October Monthly Calendar

Click the image for a printable version.



September Monthly Calendar

Click the picture for a larger, printable version.


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!


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.

Tall Blocks, Small Animals

Books become more meaningful when you can expand the story to a hands-on activity. Here is one extension activity you can do with very little supplies.


You’ll need to read the book Tall by Jez Alborough. (Hint: Stop by your local library and pick up a copy if you don’t own it.) Tall is about a few jungle animals who help a little monkey feel taller than he really is. This is a great book with very few words. You can use the illustrations to talk about what is happening on each page.

Next, get out the blocks or the LEGOs. You will also need a couple small animals or action figures. Now let your child’s imagination go wild. Let he/she build towers as tall as can be (just make sure no one is on the other side in case it falls!). When he/she is done building, place the small animal on top of the tower. Just how tall can the tower be before it falls over? Experiment with different shapes.

This is a great opportunity to talk with your child about the tower he/she is building. Ask questions like how tall do you think it can go before it will fall? What kind of tower is it? Why is the animal or action figure climbing so high? What is it the animal is trying to see?

Try to avoid yes/no questions as they require no other answer. To help expand your child’s vocabulary and comprehension of the story, you want to ask open ended questions.

Credit for activity idea: Teach Preschool.

Asking Questions…

Sharing a book with your young child can be a fun experience. (I realize it can also be stressful–especially if your child is having a wiggly kind of day!) Studies have shown that babies who are exposed to books and allowed the chance to touch and explore the book are more likely to appreciate them as they get older. So why not let your toddler and preschooler have the same experience? And by experience, I don’t mean letting your preschooler put a book in his mouth to explore it. No. By this age, preschoolers are more interested in the actual content of the book. And if they aren’t quite there, it’s okay. Maybe they haven’t found the right book, yet. (You can always ask your local librarian for a little help on that front!)

familySo what do I mean? During story time, read through the book one time just the way it was intended. But as you read it a second or third time, here are a few questions you can ask while reading:

1. Pause on each page. Point to an object on the page and ask your child what it is.
For instance, if you see an apple tree, point to it and ask, “What is that?”

2. Respond to your child’s answer by repeating what he said.
If your child says, “A tree!” you can respond by saying, “Yes that is a tree.”

3. Expand on your child’s answer if possible.
“Yes, that is a tree. It’s an apple tree!”

4. Have your child point to the object.
“Can you point to the apple tree?”

From there, you can also expand on other things that are the page (objects, colors, numbers, letters, shapes, etc.). Repetition is so important, so read the story over and over (not in one sitting). Start leaving words off at the end of a sentence. Let your child fill in the blank. Use the pictures as your guide and tell a story based on the illustrations and not the author’s words. Relate the words or pictures in the story to an event in your child’s life. Ask questions like who, what, where, why and when. If you read the story using more questions and relying less on the actual text, you’ll notice your child may start reading the story to you!

It may seem a little early in the life of a child to start practicing these reading techniques, but when he gets to Kindergarten, these are the same questions teachers will be asking. It’s never too early to start preparing–just keep it lighthearted and fun. When it becomes frustrating, stop and take a break.

For more information on reading techniques, visit http://www.readingrockets.org/article/dialogic-reading-effective-way-read-preschoolers.

Three Great iPad Apps for Children

There are so many great educational apps out there for children to use, but there are also many not-so-great educational apps out there for children to use. So I spent the last week, testing app after app trying to find the best ones for you and your child. I’ve narrowed it down to my top three favorites; however, they are just that–my top three favorites. I’m hoping you’ll help test out these apps and let me know what you like and what you didn’t like.

play1231. Play 123 by CJ Educations
Ages: 3 to 5
Cost: Free!
Purpose: Teaches shapes, colors, and numbers. Allows children to PLAY by matching and spinning colors and shapes, STUDY by understanding the basic shapes, colors, and numbers, and THINK through activities that help develop creativity and imagination. The simple music in the background helps keep children focused as a narrator explains what to do. Children can draw shapes, build towers and othe ojects with shapes, build and break walls, mix colors, break down walls to create more shapes and more through 10 different games.

Learn-with-Homer-Logo2. Learn with Homer by Homer
Ages: 3 to 5
Cost: FREE! (with ability to make in-app purchases for more games)
Purpose: Teaches early reading. Children can hear stories and poems or read themselves, play alphabet games that test their knowledge of letter sounds and shapes, discover a world of non-fiction through stories about animals, and use their imagination through drawing and recording sounds. Parents can create an account to gain access to tracking tools, printable activities and crafts, and their children’s drawing and recordings. There are many free things to do in this game. Purchasing packages gives more access, but it is not necessary.

1333-1-feel-electric!3. Feel Electric by Sesame Street
Ages: 5 and up
Cost: Free!
Purpose: Teaches children feeling and emotions. This game teaches chidlren the meaning of words like surprised, stressed, annoyed, happy, ecstatic, and thrilled. Through different games, children can match emotion words to pictures that depict that feeling or write stories by choosing certain words (think MadLibs). There are six different ways to play but even more options once you choose a game. Created by Sesame Street, it’s an extension of the Electric Company.

So try them out. Let me know what you think. I’ll continue to post updates when I find more free apps for your child to use, so stay tuned!

Homemade Monday on a Thursday

I’m going to start a weekly post called “Homemade Monday” with literacy activities you can make at home. We are currently doing a program at the Main Library (and several branches) to show parents fun and easy ways to make reading fun at home. So this week (even though it is technically Thursday), I wanted to show you some of the fun activities planned for this evening. I’ve added credit where and when appropriate.

Cardboard Tube Letter Matching

Supplies Needed: Marker, Circle stickers, toilet paper or paper towel tubes.
Instructions: Write a random assortment of letters (capital and/or lower case), numbers (actual number, words, or dots), or even shapes on the tubes. Then write the matching letters, numbers, or shapes on the stickers. When you are ready, just place the stickers over the corresponding item on the tube. Thanks to Testy Yet Trying for this neat and very inexpensive idea!!



Spoon Matching

This fun matching game requires 26 white spoons and 26 clear spoons. You can use stickers for the letters or just use a Sharpie to write the letters on each spoon. You’ll want to do one set with capital letters and one set with lower case. You could also use one set of spoons for letters and one set for stickers or small pictures of objects that start with the different letters of the alphabet turning this game into a sound matching game! Thanks to From Kindergarten with Love.


Alphabet BookCreate your own alphabet book! Use stickers or draw each letter large on each page of your book. Cut out letters from different sources: newspapers, magazines, junk mail, etc.<br />By using different fonts and letter styles, children begin to recognize the many ways one letter can look!