3,2,1,Fun! That’s Right, Numbers are Fun!

When we think of literacy, our minds go directly to reading and words. But literacy is more than words, it is the combination of many everyday skills that you may use without even thinking about or categorizing as literacy.

Numeracy is one such skill, and includes number sense, predictability, calendars, patterns and relationships, measurement, time, puzzles, problem solving, and shapes.

Using numeracy skills and teaching them to your children might be easier than you think. Numbers are everywhere! If you are baking, you can ask your child to help measure, and as they get older they can help double or halve the recipe. Making cookies, you can talk about the shapes, or place them in patterns on the cookie sheet before baking; circle, square, triangle… circle, square, triangle.

Using patterns and shapes to decorate Easter eggs is another great way to talk about colours and patterns. You can also count the eggs, making sure there are enough for the whole family, and that everyone gets the same amount. You can divide other Easter candies or jelly beans according to their colour, and make a pattern or even a jelly bean rainbow.

We all learn differently. Some learn best by reading, some through watching, and some through doing. Children are still finding their best learning style and therefore learn best by doing all three. Keeping this in mind, how might you adapt playing or chores into learning moments?

When possible, try to be aware of the language you are using, or not using, during play and chores. Think of yourself as the narrator; while narrating you are teaching your children language, self-expression, and building on their vocabulary.

Some good numeracy words to use throughout play and learning are:

  • ciircle, square, triangle
  • round, flat, curved, straight, corners
  • same, different, opposite
  • sorting
  • more, less
  • short, long, bigger, smaller

Some good questions to ask:

  • What comes next?
  • Which are the same? Why?
  • Which is different? Why?
  • Where would this go? Why?

While narrating you could also try to include a singing narrative. Singing and music help develop children’s brains and make stronger brain connections, leading to children who develop stronger literacy skills in life.

At the Centre for Family Literacy’s free 3,2,1,Fun! program, you will enjoy learning activities, tools, and tips to support your children in their early literacy development, which leads to success in school and lifelong learning.

If you are unable to access one of our programs, you can download our free parenting literacy resource app, Flit, from Google Play and the App Store. The app gives you over 100 fun literacy activities, recipes, games to do with your children, and tips and tricks to add to your parenting tool box.

You’ll find more information about 3,2,1,Fun! and Flit on our website at www.famlit.ca

 

Investing in Literacy is Good for Business

110616-F-TY749-009WHAT IS LITERACY?

Literacy is the foundation for all learning. An individual’s literacy level impacts their success in reading, writing, understanding, speaking, and listening. This impact extends to all areas of their life, including home, work, and community.

Family Literacy is the way parents, children, and extended family members use literacy at home, work and in the community. Family literacy is foundational to the overall wellness of an individual and their family.

Today, 45% of Albertans struggle with literacy.

Imagine the challenges that an individual will face on a daily basis—job applications, safety manuals, menus, prescriptions, instructions, signs, maps, etc.

Imagine the cost to society—to education, healthcare, social services, the criminal system, employers, the economy, you.

 

WHY BUSINESSES SHOULD INVEST IN LITERACY

A Statistics Canada survey found that lifting literacy scores by 1% could lift labour productivity by 2.5% and raise output per capita by 1.5%.

Companies who invest in family literacy workshops as part of their commitment to employee wellness are innovative and forward thinking. These companies are also smart investors because the increase of employee wellness in the workplace reduces costs and increases employee productivity.

Research shows that workplace programs that aim to do more than increase job-specific skills, that use functional materials from not only the workplace but also from home and community, are more effective than programs with a narrower scope. Family literacy activities and materials can enhance the effectiveness of workplace training.

Family Literacy helps to produce young adults, who are just entering the workforce, with the ability to read directions carefully and thereby reduce waste in the form of accidents and mistakes.

—Plant supervisor, Lucerne Foods

 

EMPLOYER BENEFITS OF INVESTING IN FAMILY LITERACY IN THE WORKPLACE:

Literacy for Business

  • Attract new employees
  • Better employee and client retention
  • Build diversity in skills and personnel
  • Improve employee morale and corporate culture
  • Reduce sickness and absenteeism
  • Enhance working relationships between colleagues and improved labour relations
  • Encourage employees to show more initiative and teamwork
  • Increase output, quality of work, and overall profitability
  • Improve health and safety records

 

EMPLOYER BENEFITS OF INVESTING IN FAMILY LITERACY IN THE WORKPLACE:

  • Earn more income
  • Employees feel supported and valued
  • Increase job satisfaction
  • Fewer occupational injuries
  • Have greater opportunities for job mobility
  • More likely to participate in further training
  • Greater economic security
  • Increase confidence and self-esteem
  • Increase social awareness and self-advocacy
  • Better able to support their children’s language, literacy, and numeracy development

Each dollar invested in a family literacy workshop goes twice as far, supporting early childhood development as well as adult basic and continued education.

This investment supports a family’s intergenerational cycle of achievement.

