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Stories and More: Talk, Talk, Talk

30 Dec

Here’s what we did for Stories and More in October!

FOCUS: TALKING.

Talking and being spoken to is how children learn how language works. They need to hear and understand lots of different words in order to recognize them when they’re reading on their own. While children learn many unique words from hearing stories read aloud, they can also learn so much about language structure, how to make sounds, and, of course, lots of vocabulary words.

Storytime plan:

Opening song: Hello and How Are You?

Hello, hello, hello and how are you?

I’m fine, I’m fine, I hope that you are too!

Introductions and Early Literacy Reminder: Today we’re talking about talking. Hearing language is how we learn to speak. We learn words and how language works. Children need to know LOTS (tens of thousands) of words in order to become readers. The best ways to give them words? Talk to them and read to them!

Rhyme: Wake Up Toes

Wake Up Toes, wake up toes, wake up toes and wiggle, wiggle wiggle.

Wake up toes, wake up toes, wake up and wiggle in the morning!

Ask for suggestions for more body parts to wake up!

Early Literacy Reminder: Books with questions like this one are a great way to spark conversation! But you can make up your own conversation too – talk about the pictures and ask your own questions like “what do you think will happen next?”grow

Book: Do You Know Which Ones Will Grow? by Susan A. Shea

Flannelboard: Make a pig. The kids have to use lots of words for this one! They need to tell me which body part goes where, which parts are missing, and what I get wrong. It’s very much a conversation, and the kids drive it!

Active Rhyme: Can You Hop Like a Bunny?

Can you hop like a bunny? (hop)

Can you jump like a frog? (jump)

Can you waddle like a duck? (waddle)

Can you run like a dog? (run in place)

Can you fly like a bird? (flap arms)

Can you swim like a fish (swim)

Can you sit as still as can be?

As still as this? (sit down quietly)

We usually do this at least a couple of times.

Settling Rhyme: One Little Fish

One little fish is swimming in the water (put palms together and zig zag like a fish swimming)

Swimming in the water,

Swimming in the water,

One little fish is swimming in the water

Bubble, bubble, bubble, bubble, POP! (raise hands and clap together on POP!)red

Book: Red Sled by Lita Judge

This is a great example of an “almost” wordless book. The story is told through the sounds and images. So we have to use those to figure out what the story is – we can tell our own story!

Fingerplay: Two Little Blackbirds

Two little blackbirds sitting on a hill (hold up two fingers)

One named Jack (move one finger) and one named Jill (move other finger)

Fly away Jack! (move finger behind back) Fly away Jill! (move other finger behind back)

Come back Jack! (bring finger back to front) Come back Jill! (move other finger back)

Repeat again using:

Sitting in the snow…fast, slow.

Sitting on a cloud…soft, loud.

Sitting on a gate…wobbly, straight.

Sitting on a lily…serious, silly.

I got some of these from Jbrary. Theirs has NINE verses!

Goodbye Rhyme: Our Hands Say Thank You

Early Literacy Play Activities:

Imaginative play is a great way to have a conversation and build language skills. I brought out a big tub of plastic food and dumped it on the floor. I put out paper plates and crayons, as well as a paper menu with checkboxes I made. The kids created plates of food they wanted to eat, talked to their grownups about what they liked, didn’t like, and hadn’t eaten, and otherwise made up their own play. It was very open-ended.

I also made a bunch of wordless books available for the caregiver and child to sit and look at and use to make up their own stories. I also put out some non-fiction books that had great pictures to talk about. I used titles like Pinkney’s The Lion and The Mouse, Idle’s Flora and the Flamingo, Miyares’ Float, Savage’s Where’s Walrus, and more.

Take-homes:

newsBooks: Babies took home a copy of At the Park, a black-and-white wordless book. Toddlers got a copy of Red Sled, and Preschoolers took home Good News, Bad News! by Jeff Mack. All books that can be talked about!

Activities: Babies took home a Brown Bear, Brown Bear box. At home it can become a mystery box – the caregiver puts and object inside, removes it with the child, and talks about it. A new item can appear in the box periodically.

Toddlers and Preschoolers took home a set of these animal faces that I made in Word and four craft sticks. They could color and cut out the faces at home and then tape or glue them on the sticks for instant puppets! My hope was the kids and caregivers would have a puppet show and make up stories together!

