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.

Here are some 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.
  • share a book.
  • sing a song.

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.

Here is a springtime song to enjoy. 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.

For more fun ideas, download our free parenting literacy resource app, Flit, from Google Play or the App Store. The app gives you over 120 fun literacy activities, recipes, games to do with your children, and tips and tricks to add to your parenting tool box.  

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. The Big Animal Mix-up, a lift-the-flap book by Gareth Edwards and Kanako Usui is a good one to try. 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!”

Remember that any book can be made interactive by talking about the pictures, having your 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!

 

How to Choose Quality Children’s Books

Choosing good quality children’s books can be difficult, as there are no guidelines for what can be published as a children’s book. Not all books are appropriate for all children. At the Centre for Family Literacy, we try to keep three things in mind when we are considering the purchase of a new title. These tips are very helpful, especially when buying multicultural books because we may not be familiar with all aspects of different cultures.

  1. Is the book truthful and respectful?
  2. Would this book hurt or embarrass anyone?
  3. Does this book perpetuate a stereotype?

To help us choose good quality books that are age-appropriate, we keep in mind the following:

  1. How realistic are the pictures in board books?
  2. How wordy are the picture books?
  3. How well are the books are made?

When we see a new book from a familiar author, we generally know if the book will be a good fit for our program. A great example of this is Hervé Tullet’s book, Mix it Up! His previous book, Press Here, is a favourite of many of our facilitators, and we knew that Mix it Up! wouldn’t disappoint us. Parents and children can explore the wonder of colours in a new, fun, interactive way.

Some of our favourite books are:

  1. Mix it Up! by Hervé Tullet
  2. Can’t You Sleep, Little Bear? by Martin Waddell
  3. Duck & Goose: It’s Time for Christmas! by Tad Hills
  4. The Very Best Daddy of All by Marion Dane Bauer
  5. Boy + Bot by Amy Dyckman

MixItUp Can't You Sleep? DuckGoose BestDaddy Boy&Bot

Remember, everyone does not have to like the same books. You know your children best, and what is okay for some children may not be okay for others. However if you enjoy the book, your children probably will too.

Here is a link to our free tip sheet with more about choosing children’s books. 

Please visit our website for more free tip sheets about choosing books for specific age groups and more. 

 

Digging a Groove Your Child Can Grow In

Singing is a great tool for developing language and literacy skills in your children. Making a ritual of singing during daily routines also adds fun to tasks that children may not always see as Clean upfun (diaper changing/going potty, putting on their shoes or coat, etc.) and it strengthens the connection between you and your children. How many of us sing, “Clean up, clean up, everybody, everywhere. Clean up, clean up, everybody do your share” when helping our littles put away their toys? (I bet that song is now stuck in your head!)

Routines are practices in place to help children prepare for regular happenings. For example, the morning routine is to have breakfast, get dressed, and brush teeth and hair; the sleep routine is to have a bath, brush teeth, read a story, and off to bed. This repetition allows children to develop a predictable schedule—to know what to expect each day.

Rituals aid in learning and reinforcing new skills. The purpose is connection with your children, strengthening your relationship through small practices—a goodnight song, or asking “what was your favourite part of the day,” for example.

I imagine most of us share a ritual from our own childhood with our children—a cherished memory of the connection we had with our parents, and which built the foundation for the relationships we now have—to become part of our daily routine and enrich our journey with our own families.

A nightly ritual I have included in our bedtime routine is a goodnight song. I have sung it to my daughter since she was an infant, and she now looks forward to this special part of our day. I made up the song by changing the words to “Hey Jude” by John Lennon, and it goes something like this:

Hey you, it’s time for bed
Go to sleep now, ‘cuz you’re so tired
Remember, to kiss your mama goodnight
And have sweet dreams
To wake up happy (happy, happy, happy)

Hey you, just say good night
Sleep will come soon, just close your eyes
Remember to hug your mama real tight
And that I love you
You are amazing

So, try adding a little song to your routines and see what happens! There are all kinds of songs and rhymes for children on YouTube, or you can make up your own. Comment by sharing the rituals that are a part of your family!

C.O.W. bus staff are excited and ready to sing, play, and share books with all the families who visit the bus when it’s in their neighbourhood! Check our website for locations and schedules for the C.O.W. bus and other exciting programs offered by the Centre for Family Literacy!

Create Your Own Family Literacy Traditions with the C.O.W. Bus!

Traditions mean a lot. Creating traditions with your family not only helps support early learning but also bonding.

