Sunday, March 27, 2011

It's Time for Holi! Author Interview

Amita Roy Shah is the author of It’s Time for Holi! Amita is also a consultant for several educational publishing companies, a researcher studying South Asian American women who become teachers, and is the mother of one super-smart kid!

Luckily for me, she was willing to take time out of her hectic schedule to answer some questions about her new book:

Tiny Reader: It’s Time for Holi! is your first children’s book. What inspired you to write a book about Holi?

Amita: The idea of Holi came to me when I was designing a Pre-K curriculum and realized that many Pre-K themes have to do with colors, seasons, and multicultural celebrations. Holi is the Indian festival of colors! People celebrate spring by throwing colors on one another…so I thought to myself, what child wouldn’t want to celebrate spring by throwing colors on their family and friends?!?

Tiny Reader: What’s a common question that children have for you about Indian culture, and how do you address it?

Amita: It’s not really a question but I think children are sometimes confused about the term “Indian." And in the United States the term is used to talk about Native American Indians the most. I think this term causes a lot of confusion, so I always make it a point to say that Holi is a celebration that started in the country of India but is now celebrated everywhere. I think it is also important for children to say “India” out loud and I hope the images from my book will help them develop a better understanding of Indians who are from the country of India.

Tiny Reader: What is your writing process?

Amita: My writing process has always been to write down whatever I am thinking at the moment and develop the structure, format, and language later! This has definitely worked for me. The first couple drafts of this book don’t really have a rhyme or rhythm and are just some ideas about roses, butterflies, birds, colors, and spring. It is funny to look back and see it all now.

Tiny Reader: What do you hope children will learn from reading your book?

Amita: I hope that all children get more exposure to the Indian culture. Throughout the book you will notice subtle images of the culture--such as the jewelry, the dress, the wall hangings, the containers with the colored powders, names of characters, etc. I also hope that children get really excited about spring and celebrating Holi at school or at home. Holi is about getting messy with colors so children can really do any activity that allows for them to make a mess with colors. I am going to have my son make colorful handprints or footprints with paint and throw some colored confetti on us at home. He will also go to a couple Holi celebrations that are taking place in the bay area. The other thing I hope for is that it helps validate the experiences of Indian children living in the United States. I think it is really important for children to see people like them and their families in books.

Tiny Reader: What does your son think about all this?

Amita: This is a great question! So let me give you a little more background. I needed the illustrations to look as realistic as possible--so my illustrator referenced our online family albums to create the characters. The boy in the book looks exactly like my son! So my son is absolutely ecstatic when he sees the book. He says, “Look! It’s the Deven book!” every time he sees it!

Tiny Reader: You are a busy lady—a researcher, a consultant, a mom, a children’s book author. What other projects do you have going on right now?

Amita: I think I thrive on multiple projects, so it’s actually a good thing that I have a lot going on. But I am also fortunate enough to have a flexible schedule that allows for me to prioritize projects so that my son always comes first. So with that, I do what I can when I can. Many people have already expressed an interest in a Diwali book... and I do have some ideas for that, so that might be next! I am also talking to a university about teaching part-time. But again, it all depends on time and scheduling!

Tiny Reader: What are your plans for the book now that it is published?

Amita: I have created a Facebook page, “It’s Time for Holi,” to write about all the latest happenings. But just to give you a couple highlights, I plan to do read-alouds at schools or community centers to get the word out. I just did a reading for children at Teachers College and will be at the Indian Community Center (ICC) this week. In the future, I hope to make a more interactive website for children to play virtual Holi game so children can virtually throw colors and get points! I also want to host a coloring contest during Holi and have children color some of the pages from my book. Those are just some ideas in the works to get children more involved in Holi activities

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Celebrating 100 Followers Today!

Yippee! Tiny Reader officially has 100 followers on Google! Thank you so much, dear readers!

Thank you also to all the Tiny Reader followers on Twitter, Networked Blogs, and Facebook!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Make March Music in Your House Month

I just learned from another blogger that March is Music in Our Schools Month. Yippee!

