Early Literacy

Good Words to Know Before School

Written by  |  Wednesday, 28 August 2013 20:00  |  Published in Early Literacy
  I let out a guttural response - more astounded than profane though it hovered dangerously close to the tipping point. I looked at my iPad. Could that combination of letters actually spell a word? I had changed the opponent setting on my Scrabble app to expert. Against an ingenious computer, I simply didn’t stand a chance. Just how much vocabulary does a brainless, electronic device know? Vocabulary knowledge is more significant than one might realize. Did you know, for example, that a high school student needs a vocabulary of 80,000 words for academic success? Research shows that vocabulary is a strong predictor of children’s achievement. Vocabulary at kindergarten entry predicts 10th grade reading comprehension. (Porche, M., P.O. Tabors, S.R. HarrIs, & C. Snow (2007).…

Mixing blue with green for healthy child development

Written by  |  Wednesday, 21 August 2013 20:00  |  Published in Early Literacy
  Jackson’s mom hands her son an empty, washed yogurt container. “Put this in the blue box.” Jackson likes to help and, at two-and-a-half, he is already familiar with his family’s practice of recycling. To Jackson recycling is fun. He loves watching the big recycling truck stop in front of house, and listening for the sound of clinking jars and tins as the driver swings out of the truck and tips his blue box into the truck. Though Jackson does not yet know how the environment is shaping his health and future, the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment is working to help families and clinicians become more informed about the interplay between environmental and human health. They highlight that, “Children have greater risk…

Getting Ready for School

Written by  |  Wednesday, 24 July 2013 20:00  |  Published in Early Literacy
  Sasha’s mom looked at the calendar. It was only July. The summer stretched before them promising beach days and popsicles. But this summer would also be the last chance to prepare Sasha for the thing that would change her 3-year-old’s life forever – school. Would Sasha be ready? Would Sasha know what her teachers expect her to know? Would Sasha be happy in a new building with people she’s never met? Would the bus ride be too much? For Sasha’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…

Canadian Eh?

Written by  |  Wednesday, 03 July 2013 20:00  |  Published in Early Literacy
  The photos from London, England showed a sea of red and white– red balloons, red and white beach balls, small Canadian flags waved in the air. Pictures showed take-out containers of poutine cradled lovingly in revellers’ hands while music played from an outdoor band shell. Yes, I had heard or seen fireworks each night of the long weekend in my neighbourhood. I had witnessed parades and music and festivities in Canada, but the images of Canadians celebrating Canada Day in such a large city in an entirely different country took me by surprise. The reasons for Canadians’ deep sense of national pride are undoubtedly varied. Our geography, multiculturalism, sense of freedoms and opportunities, as well as our right to lobby for change may all…

Discovering Aboriginal Teachings at Come Walk in My Moccasins

Written by  |  Wednesday, 08 May 2013 20:00  |  Published in Early Literacy
It was cold at the Frink Centre conservation area on April 20. Thirty-two early learning professionals, artists, storyteller and guide had gathered for Come Walk in My Moccasins – a professional development event exploring Aboriginal teachings through art and nature. Small squares of icy snow bounced from our winter-weight jackets and blankets that some had wrapped around their shoulders. Participants and presenters cradled steaming cups of coffee in their hands and ate fruit-laden bannock around the campfire while Sarah Brown, Aboriginal Family Literacy Circle member, shared an opening in Mohawk expressing thanks for all of creation, and leading us in a smudge. “We gather in a circle,” explained Sarah, “because when we are in a circle we are face to face. No one is above…

Doin’ it Right Checklist Helps Parents Nurture Children’s Literacy Skills

Written by  |  Wednesday, 13 March 2013 20:00  |  Published in Early Literacy
  My Canada A.M. Checklist: Brew coffee Feed cats Spread toast generously with peanut butter Wait for caffeine to kick in Checklists - such useful tools. They do everything from help us refresh depleted first aid kits, to match our interests and abilities with jobs, to flag speech concerns in young children. Checklists help us feel confident that we haven’t missed bringing, doing or knowing something important.If you are a parent, grandparent or caregiver of an infant or young child, this checklist is for you. This “Doin’ it Right” checklist highlights ways you are already helping your child develop valuable reading and writing skills. Doin’ it Right Checklist: Help children understand that print has meaning: My child sees me reading newspapers, magazines, recipes, books or…

Discovering the Heart of Emotional Literacy through Books

Written by  |  Wednesday, 27 February 2013 19:00  |  Published in Early Literacy
  Sadie, a bubbly, energetic two-year-old, stood solidly in front of Jasmine studying Jasmine’s face. Just moments ago, Sadie had shoved petite, three-year old-Jasmine hard, causing Jasmine to land with shock and dismay though no bumps or bruises. The adult who saw it happened rushed to the scene. “We don’t push people. You hurt Jasmine’s feelings. You need to say you’re sorry or give her a hug.” Sadie did neither. She seemed confused or perhaps curious about the fuss. Jasmine’s sobbing began to subside until, with the suddenness of a tornado, Sadie threw her arms around Jasmine in a vice grip bear hug. Jasmine screamed. Sadie tightened her squeeze. Sadie is a typical two-year-old who is trying to figure out how to share, take turns,…

Top 10 book sharing strategies for wiggly children

Written by  |  Wednesday, 16 January 2013 19:00  |  Published in Early Literacy
  Reading with children 15 minutes a day improves their chances of success in school. That’s quite a claim but, increasingly, research supports it. Cunningham and Stanovich’s study with first-graders, whom they followed for ten years, showed that first-grade reading abilities were strong predictors of reading outcomes in grade eleven. (Cunningham, A.E., & Stanovich, K.E. (1997). Early reading acquisition and its relation to reading experience and ability 10 years later. Developmental Psychology, 33, 934-945.) Who knew grade one reading skills would have such staying power? Yet many reading skills children learn by grade one are skills they have begun to learn at home. Vocabulary skills (knowing the names of things), comprehension skills (understanding what things mean), narrative skills (storytelling), and book knowledge (words are read…