Here is the handout that went in the bags and includes more information on the books and activities and how to use them, plus additional ideas for home.

I hope this is useful! Let me know if you have any questions or comments.

 

Stories and More: Movement and Motor Skills

17 Dec

In July I started a new position as an early literacy librarian for a suburban library district. One of the major parts of my job is facilitating a program called “Stories and More: Literacy to Go.” It’s kind of a storytime/literacy workshop hybrid,  for children aged 0 – 5 and their caregivers, and while I do a half hour storytime, I follow it with a half hour of activities targeted to build early literacy skills and do a LOT of modeling for caregivers. Additonally, at the end of the program, each child takes home a new book (often one we read in the storytime) and an activity to do at home to continue learning. I create a handout for the parents that explains the activity, how to share the book at home, and gives other examples of learning activities they can try at home. I also give titles of other similar books they may enjoy borrowing from the library.

Let me tell you: planning these programs is A LOT OF FUN. I do 9 sessions a month at branches throughout the system and many of them are fully attended (we do have registration in order to keep it from getting chaotic). I see close to 200 children each month! I am fortunate, also, that these programs are partially funded by our local Early Childhood Council, which affords me the funds to purchase books, and activities for all the children each month and to purchase materials for the activities.

I thought I’d start sharing my plans with y’all in hopes that you might find something useful! So here’s what we did in September:

FOCUS: MOVEMENT. FINE AND GROSS MOTOR. 

We know that fine motor skills are inextricably linked to learning to write. Children need the finger strength in order to hold a pencil! We also know that gross motor practice can help with things like memory, balance, coordination, and connecting both halves of the brain by “crossing the midline.” So I thought we could do a little of both in this Stories and More.

Storytime Plan:

Opening Song: Hello and How Are You?

Hello, hello, hello and how are you?

I’m fine, I’m fine, I hope that you are too!

Introductions and Early Literacy Reminder: Today we’re going to move our bodies, because movement and learning go together! Children learn with all their senses, and moving helps them recall what they’ve learned, hear the rhythm and rhyme in language, and much more!

Rhyme: Wake Up Toes

Wake Up Toes, wake up toes, wake up toes and wiggle, wiggle wiggle.

Wake up toes, wake up toes, wake up and wiggle in the morning!

We also wake up our hands, and then I ask the kids for suggestions of a couple more body parts to wake up. We’ve woken up our ears, nose, armpits, elbows, and most frequently, heads!

Song: Roly Poly (to the tune of Frere Jacques)

Roly poly, roly poly, (roll hands together)

Out out out! Out out out! (move hands out from each other)

Roly roly poly, roly roly poly (roll hands together)

In in in! In in in! (move hands towards each other)

Continue with up, down and fast, slow

Early Literacy Reminder: Doing the motions with the words up, down, out, in, fast and slow helps to reinforce the meaning of the words.rhythm

Book: I Got the Rhythm by Connie Schofield-Morrison

Song: “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” – regular speed, then faster, then slower, then fastest!

Settling rhyme: One Little Fish

One little fish is swimming in the water (put palms together and zig zag like a fish swimming)

Swimming in the water,

Swimming in the water,

One little fish is swimming in the water,

Bubble, bubble, bubble, bubble, POP! (raise hands and clap together on POP!)

funBook: Is Everyone Ready for Fun? by Jan Thomas (we all get up and participate)

Movement song/Early Literacy Reminder: Sleeping Bunnies

This is a great song to help young people try self-regulation – which means controlling their actions – because they have to pretend to sleep until told it’s time to hop. It’s a tough skill to learn but important for when they start school!

Goodbye Rhyme: Our Hands Say Thank You

Our hand say thank you with a clap clap clap (clap hands)

Our feet say thank you with a tap, tap, tap (tap feet_

Clap clap clap

Tap tap tap

Turn around (turn around)

And take a bow! (take a bow)

Early Literacy Play Activities:

Gross motor: I got a set of these mats from Lakeshore. I put them on the floor and child and caregiver did the motions on each of the mats. If you’re unable to purchase the mats, put squares of different colored paper covered with clear tape. Write an action on each mat (print awareness!): Jump, squat, stand on one foot, run, crawl, etc.

