Archive for the ‘Preschoolers’ Category

Building Readers, One Word at a Time

April 14, 2011

It’s hard for me to believe, but my baby girl will be five next week.  FIVE!  She will begin kindergarten in the fall.  As a mother and an educator, I have made an effort to find a balance between just being mom, yet providing learning opportunities for my children.  One thing I have always encouraged, but never pushed is reading.

I have read to my children from the time they were born.  Not a day goes by that we don’t read something.  I believe that it’s this full immersion in language that has created readers out of my children.  I never once pushed my son (eight years old, now) to read before he started kindergarten, yet he was reading above grade level when he began kindergarten – and I had no idea!  I had no idea, because I simply didn’t push him, I let him learn to read at his own pace.

My daughter, on the other hand, is showing signs way before kindergarten begins of wanting to read.  She is already reading a few Mo Willems books to me and she knows about fifty sight words.  Again, I have done nothing out of the ordinary with my children except read to them every day.  Oh, and I have also provided a print rich home for them.  We have books on every floor of our home and magnet letters on the easel.  And, I allow them to watch educational TV shows.

One show my daughter enjoys watching is WordWorld on PBS.  I don’t mind her watching, because I know it’s educational and she is learning how letters make sounds and connect to make words. But, I do like to make connections to what my kids are reading or watching.  And, actually, making connections is a comprehension strategy that they will use as they become proficient readers (so, in a way, I’m prepping them for their future reading endeavors!).

Here are a few ways we might make connections to an episode of WordWorld:

1. Make a list of the words from the episode and build our own words.  For example: If Duck is used in an episode, I may create something like this for my daughter:

We saw the word duck in the last episode of WordWorld we watched.  What other words might sound like duck? And then she will tell me words that rhyme with duck.  I write them down in a list under the word duck and then she will determine if they are spelled the same way. This is a good way for her to learn chunks, but also begin to recognize some blends such as ch- or tr-.  She also has an opportunity to begin to write words using the chunk as you see with the word, muck.

2.  WordWorld also provides episode related activities on their website.  I like the connections that the activities make to the actual show and the learning that continues from the hands-on fun we have.  Research has shown that preschoolers learn best through play.  I feel better about TV time when I know that my children are watching something educational and then we are extending beyond that TV show into more learning in a hands-on, educational way.  And there are a TON of episode related activities that extend beyond the show and into the realm of hands-on, literacy learning.

3. I’m a fan of “literacy on the go.”  As a child, I always had a book with me.  I encourage this for my children as well, who will often bring books with them even for short car rides somewhere.  However, if we forget a book and we find ourselves in a situation where we are waiting, most times one or both of the kids will ask for my iPhone.  I don’t have a problem if they use my iPhone, because I have packed it with educational games and books.  One app my daughter just became familiar with is “Snug as a Bug” which is an e-book app offered by WordWorld.  This particular book uses the same “word things” that the show uses.  She can have the book read aloud to her or she can turn the speaker off and read it herself (she isn’t there yet!).  There is some interactivity in the book, which keeps her engaged.  The great thing is WordWorld offers these e-books as apps on iTunes for the iPad or iPhone, but they also offer them for FREE on the Word World website.  The e-books are read-aloud versions of the actual TV episode, so after reading the book, you and your child can compare the e-book to the episode.

How do you help to build a reader, one word at a time?  Do you allow your children to watch educational TV?  How do you connect literacy to TV?

©2011 by Dawn Little for Literacy Toolbox. All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

Paint Me a Poem: Poems Inspired by Masterpieces of Art by Justine Rowden

April 12, 2011

April is National Poetry Month.  If you are looking for a great book to model poetry for your child, consider:

Paint Me a Poem: Poems Inspired by Masterpieces of Art is one of my favorite books to read with my children because I like the premise of the book.  As the author walked through the National Gallery of Art one day, she was inspired by the paintings she saw, and in her head began to hear music.  The music became a poem and this book is a collection of thirteen poems inspired by famous artwork.

Activity: Read aloud this book with your child and talk about the pictures and how the author wrote the poetry.  If you have an art museum nearby, consider taking your child to it and peruse the paintings.  Determine a favorite painting and purchase a small postcard in the gift shop of that painting.  When home, encourage your child to write a poem based on the painting.  If your child can’t write yet, ask him to dictate a poem to you. If you don’t have a museum nearby, use a piece of your child’s own artwork to inspire a poem.  Or, use photographs or pictures from magazines.

It’s not the poem that matters, but the experience of relating a picture into words.  “Reading” pictures is a precursor to actual reading, so if your child isn’t reading yet, this is a fun activity to do anytime, but especially during National Poetry Month!

