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Archive for the ‘Language and Literacy’ Category

Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging – In Recognition of Martin Luther King, Jr.

by Lee Scott Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

As we reflect on the events of 2020, the recognition of Martin Luther King, Jr. becomes even more important. How can we help our children live in a world that represents his dream?  Many parents of our youngest learners ask us where they should start. 

Children learn social behaviors and attitudes in many ways – through observing others, using dramatic play, modeling the behaviors of adults and siblings, and considering stories and their characters. Sharing books and bringing the narrative into the forefront supports children in applying the lessons they learned to real-life situations.We thought we would help you get started by selecting five engaging books for infants and toddlers and five for preschoolers and kindergarteners. It is never too early to build a fountain for understanding others working toward anti-bias and inclusion. 

Infants and Toddlers 

Babies around the World by author Puck and illustrator Violet Lemay 

Babies around the world children's book cover

Wonderful images of friendly babies from across the world are seen throughout this book. The book shows children in New York, London, Paris, Cairo, Beijing, Tokyo and more. The added feature of greetings in their language is fun for our littlest learners to repeat.  The English translations are a bonus as well.  Babies around the World is a great place to start viewing the broader world.  

Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by author Mem Fox and illustrator Helen Oxenbury 

Ten Little Fingers, Ten Little Toes Children's Books

The images in this colorful book will bring a smile to all children.  It helps children connect to who they are and builds awareness of how similar we all are. What a wonderfully visual way to begin to show how while we may look a bit different from one another we all have ten fingers and ten little toes!  

 Everywhere Babies by author Susan Meyers and illustrator Marla Frazee 

Everywhere Babies

In Everywhere Babies, rhythmic and rhyming language takes the reader through the everyday activities of babies. Depicting a diverse range of families, the book shows babies in all their glory:eating, playing, moving and, ultimately, showing they are valued for being just who they are. 

 Who? – A Celebration of Babies by author Robie H. Harris and illustrator Natascha Rosenberg 

Who-a-celebration of babies all babies

Who? provides a terrific way to engage babies and toddlers in the relationships with people around them.  The rhythmic verse and beautiful images make the book one they will want you to share over and over again.  

 Baby Faces by author Margaret Miller 

Baby Faces All faces

What do the expressions for yucky, yum-yum, stinky, uh-oh, boohoo and yippee look like? This book provides reallife, closeup pictures of infants with a bunch of different facial expressions that infants can make along with simple wordplay expressions to support language development. This is a simple yet effective book for helping infants learn about themselves and have positive reading experiences.  

 Preschoolers to Kindergarteners 

Same, Same but Different by author and illustrator Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw 

Same Same but different

Two boys explore each other’s lives while becoming pen pals. They learn what they have in common and what might be different. They soon learn that they have become close friends even though it might seem they live in different worlds at first.Same, same but different becomes different, different but the same. 

 My Two Moms and Me by author Michael Joosten and illustrator Izak Zenou 

My two moms and me different families

This story follows various children and their two moms. Each child describes what the moms do and compares their interests to what the child likes to do. It is fun to see how self-confident each child is. As you follow the children throughout the day, the children highlight their own talents. The story is full of the love within each family. 

 All Are Welcome by author Alexandra Penfold and illustrator Suzanne Kaufman  

All are Welcome Inclusion

School is a wonderful place to gather with friends, learn new skills, play and have fun. Everyone is welcome and everyone has a place in this delightful rhyming story about a multicultural school. The focus is on helping children understand that everyone can be welcomed and accepted for who they are.

The Day You Begin by author Jacqueline Woodson and illustrator Rafael Lopez 

The day you begin Children's Books

This beautiful story shows children how interesting their lives really are. It is okay to be different.Even though it may feel awful at times, you will soon find your way. The story highlights the interactions of a variety of children and how they cope with changes in friendships. The day you begin is the day you start to find similarities and celebrate differences. 

