October Monthly Calendar

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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.

Kindergarten Readiness Checklist

It’s Kindergarten registration time! Each year around this time, schools set aside special times to have parents and children register for Kindergarten. Sometimes there is a special program attached to the registration day. Sometimes children get a tour of the school or get to meet the teacher. Sometimes there are also health and academic screenings offered during the day.

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Regardless of what your school offers for Kindergarten registration, it is important to make sure your child is on track and ready for school. Last year, we wrote about this same subject. You can check out that post here.

The Ohio Department of Education has put together a great little checklist of social, emotional, and physical skills you and your child can work on together to help get them ready for school and ready to learn!

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!

Letter Knowledge: ABCs

Parents and caregivers make the difference by just modeling the importance of reading, surrounding children with books, and engaging in the learning process. By doing these simple things, children have a better chance at succeeding in school and throughout each aspect of their lives. Today, we wrap up our series on the six literacy skills and strategies you can use to practice each skill at home with your family.

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Our final topic is LETTER KNOWLEDGE, or knowing the ABCs:

  • Make finding letters and sounds fun.
  • Play spelling games.
  • Use materials like magnetic letters, sand and glue, stamps, flashcards and stickers to practice spelling.
  • Explain what is the “same” and “different” between objects.
  • Read alphabet books with clear letters and pictures.

As children begin to learn the letters of the alphabet, it is also important they learn to identify shapes, colors, and numbers. Our letters are made up of many different shapes–the capital A has a triangle, the lower case d has a circle, the s looks like a snake. Many of our letters have similarities, but they also have big differences. When children learn these concepts, it makes identifying letters easier. Remember, you can use almost any book to teach letter knowledge. It doesn’t have to be a book strictly about the ABCs.

Here are some great books your child will love reading:

Sue MacDonald Had a Book by Jim Tobin
If Rocks Could Sing by Leslie McGuirk
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin
A You’re Adorable by Martha Alexander
Alphabet Under Construction by Denise Fleming

Narrative Skills: Storytelling

Parents and caregivers make the difference by just modeling the importance of reading, surrounding children with books, and engaging in the learning process. By doing these simple things, children have a better chance at succeeding in school and throughout each aspect of their lives. For the next couple of weeks, we will be posting the six literacy skills and strategies you can use to practice each skill at home with your family.

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Today’s topic is NARRATIVE SKILLS, or the ability to tell stories:

  • Tell your child stories, real or make-believe, written in a book or not.
  • Read favorite books again and again and again.
  • Encourage interaction by asking “What” or “Why” questions and create real life connections to the story.
  • Ask your child to tell you something that happened today–and don’t settle for “nothing.”

Storytelling is a very important skill. It helps with imagination and creativity. It can help your child remember a lesson from social studies or science. Learning about the Constitution or Declaration of Independence? Create a story using the events that happened in the time periods to help remember the information better. Learning about the water cycle? Make up a story or song about a cloud and a water droplet. This is also an important skill to learn for sequencing–something children struggle with throughout early childhood.

Cooking/baking, making playdough, and doing other tasks together with your child can help them learn to sequence because these things need to be done in a specific order.

Here are some great books your child will love reading:

Little Red Hen by Byron Barton
Please, Baby, Please by Spike Lee
The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt
The Way I Feel by Janan Cain
How to Train a Train by Jason Carter Eaton

Print Awareness: Using Books

Parents and caregivers make the difference by just modeling the importance of reading, surrounding children with books, and engaging in the learning process. By doing these simple things, children have a better chance at succeeding in school and throughout each aspect of their lives. For the next couple of weeks, we will be posting the six literacy skills and strategies you can use to practice each skill at home with your family.

Today’s topic is PRINT AWARENESS, or using books:

  • Read aloud everyday! Take turns reading each page.
  • Find a series of favorite author that will keep your child reading.
  • Read different types of books like nonfiction, poetry, biographies, etc.
  • Point out the parts of a book to your child.

Choosing a favorite book, series, or author will keep your child excited about reading constantly. If it’s an author who continues to add to a popular series, make sure you ask your librarian about getting your name on the holds list so your child will be one of the first to read it as soon as it comes out. Participate in book-themed programs at the library. Join a parent/child book club. It’s also important to read the same book as your child–you’ll be able to discuss the characters and storyline together. This gives your child the attention, bonding and communication he needs and can help reading seem relevant to his life.

For some great reads, check out these books:

We are in a Book! by Mo Willems
Press Here by Herve Tullet
Don’t Push the Button by Bill Cotter
The Foggy Foggy Forest by Nick Sharatt
Tap the Magic Tree by Christie Matheson