©2011 by Dawn Little for Literacy Toolbox. All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

Shoes for Me! by Sue Fliess

March 29, 2011

Last week, we read about bouffants, and this week, shoes!  Shoes for Me! is another cute first picture book, this time by Sue Fliess (check out her website to see a trailer of the book!).  A rhyme filled story about a hippo and her search for the perfect shoes.  Her feet have grown and it’s time for new shoes, but too many choices can leave a hippo tired and overwhelmed!  Finally, she spots a pair, but are they the perfect pair?

My daughter and I had a great time reading aloud this story.  The rhyme made it easy for her to predict words and as I read it, I would stop and let her guess what word she thought made sense.  The pictures are bright and colorful and she enjoyed going through the book and picking out her favorite pair of shoes.

I would recommend this book for ages 3-5.

Disclosure:  We received a copy of this book from the publisher.

©2011 by Dawn Little for Literacy Toolbox. All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

Preschool Family Reading Night: Pajama Jam with Dr. Seuss

March 15, 2011

I had the honor of hosting my final Family Reading Night at my daughter’s preschool last night.  In a late celebration of Dr. Seuss’ birthday (March 2nd – Read Across America Day), the theme was “Pajama Jam with Dr. Seuss.”  Students and parents wore their pajamas and participated in several Dr. Seuss related crafts and read alouds:

One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish

Students were provided with several fish to color red and blue.  After coloring and cutting out the fish, children put the fish in a pattern, punched holes in them and strung them on a piece of yarn.  They were encouraged to hang their fish banner at home.

Dr. Seuss Door Hanger

Students were provided with a foam door hanger and foam Dr. Seuss themed stickers.

Dr. Seuss Bingo

Thanks to my friend and fellow educator, Meredith, who created an awesome Dr. Seuss bingo board, parents were encouraged to read at least three Dr. Seuss books to their child.  If they read three, they received a Dr. Seuss bookmark as a prize.

In addition to these fun activities, students also heard a special read aloud of One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish by the director of the preschool.  They also enjoyed a snack of rainbow goldfish to match the “red fish, blue fish” mini-theme.

©2011 by Dawn Little for Literacy Toolbox. All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

Family Literacy: “Fall Fun” Family Reading Night

November 23, 2010

November is National Family Literacy Month.  This month I will post online and real world resources related to family literacy.

Last week, I hosted our preschool Family Reading Night.  The theme was “fall fun” and families were encouraged to read to perform a task.  This was the fourth Reading Night event I’ve coordinated for my daughter’s school.  This one was a bit bittersweet, because she is moving on to kindergarten next year.

To prep for this Reading Night, I found or created two fall related crafts.  The first one was a Paper Plate Scarecrow from DLTK – a fantastic site for crafts for all ages!  The second craft I created myself using the familiar “hand tracing” turkey.  I also located a fun recipe, Sweet T.O.M. Turkeys, from Family Fun magazine.

I always like to provide a little bit of background literacy information for parents at these events.  I developed Reading to Perform a Task for parents to have a few strategies on hand as they read with their children.

In preparation for the event, the Community Association (our parent group) kindly helped me stuff folders so that each family had the necessary supplies to perform their tasks.  Each folder contained the info sheet for parents, the directions for the two crafts, the materials for the crafts, the recipe for children and their families to make at home, and a free book!  Our Community Association has a small budget and with that I was able to purchase 25 dollar books from Scholastic book clubs.

Families enjoyed creating crafts, listening to the director read aloud a few Thanksgiving based books, and eating snacks. We had a great turn out and everyone had a great time!

Do you want to plan a Reading Night for your school?  Email me at DLittle [at] linkstoliteracy [dot] com to find out how I can help.

©2010 by Dawn Little for Literacy Toolbox. All Rights Reserved.  All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

Creating Bookworms: Book Fairs for Our Youngest Readers

September 28, 2010

As a new school year begins for most students, I believe it’s a good time to renew our commitment to our children.  This includes ways to include daily literacy activities for our youngest children.  This month on Literacy Toolbox, I will share ways parents and educators can work to create their own little bookworms.

When you hear about a book fair you are probably reminded of elementary school.  I remember our yearly Scholastic book fairs during elementary school; always a favorite part of my year.  Now, my seven year old has twice yearly Scholastic book fairs.  Not only are these book fairs huge fundraisers for his school, but Scholastic provides quality reading material for reasonable prices.

So I ask, what about our youngest readers?  I had never considered a book fair for preschoolers until a new director at my son’s preschool suggested one.  So when my seven year old was in Pre-K, I offered to chair a book fair for his preschool.  I have chaired one every year since.  Over the weekend, I chaired my last book fair for our preschool, as my daughter is now in Pre-K.  It was our fourth one.  I hope that the tradition we’ve started continues.

