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Benefits of Inclusion in Early Childhood Education

Early childhood education is evolving into a more inclusive environment for everyone. This includes children with visible and invisible disabilities, as well as typically developing children. But what exactly does inclusion look like in early childhood education?

 

An inclusive classroom means students with and without learning differences all learn together in one classroom. Inclusive classrooms help foster a welcoming and supportive environment that meets the diverse academic, social, emotional, and communication needs for all of its students. 

 

From Friends at School, written by Rochelle Bunett and photography by Matt Brown.

 

How Does Teaching Inclusion Benefit Everyone?

Studies have shown that students of all developmental styles benefit from their involvement in an inclusive learning environment. Inclusive learning environments help develop positive self-images, friendship and social skills, problem-solving, and respect for others.

 

Most young children have not yet been exposed to stereotypes attached to people with visible and invisible disabilities. An inclusive classroom therefore provides opportunities for children to practice acceptance and understanding. Children learn how their classmates with different learning styles and abilities are similar to each other, as well as how they do things in different ways.

 

Inclusive classrooms also use teaching strategies that meet each child at their individual developmental level, which benefits all children. These strategies help each student learn what is expected of them and how to navigate the classroom as a whole. Oftentimes, teachers will separate students into small groups or hold one-on-one sessions as a way of practicing differentiated instruction. This allows teachers to tailor lessons to best fit each student’s learning style and provides students with opportunities to get up and move around or use fidgets that can help them concentrate.

 

Available resources in inclusive classrooms are made for everyone. Special education professionals also provide additional information, support, and suggestions,

 

Teaching Strategies for an Inclusive Classroom

From Friends at School, written by Rochelle Bunett and photography by Matt Brown.

Nicole Eredics, an educator specializing in the inclusion of students with disabilities in general education classrooms, details the five classroom management strategies for a successful inclusive classroom. One of these is color-coding the classroom in order to reduce confusion and direct attention to the classroom schedule. Eredics also suggests starting each day stress-free by asking students to do three things when they enter the classroom: unpack their backpacks and hang up their coats, turn in any homework, and do a calming activity of their own choosing.

 

Another important teaching strategy in an inclusive classroom is creating and maintaining a routine, as this promotes a sense of security in students regardless of their learning styles or abilities.

 

How Parents Can Help at Home

It is also important for teachers to talk with the families of children in their classrooms about at-home strategies to promote inclusion. As Erin Aguilar, an inclusion specialist and educator for the Easterseals Blake Foundation, writes: “Working together and creating a partnership with families is an important part of inclusion, and can help children reach their developmental potential.”

 

Though not every school and classroom teaches inclusivity, parents can still teach inclusion to their children. Kids tend to absorb the behaviors and attitudes they see around them. Therefore, in many ways, parents and guardians become their children’s first teachers.

 

Reading books with diverse characters and stories can play a huge role in the overall development of children. On top of being a great way to introduce new words and concepts, books can help create teaching and learning opportunities for parents to have conversations with their children about what diversity and inclusion means.

Star Bright Books offers a number of inclusive books: siblings of all abilities work together in Laura Dwight’s Brothers and Sisters; Anna is determined to be part of the wreath-laying team at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in spite of her blindness in Barbara H. Cole’s heartwarming book Anna & Natalie; and the true meaning of inclusion is on display in Rochelle Bunnett’s photo essay Friends At School.

The Dangers of Cultural Appropriation During the Halloween Season

As Halloween draws near, have you ever questioned whether costumes are offensive to cultures you do not belong to? If so, you may be encountering cultural appropriation. Below are some suggestions for tackling this topic with children.

 

From Tough Jim, written by Miriam Cohen and illustrated by Ronald Himler.

 

Cultural Appropriation vs. Appreciation

Cultural appropriation is taking aspects of someone else’s culture (clothing, symbols, music, etc.) and using it for your own benefit without recognizing its historical meaning or prominence. Wearing an Indigenous headdress to a music festival or wearing Indigenous tribal paint on

Thanksgiving when you have no Indigenous heritage connection are a few examples.

 

Conversely, appreciation is taking the time to understand someone else’s culture, recognizing the collective history of your own identity in association with the culture in question, and maintaining mutual respect. Make sure you take the time to listen to other worldviews prior to asking any contextual questions and try to engage by exchanging food recipes or supporting a local business’s artistry.

