Program Turns Parents Into Literacy Champions

Twenty-two parents at the West County First 5 Center are on their way to becoming certified “ Tandem® Literacy Champions.”

Tandem Partners in Early Learning®, the organization we fund to provide StoryCycles book-sharing programs throughout the County, trains parents so they can, in turn, help other parents in the community learn how to build their children’s early literacy and language skills.

The first step to becoming a Literacy Champion is for parents to attend four training sessions on early literacy and family engagement. Of the parents and caregivers participating at the West County First 5 Center, one was a father, three were grandparents, and most were bilingual in English and Spanish.

Continue reading

Books are Just the Beginning

IMG_1943Laura Rodriguez, a Community Literacy Specialist for Tandem, Partners in Early Learning, recently visited Stoneman preschool in Pittsburg. She was there to provide a storytelling demonstration for teachers and an engaging early learning experience for the kids.

As she read the Busy Body Book, Laura encouraged the kids to stomp their feet, feel their bones, and talk about their muscles.

“I can carry pillows with my muscles,” one child shared.

“You can! You are very strong,” Laura replied. The demonstration included many open-ended questions, silly sounds, and opportunities for kids to move, act things out, and relate concepts from the story to their lives – all important elements for interactive early learning experiences that spark joy in children.

Continue reading

Read to Your Baby


First-5_image-7-1It’s never too early to start reading to your child – even when he or she is a baby!

Here’s why:

  • The simple act of cuddling and reading to your baby helps his or her brain to develop.
  • Your baby finds your voice soothing. When you read to your baby it helps her love books as much as she loves you.
  • Babies who hear more words develop richer language.
  • Babies listen attentively to songs, rhymes, and stories.

What kind of books do babies like?

When choosing books for babies, use sturdy board books, washable cloth books or bath books, or books that allow baby to explore using touch. Babies like books with bright pictures of real and familiar objects, especially photos of baby faces.

Read aloud tips for babies: Continue reading

Raising a Reader

RAR1In the last few months, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has raised national attention about the “word gap” – the fact that children from low-income homes hear 30 million fewer words than their higher income peers.

A lack of exposure to words means low-income children are more likely to enter kindergarten already behind, and may never catch up. One solution for the word gap can be found right here in the Bay Area.

Raising a Reader San Francisco and Alameda is working hard to reverse the word gap by providing an ongoing rotation of books to low-income toddlers and preschoolers, and teaching their parents the importance of reading to their children daily.

Research shows that over 60% of low-income children do not have a single book at home. Thanks to Raising a Reader, every week 11,000 low-income Bay Area children get a bright red bag filled with a set of new books to borrow. Within a year, participating children will have been exposed to over 100 different high-quality children’s books. Continue reading

How Music Benefits Your Child

musicMusic plays an important part in children’s lives. Not only does it provide the opportunity to get up and dance, but it also serves as a fun way to learn fundamentals such as the ABCs, following directions, and counting.

Take a listen to First 5 California’s new Pandora music station for kids on your phone or computer. Soon you will see all the benefits music can offer you and your child!

Continue reading

Bring Books to Life with Interactive Reading

When children are actively part of the storytelling experience, it helps their brains to develop and prepares them to read independently later. And they like it better!

So when you read with your children, try asking them questions that will help them to think about the story and relate the stories to their life experiences.

The best questions don’t have one right answer.  Ask questions that prompt your child to think about the story and express an opinion. Doing this helps children to practice language, develop bigger vocabularies, and develop a love of books and reading aloud together.

Continue reading

How are Contra Costa’s Children Doing?

Children Now released its 2012 California County Scorecard yesterday, and its news for young children in Contra Costa is both promising and concerning.

Because what happens in early childhood lays the foundation for later success in school and life, technically all 28 indicators in the report have something to do with early childhood. But for the sake of understanding how well we are doing at laying the foundation, let’s examine indicators specific to early childhood.

The best news is that Contra Costa is seeing significant improvement in two indicators of literacy:

  • The number of young children who are read to every day is up by 12%; and
  • The number of third-graders who are reading at grade level is up 26%.

Continue reading

Read Early, Read Often

November is Family Literacy Month and a perfect time for families to adopt daily reading habits with their children.  Reading aloud to your child regularly helps him or her prepare to read later. It builds your child’s vocabulary and attention span, teaches your child names, shapes, and sounds of letters, can increase your child’s memory, and ignite her imagination and curiosity.

Reading aloud together every day is the most important thing you can do to help your child prepare for school. It’s never too early to start! Continue reading