Early Literacy

Books for early literacy

Much to my husband’s amusement, I’ve recently had homework!  I took my first ever online class on early literacy and the components necessary for every child to learn to read.  This wasn’t the first time I learned these concepts, but as I did my homework I was reminded that many believe reading is a one-sided activity.  It shouldn’t be.  Whether a baby wants to stop and chew on a certain page or a preschooler wants to talk about the pictures, pausing a story to meet that immediate need is an important and often fun experience!  Here are some great read alouds with ideas for how to bring stories to life outside the text.

My favorite homework assignment required I read to a child.  “Trashy Town” by Andrea Zimmerman and David Clemesha is a wonderful story describing the trashman Mr. Gilly’s journey through town.  Five-year old Miles was kind enough to let me read to him and, while I read every word start to finish, we had a conversation throughout.  He laughed at the picture of the mice on top of the garbage truck and we looked for them throughout the book.  Whenever there were contextual clues in the illustration, I paused to let him figure out Mr. Gilly’s location.  When he said “pizza restaurant” it didn’t matter that the text said something different, I subtly introduced him to a new word, “Yes, that’s right, the pizza parlor!”  One of the things that makes “Trashy Town” a great read aloud is recurring text. There’s a bright red “STOP!” on most pages that children quickly learn to recognize, especially if you put your finger under the word.  There’s a  yellow “NO” across from it where the same rule applies.  Plus there’s the refrain that children quickly pick up because it’s fun to say, “Dump it in, smash it down, drive around the Trashy Town!”  It’s a mouthful, but said with enthusiasm, children readily join in.  

A favorite title for babies and toddlers is “Peek-a-Moo” written by Marie Torres Cimarusti and illustrated by Stephanie Peterson.  Large, colorful animals cover their eyes with a flap illustration of their paws or hooves that small hands can help pull down.  Each page’s text is the same, “Guess who?  Peek-a-,”  pull down the flap and...“quack! says the duck.”  The final illustration is a baby,“boo! says you!”  Part of the genius of this simple book is it’s play upon the familiar game children already love.  Go through the book one more time and finish with a rousing version of Old McDonald, singing about each animal shown.  You can even throw in the baby with a “boo hoo here and a boo hoo there.”  

In the next book, written by Sarah Weeks and illustrated by Sam Williams, it’s a rainy day and the only answer is “Bunny Fun.”  Filled with rhymes, sounds, like “Vroom! Vroom!” and a recurring refrain this book is a fun.  Bunny and his mouse friend wander through the house making their own entertainment.  “Hip-hop! Clip-clop! Bunny fun in Mama’s shoes.”  There are blocks to be built and beds to hide under until...”Rainy rain has gone away” and bunny fun moves outside.  With a prompt and a point, children can “read” the words “Bunny fun” every time they occur.  Turn to the two-page pillow fight spread and give the child a chance to tell you what bunny and mouse are up to now!  When you’re finished ask the child to tell you or draw what they would do when stuck inside on a rainy day.

Originally published in the 3/5/12 Free Lance-Star.