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Every Day is a Reading and Writing Day

SESAME STREET AND ITS PARTNER,image002

THE INSURANCE INDUSTRY CHARITABLE FOUNDATION,

 LAUNCH NEW LITERACY INITIATIVE: 

“EVERY DAY IS A READING AND WRITING DAY” 

image003Yesterday I attended a launch event for an exciting new early literacy program, “Every Day is a Reading and Writing Day,” at the spacious Children’s Bureau in Los Angeles. This initiative is a partnership between Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization behind Sesame Street,  and the Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation (IICF).

Sesame Street's Walkabout Cookie Monster shared hugs with Ronna at EVERY DAY IS A READING AND WRITING DAY event.

Sesame Street’s Walkabout Cookie Monster shared hugs with Ronna at EVERY DAY IS A READING AND WRITING DAY event.

Sesame Street’s Walkabout Cookie Monster showed up, stealing both the show and lots of little hearts (yes, and mine, too!). The event featured interactive reading/writing activities for the more than 100 children and parents who attended. There were volunteers from several insurance companies on hand in addition to the caring Children’s Bureau staff, all there to help youngsters make books, color pictures and design bookmarks.

Every day is a Reading and Writing Day event attendees having fun.

Every day is a Reading and Writing Day event attendees having fun.

The interest in Every Day is a Reading and Writing Day was evident in the smiling faces filling the room. Dads sat with babies and toddlers on their laps as they tried out interactive computer games, moms encouraged pre-schoolers to participate in preparing the books made from those versatile brown school lunch bags, and volunteers helped explain how everything worked.

This totally free program, both in English and Spanish, targets kids from birth to age five with an emphasis on getting parents to start the conversation at home to get youngsters interested in reading and writing. “Just by taking little incremental steps,” said Alex Ben Morales, L.C.S.W., President & CEO, Children’s Bureau-Southern California, “parents can start their children on the path to becoming well-rounded individuals by the time they begin Kindergarten.”

Enjoying the coloring activities!

Enjoying the coloring activities!

William E. Ross, CEO of IICF spoke about how important early literacy was in children’s development and stressed the need to read to them every day. The idea to partner with Sesame Workshop arose out of the need for business and community to come together Ross said. Since both organizations believe our children are the future, their commitment to bringing these types of opportunities to those underserved in L.A. and other major U.S. cities is commendable. The initiative first launched in New York on October 11 with Los Angeles being the first regional launch. Chicago and Dallas are next in line.

About Sesame Workshop

Sesame Workshop is the nonprofit educational organization behind Sesame Street, the landmark television program that reaches millions of children every day in more than 150 countries. The Workshop’s mission is to use the educational power of media to help children everywhere reach their highest potential. Delivered through a variety of platforms, Sesame Workshop develops research-based content – including television programs, books, games, mobile apps and community engagement initiatives – that supports early childhood learning, helps prepare children for school, and addresses developmental needs. The Workshop’s programs are tailored to the needs of specific regions and focus on topics that help young children and families develop critical skills for lifelong learning. For more information, visit us at www.sesameworkshop.org.

About the Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation (IICF)

The Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation was established in 1994 and is completely directed and funded by the insurance industry. The foundation helps communities and enriches lives by uniting the collective strengths of the industry to provide grants, volunteer service and leadership. Since its inception in 1994, IICF has contributed more than $20 million in grants to charities and 166,000 volunteer hours to hundreds of community nonprofit organizations. IICF is a registered not-for-profit organization under section 501(c)(3) of the IRS code. Learn more at about the IICF at www.iicf.org.

 

™/© 2013 Sesame Workshop. All Rights Reserved.

 

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Elmo’s Havin’ a Party

Elmo’s Big Birthday Bash!–A Step into Reading App ($3.99Sesame Workshop and Random House Children’s Books, ages 2 and up*)  is reviewed today by Rita Zobayan.

NOTE: *The iPad rating is for 4+, but I believe a child two years and older can benefit from this app.

            My three-year-old daughter is like most of Generation Z: she understands technology at a very early age. She knows the basics of how touch screens work, understands that the blue bar means loading and knows that devices have to be charged. She’s also very aware of apps, and even has her particular favorites. Despite her growing technological sophistication, however, she is still a young child who loves cuddling up next to Mama and being read to. She still believes that characters from books (and television/movies) are real, and actively uses those media to engage her own imagination.

            Enter Elmo’s Big Birthday Bash! !–A Step into Reading App, an iPad application that is an interactive storybook. This easy-to-use educational app centers on Elmo’s birthday party. It’s an immediate hook, really. After all, which child doesn’t want to see what’s going to happen at Elmo’s party? We follow along as Sesame Street’s very own Bob McGrath narrates how Elmo prepares for his party and invites his friends, who, in turn, brainstorm thoughtful gifts. And, of course, we get to join in the birthday fun along with Abby, Big Bird, Zoe, Cookie Monster and more of our favorite Sesame Street residents!

