Friday, November 20, 2009

Engaging Families In Their Children's Literacy Development with a Goal of School Readiness

Today I was privileged to present a session with the same title as this post at the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)Conference in Washington DC. Copies of the handouts are available at the NAEYC website. Search by my last name (Miller) or by the last name of any presenter to see their handouts.

Exciting movement is occurring in the world of early childhood. Make sure that you stay informed by visiting sites such as PreK Now, The New York Times Preschool News and NIEER.


Getting children ready for kindergarten is on the front burner these days. When it comes to literacy, what's the best way to "bring those children to the door"? It isn't with flashcards, flashy computer games or worksheets. It takes an integrated approach to three big ideas:

Oral language - Our speech and how we use our words is the foundation for how we understand what we read. Rich conversations about the child's immediate world and the world beyond, engaging in frequent chats, exploring new words are all a part of this foundation. Stay off the "regimented" channel.

Exploring books together. I don't often use the term "reading aloud to children" anymore because it seems to draw up images of a circle of children all sitting passively and quietly while the teacher reads an entire story from beginning to end or an individual parent or teacher "shushing" a child into quiet submission. Occasionally, if the language is rhythmic and musical and has great power, just listening to a story is OK. But most of the time it needs to look more like the entire group up to their eyeballs in thick rich meaning, interacting with the text. That's how children get the message of what reading is all about. The technique is called Engaged Interactive Read Aloud.

Playing with the language and its patterns. I underscore the word "play" because too often I see preschool teachers believing that structured lessons like those in first grade and kindergarten work for young children. They don't. You can teach children to "parrot" that way but you cannot teach what is essential - concepts. For that, children need to have concrete connections, integrated introductions, full of games and playful experiences with rhymes, alliteration, the movement and flow of the language. So sing, and have fun manipulating the language and talking about words apart from their meaning; don't make it a drill.

Want to know more? Check out sample activities from my new book, Before They Read, from Maupin House.

How do you focus on these three big ideas in your preschool environment? How do you keep the instruction developmentally appropriate while taking children as far as they are ready to go? Everyone will benefit from comments and dialogue!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

First Glimpse of NAEYC Conference - Washington DC

I've already met people from Ohio, Illinois, Florida, Minnesota and my own state of Alabama, all committed to quality early childhood learning. I also met a few resources I want to share with you.

Kar-Ben Publishing is an independent publishing house that is dedicated to books about Jewish themes. If you serve children who are of the Jewish faith or lineage, or if you just want to share a bit of that culture in your programs, you might want to visit their website. They are in Minneapolis, MN and are a division of Lerner Publishing Group.

I was able to see Ella Jenkins in person and hear a bit of singing. If you don't know Ella, she has a lot to share through music about life and culture and understanding.

My friend, Rae Pica (whom I know through BAM! Radio), is also attending NAEYC's conference. She's conducting a workshop entitled, "In Defense of Active Learning" at 8:30AM tomorrow morning and I'm going to drop by. She also has a great book out a couple of years ago called "Jump into Literacy"

I also ran into another friend, Mitch Bonder, in the exhibit booth for Childcraft/School Speciality at NAEYC. They have tons of new big books including one from my friend, Karma Wilson (Bear Snores On). While I was there, Mitch showed me a book his son has written about sports and friendship, and he's looking for a publisher for it if you know of anyone. It's exciting when kids become enthused enough with writing that they will produce their own material and I wish him the best.

I'm anxiously awaiting tomorrow when I'll have a chance to attend Rae's session, my own and hopefully a few additional ones. Wish you could all be here!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Visiting NAEYC

This week I'll be participating in the National Association for the Education of Young Children's annual conference for the first time and I am thrilled! Look for postings here from the conference to learn more about early childhood from the leading edge.

Friday, November 13, 2009

A Must Resource for Preschool Teachers: NAEYC


If you don't know NAEYC (the National Association for the Education of Young Children), check it out. The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) is dedicated to improving the well-being of all young children, with particular focus on the quality of educational and developmental services for all children from birth through age 8.

What's in it for me?

That means in plain terms that they have a lot of resources for you. There are free professional development guides, online articles to read (there's currently a great article on real-life writing in the classroom -- did you know that there are developmental stages of writing?), information about accreditation of programs and support for continuing education for teachers, and much, much more. Most of all, it gives preschool educators a place to practice their professionalism and share their knowledge while continually learning themselves.

The Literacy Ambassador® is coming to NAEYC's Washington DC Conference 11/19-20

This year I am privileged to be traveling to Washington DC (next week) for their annual conference, representing my company, TLA, Inc, by presenting on Engaging Families in Their Child's Emergent Literacy with a Goal of School Readiness (2:00-3:30PM on Thursday, Nov 20).  My new books for preschool/K teachers and for parents of preschool children is being released soon and I'm hoping to be able to share them at this conference (if I find a vendor and we can get the books to them in time.  My publisher is working on that but if you are a bookseller exhibiting at NAEYC's conference, give me a shout out!)  Regardless, if you are attending NAEYC, join me!

Maybe you can't make the trip to Washington?

Here are a few great websites to help you on your way as an early childhood educator:'s Early Childhood Web Resources


PBS Raising Readers

Which resources do you have to grow your professional approach to teaching preschool children? I'd love to hear about them and I'm sure others would too!