Sharing Stories

Stories are so important to children’s development, and the following short list barely scratches the surface. Stories help children:

  • develop creativity and imagination
  • develop their language and thinking skills
  • build the knowledge and skills they will eventually need to learn to read

Books are just one of the tools you may use to share stories with your children, and there is so much more to sharing a book than just reading the words!

It is important to help your children actively engage in the book, and this can happen in a variety of ways.

Books may be shared in different ways with children of different ages. You don’t always need to read the words. It is alright to use your own words, in your own language, to tell the story. And, it is always more fun if you use lots of expression and different voices for each character, to bring it alive!

Some children may want to hold the book upside-down or skip a page. Or they may want to repeat a part over and over. Let your children lead the way and enjoy the book, so that reading is a positive experience for them.

Sometimes children will need to move around or will want to play close by, but don’t worry—they are still listening. You may try to keep them involved by having them supply missing words, repeating phrases with you, or by asking them questions such as, “where did it go?” or “what do you think is going to happen next?”

Children love to have stories told in a variety of ways. Sometimes they may enjoy acting out stories using stuffed animals or other props. It is also great for children to act out or retell the story in their own words. Children may want to extend a favourite story by doing a puppet show using the characters, dressing up like one of the characters, or drawing a picture. Some stories may lead to a treasure hunt or specific craft.

On the C.O.W. (Classroom on Wheels) bus, we love to share stories! One of the books we have enjoyed sharing recently is “Wheels on the Bus.” All of the children seem to love this one! It is especially fun because they can sing along and do the actions.

Most people are familiar with the common version, which includes “the doors on the bus go open and shut” and “the wipers on the bus go swish, swish, swish.” But our “Wheels on the Bus” book is about the animals on the bus.

If you borrow this book or have it at home, you could let your children make the animal sounds, and choose additional animals to extend the story. For example: “The cows on the bus go moo, moo, moo.” They could also use stuffed animals or draw pictures. This is also a book that they could “read” on their own by using the pictures as clues.

Sharing stories in this way brings them alive to children so that they look forward to story time with you. You and your children will both benefit if you make time every day to share a book.

The C.O.W. is out to pasture for the summer, but check the Centre for Family Literacy website to find out where and when you can join us on the bus next fall! In the meantime,  get out some favourite books and have fun!

 

 

Everyday Essential Skills

Essential Skills are the skills that we use every day. These 9 skills are required for work, school, learning, and life. Essential skills provide us a strong foundation for learning all other skills and allow us to navigate our lives and daily routines.

From the minute our eyes open in the morning until the moment we slip off to sleep in the evening, we are using each of the 9 Essential Skills. In fact, a lot of the time we are not even aware that we are using these skills, as they are such a strong part of our everyday routine.

It is important for us to be able to take the time to identify when, where, and how we are using these skills in our daily routines. Once we begin to explore our use of Essential Skills, we can support our children in using these skills in a very thoughtful and intentional way. By supporting the development of Essential Skills in our children, we are helping them build a strong foundation for all other types of learning, growth, and development.

WHAT ARE THE 9 ESSENTIAL SKILLS

Reading

  • Reading different types of materials such as letters, books, manuals, instructions, street signs, reports, agendas, emails, recipes, etc.
  • Includes both print and non-print media

Writing

  • Doing tasks such as writing a grocery list, signing your name, filling in a form
  • Includes both paper and non-paper based writing such as writing a note to your child’s teacher or writing an email to your employer
  • Includes all forms of early writing in children such as scribbling

Oral Communication

  • The use of speech to give and exchange thoughts and information
  • Includes storytelling, singing, and rhyming

Working with Others

  • The ability to work and interact with others to accomplish a task
  • Recognizing the importance of team work
  • Setting reasonable expectations and problem solving

Numeracy

  • The ability to work with and use numbers, and the ability to perform calculating and estimating tasks
  • Handling money, budgeting, measuring, sorting, patterning, etc

