Help Your Child Catch the Wonder

and Magic of Books in a Home

Literacy Center

A literacy center for the home cannot possibly contain all the elements found in a kindergarten classroom.  This is particularly so for a busy parent, who is helping her child develop skills and abilities necessary to succeed in first grade...and...the other 11 years of school, beyond.
A reading center is not intended to increase pressure on you, the parent, to DO the kindergarten program, at home.  Its intent is to support classroom instruction.  Its intent is to
 
                        enhance academic outcomes for your child
 
What is offered as kindergarten tips is a variety of activities to support your child's learning.  They are activities that are comfortable and enjoyable...for you and your child.

 

These basic practices serve your child well as she enters first grade.  They are supportive practices. 

They are not miniature lessons that mirror those given in classrooms.  Supportive practices help build the foundation for school success.

 How do children become readers and writers? 
 
Children who learn to read and write in preschool do so because there is support for these activities in the home.
Without considerable effort on your part, a reading corner is made up of age-appropriate books.  The selection is best if the books serve two distinct purposes:
Books for skill integration and ability development.
Books to read for pleasure and extension.

Books for Skill Integration and Ability Development 

These are books that are selected to use in skill practice.  They are books that help your child consolidate and integrate previously learned skills.
 
Letter-name recognition, emerging word recognition skills, spelling, and even ordinal skills are skills that are developed separately.  However, they can be brought together in a single activity to develop their automatic use when reading.  It is best if the setting in which to apply those skills fits their intended use. 

 

It's very much like learning to drive a car.  Do you remember when your Dad took you to the empty parking lot of a shopping center, or a school, for that first driving lesson?  There were so many things to consider. 

First you learned to put the car into gear.  You also had to teach your feet to find and remember where the clutch, the brake, and the gas pedals were located.  If you learned to drive in a vehicle with a standard shift, you had to learn to coordinate the clutch with the accelerator while releasing the emergency brake. 

Didn't it take a bit of practice to get to the point where these movements were synchronized?

How many jack-rabbit starts did it take to achieve the level of automatic function?
 
Then came steering and looking ahead.

 

Just when you thought you might really drive, Dad asked you who/what was behind you forcing you to look into the rear-view mirror.  What happened to the steering when you stopped looking ahead to check the mirrors to give him the answer? 

Wasn't it a struggle to coordinate the functions of turning, stopping, being mindful of what was beside you, staying in the middle of the lane, using the turn signal, using the horn, parking (parallel and angle), and backing out...all of it before going out on the road, even with low traffic volumes?

 
Over time, all of these perceptions and actions integrated and functioned automatically.  Finally, you were on the road where a whole new set of conditions needed your mindful attention.  Didn't it make you wonder if you would ever learn to drive with confidence? 

Learning to read is somewhat comparable. 

Learning about reading is not the same as learning how to read.

What is the purpose of learning separate skills if not to integrate them and apply them in practice...in reading books?  As you practice their application, they come to function automatically.
 
What kinds of books, in a home literacy center, develop skill and ability in reading?
 
            Alphabet books of all types...
            Books that contain repetitive sentence patterns...
            Books that have illustrations that support the text...
            Books that use some words your child recognizes.
 
Looking at and reading alphabet books with your child reinforces visual memory for the letters and their sound equivalents.  In the early stages of learning the alphabet, letter recognition and letter-naming are reinforced through reading a variety of alphabet books.  Their value includes extending your child's knowledge base in color, in counting, and in visual literacy. 
In addition to firming up the alphabet, the illustrations are useful to explore and name the colors.  In doing so, you might suspect and/or identify areas of color blindness.  These may become strong enough, over time, to have your child tested for color-blindness.  Ask questions such as,"What color is the ______?" or, "Point to a blue _______."  Use the 8-pack crayon colors as a guide for your questions.
 
Often, the illustrations in alphabet books are a source for counting.  Many alphabet books are intenionally designed to promote it.
Check them out to see if they fit your standard for the look and feel and the quality of the illustrations.  There is a wide variety available to you through your public library.  Be mindful of your wallet!  Public library holdings give you the opportunity to explore and use before purchase.  By all means, buy those you simply must have.
 
For me, Anno's Alphabet by Anno Mitsumasa, is a must have in a home reading center.  The illustrations are clear and captivating.  The pages are clean and free of clutter.  The illustration for each letter draws the eye and fascinates, simultaneously.  The decorative border to each page, in black and white, contains images of objects that begin with the letter in question.  Anno provides an alphabetical list of the objects used in the border for convenience of the reader.  Anno's Alphabet is five-star picture book!
 
Another is Ted Harrison's A Northern Alphabet.  His use of line and color excites the senses.  Distinctive, it is magical and unforgettable.  Each sentence can be used as a story starter.  The illustrations lend themselves to vocabulary development.  Even young children with or without artistic talent can imitate his style to produce distinctive art.
Books in a reading nook which have repetitive sentence patterns allow your child to feel that she is reading.  If the illustrations support the new word introduced, it increases the probability that she will be able to "guess" accurately and insert the right word. 
 
Bill Martin, Jr.'s book, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? is a good model to use.  "I see a ......., looking at me."  A new word, supported by the illustrations, replaces the word used in the previous page.
 
