In “Down by the Barn” by Will Hillenbrand, a dog happily drives a clunky blue tractor around a farm. Hitched to the tractor are two wagons, which the dog uses to collect a scarecrow and an array of baby farm animals. When the wagons are packed full of critters, the dog makes a stop at a school bus full of excited children. The story ends on a sweet note, with the scarecrow reading a book aloud, sharing a story with all of the children and animals.
The text is simple and contains repetitive phrases (Puff puff, clank, clank, moo, moo, and OFF WE GO!), adding new sounds to the end of each phrase as baby animals hop into the wagon. “Down By the Barn” is bursting with cheery art and onomatopoeic text that begs to be orated by all, making it a wonderful read aloud.
Have you ever taken a song and added your own words? Jane Cabrera does this with “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.” As her characters row down the stream, they spot a variety of animals, each making a noise. Have your child make the noise, too. Animal noises are a fun way to practice sounds. This is an early literacy skill—something that lays a foundation for reading readiness.
Children love to move. You and your child could sit on the floor, bottoms of your feet touching the bottoms of his feet. Hold hands and gently pull back and forth as you “row” and sing the song.
Your child could act out the story by pretending that a box or a laundry basket is a boat. Does she have some stuffed animals she could set beside the “boat” and tell her own story? This activity helps with narrative skills and reading comprehension.
There are many, many things that I dearly love about working in a library, about providing children’s services and that absolutely thrill me about my decision to pursue my post-graduate education in library science. But people telling me…
“That’s what Google is for.”
“Nothing relevant is even in print form anymore; even books can be digital.”
“Once everyone owns a Kindle no one will even go to the library.”
“You chose, like, the Latin of professions.”
…are DEFINITELY NOT among those many, many things. (Don’t even get me started on, “You need a degree for that?”)
Because the truth is, libraries are not just giant warehouses full of musty, dated books, just like librarians are not brittle, grumpy ladies who wear ugly cardigans and cat-eye glasses on chains and shush you from on high through lipstick-stained teeth. (We are really more ChapStick people.) Continue reading →
Who is your favorite hero? Detective? Adventurer? As readers, we often become attached to characters and follow them from story to story. Following a narrative or story is not only an important early literacy skill, but it also increases a child’s motivation to read similar stories. In her Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling created characters so likable and interesting that children (and adults!) enjoy following their stories from book to book. Would these books have been so successful if people didn’t care what happened next to Harry, Ron and Hermione?
Many of us can still remember the literary characters that first became our favorites. I loved Berenstain Bears. What lesson would Brother and Sister need to learn next? My brother latched onto the Peanuts characters and Garfield at an early age. And while all of these characters are still around today, children are continuing to find new favorites. I love how kids light up when they see Pigeon decorating the walls on Bookmobile, Jr. Which books did they read with Pigeon to make them so excited? “Pigeon Wants a Puppy”? “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus”?
Encourage your child to invest in favorite characters and follow their continuing adventures in different books. A child with strong literacy skills should be able to talk about what happened in the beginning, middle and end of a book. If your child shows a fascination with a particular character, then he or she will likely be more motivated to remember what happens in a story. Ask your child to recall specific details or retell the story when finished. “What color was the bus?” “What happened at the end of the story?” Continue reading →
When I was little, I hated to go to bed. I think bedtime stories were read every night without fail not just because my parents were big readers, but also because they had calculated I needed approximately 2.25 hours to be tricked into going to sleep. While I have only the fondest memories of “Corduroy” and “Madeline,” my favorite bedtime ritual was actually a kind of game my father and I began to play together.
Dad would ask me what had happened while he had been at work that day. Some nights I was very creative.
“Well, when we all woke up, we decided it would be fun to go to Disney World. So we did. We got on a plane, and Alex was scared, but I was not. Then we met Mickey and rode everything three times! Then we decided we wanted to take a train back to Kirksville because it was time for naps, so we did…”
Some nights I took the job more seriously and regaled my father with a more truthful, (painfully) detailed account. “First, I woke up. I had cereal for breakfast. It was Lucky Charms. I don’t remember what Alex ate. I was still been wearing my pink nightgown…Daddy, you know which pink nightgown! My favorite pink nightgown that I wear when I play ballerina…”
My father is a patient man.
But what I did not realize at the time – especially as I had not yet been on a plane, a train or to Disney World – was that I was learning to tell a story. And what can 3- to 5-year-olds talk about better than themselves, their daily activities and things they want to do? Continue reading →