Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Lego Club Magazine

For children who aren't naturally keen to pick up a book, finding the right motivation to read can be quite difficult. Recently I discovered a FREE magazine for children from Lego. If you know a Lego lover, this magazine is sure to be a hit. The magazine features comics, colouring pages, pictures of children with their Lego creations and steps for building something from Legos.

To subscribe, just go to and click on the Lego club link shown above.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Playdough Recipes

I recently found this amazing website that offers a LARGE variety of play dough recipes. Playdough is an amazing material. Children love exploring its texture by poking, squeezing, patting, pushing, rolling, cutting, and so on. Children can develop fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination by playing with this interesting substance. In addition, think about all the wonderful vocabulary they can learn with proper scaffolding. They can some of the many complexities of language including prepositions like "on top", "beside", "behind", "under", or even labels for their creations like "dog", "table" or develop their understanding of familiar concepts, "What sound does a dog make?", "How many legs do we need on your chair to make it sturdy?"

Check out some playdough recipes here!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Look At Me!

This post features a new home made book I created as a "make and take" activity at parent support groups. This book has many features that are appealing to young children:

Mirrors - Babies love looking at pictures of other babies, but they enjoy looking at themselves even more! Mirrors are a great way of helping children become self-aware.

Shapes - Children will learn about a variety of shapes by looking at their relection in the shapes. Learning the names of shapes will help you child take their first steps to becoming a math wiz!

Repetition - We all know that children learn best though repetition. This book was written with simple text to help children understand the relationship between what we say and print.

"Look at me! I'm in a square."
"Look at me! I'm in a circle."

TIP: You can buy mirror paper at your local art supply store on a large roll.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Get Ready for a Shock!

Recently, I picked up this book as a potential read for a book club for child care providers. Since I've picked it up I can barely put it down. It challenges some major assumptions that parents and caregivers can make about "what's best for children".

One of the most interesting chapters for me was the one called ``Why Hannah Talks and Alyssa Doesn`t``. As an Early Literacy Specialist, I often tell parents of young children to read, sing and talk with their children. Well, this chapter really opened my eyes to what new research is telling us. For a while I had been under the impression that talking alone would make a difference in the vocabulary development of young children. Though I was well aware that children learn best through interactions, I had no idea that the vocabulary achievement gap is based on how parents RESPOND to their children, including how immediately they do so.

Everytime a baby looks to their caregiver, babbles, or reaches for a toy, there is an opportunity for a caregiver to respond to the baby. Also, it should be noted that the timing of the response is just as important as the response itself. From the time that a baby gestures towards an interaction with a caregiver, that caregiver has 5 seconds to respond or they have missed a learning opportunity.

If you would like more information on this book, please visit this link. From what I`ve read so far, I believe that it`s something that every parent and caregiver must read.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Seven Days in a Week

Adults use time to mark and measure time, but for children the task is not as easy. Little evidence exists indicating that calander activities which mark extended periods of time (a month, a week) are meaningful for children below first grade (Friedman, 2000). Before children can make use of a calendar, they need to be able to understand that time is sequential (first comes Sunday, then Monday, and so on).

There are many relevant resources that exist in your child's world that can help them understand the sequence of a week. You can use picture books, songs, and even photographs to help your child understand how to mark and measure time in their own world.

Some books that discuss the concept of a week include:

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle: A hungry caterpillar eats various foods on each day of the week before turning into a beautiful butterfly.

Hannah and the Seven Dresses by Marthe Jocelyn: A little girl wears a different dress each day of the week until her birthday comes and she can't decide which of the 7 to choose.

Cookie's Week by Cindy Ward and Tomie de Paola: A mischievious cat gets into trouble each day of the week.

Big Week for Little Mouse by Eugenie and Kim Fernandes: A little mouse spends a week getting ready for a special event.

Today is Monday by Eric Carle: Different animals eat their way through the days of the week.

