Every Child Ready to Read in Michigan Newsletter - June 2016 Issue

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Every Child Ready to Read in Michigan  

June 2016

Every Child Ready to Read

Young Boy reading with mother

Fun with Words for 
Parents and Children

Last month we looked at a workshop that can be presented to parents, grandparents, and childcare providers called “Fun with Letters for Parents and Children.” This month, the focus will be on a similar workshop, “Fun with Words for Parents and Children.” Here is a brief look at this workshop.

The workshop was created because of the importance of children having a large vocabulary, which has been proven to be related to reading success and is also a predictor of long-term reading achievement. This workshop will discuss both the importance of a child’s listening vocabulary and also speaking vocabulary.

One interesting point --- this workshop is geared to children ages two to five, though we know the importance of sharing words with babies from birth. However, ALSC has addressed babies and words in a separate effort (see Website of the Month below.)

For the workshop you will be need the following books: wordless picture books, predictable books, information books, books with nursery rhymes and poetry, riddle and joke books, and books by Dr. Seuss. You also need to pick a song that has more unusual or rare words --- the one used in this workshop is “Everything Has A Shape” by Hap Palmer, however you can use what ever song you want.

In this workshop (as every other workshop), you will explain the five simple practices: Talking; Singing, Reading, Writing, and Playing, and then you go through each practice, relating each to the importance of words and vocabulary.  

Talking – Suggestions are to play labeling games and label objects and events in the child’s world. It is also stressed to label feelings. Adults are also encouraged to talk about what they are doing as they go throughout their day. They are to ask children questions, listen to the answers, and then ask another question based on  what the child said. Also, adults can tell stories about their day, memories growing up, or memories from their child’s life. Librarians are asked to share wordless picture books and explain why they are so important to use with young children.

Singing: The song used in the manual is “Everything Has A Shape” by Hap Palmer, though you can use another song if desired, but choose one with rich vocabulary.

Reading – Children learn more words from books then they do from everyday conversation, so the importance of sharing picture books is mentioned. The librarian should then share a predictable book that invites verbal participation. Examples are: Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?; Is Your Mama a Llama; Jump, Frog, Jump!; and Rhyming Dust Bunnies.

Writing – Activity suggestions include making a word jar,  making a book of a child’s favorite words, or asking a child to give a caption for a picture or drawing, which the parent then writes.

Playing – Fun books are used here: books with made-up words (example Dr. Seuss); silly poetry books; and riddle and joke books.

There is handout that accompanies this workshop and it contains “Storytime Starters” for parents. Here are just a few examples:

  • Tell your child how you felt the day he or she was born.
  • Talk to your child about his/her childhood.
  • Use simple props (puppets, stuffed animals) to tell a story.
  • Use family photos to tell stories.
  •  Make a word book by clipping photos from magazines.
  •  Encourage your child to tell a story about a favorite event. 

New Book of the Month

Some Bugs Book Cover

Some Bugs 
by Angie Di Terlizzi 
Beach Lane, 2016.

ISBN: 978-1-4424-5880-2 $17.99

Since the focus of the newsletter this month is on words, I want to share a new favorite book that is wonderful for introducing preschoolers to new and rare words. One of the important reasons to share picture books with children (Or the “Read,” in ECRR’s five practices of Talk, Read, Sing, Write & Play) is the exposure to new vocabulary, and this book fits the bill perfectly. It will make a great storytime addition to any bug storytime. A second wonderful feature is that the text is completely written in rhyme, which is helpful for young children’s phonological awareness. So this books stars in three of the six original skills (ECRR 1st edition) which we now know are crucial for young children learning to read. In addition to the above two, children may be intrigued to notice that the rhyming words are done in a larger font in bright colors – perfect for print awareness. And if you need another reason to consider adding this book to your collection, there is a wonderful STEM extension at the end of the book.

 “Some bugs STING, some bugs BITE, Some bugs STINK, and some bugs FIGHT!” begins the text. (Make sure you hold your nose when you say “stink” while reading the text, and also emphasize the rhyming words.) Following are delightful double page spreads, illustrated by Brendan Wenzel (or as the cover states – Bugs by Brendan Wenzel) describing all the different things bugs do. Listen to the awesome vocabulary presented midway in the text: “Stinging, Biting, Stinking, Fighting, Hopping, Gliding, Swimming, Hiding, Building, Making, Hunting, Taking – bugs are oh-so-FASCINATING!” But the best part is when the narrator invites the reader to investigate their own backyard and see what bugs can be found there. To help, there is a double-page spread identifying over 40 different kinds of bugs (also depicting Oskar the cat character.) This leads to a wonderful STEM activity where children can go outside and find bugs on their own. For libraries, this would be a great summer reading activity! 

"Use family photos to tell stories."

– Sue


You might have heard the phrase “The Thirty Million Word Gap.” This refers to a study done by University of Kansas researchers Betty Hart and Todd R. Risley titled The Early Catastrophe: The 30 Million Word Gap by Age 3.  A summary can be found here.

 The study showed that unfortunately, children’s vocabulary skills are directly related to the economic background of their parents. This means that by age 3, there is a 30 million word gap between children from the poorest families compared to those children from the wealthiest families. The gap shows up long before age three however. By 18 months, children in different socio-economic groups already display dramatic differences in their vocabularies. (Fernald, A., V.A. Marchman, & A. Weisleder. 2013. “SES Differences in Language Processing Skill and Vocabulary Are Evident at 18 Months.” Developmental Science 16 (2): 234–48.)

 Thus, the workshop described in this newsletter is very important for librarians to offer to parents. However, if you are unable to offer the workshop due to time constraints, here are some general ideas you can suggest to parents and early childhood educators, in addition to what is given above.

 1. Use new and interesting words in natural conversations you are having with your children. Introducing a new word in context helps children learn what it means and remember the word.  For example, children will learn what a guitar is when they can see and hear it.  At storytime programs, I would always have the children line up so each child would have a chance to strum my guitar. They loved it!

2. Sing with children and recite rhymes to introduce children to new vocabulary. Songs and nursery rhymes include many rare words.

3. Talk with children and ask questions that cannot be answered with one word responses. 

4. Sharing picture books is vital. Children are introduced to three times as many rare words through picture books then through regular conversations or through dialogue they hear on TV or on DVD’s.

5. Take field trips to new places children have not been before, such as a zoo.

 Think about equity though --- the above should be happening with all children, not just children coming to library programs. How can you reach new audiences with this information?  

Example: Sharing with Head Start parents? 

Website of the Month: Babies Need Words Every Day

Babies Need Words Flyer

Babies Need Words Every Day: Talk, Read, Sing, Play by The Association of Library Service for Children, a division of the American Library Association.

Don’t you love resources you can use in your library that you can obtain for free? ALSC has provided templates for beautiful posters you can make and hang in your library or storytime room on the importance of sharing words with babies. They were designed to bridge the 30 Million Word Gap (see below). The posters are available thus far in both English and Spanish. 

There is a blog with ideas on how libraries have used these posters, but here are a few more suggestions from ALSC: 

  • Post above changing tables in child care centers. 
  • Post in doctors’ waiting rooms and anywhere else where children and their caregivers have a moment to talk, read, sing and play. 

ALSC also provides a downloadable book list that recommends books for parents and caregivers to request at their local library that are perfect for babies acquiring new words. 

Sue McCleaf Nespeca

Sue McCleaf Nespeca is an early literacy & children’s literature specialist heading Kit Lit Plus Consulting. She is a trainer for the Every Child Ready to Read Project and The Very Ready Reading Program. In addition to her M.L.S., she has a M.Ed in Early Childhood with a specialty in early literacy.