Drawing on Strengths

LTGT-2

One of the guiding principles of family literacy programs is that every family comes with their own strengths, no matter what culture or socio-economic background they are from.

Learn Together – Grow Together is one of our family literacy programs for parents and caregivers and their children ages 3-5 years old. The program encompasses a variety of activities that range from sharing stories and rhymes, to gym time, free play, crafts and games. Parents learn ways to help their children in the early stages of reading and writing.

I’ve been involved in the program for several years and have worked with many different families. The beauty of having the families attend for a minimum of one 10-week session is that it gives me the opportunity to observe the strengths of each parent. Some love singing, while others enjoy making crafts. Some parents are great at running and roughhousing with their children during gym time, while others excel at calming their children when they are upset. Some parents enjoy sitting with their children to share a book, while others like helping their children build with blocks or put a puzzle together.

Parents may not be aware of the variety of strengths they already possess. Although they shouldn’t be afraid to learn and try new things, parents should  be proud of what they are able to accomplish with their children already.

I’ve seen many parents open up and share their own parenting stories and experiences with the other parents, encouraging each other on their parenting journey. A local program like Learn Together – Grow Together is a good way to connect with other parents. You never know what new strengths you may develop, or how you may be able to encourage another parent!

For more about the Learn Together Grow Together program, visit the Centre for Family Literacy website at ww.famlit.ca

 

6 Benefits of Hands-on Learning

Hands-onA statement that you will hear again and again at the Centre for Family Literacy programs is, “Literacy develops in families first.” Parents are their children’s first, and best, teachers. Yes, that’s right, the best. Who knows your children better than you? Who loves your children better than you? Who has more patience, more desire to see success, more invested in your children’s future, than you.

Literacy skills are learned together. Whether it is through teaching your children the basic building blocks of communication, or learning how to be better skilled at teaching your children, you are all a part of the learning process. Siblings can learn from each other, and as we grow as parents we learn as much from our children as they do from us. Our parents and grandparents have much to offer as well. Experiencing life with a hands-on approach is more than just beneficial for the children—it is fun for everyone and creates long-lasting memories; it strengthens bonds that will benefit the family for many years to come.

Hands-on learning is gained by actually doing something rather than learning about it from books or demonstrations, etc.

The following are some of the benefits of hands-on learning as a family:

1.  Fun

Children love being hands-on with everything, and a lot of parents do too! Hands-on activities increase our motivation to “discover.” Your children will be more enthusiastic and pay more attention to their activities. Learning becomes a by-product of discovery. Hands-on learning works because it involves each of the learning styles: visual (see it), auditory (hear it), or kinesthetic (do it). Young children typically do not have a preference and benefit from using methods from each style.

2.  Creativity

Working on a project is the perfect opportunity to highlight your children’s creative skills. Offer some guidance and a lot of raw materials, and let your children be free to create an original product that reflects their own ideas of the theme or concept being explored.

Warning to parents: be careful not to diminish the creative aspect of hands-on learning by over planning, over managing, or by unrealistic expectations. The finished product needs to be your children’s and not your own. For example, if they want, let them use their own drawings instead of the lovely colour images you printed from the Internet. The learning is in the process of creativity; do not place importance on the final product.

One key element of discovering one’s creativity is boredom. Some of the most brilliant ideas have come from people who had the time to experience boredom, which led to discovering their own creativity. Allowing children to be “bored” and not having to direct them to be creative will have larger benefits in the long run!

3.  Retention

It has been proven through educational research that students will have a vivid and lasting understanding of what they DO much more than what they only hear or see. Make sure that your project/activity can tie into the idea/book/concept you are presenting. As you are creating, use rich language to remind your children WHY you are doing this activity. The project gives them a concrete, visible foundation for learning the abstract concepts you want them to learn. (Which again reminds us why the process is more important than the final product.)

4.  Accomplishment

Persevering through a project and seeing it to completion gives your children a great sense of accomplishment. Seeing your children’s pride in a job well done is worth the trouble of organizing and cleaning up a hands-on project.

5. Review

This one is wonderfully tied to the sense of accomplishment. Your children will love to look at their hands-on projects again and again. By doing so, they are reviewing what they learned! When a relative or friend comes to visit and your son pulls out his model ship, he again reviews what he learned. This review fosters memory retention!

6.  Family Literacy

Your children can work together on a hands-on project, but if you have only one child you can work together. This cooperation, this working together, is what being a family is. Doing hands-on projects, whether you’re making puzzles, building games or forts, or creating a craft, creates family memories and strong relationships; it creates your own family language of shared experiences and discovery.

Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”
– Benjamin Franklin

If you would like information on our family literacy programs, please visit our website at www.famlit.ca

 

 

Sharing Stories vs. Reading Stories

Fam_Lit044Here at the Centre for Family Literacy we like to talk about sharing books with children as opposed to just reading books to them.

When you are sharing a book, as opposed to reading it, it becomes interactive. It becomes much more than just reading the words on the page. Two ways to do this are:

  • Ask open-ended questions such as “What are they doing in this picture?” or “What do you think is going to happen next?” This encourages children to stop and think about what is on the page, to make connections to real life, and to really step inside the story.
  • Find ways to extend the story.

What does it mean to extend a story?

To extend a story is to build on it—to add activities that are related to the subject of the story. But why should we extend stories?

Children learn best by doing—by being active. When they’re being active they are using all five senses to learn, and these multi-sensory experiences build neural connections in the brain. If they are having fun, they will want to do it again and again, and this repetition makes the connections even stronger. This is how children gain the confidence needed to learn new things.

Simple summertime story extender

one dog canoeA great book to share in the summer is one of our favourites, One-Dog Canoe by Mary Casanova.

In One-Dog Canoe, a girl and her dog set out on a canoe trip, just the two of them, when one by one they are approached by other creatures like Loon, Wolf and Moose, who want to join in on the fun.

I set off one morning in my little red canoe.
My dog wagged his tail.
“Can I come, too??
“You bet, I said.
“A trip for two – just me and you?”

It doesn’t take long before this canoe trip becomes a little more crowded!

“I swished past ferns,
where dragonflies flew.
Loon stretched her wings, “Can I come too?”

What you’ll need:

  • The book One-Dog Canoe
  • Stuffed animals or toys to match the characters: Beaver, Loon, Wolf, Bear, Moose, Frog, Dog, and Girl
  • A “canoe” made with construction paper or bark

(You can always improvise using what you have on hand.)

Give each child a character to hold on to (or multiple characters), and as each character comes up in the story, the child holding that character places it in the canoe. At the end of the story, there are too many animals in the canoe and it tips over, so act this out too by dumping out your canoe!

After the story we like to pair it with a song. Rhymes and songs are critical for developing oral language, and oral language is at the root of all future learning.

Try singing “Row Your Boat”

Row, row, row your boat,
Gently down the stream.
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,
Life is but a dream.

Row, row, row your boat,
Down a jungle stream.
If you see a crocodile,
Don’t forget to scream.
Ahh!

Row, row, row your boat,
Underneath a stream,
Ha, ha, fooled you,
I’m a submarine!
Bing!

Other ideas:

  • Act out the story using a big box, couch, or outdoor picnic table for the canoe
  • Bring a make-belief canoe into the bathtub
    • Experiment with what floats and what sinks
    • Ask “how many items will fit in your canoe before it tips over?”

Have fun sharing stories! For more ideas on how to make the most of your books, check out Flit, our family literacy app on the iTunes App store here!

 

Bathtub Fun on the C.O.W. Bus!

Waves in the Bathtub

A popular read on the Edmonton C.O.W. Bus is Waves in the Bathtub by Eugenie Fernandes. In this story, Kady takes her regular bath at night and sings the bathtub song about all of the ocean creatures she pretends are in the tub with her. From pelicans to large whales, Kady imagines many different creatures.

To extend this story and involve the children on another level, we have stuffed toys of all the creatures she pretends are in the bath with her. We use an inexpensive blue shower curtain as the ocean. This way each child can grab hold of the ocean by the edges and help make the waves in the bathtub for Kady.

As we progress through the story, each creature is eventually put into the ocean to swim in the waves with her. Both the children and the adults pick up the tune fairly quickly as it is catchy and repetitive.

A parent can have their own conversation with their children about what creatures they would like to pretend to swim with in the the ocean. Maybe the children are huge fans of the Ogopogo or sea horses. The song and story can be created entirely by children using their own imaginations and the props they may already have at home.

And with the mom in the book hopping into the bath at the end of the story and singing the same song, parents can create their personal version too!

Get the tune for the song from the following video, and see how we use it on the bus.

 

Why not join us for some fun on the Edmonton C.O.W. bus! Here’s our schedule

 

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

Making Book Sharing Time Count

Family reading in bed.You may have heard that we should be reading to children every day. Some articles will even urge parents to read to their children a minimum of 15 minutes or half an hour every day. This isn’t bad advice, and it’s not even a bad target to shoot for, but I’m not sure how realistic it is for everybody. I would argue that quality matters more than quantity when it comes to sharing books.

