Conversations with Babies

Baby loveThere are behaviours that babies are born with, like reflexes and how they are naturally drawn toward faces, but if you want your baby to grow up into someone who can tell you things and understand the things you tell them, then you need to talk with them.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when you chat with your baby:

  • Babies aren’t very talkative to start, but they are excellent listeners
  • Share your thoughts with your baby, talk about the things you are doing, or tell stories
  • Even before their first words, leave room for them to respond, and reply to their babbles and coos to help them learn about the pattern of conversation
  • Speak and sing to your babies in however many languages you speak. Babies are super good at picking up additional languages if they are learning them from the people in their lives
  • Babies don’t always want to talk. If they look like they’ve had enough, give them a break
  • On the other hand, don’t ignore your baby when they’re trying to talk to you. When you respond, you are letting them know they’re on the right track for developing speech
  • Maintain eye contact and use facial expressions
  • Babies are using cues from your lips and mouth to learn about the sounds coming out of your face. They are simultaneusly learning to lip read!
  • Use expression in your voice, as much as your baby loves you and your voice, there is still such a thing as too boring

An extra note about that last point. You’ve probably noticed that people sound different when they talk to babies. They’ll use a high energy sing-song voice that usually makes babies smile. There are studies that show this helps babies to recognize the differences between different speech sounds, which is pretty cool. You might try to tone it down, but there’s evidence that we all do it on some level.

On another level, it’s one of the many ways that you can show your baby that you are engaging with them personally. You are reinforcing that back and forth communication with your baby is foundational for language development and brain development in general.

What works best for you? Does your baby particularly like entries from your old high school diary, or your celebrity impressions? Let us know in the comments!

You might also be interested in a Books for Babies program offered by the Centre for Family Literacy in Edmonton. Here’s a link to the webpage.

What is Emergent Literacy?

Mum playing with two children

Emergent Literacy is what children know about reading and writing before they can actually read or write. Strong early literacy skills are naturally the foundation for reading and writing later on. Children begin learning at birth—many agree even before birth—and continue learning long after school begins.

At the Centre for Family Literacy, we believe parents are their children’s first and best teachers. Emergent literacy skills are developed with experiences children have alongside an adult in their life guiding the way. Young children enjoy repeating favourite activities (for example reading, singing, and craft activities) with the ones they love. An adult such as a parent, grandparent, or other primary caregiver, that provides one-on-one experiences, can do more “teaching” than can be done in a group setting.

Children prepare for reading long before they can actually read or start school. Learning opportunities are best when they happen naturally in the everyday activities you do at home and in the community, including grocery shopping, doing chores, playing games, or travelling somewhere by car or bus. Letters and numbers are not only in books, they are everywhere!

Talk with them and explain things that you see and do. Before children can learn to read they must understand language. Sing and rhyme. (See below for tips for supporting emergent literacy.)

People tend to call children between the ages of 3 – 4 years preschoolers, although you have had them busy learning preschool lessons their whole lives up until now. Most preschoolers will be displaying their emergent literacy development by:

  • Enjoying stories read to them that they can retell afterwards
  • Beginning to understand that print carries a message to be decoded
  • Attempting to read aloud while looking at a book
  • Attempting to write or print on paper with a pencil or crayon
  • Participating in singing and rhyming
  • Identifying familiar print on signs to favourite stores or brand names
  • Identifying letters in their name, or family member’s names, and some sounds of those letters

iStock_000009413407XLarge-SMBy age 5, most children are beginning kindergarten and are becoming experts at:

  • Sounding like they are reading aloud while they look through a favourite book
  • Using descriptive language to explain or answer questions
  • Recognizing letter and sound matches
  • Understanding that print is read left to right and starts at the top of the page
  • Beginning to group letters and letter sounds together to form words
  • Beginning to match spoken words with written ones
  • Beginning to write stories with recognizable words

Tips for supporting emergent literacy in your family:

