Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Should we give in to the “yuck factor” when it comes to boys and books?

The Gas We Pass: The Story of Farts (My Body Science)

There are a couple of schools of thought when it comes to what books boys (or children in general) should read. Some folks say that books like the Goosebumps series or other similarly "yucky" books are inappropriate and should not be encouraged. Others say if boys are reading...let them read WHATEVER will interest them.

My personal opinion is that the answer lies somewhere in the middle. If you have a reluctant reader and he will not read anything other than these types of books, I say some reading is better than NO reading at all. But I think parents should read the books that they are giving to their children so that they can have discussions about the content. If the book has all of the makings of a good literacy experience, then it's probably worth reading.

As teachers however, we have to have a standard that is acceptable to all parents and some books that parents might choose to read at home, are not necessarily appropriate for school. Generally we early childhood educators have it easier than our elementary school counterparts. In preschool and kindergarten, most young boys haven't yet developed the gross sense of humor that will make moms and teachers cringe :). But for older boys, if they are reading books about slimy monsters AND they are learning to comprehend, decipher new words, spell, process information, imagine the unthinkable, and learn to differentiate between reality and fantasy, then it's fine with me! Now, certainly if that's all a boy wants to read, it's our job as adults to make an effort to find other subjects that will peek his interest. But again I say, some reading is better than NO reading!

On a side note, I think it's important that we not ASSUME that because a child is a BOY then he will automatically like these types of books. My only point here is if you have a boy who is drawn to these types of books, I don't think it's the end of the world :).

Here are two links that present differing points of view:

What do you think about the yuck factor? Yes or No?

Related Posts:

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Teacher Tip Tuesday: Boys and Books in the Classroom

Research shows that there is a reading and language achievement gap between boys and girls. As early childhood educators, we must take a moment to see what role we play in creating in this gap, and more importantly, how we can help eradicate it. We know that the early years are very valuable in setting the stage for future learning, so we should take our roles seriously. How can we be sure to set boys up with positive literacy experiences? Here are a few tips. Please comment below if you have more tips to share!

  1. Don’t compare boys to girls – boys take longer to develop language and literacy skills. And comparing boys to girls is just unfair. What's "on target" for girls is not the same as what's "on target" for girls. Here's an example: if you have a boy that can write the letter A in shaving cream, but is reluctant to pick up a pencil to write, is it really fair to say that this child "can't" writ the letter A. Well he can write it...maybe he needs more fine motor activities to help him with his pencil skills, but it's not fair to say flat-out that this child can't write the letter A.
  2. Evaluate your own teaching style – do you expect boys to adapt to you or are you adapting your teaching style to meet their needs? Is your circle time too long to really grasp the attention of the boys AND the girls in your room? Are you providing activities that meet the needs of all kinds of learners (visual, active, auditory, etc)?
  3. Do you have books and writing materials in ALL areas of the classroom? If the boys in your room rarely choose to go to the library or writing table, then they are missing potential learning opportunities. In order to overcome this challenge, encourage reading and writing in all areas: in block area, add construction and architecture books as well and pencils and paper for making signs; at the work bench, add paper and pencils for making "blueprints;" in the science area, include encyclopedias, nature books, and science-related diagrams. Be creative, but make sure that reading and writing opportunities are all around.
  4. Have male role models read to your class. In most child care programs, men are few and far between. So look to your parents or other members of the community to read stories to the classroom.
  5. When you do author studies, purposely ensure to feature as many male authors as you do female authors.
  6. Be sure that you have books that cater to the interests of the boys in your classroom.
  7. Visit websites such as Getting Boys to Read and Guys Read to learn new and exciting ways to engage the boys in your classroom. Another helpful site is Reading is for the's a webquest geared for K-12 teachers but many of the information is helpful and can be adapted to the younger ages.
Books About Boys and Books

Guys Write for Guys Read: Boys' Favorite Authors Write About Being BoysGreat Books for BoysMisreading Masculinity

Monday, October 25, 2010

Beyond Reading: 15 Literacy Activities for Parents with Boys

Reading to your baby boy is the first and most important way to raise a son who does not lag far behind their female counterparts when it comes to reading skills. Start reading from birth so that boys have a better chance of developing a natural love of books. But aside from reading, there are some other fun activities that you can do to further enhance literacy skills in young boys. Knowing that boys are active learners, it's a good idea to present literacy activities that encourage movement.

