Archive for the ‘Family Literacy’ Category

Supporting a Child With Delayed Speech or Language Development

Posted on April 1st, 2014 by Carolyn Hart


Supporting a Child With Delayed Speech or Language Development

Since September 2013, I have been working twice a week with a four year old boy who has delayed speech. He lives in a bilingual household and he has one older sibling – a girl who also had delayed speech. It has been enormously rewarding to help this child find his voice. He is unfailingly happy and is always excited to welcome me and my “bag of tricks” into his home.

Here are some of the items that have been particularly helpful as we find ways to engage him verbally.

Alphabet by Matthew Van FleetAlphabet by Matthew Van Fleet has been our go-to alphabet book.

At almost every one of our sessions, my student has touched, lifted flaps and pulled the tabs of this cheerful and engaging alphabet book and accompanying (pop up) poster. Whether feeling the alligator’s scaly tail or the yak’s shaggy head, this is a book that children love to explore through touch.

Phonemic awareness is also supported as the author effectively uses alliteration, ‘Wet waddling Warthogs,’ rhyming and onomatopoeia, ‘Furry Lions roar, Whiskered Mice squeak, Hungry newborn Nightingales – cheep, cheep, cheep!‘ while introducing a variety of animals. Older children will notice that extra details have been added to the illustrations but not the text. Termed, Safari Sightings, these animals and plants are illustrated and listed in an afternote.

Alphabet won the following

2008 National Parenting Publications Gold Award
Parenting Favorite Book of the Month, April 2008
Top Ten Children’s Books of 2008,
A New York Times Children’s Bestseller (2008)

Alphabet at

Alphabet at

Ravensburger See Inside Puzzle

I can’t tell you how many times we have solved this Ravensburger See Inside Puzzle together. My young student happily turns the puzzle upside down, and together we turn all the puzzle pieces over. We chat as we start with the corners and work towards the middle of the puzzle. There are so many ways to enrich a child’s vocabulary, understanding and problem solving as we talk about the puzzle pieces and their attributes while noticing the plants, insects, animals, birds and structures featured in the puzzle itself.

Echo Mic Used With Delayed Speech or Language DevelopmentRather than focusing on the enunciation of specific sounds or words, I want to encourage playing with sound and making a variety of sounds. It is amazing how an inexpensive plastic toy ‘Echo’ microphone can encourage a child to sing, make sound effects and speak. I pick up an Echo Mic and put the other one on the table. Before long, we are both singing The Alphabet Song or The Wheels on the Bus or Happy Birthday. I hate to think what we sound like but progress is progress and the plastic ‘Echo” microphone has helped us along the way.

10″ Echo Mic (Colors may vary) at

Magic Mic Novelty Toy Echo Microphone-Pack of 2 at

As we work toward improved verbal communication, I want to ensure that my student has a rich listening or receptive vocabulary as well as a large speaking or expressive vocabulary so I want to provide him with repeated meaningful encounters with words. I want him to hear and know colors, numbers, positional words (over, under, beside, inside) and nouns (windows, doors, wheels, roof, trees, flowers, bricks, fences, house, car, truck, steering wheel). Of course, I turn to my favourite toy. Ever. Each day I arrive with a bucket of Lego . We build houses and towers, we look for small bricks and blue bricks and yellow, white, red, black and blue bricks. We add windows and doors, stairs and roofs. And I talk about everything we do. I chat constantly and now he chimes in.

From the start, we have played Tic Tac Toe. I made a laminated game board (that includes a letter of the alphabet in each square) and I use Xs and Os from a dollar store game. When we first played, his job was to say, “Your turn,” after he played his “O.” Now, he says the letter name in the box and a word that begins with the letter, “C is for Cat.” He also says, “Your turn, ” and “I win!” He has never tired of this simple game. When we first started, he said very little. Now, it is a constant exchange of short sentences and the joy of communicating about a shared activity.

