Literacy Zone: Books About Me

Check out some of these Books About Me for your child to read while they are exploring how we are special:



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Letters & Numbers


This month in our Exploratorium we are exploring Letters & Numbers through exploration and investigation.

Try a great activity with your child at home using their favorite toys.

This activity featured on B-Inspired Mama was great inspiration and the concept can be applied to any type of toy your child favors at this time. You could try with letters, numbers, or  small word components – depending on their age or literacy level.


B-Inspired Mama used cars and a parking lot set up to engage her son in the activity.

Toy Box Literacy

To incorporate other toys, gather stickers or tags and label with letters or numbers. If you are using stuffed toys, you could label the toys and with the help of you child, build a house for their stuffed friends and let them decide where each toy ‘lives’. Label the spots with the corresponding letter or number and let them have fun matching when they go to bed or play throughout their day!



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That’s Me!


Our focus this month is “That’s Me!”  Everyone is special in their own way and children are just starting to understand this concept. Children will share information about themselves and find out how they fit in their world. They will explore what makes each child unique and special through activities that identify their physical traits, their likes and dislikes, and even how they got their name. We are proud to exclaim, “That’s Me!”

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10 Reasons Why You Should Read to Your Kids

We all know reading to our kids is a good thing—but are you familiar with the specific advantages your toddler or preschool-age child can receive by being exposed to the merits of reading? Below are some benefits that highlight the importance of reading to your child between the ages of two and five.

Child 3

  1. A stronger relationship with you. As your child grows older, he’ll be on the move—playing, running, and constantly exploring his environment. Snuggling up with a book lets the two of you slow down and recaptures that sweet, cuddly time you enjoyed when he was a baby. Instead of being seen as a chore or a task, reading will become a nurturing activity that will bring the two of you closer together.
  2. Academic excellence. One of the primary benefits of reading to toddlers and preschoolers is a higher aptitude for learning in general. Numerous studies have shown that students who are exposed to reading before preschool are more likely to do well in all facets of formal education. After all, if a student struggles to put together words and sentences, how can he be expected to grasp the math, science, and social concepts he’ll be presented with when he begins elementary school?
  3. Basic speech skills. Throughout toddlerhood and preschool, your child is learning critical language and enunciation skills. By listening to you read One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, your child is reinforcing the basic sounds that form language. “Pretend reading”—when a toddler pages through a book with squeals and jabbers of delight—is a very important pre-literacy activity. As a preschooler, your child will likely begin sounding out words on his own.
  4. The basics of how to read a book. Children aren’t born with an innate knowledge that text is read from left to right, or that the words on a page are separate from the images. Essential pre-reading skills like these are among the major benefits of early reading.
  5. Better communication skills. When you spend time reading to toddlers, they’ll be much more likely to express themselves and relate to others in a healthy way. By witnessing the interactions between the characters in the books you read, as well as the contact with you during story time, your child is gaining valuable communication skills.
  6. Mastery of language. Early reading for toddlers has been linked to a better grasp of the fundamentals of language as they approach school age.
  7. More logical thinking skills. Another illustration of the importance of reading to children is their ability to grasp abstract concepts, apply logic in various scenarios, recognize cause and effect, and utilize good judgment. As your toddler or preschooler begins to relate the scenarios in books to what’s happening in his own world, he’ll become more excited about the stories you share.
  8. Acclimation to new experiences. As your child approaches a major developmental milestone or a potentially stressful experience, sharing a relevant story is a great way to help ease the transition. For instance, if your little one is nervous about starting preschool, reading a story dealing with this topic shows her that her anxiety is normal.
  9. Enhanced concentration and discipline. Toddlers may initially squirm and become distracted during story time, but eventually they’ll learn to stay put for the duration of the book. Along with reading comprehension comes a stronger self-discipline, longer attention span, and better memory retention, all of which will serve your child well when she enters school.
  10. The knowledge that reading is fun! Early reading for toddlers helps them view books as an indulgence, not a chore. Kids who are exposed to reading are much more likely to choose books over video games, television, and other forms of entertainment as they grow older.


Books have the power to benefit toddlers and preschoolers in a myriad of ways. As a parent, reading to your child is one of the most important things you can do to prepare him with a foundation for academic excellence.


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Help Your Young Child Build Literacy

During the earliest years of life, the brain sets up for learning through the development of language. This foundation has been shown to be the bedrock of school learning and the roadblock to success for many students.

Language is a complex, multidimensional system that supports decoding and comprehension as children learn to read. The formal skills necessary to create mental models of text not only for reading but for following instructions, interpreting stories and content and other higher order skills depend upon language abilities that have been developing since birth.

Little girl reading with father

Daily Talk

Parents and caregivers teach children what words mean (“doggie”, “cup”, etc.), how to make new words (i.e. happy, happier, unhappy), how to put words together (i.e. “Ryan went to the corner store” rather than “Ryan went to the store corner”) and what combinations work best in different situations (“May I please have a toy” rather than “Give me that!”- also referred to as pragmatic skills).