 

It is so important to appreciate rather than appropriate! To appreciate is to address and challenge

a worldwide history of genocides, white supremacy, and racism.

 

Who is most affected by cultural appropriation during the Halloween season?

While cultural appropriation touches a range of ethnicities, in American society, Indigenous peoples dread Halloween. It is a dangerous holiday for Indigenous folks because by wearing an “Indian Princess” or “Little Native Chief” costume, the wearer is mocking the history of Indigenous folks.

 

Headdresses, moccasin materials, tribal paint, beadwork, or feathering are all Indigenous

designs! They are not a costume.

 

What are some more examples of culturally appropriating costumes that are NEVER

okay?

  • A Mexican person or Day of the Dead
  • An Egyptian pharaoh or queen
  • Blackface, brownface, tribal paint
  • A ninja
  • A Geisha
  • Gypsies
  • A prison inmate
  • Folks in a psychiatric facility
  • A homeless individual
  • A Hula dancer
  • A fat suit
  • A transgender person
  • A Bollywood star

 

Remember that all of these communities have been historically discriminated against. Society outcast them and deemed them fit for ridicule. To wear these costumes is to believe in the notions society has fabricated. Avoid these costumes and research if you are not certain why these examples appropriate.

 

If your child or someone you know is planning a Halloween party, it couldn’t hurt to mention on the invitation that culturally appropriating costumes are a no-go.

 

How can I approach this topic with children?

The majority of kids don’t seek to offend anyone! Halloween should be a joyous and spooky occasion for all, but also inoffensive. Discuss with children the historical context prior to costume selection and ask the following questions from educator Ray Yang:

 

  • Is this costume a stereotype of a group of people?
  • Does it hold any historical or cultural significance?
  • How does removing the context change the costume’s meaning?
  • Does my usage of the costume trivialize a group or people?

 

Yang also encourages kids to do their own research, visit museums (in pandemic times), or have them reach out to someone who is a victim of cultural appropriation. Sometimes hearing a firsthand account can go a long way in a child’s understanding of a foreign experience!

 

We at Star Bright Books hope you have a happy, healthy, and safe Halloween!

Voting Resources

The 2020 presidential election is fast approaching! Kids follow the example set by their parents and guardians, and voting is a great way to teach critical thinking, self-advocacy, and civic engagement. Whether you’re planning to vote absentee, mail-in, early, or in-person on November 3, Star Bright Books has compiled a comprehensive list of websites that can answer common questions on everything from registering to filling out a ballot. We have also included several social justice resources on combating voter harassment and ensuring your voting rights are recognized.

 

Young Tansy helps Big Mama cast her vote in The Big Day (release date: October 30). Illustration by Robert Casilla.

 

Massachusetts Voting Resources

Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

sec.state.ma.us/ovr/?ref=voteusa

Register to vote as a Massachusetts resident. Offered in English and Spanish.

 

Vote 411

vote411.org/massachusetts

Information on voting in Massachusetts, from early voting to mail-in ballots.

 

General Voting Resources

Common Cause

commoncause.org/voting-tools/

Register to vote, check registration status, request an absentee ballot, track a ballot, find local election offices, determine voter eligibility, research state-specific voting laws, and receive election reminders.

 

Let America Vote

letamericavote.wpengine.com/action-2/

State-specific information on voting legislation and nationwide rating of voter-friendliness in each state.

 

Rock the Vote

rockthevote.org/how-to-vote/voting-faqs/

Answers to common questions on voting, from state-by-state residency requirements to accessibility resources for voters with disabilities.

rockthevote.org/how-to-vote/nationwide-voting-info/absentee-voting/

State-by-state policies on absentee voting.

 

The Society for Human Resource Management

elections.shrm.org/

General information on candidates and candidate positions on workplace policy, safety tips for voting during a pandemic, a podcast on the importance of voting, and a state-by-state listing of House and Senate representatives.

 

Spread the Vote

spreadthevote.org/

Get assistance acquiring an ID, a requirement to vote.

 

U.S. Department of Defense

fvap.gov/

Information for military, expatriate U.S. citizens, and their families on how to register and vote while living abroad.

 

U.S. Election Assistance Commission

eac.gov/

Master list of resources and updates on state and nationwide voting policies in the age of COVID-19. Offered in Chinese, English, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, Tagalog, and Vietnamese.