Just ask Denyse, a mother of seven, who has made the COW Bus a tradition in her family for 10 years and counting. The stories, songs, and rhymes she has learned on the bus help her make their daily activities a fun learning experience for her children. For example, singing a favourite song to comfort her son strengthened their bond during a long wait at the doctor’s office.

“A tradition is kept alive only by something being added to it.”
– Henry James

This meaningful quote says it all. You can add your own personal spin to all the books and rhymes we share on the COW Bus, and start your own family literacy traditions!

One of the many songs we sing on the COW Bus is very useful for slowing down your children and keeping their busy hands occupied—with a bonus tickle at the end!

Here are the beehives (have your child make fists)
But where are all the bees? (peek inside closed fists)
Tucked inside where nobody sees
Watch as they come out of their hive
1,2,3,4,5 (open fist one finger at a time)
Buzzzzzzzz buzzzzzzzz (tickle with your fingers)

Brown Bear

Storytelling and reading are excellent ways to promote and enhance language and literacy development in your home.

This month, we are reading Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See by Bill Martin Jr and Eric Carle, where the children bring the story to life with colourful props followed by a puzzle featuring all the characters in this popular, classic book!

Come aboard the COW Bus and make literacy playtime and storytelling a family tradition. Each week we stop in 10 Edmonton neighbourhoods. To find a location near you, go to the Centre for Family Literacy website at www.famlit.ca

Say Hello to the New COW on the Block!

COW-SummerThe Classroom on Wheels (COW) Bus will be the ‘new kid on the block’ this coming October, with four new locations in Edmonton. Maple Ridge, Rundle Heights, Baturyn, and Walker are the newest communities we have added to our roster, and we’ll be welcoming both new and familiar families back in six other neighbourhoods. If you’re nearby you’re welcome to come aboard—you’ll have a blast bonding with your little ones while sharing books and singing songs!

The COW bus is a FREE drop-in program for parents and their children from birth to 6 years old, that helps support family learning. You can:

  • borrow books for free
  • share books and  puzzles with your child
  • listen to stories and songs
  • win free books

We have so many wonderful books for you to borrow, with no late fees. Come listen to stories and songs that will soon become family favourites! But we need you and your family to help bring these stories to life and build excitement!

Duck RabbitOne of our many favourites is Duck, Rabbit by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld, “a clever take on the age-old optical illusion: is it a duck or a rabbit? Depends on how you look at it! Readers will find more than just Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s signature humour here, there’s also a subtle lesson for kids who don’t know when to let go of an argument. A smart, simple story that will make readers of all ages eager to take a side, Duck! Rabbit! makes it easy to agree on one thing, reading it again!”

The fun starts October 3rd with weekly stops at 10 locations. Visit the Centre for Family Literacy website to find out when the bus will be in your area.

See you in October!

 

What’s Happening on the Edmonton C.O.W. Bus

The month of May on the Edmonton C.O.W. Bus was busy and fun, with familiar faces and a lot of visitors that came aboard for the first time. Welcome newcomers!

Very Hungry CaterpillarThe Very Hungry Caterpillar is a classic story by Eric Carle and everyone had fun ‘feeding’ the caterpillar before he made a cocoon and transformed into a beautiful butterfly.

Waves in the Bathtub by Eugenie Fernandes was enjoyed by both children and parents alike. We made big waves on the bus using just a simple blue shower curtain and stuffed toy ocean creatures to bring the story to life. This story can easily be told at home with items you already own.

Pete the CatJune is around the corner and we will be reading and singing along with Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes. Children will see how Pete the Cat takes everything in stride when his new white shoes get stained with every step he takes. You can sing the song with your children when things don’t go according to plan, and they’ll soon realize that ‘it’s all good.’

The week of June 13 -16 is our final week before summer break and we  celebrate with a year end party at each of the 10 sites. Join us with your children, aged 6 and under, for fun outdoor activities (including a take home craft) and say farewell to the Edmonton C.O.W. Bus until the fall. A free book will be given to every child who attends. Please come and feel free to bring a friend with their young children!

Visit the Centre for Family Literacy website for more information and the Edmonton C.O.W. Bus schedule. The website will be updated with the fall start date when available so don’t forget to check back and put the date on your calendar!

 

MOOOve Over Winter – the C.O.W. Bus is ready for spring!

Join us on the bus and help us celebrate all things spring! This season is about new beginnings and we have plenty of new songs, stories, and toys to keep you and your family busy and actively learning all spring. We will be getting a visit from the tickle monster, reading about hunting for eggs, and singing about spring rain and garden snails.

