Helping Your Young Child Become a Successful Reader

Today’s post comes to us from Ali, Head of Children’s Services.

 

Many people assume that there isn’t much they can do to help their child learn to read until they are of a certain age. Believe it or not, you should start at birth.  The five core practices to help prepare children for reading are Reading, Writing, Talking, Singing, and Playing.  These practices are taken from the Every Child Ready to Read Initiative. You may already be nurturing these pre-reading skills at home, but it is important to use these techniques everywhere you go with your child. To learn more about these practices, you can ask any children’s librarian for suggestions or attend an early literacy program or storytime at the Cheshire Public Library.

Early literacy programs at public libraries have changed significantly over the years. Early literacy is everything a child knows about reading and writing before he or she can read or write, typically between the ages of 0-5. Traditionally, children’s library programs focused on the education of children.  Today, these programs focus on the education of the parent or caregiver.  If you attend storytimes at the public library, you may hear the children’s librarian state an early literacy tip or model a specific behavior during their programs.  This is done intentionally to encourage caregivers to use these tools at a later point.

Here are some ideas on using each of the 5 best practices in your everyday life.

  • TALKING is the most critical early literacy skill because it helps children learn oral language. You can talk to your child about things you see or ask them open-ended questions to encourage a response from them.
  • SINGING develops language skills by slowing down syllables and sounds that make up a word. You can sing in the car whenever you’re traveling and you never have to worry about other people hearing your singing voice.
  • READING together not only develops vocabulary and comprehension, but it fosters a love of reading.  Try to pick a time to read when you are both in a good mood and never force it. It is a good idea to establish a reading routine at bedtime when your child is most relaxed.
  • You can start to practice WRITING as soon as your child can grip anything. Even if they are only making scribbles, they are getting those small hand muscles ready to hold a pencil.
  • Children also learn language and literacy skills through PLAY by helping them put thoughts into words as they talk about what they are doing.

Caregivers have the most important role in developing a child’s reading skills, so it is important that you practice these techniques as often as possible. I encourage you to visit the library and check out some of the early literacy programs and resources that we have.  To see our full events calendar, you can go to https://cheshirelibrary.libcal.com/.

Check out  our Parenting section for more on early literacy and school readiness:

 

And don’t forget to sign up for our summer reading program for kids and adults : Summer Adventure! The program runs from June 21 through August 17. Raffles, prizes, and giveaways will be available to those who complete the activities. Who will take home the crown for the most minutes read? Will it be the kids, or will it be the adults?

 

Inconceivable! An Interview with Wallace Shawn

Legend has it “It” girl Lana Turner was “discovered” at a soda counter in 1937. Outside of perhaps Hedy Lamar, who invented some heavy military tech in WWII, most of the actors in the “glory days” of Hollywood were not known for smarts but for looking glamorous. Hollywood was the way for good-looking people from the back fields of America to break free and become wealthy and “cultured.” They had to speak well, dress well, stay thin, know their lines and marks, and obey the studio.

Times have changed. While good looks are nice, there are plenty of successful actors who have never been considered heart-throbs (Steve Buscemi, Clint Howard, Vincent Schiavelli, Mike Smith, Linda Hunt, etc). Hollywood may have its mega-cash flow (A-listers make $15-20 million per film; Dwayne Johnson had 9 films 2016-2018), but many stars aren’t afraid to flaunt their smarts and get that college degree, knowing how fickle the acting business is. Jodie Foster has a degree from Yale, Natalie Portman from Harvard, Emma Watson from Brown, Mayim Balik has a PhD in Neuroscience, Gerard Butler a law degree, James Franco is finishing a PhD from Yale, and more.

Smart AND Talented

Recently, I had the extreme pleasure of meeting actor Wallace Shawn, listening to him speak and interviewing him briefly. Never heard of him? I’ll bet you have. Perhaps most famously he is known for the Inconceivable role of Vizzini in the cult classic, The Princess Bride. Currently, he plays the Professor on the TV show Young Sheldon. He’s had roles in Woody Allen’s Manhattan, Bob Fosse’s All that Jazz, Bojack Horseman, and if you had children any time in the last 20 years, he’s the voice of Rex in Toy Story. You might not know his name, but you probably do know his face and voice.

And what an interesting man he is!  Soft spoken and humble, he loves to chat, and was charmed by all the happy faces he met. Shawn graduated from no less than Harvard, with a degree in history and the hope of becoming a diplomat – so far as spending a year in India teaching English. Acting was never on his radar – in fact, he was known far more for being a playwright, with such well-received plays as Grasses of a Thousand Colors, Marie and Bruce, My Dinner with Andre, A Master Builder, and Evening at the Talk House. His acting career came about due to a friendship with play director Andre Gregory, with whom he collaborated on the semi-autobiographical My Dinner with Andre, and he’s never stopped working since.

