Goats + Apples= Sleepy Goats

This rhyme is one of my new favorites!   It is a Kevin McKenzie rhyme which my colleague Lisa shared with me.   It is so fun and promotes many opportunities for numeracy learning.

Numeracy learning includes the early concepts that children learn at home which prepare them for future math learning.  Conversations that include language such as: bigger, smaller, heavier, lighter are all important in developing numeracy thinking.

Here are some numeracy actives you can do at home:

  • Get your child to set the table: each person gets one fork, one plate one glass etc.
  • Sort toys or laundry together while comparing and describing the difference between items.
  • Count everything together: steps, crackers, apples etc. to help children learn to count accurately. Point to objects as you say each number. Help them learn to count their fingers, putting up one finger at a time as you count it. (Fingers are tools you always have with you!)
  • Look for shapes in your home or neighborhood: “Our window is a square, our clock is a circle”
  • Talk about your day: what are you going to do first?  Second? Third?
  • Say a rhyme or sing a song together.

You can find more ideas here:


See this fun rhyme below and let me know what you think!

The Gates all open:

(Begin with arms crossed in front of you)

The gates all open (open arms up)

And the goats run through (say trit trot trit trot while making motions with hands)

They climb the branches of the apple tree (make tree climbing motions)

They fall asleep (pretend to sleep, making the sleeping noise that the animal would make),

From the apples that they ate (munch munch munch)

So we carry them home (pretend to carry the animal home, if it’s a big one carry over shoulder i.e goat, horse, pig, if its small carry in hands i.e. mouse, rabbit, cat).

And shut the gate! (Arms crossed again in front of you)

Add any animals you want.  Here are some suggestions:






Mice-run (tiny steps with fingers)

Enjoy and have fun!

Kevin McKenzie is a Canadian storyteller who shares his fun and creative rhymes and stories all over the world.  His rhymes and finger plays are fun for children and adults and are wonderful for language and numeracy development. 

 His website is: http://www.storiesbykevin.com

What other rhymes or songs can you think of that teach counting or sequencing?

Reading Books Without Words

When you think about reading with a child, chances are you imagine reading the words on the page out loud while the child looks at the pictures. But what would you do if there were no words in the book to read?

A good picture book will tell most, if not all, of the story through the photos or illustrations.  By describing the things that you see in the pictures, you can bring the story to life. You may not think you are a better storyteller than the author or illustrator, but you know your child better than anyone, so you can add another level to the book that will appeal more to your child.

Try giving the characters the same names as family members and friends, and relate the story to your child’s own experiences. Take turns telling the story to each other, or have your child play the part of the main character and explain what they are doing, or guess what they would be thinking or saying.

If your child doesn’t feel like telling a story, maybe they would rather talk about the pictures. You might be surprised by what they notice and what draws their attention. I had a great time playing I-spy games with my niece; she loved having me guess which tiny obscure item on a page she was thinking of. So, even without a story, there are lots of opportunities to explore all kinds of ideas and language.

Speaking of language, this is a perfect way to share a book that is written in a language that you can’t read.  It’s also great for times when the book is much wordier than you or your child’s patience will tolerate, or even if you just don’t like how it’s written. Don’t be afraid to ignore the words on the page and tell your own story, in your own words.

So please, go and find yourself a nice picture book to read, and tell me how you liked it. I will even give you a short list of wordless books to try, in case you don’t know where to start:

  • Deep in the Forest by Brinton Turkle
  • The Chicken Thief by Béatrice Rodriguez
  • Chalk by Bill Thomson

Let me know how you and your children like them.  Or how it went over in your book club. Don’t let the word count fool you; good picture books have something for everyone.


Favorite Books to Read Aloud: “Where Is the Green Sheep”

Sometimes on the Alberta Prairie C.O.W. bus we have Kindergarten and Grade one classes or daycares that come to visit us.  When this happens we like to read the kids a story before letting them play with the rest of the activities on the bus.  It’s always great to see how engaged children can be when they are being read a good book.
One of my favourite books to read to the under five crowd is “Where is the Green Sheep?” by Mem Fox. Mem Fox has written dozens of books for children and certainly knows what appeals to her audience.  The story is light-hearted, we see at all sorts of different kinds of sheep, wave sheep, scared sheep and brave sheep, as we look for the green sheep, and the text is full of rhyme, rhythm and repetition, which help develops a child’s “ear” for language.
When we read it on the bus we often have the whole group of kids chiming in “where is the green sheep?”.  Children also enjoy the cartoon-like drawings by Judy Horacek as they look for the missing green sheep. It’s really a fun, playful book to share with the kids in your life.

