Sharing Early Literacy Learning Journeys

Posts tagged ‘Children’s books’

Starting School Series, Part 7: How many ways did I read today? A child’s perspective

Perhaps I was spurred on by my husband’s question, “So how many times do your children read on the first day? Have you ever done a tally?”

Maybe I was nudged by Frank Smith’s powerful words, “A child can only learn to read by reading,” (1975).

Or was it spending time with our first grandchild, developing in so many ways, so rapidly, that all I want to do is stop and gaze in wonder. She gives me a second chance to see the early years again – and to grasp how precious and fleeting those first years really are…  She inspires me to take another look at what parents and teachers do with children to build their oral language and later, their written language in reading and writing. 

So how many times do the children read on the first day? I count each opportunity to read in the previous two blogs and find 28 (15 in the morning, 13 in the afternoon). The number sounds like a lot but doesn’t give any other details. Ah! Why not describe the reading opportunities through the eyes of a child? To find out not just how many times s/he reads, but who was reading (individuals or group), what was being read and when it was read. After all, I’ve lived that first day with children for many years as a teacher.

There’s no time to waste. Let’s walk through the first day in a child’s shoes and read through a child’s eyes…

How many ways did I read today?

1.When I found the class list on the message board and read my name, I knew I was in the right room

2.I read my first name tag and stuck it on my shirt

3.I read my second name tag and stuck it on the backpack shelf

4.I read labels of things I played with in ‘activities’, Stickle bricks, Our Block Area…

First day, boy playing with stickle bricks

5.I read ‘Mrs Swan’ after watching her write her name on the whiteboard

6.I read my name on the name cards and stood up so kids would know me

7.I read the names on the big class list on the whiteboard, with the other kids

8.I read rhymes with the other kids after Mrs Swan read four action and nursery rhymes to us

9.I read my name on my name card again, then drew a picture of myself on it

10.I read the ‘class rules’ with the others after helping make the list and watching Mrs Swan write the list on the whiteboard

11.I read signs around the school like Boys and Girls at the toilets and Library

12.I read the titles of Little Critter Goes to School (Mercer Mayer) and Spot Goes to School (Eric Hill) when the teacher pointed to the words before she read the stories to us. She said that when we start ‘home-reading’ next week, we can take these books home to read with our families

13.I read action rhymes with the other kids and then we got to jump up and down in the Jump rhyme

14.I read the class news with the others after helping make the sentences and watching Mrs Swan write the sentences on the whiteboard

15.I read a new rhyme with the other kids as Mrs Swan put the words in the pocket chart for 1, 2 buckle my shoe

We had lunch

16.I read the book titles of No David, Boo to a Goose and Where is the Green sheep? when Mrs Swan pointed to the words before she read the stories – these books are for ‘home-reading’ too!

17.I read the days of the week with the class when the teacher told us how the ‘calendar wall’ works. She said we’d do the calendar first thing each morning morning

18.I read action rhymes with the others and got to stretch in Tall as a House

19.I read my name on a prepared name page and then drew a big picture of myself on it for Our Class Book of all our names

20.I read the names in Our Class Book with the other kids

21.I read the class rules (or ‘behaviours’) with the others before activity time. I read some books and then played with the teddy bear counters

22.I read the ‘Teddy Bears’ label on the maths shelf with my friend Harry and put the ‘Teddy Bears’ container in the right place

First day, girl drawing

We had afternoon tea

23.I read the titles of six easy books with the teacher and the class. I read some words in the easy books like ‘is, I, piggy and horse’ – more ‘home-reading’ books

24.I read my name after I wrote it on my ‘journal’ paper then drew my dog and wrote some words about playing with him at home. I like drawing and writing about my dog so I hope we do journals again tomorrow

25.I read my writing about my dog to the others in sharing time

26.I read the ‘Insects’ label on the maths shelf after the teacher told me, and then put the container of toy ‘insects’ in the right place

27.I read the names in Our Class Book again with all the others

28.I read the words and sang All the Fish…with Mrs Swan and the kids just before my dad came to pick me up


I can’t wait to come back tomorrow to play in the Block Area, to sit on the big red cushions with a book in the Reading Corner, to start drawing and writing in my ‘real Journal book’, to see if I can read the Shared Writing that’s still on the whiteboard, to read the new message on our Message Board, to read Our Class Book again, to begin writing the letters on our small, individual ‘whiteboards’ and to see how the Calendar Wall works first thing in the morning.

Quiet reflections

Reading – still something of a mystery. How did I learn to read?

