Friday, July 30, 2010

Television - a controversial issue

Did you know that children six and under spend an average of two hours a day with screen media, mostly TV and videos? (Kaiser Family Foundation)

The current recommendation from the Canadian Pediatric Society is to limit screen use (TV, videos and computer games) to one hour per day or less. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no television for children under age two, saying that parents should focus on interacting with their children instead. France's broadcast authority has banned French channels from airing TV shows aimed at children under three years old, to shield them from developmental risks it says television viewing poses at that age. "Television viewing hurts the development of children under three years old and poses a certain number of risks, encouraging passivity, slow language acquisition, over-excitedness, troubles with sleep and concentration as well as dependence on screens," the ruling said.

A television doesn’t talk to children, it talks at them. A television can’t talk back to a child and talking back is what learning language is all about (Mem Fox)

There are so many other fun things your child could be doing.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Gotta Keep Reading

Ok, so I know I work in early literacy, and perhaps this video doesn't completely fit the bill, but I just love it. It gives reading such a positive image. Check it out!

Click here.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Tell Me a Story - Fingerplays, Rhymes and Songs

Go to this website for a very large collection of fingerplays, rhymes, and songs.

It's great for Early Childhood Educators and parents. If your child has taken an interest into a theme, follow their lead. Find a ditty that goes along with their interest to get them ready to read! :)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Narrative Skills (3/3)

This is the last posting in my "mini series" on narrative skills. For the past couple of days I have been giving suggestions on what parents and caregivers can do to help children develop narrative skills. Here is my last suggestion:

Talk with children

I know it seems simple, but as adults, we often take for granted the conversations we have with young children. By talking with your child, you are helping them develop the comprehension skills that will help them understand what they read. After all, isn't that what reading is all about - getting an understanding of what the author is saying. It's not just about pronouncing all the squiggles on the page properly.

As an example, think of yourself learning another language. If you don't know the word for something, it can make it really challenging to keep up with a conversation. You may find yourself pointing and using gestures the same way your child does. Also, as your child gets older, all this practice in talking will pay off. They will be great speakers (remember dreaded public speaking?), great readers, and generally more confident. With babies, sometimes you may feel weird doing all the talking because they aren't speaking back to you, but you are helping them understand the world around when you talk to them.

Here are some examples of when you can talk with your child during your day:

- when they wake up (good morning)
- getting dressed (first your head, then your arms)
- eating ( BLANK your favourite food?)
- on the change table (tell them what you're doing - you can even throw in a song or rhyme if your baby gets fussy)
- bath time (wash this arm first, then the other one...)
- at the grocery store (we need to get carrots, onion and chicken)
- Tell your children stories. Allow time for your children to reply.
- Encourage your children to tell you about things.
- Listen patiently and carefully as they talk. Ask questions.
- Ask your children to tell you about something that happened during the day.
- Talk about new words with your children.
- Let him tell you about a picture he drew.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Narrative Skills (2/3)

Yesterday, I gave one suggestion on what parents and caregivers can do to help children learn narrative skills. Here is another suggestion:

Repeat rhymes with your children to help them remember.
Talk about what’s happening with all rhymes, even the simplest ones. This gives children more words to know (vocabulary). Ask questions they can respond to, to further develop their narrative skills.

Here are some sunny summer rhymes you can teach your child today.

Circle of the Sun
Babies are born in the circle of the sun,
Circle of the Sun on the birthin' day.
Babies are born in the circle of the sun,
Circle of the sun on the birthin' day.

Clouds to the east, clouds to the west,
Wind and rain to the north and south;
Babies are born in the circle of the sun,
Circle of the sun on the birthin' day.

Oh, Mr. Sun
Oh, Mr. Sun, Sun, Mr. Golden Sun,
Please shine down on me.
Oh Mr. Sun, Sun, Mr. Golden Sun,
Hiding behind a tree.

These little children are asking you
To please come out so we can play with you.

Oh Mr. Sun, Sun, Mr. Golden Sun,
Please shine down on me.

If All the Sunbeams 
If all the sunbeams 
Were bubblegum and ice cream 
Oh, what a sun that would be!
Standing outside, with my mouth open wide 
Ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah. 

If all the sunbeams 
Were bubblegum and ice cream 
Oh, what a sun that would be!

You are my Sunshine
You are my sunshine,
My only sunshine.
You make me happy
When skies are grey.
You'll never know, dear,
How much I love you.
Please don't take my sunshine away.

The Eensy Weensy Spider
The eensy weensy spider
Crawled up the water spout.
Down came the rain
And washed the spider out.
Out came the sun
And dried up all the rain.
So the eensy weensy spider
Crawled up the spout again.

Rain is Falling Down
Rain is falling down...SPLASH!
Rain is falling down...SPLASH!
Pitter, patter, Pitter, patter.
Rain is falling down...SPLASH!

