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by: 
Barbara, Evergreen Library

Hi! I'm Barbara, and I have been asked to fill some VERY big shoes, here at JCPL, and continue the ongoing blog series entitled, Ready to Read Reminder.

Ready to Read Reminder, will focus on ECRR (Every Child Ready to Read), which has 5 practices designed to help you and your child build a life long love of reading: READ, TALK, SING, WRITE, and PLAY.

Each month I will highlight one of the 5 practices and share fun activities with you that you and your child can enjoy doing together. This month I will be exploring WRITING and the importance it plays in early literacy. 

How does writing with children help them get ready to read? The Colorado Libraries for Early Literacy (CLeL) states that,

By letting your child explore their world by coloring, drawing, and writing you are encouraging them to develop print motivation, expand narrative skills, vocabulary, phonological awareness, and letter knowledge. 

Print Motivation

We know that print motivation includes being excited about books and stories, wanting to read and be read to, and being interested in learning to read yourself. When children have a chance to do their own writing, whether it is a scribbled “list,” random letters on a label, or the initial of their first name, they have a chance to feel connected to print in an active, very different way than when they are listening to a story. It’s always powerful for children to have the opportunity to do things for themselves! Being an active participant in writing and telling stories helps keep children excited about reading stories, too.

Narrative Skills & Print Awareness

The very first writing that children do is connected to narrative skills: The first stage of writing development is when children draw pictures, then tell the stories that the pictures represent. When children do this, they have made the leap to understanding that marks on the page can carry meaning. When a child completes a drawing, caregivers can encourage the child's narrative skills by saying, “Tell me about this picture!” or “What's happening in this picture?” In addition, children's narrative skills can be expanded by providing them with opportunities to explore writing as a part of their dramatic play, such as creating menus while playing restaurant, or writing traffic tickets while playing police officers.

Vocabulary

We know that children whose caregivers talk with them more have larger vocabularies than children whose caregivers speak with them less often. Parents and caregivers can prompt discussions by modeling writing for their children, and then discussion what they are writing and why. Talking about grocery lists before and during shopping trips, or the content of family emails while sitting at the computer, or to-do lists when putting a sticky note on the refrigerator, all provide more opportunities for the child to hear new words in meaningful contexts.

Phonological Awareness

As preschool children begin to learn their letters and are able to make intentional marks on the page, writing “messages” as part of their play is one way they practice their knowledge of what sounds go with what letters. “Invented spelling” is what happens when children try to spell a word that they don’t yet know how to spell. The resulting “misspelled” words don’t mean that children aren’t learning well, instead it means children ARE learning—they are thinking very carefully about the sounds that they hear and the letters that they know.

Letter Knowledge

Even before children have the fine motor skills that allow them to draw or write letters on purpose, their growing understanding of the shapes of letters allows them to recognize these letters when they see them—on buildings, in books, and even in their own scribbles. As children practice making the lines and curves and circles they will later use to write letters, they sometimes will make marks or a scribble, look at it, and then identify letters that they see. “Look, I made a T!”

Every day is special with your little one but, who knew celebrating YOU, and the wonderful job you do every day, could also become an early literacy skill builder? Make Mother's Day cards for all the special "moms" in their lives and help your child create memories that you both will cherish for a lifetime. 

 

 

by: 
Marcy, Arvada

It's time to get out of the house! Spring has sprung and there is a whole lot of concrete out there in need of beautification. Sidewalk chalk has unlimited potential and you can even make your own.

What to do with this rainbow of possibilities?
Play a game! Here are 30 of the best ideas I've found:

Twister anyone?

Use chalk as a photography prop.

Chalk can even keep those literacy skills fresh over Summer break!

Cheap, easy, washable...what more could you ask for? In fact I think I will try some of these ideas here at the Arvada Library this summer so keep an eye out!

Get creative and let the Spring showers clear your canvas (or driveway.) 

by: 
Marcy, Arvada Library

They say that March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb.

Make this fun loop craft and say, "Hello Spring!" Play with fluffy wooly cotton balls instead of snow. You may want to make a whole flock!

