09. 01. 2015
PicMonkey Collage Do you ever think "I totally could have written that AND done a better job" after reading a children's book?  I know I have! But then I tired to write one for my Master's Project and GOODNESS GRAY it was tough.  Probably one of the hardest things I've completed in my academic career.  There are so many different components that go into a quality piece of children's literature.  Even though a 18 page picture book seems simple, there is A LOT of thought behind every detail.  It's hard to know and appreciate the complexities of what constitutes good children's literature, and even harder to determine which books represent quality children's lit.  Therefore, I often refer to my favorite book lists to help guide me.  I certainly don't think every book you read to your child has be awarding-winning literature - believe me, we read a lot of $1 specials or books of little substance just for kicks. But I do think it's important to read your child a balanced diet of children's literature. The good stuff helps expose them to more thought-provoking and stimulating content matter than the fluffy stuff. To help understand some of what goes into quality children's lit, here is a little excerpt from one of my favorite places to look for new and GOOD children's books regarding how they select books for their annual book lists (Bank Street College of Education): "In choosing books for the annual list, reviewers consider literary quality and excellence of presentation as well as the potential emotional impact of the books on young readers. Other criteria include credibility of characterization and plot, authenticity of time and place, age suitability, positive treatment of ethnic and religious differences, and the absence of stereotypes. Nonfiction titles are further evaluated for accuracy and clarity." Helps give you a bit more perspective on the whole process, right? And these are just a few high-level things that make-up good children's lit. SO help me sort through all the options out there, I rely on these links below for guidance when on the hunt for the best children's books: Newbery Medal Winners - Going straight to the top here. These books receive medals for being the most notable contributions to children's lit for the year. Caldecott Medal Winners - Up at the top again.  These books receive medals for containing the most distinguished illustrations of the year. New York Public Library - Love this classic list of the top 100 children's books for the past 100 years. Bank Street College - Saved the best for last (OK I'm biased as a Bank Street Grad, but really, when it comes to children's lit they REALLY know what's up). This is your one-stop-shop when looking for children's books.  They compile annual book lists that are broken down by age and category.  You can also search their general book lists to find books that address pretty much any topic. Where do you go to look for new children's books?    
16. 10. 2014
child reading

Image Source: Huffington Post

Ahhh Fall....  The cooler temps, crisp winds and falling leaves always remind me of the start of the school year. I loved this time of year when I was teaching.  I loved ordering new supplies, organizing and cleaning the classroom, and painstakingly creating laminated works of art posters for the walls (which often devolved as the year progressed into random pieces of paper that I wrote on with whatever writing utensil was handy. Hey, I was MUCH more focused on the kids and that's what counts, right?). This time of year also signaled the start of parents questioning me about their child's reading abilities.  If you are a parent wondering about your child's reading skills, or looking for help in nurturing your child's reading abilities, I have advice for you: Ask not whether your child is reading, ask first if he or she is pre-reading.  Instead of pondering over the how, when and where the magical skill (it really does seem magical when it all comes together) of reading will blossom within your child, take a few steps back and take a look at your child's pre-reading skills.  As a teacher, I loved pointing these skills out to parents when they would complain that their child was not reading yet.  I would always stop them and say, "OH but he is beginning to read! Look and listen to how he is using this book.  He is using some pre-reading skills that are going to eventually launch him into reading!" What are those skills, you ask? There are many! Pre-reading abilities deal largely with book-handling skills and a beginning understanding of concepts of print.  To break down what I mean, take a look at the list below.  These are a few questions to consider that deal with book handling and concepts of print to help you get a sense of  some of your child's pre-reading skills. Do you notice that your child: If your child is beginning to catch onto some of these concepts then FAN-TASTIC! They are exercising some great pre-reading skills and on a great path to be ready to read soon!!!  Don't worry if they are not yet doing every single thing on this list.  Some of the skills on here are more advanced and your child is on a great path if they're demonstrating a few of these skills. Another GREAT pre-reading skill that is often dismissed by parents is when children recite stories from memory.  My parents were frequently quick to say, "Ahhh, but he's not really reading, he's just saying that story from memory!"  My response to this type of statement was "First of all HELLO! how wonderful is it that your son loves reading SO much that he has memorized a story?!  Second of all, NICE memory and recall skills, son.  These are KEY skills for learning to read." To explain, you need to rely on your memory and recall skills to help grow your help grow your bank of sight words (which are words that you know from memory).  The more you read, the larger your bank of sight words will grow and the more fluently you'll be able to read text.  Eventually, when you become a more advanced reader, you will read most of your words from memory (oh hey MEMORY there's that word again!).  Think about it, how often do you read something and actually decode the sounds in the individual words? If you're reading a text full of unknown vocabulary, perhaps you would have to spend time putting together letter sounds to read a word. Otherwise, you mostly read by recognizing words you remember.  So don't be quick to dismiss a child using memory to accomplish any form of reading!  This is a key ingredient to their reading success! Hopefully this gives you a little more insight into how the whole reading process starts! I know it can be stressful waiting, watching and wondering when your child is going to start reading, but the best thing to do to help them on their way and to develop their pre-reading skills is to SURPRISE! read to them.  Model for them how you read, how you hold the book and turn the pages, point to the words and return sweep as you read, discuss the words and letters that you see, and of course show them how much you ENJOY being a reader yourself!    
12. 10. 2014

Baby reading

Source: Favim

Back in my teaching days, a parent asked me when she should start reading aloud to her newborn baby. “Right now,” I told her. She looked at me puzzled and said, “Now? But she’s just a baby.” “Exactly,” I responded, “get started before she gets older!” I know sometimes I'm reading to my kids and I feel like they're all... happy endings not paying attention

Source: Gurl

However, studies have shown that the more language babies and children are exposed to, the better language skills they will develop as they grow. If that statement doesn’t have you running for a book for your child, here are some more nuggets of motivation for you… One of the primary reasons to read aloud to a baby is to help them associate reading with pleasure - it feels wonderful to your little one to be snuggled up with you while they listen to your voice, and see and touch the pages of the book.   These cozy moments also help to build a bond between you and your child, further reinforcing the joy of reading. Additionally, reading aloud is a great calming and peaceful activity for both of you, and is a wonderful addition to any schedule especially as part of a bedtime routine. As your child grows, other reasons to read aloud become more pertinent, such as:   But back to the babes for the time being… So it’s important to read to them. Got it. But what should I read to them? Does it matter?? Good questions! Try to find book that stimulate your baby’s senses. Books that she can touch and feel with colorful and bright pictures are great. I’m a huge fan of anything touchy-feely! It’s also good to find books with exciting sounds, rhythms and rhymes. Babies can pick up on the rhythm of the rhymes of Dr. Seuss and Mother Goose books, for example, and they enjoy how the sounds in the words come together and repeat. Listening and learning to identify rhymes also exposes children to a very key skill in learning to read and write - listening for specific sounds within words. Learning to isolate and identify specific sounds in words are super-dooper important skills, as they lay the foundation for helping your child figure out how to sound out words when reading or writing. Listening to and playing with rhymes are great ways to exercise and practice this skill. When I taught kindergarten, I encouraged all families to spend time reading rhyming books and to play rhyming games with their children (i.e. “I spy something that rhymes with ____” or read a rhyming book but omit the rhyming word and let your child figure it out). But I digress, back to the babes again.  It's also been said that babies enjoy listening to the flow of rhymes because it reminds them of the rhythmic sound of their mothers' heartbeats when they were in the womb. Bless their sweet lil hearts ;)... What books do you like to read to your baby??