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Literacy Begins at Home
Open a newspaper, check out a magazine stand, turn on the TV, watch the news, catch a conversation in the lunch room and chances are you are hearing about the absolute devastation that is the result of the rains and flooding in Southern Alberta. If it hasn’t affected you personally, you know someone whose life has been changed forever in some shape or form or know someone who knows someone. I see the pictures, hear the stories and my heart goes out to all of them. My daughter came into the room one night as I sat watching the coverage with more than a tear in my eye and said “Mom, turn it off if it makes you so sad!”

As an adult, I can follow up and read more about the way those affected are coping, see all the wonderful volunteers helping complete strangers without hesitation, understand the reasons why the flood victims aren’t allowed in their homes and rationalize that the pets sometimes can go a few days without food or water. The ones I worry more about are the children. They see the pictures and wonder why everything is garbage and why all the toys are being thrown away, see the people being rescued by boats and are scared because not everybody knows how to swim and how will they be saved, hear the big people around them say “it could happen to any of us” and be terrified the next time it rains. They may only hear snippets of conversations, see their parent cry over the losses of strangers or watch the TV and not have anyone there to talk them through it. How do we explain these kinds of disasters without scaring them? They hear discount canada goose victoria down parka and take them literally, see the pictures and imagine all these discount canada goose victoria down parka happening to them.

I remember the tornado here in Edmonton back in 1985 and how so many of the little people I knew were scared every time the wind picked up or the sky turned a funny colour. I didn’t know how to talk to them or reassure them that everything would be all right.

I was looking for ways to help little ones I know deal with the emotions these recent events have brought to the surface. I was fortunate that I got some really good resources sent to me and I would like to share them with you. Here are a couple of links that might be helpful to parents/caregivers who are looking for ways to talk about this with their children. Perhaps you have some others that could be shared here or words of wisdom on how you have dealt a traumatic event like the flooding.

There are so many unseen casualties from the flooding. Wishing all our friends, neighbours, and fellow Albertans the strength to get through the rebuild and hope for tomorrow. With time all the material things can be replaced, it is the emotional wounds that will take much longer to heal.

On one of our recent rainy days, a couple of the staff at CFL decided to try our hand at making homemade chalk, bubbles, paint, and gak. What initially began as two staff members quickly became three, then four, and finally five. It was hard to resist joining in! We were laughing, talking, mixing, and measuring in the kitchen, hard at work testing recipes, when our new Operations Director walked by. After watching us for a bit he asked, “So, what does this have to do with literacy?”

Well….

Research recognizes that the home environment and parent-child interactions are an important influence on a child’s literacy development.

Positive and meaningful parent and child interactions can lead to enhanced language, literacy, and emotional and cognitive development. (Jacobs p. 193)

So, when you and your child…

…you are providing your child with rich literacy experiences and positive interactions that strengthen family bonds and promote literacy development.

Here is the recipe for homemade watercolour paints we made. Enjoy!

1. Mix your baking soda and vinegar together and wait for the fizzing to stop. It’s handy if you mix in a container that has a spout.

2. Add your corn syrup and cornstarch, and mix well until the cornstarch has dissolved.

3. Pour into your containers.

4. Add the colours using toothpicks and popsicle sticks, and stir for about a minute to make sure the colour is mixed in.

5. Let your paints “set up” and dry, which could take up to two days, before using.

Use your paints to make cards for the people you love!

Make family portraits, then host an art show.

Decorate large sheets of paper for colourful placemats.

Recipe adapted from the following site:

References:

Handbook of Family Literacy ( 2nd ed.) Edited by Barbara Hanna Wasik

Routledge, New York, 2012.

Rain rain go away, come again another day

If you don’t, that’s OK, I built a blanket fort today!

Need something to do with the kids when it rains for days and days on end? Turn your cabin fever into a fun activity!

Supplies needed:

1. Imagination

2. Blankets (the more the better)

3. Furniture (coffee tables, couches, chairs, etc)

4. Rubbermaid totes, cardboard boxes, or recycled materials

5. People of all ages

6. (OPTIONAL) Flashlights, books, and teddy bears!

When I was a kid, we built many, many blanket forts. We learned so much from this activity: how to share, be creative, cooperate, compromise ideas with others, and many other skills. Some of my fondest memories are building forts or tents in the house. We had a large family so we often had boys only and girls only forts and created territories and borders. Our small stuffed animals became soldiers and sentry guards. We even learned how to booby-trap entries when the boys would invade our castle!

As much as I love to help and “take over” when my kids want to build forts, I really enjoy watching them problem solve and create their own masterpieces. It’s a great way to have fun, create memories, and bond with your kids.

What’s your favourite discount canada goose victoria down parka to do on a rainy day?

This Friday, June 21 is National Aboriginal Day. There will be celebrations across the country during the week, as well as on Friday. It is an opportunity for us to enjoy the summer solstice (at last!) and celebrate Aboriginal peoples and their cultures at the same time.

The Manito Ahbee (a festival organization) in Winnipeg is partnering with the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN) to host a National Aboriginal Day Competition Pow Wow at the Forks on June 22. You can follow the action live online, courtesy of the APTN, at http://www.aboriginaldaylive.com/. Click on the link to read all about it.

