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Notes from a Children’s Librarian: Self-Regulation, Organization, Initiative

Our Children's Librarian columnist, Julie Booker, brings us a new view from the stacks every month.

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The learning skills part of the report card is divided into areas such as Self-Regulation, Organization, Initiative—habits that affect all areas of academic achievement. It’s sometimes difficult to find fun ways of explicitly teaching these skills. Here are some great picture books to help.

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Self-Regulation

The inverse idea of kids teaching their parents how to follow the rules is realized in The Day My Mom Came to Kindergarten, by Maureen Fergus, illustrated by Mike Lowery. A little girl’s mom spends the day butting in line, calling out of turn, slamming her scissors in frustration, and traipsing across the classroom in her outdoor shoes. When given a chance to change her behaviour, the mom rises to the challenge.

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Similarly, a boy’s father must learn to pay attention and show good sportsmanship in The Day Dad Joined My Soccer Team, also by Maureen Fergus, illustrated by Mike Lowery.

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Book Cover The Name of the Tree

Listening requires strategies, as seen in The Name of the Tree, by Celia Barker Lottridge, illustrated by Ian Wallace. The animals of the savannah are hungry due to a drought. They find a tree with the most delicious fruit, but it’s too high to pick. The tortoise remembers an old story about how the fruit can only be picked by those who know the name of the tree. The gazelle and the elephant visit the lion king to retrieve the name, but each forgets it on the journey back. The tortoise, however, repeats it over and over until he reaches his friends. “The name of the tree is Ungalli!” he proclaims, and they all satisfy their hunger.

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What does quiet look like? Sound like? In The Quiet Book, by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Canadian Renata Liwska, each page shows a different kind of quiet—including some kinds related to school: “Before the concert starts quiet/ Story time quiet/ Thinking of a good reason you were drawing on the wall quiet/ Hide-and-seek quiet,” as well as non-school silence: “Lollipop quiet/ Best friends don’t need to talk quiet.”

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Staying focused, even when you hit a snag, is the underlying message in A Long a Long Road, by Frank Viva. It illustrates a cyclist on a road that leads up, down, through a tunnel, a bridge. The boy hits a bump (an apple) in the road, then gets back on his bike, gaining speed, rounding the bend, only to begin again.

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Organization

The Liszts, by Kyo MacLear, illustrated by Julia Sarda, shows a family who loves to make lists. Mama indexes illnesses. Papa records unwanted chores. Frederick catalogues fun things. Edward, the middle child, has lists that go on for 31 pages. This book lends itself to a lesson in list-making as a way of setting goals.

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Book Cover Jillian Jiggs

Keeping classroom desks and cubbies clean is a constant source of upkeep. Jillian has trouble organizing her stuff in Jillian Jiggs, by Phoebe Gilman (“Jillian, Jillian, Jillian Jiggs/ It looks like your room has been lived in by pigs!”)

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Christopher Please Clean Up Your Room

Similarly, in Itah Sadu’s, Christopher, Please Clean Up Your Room! illustrated by Roy Condy, Christopher consistently refuses to clean his room. His socks under the bed begin to smell cheesy, the sandwich behind the door grows fungi, and the goldfish enlist the cockroaches for a dramatic intervention.

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Book Cover Jillian Jiggs Big Snow

Looking after belongings is part of student life, and the theme of Jillian Jiggs and the Great Big Snow, by Phoebe Gilman. “Jillian, Jillian, say it’s not true. How do you lose all the things that you do?” cries Jillian’s mother. When Jillian replaces her lost hat with martian-like headwear, snow play turns creative, complete with snow monsters which somehow devour her scarf and mitts.

Initiative

Asking questions is part of taking initiative. There are no such things as silly questions—as seen by Stella’s little brother Sam’s endless stream of uninhibited questions and Stella’s ever-thoughtful answers, in Marie Louise Gay’s Stella books (Stella Princess of the Sky, Stella Queen of the Snow, Stella Star of the Sea, Stella Fairy of the Forest.) In Stella Fairy of the Forest, for example, Sam asks, “Do butterflies eat butter?” “Yellow butterflies do,” says Stella. Of course!

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Also, by Marie Louise Gay, Any Questions? explores the createive inquiries Gay receives as an author and how questions lead to positive and imaginative solutions.

