Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Young Children and Writing: Where to Start

Writing is one of the five early literacy practices that caregivers can use to help children with early literacy development. Writing and reading go hand in hand because writing helps children learn that letters and words stand for sounds and that print has meaning. Babies and young children who are not ready to hold a pencil and write still need to develop muscle strength in their hands. Grasping rattles and other toys will help them practice and develop fine motor skills and the hand-eye coordination needed later for writing. Children who are able to hold a thick crayon or marker can scribble or draw. Even though the scribbles or drawings aren’t words, this still helps develop the fine motor control needed to hold a pencil and write.

Here are some fun activities to get your child ready to write and to practice writing:
  • Using scissors (It's okay if your child can't cut on a line at first) 
  • Coloring, scribbling, painting, and drawing 
  • Writing with an adult. For example, help your child create a play grocery list when you write yours. 
  • Playing with play dough or clay 
  • Tracing letters in sand, rice, shaving cream, etc. 
  • Stringing beads or pasta 
  • Singing and doing fingerplays like “Itsy Bitsy Spider” or “Where Is Thumbkin?” 
  • Stamping paper with rubber stamps 
  • Opening and closing twist-top jars or bottles 
  • Building with interlocking blocks such as Legos 
  • Picking up small objects like Cheerios (Note: Always be careful of choking hazards.) 
  • Manipulating paper — folding, tearing, wadding it into balls 
  • Doing puzzles 
  • Using spray bottles or squirt toys in the bathtub 
  • Finger painting in the bathtub 
  • Writing/drawing on vertical surfaces (easels, paper on walls, etc.) helps children position their hands better 
Guest post by Allison C.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017


A lone fox stands at the edge of a marsh full of wetland animals as raindrops begin to fall. The sky darkens, the rain falls harder, and the wind begins to blow as a storm approaches. As the storm increases in intensity, the fox seeks shelter and finds it in a fallen hollow log. The storm ends, and the fox emerges from his shelter to see blue skies, blooming flowers, and budding trees. A rainbow appears as he is reunited with his family.

This simple story of a rainstorm and its aftermath is told through onomatopoeic rhyming text in a rhythm that is perfect for reading aloud. The raindrops “drip, drop, plip, plop, pitter, patter, pat” and the ducks “splish, splosh, swish, slosh” in the marsh. The watercolor illustrations perfectly depict the marsh and its inhabitants, the energy of the storm, and the peaceful aftermath. There is an afterword with simple explanations of an ecosystem, watershed, and the water cycle. Watersong, by Tim McCanna, is an engaging look at nature that is a feast for the eye and ear and sure to be a favorite of kids and their grownups alike!

Guest post by Allison C. 

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Listen Up!

There's nothing like a good book. Nothing like feeling it in your hands, turning the pages, delighting in the written words inside. Children share that same attraction, and some days would love it if you would just sit with them and read all day long! When that happens, and you’re short on time, never fear ~ audiobooks to the rescue!

In the past, there were audio cassettes, and then CDs. These days the library offers several other audio formats to match your busy lifestyle. While audio cassettes have gone the way of the dinosaurs, CD books are still alive and well on the shelves, and today there are several digital audio formats from which to choose, so there's bound to be one that suits your lifestyle and time constraints. eAudiobooks are plentiful, and listed in our catalog along with their print counterparts. Playaways are pre-loaded MP3 audio books, featured in both the adult and children's collections. Our Tumblebook Library for young readers also gives you loads of choices of fiction and nonfiction titles that are suitable for children of all ages.

Hoopla, a benefit accessible through the library’s web site, features eBooks, music, movies, comics, and more. Items are always available and ready to be downloaded quickly and easily onto your computer, tablet, or phone, or streamed through your device so you can take them with you when you’re on the move. During the month of March, the regular limit of ten free downloadable items from Hoopla has been doubled to twenty! The kids' version of Hoopla offers children's stories, movies and more for young listeners' pleasure.

So give a book a listen. Don’t be surprised if you and your children discover some narrators you really like, and find yourself seeking out anything they’ve done. You're not cheating by listening instead of reading; you're just being smart, taking advantage of all of the wonderful resources available to you!

Guest post by Bridget W. 

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Everybunny Dance!

Everybody loves bunnies, especially as the weather starts to look and feel like spring. Ellie Sandall’s Everybunny Dance! has the power to delight readers of all ages with its festive mood and fun, rhythmic text. Children will want to dance along with the colorful herd of bunnies, especially one in a tutu and another in a bow tie, to the tune of "clap your paws, and twist and twirl, and shake your tail, and wiggle and whirl." Next the bunnies play instruments along to the beat, sing together, and then run when they notice a fox, seemingly on the prowl. They hide, watch, and wait nervously, but are pleasantly surprised when the fox joins in the fun, even playing a clarinet! Realizing that fox is just looking for some friendship and an audience, the bunnies celebrate his performance.

