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Snow Better Time to Read! Our Family Winter Reading program

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Join our Family Winter Reading program for the month of January! Here’s what to do:

  • Set a family goal to read aloud every day.
  • Pick up a Winter Reading tracker at Cedar Mill or Bethany Libraries. (or print here and use stickers from home: Reading log 2015)
  • Add a snowflake for every day you read together.
  • Build a blizzard of shared stories and good times. Use a bookmark, printable here: Snowman bookmark
  • Share a picture of your family reading together, or tell us your favorite book or winter reading idea.  We’ll post some of them on WiserKids, Facebook, Pinterest and in the library.  Send pics and stories to

family with 2 boys reading dreamstime_4660158Benefits of Reading Aloud:

  • Fun – shared family experiences build good memories
  • Cozy – snuggle into a good story on cold winter days
  • Reading Motivation – kids hear and understand at a higher level than they can read – this gives them the opportunity to enjoy the books that are still to come!
  • Vocabulary – new words and concepts are learned in context.  A good book has 3x richer language than normal speech. From birth, children learn language (whether its English, Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, or another language) by being read to.
  • Attention Span – slow reading is linked to improved attention span
  • Fluency – adult reading models the flow and rhythm of language that aids meaning
  • Comprehension – talking about the book, as well as sharing it,  improves understanding
  • Discovery – find out what he is interested in, or what she thinks about a story situation.  It’s a peek into your child’s mind.
  • Conversation – books offer an opportunity to explore ideas together and share your family values.
  • PLUS – reading aloud is positive, ecological, unplugged, low-stress, family bonding.


The Power of Picture Books

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power of picture booksPicture books are valuable for all ages- they offer universal appeal, emotional connection, and increase an understanding of concepts, language, and meaning. Once a child is learning to read, parents often gravitate to early readers, yet picture books offer much richer vocabulary. Early readers intentionally have a limited vocabulary so it’s decodable. There are 3x more rare words in a good picture book than in daily conversation with a child.

Having a large listening and speaking vocabulary has an enormous advantage when learning to read. Research shows that children who start school with larger vocabularies have an easier time learning to read, become better readers, and have higher school achievement. In their 2006 SLJ article, “It’s a Gift to Be Fancy“, authors Renea Arnold and Nell Colburn link the importance of reading picture books (like Fancy Nancy by Jane O’ Connor) with the role of vocabulary in early literacy:

“In his classic. The Read-Aloud Handbook (Penguin, 2001), Jim Trelease sites fascinating research about “rare” words- words that are seldom used in conversation but play a critical role in learning to read. Most of us use about 5,000 words in our daily conversations. There are another 5,000 words that we use less often. “The eventual strength of our vocabulary,” Trelease writes, “is determined not by the common ten thousand words but by how many ‘rare words’ we understand.”

How does a child come to understand rare words? According to the research, in a typical conversation with a three-year-old, an adult uses only nine rare words per thousand. In a conversation with a 10-year-old, the number jumps only to 11.7 rare words per thousand. Guess what happens in a children’s picture book? There are 30.9 rare words per thousand. That’s three times more than in a typical conversation with a three-year-old! So while everyday conversations will help a child learn basic vocabulary, nothing beats reading aloud with her”.

Tips for developing vocabulary while reading aloud with your child:

-Point out the print: Try pointing to each word as you read the story

-Repeat unfamiliar words, followed by a familiar word or explanation

-Read books with repeated phrases and refrains; encourage your child to join in saying them

-Talk about the pictures in the book and ask questions like “What’s he doing now?’ Look for opportunities to relate pictures to the child’s own experiences.

-Choose books you enjoy reading aloud.

For read aloud book recommendations, check out Read Aloud America’s Reading Lists or this list from Madison Public Library.


Reading While Running: Sharing Books with Toddlers

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dreamstime_m_19476877Reading to a child who won’t sit still is a challenge. But it is possible! Here are some tips on what to read, when to read and how to read to a running toddler.

