Hard to believe we are coming up on the time of year where publishers, magazines, and organizations are posting their best books list. Most of what comes out before Christmas I consider the best of… More
With so many states moving towards 3rd grade reading guarantees, parents and teachers are worried if kids are prepared for literacy from an early age. We talk a lot about books on this site but I don’t want to ignore an equally important but often ignored learning strategy for literacy success.
What Play is
Play does a lot for a child’s developing brain. New textures activate synapses that haven’t had their chance to exercise. The natural conversation that happens when you and your child play builds a strong vocabulary. Imaginative play creates reading comprehension through sequencing events and describing the routines and world around the child.
A child needs the space, time and freedom to explore and interact with the environments around them. Ask questions, get involved, not as a leader but as a participant. Us adults forget how freeing the creativity of play is. Let your child teach YOU something for a change.
What play is not
Play is not wasted time. Play doesn’t need to be structured or curated. Play will not be linear. They may start working in a grocery store and suddenly decide they are firefighters. All you need to do is sit back and let your child lead.
Get them started
While it is important to follow the direction of the child in play, there might be times they need a little encouragement. If you don’t know what to do here are a few play starters to help your child engage and ignite their brains
- A texture walk. Shoes protect our kids feet and they also keep our kids from feeling the world through their soles. Go outside and have your child walk in the driveway, grass on a dewy morning or in ooey gooey mud. It will not take long for your child to come up with an adventurous story.
- Go for a sound hike. If you live near a park or reserve head out and hear the wildlife but if you are in the city, do not fear. Think about all the noises the neighborhoods provide. Talk about what you hear and ask what your child hears.
- Make tape art. What kid doesn’t love to play with tape? Get out a few rolls of different kinds of tape. Masking, packing, duct, washi and scotch tape. Find an easy peel surface or use paper and let them create. Don’t sit on the sidelines! Join in and create worlds together
- Create a wall ball run. Find leftover paper towel rolls, toilet paper rolls, gift wrap tubes and a few different balls around the house. With painters tape and scissors help your child cut the tubes in different lengths, tape to a wall and have fun. Not only will your child watch physics at work, they will learn to problem solve when something goes wrong.
- Fort building. We may not all have trees at the ready to make a tree house. But with a few blankets and some outside chairs, tables and garden tools, you can make your own fort city.
There are so many ways to play each day. No fancy toys needed. All your child needs is time, space and freedom to lead.
What other ways do you encourage play? What are your child’s favorite activities?
A friend shared the short film Hair Love on Facebook not too long ago. This short film is heartwarming and beautifully made in its simplicity. I love when books and films show fathers in non-traditional roles and I love to see more diverse projects.
This movie is for everyone. So pull up a box of Kleenex and be prepared to weep.
Keep the Hair Love going with these great books
I am an Amazon affiliate. If you click on a link it takes you to Amazon, where if you make a purchase I will receive a portion of the sale.
Libraries aren’t only buildings anymore. No matter where you are, you and your family can access ebooks, audiobooks, movies and more from these apps. These services are all for free through your local library and come with the added bonus of no due dates to remember or late fines to feel guilty about. Check out what your library has to offer. Here is a small tasting of what’s out there. And if you see a service your library doesn’t have, let them know. Librarians love service suggestions!
Also known as Overdrive, Libby is an app that lets you access the ebooks and mp3 audiobooks your library or consortium owns. No matter where you are, all you need is a library card number and pin to have access to thousands of books on your phone, tablet or computer. We have used Libby for the kids when they forget required reading at school or if we find ourselves waiting at an appointment longer than we thought. With books for all ages, this app will be a sure hit for families on the go. Better yet, the books return automatically, so no late fines or lost items!
Hoopla is starting to take hold at many libraries. This app created by Midwest Tapes allows multiple people to check out movies, TV shows, music, books, and audiobooks. Popular series like Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Big Nate are always available so no need to wait for the library copy. They also sponsor a movie of the month and book club reads. My favorite option at the library is to use the read -a-long books for programs to encourage print awareness while we have fun reading the story together. Pros are many: easy access, no fines or lost materials, and unlike Libby, you can access an item no matter if 30 other people also have it checked out. The library pays for each download, so it saves the library money and provides incredible access to its customers. The cons: as a new service many popular titles aren’t available, but as their popularity grows and their licensing expands, expect to see new hot titles added in the upcoming months.
Like Hoopla, this is a streaming service for movies and TV shows. You may find hard to find titles and like Hoopla and Overdrive there are no late fees or list materials. The streaming service won’t get you at the top of the list for the newest superhero movie, but you will find some film gems among its listings.
Love magazines? Hate that you can’t find or check out the newest issue at the library? Flipster has you covered. An app available on phones or tablets, it brings you magazines with the news, style, or designs you seek. All without fees or fines because it returns automatically
Libraries are not a relic of the past but maintain relevance in the community by keeping up with technology and technological trends. Show your local library some love and check out some of the digital services they provide for your community. All for FREE!
What digital library service do you love? How has it helped your family build future readers?
Blue Sky White Stars by Sarvinder Naberhaus. Dial Books for Young Readers: New York, 2017.
(I am an Amazon Affiliate. If you click on a picture it takes you to Amazon where if you make a purchase I receive a portion of the sale.)
What the Book is About
Beautiful prose and gorgeous illustrations weave together America’s story, its monuments and its flag. A land that is as diverse as the people who live here is highlighted in this book.
Print Awareness and Letter Knowledge
Start with the title page. Say the title and trace as you read it. Have the child count with you the number of words in the title?
