Thursday, April 17, 2014

Getting Ready for Reading (in two languages!)

This month's Multilingual Blogging Carnival focuses on teaching reading to multilingual or bilingual children. Since Elliot is only 4-1/2 years old, we're not yet working on either English or Spanish. But, I'm hoping that I'm doing the right things to set the stage for Elliot to become a reader in both languages: 

Reading, reading, reading: Tim and I are both readers, so Elliot is surrounded by books. Since we live in the US, he has more books in English. But, I've made sure that his Spanish-language collection is sizable and I make an effort to read at least one book in Spanish to him each day. To supplement our collection, we turn to the local library, which fortunately has some non-fiction children's books in Spanish, which are somewhat harder to find.
Elliot also has a subscription to a Spanish-language kids' magazine, which is a great way to continually bring new reading material in Spanish into our home.

Giving him audio books: Elliot enjoys listening to a CD as he drifts off to sleep. Sometimes, it's music, but sometimes, it's a bilingual or Spanish-language book on tape. He's listened to books by Alma Flor Ada so many times that he makes jokes (in Spanish) out of her name! And, when I read the books to him, he likes to chime in, "reading" some of the sections he's memorized.

Teaching the letters: At Elliot's Spanish immersion preschool, he learns the letters in Spanish. We also have several CDs in Spanish with letter, vowel and alphabet song (although I haven't found one as catchy as the classic alphabet song in English.) Although I'm realizing I don't do it as often as I should, I sometimes ask him to identify letters in Spanish from books or in public (but it's not that effective when the letters are spelling words in English).

Telling him I read in Spanish: I'm not sure if this has any effect, but I let Elliot know that I read books in Spanish (even without him) and I go to a Spanish-language book club monthly to discuss them. 

I guess my list of reading preparation is pretty short. But, Elliot is only four-and-a-half. Am I doing enough? Is there something else I should be doing?

For more perspectives on teaching reading to bilingual and multilingual children, check out the blogging carnival on Homeschool Ways on April 27. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Kindergarten Conundrum

Will Elliot be ready for kindergarten in the fall or would a Young 5s program be a better fit? This question is stressing me out more than you might imagine...unless you also have a child Elliot's age. (And if you do, I've probably already talked to you!)

Kindergarten is not at all what it was back in the day. When I was in kindergarten, it was morning-only. From what I remember, I learned my phone number and address, played dress-up, ate graham crackers and took a rest on a mat on the floor. Today, kindergarten is a seven-hour day and it's not about playing or getting ready for school like it used to be. It is school, with reading, writing, science, social studies and math.

Perhaps that's why the state of Michigan is gradually pushing back the deadline for eligibility from December 1 through September 1. This year, it will be October Elliot's early September birthday makes him eligible for kindergarten. However, many parents with kids whose birthdays are near the deadline, especially when they are boys, decide to delay the start of kindergarten for a year and give their children more time to develop by attending a Young 5s program.

The thing is: I don't necessarily agree with the trend. It creates a situation where you might have four-year-olds (whose parents signed a waiver for them to start early) in the same classroom as six-year-olds. It means starting high school at 15 and college at 19. And after all, somebody has to be the oldest and somebody has to be the youngest.

But, do I want Elliot to be the youngest? After all, I do often think his reactions to new and unfamiliar situations seem quite babyish. And, he seems quite a bit younger to me than kids at preschool who are six months older. Or is that his personality?

He's very I'm not really worried about the academic challenges of kindergarten. I worry more about his ability to suddenly be in school with twice as many kids as he's used to for triple the number of weekly hours. On the other hand, I worry that he might not be intellectually challenged if he's the oldest in his class (not right away, but later on).

So, I've attended a kindergarten readiness program and am reading a book. I've visited at least six schools looking for the best option for my baby. I plan to take him to the official kindergarten assessment at the local school as well as have a kindergarten teacher I met at an event give me her opinion.

On one hand, I think: it's kindergarten...relax! On the other, as many people have told me, this will be his formal introduction to school so I want it to be positive. I want him to feel confident and ready to learn.

Is he? Will he be? I'm not yet sure. 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Bringing KidLit to Life: Baking Mrs. Peters' Birthday Cake

"Let's make Mrs. Peters' pink birthday cake," Elliot suggested after the third or fourth reading of Mary Ann Hoberman's rhyming picture book, The Seven Silly Eaters.

This clever book features a family that grows to seven children, each of whom will only eat one food item. In the ending (spoil alert!), the kids make their mother a birthday cake made of all of "their" foods, which then becomes what they eat every day for dinner.

I tried to explain to Elliot that a cake made of pink lemonade, applesauce, bread, oatmeal, eggs and milk would not be very tasty. "Besides, we don't have a recipe."

"Just look on your computer."

After repeated urging, I finally did. To my surprise, the author had the recipe on her website. So, we put on our truck-themed aprons and went to work finding the ingredients.

As usual when Elliot and I embark on our baking projects, I soon realized that we didn't have all of the ingredients. We only had one egg, not three, so I decided to make just a third of the recipe -- although I have to admit that I didn't calculate 1/3 of four drops or 1/3 of 1/2 teaspoon all that carefully. We were out of applesauce, so we decided that a cut-up apple would do just fine. And, I  squeezed fresh lemon juice into the milk (which I'd randomly heated in the microwave, not to the specified 70 degrees) without really measuring the amount. Then, since the cake was so much smaller than the recipe, I set the oven timer to 40 minutes, rather than the 60 in the recipe.

As you might have noticed, I tend to have a fairly casual approach to baking. Lately, somehow, Elliot and I have been making some pretty tasty treats.

Mrs. Peters' birthday cake did not exactly fall into that category. It's not awful..but it's certainly not something you'd want to eat daily. And it's really not pink...which may be because it's somewhat burnt. Nonetheless, Tim, Elliot and I all ate a piece.

More importantly, baking Mrs. Peters' birthday cake was a fun experience and something that Elliot really wanted to try. The fact that it was inspired by a children's book makes it even sweeter.