As I wind my way down the list of “10 Desirable Traits to Foster in Young Children,” I frequently get requests for resources and ideas. As a result, this week’s blog is just that – a list of resources listed by the first five desirable traits. I hope that this list is useful to readers. I also hope that it’s a living, breathing document that others contribute to and share.
How to do that, you ask? Simple. Click on “Comments” and list those resources. Or write to me. Or forward the newsletter to friends who might add to the list. Or post to Facebook or Twitter. possibilities are endless. Sharing is the goal, because, as the saying goes, “it takes a village.”
Trait 1 – Empathy and Service to Others
Eyler, J. & D. E. Giles, Jr. (1999). Where’s the Service in Service Learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
McCarty, M. ( 2006). Little Big Minds. New York: Penguin Books.
“Children learn from adults. If you don’t read for fun, why would your kids?” Robert Munsch.
Instilling a love of literature is one of my favorite parts of parenting and teaching. The world offers us so many things – and formats – to read. I love telling first graders, “If you don’t love the book you are reading, then abandon it. There are too many good books in the world to read one you don’t care deeply about!” Their mouths hang open, but I mean it. Life’s too short to read something crummy, unless it’s a requirement. (In that case, strategically place a better book in front of you for motivation!)
When we offer kids an abundance of books in every imaginable setting, and show them what reading looks and feels like, they’ll soon learn that they can find books the love. It’s not always that easy, particularly with kids for whom reading is just plain hard. Learning to read is a complex process, but research shows that reading begets stronger reading skills and a solid reading habits. If you want to know more and don’t have the time to get a masters’ in reading, there are resources to help you understand the complex neurological and developmental processes each reader moves through. Scroll to the end of this blog and there are some key links to reading development, or inquire with your child’s teacher and school.
Reading needs to involve the head (cognition) and heart (motivation). Readers are intrinsically motivated to read about topics and characters they love. Reading also builds on skills such as phonemic awareness, letter recognition, decoding and comprehension. I once had a reluctant reader in our house for whom we made countless trips to bookstores and libraries. He knew I’d buy or borrow anything if he showed an interest, but there were plenty of trips where I struck out. My other child reads voraciously and can churn through books daily. My offer to borrow or buy what she’s interested in would bankrupt me, so there are different rules for different readers in our house. Nonetheless, they each build on the skills their teachers and families practiced and supported in them and learned to use those skills to read what stirs their passions and curiosity. Their interests and brains are as different as night and day, but there are some constants in their development as readers and their love of literature.
There many actionable steps you can take to help your young child develop good reading habits which will lead her to a life-long love of literature. Six you can take quick and consistent action on are:
1. Be a Reader – Let them see you read. Every day. Read for pleasure, read for work, read for information. Talk about a book you love or a book that makes you wonder. Point out when you read for work or read a recipe to make dinner. Chances are, they’ll follow along, try to join you, or just make a mental note.
2. Keep Books Around – everywhere. Neat stacks, messy piles, copious bookshelves, stuffed in seat pockets, baskets, bags. Paperback. Hard cover. Print books. Magazines. Electronic books. Keep ‘em visible and they’ll get noticed. Reading doesn’t just happen in library or at desks. It’s all around us and in all kinds of formats.
3. Visit Places Where Folks Read – Libraries, bookstores, stores, coffee shops, classes, other people’s houses, offices, train stations. Print is everywhere and everyone reads. Visit old favorite places or find new favorite spots. Notice and talk about all the new places you see readers!
4. Talk it Up – Language and vocabulary represent the very foundation of learning to read and write. Children who do not develop strong oral language skills and vocabulary in these early years will find it difficult to keep pace with their peers. Lucy Calkins, teacher of reading/writing teachers, notes in her book Raising Life Long Learners, “for oral language development, Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz was right: ‘There’s no place like home. ‘ When our children are toddlers, most of us are aware of this. When they are first learning to talk, we support, watch over, and extend their oral language development.” Keep this alive even after they learn to talk – songs, poems, chants all continue to build a child’s awareness of the sounds and patterns in language and strengths phonemic awareness. Don’t forget to talk about what you (and they) are reading too – most good books warrant conversation and connections to texts are built on those conversations.
5.Keep it Creative – Do you have a wee one who like to draw, sculpt or build? Let them do that then tell you the story (remember point #4 – talk it up?) while you write or type the story. Or let them write the words to accompany their creation. Are they intrigued by a computer? Show them how you can type and read what they say. Find a website with reading games such as Between the Lions or Get Ready to Read.