Why do we trace the words on the page? It connects our youngest readers, not only with the letter shapes, but how we read a book. Left to right and down a page.
Look at the front cover. Ask if the people look the same. Point out glasses, hair color, clothes, skin color, etc.
Ask the child what she thinks all the people are watching. Then flip through the pages of the book and ask questions about the pictures. Have the child guess what the book is about.
This can be used as a participation book. Read the first several pages or even one time through. Encourage the child to say with you the phrase, Blue Sky White Stars. Kids love to be a part of the story and participating helps them learn even more.
Although homonyms and homophones might be too advanced to discover on their own, point out the letter differences and then say each word. The repetition will help your child hear each individual sound. Even if they don’t understand the concept of homonyms, these experiences with concepts as a young child will build a solid base for learning later in life.
Sing Yankee Doodle along with this video:
Or This little light of mine
or You’re a Grand Old Flag
Narrative Skills or Building Reading Comprehension
Ask questions about the book:
- What picture do you like best? Why? Is it the colors? Or the scene (what is happening on the page?)
- Have your child describe a picture and see if you can guess what it is. This encourages the child to look at the picture in details, deriving more context as well as trying out some new words.
- After a couple of read throughs, have the child “tell” the story from the pictures. You be the listener! Getting the right words isn’t important, but seeing whether the child comprehended what the essence of the story is.
For so little text, there are so many big words to use! The rich illustrations demonstrate how critical pictures are in early reading. It helps expand vocabulary as well as tell the story. As children age, they need pictures less and less. But these first years of listening, the power is often in the pictures.
Using the pictures make a list of words your child hasn’t heard often.
- Conestoga Wagon
- The West
- Wagon Train
After the Book
Find symbols of America using this picture book as a guide. One of the best parts of the book is how it celebrates the diversity of the american experience. Using newspapers and magazines, create a collage of our country. Label the pictures to reinforce letter awareness.
What did you try?
Tell us in the comments sections, what you tried. What worked and didn’t work? Any other ideas you used?
As Time Went By. Jose Sanabria. Translated by Audrey Hall. North South Books Inc. New York: 2016.
(I am an Amazon Affiliate. If you click on a picture it takes you to Amazon, where if you make a purchase, I receive a portion of the sale. )
What the Book is About
The changing life of a steamboat and the changing faces of who inhabits and uses the boat.
How to Use this Book
Below are suggestions broken down by literacy skill to help you engage your young listener. You will not use each activity or skill in one sitting, but choose one or two to focus on each reading.
It is always important to orient the child to the story and book before you begin a reading. This particular book’s cover illustration goes from front cover to back cover. Open up the book, so both front and back cover show. Start at the left of the picture and ask questions about what the child sees. Ask about the people, the colors, the different types of transportation shown before you even open the book.
Next, underline with your finger the title and author. Point out the author and illustrator and then mention that the author is from another country and this book was written in Spanish and translated into English.
Flip through the book and show how it is structured into part 1, Part 2 and Part 3. Simply describe that books are put together or assembled in different ways. This one has two stories that become one story.
Research shows that the more unique words a child hears in everyday conversation, the more prepared she is when it comes time to read. Face to face conversation is critical because not only are the children listening to the words, but they watch how the mouth moves when the words are formed. Tablets, TV and smartphones do not provide the same benefit. (see Talking with Young Children)
Try to find unique words that are in the story or words you might use while talking about the story. For example:
Pick a few words each day and find ways to incorporate them into conversation. With repetition these words will become a part of your child’s vocabulary. Some words are hard to find ways to use naturally! So find a game or activity that would allow you to use them. And don’t forget, that is why we read books! The more we read, the more kids hear, the bigger vocabularies they build.
Activities to use:
Categorize words. For example: From the list above, categorize words into nouns: People, places or things; Adjectives or describing words; Verbs or moving words. Write lists or make drawings in each of the categories. This will help the child connect with the words on a deeper level.
Find the words in the book: Abandoned, luxury and homeless. The illustrator uses different colors on pages that these words appear. Talk about happy and sad emotions (and remind them that emotions are feelings) Then look at the pictures and have the child say whether the people on that page feel happy or sad or a different emotion. This not only builds vocabulary but helps the child reinforce reading comprehension and narrative skills. You could even make paper faces and draw the face and label happy or sad and have the child hold up how the picture makes him or her feel.
Alliteration is a big word and concept that can be simplified for kids by pointing out the beginning sounds of words. For example:
Ship that sailed beside the sun.
Ship. Sailed. Sun.
See if you and your child can write your own alliterative phrases.
The sun shines severely.
The board barely broke.
Write out and underline the similar starting sounds. This also encourages letter awareness/knowledge along with phonological awareness which is hearing the smaller sounds that make up the whole word.
Sing Row Row Row your boat. Singing is a great way to build Phonological Awareness. Add in motions to make it a whole body experience.
Narrative Skills (Building Reading Comprehension)
Connect the book to other ideas the child might know. For example, discuss what a steamship is and then talk about other types of boats. If you search for images online you can print out the pictures of different types of boats and then create labels for each type. Play a matching game. This also builds letter awareness and vocabulary.
Ask questions about the story as you read. Not every page, but every few pages. It is also a good way to see if the child is understanding the story or if it is still a little too hard comprehension wise. At the end of the book, go back through and pick out main points of the story and discuss them. It may take a few readings before the child can tell you the story on his or her own.
Repeated phrases are a great way to engage listeners in the book. Reading should never be a passive event! A repeated phrase in the book is, as time went by. When you get to that line, make sure to follow with your finger and encourage your child to say it with you. After a few times he or she may say it with you with little prompting.
