Five COUNTING Tips to Get the Most out of HAPPY BIRTHDAY CHRISTMAS CHILD by Laura Sassi + A Giveaway

I chose for my new book HAPPY BIRTHDAY CHRISTMAS CHILD to both rhyme and count because it has all the right components: a kid-friendly setting and theme (It’s Jesus’ birthday in the stable), fun, countable characters and items, a young intended audience, and a poignant, upbeat feel.

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But there’s another reason I decided to infuse counting into this particular story. Counting is not just something that little ones love to do, it can also be a soothing, rhythmic way to slow ourselves down when we are rushing through a story (or through life). The process of pausing to count images on a spread, or stars in the sky (or whatever) compels us to pause for a moment to look, to point and to ponder.  And that’s exactly what I hope little ones and their caregivers will do as read this simple counting Christmas story.

With joyful counting in mind, here are five tips for using COUNTING to get the most out of HAPPY BIRTHDAY CHRISTMAS CHILD as you enjoy it with little ones, ages 2 – 4.

  1. Do some pre-read counting. Before reading, get your little ones in the mood by counting to ten together using fingers or toes. Then look around your reading space and see what else there is to count. Maybe window panes or number of chairs or cozy pillows? Close by asking if they will help you count in the book they are about to enjoy.
  2. Count items on book cover. Before opening the book, see if your little ones can 1) guess what the story might be about using picture clues from the cover and 2) count things on the cover. For HAPPY BIRTHDAY CHRISTMAS CHILD this could include counting eyes, halos, animals, hands and feet and one big star.
  3. Read, pause, point and count across each and every spread. Now is the time to enjoy the story, pausing to engage with the text and illustrations, counting as you go. With HAPPY BIRTHDAY CHRISTMAS CHILD, it’s nice to conclude the story with this thought: How about we count the days until Christmas together? Then, using a calendar, X off and count each day until Christmas.
  4. Make numbers out of dough! After reading the story, grab some play dough. Then using the numerals in the book as models, have your little ones roll the dough into coils and then shape into one of the numerals from the story.  Roll the remaining dough into little balls to match the numeral.  Or, for extra fun, shape them into their corresponding items in the story.  (Ex:  six spiders) Squish and repeat as often as is fun.
  5. Go on a post-reading COUNTING hunt. After reading the story, extend the counting fun by investigating your tree or a family nativity and counting items. Count by color, shape, or any other category, looping in the thought that we are also counting with anticipation the days until Christmas, Jesus’ birthday!

BONUS FUN:  Be sure to check out https://happybirthdaychristmaschild.com for more book-themed fun including the book trailer, an inspirational message, a downloadable activity kit and purchase links.  (Available wherever books are sold.)

 

 

Activity kit:  https://s3.amazonaws.com/supadu-imgix/paracletepress-us/pdfs/discussion_guides/DG-9781640607996.pdf

Laura Sassi        

laura sassi shot  PARACLETE PRESS will give away one copy of the delightful book to a person chosen at random from those who leave a comment on this post (US residents only).

GOODNIGHT, ARK (Zonderkidz, August ’14)

GOODNIGHT, MANGER (Zonderkidz, October ’15)

DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE (Sterling, Spring ’18)

LOVE IS KIND (Zonderkidz, Fall  ’18)

EL AMOR ES BONDADOSO (Vida Zondervan, Fall ’19)

LITTLE EWE: THE STORY OF ONE LOST SHEEP (Beaming Books,  Spring ’21)

BUNNY FINDS EASTER (Zonderkidz, Spring ’22)

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, CHRISTMAS CHILD (Pareclete Press, Fall ’22)

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Laura Sassi Presents: LITTLE EWE: The Story of One Lost Sheep + A chance to win a copy.

Today I am delighted to bring you an interview with award-winning picture book author LAURA SASSI. Laura will talk about her latest book titled LITTLE EWE: THE STORY OF ONE LOST SHEEP Illustrated by Tommy Doyle  http://www.beamingbooks.com

ewe cover

What inspired you to write about a “lost sheep”?

The “lost lamb” who I have sweetly named Little Ewe in my story is inspired by one of my favorite of Jesus’ parables. The parable is about a shepherd who realizes one sheep is missing and so he leaves the flock to find that one and bring it safely home.  As a child I loved this beautiful reminder that, like the shepherd in the parable, Jesus came to find the lost and, oh my, how wonderful it feels to be found. My hope is that, like Little Ewe in my story, readers of all ages will sense the comfort and joy of knowing that our Shepherd, too, wants to find us and care for us when we are lost.

ewe shot

The rhyme scheme is gentle and perfect for the story. Did you intend to write it in rhyme?

I think “gentle” is a lovely way to describe the feel of the rhyme and rhythm of the text. Yes, from the beginning, I intended for this story to rhyme. My vision was to tell the tale in gently bouncing quatrains that would evoke the playfulness of Little Ewe’s day of adventure as she wanders from the flock and also capture the gentle comfort of being found at the end of the day.

Did you plan on making the story a counting one? Tell us how that came about.

I knew from the beginning that I wanted this to be a counting story. One of my favorite aspects of Jesus’ parable was that the shepherd left the 99 to find that one lost sheep. That counting aspect really resonated with me, but I didn’t want my story to be the typical counting book where readers just look for objects on the page that don’t necessarily relate to the plot. Rather, I wanted the counting in LITTLE EWE to be an integral part of the story, helping to escalate the tension as Little Ewe wanders farther and farther from Shepherd and to conjure feelings of comfort when she is found. I hope readers will agree it adds a rich dimension to the story.

What message do you want young children to take away from the story?

This answer is easy! I want children to know that just like Little Ewe, they, too, have shepherds who care for them. These kind shepherds include special people like parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. teachers and more. And who is the kindest shepherd of all?  God, who cares for and loves them and wants them to return safely home, even when they wander from the path.

Please check out the link for an activity kit that can be used with the book. It is filled with puzzles, craft activities, coloring pages and more.

ACTIVITY KIT:  https://ms.beamingbooks.com/downloads/LittleEwe_ActivityKit_web.pdf

Here is Darlene’s review for this book:

“Little Ewe is out grazing with her herd when her curiosity makes her ignore calls to come, instead wandering off to explore. She frolics all day until dark descends and she realizes she is alone, lost, and afraid. Under the loving and attentive care of the Shepherd, Little Ewe is reunited with the flock once again. Told in gentle rhyme, this counting book is a fresh and thoughtful addition to the genre. It reminds readers that since God watches over us, we are never alone and we need not be afraid. A comforting message for all.”

I am giving away a copy of LITTLE EWE to one lucky reader drawn at random from those who leave a comment on this post. Share the post on social media and you will have a second chance to win. Just let me know where you share it.

laura sassi shotLaura Sassi has a passion for telling stories in prose and rhyme. She is the author of five picture books including the best-selling Goodnight, Ark, which was a 2015 Christian Book Award Finalist; Goodnight, Manger; Diva Delores and the Opera House Mouse, which won First Honor Book for the 2019 Best in Rhyme Award; Love Is Kind, which was a 2020 Anna Dewdney Read Together Award Honor Book; and Little Ewe: The Story of One Lost Sheep. Her next book, Bunny Finds Easter, will release in 2022. In addition to books, she’s published over one hundred poems, stories, crafts, and articles in various children’s publications.

A graduate of Princeton University and UCLA, Sassi had a successful teaching career before becoming a children’s author. She’s been a homeschool mom, children’s ministry director, historic museum interpreter, and more. She writes daily from her home in New Jersey and finds special joy in sharing her love of reading and writing with the next generation at school visits and other book events.