It’s award season in library land, and there are so many amazing titles that are receiving recognition across the nation. One of my favorite award lists is the CLEL Bells. These awards celebrate five high-quality picture books that provide excellent support of early literacy development in young children. The awards committee focuses on the 5 practices of early literacy as outlined by the ALA parent education initiative “Every Child Ready to Read”: Read, Write, Sing, Talk, and Play. The committee evaluates how these books support early literacy skills like vocabulary building, phonological and print awareness, background knowledge, and letter knowledge- both through their text and illustrations. As a member of the 2023 awards committee, I am especially proud of the selections this year!
To learn more about the finalists, download activity guides, and for a list of runners-up and past year winners and nominees, check out https://www.clel.org/clel-bell-awards/past-winners/ and enjoy these titles during your next bedtime read aloud, and explore suggested activities to extend your learning at home with PBS KIDS!
Bathe the Cat
by Alice B. McGinty
Illustrated by David Roberts
This playful story follows a frantic family as they work together to get their chores finished before Grandma arrives- with no help from the cat! To do anything to avoid getting a bath, the cat keeps scrambling the list of chores and hilarity ensues. Who would have thought chores could ever be so fun!
Children love to help their adults. Giving them small tasks helps develop their self-confidence, and communication skills. Chores can also aid in building fine and gross motor skills, while developing important health and wellness life-skills. Check out ways kids can be helpful around the house in this video from Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, Little Helper, where you see real-life kids show the ways that they can be helpful including washing the car, grocery shopping, picking up toys, and looking after younger children. And Daniel sings the song, Everyone is Big Enough to do Something, about how everyone is big enough to help out, teaching kids that they can always lend a helping hand, especially with the guidance of an adult.
by Alain Serge Dzotap
Illustrated by Delphine Renon
When Leo opens his birthday presents, he receives an amazing gift: a pen! Inside it, Papa says, are many beautiful things. But how do you get them out? None of his friends can guess. Super-Zombo doesn’t get anywhere by blowing on it, and Coco-Tembo thinks it’s too tiny to hold anything important. Maybe Leo’s mama will know how to reveal all the wonders inside…
This warm, charming story is a perfect introduction to the joy of writing. Like Leo, young readers will discover how a simple utensil can express all the words in the world—even one’s own name.
In this video segment from Between the Lions, a chorus of children’s voices captures dozens of fun and practical reasons to write: decorating cakes, posting “lost” signs, sending postcards and letters, following directions, and more. The song and accompanying images are reminders of the importance of writing in everyday life.
And did you know that when we talk about “writing” as an early literacy practice, we are including any activity that builds the pincer grasp, and those fine motor muscles that a child will need to hold a pencil later on- including both finger plays and scribbling! Share this video with your child and learn about the basic steps in making crayons in this live-action visit to a crayon factory, to inspire doodling, scribbling, and mark making. Or this video segment from Between the Lions features the poem, “Finger Paints” by Lilian Moore. The Library demonstrates a collection of finger plays that accompany our storytime kits HERE.
In this animation, Finding My Place, a boy describes his evening routine, which includes helping his parents with chores. The video reinforces concepts related to the role of children in families.
Still This Love Goes On
by Buffy Sainte-Marie
llustrated by Julie Flett
Based on Sainte-Marie’s song of the same name, Still This Love Goes On combines Flett’s breathtaking art with vivid lyrics to craft a stunning portrait of a Cree worldview. At the heart of this picture book is a gentle message about missing our loved ones, and the promise of seeing each other again.
In celebration of family love, This video segment from Between the Lions is a live action segment filmed in Bethel and Anchorage, Alaska. It features real children talking about activities they love to do with family members.
Adults might appreciate learning more about the songwriter/author of the book Buffy Sainte-Marie and how she impacted the portrayal of indigenous people in Hollywood in this media gallery of videos from the American Masters film about her life, Carry It On.
How to Say Hello to a Worm
Written and Illustrated by Kari Percival
The beautiful simplicity of a garden is depicted through digital woodcut illustrations and engaging nonfiction text presented as a series of sweet questions and gentle replies. Less of a traditional how-to and more of a how-to-appreciate, this soothingly sparse text paints an inviting and accessible picture of what a garden offers. This delightful book embodies the magic of gardening and encourages all readers, from those who LOVE the outdoors to those with hesitation, to interact with nature at their own, comfortable pace.
Expand your child’s understanding of the role of worms in the garden by watching this video segment from Between the Lions, Theo reads the book, Wonderful Worms.
And if you are inspired to learn more, teacher Lindsey Desmond explains why worms are important and how to compost in this video from Let’s Learn.
by Jessica Young
Illustrated by Genevieve Godbout
Tickle, rock, cuddle, and kiss the babies in this interactive board book! Rhyming text and sweet illustrations are perfect for toddlers and newly minted big brothers and sisters celebrating the arrival of a new baby.
Baby’s Here! is a sweet interactive board book with a unique shape that encourages toddlers and big siblings to be cradle, rock, and play with the babies in the pages.
Are you soon welcoming a new baby into your family? Help kids learn to welcome new siblings to their home and to get ready to be big helpers with Daniel Tiger clip We’re Going to Have a New Baby in Our Family.
Learning to play, and playing together is an important sign that children are growing. Play is not only fun, but it decreases toxic stress allowing children’s brains to focus on learning. Play allows children to practice new concepts, use new words, and learn to interact in a group. This video from Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood features two young boys as they find different ways of playing together. They each find different toys and sometimes even work on different activities, but they find a way to play together.