Introducing Babies to the Classics

B4B

With both gift giving guides and “Best of 2015″ articles flying at us from every direction, I think it’s safe to say that you are going to see at least a few lists of recommended book titles at this time of year.

But rather than try to convince you that I know which specific books are going to work best for you and your baby, I am going to ask you to think about which books meant the most to you when you were very young. While most of us will have no memories going quite that far back, maybe there is another family member you could ask. Or even if you can only remember the books you enjoyed as a preschooler or from your first few years of school, those books could do the trick if you remember them fondly.

In Books for Babies, we talk about a number of different aspects of books that will appeal to babies, but sometimes nothing will matter more to a baby than the things that are important to you. They can see it in your face and hear it in your voice when you are sharing a story that is special to you. They might not even understand what you’re talking about, but they can be irresistibly drawn to that kind of genuine warmth and care.

That, in my opinion, is what will make a book a classic to your child. And while nostalgia probably isn’t the best measure of literary greatness, it is a perfect demonstration of how we learn everything through relationships.

If you ever ask someone about their favourite book, they will probably defend it as if they are defending a part of themselves. That doesn’t just happen. That kind of bonding is very similar to the bonding that happens between close friends. By sharing books with babies, we are teaching them to relate to books in a way that connects to them personally.

I know not everyone has had a positive experience with books in their past, so I won’t try to tell you that a best-of list is not a useful tool. We even have our own lists of recommended books available on our website.

But don’t limit yourself to books either. If there is a family story or memory that you hold close, that is a perfect gift to share with your baby, even if it was never written down.

Books for Babies Edmonton program schedule

hashtag: #books_for_babies

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.

 

Love on Mother’s Day

I miss those days of Mother’s Day gifts handmade from a variety of things – pipe cleaners, construction paper, lace, paper dollies. All held together with a ton of glue!

Homemade coupons for a cup of tea or a foot rub. There were so many treasures that were perfect for any mother! I had many favourites. One of them was a melamine plate that could be drawn on. My son drew us holding hands. He told me that “this is you and me, walking to the park.”

Cards that said, “I love you, Mom’’ or “You are the Best’’ in big bold letters.

The excitement near Mother’s Day when the “secret” was coming in the door! The scurry to the bedroom to hide that special gift which was tightly wrapped with tape. On Mother’s Day, my son yelling “close your eyes” until the treasure was safely placed in my lap. I loved those times.

Learning the gift of giving.

Breakfast of a bowl of cereal with milk on the verge of flowing over the top, scrambled eggs with a chunk of egg shell, well done toast with smeared peanut butter.

The days of impressing me with those handmade gifts are gone; my son is an adult with a life of his own.

Last week he asked me a couple of times what I wanted for Mother’s Day. I knew he was struggling to come up with an idea so I told him to come and cook something on the barbeque and spend some time with me. That would be the greatest gift he could give me.

And oh, yes I asked him to help me clean my windows!

I hope that you had a wonderful Mother’s Day too!

 

National Volunteer Week

The Centre for Family Literacy is grateful for our incredibly generous and gifted volunteers who commit their time to help us build, develop and improve literacy with families and communities.

It’s National Volunteer Week April 6-12 – a week set aside not only to thank and honour the people who donate time, talent, and energy to their fellow citizens, but also to increase public awareness of the powerful social investment volunteers make in and to our communities and to the Canadian society as a whole (Volunteer Alberta).

In the past year, 260 volunteers gave a collective total of 14,972 hours to contribute to the work of the Centre.

We’d like to take a moment to thank each one:

Thank you to our 45 board and committee members, who together invested a total of 2,040 hours to serve on one of our six committees or our governing board.

Thank you to the 86 tutors who gave a collective 11,655 hours to work one-one-one with adult learners to help others achieve their goals in reading, writing and math.

Thank you to our 9 group class facilitators who invested 440 hours and together offered 11 classes including Literacy, GED, Financial Literacy and Book Clubs.

Thank you to the 8 family literacy volunteers who gave their time to our family literacy programs, research, or assisted us directly here at the Centre, giving a collective 216 hours.

Lastly, thank you to the 112 special events volunteers who assisted us with five special events last year, giving 620 hours to help us reach our fundraising goals to ensure we can all continue to do all that we do.

On behalf of the staff of the Centre for Family Literacy, I would like to thank you for truly making a difference in our community through your efforts. Our organization can only make the impact we do through the support and contribution of our wonderful volunteers.

We hope that through your involvement in our organization, you have developed new skills, made new connections and become more engaged in your community. We wish you all the best in the year ahead and look forward to continuing to partner with you in our vision of a healthy, literate society where all are able to contribute and succeed.

Monica Doherty, Volunteer Coordinator

A Winter Lesson

I had originally signed up to write a blog about my winter travelling experience. I was looking forward to sharing everything I had learned while visiting a new country; its food, culture and language. The plane tickets had been purchased and accommodations finalized. I had my passport ready to go, but I was just waiting for my tourist visa to come. Long story short, my tourist visa was never processed and my trip was cancelled.

I was initially disappointed as I had been so excited about getting on a plane and experiencing something new. However, I learned that although I may plan and expect things to work out the way I want them to, it doesn’t always mean they will.

Looking back now, I know it wasn’t meant to be. Instead of travelling I was able to visit with relatives from out of town that I haven’t seen in months, and I had time to finish a few long-overdue projects at home. I learned the value in “letting go” and to appreciate all of the opportunities I have right here at home. I am so thankful I was able to visit with family that I don’t often see, and that my house is now put back together.

As life goes on, I know I will have plans that may or may not come to fruition. I hope I will continue learning and growing through each experience!

What life lessons have you learned this winter?

 

Reflections

With only the glow of the tree lights to brighten the room, I sit sipping my hot chocolate.  With the muted strains of glad tidings in the background, this is my time! No noise, no hustle or bustle, no pressure to get anything done. I am alone but not really as my family sleeps upstairs. It is the perfect time to reflect on all the changes that have happened this past year.

At times these changes seemed:

  • chaotic – anything that could go wrong did go wrong
  • welcome – about time
  • selfish – all about my needs
  • bitter sweet – sad, but knowing it was for the best
  • joyful – opening new doors and adventures
  • scary –  venturing into unknown territory

What made these changes more bearable was that I didn’t need to face them alone. I had my family to share them with. And when I look at whom I call family, this too has changed over time. I belong to a number of families – those I am related to, those I choose, those I work with and those who will always be a part of my life even after they have left it. I think this could be the case for many of the people whose paths have crossed mine.

For many, gone are the days of spending your whole life in one place surrounded by people you have known all your life. Today it seems many people move about (for work or by choice), grandparents keep in touch with their grandchildren through video feeds, brothers and sisters live continents apart but get together with the touch of a button, and the number of childless families seems on the rise. I don’t think there is a standard definition of family that fits all. Family is what we make it on an individual basis, defined in a way that makes sense to us. I often wonder how others define family.

Oh dear, I have contemplated too long – my hot chocolate is now cold, there is no longer any music to be heard, and I am ready to go to sleep myself. Before I turn out the lights and head upstairs, please let me say, from my family to yours, may the holiday season bring you peace and joy and may all the changes you face in the coming year be met with a sense of wonder.