The song Everybody Happy by Sharon Lois and Bram is another great resource to use when teaching your little one about a week.

Everybody Happy:

Today is Monday, Today is Monday
Monday the washing’
Everybody happy? But I should say:

Today is Tuesday, Today is Tuesday
Tuesday the ironing’
Monday the washing’
Everybody happy? But I should say:

Today is Wednesday, Today is Wednesday
Wednesday the gardening’
Tuesday the ironing’
Monday the washing’
Everybody happy? But I should say:

Today is Thursday, Today is Thursday
Thursday soup
Wednesday the gardening’
Tuesday the ironing’
Monday the washing’
Everybody happy? But I should say:

Today is Friday, Today is Friday
Friday Pay Day!
Thursday soup
Wednesday the gardening’
Tuesday the ironing’
Monday the washing’
Everybody happy? But I should say:

Today is Saturday, Today is Saturday
Saturday is shopping!
Friday Pay Day!
Thursday soup
Wednesday the gardening’
Tuesday the ironing’
Monday the washing’
Everybody happy? But I should say:

Today is Sunday, Today is Sunday
Sunday - Resting!
Saturday is shopping!’
Friday Pay Day!
Thursday soup
Wednesday the gardening’
Tuesday the ironing’
Monday the washing’
Everybody happy? But I should say:
Everybody happy? But I should say!

You can also create a large calander for your child using pictures of them doing activities on each day of the week. For example, on Monday, it could be a rainy day (like lately!), Tuesday is baking cookies, and so on.

Can you think of any books, songs, or activities that help children learn the days of the week?

Friday, April 22, 2011

Tips for Struggling Readers

If your child has difficulty sequencing syllables and recognizing sound units within words, try this ... 

Write your child’s first and last name on a piece of paper. Use a red marker to write the vowels. Glue a pom-pom under each syllable. Have your child say their name, and touch the pompom as they say each syllable.

If your child has difficulty using vowels and consonants to make words, try this ... 

Use a set of magnetic letters and an aluminum cookie sheet. Have your child manipulate the letters to form a word. If you don’t have magnetic letters, use index cards for the activity. Have your child make as many words as possible in 1 minute, using just the letters n, f, d, s, and a.  

If your child has difficulty hearing vowel sounds, try this ... 

On a table, line up a set of index cards with these vowel teams on them: oi, oy, ou, ow, oo. On a different set of index cards write words that contain these vowel sounds, i.e. boil, toy, couch, low. Have your child determine which of the vowel teams each word should be placed under. Try and have 2 -3 words per vowel team. Note that /oo/ can have 2 sounds, such as moon and book. Make sure you keep the words consistent with the sound.  

You could also try these vowel teams: 
o ee, ea, ai, ay, ie, and oa. Again, make sure you keep the word examples consistent. ea has 3 sounds (eat, bread, great). ie also has 2 sounds (piece, pie). 

If your child has difficulty understanding the meaning of what they read, try this ... 

Write the text of a story on paper, leaving room for illustrations. Ask your child to draw new picture for the book. Or have your child write stories or short sentences and then illustrate them. Staple them together and turn them into mini-books. Have he or she read them back to you. 

Here are some Mini-books that are ready to print: (these ones give you the option of printing with text only, so that your child can draw the illustrations). 

Town Mouse Country Mouse 

The Ugly Duckling

Goldilocks and the Three Bears

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Shape and Sound of Letters

Phonics is back!

In the 60s, when my parents learned to read, they used the “Dick and Jane” basal readers. These focused less on teaching the individual sounds in a word, and more on teaching sight words to be memorized. Just like fashion, this method of teaching reading went out of style, and Phonics has made a comeback.  


Phonics is making the connection between the letters on a page, and the sounds that are heard. Even though there are 26 letters in the alphabet, there are 44 sounds! This is because each letter may make more than one sound. 