He’s also published books of essays, including one titled simply Essays, and his 2017 collection entitled Night Thoughts, which he admits is a bit political. Although biographies will give more clues to his opinions, in person Wallace treads a neutral line, doesn’t give many clues as to his feelings, and tries to keep many of his opinions private. Originally he considered writing to be selfish and self-indulgent, but then realized it was a satisfying creative outlet.

Heavy Reader

photo: Dawn Swingle

So what does a highly educated actor and playwright like to read? What authors does he favor? Wallace preferred to side-step the question a bit, citing that he likes to keep those things private. In the past, his favorite book was The Idiot by Dostoevsky, because it contained just about everything you could ever want to know about the human condition – not the kind of answer I expected, far heavier than I would have imagined. He admitted to liking Japanese literature, including Yasunari Kawabata and Haruki Murakami. The man is far deeper, and a deeper thinker, than I ever would have imagined.

Time with Wallace Shawn is like spending time with a favorite uncle who comes to Sunday dinner. While his movie and television roles may portray him otherwise, he’s sweet, personable, and down to earth. He admires Woody Allen, spent much time with him, and does not believe the accusations against him. His environmentalism showed when asked what he would have liked to have told his younger self, and he remarked he never realized “when he was young that the most destructive animal on Earth was ourselves, that what we put into our cars would destroy everything not only locally, but globally, that butterflies and bees would be dying, and only a handful of people would even care about it.”

Wallace Shawn: actor, voice actor, playwright, author. If you can’t catch one of his plays, check out his movies and TV shows. Truly, a man who is much greater than the sum of his roles!

  

In Dog We Trust

Today’s post comes to us from our Teen Librarian, Kelley:

It’s not just a snappy title – I really do have enormous faith and trust in a dog. My husband is blind and he (and I) depend every day upon the amazing skills of his guide dog Becca to help him navigate his world. I can go off to work and not worry about him, because I know he and Becca will manage perfectly well. They’re not stuck at home and are never bored. They go on long walks, golf, visit friends… at this point they actually have a much richer social life than I do! I am filled with wonder every time I see the two of them working together – she warns him of curbs, cars, and dangers both underfoot and at head height, she finds doors, counters, empty seats, and me (!) whenever needed and with great determination and enthusiasm.

Once we were shopping at the grocery store, and a family with children walked by. The parents conscientiously cautioned their kids about not distracting Becca while she was working, telling them that she was a service dog. The littlest child wasn’t quite sure what a service dog was, but he used his own best judgement, and looked out for us for the rest of our shopping trip. He alerted everyone: “Don’t bother that dog- she’s a serious dog!” every time we crossed paths. It was adorable, but he was absolutely correct- Becca is a very serious dog when she is working.

Other dogs besides our Becca do serious work that truly helps others too. These dogs all have natural talents that are carefully perfected with exhaustive training. Detection dogs have exceptional senses of smell. A detection dog is trained to sniff out a particular substance or group of substances such as currency, illegal drugs, explosives, blood, insects, and even cancer. Herding dogs work with various types of livestock, such as cattle, sheep, goats, reindeer, and even poultry. Military dogs assist members of the military with their operations. Police dogs, often called K-9s, are trained specifically to assist police and other law-enforcement personnel in the line of duty. Search and rescue dogs have high energy, great stamina and focus. These highly trained animals serve in many different fields, including tracking, specialized search, avalanche rescue, and cadaver location. Therapy dogs offer emotional support to sick or injured persons, often visiting hospitals, schools, hospices, nursing homes and more.  Service dogs are working dogs that have been specially trained to assist persons with disabilities.

There are many other types of working dogs out there who have real jobs that they take very seriously, and new types of jobs for dogs are being developed all the time. You can read more about them with our doggone good list of books about inspiring dogs who love to work. Good dogs!!

From the Children’s Room:

What’s Happening at Cheshire Library in June

“Oh, Alexander Hamilton, when America sings for you
Will they know what you overcame?
Will they know you rewrote the game?”

– “Alexander Hamilton”, lyrics by Lin-Manual Miranda

Hamilton-philes will be happy this month, we’ve got several Alexander Hamilton-themed  programs (both historical and pop-culture) on the June calendar,  in addition to our regular month of varied programming! Here’s some of what’s in store for June:

Financial Strategies for Successful Retirement

  • Part 2 Tuesday, June 4, 2019, 6:00 – 8:00pm
  • Part 3 Tuesday, June 18, 2019, 6:00 – 8:00pm

This educational program by certified financial planner Steve Choquette continues with 2 classes in June, covering important money management concepts and issues that are important to people near retirement. Participants will gain a strong understanding of their financial options along with the pros and cons of each. Registration for each class is required.