Fine motor: Pompom sort. I taped colored construction paper to the bottoms of clear dip containers. I also taped paper around some old Crystal Lite containers a colleague had. I printed off and laminated some sorting mats like these. I offered a variety of tools to pick up the pompoms to go along with varying developmental levels: spoons, tweezers, “gator grabbers” (easier to open and close than the tweezers) and clothespins. The kids had a BLAST moving the pompoms around. Make sure you get BIGGER pompoms though, and remind parents to keep an eye on the littlest ones as these can be a choking hazard

Gross and fine motor for babies: Since my program reaches children 0 – 5 I didn’t want to leave the babies out! I taped bubble wrap to the wall for the little ones to lie on the floor and kick (gross motor!). I also put scarves in old kleenex boxes for the babies to grip and pull out (fine motor!). I had several parents comment that the would be recreating the kleenex box activity at home!

Take-homes: 

Books: Babies got a board book copy of Head, Shoulders Knees and Toes by Kubler. Toddlers took home the same title, but Mike Wohnoutka’s paperback version. The preschoolers got Thomas’s Is Everyone Ready for Fun? We purchased the board books from All About Books, and the other two through Scholastic’s Literacy Partners.

Activities: Babies and Toddlers got one of these sensory balls to use with movement. Preschoolers got the ingredients to make “animal action dice”: two wooden blocks and six farm animal stickers. I instructed parents to help their children put the stickers on one of the blocks and then write action words like “jump”, “skip”, etc. on the other. They were to roll the dice and do the action like the animal.

Here is the handout I included for parents which includes more information on each of these.

I hope some of this is useful! I will be posting additional months’ plans asap!

“Soft Skills” and Storytime Part 1: Self Control

26 Mar

Recently, I was fortunate enough to hear Dr. Kimberlee Kiehl, Executive Director of the Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center (the place where Smithsonian staff can send their kids!) speak about non-traditional learning opportunities in early childhood. The Center uses the museums as classrooms, and encourages children to learn by “building upon past knowledge and experience.” They focus less on rote learning and instead work to build executive function skills – the “soft skills” that allow us to learn and think and grow into successful humans. They include self-regulation (or self-control), critical thinking, perspective taking, problem solving, persistence, and more.

These skills are extremely important to a child’s development – as much or even more so than the ability to count, identify letters and colors, and other knowledge that we work to build in the early years. Dr. James Heckman, nobel prize-winning economist, and his colleagues studied these skills and found that they “predict success in life, that they causally produce that success, and that programs that enhance soft skills have an important place in an effective portfolio of public policies.” In other words, soft skills are a better predictor of a child growing into a successful adult than knowing one’s abc’s.

I’ve been thinking about how we help children develop these skills in the library – especially in storytime – and so I decided to write about each skill and what we can (and do) do in storytime to help children develop these skills. It’s yet another selling point for storytime as a great resource for parents and caregivers to help their children prepare for formal schooling.

The Harvard University Center on the Developing Child defines executive function and self regulation as:

the mental processes that enable us to plan, focus attention, remember instructions, and juggle multiple tasks successfully. Just as an air traffic control system at a busy airport safely manages the arrivals and departures of many aircraft on multiple runways, the brain needs this skill set to filter distractions, prioritize tasks, set and achieve goals, and control impulses.

So, let’s talk about that last one: controlling impulses. Self-control. Self-regulation. Something I completely lack when faced with a bag of potato chips. And this kitty is exhibiting well:

bird

Self control includes the ability to pay attention, stay on task, regulate one’s body, and carefully look and listen, and sort information.

How do we develop help young children develop their self-control in storytime?

  • Ask them to try and sit and listen. We know they can’t do this for very long periods of time, but the more they practice, the better they get. We’re also asking them to focus on the task at hand – listening and paying attention to the book or activity
  • Ask them to keep their hands to themselves. That’s regulating one’s own body and not giving in to the impulse of putting their hands on their neighbor’s head/your flannelboard pieces/the puppet/whatever it is they really want to touch.
  • Ask them to answer questions about the book – especially when we’re asking them to look at the pictures and identify  objects or actions. If they have to find something on the page, I like to have them “use their words” to explain where it is, rather than pointing and saying “there!”. Vocabulary-building, y’all. 
  • Taking turns. It’s HARD for a young person to wait until it’s their turn to answer a question or put a piece on the flannel board. But we’re asking them to try, and they’re learning. 
  • Through movement activities, like a “freeze dance,” they’re having to regulate the movements of their bodies. Dancing requires them to figure out their place in space (proprioception!) compared to others and how to move themselves without bumping into others. If you’ve ever done the “Sleeping Bunnies” song and seen the storytime rug turn into a mosh pit, that’s your kids trying to figure out and regulate their bodies. 