As we read, my daughter and I enjoyed the story’s features. Each page had something enjoyable, such as changing Elmo’s drawings, moving refrigerator magnets, and my daughter’s favorite, of course, tickling Elmo.  The words were highlighted as we followed the narration. All words, once touched, pop up and are pronounced. Words bolded in red have a pop-up text box, a verbal definition and follow-up question. For example, following the definition of dish, Bob asks, “What is your favorite birthday dish?” These seemingly small touches made it so easy to personalize the story for my daughter. She wasn’t passively viewing Elmo’s birthday, but was actively thinking about and imagining her own.

In addition to the story, there are three games. The first consists of placing the invitations into the correct mailboxes and promotes letter identification. The second game has the reader match Elmo’s gifts with their beginning sounds. In the final game, the reader helps rhyme the content of Elmo’s dream because he loves to “dream in rhyme.” The games alone held my daughter captive for extended periods of time because they were fun and simple to play. Over and over, she moved the invitations into the mailboxes, checking to see which letters matched and reading the letters out loud.  I loved seeing how proud she was as she announced, “I did it!”

            The piece de resistance for me was the ability to record the story in my own voice. Now, I’m no David Attenborough, Oprah Winfrey or Bob McGrath, but, boy, did I enjoy trying to be. Even my older daughter, who is far removed from the Sesame Street age group, got in on the act, snuck away the iPad and recorded the story for her younger sister to listen to!

            The app has more features, including a “Parent Info” section that provides reading tips and parent tips. There’s a help section that includes a screen shot with story page explanations and the settings menu features. These are handy guides because the app has a lot going on, and the guides made it easier to make sure I wasn’t missing any of the many components.  (Unlike my daughters, I’m not so technologically sophisticated. My older daughter figured out the recording feature before I did!)

            Elmo’s Big Birthday Bash! !–A Step into Reading App impressed both of my daughters and me. It’s silly, good fun that promotes literacy via technology. What more could a former English teacher ask for her Gen Z kids?

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We Can Tell You How To Get The Sesame Street Brand New Readers Series

Today’s review is by Karen B. Estrada

I loved Sesame Street as a child, and as an adult I continue to love the show for its educational value and lovable characters. What I did not know was that Sesame Street also has a new series of books: the Brand New Readers series, published by Candlewick Press recommended for ages 4 and up, $5.99 each. These books are no less educational than the TV series and offer parents a little bit of help in teaching their children how to read. I recently reviewed two of these books, Bert and Ernie Go Camping and Cookie Monster’s Busy Day.

Each book in the Brand New Readers series starts with helpful tips for making “first-time reading easy and fun.” These practical suggestions mirror reading strategies that as an English teacher I have used to help struggling readers, even into adulthood. One such strategy involves previewing. The Brand New Reader series suggests parents read the brief introduction to each story aloud to their children and flip through the pictures to help the child visualize what is going to happen in the story. This is an excellent strategy that most of us use when we read—we check out the book cover, read the synopsis on the back, maybe flip through some chapters and skim a few lines here and there. Teaching children how to preview what they are about to read will help them with comprehension later down the line and build their confidence as they are grappling with new words and ideas. Offering parents this list of helpful tips to guide them in their children’s early reading education is something I applaud as an English educator.

The Sesame Street Brand New Readers books each offer four short stories, with classic illustrations of your favorite Sesame Street characters by Ernie Kwiat. The stories are written in simple language and build vocabulary page by page. For instance, in “Cookie Monster Cleans Up,” the story begins with “Cookie Monster washes his hands” and each page shows a different body part—face, arms, belly, and so on—allowing  young readers to retain knowledge of the first part of the sentence and learn one new word each page. The stories in each book both build vocabulary and teach children; Cookie Monster’s Busy Day includes stories that teach about bathing, eating fruits, getting around, and making the bed (my favorite!). In Bert and Ernie Go Camping, children will learn about animal tracks, nature, weather, and loving the great outdoors. Investing in several of the books in the Sesame Street Brand New Readers series will not only help you successfully teach your child valuable reading strategies to help them grow as a reader, but also expand your child’s vocabulary and knowledge.

 The Sesame Street Brand New Reader series is a great way to help your child learn to read with fun stories about the characters he already knows and loves from the TV show. Buy several of these, because if your child is anything like my niece was when learning to read, he or she may quickly memorize the story after reading it a few times and use the pictures to make you think he is reading the words—a brilliant but sneaky strategy showing just how intelligent your child really is! Use the Brand New Reader series as a foundation for developing your child’s early reading skills and gradually introduce your child to more advanced stories once they have mastered the strategies and vocabulary taught in these books.

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