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?

 

Screen-Free Week is coming – can you go a week without screens?

Today’s post is by Children’s Librarian Lauren:

“Have I told you all about the time that I got sucked into a hole through a handheld device?” So goes a lyric on the Arctic Monkeys’ technologically ambivalent album Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino. This line repeats in my head every time I find an hour of my life has been lost to compulsively scrolling through Instagram or following clickbait articles. So much of our lives is mediated through screens, and the side effects aren’t always as light as lost time and an earworm. Night-time screen use has been linked to insomnia, and studies are linking excessive social media use to anxiety and depression.

For kids too young for Snapchat, studies have tied screen use to developmental delays. The American Association of Pediatrics recommends no screen time for kids under 18 months and 1 hour max for kids under 5 years old. The more time toddlers spend silently watching screens, the less time they spend talking, playing, moving, and learning. Likewise, the more time parents and caregivers spend with screens, the less time we have to facilitate those crucial experiences for our kids.

To combat the negative effects of screen-based entertainment, some folks came up with Screen-Free Week, an annual week of unplugging and re-discovering the joys of real life fun. From Monday, April 29 to Sunday, May 5, families and individuals will be closeting the iPads and shutting off the backseat DVD players. Sound like something your family could try? Here’s some ideas on how to amuse yourselves while the screens are away:

Be bored! Boredom provides kids with an opportunity to get creative. Lin-Manuel Miranda – the creator of Hamilton and one of the most creative folks around – fondly recalls being left to his own non-screen devices. If you’re not up to writing an award-winning musical, though, provide your family with open-ended materials like art supplies, the contents of the junk drawer, and your backyard. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Clash your clans in a fantasy book! Look in the kids section for the blue sticker with a unicorn. Magic Tree House and Percy Jackson are classics that work as family read-alouds, or check out a new book like The Cryptid Catcher. We also love us some Neil Gaiman, especially Coraline, a delightfully creepy tale that begins with a super-bored girl who, to put it mildly, finds a way to amuse herself.

Go outside for a walk! This is one of the best times of year to hang out around the canal trail, when birds who migrated south are coming back and starting to make nests for the spring. You can see turtles, beavers, and snakes at Lock 12, and in the last couple weeks I saw diving kingfishers, big herons, and colorful wood ducks in the new section of trail north of West Main Street. Sleeping Giant State Park is still closed from tornado damage, but nearby Brooksvale Park has salamanders, frogs, and even farm animals, as well as easy hiking trails. The library has free maps of local trails, as well as wildlife guides for kids and adults to borrow.

Take advantage of the spring birds & blooms that are popping up all over this time of year, as close as your own back yard! Ask little kids to point out colors, compare sizes, and count petals on flowers. Explain pollination and photosynthesis to big kids – or, better yet, let them explain it to you. See how many different kinds of birds you can spot.

Take a break from Allrecipes and Epicurious, and follow a recipe from a book! Whether tacos or teiglach are more your speed, you can find a ton of family-friendly recipes in cookbooks designed especially for kids. Some cookbooks specialize in classics and others offer a history of food. Wherever your interests lie, head to the 641s for your cooking needs.

After you’ve cleaned up the kitchen and the kids are busy writing their own history-based raps, you might have a few minutes during Screen-Free Week for some adults-only reading:

Will you be participating in screen-free week from April 29 to May 5?

Little Starlings

I am a deep introvert. I’m perfectly fine talking only to the cat or TV. Hence, when my son was born, I figured if I didn’t start talking to him, he’d never learn to talk (my first mistake), and thus began thirty years of talking to myself and narrating what I’m doing.

Research published in the book Meaningful Differences, by Betty Hart and Todd R. Risley, showed a direct link between the number of words a child heard at home by the age of three, and their academic performance in Grade 3 (the age of 8). Children in poor/welfare homes heard, on average, 600 words an hour. Children of working-class homes heard 1200, and children of professional parents heard 2100. That racked up to children of professional parents hearing 30 million more words by the age of three than a poor child. So?

