Category Archives: literacy

ABCs for Young Children

Have you ever wondered what might be the best order to introduce letters to young children? There is no standard for which order to teach the alphabet. Some educators use a letter-of-the-week method that may or may not be based on letter frequency, while others follow the alphabet in order.

ABC Literacy

Very young children may already have some print knowledge. Typically they are motivated by the letters in their own name. When introducing the alphabet to young children, here are some things to consider in your planning.

The two greatest predictors of reading success are knowledge of letter names and letter sounds (phonemic awareness) in the early years. Once children begin to have an understanding of these concepts, they can grasp the relationship between sounds of speech and letters (alphabetic principle).

It is easier to predict the sound of some letters than others. When a letter’s sound can be extracted from its name, it is easier to build an understanding of the alphabetic principle. The name of the letter E, for example, can be heard in its sound. However, when W is spoken, it does not sound like its name: ‘double-u.’ So when choosing which letters to first introduce to your group, consider letters that have an obvious correlation between letter name and letter sound such as: A, B, D, O, T, V, and Z.

There has been much debate about whether to introduce uppercase before lowercase letters. One could argue that most print is in lower case and therefore children should be taught how to read these letters first. But when it comes to learning to print, it is easier for young children to reproduce uppercase letters. These letters are larger and can be more easily reproduced with their predominantly straight lines. With limited pencil control, young children can print large letters with vertical and horizontal lines more easily than smaller ones with curves and diagonal lines. Begin with letters that have vertical and horizontal lines such as H, L, I, and E.

To help you decide what order to teach your children the alphabet, here is a look at what is age-appropriate:

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  • Toddlers can learn to sing the alphabet song and should be read to daily. This age group enjoys simple, rhyming stories and songs.
  • Encourage toddlers to recognize the first letter of their name.
  • At two years of age a child may be able to produce vertical strokes, and horizontal ones by two and a half years.
  • Expose toddlers to print and model adult printing for them.
  • Encourage the development of the fine motor control needed for printing through scribbling, manipulatives and play dough.


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  • Preschoolers may be able to learn to recognize and name some of the letters of the alphabet. To strengthen their understanding of this, focus on beginning letter sounds of a word. For example blue, berry, brown, bag.
  • They can develop dexterity and pencil control through colouring, tracing letters, and completing simple mazes. Children this age may scribble, create mock letters that are unrecognizable, or string random letters together to represent words. Typically at three years old a child can draw circles, print a cross at age four, and a square at age five.
  • Continue to expose children this age to increasingly complex stories. Ask them questions about the stories to encourage development of their narrative skills.

Keep in mind that writing tools for young children should be small. Short, thin crayons are recommended over thicker ones.

Literacy is a journey that takes time and cannot be rushed. Encourage print motivation (an interest in reading) by providing a child-centered environment that is rich in literacy. Incorporate the interests of the children into their learning.

Each child develops at their own pace and there are many cognitive and fine motor skills needed before the process of reading and writing can begin. As educators, our role is to set a strong foundation for success and foster a love of reading in the early years.

Signature - Jo

References: Lucy Hart Paulson, Ed.D, CCC-SLP Communicative Sciences and Disorders University of Montana. Taken from Niagara Speech Services Emergent Literacy Conference 2015.

Resource Packages

This summer we reached out to our members and Facebook followers to ask what kind of resources they’ve been looking for. Then our little CCPRN worker bees went to work developing new and unique die cut packages to sell. So if you’re looking for some fresh new resource kits in time for Fall – you’ll be impressed by these new ones!

Resource Packages Froggy Gets Dressed

Coming soon: Felt sets based on the Froggy Gets Dressed book by Jonathan London – a funny way to look at putting on all those extra layers once again. Use these props to visually enhance your storytelling and then have your children play with the set to retell the story themselves.

Resource Kits Little Cloud

Felt packages based on the Eric Carle Book Little Cloud are a great addition to your weather theme.

 Resource Packages Halloween Costumes

Halloween Costumes play kits were designed by Sharon Cunningham of Story Time Felts for your little ones to play with and dress up the felt dolls.

