Tag Archives: Early literacy

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.

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!

Apologies and Changes

5 Jul

Hello, friends. I’ve been AWOL from this blog for FAR too long, and for that, I apologize.

In March I started a new job as an Early Literacy Senior Specialist in a new library system. I wasn’t looking to leave my old job or library, but this position was too great an opportunity to pass up. Early literacy, especially parent education, is my PASSION, and this position offers the opportunity to have some significant influence in that area. So I left my old job, and almost 14 years at my old library, behind for this new challenge. And it has been challenging, but in a good way.

hoorayWhat this new opportunity means, though, is FAR fewer storytimes. In fact, right now, I’m doing ZERO. I went from performing close to 80 storytimes per month to NONE. Weird, yes, but honestly, I was a bit burned out. I still love children’s picture books, and sharing them with young children, and all the learning that goes along with that, but I needed a break.

So, the bad news is – I have very little new to share, storytime-wise. The GOOD news is – I will be doing storytimes weekly for one preschool classroom starting in the fall as a part of my library’s outreach program, which my department runs. So I will be getting back on the storytime saddle.

The other good news, I hope, is that I am going to give up my other blog, Read Aloud Revolution, which I have also been neglecting, and fold its content into this blog. So Miss Mary Liberry will become not only a storytime blog but also an early literacy blog. I will share ideas that parents can use to get their children engaged in books and reading, as well as general musings on early literacy, brain development, and parent engagement. I hope this continues to be useful to you.

 

I have to share one thing I’m VERY proud of that’s already come out of my new job. My library is a partner in an early literacy advocacy collaborative, and I’m doing a lot of work on the project. In June we finally went live with our website: Earlier is Easier. It contains simple activities for parents to do with their young children organized within the practices READ, TALK, SING, WRITE, PLAY, and LAUGH. Soon we hope to have the funding to market the site and its information to parents via bus ads, billboards, PSAs, etc. – we want to get the message out to all parents of children birth through 3 in the city of Denver! We will also have a social media presence, and…who knows what else. Please feel free to share the website with anyone you think might be interested!

So, changes. And apologies for my absence. Hope you’re still reading!

-Miss Mary

PS:  That book up there? Hooray for Hat? It’s awesome. You should get it.

Flannel Friday: My Hat It Has Three Corners

28 Jun

This week I read John Rocco’s Super Hair-o and the Barber of Doom and was inspired to create a hair-themed storytime. But when I wasn’t able to find as many stories as I liked, I expanded the theme to include hats. Ah. NOW we’ve got a good storytime!

I poked around (with a very long stick) the Flannel Friday pinterest page and saw Mollie’s version of “My Hat it Has Three Corners” and was immediately inspired.  See, when I was very little, my family lived in Germany while my father was on an exchange scientist program through the USAF. And this song was one of the ones I learned to sing in German (and one of the few that I remember): Mein Hut, der hat drei Ecken, Drei Ecken hat mein hut. Und hätt er nicht drei Ecken, so wär es nicht mein Hut. So I HAD to make a flannelboard!

hat

(the word corners going around the corner was unintentional. I ran out of space. But I like it!)

My hat, it has three corners

Three corners has my hat.

If my hat had not three corners,

It would not be my hat!

(Tune)

Now here’s the extra fun part: When you sing it, you do actions when you say these words: Hat (tap head), Three (hold up 3 fingers), Corners (tap elbow). Sing it once, doing all the motions and saying all the words. Then turn over the hat picture and sing again, but DO NOT say hat. Just tap your head. Sing a third time with hat and three turned over, and do not say those words but keep doing the actions. For the final time, turn over hat, three, and corners, and sing without saying those words. FUN!

Today’s roundup is hosted by Bridget.  To see all the flannels, check out our pinterest page by clicking the icon to the right!

Happy flanneling!

Do I HAVE to do voices?

10 Oct

I was asked this once, by a Head Start father, via the site’s Family Support Worker.

My response: No. You don’t HAVE to do voices.

But when sharing books with young children, here’s what you HAVE to do: HAVE FUN. Personally, I don’t think I really do “voices”. I think I have one voice, and all the characters are a variation on that one voice.  It gets higher, lower, louder, softer, or more child-like or adult. But to me, it sounds very much like the same voice. Others have told me differently. But what I KNOW I do is have fun, and so the kids have fun too.  Having fun with books is so important. When kids think books are fun, they are motivated to learn to read on their own. If books are boring, uninteresting, or a chore, well, who in their right mind would want to pick one up and read it?

I tell people that no, you don’t have to worry about creating different character voices and keep track of them all. But if a character says he’s sad, make him sound sad. If he’s excited, he should sound that way! The book’s text and illustrations give lots of clues how to read a story: print size, the character’s face, if something was shouted, or whispered, etc. Make animal sounds or truck sounds. Be silly.  Make the story go beyond words on a page and come to life.

