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Monday, May 23, 2016

Ready for Kindergarten: Language

Welcome back! I hope that you're ready to dive into this week's Ready for Kindergarten skill: Language.

The language skills needed for kindergarten go one step beyond being able to verbally communicate. Humans are narrative creatures--we love stories. We love to tell stories, we love hear stories, and kids are amazing storytellers. Give them the opportunity to flex their storytelling muscles--it's all part of getting ready for kindergarten!

Teachers want to make sure your little one knows how to
  • Follow simple directions (one and two step directions)
  • Ask and answer simple questions
  •  Retell information from a story 
  • Sequence three pictures to tell a story
It's a short list this time around, and one that's fairly easy to accomplish with everyday interactions.

Follow Simple Directions is one that, developmentally, an average 5 year old has the capacity to do. Following directions has three components. First, If you ask your child to pass you a book, they should be able to identify what you are asking. Second, they should be able to locate the book. Third, they should be able to retrieve the book and hand it to you.
If you are struggling with your child following directions try simplifying your language. Instead of  "I need you to get up and get me a purple book with a green elephant on the cover," try "Please pass me the purple book." Using basic language allows your child to process your request faster; parse the language to determine what you want, and comply with the task. Little brains work slower than ours, so give them more time to process.
The more steps you add to the directions you give, the more difficult it is for the child to comply.
After success with one-step directions, try moving up to two-step directions. Hold off on any more steps until your kid is closer to six and a half.

Is your child able to ask and answer simple questions? If you have been engaging them in conversation, this should already be a well-established part of their day. Kids are inherently curious and want to know as much about the world around them as they can. If they still struggle, make it into a game. Ask them questions they know the answer to, like: what color pants are you wearing today? Or what did we have for lunch? Or what is the weather doing right now? And then allow them to ask you questions. When playing this game, encourage them to ask all kinds of questions.

Can your child retell information from a story? If you read a book and ask them, "What happened in this book?" are they able to give you a beginning, middle, end type of narrative? If they have a favorite movie, they can practice retelling that story. If you have a routine for getting ready for bed, they can tell that story. Any activity with a beginning, middle, and end can be made into a story.
From the book Show Me a Story by Emily K. Neuberger. Storey Publishing, 2012.

Using pictures to tell a story can often help. Your child should be able to sequence three pictures to tell a logical story. This skill is called sequencing and you can make your own sequencing cards using clip art, by painting on rocks, or by using photographs. Additionally, there are a ton of resources available online (just search "story sequence cards").

The way to make the biggest impact is to allow your child multiple opportunities to engage in conversation throughout the day. Giving them room in their day for imaginative play is also a great way to strengthen those storytelling muscles.

Next time we will take a look at the math skills that kids need to be ready for kindergarten!

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Monday, May 16, 2016

And the winner is....

The Princess and the Pony wins the 2016 Children's Choice Illustrator.  Yes, Kate Beaton won the hearts of children world-wide, including the hearts of children at the Roselle Public Library.  The Princess and the Pony was our choice for favorite illustrator too!

Not only is Kate the illustrator of the book but she is also the author too!  How cool is she to be doubly talented!

If you haven't checked this book out yet, you need to.  Princess Pinecone totally knows what she wants for her birthday this year - a horse!  She is a princess warrior so of course she needs a trusty steed, big and strong.  But her parents don't quite see it that way and get her a pony instead.  You'll have to read the book to see how that works out for her (but I think you will enjoy the ending and the stomach issues of the pony).  

Check out other past winners from the  Children's Choice Book Awards in all the categories.  There are some great titles nominated and with summer reading getting closer, why not begin compiling your list?  You'll be glad that you did!

Children's Choice Winners and Finalists
Good Reads reviews

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Monday, May 9, 2016

Ready for Kindergarten: Academic Skills

Welcome back to the Ready for Kindergarten series!

This post will focus on the Academic Skills kids need to be ready for kindergarten. Don't be scared! These are pretty simple, and I'll give you some tips to help with the ones they don't know yet.

Academic Skills
  • Recognize Letters 
  • Say the alphabet without singing it
  • Distinguish between uppercase and lowercase letters
  • Name some letter sounds
  • Know basic colors
  • Understand basic prepositions and concept words
  • Understand measurement words
  • Be familiar with book orientation

Letter recognition is one of the basic building blocks for reading. What your child needs to be able to do is sort out letters from symbols. You can make flashcards or just look for non-letters in written materials. Some examples of non-letter symbols that we see regularly are:  # & $ @

Say the alphabet without singing it seems like a weird request, but what the teachers are looking for is the understanding that the letters are independent from one another. Basically, they don't want your kid to think that LMNO is one letter.