 

HOW THE CENTRE FOR FAMILY LITERACY CAN HELP

LitLinks5Employees with children often struggle to achieve a work/life balance. There simply are not enough hours in the day to do all the things we need to do and even less time to do the things we want to do. There is no doubt that parents feel guilty when they have reduced time to spend with their children and as a family. This “unbalance” can result in low performance at work and increased stress at home.

Our workshops support families to make the most of the time they have together. Each workshop identifies naturally occurring opportunities, already present in their routine, to support both the adult’s and children’s language, literacy, and numeracy development. We give participants the tools to recognize these opportunities and build on them, without adding any more to their day.

All of our workshops are hands-on and interactive. Participants work together and draw from their own life experiences as they work through challenges and explore activities, with the information and materials we bring. Participants will leave our workshops with the tools to support their children’s learning and development, and make the most of their time together as a family. Let’s bring back the balance!

Please contact the Centre for Family Literacy for more information on Literacy Links workshops: by email: info@famlit.ca, by phone: 780.421.7323, or visit our website

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.

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

Non-fiction Books Your Kids Will Love

I have been reading to my children since they were born, so I have noticed a real trend in their choices of non-fiction or fiction books. As babies, they wanted us to read non-fiction—books with real pictures of real things in their daily lives while they were getting to know their world.

Now that my oldest is preschool age, she prefers that we read fiction—stories that expand her ideas of whimsy and make-believe worlds, where princesses always live happily ever after and the super heros always win. She has lost interest in non-fiction books.

animal-teeth2Because of the research on the importance of reading non-fiction, I have been trying to find interesting topics for my daughter. When I came across the series of books “What if you had Animal…” (Feet, Teeth, Hair, or Ears) by Sandra Markle and Howard McWilliam, I knew right away she would love them.

The books combine fiction and non-fiction. They have pictures of real animals and information about their feet, teeth, hair or ears. But what makes the books fun is that they also have illustrated pictures of children with the same animal’s attributes. As you can see on this cover, the child has beaver teeth, which of course look hilarious to children.

The series allows children to read non-fiction literature to get facts and dive into a fantasy world at the same time! What a great bridge for readers to find their way back to non-fiction books. The series can be found on the Edmonton Literacy C.O.W. bus!

animal-feetMy daughter absolutely loves these books! We have read them so often that she can tell me what great super power, as she likes to call them, I would have if I had certain animal features. At the playground she commented that she would love to have kangaroo feet to  jump high over the fence and get to the park faster.

Since we have travelled with my daughter several times, she found an easy interest in maps of our country, continent and world. We have also been venturing into the career and cooking sections at the library.

Here are some ways to spark your children’s interest in non-fiction books:

  • Pursue their passions: do they have a love of dinosaurs or big monster vehicles? Use their current interests to encourage them
  • More is more: by offering a variety of non-fiction reading materials, you may find a format they prefer, such as books, magazines, newspapers, or atlases
  • Parents are their children’s best teachers: if you read a variety of literature, both fiction and non-fiction, and talk with your children about what you are reading, it is likely their interests will grow

Below are links to research on the importance of reading non-fiction books:

http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/dec12/vol70/num04/Nonfiction-Reading-Promotes-Student-Success.aspx

http://www.greatschools.org/gk/articles/non-fiction-why-its-important/

http://scholarworks.wmich.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1071&context=reading_horizons

http://www.education.com/reference/article/reasons-teaching-nonfiction/

http://uanews.ua.edu/2014/03/ua-matters-the-importance-of-reading-nonfiction-with-children/

The C.O.W. has Mice & Pretty Bugs in May!

Mouse_CountMay is full of mice on the bus. First we will be reading Mouse Count. In this charming companion to Mouse Paint, Ellen Stoll Walsh introduces the concept of counting forward and backward in a suspenseful story that will keep young readers guessing. We have some furry little props to add to this exciting story.

 

Lunch

Lunch is also on the bus this month. It’s time for lunch, and one little mouse is famished! In fact, he’s so hungry that once he starts eating, he can’t stop. He sinks his teeth into a crisp white turnip, gobbles up some orange carrots, devours an ear of yellow corn, and then tosses back some tender green peas. He’s full, but this mouse keeps on munching until his bulging belly won’t hold another bite. Come and see all the stuff author Denise Fleming has this little mouse devouring!

 

Butterflys2Still on the fun theme, we will be singing B.I.N.G.O. on the bus. We have some new puzzles and activities like “Who Knows Whose Nose,” and some giant bugs that snap together. We also welcome a kaleidoscope of beautiful butterflies in the bus this month. Join us for some great stories, fun activities, and pretty bugs!

You’ll find our Edmonton bus schedule here

hashtag: #edm_cow

 

What I Wish We had Done on our Summer Vacations

School is almost over, milestones have been celebrated, the last sport tournament is just around the corner, and thoughts turn to summer vacation – where to go, what to do, and how to fill the time between visits with family and friends. It is also important to think of ways to ensure that during this two-month break our children don’t forget everything they have learned in school.

