Posts Tagged archive-Letters & Writing

6 by 6: Six Skills Kids Should Learn by Age Six

Everyone knows that libraries have storytimes so young children can hear good stories read aloud.  People who have attended storytimes know that, in addition to stories, children will learn action rhymes, songs and even dance moves.  It is all great fun and leads to enjoyment of books and the library.  That alone may be reason enough to present ten storytimes or more each week at our library, but there is actually more to it than that.

Public libraries have a strong connection to early childhood education and “early literacy,” a term that does not mean learning to read early, but instead refers to the skills children master in preparation for learning to read when they are older.  It begins with babies – hearing language spoken and sung, touching our mouths as we speak, and beginning to recognize shapes and images.  Babies love books. They love to look at them, hear the words, chew on them, rip their pages. Books are full of wonderment!  A father in the library recently told me he got a kick out of his daughter, who is just a few months old, because she is such a book critic. He can open the page of a new board book to her laughter or her cries – she shares her opinions openly.

But we know we need to be reading to our young children, and talking to them and playing with them.  How do these simple exercises translate into reading success?

The American Library Association (ALA) did extensive research into this topic several years ago and launched a nationwide program for librarians called “Every Child Ready to Read.” The research showed six early literacy skills that were key to children’s ability to learn to read when they got to school.  Not surprisingly, many of these skills have been a part of storytimes for ages.  Knowing the research, terminology and results associated with specific skills has helped us hone in on the activities that are best for early literacy. Additionally, we can easily pass this knowledge on to parents who attend our programs so their efforts at home are reinforced and encouraged.

Johnson County Public Library took ALA’s somewhat wordy program and transformed it into a fun, user-friendly version they called “6 by 6” – six skills kids need to know by the time they are ready to read around the age of six.  The State Library of Kansas adopted the 6 by 6 program, making it accessible to every library in the state.

The six skills are:

  1. Have fun with books (print motivation)
  2. Notice print all around you (print awareness)
  3. Talk, talk, talk (vocabulary)
  4. Look for letters everywhere (letter knowledge)
  5. Tell stories about everything (narrative skills)
  6. Take time to rhyme (phonological awareness)

In addition to weekly storytimes, we have been incorporating early literacy skills into fun 6 by 6 activity stations available in the children’s room all the time.  Our 6 by 6 stations include games, puzzles, felt boards and dress-up items that revolve around a picture book.  We recently had an Early Literacy Activity Day during which we set up several of the past stations in our auditorium and let children enjoy all the fun books and toys.

This month, our 6 by 6 station features “Giggle, Giggle, Quack” by Doreen Cronin, a fun farmyard follow up to her popular book, “Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type.”  Customers who have some time to spend in our space can read the book together on one of our cozy chairs, then use farm animal finger puppets and the barn puppet stage to retell it to each other.  Children can play and learn by acting out the story, comparing different letter fonts, creating a felt pizza with toppings, matching animals with their sounds, searching for notes left by Duck and bathing a pig!

These engaging activities will be available in the Children’s Room through October.  Librarians change the books and activities every two months, coming up with new and creative ways for children to explore language and stories.

by Jennifer Adams

Published in The Mercury, 9-22-13

Posted in: Children's Dept, For Kids, Parents

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Fun With Letters Outdoors

Letter "A" In NatureFinding and making letters in nature is a great way to combine outdoor play with learning fun.

  • Make letters or lines using a stick in sand, dirt or mud.
  • Look for letter shapes in natural objects like plants, flowers, vines, branches, seeds.
  • Explore letter sounds by playing the letter game outside. Ask your child to find things that start with the “g” sound, etc.
  • Draw with colored chalk or “paint” with water and brushes on sidewalks and patios.
  • Gaze up at the clouds and talk about what you think the clouds look like.

Bring a book outside and read under the shade of a tree.  Don’t forget about some of the “oldie but goodie” picture books like It Looked Like Spilt Milk (for cloud gazers), Old Turtle (a religious tie-in to nature), Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears (a West African pourquoi tale), A Tree is Nice (1957 Caldecott winner), or From the Bellybutton of the Moon (poems about summer in English & Spanish).


