Monday, September 30, 2013

The Bell Awards Blog Tour: Write

Welcome to the first stop on the blog tour for the Bell Awards! All this week, readers will have the opportunity to hop across a number of outstanding youth services and children's literature blogs to find out more about this new early literacy book award as well as some great go-to books that reinforce early literacy practices. It all starts now!

What are the Bell Awards, you ask? The Bell Awards are a new annual endeavor designed to recognize picture books that strongly support young children’s early literacy development. Books recognized by the Bell Award will somehow thematically feature the five early literacy practices: reading, writing, singing, talking, and playing. These recognized books will represent excellent choices for parents and caregivers to share with their pre-readers; the titles will model positive co-reading habits and support them as they engage their children in activities that build reading readiness. While the Bell Award was created and will be administered by Colorado Libraries for Early Literacy (CLEL), note that this is not a state-specific award. The Bell Award can have an impact on libraries and classrooms across the country, helping to identify the best books for early literacy practices in a publishing year. It is hoped that children’s librarians and other professionals will discuss the titles nominated for awards in any of the five practices--after all, it's this type of discussion that fosters sharing and learning about early literacy best practices. I know I'm always up for seeing what my colleagues are using in their own early literacy efforts.

As the first stop on the Bell Awards Blog Tour, I am tasked with sharing with you some of my favorite books for young children that strongly illustrate the early literacy practice of writing. Since I'm a frequent storytime practitioner--sometimes with as many as 10 story times a week--my list of "Write" books is heavily biased in favor of readaloud titles that work for groups as well as one-on-one reading. Without further ado:

Books that Model the Early Literacy Practice "Write"

Andrew Drew and Drew by Barney Saltzberg
     What can you create with a pencil and a blank page? As Andrew demonstrates throughout the story, which centers around his wonderfully imaginative drawings, the sky's the limit when it comes to creating things on paper. This book does a great, subtle job of illustrating that marks on a page have meaning, and that the person who makes the mark can decide that meaning.

Chalk by Bill Thomson
     This beautiful wordless picture book works best one-on-one or with small groups; I like to ask lots of questions about what's going on in each picture. The basic premise is that children draw pictures with chalk, and those pictures come to life. What an imaginative way to show that what we put on a page represents real things in the world.

Giggle, Giggle, Quack by Doreen Cronin, illustrated by Betsy Lewin
     Farmer Brown has gone on vacation and left his brother in charge of the farm. His brother is supposed to followed the written instructions left for him, but unfortunately the mischievous Duck has found a pencil and is writing odd instructions of his own. The animals get all sorts of special treatment--pizzas, movie nights--because of the words in Duck's notes. When I share this story with a group, I use my finger to point to the words I'm reading in Duck's notes to emphasize that the words I'm saying are on the page. At the end of the story, I always ask how Duck was able to get the farmer's brother to do all these silly things: because he wrote them down.

There's An Alligator Under My Bed by Mercer Mayer
     This book may not be the most obvious one to model the practice of writing, but I like to use it in two ways: the minimal text per page makes it simple to point out that the words on the page are the ones I'm saying; and the story is funnier when you read the notes the boy leaves for his father on the last page. I always talk about these notes at the end of the reading, and I ask what the kiddos would write on a note to their parents if there were an alligator in the garage.

Z is for Moose by Kelly Bingham, illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky
     This cheeky book is great with preschoolers and early elementary children who know or are learning the alphabet. Moose is meant to be part of a production that features all letters of the alphabet, but he has no patience and starts to mess things up. Not only does this book promote letter knowledge--integral for learning to write letters and words--but Moose's funny signs and other written markings throughout the book are great examples of writing to communicate something.


Those are my picks of some of my favorite books for the pre-reader crowd that model writing. Do you have favorites? If you've got favorites that have been published in 2013, you should absolutely nominate them for the Bell Awards! A few bits of info for participating:

Don't forget to follow the rest of the Bell Awards Blog Tour all this week by visiting the following blogs:

And do note that the nominations period for the 2014 Bell Awards ends November 15, so make sure you submit your nominations for any of the five practices by then! The winners will be announced February 5, 2014.


  1. Thanks Amy for helping to spread the word about the Bell Awards! We are super excited about the project.

    I love that you are spotlighting Chalk--not only is it a great book for storytime but there are fun ideas for extending the book--either taking chalk to the park or out to your driveway at home, or drawing with chalk on dark paper as a storytime craft. I like that the kids wind up drawing with real purpose in order to make the TRex go away--and making the connection that we write with intention and that our writing can convey meaning is a wonderful message.

  2. Thank you Amy for featuring the CLEL Bell Awards! Can't wait to see who the winners are in February!

    PS: I ADORE Chalk!

  3. Thank you for supporting the CLEL Bell Awards! I love Chalk. I'm using it for a "writing" story time this week. I will definitely use your suggestion of asking a lot of questions while I share the book. Thanks!

  4. Writing may seem like a hard practice to extend in storytimes but there are lots of creative ways to do this like having the kids "draw" in the air, or parents can write letters or shapes on backs or tummies. There were lots of great Silver Bell winners for writing and I can't wait to see what book wins the 2014 award.

  5. I use scarves and music to create "writing" opportunities in story time. Scarves can make circles and lines and arches! Write M for Moose! Move your scarf up and down in a zig zag motion to create dinosaur teeth! There are so many things you can do that simulate writing in your story times.

  6. After a writing themed storytime, parents and caregivers can fill a 9X13 cake pan with a layer of corn meal and kids can trace letters and shapes for a great sensory experience. Thanks for supporting the CLEL Bell Awards.

  7. There are so many great ideas in these comments for promoting writing skills! Scarves, corn meal/rice, air drawing... all great with kiddos.


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