current issue button
about TXCC button
back issues button
manuscript guidelines button
resources button
Acquire PDF for full version of this article.
  (requires Adobe Acrobat Reader®)

Stuff and new stuff
A new resource for school-age programs and three out-of-the-ordinary books for children


Great Afterschool Programs and Spaces that WOW!
Written by Linda J. Armstrong and Christine A. Schmidt. Redleaf Press, 2014. ($44.95)


Whether you operate a an extended day program, a holiday gap-care program, a vacation program, or even a summer camp, you can offer high quality, age-appropriate, and engaging activities in a dynamic environment that guarantees fun and learning for school-age children.

Authors Armstrong and Schmidt combine years of experience and expertise to offer guidance on creating aesthetically pleasing, efficient environments, and planning activities that are safe, nurturing, and exciting.

In addition to offering insights on common challenges like shared space, storage, age-appropriate safety, and transitions, the book presents a framework for considering three specific environments: temporal, interpersonal, and physical. The authors explore the dimensions of each environment through the lens of sound child development theory and best practices.

The temporal environment addresses how children spend time in the program—lesson plans, schedules, routines, transitions, and expectations. Suggestions include involving families and children in determining curriculum; planning a variety of activities so that children have equally attractive choices that allow for the ups and downs of energy and individual personalities and learning styles; and having backup plans to accommodate weather, material, staff, and accessibility changes.

The interpersonal environment focuses on social skills, interactions, and relationships—again respecting the developmental levels of school-age children and their increasing interest in peer relations and independence. Caregivers can arrange space for conversations and relaxation. They can help children build social skills by planning and offering practice in conflict resolution. The authors further suggest providing opportunities for individual children and friend groupings to work on self-chosen, multi-day projects.

The interpersonal environment also ensures an equal, unbiased, and personally respectful welcome for everyone who uses the space. This means using effective communication techniques; accommodating needs, indoors and out; and sharing tools in building the community.-.
The physical environment addresses overall program space; floor plans and space arrangements; lighting and related aesthetic issues like smell, texture, color, and sound; and specific equipment, materials, and storage. Most useful in this section is a checklist of red flags—issues that warn that the physical environment is not functioning well for children or adults.

Throughout the book, color photographs illustrate methods of good planning and decision making. Lists, worksheets, sample surveys, and graph paper can offer wise and effective guidance in providing terrific programs for school-age children.



The Baby Tree
Written and illustrated by Sophie Blackall. Penguin Books for Young Readers, 2014. ($17.99)


Sooner or later every child asks the question, “Where do babies come from?” This beautifully and simply illustrated book helps answer the questions for 5- to 8-year-olds.

A curious boy learns that a new baby is coming into his family. But rather than immediately peppering his parents with questions, he polls the adults around him—and becomes increasingly confused. His babysitter Olive tells him that you plant a tree and it grows into a Baby Tree. His teacher Mrs. McClure tells him that babies come from the hospital—and then to wash his paintbrush. Roberto the mailman suggests an egg. And his grandpa relies on the stork who “leaves it in a bundle on your doorstep.”

After his second bedtime story, the boy tells his parents that he has a question. Their response is simple, accurate, and appropriate—involving the seed, the egg, and the hospital. The boy resolves to set his grandpa straight about the stork.

Reassuring pictures and informative dialogue help reveal the basics of reproduction in an age-appropriate way. Blackall’s book deserves a place in the classroom library as a source of just the right amount of information to tide a child over until he or she can ask a parent, “Where do babies come from?”


The Book With No Pictures
Written by B. J. Novak. Dial Books for Young Readers, 2014. ($17.99)


A picture book with no pictures? Yup. B. J. Novak has created a volume that turns the traditional picture book on its head by delivering a text-only story that focuses on words, sounds, and storytelling.

The book is disarmingly simple, inspiring laughter and building the intimacy that exists between a storyteller and the audience. As an introduction,


Here is how books work:

Everything the words say,

The person reading the book has to say.

No matter what….


The text then explores all of the what ifs, such as I’m a monkey who taught myself to read and my head is made of blueberry pizza. Parenthetically, the ink color, font, and type size change to invoke a child’s challenges—wait, is this whole book a trick?

Preschoolers and young school-age children will delight in tongue twisting, goofy word play while absorbing the powerful idea that the written word can be an unending source of mischief, delight, and comfort—even for adults.


The Hueys in None the Number: A Counting Adventure
Written and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers. Philomel Books, 2014. ($17.99)


Author and illustrator Oliver Jeffers has another hit, this time with a funny, clever, and mathematically intriguing book about numbers.

Once again Jeffers calls the Hueys into action. These are the charmingly simple egg-shaped characters whose exploits both children and adults will appreciate.

The counting adventure starts with a simple question: How many lumps of cheese do you have next to you? Unless you’re at lunch, the likely answer is none—one less than one. Humorous and familiar examples help young mathematicians grasp the counting concept: four is the number of tantrums Kevin has every day; Rupert has five hats to choose from; and nine seagulls are after Frank’s French fries.

When you take away all the illustrations in this book, you’re left with none—until you agree to start reading again. Be prepared for the requests, and the giggles.