Come On – You Know You Want to Press the Button!

What do a preschooler, a six, nine and eighteen year old, and any adult I’ve seen so far have in common?  We all have to press the button!

Here at Centre for Family Literacy, we recently came across an excellent children’s book called Press Here by Hervé Tullet.  Anyone who knows me at all knows that I like to press buttons and ring bells, so of course the book landed on my desk very quickly.

As I went through, following the directions on each page – pushing and rubbing dots, shaking the book, blowing on it – I kept thinking, “my kids would love this! Who am I kidding – I LOVE IT!”

In the end though, it did make it home and I tested it out on my niece (4), my daughter (6), and my son (9).  It started out tentatively; they pushed the button as I held the book.  As it got more interactive, suddenly the book was ripped out of my hands in their anticipation to shake the dots to the other side of the page.  Pretty soon, I didn’t even need to be there (but I was, because I was doing it all too of course).

I took the story of my family’s response back to the office and was informed by one of our team that she had walked in on her 18 year old interacting just as enthusiastically with the book as my kids and niece had.

I have heard nothing but the same stories of fun family interaction more times than I can count now in relation to this book.  As I watched one young teenage girl self-consciously start looking at the book and doing what it asked, I could tell that she really wanted to get into it, but was asking herself if it was a cool thing to do.

“Isn’t it weird that you know it’s a book, but you really feel the need to do everything it asks?” I asked her.  She nodded in agreement and I said, “go ahead, we’ve all done it”.

I sat back and smiled as she made the decision that it was fun and okay and had a blast with the rest of the book.

Now that’s how you take the measure of a great book!


Generation Gap, or Something to Worry About?

I am always telling my son how important reading is.  When he has to read a book for school, I start crossing my fingers, hoping, this will be the book that catches his interest.  So far, I can’t say it’s happened.  He says that he already reads a lot!  He reads at school, reads his daily portion of phone texts and he certainly has a lot of words to read on his Facebook page.  What about the games he plays on his PS3?  He’ll even read a tutorial if it provides him a better chance to win against the aliens and his friends.

Am I starting be a part of a generation gap that I will never understand? Will I look back one day and say I should have tried harder to get my son to read a book?  Or will this be a reflection back on my parenting style and I’ll be able to smile and say I worried about nothing?

Pizza Box Cash Register

A popular activity that we make for the Alberta Prairie C.O.W. bus is our pizza box cash register.  The children that come to visit us really seem to have fun playing with it. It provides a great opportunity for adults to talk to children about the value of money, how to count money, and how to spend and save money wisely!


1 pizza box and small cardboard pieces from another box




Packing Tape (optional)


1.  Draw a number keypad, scanner, power button, and any other features of a cash register you may wish to add, onto the top of the pizza box.

2.  Measure and cut the cardboard pieces to make sections in the pizza box.

3.  If you would like to make your activity more durable, reinforce the box with packing tape.

We also made a C.O.W. Credit Card out of paper decorated with markers, stickers, and reinforced with cardboard and packing tape.

We purchased our play money from an educational store, but you could make your own play money if you would like.

Marina Endicott’s Book: Good to a Fault

The Centre was recently invited to speak at an author reading at McDougall United Church.   Marina Endicott read aloud some of her favourite passages from her second book, Good to a Fault.

It was an interesting read exploring what it means to be “good,” but what was really intriguing was hearing the author speak about living with these characters and how she didn’t like many of them, but felt sorry that she kept making bad things happen to them.

Having the author explain how she came up with the characters’ motivations and beliefs was fascinating and changes the way you have understood and perceived the story originally.

Have you heard an author speak about their book before?  What did you think?

“Knock-Knock” Guessing Game

The Alberta Prairie C.O.W. bus travels to many communities in Alberta.  We bring books, puzzles, games and other activities for parents and children to share together. Many of the activities on the bus we make ourselves to provide parents with ideas for activities they can make at home.

One of our homemade activities is a “knock- knock” guessing game envelope that has flaps cut out to reveal parts of a picture.  Children are able to guess what the picture might be, then slide the picture out of the envelope to check to see if they were right.

Different size envelopes may be used as well as different kinds of pictures. We used pictures from a 12-month calendar. However, you could try using family pictures or pictures from magazines, flyers, or the Internet.


1- 9×12 inch (22.9 x 30.5 cm) envelope

Pictures of your choice


Felt marker



1. Cut the flap off the end of the envelope (that you would normally use to seal it).

2. In the top left hand corner print “Knock! Knock!”

3. Under “Knock! Knock!” use a ruler to draw the lines needed to make the rectangular flap.

4. Position “Who is there?” approximately in the middle of the remaining space.

5.  Draw flaps above and below “Who is there?”

*Smaller size flaps may make it more challenging for your child to guess what’s underneath. You could also try this with different shaped flaps or perhaps only a small peephole.

6.  Using scissors, cut along the marked lines of the flaps you have just drawn.

7.  Trim the pictures to fit into the envelope.

8.  If you would like to make your activity more durable reinforce with packing tape.

More Than Nostalgia

During my earlier school days, the girls would get together and make the paper “Fortune Teller” game.  That was always a sure-fire way to magically predict who loved you, who thought you were pretty and how many boyfriends you had.

Now I am a parent.  When my son was young, I used the game to entertain and support his emerging literacy skills.  This simple but creative activity introduced him to colours, spelling, numbers and counting, and when he was old enough he cut his own piece of paper into a square, and this helped to develop dexterity.  He loved it!  I encourage you to take a square piece of paper next time you eat out.  Most restaurants will have crayons.  All you need is someone to talk to while your child is busy creating your fortune!