6.Know Your Child as a Reader – Talk with your child’s teacher and keep current with what skills and strategies your child both has under his belt and the reading goals his teacher has. Remember that fluid reading is reading that is smooth and easy – so books your child reads independently will be books that he has read before or finds a bit easy, but that builds confidence, smooth oral reading, and deeper comprehension. Choose harder or longer text to read together (you read one page, your child reads the next) or aloud. Keep in mind that most picture books are written for third grade readers, so even though the format and illustrations may appeal to younger readers, the words on the pages often exceed their reading skills.
Now that you’ve read this, here’s your homework:
Read something else in the presence of your child AND something with you child later today.
Pull out a few new books and put them someplace unexpected.
Make plans to visit a bookstore or library.
Talk with your kids about what you and they are reading.
Make a mental note to write an actual note next time your child creates something.
Touch base with your child’s teacher to get an update on his reading.
If that’s not enough, here are some additional resources:
Children’s author Sarah Pennypacker has crafted a hilarious, heroic, and curious character of Clementine who captures the hearts of all who share a creative mind, desire to do well fueled by a bit of mischief. Through the three-book series, Clementine shares examples of how the adults in her life just don’t believe she listens.
“Clementine! You need to pay attention!” the art teacher said one more time. And just like other times, I was paying attention. I was paying attention to Margaret’s empty seat.. when she left, she had scrunched-up don’t cry eyes and a pressed-down don’t cry mouth….”
Besides hitting home to six to eight year old readers, Sarah Pennypacker also gives adults a literary wink-wink-nudge-nudge as she reminds us that we often don’t think children are listening when they are really making astute observations of their world.
After all, listening is hard. How many adults do you know are honestly good listeners? Seriously. It’s a tough task and most of us multi-task without even knowing we’re doing it. Why do we expect kids to listen without explicit modeling, practice and affirmation for their good intentions and attempts?
Following directions, acquiring information, avoiding danger, and learning about the world are just a few of the ways children use listening as part of everyday life. Below are five reasons you really need to pay attention to the requisite skills and on-going efforts involved in listening for both you and your little ones.
1. Listening skills are critical to developing language and learning. From infancy, children listen to family members and caregivers and then begin to model their language. Listening is also critical to learning to read. Children must discriminate individual sounds before they can put letter sounds together to build words.
Educators have long known that listening and paying attention affect a child’s success in school. The ability to listen and remember affects a child’s ability to learn throughout all curriculum areas. Listening skills begin developing early. At birth, babies turn their heads toward comforting sounds – research with ultrasound indicates that infants hear and respond to sounds while they are still in the womb.
2. Listening is not the same as hearing. Hearing is a physical process in which sound waves create vibrations that are transmitted as nerve impulses to the brain. Listening is more complex. Listening includes hearing as well as the mental processes of interpreting and absorbing message and storing and retrieving information. Hearing is a sense most people are born with, but listening is a learned behavior. Which leads me to the next point…
3. Listening is a learned skill, honed throughout life. Listening skills do not develop automatically, as Florence Grunkemeyer states in her article in Business Education Forum (1992), “Effective listening is a communication skill that must be taught to and nurtured among our students.” As educators and caregivers, we can provide many opportunities to promote listening skills in our classroom. “Learning to listen is a prerequisite to listening to learn.” All adults have a responsibility to model and show children what this means. In my room, it means we use “our ears, eyes and hearts” to listen to the speaker. It’s tough, but after just 10 weeks of school, most of my preschoolers are doing this for a good chunk of the morning.
Here’s what “listening” means to some of us:
“ya use these!” (tugs ears)
“when you do what your mom or parents tell you to do something”
“when someone says STOP and you STOP!”
And why listen?
“cuz listening is our thing”
“So we can play…play with everything!”
“To find our class”
“To hear outside”
4. Listening is all in the family. Listening helps children to play an active role in their families, their classes and in school. Answering a phone, helping out at home and bringing things into class are all valuable tasks for young children, helping them to feel good about themselves and preparing them for greater independence and responsibility. Listening is vital in developing relationships with others. Listening to others helps children to work together, to learn how their behaviors affects others, and to share each other’s feelings. Some children find it hard to think about anything outside themselves. Others, like Clementine, exhibit true empathy when observing and listening to others.
5. When children feel like they are listen to, and can listen to others, it builds their self-confidence. Being listened to helps children’s self esteem and enables them to be open and express their feelings. It helps them to develop an understanding and knowledge of themselves as individuals. It helps them feel appreciated, connected and valued by the folks they care about the most – their family! How often to you listen, really listen, to your child? I know I fall short of that far more often than I care to admit!
