Literacy skills: practicing without practice

The following post is by contributor Robin Zipporah of Not-Ever-Still.

My sweet kindergarten girl is a beginning reader. She can read almost anything, slowly, as long as she doesn’t get frustrated or lose patience. Her handwriting is the same – it’s quite good, really, but sometimes when she’s tired or hurrying she still transposes those Bs and Ds or draws a backwards 9.

She’s like many smart kids, I think – she’s quite capable but she has perfectionist tendencies and because she is bright, she’s not accustomed enough to confronting challenge. Put those two qualities together, and sometimes she gives up entirely too easily. She wants help or declares her disinterest in favor of coloring or another activity.

So I’ve been intentionally building in little bits of reading and writing practice into our regular daily activities…without, you know, really drawing attention to the fact that we’re practicing anything. They aren’t drastic and they don’t take too much time; mostly they’re little ways of changing our routines. And as a bonus, they’re so much more than reading and writing activities – they’re fostering self-sufficiency and confidence in my girl.

Here are a few of my favorites:

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Our Unsung Favorite: Carry Me

I have to confess to you all that when I asked for your favorite “unsung” children’s literature suggestions, I never could have anticipated such an overwhelming response!  You all showed up with more than ninety replies and oodles of book recommendations.  What an absolute delight!

It makes me feel a bit intimidated to share a favorite from our home library, knowing there are so many reading who have a depth of insight into children’s literature that far surpasses my own.  A promise is a promise, however, so I’ll take a moment to share.

carrymeYou and your children may already be familiar with Rosemary Wells, the author and illustrator of the Max and Ruby series.  Last spring, my oldest daughter went through a prolonged phase of choosing only Max and Ruby books at each library trip.  One day, we were browsing through the books by Ms. Wells and happened upon Carry Me.  It’s not a Max and Ruby book, but it does include a bunny family, so my skeptical daughter agreed to add it to our stack.  Both of us were absolutely enchanted by this short, sweet book of simple poetry and lush illustrations.

The first poem is called “Carry Me” and tells of all the ways Little Bunny wants his mommy and daddy to include him in their days.  “Carry me up the stairs and down, Hold me while you get dressed for town” and “Carry me over to hear the bees, stuff my pockets with early peas” are some of my favorite lines from this section. 

The next short poem is called “Talk To Me” and it lyrically illustrates the many ways we as parents can include our littlest ones in the conversation all day long.  “Green apple, sour.  Red apple, sweet.  How many shoes are on my feet?”  This section was the first that my daughter and I memorized and we still recite it together from time to time.

The final section is “Sing To Me” and Wells shares the simplest and sweetest poems for each season.  Each season has its own song and shimmery, silvery illustrations to lead little imaginations to think far beyond the text of each poem.

If you get the chance to check this one out from the library or to add it to your home library, I lovingly recommend it.  It truly embodies the philosophy of Simple Kids – utterly uncomplicated and completely charming. 

As promised, one of the commenters has been selected to receive a copy of Carry Me from my girls and I.  The randomly selected commenter is Sherri of Serene Journey!  Her recommended favorite is Good Night Gorilla by Peggy Rathman which looks to be something my younger daughter would absolutely adore.

Now, friends of Simple Kids, I have a favor to ask.  Several of you have mentioned that the books suggested on that post could prove to be such a valuable resource for our community, and wouldn’t it be wonderful if they were organized by recommended reading age?  I wholeheartedly agree!  As I am acutely aware of my own limitations, this is a project that would be quite an undertaking on my own.  Are there a couple of you who might volunteer to partner with me in this task?  The more who volunteer, the less time it should take for us to organize the list.  If you are interested in helping, please let me know via comment on this post or through email (simplekidsblog at gmail dot com).

Happy reading!

Creating Enthusiasm for Books Beyond Reading

reading3Many parents know that reading to a child for just fifteen minutes a day builds strong pre-literacy skills.  Study after study provides resounding evidence that reading aloud to even the youngest children (including and especially pre-verbal babies) lays the groundwork for a strong sense of language mastery.

In the article “Setting the stage for a lifetime in love with language,” Professor Janette Pelletier of the University of Toronto states

“Oral language sets the stage for literacy when children are encouraged to pay attention to the sounds of language – rhythm, rhyme, syllables, sounds within words, letter-sounds and, of course, vocabulary.”

We also know that young children learn best through concrete approaches to learning as they have not yet developed the cognition skills needed to fully grasp abstract concepts.  (Read more on Piaget’s theory on cognitive development here.)

How can parents make the reading experience more concrete? 

Here are a few fun and simple ideas:

* Grab an old sock or a paper lunch bag and create a puppet character based on a child’s favorite  book
* Encourage a preschooler or older child to paint or draw a scene from a book
* Use objects around the house to create a touchable, lovable version of a book character.  This might end up being a baby’s preferred snuggle buddy or a preschooler’s first sewing project.  (Perhaps you’ll find inspiration in sweet book buddy creations like Tillie the Turtle from the sharyn’screations shop at etsy.)
* Find aspects of book’s setting that can be touched, smelled, tasted, seen, or listened to.  Little ones can dig their hands into a bucket of sand to understand what a beach would feel like or a whiff of vanilla extract might help them experience how a bakery might smell.
* Explore the tastes of a book by recreating the food featured in a favorite story.  The  Children’s Literature theme week for Muffin Tin Monday (hosted by Her Cup Overfloweth) showcases some brilliant examples of this idea.   The Very Hungry Caterpillar version created by The Masked Mommy provides sumptuous inspiration for creating an edible version of a child’s favorite book.

What are some other ways to make the reading experience more concrete and tangible for our little ones?

Photo by apdk