Baby’s Favourite Book

(0 – 6 months)

Did you know your baby can have a favourite book? Long before they can talk or read, and even before they can turn the pages, babies will show a preference for certain books. And what they like best might surprise you.

We like all different kinds of books as adults: they might put us inside an adventure or romance, they might help us put our lawnmower back together, or maybe they help us feel a part of something bigger than ourselves. Young babies, on the other hand, they like pictures of faces.

Yep, almost as much as they like staring up into your eyes, a book with nice big photos (not drawings) of faces will hold a baby’s attention for sometimes minutes at a time. Baby can’t see very far away, so hold the book roughly 12 inches away from them while you are cuddling or playing on the floor.

The book won’t do all of the work for you. These books typically have little to nothing to read in them, and what’s written is not very exciting. So, instead of reading to your baby, play with the book and your baby, talk about the pictures, and have some goofy fun. Watch and listen for your baby’s reaction, she will tell you what she likes, and when she’s had enough.

One of my favourite books of this type is What’s On My Head!by Margaret Miller. The photos are clear and not too busy. It’s a good size for when babies begin holding things. And, it’s silly:

·      Does the baby like her hat?

·      Who wrapped this little girl up like a present?

·      Why is there a duck on that baby’s head?

This book raises a lot of questions and doesn’t offer many answers. Still, it is fun to explore with your baby for at least as long as his little attention span holds out.

Road Trip Rhymes and Songs

Summertime is filled with fun and adventures!  However, sometimes with kids in the car, getting to the adventure becomes an adventure in itself!  Not all vehicles come equipped with DVD players so what can you do to make traveling bearable?

Before you pull the car over and leave your darling children behind, consider a family rhyme and song time as an option.  Rhymes and songs are a wonderful tool to distract and soothe children (and parents!)  They also promote language development and prepare your child for reading.

Here are some songs and rhymes that you and your family can do while strapped in!

Song: Monday Night The Banjo

(Teaches first letters to words and builds vocabulary)

Monday night the banjo,

Playing on the radio,

I like the radio and I like “L”.

“L” is for Lisa, lovely, lovely Lisa.

All the children adore her

Give her a kiss good night,

(Kiss, kiss) Sleep tight!

(Continue with all children’s names, as well as “Mommy” and “Daddy”, “Grandma”, pets’ names etc).


Song: My fingers are starting to wiggle

(To the tune of: The Bear went over the Mountain)

 Great song for learning body parts! Wiggle whatever body part you are singing about.

My fingers are starting to wiggle,

My fingers are starting to wiggle,

My fingers are starting to wiggle,

Around and around and around!


My elbows are starting to wiggle,

My elbows starting to wiggle,

My elbows are starting to wiggle,

Around and around and around!


Continue with other body parts; let you child suggest some parts.  Silly suggestions:  tongue, nose, ears etc.


Rhyme: Cuckoo Clock

(Wonderful counting song!  Count back down with older kids.)


Tick, tock, tick, tock,

I’m a little cuckoo clock. (Sway head side to side)

Tick, tock, tick, tock

Now I’ m striking one o’clock!

CUCKOO! (Show 1 with your finger and lean head forward)

(Continue to count as high as you like).


Song: Roly Poly

(To the tune of Frère Jacques)

This is a fantastic song for teaching opposites and building vocabulary.


Roly poly, roly poly (move your hands in a circle motion over each other)

Up, up, up,  (move hands in an upward motion )

Roly, poly roly poly

Down, down down (move hands in a downward motion)

Roly, poly. roly, poly

Clap, Clap, clap


Continue with other opposites:  in-out, fast slow, loud-soft, etc.


What are your family’s favorite songs or rhymes for riding in the car?


Family Literacy in the Workplace, Does it Work?

Research shows:

  • Adult and workplace literacy programs may be underused because of employee fear or sense of stigma
  • Adults with low literacy skills will often participate in literacy programs to benefit their child. Parents join because the focus is on helping their children, as opposed to their own abilities
  • Family literacy programs have been successfully used as the “hook” or “carrot” to get reluctant workers into training programs
  • Adults retain information and skills picked up in the workplace training to a greater degree when the training materials are related to day-to-day experiences at work, home and communities

Family Literacy in the workplace is about overcoming these barriers, getting employees interested in learning and comfortable with taking training, and creating an intergenerational cycle of achievement.

Parents gain the confidence to reenter the learning system and pursue other training.

Family literacy initiatives in the workplace can make a difference in areas such as recruitment of workers, job satisfaction and retention, promotion and especially providing a pathway into additional training and work related skill development. Encouraging employees to learn at work has implications for key elements of business success especially in the areas of safety and productivity.

One of the Centre’s national projects was conducting research based family literacy workplace pilot projects in Alberta. One pilot was run in Brooks at a large manufacturing plant with an English as a Second language program that had a hard time getting people signed up for training let alone getting the results the business needed.

A family literacy program model called B.O.O.K.S. (Books Offer Our Kids Success) was piloted with 25 participants during the lunch hour. Participants were shown how to expand different children’s books by using a nonfiction book or looking up things on the computer or doing a craft or activity associated with the story.

In the Brooks pilot, discussion of the themes of children’s books led naturally into discussions of work related interests such as job aspirations and workplace safety. Outcomes included enhanced communication in the workplace and enhanced family enjoyment of learning. At the conclusion of the pilot, the company decided to continue B.O.O.K.S. with over 50 employees on a wait list for the next program.

For more information go to where you will find downloadable resources on workplace family literacy

What do you think?