Now if you are really serious about better listening, here’s some homework.
Think about Clementine for a few minutes. Maybe your child is paying attention – to something else. Join them in that something else and see where it goes. Perhaps there is a connection or there may be something else important that only they notice. Or maybe it’s that you aren’t really sure how to listen to what they are telling you. Provide other opportunities to model and reinforce solid listening skills. Acknowledge when they use those skills.
Do a little self-assessment: Do you really know how to listen? What do you value as a speaker? As a listener? How can you break it down into single steps so it’s a manageable task? Can you economize in the words you use?
Looking for inspiration to be a better listener? Check out Story Corp for incredible stories that arise when folks listen to others. Also check out Howard Wigglebottom Learns to Listen and the site We Do Listen for resources.
I urge you to think about listening and make some minor modifications in how you listen and how you model and teach listening to your children. We can all do a better job of listening. When we really do listen, there are stories, knowledge, wonder and joy to be had by both the speaker and the listener.
Got something to say on the topic? I’ll listen if you leave a comment below.
With about a half of a year of blog-writing under my belt, I’ve already learned that some posts are read quietly and some produce a bit of chatter. The last post on back to school and what our little bambinos think and feel produced the latter. It also led to discussions about how to help prepare children, particularly with literature. One of the items alwasy on my August to-do list but never fully executed, is a bibliography of back to school literature. A few have asked for recommendations, so I’ve once again started that list and share it below.
(Keep in mind that even if school started or starts soon, it’s often helpful to read this type of story before and after the start of school – anytime during the first six weeks of settling in to a school routine!)
1. Llama, llama Misses Mama – Strange new teacher. Strange new toys. Lots of kids and lots of noise! What would Llama like to do? Llama Llama feels so new. It’s Llama Llama’s first day of preschool! And Llama Llama’s mama makes sure he’s ready. They meet the teachers. See the other children. Look at all the books and games. But then it’s time for Mama to leave. And suddenly Llama Llama isn’t so excited anymore. Will Mama Llama come back? Of course she will. But before she does, the other children show Llama Llama how much fun school can be!
2. Wemberly Worried – Wemberly worries about everything, especially the impending first day of school. However, when that day arrives, her worries are lightened, and she even finds a friend with whom she has a lot in common.
3. Hands as Warm as Toast – Hands as Warm as Toast is a heartwarming story that any teacher, parent, or student can make a connection to and kids love! The little girl in the story does not want to leave the side of her mother to go to school on the first day, so her teacher, who has cold hands, comes up with a job for Libby. The teacher’s magic touch and way with Libby make school a place Libby wants to be a part of.
4. The Kissing Hand – School is starting in the forest, but Chester Raccoon does not want to go. To help ease Chester’s fears, Mrs. Raccoon shares a family secret called The Kissing Hand to give him the reassurance of her love any time his world feels a little scary. Since its first publication in 1993, this heartwarming book has become a children’s classic that touches the lives of millions of children and their parents, especially at times of separation, whether starting school, entering daycare, going to camp
5. First Day Hooray! – This book stands out from others in that it shows how everyone gets ready for the first day of school: students, teachers, bus drivers, principals and janitors. Nancy Poydar, a former elementary teacher, eases fears by showing that, even though you’re nervous, even though you have ‘school dreams’ the night before, everything is ready and turns out fine.
6. First Day Jitters – As this delightful and light-hearted book about the first day jitters we all get! The first day in a new school has Sarah Jane Hartwell ducking for the covers and trying to stay put. Mr. Hartwell tries to ease her nerves with calm reassurance and wise advice. But Sarah Jane is convinced that staying home in bed is the answer to her general fears about a new school: she doesn’t know anyone, no one will like her, it’s just too hard and besides, she hates school. The ending twist will have five and six year olds roaring with laughter!
7. Giggle Wiggle Wake Up – Sammy’s Monday morning routine comes to life in this rhyming text. Nancy White Carlstrom fills the pages are full of joyful noises as Sammy excitedly gets ready for school, and the fun continues once he arrives with the other children. Parents may want to use the book as a springboard for creating a special First-Day-of-School morning plan with their own children.
Please don’t forget to share the survey site with friends, new connections at school and of course, complete it yourself before the survey closes on September 15th. Those who include an email address will also be eligible for a $50 American Express gift card drawing!