TickleMonster Book If your toddler or pre-schooler loves to be tickled, this book, with the loveable extra-terrestrial, will be a big hit. “A loveable monster has just flown in from Planet Tickle on a mission to tickle any child who happens to be following along with the Tickle Monster book. Parents read aloud and do the tickling, while children laugh and squirm with delight.”

Great Easter Egg HuntHere is a sneak peek at another one of the fun books we’ll be reading—you’ll want to read this one over and over again as it is jam-packed with surprises and hidden messages. “With its suspenseful treasure-hunt plot, this magical picture book set in the land of the Easter bunnies offers more than 200 hidden objects to find, puzzles to solve, and intriguing clues that lead to a surprise ending—a meeting with the Great Easter Bunny himself!”

One of the spring songs we’ll be singing:

Five Garden Snails

Five garden snails
Sleeping in the sun,
Along comes a (yellow) bird,
And flies away with one.

Four garden snails
Sleeping in the sun,
Along comes a (blue) bird,
And flies away with one.

(Continue with Three, Two, and One garden snail, changing the colour of the bird each time)

Action:

  1. Select 5 children to be the snails
  2. For lines 1 and 2 the snails lie curled up sleeping
  3. Select a child from the rest of the group wearing the appropriate colour to be the bird and fly away with a snail.

You can use your new spring songs while digging in the garden, splashing in puddles, or walking through your neighbourhood. Stories and songs are a great way to support language development with your children, while having fun and creating memories.

Here are two more ways to learn with your children and try something new this spring:

Tissue Paper Decorated Eggs

Easter Egg Slime

Check out the Centre for Family Literacy website to find out when the bus is in your area, or for more information!

 

Spatial Literacy and Awareness

Follow that MapSpatial literacy is becoming more recognized in recent times as a critical skill. One reason? Students with strong spatial skills are more likely to enter into the increasingly important fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (or STEM).

For success in today’s knowledge and technology-based society, STEM abilities are needed more than ever.

It all starts with awareness

Spatial awareness is the understanding of where you are in relation to another object. It’s also the ability to recognize the relationship of different objects to one another. Spatial thinking skills are required for everyday tasks, such as parking a car, merging into traffic, or estimating material needed for a project.

How does this relate to family literacy?

Spatial awareness starts early. Think of a baby learning to hold an object in her hand, or a toddler who has become obsessed with putting things into containers and taking them out again (and again, and again). This exploration is how spatial skills are developed.

Spatial concepts, along with other basic concepts, are essential for future success, and as your child grows they will need loving adults to help them develop these skills. It doesn’t have to be complicated. You can help with the learning of these concepts just by talking in detail with your child, using directional words. For example, “We put the empty juice bottle inside the blue box on the shelf, under the sink.”

Although it may not seem like it, research shows that spatial awareness skills will translate into skills that effect writing, math, and motor skills, and allow us to problem-solve by visualizing and imagining different perspectives. It’s how we read maps, create charts, think of tactics to win team sports, design blueprints, measure distances, and plan travel routes.

If you doubt the importance of spatial literacy, just think of instructional diagrams for car seat installation and furniture assembly!

Thankfully, there are many ways to boost your child’s spatial skills.

Activities to try as a family

  • Play “I See.” “I see a cup. Where is it?” Use directional words: up, down, under, far, near, behind, in front of, left, north, etc. “The cup is on the table.”
  • Complete puzzles together that require fitting several shapes into a larger one.
  • Build with blocks, play dough, and clay.
  • Use Lego building instructions to play Lego. You can even find them online.
  • Play “Simon Says.” Your child has to copy your movement. “Simon says touch your toes!”
  • Create a “Scavenger hunt” complete with a map.
  • Study a map of your community. Talk about how to get from point A to point B.
  • If you’re going on a road trip, show your child on a map what route you will be taking.
  • Explore a world globe together and point out where you are.
  • Go for a walk and take a compass. Talk about North, South, East, West.
  • Try playing team sports like soccer or baseball with your child. Or, if you are able, enroll your child in a sports activity.
  • And, of course, read books that address spatial concepts. See below for ideas.

Books recommendations

Rosie’s Walk by Pat Hutchins
Follow That Map! by Scot Ritchie
Actual Size by Steve Jenkins
Big Bug by Henry Cole

Rosie's Walk  Follow that Map  Actual Size  Big Bug

In the C.O.W. program, we bring a variety of toys and homemade activity ideas for parent and child to explore together, because developing spatial awareness (like all other literacy skills) requires exploration and interaction above all else.

 

 

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/