  • Attend community programs with your child such as the ones offered by the Centre for Family Literacy
  • Make book choices based on your child’s interests
  • Encourage your child to make predictions as the story is being shared with them, take time to pause and ask them what they think will happen next, or how a character feels etc.
  • Visit the library regularly
  • Give your child different materials that encourage drawing, scribbling, painting, cutting, and gluing. Learning can be messy work, but worth it!
  • Have fun with your child, play, and pretend! Let them lead the way in their play. They are used to following your rules every day, give them the key to imagination and follow them as they lead the way to creativity

Download Flit, our free literacy App, for fun activities you can do with your children at home to help develop emergent literacy! You’ll find the links on our website, or go directly to the App Store or Google Play.

Learn Together – Grow Together is a program in Edmonton by the Centre for Family Literacy for parents and their children ages 3 – 6 years. Families meet once a week for 3 ten-week sessions to learn about their children’s early learning and how to support literacy development, success in school, and lifelong learning. The sessions offer some adult only instruction and lots of parent-child together time for fun learning activities. Spaces are still available so register quickly. For more information visit the Centre for Family Literacy website, call 780-421-7323, or email info@famlit.ca

 

 

Autumn Provides Easy Literacy Lessons to Share with Your Kids

Leaves4

Autumn leaves are falling down, falling down, falling down,
Autumn leaves are falling down, red, yellow, orange and brown!

Rake them up and pile them high, pile them high, pile them high,
Rake them up and pile them high, till they reach the sky!

Just reading these simple words paints a vivid picture in my mind: being sent out to clean up the yard before the holiday guests arrived for dinner. They bring back childhood memories of working so hard to rake up leaves into giant mounds that called to me to drop my rake and jump in! I can almost smell the slightly sweet odour of decay and hear the crunch of the brittle brown leaves as I scattered all my hard work.

So many opportunities for building literacy skills can be found in the simple act of cleaning up the yard. You and your child can talk about:

  • all the different colours and shapes of leaves you find
  • how the wind sounds as it blows through the leaves still clinging to the branches
  • why some plants lose their leaves while others stay green year-round
  • the different textures of the leaves—some brittle, some pokey, some soft and flexible
  • how many empty bags will be needed
  • what happens when it gets cold—where do the bugs go
  • why do the days seem shorter and so much more!

Literacy is about so much more than just reading a book or writing a letter. It encompasses learning vocabulary and how to put the words together to get an idea across, problem solving on your own or working together to find a solution, learning the meaning of our numbers—the one to one correspondence of word, numeral and object.

Autumn also means Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and literacy is embedded in the preparation and sharing of the meal. Talk with your children about:

  • recipes that have been tweaked just that much to make them unique to your family
  • how many more chairs will be needed so everyone has a seat
  • what is the true meaning of Thanksgiving and why do we celebrate it in the fall
  • the difference between a yam and a sweet potato
  • family traditions that have been passed down over the ages
  • how many pieces that pumpkin pie has to be cut into!

In our Literacy Links workshops, we focus on how you can find literacy in just about everything you do. We help adults, parents, and caregivers discover the many simple activities they can do at home and out in the community that support and build numeracy and literacy skills. As for me, I am going to go back to painting some pictures!

I made a jack-o-lantern for Halloween night,
He has three teeth, but he doesn’t bite,
He has two eyes, but he doesn’t see,
He’s a happy jack-o-lantern, as you can see!

Please visit the Centre for Family Literacy website for more information about Literacy Links workshops. If you are interested in either hosting or attending a workshop, please call the Centre, 780.421.7323

 

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

iStock_321FUN

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.

Say Hello to the New COW on the Block!

COW-SummerThe Classroom on Wheels (COW) Bus will be the ‘new kid on the block’ this coming October, with four new locations in Edmonton. Maple Ridge, Rundle Heights, Baturyn, and Walker are the newest communities we have added to our roster, and we’ll be welcoming both new and familiar families back in six other neighbourhoods. If you’re nearby you’re welcome to come aboard—you’ll have a blast bonding with your little ones while sharing books and singing songs!