Reading With Expression

It is important to read to children with expression from an early age. Six-month-old babies can enjoy picture books while they build vocabulary and language comprehension. Pre-school children, age 5, were studied by Mira and Schwanenflugel at the University of Georgia (2013), who found that the degree of expressiveness of the reader has an impact on how much of the story children are to able recall. This affects language processing so necessary for school success.

What You Can Do

Parents and early childhood educators can help young children build language skills with simple and fun activities that fit naturally into the day:

  1. Use parentese with very young children in the home and classroom
  2. Talk to children during daily events and activities to build vocabulary and language structure
  3. Play! Initiate and encourage active engagement with the environment
  4. Model reading with expression
  5. Read age-appropriate texts aloud on a regular basis
  6. Engage children in discussion and provide opportunities for problem solving
  7. Model turn-taking and discourse, essential pragmatic skills for social and academic success


July 30, 2013 by Beth Connelly, MS CCC-SLP;

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How to Create a Literate Home: Baby and Toddler

The materials you need in order to create a “literate home” at this stage are minimal, but the way that you use them with your child is important. Babies and toddlers need to explore books, letters and writing materials as they begin to figure out the special significance of these objects. What they need most, however, is for their parents to talk and listen to them. Through talking and communicating with their parents and caregivers, they build a strong language base, the ability to both understand and use language that will support their literacy development.


What You Can Do

  • Place books on sturdy, low shelves or in plastic storage bins. Babies and toddlers are more likely to explore books if they can get them easily.
  • Keep your older baby or toddler’s writing materials in one place. You can decorate a cardboard box or buy an inexpensive plastic container for his writing materials. This way, he will have easy access to them when he wants to write and he knows that they are special things.
  • Establish a daily read-aloud routine. You can do this by reading aloud to your baby or toddler at the same time and in the same place each day. Remember that children this young cannot focus for long periods of time, however, and will be more interested in the pictures than in the story.
  • Recite nursery rhymes and sing songs to your baby. Even though your baby will not understand them, hearing these will help her learn the patterns and rhythms of language.
  • Talk together about things that interest your child. Talk about things you do, see, and hear as you go about your day. Talking to your child often helps her learn vocabulary and grammar.
  • Get your child involved when you read aloud to him. Older babies will be able to turn the pages of chunky board books, point to pictures when you ask and say the sounds that go with pictures of animals or trucks.
  • Incorporate literacy into outings. Visit your local library, bookmobile, or bookstore to find new read-aloud ideas for your child. Many libraries feature free song and story hours that older babies and toddlers may enjoy.
  • Be a reader and writer yourself. One of the most effective ways to help children become readers and writers is to show them through your own example that you value literacy and that reading and writing have useful purposes. Make sure that you have a variety of printed and writing materials in your house, that you use them on a regular basis, and that you talk to your child about what you are doing when you read and write.


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Literacy Zone: Books About Bugs

Check out some of these Buggin’ Out Books  for your child to read while they are exploring bugs:

Buggin’ Out Books

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Toddlers and Reading: Use Description, Not Drilling

Sam recently bought alphabet flash cards because he wants his 18-month-old daughter Abby to learn to read. But are flash cards and other learning toys that emphasize memorization a good way to prepare a toddler for reading?

Mother and daughter reading

Memorization is NOT the key to reading

Parents see many advertisements promising that their child can become the next Einstein with the right combination of learning toys and DVDs. It’s easy for parents to get caught up in the hype that new, better products make smarter children. And because so many of these products emphasize memorization, it can sometimes cause families to think that a focus on memorization is what’s important.

Complex language is what’s important

In fact, using flash cards is not an effective way to help toddlers build language and literacy skills. Flash cards emphasize memorization rather than the communication and language skills that really foster early literacy. Memorizing is often mistaken for learning. But rote memorization is a lower level skill compared to skills developed through using complex language during meaningful conversations with young children about ideas and feelings. Rote memorization may make sense for older children—for example, when learning math facts—but young children’s brains simply are not ready for it.

Don’t underestimate talking and listening

Talking, listening to and telling stories, and hearing new vocabulary words are really the keys to early literacy. Abby needs to build these important skills before she is ready to recognize letters and words. And she works on them every day by telling stories, hearing her parents and teachers introduce new words and complex language, and listening to them read aloud from books and other materials. These daily interactions help her make the connection between words on a page and spoken language.

Meaningful interactions that use complex language can be very simple. Abby’s parents and teachers encourage early literacy when they pay attention to what she does and make comments that connect to her experience. For example, Sam can talk about what Abby eats at dinner:

Sam says, “Abby, I see you ate all your chicken. Chicken is good for you.” 

He then extends his arms, flexes his biceps, and says, “It will help you grow big and STRONG!”  

Throughout the day, he can describe a variety of emotions, like surprise, excitement, or sadness, as appropriate, and he can give Abby the context she needs to make sense of the new words she hears. For example, he can repeat the words Abby uses or use words in place of her gestures:

Abby points to the cracker box and says “cra.”

Sam asks, “Would you like some crackers? [handing her the crackers] Are these the crunchy crackers that Abby wants?”

