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!

 

 

Books, Books, and More Books!

There are many great reasons to visit the C.O.W. (Classroom on Wheels) Bus, and one of them is that we have fantastic books for you to borrow! We have thousands of books on the bus, including board books for our youngest readers, an excellent selection of lift-the-flap books, touch and feel books, books with CDs, wordless books, French books, early readers, and books for adults as well. There is something for everyone from babies to grandparents!

If you or your little ones are excited about dinosaurs, then maybe you would enjoy How Do Dinosaurs Eat Cookies? by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague. Or maybe sharks are popular at your house. Try The Thanking You Sharks by Giles Andreae. We also have a great selection of princess books, like Jonathan Emmett’s The Princess and the Pig and Lisa McCourt’s Good Night Princess Pruney Toes.

Some of our children especially enjoy reading the non-fiction books to learn about different types of animals, vehicles, space, cooking, and anything you can imagine. We also have helpful books about potty training and teaching manners. We have many books to inspire and encourage parents as well as books that provide humour and escape.

You are welcome to borrow books (up to 6) every time you visit the bus. We want to make borrowing as easy as possible so there are no late fees. If you are a regular book borrower, we reward you with a free book (your choice) to take home and keep.

We are happy to help you choose a book that you or your children will enjoy, and we have a “staff picks” area to give you ideas as well.

We also have a bin containing donated books. Each family can take one book from the bin each week. If you have books that you are no longer using, you are welcome to donate them to the bus, and maybe another family would enjoy reading them!

One of the books we will be reading with all of our friends on the bus this month is The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. Bringing the book alive, the children will have fun feeding a pretend caterpillar all sorts of yummy foods and then watching it turn into a beautiful butterfly. The story is colourful, fun, and educational. Your children will be excited to find real caterpillars and butterflies outside. And the story might even give you ideas to start conversations with your inquisitive children.

We’d love to have you join us on the COW Bus and enjoy some books together! Check the Centre for Family Literacy website to find out when the bus is in a neighbourhood near you!

Spring into Learning!

Spring has arrived! It is a pleasure to get outside now that the snow is melting and the air is warmer. Outside, there are many things to learn in spring. Children are like little sponges ready to soak up new information. It doesn’t take extra time to give your children the chance to learn; family literacy can occur naturally during daily routines. It helps adults and children get things done.

Ways to use literacy in your activities this spring:

  • talk to your children as they put on their spring gear. Ask why they no longer need to wear winter boots, coats, etc.
  • dressed in rubber boots and raincoats, let them experience the tactile joy of crunching ice and splashing in puddles. Talk about how it feels as they squish through mud and try to pull their feet out. Ask them to make the sounds of squishing mud and splashing and running water.
  • look at snow and ice melting where the sun shines and talk about where the snow goes. Wonder why water sometimes gathers in a puddle and sometimes runs down the drain. Discuss why it rains in warmer weather instead of snowing. How does this helps things grow?
  • encourage your children to use their senses to experience spring. 
Talk about what they see, smell, feel and hear. Look for the first flowers and buds on trees. Notice if it’s lighter at bedtime. Search for bugs. Ask if the air smells different and feels warmer. Hear the different bird sounds.

The C.O.W. (Classroom on Wheels) Bus is ready for spring. When you visit the bus, you will be treated to a couple of our favourite stories:

Stuck by Oliver Jeffers is a favourite of children and parents alike; it is laugh-out-loud funny. In the story, a boy loses his kite in a tree and tries to knock it down by throwing everything he can find into the tree. On the bus, children delight in “throwing” felt pieces into the tree on the story board, bringing the tale to life.

And there are monsters on the bus—tickle monsters! We’ll read two books about tickle monsters; one where children make a neighbourhood scene out of the monster body parts, and the other involves a lot of tickling and singing!

Here is a springtime song we will be singing on the bus and you can also enjoy it at home. Try acting it out!

Rain is Falling
(tune: “Skip to My Lou”)

Rain is falling, what shall I do (X 3)
What shall I do my darling?

