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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Celebrating Reading!!

It's been four fabulous years since I created Literacy Launchpad. Wow! My baby is growing up. I can't believe it! Hee. 

After graduating MTSU with a degree in Children's Literature/Literacy and Elementary Education, I set out to create a program to "motivate and empower children to soar into reading." Now four years later, I'm still at it, and having a blast! I've got the best job in the world. Seriously. 

Here are some photos from the past four years. I have a TON of photos, so here's only a small sampling (I actually didn't go through all my photos... not enough time). Maybe I'll post some more again in another post... 

Monday, May 25, 2009

Show Me Your Book Nook!

Here's one of ours!

O.K. Maybe it doesn't look like what you would imagine a book nook should look like, but it's a space in our house where we read, and therefore can be considered a "book nook." 

This particular book nook is in our bonus room. The bonus room is where my son, Isaac, spends much of his time playing. We keep a small heap of toys in this room for him, and amongst the toys are always at least a few books.

 Isaac likes to flip through his books while he plays... Or sometimes I read to him while he plays... Or, if he's in the right mood, he might just let me sit with him on my lap and read to him. Now that he's on the move though, the latter doesn't happen much. This is disappointing to me, but I know it's just a phase. 

Now that I've shown you one of our book nooks, now lets see yours! A book nook can be a place you read by yourself, a place you read with your child(ren), or simply a special place you keep your books! If you're anything like me, your book nooks are often changing. If that's the case, show us what's new in your book nook this month! 

Let's inspire one another to create space for books!! 

Mr. Linky doesn't seem to be working properly right now. Please post a comment with a link to your book nook for us to see!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Reading God's Word With Little Ones

As a children's literature and literacy enthusiast, I obviously love spending time reading with my son, Isaac (10 months). We read all kinds of books together. Right now, lift the flap and touch-and-feel books are his favorites. Anything by Matthew Van Fleet is sure to be a hit with Isaac! We also listen to audio books, read lots of board books that we borrow from the library, and Isaac usually enjoys the Books from Birth selections he receives in the mail each month. 

Of all the reading Isaac and I do together though, our time spent reading the Bible is definitely the most important. I love that Isaac can be gaining important literacy skills while also having God's Word wash over Him. Is there anything cooler? Nope.

Now, I don't sit down and read to Isaac from the King James Bible. Ha! This would be more than just a little frustrating for both of us. But Isaac does have a couple children's Bibles that were given to him as gifts. We read from these! You can see them pictured above. 

We've been reading from the smaller Bible in the photo, which contains just the right amount of words and pictures to keep Isaac's attention. It's pretty short so we've cycled through it quite a few times (Does this count as reading the Bible in a year? Hee!). That's O.K. though. Repetition is key for little ones. And Isaac now has favorite things he likes to point to and talk about (he points, I talk) in each illustration. 

Not sure exactly what to talk about with your child while reading them each story? No problem! Our Bible has questions included throughout each story as you read. Plus, there is also a prayer at the end of each "chapter" in his Bible. 

There are so many great children's Bibles out there to choose from. I encourage you to shop around for the right one for you and your child if you don't already have one. Ask friends (or your church's children's minister/pastor) for a recommendation. Take your child with you to help pick one out!

Isaac's and my Bible time right now is right before bed. I considering moving it to the morning though, so I can begin instilling the habit of morning quiet time with God in Isaac early. I think Bible stories over breakfast might be the way to go for the time being! What do you think? Do you have a special Bible/devotion time with your child? A favorite children's Bible you can recommend? What works for you? Please share!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Improvising Lessons When Needed

Hey teachers, mommas, librarians, educators of all kinds: how often do things go exactly as planned for you with your students or children? If you're like me, then probably not as often as you would like. I wish I had the excuse of "pregnancy-brain" or something for all my forgetfulness lately. Does momma-brain count as an excuse? 

When it comes to gathering my lessons together, my brain just hasn't been at its sharpest. Last week I bought topsoil to use with a gardening story, not realizing how stinky and gross the stuff is to dig around in till I was dumping it into my sensory table (actually, I had more of a sensory bucket, but whatever) and the strong aroma of poop was filling the classroom air. Then this week, I spent quite a bit of time organizing, ordering, and picking up beautiful, glossy photos of all my students to use in my clever little Literacy Launchpad activity. Then left all those beautiful, glossy photos at home on my desk. Ugh!  

Wish I could say that this kind of thing rarely happens to me, but that would be a lie. Unfortunately this stuff is pretty standard occurrence when you do the kind of thing I do, and basically have a traveling classroom. 

What I have learned is that lesson snafus seem to happen for a reason, and can often lead to a better lesson that what was originally planned. 

