Sunday, April 29, 2012

Champion of the Young Child

This weekend the Chamber of Commerce held it’s annual awards dinner. Many of my favorite people were there including Mary Joslin, one of the founding grandmothers of the Rusk County Children’s Council. Mary and her husband, Jim, were present because this year Mary was chosen as the recipient of the Children’s Council award, “Champion of the Young Child–2012”.
The Council began about 10 years ago or more with celebrations for the Week of the Young Child in April and the annual birthday party celebration in March, honoring the work of Dr. Seuss, beloved children’s author. Mary has been the glue that has held the council together. However, as Mary and Bonnie and Lenore and Jill and I grow older, there are new and wonderful people joining the council who also believe in celebrating childhood and the young children in our community. This new blood includes Lisa Bucher, Karlene Gordon, Heather Ishaam, and Lucy Taylor. 
Each year the council chooses someone from the community to honor who has made a difference in the lives of young children. Honoring Mary has been a long time in the making but this year was Mary’s year. If you know our beloved Champion, please take a moment to congratulate her and to thank her for all she does on behalf of the littlest Rusk County residents.

A Literacy Pyramid

We hope you and your young child had a wonderful time at the Week of the Young Child Sing-a-long. We always have fun getting together with families and their children in this great literacy activity. All of us in the Rusk County Children’s Council highly value the sing-a-long.
Songs and fingerplays are a staple in our literacy diet. For the fun of writing today’s column I will use a visual analogy–a pyramid. At the base of our literacy pyramid is talking with your child. It is the first and most important aspect of growing a child who loves to read. This literacy strategy begins even before birth, simply by the fact that the fetus can hear somewhere between four and five months. After birth, mothers, fathers, and caregivers use sort of a magic potion to increase the newborn’s attention to communication. This magic potion is called motherese and is simply a strategy for varying the pitch of your voice and using gestures and changes in your eyes and face. All of these things signal the baby to pay attention by giving the message, “This is interesting!”
On the middle level of the pyramid are the songs, fingerplays, and language games we play with babies. Peek-a-boo is one of the earliest games. You can see yourself using motherese when you do peek-a-boo or the game, ‘how big is baby?’ ‘Soooo Big!’ Songs and fingerplays build upon the language we use when we talk to our babies, adding music, repetition, and gestures or movement. When children pay attention to fingerplays that are really little stories, they are building their attention span for the highest level of our pyramid: listening to stories in books.
Reading books together with a parent and then alone is at the top of our pyramid. If you are an avid reader now in your life, you know that your own parents built a strong pyramid for you when you were a baby.


Pretty little dandelion
Yellow, yellow flower mine
When your head turns into seeds
Puffy white
Puff, puff, puff
Blow in the breeze!

Sign “yellow” , Blow instead of speaking  the words, “puff, puff, puff.”

Monday, April 16, 2012


The Rusk County Children’s Council, the group that brings the Dr. Seuss birthday party to the library in March, invites you and your young child to the annual sing-a-long.
Have you ever wondered what your little one was singing? You will receive a songbook with the words of the songs so that you can sing them again at home.
Would you like your little one to learn a little Spanish? Mario Friedel, our elementary school principal and musician will teach us a few simple songs in Spanish.
Preschool teachers and child care providers, Lucy Taylor, Lisa Bucher, Karlene Gordon and others will lead their favorite songs for us. With the toads coming out of hibernation, I will lead Croak, Croak, A Toads Environmental Song.
Songs and fingerplays are a great tool in helping our children learn language and learn to read. The same side of the brain responsible for language is also the side of the brain that lights up on brain imaging scans when we are listening or participating in music. We hope you come, learn something new, and have a great time with us!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Thank-you to the Gullstads

The Ladysmith Elementary School has been given a wonderful gift to enrich the lives and the education of children with the wonderful donation by Carol and Wayne Gullstad, former residents of Ladysmith now living in Seattle. The fund is intended to give students access to resources and experiences they would not otherwise have in their normal school routine.
As I read the article in the paper, I was very pleased to find that Karen Ek would be on the committee that would make decisions about how to use the funds that will become available. Karen has had a long term, long lasting effect upon the development of the whole child in our school district. Along with others having a similar philosophy, I have participated and observed three generation of young people growing up in an arts enriched culture. This is the legacy of the wisdom of teachers like Karen Ek.
However, I have also observed that this philosophy and belief in teaching the whole child is seriously at risk when our beloved teachers are continually faced with having their job security measured by the standards of No Child Left Behind. If teachers are afraid to leave the classroom and scheduled, dictated curriculum in order to enrich children’s lives with experiences inside and outside of the classroom, the intended benefits of the Gullstad’s gift will not be realized.
I recall a meeting with two very special parents of a gifted preschool aged little girl. They wanted the best for her education and wanted her to skip preschool and go to kindergarten a year early. They knew, as I knew, that very bright children are able to learn cognitive tasks earlier than their peers and schools do a serious disservice to these children when we do not provide experiences that support their innate gifts. Whether through the meeting with the school team that assessed the child or whether it was a result of their own wisdom, they chose enrichment over skipping preschool. I think that is the philosophy and the intended use of the enrichment fund. Whether children are innately gifted or academically average, enriching activities in and out of school are the most important thing schools can do in educating the whole child.

(tune: Frere Jacques)

It is springtime
It is springtime
Flowers grow
Flowers grow
Sometimes it is windy
Sometimes it is raining
It is spring
It is spring.

Sign language for spring, flowers, windy, raining.
Carolyn Lichty, SLP