After the Story
Do your own As Time Went By story. Take a loved toy, or hand me down clothing or some other repurposed object and write its story. Use the story as a guide, but have your child dictate what you are to write. Have him illustrate and put it together like a book.
Take a field trip. Find a repurposed building in your city to visit. Talk about what it had been and how it is used now. Was it ever abandoned like in the story? It is a good way to not only practice vocabulary, but to connect the story with the real world, a stepping stone to critical thinking.
Write in the comments section what skills and activities you tried. How did they work? What did you try different?
Written and Illustrated by Lemniscates. Candlewick Studio: Somerville, 2015
What the Book is About
Mixed media illustrations all about trees. How they change, where they grow, how they communicate and who benefits from having them around. A great way to encourage young children to explore the world.
About this post
Below I have highlighted different ways to incorporate pre-literacy skills to engage the listener and build reading skills. You won’t use each skill in every reading, but with each reading, pick a few different skills to highlight and use those suggestions.
Print Awareness and Print Motivation
When you read the book point out the title. Have the listener trace the letters with his finger. Ask what he thinks the book is about. What else does he see on the front cover? Point out the different tree shapes and sizes and have the child show you the tallest or most round tree.
Open the book and use your finger to underline the title and author. Remind the listener that the author writes the words and the illustrator draws the pictures. Sometimes, like this book the author and the illustrator are the same person.
This encourages Print Awareness and Print Motivation which orients the child to the parts of the book as well as leads the child to think about reading before it happens, deepening reading comprehension.
Build a dialog with the book. In the opening pages, ask the child what season it looks like outside your own windows. Are there leaves on the trees? Do you see the grass? What is the temperature, hot or cold?
As you read the story, stop and talk about the illustrations. For example, in the story text, the roots are referred to as feet. Talk about how this is a metaphor because roots are like the feet of the tree. Another page says the trees talk to each other and this is called communication. Ask how she believes trees communicate? What do you think trees talk about? If you were a tree, where would you live? By the river, in the wilderness or in the city?
Using the title page, what letters do you see? Are any of them in your name?
This isn’t a rhyming book, but there are ways to incorporate this important skill as a follow up to a reading. Come up with a rhyming tree. Ask the listener, what rhymes with tree? Draw a picture of a tree and for each rhyming word make a branch on the tree. The leaves can be silly words that rhyme but aren’t real words.
There are a lot of great finger plays, poems, songs and rhymes available online.
Apple Tree from letsplaykidsmusic.com
Apple tree, apple tree,
Will your apple fall on me?
I won’t cry, I won’t shout,
If your apple knocks me out!
You can also make up your own rhyme to a familiar song like this one sung to the tune The Wheels on the Bus:
The branches on the tree go up and down
up and down, up and down
The branches on the tree go up and down
In the breeze.
The leaves on the tree swing to and fro
To and fro, To and fro
The leaves on the tree swing to and fro
In the breeze.
The birds in the tree flap their wings
Flap their wings, Flap their wings
The birds in the tree flap their wings
In the breeze.
Take it Further
Go on a tree scavenger hunt. Look for different trees in your neighborhood or at a local park. Collect leaves, take notes on how the bark feels, how the branches grow, does the tree have fruit, etc. When home, make rubbings of the leaves with crayons and make a leaf book. Write the name of the tree and its characteristics.
The book’s illustrations are in mixed media, which means a variety of art techniques are used to make the pictures. Make your own mixed media pictures experimenting with texture, paint, paper, crayons, colored pencils and more to draw your own wilderness scene.
Don’t forget to post pictures in the comments below to share your child’s creativity!
Functional illiteracy is a large problem in the United States
(Information retrieved from K12 Readers on July 29, 2017 from http://www.k12reader.com/the-importance-of-reading-comprehension/ )
- Over 60% of inmates in the U.S prison system have reading skills at or below the fourth grade level.
- 85% of U.S juveniles in prison are functionally illiterate.
- 43% set of adults with extremely low reading skills live at or below the poverty line.
Someone who is functionally illiterate is unable to read at a level that they need to manage daily life. This could involve reading employment applications or banking forms or housing agreements.
One of the most critical pre-literacy skills is Narrative which helps strengthen reading comprehension to build strong readers.
Reading Comprehension is an important part of early literacy. It involves not only understanding the story that is being read, but processing and understanding the meaning of the story, predicting what will happen and relating it to the child’s life or other stories he or she has read.
It is a skill that doesn’t come naturally and needs to be nurtured as readers grow. Our youngest readers start by connecting the pictures on the page with the words that they hear. In the beginning books have short simple sentences with clear illustrations. As a reader ages selecting stories with strong sequencing, (Like Gingerbread Man or If you give a Mouse a Cookie) help build the narrative skills essential for reading comprehension. Asking questions about the story help children begin to understand the flow of books and create a deeper connection with the story that goes beyond recalling the events on the page.
By the time a child is an independent reader we want them to go beyond decoding the words they read to a rich understanding of the story as a whole.
Check out these articles for further information on Reading Comprehension and why it matters:
When I worked as a children’s librarian, my favorite part of the week was planning storytimes for a local Head Start school. I would sit on the floor of the children’s area and sift through the shelves looking for a theme and fun books to complement it.
But I didn’t stop there, because the theme was only to get the kids interested in the books, the real learning was happening through the choices I made about the books I read.
So how does a librarian plan a story time?
It starts with a theme. Themes can be about a topic like moving or first day of school or beach days. It could be colors or shapes. I once had a teacher ask me to do a storytime on positional words like Over, Under, Above, Below. That was a challenging storytime to prepare.
