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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

 

I began my school year visits to Head Start in the past few weeks.  I’m a new piece of the school day for most of the kids so I talk about who I am, where I work, and what a library is. While explaining about how the library has lots of books, I asked who had a book of their own at home (hoping to then talk about how they could come get more at the library!).

One child raised his hand.

I know this. But it still took my breath away.

This is why we do storytimes. This is why we have book giveaways. This is why we have libraries in neighborhoods and in the poorer parts of town. This is why we are librarians and teachers and Friends of the Library members and Board members and active parents.

This is why we read to kids. Because during that week, that may be the only time they see how to use a book. That may be the only story they hear. That may be the only time they sing a song and have fun with words.

That may be the only time that week that the part of their brain that’s trying sooooo hard to develop language–it may be the only time it gets fed.

Support programs that give good, new books away. And read to a child. You’ll change a life,

Babette

Does reading aloud really make a difference?

It’s just a book. It’s just a few minutes. (Or maybe a few seconds, if you’re reading to a baby. ;-)) You’re just a (fill in the blank); you don’t know anything about teaching a child to read.

Is it really making a difference?

Absolutely! The results will not show up for 1-5 years (in other words, not until after a child is developmentally ready to learn to rad around age 6-7 and after he or she starts school). Here’s one reason, though, why you can trust that those minutes of reading aloud are making a difference:

  • According to 2009 U.S. Census Bureau data, about half of children under 5 are read to seven or more times a week by a parent or family member.
  • Children under age 5 whose families are living below the poverty line were more likely to be read to seven or more times a week in 2009 (45 percent) than in 1998 (37 percent).

Both those statistics are reported by Early Martin Phelan and you can read more here.

Read on!

Babette

 

This is the most important research report I have read this summer, perhaps even this year.

Got it? The most important. Read it here: Study Sheds Light on Auditory Role in Dyslexia.

It’s extremely hard to find just one quote to highlight. The article is chock full of outstanding points. Here’s one though:

“Dr. Gabrieli said the findings underscored a critical problem for dyslexic children learning to read: the ability of a child hearing, say, a parent or teacher speak to connect the auditory bits that make up words, called phonemes, with the sight of written words. If a child has trouble grasping the sounds that make up language, he said, acquiring reading skills will be harder.”

Isn’t that just so cool? If you’re a children’s librarian, and especially if you are one that’s worked with Every Child Ready to Read over the years, you are jumping up and down just like I am.

They are talking about phonological awareness, that mouthful of a skill that we encourage every time we sing, say a rhyme, or do a fingerplay with kids. Every time we talk, sing, and play with language with kids, we help them develop the ability to hear individual sounds and pieces of words.

Just think about singing, “Down by the station, early in the morning.” The words “station,” “early,” and “morning” are broken apart and each part gets its own musical note. To sing the song, you have to hear each part. Sing it enough, and say enough rhymes with ending “ing’s,” and you can read it years later because you can connect those squiggles on the page with the sound the teacher says and the sound you have heard and know.

It’s the beginning of a new school year. Go forth with confidence, knowing the silliness you do has a tremendous influence on a child’s ability to learn to read later and therefore, his or her future.

Sing on,

Babette

Bears, horses, and sausages! Oh my! But it’s what I’ve been doing in storytime the last few weeks, and it’s immensely satisfying to see how much the kids enjoy this mix.

After our opening song, I read The Three Bears. I prefer the Barton version. It’s simply told and the pictures are clear and colorful. The Three Bears is a magical story. I’ve never had a group of kids (from toddlers up through age eight) that weren’t just enthralled with it.

I then tell them we are all going to tell the story again, a different way! That’s when we do the fingerplay, The Three Bears (click here). Because The Three Bears relies so much on sequence, it’s a great story for reinforcing narrative skills. So the second time through the fingerplay, I reinforce it even more by letting the kids “remember” what comes next (bowls, chairs, beds, and bears).

Next book up–Bear Wants More by Wilson followed by more food: Ten Fat Sausages (click here). Bear Wants More is in rhyme so it builds phonological awareness as does Sausages with its rhythm and alliteration. I do it as a chant with the kids clapping on the beat. I hold up my handy-dandy flannel board stand-in (a whiteboard with pieces stuck on with double-sided tape) during the chant.

On it is a frying pan, complements of free clip art, and ten sausages, also from clip art. I print the pictures off, trim them to shape, and add the tape to their backs. The sausages won’t all actually fit in the pan so I fan them across the space above the pan in two groups of five.

We clap, we chant, and on POP, I remove one sausage and on BAM, I remove another. Then I pause and count the sausages and we start again till we get to zero sausages. I always do it a second time (sometimes a third, the kids love it) and when I place the sausages back on the board, I also count aloud.

Finally, I tell the kids I’ve got one more puzzle for them (because the sausages have been a puzzle; you can just see their little wheels a-turnin’ during it). Then we read Are You A Horse by Rash. I try to get straight through this one the first time without too many questions so they can get as much of the flow as possible. And I always quietly hold the last page up for many, many seconds until someone finally gets it and the giggles begin.

It’s not your traditional springtime storytime (except for Bear Wants More) but the kids enjoy it sooooo much.

Hope you do too!

Babette

I despise cancelling any storytime but especially Toddler Time for babies through 3-ish. Most of the kids are between 12-24 months, and I appreciate (and vividly remember) how difficult it is for someone that age to change gears quickly and deal with disappointment.

So I never, ever, ever cancel Toddler Time unless I have to. Which includes getting caught at a specialist’s appointment.  There should have been plenty of time for the appointment (and you know how specialists are; you’ve got to take the appointment they’ve got open). But there wasn’t.

Back at work that day, I learned how the morning had gone without me. There were no tears, no fits, no meltdowns–not even a wimper. Why?

Because the parents stepped in and did it themselves!

They did rhymes, fingerplays, songs, circle games. They even read a book. They did this all with no planning and no advanced warning. And their kids had a great time!

These parents come week after week. They sit in the circle with their children and do all this “silly” stuff with smiles on their faces and excitement in their attitudes. I affirm nearly every week how important the time is for language development–and how they need to do the same outside of the library, at home, in the car, in the doctor’s waiting room, at the restaurant. Learn here and do there is the message. Learn here and do there is the purpose of Toddler Time.

What a terrific bunch of parents!

Babette

I wish I could have taken a picture! I couldn’t so a thousand words will have to do. 🙂

It’s Saturday, mom and dad have brought their whole crew of kiddos into the library. All the kids in their range of ages are off getting their books.

At one point I look up from working the front desk and there mom is, holding the youngest one (about two months old, much younger than the picture!) up to her shoulder.

Standing behind that shoulder is dad–with a board book, slowly flipping through the pages one by one so the baby can look at them! (Which, by the way, she is doing.)

That little girl and all her siblings will be readers!

Support on!

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

No one wants to be thinking about being a parent on Christmas morning. Yet the job never ever goes away. (Perhaps that’s the fun and attraction of becoming a grandparent. ;-))

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,

Babette

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Contact Info for Babette

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

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