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The single most important predictor of whether a child will succeed in school is his or her vocabulary skills. Local children’s literature expert Dr. Patricia Hart will present a program at Yellow Springs Community Library October 11 at 10:30 a.m. to show parents, grandparents, and other caregivers how to use picture books to help improve vocabulary skills and school readiness in young children. A play area will be provided for young children.

Hart will discuss eight strategies to help young children build vocabulary. Those strategies—and some samples of picture books that support them—are:

Patricia Hart
Freight Train by Donald Crews

1. Read aloud early, and continue beyond when the child is reading on her own.

Freight Train by Donald Crews is a simple, calming book about a train’s journey. Your child will hear different vocabulary words including colors and the names of the train cars. On one page, Crews says that the train is “Crossing trestles.” Even though “trestles” is a challenging word, children will become familiar with it as they read the book repeatedly. Crews won a Caldecott Honor for Freight Train, which indicates the quality of the simple and color-filled illustrations.

Some Smug Slug by Pamela Duncan Edwards

2. Expose the child to new vocabulary.

An excellent example of a funny book to read to preschoolers is Some Smug Slug by Pamela Edwards, illustrated by Henry Cole. A slug journeys up a “steep surface,” finally reaching the “summit” only to discover what he had been climbing. The book is a fantastic introduction to alliteration. In Edwards’ humorous story, most of the words begin with the letter “S”—“Such a shock, such a shame, such a succulent slug!” The preschooler will be introduced to many new vocabulary words while enjoying the story of the “smug slug”.

My Red Balloon by Kazuaki Yamada

3. Recognize the value of repetition.

My Red Balloon by Kazuaki Yamada is a beautifully written book about a little girl riding the bus with her red balloon. The balloon gets away from her, and the riders in the bus follow the whereabouts of the balloon. Toddlers will enjoy following the repetition of the story as a different animal joins the bus ride at each bus stop. The toddler will also delight in finding the balloon on each of the pages. The illustrations are simple and clear, and allow for good conversations between parent and child.

Night Light by Nicholas Blechman

4. Create the right challenge.

Night Light by Nicholas Blechman is a good example of a quality book for infants and toddlers. Cut-out shapes on each page allow the parent and child to guess what vehicles might be on the following page. Infants and toddlers also will enjoy putting their fingers into the shapes to turn the pages. But the beauty of this book is the simplicity of the story. Simple and clear illustrations of different vehicles create several levels of challenges for the young child. The parent can identify colors, count lights on each vehicle, or name vehicles as the child follows along.

That's Good! That's Bad! by Margery Cuyler

5. Follow the child.

It is important to observe a child’s interest in the various books they are reading. The parent will quickly know if she needs to stop reading the book, or linger—following the child’s response. That’s Good! That’s Bad! by Margery Cuyler and illustrated by David Catrow is an entertaining book about a little boy at the zoo. His “shiny red balloon” lifts him into a series of adventures, which he identifies as either, “Oh, that’s good!” or “No, that’s bad!” The story and illustrations are captivating for preschoolers, and will hold a child’s attention as he follows along with the “good/bad” response to the different animals the main character meets.

Knuffle Bunny by Mo Willems

6. Enhance Engagement.

There are many ways that Knuffle Bunny by Mo Willems enhances a toddler’s interest. The story is one that most families can relate to—a child losing her favorite toy. Willems received a Caldecott Honor award for the unique illustrations, which combine photographs and cartoon drawings. The expressions, first of horror and then happiness, on the faces of the child and her parents are engaging. Parents reading the book will relate to many experiences within the story. This would be a good book to introduce the toddler to the concept of “end pages”. These give an excellent “clue” to the whereabouts of “knuffle bunny,” which would pique interest in the book.

7. Emphasize quality children’s literature.

Hart will provide a bibliography of excellent children’s books at the session.

8. Use your children’s librarian as an advisor.

Attend the session to learn much more about how to improve early childhood literacy. Dr. Hart will show video clips and provide a list of quality children’s books.


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