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Start with a Book

Ricky Rocket

Books and activities for summer reading and learning from Reading Rockets

Start With a Book: Books and activities for summer reading and summer learning

Bird Buddies! A Book-Based STEAM Adventure

Our STEAM-focused DIY summer program is all about birds and birding in your community!

 

Welcome to Bird Buddies!

How much we can all learn when we stop to look and listen! And what better way to spend a summer day or several than outside learning all about birds — from the connection between birds and dinosaurs, their fantastic feathers, beaks for all kinds of nest building and eating, and unique songs, and how we, as humans, can protect birds and their habitats? 

Bird Buddies gives kids a chance to learn all about birds — how they live, eat, move, fly, sing, and socialize by taking nature walks, using binoculars, keeping a bird journal from the point of view of a scientist or from that of a bird itself, setting up an observation station, writing poems, myths, and riddles about birds, building a nest, and playing games like Bird Bingo and Jeop-Birdy.

Bird Buddies combines hands-on activities with great fiction, poetry, and picture book biographies — books such as How the Raven Got His Crooked Nose and Mr. Popper’s Penguins — inspiring kids to read about birds and the habitats  in which they live — whether in their own neighborhoods or on landscapes in faraway countries. 

Our free, 5-day toolkit for educators, summer program leaders, and parents includes dozens of carefully chosen fiction and nonfiction books, hands-on activities, writing ideas, and apps and websites to deepen a child's learning plus tips on reading aloud and building fluency skills.

Join us ... to explore, create, read, write, and learn — all about birds. 

Here's what kids will learn about, day by day:

  • Day 1: Bird beginnings
  • Day 2: Habitats, food, and foraging
  • Day 3: Bird brains
  • Day 4: The social life of birds
  • Day 5: Birds and humans

A 5-day program that fits your schedule!

Bird Buddies is adaptable! Use the materials each day for five days in a row, or once a week for five weeks (or any other way you like) to add hands-on learning to your summer programming. The materials are designed for elementary-aged children, but can be adapted for older or younger kids.

Get your free Bird Buddies toolkit

The toolkit includes 5 topics for exploration through fiction and nonfiction books, hands-on activities, new vocabulary, and fun writing prompts. Each topic also includes recommendations for kid-friendly digital media — websites, podcasts, apps, and video. In the Appendix you'll find printable “Best of the Birds,” bird words, Bird Buddies name tags, journal covers, and certificates, and Growing Readers tip sheets from Reading Rockets.

Complete toolkit

Day by Day

Note: Be sure to view and print from Adobe Reader (or an alternative PDF reader), not your web browser.Books about birds

Books about birds

children's books about birds and birding

Looking for great kids’ books about birds and birding? Our Bird Buddies toolkit includes dozens of recommended fiction, nonfiction, and poetry books. Browse the Bird Buddies booklist.

Getting ready: tips for using the Bird Buddies toolkit

  • You’ll find an introduction to the concepts covered and recommended books for each day, as well as a list of questions to guide explorations and experiments, and a list of “bird words” that kids might not be familiar with.
  • Start by gathering books from the list provided from your library.
  • Choose fiction and nonfiction books from the list provided.
  • Read them through before you read them to the kids so you know what happens, and can spot any unfamiliar words or concepts you’ll need to explain. Also, look for places to ask questions while you're reading to engage listeners.
  • Think about which other parts of the program you’d like to do after reading the book(s).
  • An activity is always a good idea, but you may also want to include writing, exploring related websites and apps, and going on a field trip, too.

Learning with the kids

  • Introduce the theme for the day and ask kids what they know about it.
  • Read one or more of the books aloud and ask questions. Listen carefully to the kids’ answers. By reading to them and asking questions, you’ll get them thinking about the topic, and what they want to learn. You’ll also increase their understanding and excitement. Read another book and repeat.
  • Choose a hands-on activity to let kids explore theme. By doing an activity, the kids get to use the concepts and new words they have learned.
  • Look for a local connection. How can you connect the ideas in the books or the activities with the kids’ personal experience?
  • Keep asking questions throughout and listening carefully to the kids’ answers.
  • Encourage kids to write about what they are learning or curious about by using one of the writing prompts in the toolkit.
  • Provide access to books about the topic for kids to look at on their own.
  • Show kids websites and apps that they can use to learn more about the topic and give kids time to try them out.
  • Take a field trip to further explore your topic for the day or theme for the week.

You can choose any of the components, all of them, or just one or two, but we recommend that you always Start With a Book!

Bird Buddies certificate

Download and print this certificate, to acknowledge participation by your young Bird Buddies! We hope they'll want to continue learning about the amazing lives of birds, their fascinating behaviors, their important role in a healthy and balanced environment, and how we can protect them and the habitats they live in.

Bird Buddies toolkit authors

Rachael Walker
Rachael has more than 30 years of experience developing partnerships with nonprofit organizations, corporations, and public agencies to benefit at-risk children and families. She launches national campaigns, coordinates special events, and develops original content for the National Education Association, Random House Children’s Books, PBS, and WETA’s Learning Media initiatives (Reading Rockets, Colorín Colorado, and AdLit.org). Visit Rachael at Belle of the Book.

Gary Worthington
Gary has taught at all levels from elementary school to college for 20 years. He has been an active and avid birder for over 50 years, organizing Audubon Christmas Bird counts, participating in the North American Breeding Bird Survey, and The Breeding Bird Atlases in three states and one province in Canada and volunteering for a number of other bird surveys.

Dr. Janet E. Worthington
Jan has more than 50 years of experience in teaching at all levels from kindergarten to graduate school. In addition, she has provided workshops, seminars, and conference presentations for educators across the United States. She is co-author of four books on teaching literature for elementary and high school students.

 

The development of the Bird Buddies toolkit was made possible by a generous grant from the Park Foundation.