Early Literacy

The Value of Lullabies

Written by  |  Wednesday, 07 February 2018 13:11  |  Published in Early Literacy
It’s 3 a.m. Your newborn baby is crying. You feed and change him but the reprieve from his sorrowful cry is only momentary. What now? If only he could talk. You cradle and rock your little one, patting his back, reaching into your memory for a soothing tune. “Rock a bye baby on the tree top. When the wind blows the cradle will rock. When the bough breaks the baby will…” You stop singing mid-rock. Why on earth is singing to an infant instinctual? And why would a song about a crashing cradle in gale force wind be of comfort?   Lullabies are one of the first ways in which we expose babies to literacy. We think of singing as an instrument in our parental…

Telling Tales in 2018

Written by  |  Wednesday, 10 January 2018 12:37  |  Published in Early Literacy
Susan Ramsay, Early Literacy Specialist This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.     “Know what?” When we hear that lead-in we know our child has a story to tell.   From the time children begin to understand language we teach them about storytelling. A parent arrives home after being away for the day and asks, “What did you do today?” The response may be a single word or a long involved monologue, but it represents the child’s story.   Most cultures rely on oral storytelling to teach the next generation who they are as a nation, or to pass along knowledge of ancestors or family history. But storytelling is a-literate. We don’t have to be able to read or write to tell stories. Yet Canadians value reading and writing skills…

A trivia quiz for you – A lasting story for your child

Written by  |  Wednesday, 06 December 2017 12:13  |  Published in Early Literacy
It’s trivia time. Answer the following questions. Check your score to see how clever you really are…. Which Christmas movie is based on a children’s book that was first published 60 years ago? Which story was published in 1960 on a $50 bet that an entire book could not be written using only 50 words? What author combined his experience as a World War II veteran, cartoonist and writer to pen more than 40 children’s books? Keep in mind that if your score is 0 you are in the company of thousands who have fabulous readiness to learn skills! A score of 1 means you are ‘in the know’. A score of 2 or 3 means that either you are a librarian or you’ve read…

Getting Ready For School

Written by  |  Wednesday, 02 August 2017 13:59  |  Published in Early Literacy
Emma’s mom looked at the calendar. It was still summertime. August stretched before them promising beach days and popsicles. But August would also be the last chance to prepare Emma for the thing that would change her three-year-old’s life forever – school. Would Emma be ready? Would Emma know what her teachers expect her to know? Would Emma be happy in a new building with people she’s never met? Would the bus ride be too much?For Emma’s mom, and parents of children registered for full day kindergarten everywhere, it’s reassuring to know that educators and child development experts ask us to re-focus our adult lens; to shift from children’s ‘school readiness’ to children’s ‘readiness to learn’. Only then can we recognize that responsibility for children’s…

The Gift of Books

Written by  |  Wednesday, 07 December 2016 14:08  |  Published in Early Literacy
by Susan Ramsay, Early Literacy Specialist The holiday season is upon us and helping us to explore the celebrations, excitement, and meaning of this special time of year is a whole cast of children’s book characters. Elves, cats, porcupines and more are preparing for the holidays. ‘Twas the month before ChristmasWhen on many shelvesNot a creature was stirringExcept a wee elf…. “The Elf on the Shelf®: A Christmas Tradition” co-authored by Carol Aebersold, Christa Pitts and Chanda Bell, is a book that comes with a toy elf. After reading the story together the elf perches (with the help of parents) in surprising places every morning leading up to Christmas. The book explains to children that the elf is watching their behaviour for Santa. Yet the…

The Value of Listening to Children

Written by  |  Wednesday, 25 January 2017 11:43  |  Published in Early Literacy
I sat in the theatre-style auditorium of a Toronto school, listening. At an early learning conference entitled The Value of Listening, it seemed the logical thing to do. Throughout that two day conference I experienced the value of respectful attention for the two Reggio Emilia educators and presenters, Ameila Gambetti and Lella Gandini. I also discovered at a deeper level the value of listening to children. The Reggio Emilia approach in education is named after the area in Italy where it was founded by Loris Malaguzzi in response to the the Second World War. It was clear to Malaguzzi and to a group of parents in that area who had survived the ravages of war that a peaceful world depended on raising children who cared…

I Love To Write!

Written by  |  Wednesday, 01 March 2017 11:49  |  Published in Early Literacy
“Ok everyone, stand up and do a back flip.” I remember the look of disbelief, shocked silence, and a few nervous giggles from the audience as occupational therapist Amy Quilty began her presentation with this command. She spoke to a room full of early learning educators and parents, yet not one adult in the group was in the kind of physical condition to flip backwards around the room’s perimeter. According to Quilty, placing expectations on children to print without first giving them opportunities to strengthen and coordinate their muscles is no less daunting. Children need many and varied opportunities to develop readiness to print. Outdoor play and indoor play with blocks or trucks develop the large muscle control required for whole body stability when children…

Oh the Places You’ll Go! – Travel Games for Young Children

Written by  |  Wednesday, 15 March 2017 11:35  |  Published in Early Literacy
“Are we there yet?” Only ten minutes into a six hour journey, it may be hard to match your young child’s excitement with “Not yet, honey.” But parents who travel with children are resourceful. They know there are more options than mesmerizing children into silence with movies or electronic games. Parents haul bags of travel tricks. The bags hold music and audio stories – favourites from home or new ones borrowed from the library. The bag holds story books, seek and find picture books, crayons, paper and a stash of dry Cheerios. The bag holds stickers and page protectors with a magazine page of scenery or a printed photo of a familiar setting tucked inside each protector. Their child can then make up sticker stories…

