Tag Archives: reading

“It’s story time!”

Recently our staff gathered together to celebrate the upcoming arrival of a little bundle of joy and the baby shower games really got our staff’s competitive juices flowing. It was fun to watch those who shouted out the answers to the names of the celebrity baby photos and equally as interesting to realize you are completely out of touch with the celebrity world. But when the next game announced was to recognize the story quote from children’s books, it was on like Donkey Kong. I had this.

It just doesn’t get any better than story time.

Story time in my classroom was the highlight of my day and my collection was deep and wide. My considerable personal collection contained the classics such as “Goodnight Moon” and “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” and new additions such as “Llama Llama Red Pajama” and the “Fancy Nancy” collection. I took every opportunity to incorporate reading into many activities throughout the day and had a blast making it come to life for my preschoolers. Books on CD, character puppet making and theatrical performances were just some of the regular occurrences in our room.

Trips to the library were exciting escapades of what new books I would find and bring back for the week! The children knew every Monday meant new books to read and rushed to the carpet with anticipation. I was excited too! They were wide eyed during “Where the Wild Things Are,” and it was amazing to hear the way they said the words along with me during “Chicken Little” and “The Mitten.” We laughed heartily as we encouraged the very curious pigeon to NOT drive the bus or to share his beloved hotdog and bellowed “NO!!” as David chewed with his mouth open or ran to the bus in his underwear.

I used every opportunity to teach them new words and encouraged them to use the new words in sentences throughout the day. Their vocabulary exploded and I had a blast observing it. Hearing them use the word “fantastic” to describe their chicken nuggets and their friend’s artwork warmed my heart. It just doesn’t get any better than story time.

As I numbered my paper with great anticipation at the start of the game that day what didn’t occur to me was that I was surrounded by early childhood experts and we all were equally aware of the great importance of reading to young children. They too had many they knew and favored and had as vast wealth of children’s literature knowledge as I did. While I did fend well, proudly the only one who knew of the great “Skippyjon Jones,” I did not win the game. I did learn of several new books to add to my cherished collection and realized while we all know and value the importance of reading to young children, it also impacted us personally as well.

By the end of the shower we all were discussing our own personal favorites as children, as parents and as educators and I walked away with new titles to seek out and explore, even with my older children. Remember that developing the love of reading starts at a young age but can be continued throughout life as they grow and develop into elementary students, adolescents and adults.

What are some of your favorite stories to share with your children and students? What ones have you seen really impact them as well as challenge them to think and reflect? What ones really just made you all laugh, funny but all the while teaching them (and you!) to find humor and comedy in life and sometimes in yourselves?

Perhaps at your next staff meeting you could initiate a fun quiz for your staff about their story book knowledge. You may find out a lot more about children’s literature, your fellow coworkers and yourself. I mean, “Holy frijoles!” when it comes to reading, what have you got to lose?

Shouldn’t every month be National Reading Month?

There is so much energy and time invested in promoting reading as the single most important activity one can do (and it is!), and yet so little time is actually spent reading! Many states and organizations promote a single month or day for reading, but these months and days are random and do not correlate to anything specific.

Reading shouldn’t happen in planned out Hallmark-holiday style. Reading is something that happens all day every day. Reading month, like many other randomized celebrations (Black History Month, Valentine’s day, Father’s Day or Movember, for example) is not something that you should be made aware of for just one day or one month. Reading, like heritage and disease, is something that should be done, discussed and acted upon every day of every month!

Shouldn't every month be National Reading Month?

There is a ton of research into how and why. Not only is reading good fun, the language and literacy skills needed to do it well are important skills to acquire for future success in school and life. Reading also helps soothe the mind, takes you to faraway places or back in time to witness great moments, and ordinary ones, too.

I wonder why we think that giving reading such short thrift will provide us with the results we desire. If we want to see a higher percentage of early language comprehension and a higher percentage of reading at level in third grade, we should read every day (these and more outcomes are in the Strive Report Card). Reading also contributes to higher scores on the SAT, ACT and the NAEP, and with children in the United States trailing our global neighbors, it’s never been more important.

With the onslaught of technology and how rapidly our youth have taken to it we might be at a crossroads. But somewhere between winning texting awards and writing fluent essays we must hold on to what we know leads one to a life of success. So read to your children and provide them opportunities to talk about their world.

– Josh

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

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!

Bathed in Books

Recently I visited my sister and three-year-old nephew. When I visit he is always ready to play; he loves to play with his cars and to play “indoor hockey.” At one point during my visit he brought an armful of books over to me and said, “Becky, will you read to me?” Of course I read the many books he brought! He sat and listened attentively, and even “read” along with some of the stories. This is a regular occurrence during my visits as well, and his bookshelf is always full of new books because his family makes a trip to the local library every Saturday.

There are a few things that are important to remember when it comes to children and reading, and for the parent or caregiver who wants to encourage early language and literacy skills, bear these things in mind!

  1. Children develop at their pace – Each child is at their own developmental stage of reading, writing, talking and listening. We must be aware of the variances of the children we work with and provide opportunities for each child appropriate to their level of learning.
  2. Interest is key – Children explore when they have the interest. Would your child rather build with blocks than listen to a story? How about a story about building or construction? Authors of children’s books have the challenge of creating books that include interesting content and eye-catching pictures. A book must catch a child’s interest in order for them to want to listen or read.
  3. Reading to children – It is important to examine your reading style. How you read to children can affect their interest in books and reading. Do show excitement? Do you read using varying voices?
  4. Books, books everywhere – Children should be “bathed” in books and language. As adults, we must make books available and accessible to young children at all times. Take a look around your environment; are there books in every learning center? Can the children handle them regularly? Be brave, offer books of poetry, building and construction, appropriate magazines, cook books, etc. Children should be exposed to varying cultures, as well.

It is important to remember that reading is an essential skill for everyday living. It is our task, as parents and early childhood providers, to expose young children to all kinds of books, and to include them in our children’s lives everyday. For more information and book ideas visit Scholastic’s Web site for children’s book lists, read-aloud hints, and learning tips. Happy reading!

Where Do Words Come From?

Learning is a mysterious thing. How did you come to know that when you look up it is the sky that you see? Or that filling a cup too full of liquid will cause it to overflow? When children learn language, it works the same way.

I found an article in the New York Times about children’s language development recently, and it made me wonder. I asked our infant and toddler specialist about how children develop language, and she said “bathe the children in language, don’t drown them.” I like that. I immediately pictured an adult talking with a child rather than telling the child what to do. She told me about a study that compared the development of children whose parents only talked directly to them (“put your shoes away”, “eat supper”, “sit down”) to those who had conversations with them.  The children who had conversations were significantly more developed in language and communication than the children who were given directives only. 

The article supports what Christine said and the author gives simple advice to parents and caregivers to help boost children’s language development:  “Talk to your child about what they’re focused on. Read to your child often. If they’re in a bilingual home, speak to the child and read to the child in the language that you’re most comfortable with. Speak clearly and naturally and use real words. Show excitement when the child speaks.”

Hmmmmm, I think we can do that.