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

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What to Expect When You Read to a Baby

BabyCry

What if you have never seen anybody read to a baby before? What if all you can find are vague assertions that this is something you need to do, but you can’t find more details or instructions? What if YouTube is only showing you more and more videos of cats? How will you know what to expect? It may be comforting to know that babies can be different, such as the little guy in the photo who cries every time a story is finished.

Here are some helpful guidelines to get you started:

  1. Babies do not have much of an attention span. That’s normal. Sharing books for just a few minutes at a time when you have their attention is more helpful than sharing books for any length of time when they are hungry, fussy, or sleepy.
  1. Babies under 3 months don’t understand much. Not a lot interests them. They can’t even be bothered to hold a book. Don’t be discouraged. They mostly enjoy hearing your voice, so you can read whatever you want, or tell your own stories.
  1. Babies like simple pictures. If a picture is busy your baby will probably find it confusing. They also like photographs more than drawings and they like pictures of faces more than almost anything else.
  1. Babies are not born knowing how books work; so don’t expect them to start leafing through novels like a pro. They will probably start by holding the book and tasting it.
  1. Once they start opening and closing books on their own, or turning the pages, they will probably want to keep doing that. So if you were expecting to read books from start to finish, it can be frustrating.

This doesn’t make reading with babies sound very exciting, but really all this means is that you need a different approach. You will need to get used to talking about the pictures, and telling your own stories. Play with the books and play with your baby. Have fun sharing photo albums with your baby and making noises when you see pictures of animals and machines.

Reading with babies is very different than reading with older children, and having an idea of what is an age-appropriate reaction for a baby can make the difference between enjoying the experience and thinking that something is wrong.

Books for Babies Edmonton program schedule:

hashtag: #books_for_babies

Have Fun and Build Brains Using “Serve and Return”

More brain connections form in the first six years of life than at any other time, and the more you use these connections the stronger they get. Brain connections are built on a foundation of “serve and return” interactions. Serve and return refers to give-and-take —healthy interaction that goes both ways. For example, if your baby “serves” by smiling at you, you “return” by smiling back. By doing this, you are showing baby that you understand them and they matter; you are giving them the feedback they need to learn.

TheBigAnimalMix-upReading a story together is a great example of a serve and return activity, and many have an interactive nature built right into them. On the Alberta Prairie C.O.W. Bus we love The Big Animal Mix-up, a lift-the-flap book by Gareth Edwards and Kanako Usui. It has bright pictures, humour, and a lot of rhythm and rhyme. In the story, Little Bear’s dad tries to teach him about animals: “Hello Little Bear, here’s a story for you, that’s all about animals and what they can do.” Only as the title suggests, they’re all mixed up! He has snakes mixed up with birds, and mice mixed up with whales, now Little Bear (and your child) have to set the record straight.

Here is a bird. It slithers around. And slides through the jungle with a soft hissing sound.”

“Hang on a minute! You made a mistake. If it hisses and slithers it must be a..… [open flap] SNAKE!”

We never tire of this book, but remember that any book can be made interactive by talking about the pictures, having the child help you with the story, asking open-ended questions, and relating the story to real life.

Building brain connections through serve and return has a big impact on the rest of a child’s life, providing the solid foundation needed for language and emotional health. But don’t forget to have fun while doing it!

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

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Beat the Cold! Bring the Outdoors In with Learn Together – Grow Together!

This last month has been a snowy, blowy and cold one. However the team at Learn Together – Grow Together has found a way to beat the cold! When it is too cold for our families to go outdoors, we simply bring the outdoors in!

