3,2,1,Fun! The Importance of Beginning Numeracy with Everyday Activities

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Who remembers saying “I don’t like math” or “I’m not good at math”? Many adults have negative feelings about math that began early in life.

A positive outlook on numeracy skill building with your children will help them later in life. In fact it can change your outlook as well. You don’t have to be completing complex algebra equations in order to be practicing numeracy skills.

In the 3,2,1, FUN! program offered by the Centre for Family Literacy, comments from parents have reflected some of the initial anxiety they feel towards numeracy and teaching it to their children. One parent stated how she felt math was scary and that she could never teach it to her children. She avoided anything she thought related to math prior to attending the 3,2,1, FUN! numeracy program. Upon finishing the program with her child, she said she now feels much less stress, and is more prepared to positively explore numeracy development with her children; she has a better understanding of the relationship between early numeracy learning and continuing success in school.

The parents and their children meet once a week to learn about the many everyday activities in which we use numeracy skills. When we estimate the cost of groceries, count the days leading up to a special event, follow a recipe, measure material for a sewing or building project, or even give directions, we are using numeracy skills.

These real life situations make numeracy meaningful for children, and are important in helping them build strong numeracy skills for later math learning. Part of our program enlists the parent as the teacher as they work alongside their children, participating in activities that are developmentally appropriate and supportive to the individual children.

Having a good foundation in numeracy means that we have an understanding of numbers, shapes, and measurement, and how they relate to each other. We learn to ask questions, solve problems, and share ideas. This numeracy understanding helps us become better communicators and problem solvers and allows us to participate fully in our communities.

Children benefit when we show them that numeracy is part of our daily lives and we use it all the time. This familiarity with various numeracy concepts, and children’s own experiences with everyday math, will help them become fluent math thinkers. It will prevent anxiety about more formal math learning when they reach school.

If you would like more information about the 3,2,1, FUN! drop-in program, visit the Centre for Family Literacy website. I can guarantee you will have fun with your children exploring numeracy together.

Positive early experiences in mathematics are as critical to child development as are early literacy experiences (Alberta education, 2007).

  

Conversations with Babies

Baby loveThere are behaviours that babies are born with, like reflexes and how they are naturally drawn toward faces, but if you want your baby to grow up into someone who can tell you things and understand the things you tell them, then you need to talk with them.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when you chat with your baby:

  • Babies aren’t very talkative to start, but they are excellent listeners
  • Share your thoughts with your baby, talk about the things you are doing, or tell stories
  • Even before their first words, leave room for them to respond, and reply to their babbles and coos to help them learn about the pattern of conversation
  • Speak and sing to your babies in however many languages you speak. Babies are super good at picking up additional languages if they are learning them from the people in their lives
  • Babies don’t always want to talk. If they look like they’ve had enough, give them a break
  • On the other hand, don’t ignore your baby when they’re trying to talk to you. When you respond, you are letting them know they’re on the right track for developing speech
  • Maintain eye contact and use facial expressions
  • Babies are using cues from your lips and mouth to learn about the sounds coming out of your face. They are simultaneusly learning to lip read!
  • Use expression in your voice, as much as your baby loves you and your voice, there is still such a thing as too boring

An extra note about that last point. You’ve probably noticed that people sound different when they talk to babies. They’ll use a high energy sing-song voice that usually makes babies smile. There are studies that show this helps babies to recognize the differences between different speech sounds, which is pretty cool. You might try to tone it down, but there’s evidence that we all do it on some level.

On another level, it’s one of the many ways that you can show your baby that you are engaging with them personally. You are reinforcing that back and forth communication with your baby is foundational for language development and brain development in general.

What works best for you? Does your baby particularly like entries from your old high school diary, or your celebrity impressions? Let us know in the comments!

You might also be interested in a Books for Babies program offered by the Centre for Family Literacy in Edmonton. Here’s a link to the webpage.

How Rhymes can Encourage Play

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Play is the highest form of research.    – Albert Einstein

Halloween is one of our favourite times of year—families can have so much fun together with rhymes, games, crafts, snacks, and parties—and it provides a lot of opportunity for purposeful play.

Play is a child’s ‘job’. Through play children explore the world around them, expanding their understanding and making connections, while developing their innate curiosity and creativity. They are ‘building’ their brains through thinking skills, problem solving, and language expression.

Rhymes, songs, and chants are an excellent way to encourage play, and therefore  language and brain development, during both everyday activities and special occasions.

