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Ramona and Ralph the Mouse love DEAR!

Yeah, you can sing that to Aretha’s RESPECT and I won’t tell.

But DEAR and TCH really are not the latest in pop tunes. They are two great websites I discovered and wanted to pass on to you.

DEAR (Drop Everything And Read) has been around a while and is officially celebrated on Beverly Cleary’s birthday, April 12. But this video (1 minutes long) does a great job of showing how it can become a regular part of a school day–and the same can be done at home, of course!

Some of the things I love about this video are:

  • it’s noisy: reading and storytimes do not need to be quiet; reading aloud and the conversation that goes with it is a noisy kind of learning;
  • it’s wiggly: reading and storytimes do not need to be still; some kids like to sit and some like to move around or stand; they are all soaking it up;
  • it’s fairly unstructured: while reading (and more so storytimes) sometimes need planning and care, just as often all it takes is to pick up a book; some kids are read to solo, some are in pairs, some are in groups and these “reading groups” are not assigned or planned;
  • it’s easy: anyone can pick up a book and read to a child (and even if you can’t read, you can talk about the pictures or make up a story to go along with the pictures–it’s still “reading” for young children).

Finally, TCH Teaching Channel is one of the best sites for teaching and education ideas I’ve run across. Quality stuff! It’s worth exploring.

How could you adapt DEAR in your school, home, or library? Share your ideas with others!

DEAR,

Babette

 

Teach Your Monster to Read is a free online game for beginning readers. It starts with individual letter sounds, first consonants, then vowels, and then blending into words. Kids who are drawn to learning on the computer will likely enjoy the game. Each player creates his or her own monster who crash lands his space ship in a land of islands. Each island king helps to repair a part of the space ship if the monster can find the king’s missing letters.

Things that work well:

  • Graphics and sounds are fun and colorful without being obnoxious or overwhelming.
  • Tasks are fairly intuitive if you have played any other computer games.
  • You can stop and start the game; it will re-start you where you last stopped.
  • If a child makes a mistake, the game allows him or her to repeat the activity until it is correct.

Things that didn’t work so well:

  • Many of the letters sounds demonstrated were too soft even though other sounds were plenty loud enough.
  • I didn’t work all the way through the game but I did make it to the second island. The routine and the activities were getting a bit repetitive. You seven year old’s mileage might vary.
  • The prizes were on the odd side–clothing pieces for your monster, oh-kay, but underwear? And I really have a thing against good as prizes even if it’s pretend molded jello. ;-)
  • And some child (read–boy) is probably going to point out to great hilarity all around that the monsters seem to “poop” their stars. (Play, you’ll see what I mean. Or maybe it’s just me!) Not a prob at home but if you had your whole classroom playing, this observation could lead to a bit of a class management struggle!

It’s hard to find really excellent computer games and Teach Your Monster to Read is certainly not a bad one–but neither is it an outstanding one. It won’t really teach a child to read but it is free and it may help some children who need a bit more practice and need it in a novel format.

If you try it with your children, post here and let us know what you think.

Babette

It’s summer. We should all be outdoors, playing and getting dirty.

But for those moment when you just have to come inside, and someone sits down at the computer, put them in front of the Scale of the Universe 2.

Oh my! There’s nothing like a visual to put substance to a bunch of facts! But be forewarned. The universe is a might large place and you can spend a lot of time exploring it here. :-)

As with all sites I recommend for kids, remember: their visit to a website should provide opportunities for conversation. Scale of the Universe 2 is a case in point. Not only is conversation good for your relationship with your kids (we can all fall into the habit of just giving them commands and never really talking) but it also builds key literacy skills.

So when everyone’s too tired to play anymore, take a stroll around the universe, big and small!

Have fun,

Babette

You’re invited to a Book Look–anyone, everyone, the more the merrier! I will be highlighting books that are great for grandparents to give for birthdays, holidays, or any day you want to make a kid feel special. Forgo the toys that will break or get forgotten. Get a book for a gift that lasts a lifetime.

So join us this Thursday, June 28, at 5:30 p.m. at my house. Don’t know where that is? Email me at babette(dot)reeves(at)gmail.com for address and directions. No RSVP needed and come as you are. This is informal, fun, and I’ll do all the work for you. There are few things I love better than helping find the right book for a kid!

(And if you really, really, really can’t come, you can order online. Email if you have any questions.)

See you then,

Babette

Leave it to the BBC to post a treasure trove of resources for early learning! Rhymes, audio, video, lyrics & pictures! What more could you ask for! It’s called School Radio, and it’s all free. The website is a little tricky to navigate (I’ll walk you through, though), some items are posted only for a limited time, and of course, some materials might not be as applicable for you depending on cultural differences (like accents).

The good parts, though, are very, very good.  :-) Here’s a brief tour of what I found, liked, and will use myself.