 Be Kind by author Pat Zietlow Miller and illustrator Jen Hill  

Be Kind Children's Books

When Tanisha spills grape juice all over her new dress, her classmate wants to make her feel better and wonders,What does it mean to be kind? From asking the new girl to play to standing up for someone being bullied, the choices highlighted in this moving story explore what kindness is and how any act, big or small, can make a difference or at least help a friend.

Five Ways to Teach Children about Gratitude

grateful child

by Kyle Pruett, M.D. Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

No matter how many place settings there were to accommodate three generations of Pruetts at our Thanksgiving Feast table, everyone had a seat at the grown-up or kids’ table. Every celebration I can remember began with my father−a pastor by trade−telling everyone to hold hands and, starting with the oldest, share one thing for which they were grateful on this day. It was hard to be patient, sitting there, mouths watering, and wondering what you were going to say when it was your turn. In this simple act, we learned that gratitude was what made this meal different from all others. I was amazed year after year by how seriously everyone took this charge. Answers ran from sacred to profane, but the lesson was clear; families thrive on gratitude.

The Holidays are an important opportunity to affirm values that most parents hope (or wish) their kids were developing naturally. The bounty of family life−so obvious on the dining room table−is less obvious to our younger children, and most of them need a little help seeing the connections between what we share as a family and how we feel about belonging to that family. While children seem to have a natural drift toward empathy, even compassion, feeling grateful for what they have is a harder sell. Grown-ups need to place this high on their agenda, along with plenty of patience for this sapling graft to take hold. Before you start, think about why this matters to you and how you got that way. Share those thoughts with your partner, and make a plan about how to sell gratitude as a family value to your children, as it is one of those desired human values that does not always unfold naturally, as our children grow.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Regularly express your own thankfulness verbally. (We are very lucky to have grandma nearby. I’m thankful to have a son like you in my life. Your dad made that so easy for all of us.)
  • Express gratitude behaviorally. (Take a casserole to a neighbor who has been kind or needs some extra help for whatever reason−even better if the children help you make it. When the hand-me-down toys end their cycle, make a Goodwill run with the children in tow.)
  • Make generosity part of your family’s routine. (When seasons change, collect clothes from everyone’s closet to donate or take canned goods to the local soup kitchen.)
  • Take the children along on community fundraising activities, runs, walks, etc. Explain to them why this matters to you. (Make sure they meet the organizers and understand the purpose; if it’s personal, it’s remembered)

Consider this: regularly planned simple activities can make children feel useful and appreciated as givers, not takers, which is the antidote to gratitude). These are the roots of self-esteem, not reward or praise.

5 Ways to Calm Holiday Stress

stressed mom holding new born baby

by Kyle Pruett, M.D. Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

It seems a given that the holidays will be overdone yet again this year. Kids are only young once, right? After the year many families have had, who wants to cut back? Furthermore, parents have their own ideas and images about how the holidays should or should not go, and if there are two parents, it is unlikely that they are identical ideas and images. Throw in a limited budget and visits with extended family and things can get pretty exciting/tense pretty quickly. Most of us tend to focus on keeping our kids and their schedules – especially of the young ones – under some kind of control to limit the damage and hurt feelings that frequently accompany this overdoing. But the most effective way to calm holiday stress is to manage our own. Kids will learn far more about staying calm when we get there first.

1) Manage your own expectations. Perfect holidays do not exist in real time. So expect some happiness, delight, surprises, disappointments, fatigue and the occasional meltdown. Tell your kids to expect the same. Families are just like that during the holidays, even when they are at their best.

2) Make a list. Well ahead of time, sit down and make a list of holiday things you’d like to do or achieve, then cut it in half and proceed. One or two special events spread out over two days, with a generous dose of hanging out and ‘just being time’ (as our teenagers labeled such inactivity), is a pretty good pace. Get some sleep with the time you save instead.

3) Accept help from others. Remember, you have already yielded on perfection as a goal. So let people bring some food and distribute chores on the bigger events. People old and young typically love being useful, even it adds to the chaos.

