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!

 

 

60 Days of Summer!

Summer has just started, so why am I writing about the end of summer already?

While I hate to write about summer’s end so soon, for some parents the end of summer marks a new and exciting beginning—Kindergarten!

In Alberta, children who are four years of age, on or before March 1, may register in Kindergarten‌ for the 2018-19 school year.

Whether you’re a first time parent or a seasoned one, this time of year comes with many hopes and fears for your little ones, who themselves are hardly bigger than the backpacks they carry.

But you know what parents? You have done a great job in preparing them for this day, and your children likely have most of the skills they need to be successful as they start school. However, why not take the opportunity to spend the next couple of months practicing some of these skills, and maybe introduce a few new ones.

SUMMER ACTIVITIES THAT PREPARE YOUR CHILDREN FOR KINDERGARTEN:

1. Sidewalk chalk

Writing doesn’t have to be inside on a piece of paper with a pen. Make it fun by getting some sidewalk chalk and heading outside! Make sure you get the big sidewalk chalk—they are easier to grip, while regular chalk sticks break too easily. Have your children write their name or the alphabet on the sidewalk.

2. Go on a picnic

Bring a deck of letter flashcards with you and play alphabet “Go Fish.” You could also count flowers, trees, or insects. Nature provides us with endless learning materials.

3. Scavenger hunt

Kids are multi-modal learners, which means they learn best when they can use all of their senses. Make a colours and shapes scavenger hunt and go for a walk. In this kind of activity, your children use body movement, sight, sound, smell, and laughter. Bonus: they can carry their backpacks to collect their treasures.

4. Quiet time

On a rainy day, or an extremely hot day, you may find yourself sitting indoors. Find a pair of child-safe scissors and practice cutting play dough. To make the task more difficult, give your children some old magazines and make a collage of things they like about summer.

5. Reading

Make reading a part of your daily routine. This can be done at any time during the day, inside or outside. Let the kids pick which book they would like to read and follow along with your finger as you read to them. Try picking up The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn— it’s for children starting school or separating from their parents for the first time.

6. Go to the playground

Earlier I had mentioned your children likely have many skills needed for Kindergarten already. I will assume this summer won’t be your first time at the playground. Playgrounds are perfect settings for developing social skills. Allow your children to play on their own and alongside other children, and step in when they need help assessing their feelings and problem-solving. Or play with them! Model confidence in tackling the ‘big’ slide or take turns going across the monkey bars. Invite other children to play a round of grounders with you and your little ones.

7. Sing

Sing some songs with your children as you walk or play outside. Rhymes are a good way to practice sounds and follow simple directions. Try “Open Shut Them” (see below) and “Old McDonald.”

8. Make a chore chart

Chore charts have many uses. Try making one that incorporates their school day morning routine. You could include things such as: brush your teeth; get dressed; have breakfast; and put on your shoes and coat. I like these because you get to put what you need your children to do on the chart, and they get to complete it with a sticker or another type of marker. Start practicing the routine before school starts.

You are probably practicing some of these skills already. Just keep it fun and don’t make it stressful for you or your children. Remember, you will always be their best and favourite teacher. Have a great summer and we hope to see you in the fall when all of our programs start up again. Mark your calendar to check the Centre for Family Literacy website in late summer to find a fun program for your 0-6 year old.

Open Shut Them

Open shut them, open shut them
Give a little clap (clap clap)
Open shut them, open shut them
Place them on your lap

Shake them, shake them, shake them, shake them
Shake them just like this (shaking hands)
Place your hands upon your lips
And blow a great big kiss

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.

Rain, Rain, Go Away, I Want to Play Outside Today!

The school year is almost over. Both children and parents are probably thinking they’ve had enough schoolwork for awhile. But the learning shouldn’t stop when school is out! Did you know that in addition to all the reading activities you can do during the summer, you can also turn math and science into fun in the sun activities?

To keep young minds active this summer, as well as their bodies, check out some of these activities you can do with them outside. It’s a good way to reuse materials, keeping costs low and at the same time using language and motor skills to play and bond with your children.

Make a giant game

  • Board games use counting and simple additions. All you need is some tape and a tarp to make a portable board game. Dust off your snakes and ladders game and copy it onto your tarp using the tape as the squares, the kids are the playing pieces! You can take it camping or to the park, or play in your own backyard.
  • If you have bowls, plates, or Frisbees, you can create a toddler bean bag toss game.
  • You can also make an outdoor kerplunk with pvc pipe or doweling and a plastic clothes hamper.

I love all of these ideas!

 

 

 

 

 

Fun with Water

  • Set up a water table outside in the grass. Fill it with different sizes of cups and spoons, sieves and bowls as well as sponges and play with water. Just have fun with language that comes naturally to you when talking about amounts. More than and less than, empty and full, squeezing and absorbing.
  • Create a water sensory table/tub with water beads, sponges, or toys.
  • Balloon piñata can help with motor skills and coordination, and it’s a fun way to cool down in the hot sun.

Most importantly, share your enthusiasm and language with your children and watch them blossom! What were your favourite summer activities? Try some with your own children! Often the best ones use supplies found at home, without buying expensive ‘one time’ purchases.

In the Centre for Family Literacy’s 3,2,1,FUN! program, we believe that children learn best through play, and in our programs we do many of the above activities and so much more. We invite you to visit our website in late summer and register for a program. Put it on your calendar!

For more literacy fun and resources, please download our free app, FLIT, available at Google Play and the APP store.

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.