Portrait Painting with Jack Montmeat

Wednesday, June 5, 2019, 6:00 – 8:00pm

Jack Montmeat is an award-winning local portrait painter and illustrator with a studio in East Lyme, CT. After receiving his BFA from the Columbus College of Art and Design in Columbus, Ohio in 2002, as well as studying in Paris and Florence, he began painting portraits full-time. This program is sponsored by the Cheshire Art League. No registration required.

New Movie Thursday: The Upside

Thursday, June 6, 2019, 6:00 – 8:00pm

A recently paroled ex-convict, Dell (Kevin Hart), strikes up an unusual and unlikely friendship with a quadriplegic billionaire, Philip Lacasse (Bryan Cranston). From worlds apart, Dell and Philip form an unlikely bond, bridging their differences and gaining invaluable wisdom in the process, giving each man a renewed sense of passion for all of life’s possibilities. Rated PG-13. Registration is appreciated.

Travel Meetup

Monday, June 10, 2019, 6:30 – 8:00pm

Going on vacation soon? Chat with others before you go.  Share your own travel experiences, photos from around the world and meet other travel enthusiasts. Registration is appreciated.

Author Talk: How to Survive a Brazilian Betrayal

Tuesday, June 11, 2019, 6:30 – 8:00pm

Lightening darkness with humor, Velya Jancz-Urban and her 25-year-old daughter, Ehris, introduce readers to their offbeat Connecticut family. This memoir takes readers along on an unconventional family’s hilariously honest, yet heart-wrenching, journey. Readers will fall in love with their spunk, feel the knockout punches of betrayal along with them, and be rooting for them to get back up off the mat. Registration is required.

The Popularity of Alexander Hamilton

Thursday, June 13, 2019, 6:30 – 8:00pm

Discover the inspiring story of the Alexander Hamilton, who stood for American ideals.  Bev York, historian and educator, will share an illustrated talk about his contributions, struggles, and tragic death. Registration is required. Don’t miss our Hamilton themed events all month long!

Passport Event

Saturday, June 15, 2019, 1:30 – 3:00pm

Join us for a one-stop-shop for your passport needs.  You can fill out forms, have your picture taken and the post office will mail off your paperwork. (You are welcome to print out forms ahead of time and prefill them out to streamline the process.) Please bring two checks per application for payment and change as you may wish to use the copy machine on the lower level.   Please be advised that it can take 6-8 weeks to receive a completed passport by mail.  Any questions please call the Postal Department at 1-877-487-2778.

Plastic Pollution

Monday, June 17, 2019, 6:30 – 8:00pm

Plastic pollution has become a major global problem. Join NAMEPA’s Education and Outreach Manager, Lisa Piastuch, to learn more about the plastic pollution clogging our lands and oceans and simple changes you can embrace to reduce the plastic pollution problem! Registration is required.

Meditation – the WOW Factor

Tuesday, June 18, 2019, 6:30 – 8:00pm

Based on his own experience as a gerontologist and someone who has been meditating for many years, Dr. Matthew Raider will talk about what keeps you young even as your body ages. He will also explore the eternal nature of consciousness and explain how you can experience it yourself. Registration is required.

Documentary: Hamilton: One Shot to Broadway

Thursday, June 20, 2019, 6:30 – 8:00pm

A remarkable story of how a group of inspired mavericks made an unlikely marriage of hip-hop and history to create the biggest show on Broadway…and strangely apropos to what is happening in politics today. Featuring interviews with creator and star Lin Manuel Miranda, as well as the cast and crew of Hamilton. Registration is required.

Grow Small Backyard Fruits

Monday, June 24, 2019, 6:30 – 8:00pm

Berries have high nutritional values and full of health benefits. Since some of them generally don’t require too much space and are low-maintenance, you can enjoy fresh fruit from early summer through late fall by growing them in your backyards. This talk will discuss how to select and grow easy and quick yielding berries in your home gardens. Registration is required.

Hip-Hop Hamilton & The Founding Fathers

Thursday, June 27, 2019, 6:30 – 8:00pm

Join Stephen Spignesi for an informative illustrated lecture based on his book 499 Facts about Hip-Hop Hamilton and the Rest of America’s Founding Fathers.  Spignesi begins with the three Founding documents of America—the Declaration of Independence, the Acts of Confederation, and the Constitution—and then discusses what might be called the “Top 10” Founders: Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, Adams, Paine, Hamilton, etc., including all kinds of fascinating historical facts and trivia about each. Registration is required.