The ability to tell uppercase and lowercase letters apart makes learning to read and write a lot easier. There are flashcards available to go over this, but you could just as easily check out some ABC books from the library. I personally like this one or this one. But we have A WHOLE section devoted to ABC books. Come pick out one that appeals to you.

Letter sounds are what kids use to figure out how to read words. Again, we are back to the building blocks of reading. The more you read aloud to your kids, the more familiar the sounds will become. You can also play a game where you make a letter sound and your child will guess what letter it belongs to.

Colors are descriptive words and are found frequently in books. The colors that make up a box of 8 crayons should be what your child knows: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, black, and brown. You can make a game of finding five things that are the same color in five minutes.  You pick the color (red), set the timer on your phone, watch or microwave and see if your child can find 5 in 5. Or you can check out books on color--we have a whole section on that as well!

Understand basic prepositions and concept words sounds like a mouthful of mumbo-jumbo. What it means is: can your kid understand and correctly use words like: up/down, over/under, in/out, top/bottom, right/left, high/low, near/far, and stop/go.

Understand measurement words doesn't mean inches and centimeters--they'll get to that soon enough! Can they understand and correctly use words like: big/little, small/large, short/long, slow/fast, few/many, and empty/full.

Familiarity with book orientation includes knowing the front and back of the book, as well as the title, author, the beginning of the story, and illustrations. Pointing out these features each time you read together will be enough to plant these concepts in their minds. Additionally, you can check out books based on the illustrations or the author rather than the subject. What if you checked out a stack of books with painted illustrations? Or what if you checked out books by authors whose last names start with the same letter? Or authors who had the same first name?

When you read to your kid every day, they pick up on these skills much faster. If you can't read every day, read as often as you can! You can always come to our drop-in storytimes on Tuesday night from 6:30-7pm, or on Thursday morning from 10:30-11am.

Until next time--when we will cover language skills!

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Monday, May 2, 2016

Week of May 2nd through the 8th

Two great events happen during the week of May 2-8.  One of the events is Screen Free Week. 
During this week, children, families and communities around the world will unplug from digital entertainment and spend free time playing with toys or board games, reading, exploring and reconnecting with family and friends.  The library is a great place to be during Screen Free Week because we have so much to do without being on a screen.  Did you know that you can play board games upstairs in the Youth Services Department?  We also have an ENORMOUS selection of reading materials - from fiction to nonfiction to graphic novels to audio books to magazines to comic books - all waiting to be checked out and enjoyed.  Plus we have puzzles you can put together with  your family or check them out to enjoy at home.

Children's Book Week is also going on during the same week.  It's an annual celebration of children's books and reading that was established in 1919.  It is one of the longest-running literacy initiative in the United States.  Children from classrooms around the country receive copies of the nominees and vote for their favorites.  This is how the five final nominees are selected.  Then any child throughout the country can vote for their favorite title!  The Children's Choice Book Awards is the only national book awards program where kids and teens of all ages select the winner.  Kids vote for Book of the Year, Children's Choice Debut Author and Children's Choice Illustrator.  In 2013, over one million votes were cast at  So come into the library by May 8th and vote for your favorite title.  Then I'll let you know once the winner is announced if Roselle kids choose the same winner!

Library Catalog
Children's Choice Book Awards
Screen Free Week


Monday, April 25, 2016

Ready for Kindergarten: At-Home Info

Hello there! I've been reading quite a bit about the origins of kindergarten and how kindergarten has evolved since it first came to America in the 1870s. As a Youth Services Librarian, part of my job is to make sure that kids start school ready to learn. One way that I do that is to incorporate kindergarten readiness skills into the storytimes that I provide. But let's be honest, I only see each child for 30 minutes a week and that isn't nearly enough time to cover all the skills they will need to have mastered before they go to school.  That's where you come in! In just 10 minutes a day, you can help prepare your child! Over the next few months, this series will cover all the skills on the Getting Ready for Kindergarten Checklist. The categories will include: personal information, academic skills, language, math, social skills, and physical skills.

Kindergarten classroom, Canada, 1898.

Our topic for today is Personal Information. These are the things your child is expected to know prior to starting kindergarten.
  • Recognize first and last name
  • Write first name with first letter capitalized
  • Tell you their age
  • Tell you their phone number
  • Tell you their address
  • Know family members and names
  • Know body parts

That seems like a long list, but I'm willing to bet that your smarty already knows some of this information.

Phone numbers and addresses can be hard to remember so I find it helps to set them to music. For example, I will use the library's phone and address.

To the tune of Bingo/There was a farmer, had a dog.

When I call home, I use the phone!

6-3-0 (drag out that number: ze-ee-roh!)

and that's how I call home-o!

My home it has an address too!
This is where you'll find it:

40 South Park Street,
40 South Park Street,
40 South Park Street

Roselle, Illinois!

If you don't like that tune, you can choose another. Just sing your song once a day for a week, and your kiddo will have those numbers in their heads forever. Do remind your kids never to share this info without asking you first!

Names are important! While you may be the only Mom/Dad/Mama/Papa in your child's life there is a good chance that you aren't the only parent in a crowded room. Knowing the first names of parents can save time in an emergency! To teach first names, you can make a game out of it. Come up with words (or sounds) that rhyme with the first names of everyone in your family. Then the next time you sit down to eat a meal together, use the name-rhymes to talk to each other.

When teachers want your children to know the names of body parts it is so that everyone in the classroom can communicate clearly with each other. You can call heads "melons" and toes "piggies" at home. But in school, toes need to be toes! Imagine trying to understand an injured child who tells you that their cauliflower got hurt on the playground. Do they mean their head? Or their ears? Or their knees? Knowing the names of body parts makes everyone safer.

Next time we will start on Academic Skills! That list is a little bit longer, but I know that we can conquer it together.

If you want to read a comprehensive document, the American Federation of Teachers has put together a 34 page document you can read here.

Additionally, the Illinois State Board of Education has a website for the Illinois Early Learning Project. This website offers tip sheets in English, Spanish and even a few in Polish!

Until next time, friends! 

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Monday, April 18, 2016

Earth Day!

Earth Day is April 22. Earth Day was founded in 1970 by Gaylord Nelson, then Senator of Wisconsin. The year before there had been a terrible oil spill in California, and Senator Nelson wanted to encourage people to work together to protect the environment all across America. Now people all over America come together on Earth Day to clean up parks and waterways, plant trees, and clear invasive plants off of public lands.

This year the focus of Earth Day is planting trees. The goal is to plant 7.8 billion trees by the time Earth Day turns 50. Why trees? Trees are great at producing clean air for us to breathe. They also provide homes for animals and insects. Trees can live a long time--the oldest tree in the world is in Sweden and is 10,000 years old!

At the library on April 23, we have our annual Garden Day. You can talk to a master gardener, learn about Fairy Gardens, or participate in some hands-on activities (registration required). You can also check out a whole bunch of awesome books on gardening, trees, and insects.

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Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Happy 100th Birthday, Beverly Cleary!!

Happy Birthday to You, Happy Birthday to You, Happy 100th Birthday Beverly Cleary, Happy Birthday to You!

April 12th is Beverly Cleary's 100th birthday!  She was one of my favorite author's growing up.  Her character Ramona always got into trouble in her many adventures.  I'm not sure how her sister Beezus handled her!  I wonder if that is where Barbara Park got her inspiration for Junie B. Jones?  I was reading an article about Beverly Cleary where the great author Judy Blume gave her credit for helping her develop the characters Peter and Fudge after she had read Cleary's Henry Huggins series as an adult (see even adults like children's literature!).

Beverly Cleary grew up in a farm in Oregon.  Her town was so small it didn't have a library.  Luckily her mother knew how important books were and arrange with the Oregon State Library to have books sent to her town and her mom acted as the town librarian.  It was then that Beverly learned to love books.

Did you know that Beverly was a struggling reader?  Her family moved to Portland when she began school.  She found herself in the low reading group.  With hard work, Beverly conquered reading by third grade.  She spent so much time at the library, the librarian suggested that she write books when she grew up.  I guess she took her advice, and thankfully so.  Can you imagine a world without Ramona or Ralph S. Mouse?  The Mouse and the Motorcycle was one of my favorite books in elementary school.  I even watched the after school special movie of it (but the book is way better!  Isn't that always the way?)

Mrs. Cleary's books have earned her many prestigious awards:

  • 1984 Newbery Medal, Dear Mr. Henshaw (another of my favs)
  • 1978 Newbery Honor Book, Ramona and Her Father
  • 1982 Newbery Honor Book, Ramona Quimby, Age 8 
So the next time you are looking for a great book to read, especially at bedtime (remember that reading together as a family is one of the best ways to promote literacy with children), check out Ramona or Henry and fall in love with them like I did.

Beverly Cleary books
Beverly Cleary website

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