 

When We All Vote

whenweallvote.org/deadlines/

State-by-state list of voting deadlines.

whenweallvote.org/votebymail/

FAQs on the mail-in voting process.

 

Ethnic/Racial Justice Organizations and Voting Information

Asian Americans Advancing Justice

advancingjustice-aajc.org/node/37

Resources for Asian Americans on general, language, and citizenship voting rights.

 

Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies

apaics.org/voting-resources/

FAQs for Asian Pacific Americans on voting deadlines, absentee and mail-in voting, registration processes, and other resources.

 

Black Folk Must Vote

blackfolkmustvote.org/voting-resources/#

Resources and information for Black Americans on how to register, voter deadlines, and required ballot information.

 

BlackVote.org

blackvote.org/

Nationwide information and resources for Black Americans on voter registration, rights, and candidates.

 

Muslims Vote 2020

muslims.vote/resources/

Resources and information for Muslim-Americans on how to register, requesting an absentee ballot, early voting, voting locations, and ways to start or join grassroots Muslim organizations.

 

The Native American Voting Rights Coalition

vote.narf.org/

Resources for Native Americans on voting issues and rights, including what to do if voting rights are violated.

 

Voto Latino

votolatino.org/

Information and resources for Latinx people on how to vote, why it matters, voting deadlines, and candidates.

 

Disability Justice Organizations and Voting Information

Administration for Community Living

acl.gov/news-and-events/announcements/voting-resources-older-americans-and-people-disabilities

Information on federal laws and departments as well as local agencies dedicated to ensuring accessibility for voters with disabilities.

 

American Association of People with Disabilities

aapd.com/advocacy/voting/voter-resource-center/

Resources on accommodations legally required to be provided for disabled voters and voting rights.

 

National Federation of the Blind

nfb.org/resources/voting-resources

Master list of resources for blind Americans on voter accessibility rights when registering and during the voting process.

 

U.S. Election Assistance Commission

eac.gov/voters/voting-accessibility

Various resources including a Braille “Your Federal Voting Rights” card and fact sheet.

eac.gov/voter_resources/resources_for_voters_with_disabilities.aspx

List of ADA and ABA requirements to accommodate disabled voters.

 

LGBTQ+ Justice Organizations and Voting Information

Lambda Legal

lambdalegal.org/vote

FAQs for transgender, gender non-conforming, and nonbinary voters on how to register, what to bring, what to do if homeless, what to do if formerly incarcerated, updating IDs, how to report voter harassment, and other resources.

 

National Center for Transgender Equality

transequality.org/issues/voting-rights

Resources for transgender people on voter rights and how to navigate issues with identification.

 

TRANSform the Vote

transformthevote.org/voting

Resources on what to bring to a polling site and how to report harassment while voting.

 

Reporting Election Problems or Questions

American Civil Liberties Union

aclu.org/issues/voting-rights/fighting-voter-suppression

Information on voter suppression and how to fight it on a national and statewide level.

 

Election Protection Hotline

Arabic: 1-844-YALLA-US (1-844-925-5287)

English: 1-866-OUR-VOTE (1-866-687-8683)

Spanish: 1-888-VE-Y-VOTA (1-888-839-8682)

Bengali/Cantonese/Hindi/Korean/Mandarin/Tagalog/Urdu/Vietnamese: 1-888-API-VOTE (1-888-274-8683)

 

When We All Vote

whenweallvote.org/know-your-voting-rights/

Resources for voting rights, requirements, and how to report voter suppression. Additional information for current or formerly incarcerated citizens on voting rights.

Preparing for a child’s first pet

With offices, schools, and extracurriculars all going virtual, family time has risen to a dramatic new level. One area of domestic life that has increased from the socially distanced status quo is the adoption and purchase of pets. Furry, feathered, or scaled, sharing lives with pets can be a great way to develop empathy and responsibility in children. Below, Star Bright Books shares tips and tricks on how to make pet ownership in families with children a paw-sitive developmental experience!

 

How and Where Should I Get a Pet?

Before visiting an animal shelter (or a pet store if adoption is not possible), first decide which type of pet will fit best into your family’s lifestyle. For example, do any family members have fur allergies? How many children are there and how old are they? The Association of Professional Dog Trainers recommends getting a large dog if you have toddlers to avoid a child accidentally injuring a smaller, more fragile animal.