 

Books that we read:

  • 10 on a Sled by Kim Norman
  • All You Need for a Snowman by Alice Schertle
  • Snowballs by Lois Ehlert
  • The Mitten by Jan Brett

 

Activities we did:

  • After reading the storybook The Mitten, each family spent the afternoon creating their own storysack. Each storysack contained the characters from the story as well as a large white mitten. These storysacks provided families with a fun, unique and memorable way to read and share the story at home.
  • Using recycled newspaper and packing tape, we made a big basket full of “snowballs”. We then headed to the gymnasium for a variety of snowball throw and toss games, ending with a big group snowball fight!
  • After reading All You Need for a Snowman, we brought in a huge plastic bin of snow from outside. Then, wearing mittens, the children and their families spent the afternoon creating their own snowmen and snow castles!
  • Using plastic containers of varying sizes we froze “treasures” in water. Once frozen, we took the ice blocks out of the containers and the children spent the afternoon exploring methods to melt and chip the treasures from the ice. The children used a variety of methods including: warm water, hand held tools, salt etc. to extract their treasures. In order to keep this activity literacy based, our treasures included letters from the alphabet that corresponded with other items in the ice block. For instance, when a child extracted a letter “Y” from the ice, they would then begin to look for the items in the ice that corresponded with that letter, such as a yellow yo yo.

 

Snacks we shared:

banana-snowmen

Banana Snowmen
Ingredients: bananas, chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, and pretzels.

 

bear-pretzel

Pretzel Polar Bears
Ingredients: pretzel sticks, peanut butter, coconut and black icing.

 

Songs and Rhymes we shared:

I’m a Little Snowman (to the tune of I’m a Little Tea Pot)
I’m a little snowman, short and fat.
Here are my buttons and here is my hat.
When the sun comes out, I cannot play.
I just slowly melt away.

Five Little Snowmen
Five little snowmen all made of snow,
five little snowmen standing in a row.
Out came the sun and stayed all day,
and one little snowman melted away.

(count down to 0)

Zero little snowmen all made of snow,
zero little snowmen standing in a row.
Down came the snow that fell all day,
and five little snowmen came back to play.

To go along with these rhymes, our families constructed five popsicle stick snowmen and one popsicle stick sun to use while they recited the rhyme. These props were a fun activity for the families and they really brought the rhyme to life!!

With a little creativity and our families’ eager participation, Learn Together – Grow Together has succeeded in bringing the outdoors in and now you can too!!

More about the Learn Together – Grow Together program

hashtag: #LT_GT

 

Stop Just Reading Books! Start Living Books!

321Fun

Every child has a favourite book, a story that they want read to them over and over again. For parents, this can become quite boring. At 3,2,1, Fun! we have spent the last few weeks showing families how to stop just reading books and how to start living books. To support families in increasing their children’s learning, we have been sharing ideas and activities to extend a simple story book.

Children choose their favourite books or stories for a variety of reasons. Perhaps they love the drawings, or maybe they can relate to the characters in the story. Once children have chosen their favourite books, it is only a matter of time before they begin to learn the words and predict the events. Before you know it, they can recite the story from start to finish! When this happens, it does not mean they have become bored with the story, though the parents may have. It simply means we need to take the book to the next level. Let me show you how to bring your children’s favourite books to life!

 

Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister

Go Fishing!

You don’t need a boat or even a lake to take your children fishing. Fill the bathtub or a plastic bucket with water. Attach paper clips to some plastic fish and drop them in the water. Use a wooden dowel with string and a magnet as the fishing rod. You can challenge your children to count each fish they catch or to only catch certain colours or shapes. The possibilities are endless and the fun is guaranteed!

Make your own Rainbow Fish

Using paper plates and any other craft or recyclable materials you have around the house, your children can create their own Rainbow Fish or fish aquarium. They can explore shapes, sizes, and patterns as they create. Use the finished craft as a prop the next time you read the book.

Snack

Place a handful of Gold Fish crackers at the bottom of a small bowl. Using a short piece of stringy liquorice, tie a gummy worm to the end of a pretzel stick. Voila!! You have an edible fishing snack for your children.

Sing!

“1, 2, 3, 4, 5 once I caught a fish alive,
6, 7, 8, 9, 10 then I threw him back again.
Why did you let him go?
Because he bit my finger so!
Which finger did he bite?
The little finger on my right!”