Once I have chosen a theme, I start to assemble books. Story times and attention spans of preschool children usually last about 30 minutes. Three or four books, with songs and rhymes in-between will fill the time quickly. So with so few minutes, how did I make the most of the stories I read?
Focus on the Six Pre-Literacy Skills
With all the choices of books out there and so little time, after I settled on a theme, I chose what of the six skills I would highlight that week.
This part is for the kids, but they will never know it. These six skills are the building blocks for future reading success. When I introduce the book, I will say a line about the skill highlighted in the book and a quick sentence about why it is important. That is for the teachers and the parents and the caregivers. The kids only need to know they are in for a great book.
After the theme and books are chosen, I then choose the order I read the books in.
When reading to kids, order matters
With active bodies and imaginations, storytimes need to be kept short. I always start the storytime with the longest book. If you try to read the Little Engine Who Could at the end of a story session you will have chaos on your hands. So start with the longest book first and end with the shortest.
After the order is chosen, find songs and rhymes to go along with them.
This is a great way to get the kids wiggles out
Kids are made to move. Sitting and listening to story after story is hard. So make the most of your time and take short breaks to get those little bodies moving. Fingerplays are a great way to involve the kids in the story time and get their attention back. (Fingerplays are poems/songs like where is thumbkin) Playing music and having them follow your dance is also a great way to get them back in a listening mood. Sing a song, repeat nursery rhymes, whatever you can dream up for a quick break between books will be appreciated by the young listeners.
Those are the building blocks of a story time, so let’s see the theory in practice.
Preschool Story Time Sampler
The theme as you can tell is messes! These books I chose because of the unique vocabulary, the strong narratives, rhyming words, and the fun pictures that build print motivation. The last book, I ain’t gonna paint no more is a show stopper because it can be sung to It Ain’t gonna rain no more. All of the books encourage interaction with the kids and fun conversations. Songs that could be used with this storytime are Laurie Bernker’s Victor Vito, The Itsy Bitsy Spider, and the nursery rhyme humpty dumpty. I always began and ended my storytimes with the same opening rhyme and the same ending rhyme. It gives the kids a sense of order and completion to their time at the library.
Now, I am not suggesting that parents create a show-stopping storytime for their loved ones each night, but it may help you break through a reading rut with your child or find a new way to explore stories together.
(I am an amazon affiliate member, if you click on a picture it takes you to Amazon, where if you make a purchase I get a small percentage of the proceeds. I am not paid to review any particular books and the opinions are all mine.)
It is never to early to start reading to your child
Baby’s first books are often vocabulary books, nursery rhymes and songs. Babies are sponges for language at this age and it becomes a cornerstone of future reading success. Look for books that have simple pictures, contrasting colors, and real pictures of faces and animals. Touch and feel books or any book with texture is a perfect pick for babies.
One or two words per page and simple songs will keep your child engaged and interactive which not only builds language but develops a lifelong reading habit. Allow the child to hold the books and explore. Yes, the book will often end up in their mouth because that is how babies explore!
Look for books that:
- Have real faces, animals, objects. Babies react more to real faces at this stage of development.
- Textured books. Babies explore with their senses. Find books that are not only heavy cardboard, but cloth and other textured materials.
- Simple one or two word sentences with simple pictures. These types of books help build vocabulary which future readers need a large base for school reading success!
I have put together a PDF of suggested board books that will engage your baby. Print it out and take it along with you to the library or bookstore. In addition, many libraries have parent packs with puppets and age appropriate toys to help dive deeper into reading. Also look for baby storytimes and play and learn centers for parent/child focused time.
These are five websites I turn to for up-to-date literacy news and book lists. Follow many of these on social media or visit the links by clicking below.
Growing Book by Book Started by an early childhood teacher and literary specialist, Growing Book by Book is a great website that has reading tips and read aloud ideas for infants to early readers. Here you will find activities to use with your child and book ideas to keep your reading routine fun and interesting. Growing Book by Book also has an active Facebook page that shares relevant reading articles and blog posts from other sites and great reading lists.
The Literacy Nest An educator and mom who is also trained to help kids with dyslexia. Although the website is geared towards older children, I find she shares great resources on literacy and how to engage struggling or reluctant readers. All children learn to read at their own rate and in their own way and this site is a great resource for all parents.
Reading Rockets An organization for parents, teachers, and other dedicated literacy staff. Book lists, activities, articles and more on helping families and teachers build a culture of readers.
Raising Readers Is a website about a program for Maine families but the resources on the site about reading and the importance of early literacy can be used by anyone. While you won’t be able to receive any of the books, there are great book lists and articles to peruse to help build your future reader.
Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library Dolly Parton is committed to providing access to books for children and families across the country. From birth to age five a child will receive a book a month in participating communities. If there isn’t a program in your community you can start one! Imagine receiving a free book every month for your child. They will have 60 books by the time they reach age 5.
What websites do you turn to for your reading and literacy questions?
A librarian for the Boy Scouts for America toured the US in order to raise awareness and support for better quality children’s books. He wanted to create a “Good Book Week” to celebrate children’s literature and he enlisted the help of Publisher’s Weekly, the American Library Association and the American Booksellers Association to join the Boy Scouts in promoting this event.
In 1944, the Children’s Book Council took over the event and it is still held today, 98 years after the first event. (see Every Child a Reader for more on the history of the event)
High quality children’s books are critical in building the success of future readers. What can you do as parents or caregivers to build a love of reading for the children you care for.
- Make reading a regular routine. Just like brushing teeth, reading should be a part of your child’s every day. It only takes twenty minutes to build a love of reading and the necessary pre-literacy skills that will aid your child during his school years.
- Find books your children love. Read blogs, check out the new shelf of your library, go to the bookstore and ask friends. There are a lot of places to find new and enriching books.
- Put books within your child’s reach. No high bookshelves! Have baskets in multiple rooms of the house with easy access to books. Keep a bag handy in the car with books and always keep a book or two with you while you wait for appointments. Make finding a book as easy as finding her favorite toy.
- Go to a bookstore or library storytime as a family. Show your child the importance of reading by attending a community storytime. Here you will learn about new books and learn new songs to sing together.
- To raise a reader be a reader. Let your child catch you reading throughout the day. Our kids tend to copy our habits. Look how early they imitate our smartphone habits! So, pick up a book and get reading, and know that your love of reading will grow your child’s love of it too!
Don’t forget to look at the events page at your local library, bookstore and school to see the exciting events taking place in your community for Children’s Book Week.
For further information about this week and ways to celebrate
- Get started on your summer reading with this Summer 2017 list by Publisher’s Weekly.
- Find out more about Children’s Book Week here.
- Search for your local events here.
- Find downloadable books and activities from a CBW sponsor here.
You can also vote in the Children and Teen’s Book Choice awards by clicking here.
Tell us in the comments how you are celebrating with your child this week!
On my Facebook feed yesterday, there was a link to an article on a new study published by the journal Developmental Psychology. The study found that children who find reading success use something called “inventive spelling” as she writes. Find a link to the full article here.
WHAT IS INVENTIVE SPELLING?
Inventive spelling is how a child writes the words he hears. Children use the sounds they here to create the words on the page. I often see this in my own children’s writing work when they create stories. School will often be written as skul or skl. As the child matures, according to the study, the consonant and vowel sounds develop.
In the Children’s House in the Montessori classroom, this type of invented spelling is encouraged through the work, the moveable alphabet. The children use wooden letters and place them on a large mat, lined like a piece of paper. Children start by placing the letters on the mat, writing single words. Then stories. After the letters are placed on the mat, they will copy what they see onto a piece of paper and illustrate the story. Reinforcing hand strength, reading comprehension and phonological awareness.
The large takeaway from this study is memorizing sight words does not lead to reading success. The exploration of reading and words by the child and child directed, however does.
How to encourage “invented spelling”
- Have a lot of writing material available. No matter where you are, it is easy to carry a small notebook and pencil with you. In the car, waiting in line at the grocery store, or waiting for your child’s turn at the doctor’s office, have a notebook and pencil at the ready. Have her write down what she sees or a story about what will happen.
- Chalkboards work too. Chalkboards are great for many reasons. But I like the versatility of them. Children can use chalk, or even their fingers to form letters and words in the dust.
- Foam letters. Even if your child hasn’t mastered writing, he can use foam letters to form words and stories.
- Don’t worry about correcting or editing the words. At this stage your child is learning how words are put together and they sounds he hears. All of this leads to developing the skills he needs to become a future reader. Spelling comes later!
Take a look at the article. There are a lot of great tips on how to further encourage and build your child’s love for reading!
(I am an Amazon Affiliate. If you click on the link and make a purchase on Amazon, I receive a percentage of the sale. The opinions contained within are my own and I was not paid. I did receive a copy via Netgalley for a review)
Even though I am not that old, I still find times that I hold old school beliefs. My own children, their friends, and the children I work with have been incredible examples of acceptance of the complex and diverse world around us. And because of this, I have found my eyes opened to ways I unintentionally contribute to stereotypes and biases. I am still growing and learning, and grateful for the journey I am on. Books like Jacob’s room to choose by Sarah and Ian Hoffman, lead me even deeper into this journey.
I have found my eyes opened to ways I unintentionally contribute to stereotypes and biases.
Jacob’s room to choose tackles the ongoing cultural discussion of gendered bathrooms. The authors explore how gendered differences are established in cultural and how that impacts our young children. Even though the concept might be advanced for very young readers, the authors handle the material in an age appropriate and sensitive way.
I am glad to see more books about gender acceptance entering mainstream children’s literature, although I would like to see less message driven books surrounding this topic and more books about kids being kids no matter how or if they identify with any certain gender or stereotype.
The vulnerability of the authors’ own struggles will bring insights and encouragement to other parents facing the same issues as well as classroom teachers and communities. A worthwhile book to read and would be a great addition to a parenting section at the library or parent resources in a school setting.
Other Books to Read:
Julien is a mermaid by Jessica Love. Julien has always wanted to dress up like the three beautiful women he meets on the train. With the support of his abuela, Julien sparkles inside and out when he is free to be himself.
Red: A crayon’s story By Michael Hall. A story about a crayon who is mistakenly labeled and the hurt suffered when friends, family and strangers try to force him to be who they see on the outside. The crayon finds help from friends who encourage him to be true to who he is on the inside.
Books for Grown-ups:
Becoming Nicole: the extraordinary transformation of an ordinary family. By Amy Ellis Nutt. How a family pulls together to support their transitioning child and the ups and downs that come with the changes.
The Transgender Teen: a handbook for parents and professionals supporting transgender and nonbinary teens. Stephanie A. Brill and Lisa Kenney. A resource for parents, teachers and others who support a teen transitioning or living a nonbinary life.
Beyond Magenta: transgender teens speak out. Susan Kuklin. What is life like for a transgender teen? Read 6 stories of triumphs, struggles, and more.
What books have you found most helpful in initiating discussions with your family about gender stereotypes and labels?
The best time for most families to build a reading routine is right before bed. Reading not only provides a safe and comfortable place for parents and kids to engage in conversation, but reading calms the mind, soothes the heart, and whispers to the body to rest.
