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.

Simple Ways to Entertain your Baby with a Book

When I talk about which books are age appropriate for babies, I am less concerned about what is in the book and more interested in what we can do with the book. A great example of this is books that require our imagination to make sense of what the pictures are telling us, which is not something babies are very good at. That doesn’t mean these types of books are inappropriate for babies.

Monkey & MeFor example, Emily Gravett’s Monkey and Me depicts a young girl acting out the motions that we associate with different zoo animals. Even if your baby is very familiar with elephants, a picture of a girl hunched over with her arm stretched out in front of her face is probably not going to make your baby think of elephants. Even with pictures of the girl in mulitple poses, your baby will not know that one pose is meant to transition into the other.

However, if you make those motions yourself, and you make your best elephant trumpet noises, and you flap your hands beside your head like big ears… well, your baby still might not be thinking of elephants and that’s okay, you’ve just transformed a confusing picture into a fun and engaging interaction.

Pete's a PizzaI think William Steig’s Pete’s a Pizza can work beautifully for this. Of course your baby won’t understand from the story how Pete’s parents pretending to make him into a pizza can cheer him up when he’s feeling down. The connection between managing emotions and imaginary food preparation are more than a little abstract. But if you gently massage your baby, roll them back and forth like dough, and tickle them as you make your way through the book, it will probably become a favourite nonetheless.

This won’t work with every book, but when you notice the book you are sharing lends itself to different actions, take the cue to bring the book to life, and see how your baby likes it.

For information about the Books for Babies program, or to find the Edmonton program schedule, please visit the Centre for Family Literacy website program page.

For more information about sharing books with your baby, your toddler, or your preschool aged children, please visit the Centre for Family Literacy website resources page.

 

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.

 

Books – and Tunes – for Babies

Hispanic mother and baby at homeA great way to keep the interest of a baby when you’re reading with them, or a child of any age really, is to add some rhythm or melody to your book sharing.

The rhyme and repetition in many childrens’ books makes this easy in many cases, and if you have a rhyming book, a quick search on Youtube can sometimes give you a few different musical styles to choose from. Beyond that, there are many books that are meant to be sung with verses, choruses, and sometimes even music or information for where you can find the music online.

Don’t worry about your singing voice, I promise your baby doesn’t mind if you’re out of key or can’t really carry a tune, and it’s perfectly fine if you would rather settle into more of a chant than a full-on melody.

Even when the book does not rhyme, sometimes a picture can give you an idea for a song or a rhyme to sing, adding a little extra fun to your book sharing time. For example, a book might feature an animal, and there are a lot of songs and rhymes about animals. It’s okay if the animal song or rhyme you want to sing doesn’t exactly match the plot of the story for 2 big reasons:

  1. Babies don’t have the longest attention spans; you probably won’t get through more than a few pages of the book anyway
  2. We want our child to be able to relate the things they see in books, and the words they hear, to other things that they know. If you are reading Runaway Bunny with your toddler and they start singing Sleeping Bunnies, you’ll know that they are making those connections, and you can tell everyone how brilliant your child is.

You won’t always feel like singing, and your child might not always be receptive to it. Think of it as one more tool that you can use to make book sharing more fun for you and your baby.

If you would like to learn more about sharing books, songs, and play with your baby, you’ll find tip sheets on the Centre for Family Literacy website, you can try our free Flit app with family literacy activities to do with your little ones, or better yet, find a Books for Babies program near you and come have some fun with us!

 

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

 

Books for Babies Book Giveaways

Hispanic mother and baby at homeBecause of generous funding from the Alberta Government and private donors, the Centre for Family Literacy is able to give a book to every family each week of the Books for Babies program—to keep.

I’ve mentioned in previous blogs that everyone’s taste in books is a little different, and that babies will be drawn to different things in different periods of their development, but here’s a quick rundown of how I choose the books that we give to the program families.

Week 1: I will almost always choose a board book with nice big photos of faces. Even newborn babies love these books, and it will be years before these simple books lose their appeal. Occasionally I’ll use a book with photographs of animals instead. They won’t be as visually appealing to babies, but if I can convince parents to have fun playing with the book and make animal noises with their babies, then I know it will work out well.

Week 2: I always highlight books with rhymes and language play, so I’ll either choose a rhyming story, an illustrated rhyme (like a lullaby) or a collection of rhymes. When the book focuses on a single rhyme or song, the pictures tend to be more simple, which helps babies to follow along with the rhyme. Rhyme anthologies, on the other hand, tend to be very busy, but parents are more likely to find a rhyme that means something to them, which can be even better.

Week 3: I pick a book that offers something more tactile and kinesthetic for babies to explore. Usually these are touch and feel books; sometimes they are books with flaps.  Sometimes I will go another route entirely and choose a book that you can use in the bath, where all kinds of new sensory experiences, beyond the vinyl pages of the book, surround your baby.

Week 4: I like to give a book with a simple story. Babies are closer to 18 months old before they can appreciate the narrative of a story, so the book should have nice simple pictures, and a clear pattern or rhythm. Sometimes, for an extra challenge, I’ll give a book that won’t really make sense to baby unless the parent brings it to life by acting it out with them.

B4B-unused2There are a lot of good books out there to choose from, but using these categories allows us, each week, to explore different elements of books that appeal to babies. And to increase the odds that gift books will be enjoyed by everyone in the group, I try to find books that offer at least two features that babies are drawn to.

How you share the book with your baby will make as much difference as which book you share with your baby, and we spend more time talking about that at our program. But that’s for another blog.

More about the Books for Babies program

Tip sheets for choosing books for your baby, toddler, or preschool age children

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