  1. Label containers and drawers in your child’s room or play area. When it’s time to clean up, the trucks should go in the container marked “trucks,” blocks go in the container marked “blocks,” and action figures go in the container marked "action figures." Functional reading is still reading!
  2. Combine sensory activities with writing activities: Put shaving cream on the table or on a tray (or on the bathtub wall) and practice writing letters and words. You can also use sand, flour, finger paint, etc. You can also try crayon soap for the bathtub!
  3. Use alphabet molds for sand and play dough – encourage children to identify and spell with the letters that they create in sand or play dough.
  4. Find interactive books – pop-up books, books with buttons, I Spy Books, etc… that might be appealing to boys. Keep them in the car or in your bag so that you can take advantage of any opportunity to read a page or two!
  5. Boys are physical and tactile learners so instead of traditional flashcards, make letters out of sandpaper (or other sensory material like cotton, corduroy, felt, etc) so children can feel them.
  6. Make letters with hands, fingers, and body parts. Ex: cross two fingers to make and X or a T. Again, any time you can combine physical activity with literacy learning, boys will be better off! 
  7. Put large letter cards on the floor and have children “hop,” or “jump” on the letter you call out.
  8. Don’t underestimate the power of everyday moments. Talking and singing help build important brain connections.
  9. Infuse literacy into other types of active play: Playing baseball? Let your child write down the score. Playing with the train set? Make signs for the train stops. Got cars? Add real road maps. Look for meaningful ways to infuse a literacy element into your child's favorite activities.
  10. Freeze letters into ice "cubes" (ex: put a few letters in a paper cup of water, when the water is frozen, peel away the cup). Give your child a safe space, a crab mallet or play dough tools and a pair of goggles. Encourage them to chip away to get to the letters. For older children, add letters that spell something (like your child's name or other familiar words) and once they've uncovered all of the letters, they can unscramble the letters.
  11. Go on a treasure hunt: bury plastic letters in the sand box and have your son dig them out.
  12. Find blocks with letters and build words with them (they often have them in the Dollar Stores – you might need 2 or 3 sets to successfully spell some words).
  13. Visit the library - most local libraries have free programs for kids that involve story time, arts/crafts, and special performers.
  14. Celebrate male authors! Boys need to see that men are writers too. When books have the author's picture inside, read this to your son. Look online and visit websites for male authors. Visit Guys Read!
  15. Use technology to your advantage. We shouldn't ignore the fact that boys are attracted to technology, so choose websites and video games carefully. Choose and sites that encourage interaction and language use. Visit Best Sites for Preschool and Kindergarten. and Software for Early Childhood.  
Books for Parents on Boys and Literacy

Boys and Literacy: Practical Strategies for Librarians, Teachers, and ParentsBright Beginnings for Boys: Engaging Young Boys in Active LiteracyConnecting Boys with Books 2: Closing the Reading Gap

Related Posts:

Six Not-So-Secret Tips for Encouraging Literacy Development in Boys
Beyond Reading: 15 Literacy Activities for Parents with Boys
•Literacy Challenges for “at-risk” families (coming soon)
Should We Give In to the “Yuck Factor” When It Comes to Boys and Books?

•25 Books Boys (and girls) Might Enjoy (coming soon)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Six Not-So-Secret Tips for Encouraging Literacy Development in Boys

Several years ago when I taught pre-kindergarten and kindergarten, I had a foster grandparent volunteer – a senior citizen who helped in the classroom every morning. It was a wonderful program; it was nice to have a male role model in a female-dominated profession! Whenever the boys played in housekeeping/dramatic play area, Mr. B. would tell them, “Get outta that kitchen. Boys don’t play in the kitchen.” I had many talks with Mr. B and reminded him that it was really OK for the boys to be in the Dramatic Play area. It’s such a touchy subject with men sometimes. Sometimes they just don’t want to see their boys playing with dolls – but it isn’t a sign of doom , it really isn’t – they are imitating what they see mommies AND daddies doing – dads take care of babies, dads cook, and dads clean up. Four- and five-year-olds are experimenting with these roles and it is how both boys and girls learn.

So, all things equal for boys and girls, right? Weeeellll…..not exactly. Boys and girls deserve equal opportunites…but that does not mean that we, as educators and/or parents, should ignore their differences. Sure, it's OK for young boys to play with dolls and for young girls to play with trucks; but when it comes to boys and literacy, research shows that there is a significant gap in reading achievement. Boys and girls have biological differences and we can’t expect boys to fit into our mold of what we think a “reader” should be; we instead have to be flexible and bend our expectations to meet the needs of the young boys in our lives. Boys might not sit still for a 15 minute circle time so we have to find another way to reach them.