Opening the link, you’ll find a menu list on the left. Clicking on Early Learning, you’ll see five choices.  The best are Nursery Rhymes and Stimulus Sounds. I’ve actually linked you (above) to the Nursery Rhymes page so it’s already open for  you. Rhymes are mid-screen and grouped alphabetically. Click on “Baa, baa black sheep” for starters, and take a listen. Pretty snazzy, huh? (I’ll be using this one at the SLV Fiber Fest in July!). Scroll down and you can click on a link to print out the photo and the lyrics.

If you are in the U.S. like me, some of the rhymes will be unfamiliar–but that can be a nice way to freshen up your storytimes. Most of the songs and rhymes are repeated twice, always a nice feature. I found that the British accents were not overwhelming in the nursery rhymes but were probably too much in the “Listen and Play” and “Playtime” story links for early learners here in the U.S.

Finally, if you select the “Stimulus Sounds” link, you’ll find audio files for sounds that children can listen to and then identify. Hearing individual sounds is absolutely key to being able to read later. It is one of the two skills (the other is vocabulary) that is almost always missing in elementary aged children who are struggling to read. (Want to know more? Click on the “phonological awareness” tag in the left column on my site.) So this is a great resource especially on days when you can’t get outdoors to listen for “real” sounds. And kids think this is really fun! Be patient though. It is a skill that has to be learned and it takes time so give lots of encouragement and keep it fun.

Have fun exploring!

Babette

The Children’s Librarian: A Necessity, Not a Luxury is one of those articles that urges me to declare: I couldn’t say it any better myself! Please take the time to read it and pass it on to those who might not quite “get” what a children’s librarian is all about.

A few comments:

  • I love how Blackrose includes children’s librarian in the category of “Early Childhood Professionals!” That’s what we are and what we will continue to be more and more in the years to come (as long as communities keep us employed and library schools provide the proper training).
  • Speaking of training, I want to brag on two of our library schools here in Denver, Emporia State University (where I teach the children’s services class and built it around child development) and Denver University, which just began an early childhood library fellows program within its MLS.
  • And I can’t help but brag a bit more: Unlike in Australia, my class does include storytime and storytelling training, even down to how to use your voice properly so you don’t burn it out over the years.

And a wonderful quote from Blackrose:

“But public libraries are also about people. Statistics do not reflect the contentment of shared reading experiences, the satisfaction of successful social interactions, the excitement of appropriate group responses, the wonder of discovery, the joy of connected learning. These are what public library storytimes provide through the work of the children’s librarian. “

In less than 24 hours, I’ve had two people thank me for my help: One was a young mom of five children who was so frustrated with homeschooling she was ready to quit. She brought the kids to the library that day, and while I don’t recall our time together, she says it made all the difference.

The other was a grandmother who has started a library of children’s books on death, dying, and grief  in her nursing home for residents and family members (isn’t that a neat idea!). She asked me for suggestions. Today she came in with tears in her eyes to tell me about how one book was perfect for a grandmother and her grandchild who had had a school friend die.

We can make such a difference if we are given the time and support to do so!

Thanks to Morgan Schatz Blackrose for such a thoughtful review of what a good children’s librarian is all about!

Talk with you decision makers. Let them know what your children’s librarian has done for you and your family,

Babette

I’m not wild about computers and children. It’s up there with TV as one more screen that it’s just too easy to sit a kid down in front of. Yet there are times when kids want to play and they want to play on the computer.

It’s especially hard to find “places” where little ones can go and can “do something” successfully, just like older kids. CLEL.org pointed me to the site Chateau Meddybemps and it looks like a winner.

The home page is here but I like this page where there are picture links to all the activities. You can also see what skill each activity encourages. Many of them are language, math, and thinking based.

As you visit around in the site, notice how often comments encourage playing, keeping things fun, moving on when tired, and doing things together with your child. If one follows those guidelines and keeps time online limited, Meddybemps can be a fun place to visit.

Have fun,

Babette

 

You know it’s going to happen. Sometime over the holidays, when you just can’t do, play, or eat anymore, someone’s going to sit down with their laptop and start playing videos.

I know it happens at our house. And we do have a good time with it. And believe it or not, it can be good family time between generations and even good literacy building time.

How, when there is no reading going on? Family building and literacy building can both happen if the viewings spur conversation.

So here are a few that are fun, intergenerational, and sure to get everyone talking.

Laurel and Hardy Meet Santana: Oh my, how this made me laugh! What a generational mash-up!

Around the Corner: Motorcycle acrobatists and differential gears? What? Just watch it; honest, it’s worth the minutes.

Why the Other Line Moves Faster: If you’ve found yourself stuck in impossible lines this season, this will throw a whole ‘nother light on it. (I make no promises that it will make the experience better though.)

Star Wars vs. Star Trek: On oldie but a goodie.

Twelve Days of Christmas/Africa: My favorite holiday or anytime group and one of my favorites of their songs. This is the original 1998 version.

Wherever you are and whatever you celebrate, may your holidays be blessed! See you in the new year!

Babette

It’s taken several weeks to get the following posted, but I’m afraid getting storytimes back on track and finding my desk again under the piles took precedence! :-)

I presented More than Eensy Weensy Spider: Early Literacy Storytimes and Your Library at the Association for Rural and Small Libraries conference in October in Denver.  With an understanding of the basics of early literacy, it’s possible for any library, of any size, to adapt their current storytimes into early literacy storytimes–with no extra staffing, time, or money needed.

