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Language and Literacy Series: What Reading Looks Like Together

Susan Magsamen is the Senior Vice President of Early Learning at global learning company Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. She is a member of the Educational Advisory Board for The Goddard School and senior advisor to The Science of Learning Institute and Brain Science Institute at Johns Hopkins University.  This piece was originally published on HMH’s blog.

Reading TogetherOne of my favorite sayings is “If you take care of the moments, the years will take care of themselves.”  I can think of no other moment more precious and invaluable to ensuring a strong foundation than reading with a child – whether in the classroom, at home or in the library.

Language and literacy is the foundation for all learning. It’s a major portal through which the other learning domains unfold including math, science, social studies, creative expression, proficiency with technology, social /emotional development, 21st century skills, executive functioning and healthy, physical development.

We know that children acquire early, emergent literacy skills through various verbal and non-verbal forms. Books, in both print and digital form, have a well-earned and beloved role to play in supporting early literacy. They offer a unique progression of experiences.

While digital content brings its own unique benefits in terms of interaction and engagement, exposing young children to real books —so they have a full tactile and sensory experience of books — is always a good idea. Letting young children spend time alone with books, turning the pages and having an “up close and personal” involvement with the pictures and the letters on the page can stimulate their imagination and set the stage for self-driven exploration.

Reading books to children is equally valuable and establishes an especially positive and meaningful relationship as you read together. That meaningful relationship is the seedbed upon which a child’s confidence can flourish.

Interactive reading takes this a step further. Though it sounds like a tech term, it doesn’t have to be. It’s simply a style of reading with children that uses all elements of the book as a springboard for fuller exploration. That exploration might lead you to an app, online or real-time activity. For example, a story about baking cookies could lead to actual cookie baking; a story about finding a treasure could lead to drawing a treasure map.

Editor and author Jason Boog, is a real champion of interactive reading. Here he shares a list of print books provided by the American Library Association that are rich with opportunities for interactive reading.

Below are just a few examples of some great interactive reading books that support important skill development for early learners to get you started:big-green-monster

Social Emotional Development:

  • “Go Away Big Green Monster” by Ed Emberly

This book helps children unpack their fear of the unknown by literally taking it apart one page at a time.

Executive Function:give-a-mouse-a-cookie

  • “If You Give A Mouse a Cookie” by Laura Numeroff

There is no better way to understand process, consequences, and cause and effect than these delightful books.

  • “Curious George Saves His Pennies” by H.A. Reycg-saves-pennies

Helping young children learn and understand self-regulation and judgment are essential skills for lifelong success. Curious George explores through playful  trial-and-error exploration.

21st Century Skills:

  • “Jumanji” by Chris Van Allsburgjumanji

Innovation, creative problem solving, and collaboration are demonstrated through this amazing adventure where the world changes all the time.

Social Studies:

  • “Ultimate Weird But True,” National Geographicultimate-weird-but-true

Packed with tons of really cool, wacky facts that get little kids totally excited and engaged about the real world.

Over the next several weeks I look forward to discussing the power of language and literacy from some unusual points of view. What does gesture, behavior modeling, sound and vocabulary have to do with learning critical skills? How do you foster a love of reading with so many distractions? How do you use ebooks and other digital media and tools effectively to inspire a love of language and words? I will also provide ideas, recommendations and tips on ways to engage young learners.

Enjoy!

Long Days, Short Years: Enjoy Them While You Can

by Michael Petrucelli, on-site owner of The Goddard School located in Darien, IL
As seen in Suburban Life Magazine

“Long days, short years.” How true these words are for parents. Several years ago, a mom with college age children said those words to me, and they resonate with me every day as a father, and as the owner of a preschool.

