Early literacy tip: use movement!

Did you know that movement can be a great early literacy tool? Use dancing, walking, jumping, arm waving, wheelchair rolling, toe pointing, etc to teach concepts to your kids - they'll learn quickly and remember for longer!

According to Rae Pica, movement's incorporation into learning waxes and wanes in popularity; however, "[Children] still need to physically experience concepts to fully understand them, and that includes concepts falling under the heading of literacy and the language arts."  Pica, in a 2012 article "Linking Literacy and Movement" in Early Childhood News discusses research that demonstrates how children learn through creating meaning, and that meaning can be especially created through movement. For instance, demonstrating words like over, under, around, up, and down by moving throughout the room (or dancing!) is much more effective than teaching a group of children sitting down.

Here are some more fun tips from her article:

"Beginning in infancy, when we label a baby’s actions (“You’re making your arms go up and down!”) we are making vital connections.  Also, consider the simple act of children forming letters of the alphabet with their bodies or body parts – individually or with a partner.  Such an activity leads to greater awareness of the straight and curving lines that comprise each letter and the difference between upper- and lowercase letters."

"When children clap the rhythm of words or rhymes, or move to the rhythm of a poem, they are increasing their knowledge of both rhythm and language.  Clapping, stamping, or stepping to the rhythms of words can also familiarize them with syllables."

You may have noticed that we do a lot of these things in our storytimes, but you can import the ideas to your home as well!

 

Note: Do you think you can find this chalkboard in our library?  This drawing is currently up!

Darien Library Rhymes

The Children's Library is proud to present Darien Library Rhymes! In this short video, the Children's Librarians introduce the five Early Literacy Practices and demonstrate fun and simple ways to integrate the practices at home with your child. Get ready to READ, WRITE, SING, TALK and PLAY! 

Revisit a Classic Series

The world lost a revered author of children's literature when Russell Hoban passed away last Tueday at the age of 86. Although he wrote more than 50 books for children and was the author of several popular adult novels, here in the children's library he is best known for his Frances books. Bread and Jam for Frances remains one of the definitive books about picky eaters, and the entire series is worth revisiting for its gentle, funny look at the life of a young badger. Check out our collection of Hoban titles at the link below.

Early Literacy iPad Kits

If you and your children have been enjoying the Early Literacy iPad Kits along with the iPad mounted in the Children's Library, we have great news!  We recently revamped our kits to include newly acquired apps for you and your children to enjoy! We've also organized the apps, old and new, into convenient folders.

Updated list of Early Literacy iPad Apps

Additional resources on digital literacy and children

Place a hold on an Early Literacy iPad Kit

 

Can Reading Decrease Tantrums?

Can reading aloud to children limit tantrums? 

According to a new study in Early Childhood Research Quarterly, it can!  Researchers found that toddlers who possess a spoken vocabulary at 24 months show an increased ability to later on control their emotions and self-regulate.  The rationale behind the findings is that children who have the ability to verbalize their frustrations are able to more effectively control their own behavior. 

And what time-tested method have parents and caregivers used for generations to help babies and toddlers begin to develop language skills?  Reading aloud!  So, stop by our Children's Library and pick up some Tantrum Stoppers... ahem.... that is, books.

adorable yet super angry child photo courtesy of Flickr user christine [cbszeto]

"My child is a Level H reader. How do I find those books in the Library?"

"My son is a Level G.  Can you show me that section?"

"My daughter's teacher just informed us that Katie is between a I and a K.  How to I find books at her reading level?"

"Where do you keep your C books?"

These are questions that we children's librarians are asked almost every week.  Parents, caregivers, and children will frequently come to us with a Leveled Reading list or instructions from their teachers to find books on the Guided Reading scale (this method of reading instruction, also known as the Fountas and Pinnell system, uses a scale from A to Z to indicate increasing levels of book difficulty.)

 

Since public libraries are organized and arranged to facilitate browsing, searching, and to inspire a lifelong love of reading, you won't find our Children's Library organized by the A to Z levels.  So, how do you locate books that are appropriate for your child's reading level? 

 

Here are a few ways to find great books for your child:

1. Ask a Children's Librarian. 

We pride ourselves on knowing great children's literature and enjoy making recommendations.  We will usually begin by asking you or your child what kinds of books you've read recently and whether those books felt "just right" or not.  We can help you find similar titles, ones that are a little harder, or a little easier. 