The links will take you to presentation slides and the handouts. Handouts include addresses for all the links used in the presentation, books referenced for each early literacy skill, references for statistics used, planning sheets for two age groupings, and a flow chart to show the changes from “regular” to “early lit”.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to drop me an email. And permission is granted to use and share for educational purposes with credit given.

Hope these are a help!

Babette

Here’s an excellent article in the Wall Street Journal on the gap between boys and girls in reading and what to do about it.

I, like Mr. Spence, am the parent of boys, both voracious readers at ages 14 and 21. They have always been readers. And my experience matches with the “science” he quotes. They both have grown up with strong limits on screen times, be that TV, video games, computer time, or handheld screen games.

Screens are very easy to turn to as a kid when you’re bored and don’t know what to do. Finding something to do takes some time rattling around. Eventually if the house is full of constructive “stuff” (blocks, pots and pans, legos, dress up clothes including swords and capes, books, etc.), they will find something to do. I found it takes about 20 minutes. :-)

They will not choose these other things, though, if screens are always available first. Especially boys. (I believe there is something different about boys and their brains that makes screens especially attractive to them.)

Mr. Spence leaves out a few important points though.

First, reading at early ages must be enjoyable. That means not insisting (or even asking) that your boy hold still and be very quiet while you are reading together. Boys are wigglers and squirmers and little noise makers. They can still listen while doing all this. My youngest at age seven was still falling off the back of the sofa during our reading times. He also could tell me everything I had just read aloud to him.

When an experience is pleasant, enjoyable, or fun, we as humans want to do it more. When we fuss at boys while reading, they associate the fussing with the reading and who wants to be fussed at? So no more reading. When we ask boys to do something they physically are incapable of at that developmental point in time, we put them in an untenable position. Who wants to be in that place? So no more reading.

We set the stage for loving reading early, early on, well before a boy ever starts school just by those simple actions, words, and attitudes from the adults boys want so much to please.

Second, I’m with Mr. Spence on the mistaken reliance upon grossology. Yet without stooping to it, there are books that boys like better. Most girls will sit and listen or will read most anything they are handed. Most boys will not. At least not until they are hooked on reading.

Boys like action. They like “big things” whether those are trucks or explosions. They like voyages, adventures, struggles, quests, and good vs. evil. They like heroes, monsters, and legends. They like to know how things work. They like dinosaurs and guns; they make them feel powerful and boys must learn over time what power is about. They like stories that show boys learning to be their best and boys becoming men–as long as that is not the point of the story; the story must come first. They like stories about boys doing the things they would like to–climbing trees, building rafts, getting chased by bulls, and generally getting into innocent trouble.

Turn off the screens. Get good “boy” books in your house. Get your adult attitudes out of the way. And watch your boy grow into a reader.

Here’s to reading for all, including those marvelous boys!

Babette

Some things we want for our kids:

  • That they are healthy,
  • That they are learners and thinkers, and
  • That they can form good relationships.

That’s a short list. It looks pretty simple–until you start thinking about how to make it so especially in today’s world.

Yet it is simple.

Give them:

  • good food,
  • good exercise,
  • time with caring adults, preferably parents.
  • And make some of that time be with stories and books.

Well, yeah, you’re saying. But it can’t be that simple!

Many things in life are simple. But life throws so much at us–distractions, busyness, even real problems.

Children still need what children need. It may be simple but it’s also so important. As a culture, we have a hard time holding simple and important together in our minds and lives. If  it’s important, it has to be complicated and difficult and very, very time consuming–maybe even expensive!

Just simple and important. Give your kids food, exercise, and loving care.

(Here’s a terrific article from NYT on kids, exercise, and “brain power,” well worth the read.)

Feeling a bit like Pooh Bear,

Babette

One area of children’s books that often gets overlooked by parents and librarians is the emotional. Being a kid and growing up have never been easy. Trying to help a kid be a kid and navigate its particular waters has never been easy.

We forget as adults how hard it was to figure it all out. We forget that it’s all new for kids. And we forget that learning takes time and takes multiple tries. What is this feeling I feel? What do I call it and what do I do with it? If there’s a problem here to be solved, how do I do that? If it’s not something to be solved, how do I live through it? How do I process, understand, and make some meaning out of what’s happening to me?

It may be as “simple” as learning all the in’s and out’s of potty training (think about it, it involves way more than just getting it in the pot–there’s hand washing and door closing and seat lifting and on and on).  It might be as “complex” as learning to cope with the death of a parent.

To a child, it’s all new, it all takes time, and it all can be supported by a book.

I’m always on the look-out for books that are authentically supportive of kids and their learnings, transitions, and struggles. I discovered the blog, Books That Heal, yesterday and look forward to following its reviews and tapping it for ideas for books for my library’s collection and my community’s kids.

Be Aware,

Babette

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email babette(dot)reeves(at)gmail(dot)com
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73 State Avenue
Alamosa, CO 81101

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