26 April, 2010

Raising a Reader

Lois Lowry at Books and Books Coral Gables, Florida
This weekend, my nine year old daughter and I were super excited to be part of the audience to hear Newberry Award winning author Lois Lowry speak at our local bookstore. She is  the author of many children's books including award winning titles The Giver and Number the Stars. She introduced her new book The Birthday Ball. The book, geared toward middle grade girls, follows Princess Patricia Priscilla in her search for a suitable suitor. The Birthday Ball is stylishly illustrated by the renowned Jules Feiffer.

At one point in her presentation, author Lois Lowry flashed a photograph of her mother on the screen, (see above photo) "I was lucky to grow up in a home that valued books...with a mother that read to me." She was acknowledging that her success as an author was due in part to an emphasis on family literacy in the home. Indeed.

Early childhood research indicates that a child’s reading development begins prior to formal reading instruction (1). This phase of early reading development is termed as emergent literacy, a concept which minimizes the distinction between pre-reading and formal reading instruction. Emergent literacy is defined as the “developmental precursors to reading before children enter a formal school environment” (1)

The concept of emergent literacy, a continuum of literacy development that originates in early childhood (2), is critical to family literacy because it acknowledges the role of the environment in literacy development. Emergent literacy emphasizes that the environment, particularly the home in which a child lives, has a considerable impact on the development of literacy skills.

Research indicates that the interactions between a parent and child is the basis for language and literacy development (3).  Parents and caregivers have a definitive impact on a child’s emergent literacy and reading-readiness; therefore, the home environment serves as the “first classroom” (4) in literacy learning. The informal home environment then, can be viewed as an integral component that equips and prepares a child for formal schooling and beyond(5;6;7;8).  

Reading to your child is not only a wonderful bonding experience. Make it a habit, and you just might be raising the next award winning children's book author!

2. Caspe, M. (2003, June). Family literacy a review of programs and critical perspectives.Family Involvement Network of Educators. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Family    Research Project.
5.Hay, I. & Fielding-Barnsley, R. (2007). Facilitating children’s emergent literacy using shared reading: a comparison of two models. Australian Journal of Language and Literacy 30 (3), pp. 191-202.
6.Mullis, I.; Kennedy, A.; Martin, M.; Sainsbury, M. (2006, February). Assessment framework and specifications: Progress in international reading study.        International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement. Chestnut Hill, MA: International Study Center, Lynch School of Education.
1. Neuman, S., Dickinson, D. (2001). Handbook of early literacy research. New York, NY:Guilford Press.
3. Parecki-DeBruin, A., Krol-Sinclair, B. (2003). Famil y literacy: from theory to practice.Newark, DE: International Reading Association.
4.Reeder, P., Sowers, K. (2002, November/December). Family literacy: It takes a village. Library Talk, pp. 6-9.
8.Snow, P.; Burns, S.; Griffin, P. (1998). Preventing reading difficulties in young children. (Eric Reproduction Service No. ED416 465).Washington D.C.:      Department of Education.
7.Spiegel, D.L. (1992, December). A portrait of parents of successful readers. (ERICDocument Reproduction Service No. ED353 548).
of Massachusetts district efforts to increase family involvement. Malden, MA: Massachusetts Department of Education

23 April, 2010

Tumble Into a Book

If your family is anything like ours, books are everywhere. They are on chairs, tables, the couch, the floor, in the bathroom, and falling out of the mini-van. When we travel, especially by plane, we can't drag a library shelf around with us...Or maybe we can.
TumbleBooks is an online collection of story books, read-alongs, audiobooks, and games for emergent readers. If you have a library card, it is free and easily accessible through many public library web sites. Some elementary school media centers also have a subscription you can access. The site is very simple and you can even create a play-list for your tot.

17 April, 2010

Get Out

As summer approaches, I am going to begin a new monthly segment on Simplicitas titled "Get Out". No, Wait...It's not the "Get Out!" your teenage sister used to scream when you entered her bedroom. It's also not the I don't believe you, so "Get out" variety. It is the get-out-there kind of "Get Out". As in, get off of the sofa. Comb your hair. And go somewhere. In a word, it is my take on family travel.
My family of 5 really enjoys traveling, and we have traveled with our children since they were babies. My husband and I actually began traveling after our children were born, so we can't really imagine traveling without baby wipes, audio books, and melted crayons in our carry on. 
Yes, bringing the kiddos along does require extra preparation, supervision, and patience, however; we have found that our travel experiences are richer because the kids are there. One of my very favorite travel memories is when my 3 year old daughter decided that a London tube, full of rush-hour commuters, was the perfect captive audience to which she could show off  her (pitch-perfect) pigeon imitation (a talent she picked up just strolling around London in her buggy). At the end of her performance, a very staid banker asked her if she "could do any other birds". When you travel with your children, you end up interacting with the people around you. You just can't help it!
You don't have to go across an ocean or quit your job to travel with kids. If family travel is new to you, begin with a local destination or a day trip. Visit a farm outside of your city's limits, take a ferry ride, or spend an afternoon in an unfamiliar part of town. Whatever you do, Get Out!

