Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Take a trip to STORYLAND!!

It's no surprise. WE LOVE PICTURE BOOKS!!! So, when we heard the Portland Children's Museum was featuring a brand new exhibit all about classic children's picture books, we flipped! Storyland: A Trip Through Childhood Favorites is on display February 9 - May 5, 2013. Pick up a Cultural Pass and plan your trip today! Admission to the Children's Museum is also FREE every first Friday of the month from 4-8 pm. The next FREE First Friday is March 1st ... just a few days from now!

The Storyland exhibit features a series of interactive displays that give children the chance to step right into seven familiar picture books. The best part is, early literacy research is infused throughout the entire presentation! Originally created by the Minnesota Children's Museum and presented by the Target Corporation, the Storyland exhibit was designed around the research of the Every Child Ready to Read initiative of the Public Library Association (a division of the American Library Association). Central to this research is the idea that certain pre-reading skills help children prepare for learning to read.

Story Pod:
Where do you tell your stories?
The Portland Children's Museum has fully embraced the Storyland concept. In addition to the wildly entertaining book displays, they have incorporated opportunities for story-sharing throughout the Museum. Story Pods, comfortable little spots that let folks slow down and share stories, are located near every major display. Each Story Pod includes a full set of all seven Storyland titles.

For more about how telling stories helps prepare kids for future reading success, we encourage you to visit our recent blog post: Tell Me A Story!

During the upcoming weeks, we will be blogging about each of the books featured in the Storyland exhibit. In our posts, we will share information about how early literacy skills are represented in each book.  We will also include booklists and fun activities to help extend your stay in Storyland. 

For those who are not able to make it to the Children's Museum, please remember that you only need a story and a little bit of imagination to enter the infinite world of wonder and delight found in children's books.  We are constantly surrounded by opportunities for learning and engagement.  It's up to us to seize them!

Here is the full list of Storyland titles:

 Title: The Tale of Peter Rabbit
Author: Beatrix Potter
Find this book at your library

Title: The Snowy Day
Author: Ezra Jack Keats
Find this book at your library

Title: Chicka Chicka Boom Book
Author: Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault
Illustrator: Lois Ehlert
Find this book at your library

Title: Abuela
Author: Arthur Dorros
Illustrator: Elisa Kleven
Find this book at your library

Title: If You Give a Mouse a Cookie
Author: Laura Joffe Numeroff
Illustrator: Felicia Bond
Find this book at your library

Title: Tuesday
Author: David Wiesner
Find this book at your library

Title: Where's Spot?
Author: Eric Hill
Find this book at your library

Friday, February 22, 2013

Fingerplay Fun Friday!

Today's rhyme is full of movement: Little Red Wagon

Little Red Wagon

Bumping up and down in my little red wagon,
Bumping up and down in my little red wagon,
Bumping up and down in my little red wagon,
Won't you be my darling?

Rocking side to side in my little red wagon,
Rocking side to side in my little red wagon,
Rocking side to side in my little red wagon,
Won't you be my darling?


The wheel fell off and the axle is broken,
The wheel fell off and the axle is broken,
The wheel fell off and the axle is broken,
Won't you be my darling?

I'm going to fix it with my little hammer,
I'm going to fix it with my little hammer,
I'm going to fix it with my little hammer,
Won't you be my darling?

Bumping up and down in my little red wagon,
Bumping up and down in my little red wagon,
Bumping up and down in my little red wagon,
Won't you be my darling?

I love this action rhyme because I know how much little kids love to move and I think it incorporates just the right amount of movement to be challenging.  Holding your leg and spinning when the wheel falls off is really hard for little kids (it's kind of hard for us big kids, too).  Hopping on one foot is a developmental milestone that usually takes place some time between 3-5 years of age.

It is also a tiring rhyme.  This can be a wonderful tool for burning up a little excess energy before sharing a book.

Check out a lap bounce version of the same rhyme from our good friends at the Deschutes Public Library!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Sing It Loud!

Being a parent/caregiver is extremely hard work.  I speak from the experience.  My 14-month-old is currently waging war on bath time.  

Sometimes when it feels like all our hard work falls flat, it’s cool to learn that activities we regularly share with our little ones have far-reaching benefits (and can save our sanity).

This week I want to share about how the simple and fun act of singing with your young child can help prepare them for later reading success!

