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Reading August 26, 2008

Posted by swegene1 in books, Library, Ready to Read.
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My creation

Originally uploaded by swegene1

Even before my brother and his wife had their baby girl, I begun collecting board books for them to share with her. My brother told me that they didn’t have that kind of specialized thing in the college town where he lives. This still makes me laugh, both because he thought board books are specialized, and because that town has all kinds of places to buy specialized things even if they were that hard to find. This encouraged me to buy even more for them. I still have a stack on my book shelf waiting to be sent off, but the first thing I sent them was this little cloth book with a rattle. My sister-in-law uses it with the itty bitty baby girl to read to her while she is stretching her tummy. I think this is a great example of how books can be used even when babies are very young.

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Alphabet Collages May 27, 2008

Posted by swegene1 in Alphabet, books, Library, Ready to Read.
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This week is my last week at my old job, but hopefully it wont be the last week of Ready to Read activities at the center. I have been working hard to get instructions and supplies together so that these activities can be pulled out and used after I am gone to work at my new job. The plan is to provide enough supplies so that each activity can be used at least once without any further preparation then looking at the instruction sheet and grabbing the box of glue sticks and the box of crayons along with the prepared supplies.

For some reason, I’d forgotten that it would be a shorter work week because of the holiday, but I’m still sure that I can pull it all together. Well at least I hope so! This week’s activity is pretty simple. We will be making collages on large letters. I have boxes with a huge assortment of different scraps of different types and colors of paper. That and glue sticks and scissors is all we need for a lot of fun! We made samples on Thursday and stuck them on the Fridge door in the break room–they looked nice and were fun to put together. Plus kids love to work on cutting paper and gluing, skills they get lots of practice in this activity, along with practicing some letters.

Brainstormin’ May 15, 2008

Posted by swegene1 in Alphabet, books, Library, Ready to Read.
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So for the rest of this week, and all of next week, I will have a practicum student to supervise and assist. While she is under the direct supervision of our teen librarian, she is all mine for these two weeks to learn about the ready-to-read after-storytime program. In addition, she will be observing storytimes. This week she is shadowing me and assisting with the activity, and is developing an activity for next week.

Lots of the time on Tuesday was spent explaining the program, its purposes, and where things were. Armed with a stack of books, she has been brainstorming ideas to do after storytime. It is a fascinating experience to work with someone else on a project that is so near and dear to me. She has a lot of great ideas, and it isn’t my position to shoot down any ideas, rather to help her see how they will fit into the program. Since I developed it, and have a sort of rudimentary set of guidelines on what doesn’t work, I some times have to say “That is a great idea–how will we encourage children to complete the whole project in the time frame?” or “Will we have time to get that all ready for next week?” Perhaps I should just let her learn this on her own, but that seems kind of mean to allow her to embark on a project that will suck every waking moment of her time and still not complete it.

Anyway, she brainstormed a lot of good ideas–and the one she settled on will be a great deal of fun. It marks an enthusiasm for the program as well as an understanding of the ways that parents use the resource. In watching parents make sets of alphabet cards to take home, she thought it would be great to provide something else they could make that they could work with. Building off of an old childhood favorite Memory, she will cut out shapes and cards and allow children to make cards with one on each to play a matching game with another card.

Tomorrow, she will work on preparing materials and pulling together books for the display–and I may have to leave her in charge for the set up of the program.

Why Rhymes? May 8, 2008

Posted by swegene1 in books, Library, Ready to Read.
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So this is a second post starting with a question, but this is what prompted me to post. Today during our rhyming activity, a parent asked incredulously if rhymes really helped children. What good are rhymes? So I thought I’d discuss some of the ways rhyming helps children with their literacy skills.

Rhyming words help children increase their awarenesses of the sounds that make up words–this is called phonological awareness. The elements that repeat in rhymes are phonemes, they are similar sounds even if they are spelled different. Children who can identify words that rhyme and invent or look for more words using those sounds are demonstrating a grasp of how language works. Phonemes are the building blocks of language, and students who can grasp sounds can understand words.