Babies, toddlers, pre-schoolers, and the rest of us learn best when we are comfortable and happy. If you try to share books with children when they are tired, in pain, hungry, or otherwise uncomfortable, they will probably resist and quickly become frustrated with your attempts. Our brains operate very differently when we’re scared or upset, and learning necessarily takes a backseat to the desire to feel safe again. So, if your goal is to give your children a lifelong love of reading, do not insist on book sharing when your children have clearly had enough. You want them to associate book sharing with good feelings and not fighting and tears.

Those moments when you can spend one-on-one time with your children are very special, and as much as our organization exists to promote literacy, books are not the only thing that children need. So don’t be too concerned if they don’t want to read all of the time. Playing together, snuggling, making weird noises, and exploring the community are all valuable and worthy pursuits. Add to that all of your daily meals, sleep, work and errands, and some days you might be lucky to find 5 minutes to read together, and that’s still incredibly valuable.

One last thing: asking young children, and especially babies, to pay attention for a long time is often asking too much. If your book sharing time is split up into 15 one-minute chunks, that is no less valuable than one 15-minute session. Look for when the reading opportunities present themselves rather than try to force it to happen at any particular time.

Whether you are reading to calm your children and get them ready to sleep, or to goof around and have some fun, you want book sharing to be a positive experience for both you and your children. That way no matter how often you actually get the chance to read together, it will be something that you both look forward to and benefit from.

Books for Babies Edmonton program schedule

hashtag: #books_for_babies

Family Literacy Fun with Food

Happy small boy crafts with scissors, paper, glue

On the Alberta Prairie Classroom on Wheels bus, we like to emphasize that anything can become a family literacy activity, as long as you do it together. And one thing that every parent has to do at some point? Grocery shopping!

One of the many activity ideas on the flit! app recently released by the Centre for Family Literacy is the “Picture Grocery List”, found under the “Crafts” tab:

  • Make a grocery list, and leave space for a picture
  • Look for the food item in a flyer
  • Help your little one cut the picture out and glue it beside the item on the list
  • Let them scribble their version of the word beside it
  • Go shopping together!

This might also have the added bonus of keeping your child focused on the healthy items you actually need, rather than the potentially unhealthy snacks and cereals they want.

To further extend the learning, why not turn unloading groceries into another literacy activity by sorting your fruits and vegetables into bins, by colour, shape or size.

Go Go GrapesGrocery shopping activities also serve as a great segue into reading about food. Try Go, Go Grapes! A Fruit Chant by April Pulley Sayre—a picture book all about the different colourful fruits available at the grocery store:

Rah, rah, raspberries! Go, go, grapes!
Savor the flavors. Find fruity shapes!
Blackberries. Blueberries. Bag a bunch.
Strawberry season? Let’s munch-a-munch!

How did that - lunchboxOr, how about the non-fiction book Who Put That in my Lunchbox? by Chris Butterworth. It’s all about the steps involved in producing the food we eat, as well as some information on health tips and food groups.

As you’re reading a book about food together, talk about what items in the book you saw in the grocery store, or what items you brought home to eat.

As you can see, family literacy activities don’t have to be elaborate; in fact, it’s often better if you simply build on what you’re already doing together as a family to get the most out of each experience.

Check out our new family literacy app for more ideas on everything from books and games to crafts and cooking.

Link to more information or to download the flit! app

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

Alberta Prairie C.O.W. newsletters (with more crafts to do with your children)

hashtag: #ab_cow

 

Extending Stories

The MittenHow often do we read through a children’s book and just put it down and leave it? In Learn Together Grow Together, we recently shared Jan Brett’s book The Mitten. In this winter tale, a little boy dropped his mitten in the snow and it became a space to crawl into for many forest creatures.

In order to take the story further, the program facilitators decided to add activities for the parents and children based on the story.

Find the Mittens:

We had a number of different coloured mittens hidden around the classroom. The parents worked together with their children to find all of the mittens.

Rhymes and Songs:

We sang some rhymes and songs about winter and mittens.

I’m a Little Snowman (to the tune of “I’m a Little Teapot”)

I’m a little snowman, short and fat 
Here are my buttons, here is my hat 
When the sun comes out, I cannot stay 
Cause I just slowly melt away!

