Sunday, April 6, 2014

Take the 1-minute checklist: Is My Home a Literacy-Rich Environment?

A “literacy-rich environment” is one that provides children with easy access to interact with a variety of printed and writing materials. These materials may include such things as books, magazines, crayons, paper, signs, pencils, or word labels. Having a literacy-rich home brings your child one step closer to becoming ready to read! Today I'm sharing a quick checklist of features of a literacy-rich environment that can help you to evaluate your own home. 

“Children with access to books and to quality reading experiences in their homes have more rapid language & literacy development compared with children without such advantages, and they are more able to enter school ready to learn. And although early childhood educational programs can do much to help children develop strong language and literacy skills, there is little substitute for the power of children’s rich, positive, frequent experiences with books with their homes under the sensitive guidance of a parent.”– quote from Shared Storybook Ready: Building Young Children’s Language & Emergent Literacy Skills by Helen K Ezell & Laura M. Justice.


Complete this quick checklist of features of a literacy-rich environment 
to help evaluate your home:

___ My home includes a variety of books that are easily accessible to my children (that is, placed on easy to reach bookshelves, or in bins on the floor, etc).

___ My home includes a variety of other printed materials (for example, card games, newspapers, magazines, notes, informative labels).

___ My home contains writing tools that are easily accessible to my children (for example, pens, pencils, crayons, markers, paper, journals).

___ There are numbers throughout my home that are in my children’s view (on clocks, thermostats, calculators, calendars, money).

___ There are areas in my home designated for reading (for example, a comfy chair with a light or a “book nook”).

___ There are areas in my home designated for writing (for example, a playroom with a kid sized table, a desk with paper and pencils, or a night stand with a journal).

___ The play spaces in my home promote literacy skills (for example, having a cookbook in a child’s kitchen area, or a notepad and pencil with a doctor’s set).

___ My children often see the adults in the home engaged in reading and writing activities (for example, reading a magazine or writing a shopping list).

___ We have a specific time set aside for reading and writing activities (for example, writing or drawing in a journal before bed, or reading stories before dinner every night).

How do you measure up?

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Monday, March 31, 2014

Using Process Art and Children's Books about Art to Promote Language and Early Literacy Skills in Preschoolers

Process art allows children to create, explore, problem solve, and express their feelings in a child-centered environment. With process art, children's creativity can flourish and their creations are as unique as themselves. Engaging children in process art activities is a wonderful opportunity for children to enhance a number of skills including language and early literacy. Today I'm sharing some fun art books that will spark your child's interest in creating his own masterpiece, and I'm offering a few suggestions that will promote their learning. 

My daughter's preschool happened to be celebrating art this week, and she learned about famous artists and the techniques they used. She was super eager to learn more on this topic, so we checked out a bunch of art books from our local library. We found several good books, and even a few that were appropriate for baby brother. These books provided a perfect opportunity to not only talk about the different artists and their paintings, but it introduced many new vocabulary words for her such as canvas, abstract, modern, impressionist, surrealist, contemporary, sculpture, portrait, landscape (the list goes on).

Great Books About Art for Kids (click on picture to be taken to Amazon)

  • MOMA Art Basics for Kids by Phillip Yenawine

  • Touch the Art Series by Julie Appel (great for babies and toddlers)

Speaking of Art: Colorful Quotes by Famous Painters edited by Bob Raczka

Art for Baby (great for newborns)

These books about art are wonderful conversation starters, too! Here are a few prompts that you might consider using with your child:

  • What do you think this piece of artwork is named and why?
  • What technique do you think the artist used?
  • What do you think the artist was feeling when he or she created the artwork?
  • What do you like/not like about this artwork, and why?
  • When you look at this piece of artwork, how does it make you feel?
  • If you could meet this artist, what would you want to ask him or her?
  • Tell me what you see in this piece of art. Is there any unusual or surprising?

An Example of Process Art

Using our library books as inspiration, I asked my daughter what technique and tools she would like to use to create a piece of unique art. She wanted to paint, so painting it was! She selected white paper, wrapping paper, a plastic spoon, ribbon, chalk, water, and a paper towel to make her masterpiece. Baby brother got in on the action, too! Process art is a neat sensory experience for babies and toddlers. 

