Stories are an enjoyable and effective way to explore mathematical ideas with children.

When you read books together, take time to explore and talk about mathematical ideas. It will help your children see and understand the math that happens all around them every day.

Children’s Books:

• Encourage children to re-create stories in their own way, as well as to practice math skills
• Provide a meaningful context to explore mathematical ideas
• Suggest problems that can be solved using different strategies
• Develop math concepts such as following directions, finding shapes in the environment and ideas about greater than and less than
• Encourage the use of math language such as How many? How far? How much?
• Help make sense of the world

• Introduce related math ideas
• Don’t be afraid to use math vocabulary
• Give children a chance to explain their thinking

Story Books:

• Talk about the page numbers. What comes next? What number is the last page?
• Talk about the pictures and what is happening in the story. Did something change? Why?
• Talk about patterns in the story. Notice rhyming word patterns too
• Notice the sequence of events: “What happened first? What happens next? What happened first? Second?
• Wonder aloud about more than, less than and equal to
• Count items on a page

Counting Books:

There are a number of good counting books that are enjoyable for both children and adults, and help to develop early numeracy and literacy skills. Books that count 0 to 5 or 0 to 10 are best for preschoolers.

Look for books that contain:

• Engaging and colorful pictures
• Easy to count items
• Numerals that are easy to identify and are printed clearly

Things to Do with Counting Books:

• Count the objects together
• How many do you think will be on the next page?
• How many would there be if there was one more? How many if there was one less?
• Have your child place out a toy or other item for each number you read
• If your child is familiar with the story, have them tell you what comes next

Some Good Books

 Title Author Tall Jez Alborough Ship Shapes Stella Blackstone Big Sarah’s Little Boots Paulette Bourgeois The Greedy Triangle Marilyn Burns 1,2,3, to the Zoo Eric Carle The Hungry Caterpillar Eric Carle Pumpkin Soup Helen Cooper Freight Train Donald Crews Carry Me, Mama Monica Devine I Am Small Emma Dodd Ten Little Caterpillars Lois Ehlert Color Zoo Lois Ehlert Round like a Ball Lisa Campbell Ernst Turtle Splash Cathryn Falwell Two Shoes, Blue Shoes, New Shoes Sally Fitz-Gibbon My Sister Ate One Hare Bill Grossman Lots of Dots Craig Frazier A Second is a Hiccup Hazel Hutchins The Doorbell Rang Pat Hutchins Stuck Oliver Jeffers Five Creatures Emily Jenkins Actual Size Steve Jenkins Mama, Do You Love me? Barbara Joosse The Wheels on the Bus Maryann Kovalski We All Went on Safari Laurie Krebs Who Took the Cookies from the Cookie Jar? Bonnie Las Inch by Inch Leo Lionni Ten Cats Have Hats Jean Marzello I Spy book series Jean Marzello Lessons from Mother Earth Elaine McLeod Quack, Quack, Moo We See You! Kelly Mij

If you would like to learn more about integrating math concepts into children’s daily routines, please visit the Centre for Family Literacy website to find out about our programs and training.

# 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!

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Your baby loves routines. Though he or she might also like your stand-up comedy routine, I’m talking about everyday routines—like bath time, meal time, and bedtime. Your baby works hard to understand what is going on around her, so anything familiar and predictable will help her feel less like she has been stranded in a random and uncaring universe. Cuddling up and sharing a book, or a few books, at bedtime is a great routine to help your baby feel safe and loved, form a relationship with books, and settle down to sleep.

Settling down to sleep doesn’t just happen. We’ve all had restless nights, even before baby came, and sleep doesn’t come any easier for your baby. Having a bedtime routine teaches her a strategy for resting her mind and relaxing her body in preparation for sleep. She’s honestly not going to figure it out on her own, but if you have a routine in place, and follow it as often as you can, your baby will recognize it as familiar, find comfort in the predictability, and be that much easier to soothe to sleep.

Cuddling together to explore a book can be a very helpful tool to relax your baby. Your closeness is key. When you hold her in your arms to share a book, your baby can feel you, smell you, and hear your voice, and she will feel safe and loved. By deliberately slowing your pace, speaking in a more soothing tone of voice, and using more gentle movements, you can calm her further and bring her that much closer to sleep. Like reading, preparing for sleep is best learned when you do it together.