Around the age of 4, most children have mastered the alphabet song. However, many children need up to 2 years to learn the shapes of all the letters. Here are some tips for teaching your child how to write their letters, and learn the sounds that go with them. 
  • If your child is in preschool, teach an uppercase set of letters first. They are easier to distinguish than lower case letters.
  • By kindergarten, your child should start to focus on learning the lower case letters.
  • Start with simple letters. For instance, t, s, a (short sound, as in tap), m, i (short sound as in pig), r, and d are good to start with.
  • As you’re reading with your child, have them point out words that start with the same letters or end with the same letters.  
  • Research has shown that it is also helpful to show your child a corresponding picture to go with each letter (Ehri, 1992). If they are practicing the letter /s/, have them draw a snake, or a sun – whatever they associate that letter with.

A Time Line of Alphabet Recognition 


- Exposure to letter names 
- Recognizes his or her own name 


- Recites most letter names 
- Labels most letter shapes (uppercase and lower case)

Grade 1 

- Knows all letter names and shapes 

Monday, April 18, 2011

School Readiness

I Know My ABCs

Have a look at some activities you can do with your child, to help them practice their ABCs. 

1. Read some ABC books

Eating the Alphabet by Lois Ehlert

Alphabet Soup by Kate Banks

2. Make play-dough letters

3. Play some games

Alphabet Hide and Go Seek: Hide letters from the alphabet around the room and have your child find them one at a time and tell you what letter it is.

Climb the stairs: Put a letter on each step. The child says each letter as they climb the stairs (can lay on floor if there are no stairs). 

 4.Rhyming Riddles

You: “I'm thinking of a word that rhymes with cat and begins with b”

Child: bat!

5.Check out 

Saturday, April 16, 2011

School Readiness

 I Can Write My Name

Here are some activities to try that help your child practice writing their own name.  

1. Sing Name Songs: 

Bingo Name Song: 

There is a child that I know best
And Noah is his name oh,
N O A H, N O A H, N O A H
And Noah is his name oh


Willobee-wallobee wee, an elephant sat on me.

Willobee-wallobee, woo , an elephant sat on you.
Example. Willobee wallobee winda. (use W for the 1st letter in your child’s name)
an elephant sat on Linda

 2. Tracing

Print your child’s first name, showing them slowly how to make each letter. Have them trace over your printed example.


3. Try out this Name Puzzle: 

• Write your child’s name on a paper, one in black marker and one in red marker.
• Use the pointer to say each letter aloud. Ask your child to copy you.
• Cut out each letter in the name in red.
• Mix up the pieces.
• Have your child help put the name puzzle back together, using the black strip as a guide.
• Then have your child try the puzzle without the name as a guide.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

School Readiness

I Can Count to 10

Here are some activities to try at home to help your child practice counting to 10. 

1. Play Simon Says

You: “Simon says take 2 steps forward”
Child: moves forward 2 steps.
2.Count with books

Try a completion prompt:

You: “Oh wow! There are lots of polar bears on this page. Let’s see, 1, 2, 3, 4, ____”

Child: 5!
3. Practice around the house

Have your child dial a telephone number for you when you need to use the phone. Point to the numbers and read them aloud for your child. 

 4. Practice out and about

When you are walking or driving, “How many signs on the side of the road are there from here to grandmas (or school)?
5. Songs and poems are great too 

 One, two, buckle my shoe,
 Three, four, shut the door,
 Five, six, pick-up sticks,
 Seven, eight, lay them straight,
 Nine, ten, start over again.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

School Readiness

I Know My Shapes

Try some of these activities to help your child practice naming shapes. 

1. Make a Shape Book

Take a few sheets of construction paper and fold them in half, and put together like a book. Have your child search in old magazines and newspapers for shapes. (triangles, circles, squares, rectangles). Cut them out and paste one shape on each page of your book.

 2. Tracing Shapes

Cut out a circle, square and triangle from a large piece of cardboard. Give your child a large sheet of paper on which to make a picture or design by tracing the shapes .