Baby L. comes from a musical family - Daddy plays guitar, and so does Grandpa J. (You can hear a clip of Grandpa J. here!) Great Grandpa E. plays the clarinet, and her Great Uncle T. plays drums. There's even a family band and a few albums that Grandpa J. made in his recording studio! Mommy was a band geek in high school and college, and her Grandpa K. knows every piece of trivia you ever could imagine about every jazz, blues, soul, and rock and roll artist ever.

So it's in Baby L.'s blood and it shows. She LOVES music.

To foster her love of music, Baby L. has a box of her own instruments that she often goes to. We always have music on in our house, and she'll often start dancing in the middle of doing something else when she hears a good tune! She'll even pick up her instruments and play along, sometimes she'll even "sing."

Here are some tips for supporting musical kids in your family or classroom:
1. Have music on whenever you can
2. Play lots of different kinds of music, even if they aren't your personal preferences
3. Talk about the music. Name and talk about the instruments you hear if you can
4. Clap, dance, and sing along with the music
5. Make a box of instruments - it's easy! (see below)
6. If you can, seek out music classes in your neighborhood or town. Often the local library, school, or YMCA offers music classes or sing-a-longs for free, or for low cost. It's great for your child to see other kids and grown-ups who like to sing and dance as much as they do.
7. Encourage your child to make up songs! (Even those "songs" that you don't think really sound like songs).

Some instruments you can make:
1. Fill an old plastic bottle with beads, pasta, beans, or coins to make a shaker. Use a drop of glue to seal the cap on so that your baby or toddler can't get it open.
2. Save the tubes from your paper towels. We call them Der-Der Tubes in our house because you can hold them up to your mouth and sing "Der der der der!" An instant trumpet!
3. Cookie tins make great drums - so do oatmeal containers!
4.Good ol' pots and pans are always fun to bang on!
5. You can clap two blocks together to make a great sound along with the beat of a fun song.
6. Your child's baby rattles can go into their instrument box as they get older.

All this music is great for a budding reader or writer, believe it or not. Lyrics to songs build vocabulary, as well as oral language fluency and expression. Clapping, dancing, and playing instruments along to the beat of a song supports phonological awareness - hearing the sounds in language. Just google "music and baby brain development" and a zillion academic research articles appear. Whether you buy into the "Mozart effect" or not, music is a great way to engage your little one in the world of language, words, communication, and fun!


Note: (I personal feel that the catch phrase "Mozart effect" it is a bit oversimplified - though it sounds wonderful, and there are some intriguing studies on the short and long term effects of listening to classical music. Some researchers explain that simply playing Mozart to your baby is not going to make her smarter. However, families who provide music, singing, a love of those kinds of things, are likely to be the kinds of families who provide lots of other great support too - books, language, stories, and lots more.)

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Text to Food Connection

Tonight we're having Pete's A Pizza!

First we'll read the book. Then we'll turn Baby L. into a pizza, just like the boy in William Steig's book. After that, we'll eat a real Pete's A Pizza!

Baby L. and Mommy

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Wee Wee Wee!

One of our favorite games with Baby L is the one where we say "Where's your ______?" and she points to the body part and says it. She's only 16 months old, so it sounds like this:

Me: "Baby L, where's your head?"

Baby L: "Het. Het. Het." (taps her head)

Me: "Where are your eyes?"

Baby L: "Eyes!" (She blinks really fast.)

Me: "Where are your ears?"

Baby L: (She responds by tugging her cute little ear lobes.)

Me: "Where are your hands?"

Baby L: "Heh. Heh." (She waves.)

Me: "Fingers?"

Baby L: (She wiggles her fingers.)

Me: "Belly button?"

Baby L: (She points to her neck--which seems odd, but it's because in the book Where's Baby's Belly Button, Baby L lifts the flap on the belly button page, and the baby in the illustration has her hands pointing to her neck! Click on the link to see what I mean. It's adorable.)

Her cutest response of all?

Me: "Baby L, where are your toes?"

Baby L: Grabs her toes and says, "Wee wee wee!"

Note: The reading teacher in me is very proud of the text-self connections my baby girl is making here. Usually we think of readers bringing what they know from personal experience to help them understand books. Strong readers read a text and stop and think, "What does this remind me of?" But here, it's the other way around. It's as if Baby L is looking about her body, and thinking, "Hmm... what book does this remind me of?"