As your baby grows, she will become less and less willing to slow down, and by solidifying that bedtime routine early, you will be giving future you a much easier time. Baby will associate bedtime reading with all of those positive emotions you shared while snuggling together with a book when she was younger. She will fight sleep a little less, and you’ll be giving your baby a strong foundation in her literacy development at the same time.

The more you share books together, the more your baby will understand what those things are for and what can be done with them. By finding regular and positive ways to share books, you teach your baby about all she can get and experience from books. But even the best book will be ignored by your baby unless you show her that it is worthwhile by sharing and enjoying it together.

So take care of yourselves and your babies. And if you haven’t started already, make a bedtime story with your baby part of her daily routine!

Please check our Books for Babies program schedule on the Centre for Family Literacy website for opportunities to learn more with us!

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# Write Away

Family Literacy is about more than the ability to read, it’s about having the skills needed to build a strong foundation for future learning and lifelong success. One of those foundational skills is the ability to write. Writing will be needed to communicate effectively in the classroom, in the workplace, and more. It is also a form of self-expression that can really help us sort through our thoughts, feelings, and ideas.

Pre-Writing

In the pre-writing stage, your children will need help understanding that writing is connected to reading, and that writing is a way to communicate information through symbols.

At this stage, they will show emergent writing skills through scribbles, drawing pictures, copying symbols, drawing lines and circles, and attempting to write their name.

It is easy to practice writing with your children throughout your day.

• Make sure they have easy access to pens, pencils, crayons, and paintbrushes so your children can develop the fine motor skills needed for writing. Keep the supplies all in one place with some paper
• Encourage your children’s drawing as it helps them to express their stories and ideas. Ask them to “write” down what it is
• Point out environmental print (such as billboards, signs, cereal boxes) every chance you get so they can see how writing relates to everyday life. For more on this topic, read our blog Build Pre-Reading Skills with Environmental Print
• Help them learn the letters in their name
• Use play dough to make letter shapes
• Create a shopping list and menu using pictures from flyers. Have them “write” what it is next to the picture
• Spend time finger painting and colouring
• Sing rhymes and songs that use actions to develop finger strength. For example:

One little finger,
One little finger,
One little finger,
Tap, tap, tap!

• Go outside and let them loose with some sidewalk chalk. (Pair this with Chalk, a wordless book by Bill Thomson)

Beginning Writers

For those a little further along, try these activities:

• Writing prompts. For example:

“Imagine you have been shrunk to the size of a mouse. What would you see? How would objects around you look?”

or

“If you could make anything come to life just by drawing it, what would you draw?” (Also pair this activity with the wordless book Chalk by Bill Thomson). Read our blog Reading Books Without Words for more about wordless books.

• Make a photo album story book and have your children write the story. (You can always write the translation!) Find out how: Scrapbooking Your Way to Essential Skills
• Write letters and valentines to loved ones

Helping your children to build their writing skills means giving them ample opportunity to practice. Weave these activities into your normal routine and write away!

For early literacy tip sheets, visit the Centre for Family Literacy website

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# 6 Books You and Your Little Ones will Want to Get Your Hands on

Do you find it difficult to have your child sit with you to read a book? Are you competing with touch screens or big screens for time with your child for sharing a book? Are you finding yourself so busy you realize you haven’t read a book together lately?

These days it can be tough to establish a routine, such as a regular reading time with your child, and sticking with it. Personal and work schedules can be very demanding and time consuming. It can be easier to let your little one have a book read to them by an app on a tablet. Your family might even love books—your child has a bookshelf bursting with them. Or maybe you visit the library periodically to borrow them, however time slips away and the books are due for return before you’ve had the time to enjoy them.

As a child grows more independent and is able to play on their own, it is still very important to set aside time in your busy schedule for reading together. Not only does it model to your child that reading is done for pleasure, it is a simple action that strengthens bonds and can provide a child with positive memories related to reading.

It really doesn’t take long to share a good book with your child. If their attention span and focus don’t seem to be with you, there are a number of books available that encourage interaction with the audience—books that ask the child to touch parts of the page, shake the book, swipe here or there, and many more similar and fun ideas. The result is that the child can “help” you read along. They may also have a job to do—while you read, they can flip the pages. Even when they know the story well, they enjoy being able to predict what comes next, or what happens when they turn the page.

Books such as these may help you and your child look forward to a reading routine. Find the time in your day, whether it is at bedtime, nap time, after breakfast, before a bath, or whenever and wherever! The important thing is making the time to spend with your child.