 3. Making Lunch

When you’re cutting your child’s sandwich, ask them if they want it in squares.

4. Making Shapes with Toothpicks

Put toothpicks on the table and instruct them to make various shapes (ask them to make a circle and see how many actually try!)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

School Readiness

I Know My Colours 

Try some of these activities to help your child practice reciting the colours of the rainbow. 

1. Sing the Rainbow Song

 Red and yellow and pink and green
 Purple and orange and blue
 I can sing a rainbow, 
 sing a rainbow, 
 sing a rainbow too.


2. Play “I Spy” with colours

You: “I spy with my little eye, something that is blue”

Child: Looks around the room and guesses what you picked.

3. Read books about colours

Some great ones are: Red is Best by Kathy Stinson, Mouse Paint by Ellen Stoll Walsh and Planting a Rainbow by Lois Ehlert .  

5. Everyday

Use colours in daily conversations. For example, tell your child the colour of their snack before eating it, or their clothes before they put them on.

 6. Toys

Play with colourful toys like building blocks and balls

Friday, April 8, 2011

Phonemic Awareness

2 of the best predictors of your child’s success in reading are letter knowledge and phonemic awareness. Here are some ways to help improve your child's phonemic awareness. 

2. Phonemic Awareness 

Phonemic Awareness is being able to hear the individual sounds in the words we say. Children need this skill for learning to read (by blending the sounds of a word together) and when learning to spell (by breaking the word down into its individual letters). 

To introduce your child to the basics of phonemic awareness, begin with rhyming and alliteration activities. Most children can successfully complete these by the age of 5, and some as early as 3. 

Here are some to try: 

  • Read books that focus on rhyme and alliteration. Some great ones are: 

Each Peach Pear Plum by J. and A. Ahlberg

A Giraffe and a half by S. Silverstein

  • Say 3 rhyming words aloud, such as, cat, mat, and hat. Have your child think of other words that rhyme with those words.
  • Create a Rhyming Poem. Have your child suggest words to fill in each blank:

    Once I Saw 
    Once I saw a cat, 
    And it wore a funny little _________ . 
    Tra-la-la, la-la-la-la-la
    Silly little cat. 
    Once I saw a goat, 
    And it wore a funny little _________ . 
    Tra-la-la, la-la-la-la-la
    Silly little goat. 

If your child has mastered the rhyming tasks, then try phoneme counting activities. Most children have mastered phoneme counting by the end of the 1st grade. 

Here are some to try:

  • Ask your child to tell you what the first sound is in fun, fly, and friend. Have them tell you other words that begin with /f/. 
  • Write two words on a piece of paper, such as pat and cat, and have your child to tell you which letter is different in each word. If they are really good at this, have them listen for the last sound in each word. For instance, “What’s the last sound in foot, bat, pet?” 
  • Say your child’s name in individual phonemes. Have them repeat it for you.  

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Letter Knowledge

Hi, my name is Ms. Brown and this is my first time blogging :)

I have had the pleasure of working with Jenna for almost 3 weeks now. As part of my Bachelor's of Education, I am taking an "alternative" placement in a setting outside of the typical classroom.  Using all of the wonderful resources, advice and knowledge from Jenna and the Early Literacy team, I've put together some information that I have found to be useful and relevant to promoting language and literacy at home.  Stay tuned for more! 

2 of the best predictors of your child’s success in reading are letter knowledge and phonemic awareness. Here are some ways to help improve your child's letter knowledge. 

1. Recognizing the Alphabet

Knowing how to identify letters is an important stepping stone for learning how to read. Further, if your child can name all the letters, he or she will be better able to understand the alphabetic principle – knowing that each letter stands for a specific sound.

The “Elemeno” Problem:

The Alphabet song is usually our first introduction to this alphabetic principal. However, about half way through the song, most children tend to combine the l, m, n, and o, to make "elemeno.” It can be difficult for your child to understand that each letter makes its own sound, when these 4 letters are made into one big nonsense word.