Research shows that literacy skills are a predictive factor in school success. Creating a nation of boys that are lagging behind in reading skills means that they are at risk in other subject areas as well. Our effort to erase this literacy achievement gap has to begin in the early years. Here are just some of the things that parents and teachers can do to set a literacy foundation early in a young boy’s life:

  1. Start early: I remember reading that adults tend to read and talk more to girls than they do to boys – even in infancy. We can’t set our boys up for failure even before they get a chance to crawl! It’s important for all babies to be read to; research shows that the single most important thing a parent can do to raise a child who reads, is to read to them early and often!
  2. Choose books that will be of interest: Whatever those interests are, foster them. Is your two year old obsessed with trucks? Have a five year old that can’t get enough of dinosaurs? Or a ten year old who loves all things related to baseball? There are books on just about every topic under the sun! Visit the library often and get acquainted with your local librarian!
  3. Value Read Aloud Time: Even after a child learns to read, continue to read aloud. Hearing the rhythm, patterns, tone, and pronunciation of written language helps children to become better readers.
  4. Timing is Important: If boys seem to have a short attention span, choose books that are not too long. Or, read books in chunks – a few pages a day/night. What’s important is that you are reading!
  5. SET AN EXAMPLE: Boys need good role models. Dads, granddads, uncles, or other male figures should model literacy behavior. Children see and children do!
  6. Keep tabs on digital media: Boys are attracted to video games and computers. It’s unrealistic to eliminate all digital media from a child’s life; to do so would suggest that computers and video games are inherently “bad.” I suggest that the use of video games and computer time is monitored – supervise the time children spend using these devices, select games/software properly, and select well-developed websites to explore.
Related Posts:
Links and Sources:

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Sesame Street Writer, Joey Mazzarino, Inspired By Daughter to Write "I Love My Hair"

Last week I was so happy to discover this wonderful video, I Love My Hair, and today, it was featured on my local morning news (WMAR - ABC 2 News). There's a bit of background about the writer and singer so I thought I'd share it here. I read that this little girl puppet has no name. What do you think her name should be?

First Disney has an African American Princess and now, this video. I wish these images were available when I was growing up, but I'm glad that they are around for my niece! Again I say, THANK YOU SESAME STREET!

See Also: I Love My Hair

Friday, October 15, 2010

Are you Ready for Some Football?

It's that time of year, where many folks, (*guilty!*) become obsessed with football. There's face painting, outfits, body paint, tail gating, ... well people can get quite serious about their home teams (*ahem* Go Ravens!). Here are a few books that will help the little fans get into the spirit of the football season:

My Football Book

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Teacher Tip Tuesday: Celebration Time ~ There's a Preschool Party Going On!

Clean up time can be a challenge for preschoolers. After giving children a warning (we will clean up in five minutes), I would put on "Celebration" by Kool and the Gang; you might have to put the song on repeat (depending on the size of your classroom and the size of the mess) in order to give the children time to clean up!

After everyone cleaned up, we would meet on the carpet in our meeting place for Celebration Time. We sit in a circle and each child gets to "celebrate" something that they did during Center Time that day. In the beginning of the year you might get things like, "I played in Block Area." I would probe by asking questions like, "What did you build in block area?" Part of my goal was to get the children away from over-using the word "play" and begin to think of what they really did. Not that there's anything wrong with the word "play" - I am an advocate of play. I just want children to expand their vocabulary and think a little deeper about their actions. A few months into this, children would say things like, "Chris and I worked together to fill the buckets in the sand table and we made moon pies."

Sometimes children would bring papers to the Meeting Area. I would put a basket on the rocking chair and if they had something they wanted us to CELEBRATE, they would put it in the basket. It might be a picture they drew at the art table, a story they wrote, a picture they drew of their block structure (I would keep blank paper, pencils and clipboards in every center in case children wanted to draw pictures of what they were doing).

Here are some advantages to Celebration Time:
  1. Children begin to think about what they are doing, WHILE they are doing it. Their learning becomes more self-planned and purposeful.
  2. Clean-up time becomes a little easier because children are EXCITED to celebrate with everyone!
  3. It encourages children to revisit their learning.
  4. When children go home and parents say, "What did you do today?" they just may be able to say a little bit more than, "I played."
  5. Children learn to take pride in their accomplishments!
  6. Children learn ideas from one another about things that they may want to try the next day.

Monday, October 11, 2010

BOOK OF THE DAY: Things That are Most in the World by Judi Barret

Things That Are Most in the World

Yesterday while on my way to Target, I passed a group of kids holding signs to encourage folks to come to their yard sale and bazaar. Not wanting to pass up a good sale, we stopped in. The event was a fundraiser for The Shoshana S. Cardin School in Baltimore. The first table I found was filled with one of my favorite things in the world: BOOKS, BOOKS, AND MORE BOOKS. One of my finds was this hilarious book by Judi Barrett. I giggled as I was reading it and couldn't wait to fork over my $1 for this cute story!

Did you know that the quietest thing in the world is a worm eating peanut butter? And the jumpiest thing in the world is 2,222 toads on a trampoline? Or that the wiggliest thing in the world is a snake ice-skating? Humorous text combined with hilarious illustrations (thanks to John Nickle) make this my BOOK OF THE DAY.

