Saturday Stories: Earth Day with Kids

Butterflies fascinated me as a child. They still do, and I have to believe at this point that no matter how old I get I’ll always have to stop whatever I’m doing when one flutters by and shout the obvious: “Look it’s a butterfly!” People raise their eyebrows now as if to say, Yes, Sam. What powers of observation you have. We have eyes too. But when you’re a kid, such exclamations are met with a much different reply. A chorus of people will smile and praise your wonder at the natural world and ask you what you know about butterflies and what books you’ve read and if you know that a caterpillar actually becomes a butterfly.

This fact is still as shocking to me now as it was then.

I had to know more, and books were my way in. My parents shared with me the classic Eric Carle tale, The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Lois Ehlert’s Waiting for Wings. And whenever we visited my grandparents we stopped by the Cockrell Butterfly Center at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. It became my new favorite place.

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My mother and I “waiting for wings” to appear at the Butterfly Center. 

From there I moved on to non-fiction books and promptly decided that my favorite butterfly wasn’t a butterfly at all, but a moth. The Luna Moth became my obsession, and suddenly there was a lot of reading to do about the differences between moths and butterflies. Then in the third grade our teacher did a butterfly project with the class where we raised Monarchs and released them. I can still see them flying away from me. I won’t forget that moment, or the books I read, or standing with my mother looking for butterflies in the museum.

Earth Day is the perfect time to spark a year-long love and sense of awe for nature in children and in yourself. It’s important to teach about sustainability and how to meaningfully interact with the environment, but it all starts with that sense of wonder and appreciation for all the Earth does and is. We keep many books about nature in our libraries (we have a whole shelf for the topic plus additional books in the non-fiction section) and love to work with teachers and caregivers to help them develop creative ways to encourage children to care about their world, no matter where they live- rural, urban, or suburban.

The list of ways to inspire children to love and care for their environment while still keeping literacy goals in mind is endless. It’s all about making connections and reinforcing learning while you’re out and about in the world together.

Was you child enamored by the pigeons on the walk home? Remind them of Pigeon, the lively main character of Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems, and read it together at home or in your local library.

Are you planting seeds together now that spring is here? Share Lois Ehlert’s Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf to learn about the life cycle of a tree.

One of the best ways to reinforce vocabulary acquisition and letter recognition in young children is to point out signs as you go through your day together. We may look past all those “Don’t walk on the grass” warnings where grass seed or flower bulbs have just been planted, but it will be a new concept for children and will reinforce words they’re learning.

Here are some of our favorites books about nature and environmental awareness that both children and adults will love to share together:

earth book
The Earth Book 
by Todd Parr

charlie and lola
Charlie and Lola: We Are Extremely Very Good Recyclers 
created by Lauren Child

curious garden
The Curious Garden 
by Peter Brown

By Samantha Salloway, Books for Kids’ Administrative Assistant and caretaker of our blog. She spends her time doing all manner of reading, writing, editing, and learning.

3 Ways to Increase Children’s Vocabulary

 

caterpillar
All my life I’ve looked at words as though I were seeing them for the first time.” — Ernest Hemingway

Words are currency for conversation. We all have the ability learn more valuable vocabulary. The best part is that when we teach others words, it doesn’t make us poorer, but rather enriches both lives. Whether you’re a parent, teacher, or just want to help the next generation succeed, there are simple ways to help children increase their vocabularies.

Talk & Read More

In order for children to have high vocabularies, they need to be exposed to as much language as possible. This may seem obvious once children turn a certain age, but it is actually important to begin speaking to children from birth (or sooner!). It’s even beneficial to read to newborns. The bad news is that television and other recorded voices won’t work as well as a live person speaking. The good news is that you can read any material to a newborn. This can be a great way to catch up on reading the news or any book you’re currently working on. As vocabulary expert Dana Suskind explains, “While babies may not understand the words, they are comforted by the sound of a parent’s voice, the rhythm of speech, and the warmth of the touch.”

Keep Language Positive

As kids grow and begin to comprehend what adults are saying, it’s important for them to hear an abundance of positive language. Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) specialists agree that our brains struggle to process negative words. This is why when people are told not to think of a purple elephant, it becomes difficult to think of anything else. With children, this can mean when you say, “Don’t touch!” their brains are focusing on “Touch!” Luckily, we can easily counteract this problem by rephrasing what we say with a positive spin. For example, “Don’t touch!” can be traded out for, “Please keep your hands to yourself.” The more words a child’s brain can process, the more words they will remember.

Repeat & Rephrase

Rephrasing is also useful when it comes to what children are saying. Repeating what a youngster has said, and slightly correcting the wording, is a wonderful way to increase vocabulary. For instance, if a child exclaims, “That dog is real big!” you might respond with, “Yes, that dog is huge!” Using new words in the context of what a child is already talking about makes it easy to introduce new words.

BONUS:

If a kid’s home language is differentchild in library and Spanish book than the one spoken at school, it’s important to develop literacy skills in his or her native language as studies have found that strengthening skills in any language is beneficial while learning a new one. If you want your child fluent in English, vocabulary from other languages can help show connections between the words. 
Look in your local library for some our favorite books which are available in multiple languages or have bilingual editions:

1. Spot Goes to School by Eric Hill (Arabic Edition)

2. Growing Vegetable Soup by Lois Ehlert (English and Spanish)

3. Janjak and Freda Go to the Iron Market by Elizabeth Turnbull (English and Creole)

Follow these tips and the children around you will be rich with words! What are some of your favorite tips for increasing vocabulary? Let us know below.

What are some of your favorite tips for increasing vocabulary? Let us know below.

by Hannah Kowalczyk-Harper. Hannah is a Library Specialist with Books for Kids and works in our Las Vegas libraries. This post originally appeared on her blog at Medium.com.