A simple rhyme demonstrates this concept–it uses rhyme and invented words to help children trace the patterns and identify the phonomes, this is particularly good for groups of kids:

“Wibbly wobbly wee, and elephant sat on me.
Wibbly wobbly woo, an elephant sat on you.
Wibbly wobbly woosan, an elephant sat on Susan.
Wibbly wobbly wicheal, an elephant sat on Micheal.”

Some children will be able to follow the pattern to see what the next word will be, and others will understand the way the phonemes are being used. This pattern and repetitiveness is why rhyming is one reason while rhyming is important.

The ready to read skills that rhyming helps develop include: phonological awareness, narrative structure, print awareness, and book motivation. These skills can be seen in a set of simple word rhymes:

Cat, Bat, Hat, Rat.

Each of these simple words rhymes, and differs in their spelling by one single letter. Children who know their letters and some sounds can identify these words when prompted. “C makes a “cuuu” sound, which word has a C at the beginning? or Can you see a C on the page?” The sense of achievement when children place each rhyming image next to the word is a great motivator. A story with rhymes at specific places in the sentence allows children to anticipate what is going to happen next.

For all of these reasons, and for their pure enjoyment value, rhymes are an excellent tool for children young and old to learn or continue to learn language and literacy skills. It is why so many books and poems continue to include rhymes in so many ways!

Here are some of my favorites: <a href=”Five Little Ducks“> Chuck's Truck
Silly Sally (Red Wagon Books) A Counting and Rhyming Book

Always Learning! May 2, 2008

Posted by swegene1 in Alphabet, General, Ready to Read.
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One of the things that I love the most about working in a library is that I am constantly learning–every single day I discover something new about how to do my job, about children and how to help them, and about the world around me and my place in it. Some weeks I feel this learning experience more then others, and some days I have to chalk up as learning experiences.

Sometimes learning is fun and surprising, sometimes it is awkward and embarrassing, and other times it takes you to new places within yourself and the world. This week I’ve had the chance to experience all three types of education.

Fun came this week as we put on an early literacy activity involving letters and lacing after storytime. Parents and caregivers who were sure that the activity would be too difficult were astounded to discover that their children were able and excited about working the string through the holes. Even the very young children had fun pulling string through holes once it was fed through a bit, and they particularly enjoyed playing with the letters on a string. My volunteen assistant surprised me by helping some of the children make the letters into necklaces! No wrong ways to do the craft, just fun, and surprising discoveries.

While I enjoy learning, there are some experiences that I appreciate more in retrospect. This second is one of those. Last Saturday morning was quiet, and a very sweet older lady came into the library with her daughter and granddaughter. She was effusive in her praise of the staff and the library, and claimed to be a long time regular, who my coworker said brought in delicious brownies. She asked some intrusive questions, which I felt pressured into answering, though I knew I didn’t need to. I helped her find a Magic Treehouse book for her granddaughter, and discussed children’s literature connected with her stated interest in Early American History. She expressed a huge interest, and wanted to know if I could get a few titles for her to show the ladies in her multiple historical societies. I enjoy making bibliographies, and so I said I was happy, and she left me with her address and phone information.

It didn’t take long for me to finish, a couple of hours spent on it while on the desk answering other questions, and coming in and out. But I didn’t have time to call her until the next week when I came back to work. When I did, she wanted me to spell my name and my boss’ names so she could write a note. My co-worker was sure I was going to be written up, and I was fairly uncomfortable. It only got worse when she came in to pick up the bibliography. She had written a poem for me, and wanted to read it to me, along with showing me pictures of the group she would be using the bibliography for. She read it to me–the whole event took less then 10min, but it was potentially the most awkward experience of my library career.

For all of this, it has been a learning experience, and shortly after she had left I was able to put the lesson to use when she called to continue to praise the bibliography and I had to politely excuse myself from the conversation so I could resume my duties. I look forward to putting this skill at breaking away from even nice, well-meaning, ladies to good use in the future.

The final learning experience I’ve had this week has been one of discovery about the world around me. I have long had an interest in working with at-risk children in areas of economic challenge–and this week I began to study this area in greater depth. I’m certainly going to be posting more about this, as I’m reading many fascinating articles and books on the subject. Visiting one of the branches in the area in a challenged area has provided me front line experience, and an amazingly informative tour of the services and issues confronted by the branch and particularly the youth of this area.