Save your children’s halloween costumes for dress-up and role playing throughout the rest of the year. An astronaut could sing ‘Zoom, Zoom’ while blasting to the moon. A fireman could sing ‘Hurry Drive the Firetruck’ while he/she puts out imaginary fires. A chef could sing about how he/she is preparing all the yummy meals with the ‘Fruit & Veggie Song’. Don’t worry about singing in key, or that the song doesn’t make sense; children LOVE it when their caregivers are playing and being silly with them.

For fun make up your own silly rhymes for halloween or for any time and use the classic tunes, such as “Row, Row Your Boat”, “London Bridge is Falling Down”, “Jingle Bells”, and “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” to make them easy to remember. Add some simple actions to go with them for even more fun!

“Play and sing with your children like no one is watching!”
… and they will thrive!

Here are a couple of examples of rhymes that can be used for fall or halloween using those tunes:

All the Leave Are Falling Down
(Tune: London Bridge is Falling Down)

All the leaves are falling down, falling down, falling down.
All the leaves are falling down. It is fall.
Grab a rake and rake them up, rake them up, rake them up.
Grab a rake and rake them up. It is fall.
Make a pile and jump right in, jump right in, jump right in.
Make a pile and jump right in. It is fall.

Flutter, Flutter, Little Bat
(Tune: Twinkle, Twinkle)

Flutter, flutter, little bat.
How I wonder where you’re at.
Swooping through the darkest night-
You find your way without a light.
Flutter, flutter, little bat.
How I wonder where you’re at.

Here are a couple of examples of everyday rhymes using those tunes:

Peek-A-Boo
(Tune: Frere Jacques)

Peekaboo, peekaboo
I see you, I see you
I see your button nose
I see your tiny toes

Rolly Polly 
(Tune : Frere Jacques – Opposites song*)

Rolly polly, rolly polly
Up, up, up.  (x2)
Rolly rolly polly. Rolly rolly polly.
Down, down, down (x2)
Peekaboo, peekaboo

* use actions such as up/down, in/out, fast/slow, loud/quiet, left/right

Do you have a favourite rhyme that you’d like to share?

In our Rhymes that Bind program, Parents learn to enjoy rhymes, finger plays, songs and simple movement games with their infants and toddlers in a supportive peer group. If you would like to join us for some rhyming fun, visit the Centre for Family Literacy website to find a program near you in Edmonton!

 

Create Your Own Family Literacy Traditions with the C.O.W. Bus!

Traditions mean a lot. Creating traditions with your family not only helps support early learning but also bonding.

Just ask Denyse, a mother of seven, who has made the COW Bus a tradition in her family for 10 years and counting. The stories, songs, and rhymes she has learned on the bus help her make their daily activities a fun learning experience for her children. For example, singing a favourite song to comfort her son strengthened their bond during a long wait at the doctor’s office.

“A tradition is kept alive only by something being added to it.”
– Henry James

This meaningful quote says it all. You can add your own personal spin to all the books and rhymes we share on the COW Bus, and start your own family literacy traditions!

One of the many songs we sing on the COW Bus is very useful for slowing down your children and keeping their busy hands occupied—with a bonus tickle at the end!

Here are the beehives (have your child make fists)
But where are all the bees? (peek inside closed fists)
Tucked inside where nobody sees
Watch as they come out of their hive
1,2,3,4,5 (open fist one finger at a time)
Buzzzzzzzz buzzzzzzzz (tickle with your fingers)

Brown Bear

Storytelling and reading are excellent ways to promote and enhance language and literacy development in your home.

This month, we are reading Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See by Bill Martin Jr and Eric Carle, where the children bring the story to life with colourful props followed by a puzzle featuring all the characters in this popular, classic book!

Come aboard the COW Bus and make literacy playtime and storytelling a family tradition. Each week we stop in 10 Edmonton neighbourhoods. To find a location near you, go to the Centre for Family Literacy website at www.famlit.ca

What is Emergent Literacy?

Mum playing with two children

Emergent Literacy is what children know about reading and writing before they can actually read or write. Strong early literacy skills are naturally the foundation for reading and writing later on. Children begin learning at birth—many agree even before birth—and continue learning long after school begins.

At the Centre for Family Literacy, we believe parents are their children’s first and best teachers. Emergent literacy skills are developed with experiences children have alongside an adult in their life guiding the way. Young children enjoy repeating favourite activities (for example reading, singing, and craft activities) with the ones they love. An adult such as a parent, grandparent, or other primary caregiver, that provides one-on-one experiences, can do more “teaching” than can be done in a group setting.

