Thursday, July 31, 2008

Back To School! - Kindergarten

With fall fast approaching we'll be posting Grade - by - Grade (K - 5) review one each week as a resource for Parents. Each new grade your child will enter comes with fresh challenges and with parents support rich rewards. Here's some key changes to expect and how to best support school success!

Your child is entering a
bold new world. While exploratory play is essential to her development, you'll probably find kindergarten is more academically rigorous than it used to be. She may explore basic science by growing plants in paper cups. Her classroom may include a computer area where she'll explore educational software. She'll learn to identify colors and basic shapes. Perhaps most importantly, her social and emotional skills will develop. You may discover over the course of the year she is better able to listen to directions.

Sample subjects:

  • Counting
  • Rhyming
  • Creating and replicating patterns
  • Recognizing basic sight words

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Top 10 Ways to Raise a Lifelong Reader

  1. Read to or with your child every day, for at least 15 minutes, even when your child is old enough to read independently.
  2. Create reading rituals. Cuddle together in the same comfortable space at the same time every day for bedtime stories; read a chapter book aloud at the breakfast table; pick out new books every time you go on vacation.
  3. Keep a running conversation: Talk about books you are reading as you read them. Ask your child open-ended questions about the plot and the characters.
  4. Show your child that you're a reader. Kids are more likely to grow up loving to read if they see that you enjoy it too.
  5. Surround your child with words -- spoken and written -- from birth. Even the simplest everyday conversations build his vocabulary and sound-recognition skills. Frequent exposure to letters and print helps pre-readers learn the alphabet and recognize words by sight. Have fun with language: Sing songs, read rhymes, play word games.
  6. Get your child a library card and make a regular date for visits to the library.
  7. Make books available in every room of your home -- as well as your car -- so that reading can happen spontaneously.
  8. Feed a passion: Help your child find books, magazines, or other written materials that relate to a special interest or hobby.
  9. Limit "screen time" (TV, video games, and computer games) so that it does not cut into time better spent reading.
  10. Writing supports reading and vice versa. Provide crayons, pens, pencils, and paper and encourage your child to write. Anything will do: letters, shopping lists, journal entries, original stories, etc.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Babies & Young Children: Sharing Books & Talking Together

Sharing books with babies and young children is a great way of helping them learn to talk, and a wonderful opportunity to share a cuddle at the same time!

Babies love to communicate. They are born sociable and come into the world with a willingness to communicate and learn. Their experiences in their early years shape their future social, communication and learning skills. Books can be a great way of helping babies and their parents during this period of discovery.

Seventy-five percent of brain development occurs in the first two years of life and babies need stimulation and attention to make the most of this opportunity. This is not as daunting as it may first sound, as stimulation comes from simple, everyday activities such as talking, listening, singing and sharing books together.

A language-rich home helps a child to develop in many ways. Talking to babies helps them learn to listen and gives them the chance to respond and be listened to. Over time, their coos, babbles and smiles will move on to first words and sentences. Interaction helps this natural process along.

Storytelling and book-reading are an easy way to have regular, additional talking time. Storytelling introduces structure and language patterns that help form the building blocks for reading and writing skills. Reading aloud combines the benefits of talking, listening and storytelling within a single activity and gets parents talking regularly to young children.

Reading to children on a daily basis gives them the best start to life. It is never too early to start communicating.

Tips For Parents
  • If you are at home, find a quiet place and turn off the TV or radio. This will help your children to listen without distraction.
  • There are many talking time opportunities throughout the day and reading can be a regular part of this. Try and keep a book in your bag at all times. Reading together can help a long journey or waiting time pass quickly and enjoyably.
  • Your baby will recognize and enjoy the sound of your voice. At times of distress, reading can be very calming, particularly when your voice is coupled with his favorite book or character.
  • Be slow and clear when you read and don't be afraid to use sing-song or funny voices for characters, or for words or phrases that are repeated throughout the book. After reading a book several times, your baby will anticipate hearing the change in tone and may well show this with a smile, widening of the eyes or a wiggle.
  • Don't be embarrassed or shy about using different voices or tones. Your baby will be an enchanted audience.
  • You could use props, such as puppets or his favorite cuddly toy, to help bring the words alive and add actions to your words. It all adds to the appeal of spending talking time together.
  • Give your child time to respond to your chatter. This could be with a babble, arm waving or gentle finger movement. Listening shows how interested you are in hearing what he has to say and encourages him in his natural discovery of communication.
  • Don't put pressure on your child to name pictures or objects, but if he follows your words, praise him and say the words again.
  • Don't read for too long. Young children get bored easily, so little and often is best. Try regular bedtime or bathtime story sessions.
  • It's good to share favorite books again and again. Repetition helps children to understand and remember the language they hear.
  • Remember you are not teaching your child to read. You learn to talk a long time before you learn to read, and book sharing is a wonderful way to help your children's language development.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Help Your Child Remember What He Has Read

Help your child retain what he reads -- a crucial skill, especially as he gets older and needs to glean important information from textbooks.

