Why Pre-Read New Books for Young Children?

iStock_read2During our Learn Together, Grow Together program, the parents have a 20-minute  session separate from their children.

Last week I began the parent session by talking about different types of books and the different ways to use them. Eventually the conversation evolved into a discussion about the age appropriateness of books.

Children’s books often have a recommended age for use (for example ages 1-3, or 4-8, etc.). However, the parents in our discussion seem to disagree with these age recommendations from time to time.

One mom shared that she had read a book to her three year old son where the main character was throwing objects into a tree—objects like a cat, a boat, and a truck. After the story, the mom said her son was determined to throw large objects into the tree in their yard. The mom said she realized that maybe her child wasn’t ready for this book, as he still didn’t understand the difference between real and make-believe.

Another mom shared that she had read a book, that she thought was age appropriate, to her four year old daughter. However the story actually scared her daughter so much that she had a tough time sleeping that night. The mom said she learned from that experience: spend time previewing children’s books before reading them with her daughter.

Occasionally I have been surprised to find words such as “stupid” or “shut up” in books recommended for younger children, and I certainly wouldn’t want my child to be exposed to those words at an early age.

Just as a parent might want to preview, or research, a movie’s appropriateness for their child, it is also a good idea to preview children’s books. Just because the book has been deemed age appropriate by the publisher doesn’t mean that it is appropriate for your child.

You know your child best; you know what concepts and language they can understand and what they are ready for. You know best what is age appropriate for your child, no matter what age they are in years. There are so many wonderful children’s books available  to share with your child, that it is OK to be picky when choosing them!

More about Learn Together – Grow Together

Value the Learning Process, not the Final Product

Happy small boy crafts with scissors, paper, glue

More than once I have come across this short verse which reminds me of the goals we set when working with parents in our 3,2,1, FUN! numeracy program. I haven’t been able to discover the source of these words, but you can find them everywhere if you search. I’d love to give credit to the right person if I ever do discover the origin.

If you draw it for me,
cut it for me,
paste it for me. . .
All I learn is that
You do it better
than Me

This short verse describes so well the importance of the process behind the activity. We have to remember that it is not about the final product, especially with young children. If they have the opportunity to cut crooked lines, get glue all over things, and colour using every colour or only their favourites, they are learning! They discover their own creativity. They grow confidence in their abilities. They learn to try again if they fail to make it the way they pictured it. They feel pride in what they do achieve.

There is an abundance of great ideas and projects available. Many can be found in our family literacy app, Flit.* Just keep in mind that what you see as the final product should not necessarily be your goal for your children.

Give them the resources they need to create freely. See what they come up with on their own. Try to resist if you feel the need to take control of the project. Instead, you could create your own alongside your children. Don’t be disappointed if they created a bird with 3 legs when you were hopeful they would copy the Rainbow Fish with many scales that you were going for.

It is okay if your children lose interest in the activity you thought would be a grand idea. Put it aside. Perhaps they just are not ready for the concept involved, or maybe it is too close to lunch time and they can’t concentrate without a snack or meal first.

At 3,2,1, FUN! we come prepared to make projects and games that can be used and reused and recreated at home. Parents need to help with some things that the children can’t do yet, but we emphasize, “let your children pick the colours and the textures, and let them decide how much or how little to add.” This is the process of learning.

When we create a new game, we encourage children to come up with the rules, as silly as they Boardgame3may be. For instance, for a game that involves dice, a rule has been, “If you roll a 3 you need to hop on one foot 3 times.” Another rule has been, “this game must be played wearing pyjamas.” One of my favourites is, “the winner gets a hug!”

Supplies needed to play a random game at home based on your children’s rules are probably easily found at home, such as:

  • Dice, any size, the bigger the better. Children love to use more of their body when rolling giant dice.
  • Paper and markers. If you wish to record the rules of the day, you can write in your children’s words.
  • The inside of a cereal box. If you’d like to create a board game look, have your children draw the shapes they’d like to mark the board and encourage them to mark the start and finish.
  • Random household items. Use them as place markers on your board game.
  • Think big! Why not use a giant piece of paper or cardboard to make a giant board game, where your family members are the place markers!

Please phone the Centre for Family Literacy in Edmonton at 780-421-7323 for more information about the 3,2,1,FUN! program, or visit our website www.famlit.ca

* Flit, our FREE family literacy app for activities to do with your 0-5 year-old. For more information or to download, visit the Apple App Store.

 

Singing with Your Toddler

iStock_sing

Here are some special tips for singing with your toddler.

  • Any time is a good time to sing with your toddler!
  • Routines provide opportunities for your child to hear the lyrics over and over again as the task is repeated during the day. Examples of daily routines include diaper changing /going potty, getting dressed, getting in the carseat, cleaning up the toys, or putting on their shoes.
  • A lively song such as “Ring Around the Rosie” might be more appropriate for an active part of the day than at bedtime.
  • Singing during routines can make a less desirable task more enjoyable for a child who is resistant to the activity.

Getting Started

  • Your child does not care whether you can carry a tune or not—being able to connect with you is exciting for them and creates a special bond between the two of you.
  • Sing about what is familiar or interests your child—whether it is a made-up song or a well-known song such as “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.”
  • Follow your child’s lead and sing something that encourages your child to join in with you!
  • Keep it simple! Your child loves repetition and they will learn from it. Repeat the lyrics and keep the words to a minimum. You might get tired of the song but your child won’t!
  • Keep it fun! If your child sees that you are having a blast making up songs, they will begin to come up with their own songs as their vocabulary increases.

