Growing up in Vermont, like many of us who grew up in rural places, I have always been drawn to looking up at stars. There is just something about gazing up on a clear summer night and seeing a sky filled with sparkling stars that is universally appealing. Of course children love learning about the stars, imagine seeing them again for the very first time. They are pretty amazing. When I came across this book while looking for something else, I knew instantly that I was going to love it. I love Marla Frazee's illustrations and they go beautifully with Mary Lyn Ray’s story about stars of all kind.
I first read this book last year with my class of two and three year-olds before I moved up to teach in the preschool classroom. I was worried it would be a bit too wordy for them and while a few book-lovers really connected with it, I knew it was a bit better suited to preschoolers. This year, most of those little guys from my former classroom have moved up and joined me in preschool, and so I brought the story out again. It was a huge hit this time around, especially with the kids who remembered when I read it with them last year. Stars has been on our classroom book display for over a month now and we've featured it twice as our circle time story already, and the kids regularly ask us to read it with them again. Of course I am happy to oblige, I could read this book with them a thousand times and not tire of it. Each time we read it, a new conversation results from something the story and its illustrations conjured up.
When I brought this story out last month, my classroom was deep in the midst of an obsession with magic and fantasy. It made sense then, to go with the kids’ interest and follow up story-time, with a make-your-own-magic-wand activity. We had just featured King Arthur’s Very Great Grandson the week before and made paper crowns. This was one of our most popular activities to date and left the whole class playing royalty for the rest of the afternoon, so my co-teachers and I knew that a wand-making activity would be well received. We cut out a stack of paper stars, offered up some glitter to make them sparkle, helped the kids glue them to a stick and tied a few colorful ribbons around the top. Suddenly each child had an invitation to transform into something magical for the day. Just like with the paper crowns, it was beautiful to watch the creativity and depth of play that was born out of such a simple DIY accessory project.
The second time we read Stars at Circle Time, I chose to make small stars to keep in your pocket, “like your best rock,” (M. L. Ray) except that it was winter and good rocks were hard to come by. The laminated paper stars I went with were a bit of a flop compared to how I imagined the activity would have gone over, had we been able to head outdoors in search of the perfect rocks to paint and keep forever. Regardless of what activity you and your children come up with, this is a beautiful book to read together, with limitless potential for follow-up activities that could tie into any number of subjects, from outer space to emotions to fantasy fiction and more.