Spot the Dot by David A CarterSpot the Dot created by David A. Carter
Novelty book published by Cartwheel Books, an Imprint of Scholastic

Spot the Dot is an appealing, brightly colored, interactive pop up book that includes flaps to lift, a wheel to turn and tabs to pull. Visual clues and predictable text encourage children – even those with delayed speech – to venture into ‘reading.’ My student thoroughly enjoys this book and now points to the words as he ‘reads’ each page and then pretends to ‘search’ for the dot.

Spot the Dot at

Spot the Dot at

Learning Games for Beginning Readers

Posted on December 7th, 2012 by Carolyn Hart


Today we look at two popular learning games for beginning readers

I have used both spelling/reading games very successfully with four, five and six year olds. Neither is appropriate for younger children due to choking hazard caused by small parts.

image of learning games for beginning readers

We invite you to visit our page about beginning to read.

image of Melissa and Doug See and SpellMelissa and Doug See and Spell

I recently purchased a Melissa and Doug See and Spell puzzle set for my Let’s Read Together program. The set consists of 60 plus colorful wooden letters and eight, two-sided template bases. As shown in my photo (right), the sixteen words include long and short vowels as well as digraphs.

I selected the Melissa and Doug See and Spell puzzle set because it is self correcting and it lends itself well to a group setting. When not being used in the template bases, the letters could be used to spell other words, they could be sorted by attributes or they could be put into alphabetical order.

When one or more children play with See and Spell it is an opportunity to practice letter, object and word recognition, matching, fine motor skills and/or spelling.

Melissa & Doug See & Spell at

Melissa & Doug See & Spell at

Image of Boggle JuniorBoggle Junior

I have used a Boggle Junior game in my Beginning to Read program for more than ten years. It is a great learning game for children who are learning to read and spell. The game consists of a series of illustrated three and four letter words. The words and illustrations are printed on durable cardstock. To play, a child selects a card and spells the word it illustrates using three or four letter cubes. The cubes fit into a sturdy base. The child has the option of seeing how the word is spelled (and simply matching the letters) or attempting to spell the word correctly and then checking to see if he is correct.

Boggle Junior can be enjoyed by one or more children. When one child plays with Boggle Junior it is an opportunity to practice letter, object and word recognition, fine motor skills, matching and/or spelling. When more than one child plays with Boggle Junior, playing the game becomes an opportunity to share and take turns. If two children are at different levels with respect to spelling and reading, one child could match the letters to correctly spell a word, another child could try to spell each word (without matching) and then flip a lever on the base to check the spelling.

The Boggle Junior word cards include short vowels, some long vowels and a few digraphs (i.e. fish).

Boggle Junior Game at

Boggle Junior Game at

What Should Be Our Priority When Evaluating a Family Literacy Program?

Posted on October 19th, 2012 by Carolyn Hart


Family Literacy Program Learning Materials

When developing and evaluating family literacy programs, what should our goals be?

Last year, I enrolled in a Family Literacy program through Vancouver Community College’s Centre for Continuing Studies. The program is delivered annually and consists of six online courses My goal was to earn a Family Literacy Certificate to augment my Bachelor of Education. So far, I have completed four of the courses and have been introduced, virtually and personally, to other indviduals who share my passion for developing and delivering high quality family literacy programming.

As a direct result of my involvement in the Family Literacy courses, last spring I was contracted to present a program for preschool-age children and their caregivers at a neighbourhood library. The program began in April and was held once a week until the end of June. The program resumed in September and will be offered until the end of November of this year.

Participation in our neighbourhood family literacy program has exceeded expectations. Most weeks, twenty or more children arrive for the program, along with their adult caregivers. In all, we usually have thirty to thirty five people arrive at ten thirty and leave at noon. Each session includes a storytime and a healthy snack along with learning activities, games and printed materials for the children as well as the adults in attendance.

At every juncture, we have ensured that our program is low-barrier and family friendly. From the outset, it was my personal goal that the program would be so successful that funding would be renewed and we would be in a position to offer the program again in 2013.