Sun is peeking out, peek-a-boo!
Sun is peeking out, peek-a-boo!
Peeking here, peeking there,
Sun is peeking out, peek-a-boo!

NOTE: Perform this rhyme with your baby on your lap. Your child will enjoy watching your hands and listening to the words.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

What the heck are narrative skills?

Yesterday I wrote about finger puppet pouches. I mentioned that they are great for building your child's narrative skills, but didn't elaborate. Well, narrative skills are one of the six essential skills children need before they can learn to read.

What are Narrative Skills?

Learning to tell a story helps children develop thinking and comprehension skills. Picture book sharing can play a huge role in a child’s ability to describe things and events and to tell stories. Reading storybooks helps children gain a sense of story structure: a beginning, a middle (or problem) and an end (or resolution). Narrative Skills involve the ability to describe things and events, and to tell stories. They help children understand what they read.

It's about…

- Retelling stories.
- Retelling events.
- Adding descriptions.
- Telling stories or events in sequence.

What can parents and caregivers do to help children learn narrative skills?

Read favourite books again and again.

Stories help children understand that things happen in order first, next, last. Being able to tell or retell a story help children understand what they read.

- Use props from around home to help your child remember and retell stories.
- Encourage your children to say repeated words along with you as you read.
- Have your child do actions as they repeat a phrase along with you as you read.
- Use fewer books and expand on the more.
- Use the dialogic reading. Click here or here for more information.

Why do we do a story retell? Click here.

What book does your child like to read again and again?

Monday, July 19, 2010

3 Bags Full - Finger Puppet Pouches

For those of you who don't read the comments....

Recently I recieved a comment from Sue Berlove. I met her at a literacy conference last spring. Sue sells "3 Bags Full Finger Puppet Pouches" (fair trade early literacy resources). They are all hand knit by indigenous women in Bolivia. The pouches can be used to act out songs or books. Using puppets to tell stories is a great way to encourage narrative skills with your child.

The pouches come in 6 themes:
- arctic
- garden
- woods
- jungle
- ocean
- farm

I advise going to her website to check them out (they are sooo cute!)

Additionaly, on the website, Sue provides examples of books that can be used with eachc pouch.

Suggested Storybook Ideas

Here is a video of an Ontario Early Years Centre staff using a pouch at circle time.

I bought the woods pouch for myself.

For more inforation, contact:

Sue Berlove
Indigenous Crafts from Bolivia

Friday, July 16, 2010

The List of AWESOME...literacy style

The Book of AWESOME by Neil Pasricha is all about big celebrations of life's little moments. I have been reading it lately and finding humour and appreciation in all the little things that can add up to make one great day. With this in mind, I got thinking about how childhood can be filled with many AWESOME things, especially in respect to early literacy milestones. It's these small things children do, that make us smile, that prepare them for lifelong reading success.

Some AWESOME things I have thought about are:

- books available in public places that welcome children to read them (Doctor's offices, the hairdressers, and so forth)

- the first time your child writes their name

- free early learning programs (Ontario Early Years Centres, public libraries)

- father involvement - seeing Daddies and children reading together

Child Reading Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Eric Carle

- listening to your child "read" the first book they memorize

- your child recognizing a sign (i.e., McDonalds!)

For more information on The Book of Awesome or the blog 1000 Awesome Things, visit

If you have any suggestions that I can add to my list, please add comments below!


Thursday, July 15, 2010

baby books

Yesterday I wrote about giving books to friends as baby shower gifts. Today, I would like to highlight some of my favourite quality baby books. Before I list them though, I'd like to point out some of the criteria I use when I am picking them out. Here are some things to look for when buying or borrowing books for your baby:

- bright colours
- stiff cardboard, “chunky” books, or fold out books (board books - these can be wiped clean after touching and tasting.)
- cloth and soft vinyl books can go in the bath or get washed
- small size for little hands

- simple, large pictures or designs
- simple geometric shapes
- photos of other babies or reflective surfaces that your baby can see themself in
- pictures of familiar objects like balls and bottles

- few words
- good rhythm
- good rhyme

Here are the books I purchased for my friends

Are there any other recommendtions or personal favourites?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Starting the day they're born...

This past weekend, I was invited to a baby shower for some close friends. Naturally, as an Early Literacy Specialist, I found it most appropriate to give books. In the words of Mem Fox,

"The best time to start reading aloud to a baby is the day it is born. The lilting rhythm of a simple bedtime book on that first thrilling, exhausting day is soothing for the tremulous parents and the new child and adds to the bonding between them. It gives them something to "talk about" together. And much to the surprise of most adults, babies love books. They respond to the brightness of the pictures, to the rhythm of the words, and to the presence of a loving adult."

- Reading Magic

I highly recommend reading the book cover to cover if you're got the time. It talks about early literacy in plain and simple language and explains how you can change your child's life by reading to them everyday.