Put on a raincoat, (rain boots, rain pants, rain coat) that’s what I’ll do (X 3)
That’s what I’ll do my darling.

Grab an umbrella, (jump in some puddles) that’s what I’ll do (X 3)
That’s what I’ll do my darling.

Visit the Centre for Family Literacy website to find out where and when the C.O.W. bus will be parked near you!

 

Play-Based Learning

We, at the Alberta Prairie C.O.W. bus, like play.  We like to see parents (or Grandparents, or any other significant adult in a child’s life) come on the bus and spend time playing with their child. Interestingly, the Council of Ministers of Education Canada has recently released a statement recognizing the value of play-based learning.  You can read the whole statement here:

http://www.cmec.ca/Publications/Lists/Publications/Attachments/282/play-based-learning_statement_EN.pdf

Even though we really like and encourage play, and we have all sorts of interesting and fun things to play with on the bus, there are just some things that don’t work well on a bus…like playdough.

Making playdough with your kids and then spending time playing with it can provide a rich learning experience and hours of entertainment.

So here is one of my favourite recipes for playdough:

Kool-aid playdough

Ingredients:

• 1 – 11/4 cup flour

• 1/4 cup salt

• 1 pkg powdered unsweetened kool-aid (or other equivalent powdered drink mix)

• 1 cup boiling water

• 1 1/2 -2Tbsp vegetable oil

Directions:

1.  In a bowl, mix 1 cup flour, salt and kool-aid (the brighter colours work best)

2.  Stir in water and oil

3.  Knead with hands.  Gradually add more flour and oil if needed.

Continue kneading for about 5 minutes.

4.  Play!

5.  Store in sealed bag in the fridge for up to 2 months.

Favorite Books to Read Aloud: “Where Is the Green Sheep”

Sometimes on the Alberta Prairie C.O.W. bus we have Kindergarten and Grade one classes or daycares that come to visit us.  When this happens we like to read the kids a story before letting them play with the rest of the activities on the bus.  It’s always great to see how engaged children can be when they are being read a good book.
One of my favourite books to read to the under five crowd is “Where is the Green Sheep?” by Mem Fox. Mem Fox has written dozens of books for children and certainly knows what appeals to her audience.  The story is light-hearted, we see at all sorts of different kinds of sheep, wave sheep, scared sheep and brave sheep, as we look for the green sheep, and the text is full of rhyme, rhythm and repetition, which help develops a child’s “ear” for language.
When we read it on the bus we often have the whole group of kids chiming in “where is the green sheep?”.  Children also enjoy the cartoon-like drawings by Judy Horacek as they look for the missing green sheep. It’s really a fun, playful book to share with the kids in your life.

A Story All Your Own

Working as a facilitator on the Alberta Prairie Classroom on Wheels Bus (the C.O.W. Bus) I often hear questions about the different types of books and how to get children interested in reading.  There are a lot of different responses that I can give to this question.

There are interactive books that are great for catching and keeping the interest of a child (see Kim’s previous post on Press Here by Hervé Tullet), “touch and feel” books that provide a multitude of textures that entertain kids, especially young kids, and “seek and find” books like I-Spy and Where’s Waldo that can hold a child’s interest for hours while they try to find all the different items listed and as well as the other items unlisted.  Truth be told, they still entertain me for hours.

However, my favorite response is to make the books personal.  Create a story featuring your child.  You can use photos of your child as the illustrations and create a story around the pictures.  It can be as simple as linking colors to outfits (insert photo) or as complex as a novel.  Creating a personal story can also be a great way to spend time, and to interact with your children.  Involve them in the process – have them pick out the pictures they want to use or have them create the story and you write it down.  Small photo albums work perfectly for holding the photos as well as cue cards to write the story on.

One mom shared a great idea she uses for personalizing a story.  She used her children’s photos and pasted them over the existing faces in the book.  Her children instantly became part of their favorite stories and will have fantastic keepsakes for when they grow up.  She found that board books worked better due to their durability.