Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Literacy Selection: How "Real" Should Our Choices Be?

Through literature, do we want to be teaching children the way that the world should be, or should we expose them to the sometimes very sad, harsh realities? Linnea Hendrickson, a professor from the University of New Mexico posed this same question in her brief article titled "The World as It Is, or As It Should Be?" Many of us remember growing up with stories of white picket fences and a "perfect" family with two children where the father goes to work and the mother stays home, but is this the perception that we want to give to our children? If a child is in a different home situation, will these literature selections make them feel like something is wrong with them?

I was just recently exposed to a children's picture book titled "Fly Away Home" about a young boy and his father and their caring relationship. Sounds nice right? But the truth is, is that this story, narrated by the son, is about a homeless father and son who live in the airport. The reader experiences the grief that the family has that results from this very difficult life. It can bring up questions and thoughts in the classroom that the children may not be ready for. Or are they ready?

We need to take the time to evaluate the choices that we make for the literature that our children are being exposed to and always have conversation about seemingly perfect stories or ones that portray difficult situations. Conversation is the key about making these stories meaningful.

In the conclusion of Hendrickson's article she says, "I suspect what the best books give us, and what we need, is a little bit of both, even though we do not always agree on'what is' or on 'waht should be.'"

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

What Can Literature Do for You?

As adults, we all have a memory in which we read a short story, a poem, a simple quote, or any other form of literature that produced an intense emotional reaction that stuck with us. For me, I connect most with poetry and its ability to combine beautiful words to create beautiful sentences. This disposition that I have towards literature is a positive one that has been created through carefully selected literature over the years by my parents and teachers. We want to do this same thing for our children as we create positive dispositions for them and encourage their development of a sense of what literature can do for them.

Literature can send powerful messages, and the selections that children read will determine what message a child gets. Further more, the disposition, or attitude, that a child develops towards literature in general will determine if they will grow and retain a love for reading for the rest of his or her life. Enjoyable experiences with literature will help to develop this positive outlook. The ways to do this are the following;

-Bring stories of all children including special needs, talents, and interests, varieties of family structures and socioeconomic statuses, and multiple races and languages
- Having plots that are socially relevant

- Including a wide variety of topics and genres so that
all children can find appeal.

Among these ways, the most important indicator that children are developing the appropriate dispositions are checking for
listening and understanding. Choose what is important for your child to know and empower them to realize what literature can do!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Making Music to Learn Language : How Songs, Chants, and Rhymes Develop Phonemic Awareness

With young children, nearly everything that they need to know about the world can be learned through various forms of play. One type of play that can teach is singing songs and learning rhymes! To understand how songs can aid a child in acquiring phonemic awareness, we must first understand what this awareness is...

Phonemic awareness is having a grasp on the structure of language. Although an extension of phonemic awareness, this does not mean understanding written language. Phonemeic awareness revolves completly around the sounds that are made and how they are connected to words and one another. The three main achievements that children will make when grasping phonemic awareness are syllable awareness (the ability to separate and identify syllables), onset-rime awareness (the ability to separate syllables into their beginning and ending sounds), and phoneme awareness (the ability to separate syllables into all the separate sounds that are pronounced). As a helpful reminder, just remember that phonemic awarenss can be taught, learned, and practiced in the dark.

Songs that play with sound are a great way to attain these skills without a child even realizing how much they are learning and accomplishing. For example, the song Apples and Bananas, practices using the same vowel sounds at the beginning of most of the words in stanza. Instead of saying "apples and bananas" one would sing "eeples and baneenees" to understand where the vowels come in a word. The song Down by the Bay practices rimes, and this could be a song that also incorporates creativity as children make up their own verses and practices their understanding of rimes. Both of these songs are examples from the musician and children's songwriter Raffi. Here is a collection of his compositions that would be very fun to explore with your child!

Incorporating music into learning lightens the atmosphere and creates a positive connection for the child by correlating learning with fun and enjoyment. The opportunites are endless for word play in music and even daily activities or conversation that just come up. You will often find that children are eager to develop their own rhymes or phrases with phonemic connections; they just need to follow your lead.

So go ahead and get singing, rhyming, and learning!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Art of Storytelling!

After a visit to the local library and witnessing a story hour put on by a small group of librarians, I realized what a thrilling experience storytelling without books can be for children. Although, the ultimate goal is to develop literacy, working on imagination and creativity and developing a thirst for more stories and information happens during bookless story time.

Stories can be absorbed through narration with props like puppets or an easel with a marker or paint.
Stories can be experienced through songs, rhymes, or chants.
Stories can be shared with body language, eye contact, and voice inflection.

All of these things and more were occuring during the library's story time and the leaders were sure that the children were staying engaged through question asking and movement instruction. The idea that these stories came from books, had the children rushing to the stage at the end of the hour to snatch the books on display so they could take them home to read.

Any of these variations of storytelling can be done at home also! Pick a prop from anywhere in your home and transform it into something magical from a story book. Your child will see a popcorn bowl as a bubbling cauldon or a simple couch throw as the cape of a mysterious character when you make storytelling into something more than simply reading a book. This excitement that is created is the key to cultivating lifelong readers.