When we sing with children, we are doing much more than creating a fun and happy environment.  We are also showing how we pronounce words.  We do this by slowing down the way we say the words and by putting emphasis on each syllable (beat) of the word.  It’s really easy to see this in practice. 

Try simply saying “old MacDonald had a farm.”  Try not to sing at all.  You might notice how we tend to race through our words when we normally speak.  This is called using relaxed pronunciation.

Try it again.  But this time sing the phrase.  You may notice how things really slow down and that we add emphasis while we sing.  Each syllable (beat) is sung to its own distinct note.  One of the of most critical pre-reading skills that kids need to be successful when learning to read is called phonological awareness (the ability to recognize the smaller sounds in words).  When we sing, we give kids a major phonological awareness boost!

Another pre-reading benefit of singing is a better understanding of how stories are put together.  This is really noticeable when we sing familiar folk songs like Old MacDonald Had a Farm or There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly.  These songs follow very familiar structures.  Even if we introduce a completely new animal to Old MacDonald’s Farm, the child who has heard the song will instantly know how to react… E-I-E-I-O, with a (insert animal sound) here, etc.  Even pop songs often follows very recognizable patterns that kids will recognize: e.g., verse-chorus-verse-chorus.

We call a child’s understanding of how stories work narrative skills.  Like phonological awareness, it is a very important pre-reading ability.

For more information on the benefits of singing with young children, visit this wonderful page that was developed by the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University. 

To see a first-hand look at how books and songs go hand-in-hand, check out this jaw-dropping video from children’s musician and author Jim Gill’s YouTube channel.

There are dozens of wonderful picture books that build on familiar songs.  Here is a list of 10 books I particularly like (along with links to YouTube versions of the songs):

 Title: The Fox Went Out On a Chilly Night
Author: Peter Spier

Title: Frog Went A-Courtin'
Author: John Langstaff
Illustrator: Feodor Rojankovsky

Title: Hush, Little Baby
Author: Marla Frazee
Title: I Had a Rooster
Author: Laura Vaccaro Seeger
Find this book at your library

I Had a Little Rooster as sung by Michelle at the Edmonton Public Library

Title: May There Always Be Sunshine
Author: Jim Gill
Illustrator: Susie Signorino-Richards

Title: Over in the Meadow
Author: Olive Wadsworth
Illustrator: Ezra Jack Keats

Title: Old MacDonald Had a Farm
Author: Jane Cabrera

Title: There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly
Author: Simms Taback

Title: This Land Is Your Land
Author: Woody Guthrie
Illustrator: Kathy Jakobsen
Title: What a Wonderful World
Author: George David Weiss & Bob Thiele
Illustrator: Ashley Bryan

Friday, February 15, 2013

Fingerplay Fun Friday!

Happy Friday!  Our rhyme of the week is called "The Hippo Bus Song"

Hippo Bus Song
(beat a rhythm on your knees)

A hip, a hip, a hippopotamus
Got up, got up, got up onto the bus
And all, and all, and all the people said,
"You're squishing us!" (squish face with hands)

A cow, a cow, a cow got on the bus
And all, and all, and all the people said,
"Moooooooove over!" (push hands to the side)

A sheep, a sheep, a sheep got on the bus
And all, and all, and all the people said,
"Baaaaaaaaack up!" (cock thumb over shoulder)

A snake, a snake, a snake got on the bus
And all, and all, and all the people said,
"Ssssssssssit down!" (hands out, palms down, motion downward)

This rhyme is a wonderful example of how easy and fun early literacy skill-building can be. 

When we pat out the beat of hippopotamus, we are calling attention to the fact that "hip" is just one beat of the bigger word "hippopotamus."  Also, when we complete the verses for cow, sheep and snake we show how familiar animal sounds can be found in other words that we regularly use.  The cow's "moo" becomes "moooove" and the sheep's "baa" becomes "baaaaack."  This is such a great opportunity for showing kids how words are made up of smaller sounds.

Recognizing and playing with the smaller sounds in words is called phonological awareness.  Researchers have recognized this as a critical pre-reading skill that helps kids sound out words when they begin to learn how to read.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Tell Me a Story!

How did we entertain kids on road trips before there were DVD players in cars (or books on CD, for that matter)?