Try out some of these favourites that encourage touching the pages to see what happens next:

Press Here and Mix It Up! by Hervé Tullet

Touch the Brightest Star and Tap the Magic Tree by Christie Matheson

Don’t Touch this Book! and Don’t Push the Button! by Bill Cotter

Books like these are meant to be shared. Try not to see it as one more thing you must do on your to do list. Find the fun! Capture the smiles and giggles in your heart as you share some silliness with your child. If your child learns to read for pleasure, it just might make a difference for them later on, in school, when some find reading a chore.

My children are not small anymore, but I still enjoy showing books like these to them. The appreciation for a fun story can still be shared on a different level. Now we look forward to sharing books with the younger children in our lives whenever we can.

At the Learn Together – Grow Together program, parents learn ways to help their children in the early stages of reading and writing through stories, rhymes, songs and books. Check out the Centre for Family Literacy website for information on literacy programs for parents and their children 6 years and under, and for adults.

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# Spring is in the Air

Spring is in the air and we can all peek our heads outside and breathe a sigh of relief. Winter is over. (We’ve had Second Winter, yes?)

CELEBRATE WITH BOOKS, SONGS, AND OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES

BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS

Share the book Hop, Hop! by Leslie Patricelli together.

“The Easter Bunny is coming! It’s time to dye eggs. Did you know that red and blue make purple? That blue and yellow make green? That an art project may result in a multicolored Baby? There are bunny ears to wear (for the dog and cat, too) and an Easter basket to put out before bedtime. What will Baby find inside it the next morning?”

There are many things related to the story that you can do to stretch out the learning opportunities and fun. Try these:

• Talk to your child about the different colours and what happens when you mix them.
• Colour your own eggs and dress up like a bunny, just like in the book!

EASTER EGGS

Materials:

• White-shelled hard-boiled eggs
• Hot water
• White vinegar
• Food dye (yellow, red, and blue)
• 3 small bowls
• Large spoon
• Newspaper to protect your table

Instructions:

1. In each bowl, combine ½ cup of hot water, 1 tsp. of vinegar, and about 20 drops of food colouring (one colour per bowl).
2. The story says, “Yellow and red make orange!” So dunk an egg into yellow, then dunk it in red and see how it changes.
3. Do the same for the rest of the colours, and do your own mixing experiments as well. Don’t forget to refrigerate the eggs before and after your egg hunt!

BUNNY EARS

Materials:

• White cardstock paper
• Pink paper or
• Pink crayon/pencil
• Scissors
• Glue Stick
• Pencil

Instructions

1. Cut white cardstock into strips for the headpiece and ears
2. Use a pink crayon or the pink paper to make the inside of the ears
3. Tape or glue the headpiece and ears into place
4. Hop around like bunnies, just like in the book

SONG FOR SPRING BUNNIES

(Try wearing your bunny ears for this!)

“5 Little Bunnies”

* a bunny version of the traditional song “5 Little Ducks”

(Try asking your child what sound they think a bunny makes, and change it to whatever they say!)

Five little bunnies went out one day,
Over the hills and far away,
Mother bunny said squeak, squeak, squeak,
But only four bunnies came hopping back.

Four little bunnies went out one day,
Over the hills and far away,
Mother bunny said squeak, squeak, squeak,
But only three bunnies came hopping back.

(Continue counting down to “none”)

Sad mother bunny went out one day,
Over the hills and far away,
Mother bunny said squeak, squeak, squeak,
And all the five bunnies came hopping back!

THE GREAT OUTDOORS

If you coloured Easter eggs, get outside and hide them for your little ones! And if you didn’t, create your own scavenger hunt.

Create a list, using pictures and words, of the items they need to find. For example, you could hide golf balls, search for certain colours, find things in nature like a green leaf or a pine cone, or search for objects that begin with different letters of the alphabet…. The options are limited only by your imagination!

Check the Centre for Family Literacy’s website for the tip sheets “Families just want to have FUN! Party Activities” here

Happy Spring!

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# Non-fiction Books Your Kids Will Love

I have been reading to my children since they were born, so I have noticed a real trend in their choices of non-fiction or fiction books. As babies, they wanted us to read non-fiction—books with real pictures of real things in their daily lives while they were getting to know their world.

Now that my oldest is preschool age, she prefers that we read fiction—stories that expand her ideas of whimsy and make-believe worlds, where princesses always live happily ever after and the super heros always win. She has lost interest in non-fiction books.

