“That’s not what you do with a saw!” the preschooler said, giggling, as he looked at a page from Oliver Jeffers’ picture book Stuck. Soon enough, the rest of the Grow a Reader class joined him in laughter as luckless character Floyd threw increasingly unrealistic objects into a tree, all in the effort to get his kite unstuck.
Such an interaction between book and children is a rewarding thing to witness. It’s also a perfect example of print motivation, one of the six early literacy skills that are important for setting your children on a successful reading path. Print motivation is an interest in and the enjoyment of books and reading. It’s an important practice that needs to be reinforced throughout childhood because, according to research by Sharon Rosenkoetter and Lauren R. Barton in the journal Zero to Three, “Reading together is more significant than targeting any specific content or skills.” Luckily, print motivation is also one of the easiest literacy skills to tackle.
"I Don't Like Koala," declares young Adam upon opening his stuffed present. Who can blame him? The marsupial's eerie yellow eyes seem to follow his owner wherever he goes.
This is often the case with stuffed animals. What may be cute and cuddly to one person comes off as creepy to another. Koala's looks are just the beginning, though. Adam tries to hide his toy around the house. Every morning he wakes up to find the creature . . . right next to him.
“Willoughby wallaby wee, an elephant sat on me.
Willoughby wallaby woo, an elephant sat on you.
Willoughby wallaby Wustin, an elephant sat on Justin.
Willoughby wallaby Wania, an elephant sat on Tania.”
Raffi may sound like he’s singing nonsense (well, I suppose he really is!), but there’s a method to his silliness. What he is playfully introducing and emphasizing is a pre-reading skill called Phonological Awareness. In other words, the rhyming and alliteration he so wonderfully uses helps a child hear and play with the smaller sounds of words, which, in turn, lays the foundation for sounding out words when beginning to read.
If the crayons can’t stop the scribble monster, then this picture book might be cancelled!
How can a picture book be cancelled?
Kate, a very young kindergartner, came home from school one day and asked, “What’s an ‘elementoe’?” Her mother was a bit confused and said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Kate continued with a child’s sense of desperation, “You know when you’re going over it, over the chalkboard, when you sing that song.” Kate knew that whatever an “elementoe” was, it was important, and she was right!
Many of us learned the alphabet by singing the “ABC Song.” Some of us knew the song so early in our lives that we assume we just always knew the ABCs. Others credit mothers, siblings, and teachers for teaching them the alphabet and have fond memories of not only singing, but playing with alphabet blocks, flash cards, watching Sesame Street, and bringing items for Show and Tell on “letter days” at school.
One of my favorite things to do when reading with young children is to pretend that I’ve forgotten how to hold a book. Do we start in the middle? No, that’s funny! Can we read the book backwards or upside down? Of course, not!
Children love to make connections between written language and the words that they hear spoken aloud, especially while having fun and enjoying books together. Understanding how books work and that the text on a page has meaning is called print awareness, an important early literacy skill for children to develop on their way to reading.
During the day, Abe practices his violin to please his Jewish grandfather. His African-American neighbor Willie works to be as good at baseball as his father, a starter in the Negro leagues. But at night, the two boys meet Across the Alley in this story by Richard Michelson. Leaning out their bedroom windows, they swap hobbies and share dreams, until the night they are discovered.
Joyce Sidman’s and Rick Allen’s Winter Bees & Other Poems expresses in verse the wonders of wintertime while teaching about what is going on while the world is frozen. The poems themselves are delightful for young readers as they look out at the forest through the animals’ eyes:
When a blizzard buries her hometown of Geoppolis, it’s up to tough tractor Katy to switch from pushing a bulldozer to pushing a snowplow.
A hunting party tiptoes through the dark woods, nets in hand. They spot their quarry, a beautifully colored bird, resting on a branch. The littlest member of the group greets the bird, but the others hush him. "Shh! We Have A Plan."