As always, storytime is a great time to remind parents and caregivers how their children are developing not only cognitive skills but also these great soft skills. You might include soft skills in your early learning reminders/tips so everyone knows just how much learning is happening. 

I think this is also a great reminder to be patient with our young kids. They are learning, practicing, and figuring out their bodies and minds. 

How else do you encourage self-control in storytime? Please share! And look for part 2 of this series coming soon….

 

 

 

PROUD.

24 Aug

I wanted to give a shoutout to a couple of amazing organizations/groups I have the good fortune to be involved with. They are both, in different ways, working to help grow children into successful, literate adults.

eie

Earlier is Easier is a Denver collaborative working to build awareness around the importance of the first 3 years of a child’s life. Right now our advocacy consists of informative websites in English and in Spanish, as well as parent tip cards that we distribute through our partner agencies. We’re diligently working on other ways to get our message out, including a possible media campaign and partnerships with faith-based and other community groups. It all depends on funding, of course. But we’re making it happen! Check out the websites, and please share! They have great, easy activities for parents to do with their young children, divided by age groups.

su

Storytime Underground! I’m super-duper excited to have been recently chosen to be a joint-chief of this amazing group. SU is dedicated to  supporting, training, and advocating for youth services librarians throughout the country (nay – the world!). We believe that “literacy is not a luxury” and the work that we do in libraries around early literacy is important and necessary. I will blogging especially about advocacy – helping us understand the “why” behind what we do do in storytime and in youth services and how we can best advocate for our work in our libraries and in our communities.

I am happy and grateful to be able to work with both of these groups. Together, we ARE changing the world.

Ukulele in Storytime: 5 Green and Speckled Frogs

9 Aug

Like most people, I think I sound weird when listening to or watching myself. But maybe it won’t sound weird to you. The latest, seriously overdue, edition of ukulele in storytime features “5 Green and Speckled Frogs” which is, in my world, a storytime staple. So get out your ukes, friends, and learn the D chord with me if you don’t already know it!

Early Literacy Messages in Action

16 Jun

Fellow Early Literacy Evangelists (may I call you evangelists?),

Yesterday I did my first baby storytime in… well, years, and I had the opportunity to slip in a few early literacy messages that Early Literacy Messaging Graphicreally resonate with me. And I was super excited to do so. But I know that’s not always the case.

I am a 44-year-old childless librarian who ostensibly tells parents how to raise their kids without having any experience of my own. I know, awkward, right? I suppose it could be. I could be saying to myself: “Self, who are you to tell these parents that they should talk to their kids all the time to give the kids a big vocabulary? How do you know they aren’t already doing that and you’re just going to make them defensive? Aren’t they going to look at you and think ‘Don’t you tell me what to do!’

But I don’t, and here’s why: I, myself, am AMAZED by what I’ve learned about early literacy and brain development. I find it incredible that by simply talking and singing with babies, we can set them on a path for learning that will last their whole lives. I’m fascinated by the brain science – it takes a toddler 5 to 7 seconds to respond to a question because there are 4 different parts of the brain involved in hearing, processing, and speaking? Wow! Babies brains grow from 25% developed to 75% developed in the first year of life? Holy cow!

This is powerful, life-alerting (literally) stuff, and I just want everyone to know how easy it is to give young children the best future possible.

I work with parents who are both affluent and highly educated and those who are less so. Personally, I think everyone can learn something new about their child. I haven’t yet heard of a child born into this world with an owner’s manual, so I think lots of parents are just figuring things out. But the universal thread is that they ALL love their children and want the best for them, and simply by bringing them to the library for storytime, or to an outreach event for a parent presentation or play and learn group, they’re demonstrating that.