Resource Packages Farm Kit

A farm theme is a natural fit around Thanksgiving and it can be used to enhance so many different learning concepts. This very special limited edition farm felt kit was created by former CCPRN President Andrea Gingras. She embellished each of the die cut pieces by hand. The attention to detail in each piece is really quite something. These kits are a bit more expensive than our regular ones but they are absolutely gorgeous and come with an extensive handout of farm stories, circle time songs and rhymes.

For crafting purposes we also have the following seasonal paper kits for Halloween, weather, and Fall:

Resource Packages Paper Weather Resource Packages Paper HalloweenResource Kits Paper Fall

These kits and more are for sale at the CCPRN office. Call and book a time to come into the office to browse through all of our resources! * Please note: kits are subject to availability.

Signature - Jo

Book: Show Me a Story

Show Me a Story Book

I recently discovered this book that inspires new storytelling ideas and techniques. Show Me a Story, by Emily K. Neuburger, is jam packed with ideas to spark the imaginations of young and old. Inside you’ll find Story Starters and suggestions for encouraging imaginative play for children of all ages. Setting a fancy table for a royal meal, transforming a cardboard box, and going on a walk in search of 5 interesting things are wonderful invitations for open-ended imaginative play – just to name a few.

Show Me a Story offers many ideas for home made props for storytelling too. As an added bonus, the Story Starter prop ideas are simple enough to get your school-aged children involved in their creation.

Show Me a Story - Story Stones

Story Stones

Print images and glue onto stones, wooden blocks, or even wooden disks.

Story stones can also be used to retell a favourite story, like the classic There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly, for example.

There Was an Old Lady 1


Here the old lady was made out of paper mache using a basket as the base. Then an image of each animal that she swallowed was glued onto a stone.

Another one of my favourite suggestions in the book Show Me a Story is to set the scene for a story within a jar. Or try creating a scene on a mat or blanket on the floor.


Show Me a Story - Story Jar

Storytelling and invitations for dramatic play foster the imagination, language, and narrative skills of young minds. CCPRN has purchased the book Show Me a Story for anyone interested in borrowing this great resource from our library. It is also available for purchase through Chapter’s online.

Happy reading!

Signature - Jo

Books to get Your Children Excited about School

Today’s the first day of school for many kids! While it marks a fresh start for returning children, it means a time of transition for many of our littlest ones about to begin new school experiences. It’s an exciting milestone, but the start of school can also mean anxieties for what’s to come. Separation anxiety and nerves about new routines and even new friends.

Books offer a way to address the changes occurring in a child’s life. Stories with characters children can relate to and events that are relevant to their lives can provide some reassurance when faced with big life changes.

There are so many books written with a school theme to choose from but I’d like to share with you my personal favourites.

Pete the Cat Rockin School Shoes

Pete the Cat Rockin’ in My School Shoes, Created and Illustrated by James Dean, Story by Eric Litwin

In this book, our beloved blue cat is heading off to school and takes it all in a stride, reassuring us that “it’s ALL good.” Pete the Cat books are positive, catchy and rhythmic, so this school-themed edition is perfect for even little ones entering preschool. See also Pete the Cat Wheels on the Bus.

If you take a mouse to schoolIf You Take a Mouse to School, By Laura Numeroff, Illustrated by Felicia Bond

This is a typical Laura Numeroff book about a child-like character progressing through a silly sequence of events. Numeroff’s “If you” books keep a child’s attention as anticipation builds throughout the stories. In this school edition, we read about what could happen during an average school day when a boy brings along a loveable little mouse.

There was an old lady who swallowed some books

There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed Some Books, by Lucille Colandro, Illustrated by Jared Lee

That little old lady has been swallowing more things – this time books and school supplies! Like the Laura Numeroff books, the Old Lady series also promotes a child’s narrative skills with its distinct sequence of events. The rhyme and repetition make these books fun and engaging for children and are a great addition to any home library.

The Kissing Hand

The Kissing Hand, By Audrey Penn, Illustrated by Ruth E. Harper and Nancy M. Leak

While this book may be too long to hold the attention of some very young children, this endearing tale of a mother preparing her child for the start of school is ideal for school-aged children. This is a must read for any child embarking on a similar journey and who may be experiencing some fears and separation anxiety.

The Dot

The Dot, Peter H. Reynolds

While this book isn’t necessarily about going back to school, it does take place in a school setting. The main character is a student that learns a valuable lesson from her art teacher. This book is inspirational and beautiful in its simplicity. It ranks among one of my most treasured children’s books – I love everything from its message to illustrations.

