Thursday, November 27, 2014

Early Literacy in Everyday Places: Church

Taking little kids to church can sometimes be a challenge unto itself, but for some kids finding ways to be involved in the Mass or service cuts down on the behavior problems boredom and having to sit still can sometimes create. The following are suggestions for using literacy activities to engage your child in church!
  • Let babies watch your mouth during responses and hymns. When my daughter was around five or six months old, she suddenly became very interested not just in the sounds I made but in how my mouth would move as I made them. During Mass, whenever there was a congregational response I would turn her around to face me and often she would just fixate on my mouth, watching each subtle motion. While I was mainly doing this for entertainment purposes, it turns out that lip reading is actually a key part of language development! 
  • Provide a kid-friendly copy of readings/books. When I was a kid, my parish provided a children's bulletin every week that included activities related to the readings for that day. I don't like kids to have non-religious books or toys in church because it takes away from the solemn tone of the experience, but having kid-friendly books with bright illustrations and simple vocabulary that show the child what is happening at each point in the Mass help them follow along and give them an understanding of one of the practical applications of reading skills. 
  • Sing along. Singing is a key practice for helping kids acquire early literacy skills, and church is a great place to do it! Older kids who are starting to read will especially enjoy being able to look at the music and follow along, watching as the notes break up the words into their smaller parts. Music also makes it easier to memorize certain prayers and Bible passages, so if you're looking to teach those to your kids, the hymns they hear in church will be helpful in that way as well.  
  • Take time afterwards to read plaques and other displayed pieces of print. Churches are full of little bits of print - the Stations of the Cross in my childhood church featured simple labels explaining what was happening in each wood-carved image. Some churches have lists of donors on the wall, or of past priests and ministers. Taking some quiet time when the Mass or service is over to explore these signs and plaques is a great way to reinforce print awareness and to learn a little something about your church's history.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Easy Reader Review: Inch and Roly and the Sunny Day Scare by Melissa Wiley (Cybils Nominee)

Inch and Roly and
the Sunny Day Scare

by Melissa Wiley
2014. Simon & Schuster
ISBN: 9781442490727
In the third book of the Inch & Roly series Inch, Roly, and their friends are intrigued and troubled by something mysterious lying in the grass. Each one's theory is scarier than the last, until brave Roly pieces the clues together and discovers there was nothing to be afraid of after all.

The wonderful thing about this book is that it does absolutely everything right. Here's my list of what makes Inch and Roly and the Sunny Day Surprise a perfect easy reader:
  • The story is simple, but clever. 
    Writing a simple story is easy, but writing a simple story which is surprising, interesting, and funny takes special talent. This book uses very few words, but the story is entertaining even to the adult reader helping the beginner.
  • The story has an effective structure. Wiley introduces the story's key problem - discovering what that thing in the grass actually is - then systematically works through it, giving each character an opportunity to chime in. The reader can't possibly get lost because there is a clear beginning, middle, and end. For new readers just mastering story structure, this is hugely important.  
  • It uses repetition without becoming boring.
    Within the structure of this book, certain phrases and sentences structures repeat themselves. This is important for supporting new readers, and it's so satisfying to see repetition used in a way that feels fresh and not redundant.
  • The dialogue is properly punctuated and very clearly tagged.There is never any doubt as to who is speaking, and the dialogue actually helps carry the story and keeps it from becoming weighed down in a lot of exposition details. This makes the cast of characters very easy to manage, even for a new reader who is also juggling decoding and comprehension efforts at the same time. 
  • It empowers the reader.  The reader can easily identify the mystery object in advance of the bugs, which both boosts his or her confidence and gives him or her an impetus to keep reading to see how the bugs eventually figure it out, too. 
  • Its message is subtle, but not obscure.This book provides subtle instructions for dealing with fear of the unknown and overcoming fears. The message is never stated outright; rather, it is demonstrated by the characters' actions and left for the reader to interpret for herself.  
  • The illustrations perfectly complement the text.The cartoonish pictures not only evoke the lighthearted mood of the text, but they also provide much-needed visual cues that help with decoding and exposition. The reader can know the characters instantly from looking at them, which allows them to dive right into the events of the plot.
  • There is a funny twist at the end. Kids love surprises that make them laugh. While this book is not laugh-out-loud funny, it is clever and the youngest readers will be pleased at the way the bugs react to their discovery. 
  • Kids can identify with each character. Wiley makes it easy for kids to identify with the characters who are fearful of the unknown object and with the brave Roly who faces it head-on and solves the mystery.  
  • No prior knowledge of the series is required.It can be so frustrating for young readers  when they find a book at the library that they want to borrow and then find out they can't really understand it without reading the first book, which is inevitably checked out. It's so refreshing to have a series where you can pick up any volume and just start reading.
I borrowed Inch and Roly and the Sunny Day Scare from my local public library.

