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December 6, 2011 Best Books About Family By Jeremy Brunaccioni
Grades PreK–K

    While family is a topic covered in most early childhood classrooms throughout the year, there always seems to be a particular focus on it during the holidays.  For this week’s book selection, I’ve chosen some titles that cover a range of family members and family types. The activity at the end should help you to foster a connection between your classroom and student families.


    Meerkat Mail

    Written and illustrated by Emily Gravett

    Simon and Schuster

    Meerkat Mail is an Emily Gravett book that we have catalogued in our “international collection.” It features Sunny, a traveling meerkat, who shares his adventures by sending postcards to his family. It’s a great book for introducing postcard writing, as well as for talking about extended families. One of Holly Hobbie’s Toot and Puddle books would make a great comparison or use my postcard template for a writing activity. Be sure to have your students draw a picture on the other side.



    Written and illustrated by John Rocco



    You’ll recognize John Rocco’s illustrations from titles like Wolf Wolf! and Moonpowder. In Blackout he depicts a summertime blackout in the city that brings a family together to play board games, stargaze, and join a block party. Students really seem to appreciate Mr. Rocco’s graphic novel-style illustrations, and adults will appreciate his use of light. If you're looking for an extension activity, try my Blackout writing prompt.


    Little Pig Joins the Band

    Written and illustrated by David Hyde Costello



    Students really relate to Little Pig and his frustration with being little and with his “Little Pig” nickname. When his family takes up instruments to form a band, Little Pig decides he’s just too little to play an instrument, until he realizes he’d make a fine bandleader. Costello really taps into a child’s love of making music and the frustration of just not being big enough yet.

    This is also a super title to use for a sound unit. Provide your children with recycables and let them create musical instruments. Send home my sound donations letter to get parents onboard.


    Nana Upstairs and Nana Downstairs

    Written and illustrated by Tomie dePaola

    Penguin Books


    This classic book is used in classrooms across the country. It highlights the relationships between a boy, his grandmother, and his great-grandmother. The simple interactions between Tommy and his nanas are sure to have children (and teachers) making connections to their own relationships. Because it deals with dying, you may want to preread it to be certain it’s appropriate for your classroom.


    And Tango Makes Three

    Written by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell

    Illustrated by Henry Cole

    Simon and Schuster


    It’s easy for any child, and especially one from a same-sex family, to feel a connection to this gentle, unassuming book. Based on a real penguin couple, And Tango Makes Three tells the tale of two male penguins given an egg to hatch and raise. It’s a great book for any family unit.


    Craft Night

    Have you thought about holding a craft night for your school? I’m in the process of preparing one for December. They’re a super way to encourage family time by inviting families to school to create various craft projects.

    I’m expecting 100 to 150 students to attend our craft night, so I’ve chosen ten activities for the children. Each activity will be hosted by an adult, and parents will accompany their child to the different tables. This year we’re making glitter pencils, snow globes, bead snowflakes, stamped cards, cardboard gingerbread people, snowmen bookmarks, paper penguin mosaics, pom-pom sheep, paper snowflakes, and plaster pins.

    To create the pins, I poured plaster into chocolate molds and pressed a piece of pipe cleaner into the backs before the plaster set. Next, I hot glued pin clasps to the pipe cleaners. They’re now ready for children to paint.



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Susan Cheyney