Early literacy tip: Holiday songs!

We too are tired of having Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer stuck in our heads.  But don't stop singing with your child!  Singing is a great early literacy tool that develops many prereading skills.

According to research, "The size of a child’s vocabulary and his or her ability to discriminate sounds are strong predictors of how easily a child will learn to read when exposed to formal instruction" (FMI Adams, M., Foorman, B., Lundberg, I., and Beeler, T. (2002) Phonemic Awareness in Young Children. Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co. Baltimore, MD.).   And songs are chockful of what early childhood educators call "rich words" - another way of saying great vocabulary words.  Examples of rich words in holiday songs:

- dashing

- bobtail

- corncob pipe

- jolly

- foggy

- glee

Other research shows that "Singing is a fun way for students to learn that letter sounds can be manipulated and recombined to create many spoken words" - which helps them understand how to break words down into smaller pieces when learning to read. When you sing, you break words into syllables and sing them on different notes - "Dash-ing through the snow, on a one horse o-pen sleigh..."

If you're tired of doing all the singing, bring them to one of our drop-in storytimes!


Diaglogic Reading: A Magic Trick

Photo courtesy of Sarah Houghton
Photo courtesy of Sarah Houghton

Diaglogic reading is a fantastic way to jump-start your child's education. It helps small children think critically about plot and character motivation, and it will be innumerably helpful when they get to school to already have these building blocks in place. So what is diaologic reading, and how can you do it at home?

"When most adults share a book with a preschooler, they read and the child listens. In dialogic reading, the adult helps the child become the teller of the story. The adult becomes the listener, the questioner, the audience for the child. No one can learn to play the piano just by listening to someone else play. Likewise, no one can learn to read just by listening to someone else read. Children learn most from books when they are actively involved.

The fundamental reading technique in dialogic reading is the PEER sequence. This is a short interaction between a child and the adult. The adult:

    Prompts the child to say something about the book,
    Evaluates the child's response,
    Expands the child's response by rephrasing and adding information to it, and
    Repeats the prompt to make sure the child has learned from the expansion
." Reading Rockets

The Reading Rockets website also contains helpful hints about what types of question to ask your child, and the best ways to work dialogic reading into your child's life.

So pick a book you love and start dialogic reading it today!


Caregivers are a child's first and best teacher!

Read! Write! Talk! Sing! Play!
Read! Write! Talk! Sing! Play!

Did you know that as a caregiver (parent, legal guardian, nanny, etc!) you are a child's first and best teacher?

Research shows that a child's early years are vital for developing literacy skills including written and verbal communication and reading abilities, and that these skills are early predictors for academic success (not to mention a life full of happy reading and learning!). When caregivers help children develop these skills before they're old enough for school, children will be set up for learning to read.  This may sound like a daunting task, but don't worry! You're probably already doing it.  

A great guide for what to do to build early literacy skills come from the American Library Association's Every Child Ready to Read initiative.  

Read - read together, read often, and read actively!

Write - did you know scribbling is an early form of writing? Let your child scrawl.

Talk - talk and describe what you see - in your first language!  Respond to cooing and invite conversation.

Sing - singing helps break down words into smaller pieces, which is an early reading skill!

Play - play pretend, play games, play play play!

 And you can do all of these things at the library!  

Early literacy tip: Read, and repeat!

Currently in the Toddler Room!
Currently in the Toddler Room!

Have you ever wondered why your child wants to hear The Duckling Gets a Cookie?! over and over again?  Are you worried that you are brainwashing your child with the same 32-page picture book when you read it for the 32nd time?

Have no fear.  Research shows that "Repeated reading helps children become familiar with the vocabulary, repeated themes, and the language in the story. You can use repeated story readings to help preschool children understand, talk about, and be part of the story" (CELL Practices, 2010) Here are some tips to make it work for you:

  • Point out words and phrases with your finger as you read so children can associate the sounds they know are coming with the letter shapes - a skill that's called phonological awareness.  

  • Practice dialogic reading, where you engage your child in the book and ask questions about what they think about certain parts of the story.  We wrote an extensive post on it, so check it out to learn more!

  • Let your child "read" the story to you while looking at the pictures to build up vocabulary.

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.



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