Thanks for reading and best wishes to all your little ones starting school this year!

Signature - Jo

Book Walk

CCPRN recently incorporated a ‘Book Walk’ into our pre-summer picnics.

So what exactly is a book walk?

A book walk is a way to encourage children to be involved in a story. So here’s how it works.

For this one, we chose the book called “There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Shell” written by Lucille Colandro, illustrated by Jared D Lee.

Book Walk 4

Each page of the story was mounted to a board throughout the park and children were encouraged to physically move through the book by walking from page to page.

book walk 3

Each board was numbered in sequence to help guide the children and caregivers.

Book Walk 2

Along the way, caregivers read the story as their children collected different items at each post that were relevant the story.

Book Walk 5

Book Walk 7

The items collected can be used as props to assist in retelling the story later. This activity builds on a child’s narrative and memory skills.Book Walk 6

Join us at different parks throughout the city this week for our outdoor messy play and book walk events (registration required). We will be offering a book walk with a spin ~ caregivers and children will be encouraged to write a story of their own.

Visit our calendar of events at to register for this and other events for children.

To borrow a “book” for your own book walk contact the Early Literacy Specialists at the Parent Resource Centre 613-565-2467 ext 232 or 233

Eye Spy Games

Eye spy games are a natural fit for young children and there are so many varieties to keep it fresh and exciting. These games foster a child’s curiosity, visual discrimination and language skills. Some promote fine motor manipulation, print motivation and sensory exploration.

Eye Spy Bottles

The beauty of creating eye spy bottles  is that you can choose smaller items that you wouldn’t normally give very young children to play with.

Recycle your plastic bottles or containers and fill them with all kinds of fun things. Pictured above (from left to right): oil and water with small plastic beads and food colouring – hair gel and googly eyes – oil and water with food colouring – tiny pasta (or beads with miscellaneous items hidden inside). Seal the lid with a glue gun (and consider taping  it closed with electrical or duct tape for extra security).

Eye Spy Boxes

These rugged little eye spy boxes were made from old cassette cases and are an ideal size for small hands to manipulate. Simply fill with small items (themed or by colour) and seal with packing tape! Consider making alphabet themed boxes for your preschool and kindergarten aged children.

Eye Spy Sensory Bin

You can even make an eye spy game by hiding related items inside your sensory bin. The possibilities are endless.

A very special thank you to CCPRN Board Member Laurie Boucaud for this picture of her bug themed sensory bin.

Eye Spy Pictures

Consider taking pictures of assorted items or of your sensory bin to create custom eye spy pictures to use at a later date. Simply print and laminate for a fun game that can be used again and again. This tool can be enhanced for older children by including a checklist of items to find.

Eye Spy Book

Eye spy books are a great option for incorporating literacy into fun! This is an ideal activity for quiet time as well.

I spy bags 2

Eye spy bags require some sewing skills, but if you have a sewing machine equipped with a walking foot, all you need is a small piece of clear plastic vinyl, fabric, and items to hide inside. These themed bags were filled out with flower arranging beads from the dollar store.

Your children can have so much fun with these homemade toys they won’t even know they’re learning!

Happy spying!

Signature - Jo

Carle Museum

Did you know that Eric Carle, author of  The Very Hungry Caterpillar and so many other favourites, has his own Museum of Picture Book Art?

The Museum hosts special exhibitions, programs and events. The Museum is in the United States but its studio blog, called Making Art with Children, is where you can find many wonderful ideas on open-ended art activities. The studio instructors/bloggers combine their passion for art and relate it to our favourite picture books. What a fantastic concept for getting children excited about literacy! The blog provides inspiration for making paper, monotype printing and even making a cityscape out of recyclables.

Carle Museum

The Carle Museum Bookstore has a blog as well. There you will find countless book recommendations that are seasonally relevant.

But if you love picture books as much as I do, you’ll want to make the drive and check out the museum in person!

Signature - Jo

Pete the Cat is in the House

Do you know Pete the Cat?

He recently joined us for some of our children’s events and he was a big hit with the kids.

Each event started off with reading ‘Pete the Cat I Love My White Shoes’ ~ with everyone’s favourite part: Julie acting out the role of Pete!!

