In my most recent post, I wrote about how powerful words are in a young child’s development. As I mentioned then, it’s been said that sometimes we’re in such a hurry to give kids the things we never had, that we forget to give them the things we did have. Meaningful conversation may rank high on that list of simple, yet powerful things we take for granted.
One of my favorite moments during my last Powerful Play workshop was talking with the table of teachers who were doing their in-depth study on dramatic play. With wide eyes and excited tones they made connections between the play they saw in the classroom and the developmental benefits of playing pretend.
“Susie” played hospital for weeks after her brother was born. “Bobby” had themes of death woven through his play for a month after going to his grandfather’s funeral. “Lisa and Lori” spent most of their dress up time negotiating themes and characters. And the concept that pretending is actually part of building the foundation for reading — that one sparked a major a-ha moment.
Seeing how excited they became as they unpacked all of this, reminded me of why I love what I do. And made me want to give the same experience to you. So here’s a repost from the archives, originally posted in 2010. A primer on the purpose of playing pretend.
Share your observations of powerful play in the comments!
Many parents have come to their child’s preschool teacher with the same concern. “It seems like my child plays dress-up all day at preschool. What could he possibly be learning from that?” The question is understandable – what does he learn from leaping around with his cape fluttering behind him? And yet, the question is somewhat ironic, as these very parents likely spent much of their childhood engaged in the same kind of play. [Read more…]
Book Plus. It’s my favorite formula for gift giving. Find a stellar book, add another meaningful item and you have a winning combination.
I’ve had many people ask me how to teach children to read. Whether it’s a parent who doubts knowing enough to help her child through the process, or a teacher who worries that he’s pushing past the bounds of developmentally appropriate practice, there are many who wonder exactly how to get the job done well.
My grandmother had a very green thumb. As my grandfather toiled away at getting alfalfa fields to grow and cows to give milk in a high desert climate, she turned their front yard into an explosion of color and scent. There were bright California poppies, delicate bleeding heart bushes, a huge swath of daisies, roses that were fuller and brighter than anything at the store, fascinating four o’clocks, little purple pansies (which she loved to sing about), and my favorites: the lilac and snowball bushes.
“The first thing kids should learn about words is that they have meaning.”
That’s what I wrote in a guest post for The Imagination Tree recently. And it’s true! While there is plenty of practice that does — and needs to — go on with pieces and parts of words, rearranging letters, and practicing sounds and sight words, we must remember that with all of that, kids need a strong foundation in using words to receive and send meaning.
We’re really quite fixated on the importance of literacy in education, but if reading isn’t connected to meaning, all we’re teaching kids to do is string a bunch of sounds together. That’s not literacy.
In this old article from a 2005 issue NAEYC’s Young Child magazine, Susan Neuman and Kathleen Roskos, leading researchers in the field of early literacy, wrote about the importance of infusing meaning into the literacy experiences of early readers.
In reference to the joint position statement created by NAEYC and the International Reading Association outlining developmentally appropriate practice in literacy instruction, the authors wrote:
“The research-based statement stresses that for children to become skilled readers, they need to develop a rich language and conceptual knowledge base, a broad and deep vocabulary, and verbal reasoning abilities to understand messages conveyed through print. At the same time, it recognizes that children also must develop code-related skills” (phonological awareness, the alphabetic principle, etc.).
“But to attain a high level of skill, young children need many opportunities to develop these strands interactively, not in isolation. Meaning, not sounds or letters, drives children’s earliest experiences with print. Therefore, the position statement points out that although specific skills like alphabet knowledge are important to literacy development, children must acquire these skills in coordination and interaction with meaningful experiences (Neuman, Bredekamp, & Copple 2000).”
How do you create a culture of literacy that is rich in meaning? Here are a few key ideas. [Read more…]
There is something about a good picture book that really gets me really excited. It makes me want to tell everyone about it immediately. (OK, honestly it makes me want to purchase it immediately, then it makes me want to tell everyone about it.) That’s what happened when I laid eyes on the first book presented by Dreamling Books, The Boy Who Spoke to the Earth.
Maybe it was the gorgeous pictures — amazing illustrations by Disney Interactive artist David McClellan, mimicking the stunning photography style of the author, adventure photographer Chris Burkard.
Maybe it was the message: to slow down, enjoy the journey, and breathe in the beauty all around you.
Whichever it was that hit first, it was the combination that reminded me of so many moments when I’ve suddenly realized that the grandeur of nature has enveloped me. You know, that moment where something stirs inside of you? [Read more…]
A book is my favorite thing to give as a gift, especially to a child! And one of my favorite ways to package that gift is with another connected item that will extend the experience and the meaning. I put a few of my favorite books together in this format last year (find that list here). Between the positive feedback on that first list, and my own delirious love of books, the list has really grown this year, spanning from board books to activity resource books. There’s really something for every age!
(This post contains Amazon affiliate links. Click on titles to find each book and/or item.)
I noticed my 2 1/2 year old walking around the back yard the other day with a small rectangular rock nestled in the palm of his hand. I watched as he excitedly moved it around as he energetically bounded around the lawn, obviously in his own world. I wondered where his imagination had taken him. Then I heard the giveaway: “Boop! Boop!” He was holding the rock out, extending his arm toward a ride along car in the yard. “My boop-boop!” He said as he looked up with a huge grin of satisfaction, having clearly just set the alarm on his toy car with his own personal key fob.
“We’re building a home up the street.”