Language pattern books, in a reading center, are useful when introducing new books to your child.  This is especially so if they use some of the same words.  Referring back to a book where the pattern was used and remembered can help your child understand that...
 
                         once a word has been identified and learned,
                         it can be read no matter where it appears. 
 
When your child understands and realizes that, she will be well on her way to reading.  With practice, that dawning does occur!
There is a variety of help you can offer when your child NEEDS it.  You can ask your child to say the names of the letters of the unknown word and then tell him the word.  You can ask your child what word would make sense in that idea or sentence.  You can ask your child to look at the picture as a means to figure out what the word might be. 
 
It is important not to step in before you are needed.  It seems counter-intuitive, doesn't it?
 
Why? 
 
You don't want your child to become dependent on you to read all those words she doesn't know.  Self-help strategies must be practiced to become automatic. 
 

Thinking doesn't develop without opportunity!

 
It's important to realize that children expend a great deal of energy in learning to read.  Relief from reading practice is found in...
 
Books to Read For Pleasure and Extension
 
Books to consider for a literacy center should include:
 
            Books that are rich in language...
 
            Books that explore subjects that extend and go
            beyond the interests in the home...
 
            Books that are rich in quality illustrations...
 
            Books that contain humor and amusement, and...
 
            Books of poetry and nursery rhymes.
 
Why select titles for a book corner that are rich in language?
 
What is meant by books rich in language?
Books that are rich in language reflect patterns of language and use of vocabulary not typically used in the home.  The ideas your child experiences through these books influence:
            the language your child uses
            the words your child learns, and
            the levels of meaning your child attaches to these words.
 
Language influences our thinking about how it is put together, how it works, the way it changes, and the way it affects our lives.  If language activities, through reading, are rich and varied, there is opportunity for growth in listening and speaking skills. 

      These skills, in turn, reinforce thinking, reading, and writing.

 
 
Every experience your child has influences his development.  This is especially true in language and intellectual development.
 
Books connect you to your child.  The comfort of nearness makes reading a happy time for you and your child.
 
Please note:
Many of the suggested titles could fit in more than
one category.  That is, they are rich in language
with quality illustration.  Others are rich in language
containing humor and amusement. 
Books that are rich in language - Titles to consider:
 
            The Mitten by Jan Brett
            Pete's a Pizza by William Steig
            Sheep in a Jeep by Nancy Shaw
            The Night Walker by Richard Thompson
            One Duck by Hazel Hutchins
            The Pea Blossom by Amy Lowry Poole
            Two Bad Ants by Chris Van Allsburg
            The Balloon Tree by Phoebe Gilman
 
 
Books that explore subjects beyond the interests in the home:
 
            If You Want to See a Caribou by Phyllis Root
            Welcome to Kindergarten by Anne Rockwell
            Tyrannosaurus Time by Joanne Ryder
            The Racecar Alphabet by Brian Floca
            A Pod of Orcas:  A Seaside Counting Book by Sheryl McFarlane
            Big and Little by Steve Jenkins
            Ask Me by Antje Damm
            How are You Peeling? Foods with Moods by Saxton Freymann
 
Books that are rich in quality illustrations:
 
            The Hungry Coat by Demi
            Long Night Moon by Cynthis Rylant
            Dragon New Year by David Bouchard
            Storm Boy by Paul Owen Lewis
            Polar Bear, Polar Bear by Bill Martin Jr.
            123 Pop! by Rachel Isadora
 
Books that contain humor and amusement:
 
            Silly Sally by Audrey Wood
            Silly Billy by Pat Hutchins
            Curious George Gets a Medal by H.A. Rey
            What Baby Wants by Phyllis Root
            10 Minutes Till Bedtime by Peggy Rathman
            Click Clack Moo Cows That Type by Coreen Cronin
 
Books of poetry and nursery rhymes:
 
            Mother Goose Remembers by Clare Beaton
            Lucy Cousins Big Book of Nursery Rhymes by Lucy Cousins
            Sing a Song of Sixpence:  A Pocketful of Nursery Rhymes and Tales
                        by Jane Chapman
 
Old favorites include books by:
 
            Leo Lionni
            Stephen Kellog
            Richard Scarry
            Ezra Jack Keats
            Paul Galdone
            Eric Carle
            Maurice Sendak
            Pat Hutchins
            Tomie De Paola
            Bill Peet
            Arnold Lobel
            John Burningham
In your effort to establish a literacy center, in your home, keep in mind that the books you select...
            provide experiences that build vocabulary and concepts
            provide opportunity to develop multiple meanings of words
            familiarize your child with sentences and patterns
            and develop manners of expression
in line with what they will encounter in school.  The contribution of ideas, vocabulary, and grammar assist in the development of your child's unique voice.
Be aware that children who are read to have an 80 percent greater chance of graduating from high school than those who aren't.  The literacy expectations for both groups are the same once they enter the first grade classroom!
Any book you read is good for your child.  However, what is most helpful to your child is using the highest quality books available to you.  The higher the quality, the more enriching it is for your child.  The more enriched background your child brings to learning, the more successful she can be.

Read the books in the literacy center before you present them to your child.  Think about questions you might ask before reading the book.  It is important to lay the groundwork necessary for a successful experience.  Books in the literacy center should be accessible to your child...whenever the mood strikes.

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