For more about this book, visit Goodreads and Worldcat.

NOTE: This book was nominated by Mary Machado for the 2014 Cybils Awards in the Easy Reader/Early Chapter Book category. I am the organizer and a first-round panelist in this category, but this review reflects my opinions only, not those of any other panelist, or the panel as a whole. Thanks!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Moms Club Story Time, 11/9/14

My November story time for my Moms Club was held in one of the local public libraries, which has a Discovery Room. This is an early literacy area for use by children up to age 8 and their caregivers. We did our story time in the first half or our allotted hour and played with the toys during the second half. (Note: It would not be my first choice to hold story time in a room with toys freely available, but there are few free public spaces available, so I make do. Interestingly, Little Miss Muffet (my daughter, then 11 months) was the only child who was distracted by toys the entire time.

Hello Song: Say Hello to Your Toes

Song: If You’d Like to Read a Book

Book: The Grumpalump by Sarah Hayes
This is still one of my favorites. Everyone - two year olds and babies alike - was into it.

Song: Row Row Row Your Boat

Song: Way Up in the Sky

Book: The Bridge is Up by Babs Bell

Song: My Hands Go Up Up Up
I rewrote Here We Go Up Up Up to make it more suitable for the babies who can't stand yet. Here are the new words:

My hands go up, up, up
My hands go down, down, down
My hands go clap, clap, clap
My hands turn round and round

Flannel Board Rhyme: Seven Snazzy Aunties
I love this poem, but I think I am the only one in the world. I might have to retire it from future use.

Song: The Wheels on the Bus

Book: Toot Toot Beep Beep by Emma Garcia
I had hoped for more audience participation on this one. I probably should have put it earlier in the lineup.

Rhyme: This is Big, Big, Big

Songs: Twinkle Twinkle Little Star / ABCs

Story Time in the Park (MOMS Club), 10/9/14

I'm a little behind in posting story time plans, but it is still technically Fall, so this one is still fairly timely! After the success of my September story time, I decided to return to the park for one more before the weather got too cold. Unfortunately, the pavilion that we used in September was unexpectedly occupied by a local group of senior citizens who were performing aerobics when we arrived, so with no other options readily available, we decided to move to the tennis court. The group was larger than in September - probably 8 moms and a dozen kids or so - and the tennis court proved to be a tricky place to keep toddlers from running all over the place, but even so, we had a nice time.

Hello Song: Say Hello to Your Toes

Song:  If You’d Like to Read a Book

Book:  Fall Leaves Fall by Zoe Hall 

Song:  Autumn Leaves
I made a few minor alterations to this song which I assumed was to be sung to the tune of Mary Wore Her Red Dress. I changed orange to red to make the syllables fit the rhythm and I changed "in the wind" to "all around" to preserve the rhyme scheme. I also left out the laying verse because I just didn't like it.

Book: The Busy Little Squirrel by Nancy Tafuri

Song: Brown Squirrel 
I have never felt so ridiculous swooshing my bushy tail. It's a lot harder to look silly in front of mom friends than it is in front of random story time moms!

Book: A Good Day by Kevin Henkes

Song: Five Little Pumpkins Round
I used a homemade handheld flannel board for this song, and changed each pumpkin to a person's face as they were purchased and carried off to bake a pie.

Rhyme: This is Big, Big, Big

Songs with Ukulele:  ABCs / Twinkle Twinkle Little Star / Baa Baa Black Sheep