But I get that it’s challenging to feel like the “expert” in many situations where you DON’T know what parents already know. I’ve been thinking about this a lot, and I think tailoring your message to your audience helps a lot. If you’ve got parents whom you suspect already know about phonological awareness and rhyming games, maybe focus a little more on the brain science – they’re less likely to know all of that (heck, I have a master’s degree – and I didn’t know ANY of that until I started working as a librarian!). If you think your audience is parents who are simply struggling to get through the day, maybe offer a little praise for the good things they are doing (like bringing their kids to storytime) and encourage the simple activities, like singing in the car or talking while making dinner.

Here’s how I might (and do) share early literacy messages with parents who may or may not already know what I’m telling them:

  • I like to call the little one-or-two-sentence bits of information “early literacy reminders” instead of tips. That assumes that the parent already knows what you’re telling them – but don’t we all need to be reminded of things every now and then?
  • I try to present my “reminders” in such a way that demonstrates my genuine fascination with the information.
  • I’m always positive and never accusing or “YOU MUST DO THIS” in tone. I prefer to focus on what they already are doing and recognize it. Doesn’t everyone need a little praise, even for the little things?
  • I often tie my “reminder” into something I’m doing – a song, fingerplay, book, etc. For me, it helps me remember what I want to say AND makes it more specific.
  • I try and use humor if possible. I play on what I didn’t know before. If I didn’t know it, I’m pretty sure some of the parents don’t know and can’t we all discover together?
  • I rarely use more than one or two sentences. And never more than 2 “reminders” per storytime.
  • Avoid using the phrases “you should” or “you need to.” I know hearing those things really make me defensive, so why would I say them to other adults?
  • Transitions are a great time to slip in a “reminder.” We’re standing up; we’re passing out scarves; let’s talk about why movement is fun and important!
    • “Grown ups: fingerplays help little guys strengthen their fingers so that later they can hold a pencil and write. Isn’t that cool?
    • “Thank you for bringing your little ones to storytime today! We’re growing brains and when you share books at home you’re doing that too!”
    • “I love seeing how happy the babies are sharing songs with their grownups. Isn’t it neat that happy babies are better learners? You’re helping your baby learn right now!
    • (Before starting a new book): “This is one of my all-time favorite books. I bet your kids have their favorites too and want to hear them all the time! I know it’s not so much fun for grownups to repeat the same book, but it’s great for building literacy skills!
    • “I love to sing and it was so exciting for me to learn that singing helps with learning to read! Singing slows down words so that we can hear all the little sounds. That’s pretty neat!”
    • “Grownups: did you hear the word “insufferable” in that book? We’re growing our kids’ vocabularies when we share books!”

I know that adding early literacy reminders to storytime is a challenging task and can feel unnatural at first. But with practice, it WILL become easier. Trust me. REALLY. I swear. And it’s perfectly okay to plan your reminders in advance and write them on a sticky note or piece of paper. Practice with a colleague if you want some feedback on how something sounds.

In the long run, you’re doing SO MUCH GOOD by sharing this information with families. Even if one parent is bothered that you’ve stopped reading a book for 30 seconds to offer two sentences of brain development goodness, the majority, whether they already know what you’re saying or not, appreciate it.

This is a topic that resonates with a lot of us, so visit the Jbrary blog on Friday, June 19 for a roundup of ALL the “Early Literacy Messages in Action” posts that are happening this week! On twitter you can catch all the posts by following #EarlyLitInAction. You’ll find lots of great suggestions and “reminders” that you can use right away! And please – share your own “best practices” in the comments. I’m sure you’ve got ’em!

Now, GO FORTH AND BE AWESOME, you world-changers, you!

Fill ‘er Up!

1 Aug

Here’s another blast from the Revolution Read Aloud past…:

Over the past couple of weekends I’ve been training, with a colleague, future library volunteers on how to perform a successful storytime. Included in that training is some basic early literacy information, so that volunteers will understand the importance of what they’re doing and what children are getting out of it (and why we do the things we do – fingerplays, flannelboards, age-appropriate stories, etc.).

Image

My colleague used an analogy that I really like, and I thought I’d share it with you.  She said that children hearing stories are filling up their “word reservoirs” – so that they’ll have all those words to use in the future. We often talk about the idea of young children as sponges, soaking up experiences to learn about the world around them. Well, to continue her analogy, some of what they’re soaking up is getting wrung out into their word reservoir.

Let’s help our kids fill their reservoirs to the brim by reading lots of stories and talking to them all the time!

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