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Willingness to help is illustrated in a simple way in the dual language Cree/ English Niwechihaw/ I Help, by Caitlin Dale Nicholson, illustrated by Leone Morin-Neilson. Each page beautifully illustrates each step a boy takes in helping his grandmother pick berries: “Kohkum picks./ I pick.”

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Benny takes initiative in Bagels from Benny, by Aubrey Davis, illustrated by Dusan Petricic, when his baker-uncle tells him to thank God for the bagels. When God doesn’t respond, Benny takes the matter into his own hands and leaves Him fresh hot bagels at the synagogue. Is God eating the bagels? Or has Benny’s initiative lead him to learn something unexpected?

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On her first day as teacher-librarian, Julie Booker was asked by a five-year-old if that was her real name. She's felt at home in libraries since her inaugural job as a Page in the Toronto Public Library. She is the author of Up Up Up, a book of short stories published by House of Anansi Press.

November 21, 2019

Books mentioned in this post

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Day My Mom Came to Kindergarten, The

by Maureen Fergus, illustrated by Mike Lowery
edition: Hardcover
also available: eBook
  • age: 3 to 7
  • Grade: p to 2
tagged: school & education, parents, humorous stories

“I liked kindergarten from the very 1st day,” begins the narrator of this very funny and touching picture book. However, she notices, “My mom was happy for me, of course, but I got the feeling that she was also a little sad” to leave her. So one day the little girl invites her mom to join the kindergarten class for the day, which turns out …

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Day Dad Joined My Soccer Team, The

by Maureen Fergus, illustrated by Mike Lowery
edition: Hardcover
  • age: 3 to 7
  • Grade: p to 2
tagged: parents, humorous stories, soccer

A soccer dad misunderstands when he hears that his son's team needs his help. Instead of taking care of halftime snacks, the dad grabs a jersey and runs onto the field to play! And what an embarrassment he is: he hogs the ball, complains about his teammates and throws a hairy fit when the referee doesn't call a play his way! Can the boy find a way …

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The Name of the Tree

A Bantu Tale

by Celia Lottridge, illustrated by Ian Wallace
edition: Hardcover
  • age: 5 to 9
  • Grade: k to 4
tagged: africa, country & ethnic

Winner of the Elizabeth Mrazik-Cleaver Award and the Mr. Christie's Book Award

A well-known Bantu tale brought to dramatic life by extraordinary pictures depicting Africa in an uncliched way.

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The Quiet Book

Illustrated by Renata Liwska

by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Renata Liwska
edition: Hardcover
also available: Paperback
  • age: 4 to 7
  • Grade: p to k
tagged: bedtime & dreams

All quiet is not created equal. In this irresistibly charming picture book, many different quiet moments are captured, from the anticipation-heavy “Top of the roller coaster quiet” to the shocked-into-silence “First look at your new hairstyle quiet.” The impossibly sweet bears, rabbits, fish, birds, and iguanas are all rendered in soft penc …

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Along A Long Road

by Frank Viva
edition: Hardcover
also available: eBook
  • age: 0 to 6
  • Grade: p to 1
tagged:

2011 Governor General’s Literary Awards Finalist - Children's Literature (Illustration)

Follow that road! Speed off on an eventful bicycle ridealong the bold yellow road that cuts through town, by thesea and through the country. Ride up and around, along andthrough, out and down. Frank’s striking graphic style is executedin just five joyous colo …

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The Liszts

by Kyo Maclear, illustrated by Júlia Sardà
edition: Hardcover
  • age: 5 to 9
  • Grade: k to 4
tagged: humorous stories, new experience

The Liszts make lists. They make lists most usual and lists most unusual. They make lists in winter, spring, summer and fall. They make lists every day except Sundays, which are listless. Mama Liszt, Papa Liszt, Winifred, Edward, Frederick and Grandpa make lists all day long. So does their cat. Then one day a visitor arrives. He's not on anyone's l …

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Jillian Jiggs

illustrated by Phoebe Gilman
edition: Paperback
  • age: 3 to 8
  • Grade: p to 3
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No one can keep up with Jillian Jiggs. With boundless energy and imagination, Jillian rushes from game to game. One minute she's a robot, the next minute she's a tree. How can she take time to clean up her room when there are so many wonderful things to make and do? No one knows what Jillian will think of next- especially not her mother!