 

 

 

 

Planting Your Garden

Spring is here! As we put those tender seedlings into the ground, up sprouts the constant question: should I go Organic, or should I show up my neighbors by using Miracle Grow? Will I poison my children if I use it on my tomatoes? Is my neighbor’s cancer due to Round Up™, and did it blow over into my yard? If a lawncare company treated my grass, are my grass clippings poisoning my compost?

So many questions for such a busy season!

“Organic” is a shady term to start with. We think of hippies and happy sheep, and fields strewn with mulch and recycled orange peels, when in reality it just means the land cannot have been treated with synthetic pesticides, fertilizers (including Miracle Grow), or GMOs for three years. Sounds nice, right? Except that two of the three companies licensed by the USDA to certify organic farms are for-profit (Oregon Tilth is not). The farmer wanting to be certified pays the company to license them. That’s like paying a teacher to give you a grade. The problem is worse overseas: 100 countries export “organic” produce to the USA, and though they are supposed to abide by US law, the countries inspect and license their own. And let’s not forget that a good percentage of “organic fertilizer” in many countries is human in origin.  (The E. coli that keeps poisoning lettuce is usually animal in origin).

Won’t chemical fertilizers like Miracle Grow poison me? No. Plants don’t care where the nutrients come from, horse manure or a green and yellow box. Plants use them the same way. The issues with Miracle Grow are 1) the concentration of ammonium phosphate may be too high for some plants. MG makes different formulas for roses, tomatoes, azaleas, etc. Choose the one you need. 2) The greatest issue for chemical fertilizers is that heavy rains can wash a recent fertilizing away. If twelve homes get washout, and it flows into the brook behind them, too high a concentration in water systems can cause algal blooms that suck up oxygen and kill wildlife.

Okay, but what about Round Up™? If I kill the dandelions in my walk, won’t I die?

Uh, that’s a loaded question. Yes, more than 14 countries have banned Round Up (chemical: glyphosate), and while the courts have said yes, Round Up causes cancer, the US maintains it does not. And there’s the difference: In Europe, you must prove a chemical is safe before it hits the market, and that’s hard to do. In the US, chemicals are presumed innocent and you must prove they’re harmful – which is really easy to sidestep even with math and science. In America, it is up to the manufacturer to show their product is harmful, not the government (Got that? The man making and marketing the product must show that what he’s selling is harmful.) When the people with highest exposure to Round Up were studied (ie, farm workers), they had a 41% higher risk of a type of cancer called Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. People with heavy, frequent exposure over time. NO risk was found in people who go outside three times a year and spritz a weed. If you want to use it, do so sparingly, wear rubber gloves, and wash with soap immediately after, and whatever you do, don’t inhale it. 

But if those chemicals wind up in my compost bin, won’t they pollute my compost? Mm, depends. According to John Reganold, Professor of Soil Science at Washington State University, “The heat and microbial action of most compost piles break down many produce pesticides.” So don’t feel bad throwing that non-organic banana peel in the pile. BUT: some pesticides (like clopyralid – Reclaim) can become concentrated. Things like termiticides bind to the soil and last a long time.  And even treated and composted animal/human waste can still contain parasites. If in doubt, buy local, where you can ask what might have been sprayed on the food.

But rest easy: Miracle Grow has never been shown to cause cancers.

So, is organic worth it? Depends on what you’re willing to pay. The most chemical-contaminated foods in the grocery store are strawberries, peaches (more than 57 pesticides on one sample), celery, lettuce and greens (and that’s not counting the E. coli risk), and most other fruit. If you want to reduce your pesticide ingestion, consider buying organic just for fruits (or grow your own), and wash, wash, wash what you do bring home.

Fresh fruits and vegetables are about the best thing there is for your body, and growing your own, organic or not, is a fun (and tasty) experiment anyone can do anywhere. Try growing some popcorn, or a yellow or brown or purple heirloom tomato. Pole beans are great for kids, because they grow incredibly fast and are very prolific, as are grape tomatoes (so why are they so expensive?).

No matter which method you use, read further on gardening in these topical books:

Starter Vegetable Gardens : 24 no-fail plans for small organic gardens by Barbara Pleasant

Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan

101 Organic Gardening Hacks : eco-friendly solutions to improve any garden by Shawna Coronado

Rodale’s All-New Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening, edited by Fern Marshall Bradley and Barbara W. Ellis

Organic Gardening for Dummies / by Ann Whitman, Suzanne DeJohn,

The Organic Lawn Care Manual  by Paul Tukey

Vegetable Gardening : from planting to picking by Fern Marshall Bradley, Jane Courtier

High-Yield Vegetable Gardening : grow more of what you want in the space you have by  Colin McCrate and Brad Halm

Northeast Fruit & Vegetable Gardening : plant, grow, and eat the best edibles for Northeast gardens by Charles Nardozzi

The Vegetable Gardener’s Container Bible by Edward C. Smith