Alphabet Die-Cut Books April 30, 2008

Posted by swegene1 in Alphabet, books, Ready to Read.
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The printing department was going to throw out cases and cases of very nice paper that just happened to be an inch too short and had jammed up all the copiers they’d tried to use it in. It was rescued by another library employee, and we were allowed to take it and use it for whatever. I took several boxes and have just begun to think of fun things to do with it.

For my first project I stapled together six sheets of paper, at the ends, just like a book. Then I used die cuts and colored printer paper to punch out the letters A-D and two items that corresponded to those letters. C for Cat and Carrot, A for Apple and Airplane, B for Butterfly and Bear, and D for Duck and Dinosaur. It was something of a trick to guess how many to cut out and to separate them into groups and then distribute them for use.

Children filled in their name on special title pages that they could paste on, then put the letters together on the pages however they wanted. There was even a spare page for them to practice their other letters, or decorate however they wanted.

Many parents wanted their children to participate, but the children didn’t all have attention spans to sit for that long, or they needed to leave, so a number of parents took books and letters home with them. In addition to creating their own books, children were able to see how other author’s created alphabet books.

Not only was this activity fun, but it taught important skills about how books work, loving books, letter recognition, and many other pre-literacy skills. I’ll definitely be repeating this activity–though the next time I plan on using stamps and ink pads to save on prep time and to make it easier to manage the group.

Some of My Favorite Toddler and Pre-school Characters April 29, 2008

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One of my most successful activities, making puppets out of some of my very favorite characters in toddler and pre-school literature. I found simple outline drawings of four popular characters (each was identified with their creator and name), blew them up, and then printed them on card-stock. Children colored them, cut them out, and then pasted them on tongue depressors. These simple puppets were paired with books featuring these characters engaged in simple everyday activities.
Four characters were featured: Lucy Cousin’s Maisy, Eric Hill’s Spot, Jonathan London’s Froggy, and Paulette Bourgeois’s Franklin. Multiple copies of each of their books were displayed, some in board book and pop-up formats. Among my personal favorites: Maisy Goes Camping (Maisy) Spot Goes to School (color) (Spot) Franklin Goes to School (Franklin) Froggy Gets Dressed

Children were encouraged to explore the activities that took place in the books along with their puppets. Some participants had never heard of these characters before, but many were old favorites. Either way they enjoyed the pairing of puppet and book.

I designed this activity to encourage narrative skills, as well as to continue to foster print motivation. Ideally, children would be able to tell stories with their puppets, tell the stories along with the text stories, and have fun playing as they saw fit. In addition, it is an activity that children from a very broad range can enjoy, since even very small children could enjoy the puppets.
Attendance was high (between 40-50 each day) and the reports were very positive. Children and parents LOVED this activity. One parent gathered a fish book along with Maisy Goes to the Library (Maisy) so that her daughters could read a fish book like Maisy does at the end of the story. Another parent reported that following making Mazie puppets with his daughter (who he thought was too young) Mazie became one of her few words, and that weeks after she still plays with her.

This is one we’ll repeat for sure!

Number Chains! April 28, 2008

Posted by swegene1 in Counting, Ready to Read.
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The first week of April we started our work on numbers and emphasized sequencing along with numeral/quantity relationships. In order to do this, and have fun, we made number chains of links starting with one 1, then two 2s, and so on, with a strip for their names. I printed these numbers on a standard 11inch printer page then copied them onto colorful printer paper, then along with a volunteer, I cut them into strips and gathered them with paper clips into groups of 11 strips.

Each participant got a group of strips, which we showed them how to connect using a glue stick. While I wanted them to connect in the correct order, many of the children were just happy to connect them. And as I always say–there is no wrong way–we learn at our own speed, and work on our own level–the only rule is to have fun (oh, and don’t eat the glue or put it in anyone’s hair) Some parents and caregivers created their own chains which they used to practice numbers with their children.

Sequencing is an important pre-literacy skill–and practicing putting things in order, from number strips, letter strips, or flashcards can be a fun and easy way to develop this skill. We had over a hundred participants, both children and caregivers.

