Wednesday, May 10, 2017

For the Birds

This month we are celebrating our feathered friends!  Now that the weather has started to be more consistently on the warm side (despite a chilly, rain filled week here in New England), we are seeing plenty of birds at our feeders, hopping across the lawn, and perching on the telephone wires.  Since E loves pointing out birds and calling "eeeeeee" or "awww awww"to them, its the perfect time to take up his interest in the avian type, and maybe inspire a lifelong bird watching hobby. I'd certainly love to see E as a friend to birds (among other creatures), as it seems to be an interest that runs in the family.  E's great-great grandfather (whom his middle name is after) wrote popular columns for a Boston newspaper about birds.  His great grandmother happily fed and housed all sorts of flying friends, tending to gardens filled with plants to attract hummingbirds, orioles, and others.  E's grandfather can identify pretty much any bird call you hear in our region, and identify even more species.  And I personally am enjoying feeding the birds in our own yard, and hoping to add a few bluebird or wren houses, or maybe a bird bath this spring.

Here's a look at what we are reading this month:

A bird book variety

Notice E's own bird nest on the wall?

"Birds" by Kevin Henkes:

Many recognize Kevin Henkes as the author of the mouse stories (has your child met Chrysanthemum, Owen, Chester, or Wemberly yet?)  You might be surprised that Henkes also has some equally lovely stories that are not about mice.   I love "Birds" because it is light and airy, and the whimsical imaginings of the narrator seem so relatable to young ones.  Filled with simple observations about birds, and childlike questions without any of the "right" answers, this book could inspire many happy talks about birds while taking notice of them all around you.

A rainbow of colors all the time.

"Owl Babies" by Martin Waddell:

Since May is also host to Mother's Day, here is a bird story about an owl momma and her babies.  Mommy Owl leaves the nest for the night to find food, and her three little ones worry about her return while they wait for her, alone in the dark forest.  Each owlet has a different personality, trying to be brave, or in charge, or just plain honestly missing mom.  The sweet story ends with Mommy's return and the owlets' realization that their Mommy wouldn't leave them alone for long.  The story is also reassuring for toddlers or preschoolers who may be dealing with a little separation anxiety of their own, whether it is facing preschool, daycare, or just the night in their own room apart from the person who makes them feel safest.

Whooooo doesn't love owls? 

"Wings on the Wind: Bird Poems" collected and illustrated by Kate Kiesler:

Poems do not get nearly enough love.  I'll admit that I am also guilty of some degree of poetry aversion. Maybe it's from the trauma of middle school poetry units...being forced to create rhyme after rhyme, or having to read your own poems aloud to your peers at a poetry slam, even the  memorizing and reciting boring, ancient poems with points off your grade for each error...there could be a lot of long built up resentment for poor poems, but they really don't deserve it!

This little book didn't even get the love it deserved at the library!
Hopefully it is happy to have found it's home on our shelf.

Honestly, poems are fantastic for younger readers.  A collection of poems can be flipped through, stopping to read just one or a few, as your interest is spiked.  The rhymes, flows, and melodic nature of the lines of a poem appeal to little listeners as well.  After all, so much of early literacy is just about playing around with language, having fun, engaging with words and sounds.

This collection of poems is beautifully illustrated, and  features many different bird species-from the ordinary to the exotic.  It follows birds through the seasons, as they arrive in the spring and fly south in the fall.  I love that it follows that cycle, and it is easy to pick a few poems every now and then, as they are appropriate for the time or what your child is seeing in their own world right then.

Red wing blackbirds are one of our feeder's frequent visitors.

"Birds"by Jill McDonald:

Baby C was just given this book and she loves it! The illustrations are bright and cheery, and she gets the biggest happy smiles on her face while turning the pages.  The brief text introduces you to a handful of birds that may be familiar to little ones, including some which kiddos might find in their own back yards, and others that they would only meet at the zoo.  The book also introduces some opposite concepts, meeting birds who are big and small, fast or slow, like noise or like quiet, and so on. Each page also includes a starred fact, giving it the feel of a very early reference or nonfiction book with the added text feature.


"Garden Bird Facts" by Marcus Schneck:
This is a pretty simple adult reference book, but E loves flipping through it and pointing out the different birds.  Honestly, I am loving the addition of a reference book to our stack, since it can never be too early to expose the littles to a different type of book, varied text features, captions, diagrams. etc. I also believe it is great for the adult to learn right alongside the child.  While I do know a bit about the birds in our area, I could definitely learn a whole lot more.  And it is important for my kids to see this happen, all the time, and without it being any big special occasion.  I like to keep myself thinking, wondering, asking and answering questions.  And while my own babies won't be in school for a few years still, I know that when they do get there, I want them to understand that school isn't the only place where you learn, that the whole world around them has lessons to teach and important things to notice!

Lots to learn if you want to be a birding expert!

Beyond the Books-Bird Activities:

Bird Observers/Bird Detectives:

Watch for birds in your yard, when you are out for a walk, or playing at the park.  Keep a little journal to record which ones you see! Hear a bird singing in the morning-can you figure out which bird makes that song?   Use your reference book (or Google) to identify any bird species you do not know that name of.  Find a feather, egg, or birds nest that you might be able to identify-which type of bird did this come from?  Can you add a feature to your yard to attract more birds (feeder, houses, water)?

Being a bird watcher can incorporate a few senses (sight, hearing, maybe touch with a discarded feather...but please use common sense and don't touch an active nest or wild animal); as well as working on skills such as patience, quiet, and movement! Enjoy the outdoors and make a new feathered friend or two!

E is kind of little still, and I know that he doesn't fully understand what we are doing when I write in his little bird journal, but I am pleased just to have him see his momma writing.  It is so important for the little ones to see adults writing, or reading, and for all different purposes.  I just figure this quick little activity is a way to help get E immersed in that world, and it is a simple and fun activity we can add to and expand upon as he grows!

E's illustration reminds me a lot of the page out of "Birds", above.
Our first few sightings and entries.

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