Among the entertainers at the Pow Wow will be A Tribe Called Red. I love this song of theirs, called Look At This: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eBCoDAbh3yM. The song made for a great hip hop/pow wow performance during last year’s celebrations in Toronto: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zEpD3yQ3p_4

The City of Edmonton has provided a poster for some of the National Aboriginal Day local events. Click here: http://www.edmonton.ca/attractions_recreation/documents/NAD2013EventsPoster.pdf

The event on Saturday at the Legislature Grounds is the one of the nicest to attend. The grounds are beautiful to walk and the Artisan Fair and the Community Cultural Exhibits Display, set up by 2 p.m., guarantee there is lots to see. The Grand Entry and Ceremonial Honouring starts at 5 p.m. and a there is a concert at 6 p.m. If you haven’t been before, I really encourage you to go.

Bent Arrow will be serving a pancake breakfast at 9 a.m. on June 21 and following that up with face painting, traditional games, dancers and drummers and something that sounds untraditional but interesting: a “bouncy castle”! Details here: http://bentarrow.ca/?s=june+21+pancake+brea

Finally, St. Albert is hosting an Aboriginal Day Festival on June 23. The Opening Ceremony will begin at 12 noon. Details here: https://www.facebook.com/AboriginalDay.StAlbert

Come and join the fun!

It’s that time of year when those of us who like gardening start making a plan. What will we grow? Where should we put it? Is it safe to plant on the May long weekend (here’s hoping for no more snow)?

As it gets closer to the time, I’ve realized there can be a lot of literacy and numeracy involved in planting a garden – especially when you’ve got your kids helping you!

My kids want their own garden, of course. They choose seeds and we talk about whether they will grow well or not. For example, we have some kind of critter that takes bites out of our carrots while they’re still in the ground – do we choose something else? My son is also into herbs right now, so we talk about the different ways we could use them in cooking when they are ready.

We also plan out the garden so the seeds have the right amount of space, light, and soil. We really have to think through how they grow and what the package is telling us – especially if it’s something we’ve never tried before.

Then comes the best part – the planting! We make our rows using two stakes and a string so they’re evenly spaced (at least that’s the hope – I think my garden is crooked). We plant the seeds the right distance apart, cover them, water them and then wait.

When my kids were younger, we made a game of naming all the weeds that grow more quickly than our little plants. We’ve got the stinky one (stinkweed), the sticky, tangley one (not sure what it really is), the ouchie one (thistles), and the pretty yellow one that everyone is so determined to get rid of, but our guinea pigs love to eat (poor dandelions). That’s only a few of them, but you get the idea and I still use these names, even though the kids are older now!

These types of interactions and experiences help us reinforce the learning that is happening naturally, every day, in our lives as a family. I find myself learning right along with my kids in each situation – they have such a great view of what we do (and are much more patient in reading instructions most of the time). Gardening is just one way to help plant a seed that will sprout into so much more in our lives. Happy planting!

One of my favourite books as a young child, and also as an early reader with three younger siblings was The Monster at the End of This Book.

I loved how silly this book was, and how each page had something we could point at and talk about with even the baby of the family. No matter how many times we read it, it still seemed incredibly hilarious that Grover could be afraid of a monster, the irony we understood even as small children. That family book was so loved it was read and ripped and taped and mended and sticky with fingerprints and probably drool. I got a lot of practice changing my voice for different characters when I read it aloud to them.

As an adult, my sister and I were given a box from our parents garage when they moved. It contained our Barbies, Strawberry Shortcake dolls and other miscellaneous things from our childhood. At the bottom of the box was the book! We both went for it at the same time and fought over it. We tried to arrange custody of this book in order to share it with our children. Then we realized you can still buy the book today! It even comes in different formats – I’ve seen it in board book style, paperback style, even with buttons that make Grovers voice. To this day, I still fondly remember time spent with this book

My seven year old daughter has a well-loved book that she will read over and over again to herself, to the cat, to the dog, to anyone who will listen: Harold and the Purple Crayon. She secretly wishes for a purple crayon of her own, I am sure. Its a classic. I had forgotten all about this book until she brought it home from the school library over a year ago. SInce then I have found a complete collection of all the Harold stories for her. I had no idea that Harold had more than one story to tell, but then there is no end to what a boy can do with a magic purple crayon, now is there? Does anyone else remember Harold?

A favourite author of mine in childhood was Roald Dahl. Known for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, BFG, The Twits, and Fantastic Mr. Fox to name a few.

Every year I volunteer to read to a variety of age groups in my children’s schools during wonderful Read In week (the first week in October). One year stands out to me because of the special gift I received afterwards. I had read The Twits and Esio Trot to a grade 5 class. They howled with laughter at the stories. This is not unexpected when reading Roald Dahl. What was unexpected was a few days later I received some thank you letters from the children in that class. In true Esio Trot fashion, each one was written completely backwards. What fun that must have been for the class to have to write their thank you’s and their favourite parts all backwards, and even more fun for me deciphering each one. I reflected back to when I was in school doing a book report on this author. If only I had been clever enough to compose the entire report backwards for my teacher!

Every year in March I have the pleasure of doing a presentation for students in the Library and Information Studies program at the University of Alberta. Dr. Margaret Mackey brings her students to the Centre for Family Literacy to help provide a real, practical connection for all

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