Land and been so close to the end of the trail only to draw that piece of candy that sends you straight back to the starting point (happens every time!)? All of this aside, the most important thing we emphasize when playing games in our home is that it doesn’t matter if you win or lose but if you enjoyed yourself and had fun.
There are games for every age and interest group. What we play in our home depends on whether or not everyone will be joining in – this includes our three year old who is really working hard on just not knocking everything over as he maneuvers around a board game – or if it will be more of a one-on-one game with just our second grader.
Here are some of our favorite board and card games that we go to time and time again:
Game basics: Color-coded card game where the first person to get rid of his/her cards wins.
We love this classic card game! I often have an Uno deck in my bag and carry it around with me as it’s a fun one to play while out and about waiting around.
FIVE CROWNS JUNIOR
Game basics: A rummy-style game where you do your best to match all of the cards in your hand either by number or color.
This is a great introduction to card games and one our whole family loves to play together.
Game basics: Get all of your pegs all around the board first. Other players can send your pegs back to start by landing in the same space as you.
Our second grader loves, loves, loves this game! He gets such a kick every time he gets to knock us out of our spot and send us back to the start. Our three year old also loves the “pop-o-matic” die roller.
Game basics: Two player game where the first person to get four discs in a row wins.
We play Connect Four a lot when we don’t have a ton of time to play as it goes pretty quickly. We always have a good laugh when someone overlooks an obvious connection because they’re so knee deep into a bigger strategy – a good reminder to slow down and always pay attention!
February is “I Love Reading” month, and GVP students are challenging themselves to go for the gold in reading! Students can earn gold medals by meeting their grade level goals. What a great idea from the GVP staff and teachers to use the Olympics theme to encourage reading!
My children in first and third grades are excited about this challenge and have started chipping away. My first grader’s current favorite books to read are the graphic novels by Dav Pilkey. He reaches time and time again for the Dog Man series (four currently), apparently a spin-off of the Captain Underpants series. Dog Man was born when a police dog’s head was attached to a police man’s body—I know, not very tame—and his main nemesis is Petey, full of creative schemes and antics. There aren’t too many words on each page, which makes the reading manageable for a first grader, although there are definitely enough long words to provide some challenge as well. The art work is simple but fun, and there is an interactive component with what the author calls “flip-o-rama” pages. It took us a while to figure out how they work, but I’m sure most of you can do this more easily. By far the biggest selling point is humor, which is both outrageous and clever. And I should point out that the humor could be a little raunchy, so it might not be everyone’s cup of tea.
When I shared our Dog Man craze with friends, they told us about their older son’s earlier obsession with the Ricky Ricotta’s Mighty Robot series written by the same author. These books seem to be categorized as graphic novels, but they are closer to easy chapter books with color illustrations and about 5 lines to read on each page. I haven’t browsed through them too much, but my kids have been working steadily through the 9-book series. They received the first few as Christmas presents and have been requesting others through the library, which is always a sure sign of their approval.
Dave Pilkey’s books provide joyous reading for all elementary students, but they are especially good for sneaking in some reading time for developing readers in the earlier grades. It’s especially great when my first grader reads some of the funny parts to me—with palpable excitement he takes me through the section, and we always end with a loud, bursting laugh!
~Sun Hee Lee
The Greenvale Park Elementary PTO’s main fundraiser for the year, the Read-a-Thon, is under way, and the PTO is helping to create positive energy around reading by offering prize buckets for our students. Heidi McCormick, a GVP parent and PTO treasurer, and I, also a GVP parent, had the pleasure of selecting books for the prize buckets. We chose books from various reading levels and included kids’ favorites as well as classics. Students can try to win books featuring Piggie and Gerald, Pete-the-Cat, or Origami Yoda. Science books and biographies make up two groupings, and there is also a bucket of Spanish books!
Among the many books we have chosen, I want to highlight a few that mean a lot to our family. While we have always loved books by Mo Willems, the Elephant and Piggie books made a huge difference in my 6-year-old son’s reading development this summer. In his Kindergarten year, he didn’t really love reading. Getting him to do his book-in-a-bag was often a struggle, and it was clear that he saw reading as a task rather than a source of pleasure. But this summer things changed when he got hooked on Gerald and Piggie. My son has always been driven by humor—he lives to make his older brother laugh—so this wasn’t a surprise, given how funny these books are. But what was also great was how few words there were on each page, making it easy for a six-year-old to repeatedly read-flip page-read. And after a while he would half read/half memorize, and each reading increased his fluency because he was also acting out the books. When he had read every single Elephant and Piggie book, his attitude toward reading had changed dramatically. He was reading on his own, for fun, and now he excitedly races to get his book-in-a-bag!
Another bucket inspired by our recent family reading experience is Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz and the classic 1939 film adaptation starring Judy Garland. One of my greatest joys of parenting is reading with my children, and I have a rule that even though I’m reading with them, I will only read books that I like. After picking up The Wizard of Oz at Content (Northfield's excellent independent bookstore), I started reading it with my children and realized that I hadn’t actually read this book before. I thought I had because as most folks, I know the story and have seen the movie. Reading it for the first time, I was impressed with how compact the story is. Just having read the first three books of the Harry Potter series with my children, I found the fast pace and the intentional plotting of the novel so refreshing. After thoroughly enjoying the book, we rented the classic film adaptation from the library. We love reading a book and then watching a good film adaptation of it, because it gives us the opportunity to discuss similarities and differences, and what we liked vs. didn’t like about each version. In seeing the film, we definitely missed some crucial parts of the book (such as the porcelain people and creatures, and all of Oz’s weird antics), but we loved some added components like the prominence of the Wicked Witch of the West—absolutely loved her green skin! The joys of technicolor!
The prize bucket that is closest to my heart is one that holds the five beautiful books of The Birchbark House series written by Louise Erdrich. In my opinion, Erdrich is one of the best writers of our time, and I know many of her books very well. But I discovered The Birchbark House series when I randomly picked up the fourth book in the series, Chickadee (thank you again, Content Bookstore!) and was absolutely blown away after reading it with my children. We then read all the books in the series and cherished each one. The series initially centers on an Ojibwe girl named Omakayas and her life in the mid 1800’s. Subsequent books shift focus to Omakayas’s brother Quill and her sons Chickadee and Makoons. While the historical background of these books is important for all of us to read about, it’s the literary execution that makes them truly special. I believe children instinctively know good literature; they love to hear elegant language, and they pay more attention to well drawn-out stories. And true to form, my children listened intently to every breathless description, tensed up at every heartbreaking scene, and laughed out loud in the many, many funny moments of the book. As if all of this isn’t enough, the books also teach valuable lessons about Ojibwe culture and history.
If you are a parent, maybe your child will be the winner of one of these wonderful prize buckets! Regardless, I hope this blog post inspires you to check out these and other titles at the library or the local bookstore!
~Sun Hee Lee
If you want to show your appreciation of this post by donating to the Greenvale Park Elementary PTO, please visit givemn.org/organization/greenvalepark
The Greenvale PTO is excited to announce the creation of a new blog!
We envision this blog to be a platform for the many voices that make up our wonderful GVP community! While the PTO website is generally dedicated to information and news, our blog will focus on stories that come from you! We’re hoping to bring together posts by different members of the community with two particular goals in mind: first, to introduce and highlight various members of our community and second, to share stories about how we educate, nurture, and challenge our students at home and school. Look for our first blog series “Books We’re Reading” with its inaugural post on books chosen for prize buckets at our PTO Read-a-Thon this fall.
If you are interested in writing a blog post please contact Sun Hee Lee at firstname.lastname@example.org. We seek and welcome your contributions!