The simplicity of the rhymes and the bright illustrations make this a wonderful choice for toddlers and preschoolers. There’s plenty of physical activity to involve them in, which can be helpful at this time of year, when cabin fever has started to set in. Your children may choose to form a parade or a dance line at home or school, and want to "run and jump and dance and play, all together, every day." As an added bonus, it could also be used as a math exercise, as there are multiple spotted bunnies on each page, just waiting to be counted. Everybunny Dance! is cute and fun, and has a heartwarming outcome ~ everything you could want in a children’s book!

Guest post by Bridget W. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Fun with Letters!

Letter knowledge (the ability to recognize upper and lower case letters, know letter names, and the sounds they make) is one of the six early literacy skills children need to have in order to learn to read. It is also the most important early literacy skill used to predict a child’s success in learning to read.

Come see how learning letters can be fun! The library will be hosting Fun with Letters, a workshop for parents and children ages 2 - 5 to enjoy together on Wednesday, March 1 at 10:00 a.m. This workshop will show parents how to use the five early literacy skills - reading, writing, talking, singing, and playing - to help children learn letters and letter sounds. Register online at, in person at the Centerville Children’s Desk, or by phone at 433-8091, opt. 3.

If you can’t attend the workshop, here are a few fun ways to help your child develop letter knowledge:

· Start with the letters in your child’s name. These are the most important to them. Write your child’s name where he can see it (magnetic letters on the fridge, etc). Point out the first letter of your child’s name anywhere you see it.
· Write your child’s name on heavy cardboard so he can trace it with a finger or a crayon.
· Sing the ABC song.
· Play with letters - magnetic letters on the fridge, blocks with letters on them, and foam letters in the bathtub.
· Read alphabet books.
· Hide magnetic or foam letters around the room. When your child finds a letter, ask her to name it or say the letter sound.
· Let your child scribble or practice writing a few letters.
· Play with shapes and point out shapes around you.

Guest post by Allison C. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Wolf in the Snow

This nearly wordless picture book, set on the prairie, tells the story of a little girl who gets lost in a snowstorm on her way home from school and a wolf pup who becomes separated from his pack during the same snowstorm. Before the title page, there are vignettes of the child with her family and in her red parka setting off for school. The story opens with the little girl leaving school to walk home as the snow starts to fall. As the snow picks up, the wolf pup gets separated from his pack and the little girl gets lost. The two meet in what has now become a blizzard, and the child picks up the frightened wolf pup and trudges on. She hears the wolf pack howling in the distance and moves toward their howling, carrying the pup over hills, across a stream and through the woods, reuniting the pup with his pack. She tries to make it back home but falls, exhausted and unconscious in the snow. The wolves have followed her, and lick her face to wake her. When that doesn’t work, they start howling. Their howls alert her parents and guide them to her. The last scene shows the parents and child at home, cozy in front of the fire with hot cocoa.

The pen and ink drawings and watercolor illustrations in this book have just the right amount of detail and do a wonderful job depicting the emotions of the story. The desperation of being lost in a blizzard, the girl’s exhaustion, the wolves’ concern for the girl and the cozy safety of home at the journey’s end are all clearly conveyed without a word. Wolf in the Snow, by Matthew Cordell, is a heartwarming story of kindness and courage that is perfect for one-on-one sharing.

Guest post by Allison C. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Write On!

Reading, writing, talking, singing and playing are the five primary early literacy practices that the library promotes in our storytimes, programs, and conversations with parents and caregivers. Many parents wonder at first about the “writing” component of this list. Most children won’t write intelligibly until they are older, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t encourage the elemental foundation of writing from a very early age.

Children naturally want to imitate the things they see us doing, so making to-do lists, generating grocery lists, and composing lists of books to look for at the library are all common tasks that may spark an interest in writing for them. Thank-you notes from children, even when they’re not entirely legible, are always a joy to receive. Resorting to good, old-fashioned pencils and paper instead of a keyboard will show them that the act of writing still serves a purpose. While it’s true that keyboards will probably be their primary tool in the future, there are definite benefits to learning to write and form the letters they’re learning to recognize in print. The physical act of holding a pencil or crayon has the extra perk of stimulating certain pathways in the brain that add to their readiness to read in the future. Taking it a step further, cursive writing has been found to help the brain learn how to better integrate visual and tactile information, and develops even greater fine motor dexterity.

Making sure there are always writing utensils nearby is the first step in creating a “writing-friendly” home. Chalk boards, white boards, or large pads of newsprint, and plenty of crayons, pencils, and markers give them the opportunity to practice writing on a blank surface. I know it may sound scary to leave those things within reach, but at least having them readily available on request will make it easier for them to indulge a desire to “make their mark” on a blank sheet. There is even paint you can buy that simulates a chalk board, making an entire wall eligible and ready for decoration and letter-writing practice. Sidewalk chalk is a great choice for outdoor practice, and special notepads or cards for letters to grandparents, teachers, or cousins can make the exercise even more meaningful. So encourage the writers in your house, as young as they may be. You may find some fan mail waiting for you in the future!

Guest post by Bridget W.