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Has anyone else played this  game: SUSPEND? Maybe, like us, you received it as a gift for the holidays? At our house, it has been a hit, for big and little kids. Here’s how Melissa & Doug describes it on their web site:

“Suspend comes with 24 notched, rubber-tipped wire pieces to hang from a tabletop stand. Sound easy? Try adding another piece! Each time a bar is added, the balance shifts, the difficulty changes and the incredible midair sculpture transforms. Can you add all your game pieces without making it fall? This tricky game for 1-4 players is a test of steady nerves and steady hands.” [Read more…]

“Genius is the recovery of childhood.” –Charles Baudelaire

      With a little extra time over this holiday weekend, I decided to look back over my old Teaching of Reading textbooks and notes. I haven’t revisited these texts since having kids, but was delighted to see that I had highlighted many passages associated with storybook reading and its influence on literacy. It seems like common sense that a child who grows up in a language-rich environment stands a better chance at being a successful reader than one who is deprived of stories. Yet as we know, there is no guarantee that grade-school or even middle school child will love to read and write despite your best efforts. Nevertheless, I thought I’d pass along some research-backed tips for at least increasing the odds that your child will have an easier time learning to eventually read and write (separate learning disabilities notwithstanding).
  • Have paper, pencils, crayons, chalk, and paints for drawing accessible to your toddlers and preschoolers
  • Books should be accessible (at eye-level, easy for them to safely pull out on their own) in numerous rooms throughout the house
  • Use books-on-tape at home or on long car rides
  • Have magnetic letters on the refrigerator or some other surface (also plastic placemats with letters…)
  • Play games using animals and the first letters of their names
(these tips from Reading Lessons: The Debate Over Literacy by Gerald Coles)
Though you may be tired of certain nursery rhymes, they are extremely valuable to your child’s eventual literacy. “Storybook reading also fosters greater attention to written language itself, thereby promoting phonological awareness.” The rhyming words and phrases in classic nursery rhymes increase their sound-symbol knowledge. This may all sound too technical, and it’s not necessary for you as a parent to even understand why it’s important – just keep reading, and be happy when they ask for the same books over and over again.

       I also want to point out that the educational influence of storybooks do not end when your child seemingly outgrows them. Even when I taught middle school English, I used picture books in my lesson plans. There is much to be gleaned from the simple format and layout of plot. So don’t get rid of your favorite books – you may return to them some day. For my creative writing students, I often used Chris Van Allsburg’s beautifully illustrated book The Mysteries of Harris Burdick (this lesson plan is thanks to one of my first mentor teachers, Gail Karpf). The book is filled with fourteen drawings, each with and a title and short caption. You can spend hours making up stories about these provocative images – from about three-years of age and up. even when reading storybooks with longer narratives, don’t be afraid to be a little creative on your own – you may paraphrase and expand as the story allows – that is until your child begins to decode the language for him or herself – then, of course you’ll have to be true to the text, or allow your budding reader to read to you!
What we’re reading now: Where the Wild Things Are
Why: Well, we tried this one for the first time last night, after she turned three bathroom towels into monsters (naming them Tiger, Too Too, and another Tiger), but I don’t think she’s ready. My husband put her down, and reported back that she was scared of the monsters in the book and asked him to put it away. We’ll revisit again in a few months…
What I’m looking for: historical storybooks