First of all, pick good books for their age.  A 2 year old is not going to sit still for a Dr. Seuss book (I learned that the hard way!), so choose books that are more likely to grab an active kids attention. Good books for this age have few words per page and simple texts that tell simple stories.  Books that rhyme or have a phrase that repeats so that children can join in are good for keeping them involved in the book.  And look for books that coincide with their interests, whether it is trucks, dinosaurs or kittens.   See this list of more criteria and some suggested books for this age.

Turning everyday activities into reading opportunities makes sense with an active child.  Keep books handy, ready to pull out whenever there is a free moment like waiting for a doctor appointment or standing in line at the pharmacy.  For more tips on turning your to-do list into reading fun for your toddler, check out this article from Scholastic.

Lastly, when reading aloud to active children, use sounds and different voices to bring listeners back to the story.  Talking about the illustrations and asking your child questions about the book keeps them engaged.  Here’s a great video of a local couple reading to their active 18 month old child.

One last piece of advice for reading with your active child:  it’s important for children to have a positive feeling for book sharing time.  Don’t feel pressured to finish an entire book in one sitting.  If your child isn’t in the mood to listen to a story, don’t turn it into a power struggle.  Just close the book and come back to it another time. -Teresa


15 Minutes is All It Takes: Growing Strong Readers

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15 minutes  a day is all it takes! Research continually shows that reading aloud to your child for 15 minutes a day is the single most valuable thing you can do to help your child become a strong reader and lifelong learner . Every time you read to your child you’re feeding her brain a serving of vocabulary, phonological awareness, comprehension, empathy, stress relief and bonding time with you! That’s a lot to pack into just 15 minutes!

Mom & toddler w book 1Reading for 15 minutes a day for five years =27,375 minutes or 456.25 hours of reading!

When we read one on one with a child we connect in so many tiny, but hugely important ways. When we listen and answer questions about a story, we glimpse the child’s comprehension of the story. We convey our values and children can learn about and discuss complex ideas they may not be able to do independently.

How to fit reading aloud into the daily chaos of family life

Make reading a daily routine-read at bedtime, bathtime, snacktime, before or after naptime.

Read magazines, newspapers (the sports pages, comics), cereal boxes, stories, poems, non-fiction, recipes.

Read in the car, at the park, in the airport, in the Dr.’s office, at the soccer field.

Read to older kids too! A child’s listening level doesn’t catch up to his reading level until about 8th grade.

Shared reading is shared experience and is valuable time spent with a child who growing more and more independent.

For kids with dyslexia reading aloud is even more important. The skills of decoding (phonological awareness and letter recognition) are separate from the skills of comprehension (vocabulary and  background knowledge). By reading to your child, tween or even teen your child can be gaining a passion for reading, background knowledge and vocabulary even while her decoding skills are still developing.

Finally, choose books that interest your child. A good book is simply one that your child enjoys reading! Your librarians are always happy to help you and your child find appealing titles.

-Jenny F.

Talk, Snuggle, Read with your baby!

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Baby bookBabies learn language through social interaction when loving adults talk, coo, smile and read with them. Well before babies are able to speak, they communicate by cooing and babbling, by smiling and sticking out their tongues, and by waving their arms and legs. When we talk and read with them, their sponge-like brains are busily absorbing language, its sounds and its meaning. The video, “Brain Wonders” (Zero To Three), discusses this further. Sometime between 12-18 months, babies begin producing words that are familiar and meaningful to them.

Research shows that a factor that determines future academic success is the number of words a baby hears by age two! Quality interactions involving words – talking through daily rituals, having a conversation, reading – all influence language and vocabulary development. The greater vocabulary a child has, the easier it is for them to learn to read. Nurture relationships, develop language, build pre-literacy skills – by talking and reading to your baby!

baby chewing book cropped

Read-Aloud basics for babies:

  • Find a quiet time to read – babies find the sound of your voice soothing
  • Hold and cuddle your baby when you read (when they start toddling around, you can continue reading even as they run around!)
  • Follow your baby’s lead – it’s not reading a story as much as it is a talking experience, so you can start on any page, and look more closely at a picture your baby shows interest in
  • Relate what you read, or see in pictures, to your baby’s experience “Look that baby has a nose. I’m going to kiss your little nose!”
  • Hands on learning – let your baby hold and mouth a plastic or sturdy board book, while you read a second book
  • Read it again! Repeated readings are good for your baby’s language development