Piggyback Songs

Piggyback songs are songs that use an existing melody with new lyrics. Make sure the words you use are ones that your child understands.

Here is a piggyback song to the tune of “Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush.”

This is the way Jacob washes his hands
Washes his hands, washes his hands
This is the way Jacob washes his hands
Now they are nice and clean!

  • Putting your child’s name in a song makes it personal and fun. This song is made especially for your child. It begins to give them a love for language.
  • It teaches them their name; other family members can be added too, and eventually you can begin to add a last name.
  • This tune has the ability to carry into any routine of the day for you and your child. It can help distract, calm, and comfort your toddler—a useful technique for defusing the occasional frustrations of parenting.

Following is a link to a video clip of a parent encouraging a toddler to sing:

Singing with your toddler

Have FUN!

Check our website for more information about Rhymes that Bind and find a program near you in Edmonton.

hashtag: #RTB_Edm

 

In Celebration of our Volunteers

National Volunteer Week

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“Why are you doing this when you’re not getting paid?”

It was the same question our volunteer tutor had heard the three weeks previous, as he settled in for another math session at the local coffee shop. The adult learner he was working with couldn’t believe he would show up week after week purely to help him reach his employment goals, without asking for anything in return.

“What motivates you to volunteer with us?”

It’s a question I too like to ask our volunteers. It’s inspiring to hear the passion in their voices as they talk about making a difference, giving back, their desire to see individuals and families succeed. They also speak about the deep satisfaction they receive from helping others to reach their goals—whether that’s helping a parent to gain new skills as their child’s first teacher, understanding the letters coming home from their child’s school, passing their driver’s test, deciphering a medicine label, or simply gaining the confidence and skills to fill in important forms for themselves.

Last year, 237 Centre for Family Literacy volunteers invested over 9,300 hours in our work to build, develop and improve literacy with families in Edmonton. Their behind-the-scenes commitments included board and committee work, assisting with Family Literacy programs, facilitating Adult Literacy Classes, tutoring one-on-one, office support and fundraising events. Their collective impact was extraordinary!

April 10 to 16 is National Volunteer Week, a time to celebrate and thank Canada’s 12.7 million volunteers. We would like to take this moment to express our gratitude especially to our volunteers with the Centre for Family Literacy. Whether they’ve just joined our volunteer team, or served with us over twenty years, together we are working to foster a healthy, literate society where we are all able to contribute and succeed.

Volunteer Canada put it beautifully: “Volunteers are the roots of strong communities. Just like roots are essential for trees to bloom, volunteers are essential for communities to boom. Thanks to volunteers, our communities grow strong and resilient. Even the tiniest volunteer effort leaves a profound and lasting trace in a community, much like tree rings that appear over time.”

Why are you doing this?”

If you want to be inspired, put this question to a volunteer. Then watch them light up. Better yet, find that niche in the community where your passion and skills will enhance the lives of others while also enriching yours, and volunteer! www.govolunteer.ca

Build Pre-Reading Skills with Environmental Print

Crosswalk

Symbols are everywhere, and they are often accompanied by text. Go for a short walk to the corner and you are bound to see road signs, bins with recycle logos, business advertising and more. As adults, we are so accustomed to seeing this type of print around us that we barely give it a second thought. It is referred to as “environmental print” and is often the first print your children are exposed to. It is the perfect pre-reading tool as the context provides a clue as to its meaning. Think about well-known logos that your children recognize long before they can read, like McDonald’s golden arches!

Recognition of environmental print is one of the first stages of literacy development and should be encouraged. You can do this by pointing out the symbols and text whenever you see them, and talking about the colours, shapes, letters, and numbers used.

Being able to “read” environmental print is very exciting for children, and this is no small thing. It helps to prepare them for future learning and the reading that is required for the school years by building both confidence and a positive association with reading.

Here are a few ideas to support your children’s efforts:

  • Go on a treasure hunt in the house. Write words (for example, “soup”) on pieces of paper or cue cards, and check them off or stash them away in a special box as you find them
  • Make a homemade puzzle out of a cereal box
    • Cut out the front of a cereal box
    • Draw some wavy lines
    • Cut out the pieces
    • Store in a Ziploc bag

Puzzle

  • Make a grocery list with flyer pictures and have your children help you shop
  • Try “Scavenger Bingo”
    • Draw or print out a table with nine squares
    • Draw, print out, or find pictures of environmental print such as a stop sign, speed limit sign, or recycle bin
    • Cut out the pictures and keep them in a Ziploc bag or small box
    • Go for a walk and look for the items in the pictures (take a roll of tape or a glue stick)
    • As you find them, tape or glue the picture to a spot on the “Bingo card”

Environ. Scavenger Hunt

  • Cut out package labels to create a collage. Use items such as soup labels, cereal boxes, newspapers, greeting cards, or any other packaging on hand
  • Talk about the safety symbols found on household items
  • Make a placemat with your children using a piece of paper. Add stickers, drawings, or cut-outs of environmental print, and seal with packing tape or self-adhesive paper

Supporting your children’s efforts to read and recognize environmental print is one simple way to develop pre-reading skills. Have fun and help your children on the road to literacy!

 

Alberta Prairie C.O.W. newsletters (with more crafts to do with your children)

hashtag: #ab_cow