What you read before bed isn’t too important, but I’ve learned a few tips in my parenting years that will make for a smoother transition to bed.
Three Tips for Smoother Bedtime Reading
- No Scary Stuff. My son loved the book a Dark Night by Dorothee De Monfried . Regardless of how much he loved this book, it was a daytime book because what kid wants to read a book about dark scary noises in the night, right before bed?
- Keep the Screaming to a minimum. This might not be the time for Marvin K. Mooney will you please go now. But maybe you will be lucky and your kid won’t continue screaming the phrase long after lights out.
- No Disney Movie book stories. I don’t know how many times my kids would hand me one of the movie books, knowing that I couldn’t skip pages drawing out bedtime until I couldn’t keep my eyes open. Keep stories long enough to engage with your child, but not so long they will be tucking you into bed.
Building Future Reader’s Top Five Bedtime Reads:
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- Roar of a Snore by Marsha Diane Arnold. Dial Books for Young Readers ,2005.Who is snoring so loud and is there any place where the sound won’t keep our protagonist awake? Solve this mystery while sharing rhymes, giggles and rich language.
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2. Bear Can’t Sleep by Karma Wilson. Margaret K. McElderberry Books, 2018. Bears sleep in the winter, so why can’t this bear find any zzzz’s. Your child love joining in with the refrain and thinking up solutions to bear’s insomnia.
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3. Owl Moon by Jane Yolen. Philomel Books, 1987. If your child likes longer books, this soft quite read will have the room on the edge of their bed waiting to see if the child and father spot a moon on this dark night. Beautiful picture and sophisticated text make this award winning book a classic.
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4. Moongame by Frank Asch. Aladdin, reissued 2014. Frank Asch gets kids. He knows what they like and how to talk with them so they don’t feel talked down to. Moonbear can’t find his friend the Moon and he is worried he’s lost his friend. A great discussion starter about the moon and where it is, and whether or not it really moves in the sky.
5. Little Owl’s Night by Divya Srinivasam. Viking Books for Young Readers, First edition, 2011. Little owl wonders if the day is as sweet and fun as the night. A great book for those curious children who would like to test the boundaries of their endurance and your patience as the plead to stay up all night like Little Owl.
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What are your top bedtime reads?
Recently, I was in an early head start site and I observed a toddler, dressed as a doctor, cooking at the play stove, while nursing a baby doll. The teacher asked if the child was a chef and the girl answered, she was a “cooker.” The teacher laughed and said, that’s right you are a doctor, mother, chef. While the girl played and acted out routines she saw when she was at home or with her family in the world, her teacher taught her new vocabulary to describe what was happening.
This is a sight you don’t often see in schools anymore. Why is that and how is it harming the future generations?
Outcomes based learning has hurt play, particularly in early learning classrooms. Teachers are required to prove skills learned and objectives the children have met. Documentation has taken precedence over the process of learning, creating an environment where children regurgitate information without ever knowing how to process, internalize and comprehend what they have heard.
Based from an article retrieved on EBSCOhost
Ready or Not, Play or Not: Next Steps for Sociodramatic Play and the Early Literacy Curriculum: A Theoretical perspective. Dr. Tarsha Bluiett. Reading Improvement, Fall 2018. Volume 55:3, 83-88.
No Child Left Behind, initiated by the Bush administration, while with good intentions, has created an atmosphere where children are continually left behind because teachers are forced to instruct and teach at levels the early learners aren’t ready for.
Beginning with Maria Montessori in the early 1900’s research has repeatedly shown, that play is the work of learning. Meaningful work happens through an environment rich with opportunities for creative play, that will not always inspire children to become lifelong learners, but also aids in the development of the oral, aural and visual skills a child needs in order to make the jump from pre-literacy to emergent reader and finally into independent reader.
Dramatic play encourages the development of language, emotional literacy, cooperation with peers, problem solving and moving from internal thought to externalization of thoughts and back to deeper thinking.
Play, not instruction, fosters this connection.
Social interactions through play provide meaningful ways for children to gain important life and self-care skills and emotional learning all while the imitate and reproduce the world they see around them in the safety of the classroom.
What does this mean for parents of pre-literate children?
- Don’t overschedule. Keep adult led, organized activities to a minimum if at all in the early years of life.
- Make a play friendly space. Kids do not need high tech gadgets or expensive toys. Create a home that allows for exploration of the world indoors and outside.
- Child led. Play shouldn’t be forced, but directed by the child.
- Adults need to remember how to play. When was the last time you played? Or pretended to be someone else? Keep in mind that when our children play, they are working hard at learning. Play as we age becomes a practice in creativity that will atrophy if we don’t practice. While our kids play to learn, we also play to create.
- Gives you time to talk with your child. No need to give commands or directions in play. Let your child be the parent, or the doctor. Find ways to introduce words they may not know naturally in the conversation of play.
Play isn’t only for recess
By creating literacy rich and meaningful play areas pre-literate children build the oral, vocabulary and systems they will use all throughout their life. So put away the flash cards and resist signing them up for another enrichment program. Allow your child the gift of time for play and watch them soar.
Play IS the foundation of school success
For Further information
Check out these websites
The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bonds
Kenneth R. Ginsburg and the Committee on Communications, and the Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health
When I was a kid, I lived in a valley with a creek to the east of our property and a small stream that ran between us and our neighbor’s yard. After a storm, that little stream swelled to the tops of the banks with water and my sisters and I would put together boats with whatever materials we had on hand. Paper, mayo jar lids, sticks. Whatever would float and then we would see if we could race it to where the small culvert dumped into the larger creek.