Additional Activities:
  • Before reading the book, spend some time exploring the cover and have children predict what the story might be about. The cover lends itself to LOTS of ideas!
  • Give children the adjectives and let them finish the sentences with their own text and illustrations: The loudest thing in the world is..., The messiest thing in the world is...., etc...
  • Talk about comparisons and comparative words. This is a great book to use to introduce size concepts such as longest/shortest, heaviest/lightest, etc.
  • Visit John Nickle's home page and print the pictures from the story; have children re-tell the story in their own words.
  • Read more books by Judi Barrett such as Animals Should Definitely Not Wear Clothing.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

BOOK OF THE DAY: The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats

The Snowy Day

Tuesday, October 7 is Read For the Record Day and this year's featured book is The Snowy Day.Children, teachers, parents, and families across the world can pledge to read this classic story. And if you don't have a copy of your own you can read it online from We Give Books, or you can catch various celebrity readings on the Today Show!

Early literacy is a strong indicator of future school success. Many children, especially those affected by poverty, enter school with a significant deficit. Jumpstart is making an effort to address the early childhood crisis by providing books and literacy programs to children in at-risk areas.  Have you pledged to Read for the Record?

Additional Activities for this Book:
There are so many great activities already available online. Here are links to just a few. Please comment below if you have other activities or links to suggest!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Teacher Tip Tuesday: Poem of the Week Notebook

Every teacher knows that extending learning at home is an essential part of a quality educational experiences. At the beginning of the year, ask each parent to buy a small vinyl notebook like this. Each week, feature a different poem, nursery rhyme, song, or fingerplay. Make a copy and put it in each child's notebook on Monday and send it home that evening. Each night, the parent and child should read their poem or song together. The families should send the notebook back to school on Friday (so that you can add a new poem on Monday).

The parents and children in my classroom loved this idea because they could go back and re-read their favorite poem and at the end of the year, each child had a nice collection of poems from the entire year.

Whatever poem I would send home would also be featured in our classroom on chart paper. I would laminate the charts so that we could use dry-erase markers to write on them - sometimes we would circle our letter of the week, other times we might find a word that we recognize. Throughout the week the children would share this learning with their families each night.

If you are a teacher of infants/toddlers/twos you can adapt this concept by still asking parents to provide the notebook and sending home poems or songs bi-weekly or monthly. Parents will appreciate being able to sing or recite some of the songs they may hear their toddlers trying to repeat.

Other adaptations:
  • If you have parents that speak other languages, ask them to either teach you a song/poem in their language or to translate a familiar song/poem. It's a great way to incorporate various languages into your program.
  • For some poems, you may want to type and print them. But for others, I suggest writing them. These days children see a great deal of typed text (computers, books, etc) so seeing handwriting is good for them!
  • Allow children to illustrate the poems on Monday before putting them in their notebooks. They will be additionally excited to show their family their illustration in addition to reading the poem.
Some songs/poems I used in the fall include:
There are a ton of poems/songs/fingerplays to choose from. What are your favorites?

Happy Reading,

Monday, October 4, 2010

BOOK OF THE DAY: Fur and Feathers

Fur and Feathers

"When Sophia dreams that howling winds whisk the fur and feathers right off her animal friends, she shares some of her clothes with them. But her clothing doesn't work well for the animals. Seeing their disappointment, she offers to sew each one the right coat. Animals line up to explain what they need and why. Polar Bear needs white fur to stay warm and hide in the snow. Fish needs scales, but with slime. Snake needs scales too, but dry ones. And how will Sophia make a prickly coat for Porcupine? The award-winning team of Halfmann and Klein (Little Skinks Tail) reunite to bring animal coverings (and classification) to life in an imaginative way. Sophias friends include Duck, Fish, Frog, Ladybug, Polar Bear, Porcupine, Snail, and Snake. The For Creative Minds educational section includes: Scientific Classification, Skin Coverings, and Animal Classification. Additional Teaching Activities and Interactive Quizzes are available on the Sylvan Dell Publishing website." ~Amazon Product Description

I usually give a list of related classroom activities related to my BOOK OF THE DAY, but Sylvan Dell Publishing provides teachers with a list of learning activities in the For Creative Minds and Teaching Activities sections.

Here are a few additional activities to try:

  • Give children animal patterns and collage materials and let them decorate the animal using their imagination (the way that Sophia did in the book).

  • As a journal activity, have children draw (or write about) their dreams.

  • View/listen to the e-book version which allows children to listen to and read the story in English and Spanish.

Other Books by Janet Halfmann:

Little Skink's TailAlligator at Saw Grass Road (Smithsonian Backyard)The Tallest Building (Extreme Places)

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