You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Early Childhood Education’ category.

Costumes–your child does not need costumes.

Notice, I did not say he or she does not need dress-up clothes. I said pass on the costumes.

What’s the difference? Dress-up clothes are multi-purposed and the purpose changes with your child’s imagination. Your child is in charge. The plain cape can make him or her a superhero or a knight or Little Red Riding Hood or Zorro or a bad guy or a good guy or a princess traveling on a mission. A Superman cape with logo is only a Superman cape.

Dress-up play is immensely important.

  • Imaginary play develops a child’s language skills. Think about it: Whether your child does it silently or out loud, he or she can’t become part of a story unless and until they put words to it.
  • Thinking of multiple uses for an object is a trait of creativity.
  • Dress-up and imaginary play puts a child in charge. In a day to day existence where children are told so often what to do and when, imaginary play lets them be the boss.
  • It also helps children develop impulse control.
  • Finally, in imaginary play, children can tackle what’s frightening and overcome it, they can be aggressive and discover their limits, they can be powerful–and on and on. The agenda is theirs.

If you buy a Snow White or Spiderman costume, that’s the end of the story–literally. Save your money and buy oodles more of all purpose dress-up clothes instead (many can be picked up at your local thrift store).

What’s your favorite addition to the dress-up box?

Have fun,

Babette

Advertisements

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

 

That may sound like an exaggeration. Certainly the intention is to improve education for a generation but when mandates don’t match with reality, the opposite occurs.

As busy as you are, if there are young children in your life, you need to read this summary in the Washington Post of Defending the Early Years’ coalition report.

If you think it’s not this bad, read Dr. David Elkind’s book Miseducation. Written in the late 80’s, it was prescient. It remains one of the best and most accessible explanations of why we cannot go against the biology and psychology of learning and what happens when we do.

And if you think these things don’t happen, I’ll tell you about my personal experience over ten years ago with preschool testing. My youngest, who is now sixteen, was in a “lottery funded” preschool program. Good program, good teachers. Until they started testing. A lot. I asked the teachers to not test my child. They squirmed big time–and eventually “sorta” told me that they couldn’t cause it would get them in trouble.

I spoke with the director who was very understanding–but still wanted him tested. We finally agreed that I would put my request in writing and that they wouldn’t test. I thought that was the end of the story.

Then in the car pick-up line a few weeks later, the teacher very quickly (and surreptitiously) stuck her head in the car window and apologized to me and said she “was sorry but she had to.” “Had to what?” I asked. “Test him today” was her guilty reply.

It was my son’s last day at that preschool, free or not.

If you are involved in early childhood education, please check out the link in the WP article to DEY’s survey and make your voice and experience heard. Speak up to principals, school boards, and others who make education decisions. Insist that their decisions follow what we’ve known for decades about how children learn.

Together we can see that children receive the education that’s best for them,

Babette

I’m back! 🙂 And over the next few weeks, I’ll fill you in on some of the changes in my life and work. To kick things off, though, I want to share a most memorable story for this Memorial Day–and kick off a new series of articles. Developmental Milestones will share stories and examples from the “real world” of how children grow. It will put some concrete flesh on the theoretical bones of developmentalists like Piaget, Erikson, Elkind, and others.

Let’s start off with a photo. It’s not mine to embed so click here to take a look. Yes, that’s a five year old boy, patting the President of the United States head. Yes, he asked to pat it, to touch the President’s hair. Why? To see if it was like his own.

What’s going on here developmentally? During ages 1-3, children begin to develop a sense of being separate from the people around them. During ages 3-6, they begin to develop an identity. They aren’t just a separate entity, a different “thing” from you or me; they are a separate being with a unique identity. Of course, a 3 year old doesn’t verbalize or even think about this but all the things that make us human are driving him or her to explore identity.

What makes me “me” and not you? (And yes, if this sounds familiar, you are right. This exploration gets re-visited in adolescence; some actually call the teenage years “the second adolescence.” :-)) At this age the exploration is on very basic levels–Am I a boy or a girl? How do I know that? Am I strong, smart, shorter, taller, brown like you or white like her? Can I be a knight, a princess, a fire fighter, a doctor, a chef, a mother, a father?

Do you see where this is leading? Can I be President?

“Who am I?” Jacob is asking. Am I like him? His skin color is like mine; is his hair like mine?  Can I have fuzzy hair and be President? Can I be black with fuzzy hair and be President?

What do children see? Who do we allow them to see?

Don’t misunderstand. There’s nothing didactic here. We don’t have to “teach” or knock them over the head with a two by four about prejudice or gender issues. But we do have to be aware of how much they are learning. It is important that all children see that a black person can be President or that a woman can be a doctor or that a dad can change diapers. It is important that they see their faces in books (including on the covers) and movies and computer games.

No matter what strides we make as a society in overcoming prejudice and racism, we will always have to remember that children ages 3-5 will be exploring identity. We need to give them opportunities to explore all the possibilities.

Questions? Comments? Just click below the headline. Want to read more? Click here for “Obama and the Snowy Day.”

Have fun!

Babette

If you are a Colorado librarian and you were at the state CAL conference last year and you heard keynote speaker Stephen Krashen, you already know this.

But for those of you who missed out (and you really did miss out on a stellar speech), research looking at 250 in Florida shows that–

Poverty is the biggest predictor of a child’s reading level. The higher the poverty, the lower the reading level.

Join Krashen’s Twitter feed, read his book The Power of Reading, hear him speak and you will hear him say it over and over again–It’s the poverty. Krashen’s been preaching this for years.

It’s not how early or late we start the reading instruction, it’s not how or how often children are assessed, it’s not class size, teacher resources, ethnicity–It’s the poverty.