A great place to begin your wandering is by visiting some really great family travel blogs.  Backpack to Buggy, On the Go with Amy, Six in the World, Soul Travelers 3,and Travel and Travails are a few of my favorites.

16 April, 2010

Plant a Seed

"SO...Catch!" calls the Once-ler.
He lets something fall.
"It's a Truffala Seed.
It's the last one of all!
You're in charge of the last of the Truffula Seeds.
And Truffula Trees are what everyone needs.
Plant a new Truffula. Treat it with care.
Give it clean water. And feed it fresh air.
Grow a forest. Protect it from axes that hack.
Then the Lorax
and all of his friends
may come back."

In honor of Earth Day on April 22, this week's literacy activity is intended to increase awareness of our planet's environment and its natural resources. The inspiration for this activity is Dr. Suess' children's book The Lorax.
  • The Lorax
  • plant seeds
  • potting soil
  • empty coffee can (3 small holes punched in the bottom)
  • (circle-shaped) garage sale stickers
  1. Read The Lorax by Dr. Suess with your child. The story depicts a polluted environment which becomes inhabitable for the Lorax and ends with a challenge to readers to plant a (Truffula) seed.
  2. Discuss pollution with your child. What is it? What does it do to our environment? How does planting a seed help our environment?
  3. Decorate the can with the stickers.
  4. Add potting soil to the can.
  5. Plant the seed.
  6. Water the seed and place it on a sunny window sill.
  7. Continue to water your seed everyday and watch it grow.
  8. Remember: 
"UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not."Dr. Suess

 Helpful websites:

14 April, 2010

Make Something Beautiful

My nine year old daughter came home from school today, big smile on her face. She drew out a gauzy pink sachet tied with a silver ribbon from her backpack.
Look at this, Mommy! Inside the sachet was this lovely handmade bracelet.
This week is career week at my kids' elementary school. Every day, parents with occupations from physicians, dentists, pilots and computer programmers to florists, sommeliers and veterinarians have come in the classrooms to tell the kids about their jobs. My kids have come home from school with plastic brains, toothbrushes, toy planes, business cards, tulips, and one very detailed explanation of the importance of spaying and neutering household pets.
My kids were happy to listen to the parents' descriptions of their jobs rather than doing schoolwork this week. But when fashion designer Ema Koja of Ema Savahl Couture came in to speak to the third graders, my daughter was inspired
Why? Just ask my nine year old. "She makes things beautiful!"
Indeed she does.
Does my daughter seriously want to be a fashion designer when she grows up?  She still has a long time to decide on her career choice, but I think endeavoring to make something beautiful, whether it is art, music, or clothing is something worthy to aspire to.

Follow this link to see the Ema Savahl Couture's collections:

09 April, 2010

Checking Labels

This week's literacy activity is geared toward children who can read pretty well already. Why?  Soy lecithin. Stearoyl lactylate. Azodicarbonamide. That's why.
Reading the labels on some food packaging can make you feel like you are transcribing hieroglyphics.For our activity this week, we will research the ingredients in our food.

  • food packages
  • paper 
  • pencil
  • computer
  1. Assemble 5-10 food packages on a table.
  2. Together with your child, read the "nutrition information" section on each package...Caution: Some of these words are tongue-twisters!
  3. Ask your child to write down the ingredients he/she does not understand. Many of these will be preservatives, additives, and colourings.
  4. Do a Google search to define each of those words.
  5. Discuss healthy eating habits with your child.
It is important to know what we are putting into our bodies. Many of the preservatives, additives, and colourings have been found to have harmful affects in scientific studies. A good rule of thumb for the next grocery shopping trip: purchase foods with short lists of ingredients. After reading the nutrition labels, maybe that broccoli on the plate won't look quite so eewy compared to that snow-white slice of bread laced with propionic acid.
Helpful websites:

05 April, 2010

Spring Break that Didn't Break the Bank

In our family's quest for simplicity,I was determined that spring break this year was going to be low-key (and low-cost). With 3 very active little girls who are accustomed to a pretty regular schedule of school and music/ballet classes, I had my doubts as to how this week would go down. 
 (free) family day at our local art museum
(free) movie night on the beach
(free) archaeology exhibit

No television or video games +
lots of play +
lots of parks+
some free community events=
a simply good week.