To make sure your child has a solid alphabetic foundation, try some of these suggestions:

- Listen to several versions of the alphabet song.

  • “ZYXs” was featured on the Big Comfy Couch, and challenges your child to sing the ABCs backwards.  

- On tongue depressors, or popsicle sticks, make a set of alphabet sticks. Have your child arrange them in order.

- Provide many forms of the alphabet – sandpaper letters, for instance, are great tactile forms of the alphabet (see below). Or something they’re sure to love – eewy gooey letters! Place some clear hair gel in a bag, and add some food colouring. Make sure the bag is zipped tight! Have your child form letters with their finger on the outside of the bag.

- Read lots of Alphabet Books. Alphabet Books are Great Because They ...

  • Help children learn letter sequence
  • Help children connect a sound with a letter
  • Support oral language development in beginning readers

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault

Alphabeasts by Wallace Edwards

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Video Clips

One of my colleagues, Martha Kovack, has completed a set of training videos on early literacy. Each video clip speaks to an important component of early literacy. After watching all the videos and completing a survey, you can receive a certificate of professional development.

To get started, go to:

Early Literacy 101: The Basics

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Math and Children's Literature

Using literature to connect with a math lesson is a wonderful way to involve students in both literacy and mathematical thinking (Whitin & Wilde, 1992, 1995).

When teachers link children’s literature with mathematics, children are better at explaining their reasoning and strategies, enjoy mathematics more, show greater overall persistence on difficult tasks, think more about what they learn, and experience a level of success (Clarke, 2002).

When children’s literature and numeracy are connected in an interactive and meaningful way, students will understand the mathematics concepts readily and will sustain the knowledge (Raymond, 1995).

Many experts have stated that combining mathematics and literacy development will lead to a child's improvement in both.

“How children experience math has a profound effect on what they are able to learn. If we want our children to be successful in math, it is important that we create a learning environment that supports the development of understanding, positive attitudes and habits of mind that cause children to be interested, curious and eager to learn new mathematical ideas” (Kathy Richardson, Math Time).

At first glance, the story Goldilocks and the Three Bears may seem like any other story, but if you look at it using a mathematics lens, something should immediately come to mind - the number 3! Not only is the number 3 part of the title, but the entire story is based around collections of 3 (bears, bowls, chairs, beds). Also, the number is continually reinforced.

Not just numbers...

Also, the story exposes children to ordering (small, medium, large and cold, warm, hot), correspondences between ordered sets (smallest bed for smallest bear, next for the next larger bear), patterning (repeated phrases – too little, too big, just right). WOW! What a great math book!

Books provide a great starting point for rich, authentic mathematical thinking and mathematics lessons. Children’s literature also motivates children to explore concepts in greater depth, and encourages them to make connections among and between mathematics topics. Books also help to stimulate interest and provide real-world contexts for problem solving. Children are very quick to relate to fictional characters and situations.

A word of advice...

Before you talk about the math content in a story with children, make sure that they are very familiar with the story. You can't expand on anything without a solid foundation. Once a child has built up a good schema, you can begin drawing attention to the math in the stories you share.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Role of Early Math

In Canada, more than 49% of people lack basic numeracy skills (Statistics Canada, OECD, 2005). Isn't this astounding?!? Math development starts long before children enter adulthood. A large body of research indicates that the foundation of these skills start even before children enter school - before they reach 4 years of age.

Early arithmetic abilities have been found to be the strongest predictor for later school achievement (Dunan et al., 2007).

Counting ability is the best predictor for the initial level of math performance (from a longitudinal study from preschool to second grade by Aunola, Leskinen, Lerkkanen, and Nurmi, 2004).

The graph above is a visual representation of the Matthew Effect (Source: Basically, it explains that people who "have" will continue to "have" and even get more, while the "have nots" will always stay at the same level and never catch up to the latter group.

Sounds like a good reason to start building a solid foundation from birth, right?