Because of the research on the importance of reading non-fiction, I have been trying to find interesting topics for my daughter. When I came across the series of books “What if you had Animal…” (Feet, Teeth, Hair, or Ears) by Sandra Markle and Howard McWilliam, I knew right away she would love them.

The books combine fiction and non-fiction. They have pictures of real animals and information about their feet, teeth, hair or ears. But what makes the books fun is that they also have illustrated pictures of children with the same animal’s attributes. As you can see on this cover, the child has beaver teeth, which of course look hilarious to children.

The series allows children to read non-fiction literature to get facts and dive into a fantasy world at the same time! What a great bridge for readers to find their way back to non-fiction books. The series can be found on the Edmonton Literacy C.O.W. bus!

My daughter absolutely loves these books! We have read them so often that she can tell me what great super power, as she likes to call them, I would have if I had certain animal features. At the playground she commented that she would love to have kangaroo feet to  jump high over the fence and get to the park faster.

Since we have travelled with my daughter several times, she found an easy interest in maps of our country, continent and world. We have also been venturing into the career and cooking sections at the library.

Here are some ways to spark your children’s interest in non-fiction books:

• Pursue their passions: do they have a love of dinosaurs or big monster vehicles? Use their current interests to encourage them
• More is more: by offering a variety of non-fiction reading materials, you may find a format they prefer, such as books, magazines, newspapers, or atlases
• Parents are their children’s best teachers: if you read a variety of literature, both fiction and non-fiction, and talk with your children about what you are reading, it is likely their interests will grow

Below are links to research on the importance of reading non-fiction books:

http://www.greatschools.org/gk/articles/non-fiction-why-its-important/

http://www.education.com/reference/article/reasons-teaching-nonfiction/

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# Early Writing Skills

Learn Together – Grow Together is one of our family literacy programs for parents and caregivers and their children ages 3-5 years old. The program encompasses a variety of activities that range from sharing stories and rhymes, to gym time, free play, crafts and games. Parents learn ways to help their children in the early stages of reading and writing.

During one of our parent-time sessions, we discuss the beginning stages of writing. Children are not born knowing how to hold a pencil or even what to do with it. This is a skill that must be taught and modelled by parents. From an early age, children are eager to use their hands to grab things. Allow your little ones to use crayons or markers, for example, to scribble on a piece of paper. The scribbles may not mean much to you, but they are the beginnings of letter and word formation, as well as fine motor skill practice.

Often I hear from parents that their children don’t want to sit down and work on their writing skills. So at Learn Together – Grow Together, I always have examples of new and fun ways to practice writing. Here are a few:

• use sidewalk chalk
• use just your finger and write in the sand or snow
• cut up numbers and letters made of sandpaper, and use your finger to trace them
• in the bathtub or outside, write with shaving cream, or write on a big glob of it
• put acrylic paint in a Ziploc bag and tape the top, then practice writing on the bag with just your finger
• tape a long piece of ribbon to a pencil or stick and practice making letters in the air by waving your wand
• paint letters and numbers on large blank sheets of plain paper

Can you think of more fun ideas to add to the list?

It is also important for your children to see you modelling your writing skills. For example, if you are making a grocery list, or printing an address onto a piece of mail, ask your children to take part in the activity. Or let them watch you fill out forms and documents. As you show your children these skills, they will begin to understand that written print has meaning and that it is an important skill to have.

One of the tip sheets available for free download on the Centre for Family Literacy website is titled “Signs of Reading and Writing Development in Young Children.” It is on side 2 of the “Tips for Sharing Books” pdf. Here is the link to the webpage.

www.famlit.ca/resources/resources_p.shtml

If you are interested in the fall session of Learn Together – Grow Together in Edmonton, please give us a call at 780-421-7323 for more information. Have fun learning and growing together with your children!

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There are many things you can do to help your child learn about different concepts, such as reading books, making crafts, and singing songs. One of the concepts your child will need to learn is colours.

In the Alberta Prairie C.O.W. (Classroom on Wheels) program, we like to share a book called The Day the Crayons Quit, written by Drew Daywalt and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers. In addition to learning about colours, this book can help your child understand their own emotions, as well as help to develop their empathy skills.

“Poor Duncan just wants to color. But when he opens his box of crayons, he finds only letters, all saying the same thing: His crayons have had enough! They quit! Beige Crayon is tired of playing second fiddle to Brown Crayon. Black wants to be used for more than just outlining. Blue needs a break from coloring all those bodies of water. And Orange and Yellow are no longer speaking – each believes he is the true color of the sun. What can Duncan possibly do to appease all the crayons and get them back to doing what they do best?”

