Write Away

iStock_write
Family Literacy is about more than the ability to read, it’s about having the skills needed to build a strong foundation for future learning and lifelong success. One of those foundational skills is the ability to write. Writing will be needed to communicate effectively in the classroom, in the workplace, and more. It is also a form of self-expression that can really help us sort through our thoughts, feelings, and ideas.

Pre-Writing

In the pre-writing stage, your children will need help understanding that writing is connected to reading, and that writing is a way to communicate information through symbols.

At this stage, they will show emergent writing skills through scribbles, drawing pictures, copying symbols, drawing lines and circles, and attempting to write their name.

It is easy to practice writing with your children throughout your day.

  • Make sure they have easy access to pens, pencils, crayons, and paintbrushes so your children can develop the fine motor skills needed for writing. Keep the supplies all in one place with some paper
  • Encourage your children’s drawing as it helps them to express their stories and ideas. Ask them to “write” down what it is
  • Point out environmental print (such as billboards, signs, cereal boxes) every chance you get so they can see how writing relates to everyday life. For more on this topic, read our blog Build Pre-Reading Skills with Environmental Print
  • Help them learn the letters in their name
  • Help your children label items around the house (such as lunch boxes and toys)
  • Use play dough to make letter shapes
  • Create a shopping list and menu using pictures from flyers. Have them “write” what it is next to the picture
  • Spend time finger painting and colouring
  • Sing rhymes and songs that use actions to develop finger strength. For example:

One little finger,
One little finger,
One little finger,
Tap, tap, tap!
Put your fingers up!
Put your fingers down!
Put them on your nose!

Chalk

  • Go outside and let them loose with some sidewalk chalk. (Pair this with Chalk, a wordless book by Bill Thomson)

Beginning Writers

For those a little further along, try these activities:

  • Writing with chalk2Writing prompts. For example:

“Imagine you have been shrunk to the size of a mouse. What would you see? How would objects around you look?”

or

“If you could make anything come to life just by drawing it, what would you draw?” (Also pair this activity with the wordless book Chalk by Bill Thomson). Read our blog Reading Books Without Words for more about wordless books.

  • With your children, make a homemade book for them to write in. For more information, see our blog Homemade Book Making
  • Make a photo album story book and have your children write the story. (You can always write the translation!) Find out how: Scrapbooking Your Way to Essential Skills
  • Write letters and valentines to loved ones

Helping your children to build their writing skills means giving them ample opportunity to practice. Weave these activities into your normal routine and write away!

For early literacy tip sheets, visit the Centre for Family Literacy website

 

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

Have Fun and Build Brains Using “Serve and Return”

More brain connections form in the first six years of life than at any other time, and the more you use these connections the stronger they get. Brain connections are built on a foundation of “serve and return” interactions. Serve and return refers to give-and-take —healthy interaction that goes both ways. For example, if your baby “serves” by smiling at you, you “return” by smiling back. By doing this, you are showing baby that you understand them and they matter; you are giving them the feedback they need to learn.

TheBigAnimalMix-upReading a story together is a great example of a serve and return activity, and many have an interactive nature built right into them. On the Alberta Prairie C.O.W. Bus we love The Big Animal Mix-up, a lift-the-flap book by Gareth Edwards and Kanako Usui. It has bright pictures, humour, and a lot of rhythm and rhyme. In the story, Little Bear’s dad tries to teach him about animals: “Hello Little Bear, here’s a story for you, that’s all about animals and what they can do.” Only as the title suggests, they’re all mixed up! He has snakes mixed up with birds, and mice mixed up with whales, now Little Bear (and your child) have to set the record straight.

Here is a bird. It slithers around. And slides through the jungle with a soft hissing sound.”

“Hang on a minute! You made a mistake. If it hisses and slithers it must be a..… [open flap] SNAKE!”

We never tire of this book, but remember that any book can be made interactive by talking about the pictures, having the child help you with the story, asking open-ended questions, and relating the story to real life.

Building brain connections through serve and return has a big impact on the rest of a child’s life, providing the solid foundation needed for language and emotional health. But don’t forget to have fun while doing it!

Alberta Prairie C.O.W. Bus information and schedule

hashtag: #ab_cow

Rhymes that Bind is . . .

Rhymes that Bind is Engaging

Multicultural Rhymes programs build community; one small community happens on Thursday mornings in Edmonton at the Africa Centre, 13160 -127th Street, Early Learning Room between 11:00 am and 12:00 pm. The group comes together once a week for ten weeks.

(Other Rhymes that Bind programs happen throughout the city. You’ll find the link to our website and the program schedule at the end of this blog.)

Music has a strong cultural component; songs and rhymes are passed down from  generation to generation. We also integrate our regular songs, and rhymes of action, body parts, tickle, and lullabies, with Arabic and French songs.

