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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# 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

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!

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# Celebrate the Joy of the Season on the C.O.W. Bus

During the week of December 12, the C.O.W. (Classroom on Wheels) bus will be hosting a cozy Christmas pyjama party at each of our locations. We have a great selection of winter holiday-themed books for you to borrow for your family story time, AND, don’t miss out on the annual book giveaway; all children will go home with their own book to keep!

As always, story time on the bus will be loads of fun as the children help bring the books to life. One of our favourites is a New York Times bestseller, Pete the Cat Saves Christmas by Eric Litwin and James Dean.

“In this rockin’ spin on the traditional tale The Night Before Christmas, Pete the Cat proves that giving your all in the spirit of Christmas is the totally groovy thing to do.”

“ ‘Twas the day before
Christmas and Santa was ill.
In the cold winter wind he
Will Christmas be canceled?
Will it come to that?
‘Never!’ cried Santa.
‘Let’s call Pete the Cat!’ ”

And don’t forget to give yourself a little gift too – download Flit, our free app which has over 100 fun activities, crafts, and rhymes you can do with your little ones, and four more activities are added each season. For example, try the Letters in the Snow activity by filling a spray bottle with coloured water and decorating some fresh white snow! You’ll find the link for both Apple and Android versions on the Centre for Family Literacy website, or on your device’s app store.

So grab your coziest pajamas and join us as we read, sing, and play during this special time of year on the bus.

Do you have a favourite holiday song or rhyme? Please share it with us in the comments, because we love to learn and share new things!

See you soon!

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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)

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

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

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.

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# 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.

For 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.

I 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.

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# What’s Happening on the Edmonton C.O.W. Bus

The month of May on the Edmonton C.O.W. Bus was busy and fun, with familiar faces and a lot of visitors that came aboard for the first time. Welcome newcomers!

The Very Hungry Caterpillar is a classic story by Eric Carle and everyone had fun ‘feeding’ the caterpillar before he made a cocoon and transformed into a beautiful butterfly.

Waves in the Bathtub by Eugenie Fernandes was enjoyed by both children and parents alike. We made big waves on the bus using just a simple blue shower curtain and stuffed toy ocean creatures to bring the story to life. This story can easily be told at home with items you already own.

June is around the corner and we will be reading and singing along with Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes. Children will see how Pete the Cat takes everything in stride when his new white shoes get stained with every step he takes. You can sing the song with your children when things don’t go according to plan, and they’ll soon realize that ‘it’s all good.’

The week of June 13 -16 is our final week before summer break and we  celebrate with a year end party at each of the 10 sites. Join us with your children, aged 6 and under, for fun outdoor activities (including a take home craft) and say farewell to the Edmonton C.O.W. Bus until the fall. A free book will be given to every child who attends. Please come and feel free to bring a friend with their young children!

Visit the Centre for Family Literacy website for more information and the Edmonton C.O.W. Bus schedule. The website will be updated with the fall start date when available so don’t forget to check back and put the date on your calendar!

# 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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