Children prepare for reading long before they can actually read or start school. Learning opportunities are best when they happen naturally in the everyday activities you do at home and in the community, including grocery shopping, doing chores, playing games, or travelling somewhere by car or bus. Letters and numbers are not only in books, they are everywhere!

Talk with them and explain things that you see and do. Before children can learn to read they must understand language. Sing and rhyme. (See below for tips for supporting emergent literacy.)

People tend to call children between the ages of 3 – 4 years preschoolers, although you have had them busy learning preschool lessons their whole lives up until now. Most preschoolers will be displaying their emergent literacy development by:

  • Enjoying stories read to them that they can retell afterwards
  • Beginning to understand that print carries a message to be decoded
  • Attempting to read aloud while looking at a book
  • Attempting to write or print on paper with a pencil or crayon
  • Participating in singing and rhyming
  • Identifying familiar print on signs to favourite stores or brand names
  • Identifying letters in their name, or family member’s names, and some sounds of those letters

iStock_000009413407XLarge-SMBy age 5, most children are beginning kindergarten and are becoming experts at:

  • Sounding like they are reading aloud while they look through a favourite book
  • Using descriptive language to explain or answer questions
  • Recognizing letter and sound matches
  • Understanding that print is read left to right and starts at the top of the page
  • Beginning to group letters and letter sounds together to form words
  • Beginning to match spoken words with written ones
  • Beginning to write stories with recognizable words

Tips for supporting emergent literacy in your family:

  • Attend community programs with your child such as the ones offered by the Centre for Family Literacy
  • Make book choices based on your child’s interests
  • Encourage your child to make predictions as the story is being shared with them, take time to pause and ask them what they think will happen next, or how a character feels etc.
  • Visit the library regularly
  • Give your child different materials that encourage drawing, scribbling, painting, cutting, and gluing. Learning can be messy work, but worth it!
  • Have fun with your child, play, and pretend! Let them lead the way in their play. They are used to following your rules every day, give them the key to imagination and follow them as they lead the way to creativity

Download Flit, our free literacy App, for fun activities you can do with your children at home to help develop emergent literacy! You’ll find the links on our website, or go directly to the App Store or Google Play.

Learn Together – Grow Together is a program in Edmonton by the Centre for Family Literacy for parents and their children ages 3 – 6 years. Families meet once a week for 3 ten-week sessions to learn about their children’s early learning and how to support literacy development, success in school, and lifelong learning. The sessions offer some adult only instruction and lots of parent-child together time for fun learning activities. Spaces are still available so register quickly. For more information visit the Centre for Family Literacy website, call 780-421-7323, or email info@famlit.ca

 

 

Autumn Provides Easy Literacy Lessons to Share with Your Kids

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Autumn leaves are falling down, falling down, falling down,
Autumn leaves are falling down, red, yellow, orange and brown!

Rake them up and pile them high, pile them high, pile them high,
Rake them up and pile them high, till they reach the sky!

Just reading these simple words paints a vivid picture in my mind: being sent out to clean up the yard before the holiday guests arrived for dinner. They bring back childhood memories of working so hard to rake up leaves into giant mounds that called to me to drop my rake and jump in! I can almost smell the slightly sweet odour of decay and hear the crunch of the brittle brown leaves as I scattered all my hard work.

So many opportunities for building literacy skills can be found in the simple act of cleaning up the yard. You and your child can talk about:

  • all the different colours and shapes of leaves you find
  • how the wind sounds as it blows through the leaves still clinging to the branches
  • why some plants lose their leaves while others stay green year-round
  • the different textures of the leaves—some brittle, some pokey, some soft and flexible
  • how many empty bags will be needed
  • what happens when it gets cold—where do the bugs go
  • why do the days seem shorter and so much more!

Literacy is about so much more than just reading a book or writing a letter. It encompasses learning vocabulary and how to put the words together to get an idea across, problem solving on your own or working together to find a solution, learning the meaning of our numbers—the one to one correspondence of word, numeral and object.

Autumn also means Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and literacy is embedded in the preparation and sharing of the meal. Talk with your children about:

  • recipes that have been tweaked just that much to make them unique to your family
  • how many more chairs will be needed so everyone has a seat
  • what is the true meaning of Thanksgiving and why do we celebrate it in the fall
  • the difference between a yam and a sweet potato
  • family traditions that have been passed down over the ages
  • how many pieces that pumpkin pie has to be cut into!

