Teaching My Baby To Read

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Monthly Archives: September 2012

Osmosis Experiment

Here’s yet another fabulous project swiped from Chasing Cheerios. If you have never seen Melissa’s blog, then you should really check it out. The only issue I have is that sometimes the pages load a bit slowly for me, but that could just be my own personal problem.

On Chasing Cheerios, they did this experiment a bit differently and created an entire color wheel. In our version, the primary emphasis was on the scientific concept of osmosis, rather than primary and secondary colors.

The materials needed are really simple: glasses, water, food coloring and paper towels.

We set this project up before school, in about ten minutes.  Then it needed to sit for a long time.

Once the paper towels were in place, we looked up the word “osmosis” in the dictionary. I’m not sure that Jenna(3) understands what “semipermeable membrane” means, but the kids definitely understand that the water wants to go into the towel until everything is even. That’s not exactly very scientific, but it is laying the foundation for future understanding.

Maybe when Bruce(7) gets home from school and I unload the dishwasher, we will set this project up again with six glasses, so we can go for color wheel glory!

Cupcake Phonics

Here’s a easy idea to recreate.  Jenna(3) has know all of her letters and sounds for over a year, but is just not ready to blend three letter words yet.  Finally, I realized “Duh!  Why not try teaching her to blend two letter words first?”  I don’t know why I didn’t think of this earlier!!!

Anyhow, Jenna loves cupcakes and she loves pink and purple.  So here you go.   This game should be good for five minutes of fun, a few times a week.

Here’s another fun game to try: Put your socks and shoes on.

Carnival of Afterschooling


A blog Carnival of Afterschooling is in the works.

Click here to submit your post by October 15th!

Wordless Wednesday

My Column this Week in the Daily Herald

You can find “I Brake for Moms” in the Good Life section.

Thanks for reading!

My Beef With Sesame Street

I Capture the Rowhouse had a great post recently lamenting the replacement of shows like Reading Rainbow with Super Why on PBS. I’ve thought about this issue for days, which is 1) proof that I’m crazy, and 2) proof that I spend way too much time analyzing children’s television. But the part of my brain that is a Kindergarten teacher won’t let the issue go.

I think this programing change represents the pedagogy pendulum shifting from Whole Language to Phonics. When Whole Language was in power we had shows like Reading Rainbow, Wishbone, and Between the Lions. Now that Phonics is back in fashion we have Super Why and the new Electric Company (both of which I think are brilliant). But we also have Word World, which I’m not too keen on.

I’m a Balanced Literary Instruction teacher which means that I think we should take the best aspects of both Whole Language and Phonics to help get children reading. So in my ideal world, Reading Rainbow would be back on television right next to Super Why.

The one PBS show that really bugs me is the sacred cow of them all: Sesame Street. (shock! gasp! horror!) I only let my daughter watch Sesame Street if I need electronic daycare. On hold with the phone company? Canning peaches? Mommy’s got a migraine? Sure, let’s watch Elmo.

What’s my beef with Sesame Street? One measly paragraph would not do this justice, so here’s a full list:

  1. Sesame Street devotes a whole hour to only teaching one letter and one number.
  2. It’s a one hour advertisement that makes children want to buy Elmo products.
  3. The editing has sped up over the years from 4 to 8 cuts per minute meaning that children don’t have to pay attention as long.
  4. A little bit of Social Emotional Learning takes place, but nothing that could beat fifteen minutes spent at the park.
  5. The rate of language and spoken words had declined over the years from 175 to 139 words per minute.
  6. There is way too much “filler”, like the intro to Elmo’s World, the intro to Abby’s Flying Fairy School, the intro to the Murray segment, etc.
  7. Abby Caddaby. She deserves to be her own line item!

If you compare the learning that results from one hour of Sesame Street to one half hour of Leap Frog Letter Factory, you will be shocked. Why put your kid in front of the television for a whole hour for them to learn one letter, when then could learn the whole alphabet in thirty minutes?

It also really bugs me how Sesame Street spends so much energy trying to incorporate adult jokes and actors that kids don’t know about. How does a two year old say “Big whoop?”

I don’t know, but I sure as heck know how a kid says “Buy me Elmo diapers! Buy me Elmo pajamas! Buy me Elmo blah, blah, blah…”

No thank you. But then next time I see a book with the Reading Rainbow stamp on it, I’ll whip out my credit card.

From “Learning to Read” to “Reading to Learn”

Elementary school teachers know that a critical transition happens between the 1st through 3rd grades.  That’s when (fingers crossed), students make the jump from “learning to read” to “reading to learn”.

If your child can already read Bob Books, what should you do next?  As an Afterschooling parent, how can you help children become independent readers of chapter books?  Here are my best ideas for you (all hyperlinked):

1) Organize your home library like a teacher.

2) Understand the Three Types of Reading.

3) Know you child’s Guided Reading level.

4) Set up Guided Reading with post-its.

5) Create an “I Read/You Read” box.

6) Set up a “Reading Nest” for Independent Reading.

7) Organize your Shared Reading at bedtime.

