Blogs: Parents

Calico Pie,

The little Birds fly

Down to the calico tree,

Their wings were blue

And they sang 'Tilly-loo!'

Till away they flew,—

And they never came back to me!

They never came back!                                                                                                   

They never came back!

They never came back to me!

A couple of years ago I was a school librarian desperately trying to encourage poetry reading and appreciation among students kindergarten-eighth grade. I was succeeding to a certain degree, but one afternoon I was sitting at my desk wondering if I ever would be able to get through the barrage of Disney princesses and  Lego warriors to the just plain silliness of Edward Lear.  

Among the things  I tried with my students:

  • Reading out loud in unison
  • Memorizing
  • Colouring a picture with the words
  • Clapping the rthymn
  • Encouraging students  to write their own silly ryhmes

The response was lukewarm and after my last class left I sat there wanting to cry from frustration thinking that such poems would be lost to the newer generations forever.  Lucky for me I did what I often do when upset - listened to music.  Suddenly I heard from my computer where Pandora had been merrily playing away - Calico Pie, Little Bird fly….WHAT?  HOW? The very poem I had just read to the  first graders.  The tune was peppy and clean.  I was so happy  I felt like dancing. The voice sounded familiar.  Was it  Natalie Merchant?  Yes, Yes it was.  When given the option to listen to the whole album, I hit  'enter' so enthusiastically  that my keyboard almost  bounced off the the desk .Natalie Merchant Leave your sleep

The rest of the afternoon passed  in a dream, poem after poem set to music and sung with Natalie Merchant’s unique personal style.  One poem was  new: "Bleezers Ice Cream", by Jack Prelutsky, but most were classics; " Maggie and Milly and Molly and me"- by e.e. cummings and "Spring and Fall: To a Young Child" by Gerald Manley Hopkins.

Other verses like "The King of China’s Daughter" and "The Man in the Wilderness" were so well-worn into my memory that I couldn’t remember where I had first heard them. When I consulted Natalie Merchant’s website I found that she and I were worried about the same thing: how to give children a sense of poetry, a sense that past things should be remembered. Natalie wanted her young daughter to know poetry at an early age. So she composed music for a selection of her favorite poems. She looked up the background of each poet  and added it to the package.  The result is Leave Your Sleep, a beautiful collection of readable, singable poems. I have been singing them ever since. I am no longer a school librarian but I know that many of my students memorized poems through her music and I am inspired to know that there are still those who are using their talents to keep poetry alive.

Five years old by September? Sign up for school by June 1st!
 
If your child will be five years old by September 1st, he or she is ready to start school. Register at your school by June 1st to give your child a good start, connect to summer activities, and get access to free resources. School offices close for the summer, so don’t wait! When you register by June 1st, you have time to get to know your school and your teacher, and they have time to prepare the classroom for your child. To identify your school or get help with other childhood issues call 2-1-1 or email children@211info.org. Interpretation is available.
 
How can the library help you and your child get ready for kindergarten?  Bring them to storytime!  By the time your child is 5 years old, you may have heard many messages - on TV, in magazines, from other parents - about the importance of learning letters and numbers.
 
But kindergarten teachers care much more about having children who are ready and excited to learn.  Kindergarten readiness includes things such as playing well with others, following simple instructions and talking about feelings and thoughts.  There are lots of fun ways to develop these skills, and the library is here to help you!
 
At storytime we read stories and sing songs.  We talk about the things we’ve read.  We work on following directions with shakers and scarves and simple group games. Storytimes are a great opportunity for your child to learn to socialize with other children in adults.  In storytime they also learn to ask questions and function well in a group; develop language and problem-solving skills; and perhaps most importantly, discover that books and learning are fun!
 
What else you can you do?  Read, talk, sing, write and play!  

 

Register for School by June 1st

TigerA year or so ago, I started having a frequently recurring dream that I was living with something dangerous, usually a big cat, a tiger or a lion. In the dreams, I would try to go about my business while being conscious that the dangerous creature could lunge at any moment. It took me a while, but I realized finally that the dreams were about my teenage daughter. I knew long ago that my oldest, who I will call Thing One, would be a difficult teenager, and I tried to ready myself, but I was not ready. So I dived into the world of parenting books at the library until I found Laura Scribner Kastner's Getting to Calm. I find that I need to keep it around and go back to it again and again in order to keep my head in the right place and keep my cool when Thing One is behaving like the little girl in The Exorcist.