Family 03_jpgBeing a parent is one of the most challenging and most rewarding things we can experience in life. We are so busy trying to be the best parent we can be (while fulfilling our other obligations to work, family, and the community) that we may lose sight of how precious every moment with our children can be. It isn’t always easy to muster the energy to read a book with your child as part of a goodnight ritual after a long day. It isn’t always easy to take it a step slower at the store so that your children can look around and explore. It isn’t always easy to go outside after dinner to practice baseball or soccer with your children. It isn’t always easy, but it is always important.

My son is nearly twelve, my oldest daughter is nearly eleven, and my youngest daughter is eight. I remember the day each was born like it was yesterday. Along the journey, there have been plenty of sleepless nights filled with worry, illnesses, bumps and bruises, spills and messes, and emotional outbursts (not just by the kids), as parts of many long days. I have been fortunate to have been able to spend quality time with my children: just hanging out, coaching their sports teams, projects that always took extra time with my “helpers,” family dinners.

I remember a Saturday morning about two years ago though. I woke up to spend the day with my children, like we usually do. I was informed that everyone had a play date. I didn’t know what to do! This meant that the two-hour project I had to do, would only take two hours, and not three because my children wanted to “help.” It meant that I could sit down and read the newspapers without interruption. It didn’t feel good at first because it seemed like a very long day without them, but then I remembered that it is all a part of our journey through life together.

Keep all of this in mind as summer approaches. The “long” days of summer present extra opportunities to spend quality time with your children. Take a walk to a park or playground. Run around in the yard and play hide and seek or tag. Plant a vegetable garden, and check on the progress all summer. Visit the zoo, walk around a local town to explore, or find a nature preserve to visit. If the kids wake up early on Saturday or Sunday, rather than setting them in front of the TV, go for a walk or a run with them, or make a special breakfast together. We used to live not far from a small pond that we could pass by during a run. I would load up the double jog stroller with two of my children. We would bring bread, and I would stop our run so we could feed the ducks. We would then set back on our trek that was always filled with new things to see and discuss.

So when you are a little late getting out of the house because your son or daughter needs to say goodbye to the fish, or because they forgot a mitten, or your children wake up early on Saturday morning and want to play; try to cherish how long the days are, because the years are short.

Goddard Systems Honors National Teacher of the Year Award Recipients

Four Passionate Educators Recognized During National Teacher Appreciation Week

KING OF PRUSSIA, PA – May 4, 2015 – Goddard Systems, Inc., franchisor of The Goddard School®, the premier preschool focusing on learning through play for children from six weeks to six years old, honors four extraordinary early childhood educators as their ninth annual “Teacher of the Year” award recipients during National Teacher Appreciation Week on May 4-8, 2015.

Each “Teacher of the Year” honoree from The Goddard School developed a long-term project that has benefitted their classroom, school or community. Projects from the selected teachers include a Good Manners Musical to inspire and reinforce polite behavior; Pen Pal Patriots for children to connect with members from the Armed Forces and learn about patriotism; STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) Parent Workshops designed to educate parents on how they can support learning at home; and an Alex’s Lemonade Stand to help raise funds for childhood cancer research.

“At The Goddard School, our Educational Advisory Board and Goddard Systems University push for the highest standards in early childhood education,” says Dr. Craig Bach, Vice President of Education at Goddard Systems, Inc. “With more than 10,000 Goddard School teachers nationwide, we employ the very best teachers around and we are thrilled to be recognizing this year’s recipients for their passion and dedication in enlightening young minds for future success.”

The following teachers are honored:

Angie Petrillo – Wayne, NJ

Angie Petrillo, pre-kindergarten teacher at The Goddard School located in Wayne, NJ, created a playful and educational program named “Good Manners – A Medieval Quest for Polite Behavior.” Students dance and sing their way through lessons as they follow two eccentric knights on a quest to reinstate good manners in a cursed kingdom. With over 60 cast members from 6 weeks to 6 years old and a full set and costumes designed for the Middle Ages, the 30-minute musical play guides the children in discovering polite behavior in a creative and entertaining setting.