4) Watch the sweets, fats (kids and grown-ups) and fermented spirits. Your (and your kids’) tensions can all be exacerbated by lousy dietary indulgences, not to mention the guilt and the weight gain, which only add more stress. Having fewer of them in the house or apartment to begin with tips the scales toward success.

5) Get out of the house and exercise (kids and grown-ups). It helps to repair the damage to routines and relationships by freshening the internal and external environments. Once, when I was in 5th grade, my parents (who were not typically jokesters) actually faked a power outage between the main holiday meal and dessert, just to get everyone away from the TVs and out of the house for a while. It was one of our favorite holiday gatherings ever. Lesson learned.

Five Books That Teach Children About Caring And Giving

By Lee Scott, Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

Educators have long known that storytelling is an essential part of learning. Stories help children absorb information and connect the story to their experiences. Here are five books that teach the lessons of caring and giving in an engaging manner:

  1. Giving Thanks by Katherine Paterson (Author), Pamela Dalton (Illustrator)

Giving Thanks by Katherine Paterson (Author), Pamela Dalton (Illustrator)

2. Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett (Author), Jon Klassen (Illustrator)

Extra Yarn children's book cover

3. Boxes for Katie by Candice Fleming

Boxes for Katje Book Cover

4. When Stories Fell Like Shooting Stars, Valiska Gregory

When Stories Fell Like Shooting Stars, Valiska Gregory

5. Random Acts, More Random Acts, –and– Kids Random Acts of Kindness by Conari Press

Random Acts, More Random Acts, --and-- Kids Random Acts of Kindness by Conari Press

 

Should Your Child Be Reading by Now?

Family reading with young child

By Lee Scott, Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

Parents are very concerned during these days of virtual learning or limited school time with what their children are actually learning. This is especially true of parents of preschoolers and kindergarteners. They are asking, “Should my child be reading by now?  Should my child know numbers and be able to count?”

Put away the flashcards, and relax.  Children begin learning letters, numbers and shapes at varying times. You may find a toddler who can name all the letters in the alphabet and a four-year old who does not seem interested at all. How they demonstrate these recognition skills will vary from child to child. The natural curiosity of most children between the ages of three and four will begin to nudge them into pointing out letters and naming them or counting a few items and naming the numbers.

Here are five easy, fun and stress-free things to do to support your children’s learning:

  1. Read to your children every day, and they will begin to make the connections between letters on a page, sounds and meaning.
  1. Sing together. The alphabet song is a classic that helps children make connections to letters and sounds.
  1. Count out loud as you are setting the table, or count the few steps you take from room to room. Have your children join in the fun.
  1. Play the I spy game with the letters of your children’s first names. Try saying, “I spy something that begins with the letter S.”
  1. Put some sand or rice on a tray, and encourage your children to make letters in the sand. This helps support early writing skills.

Most children will recognize letters, numbers and shapes by age five. They may be starting to write their own names. If your children are not, it is fine. If you feel they are truly struggling, then you may seek help with an assessment. Remember, children learn at their own paces. Research does not say that the earlier children learn these things, the more advanced they will be later in school. Enjoy this time with your children, and have fun talking, reading and singing together.

 

Why Family Storytelling Is Important

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by Lee Scott, Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

We all love to share stories from our childhood or our parents’ childhoods. Remember the time Dad tried to fool us with the Santa outfitHow about the one from your grandmother on cooking in her home country or the one about a traditional family celebration? 

Family stories are important to share with our little ones. It is never too early to start.   

They provide children with a sense of belonging – a connection to the family and the world around them. Research has shown that family storytelling helps children develop a better understanding of people’s emotions and supports the development of social intelligence (Duke, Lazarus & Fivush, 2008). Children who feel connected often have higher self-esteem and stronger self-awareness. 