When I wound up with stinky topsoil, I improvised by laying the vegetables we were using with the activity out a tarp, and letting my students pretend to dig them up, instead of actually digging them up. The students had so much fun. Their eyes lit up when I revealed the vegetables to them. I'm not sure the bucket of dirt would have elicited the same reaction. Plus, we ended up being shorter on time than I anticipated and digging in messy the dirt (especially with the extra clean-up and such) would have exaggerated that problem even further. 

This week, we did an activity where we made our own gardens (after reading Whose Garden Is It?). I wanted the students to make claim to their garden by attaching their photo to it, but since I forgot the photos, I asked them to draw a picture of themselves instead. Turned out that most of my students didn't want to claim their garden as their own. Instead, they drew pictures of creatures from the story, or from their imaginations, claiming that the garden they created belonged to them! If they only had the option of gluing on a photo, I would have been stifling those amazing imaginations! 

Lesson mess-ups have turned into opportunities for me to stretch my own creativity, to re-imagine what my students are capable of, and to give my students the opportunity to be more creative too. I'm always frustrated my these mess-ups to begin with, but have never been disappointed in the way they ultimately turn out. 

Have any of your own mess-ups turned into something wonderful? 

Monday, May 11, 2009

Literacy and Life Lessons

In January of 2006 my oldest sister, Rebecca (32), was diagnosed with stage 4 of a rare, bile duct cancer. She has been through many tough surgeries (including a liver resection), chemo, and other treatments. Right now, she has 13 small tumors in her lungs, and just had major surgery to once again remove growing tumors from her liver. 

Rebecca has a daughter, Kylynn. Kylynn is 4 years old. She was only a year and a half old when Rebecca was diagnosed, and consequently has only ever known (that she remembers) a mommy who is fighting cancer. 

This is really hard on Kylynn. She doesn't fully understand what is happening to her mommy, but knows that she is sick, that Mommy has "owwies" on her inside, and that Mommy's doctors are trying to "fix" her. 

(left to right) Me, my sister Julia, my sister Rebecca. Each us holding our kiddos. Taken last summer.

Though none of us like to think about it, we know that it's a possibility that Rebecca might not live as long as we all desperately want her to. It's a possibility, but Rebecca has been beating the odds left and right thus far, and our God is a God who makes all things possible!

Yet another wonderful thing about books and stories is their ability to teach, explain, and convey information to children (and adults!) that is not always easy to hear and/or understand. They can open doors for meaningful conversation, help create a special bond, and give children an easy opportunity to ask questions and wonder aloud about tough topics... like cancer. 

This weekend, while visiting my family in Chicago, Rebecca told me about a book that she's been reading with Kylynn to help Kylynn understand the concept of death, and of heaven. A valuable lesson for all children to learn! This book is called Waterbugs and Dragonflies.

Rebecca and Kylynn have been enjoying reading and discussing this book together. Forming a unique bond, and special memories through literature. How awesome.

I know that this is not the only book of its kind. There are parents out there that have used picture books as a catalyst for opening up dialogue about all kinds of issues, emotions, and experiences their children have gone though or been confronted with. 

Have you had such an experience with literature? Either when you yourself were a child, or with your own children? Please share! I would love to hear about some more great book titles!

Oh! And you can read my sister Rebecca's writings at her blog - Even on the Rainiest Day

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Learning Something New

Nonfiction is the theme for this month, and we are discovering all that we can learn from books. Our focus with this unit is specifically on spring (and mostly gardening). This week we learned how to grow vegetable soup from Lois Ehlert's book Growing Vegetable Soup

A few fun notes:
  • While re-telling last week's "The Tortoise and the Hare" I had one student ask me, "How do you remember that story?" What a great question. When I finished the story, I gave a quick explanation of how I do storytelling without a book.

  • I love that my students took notice during our activities of how yummy the vegetables smelled, especially the green pepper. (O.K. those are really fruit, huh?)

  • Note to self: buy potting soil, not top soil next time. Top soil smells like poop! So gross!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Favorite Toys to Encourage Literacy

So your little one can't read yet? And their attention span is only so long when it comes to reading stories together? I feel ya! Here are my little reader's favorite literacy-related toys at the moment:

  • Foam bath letters (and numbers). He thinks it's hilarious when I hold each letter up and make its sound for him. 

  • Wooden letter blocks. I like to tell him words that each letter starts with as we stack them up in towers and then knock them down! Having an assortment of types of blocks also helps with the "a" is an "a" is an "a" concept as they get older.

  • Fun flash cards. These were a Christmas gift from Gramma. I don't sit Isaac down and drill him with the flash cards. Instead, we just play with them. He likes to look at the pictures on them and throw them around when he's in his high chair.

  • Touch and feel books. O.K. so this is a book, but it's kind of a toy too. My son loves them!! 

  • Puppets. Great for encouraging language development. Stick one on your arm and make 'em talk, talk, talk!