Early Literacy

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…

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…

When Pokemon go to school

Written by  |  Thursday, 13 October 2016 00:31  |  Published in Early Literacy
Liam drew a loop with his yellow marker, hesitated and then attached two smaller loops to one end of the loop. The connected sausage-shapes sat on top of a large orange scribble. “Pickachu is on the school bus!” Liam changed the colour of his marker to a light green and made a fat circle. He added two red dots for eyes. “Bulbasour is on the bus too. I’m gonna catch ‘em!” Liam made action sounds, soared his blue marker high above his paper, landing it onto the yellow loops and green circle. Liam then scribbled the lighter coloured shapes into a navy-blue blob. Liam’s daycare teacher, seeing Liam lay down his marker, asked him to tell her about his picture. Liam looked at his drawing…

Books for Our Pride and Joy

Written by  |  Wednesday, 09 November 2016 21:26  |  Published in Early Literacy
Pride. We see it showcased joyously in Pride parades in Canadian cities and throughout the world. We also see it targeted horrifically in places like the Orlando nightclub a few months ago. How can such opposite emotions and reactions surround this simple, one-syllable word? Merriam-Webster defines pride as “a reasonable or justifiable self-respect: delight or elation arising from some act, possession, or relationship (e.g. parental pride).” Pride in our children is something most adults know something about! I often hear parents and grandparents share stories of their ‘pride and joy’ - stories of their child hitting new developmental milestones, showing kindness, cleverness, skillfulness, or an enviable sense of wonder. They want others to recognize how unique and special their child is. Yet when these unique…

Take the 2016 Family Literacy Quiz!

Written by  |  Wednesday, 20 January 2016 17:52  |  Published in Early Literacy
It’s January 2016. Time to put down those Sudoku puzzles Santa left in your stocking and test your skills with this family literacy quiz: 1) Why will January 27th be a day to watch for? a) Jupiter and the moon will be close in the sky, and appear to rise together to light up the night sky b) Family Literacy Day® will be celebrated across Canada 2) Family literacy includes: a) Reading with children at home b) Drawing pictures to tell a story c) Sending a note in your child’s lunch box d) Mom, Dad, Brother, Sister, Grandma, Grandpa, Great Aunt Matilda… e) All of the above f) Reading by yourself 3) ‘Reading slump’ refers to: a) Your physical position when you’ve read too late…

Dreams of Freedom for our Youngest Citizens

Written by  |  Wednesday, 25 November 2015 19:24  |  Published in Early Literacy
Canada’s recent federal election changed the political landscape of our nation overnight and just a few days later former prime minister, Stephen Harper, and then prime minister-designate, Justin Trudeau, stood shoulder to shoulder to lay a wreath in remembrance of two soldiers slain last October. The ability to change government in our country was achieved with remarkable peacefulness. In Canada we expect that to be so. And it is. Yet our enviable democratic process exists and persists because of the values and vigilance of Canadians, many of whom have given their lives for it in times of war. Remembrance Day is more than a single day. It is woven into the fabric of our identity. In her picture book, In Flanders Fields: The Story of…

The Simple Gift of Books for Children

Written by  |  Wednesday, 16 December 2015 17:35  |  Published in Early Literacy
Justin was almost 11 months old when he experienced his first Christmas. On Christmas morning he unwrapped his presents slowly, mesmerized by the sight, sound and feel of the bows and brightly coloured paper. But the gifts Justin loved the very most were neither the plastic child-safe toys nor the hand-made pull toy. They were the boxes his presents were packaged in. Years later, when I heard the Canadian Toy Testing Council declare the cardboard box as the best toy for children, it made perfect sense to me. Boxes may look dull and uneventful, but to a child they are toy car garages, bear caves, pirate treasure boxes or bricks for some newfangled Leaning Tower of Pisa. A box is not just a box. Books…
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