 

Pages from Maybe a Bear Ate It by Robie H. Harris

 

Take a look at this page, from Maybe a Bear Ate It by Robie H. Harris, illustrated by Michael Emberley. It gives pretty clear clues about how to read the story: in the first illustration, the little bear/cat/creature is obviously sad. In the second, he’s gone from sad to out-and-out crying. Also, the text gives clues: the hyphens on the first page make us pause between words, and the text in the second is larger, making the words more insistent and louder.  While you don’t need to go full-on shakespearean for this passage, you can easily make the creature sound sad, and more distressed at the loss of his book.

Beyond your storytime performance, though, what’s most fun for a young child, though, is the chance to snuggle up in a parent or caregiver’s lap, and hear a story, look at pictures, and talk about the book. It’s that one-on-one sharing time with a loved one that really helps the learning take place, and the child will forever equate books with that warm feeling. And when they’re ready to learn to read, they will, if they’ve had enough of that quality time with books.

And the Caldecott goes to: In my completely uneducated, non-humble opinion

21 Dec

Children’s book award season will soon be upon us.  On January 18, 2010, librarians, authors, and children’s literature enthusiasts will be glued to their computers (those of us not lucky enough to attend the announcements in person) to find out the winners of the Newbery, Caldecott, Printz, Coretta Scott King, Pura Belpré and other youth media awards bestowed by the American Library Association.  As I am both a librarian and an enthusiast, I thought I would share with you my completely non-scientific, uneducated, random, gut-feeling picks for two of the awards:

When You Reach Me

  • Newbery Medal:  Stead, Rebecca.  When You Reach Me.  I would have LOVED this book as a girl.  As an adult, I loved it.  Miranda, a New York City 6th grader, relates certain incidents in her life after being asked to do so in four strange anonymous notes.  Who’s sent the notes, why do they want her to write a letter, and why does this person know things about Miranda’s life, her friends, and the future?  The story is like nothing I’ve ever read before, and yet, I felt something warm and familiar about the characters and story.  Confusing, heartwarming, realistic and fantastical all at the same time.  Read it, and see if you can figure it out.

The Lion and The Mouse

  • Caldecott Medal:  Pinkney, Jerry.  The Lion and the Mouse.  In a nearly wordless picture book, Pinkney retells the Aesop’s fable about a mouse who returns a lion’s favor when the lion finds himself trapped in a net.  The gorgeous watercolor illustrations give us all the information we need without words, and as the Caldecott medal is all about the illustrations, this one should be a shoe-in for at least an honor.  It’s simply a beautiful book, one of those that you’d buy for your kids and hang on to for years, even after they’ve long grown up.  It’s a share-with-your-grandkids kind of book (which I will share with mine, if I ever have any).  Oh, and as there are so few words, it’s a great one for a child to “read” to an adult (hello, narrative skills!).

I’m often completely off base, nor have I read all of the books that are getting awards buzz, so by no means should you go to Vegas put any wagers on my picks.  This is just what I liked best.  What are your picks?  I didn’t do the Printz because I haven’t read enough YA (I’m still waiting on my copy of Catching Fire), but I’d be interested to hear what you think!

The Sleepy Little Alphabet: A Bedtime Story from Alphabet Town by Judy Sierra

24 Nov

When planning an early literacy storytime, letter knowledge is the hardest skill match up with books that work in a group setting.  Alphabet books often lack a cohesive plot, and are better for one-on-one sharing than as storytime fare.  Enter Judy Sierra’s The Sleepy Little Alphabet.  This darling book, with energetic mixed-media illustrations by Melissa Sweet, tells the story of the lower-case letters of the alphabet (the upper case ones are the parents) getting ready for bed.  Each letter’s activities are described in rhyming sentences that include the letter sound at least once (and sometimes more often): “f is full of fidgety wiggles.  G has got the googly giggles.” The text is printed in a bright color that contrasts the background (making it easier to see and reinforcing print awareness), and the letters themselves are printed in a larger size than the rest of the text.  Every child can relate to the nighttime activities happening in this book, and will have tons of fun learning about letters and their sounds.  I, personally, am just so excited to have an alphabet book to add to my bedtime stories theme!  Judy Sierra, the amazing author of such wonderful book treats as Wild About Books and Preschool to the Rescue, gives us another reason to snuggle together and read!

Long time, no blog!

8 Nov

Hi y’all!  It’s been far too long since I posted anything here (due to general busyness, a bathroom remodel, sick kitty, and then a much needed week in Mexico), so I thought I’d remedy that with a short post about a wonderful organization with which I am so fortunate to be involved: Colorado Libraries for Early Literacy (CLEL).  CLEL’s mission is to promote and encourage libraries as they work to teach parents about early literacy skills, how children develop them, and what parents can do at home to encourage these skills.  In our short (almost) 2 years in existance, we (librarians from all over the state of Colorado) have created a website (with blog), lobbied the directors of libraries in Colorado about the importance of libraries as early literacy trainers, completed an LSTA grant in which we visited small and rural libraries throughout the state and trained librarians on presenting early literacy storytimes, won another LSTA grant (in process now) to create a website with videos of librarians, parents, and others modeling early literacy activities, and are preparing to present a panel on talking to parents about early literacy at the Colorado Association of Libraries (CAL) annual conference in a couple of weeks.  I encourage you to get involved by visiting our website and blog (and commenting — we’d love to hear what you’re doing!), following us on twitter, and becoming a fan on facebook.

