Sharing Stories

Stories are so important to children’s development, and the following short list barely scratches the surface. Stories help children:

  • develop creativity and imagination
  • develop their language and thinking skills
  • build the knowledge and skills they will eventually need to learn to read

Books are just one of the tools you may use to share stories with your children, and there is so much more to sharing a book than just reading the words!

It is important to help your children actively engage in the book, and this can happen in a variety of ways.

Books may be shared in different ways with children of different ages. You don’t always need to read the words. It is alright to use your own words, in your own language, to tell the story. And, it is always more fun if you use lots of expression and different voices for each character, to bring it alive!

Some children may want to hold the book upside-down or skip a page. Or they may want to repeat a part over and over. Let your children lead the way and enjoy the book, so that reading is a positive experience for them.

Sometimes children will need to move around or will want to play close by, but don’t worry—they are still listening. You may try to keep them involved by having them supply missing words, repeating phrases with you, or by asking them questions such as, “where did it go?” or “what do you think is going to happen next?”

Children love to have stories told in a variety of ways. Sometimes they may enjoy acting out stories using stuffed animals or other props. It is also great for children to act out or retell the story in their own words. Children may want to extend a favourite story by doing a puppet show using the characters, dressing up like one of the characters, or drawing a picture. Some stories may lead to a treasure hunt or specific craft.

On the C.O.W. (Classroom on Wheels) bus, we love to share stories! One of the books we have enjoyed sharing recently is “Wheels on the Bus.” All of the children seem to love this one! It is especially fun because they can sing along and do the actions.

Most people are familiar with the common version, which includes “the doors on the bus go open and shut” and “the wipers on the bus go swish, swish, swish.” But our “Wheels on the Bus” book is about the animals on the bus.

If you borrow this book or have it at home, you could let your children make the animal sounds, and choose additional animals to extend the story. For example: “The cows on the bus go moo, moo, moo.” They could also use stuffed animals or draw pictures. This is also a book that they could “read” on their own by using the pictures as clues.

Sharing stories in this way brings them alive to children so that they look forward to story time with you. You and your children will both benefit if you make time every day to share a book.

The C.O.W. is out to pasture for the summer, but check the Centre for Family Literacy website to find out where and when you can join us on the bus next fall! In the meantime,  get out some favourite books and have fun!

 

 

Audiobooks for Babies?

A few months back, one of our participants in Books for Babies asked if audiobooks could be helpful for a baby.

This is a great question because we always talk about how much a baby enjoys being talked to and sung to. And how starting around 18-24 months, a baby begins to understand stories that have a narrative.

However, even though they love the sound of language, a baby is still particular about which voices they will listen to. And while they love face-to-face interaction, a disembodied voice is usually ignored at best and a distraction at worst.

We take voices for granted, and listening to the radio, or talking on the phone seems normal to us. But have you ever tried talking to a toddler on the phone? As much as they might love you, you can usually only keep their attention for a few seconds before they drop the phone or start pressing buttons. They don’t find the experience engaging, even though you are talking directly to them.

Video chat works much better—it’s still not as great as face-to-face conversation—but you’re not nearly as likely to be abandoned mid-conversation, or at least not as quickly.

Listening to stories is similar. Without pictures to connect to the story, or some kind of related object to explore while you tell the story, your toddler will often lose interest quickly. (Don’t forget that we’re talking about an older baby here.)

So, as much as I personally enjoy audiobooks, it’s not something I would recommend trying with a baby or young child. It’s just too much to expect them to pay attention to a story that is being told by someone who isn’t in the room with them, about someone they haven’t met, doing something that they can’t even see.

But don’t take my word for it, experiment! Use the voice recorder on your phone and record yourself reading a book. Sit down with your baby and the book and turn the pages while you play the recording. Watch how your child reacts. Another time, sit down together without the book and listen to the recording together. What does your baby do this time? These are both very different experiences than sharing a book with your child in real-time, responding to them, and inviting their participation in the process.

Spring into Learning!

Spring has arrived! It is a pleasure to get outside now that the snow is melting and the air is warmer. Outside, there are many things to learn in spring. Children are like little sponges ready to soak up new information. It doesn’t take extra time to give your children the chance to learn; family literacy can occur naturally during daily routines. It helps adults and children get things done.

Ways to use literacy in your activities this spring:

  • talk to your children as they put on their spring gear. Ask why they no longer need to wear winter boots, coats, etc.
  • dressed in rubber boots and raincoats, let them experience the tactile joy of crunching ice and splashing in puddles. Talk about how it feels as they squish through mud and try to pull their feet out. Ask them to make the sounds of squishing mud and splashing and running water.
  • look at snow and ice melting where the sun shines and talk about where the snow goes. Wonder why water sometimes gathers in a puddle and sometimes runs down the drain. Discuss why it rains in warmer weather instead of snowing. How does this helps things grow?
  • encourage your children to use their senses to experience spring. 
Talk about what they see, smell, feel and hear. Look for the first flowers and buds on trees. Notice if it’s lighter at bedtime. Search for bugs. Ask if the air smells different and feels warmer. Hear the different bird sounds.

The C.O.W. (Classroom on Wheels) Bus is ready for spring. When you visit the bus, you will be treated to a couple of our favourite stories:

Stuck by Oliver Jeffers is a favourite of children and parents alike; it is laugh-out-loud funny. In the story, a boy loses his kite in a tree and tries to knock it down by throwing everything he can find into the tree. On the bus, children delight in “throwing” felt pieces into the tree on the story board, bringing the tale to life.

