All the World’s a Stage…Er… Classroom

A few days ago, I introduced you to Preschooler and asked for some helpwith letter and number recognition.  I got advice from a few sources, all of which pretty  much said the same thing.  Just keep at it.  Repetition, repetition, repetition.  So we are.

Then, over the last couple days, I discovered two new teaching aids in unusual places:

Parking garages

On a weekend errand, we parked at the far end of the underground parking garage, and as we were walking toward the entrance, Preschooler points to the column at the end of the row, and announces, “Look, Mama!  That’s an ‘M'”  And thus began the game.  We identified the letters on each row that we passed.  She was so excited by this, that we enthusiastically played it again after completing our time in the store.

The lottery

Preschooler watches Clifford on PBS every afternoon before naptime.  Immediately after the cartoon ends, the midday lottery comes on.  You know, the one where the balls pop around in the machine and then fly up the tubes to be announced by a lottery “official”?  You see where I’m going with this, right?  A few days ago, I realized this could work in our favor.  I mute the television (so that the answers aren’t given away, and she has some think time), and then we identify the numbers on the ball as they pop up.  Once again, she is ridiculously excited about this “game” and it takes an extra 2 minutes out of my day.

And you know what?  I think the kid is holding out on me.  She knows alot more than I thought she did.  She just likes to learn and share in her own way.

There’s a lesson for me there, too.

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Friday Confession: Some Help, Please?

Let me introduce you to Preschooler.

She is my first-born.  And fits the first child descriptionperfectly.  She is extremely loving, empathetic, and protective.  She is also stubborn, headstrong, and fiercely independent.

She is a learner.  Her naturally inquisitive nature means that we are talking/learning/exploring all the time.  She will start preschool in the fall and has been talking about it for a year already.  The former teacher in me notices that she has a strong auditory learning style.  Especially if what she is learning is set to music.  So here’s where I’m hoping somebody out there will have some ideas.  I confess:

Early childhood education is NOT my forte.

Elementary?  I know how to teach those kids. Preschool?  Eh. I just can’t get in their little heads.

And yet, I have this 3 year old who shows a definite interest in learning her numbers and letters.  She can count almost to 20 (she has a few random number skips), can recite/sing the alphabet, and can correctly identify a handful of numbers and letters.  She would like to know more, and I’d like to be able to help her out, but she’s not a visual kid and so many of the tactics I’ve seen are not sticking.  Any thoughts on how to teach an auditory learner avisual skill?  More particularly, a 3 year old auditory learner?

I should add that I’m not in any huge hurry, and I realize that she’s still very young.  But recognizing numbers and letters aren’t beyond the realm of possibility, especially since she’s showing the interest, right?

And it would really help the dinner-making process if she was not systematically pulling each and every  letter magnet out if it’s orderly row (that she created) on the fridge and demanding, “Mommy, what this one?!”

Thoughts?  Ideas?  Links?  Blogs?  I’ll take ’em all!

Share-A-Story: Letters to My “Readers”

I’m back for another day of Share-A-Story.  Today’s topic involves breaking down the stereotype of what a “reader” looks like.  The prompt I chose for today is a little more personal, but relevant for this blog, which is a combination of literacy and family chat.

Is there a young reader (or reader to be) in your life? Write them a letter expressing what you hope for them as readers.

Dear Preschooler,

In just three short years, I’ve already seen the beginnings of your evolution as a reader.  When you were little, you loved to chew on books.  Well, really, you loved to chew on anything, but you particularly loved the way that cardboard felt on your gums.  As you got older, you were fascinated by the pictures, and would spend (short) times on my lap as we talked about what we saw on each page.  A little bit older, and you would tolerate actually listening to short board books.  In the last 6 months, you’re attention span has increased so that you will listen to much longer picture books.  We’ve even started reading fairy tale anthologies, one story at a time.  Recently, you thrilled me by reading tome.

You are most definitely a reader.  My hope for you, as you grow, is that you will enjoy a wide variety of texts, whether it be graphic novels, picture books, chapter books, or audio selections.  I hope that you enjoy some of the selections I send your way, but also develop relationships with characters of your own choosing, as I did with Laura Ingalls, Nancy Drew, the Wakefield twins, and that close-knit gang of babysitting friends.  I hope that in the next few years, we are able to continue our Special Time of reading at bedtime, expanding to chapter books that we are eager to return to in the evenings.

Sometimes hearing “Read this to me, Mommy!” for the 600th time in a day causes me to do an internal eye roll because, really, I need a Mommy Break.  But even so, I love that you want to be read to, and that our bookcase is overflowing with books that you actually use. I’m proud of that, and I’m proud of you.

Love,

Mommy/Mama/Mom

Dear Baby,

You are too tiny to have much of a reading history yet.  You do listen as stories are read to your sister, but you listen anytime you hear my voice, so that’s nothing new.  Maybe this is the start of your literacy journey.  Hearing a pleasant (why, thank you!) voice in connection to books will hopefully trigger a positive experience in your memory.  As you get older, I hope that we can share some of your sister’s favorite books a second time around.  I hope you will also smile over the antics of a silly puppy, and search for your favorite barn animals among the pages.

I’m looking forward to seeing you toddle over to the bookshelf (but not too soon, okay?) and developing your own interests.  Will you also be a Thomas fan?  Will you also want to read/watch Curious George ad nauseam?

You have a ways to go.  We’re not even at the book-chewing stage yet.  But when you get there, I’m sure we’ll find a whole new world of characters to explore.

Love,

The Lady Who Comes to Get You in the Middle of the Night (aka “Mommy”)

She Reads

Since Baby arrived, Preschooler and I have had a little less time reading her beloved books.  We still read right before her nap, and right before bed, but it has been harder to find the time to fit read aloud time during the day.  Her brother has been not only “hands-on”, as newborns are, but also a fussy hands-on.  Even while feeding, he likes his environment quiet, and my voice disturbs and distracts him.

