Monthly Activity Calendar

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Celebrating Thanksgiving with Books

Today’s blog was written by one of our very own children’s storytellers: Miss Alex. You’ll find Miss Alex sharing stories with children of all ages as well as creating wonderful children’s programs at a couple of our branches.

This week, I am thankful to be a children’s librarian. I got to get hoarse reading Holler Loudly by Cynthia Leitich-Smith to a group of 49 kids and get peaceful reading Julie Flett’s Wild Berries to a smaller group. I chose these activities to promote literacy around 51tDYvMpZML._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_Thanksgiving because, as Debbie Reese suggests (2014), “for very young kids, I’d stay away from historical contexts and focus on Native people of the present.” There are links leaf_man_coverbelow to a few interesting reads if you want to explore this topic further. Since I am thankful for this opportunity to share my own post and for your attention as well, I will keep the rest short and sweet.

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During my November school visits, I was also blown away by how enthusiastically the kids practiced how to write thank you cards, and I was happy to crack a “Thank You” card joke similar to this quote. Laughing with the kids was a fantastic mood-booster in this time of sniffles and shorter days. 51fKqT-Ze5L._SX387_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

As we did in my storytimes, I also found it was great to focus on shared small joys like crunching on leaves as we walk outside or play pretend. I am sharing my story time handout on fall and winter as well, in case you feel like singing and reading, too. You are always invited to our library 6174fX8kYwL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_and our programs and always welcome to share your feedback and ideas.

Preschool Winter-Seasons Story Time Handout 1

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Constant creativity and encouragement are so important when working with kids. Thank you to my colleagues and students and to the parents, teachers, and others who may be reading for your infectious openness, curiosity, and support. I am going to follow this blog’s title and “laugh, play, read” all fall and winter, listen to my kids, look for gifts and resources from others, and share my own. Thank you.

Resources:

The Braid of Literacy

Reading. Singing. Talking. Playing. Writing. Together all of these actions can help children become skilled readers. Weaving these practices together vocabulary, phonological awareness, narrative skills, print motivation, print awareness, and letter knowledge are acquired.

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Strands of early literacy development. Reprinted from Connecting early language and literacy to later reading (dis)abilities: Evidence, theory, and practice, by H. S. Scarborough, in S. B. Newman & D. K. Dickinson (Eds.), 2002, Handbook of early literacy research, p. 98, Copyright 2002, New York, NY: Guilford Press.

We are going to get technical for just a minute, so bear with us. In 2002, literacy researcher Hollis Scarborough released a study dealing with the Braid of Literacy. In the study, Scarborough found literacy could be broken into two simple parts: Language Comprehension and Word Recognition. But more importantly, it is within these two parts that more complex things are at work. As you can see in the illustration, when all of the pieces and parts of literacy come together, they form a tightly woven braid. But it is only when they are working together.

That was too technical. But what does that all mean?

Let’s go back to reading, talking, singing, playing, and writing. When you read with your child or talk with your child, when you play and sing together, and when you write and let your child use a paper and pencil, you are weaving together these different parts of literacy.

Spend a few minutes each day trying to do at least two of these simple practices with your child.

School Readiness with SPARK

About four years ago, we introduced you to a new partnership with SPARK Ohio. The SPARK (Supporting Partnerships to Assure Ready Kids) program–an initiative started to ensure children and parents are ready for Kindergarten. The program is a collaboration between schools, families and the community in nine Ohio counties and almost 40 schools! In the last five years, we have expanded our role with SPARK to include three school districts, seven parent partners, and an office space for all parent partners in four school districts. As you can probably see, we are still very excited about this partnership!

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The program is grant-funded and operated through the Early Childhood Resource Center in Stark County. It is free and open to any family of a 3 or 4 year old (depending on the nature of the program) living within the boundaries of the school where it is “based.” A parent partner visits the home of each family at least once a month to work on learning goals ranging from letter knowledge to using scissors correctly. It could also include social, emotional, and behavioral skills like the child dressing themselves or doing an activity independently. It is all based on several assessments the parent and parent partner complete during the initial visits.

Once the assessments are complete, the parent partners begin visiting once a month to work on a specific story and extension activities. It is essential parents participate as the SPARK parent partner models these skills for parents to replicate on a daily basis. They begin with a story (which they will get to keep) and end with a series of extension activities that can and should be done throughout the month until the next visit. During the bulk of the lesson, they are working a variety of skills that are important for children to know prior to Kindergarten, such as literacy, counting, and fine motor skills.

SPARK’s goal is to help improve parents’ abilities to educate their children and help them become more engaged in the process as a family. 

The results speak for themselves: SPARK children score higher on state testing than children who were not in the program–even years after they graduate the program. By the end of the program, most children and parents show growth in all assessments. SPARK children show significant growth in areas like story recall, letter recognition, spelling, and applied problems. For more SPARK Results, click here.

The Stark County District Library provides parent partners in the Canton City School District, Plain Local School District, and Sandy Valley Schools. This year, nearly 300 children graduated from SPARK in Canton City, Plain Local, and Sandy Valley. We are so proud of our graduates! (In Stark County, you will also find SPARK in Perry Local Schools, Canton Local Schools, Massillon City School District, Minerva School District, and Alliance City Schools.)

If you have a child in preschool (or preschool-aged), visit SPARK’s website for more information to see if there is a program near you and how to enroll.

Just Write About It…

Writing is a very important skill for children to master. Writing involves creativity, comprehension, fine motor skills, sometimes the ability to follow directions, reading, and so much more. Writing is one of the five early literacy practices helping prepare children for school.

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Here is a simple activity you can do with your child to incorporate writing into your day.

  • Supplies:
    • Paper
    • Crayons, Markers, or other item for coloring
    • Pencil
    • A favorite book

For my example, we read the story Orange Bear Apple Pear by Emily Gravett. It is a simple story with four words: orange, bear, apple, pear. The author uses the words in fun ways through her illustrations.

Image result for orange bear apple pearAfter we read the story, I asked my group of children to think of four words. They could use any four words. When they had a little trouble thinking of words, I asked them to name their favorite color, fruit, and animal.

We moved to the table. I gave them each a large piece of paper, and I told them to use their four words to write a story and draw a picture to go with it.

The most important part of this activity was letting the children be creative and work on their own. The hardest part of this activity was letting the children be creative and work on their own. Yes, you read that correctly. As adults, we have a tendency to want to make our children’s work perfect or help them the entire way. For this project, it’s important to let them figure it out on their own. Let them sound out the words and “kid spell.” Let them draw an animal the way they “see” it.

We did this with a mixture of age groups from 3 to 8 years old.

This mixes a little bit of process art (letting them create on their own) with a little bit of product art (there’s a specific end result with a few instructions). You will be surprised what your child comes up with!