Gerianne Holl – Cranberry Township, PA

Gerianne Holl, pre-kindergarten teacher at The Goddard School located in Cranberry Township, PA, created Pen Pal Patriots, a program for children to learn about patriotism and build empathy. Motivated by her family’s military background, Gerianne provided opportunities for her students to send cards and monthly care packages to troops in the U.S. Navy stationed in Bahrain. Conducting “Skyping Days” several times a year, children work together to develop and write questions to learn about the service members as well as wear red, white and blue in support of those away from home.

Ryan Mayes – Goodyear, AZ

Ryan Mayes, preschool teacher at The Goddard School located in Goodyear, AZ, spearheaded STEAM Parent Workshops to educate parents and provide tools for them to reinforce STEAM concepts at home. Because children experience the deepest, most genuine learning when they are having fun, Ryan incorporates this philosophy into every aspect of teaching.

Valerie Schmitzer – Doylestown II, PA

Valerie Schmitzer, kindergarten teacher at The Goddard School located in Doylestown (Farm Lane), PA, developed a hands-on approach to creating a difference in the world. Alex’s Lemonade Stand, a charitable program designed to help fight childhood cancer, has inspired Valerie and her students in creating a Lemonade Stand of their own. With the hopes of raising awareness and helping to find a cure for children battling cancer, Valerie and the children have collaborated in creating the stand, making and selling lemonade. Donating all proceeds to Alex’s Lemonade Stand, the children learn that they can make a difference by providing hope, and work to set an example to encourage and empower others to do the same.

For more information on The Goddard School, please visit www.goddardschool.com.

The Goddard School® Announces Stephanie Lane As Director Of The Year Honoree

Educational Director Of The Goddard School Located In Exton, PA Celebrated With Prestigious Award

KING OF PRUSSIA, PA – April 29, 2015 – The Goddard School®, the premier preschool focusing on learning through play for children from six weeks to six years old, today announced the Director of the Year honoree and selected Stephanie Lane from The Goddard School located in Exton, PA to receive this outstanding recognition.

Stephanie Lane, Educational Director at The Goddard School located in Exton, PA, has been a valued, loyal member of the administrative team for over six years and was a dedicated teacher prior to taking on a managerial role. Working side by side with her teaching team, Stephanie’s passion for early education, along with her mantra for making learning meaningful, ensures The Goddard School children receive lesson plans that are purposeful, fun and cohesive. She regularly looks for resources to support and challenge the teachers while acting as a mentor, skilled communicator and active listener. Stephanie and her faculty were energetic participants in the Chess at Three pilot program, a story-based curriculum of enjoyable and fun stories that teaches chess to children starting at 3 years old. Her work with Keystone STARS, an initiative of Pennsylvania’s Office of Child Development and Early Learning, supports her mission to always improve the quality of early childhood education. Thanks to her dedication to excellence and completing her Director Credential, The Goddard School located in Exton, PA has been awarded  STAR 4 status (the highest status available)  by the Keystone STARS program.

“Working alongside passionate and enthusiastic professionals, I am proud to lead The Goddard School in providing outstanding, quality early childhood education,” said Stephanie. “It is an honor to have been chosen as Director of the Year and I look forward to continuing to uphold the standard of excellence that has been set by The Goddard School.

The Director of the Year award program recognizes a director with a minimum of two years of experience, GSI-approved Director Mentor status, consistent Quality Assurance scores of at least 95% in all areas, an education plan that exceeds standards and ongoing participation in Goddard University for the award recipient and faculty.

“For the past seven years, we have recognized on a daily basis the dedication Stephanie exhibits towards the children, the teachers and our Goddard families,” said Wendy Cohen and Melissa Capodanno, co-owners of The Goddard School located in Exton, PA. “Our school has extremely high standards which Stephanie consistently exceeds. This is evidenced by her receiving this distinguished honor of Director of the Year and we are so proud Stephanie is part of our Goddard School family!”

For more information on The Goddard School, please visit www.goddardschool.com.