Read more here, Poverty, Reading Scores, and Resilient Schools. It confirms what we know. It’s clear and straightforward. It’s our challenge as a society to be truthful and focus on the real problem and not be sidetracked.

Spread the word,

Babette

I was only eight when Mr. Rogers went to Washington and spoke at this Senate hearing concerning children and television.  I was mostly too old to watch him (except when nothing else was on TV) and it wasn’t many years before I joined the ranks of folks who loved to make fun of him. He did have a very distinctive speaking style. 🙂

His sincerity, integrity, and authenticity could not be beat though. He was as real in front of the Senate and a grumpy Pastore as he was in front of a Hollywood award crowd, his own show’s TV cameras, or a flesh and blood child. His manner overshadowed everything else that one might initially want to poke fun at–his speech, his slow style, his puppets, his focus on the simple (but ever so important) events of children’s lives.

I was “reintroduced” to Mr. Rogers in grad school and then later when I had children. He informed my attitude about and understanding of children immensely–especially concerning their feelings and lives.

The first video clip of the Senate hearing is a bit long at 6 minutes, but it really is worth a watch. It starts slowly (just like the man speaking) and then the passion begins to come through–and as a bonus, you get to see Pastore melt.

The second one is a couple of the best minutes of true humility you will ever witness.

These clips will renew your faith in what one person can do and inspire you to be your best in your neighborhood. Grab a cuppa and visit for a few minutes with Mr. Rogers.

Take care, Neighbor!

Babette

You already know many of these, about how storytimes for the youngest ones are:

  • exposing children to a rich language experience,
  • modeling language play to the adults who love and care for these kiddos,
  • teaching rhymes, fingerplays, songs, and simple games to adults to share when they leave the library,
  • teaching adults through tips about the importance of early literacy.

That’s certainly not an exhaustive list, yet it covers a wide range goals for baby and toddler storytime.

Here’s one that’s easy to overlook though. 🙂

After storytime, mom’s checking out. She asks me, “Can you recommend any good books?”

I paused. “For you or for the kids?” I asked.

“For me. I just started reading recently and I’m still figuring out what to read.”

Oh my! It was all I could do not to race around and give her a gignormous hug!

She didn’t tell me that all she’d seen and heard and done in storytimes (she has two kids and so has been coming for years) encouraged her to take up reading. But I truly believe it played a part.

And the best part? Her children will grow up to be readers now!

So on the days you’re feeling like you’re just filling twenty minutes up with silly, inconsequential nonsense, remember her. You both deserve one of those hugs!

Babette

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.

Stay warm,

Babette

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.

Be excited!

Babette

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!

Stay warm, 😉

Babette

I am often frustrated when I talk with adults about how important talking conversationally with children is (giving directions or commands and saying “no” do not count).

Children between 18 months and 3 years learn a new word (that’s vocabulary, folks) every two hours that they are awake.

By age 3 they have deduced most grammar rules for their native language.

They have done ALL this by simply listening. But that listening and learning only happen if there is a live human being to listen to–and interact with.

Hearing language from a computer or TV is not interactive. A machine cannot replace a live human that responds to what each individual child does, when he or she does it. This is why research shows that screens do not increase language development. They are not even neutral. Screens  slow language development.

Watch this brief video clip to get an excellent feel for what the child and his or her brain needs in these years when such tremendous language development is taking place. The brain is so hardwired to learn language that it will actively protest when it is not able to participate in the activities that enable it (if lack of response continues, however, humans learn to quit trying).

Talking works. It’s simple. It’s essential. Talking leads to language development and language development before age five leads to learning to read after age 5.

Here’s to the power of conversation!

Babette

Now that all the hoopla has died down–and since you asked–here’s my take on the supposed demise of the children’s picture book (read the NYT article that started it all here).

My take? It’s much ado over nothing (except on two points). Here’s why:

  • The article’s point is a business point. Sales have dropped. The most obvious reason should be the economy. Did anyone check the sales on other goods purchased with disposable income? Are the figures on picture book sales really that much different from those of skateboards or barbies?
  • Second, why does it sound like  consumers are such dumb sheep that they will only buy what is on display right under their noses? If you want to buy a picture book, shop for a picture book, no matter what marketing ploys the seller is utilizing.
  • Third, if we buy them, publishers will print them. If we don’t, they won’t.

So why should adults purchase (or check out of their friendly neighborhood library ;-)) picture books for kids?

The two most important reasons are:

First, for most of the time, for most kids ages birth through six-ish to seven-ish, picture books are developmentally the most appropriate reading format.

What does that mean? It means the child will enjoy the reading experience more. They will not feel pushed, rushed, or bored as they will with a chapter book or beginning reader. (When’s the last time you read one? They are good for practicing reading. They are not highly motivating.) Children who enjoy reading read more.

The second reason involves choice. Children who are allowed to choose their own books read more. Choice means they can choose anything, even if a grown-up deems it “too easy.” Reading increases reading. The type of reading “matter” is not what increases reading. The quantity of reading is what increases reading (as long as it is enjoyable). So if your child enjoyed hearing the phone book read aloud, that would make him or her a better reader!

Whoever you want to point the finger at for “pushing” kids into beginning readers and chapter books, the deciding factor is you, the parent. You hold the wallet–not the publishers, book sellers, school district, or teacher. Listen to and watch your kid. What is he or she truly turned on to in books? What does he or she choose? Buy it, check it out of the library, get more of it until he or she is ready to move onto something else. Read aloud even after he or she has learned to read. Make reading enjoyable. For most young children, that enjoyment will be through picture books.

Off my soapbox now,

Babette

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 371 other followers

Contact Info for Babette

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

Blog with Integrity

%d bloggers like this: