Tag Archives: parents

Story time? Start talking!

Ever think to yourself, “There has to be a way of reading with kids that’s more fun and engaging,” or “This book would be great, except it has too many words”?

Well, think to yourself no longer, and start talking! Dialogic reading is a great way to engage with children, and it’s all about creating a conversation using the book at hand. You don’t have to read the words, and in fact I recommend you NOT read the book word for word but rather LOOK at the pictures and TALK about what you see. Children learn more from an open-ended and interactive activity where they have control over input and direction. This could not be truer than in the emergent reader!

Since this method relies on the conversation, it switches the traditional roles we play when we think of reading with children. Typically we think of reading where the adult reads the words while the child listens; in effect the child becomes a passive listener. In dialogic reading, the adult prompts the child into conversation and, depending on the child’s response, expands on what they said. With dialogic reading, the child becomes an active participant.

Photo courtesy of Harris County Public Library.

Photo courtesy of Harris County Public Library.

Great prompting questions when you’re reading might be: “What do you see?” “What do you think is happening?” “What do you think might happen next?” Remember, there are no right or wrong answers here. You are simply talking about what the child sees and they can have pretty extravagant imaginations! You have the opportunity to build children’s vocabularies by providing them with new words, and can also expand their knowledge by offering new contexts and asking them to reflect on their own experiences.

I find this method also works very well when introducing a book for the first time. As you “walk” through the book and talk about the pictures children gain a sense of what is happening and begin to make predictions for what comes next, an important cognitive skill to develop.

When we allow a child to express themselves, whether right or wrong, accurate or incorrect, we allow them to think creatively about what they see and think about the world around them. The details and getting the answer right are not important at this time (they’ll get that later). Dialogic reading creates the freedom for a story typically presented in a formal book format to take on a new life. It allows for natural discovery and for new interpretations of what is seen.

Some great books to consider for Dialogic Reading are:

  • Wonder Bear by Tao Nyeu
  • Any of the many excellent books from Books by Tara
  • And then it’s Spring by Julie Fogliano
  • The Bear and Friends series by Karma Wilson
  • Knuffle Bunny by Mo Willems
  • Mouse Mess by Linnea Riley
  • Not A Box by Antoinnette Portis
  • Rosies Walk by Pat Hutchins
  • The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney
  • Where’s Walrus? by Stephen Savage

But you can use any book, anywhere!

– Josh

The Best Job in the World

Joy StoverOn October 8 at 7:35 p.m., I was blessed with my third little angel, Kenneth Abraham. During my pregnancy so many people asked if I was planning on going back to work. My reply? “Of course! Why wouldn’t I? This is my third baby!”I thought I would just jump right back into the swing of things because I was such a pro, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. I think this one has been the hardest transition for me because I know he is my last!

As my older two were growing up I used to say, “I can’t wait until he can roll over,” or “I can’t wait until she can talk,” but with Kenny I want to cherish every smile, every tear, every cry and every giggle! He slept for 8 and a half hours last night and while a part of me is jumping for joy that we have a sleeper, I am feeling sad that the midnight “dates” he and I shared in the rocking chair by his bedroom window snuggling close together every few hours are going to dwindle away. I’m even becoming a little jealous of his caregiver because she often gets to see more of him than I do.

Those of us who care for these precious little ones have such a huge responsibility. Have you ever stopped and thought about who you are caring for each day? Mother and Father’s sweet baby, Grandma and Papa’s dear little ones, Auntie’s little stinker… what an undertaking! In the office we often use the phrase “success by six” to describe just how important early childhood is. Children’s brains are developing at such a high rate and it is our responsibility to make sure we aid in this process, which means knowing the rules and regulations and learning about what is developmentally appropriate in our professional development each year. We aren’t baby sitters, we’re child care professionals! Being a mom, being an early childhood educator… they’re both the best job in the world.

