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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!”

The Brigton, a 1962 house design from the Aladdin Co. [via Flickr user Ethan]You may have heard a rumor that your house was "bought by mail order."  What does that mean, you might wonder?  Or you might have noticed that there are twins of your house dotted around your neighborhood.  Were all those twins built by the same company? 

It might be that your house was built from a mail-order plan -- or it could be that your house was bought fom a mail-order company that supplied the plans and a complete set of building materials cut to size and ready to assemble.   Mail-order houses like these are the ancestors of modern manufactured homes, but they were built on-site by carpenters using traditional techniques, just like architect-designed houses of the same historical period. 

The websites below showcase archives of house plans from mail-order home companies. They show exterior views of each house (some in color), floor plans, and prices.  Since most mail-order house companies also sold a multitude of cabinetry, fancy trim, plumbing and lighting fixtures, and furniture, you can sometimes get an idea for popular interior design of the period as well.

I should also remind you, the library has books with old mail-order floor plans in them too!  Check out the great list below for some examples. 

Questions? Ask the Librarian!  We'd be glad to offer you some personalized help with your research project.

One of the tougher skills for many folks new to computers is using a mouse.  Luckily, there are a lot of online mousing tutorials to help:

  • Palm Beach County Library has a mousing tutorial that is perfect for the new computer user and they include practice exercises and games
  • Love playing solitaire? World of Solitaire let's you have fun while your practice your clicking and drag-and-dropping skills
  • Geek Girl's Plain-English Computing covers how to properly hold a mouse, what's the difference between left and right clicks and what to look for when buying a mouse

More and more services online requires an email address - don't have one or want to get a new one for job applications? There are lots of free email services to choose from - take a look at reviews from Consumer Search and About.com to see which free email service works best for you - maybe you need unlimited storage or maybe you want service that offers additional features like a place to store your documents or chat integration. Try one or try them all - they're free! Here's some help for the top two free email services at the moment:

All Multnomah County Libraries offer free wi-fi access to all visitors, but if you're out and about and not near a library, here are some other ways to track down free wi-fi:

  • WiFiPDX: Just type in your address, zip code or landmark and find your closest free wi-fi hotspots, along with descriptions and if they have coffee
  • Yelp: You can filter your searches to those that only offer free wi-fi

At your Multnomah County Libraries, you can find a wide array of free computer classes - from computer labs where you can get extra assistance to e-book and e-reader classes to office productivity skills, like spreadsheets and word processing.  Here are some other great options:

  • Portland Community College (PCC) - offers a wide variety of computer and IT courses, tailored to fit your situation - find out more about their computer education programs
  • Mt Hood Community College (MHCC) - for East County residents, MHCC offers many in-person and online computer classes through their Community Education program
  • Portland Parks & Recreation - offers basic computer and Internet classes for senior

These resources can help you locate free or low-cost social services in the Portland area.  Services include housing, shelter, food, laundry services, mental health counseling and referrals to other services. 

211info: information and referral
A comprehensive support hub for referrals to food, shelter, housing, foreclosure assistance, health care, and much more.   Calls are confidential, anonymous and free. Certified Information and Referral Specialists assess the situation and refer callers using a locally managed database of over 4,200 programs in Oregon and Southwest Washington.   Telephone interpreters are available for help in more than 150 languages.

Cascadia Behavioral Healthcare
Cascadia provides mental health counseling for people with psychiatric and substance use challenges.  They provide crisis intervention, addictions treatment, and housing services for people who are very low-income.  Their website includes contact information as well as links to additional resources outside of the area.

Multnomah County Mental Health & Addictions Services
Provides mental health services to adults, children and families. They serve Oregon Health Plan members as well as people who have no insurance or resources. 

NW Pilot Project
Provides housing services for seniors ages 55 and older who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.  Find housing, transportation help, advocacy and referrals to other resources and services. NW Pilot Project recommends calling 503-227-5605 before coming in. 

Outside In
Outside In is a community resource for homeless youth.  They provide health services, counseling and shelter, as well as programs and education.

Portland Women’s Crisis Line
Offers 24 hour telephone crisis counseling for victims of domestic and sexual violence.  The organization also offers support groups and direct service counseling for victims of domestic violence and childhood sexual abuse.

Rose City Resource
Street Roots publishes this very comprehensive online directory of services for people experiencing homelessness and poverty in  Multnomah, Washington, and Clackamas counties.  It is continuously updated.

Transition Projects
This organization can help with a variety of services including housingshowers, food box vouchers, clothing, laundry services, Tri-met tickets, information and referral and housing search assistance.

 

Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis byTimothy Egan

Just finished it this morning and find myself in the sweet afterglow of my favorite book of the year. My thoughts haven't become solid matter yet and I blather on to friends the random, out-of-order pieces that come tumbling out.

I knew almost nothing about Edward Curtis. I knew a tiny bit about the history of photography. And pretty much all I knew about Native Americans came from my limited education on the Iroquois Confederacy, the result of my Western New York roots. I am blown away by something on almost every single page of this book.

It is glorious, velvety-rich history, fascinating in its details. Clearly, Egan had some amazing access to primary sources, including the Mazamas, the Rainier Club in Seattle where Curtis lived for years, the papers of Edmond S. Meany, and on and on. There are photos in the book but you'll want to see more.

The book is held gently in the hands of the first and last chapters. How did Egan do it? Make them paired so perfectly together, about two completely different people, the subject and the photographer, yet one and the same at the end of their lives? Astounding.

If you were to give one book this year as a holiday gift to the nonfiction reader in your life, you should give this one. Then get your game face on for next year, because you will have a reputation to uphold. 

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.

As you gather together this holiday season, why not set aside time to talk with close relatives about diseases and conditions that run in the family? Having a record of your family’s health history can be a valuable tool in helping to lower their risk for disease.

To help you get started, here are tips on approaching your relatives and questions to ask about their health histories.

Use these print and online tools to help you collect and organize this valuable information.

Also, take this short quiz to learn why it’s important to know your family’s health history.

The information on Creating a Family Health History was provided by NIHSeniorHealth and developed by the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI).

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