The COW bus is a FREE drop-in program for parents and their children from birth to 6 years old, that helps support family learning. You can:

  • borrow books for free
  • share books and  puzzles with your child
  • listen to stories and songs
  • win free books

We have so many wonderful books for you to borrow, with no late fees. Come listen to stories and songs that will soon become family favourites! But we need you and your family to help bring these stories to life and build excitement!

Duck RabbitOne of our many favourites is Duck, Rabbit by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld, “a clever take on the age-old optical illusion: is it a duck or a rabbit? Depends on how you look at it! Readers will find more than just Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s signature humour here, there’s also a subtle lesson for kids who don’t know when to let go of an argument. A smart, simple story that will make readers of all ages eager to take a side, Duck! Rabbit! makes it easy to agree on one thing, reading it again!”

The fun starts October 3rd with weekly stops at 10 locations. Visit the Centre for Family Literacy website to find out when the bus will be in your area.

See you in October!

 

Pick up a Book and Get Active?

A little counter-intuitive, isn’t it? For me, reading a book means finding a comfortable spot to curl up without distractions. How do you get active with something that’s typically relaxing?

All I can say is that it’s a good thing literacy isn’t just about reading a book. It can be about many activities, including:

Rhymes and songs help build vocabulary and a foundation in language necessary for future literacy learning, and they are a lot of fun!

In my small town, we have an amazing program team that comes up with activities for kids to participate in all summer. One activity is based on the television show “Mantracker.” (Here’s the link for those of you who have never seen it: http://www.mantracker.ca/)

My kids were given a map and a legend for checkpoints where their team had to get a flag. If our summer programmer—all dressed in camouflage with fake leaves and everything—caught them, they had to give up a flag.

Not only did my kids have fun, but what a great way to engage in a literacy activity around maps and legends! Linking it to the popular show ensured the activity was well attended and the kids knew what to expect.

This summer when kids are bored, or become couch potatoes stuck to an electronic device—with the usual excuses of “my friends aren’t home,” or “it’s too hot outside,” (you know I could go on and on here)—challenge them to find a way to get active in literacy! They could make up their own “mantracker” game, find a skipping rope and rhymes, or put on a scavenger hunt.

The possibilities are endless and limited only by imagination. And you never know, someone may even enjoy reading a book while bouncing on a trampoline!

The Centre for Family Literacy has a free app called Flit, for parents of 0-6 year olds, that has plenty of fun and active literacy activities, available on both iOS and Android.

Watch a demo:

Click here for more information or to download the free iOS version of Flit

Click here for more information or to download the Android version

Centre for Family Literacy website

How to Add the Fun of a Scavenger Hunt into Everyday Activities

I’m sure there are many sticklers who would argue that what I’m suggesting here is not a real scavenger hunt, but let’s skip past the dictionary definitions and focus on how you can incorporate the fun of a scavenger hunt into everyday activities.

Dad & daughter

YOU CAN SEARCH FOR ANYTHING

You can make a list of specific things to find, or try to see how many things you can find that fit a certain category. Personally, I’m a fan of categories and descriptions because they are great for developing vocabulary and they require a lot less preparation. Here are a few examples:

  • colours
  • sounds
  • shapes
  • words or letters (or things that start with a letter or sound)
  • movements (things that roll, fly, bounce, walk, slide, never move…)
  • sizes (what things are huge? what can you find with a magnifying glass?)
  • textures
  • groups of things (things found in pairs, 3s, 4s, 5s…)
  • things that fit a theme (tools, animals, plants, wet things, things that rhyme…)

YOU CAN SEARCH ANYWHERE

Really, anywhere:

  • outside (what do you notice: walking down the street, on the bus, in the park, around a pond, at the zoo…)
  • at home (in a particular room or searching the whole house)
  • in other buildings (the garage, the grocery store, a greenhouse, the library, the post office…)
  • in books, magazines, and newspapers (newspapers are great for finding words and letters, and you might be amazed how many things they can remember seeing in the books you have shared together)
  • in your imagination (very handy when you run out of things to spot on long car rides)
  • in the garbage (maybe you’re learning about recycling or composting?)