It has been a great joy to be involved in delivering this family literacy program and, frankly, I am alarmed by the changes that have been deemed necessary by an administrator who has no experience developing or presenting programs of this kind. Unfortunately, as a result of a new administrator, we have been advised that funding for the family literacy program won’t be renewed unless substantive changes are made to it.

Family Literacy Program Learning Materials – On the Farm

The existing ninety minute program will become a two hour program. The April to June and September to November program will now start in November, February and June. Preregistration will likely be required and the healthy snack will likely be reduced to fruit juice.

In my opinion,

~ It is relatively easy to attract families to a neighbood program when the weather is nice (and dry), I firmly believe that it will be tough to draw people out of their homes consistently in February. This will be especially true those who don’t have access to cars. The folks who walk to the program or take the bus will be reluctant to attend regularly if it means walking through snow or rain.

~ Offering the program in Spring and Fall ensures that it does not compete with families’ summer vacation plans and that only preschoolers are available to attend. Having a program begin in June and end in mid August will draw school age children as well as preschoolers. As a means of excluding the older children, some sort of preregistration will likely be required. Preregistration means that the program will not be low barrier. It will be available only to those families who can navigate the registration process and it will exclude those who need it most. Excluding school age children will mean that some families will not attend because they will not have access to child minding for their older children.

~ Reducing a healthy snack to “just juice” ignores the fact that one of the program’s objectives is to model healthy snacking.

~ Lengthening the program to two hours will be stretch for a large, noisy and diverse group of three and four year olds. Without the structure of a classroom, it can be difficult to manage a group this size. I find it hard to believe that program quality can be sustained over two hours.

I am saddened by the fact that organizers are ignoring good sense and by their desire to compromise some of the best aspects of the existing program. I know their goal is to “check the boxes” mandated by the grant they received. I would much prefer that their goal and that of the funding body be to deliver excellent quality programming that is respectful of the participants’ needs and goals.

Family Literacy Program Development Part 2

Posted on October 8th, 2012 by Carolyn Hart


Family Literacy Program Development Part 2

Family Literacy Program format

Each session of our family literacy program began with a thirty minute “storytime” presented by a librarian. The storytime theme matched the weekly program theme. This ensured a good match between the librarian’s “storytime” and the program presented by the program facilitator. Following the “storytime,” the group learned a new rhyme or chant (in rebus form) and theme-related vocabulary. The group also reviewed material from previous sessions, sang the Alphabet Song and played learning games. For Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, the children (enthusiastically) made cards to take home.

Most weeks, the children spent time with the child minders while the program facilitator presented information to the adults. During this portion of the program, the child minders served a healthy snack of fresh fruit and juice or water.

The adult portion of the program included ways to help children with alphabet recognition, the importance of phonemic awareness, the value of reading aloud, ways to help a child with comprehension, why wordless picture books support vocabulary development as well as an introduction to affordable recreation opportunities in the community. The presentation of rebus chants and vocabulary activities also provided learning opportunities for adults.

Weekly handouts were provided to both the children and the adult participants. As well, multilingual information about accessing emergency services (911) was offered.

Introducing a Homework Component

During June, the children who participated in the family literacy program received “homework” assignments which included borrowing a book from the library, reading environmental print, counting, printing, drawing, comparing, borrowing a theme box from the library and enjoying read alouds. Most of the participants completed and returned the homework to the facilitator.

Also in June, the Summer Reading Club was actively promoted and most of the children signed up to participate. By the time the program ended, virtually all of the adult participants had library cards and were using them.

The final family literacy program session included the usual storytime, chants, vocabulary, snack and adult learning. The children who attended regularly received Certificates of Attendance. At noon, most of the participants walked to a nearby park and played with sidewalk chalk, blew bubbles and enjoyed the playground equipment. It was a happy, friendly time.

Family Literacy Program Development Part 1

Posted on October 6th, 2012 by Carolyn Hart


Storytime Standouts Wrties About Family Literacy Program Development

This past year, I have been involved in developing a weekly Family Literacy program

Offered from April to June and September to November, the program is held at a neighbourhood library. It is intended to be a low-barrier family literacy program, especially appropriate for immigrant women who are caring for young children and who may be socially isolated. Initially intended to attract a maximum of twelve families to each session, the Spring 2012 program was enthusiastically attended by more than two dozen families each week. So far, our Fall numbers are almost as high.

