The Sound and Rhythm of Language: Phonological Awareness
by Jenny Stenis, MLIS, Coordinator, PLS Center for Children's Services
Have you read Tanka, Tanka Skunk by Webb, Chicka, Chicka Boom, Boom, by Martin, 123 Me, by Fitzkee or Chicky, Chicky, Chook, Chook, by McLennan? These books all play with the sounds of language. One of the pre-reading skills is phonological awareness or knowing the sounds of words.
When you read nursery rhymes, sing songs or play rhyming games with your child you are encouraging the love of sounds and language. Mem Fox, in her book Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever, gives three secrets of "reading." One secret is the magic of language. Mem Fox, who is a reading expert from Australia, and the author of many favorite picture books, believes that nursery rhymes and rhyming stories are the gateway to reading. Nursery rhymes, songs and rhymes provide comforting rhythms in children's early lives and expose children to lyrical language. She believes that they are "natural extensions of the mother's heartbeat and the rhythmic rocking of a child in loving arms." Songs and rhymes can be sung or chanted anytime with your child--at the grocery store, in the car, at bedtime, in the waiting room at the doctors and at bath time. Rhymes and songs provide children with the building blocks of reading: words, sentences, rhythm, rhyme and repetition, which they find later in the books they read.
So what happens when children hear songs and rhymes? They learn that language is built from sounds. The sounds contained in each word are called phonemes. Research shows the critical factor to successful reading is that children understand that words are made up of phonemic units (or different sounds). Sometimes when you ask a child to give you the first sound in dog, they may say "woof woof". As reported in the article by Motts and Tolman , a child must be able to identify the /d/ sound in words like dog, dish and mad and be able to separate the /d/ phoneme from the others before they understand what the letter d represents in these words. This is not an easy task. It takes some children until kindergarten or first grade before they can link the sound and the letter.
What is the best way to make sure your child is acquiring this pre-reading skill? Encourage rhyming skills by teaching your children nursery rhymes. Teach them the words and actions to rhymes like the "Noble Duke of York," "Two Little Bluebirds" or "Pease Porridge Hot" all found in the Growing Like a Read flip book. Mem Fox believes if "your child knows eight nursery rhymes by heart by age four, he will be among the best readers at eight." Spend 20 minutes a day reading books with your child. Rosemary Wells' book Read to Your Bunny is a picture book poem about reading to your child. Visit her website to learn more about early literacy. She encourages parents to give children their full attention as you read aloud and talk about books with your child (on your lap, of course). It costs you nothing but 20 minutes and a visit to the library!
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, a time to raise awareness about child abuse and neglect and create strong communities to support children and families. All across our nation involved community members will be working to bring awareness to this difficult problem. In Oklahoma there will be a statewide effort to come together on behalf of our most vulnerable citizens. The month is symbolized with blue ribbons; and churches, businesses, schools and private individuals will be tying blue ribbons on trees to promote this cause.
Child abuse remains a national problem. Did you know that in our nation a report of abuse is made every 10 seconds? Did you know that there are over 3 million reports a year? It is also true that 5 children die every day as a result of child abuse, and most are under the age of 4 years. In Oklahoma alone we had 7,248 substantiated cases of child abuse in 2010. Child abuse occurs at every socio-economic level, across ethnic and cultural lines, within all religions and at all levels of education.
Prevention is the best hope for reducing child abuse and neglect and improving the lives of children and families. Strengthening families and preventing abuse requires a shared commitment of individuals and organizations in every community.
Here are four things you could do:
1. Volunteer at financially support a local agency that offers child abuse prevention services in your community.
2. Offer support to a struggling parent/family. Agree to lend assistance when they need a time-out or a place to vent.
3. Call your local legislators and let them know that you support funding for child abuse prevention programs. Tell them that the annual cost of child abuse and neglect in the United States in 2007 was $104 billion dollars!
4. Go online and search the term "child abuse prevention" and educate yourself on all the others things you can do.
For more information on the blue ribbon tree campaign for Child Abuse Prevention contact:
Sherie Trice, Family Support and Prevention Services, Oklahoma State Department of Health, 1000 N.E. 10th Street Oklahoma City, OK 73117-1299, Phone: 405-271-7611, Direct: 405-271-9444, x-56727, Fax: 405-271-1011, SherieT@health.ok.gov.
For child-safe internet browsing, contact your hometown library about ELF, Elementary Learning Fun. The ELF™ Child-Safe Browser allows children to safely explore carefully chosen, highly engaging, free-use educational resources on the internet. Children may work either with adults or on their own. With ELF™, parents and teachers can know that the child is visiting only sites that are wholesome, educational, and fun. ELF may be found on public computers in all Pioneer Library System (PLS) libraries. Parents may receive a free copy of the browser to use at home by purchasing a flash drive from any PLS library with ELF loaded on it. The flash drive costs $5.00.
Services for Children & Families in Pottawatomie County
By Glenda Pitts, Children's Librarian, Shawnee Public Library
Pottawatomie County Success by Six 273-6833
"Now What?" are Parent Binders filled with information on development, health, becoming parents, discipline and guidance techniques and safety information. The information is distributed through the Unity Hospital Women's Center.
Seats for Safety is a partnership between Success by 6, Unity Health Center, and Dennis Morris State Farm. The project provides child safety seats for families in need.
Pottawatomie County Health Dept. 273-2157
Child Health Services offered through the Pottawatomie County Health Department include:
• Head Lice and Rash checks
The Child Guidance Clinic provides behavioral health, child development, parent education, and speech-language pathology services to children and families.
The Children First program is a voluntary program for first-time moms. A caring, specially trained, registered public health nurse will visit you in your home throughout your pregnancy and up until your baby is 2 years old--at no charge to you. At the home visit the registered nurse will provide education on pregnancy, labor and delivery, and parenting skills such as feeding, bathing, and toilet training.
SoonerStart is Oklahoma's Early Intervention program for families of infants and toddlers (birth to 36 months) who have developmental delays.
Sooner Success - 205-4944
Serves families of Children and Youth, birth to 21 years of age, with one or more of the following:
• developmental delay or disability
• chronic health care needs
• abuse/neglect issues
• mental health needs.
Child Care Resource and Referral Agency 580-559-5303
Their mission is to ensure all Oklahoma families have access to quality child care through community-based resource and referral services.
Also, many of the local Native American tribes offer many services to their member's families. Contact your tribe's office for more information.