Every Child Ready to Read in Michigan - January 2017 Newsletter

every child ready to read

Every Child Ready to Read in Michigan -  January 2017

In This Issue:

This Month's Wisdom...

"Children also learn new words from one another while playing, or when looking at books on buildings or structures. In addition, dramatic play often grows out of constructive play, which leads to increased oral language production while the child is role-playing. "

~ Sue McCleaf Nespeca


STEM and Early Literacy


Many libraries have begun having more STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs at their libraries for teens, school age and preschool children. But what, if any, connections are there between STEM and early literacy? We know that STEM programming encourages curiosity and critical thinking, but can you really relate this type of programming to early literacy practices?

Before we explore that, I think it is important to realize that even though STEM topics and literacy skills appear to be two different disciplines, without well-developed literacy skills, children would not be able to engage in STEM exploration and activities. Reading Rockets has a wonderful quote on this: “Many of the skills that are critical for growing strong readers and writers are also core skills in the study of science and math. Predicting, understanding cause and effect, understanding sequence, acquiring a rich vocabulary, building background knowledge, and developing the ability to read and write informational text are some of the skills (common to both).” So with that understanding, let’s look at the connections between the five practices and STEM programming.

TALK – While doing various STEM activities, children can talk about what they are doing (narrative skills) explaining the process and results of any experiments they may do. They will also most definitely be introduced to new vocabulary by engaging in activities that encourage them to explore.

SING – While working on or after completing STEM activities, songs can be a great extension. Here is just one example:

Color Mixing – After sharing a book on colors, you can have children engage in color mixing, exploring on their own how colors can be combined to make new colors. Then, you can sing a song about colors such as “Let’s Paint a Picture” by Jack Grunsky or “If You’re Wearing Colors” by the Learning Station, or “A Rainbow of Colors” by Greg and Steve.


READ – One of the suggestions by the authors of the Every Child Ready to Read manual is for librarians to use more nonfiction books in their storytime programs. Keeping with the color theme mentioned above, a great nonfiction book to share with a color program or storytime is one of Jane Brocket’s “Clever Concept” books, Ruby, Violet, Lime: Looking for Color. The very simple text explains how red, yellow and blue are primary or pure colors that can’t be made by mixing different colors together. It then goes on to explain how one can mix primary colors to make more new colors which are called secondary colors.

WRITE – Children can draw pictures about activities they are doing, but also, many of these activities require fine motor skills, which are skills that need developed to help later with learning to write.

PLAY – Many libraries have added block play to their library programming to increase STEM experiences I am going to quote myself now J on the value of block play for early literacy. “We often tend to think children are primarily learning mathematical skills while playing with blocks. However, numerous studies have shown the positive effects of block and brick play on early literacy. Skills and abilities developed through block play are essential for success in reading and writing. One major effect is on language and vocabulary learning. Children are deciding what to build and selecting different sizes and shapes of blocks, but also are communicating with their peers and with adults. They often discuss their plans for building, and are eager to describe what they have built. With librarian or adult help, new vocabulary can be increased. (Example: “I see you have built a ramp/incline.”) Children also learn new words from one another while playing, or when looking at books on buildings or structures. In addition, dramatic play often grows out of constructive play, which leads to increased oral language production while the child is role-playing. The value of oral language creation by children through dramatic play with blocks was documented by Isbell and Raines (1991). Their research study compared language production in two areas—a block center versus a housekeeping center, often considered an area that cultivates rich language. Their results found that the block center produced a greater amount of higher quality oral language than the housekeeping center. The children playing with blocks had greater verbal fluency (spoke more words), used more complete sentences, and generated more vocabulary diversity (total number of different words used). The researchers concluded that playing with blocks should be considered vital to the promotion of children’s oral language development.” The above quote is from a White Paper I researched and wrote for ALSC/ALA. A section follows on “Maximizing the Impact on Early Literacy” which gives suggestions on ways to make block play more literacy appropriate. 

New Books of the Month


Here are three nonfiction books from 2016 that will be great to share with young children - two could specifically be used in STEM programs. 

Squirrels Leap, Squirrels Sleep. April Pulley Sayre. Illustrated by Steve Jenkins. Henry Holt, 2016. ISBN: 978-0-8050-9251-6. $17.99.

The brief text is written in rhyme and covers all the things one would see a squirrel doing throughout the day.

Squirrels wrestle.
Squirrels leap.
Squirrels climb.
And squirrels sleep.

Award-winning artist Steve Jenkins’ illustrations will be easily seen and appreciated if the book is shared with a preschool audience. Four pages of nonfiction information about squirrels are included in back of the book. 


I Am Josephine (and I am a Living Thing). Jan Thornhill and Jacqui Lee. Owlkids Books, 2016. ISBN: 978-1-77147-156-5. $18.95.

Josephine is a girl, a big sister, a human being, a mammal, an animal, and a living thing. Colorful illustrations accompany a text that could also be shared in a program about how human beings fit into the earth and how each human is unique, which means “there is no one else on Earth who is exactly like you!” A double-page spread in the back of the book defines each of these terms: living things; animals; mammals; and human beings. 

Walking in a Winter Wonderland. Peggy Lee. Holt, 2016. ISBN: 978-1-62779-304-9. $17.99.

This is a beautifully illustrated song picture book of the song made famous by Peggy Lee. I dare you to try to read it, rather than sing it! This will be great to share in any winter or snow storytime program for preschoolers.

“Sleigh bells ring, are you listening? In the lane, snow is glistening. A beautiful sight, we’re happy tonight, walking in a winter wonderland.”


Websites of the Month


Here are several web sites that will be helpful to librarians who want to do STEM or STEAM (adding arts) programs for preschoolers.

1. The Show Me Librarian 

“Welcome to ALL things STEAM, a resource for offering library programming in science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics.”  There is a complete section on preschool programming.

2. STEM in Libraries 

Not all programs here are for preschoolers, but there are many that are just for preschoolers or for all ages. There are many ideas here!

3. Simply STEM 

Again, this is a very rich site, and all the programs here are for preschoolers. They are divided by: General Programs; S.T.E.M. in Storytimes; and Materials for Implementing STEM Programs.

4.  Surprise! It’s STEM for Toddlers 

This is an interesting article about programs for the youngest patrons that come to our library! 



One of the reasons there has been so much emphasis on STEM in the past few years is because there is a huge gap between STEM related careers and the number of children/teens who are studying subjects to qualify for these jobs in the future. It has also been found that this gap is the largest for at-risk and minority children. So how can we reach these children with STEM programs and books that support STEM learning?

Of course, this is always the hard question to answer for anything we do in libraries. How do we reach parents of at-risk young children with the messages we would like to impart on the ECRR five practices? Particularly if we are working at a library where staff and time is short and outreach is almost impossible.

One thing we might consider is reaching those adults who work with at-risk youth. By having a continuing education workshop for Head Start and preschool teachers at the library OR at an already scheduled workshop for these teachers being held by local education organizations, we can indirectly reach these children. Not only can we share books (picture books and easy nonfiction books) but also some simple hands-on activities that would be great for preschool children. Teachers should welcome this help!

The Natural Start Alliance website has another great article on why it is important to engage young children in STEM education: Engaging Children in STEM Education EARLY!