Make Crafts

Here are some activities you can pair with this book:

1.  Use a box of crayons to extend the story. As you read each crayon’s letter, ask your child to take that colour of crayon out of the box. What can they draw with it?

2.  Ask your child how they think each crayon was feeling when they wrote their letter. Use a large index card to write back to one of the crayons in the story. Draw and colour in the crayon that you are addressing, and tell your crayon why they should not quit. Make one for as many colours as you like!

3.  Make your own crayon box.

Materials:

•  Crayons
•  Markers
•  Pencil
•  Glue
•  Scissors
•  One sheet of yellow cardstock (8.5” X 11”)

Instructions:

1. Draw and colour your own paper crayons (or use different colours of construction paper) and cut them out.
2. Fold the yellow cardstock sheet in half and crease it.
3. Open it up, and with your pencil, draw the opening of the box (a half circle) on the left-hand side of the sheet, making sure to leave about ¼” on either side.
4. Cut out the opening, fold it back in place, and glue only the edges, so that you are still able to fit your paper crayons inside the “box”.
5. Decorate your crayon box with crayons or markers!

Sing Songs

Teaching Mama” has some great resources, including “10 Preschool Songs About Colors.” One of my favourites is “Pass the Colour,” in the tune of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat:”

Sit in a circle and pass a crayon around, singing the song until the following verse is done. Then yell out the crayon’s colour! Continue with as many crayons as you like.

Pass, pass, pass the colour,
This is the game we play.
When the little song is through,
The colour name we’ll say.
(YELLOW!)

For more craft ideas and book recommendations, check out the Centre for Family Literacy webpage: Resources for Parents

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# Sharing Stories vs. Reading Stories

Here at the Centre for Family Literacy we like to talk about sharing books with children as opposed to just reading books to them.

When you are sharing a book, as opposed to reading it, it becomes interactive. It becomes much more than just reading the words on the page. Two ways to do this are:

• Ask open-ended questions such as “What are they doing in this picture?” or “What do you think is going to happen next?” This encourages children to stop and think about what is on the page, to make connections to real life, and to really step inside the story.
• Find ways to extend the story.

What does it mean to extend a story?

To extend a story is to build on it—to add activities that are related to the subject of the story. But why should we extend stories?

Children learn best by doing—by being active. When they’re being active they are using all five senses to learn, and these multi-sensory experiences build neural connections in the brain. If they are having fun, they will want to do it again and again, and this repetition makes the connections even stronger. This is how children gain the confidence needed to learn new things.

Simple summertime story extender

A great book to share in the summer is one of our favourites, One-Dog Canoe by Mary Casanova.

In One-Dog Canoe, a girl and her dog set out on a canoe trip, just the two of them, when one by one they are approached by other creatures like Loon, Wolf and Moose, who want to join in on the fun.

I set off one morning in my little red canoe.
My dog wagged his tail.
“Can I come, too??
“You bet, I said.
“A trip for two – just me and you?”

It doesn’t take long before this canoe trip becomes a little more crowded!

“I swished past ferns,
where dragonflies flew.
Loon stretched her wings, “Can I come too?”

What you’ll need:

• The book One-Dog Canoe
• Stuffed animals or toys to match the characters: Beaver, Loon, Wolf, Bear, Moose, Frog, Dog, and Girl
• A “canoe” made with construction paper or bark

(You can always improvise using what you have on hand.)

Give each child a character to hold on to (or multiple characters), and as each character comes up in the story, the child holding that character places it in the canoe. At the end of the story, there are too many animals in the canoe and it tips over, so act this out too by dumping out your canoe!

After the story we like to pair it with a song. Rhymes and songs are critical for developing oral language, and oral language is at the root of all future learning.

Gently down the stream.
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,
Life is but a dream.

Down a jungle stream.
If you see a crocodile,
Don’t forget to scream.
Ahh!

Underneath a stream,
Ha, ha, fooled you,
I’m a submarine!
Bing!

Other ideas:

• Act out the story using a big box, couch, or outdoor picnic table for the canoe
• Bring a make-belief canoe into the bathtub
• Experiment with what floats and what sinks
• Ask “how many items will fit in your canoe before it tips over?”

Have fun sharing stories! For more ideas on how to make the most of your books, check out Flit, our family literacy app on the iTunes App store here!

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