Listening to and sharing stories are as important as reading to your children. Storytelling helps your children develop their imagination and creativity. Learning through storytelling also supports language development, listening and criticalthinking skills.   

You can start sharing stories about things that are familiar to your child, such as your first toy or favorite game, and how it was similar to or different from your child’s. Children love to hear stories about their babyhood.   

When your family gets together, try this simple game. Put your family members’ names in a bowl. As each person draws a name, that person will tell a story about the person whose name was drawn.   

You can also use your photo albums or look at the camera roll on your smartphoneTalk about the picturesexplain what the event was and tell the story about it. Don’t let the snapshots sit in a box or in the cloud. Share them and talk about them. Your children will love the connection and learn a great deal along the way. 

 

References 

Duke, M.P., Lazarus, A. & Fivush, R. (2008, June). Knowledge of family history as a clinically useful index of psychological well-being and prognosis: A brief report. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training45(2), 268-272. 

Five Ways to Help Your Child Develop Pre-Reading Skills Early

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by Lee Scott, Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

I remember a child in the third grade looking up at me and saying, “If you can’t read, you can’t do anything.” She was an adorable redhead, eager to learn and very curious about everything.   

We often think of learning to read in the early years as learning the alphabetrecognizing the letters, understanding the sounds the letters make and putting sounds together to make words. The most critical element in learning to read, however, is comprehension. It is the ability to understand and analyze what is being read. It is the joy within reading.  

Students with poor reading comprehension skills struggle not just in reading but also in every other subject and in reallife situations. Fortunately, young children can begin to develop comprehension skills even before they learn to read. When your infant is babbling while holding a book, those noises have meaning as the child looks at the familiar images. Early scribbling is a child’s way of telling a story on paper. All of these early skills and experiences lay the foundation for all later learning. 

Whave gathered five ideas for how to help your children develop those pre-reading skills early. 

  • Attend local plays, story hour at the library or puppet shows. 
  • While reading the story, ask thoughtprovoking questions. “Why do you think Goldilocks went into the bears house?” “What could she have done instead?” Talking about the story while reading it helps make a stronger connection to the story for your children.  
  • Before you open a book, look at the cover. Ask your children what the story might be about based on the picture on the front of the book. 
  • Make simple stick puppets related to a favorite book or fairy tale. Help your children roleplay the story. Point out that the story has a beginning, middle and end.  
  • Read nonfiction books that relate to your child’s interests. Children especially love books about animals, the outdoors and people. 

You can also get out crayons and paper and each draw pictures of the characters in the story. Find a few minutes each day for reading, and not only will it help your children’s development but it will also create special moments for your family.   

How to Develop Your Child’s Social-Emotional Learning Skills Through Literature

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By Lee Scott

Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

“The early years of life provide the foundation for what is to come in terms of social, intellectual, and moral development. A child’s capacity to think out problems, built from ‘lived experience’ is indicative of social skills, moral reasoning, and intelligence,” writes Darcia Narvaez. This is a critical time for ensuring a strong foundation for what many call the “essential skills,” as social and emotional learning is shown to support the development of attitudes and skills that impact lifelong academic performance and interpersonal skills.

You will find that one effective method to help your children develop these skills is through reading high-quality literature. The stories help children extend their understanding of familiar emotions and social behaviors by presenting them in new contexts, as well as providing opportunities for your children to encounter emotions and social behaviors that they may not be exposed to in their everyday interactions. The characters within each story give children a framework for developing many essential social skills – cooperation, collaboration, listening and taking turns. For example, connections to characters such as Curious George, Sesame Street characters and classics (e.g., The Three Little Pigs, The Little Red Hen) help children learn about how things work and how people react to different situations while they are building vocabulary and developing emotional literacy.