Along with this activity, we displayed books featuring numbers and counting, particularly counting to 10. There are a number of very popular books re-telling the classic round story about 10 in a bed. Which is perfect for toddlers, because it is repetitive, and allows for participation. It also teaches cause and effect. While children worked on their crafts, I discussed with parents the advantages of reading this type of book and suggested several titles they might use.

Since these activities attract children from 17mo to 7 yrs old, from a wide variety of backgrounds, who are at various stages of reading readiness, parents have extremely varied needs. Some parents think that their children are too young for counting, too young for books, and lack the attention span for reading. So during the activities I enjoy demonstrating how small children can enjoy a book, and how interactive many of our board books are. Because these activities are joint caregiver and child, I have a lot of opportunities to interact with parents and offer tips and suggestions on fostering literacy skills. But since there are so many parents and children I can’t always offer extended attention, so I dedicated a shelf of my display cart to parenting and literacy books filled with ideas for fun ways to make literacy learning a part of every day.

Shapes! Shapes! Shapes! April 27, 2008

Posted by swegene1 in colors, Ready to Read.
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Spring break and the last week of March featured fun with shapes. This activity focused on color and shape recognition, as well as working on motor skills with cutting and using glue sticks. Plus it was FUN for kids as young as 2 and as old as 10!

An easy activity, we printed a square, a circle, a triangle, and a rectangle on colored copy paper. Some of these shapes we cut out so the smallest kids could participate, others we allowed children to cut out. Then we brought out 11 x 16 pieces of white copy paper. Children with the help of caregivers were able to cut out shapes and paste them to their pages in whatever pattern and order they wished. They could choose whatever colors they wanted and as many shapes and colors as they had patience to cut and paste.

To support this activity, we displayed some fun shape books, as well as books on colors. And along with helping children with cutting and figuring out how to paste, I and a teen volunteer asked children to discuss their creations. Several older children from a daycare facility asked to have their creations displayed–which we did!

Some of our fun books: Ship Shapes Ship Shapes
Shape Capers
Shape Capers
So Many Circles, So Many Squares
So Many Circles, So Many Squares
Mouse Shapes
Mouse Shapes

Ready to go get Ready to Read April 25, 2008

Posted by swegene1 in Ready to Read, Uncategorized.
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My early literacy activities are focused on the six ready to read skills developed by the American Library Association, though every skill is not emphasized every day. Each week we focus on one different theme, and bring in books that are associated with that topic. Even when the theme is shapes or numbers, the connection with early literacy is maintained through the usage of books and other skills.

There are six skills that we foster in different ways, in storytimes, in activities, and in our ready-to-read center, which is full of activities that help children develop these skills in play:

  • Vocabulary: Exposing children to new words, synonyms, and a variety of experiences prepares them to be readers, and also makes them ready for school.
  • Print Awareness: Helping children understand the connection between words and the actual real item, can also be seen in connecting the numeral with the quantitative amount.
  • Narrative Skills: Encourages children to interact with text, tell the story, guess what will happen next, helps them to understand how a story works and how the world works. Cause and effect
  • Print Motivation: Sharing the love of reading, putting fun in the fundamentals of learning, and illustrating how enjoyable reading and learning can be.
  • Phonological Awareness: Exposes children to the way words work, and the sounds they make, through rhyme, rhythm, and song.
  • Letter Knowledge: Knowing ABCs, and how they relate to sounds and each other–what order do they come in?

Every week following storytime, we hold an activity to foster these skills, along with displays of books which parents and caregivers are encouraged to take home to continue the fun and learning. These activities are for learning, but more then that they are for FUN, and children are allowed to come and go as their attention span fluctuates. Some children would rather play on the computer or color independently–and why not! For some activities, parents and caregivers can take materials home with them to complete when the children have more energy or more attention.

Much of my efforts go in educating parents and caregivers who may not be aware that their child is old enough to be developing these skills, or they may not be aware of the benefit in some of the activities they are already doing. Parents and caregivers frequently tell me that their child is not old enough for books, crayons, counting, practicing their letters, or working on the craft. The message I have to share is that children can work on developing these skills at their own pace, but are never too young to start getting ready to read!