Blogs: Preschool

Hearing and using lots of words helps children get ready to read.  The more words they know, the easier it will be for them to learn how to read.  So how do we help kids develop a BIG vocabulary?  By talking with them!  

Of course every day we might use words like breakfast and shoes and bedtime.  But when we expose children to the world, and then have conversations about what they experience, we introduce them to lots of new words!  

There are so many fun places to take young children in Multnomah county.  Some of them are free (like your neighborhood playground) or inexpensive (like Portland Parks & Rec’s indoor parks), but some of them can make a pretty big dent in your wallet!  

Fortunately many of our local attractions offer discount days on a regular basis.  Admission to OMSI only costs $2 the first Sunday of the month.  The Oregon Zoo charges only $4 on the second Tuesday of every month.  The Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden is free every Tuesday and Wednesday, free from the day after Labor Day through the end of February, and free year-round for children under 12.  The Chinese & Japanese Gardens and the Art Museum also have free days periodically each year.  

Pairing your adventures with books on related topics provides a great opportunity to continue and extend your conversations.  If your toddler loved watching the monkeys at the zoo, try reading Busy Monkeys together.  After building a tower at OMSI, your child might enjoy Dreaming Up.  Try pairing a trip to the Art Museum with Katie and the Water Lily Pond or a visit to any of the gardens with Flower Garden.  These are just a few suggestions to get you started.  We can help you find just the right book for you and your child.  And you can help your child get ready to read by having fun conversations every day.

A teacher from a childcare center recently contacted me for some library resources. She was looking for few board books, a picture book or two, a music CD, and a few rhymes with interesting content for infants and toddlers, all related to the same theme. My immediate thought was Multnomah County Library’s collection of Storytime It’s in the Bags. We have 20 themed bags for toddlers (ages 18 mths—3 yrs) and another 21 bags for preschool-aged children (3—6 years). Each bag centers on a theme and contains five books, a small toy, game, puzzle or music CD related to the theme, and an activity sheet. The sheet has a couple of rhymes or games to play with children to extend the theme, as well as some tips for sharing books with children to effectively help them gain the skills they need to become successful readers. These bags are perfect for busy childcare teachers, family childcare providers and parents who want to share thematic materials with the little ones in their care. The Storytime bags are a popular resource and they are available on the shelves in some MCL locations. The easiest way to get your hands on these bags is to look through the toddler and preschool bag lists and place holds on the ones you would like to share with the kids in your life.

MCL also has bags for infants and their caregivers (0-6 months, 6-12 months and 12-18 months). Another new set of resources are the Bolsitas de Cuentos, which are themed bags with books in Spanish and bilingual English/Spanish. The Cuentos bags contain books appropriate for children 0-5 years old, and are fun for Spanish-speaking families and families who are working at being bilingual.

Do you read Nursery Rhymes to your child?  Do you sing to your baby?  These are wonderful ways to bond with your child.  Rhymes, such as, Itsy Bitsy Spider or songs like Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star are rhymes that many of us have known since our childhood, but I bet you didn’t know that nursery rhymes or childhood rhymes helped us learn to read and can help your child as well.  

Whenever you talk, read or sing to your child you are building connections in her brain that will last a lifetime.  Babies will show interest by widening their eyes, moving their arms and legs and smiling when they recognize a rhyme.  When you sing songs and do fingerplays with your child, you will find that they will soon imitate you.  These fingerplays and movement rhymes can help children associate words with their meanings.  Singing songs is a fun way to bond with your child and it also helps kids learn Phonological awareness or that words are broken into smaller sounds.  When children achieve phonological awareness, they are able to think about how words sound, apart from their meaning.  Research shows that children who play with sounds of words in preschool years are better prepared to read in school.  So, you can help your child from birth start getting ready to read and it doesn’t involve flashcards or videos.  It only requires you to have fun singing, rhyming, talking and reading to your child.  

Attached is booklist of rhyme collections that you can check out from the library.  Within these collections, you should be able to find rhymes and songs you may know from your childhood, as well as, new ones to use with your baby, toddler or preschooler.  Happy Rhyming!

Storytime is most rewarding when you find just the right song and book that can captivate a child’s attention, elicit laughter and bring out joy from having so much fun!

The following songs and book, with the theme Fingers and Toes, have proven to do all three for me in actual storytimes at Multnomah County Library.

This mini storytime also incorporate Talking, Singing, Reading and Playing - four of the five activities to prepare your child for reading.