1. Have him read aloud

This forces him to go slower, which gives him more time to process what he reads. Plus, he's not only seeing the words, he's hearing them, too. You can also take turns reading aloud.

2. Provide the right kinds of books

Make sure your child gets lots of practice reading books that aren't too hard. He should recognize at least 90 percent of the words without any help. Stopping any more often than that to figure out a word makes it tough for her to focus on the overall meaning of the story.

3. Reread to build fluency

To gain meaning from text, your child needs to read quickly and smoothly -- a skill known as fluency. By the end of 2nd grade, for example, your child should be able to read 90 words a minute. Rereading familiar, simple books gives your child practice at decoding words quickly, so she'll become more fluent.

4. Talk to the teacher

If your child is struggling mightily with comprehension, he may need more help with his reading -- for example, building his vocabulary or practicing phonics skills.

5. Supplement class reading

If your child's class is studying a particular theme, look for easy-to-read books or magazines on the topic. Some prior knowledge will help him make his way through tougher classroom texts.

6. Talk about what he's reading

This "verbal processing" helps him remember and think through the themes of the book. Ask questions before, during, and after a reading session. For example:

Before: "What are you interested in about this book? What doesn't interest you?"

During: "What's going on in the book? Is it turning out the way you thought it would? What do you think will happen next?"

After: "Can you summarize the book? What did you like about it? What other books does it remind you of?

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Feed Me A Story!

Does It Really Matter
If I Read To My Child Every Day?

Yes, if daily reading for 30 minutes a day begins at birth, by the time the child is 5 years old, he or she has been fed roughly 900 hours of brain food!

Reduce that to just 30 minutes a week,and the child enters kindergarten with just 130 hours. The child’s hungry mind loses over 770 hours of nursery rhymes, songs, and stories.

No teacher,
no matter how talented, can make up for those lost hours of mental nourishment.You want me to read to my child for 30 minutes a day. How in the world can I do that? I don’t have time!

The good news is
that much of what you already do every day can be brain food. See below for good ideas on how to fit your child’s 30 minutes in every day.

Source: U.S. Department of Education, America Reads Challenge, Start Early, Finish Strong: How to Help Every Child Become a Reader. For more information,

30 minutes of
brain food everyday!

The thought of reading to your child for 30 minutes can feel overwhelming. But “reading” for infants and small children involves talking, singing, naming telling stories out loud as well as reading books. Here’s how to fit it all in:

In the morning…
Sing a good morning song to your child------------------------ 1 minute
Talk about the clothes that your child will wear----------------- 2 minutes
“Read” a thermometer to see what the temperature is -------- 1 minute
Play “This Little Piggy” while putting on socks------------------ 1 minute
Name parts of your body or things in the room ---------------- 1 minute
Read the cereal box (milk carton, etc.) at breakfast ----------- 2 minutes
Think of all the words that rhyme with “milk” or “egg” --------- 2 minutes
Read the bus schedule/school schedule to get information--- 1 minute
------------------------------------------------------------TOTAL 11 minutes

During the day…
Sing “Old MacDonald” while walking to school ---------------- 2 minutes
Read all of the store and street signs on the way to school -- 5 minutes
Bring a book to read while riding on the bus ------------------- 3 minutes
Ask your child’s teacher/caregiver to read to your child ------ 5 minutes
------------------------------------------------------------TOTAL 15 minutes

In the evening…
Read the TV Guide to find out when your shows are on ----- 1 minute
Cuddle with your child and point at the pictures in a book ---- 2 minutes
Sing a lullaby to your child at bedtime---------------------------- 1 minute
------------------------------------------------------------TOTAL 4 minutes

This gives you a total of 30 minutes of reading activities a day!

Other ideas:
• Tell your child about what it was like when you were little
• Make up a story about a bunny who loves to make friends
• Have your child “read” a book to you

Source: Annie Atwood, Middletown Even Start, Middletown, CT.