Take Part in Art -- Self-Portraiture

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Making a self-portrait is almost a psychological exercise -- a way to examine questions of identity, do some introspection into yourself, and think about how you present yourself to the world. It is also an opportunity to be creative and have fun! To explore self-portraiture, you can always come and check out our Youth Art Table downtown, or follow along at home:

Two excellent books on self-portraiture are Just Like Me and Bob Raczka's Here's Looking at Me. To learn more about one of the most prolific self-portrait artists, read Frida Kahlo: The Artist in the Blue House. Grown-ups who want to learn more might be interested in Frances Borzello's Seeing Ourselves: Women's Self-Portraits.

Making your own self-portrait is amazingly easy. You can use any medium and any style -- all you need is some paper and a mirror. The fun part is deciding how you want to look. You can draw yourself with a pet, with a friend, taking part in your favorite hobby, wearing a costume...or any other way you like! For ideas about how to make different kinds of self portraits, check out the projects on this page by Incredible Art. Grown-ups who want to make self-portraits can check out Mixed Media Self-Portraits by Cate Prato.

Literacy Series -- Nature Literacy

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Naturalistic Intelligence is the most recently identified of Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences. A rather under-appreciated form of intelligence in our technological modern world, Naturalistic Intelligence consists of the ability to recognize patterns, relationships and categories in nature, essentially, the ability to “read” nature and be “nature literate.”

Today, we tend to live farther and farther from nature, although research suggests that access to nature, and even dirt itself may be vital to human health and happiness. Few would argue that nature is essential to human survival -- and we need nature literate people to give us more balanced ways of living on earth.

So what can you do to foster nature literacy? Here are some easy (and fun!) suggestions:

1. Visit a natural history museum: U of M’s Exhibit Museum of Natural History is a great local resource – and guess what? We have a Museum Adventure Pass!

2. Go on a nature walk: Ann Arbor has many excellent parks available for this purpose – Matthei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum for example. And look! We have a Museum Adventure Pass for them. Also, if you act fast, you can take a hike at Greenview Park with us on September 13th.

3. Feed the birds: What better way to observe wildlife than in the comfort of your own backyard? Check out The Bird Lover's Ultimate How-To Guide for some bird feeding and watching tips. To see more birds, and other types of wildlife, too, check out the Howell Nature Center. Oh yeah, and we have a Museum Adventure Pass for them, too.

4. Read about famous naturalists: Like Jane Goodall, George Washington Carver, Rachel Carson, John Muir and Charles Darwin, to name a few.

5. Explore nature yourself!
Try these books for tips:
Hands on Nature
Sharing Nature With Children
Teaching Kids to Love the Earth

The Odious Ogre

The creators of the long-loved classic The Phantom Tollbooth have gotten back together after an almost 50-year span apart to create a new picture book, the Odious Ogre. Written by Norton Juster and illustrated by Jules Feiffer, the new book is perhaps simpler, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's only for younger children.

In a NPR interview, Feiffer stated, "I wanted to do the biggest, meanest, filthiest ogre in the history of ogreship — and one who could barely fit on the page. And he does barely fit on the page."

In the same interview, Juster comments on the story itself: "The story means what it means to you. That's the way I look at all these stories. There's no one moral, unless you want to make one for yourself."

To see excerpts, visit NPR.

Take Part in Art -- Super Cool Stamp Art

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Printing has been around since about the year 200AD, and was in use for centuries in the Middle East, Europe and Asia -- especially Japan -- before spreading around the world. Printmaking is still alive and well today, and many artists use a variety of printing techniques to create unique and beautiful works of art.

If you want to try your hand at printing at home with your kids, the most convenient method is the humble rubber stamp. If you happen to have some rubber stamps lying around the house from your scrap-booking projects, it is time to take them out! Try combining the images to make a story. What patterns can your child make with the stamps? Can your child combine stamping and drawing to make a picture? For more rubber stamp ideas, read Cool Rubber Stamp Art by Pamela Price.

Of course, if you have no stamps at all, fear not. TLC Family and Kinderart have plenty of suggestions for making your own stamps and printing blocks. For more ideas read Joe Rhatigan's Stamp It!, The Usborne Book of Printing and Printing by Michelle Powell.

For any grown-ups who want to try printmaking and stamp art, try The Instant Print Maker by Melvyn Petterson, Creative Stamping by Sherrill Kahn, and, for some history, The Woman Who Discovered Printing by Timothy Barrett.

Also, if you act fast, you can see some cool prints at the University of Michigan Museum of Art's exhibit Sister Corita: The Joyous Revolutionary. Admission is free!

Literacy Series -- Numeracy

Numeracy is to math what literacy is to reading -- understanding the components that make up the mathematical "language." Numeracy involves understanding the different kinds of numbers -- decimals, fractions, percentages, etc. -- and being able to use them to solve problems.

If math was not your favorite subject, don't worry -- encouraging numeracy in your child is surprisingly easy. Here are some quick tips:

1. Drive -- How far have you gone, and how far do you still need to go? How fast are you going and how soon will you get there? And, a scary question, how much will it cost to fill the gas tank?

2. Shop -- Which product is the better deal? How much does each product cost per ounce? If you still use real money, how much will your change be?

3. Cook -- Double or halve a recipe. How do you change the measurements? Read The Math Chef by Joan D'Amico for more ideas.

4. Play Games -- Let your child keep score when you play games or sports. Dominoes and card games are good for recognizing and matching numbers, while Battleship is a great introduction to graphing.