Pet Snowball Song (to the tune of “I have a little bicycle”)
I made myself a snowball 
Just as perfect as could be. 
I thought I’d keep it as a pet 
And take it home with me. 
I gave it some pajamas 
And a pillow for its head. 
Then, last night it ran away, 
But first . . . . it wet the bed!

Snowey Pokey (to the tune of “Hokey Pokey”)
You put your right mitten in, you take your right mitten out, 
You put your right mitten in and you shake it all about. 
You do the Snowey pokey and you turn yourself around. 
That’s what it’s all about. 
Continue with additional verses:
You put your left mitten in 
You put your scarf in
You put your right boot in 
You put your left boot in
You put your hat in 
You put your snowself in
etc.

Gym Activities:

We had newspaper crunched up into balls and wrapped in packing tape. We pretended that the crunched up newspaper and tape were snowballs. The families practiced throwing their snowballs into baskets and played with them on a parachute.

For the Parents:

On 10-15 strips of paper, the parents wrote out and summarized the events of the story. We had parents whose first language is not English, so they wrote out their story summaries in other languages! By completing this activity, the parents were encouraged to use recall and comprehension skills (which is an activity the parents can do with their children with any story).

For the Parents and Children:

The children coloured in pictures of all the animals in The Mitten, and the parents helped their little ones cut out the pictures. There was also a paper cut-out of a mitten into which DSCN1033-cls-weball of the animals could go – just like in the story! The children were able to reenact the story, or make up a new one, with the animals.

These are just a few, simple ways in which a story was “extended,” and I’m sure there are many more ways to extend The Mitten. Next time you share a story with your children, try to find an activity or two to build on it. There are so many fun and interactive ways to bring a story to life!

If you have tried extending a story before, what activities did you use? We would love to hear what they were!

More about Learn Together – Grow Together or to register for the program

hashtag: #LT_GT

Celebrate the New Year with 3,2,1, FUN!

321Happy New Year! 2016 is shaping up to be a busy year for our early numeracy program – 3,2,1, FUN! We are  growing and expanding the program to three locations in Edmonton. This is very exciting both for the program and for the new families that we will learn and grow with along the way.

Here are a few things to look forward to with 3,2,1, FUN! this year:

  • 3,2,1… BLAST OFF into space with your own homemade spaceship counting game
  • bring a favourite story to life when we create a story board from scratch
  • put the recipes in order and tempt your taste buds with some sweet treats
  • explore snow like you have never done before
  • put the pieces of the puzzle together as you create your own numeracy games from recycled materials
  • get lost on a treasure hunt
  • explore numbers with all five of your senses

We are looking forward to sharing new ideas with our returning families, and meeting new families as the program expands. 3,2,1, FUN! offers your family the opportunity to explore numbers in a hands on way that is both meaningful and fun. Following is the upcoming schedule:

Brookside Community Hall
5320 143 Street NW, Edmonton
Tuesdays 1:00 pm – 2:30 pm
January 12 – March 15

Primrose Place Family Centre
6311 92 Avenue NW, Edmonton
Wednesdays 10:00 am – 11:30 am
February 10 – March 16

One World… One Centre
12050 95A Street NW, Edmonton
Thursdays 9:30 am – 11:30 am
April 7 – June 16

Please phone the Centre for Family Literacy at 780-421-7323 for more information, or visit our website www.famlit.ca

hashtag: #321Fun

Reaching Out After the Season

RTBAt this time of year there is a lingering festive atmosphere as people are slow to get back into their pre-holiday routines. Many people are still with their families and friends, extending the holiday seasons.

Though the holidays are over for many of us, we still need other people in our lives to thrive and be well. Being around other people makes us happy, and when we are happy we are more fun to be around, creating an “upward spiral “of happiness! Happy people are more helpful, pleasant, and sociable.

Belonging to a group or a community gives us a sense of identity. Community helps us to understand who we are and feel part of something larger than ourselves.

Rhymes that Bind creates both happiness and a sense of community every session. Join us for one session and you will be hooked. Our programs are beginning the week of January 12 throughout the city.

Along with our regular programming, we have Intergenerational (children, parents and seniors together) and Multicultural programming.

Our programs give newcomers an opportunity to make connections and friendships. Rhymes that Bind can help new moms build their own little community that reaches outside our programming.

Here is a great little song to help get you thinking about the week of January 12, 2016:

The More We Get Together
The more we get together, together, together.
The more we get together the happier we will be.
Cause your friends are my friends and my friends are your friends.
The more we get together the happier we will be!

Check our website for more information about Rhymes that Bind in Edmonton and find a program near you.

hashtag: #RTB_Edm