Our Preschoolers Meet Olivia

Since we are a small school of only around 120 students, we choose to have Barnes and Noble host our book fairs.  They make it very easy for any organization, but I think particularly so for smaller ones.  Every year the kids (and parents and teachers!) have a blast.  Our fairs always coincide with a visit from a storybook character (always an exciting time!).  Over the last four years, we have had the Pig from If You Give a Pig a Pancake, Clifford, Froggy, and Olivia visit our fairs.  Teachers read aloud books and sing songs.  We provide arts and crafts related to the character visiting.  Our excellent teachers always go above and beyond each year when they have our students create fantastic art projects related to the character, as well.  We display our students’ art work in the store for all to see.  A fun time is always had by all, but particularly our students.

What better way to create bookworms then to immerse them in books, read alouds, singing, and arts and crafts?  If your child’s preschool does not currently host book fairs, I highly suggest you look into the Barnes and Noble book fairs.  They are fairly easy to put together, fun to participate in, and help raise money for your school!     

Disclosure: I do not work for Barnes and Noble or Scholastic Book Fairs.  While I am a fan of both companies, any opinions stated here are my own.

©2010 by Dawn Little for Literacy Toolbox. All Rights Reserved.  All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

Book Buddies: Pairing Fiction and Informational Texts to Motivate Readers

May 19, 2010

One way to motivate readers is to provide children with informational texts that match a fiction book they may enjoy reading.  Or vice versa.  Mary Pope Osborne provides informational guides that correspond with her fiction books in her series of Magic Tree House Books (Magic Tree House Boxed Set, Books 1-4: Dinosaurs Before Dark, The Knight at Dawn, Mummies in the Morning, and Pirates Past Noon), perfect for early readers.  At the preschool age, especially, we tend to read more fiction to our children.  Yet, children tend to crave basic information about topics as well.  I like to pair fiction reading with informational reading.  By reading aloud a fiction book and following up with an informational read aloud, parents can meet both needs of their child.  Sometimes, you may want to read the informational text first to build background knowledge of the topic.  To extend the learning beyond reading, I often pair a craft or activity that complements the topic we are reading about.

“Book Buddies” with corresponding activities:

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats and The Story of Snow: The Science of Winter’s Wonder by Mark Cassino

Activity:  Put plastic doll feet in black paint and place on white paper to make footprints in the snow

Smash! Crash! (Jon Scieszka’s Trucktown) by Jon Scieszka and Big Book of Trucks by Caroline Bingham

Activity: Take small toy trucks and run the wheels through paint.  Place the wheels all over a sheet of paper for a “Things that Go” piece of artwork.  Try to find cars and trucks with different treads.

My Garden by Kevin Henkes and Let’s Go Gardening: A Young Person’s Guide to the Garden by Ursula Kruger

Activity:  Place soil inside a large plastic, see through bag.  Place seeds in the soil and spray water inside the bag.  Tape the bag to a window that receives sun.  Monitor the new plant that grows.   

Would you like to purchase pre-made Book Buddy Bags?  Each bag comes with a fiction and nonfiction text, a hands-on activity and a resource guide for parents.  Book Buddy Bags are perfect for gifts, homeschool activities, and travel!

Do you have innovative ways to encourage kids (specifically reluctant readers) to read?  I would love to hear them!

©2010 by Dawn Little for Literacy Toolbox. All Rights Reserved.  All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

Developing Preschoolers’ Vocabulary Through Read Alouds

April 27, 2010

We’ve all heard that when children are young, their minds are like sponges.  We want to fill their brain with background knowledge and vocabulary so that they may easily use this knowledge when necessary.  Reading aloud is an excellent way to help build your child’s vocabulary.  Your child will certainly learn new words just by listening and through every day conversation, but here are a few tips to help build your child’s vocabulary explicitly through read alouds:

  • Begin with high-frequency sight words when reading with preschoolers.  These are the words that appear frequently in writing, but are less common in every day conversation.  Children should be able to say the word on sight.  These words are essential to vocabulary development.
  • Use the pictures to help your child make connections to word meanings.  Point to the picture in the text when reading an unknown word.
  • If you come across a word when reading, and you aren’t sure if your child knows what it means, ask him.  This is a perfect opportunity to provide quick vocabulary instruction.  A one to two sentence explanation may be sufficient enough.
  • If your child still has difficulty with vocabulary words, consider creating pictures (either drawing them or printing them online) to help make connections between words and their meanings.  Also consider labeling items in your house (banister, stairs, fireplace, chair, etc.)
  • Word learning is enhanced through repeated readings of text, which provides opportunities to revise and refine word meanings (Kindle, 2009; Carey, 1978).  So, even though you may get tired of reading the same story over and over again, your child is actually morphing through several stages of word knowledge as you do: from never heard it, to sounds familiar, to it has something to do with, to well known (Kindle, 2009; Dale, 1965).