Supplies:
White Card Stock
Cotton Balls
Crayons/Markers 
Glue
Ribbon

Instructions:
Cut a 2" strip of card stock. Glue in a loop.
Cut ears out of card stock. Glue behind loop sticking out as shown in picture above.
Draw on a face.
Glue four cotton balls to the bottom for feet.
Break cotton up into 1/2" balls. Glue the little balls to the top of the head and down the back of the lamb completely covering the the paper loop except the face of the lamb.
If you are looking for a little playmate for this little creature, make a Paper Loop Chick to keep him company.

Try some fun sheep/lamb books to go along with this great craft!

by: 
Barbara and Robyn, Columbine Library

Toys have started to appear in all of the libraries. And with their arrival, patrons and staff are asking, “Why toys?” The answer is, toys lead to play and play leads to the development of literacy skills. Play is the way young children learn. 

There are three stages of play. Exploratory or Object play occurs with 0-3-year-olds. They love to chew on board books and everything else they can get their hands on. From there they move on to Imaginative play at 3-5 years. They are developing vocabulary and social skills, such as sharing. And, they love to pretend! All of this play leads to the last stage, Investigative play, for 6-8-year-olds, which includes physical play like riding a bike. They also love to build things, draw, paint, and explore.

Through play, children learn about their world. These activities help them understand language and stories. Play is so important that the United Nations High Commission has recognized it as a basic right of every child. Offering blocks, bricks, and other manipulatives increases STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) skill building opportunities in our libraries. Our goal is to reinforce the importance of play by offering a variety of activities to children and caregivers.

The toys you see in the libraries are the result of a donation from the Gerald M. Kline Family Foundation. Jerry Kline is the founder of Innovative Interfaces and has worked in and with libraries for more than 30 years.  A sizable portion of the Foundation's activities are offered to enhance libraries and their communities. 

We hope you’ll help us encourage play by spreading the word!

by: 
Mary, Kids and Families Outreach

Yesterday, Colorado Libraries for Early Literacy (CLEL) announced the winners of the first annual Bell Awards - an award that honors "five high-quality picture books that provide excellent support of early literacy development in young children." One book in each of the categories of READ, TALK, SING, WRITE and PLAY is chosen from hundreds of books published in 2013. The 5 categories have been identified as best practices to support early literacy learning in young children.

Each of these books is great for sharing with your young child, and lend themselves perfectly to extension activities that lead to even more fun and learning. The CLEL Bell website has activity sheets for each book that offer wonderful extension ideas! 

The winners are: 

READ:

Open This Little Book by Jesse Klausmeier; illustrated by Suzy Lee

TALK:

Moo! by David LaRochelle; illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka (coming soon to JCPL!)

SING:

Nighty-night, Cooper by Laura Numeroff; illustrated by Lynn Munsinger

WRITE:

The Things I Can Do by Jeff Mack

PLAY:

Niño Wrestles the World by Yuyi Morales

Check 'em out today!

by: 
Sarah, Golden Library

I love to play “pretend” games with kids, repurposing everyday objects for the purpose of creating new experiences. The capacity to use one’s imagination has increasingly been recognized as a vital skill that is honed in childhood. Time spent in imaginary play as a child translates into an adult capable of visionary thinking (like Steve Jobs!) 

Structured activities like music lessons and sports are valuable to children, but don’t forget to “schedule in” some time for your kids to spend powering simple objects with imaginary fuel.

Here’s an easy game that you can play at home with your kids to get those imaginations fired up: 

All you need is a scarf for each of you (any cloth or dish towel will also do.) Crumple the scarf up between your hands and tell your child that you are going to change this scarf into different objects with the power of your imagination. Encourage your child to scrunch up their scarf and follow along:

First, tell your child that the scarf has become a picnic blanket. Lay the scarf out on the ground and sit on top of it. Pretend to eat a picnic.

Next, scrunch up the scarf between your hands again. Tell your child that the scarf has now become a magic flying cape. Tie on the scarf as a cape and zoom around the room!

Scrunch that scarf up between your hands again for another transition. This time, tell your child that the scarf has now become a washcloth and it’s time for a bath. Pretend to fill up the bathtub, get inside and wash with your washcloth! Don’t forget to towel dry afterwards!

Scrunch up the scarf one last time and turn it into a blanket. Now it's time to act out getting pajamas on, brushing teeth and curling up under the blanket to sleep!

You can easily play many variations on this game at home using the most basic of objects. Next time, try playing the same game with a box or a stick as a prop!