The illustrations in Ida and the Whale, by Rebecca Gugger, from page one took me right back to that stream and those afternoons we spent in the creek. Making boats, making-believe we were stranded on an island and only had the woods and water to sustain us.
Ida is a girl who questions the world. She wants to see all the big things in the universe. The sun, the moon, the stars, and through her imagination she calls a whale to swim her through the forest of birch trees to touch the sky.
Fantastical? Yes. Whimsical? For sure. Ida is the child that still is inside each one of us, if we could put away our grown up logic and systems and worries. After reading this book, I wanted to take off my shoes and go stomp in a puddle or find a field to lay in and
Just. Hear. Silence.
Ida and the Whale, won’t make sense to most adults, but I know when you read this book to your child she will dream big and isn’t that the magic of stories?
Literacy skill highlighted
Print Motivation. Kids love fantastical books as they get older. This might be a tough read for a young preschooler, but older preschoolers or kindergarteners will enjoy the questions she has.
Activity beyond the book
Get outside. Find a field to lay in, a stream to explore, or just sit and watch a sunset. This book screams to be re-enacted in the real world.
(I am an amazon affiliate, which means if you click the picture and make a purchase from Amazon, I receive a portion of the sale.)
- Will be published on April 2, 2019
- Written by Rebecca Gugger and illustrated by
Other books to enjoy:
I recently attended a workshop from a local literacy organization about tools and strategies to help struggling readers. The focus was on how to identify what reading problem the child, teen, or adult reader faced and strategies to build more confident readers.
The workshop fascinated me, because as a librarian, not a teacher, I had never really thought about fluency and decoding and how phonics were taught to new and struggling readers. I gained a lot of knowledge in the workshop about the mechanics of learning to read that I will find ways to implement in future storytimes.
I was left, though, with a question
How do parents of “pre-literate” children participate in the literacy life of their child to mitigate future reading problems.
As any good librarian does, I turned to my local library’s research databases. In my search, I found an article that, although meant for kindergarten and first grade teachers and parents of this age group, I began to see how libraries, literacy organizations, and preschools can partner with parents to build a routine, love, and background in reading.
A 3-Year Study of a School-Based Parental Involvement Program in Early Literacy. Susan Ann Crosby, Timothy Rasinski, Nancy Padak, and Kasim Yildirim. The Journal of Educational Research, 108:165-172, 2015. Retrieved from Academic Search Premier.
The research looked at the impact of parental involvement in student literacy achievement and the sustainability of a program over the course of 3- years. The program was modified each year and what the researchers found at this one school where the program was implemented is the children and parent’s who had the highest participation in the weekly program had the highest increase of Word Accuracy per minute when tested at the beginning and end of the year. And in Kindergarteners the researchers noted the children knew more sight words.
All it took to improve reading fluency was 2, 10 minute sessions of parent and child reading per week.
The program was simple. Each week a short poem or rhyme was sent home. The parents were to, over the course of the week, practice the reading two days. In particular the parents read the passage several times to the child while pointing out the words. Then the parent and child read the passage together several times, while the parent pointed to the text. Lastly, the child would read the passage several times and point out the text while reading. Afterwards the parent and child played word games using unique words from the text in a variety of ways.
Parent reads poem several times while following the text with her finger
- Parent and child read poem together several times while following text with finger
- Child reads poem several times to parent while the child points to words
- As the program developed there was more emphasis on the program with the poem of the week being displayed in the school and assessment logs submitted every 9 weeks. All it took was two days a week of 10-15 minute sessions between parent and child for the student to experience literacy improvement.
What does this mean for parents of children with young children?
- Repetition is key. Using poetry and rhymes with our youngest listeners will not only help early literacy skills develop before the child becomes an emergent reader, the familiarity, routine and safe space the reading activity takes place encourages a child to bond with reading.
- Mini-reading breaks have huge impact. The study only required 10-15 minutes twice a week. Most families can find time in between activities or bedtime to fit in reading rhymes or poems.
- Reading and highlighting the words are key. We can’t just read to our children, we have to show them that what we say relates to the markings on the page. Think of it as prepping your child’s “reading surface.”
- Parent involvement is critical. Teachers and librarians aren’t miracle makers. All they do is guide parents and children in a learning direction. The magic happens at home and the school day is practice.
What are 3 steps you can take today to make a difference in your child’s future reading life?
- Choose poetry and rhymes to mix up your reading life. Act out the poems or rhymes. Use silly voices. There are a lot of ways to do repeat readings without the experience boring you or your child.
- Know what books your child is hearing at school and pick them up from your local library. Find ways to explore the themes and ideas in the book by taking “field trips” together to build your child’s context or background knowledge for the book.
- Play word games. As the researchers saw, when the parents followed up readings by using the new words in the book in their everyday conversation, there was a larger impact on achievement. See how many times you can use a new word in conversation and link it back to the poem you read. Or play a rhyming game by creating a list of rhyming words.
Reading should never be a chore but a bonding experience between parent and child
Building future readers begins at home in ways that don’t have to feel like a chore for either parent or child. By incorporating short spurts of reading throughout the week, your child will be even more ready to emerge as a reader when they enter kindergarten.
Book Ideas to try at home
Books, books and more books! I love receiving advanced reader copies of upcoming titles. Through NetGalley, I am able to request books that look interesting and if approved I receive an electronic copy for feedback and reviews. Not only do I get to see what is coming out, I get to let my readers know what books to look out for.
Introducing the Spring 2019 line-up. Stay tuned for more reviews.