I remember sitting on the floor in the first grade classroom at Hopetoun Primary School, reading sentence cards: long, white, cardboard cards with black print and small coloured pictures. The sentences were about a small boy ‘John’, his sister ‘Betty’ and their pets, a dog ‘Scottie’ and a cat, ‘Fluff’. I remember that the sentences on the long, white cards were the same as the sentences in the first Reader: ‘This is John.’ ‘This is Betty.’ ‘John can jump.’ ‘Scottie can jump.’ And so on.

I remember the day in the group when I boldly said, “John can run,” for the card that looked like this: John can run. Mrs Tidey smiled and called me a “good girl”. So this was reading!

Soon, I was allowed to take home the real book that had all the sentences in it – the thin, reddish-orange, soft cover book with off-white glossy pages. I read my ‘John and Betty’ book – but I have no recollection of special delight or praise from anyone. This is so unlike my students today with whom I celebrate loudly and lavishly when a child realises s/he is really reading.


Starting School Series, Part 3: Gathering ‘hands-on’ materials and books

Today promises to be hectic. With only two days before children start, there are hands-on materials and books to gather and organise. The Resource Room is open for the first time and there’s scarcely an hour to get into it before our Professional Development (PD) session starts at 9 am.

8 am… First stop: Resource Room

It takes three trips to cart the books and hands-on materials to my room:

* Big books (and small copies of big books: Sing a Song, Mrs. Wishy Washy, Jigaree)

* Levelled books  (colour-coded, levels 1-10, Prep; levels 6-20, Yr 1 to start)

* Hands-on literacy materials (puzzles, magnetic letters, giant foam letters, letter-word cards)

* Hands-on maths materials (100 number board, large plastic clock, pattern blocks, solid shapes, geo boards, sorting/counting toys)

* Class maths box (containing unifix cubes, popsticks, small clocks, laminated 100 grid boards, egg timers, stop watch, ‘fan’ numbers, large and small dice)

* Hands-on science materials (fish tank, magnifying glasses, magnets, shells)

* Children’s whiteboards (larger and stronger than class set already in room)

* A
ssorted bottles of paint (for easel painting)

* Assorted art materials (oil pastels, dry pastels, charcoal sticks, plasticine)

Big Book with small copy

One of my favourite big books for the big-book stand and
a small copy for children to take for home-reading

Colour-coded 'levelled' books
Colour-coded ‘levelled’ books
for independent reading and home-reading

Maths shelves for ‘hands-on’ materials:
shapes, insects, bears, pattern blocks,
polyhedrons, beads, number and alphabet ‘cars’,
geo boards, frogs, straws, blocks and counters.

Puzzles and maths shelves:
jigsaw puzzles, nuts and bolts, plastic chain links, calculators,
number bean bags, dinosaurs, dominoes,
puzzles and floor puzzles, polyhedrons and unifix cubes (at right)

Going to the Resource Room can be mind-boggling for teachers new to a school. Knowing what you’re looking for really helps. In my case, it’s big books, levelled books and lots of hands-on materials:  literacy, maths, science and art; that’s what my physical environment is set up for and it reveals what I believe about how children learn.

9 am – 1:30 pm: Professional Development
1:35 pm…. Next stop: school library

Time to gather books from the library. Lots and lots of books. Armloads of books. It takes three trips to get them all to my room: a broad mixture of ‘start-the-year’ books, ‘easy-reads’, ‘flap’ books, old favourites, ‘classics’, books with rhyme, non-fiction books, alphabet books, number books, poetry books…

???????????????????????????????Two sides on a triangular bookshelf:
two sides for books and two spaces for reading cushions.
 Four of my starting-school favourites: Boo to a Goose (rhyming words),
No David (funny), Spot (flap) books, Hairy Maclary (rhythmical language).

2 pm… last stop: my library

Books are gathered from around the room and sorted:  books about children starting school, books to read on the first day, books with rhyming words, alphabet books, number books and books by authors like Dr Suess, Mem Fox and David Shannon. Some books go on shelves, some books go in boxes and baskets – in the mat area, in the reading area….

Having our own personal library of children’s books is vital to our becoming better early childhood teachers and it allows us to share our love of books with the children in our classes.

In these three blogs I talk about 22 favourite books in my personal library:

My top ten ‘must-have’ picture books
Ten Special Picture Books
Two more Grug books

Quiet reflections

It’s late afternoon. Professional Development for today is finished. My head is swimming with information. Ahh, home…

It would be impossible for me to imagine living without books, especially children’s books. It was during the first weeks of Teachers’ College many years ago, that I started buying children’s books for my future classrooms. Over the years I’ve collected children’s books from bookstores, second hand stores, garage sales, school fetes and discarded book sales at libraries.