8 Remember that the more words your child reads, the better.

It’s a numbers game. Whenever I read a study about children learning to read it seems like researchers always discover the same thing.  Exposure to words is critical.  So make sure your child is cranking through books every single day.  Use bribery if necessary!  (I used to bribe my son with new Star Wars books.)

One final thought.  DO NOT BUY READING WORKBOOKS!!!  Egads!  They make me want to throw up.  Real books are so much better, don’t you agree?  😉

Time Marches On

Today was Jenna’s chance to meet her new teachers at the Montessori school she will be attending a few days a week.  It’s hard to believe my baby girl is growing up!

Teaching My Baby to Read Salutes Pacific Northwest Writers

The book version of Bella's truck is on the left, the movie version is on the right.

The book version of Bella’s truck is on the left, the movie version is on the right.

I am very excited to announce my 2012 Salute to Pacific Northwest Writers which will run from Sunday, September 30th, to Saturday, October 6th.

As a mom it can be hard to find time to read books. Sometimes reading two pages in a row without being interrupted feels like trying to climb Mt. Rainer! But sharing the journey of other families through literature can also be inspiring.

Here are some of the books and authors you can look forward to hearing more about:

On Sunday, September 30th I’m kicking off this salute with a review of One Bite at a Time: 52 Projects for Making Life Simpler. This book is by Oregon mom and blogger Tsh Oxenreider. You are probably already familiar with Tsh because she is the creator of Simple Mom.

On Monday, October 1st I will be blogging about Crow Planet, by Seattle urban naturalist Lyanda Lynn Haupt.  I’m also excited to review the debut middle grade novel Pickle: The (Formerly) Anonymous Prank Club of Fountain Point Middle School, by Seattle author Kim Baker.

On Tuesday, October 2nd I will share some of my favorite books by Portland author Ann Cameron, and Bainbridge Island author Suzanne Selfors.

On Wednesday, October 3rd check out my HearldNet blog “I Brake for Moms” for a review of the fabulous YA novel Running for My Life by Ann Gonzalez.  Right here on Teaching My Baby to Read I’ll be reviewing two picture books from Lindsey Craig.

On Thursday, October 4th I’ll blog about Who in This Room: The Realities of Cancer, Fish, and Demolition by Seattle author Katherine Malmo.

On Friday, October 5th I’ll write about one of my all-time favorite picture books: Goodnight, Garden Gnome by Jamichael Henterly.

On Saturday, October 6th I’ll share reviews about some of the many children’s books by Tacoma author Kathryn O. Galbraith.

P.S. If you have a Pacific Northwest author you think is worth me considering, please tell me about it in the comment section below.

Are you ready to pack some lunches?

Here’s my “I Brake for Moms” column in the Daily Herald this week.

If you are a subscriber, you can find me in “The Good Life section”.  For more lunchbox inspiration, check out the following posts from Teaching My Baby to Read posts:

Notes in lunchboxes

Lunchbox notes

ABC Cookies

Lessons Learned from Pet Sitting

For the past week Bruce(7) and Jenna(3) have been pet sitting parakeets Captain and Sally, and goldfish Nemo and Nemo. This has been a fantastic learning experience for us all since *GASP* we are a family that does not have any pets. Yes, I’m an evil mother, but think about how much money we are saving on pet food.

The real reason we don’t have pets is because I am allergic to almost everything that breathes. As it turns out, Captain, Sally, Nemo and Nemo are all good pet choices for me because I’m not allergic to anything about them except for parakeet feathers.

The first few days of pet sitting Bruce was really excited about being responsible. These last few days however, have taken a bit more prodding on my part.

To further the learning experience have also been reading two books about parakeets and goldfish: Flutter and Float by Amanda Doering Tourville, and Pet Parakeets by Julia Barnes.

Flutter and Float is the most ridiculous book about pet care that I have ever read. I’m actually wondering if it was secretly funded by Pet Co. It suggests purchasing every piece of goldfish paraphernalia you could possibly find, including gravel vacuums and water thermometers. Then when your 17 cent goldfish gets sick, you are supposed to take it to the veterinarian! I don’t mean to sound heartless, but isn’t that what backyard burials are for?

Pet Parakeets was much more realistic. It is a comprehensive book for children explaining every aspect of parakeet care, and was really helpful for both of my children to read. It talks about identifying black spots around a bird’s throat to help estimate the age of the birds, and also educates on why it is important for birds to have social companions. Judging by how cute Captain and Sally are together, I can see why having bird friends is important.

The Perfect Puget Sound Day

A little Chihuly glass to inspire you?

It’s had to pick just one great day from living up here in the Pacific Northwest, but Wednesday was definitely a contender.

We began our day at the Pacific Science Center.  Sorry the picture is a bit blurry!  It took this shot from the elevator of…

the Space Needle.

That’s where we stopped for lunch.  I you ever eat at Sky City, be prepared to spend $10 for two scoops of lunar ice cream.  It’s worth it!

Then we went to the Evergreen State Fair.  See these woodcarvings?  That’s CLASSIC Pacific Northwest.

My husband and I ended the night with the Gavid DeGraw and Colbie Calliat concert.  (The kids were with Grandma and Grandpa by this point.)