In our Literacy Links workshops, we focus on how you can find literacy in just about everything you do. We help adults, parents, and caregivers discover the many simple activities they can do at home and out in the community that support and build numeracy and literacy skills. As for me, I am going to go back to painting some pictures!

I made a jack-o-lantern for Halloween night,
He has three teeth, but he doesn’t bite,
He has two eyes, but he doesn’t see,
He’s a happy jack-o-lantern, as you can see!

Please visit the Centre for Family Literacy website for more information about Literacy Links workshops. If you are interested in either hosting or attending a workshop, please call the Centre, 780.421.7323

 

What does Reading a Book Together have to do with Numeracy Skills?

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Have you ever read a book to a child and counted objects on the pages, looked for shapes, found different colours, or noticed patterns in the storytelling? Believe it or not, you are introducing numeracy skills.

Stories are a powerful way to explore numeracy concepts. They:

  • Provide simple and easy ways for children to relate the pictures and words to their lives
  • Encourage the use of numeracy language by using phrases like: How many? How far? How much?
  • Develop concepts like following directions, following recipes
  • Offer opportunities to problem solve, count backwards or forwards or by 2’s, introduce basic math skills
  • Increase memory skills by retelling stories in the correct order. Beginning, middle, and end can be recalled without the book in front of you

TIPS!

  • Read together often, when you can spend the time relaxed and not rushed
  • You do not need a hundred different books, a variety of books is best
  • You do not have to find math books for numeracy. Books rich in colour, shapes, and numbers are appealing to children and there are so many available
  • Find books that have a clear beginning, middle, and end (sometimes they start with Once upon a time)
  • Look for books that have a repeating sequence of events
  • Use recipe books, craft books, Lego building books (following instruction and direction step by step)
  • It is okay and expected for children to want to read the same book over and over again for weeks before they are ready to move on to another. As they become more familiar with the story, they are also understanding it better each time. The predictability is important for young children to want to follow along
  • Take time to revisit old favourites
  • When reading, talk together. Pause the story to ask questions, and give your child  time to answer. Ask questions like, “what do you think happens next?” “Can you count all of the red spots?” “Do you spot the dog?” “How many girls are wearing yellow dresses?”
  • Give children a chance to explain what they think and see
  • Look for opportunities to talk about routines like nap time, dinner time, bath time, bed time, days of the week and/or months, and seasons

We enjoy exploring numeracy with families at our 3,2,1,FUN! numeracy program. Some   books we like to share are:

  • If You Give A Mouse A Cookie by Laura Numeroff
  • The Doorbell Rang by Pat Hutchins
  • Going On A Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen
  • Looking For A Moose by Phyllis Root
  • The Napping House by Audrey Wood
  • Memoirs Of A Goldfish by Devin Scillian
  • How To Babysit a Grandpa by Jean Reagan

Visit the Centre for Family Literacy website to find out more about the 3,2,1,FUN! drop-in program in Edmonton.

Simple Ways to Entertain your Baby with a Book

When I talk about which books are age appropriate for babies, I am less concerned about what is in the book and more interested in what we can do with the book. A great example of this is books that require our imagination to make sense of what the pictures are telling us, which is not something babies are very good at. That doesn’t mean these types of books are inappropriate for babies.

Monkey & MeFor example, Emily Gravett’s Monkey and Me depicts a young girl acting out the motions that we associate with different zoo animals. Even if your baby is very familiar with elephants, a picture of a girl hunched over with her arm stretched out in front of her face is probably not going to make your baby think of elephants. Even with pictures of the girl in mulitple poses, your baby will not know that one pose is meant to transition into the other.

However, if you make those motions yourself, and you make your best elephant trumpet noises, and you flap your hands beside your head like big ears… well, your baby still might not be thinking of elephants and that’s okay, you’ve just transformed a confusing picture into a fun and engaging interaction.

Pete's a PizzaI think William Steig’s Pete’s a Pizza can work beautifully for this. Of course your baby won’t understand from the story how Pete’s parents pretending to make him into a pizza can cheer him up when he’s feeling down. The connection between managing emotions and imaginary food preparation are more than a little abstract. But if you gently massage your baby, roll them back and forth like dough, and tickle them as you make your way through the book, it will probably become a favourite nonetheless.