Eventually I had enough books for every occasion: a new baby, a loose tooth, a birthday, co-operating, sharing, imagining, finding a green tree frog, caring for tadpoles and competing in the ‘bush’ Olympics.

I remember reading ‘No David’ (Shannon, 1998) to the class on the fourth day of a new school year, when one boy said, “You sure do read a lot of books, Mrs Swan. This is the sixth one you’ve read today!” “You’re right,” I laughed, “I just love children’s books! And we’re going to read hundreds and hundreds of books this year.”

Coming next: Starting School Series, part 4: Finishing touches


The sea is galloping…

I feel like Christopher at the beach today,
in A.A.Milne’s ‘Sand-between-the-toes’…


with the shouting sea…

and the galloping sea…

with sand in the hair…

and sand between the toes…

and nobody else is out!

It is a super dooper poem to read with children
and with thanks to All Poetry, here it is:


I went down to the shouting sea,
Taking Christopher down with me,
For Nurse had given us sixpence each-
And down we went to the beach.

We had sand in the eyes and the ears and the nose,
And sand in the hair, and sand-between-the-toes.
Whenever a good nor’wester blows,
Christopher is certain of

The sea was galloping grey and white;
Christopher clutched his sixpence tight;
We clambered over the humping sand-
And Christopher held my hand.

We had sand in the eyes and the ears and the nose,
And sand in the hair, and sand-between-the-toes.
Whenever a good nor’wester blows,
Christopher is certain of

There was a roaring in the sky;
The sea-gulls cried as they blew by;
We tried to talk, but had to shout-
Nobody else was out.

When we got home, we had sand in the hair,
In the eyes and the ears and everywhere;
Whenever a good nor’wester blows,
Christopher is found with

© A.A. Milne.  All rights reserved

Good Grief! Where has Mrs Goose gone?


Saturday, June 1st: A Canada Goose sits on her eggs
on a thin, log ‘island’ in the river.
How long has she been there?
… through wind and rain and ‘a terrible storm’.


Friday, June 7th: Mr. Gander stands on guard whilst Mrs. Goose sits …


and sits and sits and sits…
just like Horton, in Dr Suess’ Horton the Elephant.

Monday, June 10th: Good grief! Mrs. Goose has gone…
Where are the geese and their goslings?
I hope they are safe…


One egg is left.
Is it The Ugly Duckling?
Will she be shunned by her brothers and sisters?
Will she become a beautiful swan?

Children’s books:

Horton Hatches the Egg, Dr Suess, 1962, London: Collins Clear-Type Press
The Ugly Duckling, Fairy Tale, Hans Christian Andersen, Denmark. First published, Nov 11th, 1843

What would Anne have called it?

Lilacs are prolific this spring.
Woodlands, roadsides and edges of fields are dotted with dark-lilac lilacs,
light-lilac lilacs and bright-white lilacs.


White lilacs? I’ve only just learned of white lilacs.

Lilac Lane 2

In nearby woodlands, I wander on paths edged with fragrant lilacs.
I’m reminded of  Anne of Green Gables, one of my favourite children’s books.
I wonder aloud,
“What would Anne have called this path?”

Would Anne call it,  “Lilac Lane?” No. Too ordinary, like Diana’s Birch Path.

Lovers’ Lane… of Lilacs? No. She has a Lovers’ Lane already.

Lovely Lane of Lilacs? No. Lovely is not specific enough. But loveliest?

Loveliest Lilac Lane? No.

Luscious Lilac Lane? It’s a luscious fragrance that wafts by. Anne didn’t use ‘luscious’ – but she she learned  ‘scrumptious’ the day of the picnic.

Lavish Lilac Lane? Luxurious? Luxuriant?  No. But. lilacs are plentiful, pretty and pleasantly perfumed…

Longing lilacs? or Lingering lilacs?

Linger. Lilacs linger – especially in warm, spring weather. The fragrance lingers. And certainly Anne likes to linger…

Yes. That’s it… Anne may have called this path, Lane of Lingering Lilacs.

What do you think?


What do you think Anne would have called the lilac framed path?

Montgomery, L. M. (1908). Anne of Green Gables.  Toronto: McClelland and Stewart-Bantam (Seal Books).

Trawling for ‘t’ words?


Two tall tulips


Two turtles talking, on a tyre

Weekly Photo Challenge: Up

It’s ‘a great day for up’
when you go
off the beach cliff
and up, up, up
into the sky…


with these high up hang-gliders.

Up always reminds me of A great day for UP, by Dr Suess –
a fun read with a child!


with thanks to for the cover picture.

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