 

From A Fish To Feed, written by Ellen Mayer and illustrated by Ying-Hwa Hu.

 

Once the type and breed of pet are narrowed down, families can visit shelters to find their future companion. Ideally, children should take part in this process, as it helps children adjust to the reality of what the pet will be like on a daily basis.

 

This isn’t just advice for future dog and cat parents—many shelters house birds, rodents, and even reptiles in need of new families! Also, while pet stores and breeders are often a quicker route to getting a pet than shelters, be wary of unethical business practices at these institutions such as puppy mills.
           

Supervising First Interactions between Child and Pet

From A Fish To Feed, written by Ellen Mayer and illustrated by Ying-Hwa Hu.

It is essential to monitor interactions between children and the pet for the comfort and safety of both. Having an animal that needs to be cared for every day is a big lifestyle change for children, so supervision from the start can address early problematic behaviors like aggression, overfeeding or underfeeding, and unhygienic interactions. Pets, like people, can occasionally get overwhelmed by the ways children might try to show affection or play, so swiftly establishing boundaries with the child and designating a child-free zone for the pet like a crate or bed will ensure more harmonious relations between the pet and children.

                                                           

Establishing the Child’s Responsibilities for the Pet

Some say a pet is simply another child to care for. Indeed, it is recommended that adults in the household oversee and act as a role model to children in pet care. However, children can, and should, be assigned smaller daily tasks in caring for the pet. Having a routine chore assigned to children such as walking the dog or feeding the fish after school provides a positive developmental boost in kids as they get a chance to bond with and share responsibility for the pet. As A Fish to Feed shows, pets give parents and children a chance to share time and to talk, helping to bring families closer together and aiding in early language development. In busy families where parents and children are juggling numerous activities, sticking to a routine gets tricky. Making a physical schedule of when and who takes care of the pet that every family member can see may help.

 

Most importantly, enjoy the newest member of your family! Pets are not just great developmental skill-builders for children, they are true companions that will provide fond memories children can look back on for a lifetime.

Artist Spotlight: Jerry Pinkney

This is a guest piece written by Jill Lauren, author of That’s Like Me!

Jerry Pinkney, picture from the foreword of THAT’S LIKE ME!

 

Jerry Pinkney has devoted much of his life to illustrating books for children. His award-winning picture books, such as Caldecott recipient The Lion & the Mouse, are beloved by generations of readers. For many readers, the fact that Jerry is also dyslexic makes his life story even more inspiring.

 

It’s been ten years since Jerry Pinkney wrote the captivating foreword to That’s Like Me! To celebrate, author Jill Lauren caught up with him for this interview. In it, young people ask Jerry questions about his art and motivations. His answers provide insights into his creativity and illuminate how his learning disability colors his artistic gifts.

 

Megan asked: What do you wish you knew when you first entered children’s publishing?

 

Jerry Pinkney: I entered because I was passionate about book making. I was a graphic design major in art school. But when I first started, book publishers didn’t really have a design department. The design of the book was up to the illustrator. So I was able to combine my two interests in illustrating books and contributing to the design. That’s how my first book, The Adventures of Spider (1964), was created.

 

Back then, my nine-to-five job was as a graphic design illustrator at Barker–Black Studio in Boston. This is how I supported my family. I worked on illustrating books after work. I had no understanding of the kind of rich life that children’s publishing would provide for me. I worked on books because I needed to do it—it made me feel good. I was contributing to something, I was exercising certain talents and gifts and passions that I had. It may be good that I didn’t know how the success of illustrating children’s books would change my life because it might have affected my passion.

 

But, mostly I wish that I had understood more the value of the process. And had enjoyed the many steps in creating the final art.

 

Emily asked: What was your favorite book as a child?

 

Jerry: Well, I didn’t read as a child. I did enjoy stories, and they were served up in two ways. One was that my mother was an amazing reader, a ferocious reader. So she read to us, usually from a book that was a collection of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales, Aesop’s Fables, or Uncle Remus’s tales. You can see that reflected in the work I do. And because I didn’t read, the other way stories were served up was the oral tradition, which is a Southern tradition of storytelling by listening to stories. I want my work to show the kind of energy and emotional content that I enjoyed in hearing someone tell a story.

