In storytime at the MacKay branch this week, we played a game in which we recited each other’s names while clapping on each syllable. My name is Amy; it has two syllables, so we clapped twice while we said it. A name like Mike has just one syllable (one clap), while a name like Caroline gets a whopping three claps!
Learning to break words into their component parts is one of the foundations of early literacy. By dividing their names into distinct syllables, children begin to think about how language is made up of smaller sounds (and by extension, words are made up of individual letters). We can make this kind of activity more fun by adding rhythm elements like clapping, drumming, and stomping feet.
You may find that you’re already doing this without even thinking about it. Nursery rhymes, poetry, and music are all common examples of language that has been set to a structured rhythm. So keep singing with your child and building those pre-literacy skills!
There was an interesting Op-Ed piece in the New York Times today about the importance of imaginative play for young children. At the library we talk about the importance of play for developing early literacy skills, but as this article points out, “many adults think of play as separate from formal learning. The reality is quite different.” Play strengthens skills and knowledge and helps children self-regulate in a group. The article describes what a purposeful play space looks like. It has activity centers that “invite exploration, fire the imagination, require initiative and prompt collaboration.”
Chelmsford’s Main Library offers a PlaySpace on Tuesday mornings for 2 and 3 year old children. Children listen to a story and then go to activity stations that are tied to the story. We create the environment using simple items you can find around the house. We offer activities to build fine and gross motor skills. We have crafts and dramatic play. We have a sensory station, a felt board and an area to read similar stories.
For the next 2 Tuesdays our story will be Go Away Big Green Monster by Ed Emberley. Grownups and children are invited to come promptly at 10:00am and be prepared to play!
The next great author is…. Your child.
We remind parents that Talking, Reading, Singing and Playing are all stepping stones for a child learning to read. We also mention Writing. This may be confusing when talking about very young children who cannot make letters. How can they “write”?
Little children scribble for pictures and writing. They are making a permanent record of their thoughts and feelings at that time. The scribbles should always be celebrated. It is usually a bit later that children will draw and then scribble under the picture to write about it – knowing that pictures and words are different things.
Thick markers and crayons with unlined paper are good tools for this very early stage.
Exposure to nursery rhymes is an important building block for literacy. When I began as a children’s librarian, I asked a number of Kindergarten teachers for advice. They said that children were coming to Kindergarten without knowing nursery rhymes, and it would help a great deal if I taught them. I have always loved nursery rhymes, so I was happy to do this.
My signature nursery rhyme is Hickory Dickory Dock. I have a mouse puppet that I named Maureen. She always appreciates it when the children sing her favorite rhyme. In fact she gives everyone kisses at the end of the storytime she is so happy.
The rhyming is an important part, but singing the rhymes makes an even more powerful learning tool. When we sing, we pronounce each syllable more distinctly. This helps children understand that words are made of letters, each letter has its own sound, and when we group the letters together they make interesting sounds. Singing helps a child hear bits of sound at a time.
Because I have difficulty carrying a tune, I need adults to help me in all my storytimes. I’m not giving singing lessons. I’m breaking words into syllables and that’s something everyone can do with children.
P.S. I won a trivia contest recently, because the final question had to do with the 2nd verse of Jack and Jill. I was the only one who knew the answer. How fun is that?
Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water. Jack fell down and broke his crown and Jill came tumbling after.
Up Jack got and home did trot as fast as he could caper. He went to bed and wrapped his head with vinegar and brown paper.