5 Pay Attention -- How do you use math in your life? Share your daily calculations with your child.

For more tips and ideas, try these resources:
This page from the Peel District School Board has several pages of tips -- scroll down to where it says "Help Your Child Boost Math Skills."
The US Department of Education provides its own list of activities for preschool through grade 5.

Cindy Neuschwander's "Sir Cumference" books are a great way to learn about geometry.
For fans of One-Minute Mysteries, try 65 Short Stories You Solve With Math!.
Amy Axelrod and Greg Tang, who have written many, many books about math.

Good Listening: Chasing Vermeer

If a driving trip is on the horizon this summer, a good BOCD to keep everyone in your family entertained might be Chasing Vermeer, by Blue Balliett. It's a smart, entertaining story about two kids who solve an art mystery. (Apparently the movie is due out in 2011.) If that doesn't appeal, browse here in a treasure trove of 475 youth BOCDs at the library.

Summer of DIY @ AADL, for the Kids

This summer at AADL our goal is to MAKE IT HAPPEN, with a ton of DIY and MAKE programs for all ages. As always, there are many craft and DIY related books to help get you on your way with some new projects. Here are a few to get the kids started:

Kid Made Modern, by Todd Oldham is new, hip, colorful book, that talks about basic craft supplies, and has oodles of projects to work on, including vases, rugs, printed t-shirts, duct tape totes, pillows, zines, printmaking, jewelry, forts, and more. All are easy enough for children to work on. D.I.Y. Kids is another great find. This books features a lot of crafts and projects that recycle and repurpose supplies you probably have lying around. You can make toys, kites, castles, decorated boxes, clothing, accessories, and beyond. And for the younger kid set, ArtStarts for Little Hands! Fun & Discoveries for 3 to 7 Year Olds has simple projects for kids to make out of every day household finds. Help those little ones make sailboats, animals, cars, trains, puzzles, and more.

Happy making!

Jenga Tournament!

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How high can you build the tower of wood bricks before it tumbles down? Come to the Pittsfield Branch Library on Tuesday, June 22nd from 2 - 3 p.m. and test your Jenga skills. We'll provide the games, you bring the steady hands.

Prizes at the tournament will be awarded to the top three finishers in two categories: grades K-2 and 3-5. As with all summer programs, we go by the grade you will be entering in the fall.

Your Guide to Avoiding Summer Boredom

I don’t know about you, but I’m counting down the days until summer vacation! Summer is the perfect time to explore, build, create, imagine, and discover. Here some books and websites to get you started, whatever your interests or age:

Howtoons.com is a comic-style website of directions for making some crazy new toys. How about a Speed Blaster or Robofingers? There is something for everyone here and all the projects can be made with common household items like pop bottles, paper plates, and straws.

If you’re planning a campout or a hike, Camp Out! and Follow the Trail have all sorts of information about what to bring, what to do, and how to prepare for emergencies. Another fun book is Cooking in a Can, full of recipes for cooking over a campfire, from vegetables to grilled sandwiches to cake.

Even from your backyard or a park you can get up close with nature. 101 Nature Experiments includes how to grow various types of gardens, make your own compost, and discover all sorts of things about critters, bugs, and plants up close.

More into art than science? How to Draw What You See and Illustrating Nature will get you ready to draw and paint plants, animals, and landscapes 'en plein air'. There are also tons of crafts to make using stuff from nature: check out Organic Crafts, Ecology Crafts for Kids, and Nature’s Art Box for inspiration.

Summer is also a great time to update your wardrobe. How about making your own purse from fabric and embellishments, jewelry from beads and fiber, or perhaps a wallet or tool belt made from duct tape? These books give step-by-step instructions for creating one-of-a-kind accessories to keep or give as gifts. The Hip Handbag Book, Ductigami, Hemp Masters, and Creative Beading will get you started and you can let your creativity do the rest.

Finally, don't forget about the AADL Summer Reading program! Our theme this year is "Make it Happen," and events include art workshops, games, and all sorts of activities. Check out the Summer Reading events page to make sure you don't miss out!

Literacy Series -- Reading Aloud

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Do you remember storytime, and how fun it was when your kindergarten teacher gathered everyone on the rug to listen to Curious George? Although you probably didn't know it at the time, whoever read aloud to you was doing one of best things we know of to support the development of life-long reading. Here are some tips and ideas to help make reading aloud a part of your own family's routine.

1. Set time aside in your day -- Don't worry, you don't have to read aloud for a long time in order to reap the rewards. Ten minutes a day is fine, or even less for the especially squirmy baby or toddler. The key is regularity, for example, always reading aloud before bedtime.

2. Make read-aloud time fun -- Choose books you and your child both enjoy. Let your child bring their favorite toy along to read-aloud time. Use silly voices and sound effects. Eat popcorn or other snacks. Reading aloud should not be a chore!

3. Get your child involved -- Ask questions about the book (or the pictures, for younger readers). Ask your child to predict what they think is going to happen next. Talk about what you liked and didn't like, as well as how the book relates to events in your child's life. When your child is old enough, let her read to you.

4. Don't get stuck on novels and picture books -- There are all sorts of things out there to bring to read-aloud time. Nonfiction, magazines, newspaper articles, poetry, and even song lyrics are all great options for reading aloud.

For more information and tips about reading aloud and encouraging reading, try Reading Magic by Mem Fox, Baby Read-Aloud Basics by Caroline Blakemore and The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease -- or take a look at these great resources:
Reading is Fundamental
The National Institute for Literacy
Read Aloud America

Also, feel free to come on down to our summer playgroup and storytime sessions, starting June 21st.

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