 

We didn’t have a television. We had one radio that was in my parents’ room, so storytelling was a way of expressing and filling that space.

 

As a kid growing up, the barbershop was also amazing. I didn’t want to go to get my hair cut, but I loved the kind of language and storytelling among the older folks. It also was a sort of social center, the barbershop, so people would just come and tell stories and talk and solve the problems of the world. I remember listening.

 

So, there was no one specific favorite book. My fondness for listening to the stories from Aesop’s Fables and Hans Christian Andersen does impact my art, though, which can be seen in The Lion & the Mouse, The Ugly Duckling, and John Henry, for example.

 

Elliott asked: You often work with watercolor. Have you found it to be an easier medium to work with?

 

Jerry: No, not at all. There is something about watercolor that I think matches my personality. As a person with a learning disability, watercolor fits a certain need. Because watercolor is challenging, this medium gives me the opportunity to focus. I have to be in the moment with the medium, so it’s important to me because it helps me to concentrate.

 

Watercolor is also a medium that has its own surprises, and I think for a creative person, surprise is a reward. In order to be successful at watercolor, one has to also honor the certain properties and challenges that are built into the watercolor medium itself. Watercolor is not a medium that one can easily control. There is movement in watercolor. I never consider reworking watercolor, so there is some letting it be and going with that as I create. I build the movement into the work, and that creates some tension. Now, it turns out that all of this tension, this process of working with watercolor, gives the viewer a bridge into the work itself. People say that my work has a sense of being alive, which comes from my relationship with watercolor.

 

 

Thank you, Jerry, for dozens of spectacular children’s works and for your personal stories. We can’t wait for the gift of your next book!

 

Learn more about the book That’s Like Me!: Stories about Amazing People with Learning Differences at this link.

Artist Spotlight: Cornelius Van Wright

 

Cornelius Van Wright.

In our inaugural Artist Spotlight, we caught up with children’s book author and illustrator Cornelius Van Wright about his new book The Little Red Crane, creative inspiration, and the children’s publishing industry.

 

Star Bright Books (SBB): What was your inspiration for Dex the Spider Crane?

 

Cornelius Van Wright (CVW): The genesis of Dex started as a friendly conversation I had with Star Bright Books’s publisher [Deborah Shine] a few years ago. She had described to me how she could not stop watching a crane truck being assembled across from where she lived. I shared how I loved crane trucks ever since my father bought me a giant working toy crane when I was a child. We found out that we both had a fascination for trucks and cranes.

 

I drew her a picture of a crane. Later, she suggested I write a story about a crane. Excited, I bought tons of reference books on different cranes. In the very back on one of the books was a very small Crawler [Spider] Crane. That’s when the idea hit me.  Instead of a story about the many mighty cranes I saw, why not tell a story from the perspective of the smallest crane?

 

SBB: Why did you pursue children’s book writing and illustration as a career?

 

CVW: I have always loved children’s books. I still have many of the books my parents read to me when I was little. I loved escaping into the stories—they piqued my imagination.

 

In my final year of college, a visiting art director from a famous magazine saw my work and invited me to show him my portfolio. At the end of the visit he asked me why I wanted to be an illustrator. That question stuck in my head for years.

 

Finally, I understood what he was asking to me. What did I want to say as an illustrator? What was my reason for pursuing illustration? I stopped and re-examined my motives. I found that I was still looking at PBS children’s programs, even in college. These things reflected where my heart was. That is why I still have my children’s books from when I was little.

 

SBB: What do you wish you knew before entering the publishing industry? 

 

CVW: That a rich uncle or aunt were required. I had neither.

 

SBB: How has the industry changed since you started working as an illustrator? What are some challenges you still face?

 

CVW: I love the industry—not just working on children’s stories, but the people who work in the industry. Most of them have a beautiful passion for books that is inspiring.

 

The industry has changed dramatically over the years, however. It used to be an industry driven by love of books. Some books take years to catch on to the public. This was understood in the industry. However, many publishers have been taken over by large media conglomerates that are more interested in the fourth quarter. If a title doesn’t sell X amount of copies in X amount of months, “Off with it’s spine!” This is a sad new reality that seems to dictate what some publishers will take a chance on.

 

SBB: What is the favorite part of your job? 

 

CVW: I love seeing a book come to life. Equally, I love visiting classes and libraries and seeing children’s faces light up with their own inspirations. Some of the students run up to me and show me their drawings and ideas. They feel empowered. There is nothing like it!

