Thursday, October 27, 2016

Make Time for Books

Colette B. Cross

Read for the Record Day this year is October 27.  On this day over a 24 hour period, many many adults and children take part in a shared reading experience.  This program is facilitated by Jumpstart, a national early education organization, whose goal is to support more adults reading to children, and put more books in the hands of children.   Westmont has been a participating school for a number of years in this now 10-year initiative. 

Teachers, parents, grandparents, alumni students, siblings, and classmates provide reading experiences in our classrooms on an ongoing basis.  We see books in the hands of our students every day, from our youngest “Little Steppers” to our oldest Kindergarteners in their cozy dedicated reading spots.  We also welcome any opportunity to read to our students and enjoy a school-wide appreciation of a new shared book.  Each class received a copy of the book for its library.

Today, I had the pleasure of being the guest reader and read this year’s book selection The Bear Ate Your Sandwich by Julia Sarcone-Roach to all of our Early Childhood and Kindergarten students.  The animated faces, thoughtful observations, and creative responses to questions showed engaged listeners and provided fun interactions for all.  I do not have daily opportunities of reading to a large number of students and enjoyed the experience as much as the children.  I do, however, recognize the importance of giving a child the lifelong gift of enjoying a good book.

Research shows that children, who are read to from an early age develop larger vocabularies, become better readers, and experience greater success in school.  Providing literacy-rich environments will ensure that children receive the support necessary to develop pre-reading and appropriate cognitive skills, for school and for life.   We can do it together; remember to keep books in your car,  in your home, and read to your child daily.  Add a book to the birthday and holiday gift list, take trips to your local library and bookstore.  Make books visible and accessible, and take time to enjoy a good book yourself. 

If you click on the link below you can read or download this year’s Jumpstart book selection.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Want your kids to tell you about their day? Instead of asking questions, try this.

By Sara Ackerman, Washington Post 

The recently begun school year brought with it the smell of fresh pencil shavings, the squeak of shoes on newly waxed linoleum and a new round of stonewalling to the question, “What did you do at school today?”
For generations, the most common answer to this question has been “Nothing,” followed closely by “I don’t know” and its cousin, “I don’t remember.”
When my daughter started preschool, I was desperate to know what she did all morning, but I couldn’t get any information out of her. Some experts recommend giving kids space and time to decompress before launching into questions. I tried that, but she still wasn’t forthcoming. Others advised me to make questions more specific, yet still open-ended. The Internet abounds with lists of quirky alternatives to “How was your day?” But when I asked my daughter who made her laugh or what games she played outside, I was met with sighs of irritation and emphatic replies of, “Stop asking me those fings!”
When school began this year, I tried a new approach at the dinner table. “Do you want to hear about my day?” I asked my daughter.
And on that day and every day since, she has never said “no.” So I tell her about meetings and photocopying, the jammed printer and how I lost and found my keys. I tell her about the games on the playground, the lessons I taught and how many kids asked to go to the nurse. I start with taking attendance in the morning and I end at dismissal. I am a teacher — at her school — although her class is on a separate campus.
Then, like she’s taking her turn in a game of Go Fish, my daughter tells me about her day. I learn what book she listened to at the library, that she changed from her rain boots to her sneakers by herself, and the cause of her brief venture into timeout. She tells me who was classroom helper and who she sat next to at snack time. She sings “Itsy Bitsy Spider” for me, crawling her fingers up the invisible water spout above her head. She leans in close. “Did you make letters in sand today?” she whispers. “I did that!”
Although being a teacher may make my days relatable to a child attending school, I think my daughter is most interested in unveiling the mystery of what I do when I’m not with her. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a software developer, a cashier, a blogger, a doctor, a bus driver or a stay-at-home parent, because it’s not about the minutiae of the work. It’s about sharing what makes us laugh and what bores us, the mistakes we make and what is hard for us, the interesting people we meet. When I model this for my daughter, she is more willing to share the same with me.
Work is usually the last thing I want to talk about when I get home. I often think that a rundown of my day would be a bore to anyone, including me. Maybe my daughter finds listing all her cutting and pasting and cleaning up blocks equally tedious. But I delight in hearing the details of her day, just as she delights in mine.
Tonight at the dinner table, as my daughter inexpertly wielded her knife and fork and I started talking about tomorrow’s plans, she interrupted.
“Mom? Aren’t you going to tell me about your day?”

Sara Ackerman is a writer and a teacher.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The Screen Time Dilemma

Colette B. Cross

How much screen time is too much?  In this day and age when screens are front and center in the day-to-day life of parents, children, schools, and communities in general, the question remains.  There is a field of thought that in order to keep up with the times, it is important for children to have access to all and everything there is to offer.   There is no doubt that young children are exposed to far more electronics/screens/video games, eBooks, etc., than ever before.  Parents know the magnetic draw and look to experts for advice.  The good thing is there are many articles and suggestions to support parents setting guidelines on this topic.  Paying attention to current research and setting family limits will help navigate this challenge.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), always vocal on its guidelines for our youngest ages, has recently changed its position on its recommendations for screen time for children. The Academy understands and recognizes the challenges that parents face with screens now appearing at every turn; the constant barrage adds to the dilemma. To read about the AAP’s current position on screen time, click on the link below to read an article published in the NY Times:

A Reconsideration completely of Children and Screen Time - The New York Times

In short keep in mind:


-  Media is just another environment

-  Role modeling is critical

-  We learn from each other

-  Content matters

-  Be mindful of “Educational Apps” - do your own research

 Co-engagement with your children counts

- Playtime is important

 Set limits and follow through with them.

For further reading, Google Lisa Guernsey, author of Screen Time and writer for the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), who gives feedback on her recent findings on how electronic media affects young children.