Gun Play in the Classroom

As I drove past a local Veteran’s Memorial on Veteran’s Day, my son asked why there were so many people at the park. I reminded him that it was Veteran’s Day. He proceeded to tell my daughter all about soldiers and how they keep us safe. Living only a few miles from an air force base, we see soldiers on a daily basis. While we don’t see them carrying the weapons, he understands that this uniform means they have the right to carry a gun. The fact that the soldiers carry guns was an important bit of information my son felt the need to pass on to my daughter.

This mention of guns, of course, added a new element to the discussion. My daughter’s perception of guns is they are bad and dangerous, while my son’s perception is that they are for policemen and soldiers to help keep us safe. Over the years we have had many conversations with our children regarding guns. We have many friends that are police officers and his knowledge of guns comes from these conversations, not television or movies.

As educators, we must be aware that guns, like anything you ask a child not to do, will become a forbidden fruit of sorts and all the more enticing. As a teacher I found two things to hold true when children started pulling their finger guns and hand swords. First, every time I observed children involved in this type of play I reminded the children of our classroom rules about guns: we don’t point them at someone else and if this behavior scares another child we needed to stop. Second, the less I said after our conversation the less time they spent engaged in the behavior.

The notion of children playing with weapons, mimicking gun sounds and making them with their hands is always sensitive and cultural. While some research suggests that gun play does not lead to real violence, remember that many parents will have different ideas about what is appropriate, and that some children, like my son, may have a very positive outlook on guns. However you choose to handle this type of play, be sure that you are open and honest with families and state your classroom rules clearly.

Helping Parents Through Transitions

About two months ago I wrote about my personal transition experience, and I am happy to say that things are working out for me in my new space. I feel like I am fitting in! While I offered some tips in that blog about helping children to transition, I realized I missed the opportunity to share how to help parents through transitions, too. It is sometimes as difficult for moms and dads as it is for their children!

We often talk about helping families adjust to the center for the first time. There are forms to fill out, teachers to meet and children’s schedules organize. However, there are other times that can be just as stressful for families. For some parents it feels like they’ve just dropped off a tiny baby, and suddenly their child is walking into the toddler room! Their baby is getting to be a “big kid.” These transitions are ones that we frequently miss, because for us, they are a natural part of life in child care.

We should stop and think about these changes from a parent’s perspective.  We should ask ourselves: What are they really feeling? Why are they feeling this way? How can we help make it easier?  When a parent feels strong emotions about a transition, I often tried to look at some of it as a good thing! The families feel so comfortable with their current situation and are so happy with the quality of learning and care their child has been receiving that it’s hard to leave! It was very hard for that parent to leave their 6-week-old infant with a stranger, but now you and that parent have a relationship. You’ve shared stories about the baby’s day and nights, celebrated about milestones and cringed along with the parents when she get her first incident report. These families trust us with their little ones, and we need to trust them, too.

We know when a child is ready for the next room because we’ve worked with children, we know all about their development and how to best support their learning. But how much of that knowledge are we sharing with parents? Discuss with them how their child is ready, and how their child will thrive in a new space. Encourage parents to observe the new classroom.  Answer their questions about why things are different, and base it on what you know about their child.   You can also encourage parents to talk with other parents whose children have recently transitioned to a new classroom or to elementary school. Just like their babies, just like I did in my new position, parents need a little hand-holding sometimes, too. We all do.

Looking for fun? You’ll find it at the library!

Advertisers spend billions of dollars telling children exactly where to find happiness and satisfaction: fast food restaurants, toy stores, amusement parks. But there’s another place in town offering our children happiness, satisfaction and a lot more: your local library! Most libraries can’t afford a splashy ad campaign to entice our children, however, so it’s up to us to get them interested!

Begin by promoting weekly library time for your family in your center or child care home. Schedule the library to come into your center for monthly visits and make this as special as a TV show or holiday.

Educate the parents in your programs about the importance of the library and all the library has to offer. Share with them that the library offers comfortable places for them to sit with their children and enjoy books together. Reading stories to your child can be a time of closeness and sharing.  Be sure to build in time for it at every library visit, and explore the other resources your library has to offer! The children’s section in many libraries includes magazines for the very young, puzzles, tapes to listen to and toys to play with. Libraries are now equipped with computers and computer games, but nothing beats a good old fashioned story time.