 

SBB: Tell us about working with your wife, Ying-Hwa Hu, on book projects.

 

CVW: I love working with my wife. It is not always easy in terms of someone having a different opinion on an idea. But opening up to another point of view (teamwork) can actually strengthen the final product. It takes humbling oneself and entertaining the notion that that great idea you had may not have been a great idea. I have learned to trust and listen to Ying-Hwa’s opinions. I love working with her!

 

SBB: What illustrators of color do you admire? Have any of them inspired your works? 

 

CVW: There are many illustrators of color I admire. Too many to list them all. But a few that come immediately to mind are Jerry Pinkney, Allen Say, Leo and Diane Dillion, Kinuko Craft, Kadir Nelson, Faith Ringgold, and Shaun Tan. I am inspired by many artists. Inspiration can show up in many forms.

 

SBB: Is there an illustrated work you are most proud of? Why?

 

CVW: This eludes me.

 

SBB: What message do you hope to convey to young readers through your work? 

 

Cover illustration by Cornelius Van Wright.

CVW: Be free to imagine.

 

SBB: Who is your favorite children’s book character?

 

CVW: Too many . . .

 

SBB: Tell us one thing about you that readers would be interested to know.                                                                

CVW: I am a product of life’s detours. I’m still looking for the main road.

 

SBB: What advice would you offer to people of color interested in writing or illustrating? 

 

CVW: Please do not feel limited. What do you truly want to say? Do your homework(!) to find the best way to say it and share it.

 

Learn more about Cornelius and The Little Red Crane at this link:

 

starbrightbooks.com/index.php?id_product=704&rewrite=the-little-red-crane&controller=product

Five Ways To Help Your Child Develop A Passion for Reading

This is a guest piece written by Kayleigh Alexandra of MentionMe.

 

It’s always important to support reading in early childhood, but it becomes essential when children start to read on their own. Independent reading is a fundamentally different experience from being read to, which can lead to an initial drop in enthusiasm. Parents have a unique responsibility to help children overcome this lag. If you can manage it, children will  view reading as more than a utility. Here are some tips for helping cultivate a passion for reading.

 

From Read to Me by Judy Moreillon

Talk about your favorite book

When trying to get your child to see what makes reading so magical, one of the best things you can do is talk about a book that you feel deeply about. Maybe there’s a comic book you read countless times during your childhood or a novel that lifted your spirits while you were going through a difficult time. Perhaps there’s a children’s book you love to read again and again because one or both of your parents initially read to you.

 

By explaining what makes your favorite book so meaningful to you, and showing the passion you feel for it, you can help your child understand that reading is for more than just education or short-term entertainment. A great book can stay with you forever, giving comfort when facing challenges and helping to make good decisions.

Introduce relevant activities

Kids love playing, especially activities that let them make things and indulge their innate creativity. You can take advantage of this to encourage reading! Consider that many such activities feature reading as a necessary component. Even if your child isn’t quite convinced about independent reading, you can solidify it as a precursor to something fun, thus building a core positive association that can be refined over the years.

 

A great example of a suitable activity (or set of activities, to be more accurate) is a kids’ subscription box. If you pick something with a lot of variety (e.g. the Sago Mini has activities that range from crafting to finding places on maps), kids can get lost in the enjoyment of play and never notice how much reading they’re doing.

Use tie-ins with other media

It can be frustrating to position reading as a wonderful pursuit while your child wants to watch TV or play video games. Those things are flashier and more immediately arresting, so how can books compete? One way is to direct children to book tie-ins of TV shows, movies, or video games: sometimes these are direct adaptations; other times they feature central characters going on new adventures.

From Read to Me by Judy Moreillon

For instance, if your child loves Arthur (the longest-running animated children’s TV series in the US), introduce them to the many Arthur books. As it happens there are plenty to choose from, covering various accessible topics. If you think the move from TV or movies to books will be odd, you can read a book with your child, then let them take over when they get into the story. Their love of the characters should make all the difference.

Encourage them to write

Reading and writing support each other extremely well. The more you read, the more you have to write about. Conversely, the more you write, the more you appreciate reading and understand the effort and dedication that goes into it. As such, it’s a good idea to encourage your child to write their own stories. Offer them a prompt (ThinkWritten has a massive list) or help them develop their ideas.

