Early literacy tip: Growing a reader means reading together!

This week's early literacy tip on the Toddler Room chalkboard is as simple as it sounds: Growing a reader means reading together!

The single best way to encourage early literacy skills is to read books out loud to your child. Fine some favorites, explore our different sections (are you a Nature kid? or a Folk and Fairytales?), and have fun together. Talk about what you see in the drawings and what you hear in the words.

And it's definitely never too early to start. Have you seen our 100 Before One initiative? And it's definitely never too late to stop; we have some excellent picture books in our iRead section for older readers.

Early literacy tip: Have fun with literacy!

This week, the chalkboard in the Toddler Room is about encouraging fun in early literacy.

Play games - Play is one of the five tenets of early literacy. Playing pretend, playing I spy, playing together - all of these build skills in communication, problem solving, and socialization.  Here are some other games to play together!

Follow your child's interests - When looking out the window with really little ones, acknowledge the things that interest them (a squirrel, truck, or cloud for instance?) to develop language skills, and show them they have valid opinions. This will inspire them to talk and share more, building vocabulary and a strong foundational relationship! The same goes for choosing books. It's important to let your child choose books about things that interest them - and watch you read about things you're interested in too!

Read funny books - We have some great funny books! Come in and ask and we can help you. Here's a start for preschool aged children: Orange, Pear, Apple, Bear by Emily Gravett, Oink-a-doodle-moo by Jeff Czekaj, or Chickens To The Rescue by John Himmelman.

Early literacy tip: Speak your first language at home!

In the Toddler Room this week, the chalk board is letting you know that speaking your first language with your kids is great!

If English is not your first language, or your child's caregiver's first language, don't struggle with speaking English because you worry they will be left behind. Speaking a first language to a child gives them your rich vocabulary and builds a foundation of transferable skills. "Students who are literate in their native language have many skills to draw on when they learn academic English, even when the writing system is different. It is much easier to teach a concept if the student already has some background with it in native language. Once students grasp the underlying literacy skills of one language, they can use these same skills to learn another language" (Judi Haynes). So have fun and talk a lot with your child!


For ELL teachers, but helpful for parents and caregivers too! "8 Strategies for Preschool ELLs' Language and Literacy Development" by Karen Ford http://www.colorincolorado.org/article/36679/

"Why is it important for young children to keep their home language AND learn English?" http://illinoisearlylearning.org/faqs/dll.htm#homelang

"What Language should ELLs Speak at Home?"  by Judie Haynes http://www.everythingesl.net/inservices/language_should_ells_speak_hom_00405.php


Early literacy tip: Car ride tricks!

If you feel like you spend a lot of time in the car and it's getting boring for everyone, here are some fun early literacy tips for the car.

  • Sing as you go! Pop a CD in from our CD collection, and let loose. Don't worry about how good your voice is. Singing helps your child break down words into smaller sounds, which is a preliteracy skill, and it's fun!
  • Describe what the car is doing! Are you going fast? Practice speaking fast. Is the car going slow? Turning? Narrate together what actions the car is taking. This helps build vocabulary and connects concepts with action!
  • Discuss what you see outside! Playing I Spy or just pointing out fun things you see is a great way to develop vocabulary, creative thinking, and more.
  • Read signs! For someone who is just learning to read, understanding that there are words all around you can be a great way to connect sounds and letters and recognize the alphabet in context.
  • Have them "read" a book to you! Whether or not your child can actually read, having them describe what's on the page and telling you the story help them practice reading habits.

For more ideas, visit PBS Parent Resources or this guide from a WA library.

Here are some fun songs about vehicles and driving from the King County Library System.

Early literacy tip: Reading and writing

If you're snowed in, it may feel like there aren't enough things you can do with your preschooler or pre-preschooler to keep them entertained. Luckily, scribbling and drawing, which are fun and creative, also happen to build writing skills!

Writing and reading are bound together very closely - the skills support each other. When a child learns to write, they are learning about the shapes of letters and how they fit together, as well as developing skills in problem solving, creative thinking, and expressing their opinions and thoughts - and then translating that into symbols!  You can't expect your preschooler or toddler to be writing yet, but you can support them by developing pre-writing skills through drawing, scribbling, and more. (You can read some very thick academic research on it here)

Here are some tips and ideas:

  • Storytelling - have your child tell you a story while you dictate it and write it down. That shows that their words have corresponding symbols on a page that make sentences.
  • Play post office! Set up letter writing materials, glue, and some fun found materials for stamps.  Have them write a letter to you (even if it's just scribbles) and write a letter to them.  Put it in an envelope, glue the "stamp" on, and exchange letters, asking them what their letter said and reading your letter to them.
  • Try just setting out some art supplies and paper and see where it goes.  Spread out big sheets of paper for "giant drawing" on the floor.  Have fun!
  • Write your grocery list together! Write them simultaneously, letting your child copy your movements.  Talk about what you want to cook and eat, using rich vocabulary.
  • Be encouraging of all efforts. Treat their writing and drawing seriously!  Have them sign their artwork to practice writing their name.
  • Water painting - holding a brush or a pen is great hand-eye coordination practice.  Give your child a paintbrush and a bucket of water and let them "paint" the bathtub, the porch, etc.