As hoped, the program attracted a diverse population. The children in attendance range in age from one to five years. The adults who participate were almost all women; some are grandmothers and aunts however the majority are mothers, attending with their preschool-age children. Some participants have never been to the library prior to attending our family literacy program.

Many of the attending families are learning English as a Second Language. The group includes individuals who primarily speak Cantonese and others who speak Punjabi as their first language. As well, some families who attend regularly speak English fluently.

In keeping with the objective of making the program “low-barrier,” participants are not required to preregister and are welcome to join the program at any stage. For those who join the program partway through or who miss a session, handouts from the previous week(s) are easily obtained. The message is, “Whether you are able to attend every week, most weeks or some weeks, we are very happy to see you here.”

My team and I work to maintain a friendly, welcoming atmosphere for all participants. I am indeed fortunate to have multi-lingual child minders who assure participants that they were welcome to converse in their Mother Tongue during the program.

Reading and Interpreting Pictures Supports Reading Comprehension

Posted on August 31st, 2011 by Carolyn Hart


Storytime Standouts explains how reading and Interpreting pictures bolsters reading comprehension

Reading Readiness: Comprehension for Preschool and Kindergarten Can Involve  Reading and Interpreting Pictures

What could your child tell you about this picture? Would she say that it is Fall? Would she predict that the family is choosing a pumpkin for Halloween?

Two of the components of a child’s reading readiness are her comprehension and her interpretation. We can assist a preschool or kindergarten child with reading readiness by providing opportunities for him to read pictures and interpret them, including understanding the sequence of events.

Reading and interpreting pictures includes noticing what is in the picture, what the characters are doing, the weather or time of day and other details (i.e. the color of a character’s clothing). A child could be asked to interpret the scene and confirm comprehension by telling or retelling the narrative.

For the first picture, we could ask questions such as what do you think these people are doing? or why do you think the man is pushing the wheelbarrow? or Why do you think these people are visiting a pumpkin patch?

Reading Readiness: Comprehension for Preschool and Kindergarten Can Involve  Reading and Interpreting Pictures

How would your child interpret this picture? Would your child notice the old oil lamp?

Why does one man have gold coins in his hand? or Do you see anything that looks usual in this picture?

Wordless Picture Books Encourage Children to Interpret and Comprehend

Wordless picture books provides opportunities for reading and Interpreting Pictures Wordless picture books are great tools for helping children to develop good comprehension and interpretation skills. We invite you to visit our Wordless Picture Books page to discover why great wordless picture books make narratives easily understood. Once a child has ‘read’ a wordless picture book with an adult, he should be encouraged to share the book with someone else. Making an opportunity to reconstruct and retell a story is valuable for a young child because reconstructing and retelling a story is a way to confirm comprehension.

Sequencing Activities = Reading and Interpreting Pictures

Children who have learned to ‘read’ and ‘interpret’ pictures will benefit from sequencing activities. These provide children with the opportunity to ‘read’ pictures and determine the correct order of events.
Building a Snowman Sequencing Activity from Storytime StandoutsHere are links to three printable sequencing activities from my website and three from elsewhere on the internet.

image of PDF icon  Building a Snowman Sequencing Activity

Planting a Flower Garden Sequencing Activity from Storytime Standouts

image of PDF icon  Planting a Flower Garden Sequencing Activity

Making a Valentine Sequencing Activity for PreK Kindergarten from Storytime Standouts

image of PDF icon  Valentine's Day Sequencing Activity

Cut this Valentine's Day Sequencing Activity apart and have children put it together in the correct order or print two and use as a matching game.

British Council Goldilocks and the Three Bears Sequencing Printable

DLTK’s Story Sequencing Activities

Early Learning Printables

For additional information about comprehension and reading readiness, follow this link to our page about reading comprehension.

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