Holiday Books for the Giving

Written by  |  Wednesday, 19 December 2012 19:00  |  Published in Early Literacy
  Unofficial consumer reports have wrapped up two great reasons for giving books to children at Christmas time. Books don’t need batteries. Unlike homework, books given at Christmas are respected by pets. (Dogs have their priorities when chocolate or other edibles are under, on, or near the Christmas tree.) As I perused this season’s holiday books, I noticed that such practical reasons barely touch the surface of why books are smart gifts for children. Books can soothe a harried, hurried, holiday mood. Take the story “Llama, Llama Holiday Drama” by Anne Dewdney. At first blush it looks like a softly illustrated book about a long-necked animal dressed in human attire. Open the book and begin to read, however, and we discover much more. Llama is…

Why storytelling helps children

Written by  |  Wednesday, 17 October 2012 20:00  |  Published in Early Literacy
  “It was a dark and stormy night.” The storyteller’s eyes widen. His words slow. The narrative begins and no one knows how the tale will end.Good storytelling captivates us, sparks our imagination, and shapes our thoughts and attitudes. But good storytelling does not just happen. It is a skill that begins developing at a very young age.According to Alyssa McCabe, professor and researcher with University of Massachusetts Lowell, narrative skills begin in children as young as 27 months old. At this stage children tell one event stories. “Me cat.” is a toddler’s narrative about dressing as a black cat on Halloween.At 3½ years children tell two event stories. “I was a cat. I got candy.” This preschooler’s story includes two exciting events – dressing…

When literacy goes digital in the lives of young children

Written by  |  Wednesday, 12 September 2012 20:00  |  Published in Early Literacy
  What is a parent to do? We have heard the news. Both the Canadian Paediatric Society and the American Academy of Pediatrics have looked at the research linking television and screen time with healthy child development. Their recommendations? Children who are two years old or younger should watch no television or other digital screens. Daily screen time for preschoolers should be no more than one to two hours. (www.caringforkids.cps.ca/handouts/limiting_screen_time_at_home; Media and Children from American Academy of Pediatrics, www.aap.org/en-us/advocacy-and-policy/aap-health-initiatives/Pages/Media-and-Children.aspx )For many parents and caregivers these statements have been challenging to accept. Especially in this digitally explosive age of tablets, iPods, digital cameras, smart phones, computers, Skype and YouTube, is it possible to shelter our young children from screens? Screens now include more than televisions, videos…

Get Ready! Get Set! Go... to School!

Written by  |  Wednesday, 22 August 2012 20:00  |  Published in Early Literacy
  Anticipating your child’s first day at school this September? Whether you’re a parent who experiences mini panic attacks when you imagine your child in this new environment, or whether you’re looking forward to a few hours of parental freedom, there are ways to help your child prepare. Most kindergarten teachers agree that three basic skills smooth a child’s transition to school -- the child’s ability to listen and communicate his or her own needs, self-help skills, and the ability to get along with others. Play-based learning, the foundation for full-day learning programs in schools, enhances children’s opportunities to explore unique interests and to satisfy individual curiosity. Yet within this learning framework there are many group activities, stories, discussions and outings. Children who are able…

It’s a Picasso!

Written by  |  Wednesday, 18 July 2012 20:00  |  Published in Early Literacy
  Pablo Picasso learned to draw before he could speak. By the time he was a teenager he could paint masterfully. Today referring to anything as a Picasso infers excellence and originality.As I wandered through the Picasso exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario a few weeks ago, I learned about Picasso's life, how Picasso was influenced by artists, cultures, and world events, yet never confined by popular expectations. His art irritated many art critiques of his time. He continually recreated his artistic style, using and fusing techniques for two-dimensional and three-dimensional art. His work was unpredictable; not always understood. Yet his enduring fame speaks to the value we place on unique expression.Child development experts encourage parents, educators and child care providers to offer all…

Learning Together through Aboriginal Stories

Written by  |  Wednesday, 13 June 2012 20:00  |  Published in Early Literacy
“Never criticize a man until you've walked a mile in his moccasins.”  (Native American proverb) At Come Walk in My Moccasins events for early learning and childcare professionals, Spiritual Elder and Healer David Jock explained to mainstream educators how Seven Grandfather Teachings can enrich children’s learning regardless of their cultural heritage. Wisdom, love, respect, bravery, honesty, humility, and truth underpin all First Nations teachings. These teachings are ones that we also recognize as transformative in children’s freedom from bullying, and ones that lead to positive learning experiences. The events held at both Katarokwi Native Friendship Centre in Kingston and at Tahatikonhsotontie Head Start in Tydendinaga were led by Aboriginal leaders who offered participants an historical perspective of Aboriginal people in Canada as well as practical…

Docs prescribe reading to children

Written by  |  Wednesday, 30 May 2012 20:00  |  Published in Early Literacy
  When doctors speak, we listen.The report of Community Action Research Project (CARP) conducted throughout Hastings and Prince Edward counties in 2011/12 shows that when families seek information, services or support, 71.3% turn to their doctor or primary health care provider.Physicians’ words have impact. Studies analyzing Reach Out and Read, a literacy program in medical clinics in the United States, demonstrate that parents who get books and literacy counselling from their pediatricians are more likely to read to their young children, read more often, and provide more books in the home. Studies also show that this program helps improve children’s language skills.(http://www.reachoutandread.org/impact/evidencebase.aspx)Many Ontario physicians and community health clinics are working with community agencies to better support the varied needs of children and their families. One…
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