Document Use

  • The ability to use words, numbers, symbols, and other visual displays to make meaning of things
  • Using and being able to read charts, schedules, graphs, report cards, drawings, signs, and labels

Thinking Skills

  • Being able to solve problems, make decisions, find and evaluate information, plan, and organize
  • Often used in combination with many other essential skills

Continuous Learning

  • Participating in the ongoing process of learning new skills and knowledge
  • Trying out a new hobby or trying out a new recipe
  • People can develop new skills at any time and at any age

Digital Technology

  • The ability to use computers or computerized equipment, different kinds of computer applications, and the internet
  • Being able to use a variety of computerized platforms to search for information
  • Participating in social media

As parents we are incredibly busy. We work hard to balance our jobs, children, household responsibilities, social interests, school, and community, etc. There simply is not time for us to add anything else to our daily lives.

However, supporting Essential Skill awareness and development in our children is almost effortless. Since we use these skills each and every day, we can easily identify naturally occurring moments within our routine where we can support and enhance this learning.

Let’s take a look at a few events from a typical day for a family, and I will show you just how easy it can be to include meaningful Essential Skills development into your daily routine.

Now that we are able to identify the 9 Essential Skills, have an understanding of their importance and where we use them daily, we can be more intentional in how we apply them in our daily lives at home, school, work, and in our community.

To make these moments meaningful learning opportunities for our children we can:

  • Make a game of identifying when, where, and how we use these skills every day, i.e.: “Eye Spy” an Essential Skill!
  • Talk about the skills while you are using them, and discuss how you are using them.
  • Ask your children open ended questions to support them in exploring their unique use of these skills.
  • Discuss how each skill helps to get things done. Could tasks be completed another way using other Essential Skills?
  • Explore how the learning from one skill can transfer to another, and how certain tasks require multiple Essential Skills.
  • Talk to children about the different Essential Skills you may use in a variety of careers. What do they want to be when they grow up? What skills will they need to use daily?
  • Engage your children in the development of their routine and one for the whole family.
  • Model healthy and fun attitudes and behaviours when using these skills in your life.

For more information on Essential Skills or Literacy Links Workshops available in your community, contact the Centre for Family Literacy: email info@famlit.ca or phone 780-421-7323.

Audiobooks for Babies?

A few months back, one of our participants in Books for Babies asked if audiobooks could be helpful for a baby.

This is a great question because we always talk about how much a baby enjoys being talked to and sung to. And how starting around 18-24 months, a baby begins to understand stories that have a narrative.

However, even though they love the sound of language, a baby is still particular about which voices they will listen to. And while they love face-to-face interaction, a disembodied voice is usually ignored at best and a distraction at worst.

We take voices for granted, and listening to the radio, or talking on the phone seems normal to us. But have you ever tried talking to a toddler on the phone? As much as they might love you, you can usually only keep their attention for a few seconds before they drop the phone or start pressing buttons. They don’t find the experience engaging, even though you are talking directly to them.

Video chat works much better—it’s still not as great as face-to-face conversation—but you’re not nearly as likely to be abandoned mid-conversation, or at least not as quickly.

Listening to stories is similar. Without pictures to connect to the story, or some kind of related object to explore while you tell the story, your toddler will often lose interest quickly. (Don’t forget that we’re talking about an older baby here.)

So, as much as I personally enjoy audiobooks, it’s not something I would recommend trying with a baby or young child. It’s just too much to expect them to pay attention to a story that is being told by someone who isn’t in the room with them, about someone they haven’t met, doing something that they can’t even see.

But don’t take my word for it, experiment! Use the voice recorder on your phone and record yourself reading a book. Sit down with your baby and the book and turn the pages while you play the recording. Watch how your child reacts. Another time, sit down together without the book and listen to the recording together. What does your baby do this time? These are both very different experiences than sharing a book with your child in real-time, responding to them, and inviting their participation in the process.