Here are 10 of our favorite books that you and your children will enjoy while learning valuable social and emotional lessons on friendship, collaboration, fears, mistakes, risk-taking, resilience and more:
1. Me First (Laugh-Along Lessons) by Helen Lester, illustrated by Lynn Munsinger
2. The Giant Jam Sandwich by John Vernon Lord
3. The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi
4. Oh My Baby, Little One by Kathi Appelt, illustrated by Jane Dyer
5. Beautiful Oops! by Barney Saltzberg
6. The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds
7. The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig and Patrice Barton
8. My Mouth Is a Volcano! by Julia Cook and Carrie Hartman
9. Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees
10. Go Away, Big Green Monster! by Ed Emberley

Four Steps to Creating a Beautiful Children’s Library in Your Home

Reading

When it comes to your home, every child’s personal library should be a happy place to retreat to. Refreshing your child’s library space isn’t a lengthy process, and it can be done quickly. If your child’s library is collecting dust or is simply needing a makeover, try these four tips to start building a beautiful children’s library right in your own home.

Clean out the clutter. A fresh start is often the best way to inspire a new vibe to your reading area at home. Remove all the books from the shelf and start to sift through them. Divide the books into two piles, books your children read often and ones they do not read often. You can toss out the books your children have outgrown or never touched; put them in a bag and donate them or give them to family or friends.

Always add new books to your children’s collection. Board books, concept books, fairy tales, picture books, rhythmic books and early readers. Figure out what you don’t have and explore from there. Make sure you have an assortment of various books so you can build a multifaceted collection for your children. Try to incorporate pieces that have a range of difficulty levels, an assortment of genres and a diversity of cultures and authors. In this way, when one of your children is in the mood for a different type of book to read, there will be many options.

Make their library fun and inviting with a warm atmosphere. Consider relocating the library to a place where it will get the most use. Whether it’s in their bedroom, playroom or family room, you want your children to be able to feel they can easily access their home library and stay a while. Motivate them to search and grab by putting books low on the shelf or at their eye level so they can take books easily and often. Don’t forget to create a reading nook with a comfy chair, bean bag or a soft rug for an inviting space for them to lounge and hang out once they have found books to delve into.

Continue to nurture the collection and reading space. As your children grow, continue to keep their library relevant, up to date and aesthetically pleasing. Clean out and add new books as their interests and reading levels change over time. Continue to add to their collection. Don’t be afraid to swap out old furniture, artwork and decor to keep them interested and curious. You always want to keep them fascinated about exploring their space. Sometimes rearranging and adding a few great books is all that’s needed.

How to Take Advantage of Your Neighborhood Library

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Did you know that your local library is a hidden gem right in your backyard? Nowadays, it’s not just a place you go to check out a book or use a computer – it’s so much more. March is National Reading Month and we are celebrating with sharing four ways to take advantage of your local library.

Attend events and programs. Looking to attend a mindfulness meditation yoga class or join a cooking club? Libraries offer so many fun (and free!) options for children and parents. Get involved with fitness groups for children and adults, family music classes, parent-child workshops, story circles, puppet shows, special events and summer programs. Look into what your local library provides and what events they are having in your community.

Use it as a resource for learning. Your local library is a helpful resource that’s available whenever you need it. Many libraries offer tutoring, reading buddies, writing circles and volunteer opportunities. Your child can use the library as a fun way to get involved socially and academically. The staff and the librarian can also be helping hands when you have questions or when you simply need a new book recommendation.

Explore the aisles and stay a while. Many libraries have cozy and colorful sections for children, filled to the brim with books, electronics, games, toys and puzzles. This space is great for sparking your children’s curiosity and getting them stimulated, engaged and ready to learn. Get your children comfortable with going to the library, and teach them that this is their space to have fun with and utilize as a resource. Help them pick out a book, and let them explore from there.

Make it a habit to go often. With a bunch of great opportunities and events provided by your library, you can turn your outing to the library into a fun adventure for your little ones. By creating a routine, soon they will be looking forward to their weekly time spent at the library. Remember to sign up for a library card to make checking out items easier, and so you can have access to other countless privileges and perks that may be associated with your local library.