Books: Friends for Life

I cannot remember a time when I could not read. I have always been an avid reader, ever since I was very little. As an only child living on acreage, I did not have the social networks that some kids did. I didn’t mind; I had books!

Very early on in life I learned that books were my companions. The characters in my books evoked real emotion.  They were my friends, my adventures, my escape and my home.

To this day, I read every single day. When I was studying at NAIT, my reward to myself for completing assignments or homework was to read my “real” book. People thought I was crazy. But I love reading that much.

Today, I am very lucky to work at the Centre for Family Literacy. We have a library that I can read books from every day! And I do. I take out our smaller quick reads, and on my breaks I read. Every day I get to learn a new story. It’s so fun and interesting to explore the wonderful world of fiction and literature.

Over my life, friends have come and gone. Circumstances change. But there are always books to keep me company and take me away.

A Story All Your Own

Working as a facilitator on the Alberta Prairie Classroom on Wheels Bus (the C.O.W. Bus) I often hear questions about the different types of books and how to get children interested in reading.  There are a lot of different responses that I can give to this question.

There are interactive books that are great for catching and keeping the interest of a child (see Kim’s previous post on Press Here by Hervé Tullet), “touch and feel” books that provide a multitude of textures that entertain kids, especially young kids, and “seek and find” books like I-Spy and Where’s Waldo that can hold a child’s interest for hours while they try to find all the different items listed and as well as the other items unlisted.  Truth be told, they still entertain me for hours.

However, my favorite response is to make the books personal.  Create a story featuring your child.  You can use photos of your child as the illustrations and create a story around the pictures.  It can be as simple as linking colors to outfits (insert photo) or as complex as a novel.  Creating a personal story can also be a great way to spend time, and to interact with your children.  Involve them in the process – have them pick out the pictures they want to use or have them create the story and you write it down.  Small photo albums work perfectly for holding the photos as well as cue cards to write the story on.

One mom shared a great idea she uses for personalizing a story.  She used her children’s photos and pasted them over the existing faces in the book.  Her children instantly became part of their favorite stories and will have fantastic keepsakes for when they grow up.  She found that board books worked better due to their durability.



I am an avid reader averaging at least 2-3 books weekly and could never imagine not being able to go to my bookshelves and pick out a book I am in the mood to read.  The physical act of holding the book and turning the pages and being able to take it and prop it up on the cereal box or read it in the bathtub are pleasures I would not want to replace.
But it turns out that the act of reading is enjoyable whether you do it with an eReader or a paperback.  I have recently started reading eBooks and realize I can now enjoy both ways of reading.  My eReader is much lighter to carry when I am packing for a trip –  no more husband complaining I have packed too many books in my suitcase!  There is a wide  variety of eBooks you can download free or request from your library and then have with you for whenever you feel like reading or one of those waiting room opportunities pops up!  It also addresses the different reading moods you might be in. I have all kinds of different genres to match my mood. My eReader also  physically props up very well when I am reading lying down and only needs one finger to turn the pages.
 So, have I replaced my book shelves with my eReader?   Not a chance!   But I have added my eBooks to my choices when I am reading.
Have you tried reading on an iPad or eReader?  What have you discovered?

Summer Reading

Okay, this will seem like an odd choice for summer reading, but I’m going to tell you about it anyway.  I recently catalogued and shelved a complete set of Apprenticeship Support Materials for our library.  These study materials cover every competency in the “Entrance Level Competencies for Apprenticeship Programs”.  There are manuals or guides for reading comprehension, math and science – 11 guides in all covering exam levels 1 through 5.

Partly my interest was piqued because if there is one thing we know in Alberta, it is that there is a driving need for skilled trades people.  Industry scours the world looking for them.  So I was interested in what is involved in becoming an apprentice in one of the trades.  I opened the Math Module 1 – Foundations.