Step Gently Out into Nature

Written by  |  Wednesday, 12 April 2017 10:37  |  Published in Early Literacy
Stars, silent and distant, have the power to bring my brisk pace to a full and complete stop – bags and belongings in hand in my driveway with darkness all around. To my naked eye stars appear only as specks of light gracing the night sky, yet they ground me with their diamond-like beauty that reaches every part of our globe regardless of place, circumstance or time.Sun sparkling on water, undulating and slow movements of ice breaking up in the spring, walking on a forest floor thick with pine needles, the smell of clover, the chatter of robins, chickadees, and migrating geese – nature renews my hurried, distracted or tired spirit. Richard Louv in his book “The Nature Principle” argues that connection to nature is…

Do You Have the Time?

Written by  |  Wednesday, 24 May 2017 09:47  |  Published in Early Literacy
Second guessing our internal clocks is not unusual. When clocks spring forward or fall back to accommodate Daylight Savings Time or Standard Time, that shadow of doubt about time can appear especially long. Arranging to Skype with my daughter who lives in a time zone six hours ahead of my own causes me to regularly consider what ‘now’ means to each of us. To a young child, time is even more elusive. Some adults envy children’s ability to live in the moment, but young children struggle to make sense of ideas such as future and past. Children need concrete ways to understand these abstract concepts. Have you ever explained time to a young child in your life by saying something like “Only four more sleeps…

Children’s Books for Canada’s 150th

Written by  |  Wednesday, 28 June 2017 10:55  |  Published in Early Literacy
I’d seen it before in the dentist’s office - a mural-sized scene, mounted and hung on the wall to amuse young patients awaiting their checkups.  The cartoon picture has a “Where’s Waldo” quality about it with multitudinous sheep, bears and vehicles filling the canvas to all edges of the picture. I noticed the sheep first, then a dragon on the side of transport truck. I saw trucks, cars, bicycles, trains and traffic jams. Eventually I noticed that the central traffic jam had been caused by a family of ducks crossing an intersection. It was only much later that I noted the facial expressions of all those bears snarled in the traffic jam. They looked happy or surprised.  Where were the feelings of impatience, frustration or…

At the grocery store with young children (kumquat may)

Written by  |  Wednesday, 17 February 2016 15:09  |  Published in Early Literacy
Theoretically, I believe it is possible. Someone somewhere may have missed the experience altogether. But, personally, I have never met a single soul who has told me that grocery shopping with a small child does not include some degree of challenge. As an infant nestled into the grocery cart in his car seat, Ben was a magnet for adult shoppers. While adults ogled over the new baby sleeping peacefully amidst loaves of bread and bags of milk, Justin, who was almost three, would race the aisle and skid on his pants to see how far he could slide. He’d swing on my leg while I decided on the brand of peanut butter or flavour of juice to buy. With the addition of a Sarah to…

Supporting new immigrants to Canada through dual language books

Written by  |  Wednesday, 02 March 2016 20:12  |  Published in Early Literacy
Julie Dotsch’s eyes sparkled warmly as she engaged the group of 40 early learning educators, caregivers and librarians. “Let’s think about the biggest needs of newcomer families to Canada.” And so the Saturday workshop began with conversation, reflection, and role-playing to help workshop participants prepare for Syrian children and families arriving to our local programs and schools. Julie Dotsch is author of "Supporting the Settlement of Young Immigrant Children and Their Families" and has worked with new immigrant children and their families for 23 years, supervising a government-operated immigrant preschool program, conducting research, leading projects and creating resources for newcomer families. In the workshop, Dotsch offered us an opportunity to better understand the perspectives of new immigrants to Canada. She also prompted us to reflect…

Opening a Can of Worms with Idioms

Written by  |  Wednesday, 25 May 2016 19:51  |  Published in Early Literacy
Can’t make heads or tails out of it? He keeps beating around the bush and it is making you feel bent out of shape? Well, if you are in over your head, zip your lip, and let sleeping dogs lie. No one is trying to pull the wool over your eyes…. but someone may be using too many idioms! The Oxford Dictionary defines idiom as “a group of words whose meaning is different from the meanings of the individual words.” “I can’t make heads or tails of it!” expresses confusion to someone familiar with this idiom but to a young child, or adult learning English as a second language, the literal images are bizarre. Our conversation, print, and media are peppered with idioms. Miriam Trehearne,…

With Rhyme and Reason

Written by  |  Wednesday, 08 June 2016 19:20  |  Published in Early Literacy
Eighteen- month-old Liam squirmed in his dad’s lap at the library’s storytime. Liam had been straining to use his feet to reach another toddler in the group. His dad tickled Liam gently. Liam giggled and wriggled. And then Liam heard it, adults and children singing his favourite poem…. “The itsy bitsy spider went up the water spout. Down came the rain and washed the spider out. Out came the sun and dried up all the rain And the itsy bitsy spider climbed up the spout again.” Liam stilled. Even though the song was sung slowly, Liam was not yet able to sing the words. He could, however, chime in with the actions. Little Liam raised his hands like two giant spiders and then let them…
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