 She placed different coloured slippers into 4 different coloured buckets, each with a different picture on it – one of strawberries, one with blueberries, another with mud and of water.

When the story began, Julie was wearing a white pair of shoes (slippers from the dollar store). As the story progressed, she would step into the buckets and slip off one pair of slippers and replace it with another. So to the children, it appeared that her slippers changed colours!

Later, the buckets were used again for another activity. The slippers were replaced with grippy footprints on the floor and the children practiced their gross motor skills by following them along and carefully stepping in and out of the buckets.

After reading the first book, we read “Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons.”

Julie made this large Pete the Cat as a prop, and held up number cards as Pete’s buttons popped off.

Then, of course, when Pete lost all of his buttons….

…he flaunted his belly button.

Some of the activities that followed story time with Pete, included:

A colour and left/right orientation shoe matching game:

Play dough mats for fine motor manipulation, pre-writing and reading skill development:

A colour-match wheel where the children matched the coloured shoes to the colours on the wheel. We added a gross motor component by placing the shoes and the wheel at opposite ends of the room so that the children would have to bend down to pick up a shoe and walk over to the wheel to place it on.

There was also a sensory bin, shoe lacing activities, and a picture match game… and the kids just thought it was  “aaalll good.”

All of these activities were created as extensions to a favourite book. The learning comes naturally when you’ve got a child’s interest already! You end up with ‘planned’ curriculum instead of ‘canned’ curriculum (as described by Monique at the E.L.E.C.T. training earlier this month).

We’d love to hear about any activities you’ve developed around a treasured story.

Thanks for reading,

Too Many Pumpkins

Too Many Pumpkins by Linda White, Megan Lloyd

This is one of my absolute favourite children’s books to read this time of the year.

It’s a touching tale about a woman who hates pumpkins so much she can’t even stand to look at them. Her world is turned upside-down when she discovers them growing on her own front lawn!

This book gets my kids excited to make our annual trip to the farm to pick out our very own special pumpkins. Here in Ottawa, we are lucky enough to have several pumpkin patches at these locations:

J.C. Orchards: 2726 Moodie Dr. at Fallowfield in Barrhaven,

Millers’ Farm and Market: 6158 Rideau Valley Dr., just south of the village of Manotick.

Proulx Sugarbrush and Berry Farm: 1865 O’Toole Rd. in Cumberland, near Innes and Trim roads.

Saunders Farm: 7893 Bleeks Rd. in Munster south of Fallowfield Road.

Valleyview Little Animal Farm: 4750 Fallowfield Rd., west of Cedarview Road.

But if you can’t make it out to a pumpkin patch, Ottawa’s Byward market is another great destination for choosing that special pumpkin.

At the CCPRN office we have many Fall and Halloween related dies for the die cutter including pumpkins, witches, haunted houses, ghosts and more! Of course our bulletin board is always filled with craft inspirations too so be sure to swing by and check them out!

Borrowing From Waldorf

I once had the opportunity to speak with an Early Childhood Educator (ECE) about her experiences of working in a Waldorf-philosophy based school.

I was surprised to learn that in the Waldorf system, children don’t learn to read until the age of 7 or even later. I have to admit I was alarmed at first.  But once the philosophies behind these practices were explained a little more, I could definitely see the value in some of the ‘Waldorf’ activities.

During the preschool and kindergarten years, Waldorf teachers focus on developing a love of language rather than sound and letter recognition. Children recite poetry and listen to music, stories and complex fairy tales. Teachers read to children without ever showing them the books.  And because the children don’t see any of the images from the book, they can only rely on their imaginations to ‘see’ the stories.

Today’s mainstream practices of exposing children to as much literature as possible to foster a motivation to read is in contrast to this Waldorf method, but the emphasis on developing a child’s imagination is so intriguing to me. What a gift!

Nowadays there are so many beautiful illustrated children’s books but for your next story time, consider borrowing from Steiner Waldorf. Read to your children – without ever showing them the book’s cover – or the images inside. Choose your story carefully: be sure to select a story that you think the children aren’t familiar with already and one that is complex enough without any of the pictures. Then encourage your children to envision the story and let their imaginations run wild!

I’d love to hear all about your experience. How did the children respond? Did the story become a part of their art or play? Leave a comment below!

Thanks for reading,

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