Do you have any other great examples of pretend games that you already play at home? Please share them with us!

by: 
Mary, Kids and Families Outreach

Welcome to a new regular feature here on the JCPL Kids' Blog: the Ready to Read Reminder! Parents and caregivers, you know that learning to read begins at birth. Young children's brains are developing all the connections they need to be successful readers and we, the adults in their lives, can help them build those connections by doing simple things at home (or in the car, at the library, at daycare...wherever!). In this feature I'd like to share with you some of those simple ideas - many of which you may already be doing (but didn't necessarily know how they help a child get ready to read) - that help build the foundation for reading.

For this, our first post, I'd like to give you 5 words to remember. Just 5. Remember these 5 words, and that you should engage in these activities with your young child often, and you'll be an expert at helping your child get ready to read!

Here the are....(are you ready?)...drumroll please....

READ

TALK

SING

WRITE

PLAY

 

You can remember those 5 words, right? Of course you can. In future posts I'll elaborate on each of these words and why these activites are important, share with you some really cool stuff I've learned about babies brains and how reading develops, as well as give you some fun, simple activity ideas that help grow a reader.

And remember, the library is a GREAT place to visit with a growing reader! We've got  storytimes for all ages (even babies!) that are designed to help build early literacy skills, thousands of great books for kids of all ages to explore, and a literacy-rich environment with opportunities for learning and play! Our trained staff, too, is ready and willing to answer your questions and help you find the best books and media to take home! 

Stay tuned for next month's post! Just a reminder...

[photo via seandreilinger]

by: 
Mary, Kids and Families Outreach

Children's librarians often act as their family and friends' personal librarian. We regularly get asked for book recommendations for children of various ages - and we LOVE it! Talking about kids' books is one of our favorite things to do. So, before you even have to ask, I've put together, with the help of some friends, a list of books that would make great holiday gifts for the children in your life. But because we can't read EVERY book that's out there (although we try), at the bottom of this list there are links to other 'best of' lists that will also help you make your book-buying choices.

NON-FICTION

Scaly Spotted Feathered Frilled: How do we know what dinosaurs really looked like? by Catherine Thimmesh

For the true dinosaur aficionado in your life, this book explores the history of dinosaur exploration. Since we've never actually seen a dinosaur, how have scientists used the information they've found - bones, fossils, etc. - to re-create the look of a dinosaur?

Locomotive by Brian Floca 

Young train enthusiasts will love this richly illustrated story of traveling on one of the first steam trains from Omaha, Nebraska to San Francisco. They'll pore over the endpapers that explain how steam trains work (including a cross-section drawing) and provide historical context of the Transcontinental Railroad. They'll learn about all the different people who worked on the train and what their jobs were. They'll even learn how the bathroom worked - remember not to use it when the train is in the station!

Poems to Learn By Heart by Caroline Kennedy; illustrated by Jon J. Muth

This book is truly a keepsake. Jon J. Muth's ethereal watercolor illustrations set a perfect tone, and Kennedy has chosen a nice variety of poems - there's surely one or more to delight every reader. The poems are divided into several categories - including family, friendship and love, school, sports, and nonsense. There are both contemporary writers like Billy Collins and Nikki Giovanni and the likes of Shakespeare and Ogden Nash. I've already decided which poem I will learn by heart - Eve Merriam's "Catch a Little Rhyme," the last one in the book.

The Silver Moon: Lullabies and Cradle Songs by Jack Prelutsky

A collection of serene and lyrical poems, this book makes a perfect gift for a family with a new baby. What really makes this book stand out are the illustrations by Jui Ishida. Soft and deep, these loving images evoke a feeling of snuggling with the one who loves you most. - Marcy, Arvada Library

The Animal Book: A collection of the fastest, fiercest, toughest, cleverest, shyest- and most suprising- animals on earth by Steve Jenkins

Jenkins is a Colorado author/illustrator and creates his animals out of paper. They are TRULY amazing. He's organized this book not by type of animal, but by things like "defenses," "animal senses," "predators," and "animal extremes." There's so much fascinating information to pore over in this book - kids (and adults) will spend hours with it. 

 

BOARD BOOKS (MADE FOR HANDLING AND CHEWING!)