THE GODDARD SCHOOL HOSTS ANNUAL “ROOT FOR EARTH” CAMPAIGN TO PROMOTE ENVIRONMENTAL AWARENESS NATIONWIDE

Preschoolers Unite To Help Encourage A Happier, Healthier Earth

KING OF PRUSSIA, PA – April 20, 2015The Goddard School®, the premier preschool focusing on learning through play for children from six weeks to six years old, announces their 5th annual Root for Earth campaign. Taking place in more than 400 Goddard School preschools across the nation, Root for Earth aims to teach children and families about the importance of eco-conscious stewardship as well as raise environmental awareness in their communities.

The Goddard School children will participate in hands-on learning activities including building Children%20Running_jpgcommunity gardens, recycled fashion runways and more. Each year, the schools participate in an Upcycling Challenge which fosters creativity and imagination by engaging children to create new projects out of unwanted materials. Photos of the “green” creations will be shared on The Goddard School National Facebook Page where the public can vote for their favorite project until Friday, April 24. Winners will be announced on Monday, April 27. As a symbol of unity and environmental awareness, the week-long campaign from Monday, April 20 through Friday, April 24 will include the “Lights Out!” initiative. Each school across the nation will shut off all non-essential lighting for an hour beginning at 10 a.m. local time on Earth Day, Wednesday, April 22.

“Early environmental education helps shape children’s values, perspectives and understanding of the planet and how to interact with it. At The Goddard School, we teach children about how to play a critical role in protecting and preserving what the Earth has given us.” said Dr. Craig Bach, Vice President of Education at Goddard Systems, Inc. “Root for Earth acts as catalyst for our children to put forth an active effort and blossom into eco-conscious stewards.”

“The benefits of gardening are endless for young children. The opportunity to develop 21st century skills, like critical thinking and creativity, are presented when kids work toward a goal, such as weeding and watering before the harvest, or writing stories about their garden,” says Dave Snyder, manager of facilities and playgrounds at Goddard Systems, Inc., franchisor of The Goddard School. “Children learn cognitive skills including mathematics and science by documenting and measuring the growth of plants, and they can exercise their fine and gross motor skills through use of simple gardening tools. Though gardens are minimal in cost to create, they offer a wealth of developmental opportunities.”

At The Goddard School, environmental responsibility does not begin and end with the Root for Earth campaign. The Goddard School curriculum includes year-round eco-friendly and nature focused activities that aid children in exploring and fostering their curiosity for the world around them.

For more information on The Goddard School and the Root for Earth campaign, visit www.goddardschool.com.

Spring Into Fun Activities!

Spring has sprung! Welcome the warmer temperatures, blooming flowers and singing birds with these fun activities.

Watercolor Coffee Filter Flowers

Materials

  • Empty ice cube tray
  • Water
  • Food coloring (many colors)
  • Unused coffee filters
  • Pipe cleaners

Instructions

  1. Lay down some newspaper for easy clean up.
  2. Fill an empty ice cube tray with water.
  3. Add a few drops of food coloring to each section.
  4. Dip a coffee filter into one or all of the colors. Dip a corner, dip the whole thing – be creative!
  5. Once the filter is dyed, lay it out on a paper towel to dry.
  6. After it dries, pinch the middle of the filter, making it into a point.
  7. Wrap part of a pipe cleaner around the point.
  8. Enjoy the flower on its own or make other flowers to form a bouquet!

Wildflower Scrapbook

Materials

  • Variety of wildflowers
  • Transparent tape
  • Blank notebook

Instructions

Go to a park or your own backyard and pick some wildflowers. Select a wide variety of flowers, and when you get home, ask your child questions about each one – what does it look like? what colors does he/she see? how does it smell? Write down the answers in a notebook, leaving some space next to each entry, and lay out each flower to dry. Once the flowers are dried, tape each one next to its description in the notebook. You can even add flowers to it when your child picks new ones. It’s educational, fun and makes a great keepsake!