2. Check out our F5 Learn to Read and/or our Kids I Read section. 

For children just learning to read on their own, a great place to browse is in our F5 Learn to Read area.  These books, also known as beginning readers, are designed to help newly emerging readers recognize common vocabulary, anticipate rhyming words, construct meaning through carefully placed illustrations, and build confidence. 

For children who are reading independently but not quite ready to delve into Harry Potter, check out our Kids I Read section.  Filled with popular chapter book series, these books help keep new readers engaged but not overwhelmed. 

 

3. Use the Five Finger Rule.

What is a level H or K or D anyway?  What does it mean?  It can be frustrating for both parents and children to locate books on their assigned Guided Reading level.  Oftentimes, the Guided Reading lists given to parents contain titles that are out of print or unavailable. 

One simple and effective way to judge whether any given book is too hard or too easy is The Five Finger Rule.  Here's how it works:

- Ask your child to start reading a page from the book.  Anytime they come to a word that they cannot pronounce or don't understand, hold up a finger.

- One finger means the book in question is probably too easy.

- Four or five fingers means the book in question is probably too hard.

- Two or three fingers means the book is probably JUST RIGHT.

Looking for more information on finding great books for your child?  Stop by the Children's Library anytime or contact us at childrenslibrary@darienlibrary.org

photo of child reading courtesy of Flickr user John-Morgan; photo of hand courtesy of Flickr user Phineas H.

 

 

Getting to Know the Children's Collection......F5 Learn to Read!

If your child is just starting to read, sounding out words, or ready to venture into reading whole sentences, the F5 Learn to Read section is a great place to find easy reader books (also known as beginning chapter books.) 

From classics like Hop on Pop and Frog and Toad, to new favorites like Elephant and Piggie and Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa, the F5 Learn to Read collection features books (as well as Books with CD's that let you listen along with the story and educational computer games) designed for emerging readers. 

 

Some easy reader series focus on phonics and sight words (like the popular Bob Book kits), while others are simply great stories told with recognizable vocabulary, ample white space, and limited text.  For new readers, there are tons of excellent choices in a broad range of reading levels.  Stop by the Children's Library anytime and ask us for recommendations for your new reader.

When your child is ready to branch out into slightly longer chapter books,  take a look through out Kids I Read collection!

Goo Goo Gaa Gaa: The Importance of Baby Talk

The New York Times' recent article on baby talk and babbling confirms what generations of parents (and children's librarians) have know for years: those "ba ba" and "da da" utterances that babies make are more than simply adorable; they are the precursors to language development. 

According to one expert, infants begin by making squealing sounds without any identifiable syllables.  By the age of six months, babies (typically) start forming vowel sounds ("aaa"  "ooo") and with practice, consonant sounds ("mmm") by the end of their first year. 

An interesting takeaway from the NYTimes piece was this advice derived from the results of a recent study on language accquisition of babies:

"....if a baby looks at an apple and says, “Ba ba!” it’s better to respond by naming the apple than by guessing, for example, “Do you want your bottle?”  Offering new vocabulary words, even to children too young to form those words, helps strengthen their understanding of language and ability to name new objects. 

Perhaps the most important result of all these new studies on language development was the discovery that "Babies have to hear real language from real people to learn these skills."  There is something irreplacable about the face-to-face contact between a parent and a child that television, even educational programs, cannot duplicate. 

One of the best ways to facilitate this brain-building interaction is by sharing a book with your baby.  As Horn Book editor Martha Parravano so elequently states in A Family of Readers, "Despite all of our society's technological advances, it still just takes one child, one book, and one reader to create this unique space, to work this everyday magic."

Interested in learning more about early brain development?  Charlie Rose has a wonderful series of videos on the brain.  The Developing Brain video may be of particular interest to parents. 

incredibly adorable baby photo courtesy of Flickr user koka_sexton

 

Rhymes & Songs - Why Nursery Rhymes?

In our First Five (F5) collection, a great section to look for books for your babies in is the Rhymes & Songs glade (dark blue labels).

Before babies can understand our spoken words, nursery rhymes help demonstrate the rhythms, patterns and sounds of our speech to them.  By sharing nursery rhymes with your baby, you will be helping them build pre-literacy skills.  As they grow, learning the rhymes themselves will help them expand their vocabuary, learn number skills and give them confidence to express themselves through speech.

Another benefit to using nursery rhymes are that the books and stanzas are short so you can share them in bits and pieces. That will come especially in handy when your baby becomes a toddler and can't sit still for very long! 