 

It doesn’t matter how complicated a story is or how good it ends up being. What’s important is that your child is invested in the narrative process—and you can use their creative direction to find books they will enjoy reading. If they want to write about animals, for instance, look for books about animals.

Listen to their feedback

Lastly, one of the most important things you can do is listen carefully to your child’s feedback. It’s easy to come up with a plan for getting them to enjoy reading and just as easy to become frustrated when it doesn’t work as expected—but that frustration won’t achieve anything. Instead, talk to your child about what they think.

 

How do they view the books you suggest? Are they too long? Do they dislike the covers? Are there other books they’d prefer to read? Would they like you to read to them first? Even if they aren’t old enough to articulate their preferences very well, you can use their reactions to guide you. Every child is different, so there’s no one-size-fits-all solution.

Understanding Complex Linguistic Relationships Through Language Cognates

Have you ever noticed words in another language that look similar or even identical to words you know in English? Perhaps you’ve seen or heard these words in bilingual books, international films, and music. One example is the English word ‘important.’ In Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese, the equivalent is‘importante’; in French and Romanian, it is the exact same: ‘important!’ While this may be an easy-to-recognize example, there are many other sets of words that are similar across many languages and being able to recognize and understand these similarities can aid tremendously in language learning and cultural fluency.

From A Fish To Feed, written by Ellen Mayer and illustrated by Ying-Hwa Hu.

This similarity is not simply a coincidence! When a word has a similar sound and meaning in more than one language it is called a cognate word. A cognate occurs when two or more languages stem from a common parent language or an ‘ancestral language.’

 

Examples of ancestral languages are prevalent all over the world.

  • In Europe, the majority of spoken languages (including Spanish, French, English, Italian, and German) are derived from the same ancestral language, proto-indo-european or PIE. Although linguists and anthropologists don’t know exactly what the language looked like, by analyzing cognate words of the descendant languages, they have been able to piece together how PIE spread and developed into the languages we hear today.
  • In Africa, approximately a third of all Africans speak one of the Bantu languages, a group of related languages extending from southern South Africa, up to western Cameroon and through eastern Somalia. Linguists and anthropologists have studied this lingual relationship in order to better understand cultural and societal similarities and differences across the region.
  • In Asia, several languages have been traced to the same ‘Eurasiastic’ ancestral language, spread from eastern Europe throughout northern Asia. However, aside from this, not many connections have been made across other Asian languages.

 

Another way to understand language cognates is to look at the morphemes of a word, or the suffixes, prefixes, and roots that make up a word. When languages or words are derived from Greek or Latin, often times understanding the prefix or suffix can reveal a relationship across languages. One example is the Latin prefix ‘aud-,’ meaning ‘hear.’ In English, this prefix is seen in words such as ‘audience’ or ‘auditory.’ In Spanish, these words can be translated to ‘audiencia’ or ‘auditivo.’ By understanding this prefix, a multilingual speaker or learner can recognize the relationship connecting words across languages.

From Cake Day, written by Ellen Mayer and illustrated by Estelle Corke.

Understanding language cognates can be particularly beneficial for promoting language diversity and cultural fluency. By knowing the shared history and natural connection in our languages, language learners can begin to see the inherent connections in our local communities and global societies.

 

Language cognates can be especially beneficial to multilingual children. For young multilingual speakers, seeing and hearing cognate words across languages helps to build vocabulary and literacy in different languages and encourages continued language acquisition. Many teachers say that recognizing language cognates helps to learn tricky English spelling and grammar rules. Understanding the morphology of a word shared across languages also aids in literacy, analytical reading, and writing skills in childhood and adulthood. Parents raising multilingual children can use cognates to aid in communicating with people from differing cultures, as well as assist in explaining language similarities and differences to other language learners.

Supporting the Black Community through Black Owned Businesses

Part of anti-racist work is being conscious about our spending. While it is important to purchase books and consume media by Black authors, it also important to support Black owned bookstores, publishing companies, and community projects as they are the organizations advocating for these authors.  In accordance with this, we at Star Bright Books have compiled a list of five Black owned businesses, local to the Boston, MA area, as well as five Black owned publishing companies nationwide.  We hope that these lists provide you with options and inspiration moving forward with anti-racist work and conscious support.