 

Going on a Bear Hunt by M. Rosen

We can’t go over it, we can’t go under it, we’ll have to go through it!

Course

Build an obstacle course in your living room, basement, or back yard using furniture, cardboard boxes, etc. Have your children go through the obstacle course in a pattern of their choosing. They can explore going over, under, and through. Not only is this a fun activity for your children, but they will be working on their patterning and predicting skills at the same time.

Go on a Bear Hunt!

Create a scavenger hunt for your children. If you really want to get creative, you can even craft a treasure map for them to follow.

Snack

To reinforce the theme of patterns you can cut up a variety of fruits and cheeses and have your children create their own snack pattern on a skewer, or on an edible necklace made with a long piece of stringy liquorice and fruit loops.

 

The Doorbell Rang by Pat Hutchins

Bake Cookies

Following a recipe and baking allow your children to work on a wide variety of numeracy and literacy skills while having fun. Once you are finished baking you can read the story and split the fresh baked cookies among family and friends!

Sing

“Way up high in a cookie tree,
two little cookies smiles at me.
So I shook that tree as hard as I could,
down came the cookies!
MMMMMMM they were good!”

These are just a few ideas on how you can turn a simple story into an adventure full of fun and learning for your children. By choosing to live your children’s favourite story books you are not only bringing to life their literary world, but you are providing them the opportunity to learn through their experiences. These learning opportunities will shape them for years to come and will surely build your family’s legacy of learning.

Visit our website for more information about the 3,2,1,FUN! program.

hashtag: #321_Fun

School for Babies

I like it when 3-BLOGThe fall season signals back to school for children and adults of all ages and in all sorts of schools. And while it’s probably true that someone somewhere is making lots of money running a school for babies, I am not that guy.

I don’t want to intimidate you with frightening statistics and insist that you need my help. I’m also not about to tell you an elaborate story about how I’ve divined the secret to making your baby a genius. Those would be lies, and I want to encourage you to think very carefully if you meet anyone who tries to sell you a story like that.

The things that we discuss in Books for Babies are pretty tame by comparison, but no less amazing if you think about what babies learn and how much there is to learn about babies. Babies are born into a life they know nothing about, and you are almost perfect strangers to one another. It’s pretty incredible if you think about how well you know them, and how much they understand about their world, by the time they are only a year old.

The trick, if you want to call it that, is that almost everything babies learn, they learn through relationships with the people they care about and who care about them. This is why we can say that parents (and other family members) are children’s first and best teachers. Babies are born wanting to understand the things around them, and they learn by watching and interacting with the important people who share their life.

Everything you do with or near your baby helps them learn about the things that are most relevant to them. If books are a part of your life, babies will want to understand them and want to be part of that experience. It’s the same reason you often see babies reaching for their parents cell phones, and why so many parents have that fond memory of the brief period when their toddler loved nothing more than to vacuum the carpet.

If you’d like to chat about how book sharing can benefit you and your baby, sing rhymes, get free books, and meet other parents, then I welcome you and your baby to join us at Books for Babies, or leave a comment below.

There is more information about the program and a full schedule of upcoming groups on our website: famlit.ca

 

hashtag: #books_for_babies

Another Way to Enjoy Books

There is something very special about hearing a story. For many people, it summons warm memories of snuggling up with mom or dad and a book at bedtime, overhearing adult family members share stories around the kitchen table, or telling ghost stories around the fire.

What’s more, hearing a book read aloud can go a long way to making the many benefits of reading accessible to even struggling or “reluctant” readers. Vocabulary can improve, comprehension goes up, and a book can be enjoyed that might have been too challenging for them to read alone. Even for fluent readers, there is a lot to like about hearing stories out loud.