I am an amazon affiliate, if you click on a picture it takes you to Amazon, where if you make a purchase I receive a portion of the sale.
Read the reviews and help out the authors by pre-ordering if you plan to make a purchase.
Backpack Explorer Beach Walk. Edited by Storey Publishing. Published on April 16, 2019. I enjoyed the photographs and the child led exploration. This would be a great book to accompany a beach vacation to enrich the time. Or, if it is still cold outside, curl up next to the fire and read this book and dream of warmer days. There are stickers in this book, so best for older children.
Love you Head to Toe. Ashley Barron. Owlkids. Published on March 15, 2019. Lyrical text, simple and gorgeous illustrations, and actions that fit perfectly with the words. A great book for babies and toddlers. Parents of infants can use the rhyming text during diaper changes, on a walk, at the pool or any daily routine. For toddlers this is a great way to connect them to the greater world by acting out the different animals.
When You’re Scared. Andree Poulin. Illustrated by Veronique Joffre. Owlkids Books, Published March 15, 2019. A great book to help explore emotions. A boy and his mother go camping and he is afraid to jump into the water. At the same time, a bear cub is scared to go dive in the dumpster for food. The boy puts aside his fears to help out a friend in need. Beautiful illustrations and scarce text make for enriched narrative skills and vocabulary with each retelling.
Red Light, Green Lion. Candace Ryan. Kids Can Press. Published on May 07, 2019. The illustrations in this book are simple yet bold. They follow the text well and enhance the reading. The text is lyrical and rhythmic. There are pages that young listeners will understand and more abstract pages that might be confusing. The sentiments of the story are lovely and for the most impact I would share this with older preschoolers who are ready to tackle abstract thoughts.
“Excuse me, will you help me find a book?”
When I worked as a children’s librarian, there was no greater joy than having a child come up and ask for help selecting a book. That was when I got to exercise my readers advisory skills and dive deeper into understanding what makes a book click for a reader.
More often than not, what I would hear was, “My teacher wants me to choose a book at this level.” Then I would pull out the binder that listed the school’s reading lists with point values and the child would brush my questions away only wanting to know which book in her level she could read for the most points and the fewest pages.
Not a scenario library dreams are made of.
In the article Thinking Outside the Bin: Why labeling books by reading level disempowers young readers by Kiera Parrott, School Library Journal, August 1, 2017, Parrott discusses what the purpose of leveling books was for in schools and how that was not the intention for libraries.
The key is more choice, not less, Carter believes. “Let them take out a lot of books so that somewhere in that pile they find something that satisfies them,” she says. “But we have to keep that process going….When they come into the library the next time, talk about their choices: what worked; what didn’t. They have to learn their own processes for selecting books, and if we keep narrowing the choices by artificial constraints, we aren’t giving them that chance.
Betty Carter, professor emerita of children’s and young adult literature at Texas Woman’s University, noted in a July 2000 SLJ article
A libraries goal is to build lifelong readers and help each developing reader discover their reading identity. (Parrott, 44) The leveled reading often discourages readers or makes them feel inadequate and reading becomes another school chore instead of a gateway to a larger world.
The acronym Bookmatch, guides young readers to choose their own appropriate reading material. And this is a great place for librarians to help out.
- Book length
- Ordinary language
- Knowledge prior to book
- Manageable text
- Appeal to genre
- Topic appropriateness
- High interest
There are debates about leveling books in the education field, but at home and in the library our focus should be on building a love of reading and in order to meet that goal we have to follow the lead of our children.
What can parents do?
- Go browse library shelves with your child. Have them pick up books that appeal to them, either through the cover or description.
- Ask them why they picked up that particular book. Did it remind them of another book they read? Did it look funny? Questions help us better understand what connected our child to the book in the first place.
- Do not judge. Okay, we are all probably guilty of this. We want them to experience our favorite books from our childhood. Who wouldn’t love The BFG or Bridge to Terabithia or The Phantom Tollbooth? They might be classics, but they also were written for a time very different from the world our children are growing up in. Bite your tongue when they look at the Boxcar Children, and say it looks old-timey. They aren’t reading for us, they are reading for themselves.
- Librarians are in the library for a reason. If your child really isn’t able to find a book to his liking, do not be afraid to ask for help. The librarian will offer some suggestions based on the books the child has enjoyed in the past.
Too often these days, reading and literacy have been reduced to achievement statistics. That may be fine for improving test scores, but it has a negative impact on a child’s enjoyment of reading. Yes, we need to provide opportunities to challenge our kids, and at the same time, if we focus on their needs, the achievement often happens on its own.
If you have a reluctant reader
- Try audiobooks. One of the funniest books my family has listened to is Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians. This book demands to be listened to. The narrator is fantastic and the whole family will sit and listen together.
- Graphic Novels are a must. Graphic novels are not hurting your child’s reading life. In fact, many kids begin with graphic novels and advance to chapter books. And if they don’t, no worries because graphic novels are still reading!
- Magazines, Guiness Book of World Records, and more. Reading is reading is reading. Is anyone judging you for reading the latest Stephanie Plum? Well, if they are, you don’t need to hang around them 🙂 Like graphic novels, magazines and list books are easier for kids to digest because the text is broken up, there is more white space and instead of looking at all those tiny letters scrunched together on the page, there is breathing room in the text.
We all want the best for our kids
Deep reading will come if we build a trusting relationship between kids and books. That relationship starts young, when they are still babies and continues on, hopefully through the rest of their lives. If we take the focus off of results and academic achievement, I believe we would have way more readers. Our job as parents, caregivers, and child reading advocates is to guide our children into the wonderful world of reading and then set them free.