Most important of all: don’t be afraid to read books that have large words in them. Fancy Nancy is a great series of books for girls that provide explicit vocabulary instruction through the story.  I know a few preschool girls who use words like “exquisite” and “furious” – and they use them correctly!

This post was inspired by: Vocabulary Development During Read Alouds: Primary Practices by Karen J. Kindle (The Reading Teacher, 2009).

©2010 by Dawn Little for Literacy Toolbox. All Rights Reserved.  All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

Preschool Family Reading Night, Part II: Discovery Baskets

April 8, 2010

A few weeks ago, I hosted our second Family Reading Night this year for my daughter’s preschool.  I’m always amazed and excited at the number of families that attend.  The Parent Association, which I’m a contributing member of, is hosting Spring Fling in a few weeks.  This is a day when families can come together, enjoy a picnic lunch, a petting zoo, and spring related arts and crafts.  Knowing this was coming up, I chose to make the theme of reading night related to spring.  So, families enjoyed “Discovering Baskets of Hands-On Fun” with a spring theme.  It was a night of building background knowledge to help prepare students for Spring Fling.

I created Discovery Baskets using six sub-themes of spring.  Baskets included the following themes:

  • Caterpillars/Butterflies
  • Baby Chicks
  • Animal Babies
  • Gardening
  • Kites
  • Birds

Each basket had several fiction and informational texts for parents to read aloud with their children and a hands-on craft or activity.  Students had fun creating butterflies out of coffee filters, making baby chicks out of pom-poms, sorting and matching animal babies and their mothers, sorting packets of seeds, creating flowers out of cupcake papers, making kites, and creating their very own bird nest out of playdoh and twigs.  It was a fun night!

Children and Parents Create Chicks

Children Sort and Match Animals and Their Mothers

A Cupcake Paper Flower

Would you like to create a Family Reading Night for your child’s preschool, but don’t know where to begin?  Check out Links to Literacy for more information!

©2010 by Dawn Little for Literacy Toolbox. All Rights Reserved.  All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

Resisting the Urge to Create a Reading Superstar

March 12, 2010

These days, moms should really have the title of “Supermom”.  Not only do we have to juggle work, kids, husband, and maybe a little time for ourselves, but we also feel the pressure to make sure our kids are ready to read, if not already reading, before they begin kindergarten.  Where does this pressure come from?  Does it come from the government and their constantly revised educational standards for our children?  Are we inflicting it on ourselves?  Perhaps it’s a little bit of both.  But is any of it really necessary?

Certainly we want our children to become readers.  And we want them to be successful, life-long, engaged readers.  But I’m afraid, when the pressure is too great, parents resort to drill and practice in an attempt to get their kids reading.  I know it seems so easy to pick up a workbook at the store and have kids practice their letters or sight words.  Unfortunately, this is not going to work.  In fact, it will probably have the opposite effect.  Typically kids will simply disengage from reading altogether because they were never able to connect with reading as a pleasurable experience.  I firmly believe that parents are a child’s first teacher.  I also believe that we can teach them without stressing them (or ourselves) out!  And, you don’t need an education background to do so (let me tell you that my having a degree in education has only added more unnecessary pressure – self inflicted, I’m sure)!

So instead of trying to create reading superstars, what if we just agreed to try to create readers?  Happy, healthy, engaged, and interested readers in two simple steps!  Here’s how:

  1. Read aloud every day.  Over two decades ago, Becoming a Nation of Readers: The Report of the Commission on Reading (Anderson, Hiebert, Scott, & Wilkinson, 1985) concluded, “the single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children” (pg. 23).  In other words, reading aloud to our children is the most important thing we can do for them if we want to create a reader.  In his groundbreaking guide for parents, The Read-Aloud Handbook: Sixth Edition, Jim Trelease stated, “The more you read, the better you get at it; the better you get at it, the more you like it; and the more you like it, the more you do it” (2006).
  2. Encourage children to choose their own books based on interests.  I firmly believe that choice is a huge indicator in whether or not a child will enjoy reading.  Children have so little control in their lives that choosing books is one thing they can control.  Certainly children should be able to choose the books they want read aloud to them, but consider allowing children to choose their own books when in the library or bookstore. . . even if they aren’t of the best quality or at your child’s reading level, you are sending the message that his/her choices are important.

I read to my son every day from the day he was born.  I allowed him choice in his reading materials (even when I didn’t want to read it).  We played simple games with literacy basics.  I did nothing else!  I didn’t drill him to death.  I didn’t test him on his letters, sight words, etc.  Yet, when he began kindergarten he was already reading on a first grade level.  I didn’t even know he could read!

That’s it!  No need for workbooks or drill and practice.  Just simple reading and choice in reading materials.

©2010 by Dawn Little for Literacy Toolbox. All Rights Reserved.  All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.