 

Black Owned Local (Boston Area) Businesses

Frugal Bookstore

Black owned bookstore in Boston, MA

 

Print Aint Dead

Queer and Black owned bookstore/publishing initiative in Boston, MA

 

Susie’s Stories

Black owned bookstore in Rockport, MA

 

Studio 24 Graphix & Printing

Black owned print shop in Boston, MA

 

College Application Education Project

Black owned education company in Lynn, MA

 

Black Owned Publishing Companies (Nationwide)

Africa World Press and The Red Sea Press

Aims to provide high quality literature pertaining to the culture, history, and politics of Africa and the African Diaspora.

 

Black Classic Press

Publishes obscure but significant works about people of African descent. Republishes works that are out of print and out of memory.

 

Broadside Lotus Press

A nonprofit whose mission includes community engagement and publication.

 

Redbone Press

Publishes work celebrating the Black LGBT+ community.

 

Third World Press

Publishes literature related to the African American public. 

Benefits of Singing With Little Ones!

Singing and music have long been important parts of early childhood education and childrearing. Recent studies show that singing to babies and young kids has numerous neurological and cognitive benefits for the child, as well as social benefits for both the child and parent alike.

Interior of our new book Twinkle, Twinkle, Diaper You! (illustration by Ying-Hwa Hu).

Many parents are uncomfortable singing to their children because they are not confident in their own singing abilities, instead relying on curated playlists and digital music to soothe their babies. Professionals point out, though, that the parent’s voice, not the song quality, is what matters. Singing to babies, both in utero and post-partum, increases babies’ ability to recognize their parents’ voices and appearances and cultivates feelings of safety and comfort in this recognition, thus fostering a strong bond between parent and child.

 

In conjunction with cultivating the parent-child relationship, parents should pay close attention to their baby’s various reactions to songs (cooing, babbling, giggling, pointing, etc.) and respond to them accordingly. In her book Talk to Me, Baby!, the great early childhood expert—and our dear friend—Betty Bardige explains, “The baby’s coos, babbles, and facial and body language let the adult know when they are in sync and when they need to reestablish their connection.” Listening and modifying the networks of communication will help strengthen the bond between parent and child, as well as further establish channels of verbal and non-verbal communication.

 

There are additional benefits associated with singing to babies. Creating a schedule for specific songs at certain times of day can help create a routine for your child. Babies feel secure when they are able to anticipate what will happen next, thus associating certain actions or times of the day—like a diaper change, dinner, or bedtime—with certain songs. This is sometimes called verbal mapping, a term used to describe the adult narration of a baby’s life. Putting this narration into a song routine also helps babies develop more positive associations with everyday activities. 

 

New research suggests that singing to babies helps improve cognitive development in young children. One study shows that singing songs can increase a child’s attention span and positive displays of emotion. Other studies illustrate a correlation between exposure to music and rhythm and positive social connections. This means singing to an infant may not only support their immediate cognitive growth, but can also have a lasting impact on their social development.

Interior of our new book Twinkle, Twinkle, Diaper You! (illustration by Ying-Hwa Hu).

Furthermore, singing is often a child’s first exposure to language.  Singing a variety of songs and lullabies helps to successfully introduce infants to new vocabulary. By introducing new words in conjunction with actions or visuals (tickling a baby’s tummy or showing a baby pictures of farm animals), babies are better able to learn these words by their association to the actions/objects of action or images.

 

Children’s songs and lullabies can help grow a child’s cultural awareness as well. In multilingual households, singing songs in each language helps the baby learn to make word associations across languages—and is a stepping stone in bilingual speech development. Singing lullabies that celebrate one’s culture or heritage is also a great way to introduce a child to that part of their identity.

 

There are many ways to begin singing to your child or new practices to try if you already do! If you are interested in exploring your creative side, try writing your own song. It does not need to be complex; simple lyrics and rhythm are enough for your baby to recognize. Betty Bardige writes that songs and games “are especially fun (and helpful for building language) when they relate to what the baby is doing or seeing.”

 

Or, you can start with a common children’s song like “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” and transform it into your own song (as the mother does in our new book Twinkle, Twinkle, Diaper You!). Other good songs are “You Are My Sunshine,” “The ABCs,” and “The Wheels On The Bus.” 

 

Once you feel comfortable singing to yourself and your baby, there are many musical exercises to try with children of all ages!