By using a rich vocabulary to describe their everyday lives, Sam can say the words Abby will soon be ready to use herself.

Literacy learning: What infants and toddlers know and can do

When we understand that children learn at different ages and stages, we can set realistic goals for our youngest children. Such goals lead children to develop early literacy skills that will last a lifetime.

  • Children between the ages of 18 and 24 months begin to recognize and react to the sounds of language. That’s why toddlers start paying attention to rhymes in songs and identify sounds different animals make. Recognizing that a cow says “moo” and a dog says “ruff, ruff” is learning in context.   
  • Children 18 to 24 months old begin to develop “imitative reading.” For example, when Sam reads a favorite book to Abby, she often finishes the phrases. Sam says, “Brown bear, brown bear, what do you . . . “, then stops so Abby can finish the phrase, “see.” This behavior shows that Abby’s language capacities are developing as expected for a child her age. Such seemingly simple activities build connections in Abby’s brain and help her develop the skills she will need to communicate and learn to read.

For more on infant and toddler development see: Healthy Beginnings: Supporting Development and Learning from Birth through Three Years of Age.

Try this!

  • To help your child develop a rich vocabulary try using new and interesting words to talk about something familiar (for example, automobile instead of carlovely instead of nicehumongous instead of big, dice instead of chop).
  • Read your child’s favorite books and let her fill in familiar sounds (like animal noises) or phrases (like familiar rhymes).


Source: Adapted from the Rocking and Rolling column by N. Darling-Kuria, 2012,

“What Do We Mean by Reading Readiness?” Young Children 67 (1): 54–55.
© National Association for the Education of Young Children — Promoting excellence in early childhood education- See more at:

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Summer Fun

Summer is half-way over but we hope you are having a blast enjoying the warm weather and activities!


Two boys (4-5) playing in swimming pool


  • The first day of summer is known as the summer solstice and in the US it falls on June 20 or June 21 each year, depending on when the sun is furthest north of the equator.
  • People in the Southern Hemisphere have their longest day of summer in December.
  • Solstice comes from two Latin words sol and sistere. Sol means sun; stitium is the verb which means to stand still.
  • The first day of summer has been celebrated for centuries by people around the world.
  • The names of the key summer months have Roman origins. June is named after Juno, who was the wife of Jupiter. Marc Antony named July after Julius Caesar and August was named after Caesar’s nephew, known as Augustus.
  • Even though this is the longest day of the year, it’s not the hottest, due to something called seasonal temperature lag, which means that it takes a while for the oceans to let their stored summer solstice heat back into the air. That’s why it tends to be hotter in July or August than in June.
  • One of the more annoying parts of summer are the mosquitoes, which have been around for 30 million years. It’s said they can find warm-blooded mammals from 100 feet away.
  • France’s Eiffel Tower can grow by more than 6 inches in summer due to the expansion of the iron on hot days.
  • The word honeymoon has associations with summer. The Pagans used that name for the first full moon in June because they drank fermented honey (mead) as part of summer wedding celebrations.
  • July is the month where most ice cream is sold in the US. That’s why it’s National Ice Cream Month. Americans eat about 5.5 gallons of ice cream per year on average.
  • Ice pops were invented by accident in 1905 by 11 year old Frank Epperson. He mixed soda and water and left the mixture out overnight with the stirring stick still in it. Since the temperature was low, the mixture froze. He patented the idea in 1924.
  • Watermelon is not a fruit, but a vegetable.
  • Many people enjoy throwing Frisbees in summer, but they were originally designed as pie plates in the 1870s. Students started throwing them in the 1940s.
  • The first Summer Olympic Games were held in 1896 in Athens. Women were first allowed to compete in 1900.


Activities-TagMaking sandcastles on the beach

  • See a movie at the drive-in
  • Walk on the boardwalk and listen to the boards creak under your feet
  • Blow bubbles
  • Run through the sprinklers
  • Play tag, hopscotch, or one of your favorite childhood games
  • Go to a theme-park or fair and ride a the Ferris wheel or roller coaster
  • Play miniature golf
  • Win a prize at the fair
  • Catch fireflies
  • Build a sandcastle
  • Pick berries and peaches at a farm
  • Buy a treats from the neighborhood ice cream truck
  • Roast marshmallows over a fire and make s’mores
  • Make fresh squeezed lemonade
  • Visit a farmer’s market
  • Have a barbeque
  • Nap in a hammock
  • Picnic in the park
  • Swing on a porch swing
  • Sit under the stars and find constellations
  • Watch the sunset from a tall building
  • Pick wildflowers
  • Swim in a lake or the ocean
  • Go on a site-seeing bike ride
  • Go fishing
  • Camp in the woods or your backyard
  • Play tennis or sand volleyball
  • Host a Frisbee or croquet tournament
  • Have a stay-cation or take a one-day road-trip
  • Host a family  & friends dance
  • Go to a local baseball or soccer game


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Summer Fun



What fun things are you up to with your family this summer? Check out our Summer Fun Post on the 11th for some great activities!

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