Our process art space

Painting with ribbon

Painting with wrapping paper

The finished art displayed on the wall with clipboards

Other examples of process art might include: easel painting, bead stringing, drawing with markers or crayons, stamping, sculpting with play dough or clay, or finger painting.

More on Process Art: What is it and how do you do it?

Process art is a way to foster creativity in young children by providing them with an open-ended art activity. With process art there is no "correct" way to create, there are no models to follow, and no step-by-step procedure. The child is given the freedom to explore various materials (sometimes of their choice) to create artwork that is original and all their own!

Process art can be relaxing for many children as they express their feelings and ideas through art.You might consider playing music in the background as your child works. Encourage your child's ideas and offer gentle support if needed, but try to be as "hands off" as possible! Allow your child to explore new ways of using various tools. If your child feels discouraged in any way, reassure him that there's not right or wrong way to create his art.

Your child will hopefully feel a sense of accomplishment through process art. Since there is no example to follow, no patterns to cut out, and no mistakes to make - children often feel successful at the end of a process art session.

Promoting Language and Literacy Skills Using Process Art 

For added skill building with process art, consider asking your child if he would like to discuss his artwork. 
  • What technique did he use?
  • What materials worked well and what didn't?
  • Did he use any of the materials in a new and interesting way?
  • How did he create ______ (e.g., that yellow spot)?
  • What name would he give his art?
  • Was his art process similar to any famous artists that he learned about in the books? 
Often process art uses fine motor skills that help strengthen the muscles used in writing, but you may want to ask your child if he would like to sign his art or add print to it. 

Using the books on art that you read together, try reviewing the vocabulary words as you discuss your child's art. For example, point to the word canvas and say, "This is the word canvas that we learned with this book. Did you use a canvas for your artwork? Why not?" 

More Art Books

If you are looking for more inspiring books about art, here are a couple lists from Delightful Children's Books blog.

Other posts about Art or Creativity

Be sure to check out a few of my other posts:

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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Tips for Reading to Babies + 25 Book Recommendations

Reading with your baby is one of the most important things you can do together! It enhances your child's language skills by being exposed to a variety of words and new vocabulary, it helps you to bond with your baby, and it builds a foundation of literacy skills that can influence his success as a reader. Today I'm sharing my best tips for reading with your baby along with 25 of my favorite books for the littlest learners. Any (or all) of these books would be a great addition to a home library or gift for someone expecting.

Read Aloud Tips with Babies

  •          Consider buying cloth books or "board" books. Books that you begin reading early in your child's life will undoubtedly become some of his favorites that you will be reading over and over, and they will need to last awhile.  Plus, once he learns how to reach for books and handle them on his own, they will become his favorite snack. 
  •          Select books that have bright, high contrast colors, or interesting photographs (especially of faces) – all of which babies enjoy looking at.
  •          Be sensitive to your baby’s cues. If he starts to cry, that may mean that he's not into story time, even though you are.  If he looks away, it may be a cue that he's being overstimulated. Try to understand his needs and respond appropriately.
  •          Read and repeat! Children enjoy and learn through repetition and it helps boost memory, so don’t be afraid to read the same books over and over again.
  •          Choose books or poetry that have a nice rhythm, or rhyme – which help to bring a baby’s attention to the different sounds in words.
  •          Make reading fun and enjoyable by cuddling, making facial expressions, and varying your intonation. A love of reading is built on pleasurable experiences!

25 Great Books for Reading to Your Baby

  Baby Love (gift set) by Helen Oxenbury

Barnyard Banter by Denise Fleming

 Big Red Barn by Margaret Wise Brown

Butterfly Kisses by Sandra Magsamen

Black on White by Tana Hoban

Brown Bear, Brown Bear by Bill Martin, Jr.

Counting Kisses by Karen Katz

Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell

Five Little Monkeys by Eileen Christelow

  Freight Train by Donald Crews

Goodnight, Gorilla by Peggy Rathman

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown

Huggy Kissy by Leslie Patricelli

Jamberry by Bruce Degen

  Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle

Moo, Baa, La La La! by Sandra Boynton

My Baby & Me by Lynn Reiser

  Peek-A-Moo by Marie Torres Cimarusti

Peek-a Who? by Nina Laden

Piggies by Don and Audrey Wood

Ten, Nine, Eight by Molly Bang

The Everything Book by Denise Fleming

  The Real Mother Goose by Blanche Fisher Wright

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