Winter is a great time to snuggle up in a cozy chair with a fluffy blanket and read with your little one. Send us a picture of you and your child snuggling up with a good book ( Talk, Snuggle, Read! -Jody

I’m a Scientist: Watching Backyard Wildlife in Winter

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Black and white image of birds flying off a treeEven though it’s winter, kids can still find wildlife to watch. Create an atmosphere that promotes going beyond one-dimensional learning, to be engaged learners. Encourage your kids to ask questions, make predictions, observe the world around them, experiment and make mistakes. In other words, encourage them to be scientists! Here are some great books to get your family started. -Jenny

Squirrels by Trudi Strain Trueit: Identify specific squirrel species. Explore their behavior, life cycle, mating habits, geographical location, anatomy, enemies, and defenses. (Backyard Safari series) Ages 7-9.

Snowballs by Lois Ehlert: This fun story about a family of Snow people is a great jumping off point for collage projects and for creative ways to feed backyard  wildlife. Ages 4-8.

Birds by Kevin Henkes: A little girl observes the colors, shapes, sounds, and movements of the many different birds she sees through her window. Ages 4-8.

For the Birds: the Life of Roger Tory Peterson by Peggy Thomas: Roger Tory Peterson loved observing and drawing birds. He grew up to be an artist, activist, environmentalist and creator of Peterson Field Guides. Ages 8 to adult.

The boy who drew birds : A Story of John James Audubon by Jacqueline Davies: As a boy, John James Audubon loved to watch birds. There he took a particular interest in peewee flycatchers. While observing these birds, John James became determined to answer a pair of two-thousand-year-old questions: Where do small birds go in the winter, and do they return to the same nest in the spring? Ages 4-8.

The Watcher: Jane Goodall’s Life with the Chimps by Jeanette Winter: Before she became a famous primatologist, Jane Goodall was a curious girl who loved observing animals in her yard. Ages 4-8.

Look Up! Bird-Watching in Your Own Backyard by Annette Cate: A humorous introduction to bird-watching encourages kids to get outdoors with a sketchbook and really look around. Ages 8-12.

Child with Red Hat

Reading Rockets has a great series called Literacy in the Sciences that gives great ideas to inspire kids and families to observe and explore the world around them.

Outdoor Explorations The simple activities of playing in the backyard or taking a neighborhood walk are perfect opportunities to help your child develop the skills of observing, predicting and investigating.

Recording Observations: Journals and Field Notes Let your child of any age have fun recording what they see outside with writing, drawing, or scribbling in a notebook.

Pinecone bird feeder This easy birdfeeder is fun to make with kids of all ages.

Toilet paper tube binoculars Make observing even more fun with a pair of tp tube binoculars!

Best of the Bookshelf: Two Great Joke Books for Beginners

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 There’s a lot of joy in a simple joke. Lately my kids have a favorite book they both want to hear over and over. Its cute characters and silly punch lines make them laugh so much I don’t mind the repetition. Today at breakfast when my toddler asked to hear it again I suspected it would be the brightest moment in my long day ahead. I was right. -Rebecca


“Knock, knock. Who’s There? Luke. Luke Who? Luuuke out below!”

“Knock, Knock. Who’s There? Anita. Anita Who? Anita bath!”

Knock Knock Who’s There: My First Book of Knock Knock Jokes by Tad Hills (author of the Rocket and Duck and Goose books) has a lift-the-flap thick-paged format much like a board book. Adorable, colorful animals help illustrate simple word-play jokes based on names. It’s a perfect introduction to “knock-knock” jokes with familiar subject matter to little ones—birthday surprises, getting dirty, saying “I love you” and more. Great for ages 3 and up!

chirp Another funny book geared toward preschool and up is Joking Around with  Chirp: more than 130 feather-ruffling jokes, riddles, and tongue twisters! by the editors of Chirp Magazine, and published by Owlkids Books Inc. (2013).

Here’s a sample:

Q: “What’s a frog’s favorite food?” A: “French flies”

Q: “Why didn’t the lobster share its toys?” A: “Because it was shellfish”

Q: “What does a turtle do on its birthday?” A: “It shellebrates”