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Everyday Letter Finds

When children have learned to recognize a variety of shapes, you can start teaching them to find and name letters.  This is a wonderful step in the early literacy process. Children will begin mastering the skills they will need to know so they can learn to read and write.

Everyday Letter Finds is a way to think of learning letters as an ongoing game.  Here are some examples of everyday activities to incorporate:

  • Getting dressed – Does your child’s shirt have words on it? If so, tell him what it says while you trace the letters. He will feel your touch and see how you make each letter separately.
  • Driving – Show your child a stop sign. Ask her if she knows what it says? Spell out the letters – “S – T – O – P. That says Stop. What should I do here?”
  • Eating – Some shapes are also letters. What letter is round like a Cheerio? Can you put two green beans together to make a T?  Point out the letters on food cans, boxes or cartons.
  • Reading – It’s easy to talk about letters when books are open. Help your child find the letters that are in his name, or look for a favorite book character’s name.
  • Playing – Blocks and other toys for children often have letters and words.  As you build or play, occasionally ask your child if she knows a letter.  Build the shape of a letter.

Many more ideas for looking for letters can be found online. The state library of Kansas’s site for “6 by 6” describes the 6 skills children need to learn before they can learn to read, with activities related to each skill. Try “Notice Print All Around You” or “Look for Letters Everywhere” to find more ideas on this topic.


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Bad Kitty by Nick Bruel

Cover image of Bad Kitty by Nick Bruel

When her owners are out of cat food Bad Kitty is fed an atrocious variety of fruits and vegetables. The book tells us all the horrid, healthy foods that Bad Kitty has to eat, and then all the terrible things that she does to show her displeasure—one for each letter of the alphabet. Then Bad Kitty gets her ABC of yummy foods, and proceeds to show her gratefulness with one good deed for each letter.  This is a fun story that sneaks in a lot of repetition making it a great way to reinforce your kid’s ABC’s. Try having your child make their own alphabet lists.


Reviewed by Grace


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You’re Invited to a Fairy Tale Wedding (or Ball or Tea Party…)

Is your child enchanted by princesses or do they love to have tea parties? Help them branch out in their play by having them create invitations and menus for a party. It can be for something as simple as a teddy bear tea party or as big as their real birthday party.

Gather all the supplies for card making, and help your child think through what will need to be on the invitation. They can make the invitations all the same or tailor them to their guests. Maybe one friend loves horses, so your child could draw a horse on that invitation. Maybe another friend adores her pet dog. You get the idea. If you are having a real party, have your child write out addresses if they are able. If not, talk about it with your child as you address the envelopes and let them put on stamps and return labels.

Menus can be fun to create, too! Perhaps your guests can choose from vanilla or chocolate cupcakes, lemonade or fruit punch, chocolate chip ice cream or strawberry. Playing hostess is fun, of course, but it can also help your child’s memory (if they try to remember each guests requests) and their writing skills (if they choose to write it all down). Your child could even personalize place cards for each guest.

Have a great time with your fairy tale party!

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The Mailbox Magazines and books

Did you know that the Manhattan Public Library has The Mailbox magazines for parents and teachers?

We have current and past issues of Preschool, Kindergarten and First Grade. Additionally, we also have “yearbook” editions, which feature an entire year of ideas; these go up to intermediate grade levels.

The Mailbox Magazine is just one of many wonderful resources available on our Parent Shelf at the library!

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Opposites Collage

One simple craft idea for exploring opposites is to make an “Opposites” collage. Find an old magazine you don’t need anymore, and let your child clip away. One approach is to clip several pictures, then explore ways they differ and could be opposites. Once they’ve been classified, have your child glue them down to the page and write labels for each connection.

Materals: Paper, magazine, scissors, glue, crayon or marker

If you discover your child has a passion for collage, come to the Manhattan Public Library and check out this wonderful and creative nonfiction book on the subject!

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Hot Rod Hamster Early Literacy Station

The Children’s Department has started featuring some exciting stations your child can explore during your next trip to the library! The stations are designed to develop skills to get chidlren ready for reading.

If your kid loves cars and racing, she or he will need to check out the really fun Hod Rod Hamster station in the storytime room.

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