Reading problems are difficult to fix but very easy to prevent. According to Mem Fox, "Children's brains are only 25 percent developed at birth. From that moment, whenever a baby is fed, cuddled, played with, talked to, sung to, or read to, the other 75 percent of its brain begins to develop. And the more stimulation the baby has through its senses of touch, taste, smell, sight, and hearing, the more rapidly that development will occur. Reading aloud to children early in life also rapidly develops their speaking skills. Children can not learn to speak unless they are spoken to."

Leave a comnment if you've read the book.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Storytime Share blog

Are you an early learning professional who presents a storytime program on a regular basis? Are you a parent looking for ideas on what to do when you're reading/what books are best for your child? Go to:

Storytime Share

Storytime Share, by Early Childhood Literacy Consultant Saroj Ghoting, is available to, "offer and to exchange ideas regarding storytimes that ARTICULATE early literacy information to adults. See Submit an Idea to submit your ideas and/or documents of handouts and/or whole storytime plans. You can search, or browse by category or date."

Let me know what you think. :)

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Why is Early Literacy Important?

Statistics Canada reports that more than 42% of Canadians lack the basic literacy skills required to succeed in today’s society (Statistics Canada & Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development [OECD], 2005). Low literacy impacts all aspects of life: adults with poor literacy skills work less, are unemployed longer and more frequently, require more social assistance, and are in poorer health (Statistics Canada & OECD, 2005).

Problems with literacy arise long before individuals reach adulthood. Annually, Ontario’s Educational Quality Assurance Office (EQAO) measures reading, writing, and mathematics literacy in all children in Grades 3 and 6. According to recent test results, a large percentage of children – approximately 30% – of Grade 3 and Grade 6 students in Ontario – lack the expected reading, writing, and mathematics skills, even at this early age (EQAO, 2009). Even more astounding, the Ontario Ministry of Child and Youth Services (2007) found that by just four and five years of age, approximately one-fifth of all children show delays in vocabulary development.

Around this same age, communities of children are evaluated on readiness to learn using the Early Development Instrument (EDI). It specifically measures outcomes of children’s early years as they influence children’s readiness to learn before entry into Grade 1. Kindergarten teachers use a questionnaire which measures school-readiness-to-learn across five learning domains: emotional maturity, social competence, physical health and well being, language and cognitive development, communication skills and general knowledge. According to a Community Profiles Report (2007), about 25% of children in Ontario's South East Region are considered low in one or more domains (I only have access to local data).

This demonstrates that the first three years of a child’s life have enormous impacts on the development of basic language and cognitive skills. Truly, they lay the foundation for literacy development. In fact, the influence of a child’s home language environment can be observed within the first few months after birth. Parents are their children’s first and most important teachers, and so they need to be aware of the importance of creating a language and literacy rich environment in the home. They need simple, common sense strategies they can use to help their children get ready to learn for the rest of their lives.

Please share this blog with a parent or child care provider you know today.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Shape Monster Booklet

Help your child notice shapes by pointing them out and talking about them. Seeing and recognizing shapes is a very important step children must take before learning their letters of the alphabet. When you think of an upper case A, there is a triangle shape in it.

Go to the website below to find a printable Shape Monster booklet. Your child can colour the shapes in it. Afterwards, you can read it together!

Click here for the Shape Monster Booklet!

Another Idea...

Look at the book Colour Zoo by Lois Ehlert. It is really fascinating how you can see the animals just using basic shapes. Ask your child, "What animals do you see?"

Read the book. Talk about the shapes as well as the animals. The back of the book has separate shapes which you can also point out or refer to from time to time as you read the book.

Monday, July 5, 2010

It's Berry Season!!!

Berry picking with young children is a great way to spend a summer day. Try to expose your child to many new events to help them understand the world around them. Many children love to eat berries as a snack, so it's a great idea to take them to the berry patch where they can see how berries are grown. You'll be amazed at the new vocabulary your child will be learning! Remember to talk with your children as they are picking so they have a chance to learn new words. Ask them questions and encourage them to explore. Isn't that what being a child is all about?

Here are some tips for taking children berry picking:

1. Take a bottle of water for each person. Hard working pickers get thirsty!

2. Expect them to eat as they pick!

3. Take pictures of your kids when you first arrive. Be sure you squat down to your child's level to get the best pictures. You could use these pictures to write a home made book with your child on a rainy day.

4. Wear hats and sunscreen. The sun can be brutal in an open field.

5. EVERYONE should wear red shirts. Little hands WILL get wiped on their shirts and yours, too! And strawberry juice STAINS!

Once you arrive home and have had a chance to enjoy some of your berries, curl up and read a book together.

Here are some suggested titles:

Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey

The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear by Don and Audrey Wood

Here is a YouTube link to someone telling the story!