This won’t work with every book, but when you notice the book you are sharing lends itself to different actions, take the cue to bring the book to life, and see how your baby likes it.

For information about the Books for Babies program, or to find the Edmonton program schedule, please visit the Centre for Family Literacy website program page.

For more information about sharing books with your baby, your toddler, or your preschool aged children, please visit the Centre for Family Literacy website resources page.

 

Early language development: the first step to literacy

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In today’s fast-paced and highly competitive world, there is a lot of pressure for parents to enrol their child, earlier and earlier, into preschool and pre-kindergarten classes, and before they even enter kindergarten, to teach them the alphabet, numbers, and how to spell their name. Surprisingly, there are no studies as of yet to prove that if you learn to read in those early years, you’re going to have an advantage in school.

We do know, however, that language and social development in the early years lay the foundations for literacy skills and success as an adult.

We encourage you, the caregiver, to empower your little ones with the knowledge and skills to build the ‘scaffolding’ for their language, thinking, and social skills—which are essential for learning to read and write—rather than encouraging you to teach your toddlers to read.

Language development is the first step and the basis for literacy. By age three or four your child’s language ability will strongly predict their literacy skills and learning success throughout school and life.

With these facts in mind, we know that a child’s early environment and experiences significantly impact their language and literacy development. This learning begins at birth.

Infants instinctively respond to sounds and begin vocalizing. Children raised in nurturing, language-rich homes will develop better vocabularies and literacy skills; home environment plays a vital role in your child’s literacy learning. Parents and/or caregivers are the child’s first and best teachers! You are the expert and in the best position to teach and guide your child.

DSC_0006 (1)The bond between you and your child is fundamental in the child’s brain development. By exposing your child to vocabulary, rhythm, rhyme, and body language—through actions or active play—you are not only developing an amazing relationship with your child, you are creating brain pathways, connections, and brain development.

Repetition of rhymes and songs strengthen these pathways and connections. Additionally, you feel more confident and competent as you help in your child’s literacy and social development, resulting in being more actively involved with your child and your child’s learning.

As an added bonus, songs, rhymes, and actions are useful in reducing stressful or frustrating moments for toddlers (and for you), and also help to make smoother transitions between activities throughout the day.

Tips to get you started on your rhyme discovery path:

  1. Go back to basics. The songs that were your favourites as a child will also be enjoyable to your child, and believe it or not, are still children’s favourites today.
  2. Start with short, simple rhymes. Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and The Wheels on the Bus are good examples.
  3. Most importantly… have fun with rhyming! There is no wrong way to sing, especially when you and your child are having fun and bonding!
  4. Optional: drop in to a Rhymes that Bind program and have fun learning rhymes and actions with your child

Here is a rhyme to get you started:

Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear

Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear turn around.
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear touch the ground.
Teddy Bear reach up high.
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear say Good Bye.

To find an Edmonton Rhymes that Bind program near you, check out the Centre for Family Literacy website. We are excited to meet everyone and have fun singing!

 

Say Hello to the New COW on the Block!

COW-SummerThe Classroom on Wheels (COW) Bus will be the ‘new kid on the block’ this coming October, with four new locations in Edmonton. Maple Ridge, Rundle Heights, Baturyn, and Walker are the newest communities we have added to our roster, and we’ll be welcoming both new and familiar families back in six other neighbourhoods. If you’re nearby you’re welcome to come aboard—you’ll have a blast bonding with your little ones while sharing books and singing songs!

The COW bus is a FREE drop-in program for parents and their children from birth to 6 years old, that helps support family learning. You can:

  • borrow books for free
  • share books and  puzzles with your child
  • listen to stories and songs
  • win free books

We have so many wonderful books for you to borrow, with no late fees. Come listen to stories and songs that will soon become family favourites! But we need you and your family to help bring these stories to life and build excitement!

Duck RabbitOne of our many favourites is Duck, Rabbit by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld, “a clever take on the age-old optical illusion: is it a duck or a rabbit? Depends on how you look at it! Readers will find more than just Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s signature humour here, there’s also a subtle lesson for kids who don’t know when to let go of an argument. A smart, simple story that will make readers of all ages eager to take a side, Duck! Rabbit! makes it easy to agree on one thing, reading it again!”

The fun starts October 3rd with weekly stops at 10 locations. Visit the Centre for Family Literacy website to find out when the bus will be in your area.

See you in October!