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Here’s a bit of what I’ve been reading the past few weeks:
Kids who have trouble with speaking and listening as preschoolers have trouble later with reading, from BBC News.
How many places can you take early literacy into? from the Columbus News. (I’ve been wanting to get into the laundromats for years now. If only more hours in the week!)
So many things I like about this–the focus on talking with babies, the videotaping, the one on one time with parents, the new and horrifying statistics! from NPR.
Winters are long here in the San Luis Valley. We get lots of cold weather but not much snow (it’s actually a desert up here at 7600 feet). So storytimes on winter, the cold, animals, and the exciting times when we do get snow tie right into a child’s daily experience here.
Here’s what I’m currently doing for wintertime storytime. The kids and I are enjoying it!
Books we are reading include:
- Tacky the Penguin by Helen Lester
- Sleep, Big Bear, Sleep by Maureen Wright
- Here Comes Jack Frost by Kazuno Kohara
Before I start reading Tacky, I show the kids my penguin stick puppet. He’s simply made out of black and white foam with a yellow beak (some kids love pointing out that he has no eyes). We talk about his colors and what he is covered with–fur? feathers? scales? hair? Once we’ve figured out penguins have feathers, we can talk about other animals that have feathers–birds! And then we can talk about birds that fly–and birds that swim like penguins!
Lots of talking happening, and of course, only for as long as the kids are interested. It’s easy talking, though, and easy for the kids to join in with their thinking and ideas and words.
Then my puppet acts out this rhyme (pardon the bullet points, WordPress inserts double spacing otherwise):
- Little penguin black and white,
- On the ice, what a sight!
- See them waddle, see them glide.
- Watch them as they slip and slide.
- Little penguins black and white,
- On the ice, what a sight!
Then we read Tacky with lots and lots of expression! After Tacky we talk about what other animals do in the winter and bears and sleeping come up. Before reading Big Bear, though, I tell the kids I’m going to tell the same story two different ways (a great way to build narrative skills, btw).
First I do this rhyme to the tune of “Up on the Housetop.” As a sing through it, I place first a picture of a brown bear, then of a blue cloud with a face drawn on it (like Old Winter in Big Bear), and finally a bear sleeping in a cave onto my makeshift flannel board (I use pictures printed in color from MS Publisher and place them on a white memo board with double sided tape).
- There once was a bear who love to play (Put up brown bear)
- In the woods most every day.
- But then the winds began to blow (Put up winter wind picture)
- And soon the ground was covered with snow.
- Oh, oh, oh, ice and snow,
- Oh, oh, oh, I better go-o
- Into my cave to sleep all day (Put up bear in cave picture)
- Until the cold winter winds go away. Jean Warren
I’m amazed at how much the kids love this! Then on to the Big Bear book. We follow it with some snow fingerplays (see the left hand side bar for those) and wrap it up with Jack Frost. Don’t let this book fool you though! It looks far too simple to hold a bunch of squirmy kids attention but it works like a charm. And they love puzzling out the ending!
There you go, lots of conversation, vocabulary, print awareness (especially in the final pages of Big Bear, narrative skills, and phonological awareness through rhymes. All wrapped up in one winter package.
Did no one else see this article???
I really expected to hear a lot of hoopla about this report, to see it flying around the twitter and blog-sphere.
I was under the weather and hated that I couldn’t get to it before now and was going to miss being part of turning this into a “big deal.”
But I haven’t heard a peep.
I know, I know, it got buried in the “couple of days before Christmas” pile. You haven’t gotten through your RSS reader yet. Or maybe the impact of what this man is saying just hasn’t sunk in yet.
So now my peep has grown into a shout! Please Read It! Read it a couple of times. Forward it (or email from here :-)) to everyone you know who cares about kids, literacy, and education–or anyone who doesn’t but should.
A Nobel prize winning economist, James Hecker, has nailed it. Here are some quotes from the article:
- To focus as intently as we do on the kindergarten to high school years misses how “the accident of birth is the greatest source of inequality,” (Heckman) said.
- (Heckman) contends that high-quality programs focused on birth to age 5 produce a higher per-dollar return than K-12 schooling and later job training.
- (Heckman) attributed the widening gap between the advantaged and disadvantaged to deficits in skills and abilities that begin with inadequate early childhood development.
- Test scores may measure smarts, not the character that turns knowledge into know-how. “Socio-emotional skills” or “character,” which we don’t often measure, are critical, and include motivation, the ability to work with others, attention, self-regulation, self-esteem and the ability to defer gratification.
- …the purpose of education is what it has always been: to develop a well-rounded, knowledgeable and adaptable person; to create upward mobility through smarts and character.
Read, check out the links in the article, and share. Heckman just may the key to convincing “the number guys” that what looks like “fuzzy” time in the preschool years, playing and being read to and being talked with, is actually essential for kids’ growth, health, development–and our country’s economic health as well.
New seasons are a great conversation starter with children. For young children, new words they hear develop meaning easiest when they are paired with direct experiences. You talk about a dog. They see a dog, pet a dog, and hear a dog bark. The word dog develops meaning–and that meaning helps create long-lasting memory of the word.
It’s easy to give children needed direct experiences of seasonal changes in the spring, summer, and fall. It’s harder in the winter when the weather really makes it enticing to stay indoors.
Yet children need the hands-on experiences. They need to feel the cold air, touch the snow, pull their coats tight against the wind, see the frost on the grass and trees. Through direct experiences, they can then “make sense” of your words as you talk about and describe the seasons.
Remember, it’s all new to them! So bundle up and head outside!
The parents in this video have done a stupendously good thing. They have given their child a book for a Christmas present. Books being part of every gift giving occasion is a great way to build a love for books and encourage literacy. The positive experience and emotions get paired with the books, thereby “teaching” that books are good and fun and enjoyable.
But what happens when the best laid plan goes awry? When the giftee hasn’t quite made the connection yet? What then?
First, you keep a straight face and you are quiet. The more you react, especially in a positive manner such as laughing and making a fuss about “how cute,” the more you reinforce the behavior you don’t want!
Second, this principle applies to most behaviors. If you want the behavior repeated, pay attention to it. If you don’t want it repeated, ignore it. It’s a simple rule of human learning that works throughout our lives.
Finally, maybe that particular Christmas morning wasn’t the time for whatever reasons, but at some point, a child needs to hear that “it” is a gift, gifts are given because someone thought you would like it, and even if you don’t like it, you smile and say thank you.
Remember, though, stifle the giggles when a kiddo does something you don’t want to see repeated, no matter how funny or cute it is. You’re doing you both a favor–and you can always laugh about it later, out of sight and hearing!
Hope your holidays were blessed,