Some of my favorites from this section are:

 
If You're Happy and You Know It by Jane Cabrera
Knock At The Door And Other Baby Action Rhymes by Kay Chorao
Here Comes Mother Goose by Iona Archibald Opie
Tomie DePaola's Mother Goose by Tomi DePaola
 

 

 

The Link Between Art and Literacy: the 5 Stages of Scribbling

photo courtesy of Flickr user Inferis

Parents know the magic that a simple coloring book and a pack of crayons can work on a screaming toddler.  But did you know that those random-looking scribbles are an important developmental step along your child's path to reading and writing?  As early as 15 months, children enter the first of what's called the 5 Stages of Scribbling.

Here's the basic breakdown (and please note: every child grows and develops at their own pace.  Ages ranges are general approximations only.)

STAGE 1: RANDOM SCRIBBLING (15 months to 2 1/2 years)

At this early age, children are delighted to figure out how to hold a crayon (those extra jumbo crayons are super handy).  Babies and toddlers will usually hold the crayons in a tight fist and use large motions from their shoulders to produce scribbles.  During this stage, they make the exciting discovery that the object in their hand is producing lines on the paper (and hopefully, not the walls). 

Babies are most interested in the sensory nature of art at this point; the texture of the crayon, it's unique smell.  This is also a great time to introduce young toddlers to clay, play-dough, or finger paint.  [check out this recipe for homemade, non-toxic play-dough]  The different sensations produced by using each medium stimulates their senses and engages their developing minds. 

Helpful Hint: It might help to tape down a large piece of paper for babies and toddlers.  This will prevent the paper from moving or tearing as they draw.

STAGE 2: CONTROLLED SCRIBLLING (2 years to 3 years)

During this stage, children will often transition to holding the crayon between their thumb and pointer finger.  Their scribbles may show more repeated marks or patterns- such as spirals, open circles, curved lines, and straight lines.  As their muscle control develops, toddlers will enjoy experimenting with using a paintbrush, or working with model clay. 

Helpful Hint: Use regular household objects to create art- like using Q-Tips, cotton balls, or old wine corks as applicators.  Use chalk on a sidewalk, or washable paints in the bathtub.

STAGE 3:  LINES AND PATTERNS (2 1/2 years to 3 1/2 years)

At this stage, children begin to understand that writing consists of special lines and curves that repeat in certain patterns.  Very often, children will pretend to write.  While their scribbling may not have any actual letters, you may see some early components that make up the alphabet- such as "S"-like curves, small circles, and sharp lines. 

What is so magical about this stage is that toddlers are beginning to understand that those scribbles can convey meaning!  That when Mommy or Daddy is scribbling, it is a list of what food to buy at the grocery store.  This understanding is a big step on their way towards writing and reading on their own. 

Helpful Hint: Encourage your child's "pretend" writing- and take it seriously!  Ask them to "read" what they've written.  This will teach them the importance and value of words. 

STAGE 4:  PICTURES OF OBJECTS OR PEOPLE (3 years to 5 years)

At some point, your child may hand you a page of scribbles and declare, "It's Grandma!"  At the beginning of this stage, children will often produce unplanned artwork and decide what it is after they are finished. 

Eventually, you may notice your child thinking about what she will draw before committing crayon to paper.  This is an important developmental milestone.  She is now engaged in symbolic thinking!  She understands that her artwork can symbolize objects, people, or events. 

Not long after, children will begin to understand the difference between pictures and writing.  This is particularly important as they get ready to enter preschool and begin to work on letter awareness. 

Helpful Hint: As your child begins to draw pictures, use open, non-judgemental questions to discuss the final product, such as: "Can you tell me about your picture?"  Encourage your child to tell you the "story" of the picture(s).  This story-telling is also an important skill for literacy!

STAGE 5:  LETTER AND WORD PRACTICE (3 to 5 years)

By this stage, children may begin writing "real" letters on their own.  Children usually begin with letters that are familiar to them- such as the first letter of their name.  Children also begin to understand that letters fit together in special ways to make words.  While they may not be able to write words on their own, they do understand that some words are short and some are long.  This may be reflected in their "pretend" writing.  One day, all this pretend practice will morph into the understanding and production of real letters and words!

Helpful Hint:  It's okay that their letters are not technically correct.  It's the process, not the product, that matters.

For more information about the 5 Stages of Scribbling, check out zerotothree.org.

And for more art project ideas for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers, check out our collection of Little Hands books.

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