YOU DON’T NEED A LIST

While traditionally you start by handing out copies of a written list, a lot of young children don’t find that very helpful—most often you are reading the list to them. You can also use pictures with, or instead of, words, but that takes time; you are probably only going to do that for special occasions or with things you use all the time (like turning your grocery list into a scavenger hunt).

Some people like checking things off on a list, but I don’t understand the appeal myself. Instead, if you want to keep track of what you find in your search, you can draw together, take pictures, use the voice recorder on your phone, collect the items themselves in a bag/box/backpack/basket (half the fun is remembering where the things you collected came from), or scribe for them (they will love seeing their words in print).

Or, you can skip the list altogether. Just pick a category or theme and go exploring together to see what you can find, or take turns deciding what you’re going to look for next.

CONSIDER YOUR AUDIENCE

It’s easy to be overwhelmed if you think that a scavenger hunt needs to play out like the script to a blockbuster movie or an episode of a reality TV show. I’m not saying that wouldn’t add to the appeal, but young children are natural explorers. They will notice all kinds of things that you never thought to look for, and they bring a level of excitement to “let’s go find things that are red” that you rarely get from older kids or teenagers.

WHY ARE WE DOING THIS AGAIN?

  • It’s fun!
  • You can encourage the children to be more observant and methodical. Often children forget to look everywhere, or they take a running approach to everything. By looking for things together, you can teach them some helpful strategies, like how to slow down or form a plan before you start looking.
  • We are building vocabulary! If your little one is starting to read, then circling all the words they recognize by sight on a newspaper page is great practice.
  • As exciting as it can be, this can also be really relaxing. How often do you take the time to look for shapes in the clouds? Or really listen to all the sounds in your neighbourhood?
  • There are all kinds of categories, themes, and ideas that you can explore with these kinds of activities, so you’re helping them develop a broader, deeper, and more coherent worldview.
  • If you are missing a few things (your keys for example) this can be a sneaky way to recruit some help. I’m kidding, but not really. If you approach everyday tasks in a playful manner, you can keep the kids engaged, help them learn, still get everything you need done, and have fun doing it.

If you are interested in family literacy resources, or programs in Edmonton, please visit the Centre for Family Literacy website at www.famlit.ca

APPsolutely Amazing!

placeit (4)As one of the developers of our Flit (Families Learning and Interacting Together) app, I am amazed and humbled at the support and feedback we have received since Flit was first launched on Family Literacy Day in January, 2016. Here are some of the things we’ve heard:

 

  • “Simple activities that are fun and able to be enjoyed by kids. Would recommend this app to any parent, in particular stay at home dads who need a bit of inspiration around activities, reading, and crafting. Fantastic for kids.” (5/5 Stars)
  • “What a great app to support literacy activities with the kids! Easy to use, provides great resources for parents to reference when looking for ideas to support a child’s reading, singing, etc.”
  • “Helpful and easy to use! I love this app! For those of us who are sleep deprived, tools like these are invaluable! The layout is easy to understand and use and the songs/rhymes are engaging and definitely promote language! Can’t wait to see what else the Centre for Family Literacy comes up with next!”

The app was even reviewed by Montreal Families! Read the review titled “Free mobile app aims to boost literacy in kids.”

Here’s an excerpt: “Created by the Centre for Family Literacy, an organization that develops educational programs in Alberta, Flit (families learning and interacting together) is a phone and tablet application that offers 116 activities parents and kids can do together to enhance literacy skills. These include reading, writing, numbers, cooking, games, rhymes and crafts.