Encouraging preschoolers’ early writing efforts: https://www.childcareexchange.com/library/5019684.pdf

Art of Writing: http://www.earlyliteracylearning.org/cellpract_parent/toddler/collections/CELL_Todd_Scrib_Draw.pdf

Making Reading and Writing Meaningful: http://projectenlightenment.wcpss.net/parent_resources/Make_Read_Write_Meaningful.pdf


Early literacy tip: The 3 Cs of Evaluating Early Literacy Apps!

This week's early literacy tip is all about evaluating children's apps. You may have heard the wide variety of recommendations about apps and small children, but it seems that the consensus is that apps and tablets can be used to help develop early literacy skills when used right, and when the right app is selected.  There is still no definitive research about the effect of "screen time" on young children's development, but there are some great guidelines out there.

One of them is the "3 Cs of Evaluating Early Literacy Apps", outlined in this Slate article by Lisa Guernsey (author of Screen TimeHow Electronic Media-from Baby Videos To Educational Software-affects Your Young Child).  If you want to use a tablet with your little one and are curious about what apps might be educational (because, according to a report by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center, 72 percent of iTunes’ “education” apps are designed for preschoolers and elementary school children), a great guide is thinking about:

Content: "Be picky about the content of what children see on-screen, and when choosing interactive titles, seek out those that put children in control without so many dead-ends and distractions. (Common Sense Media, a nonprofit children’s advocacy organization, is making this a little easier with its just-released website that rates apps for their learning potential.)"

Context: "Focus on context by being aware of what is happening before, during, and after children play their games or watch their shows, taking time to talk about what they’ve seen, and play some games together."

Child: "...tune in to which games and shows really interest your kids, what piques their curiosity and helps them relate to people and things around them."

The best way to use apps is to use them together, and choose apps that make you and your child active, rather than passive consumers.  Make it a shared experience, play and explore, and you will be setting you child up for early literacy success.



Here are some other helpful resources:

Darien Library's current list of selected apps

Darien Library's post on What Makes a Great App

National Association for the Education of Young Children: Technology and Interactive Media as Tools in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth through Age 8

American Association of Pediatrics: Media Use by Children Under 2 years of Age

Zero the Three: Screen Sense: Setting the Record Straight

Early literacy tip: How to read to little wiggly ones!

On the chalkboard in the Toddler Room!
On the chalkboard in the Toddler Room!

Do you have a wiggler?  Maybe it's hard to get good reading time in because your little one can't keep still.  Don't worry about it! There are some great ways to make it easier for everyone, and still get your reading quotient met (and quality time!).

From Reading Rockets: "How to Read with a Squiggly Baby (or Toddler!)"

Read before bed, but don’t wait too long!

Really tired little ones have a harder time focusing their attention. It may help to pull out your books before the bath, or right after dinnertime. If your child is too tired to read, don’t force it. Keep book times happy times.

Choose fun, brightly colored books

The most engaging books for little ones have lots of bright, big pictures. Board books, the ones with stiff cardboard pages, are great for little hands to hold.

Sing along, or have some rhyme time

Books meant to be sung, or books written in rhyme, mean that you and your child get to clap along, sing along, and bounce up and down to the rhythm of the language. The fun physical involvement will keep your child interested in reading.

Be expressive!

Don’t worry, no one is listening! As you read the book, change your voice for each character. Say loud words LOUDLY and soft words softly. Add hand gestures and foot stomping to go along with the story.

Keep your favorites by your side

Your child will begin to develop favorite storytime books. Plan to read those books until the pages fall out! The repeated, enjoyable experience of reading favorite books goes a long way toward developing good reading habits. 

Help your child develop a reading habit

It’s important to recognize that reading with a really young child looks and sounds different than reading with an older child. It’s louder, with more action and movement. That’s okay! The simple interaction with you, your child, and a book sends a powerful message about reading.

Early literacy tip: Everybody read now!

Much like dancing, reading is best done in excess.  The simplest early literacy tip there is, reading often is one of those things that is good for you and yours and has the benefit of being fun - sort of like how Minecraft can be used educationally or chocolate and wine are good for your heart.  Reading is important for succeeding in school and in life, and for building curiousity and a love of learning.

Reading together with your child is of course vitally important.  Benefits include bonding with you, building prereading skills, speech skills, and more.  Reading together is wonderful and should continue even after your child learns to read.  Plus, aren't picture books incredible?!

Just making sure you're reading in front of your child too - whether it's the paper or a novel (it really doesn't matter!) demonstrates to your child that you care about books and reading and inspires them to learn!  


More information:





Early literacy tip: New year's literacy resolutions!

This week's chalkboard
This week's chalkboard

New Year's resolutions are a time-honored tradition of making promises (and sometimes they get a little broken - why do sweets taste so good, anyway?). You can make resolutions with your child (check out this article from PBS Parents about how to do it well) and as a family, but what do early literacy resolutions look like?

The first step is learning about Every Child Ready to Read's (an initiative from the Public Library Association and Association for Library Service to Children) five important building blocks in early literacy: READ, WRITE, TALK, SING, and PLAY! Luckily, Miss Krishna has already made us a video to teach us the concepts.

Darien Library Rhymes from Darien Library on Vimeo.

Some examples of early literacy New Year's resolutions include:

  • Read to my child five times a week.
  • Sing a song to my child when we are in the car.
  • Set up a drawing area in my child's room so they can develop pre-writing skills.
  • Talk to my child everyday using rich language to build their vocabulary.
  • Encourage a sense of play by playing along with my child's pretend games at least once a week.
  • And of course - one that ties many together - screen time.  Read on for more information in this update on the American Association of Pediatrics!

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!


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