If you’re coming to CAL, please plan to attend our first ever membership meeting on Thursday, Nov. 19 from 1:00 to 4:00 pm in the Bluebell Room at the Marriott Denver Tech Center.   Also, we’d love to see you at our panel on Friday at 10:15: “Reaching Children’s First Teachers”.

I hope to see you there!

Before they hibernate, let’s have a bear storytime!

21 Oct

My lovely grizzly bear puppet, Grizzwold (named by a co-worker), comes out to introduce our theme.  He tells us he’s getting ready to go to sleep for the winter (ta da! We introduce a new vocabulary word: “hibernate!”).  I ask if he’d like to hear some bear bedtime stories.  Here’s what Grizz and I share:

  • Teckentrup, Britta.  Big Smelly Bear.  Love it, love it, love it.  Especially when I get to shout: “because you [big dramatic pause] stink!”
  • Wood, Audrey.  The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear=El ratoncito, la fresa roja y madura, y el gran oso hambriento. Okay, technically, there’s no bear in this story.  Pictured, at least.  But the bear is implied, and therefore, very important to the plot.  Plus, the kids love it.
  • Flannelboard: Best Dressed Bear.  There is a story that originally went with this one (about a bear who goes to a store and asks what he needs to buy to be the best-dressed bear), but my version has just become having the kids tell me what the bear needs to put on in order to be ready to go to the dance.  We have underwear (which I made after so many kids told me he had to have it before he put on his pants), pants, shirt, socks, shoes, jacket, top hat, and mittens (again, something I made because the kids insisted).
  • Rosen, Michael.  Bear’s Day Out.  A new favorite by the author of another bear favorite, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt!  This story has a great beat, and you can tap your toe along with it.  The kids can help!  Plus I love the illustrations by Adrian Reynolds, who also illustrated Harry and the Dinosaurs.
  • Hest, Amy.  Don’t You Feel Well, Sam?=¿No te sientes bien, Sam? VERY appropriate, given how we’re all trying to avoid certain nasty viruses right now…
  • Wilson, Karma.  Bear Snores On, or  Bear Feels Scared.  Bear’s got some awesome friends, and the repeated refrain is easy for the kids to pick up and help out with (building narrative skills!).
  • Martin, Bill.  Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? or Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? (both available en espanol) or Baby Bear, Baby Bear, What Do You See? These all have a rhythm to them, and the kids probably know Brown Bear so well they can recite it with you.  I like Baby Bear because many of the animals included we find here in Colorado.
  • Song: “The Other Day I Met a Bear” – a fun “echo song” (a new term for me — means you say one line, and then the kids repeat it, like an…um, echo), with lyrics that easily lend themselves to making up motions.  The teachers have enjoyed helping out with this one and have been singing along with gusto!  We may just have to take our show on the road.  Find the lyrics here, and the tune here (sung by one of my fave bands, btw).  The original version has a verse about a gun, but I omit it simply because I know the preschools I visit don’t allow any play with simulated weapons (or real ones for that matter!), so it seems to make sense not to sing about them.  The song still works without that verse, I think.

Obviously I have more books than time.  Again, I like to have options.  I choose based on time, kids’ ages and attention spans, and what I’m in the mood to perform.

What stories can’t you “bear” to do without?  Heh heh.  Bear hugs all around!

Reading together is a chocolate experience.

6 Oct

I ♥ Mem Fox.  Not only for her amazing picture books, including Time For Bed,  Ten Little Fingers, Ten Little Toes, and Wombat Divine, but for the enthusiasm she so obviously has for the power of reading with young children.  Nowhere is this enthusiasm so evident as in her book (for grown-ups) Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever.  When I give presentations to parents about early literacy, I often start by reading an excerpt from this book which I think perfectly illustrates how the simple act of sharing books together will help prepare a child to learn to read.  Fox describes an episode in her daughter Chloe’s life, when Chloe came home from kindergarten one day and declared that she could read (and then proved it, by reading all the way through The Foot Book).  Incredulous, Fox tested her daughter’s ability (and making sure she hadn’t simply memorized the book) by opening to random pages and having Chloe read them.  The next day Fox visited her daughter’s school to speak with the teacher:

“What did you do?” I asked, agog.  “What method did you use? It’s a miracle!”

“I didn’t do much,” she said.  “How could I?  She’s only been in my class for two weeks.  You must have read to her often before she came to school.”

“Of course,” I said.

“Well, there you go,” said the teacher, as if that were that. (Fox, p.2)

It really is as simple as that.  Read to your kids, and someday, your kids will read to you.

Fox, Mem.  Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to Our Kids Will Change Their Lives Forever.  New York: Harcourt, 2001.

%d bloggers like this: