Corduroy by Don Freeman
This book makes me tear up every single time. If you can get through the final page without tears streaming down your face, then…in the words of Monica Geller on Friends, “You’re dead inside.”
Mama Cat Has Three Kittens by Denise Fleming
The repetition in this story is wonderful to engage young readers, but the reprieve from established expectations is what makes this story so fun and playful.
A Good Day by Kevin Henkes
I love how this simple story presents an attitude of optimism that illustrates how a bad day can easily become a good day. This story is a great reminder that individuals have the power to see positive aspects of a given situation and discover the goodness around them.
I’ve recently been asked by a few people about my thoughts on sign language for babies. Before I became a mom, I’ll admit that I completely dismissed the entire concept. I was concerned that teaching a child to sign would ultimately create a delay in language skills. However, as I’ve learned from many parents, educators, books and through personal experience, sign language for babies actually assists in developing a child’s overall communication and acts as a gateway to verbal skills and literacy. Although this is a blog dedicated to children’s literature, I’m also interested in learning strategies that allow children to communicate and express themselves. Words are powerful, not just on a page, but in all aspects of a child’s life!
As a new mom, I’m just navigating the waters of baby sign language. My Bucca is a pro at signing “please” but currently has no interest in learning to sign “thank you.” She pretty much just stares at me and my husband like we’re crazy, but we are still consistent in showing her the new sign and taking her hand to help her do it as well. She’ll get there sooner or later!
Because my experience is limited, I’ve enlisted the help of some great ladies who have successfully implemented signing with their own children. This post features the experience of Kristi, a mom of three great boys and a busy sales VP for a nutritional supplement company. Here are her thoughts on how signing helped her boys communicate and find contentment:
My husband and I used sign language in our home with all three of our sons beginning at 6 months of age. I can’t say enough about the benefits of sign language with babies. We found that signing eliminated frustration, tantrums and negative emotion because our children could communicate their needs and wants with us. All three of our boys were early communicators with large vocabularies. Signing only enhanced their verbal communication skills. In terms of implementation…I say, keep it simple. Find a resource that you can quickly read and implement. We liked, “ Sign With Your Baby” by Joseph Garcia. It is a quick read that will help you understand the concept and benefits with a nice reference guide in the back of the book. We kept the book handy so that we could reference it if we couldn’t remember a particular sign. We also showed the pictures to our children. We would try to sign as much as we could when communicating with our kids. Even if it takes them awhile to start signing themselves, keep signing to them. Before you know it, when they are hungry they will sign “eat”. Don’t be afraid to modify the signs, just make sure you keep it consistent. We found that the signing became a bridge to verbal communication…from signing alone, to signing and speaking simultaneously, to verbal communication alone. In our experience, signing with our babies helped them develop excellent communication skills and increased their feelings of happiness, contentment and belonging.
Happy Reading (and Signing)!
This is the second post covering the Tell Me Framework. Click here to be directed to the introductory post.
Have you ever noticed what usually happens when someone asks you about a book you’ve just read? I know that I usually answer by offering one of three responses:
1. “It’s about ______________( fill in the blank).
2. “It was really good.”
3. “It was really bad.”
Chances are, when someone asks you about a book, you think in terms of the overall story: you either liked it or you didn’t like it. If someone asks you for more detail, you give them an overview of the plot. Simple, right? Well, Aidan Chambers states that these blanket responses about literature actually drive children to give simple answers when discussing books. In Tell Me: Children, Reading and Talk, Chambers points out the notion that children generally hear adults talking about books in terms of the general story, not about the significance of the story. Instead of focusing on a reader’s enthusiasm brought about by a piece of literature, much book-talk is minimized to merely a discussion about the plot. But (as we know from high school literature classes), books offer so much more than that! But why don’t we talk about the other elements books have to offer us as unique human beings? Dare I say that perhaps this is why children don’t want to talk much about books either?
Luckily, the Tell Me framework is all about encouraging enriching and meaningful discussions about books for children and adults with methods that are quite simple, yet very revealing and effective. For example, Chambers points out two types of EXTREMELY HUMBLE enthusiasms that children can share when discussing books: likes and dislikes.
When an adult asks a child about his specific likes and dislikes concerning a book, it is not a request for a regurgitation of the plot. Instead, the adult is asking the child to engage in a discussion about their personal fervor for elements of the story that surprised, pleased or displeased them. While the request is simple, the internal engagement a child must undergo provokes complex and detailed responses about their individual reactions and how their enthusiasms apply to their own lives.
In Honey for a Child’s Heart, Gladys Hunt states the power books have in allowing families to communicate: “Knowing someone means sharing ideas, growing together. It means not being embarrassed about feelings or being yourself” (76). I think that Chambers’ framework for sparking conversations about books feeds into this notion of communication. When an adult asks a child to share his likes and dislikes about a particular book, additional conversation topics will come to the surface that won’t just reveal more about the book, but about the child himself. This is of great benefit to parents and teachers when trying to encourage thoughtful responses in class or around the dinner table.
I challenge you to ban the question, “Did you like it?” when asking a child about a book he’s just read. Instead, request that the child TELL YOU about what he liked. Then, about what he didn’t like. If more thoughtful engagement ensues (or even if it doesn’t) please comment below!