And there are monsters on the bus—tickle monsters! We’ll read two books about tickle monsters; one where children make a neighbourhood scene out of the monster body parts, and the other involves a lot of tickling and singing!

Here is a springtime song we will be singing on the bus and you can also enjoy it at home. Try acting it out!

Rain is Falling
(tune: “Skip to My Lou”)

Rain is falling, what shall I do (X 3)
What shall I do my darling?

Put on a raincoat, (rain boots, rain pants, rain coat) that’s what I’ll do (X 3)
That’s what I’ll do my darling.

Grab an umbrella, (jump in some puddles) that’s what I’ll do (X 3)
That’s what I’ll do my darling.

Visit the Centre for Family Literacy website to find out where and when the C.O.W. bus will be parked near you!

 

A Book: What’s in it for Baby and You?

I like it when 3-BLOGWhen I started working for the Centre for Family Literacy, I worked with one program that served families with children 0 – 6 years old and another that served families with children 3-5 years old, and storytelling was a go-to activity for capturing the attention of preschool children and keeping them engaged. I loved it, and for years I wouldn’t read any book silently to myself because it was so much more fun to read them aloud.

And then I took on the Books for Babies program, and all my storytelling skills fell flat. Not entirely flat, but the stories written in books were obviously not written for babies. Babies have a much shorter attention span, a limited experience of the world, and only the beginnings of an understanding of what a story is.

So, when we talk about sharing books with babies, reading the words in the books is pretty far down the list of what we are going to do with the books when we share them. We want to help babies understand how books work, what they can do with them, and how the books relate to their world in a way that they can understand.

We will need to get creative, and we will need to experiment to find out what your babies respond to now. I’ll get us started with some ideas, but please add your own in the comments by clicking on the talk bubble at the top of this blog.

Remember:

  • You’re probably not trying to teach your babies to read, but you are helping them to build a relationship with books.
  • The following are prompts for you. Your babies might be able to do some of the things in these lists, but we’ll start by trying to capture their interest.
  • Try only a couple of ideas at a time. You are testing for their reaction, but you already know their patience is limited for trying new things.

Books as pictures

  1. What is this a picture of?
  2. What sound does it make?
  3. What colour is it?
  4. What shape is it?
  5. What would it feel like?
  6. What would it taste like?
  7. Do we have one of those?
  8. How does it make you feel?
  9. Where did you last see one of those? Could you go see one of those?
  10. What does that remind you of?
  11. What does it look like upside-down?
  12. That person/animal/robot looks just like/nothing like you.

Books as objects

  1. Pile them up.
  2. Line them up.
  3. Knock them down.
  4. Open and close them.
  5. Turn the pages back and forth.
  6. Shake them.
  7. Spin them.
  8. Slide them around.

Books as prompts

  1. Does it remind you of a song or rhyme?
  2. Does it remind you of another story?
  3. Does it remind you of your father/grandmother/guinea pig/etc.?
  4. Is there an idea for something to eat?
  5. Is there an idea for something to do?
  6. Can you pretend to do/be that?
  7. Act out this story together, with puppets and toys, or on our own.

When there’s a face

  1. Peek-a-boo!
  2. Make that same face/expression.
  3. Make up a name and backstory for this character.

If you would like more information about books and babies, visit the Centre for Family Literacy website for tip sheets, a link to Flit the fun family literacy app, and program information for Edmonton.

Bedtime Reading for Babies

Bedtime story-blogYour baby loves routines. Though he or she might also like your stand-up comedy routine, I’m talking about everyday routines—like bath time, meal time, and bedtime. Your baby works hard to understand what is going on around her, so anything familiar and predictable will help her feel less like she has been stranded in a random and uncaring universe. Cuddling up and sharing a book, or a few books, at bedtime is a great routine to help your baby feel safe and loved, form a relationship with books, and settle down to sleep.

Settling down to sleep doesn’t just happen. We’ve all had restless nights, even before baby came, and sleep doesn’t come any easier for your baby. Having a bedtime routine teaches her a strategy for resting her mind and relaxing her body in preparation for sleep. She’s honestly not going to figure it out on her own, but if you have a routine in place, and follow it as often as you can, your baby will recognize it as familiar, find comfort in the predictability, and be that much easier to soothe to sleep.

Cuddling together to explore a book can be a very helpful tool to relax your baby. Your closeness is key. When you hold her in your arms to share a book, your baby can feel you, smell you, and hear your voice, and she will feel safe and loved. By deliberately slowing your pace, speaking in a more soothing tone of voice, and using more gentle movements, you can calm her further and bring her that much closer to sleep. Like reading, preparing for sleep is best learned when you do it together.

As your baby grows, she will become less and less willing to slow down, and by solidifying that bedtime routine early, you will be giving future you a much easier time. Baby will associate bedtime reading with all of those positive emotions you shared while snuggling together with a book when she was younger. She will fight sleep a little less, and you’ll be giving your baby a strong foundation in her literacy development at the same time.

The more you share books together, the more your baby will understand what those things are for and what can be done with them. By finding regular and positive ways to share books, you teach your baby about all she can get and experience from books. But even the best book will be ignored by your baby unless you show her that it is worthwhile by sharing and enjoying it together.

So take care of yourselves and your babies. And if you haven’t started already, make a bedtime story with your baby part of her daily routine!

Please check our Books for Babies program schedule on the Centre for Family Literacy website for opportunities to learn more with us!

 

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!