Each year, the State Library of Kansas and the Kansas Center for the Book designate a week in November to focus on the benefits of reading aloud to young children. Kansas Reads to Preschoolers Week begins today, and it’s easy to participate. Grab a book and your favorite toddler or preschooler and have a rollicking good reading time.
The featured book for Kansas Reads to Preschoolers Week is a beloved alphabet book written in 1989 by Bill Martin, Jr. and John Archambault, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom. The rhythm and rhyme of the story makes it a wonderful chant, and the little alphabet letters climbing up the coconut tree have personalities all their own with colorful illustrations by Lois Ehlert. The book was chosen to honor Bill Martin, Jr., a Kansan who grew up in Hiawatha and attended college in Emporia, which ties into the yearlong celebration of Kansas’s Sesquicentennial. Martin passed away in 2004, but he left behind a legacy of amazing children’s books, including Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? and Knots on a Counting Rope.
Manhattan Public Library is celebrating Kansas Reads to Preschoolers Week in several special ways. First, the Manhattan Library Association, our friends group, provided funds to purchase paperback copies of Chicka Chicka Boom Boom that were delivered to more than 100 local daycares, preschools and child care centers by Marsha Tannehill and staff at Child Care Aware and Smart Start. We will also give the book to children who attend our storytimes November 14-19. We will read Bill Martin, Jr. books at the November 18 ZOOfari Tails at 10:00, including Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, Barn Dance and Brown Bear, Brown Bear. Claflin Books‘ staff will be on hand with Bill Martin books for sale, so you can start your holiday shopping at the program.
We have also created an “early literacy” station in the Children’s Room that will be set up when we are not using the storytime space for programs. The activities in this area feature Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, and they encourage children to develop early literacy skills. Johnson County Library refers to these skills as “6 by 6” because “researchers have identified 6 important pre-reading skills that children need to know before they learn to read – around the age of 6.” The skills are not really anything new, and most parents and teachers will find they are already doing all of them with their toddlers and preschoolers:
- Print motivation, which simply means that children have fun with books. From bedtime stories to visits to the library, parents and other adults can make sure all children have positive experiences with books and reading.
- Print awareness, which occurs when children notice print all around them, from street signs to cereal boxes. Pointing out words and letters to children helps them understand that these lines and symbols create words and have meaning.
- Vocabulary, which increases greatly if parents talk to their children a lot, read books aloud, and explain what new words mean instead of choosing a more simple word.
- Narrative skills are a child’s ability to tell stories. This starts at a very young age when babies babble using the inflection of an adult’s storytelling voice and continues as preschoolers learn how to tell us what they did during the day, retell a story, or even make up a story from their imagination.
- Letter knowledge includes recognizing specific letters of the alphabet, but it also starts at a young age when toddlers learn to distinguish and name the different shapes. As they grow older, children can look for the letters in their name or play “Letter Day” games where they look for everything they can find that begins with a certain sound or letter.
- Phonological awareness, a fancy word for recognizing rhyming words and hearing the different sounds within words, is a fun skill to work on. Sing songs together, recite nursery rhymes, play word games, and try clapping or drumming the rhythm to songs and chants.
Celebrate reading to preschoolers with us this week. Have some fun at the library using our magnet board, homemade drums, and puzzle rhymes to practice 6 by 6 skills. Then share a great book like Chicka Chicka Boom Boom or one of your own favorites with a preschooler in your life, and know that you have played an important role in that child’s journey to success.