Exposure becomes verbal fluency. Verbal fluency is required for reading proficiency, and reading proficiency is required for academic proficiency.  The child who has minimal language is going to lag far behind on reading and academics.

How many words is your child really hearing?

Based on these studies, along comes VersaMe’s Starling, a handy-dandy little device that tracks just how many words your baby hears during the day.  It’s just a little clip-on star that records the number of words a baby hears, not the actual words (no one will hunt you down because of what you said when that [jerk] cut you off ). It’s convenient, easily rechargeable, and holds a charge for up to three days, so you don’t have to worry about plugging it in every night. It uses Bluetooth technology to report in real time to your smartphone, so you can track as you go. The clip is rather strong – the first day, it took my 14 month old 4 hours to wrestle it free, and by the next day, she wasn’t paying it any attention. It is fully waterproof, drool proof, and not particularly chewable, which was nice.

The first day we broke 10,000 words, the second day 11,000, and the third day for some reason, even though we went to a party with lots of people talking to her, it didn’t record, which was disappointing. Our best was 16,000.

Per day, 11,000 words seems like a lot, but when you figure the child is only awake 12-14 hours, and take out an average of three hours for naps, we didn’t even hit Middle-Class. Yet, I have a toddler who is off the charts in vocabulary and language skills.  Even the authors of the original study admit that quantity is nothing in the face of quality. Ten minutes spent reading a book with your child will go farther than three hours of TV.  And no, Starling can’t differentiate between people and TV.

Should you try Starling?

If you are a new parent with questions, if you’re the parent of a developmentally delayed child, if you’re just curious about yourself, then by all means give the Starling a try. It’s easy, it’s fun, and interesting to see the results. But remember, worrying about arbitrary marks isn’t good. Children, toddlers, babies all need critical down time to process all that information they’re learning.  Imagine someone following you around talking to you every waking second. You’d lock yourself in the bathroom for just 5 minutes of quiet. Your baby is no different. Language is important, but so is quiet alone time.

Starling is fun. It’s informative. Use it as an investigative tool, maybe increase some quality time or have an extra imaginary conversation on a play phone. If you want to try out a Starling, you can borrow one from the library.

For a helpful look on the making of brilliance and achievement, check out Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers. For a fascinating look on the importance of auditory language, check out I Can Hear You Whisper: An Intimate Journey Through the science of Sound and Language (it’s not as sciency as it sounds), by Lydia Denworth. It’s awesome!

Childhood Horrors

Sometime ago in the mists of the last century, there were only three TV networks. On holidays, you usually had the choice of a football game, a different football game, or the longest movies the network could find – usually Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and The Sound of Music.  Chitty, an overly technicolor musical, scared the daylights out of me. As soon as that Childcatcher came prowling, I was behind the sofa holding my breath. Today’s kids would just send his photo to Instagram and beat him up.

Children see things differently. Some are easily spooked, some are skeptical from birth. Kids misunderstand and misinterpret things, and that alone can create unfounded horror.

Obviously, most children’s films try to avoid horror, but what’s marketed to kids is not always Barney and Big Bird – few Grimm’s Fairy Tales end happily ever after. Poltergeist –  ghosts, demons, peeling faces, and evil clowns in child-swallowing glowing closets – was only rated PG. PG, because PG-13 hadn’t been invented yet.

Young Sherlock Holmes (the food nightmare) scarred one of my children; to this day she won’t eat cream puffs. Tim Burton’s Mars Attacks! and its disembodied heads was another. Another didn’t trust Nazgûl (nor should you), and was terrified by Matilda. The 1971 Alastair Sim animated A Christmas Carol, with its writhing starving waifs and the faceless, voiceless Ghost of Christmas Future taints every incarnation I’ve seen since.