Right away I was impressed with how clearly the guide was written.  Everything is explained, words are defined and there are tips and helpful pieces of advice all along the way.

These guides are designed for independent study.  There are 5 levels from foundational concepts of numbers and operations in Module 1 to the complexities of equations & patterns, vectors, and statistics & probability in Module 5.

Parameters are clearly defined: it stresses that what will be assessed at each level is “what you know” rather than “how you learned it”, and that only what you need to know for entrance into a trade will be assessed.

In a side bar is the tip: “Don’t waste time. Only learn what you need to know.”

I flipped through the guide to the section on “Bases, Exponents and Square Roots” and started to read.  Neurons that hadn’t fired in decades lit up and the next thing you know I was working on a problem:

“Calculate the cube of 3 ¾. Express the mixed number as an improper fraction and multiply.”

Okay, so that’s 3 times 4 = 12 plus 3 is 15 over 4.  Then 15 cubed is 3375 over 4 cubed is 64.  Then divide 64 into 3375 and I get 52.73.  Uncover the answer – yes I’m right.  Eee-haw.

Okay, I know this is pretty basic math but it was actually fun.  Getting a problem “right” is a good feeling.  I mean everything else in life is in shades of grey, but in math you’re either right or you’re wrong.


(And now I’ll wait for the math whizzes to tell me of the complexity of the mathematical language, its nuances and shades all that it contains.  Gulp.)

For more information, go to these websites:



The Power of Volunteering

It was 2005 and I was taking Business Management at NAIT. The overall experience was somewhat dreadful for me, but there was one defining event that concluded my academic career on a high note.

My favorite class was Leadership and it required 15-30 hours of volunteer work. Literacy is my passion, but how would I accomplish the required hours in a short time frame?

I would host a school-wide book drive! I organized a core planning team, and we recruited over half of the Leadership class as well as some volunteers who just wanted to be part of the experience. Together we executed the “Need 2 Read” book drive, a 3-day event with volunteer stations placed strategically around the school. Over 30 volunteers were a part of this exciting endeavor. We raised over 3,000 books for the Centre for Family Literacy!

That one experience left such a positive impression on me. Now, years later, I am the Volunteer Coordinator at the Centre for Family Literacy.  It just goes to show… Follow your passion and volunteer for what you believe in. You never know what may come as a result.

A Learner’s Story

A few years before I came to the Centre For Family Literacy, my girlfriend gave me a flyer for the Centre with the phone number on it, but I did nothing about it. One day, my 7 year old daughter and I were reading a book and I had trouble making out the words. My daughter made fun of me. I decided to call the Centre and make an appointment to see someone. Whenever I tried to read I would get frustrated and give up. I tried to read in front of people once and they made fun of me because I could not make out the words. I knew that not being able to read was holding me back in life. Going to meet my tutor was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done! The first few sessions with my tutor were nerve wracking! It took a few sessions to learn to relax. When my tutor asked me to write the days of the week and the 12 months we realized I could not do cursive writing. One of the reasons I learned how to read is so I could learn how to use the computer and new technology. I went from a Level one to Level six in one year and won the Lois Hole Adult Literacy award. Reading has helped me in many ways. I now can understand work orders and use the computer to help fix my vehicles. I enjoy surfing the “net”. It’s nice to be able to look at instructions and figure them out on your own instead of waiting for someone else to help you out. I remember how I used to struggle looking for addresses in the city. Now, I take reading for granted because I don’t even remember all the struggles I used to have… but there are still more mountains to climb.


My Place

This story was written by a member of The Book Club program at the Centre for Family Literacy.

My Place

Big tall trees circle around the strong house. As I walk up to the steps, I see my bay window that bends around the side of the house. I open the heavy door and sit on a soft ledge. I sit with my best blanket. I hear the loud crackling sounds in the fireplace. Holding a big cup of hot tea in my hands, I watch the rain hit the window and run down the window panes. Lightening makes loud sounds. I have soft music on. Being by myself, I have my best friend- a big beige Retriever lying on my lap. I watch the rain run down the window and hear the drops. I smell the wet grass and see the rain wash the flowers. Birds shake the water off their feathers. I am by myself with my thoughts.