I can only remember hearing a few books on tape as a child. But a few years ago, I discovered that the wait list for audiobooks is often significantly shorter than the wait list for print copies. Ever since then I’ve enjoyed listening to dozens of short stories and novels. I still like to sit with an actual book when I get the chance, but here’s a list of a few more things that I especially like about audiobooks:

  • I can listen to books in my car, on my phone, online, on cd (yes, I still own and use a Discman)… so, just about everywhere.
  • I can listen to books at times when it would be impossible (or super dangerous) to read them (while driving).
  • On nights when I am too tired to even read a few pages before I go to sleep, I can still put on my headphones, close my eyes and listen to a story instead.
  • Some books are performed as a radio drama with a full cast of voice actors and sound effects. Sometimes authors narrate their own stories, that’s pretty cool too.

So, whether you are considering things that you can do together as a family, or if you’re tired of the long commute into work and back everyday, consider trying out an audiobook. And if you’re feeling up to it, grab a glass of water and read a book to someone you love.

 

 

What I Learned by Reading for READ IN Week

I had the opportunity to read to a kindergarten class at Lady of Peace School this morning as part of the READ IN Week activities, and on my drive back to work I reflected on the time I had spent with the class.

My days are usually spent in meetings or on my computer, so being with so many young  and excited children was a very different experience. I read a simple story about how reading makes you feel good; they had so many questions and so many things they wanted to share. The enthusiasm and energetic participation of the group was amazing. The children didn’t hesitate to share an answer because, in their mind, there were no wrong answers.

What a lesson for me! How often do we participate half-heartedly in meetings or groups, or hold back on suggesting ideas because they might be wrong?

My takeaway is to remember to bring my enthusiasm, energy and ideas to the table just as Mrs. Kim’s kindergarten class did!

Sharing Books Creates Memories 2

I remember my mom reading with my sister and I every night. Our favourite book was “The Big Book of Stories” and we read a different story each night. My favourite was about animals joining the circus. Our imaginations ran wild with the images of puppies swinging on a trapeze, chimpanzees flying up and down on a trampoline, and piggies walking on a tightrope. So of course I wanted to share books with my daughter when she was born, and I was lucky enough to inherit a whole collection from my sister whose children were older. We had so much fun and the tradition with my daughter lasted for many years.

Eventually I had to part with some books and offered the best of them to a neighbour with a toddler. I was so shocked when she refused them, saying “no thanks, he doesn’t like books”! My mind was racing with thoughts like “what, he doesn’t want to fly a spaceship or go on a jungle adventure?” I felt bad that the boy was missing out on the experience of cuddling with a parent and sharing a book, or the fun of acting out the story of a trip down a crocodile infested river on couch cushions, with wooden spoons for paddles/weapons. But I didn’t say anything. I just wondered if it was the parent more than the child who didn’t like books.

After many years, I did learn that my neighbour had difficulty reading. Teachers hadn’t had  the extra time to spend with her and she was embarrassed to keep asking. It still happens. I wonder if her son is sharing books and creating memories with his children?

 

 

Sharing Books Creates Memories

Do you have a favourite memory of sharing a book with a child?

    

I have a favourite memory of my son’s love for these two books in particular. When he was nearly three years old we read them every day, often two or three times a day. It was never boring or dull to read the same stories over and over with him! His face would light up as if it was the first time every time. The stories he loved were easy to animate with their words that rhymed and great illustrations. What I didn’t realize was that he absorbed every word – memorized each phrase for each page. Then one day I needed to be away at his bedtime and his father did the bedtime story routine. After he read the first book with our son he called me to ask “when did he start to read?” I didn’t understand and said “he can’t read yet! What are you talking about?” Apparently my son knew exactly word for word the book my husband had shared with him – with such accuracy my husband thought he could actually read!

I was proud my little guy was able to fool his dad. I was also encouraged to continue to read with him every day, no matter what story he chose, no matter how many times he chose it. He began to “read” his stories to me as well, and even years later we would take turns and read chapter books to each other. We still enjoyed our story time together.