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Please Clean Up Your Room!

by Itah Sadu, illustrated by Roy Condy
edition: Paperback
also available: Paperback
  • age: 5 to 8
  • Grade: k to 3
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What will make Christopher clean his room? Christopher is a good kid with one bad habit: he refuses to clean his room. He likes it that way, cheesy socks and all. Even the bugs don't want to stick around. Finally the critters unite! The fish convince the cockroaches to send a message to Christopher: clean up your room! Itah Sadu's wild storytelling …

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Jillian Jiggs and the Great Big Snow

illustrated by Phoebe Gilman
edition: Hardcover
also available: Hardcover Paperback
  • age: 3 to 8
  • Grade: p to 3
tagged: imagination & play

Rediscover the magic of a snowy day on the 10th anniversary of this delightful Jillian Jiggs story!

"Jillian, Jillian, say it's not true.
How do you lose all the things that you do?"

Jillian wants to go play in the snow with her sister and her friends, but her mom says no - not until she finds her hat! So instead, Jillian wears a Martian hat from t …

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Stella, Princess of the Sky

by Marie-Louise Gay
edition: Paperback
also available: Hardcover Hardcover eBook
  • age: 2 to 5
  • Grade: p to k
tagged: siblings, imagination & play

Another adventure begins in this book in the Stella and Sam series as the pair explores the wonders of the natural world. A vast luminous sky, the sun, the stars and the rising moon form the backdrop for their nocturnal expedition. As they encounter raccoons, fireflies, tree frogs and bats, Sam wonders if the moon can swim, if the sun wears pajama …

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Stella, Queen of the Snow

by Marie-Louise Gay
edition: Paperback
also available: Hardcover Hardcover eBook
  • age: 2 to 5
  • Grade: p to k
tagged: siblings, imagination & play

Winner of the Elizabeth Mrazik-Cleaver Award

Stella and her little brother, Sam, are spending the day playing in the snow. The forest, snowballs, snow angels and the mysterious white stuff itself provide fuel for Sam's questions and Stella's answers as they discover the world of winter together.

Exquisite, evocative watercolors bring a snowy day ali …

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Stella, Queen of the Snow

by Marie-Louise Gay
edition: Paperback
  • age: 2 to 5
  • Grade: p to k
tagged: siblings, imagination & play

Winner of the Elizabeth Mrazik-Cleaver Award

Stella and her little brother, Sam, are spending the day playing in the snow. The forest, snowballs, snow angels and the mysterious white stuff itself provide fuel for Sam's questions and Stella's answers as they discover the world of winter together.

Exquisite, evocative watercolors bring a snowy day ali …

rated!
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Stella, Queen of the Snow

by Marie-Louise Gay
edition: Paperback
  • age: 2 to 5
  • Grade: p to k
tagged: siblings, imagination & play

Winner of the Elizabeth Mrazik-Cleaver Award

Stella and her little brother, Sam, are spending the day playing in the snow. The forest, snowballs, snow angels and the mysterious white stuff itself provide fuel for Sam's questions and Stella's answers as they discover the world of winter together.

Exquisite, evocative watercolors bring a snowy day ali …

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Any Questions?

by Marie-Louise Gay
edition: Hardcover
also available: eBook
  • age: 6 to 9
  • Grade: 1 to 4
tagged: books & libraries, imagination & play, art & architecture

Many children want to know where stories come from and how a book is made. Marie-Louise Gay’s new picture book provides them with some delightfully inspiring answers in a fictional encounter between an author and some very curious children, who collaborate on writing and illustrating a story.

Marie-Louise has scribbled, sketched, scrawled, doodled …

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Niwechihaw / I Help

by Caitlin Nicholson, translated by Leona Morin-Neilson
edition: Hardcover
  • age: 2 to 5
  • Grade: p to k
tagged: multigenerational, native canadian

This simple story in Cree and English explores a young child's relationship to his kuhkom, his grandmother, as they go for a walk in the bush to pick rosehips. The young boy follows his grandmother, walking, listening, picking, praying, eating, just as she does. In doing so, he absorbs the rich cultural traditions and values of his Cree heritage.

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Bagels from Benny

by Aubrey Davis, illustrated by Dusan Petricic
edition: Paperback
also available: Hardcover eBook
  • age: 4 to 8
  • Grade: p to 3
tagged: jewish

Benny loves to help out at his grandpa's bakery in the morning, and the customers love the crusty bagels with their soft insides. When Grandpa explains to Benny that God, not him, should be thanked for the wonderful bagels, Benny sets out to do just that. He decides to leave God a bagful of bagels in the synagogue at the end of each week. And each …

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