Get to know your librarian. You want children to see that librarians are approachable grown-ups who can introduce them to good books. Question the librarian about where to find books that are age-approproate. Ask about special events at the library: movie nights, craft activities, puppet shows, cooking lessons and much more. Librarians know lots of ways to keep children interested in stories and books. Watching one in action is a good way to pick up some tips on reading to your own children.

Try to end each visit by following a predictable routine. You might look at something interesting such as an aquarium or a favorite picture first, then check out books and wave goodbye to the librarian. Doing things the same way each time makes it easier to get your children to leave the library, but if you’re lucky, they won’t want to!

Building a Foundation of Trust

“Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.”

– Stephen R. Covey

A friend of mine recently enrolled her two children in child care for the first time. She’s a very private person, but chose to share with the child care provider that she was going through a divorce. What she didn’t choose to share was that her husband and the children’s father is an abusive man. Does it surprise you that she would withhold this information? I wasn’t surprised. My friend needs to learn to trust her child care provider, and that process takes time.

Building a foundation of trust is critical for all families, and for all child care providers who hope to have a positive relationship with the parents of the children in their care. What can we do to lay the foundation? We need to be patient and consistent, and most of all we need to keep a focus on good communication with families.

First we need to be sure to meet with families in a safe and comfortable environment. Give yourself enough time to exchange ideas and information, and listen with an open mind in all your communications with families. Be sure to clarify expectations and share honestly. If parents ask you a question that you don’t know the answer to, be honest. Let the family know you’ll get back to them with the information, and then do it!

It’s so important to respect the parents’ levels of knowledge, understanding or interest. When we make assumptions about a parent, however innocently, we run the risk of destroying our chances to develop a strong relationship with that parent. For example, don’t always assume a busy parent is a disinterested parent. They could be distracted that day by one of life’s many other challenges… I know some days I am!

Remember that parents are their child’s first teachers, and when they feel that we respect and trust them, they are more likely to respect and trust us.

Competition in the Classroom

One thing my husband and I have anticipated since our son Gavin was born has been watching him participate in sports, and we’ve been delighted to support his love of soccer. Though we have never emphasized winning, I feel that everyone, including children, want to succeed!

A few weeks ago my son was playing a game and as he celebrated scoring a goal he was approached by the opposing team’s coach. His version of celebrating was jumping up and down and pumping his arms twice while exclaiming, “Yes!”  I did not find this overboard, but as I watched the coach kneel down to get on Gavin’s level, I saw his face turn red and he began fidgeting. I try not to be a helicopter mom so standing back while Gavin grew uncomfortable was difficult.

As he took his turn to rest and watch the rest of the team I asked him what the coach had said.  He told me the coach had said that he should only say “Yes” once because twice was bad sportsmanship. He then said, “Mom, I didn’t know there was a rule about how many times I could cheer.” I didn’t either.

As I watched Gavin’s demeanor change during that game I became sad. He no longer had the drive to compete and I couldn’t help but wonder, isn’t life full of competition? As both of my children watch sporting events on television athletes celebrate their victories. With the Olympics approaching, will athletes be restricted to celebrating their medals only once?

As a teacher I have worked with every age group from birth through sixth grade. One thing many children have in common is their drive to succeed and seek accolades from adults.  Even the smallest clap from you when a baby rolls over for the first time or a toddler takes his first steps can mean the world to them. When children see your smiling face, they will often try again. Just as Gavin had no desire to compete the rest of that game, some children in your care may lose their focus to succeed if they don’t feel encouraged.

As you observe the children in your class, try to focus your attention on a job well done and teamwork. There is no need for a sticker or a prize box; a pat on the back or a high five is just as meaningful. While it’s important for children to understand that everyone can’t win all of the time, emphasis should not be placed on winning or losing but the lessons learned in the process.