Back when I was a little guy, we played games and told stories. I have extremely vivid memories of my mother reciting a hilarious spoonerism-packed version of Cinderella called Rindercella. Little did I realize that my pre-reading skills were being sharpened with each and every story that mom told.

When kids listen to stories, they are developing important early literacy skills. First off, they are learning all about how narrative structures work. Each time a child hears a tale, they are experiencing a story arc - a beginning, middle and end. Folktales are packed with clues to help us identify the part of the story we are hearing, such as "once upon a time" and "they lived happily ever after." Knowing how stories are put together helps boost a child's comprehension once they begin to learn how to read.

Hearing stories also exposes kids to rich language (vocabulary) and cultural details that might not be shared under normal circumstances.  The more words kids hear, the easier they will be able to decipher the words they see on a page.

I encourage you to share stories with your kids on your next road trip. If you're wondering where to find good stories, here are a few good places to look:
  1. The stories you remember from your childhood - e.g., The Three Little Pigs, The Gingerbread Boy, Goldilocks, etc.
  2. The story of how your child's name was chosen
  3. The story of the day your child was born or adopted
  4. What your parents and/or grandparents were like
  5. What you were like as a child
  6. Folktale collections (look for books with Dewey Decimal number 398.2)
There have been hundreds of wonderful folktales published over the years.  Here are 10 of my favorite folktale picture books:

Title: The Gingerbread Boy
Author: Richard Egielski
Find this book at your library

A freshly-baked Gingerbread Boy jumps out of a New York City window, causing a citywide chase!

Title: Chicken Little
Author: Rebecca Emberley
Illustrator: Ed Emberley
Find this book at your library

Bright-colored version of Chicken Little, who over-reacts when an acorn falls on his head and convinces everyone the sky is falling.
Title: The Gunniwolf
Author: Wilhelmina Harper
Illustrator: Barbara Upton
Find this book at your library

Little girl disobeys her mother by picking flowers in the jungle.  When she comes face-to-face with the Gunniwolf, only her singing can save the day.
Title: Anansi and the Moss-Covered Rock
Author: Eric A. Kimmel
Illustrator: Janet Stevens
Find this book at your library

Trickster extraordinaire Anansi finds a magic rock that knocks out anybody who touches it.  Before long he is fooling all his friends and stealing their food!
Title: Little Rooster's Diamond Button
Author: Margaret Read MacDonald
Illustrator: Will Terry
Find this book at your library

When Little Rooster pecks up a diamond button only to have it taken away by the mean old King, his magic stomach comes to the rescue!
Title: Goldilocks and the Three Bears
Author: James Marshall
Find this book at your library

Hilarious retelling of the tale of a little girl who goes where shouldn't and takes what isn't hers!
Title: The Lion and the Mouse
Author: Jerry Pinkney
Find this book at your library

Gorgeous and wordless, this book shows the story of Aesop's famous fable of a little mouse who saves a lion.
Title: Counting Crocodiles
Author: Judy Sierra
Illustrator: Will Hillenbrand
Find this book at your library

Monkey really wants those delicious-looking bananas on the other side of the Sillabobble Sea.  He is determined to trick his way across on the backs of a series of countable crocs!
Title: Carmine: A Little More Red
Author: Melissa Sweet
Find this book at your library

Carmine sets off to visit her granny but gets side-tracked along the way as she paints and explores the alphabet in this fun retelling of Little Red Riding Hood.
Title: Joseph Had a Little Overcoat
Author: Simms Taback
Find this book at your library

A delightful tale of thrift as Joseph refashions his overcoat into smaller and smaller articles of clothing!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Fingerplay Fun Friday!

This week's fingerplay rhyme is called "The Beehive"

The Beehive
(hold hand in a fist)
Here is the beehive,
Where are the bees?
Hiding inside,
Where nobody sees

Watch and you'll see them come out of the hive
(slowly uncurl fingers, one by one)
1, 2, 3-4-5!!
(wiggle fingers and fly them around)

This rhyme is great because it can work on multiple age levels.

For babies, the caregiver demonstrates the unfolding of the fingers and ends the rhyme with a tickle of the baby!  This is a wonderful chance for sharing language and strengthening the bond between caregiver and child.

For toddlers, there is an opportunity to practice unfolding the fingers.  The ability to coordinate the muscles in the fingers is called fine motor skills.  This is important for toddlers to practice because it will help them to better grasp a crayon or pencil once they begin to doodle (the precursor for later writing success).