Start out by waving and wiggling your fingers and count them one by one. Your child may already be mimicking your actions by this point, otherwise encourage him/her to do the same. Once all fingers are wiggling start singing the Finger Family song and do the actions accordingly:

 

Finger family’s up (wiggle fingers up in the air)

And finger family’s down (wiggle fingers down)

Finger family’s dancing all the around the town (wave and wiggle fingers all around)

Dance them on your shoulders (wiggle fingers on shoulders)

Dance them on your head (wiggle fingers on head)

Dance them on your knees (wiggle fingers on knees)

And tuck them into bed (quickly, move wiggling fingers and tuck them into underarms – left hand into right underarm and vice versa)

Barbara Allyn copyright SOCAN

 

Here’s a great video of the song created by the King County Library System

 

Now, hold out those hands and you can even play peek-a-boo (an activity that is always a hit with babies and toddlers!)

Tell your child that in addition to fingers we also have toes. If you can be bare foot bring out those toes, wiggle them and count them too. Then sing one of my favorite songs, Everybody Knows I Love My Toes and point to each body part accordingly:

Everybody knows I love my toes

Everybody knows I love my toes

I love my eyes, my ears, my mouth & my nose

And everybody knows I love my toes

You can use this song to sing about other body parts that you and your child also love, i.e. tummy, elbow, etc.

Here’s a sample of the song

A lovely and fun book that ties the Fingers and Toes theme together is Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox. Add your own style and pizzazz as you read together and the fun will naturally emerge.

Requests to repeat the songs or book is a reflection of how much your child enjoys storytime with you so feel free to "sing/read it again" as many times as you like!

Have you ever wondered why some picture books make children giggle uncontrollably or they are so engrossed that they begin to talk directly to the book itself as a one-on-one conversation? Or maybe why she holds on to her security blankie for dear life but still wants you to keep reading even though she is peeking through their fingers?  Well have you…huh?

Fortunately, I have been lucky enough to experience all of the above both as a youth librarian who does storytime and as a mother of two rambunctious readers, ages 7 and 8. Somehow after the first few pages you just know when a picture book is the most perfect-est, out of this world, fantabulous, read it to me again and again and again mommy, puh-leese!!!, type of picture book. 

Although you may think these great picture books are few and far between they are not as rare as you would think. They can actually happen quite often when you, the reader, commit to reading a good picture book the bestest way (yes, bestest is a technical term) you can.  Here, allow me to explain…

Look at the illustrations - what is the book about and what sort of emotions do the characters evoke? Are they excited, scared, curious or grumpy? Is there a loud race car vroom vrooming or a roller coaster whooshing by? Is there a bird chirping loudly or a child whimpering softly? And can you try to read the words and pictures in a way so that your child will feel the book?  In most good picture books the emotions will tell the story, and if you read the story with the umph of those emotions each turn of a page will surely be a cliff hanger for your young listener.  And chances are if the book is a cliff hanger for your young listener, if they can put themselves in the book because of how you read it to them, then they will probably want you to read it again and again.   And if you read the book to them again and again and again chances are you are fostering a love of books and reading in your young listener that will last a lifetime all because you read with a little umph.

 

A pro at this type of umph reading is the most wonderfulest Australian Author Mem Fox. Check her out reading the beloved Koala Lou and tell me you didn’t have to dry a tear when Koala Lou comes in second! 

Did you ever play with one of these as a kid?


(photo by Collin Allen)

Today’s toy phones often look more like this:

But whether it’s a rotary or a flip, did you know that when your child plays with a toy phone he is gaining skills he needs to get ready to read?  Maria Montessori, the Italian educator, famously said that “play is the work of the child.”  By definition play is fun, but for young children it isn’t just fun.  It’s actually the most important way they learn.  

So how does playing with a phone lead to reading?   In the first couple years of life, when your baby or toddler plays with a phone it will most likely look something like a real phone.  As she grows older, though, around two or three years old, you might find her picking up a block and pretending that the block is a phone.  Then around four or five years of age she might even pretend the air between her fingers and thumb is a phone.  

This progression in the development of children’s play is an example of an important concept called symbolic representation.  They start out with something very similar to a phone (the plastic phone) representing a real phone.  They graduate to something that only vaguely resembles a phone (the block) and finally reach a point where they can picture the phone in their imaginations.  Learning to read requires a very mature sense of symbolic representation.  Readers have to understand that the black squiggles on the page represent real objects and ideas.  That’s no easy task!  