If your child likes spooky things and wants to be a part of the Addams family, here’s a list of kid’s films – honest! – that just might give your kid the shivers. If you have a child with a more sensitive nature, you might want to wait a few years on these:

Toy Story – Oh, doll-headed spider and hook-bodied Barbie, how we hate you! You may be Pixar, but you’re scary!

Coraline – Creepy button-eyed fake parents trying to steal a child?  Hmm….

Labyrinth – Sure, we adore Bowie, but these are Muppets who steal babies, chase girls with drill bits with intent to kill, and drop people into pits lined with talking disembodied hands. ‘Nuff said.

Something Wicked This Way Comes – Disney likes to whistle and pretend this isn’t theirs, but Ray Bradbury didn’t edit the scariness out of his novel of two boys and an evil carnival run by Mr. Dark, complete with electrocutions and freakshow.

Who Framed Roger RabbitBut this is a comedy! you cry – and it is, until crying Toons get faced with The Dip. Be prepared for a talk on death.

Return to Oz – if the flying monkeys didn’t scare you, perhaps Dorothy’s electroshock treatments will.

Jumanji – sure, it’s a game, but a deadly one. Floors that swallow people are just some of the issues; the intensity and situations may be too much entirely for young viewers.

Harry Potter series – yes, the first one is a charming tale of an orphan boy who learns he’s a wizard, but the stories get darker, and major beloved characters start dying. By the third film, Voldemort is embodied evil and believably out to get Muggles. Like your child.

The Dark CrystalFraggle Rock it’s not. It’s a dark Muppet film with lots of dark themes. Preteens maybe, but there’s no Elmo to lighten it for the little kids.

Gremlins – another movie made before PG-13, so it was stuck with PG. Gremlins are cute little things until you feed them, and then they become psychopathic demons out to harm and kill.  If preteen horror films was a separate genre, this would be one of their cornerstones, along with perhaps The Witches, Watcher in the Woods, and Jaws (which is also only PG).

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory – let’s face it, Roald Dahl is almost never nice to children. Here alone, he sucks them up pipes, dumps them down garbage chutes, and has them cornered by very scary men in dark alleys asking them to sell their souls for money. But the crowning touch cited by many critics is the boat ride  scene, all psychedelic and threatening – but that’s the way it is in the book, too – a disorienting journey where everyone believes Wonka’s looney.

Every parent knows their child best. Some kids like a scary movie, some kids will wind up sleeping in your bed for a week with all the lights on. If your kid shows interest in scary movies, these might be a gentler introduction over, say, The Exorcist. Just be aware that even a seemingly wholesome, kid-marketed movie can have some really scary moments when you least expect it.

It’s National Keep Kids Creative Week

September 24st – 30th, 2017 is “National Keep Kids Creative Week”. The holiday was started in 2003 by author/illustrator Bruce Van Patter to restore children’s innate ability to “think outside the box, not “in front of the box.”

 

During National Keep Kids Creative Week, parents are encouraged to eliminate or at least cut down on kids’ screen time, and help them brainstorm creative activities instead. Write a story or create a recipe together. Challenge them to come up with their own superhero, cool invention, or fun game to play.  Bruce Van Patter’s website has some great ideas to get the ball rolling.

Cheshire Library has a lot of resources to encourage creativity, too, as you might imagine. Let’s get those creative juices flowing!

Art Lab for Kids : 52 creative adventures in drawing, painting, printmaking, paper, and mixed media by Susan Schwake

The Artful Parent : simple ways to fill your family’s life with art and creativity by Jean Van’t Hul

You Can Write a Story! : a story-writing recipe for kids / by Lisa Bullard

150+ Screen-free Activities for Kids : the very best and easiest playtime activities from FunAtHomeWithKids.com! by Asia Citro, MEd

Tinkerlab : a hands-on guide for little inventors by Rachelle Doorley

365 Things to do with LEGO Bricks by written by Simon Hugo

ChopChop : the kids‘ guide to cooking real food with your family by Sally Sampson