For preschoolers, there is a chance to explore the concepts of counting and number.  When they unfold their fingers and say "1, 2, 3-4-5" they are practicing their ability to count in sequence.  They are also beginning to make a one-to-one correspondence between the abstract idea of number and their concrete fingers.  These higher level ideas are critical for later school success in math. 

If you haven't already stopped by your local Washington County library and received your free copy of our Fingerplay Fun rhyme booklet, we encourage you to do so!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Read Aloud, Build a Reader!

"Reading aloud with children is known to be the single most important activity for building the knowledge and skills they will eventually require for learning to read" - Dr. Marilyn Jager Adams (Beginning Reading Instruction).

The research shows us that the single most effective intervention for creating successful readers is ... READING!!  It's as simple as that.  If we read to them, one day they will read to us!

Now, we can't all be Jim Dale... but there are a few things we can do to make sure we are creating a fun reading experience.  I know of no better list of read-aloud recommendations than award-winning author Mem Fox's Ten Read Aloud Commandments:
  1. Spend at least ten wildly happy minutes every single day reading aloud.
  2. Read at least three stories a day: it may be the same story three times. Children need to hear a thousand stories before they can begin to learn to read.
  3. Read aloud with animation. Listen to your own voice and don't be dull, or flat, or boring. Hang loose and be loud, have fun and laugh a lot.
  4. Read with joy and enjoyment: real enjoyment for yourself and great joy for the listeners.
  5. Read the stories that kids love, over and over and over again, and always read in the same 'tune' for each book: i.e. with the same intonations on each page, each time.
  6. Let children hear lots of language by talking to them constantly about the pictures, or anything else connected to the book; or sing any old song that you can remember; or say nursery rhymes in a bouncy way; or be noisy together doing clapping games.
  7. Look for rhyme, rhythm or repetition in books for young children, and make sure the books are really short.
  8. Play games with the things that you and the child can see on the page, such as letting kids finish the rhymes, and finding the letters that start the child's name and yours, remembering that it's never work, it's always a fabulous game.
  9. Never ever teach reading, or get tense around books.
  10. Please read aloud every day, mums and dads, because you just love being with your child, not because it's the right thing to do. 
 Above all, I encourage you to be a reading role model!  For years I have said: Monkey see, monkey do.  If you enjoy reading, they will too!

If we truly love reading and we share our love with the children in our care, they can't help but pick up on our enthusiasm.  Little kids are like sponges, soaking up everything they come into contact with.  Best of all, they see their caregivers as the perfect example of everything they want to grow up.  If they see readers, they will soak up reading and will become readers!

Here are two books I have been reading and enjoying with my 13 month old:

Title: Little Fur Family
Author: Margaret Wise Brown
Illustrator: Garth Williams
Find this book at your library

The language in this little book is packed with alliteration, making it super-fun to read aloud!
Title: Let's Sing a Lullaby with the Brave Cowboy
Author: Jan Thomas
Find this book at your library

I haven't met a Jan Thomas book I didn't love.  This is no exception.  I read this in storytime sight-unseen.  I couldn't help but drawl and twang as I voiced the brave cowboy.  An instant classic!!

Photo: Macfadden Publications

Friday, February 1, 2013

Fingerplay Fun Friday!

Fans of children's musician Raffi will recognize today's rhyme: There's a Spider on the Floor.

There's a Spider on the Floor
(original version by Bill Russell, used with permission)

There's a spider on the floor, on the floor
There's a spider on the floor, on the floor
Who could ask for anything more
Than a spider on the floor?
There's a spider on the floor, on the floor

This fun little game first appeared on Singable Songs for the Very Young.  It features a structure that is perfect for helping little kids learn about how narrative sequencing works.  We begin with the spider on the floor, follow it to the knee and continue up the body.

When I asked author Bill Russell for permission to share his rhyme with our library friends, he kindly agreed and gave me a little bit of background to boot!  He said: "When I made up the song while doing music in an English-language school in Montreal - where none of the kids arrived speaking English - we would have the spider go all over the classroom, but it would always return to the floor."

When you share this rhyme with your little ones, consider asking them to help decide where the spider will go next!

As always, folks are invited to visit their local Washington County library to pick up a free copy of our Fingerplay Fun rhyme booklet, featuring many of the rhymes found on our website.