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Background knowledge

Prior Knowledge: Can We Really Level the Playing Field?

Spoiler alert: This blog entry is a two-parter. The first part (today’s entry) describes a problem to which the second entry will offer some nifty practical solutions (nope, no practical solutions today).

No more Pooh?

Many classics of children's literature involve animals that behave like people. I've certainly likened several two-legged people I know to Eeyore. I often think like the Cat in the Hat on a dull, rainy day, looking for good, clean, indoor mischief. And in my house, Farmer Duck became a metaphor for unappreciated hard work.

Preparing for a big family trip

We're heading off to Germany for some apple strudel, German soccer, apple strudel, and tours of castles and salt mines (and apple strudel). This is a big adventure for our family, and we've been prepping for weeks! It's been so fun for the girls to be involved in the planning and the excitement. I thought I'd share a few of the things we've done to get ready — most of these ideas could be adapted for a trip anywhere.

Vocabulary, worth talking about

I have a good friend with a 7 month old daughter. Through his video clips on Facebook, I have watched E react to new toys, try all sorts of new foods, and learn to sit up. Around our house, we're way past soft foods and teethers, so I watch with joy as E happily gums spoonfuls of bananas and sweet potato. But every time I watch, I'm struck by the silence. There are no adult sounds, just the occasional grunt or gurgle from baby E. When I finally asked E's Mom and Dad about the silence, it turns out to be plain 'ol stage fright — Mom and Dad are too shy to have their voice heard on video.

Why getting out matters

I remember many years ago sharing a book with photographs by Bruce MacMillan with a group of inner-city preschool children. They were bright and vivacious and eager to share what they knew.

While I no longer remember the title of the book, I'll never forget a little boy's response when I asked what the full-color image of a black and white cow was. He exclaimed with authority, "A dog!"

How important is it to match a reader to a text?

The Common Core Standards are national standards in English Language Arts and Mathematics. They've been adopted by over 45 states and six provinces, including Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. According to the Common Core website the standards "provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them.

Let's leave the fun in learning

A staff member at a child care center I visited this week looked at me very skeptically when I said that we were going to have a good time together. I was there to introduce the staff to children's books and how media and hands-on activities help lay a firm literacy foundation.

For the next hour, we read, watched a short clip from a children's television program, sang, made noise, read some more, discussed educational benefits and generally had a good time. I was heartened when the skeptic in the group actually smiled.

Baseball and its lessons

The first pitch of the season has been thrown and the professional baseball season is in full swing. So it is for kids who play Tee ball, softball, and baseball at school, a recreation or community center, or in their own neighborhood.

Playing a team sport has huge benefits for children — I saw it when my son started playing Tee ball in first grade. He had lots of fun but also learned a great deal by playing with other kids, listening to his coach, and figuring out some of his limitations as well as his strengths.

A day with art and artists

I spent the morning with young artists whose work was featured in an opening at The Phillips Collection that featured young (and I mean young) artists; the oldest were in 5th grade, most were prekindergarten through 2nd.

It was amazing, energizing, exciting, and downright remarkable.

Listen to the wind! One person can change the world

Children often feel powerless. Can reading about one person's dedication to an idea turned into action empower young people?

I think the approach of Listen to the Wind: The Story of Dr. Greg & Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and Susan Roth (who also illustrated the book; published by Dial) does that and more.

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"Books make great gifts because they have whole worlds inside of them." — Neil Gaiman