An Urdu children’s song that we are learning is about an eggplant and a potato! It is a humorous song that the boys in the video below know well and enjoy teaching to the rest of us. It makes them very proud. They have great facial expressions and gestures to accompany the song.

 

We are also learning the French version of Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes.

Rhymes that Bind is Socialization

The program creates a bond between the parents and their children. The children learn the songs together and develop the confidence to take a favourite song home to share with a family member or friend. This allows them to express their independence, and they are so proud of their accomplishment!

Rhymes that Bind is Physical

Children love movement, they delight in it and require it for their well-being. Rhymes that Bind songs involve lots of movement which encourages the growth of fine and gross motor skills.

The all-time favourite is Zoom, Zoom, Zoom! I had a 14-month old little person requesting it on Monday at the Castle Down’s Library location! She comes to the program with her grandmother who is thrilled that her grandchild can make the hand motions.

Zoom, Zoom , Zoom

Zoom, Zoom, Zoom
We are going to the moon,
Zoom, Zoom we are going to the moon.
If you want to take a trip,
Climb aboard my rocket ship
Zoom, Zoom, Zoom we are going to the moon.

(lift your child up in the air like they are taking a trip to the moon)

Rhymes that Bind is Emotional

Rhymes that Bind lullabies are soothing and calming for parents, caregivers and grandparents alike. Lullabies have existed throughout human history and can be a way of promoting a child’s ability to self soothe.

Here is a favourite that uses “I Love You” in different languages.

I Love You!

I love you, I love you
All day long, I sing this little song to you.
I love you, I love you,
Darling I love you!
You can insert, Je ‘taime, Yo Te Amo

Rhymes that Bind is Language

Children are orientated to learning language and Rhymes that Bind is one of the best ways for them to learn it.

Listening skills are developed and strengthened through song. Songs are aural (hearing). Ears are one of the first body parts to fully mature before birth.

Repetition supports brain development; a child’s brain is especially active and wired to receive large amounts of new stimulation. The more often it is repeated the more likely it will be retained. It is natural for a child to go through a developmental phase where they request their favourite song, reciting or singing it over and over without getting bored.

Rhymes that Bind allows children to play with sounds and words while increasing their vocabulary.

Rhyme and rhythm are powerful tools for developing language skills. Rhymes that Bind has it!

Please join us at a Rhymes that Bind program in your community. More information about Rhymes that Bind and our Edmonton program schedule here

hashtag: #RTB_Edm

Learn Together, Grow Together

LTGT-webLast week was the start to our latest 10-week session of Learn Together, Grow Together. The program is for parents and caregivers and their children ages 3 to 6 years old. While the adults learn about their children’s early learning, and how to support literacy development and success in school, it is also a good opportunity for the parents to brush up on their own literacy skills and connect with other parents of preschool children.

We begin each session with stories and singing, followed by gym time. Afterwards, we split the children and parents into separate learning groups, and finally, we bring them back together for fun parent-child learning activities.

During parent time for the next few weeks, we will explore “emergent literacy.” Emergent literacy is “the knowledge children have about reading and writing before they can actually read and write.”(http://www.kidsability.ca/en/LiteracyHandouts) We will encourage parents in their role as emergent literacy teachers for their own children.

How does a child gain this knowledge about reading and writing? What are some strategies parents can use to foster emergent literacy in their child?

Here are a few ideas to try together with your family:

  • Talk with your child. Your child will learn so much from positive language interactions with you.
    • Talk about what you see in a picture book, while at the grocery store, at the park, etc.
    • Explain to your child what you are doing, while you are doing it. For example, if you make cookies, talk about the different ingredients and what steps you have to take, or if you are paying bills, use the time to talk to your child about money and numbers.
    • Play card and board games together. Turn off the electronic devices and have fun playing a game where there is opportunity to speak with each other.
  • Sing and rhyme with your child. Sing songs and rhymes together as they provide opportunities to bond with your child as well as expand their vocabulary. You can always make up your own songs and rhymes too – your child will enjoy hearing your voice either way.
  • Visit your local library and take advantage of their book lending services.
  • Follow you child’s lead in their interests. For example, if they have an interest in animals, share books about animals, sing songs and rhymes about animals, and play games about animals. If you can, take a trip to a pet store, a farm, or a zoo; take the time to talk about everything you see and experience together.
  • Model positive literacy behaviours to your child. If your child sees your enjoyment of reading the newspaper, writing a shopping list, talking about the road signs you see, etc., they will think of these literacy activities as positive experiences.

Parents have such an important role in cultivating the knowledge of reading and writing in their child, even before they are actually about to read and write. There are so many opportunities to promote emergent literacy in a small child, simply by intentionally interacting with them and involving them in what you are already doing!

 

More about the Learn Together – Grow Together program

hashtag: #LT_GT