Although it is an app, the intention isn’t for kids to spend more time with technology. Rather, it suggests day-to-day activities that teach kids about numbers or words in a fun way…

And to top it off (at least for me), we were contacted by a researcher who is going to recommend Flit in her project with the National Center on Parent, Family, & Community Engagement at the University of Washington. They are trying to identify resource information for parent engagement with early language and literacy, and were focusing on digital resources and apps when they came across Flit.

In addition to this amazing feedback, we also have some numbers about how people are using it, how many, and how often. Our partner in this venture, Punchcard Systems, is impressed with how the app has done and had this to say:

We’ve reached a great deal of users (3519 – across 76 countries), and they’ve spent a crazy amount of time inside the application (405 hours), not to mention that since the application is designed to try and give people a spring board, 5 minutes in the application might be a whole day of fun and learning for parents and kids.”

This has been, and continues to be, an exciting venture for Centre for Family Literacy. We are looking forward to hearing your feedback either by reviewing the app itself or by leaving a comment here. Watch for an update with new activities coming very soon!

Here’s a screenshot of the homepage:

IMG_7891-s

Flit is FREE and available for both Apple and Android devices.

More information or to download from the Apple App Store!

More information or to download from Google Play!

Watch a video demo of the app.

Read our blog “Flit the App: Fun Literacy Activities to do WITH your 0-5 Year Old!

Read our blog “Teaching Your Child Literacy and Numeracy: There’s an App for That!”

Visit the Centre for Family Literacy website for more resources.

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

Press Here3

MixItUp

 

Touch the Brightest Star and Tap the Magic Tree by Christie Matheson

Touch the Brightest StarTap the Magic Tree

 

Don’t Touch this Book! and Don’t Push the Button! by Bill Cotter

Don't Touch this BookDon't Push this Button

 

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.

 

MOOOve Over Winter – the C.O.W. Bus is ready for spring!

Join us on the bus and help us celebrate all things spring! This season is about new beginnings and we have plenty of new songs, stories, and toys to keep you and your family busy and actively learning all spring. We will be getting a visit from the tickle monster, reading about hunting for eggs, and singing about spring rain and garden snails.

TickleMonster Book If your toddler or pre-schooler loves to be tickled, this book, with the loveable extra-terrestrial, will be a big hit. “A loveable monster has just flown in from Planet Tickle on a mission to tickle any child who happens to be following along with the Tickle Monster book. Parents read aloud and do the tickling, while children laugh and squirm with delight.”

Great Easter Egg HuntHere is a sneak peek at another one of the fun books we’ll be reading—you’ll want to read this one over and over again as it is jam-packed with surprises and hidden messages. “With its suspenseful treasure-hunt plot, this magical picture book set in the land of the Easter bunnies offers more than 200 hidden objects to find, puzzles to solve, and intriguing clues that lead to a surprise ending—a meeting with the Great Easter Bunny himself!”

One of the spring songs we’ll be singing:

Five Garden Snails

Five garden snails
Sleeping in the sun,
Along comes a (yellow) bird,
And flies away with one.

Four garden snails
Sleeping in the sun,
Along comes a (blue) bird,
And flies away with one.

(Continue with Three, Two, and One garden snail, changing the colour of the bird each time)

Action:

  1. Select 5 children to be the snails
  2. For lines 1 and 2 the snails lie curled up sleeping
  3. Select a child from the rest of the group wearing the appropriate colour to be the bird and fly away with a snail.

You can use your new spring songs while digging in the garden, splashing in puddles, or walking through your neighbourhood. Stories and songs are a great way to support language development with your children, while having fun and creating memories.

Here are two more ways to learn with your children and try something new this spring:

Tissue Paper Decorated Eggs

Easter Egg Slime

Check out the Centre for Family Literacy website to find out when the bus is in your area, or for more information!