My First Touch-and-Trace ABC and My First Touch-and-Trace Count 123 by Tiger Tales

These books are a great way to start your baby or toddler on the road to reading and writing! The letters and numbers are indented, allowing the child to trace the shape with their finger. Learning the shapes of letters and numbers is one way literacy starts! 

Diggers Go by Steve Light

A variety of construction vehicles are shown, and, in bold print, we learn their noises and can make them ourselves! Did you know a dump truck goes: BEEPbeep BEEPbeep SCREEEECH RUUURRRUMP PA-LUMP? Making sounds like these help young children learn about language! There are two other books in this series: Trucks Go and Trains Go

 

PICTURE BOOKS

Green by Linda Vaccaro Seeger

I think my love of children’s books is derived from my love of art and this book is a work of art. You can get lost in the lush up-close illustrations that allow you to experience each new manifestation of green. Just follow the die-cuts from one scene to the next and enjoy the journey. - Marcy, Arvada Library

Journey by Aaron Becker

This is a stunning wordless picture that will spark a lot of conversation. Follow a girl through a magic door that she draws on her bedroom wall into a world full of adventure - including a dangerous encounter with a bird! - Jennifer, Lakewood Library

Mo's Mustache by Ben Clanton

This read aloud will have everyone laughing. Mo loves his mustache and feels very unique until all of his friends want one of their own. - Jennifer, Lakewood Library

Unicorn Thinks He's Pretty Great by Bob Shea

While the rainbow colors and sparkle on the cover may draw some young readers in - the story inside lives up to the cover's hype! Goat thinks the things he can do are pretty great, until Unicorn arrives and does something "greater." But just as Goat's ready to give up, he discovers that Unicorn actually thinks Goat is pretty great too. 

Flora and the Flamingo by Molly Idle

This story of Flora, who imitates a dancing Flamingo, doesn't have any words. But it doesn't need any - the beautiful lift-the-flap illustrations clearly tell the story of the budding friendship between the two pink-bedecked pals. 

Again! by Emily Gravett

Little Dragon wants Mama Dragon to read his bedtime story again. And again, and AGAIN! At first, she concedes, but when she falls asleep, little dragon reacts, well, the way a dragon would. Parents and young children will find this story pretty familiar. 

Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown

Mr. Tiger, a proper animal in a suit and hat, decides that he's tired of city life. It's time to GO WILD! But will he want to stay wild, especially after all the other (buttoned-up animal) city residents express their disapproval? Brown's graphic illustrations are as much fun as the story.

I Dare You Not to Yawn by Hélène Boudreau; illustrated by Serge Bloch

“Yawns are like colds, they spread.” Parents and kids alike will get a laugh out of this. During story time it even garnered a few yawns from my audience. Just remember DO NOT LET IT OUT! If they catch you yawning, they are going to send you to bed! - Marcy, Arvada Library

 

MIDDLE GRADE FICTION

Playtpus Police Squad #1: The Frog Who Croaked by Jarrett J. Krosoczka

In this story written in what adults will recognize as a noir style, follow along as newbie Detective Zengo, anxious to prove himself, and veteran Detective O'Malley crack the case of the missing teacher and a possible illegal fish trade. Bonus: this book is only #1 in a series!

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein

Know a kid who loves the library? Or puzzles? Or mysteries? They'll all love this tale, in which a group of kids compete to find their way out of a brand-new, state-of-the-art playground - um, library. The contest is run by the eccentric Mr. Lemoncello, a Willy-Wonka-esque character who has a few tricks up his sleeve. 

Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo; illustrated by K.G. Campbell

When Ulysses the squirrel is accidentally sucked up into a vacuum cleaner, he develops the ability to write, understand humans, lift heavy things, and fly. Flora, who saves him and takes him home, believes he's now a superhero and must use his powers to vanquish evil. But perhaps there's a relationship that needs saving even more?

Jedi Academy by Jeffrey Brown

Young Roan Novachez is SURE he'll be accepted to Pilot Academy. He's disappointed when that doesn't happen, but when he gets a mysterious invitation to attend Jedi Academy, he decides that's a much better option than learning to be a farmer. Master Yoda takes a particular interest in Roan, and while it's rough going for a while (he CANNOT seem to manage to use the force to get that rock to float!) he soon feels like he's found the right place. Young fans of Star Wars will love this graphic novel series!

Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman 

Dad goes to the corner store to pick up some milk for his kids' cereal (and his tea), but is a long time returning. What happened? Well, there are aliens, pirates, wumpires, and a hot-air-ballon-flying Stegosaurus involved. Fortunately, he managed not to lose the milk. Wait - did all of this REALLY happen? Brilliantly illustrated by Skottie Young, this tale by legendary writer Gaiman will make a great read-aloud and might spark some parental storytelling of your own!

MORE LISTS!

If none of these titles spark your (or your child's) fancy, DON'T DESPAIR! Here are some more "best of" lists with even more great suggestions!

Reading Rockets Holiday Buying Guide

School Library Journal's Best of 2013 (includes lists for non-fiction, picture books, apps, dvds, and more!)

New York Public Library's 100 Books for Reading and Sharing 2013

Kirkus Reviews Best Children's Books of 2013

Happy holidays!

by: 
Marcy, Arvada Library

Last week, on the first night of the really cold temperatures, the Arvada library had our holiday open house. Coincidentally this was also the night of the tree lighting ceremony in the square and Old Towne Arvada's Lagniappe Celebration. (Put this event on your calendar for next year if you have never been!) There were free carriage rides, costumed carolers, and inside the Arvada Library was Santa. Excited children munched on gingerbread cookies and played with mounds of gingerbread scented play dough. It smelled divine! Many parents asked for my recipe - so even if you missed the open house, you can still get in on the gingerbread play dough fun! But remember to warn the kids...this play dough smells amazing, but tastes terrible.

Play dough even promotes early literacy in young children! Playing with play dough strengthens the small muscles in the hand. These are the same muscles that will enable a child to hold a pencil one day. It also encourages them to use their imagination. It may be a brown lump of dough, but they see a cookie, a snake, a bracelet and more!

Gingerbread Play Dough

1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup salt
2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tbsp. ground cinnamon
2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tsp. ground cloves
2 tbsp. canola oil
1 cup water
In a medium saucepan whisk together dry ingredients. Next mix in the water and oil. Stir until a thick batter is formed. Cook the mixture over med-low heat until a thick dough forms. Turn out onto parchment paper and knead until smooth. Makes about 2 cups of dough.

Try other winter themed scents like peppermint, egg nog, hot chocolate, and fir tree!

 

by: 
Mary, Kids and Families Outreach

Super cold days like today make me think about comforting things - a big bowl of macaroni and cheese, a steaming mug of hot chocolate, and Ballet Shoes. 

Wait. WHAT was that last thing?

Ballet Shoes - A book by Noel Streatfeild I read over and over again as a kid, and still read at least once a year.  You know those books - the ones that, even though you've read them a gazillion times, you still pick them up from time to time because that familiarity is a comforting feeling.  Ballet Shoes, the story of Pauline (the acting prodigy), Posy (ballet dancer-to-be), and Petrova (who really just wants to fly aeroplanes, thankyouverymuch), and their struggle to survive in 40's London with their guardian, Sylvia, is one of my comfort books.

Another one is Ellen Raskin's The Westing Game. While I know whodunit, I still revisit this puzzle mystery regularly in order to spend time with Turtle and the rest of the quirky Sunset Towers residents. I like to follow along as they try to figure out how Sam Westing died, and if one of them is responsible. It's a mystery unlike any other I have ever read - and it should come as no surprise that it won the Newbery Medal in 1979.

I also pick up John D. Fitzgerald's The Great Brain every now and then. Fitzgerald's semi-autobiographical story of his life growing up in turn-of-the-century Utah focuses on his brother, Tom, aka "The Great Brain." Tom's really good at problem solving, but unfortunately, uses his skill primarily to swindle friends and neighbors out of money. I especially like the chapter in The Return of the Great Brain when his family gets the town's first indoor plumbing (which everyone is convinced will stink up the house) and Tom decides to charge the local kids to come in and take a look.  In fact, I loved these books so much that in grade school I won a contest to create a slogan for the school library (nerd alert!) with a drawing that included these two titles. My slogan? "A book a day keeps the lazies away." Winner!

I think I'll go home tonight and grab one of these comfort books off my shelf (I still have all my original tattered copies), fix myself a cup of hot chocolate, and warm up with some comfort reading. 

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