Imagine being a baby, just learning about what a cat is.  You hear the family’s cat purring.  You feel its soft fur when it rubs against you.  You see it as it jumps down from the bed.  You love that cat so much that for your first birthday someone gives you a plush cat toy.  It doesn’t purr or jump, but it is soft, and you recognize it by its four legs, tail, whiskers and cat-like face.  Later, in preschool, your teacher reads Kitten’s First Full Moon.   Of course that cat isn’t even soft, but by now you have learned to recognize the image of a cat, even in its two-dimensional form.  In fact you have the image of a cat in your head, and when you play house with your friends you “feed” your pretend cat, even though there is “nothing” there.  Finally, when you are in school, learning how to read, you learn that these squiggles - cat - represent three sounds (kuh-ah-t), and that when we put those sounds together they make a word - cat! - and that word represents the sweet, purring ball of fur you know so well at home!

So enjoy playing with your child, and as you play together know that you are helping her on the long and glorious path called “learning how to read!”

You are your child’s first teacher and your home is where your child begins to learn.

It’s never too early or too late to help your child develop language and other early literacy skills. Here are five daily practices to follow to get children ready to read:

Talking

Children learn language and other early literacy skills by listening to their parents and others talk. As children hear spoken language, they learn new words and what they mean. They learn about the world around them and important general knowledge. This will help children understand the meaning of what they read.

  • Make sure your child has lots of opportunities to talk with you, not just listen to you talk.
  • Respond to what your child says and extend the conversation. “Yes we did see a truck like that last week. It’s called a bulldozer.”
  • Stretch your child’s vocabulary. Repeat what your child says and use new words. “You want a banana? That’s a very healthy choice.”
  • If English isn’t your first language, speak to your child in the language you know best. This allows you to explain things more fluently so your child will learn more

Singing

Songs are a wonderful way to learn about language. Singing also slows down language so children can hear the different sounds that make up words. This helps when children begin to read printed language.

  • Sing the alphabet song to learn about letters.
  • Sing nursery rhymes so children hear the different sounds in words
  • Clap along to the rhythms in songs so children hear the syllables in words.

Reading

Reading together - shared reading - is the single most important way to help children get ready to read. Reading together increases vocabulary and general knowledge. It helps children learn how print looks and how books work. Shared reading also helps children develop an interest in reading. Children who enjoy being read to are more likely to want to learn to read themselves.

  • Read every day.
  • Make shared reading interactive. Before you begin a book, look at the cover and predict what the book is about. Have your child turn the book’s pages. Ask questions as you read and listen to what your child says. When you finish the book, ask your child to retell the story.
  • Use books to help teach new words. Books can teach less common words, words that children may not hear in everyday conversation.

Writing

Reading and writing go together. Both represent spoken language and communicate information. Children can learn pre-reading skills through writing activities.

  • Writing begins with scribbles and other marks. Encourage this by providing many opportunities to draw and write.
  • Children can sign their name to drawings, which helps them understand that print represents words. As they practice eye-hand coordination and develop their hand muscles, children can begin to write the letters in their names.
  • Talk to your children about what they draw and write captions or stories together. This helps make a connection between spoken and printed language.

Playing

Children learn a lot about language through play. Play helps children think symbolically, so they understand that spoken and written words can stand for real objects and experiences. Play also helps children express themselves and put thoughts into words.

  • Give your child plenty of playtime. Some of the best kinds of play are unstructured, when children can use their imaginations and create stories about what they’re doing.
  • Encourage dramatic play. When children make up stories using puppets or stuffed animals, they develop important narrative skills. This helps children understand that stories and books have a beginning, middle and end.
  • Pretend to read a book. Have your child tell you a story based on the pictures in a book. Or ask your child to “read” a book you’ve read together many times and tell you the story. This develops vocabulary and other language skills.

Look for future blogs with fun things to do that incorporate these activities for you and your child.

Are you the parent of a baby or toddler or even a soon-to-be preschooler who is struggling with potty training? I was in that position not long ago. My son, who turned 4 recently, just finally got the hang of it. We struggled with getting him to use the toilet in the evenings after work and on the weekends. It was difficult to convince him to disrupt his playtime when his body told him he should. We read lots of potty and toilet training books to him, we sang songs and researched. Ultimately, it only worked when he was ready to take on the task himself. In any case, if you are a parent in this position, you may find this list of books and materials helpful. The library’s Storytime It’s In the Bag was especially useful, it includes several books for the kiddo as well as parent materials. Be sure to praise your child and yourselves for the hard work of potty training!

Subscribe to