Getting to Calm doesn’t just throw theories at you; it actually walks you through conversations between teens and their parents, showing not only the content, but also the process, analyzing each participant's responses. It points out mistakes that parents make and explains what parents should avoid, and shows how to be more successful talking with teenagers.  With the help of this book, I stopped seeing my daughter's resistance to rules and instruction as a personal rejection, but as something she simply has to do, part of the process. Mind you, I have to remind myself of this again and again, because sometimes my gut response is that I’m living with a demon.

Getting to CalmI've accepted that there’s not an answer that will magically make everything go smoothly. It feels kind of like my idea of Buddhism. Being a parent is something you practice from day to day, as mindfully as you can. And keeping this book close will help me do the best I can, along with deep breathing, counting to ten, conversations with other parents who have already lived through this, and occasionally, a glass or two of wine. I might make it through Thing One’s adolescence. By then, Thing Two, a little over three years younger, should be in the thick of his own teen years.

What is dyslexia?
Dyslexia is an unexpected difficulty mastering literacy skills such as reading, writing, spelling and arithmetic. People with dyslexia have normal or better intelligence.
(Definition courtesy of the Blosser Center.)
 
Identifying dyslexia
“Red flags” to look for – the more you see in yourself or a child, the more likely dyslexia may be present:
Reading: misreads words, avoids reading
Spelling: misspells words
Handwriting: has “sloppy” writing
Math: has trouble with math (such as math facts)
Poor organizational skills
Difficulty telling time
May also have ADD, ADHD
 
Dyslexia Resources in Multnomah County
Provides assessment, tutoring and teacher training.  
 
Advocacy group working to improve public school instruction for children with dyslexia.
 
National organization serving people with dyslexia, their families and communities.
 
Provides assessment and tutoring.
 
Coordinates support groups and family events; provides resources and information.
 
Dyslexia Assessment
Places in the Portland metro area that can evaluate someone for dyslexia:
•Stephanie Verlinden, Children’s Program
•Colleen O’Mahoney, Multnomah Educational Testing
•Cynthia Arnold, New Leaves Clinic, Beaverton

When it seems like the rain is never going to stop, don’t despair! Whether your tastes run more towards Portland puppets or Troutdale trains, Multnomah County has no shortage of fascinating and quirky museums that won’t cost you anything. (Check the links for updated hours and contact information.)

Whimsy. Revisit the toys of your (or your grandparents') childhood at Kidd's Toy Museum. And if your pipsqueaks are pleading to ponder a plethora of puppets, perhaps Ping Pong's Pint Size Puppet Museum is your pleasure.

Safety. Witness the evolution of fire fighting at The Safety Learning Center & Fire Museum. You also might find the Portland Police Museum rather arresting.

History. We love that the Gresham Historical Society museum is housed in an original Carnegie library! Not to be outdone, the Troutdale Historical Society has three museums: The Barn Museum, The Harlow House, and The Rail Depot. And don’t forget, the expansive and amazing Oregon Historical Society is free to all Multnomah County residents; just be sure to bring a proof of residency that includes photo identification.

Miscellany. OHSU's Ernest Starr Memorial Museum of Dental Anomalies will give you something to chew on, as will the medical history exhibits in the Main Library. If you're interested in "the art and industry of the cast letterform," then the Museum of Metal Typography is definitely your type. Then float on over to the Lincoln Street Kayak and Canoe Museum to learn more about indigenous small watercraft and suck up some cleaning history at the Vacuum Museum at Stark's Vacuums.

Free Museum Day Portland and Portland on the Cheap both have information about when paid admission museums might cut you a break. And for more on free and not-free-but-still-great museums definitely check out the Hidden Portland website, which was an invaluable resource for this blog post!

P.S. More in the mood for an art gallery ? Check out Rainy Days, Part 1: Free Art.

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.

Read it Again!

Does that sound familiar? How many times have you read Goodnight Moon or Where the Wild Things Are with your little ones?  I know many parents who can recite The Cat in the Hat from memory. Young children love to hear their favorite books again and again. There’s a good reason for this: the developing brain needs repetition. Repetition strengthens brain cell connections. For example, when a child encounters a new word in a  book and begins to understand the meaning of that word, each time the book is read the child’s brain secretes a chemical called “myelin,” a substance that strengthens that connection. The child’s understanding deepens each time. This is true for new words, new concepts and new experiences; learning occurs with repetition.

That’s not all. Young children notice different things each time a book is read. They just can’t take it all in on one reading. Repeated readings also help a child understand how stories work, an important skill for beginning readers. Your child will develop confidence when you stop reading at a dramatic point in a familiar story and encourage her to tell what she thinks will happen next. Children feel secure with books they know, and they learn best and absorb new information when they feel confident and secure.  So when you hear “again, again,” know that your willingness to indulge that request one more time will reap lovely rewards.

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!

Pages

Subscribe to