Welcome to School Literacy and Culture's Parent Resources page. Join us as we explore simple ways to talk with, listen to and play with the children in our lives. Some ideas start conversations, some explore the world of print and some serve as invitations to share family stories, but all of these interactions provide easy ways to bring learning and laughter into our homes.
January is the season of New Year’s resolutions and for many families this can mean creating a new family tradition like going to the library with your children. A family trip to the library is a great time to focus on your children’s special interests. Allow them to choose books that intrigue them and watch their love of reading grow. If your child is fascinated by particular animals or community helpers like firemen, lead them to the non-fiction children’s books where they can find informational texts about these interests. If your child is interested in princesses, knights and dragons, guide them to the fiction section where they can select imaginative fairy tales. The library offers many opportunities for exploration and conversation with your children about books.
The Houston Public Library system makes it easy to get a library card and there are so many locations there is bound to be one close to your neighborhood! To find a library location near you visit: http://houstonlibrary.org/find-it/find-library-location Use the direct link to signing up for a library card.
You can begin the process online and then visit your local branch to complete the application. All you need is a photo ID containing your address. You can even request a library card in your child’s name so he/she can check out some favorite books.
Visit our Amazon bookshelf to see some of the books SLC recommends for young children, which can all be found in your local library.
Tortillas and Lullabies
A beautiful book to read with your child at this time of year is “Tortillas and Lullabies/Tortillas y cancioncitas” by Lynn Reiser. This book deals with the carrying on of family traditions over the course of four generations, from great-grandmother to grandmother to mother to daughter. The events presented are among the simplest and most routine of life’s daily activities: making tortillas, picking flowers, washing clothes and singing lullabies. Yet these simple activities, in the author’s words, “celebrate their heritage, their rapidly changing lives, and the enduring expressions of love in their families in ways that are the same but different.”
After reading the book together, think of a special activity from your own childhood that you can relate to your child’s life today. It could be a favorite food, game, lullaby or other special song that you remember. Your child will love hearing about the things you enjoyed doing when you were young!
The month of December lends itself particularly well to talking about family celebrations. Consider creating a special basket filled with an assortment of objects that represent different ways your family celebrates special occasions together. Some examples of objects to include might be candles, cards, cookie cutters, toys, ornaments, etc. Have each member of the family select an object from the basket that has a special meaning for him or her and take turns sharing a story or memory associated with the chosen object.
Preserving Family Memories
Think of the memories that make up the story of your family—the house you grew up in, the first time you helped your mom cook in the kitchen, the fishing trips with your grandpa, the time you fell off your bike and needed five stitches, your wedding day, the birth of your first child. Preserving these memories is important and is such a gift for future generations. As families gather together, the holiday season can be a great time to share and record family stories. When you sit down to a meal around the table, you might ask the oldest guest to share a favorite memory from childhood or the youngest guest to talk about the best present he has ever received. Technology makes it possible to easily record these family stories. New apps like Voice Pro allow you to simply press a button on your iPhone or iPad and transfer the recording of a story to written text. If you prefer to keep the recording of the story and preserve the voice of the storyteller, the Voice Memos app is a great tool. Participating in the sharing of stories improves children’s ability to tell narratives, exposes children to rich vocabulary, and most importantly, gives children a stronger sense of their family history. Everyone has stories to tell, share them this holiday season!
Creating a Family Shopping List
Your child sees many examples of writing in everyday life. The next time you are making a shopping list, give your child a sheet of paper so he can do the same. Talk about the things you need to buy and ask your child for suggestions. Your child may be able to copy words, sound them out, or even draw pictures of the items on his list. When you are actually in the store have your child help you read the list so he understands that writing serves a purpose in real life. As you walk through the store talk with your child about things on the list: where to find them in the store, where the products come from, and how you will use them in your home.
Using Environmental Print to Share Family Stories
Environmental print is the print of everyday life. It is often the first print children learn to read and can be found on signs, labels, and logos. Children are excited when they can recognize familiar words and symbols they see around them. When you help your children notice the words on signs and labels you build their confidence as beginning readers and writers. In the Rice OWL Lab we ask the children early in the year “What do you like to do with your family?” We record their simple family stories about shopping together, visiting the park, going out to eat, or spending time at home. As a family you can recreate some of your everyday activities using a cut-out figure of your child. Help your child create his own model of a favorite spot in your home or some of the neighborhood places you visit as a family. Talk with him about what you do at each place and what things can be found there. You can even cut out pictures or drawings of other family members so that everyone can be a part of your child’s play as he moves from place to place.
For more information on about using environmental print at home, click here.
Helping Your Child Express Thankfulness
Any time of year is a good time to talk about the things we value and appreciate. Reading a book like The Thankful Book by Todd Parr or Gracias/Thanks by Pat Mora and John Parra with your child can be a good way to introduce this activity. Use a clothes hanger as a mobile to feature members of the family and talk with your child about why they are so important. Each person can have a card that includes a photograph or child’s drawing. Celebrating your family by adding words that describe why they mean so much to you will make this mobile a very special family keepsake.