*An adult should oversee all activities. Activities may not be appropriate for all ages.

Diving into Dad Duties: Five Tips For New Dads

Fatherhood is a profound, wonderful journey full of moments that you will cherish for a lifetime. Here are five tips for dads who are new to the experience.

  1. Master the art of diapering. Diapering is part of Fatherhood 101. Changing a diaper is a simple Get%20Set%20Girl%20and%20Father_jpgway to help keep your baby happy while bonding with your baby.
  2. Work as a team to handle baby duties. You and your spouse are a team, so try to share all the responsibilities. Make sure to help out when your partner is tired or busy.
  3. Communicate, communicate, communicate. When you’re part of a team, communication is key. If you’re going to be late coming home from work, call your partner. If you’re not sure how to handle a baby-related task, ask someone. Opening the lines of communication can work wonders.
  4. Be patient. Fatherhood isn’t an exact science, so remember that becoming the best dad you can be takes time. Enjoy those moments when you’re still figuring things out and remember to laugh.
  5. Take care of yourself. Being a good dad means being there for your child. Make sure you are staying healthy and avoiding unnecessary risks. Exercise, watch your diet and drive carefully.

Six Things to Look for in a Kindergarten Readiness Program

Kindergarten is an important, fun and rewarding step in a child’s educational journey, but starting
kindergarten can be intimidating to a child who isn’t prepared for it. That is why it’s important to choose a preschool or pre-k program that fully prepares your child for kindergarten. A well-rounded kindergarten readiness program should accomplish the following:

  • Build your child’s confidence through playful learning activities;KindergartenGirl_jpg
  • Promote communication between the home and the preschool, which helps to establish a home-school connection. A strong home-school connection often helps children have greater success academically, behaviorally and socially;
  • Be taught by a credentialed teacher;
  • Transition your child into a more structured schedule;
  • Encourage your child to focus, manage time well and complete assigned tasks, which may include homework;
  • Help you and your child adjust to kindergarten requirements, such as always completing work, being on time and attending school every day.

Five Ways to Fend Off Your Child’s Boredom

Sooner or later, your child may utter the phrase “I’m bored.” Should that time come, here are five ways to help your child learn how to entertain herself.

  1. Make a boredom box. Sit down with your child and brainstorm a list of different things she likes to do. Then, write each idea on a different slip of paper and put them all in a shoebox or jar. If your child gets bored, take out the box and ask her to pick out an activity (without peeking).Puzzle_jpg
  2. Play a game. It doesn’t matter whether you play a card game, a board game or a word game as long as you play it together. It will help to alleviate his boredom and strengthen family bonds.
  3. Ask your child to help you with chores. Some children love to help with housework, such as dusting and cleaning. You can make a game out of seeing who can fold the laundry the fastest or who can sweep up more dust.
  4. Head outside. Take a walk, go on a geocache hunt or play catch if your child is old enough. Just remember to bring water and use sunscreen.
  5. Let your child be bored. Some artists and writers say that boredom inspires creativity. Boredom might inspire your child to try an activity she hasn’t explored before. Who knows? Boredom may bring out your child’s inner Picasso!

Playful Parenting: Fun Activities for Newborns

Like all children, babies learn best by having fun. Here are some simple, play-based activities you can do with your infant to help him or her develop motor and learning skills.

  • Encourage tummy time. Tummy time is good exercise and allows your baby to practiceInfant_jpg
    moving. Lie your baby on her stomach and put one or two colorful toys in front of her or around her;
  • Read. Besides being an excellent bonding activity, reading to your newborn also prepares him for reading on his own and introduces him to shapes, letters and colors;
  • Talk to your baby. Simply chatting to your baby about whatever you’re doing keeps her entertained and helps to establish a foundation for language development;
  • Play with toys. Playing with age-appropriate toys helps your newborn exercise his sense of touch. Babies especially enjoy toys with different textures, such as crinkly fabric, satin and velvet.
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