When my girls were little, we always tried to take advantage of the many free and child friendly activities that happened over the summer. We:

  • joined the Summer Reading Club at the library. The girls picked up a week’s worth of books and rushed home to read them so they could be finished before we headed back to get the next week’s stickers
  • took the train downtown to the Street Performers Festival or the Klondike Days Parade
  • watched the Canada Day fireworks after spending most of the day at the Legislative grounds
  • planned the bus trip to Heritage Days and each of the girls chose what food item they wanted to bring for the Food Bank.

We often wondered through our neighbourhood with no specific destination in mind. It was a way to get out of the house and keep the kids active, but those walks would have been a perfect opportunity to practice their literacy skills without them even knowing. I wish I knew then what I know now. We could have:

  • played a game of street sign bingo – how many stop signs could they count on the way to the park or yield signs on the way to a play date, or what was the most unique sign found
  • searched for all the letters in their names on street or business signs
  • looked for all the numbers from one to ten, or the numbers in our phone number, in the numbers on the houses
  • sung a song about all the colours of the rainbow and looked for them in the beautiful flower gardens we passed along the way
  • planned ahead to make it to our local spray park before the mad lunch rush
  • discussed all the different shapes we could find like the octagon in the stop sign, the triangle in the giant slide, the rectangles made by doors, or the circles in the playground
  • named all the different animals we could see as the clouds passed by in the sky
  • counted how many steps it took to walk to the mailbox and back.

We also could have done more literacy activities at home. We could have:

  • used sidewalk chalk to encourage the kids to write and illustrate their own stories – each square in front of the house another page in their book
  • researched what flowers or veggies grow best in our area, then they could have planted their own to take care of over the summer
  • planned a back yard pool and sprinkler party and sent invitations to their friends
  • read the comics and then created our own.

There are so many opportunities at our fingertips to support and build on our children’s literacy skills – we just need to look at things with a different mindset. The next time you see a child scribbling on your sidewalk, take a minute to ask them about the story they are trying to tell.

 

Gender Imbalance in Children’s Books

Recently there have been a few articles written about the lack of female characters in children’s books. One article published by The Guardian, says “The messages conveyed through representation of males and females in books contribute to children’s ideas of what it means to be a boy, girl, man, or woman.” Thus, it is important to present positive images of females in children’s books.

A study, led by Janice McCabe, a professor of sociology at Florida State University, looked at almost 6,000 children’s books published between 1900 and 2000, and found that males were central characters in 57% of children’s books published each year, with just 31% having female central characters. Male animals are central characters in 23% of books per year, the study found, while female animals star in only 7.5%.

To make matters worse, even in modern classics many of the male and female characters are stereotypical and out-of-date.

While there may be more children’s books directed at male audiences, there are some great books for girls out there as well. The website http://www.amightygirl.com/ has some great book ideas to share!

Read the full article at http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/may/06/gender-imbalance-children-s-literature

 

Play! Have fun and learn

PLAY! A simple word with so much meaning. How unfortunate that as we get older we forget how important it is to stop and have fun. Play.

Play is how children learn. They learn movement through play; they build the core muscles and develop their large motor skills — essential before perfecting the small motor skills they will later need for holding a pencil and commanding it on paper.

Crawling, rolling, spinning, jumping, hopping and skipping are all part of big body play. Being messy while learning to feed yourself, creating with playdough (rolling, kneeding), finger painting, building with blocks and finger tapping to melodies are all part of small body play. For a child, all of these skills are critical to developing the muscle control needed for the rest of their lives. Children are not hardwired to sitting still. They need to be moving and using all of their senses to really learn from their environment and experiences. They need to touch, taste, smell, feel, hear and talk about what they are doing.

Play is fun! Play also encourages the brain’s creativity centre. Play promotes language skills. When we are playing we can be in deep thought as we are trying to build that tower or create that sculpture. We learn to keep trying when it doesn’t work out. We learn problem solving when we have to try again. We can be loud while pretending we are animals in the jungle or aliens in outer space, or race car drivers racing in our cardboard boxes. Whether your child likes playing aloud or quietly, you have the opportunity of using language with them. Get down on your child’s level and play alongside them. With very young children it is okay to narrate their play. You are building on their vocabulary as you comment on the colours, shapes, sizes or sounds around them. Don’t be afraid of making up stories and singing your own tunes. Your child adores the sound of your voice. Play encourages relationship building. Children won’t necessarily recall the meals they ate or the clothes they wore, but they will have memories of the days spent sitting on the floor singing, laughing, tickling, playing hide and seek, and being silly with their parents.

When children are playing together they are learning so much more than we can hope to teach them any other way. They are learning social awareness, emotional thinking, and more. They are learning to compromise, be in relationships, and to take turns. This all seems very simple on one level, but it really goes quite deep and is worth investing some time to ensure you promote play in your family life. With our busy schedules and hectic lives, we need to remember that playing is crucial and there is no substitute.