So instead, we started reciting nursery rhymes and singing children’s songs, as these are things I can do while pacing around the living room, or rocking a fussy baby in our bedroom rocker.  As a result, she’s recently memorized many traditional rhymes.  She gets so excited when we then DO get around to reading from a selected book and these same rhymes are “IN MY BOOK, MOMMY!!! LOOK!  LIKE THE ONE WE SING WITH BABY!!”

One such book is Tracey Moroney’s Animal Songs.  This book contains The Owl and the Pussycat, Hey Diddle Diddle, Pop! Goes the Weasel, and Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear.  A few nights ago, while making dinner, I looked over to see her “reading” the book to herself.  I later convinced her to read it again so that I could share her accomplishment with the grandparents:

It’s quite obviously memorized “reading”, but the teacher in me was pleased to see her emerging literacy skills, namely:

  • reading from left to right and front to back
  • using the illustrations to guide her reading (in this case, when to turn the pages and when to begin/end each rhyme)

And the mom in me thinks she’s just plain ol’ stinkin’ cute.  She was so proud, and has watched the video over and over again, chanting along with her favorite reader.

Herself.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder, right?

I’ve had a hard time keeping up with this blog in recent weeks.

Why?

For awhile, just making it through the day with an active 2yo was (almost) more than I could handle.  By the time she went down for a nap, or was in bed for the night, I was too tired/cranky/sick to do anything but lie down myself.

Thankfully, that stage is past and I’m back to feeling like myself again (just a little bigger).  Hoping to get back in the blogging saddle again, but if I disappear for a couple days, forgive me, okay?

And now that that’s out, I’m asking for help.

Anybody have any good book suggestions for helping to prepare a 2yo for a new sibling?

I’m pretty sure we’re going to have to tell her sooner, or later.

Sing, Sing A Song

I’m not a fan of my own singing voice.  I’ve been told I sing pleasantly, but it’s something I’m very self-conscious about, and I just am not crazy about how it sounds to my own ears.  So for the last couple years, in situations where singing is expected, I just sing low enough to blend in.  Well, with the exception of singing in the car.  Cuz nobody can hear me when I sing by myself in the car, right?

This method has served me well until 2 years ago, when I became a parent.  My child loves music.  She always has.   While I was pregnant, she would have a dance party when I played music loud enough for her to hear.  When she was an infant, it was smiles and coos when I turned the radio on.  Then bops and wiggles as she began to stand and move on her own.

And most recently, she has begun singing herself.  This is cute in and of itself, but what I’ve really noticed is how music is advancing her language development.  When something with a strong 4-beat rhythm comes on, she announces, “March!” and begins stomping her feet.  She sings multiple verses of “The Wheels on the Bus”, complete with the appropriate motions that she has created.  In the past couple days, she has started requesting the ABCs, and the more we sing it, the more she letters she remembers and sings along with me.  Though her favorite part is still yelling , “TADA!” and throwing her hands up in the air when we finish.

It’s a reminder of not only how absorbent children are at this age, but also how diverse their learning styles are.  And a gentle nudge to me as a parent that I need to adapt to her learning style.  Even if I have to listen to my own voice.

Raising a Reader

I have the educational background.  I have the textbook learning, and the classroom experience.  I’ve taught everything from phonics programs, to guided reading, to learning how to take standardized tests.

But it’s most gratifying when I can take that information, apply it to my daily life as a stay-at-home-parent, and see the results.

Yesterday, I was feeling a little under the weather.  So I was doing what sick parents do when they have no choice other than to continue parenting…I was lounging on the floor of my daughter’s room and monitoring her play from my horizontal position.  She walked over to her bed, picked up her new Thomas the Tank Engine book, and announced, “Mama, read.”  So I prepared myself to put on my cheery reading voice, but she had other plans.  She settled herself on the floor next to me, opened the book, and read to me.

Okay, so it was garbled and mostly nonsensical, and I couldn’t exactly repeat the plot to you.  But there were key elements of early literacy present:

  • turning pages from front to back
  • changes in vocal inflections as she “read” the words on the page
  • using the images on the page to tell the story (demonstrated by inserting words she knew for certain images into the garble)

It makes me smile that books are among The Toddler’s favorite toys.  She keeps several at the end of her bed, and they are the first thing she plays with upon waking up in the morning, and the last thing she plays with before falling asleep at night.

So I guess I can say that I’m raising a reader.  Which is good.  Because I have a long list of books that she absolutely must read.

No pressure or anything.

Happy Birthday to Me (and a gift for you!)

Today marks another birthday for me.  It also, quite appropriately, happens to be International Children’s Book Day. From the International Board on Books for Young People website:

Since 1967, on or around Hans Christian Andersen’s birthday, 2 April, International Children’s Book Day (ICBD) is celebrated to inspire a love of reading and to call attention to children’s books.

So really, I was destined to be born on April 2nd, right?

I’ll be celebrating with family and friends this weekend, but you all are invited in on the fun, too.

In honor of my birthday and International Children’s Book Day, I have gift for you. I’m offering the chance to win your choice of one of the following two books.  Both these books are favorites of mine, and also happen to have been honored in a very important year:

Jumanji by Chris Van Allsburg (1982 Caldecott Honor Book)

or

Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary (1982 Newbery Honor Book)

I’m going to keep this super simple.  Leave a comment sharing your own favorite children’s book (can be classic or modern!).  That’s it!  Because I’ll be away from the computer for much of the weekend, I’ll leave comments open till 10:00pm EST on Sunday, April 3rd.  The winner will be announced on Monday.

Enjoy the party!