Sesame Street Beginnings

Sesame Street Beginnings: Talk, Read, Write!

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Learn & Grow: From Language to Literacy (En español)

You will discover that literacy is about more than just learning to read. As you read the information below, you will find out how to lay the foundation for language and literacy by talking with children; reading aloud; encouraging storytelling; creating opportunities for self-expression, vocabulary development, writing, and using Sesame Workshop's television programs and online resources.

How Do Children Develop Language and Literacy Skills?

From the moment they are born, children are always learning, which is why parents and caregivers play such an important role as children's first teachers. Of course, all children develop at their own unique pace, but there are common patterns. The following descriptions offer a general idea of the key ways children move from language to literacy.

Babies learn mostly through their physical senses--by being able to touch the things they see, see the things they hear, and interact with the people around them. Infants take delight in the sounds of language when we sing to them, play peek-a-boo, and encourage them to "talk" by mimicking the sounds they make.

Toddlers develop skills by trying things over and over again, so they need opportunities to talk, "write" (scribble), and "read" (holding books, turning the pages). Picture books and those that play with the sounds and rhythm of language are great for this age group. Toddlers can identify pictures; name objects; and request favorite books, videos, and activities--mastering more and more language with each repetition. Toddlers will try to imitate adults, so giving them the things they need to copy us when we read, write, or speak can be an effective way to encourage literacy (e.g., providing a crayon and paper so they can "write" their own grocery list or letting them talk on a toy phone).

Preschoolers ask questions and use their imaginations to explore answers. They are ready for books that explore social issues, solve problems, take them on adventures, and provide information. They are also eager to write, both by scribbling and by copying the letters of familiar words. They can dictate stories, learn the words to simple songs, and talk about what they see on television. At this stage, children begin to understand cause and effect, so they can retell events or stories in proper sequence and their conversations contain longer, more complete sentences. Preschoolers also like being recognized for helping, so assigning them simple tasks that involve literacy (such as choosing an activity by placing their name tag on a play area chart) gives them a sense of accomplishment as well as practice.

Tips to Enhance Children's Experiences with Language and Literacy (En español)

You might be surprised at how much you can do to help children learn to read, write, and speak and how fun and easy it can be! Caregivers can be children's first and most important teachers, and they look to you as a role model. So, let them see you read and write, even if it is just part of simple, day-to-day tasks like making a shopping list, reading a recipe, or checking the TV schedule. You can also use everyday routines to give children chances to practice language skills. Here's how:

Talk with children. At the dinner table, in the car, or on a trip to the store, the more chances you give children to have conversations, the more they develop language. You can even chat with babies by playing games like "peek-a-boo" or imitating their babbling and letting them imitate you.

Sing. Whether it is a lullaby at bedtime, a nursery rhyme, or singing along with the radio, singing is a fun way for children to learn new words as well as the rhythm and sound of language.

Tell or read stories every day. Bedtime works well, but any time that fits your routine is fine. Don't be concerned if children want you to read the same book over and over again. This can get tiring for you, but repetition really helps them understand and enjoy the stories. When you can't read a book (e.g., while you are driving or cooking), try making up stories together.

Talk about what children are watching on television. Answer questions, invite them to comment, ask them what they think about what they have seen, and listen to their answers. Extend the learning by reading books that address children's questions or reinforce a show's lesson.

Write stories together. Let children tell you about their experiences. Write down what they say to make their own "book." Also encourage children to write for themselves by encouraging scribbling, the first step in learning how to write. Make a book of their writing or drawings.

Hunt for letters and simple words around your home and neighborhood. Pick a letter and let children find examples of the letter on food packages, clothing labels, mail, or other objects. Point out and read signs in your neighborhood. Label a room, bed, or drawers with their name. When you log on to the computer, let children help you type in your screen name and show them how words guide what you click on.

Visit your local library. To make sure that you always have books around for children to read, make a visit to the library part of your routine.

Adapted from the "Learn and Grow with Sesame Workshop: From Language to Literacy" guide.

What Roles Do Music and Art Play in Children's Development?

From the moment they are born, children are learning and expressing themselves in new and creative ways. Parents, as well as caregivers, are children's first teachers, so they can support their learning and self-expression through music and the arts. Of course, all children develop at their own pace, but there are some common patterns. Here is an overview of how music and art play important roles in children's growth.

Babies are busy looking at, listening to, and exploring their world, and music is a great way for adults to engage, interact, and bond with them. Babies delight in hearing, mimicking, and responding to repeated sounds, rhythms, and melodies with their own sounds and gestures. Playing together with safe, creative, and colorful materials, helps develop baby's sensory and motor skills.

Toddlers move, explore, and repeat things again and again as they learn. Music and the arts provide toddlers with an important sense of "look what I can do!" Rhyming songs and simple instruments encourage them to sing and dance as they develop new language and motor skills. Art materials, such as large crayons, fingerpaints, and modeling dough, allow toddlers to explore scribbling, painting, and sculpting. These materials also help them begin to recognize colors, shapes, and textures, as well as cause and effect. Scribbles soon develop into circles and lines as toddlers begin to name their creations.

Preschoolers are beginning to represent their world through different symbols and use all kinds of art materials to explore and recreate their experiences and feelings. They also enjoy the sights and sounds of art and music in their surroundings. Learning about artists, and being able to say, "I am an artist, too!" makes the experience even more special. Preschoolers use singing to explore language as they make up their own songs and play with words. They also love to act out scenes and create stories using homemade props and costumes. As they move and dance, preschoolers are developing their body image and learning new ways to move through space.

Tips to Enhance Children's Experiences with Music and Art

Music and art are a natural and vital part of every child's growth and development. Children not only develop their creativity, they also learn new skills as they express themselves as "musicians" and "artists." There are fun and easy ways for caregivers to take an active role in all areas of a child's learning while enjoying music and art together. Let Sesame Street be your guide.

Sing songs all day long: Sing favorite songs together during daily routines, such as waking up, before meals, leaving the house, bath time, or bedtime. Create simple new songs and rituals together. Play with words, rhythms, and even movements, and try recording your own songs so that you can play them over and over again.

Play your instruments: Share instruments you have with children. Or, make simple instruments together like rattles from empty containers with dried beans inside, drums form round oatmeal cartons, or stringed instruments using rubber bands over a shoebox with a hold cut in the lid. Paper towel tubes with wax paper secured over one end with a rubber band make great pretend horns and kazoos. Hold a "parade" as you make music together.

Be artists together: There is no right or wrong way to create when you explore art materials with a child--it's the process that counts. Draw, paint, play with clay, make collages, and build things together as often as you can. Find a special place to make art and store art supplies.

Act it out: Create puppets out of old socks, gloves, or paper lunch bags. Use paper plates to make masks. Decorate with scraps of yarn, wrapping paper, and fabric, and then act out simple stories together.

At home gallery: Talk with children about any artwork they might have around their house, and where it came from, including folk art, crafts, and decorative pieces. Find a special place to display the child's own work and the things you create together.

Creative cultures and celebrations: Talk with children about their family's cultural traditions that involve music and art. Include children in creating special songs, dances, or decorations for family or community celebrations. Explore the music and art of other cultures with children by visiting museums, attending local cultural events, and looking and listening for art and music when you are out and about together.

Adapted from the "Learn and Grow with Sesame Workshop: Music and Art Together" guide.

What Is Media Literacy? (En español)

In today's world electronic media are an increasingly prominent part of our daily lives, so being literate requires additional skills and experiences. Media literacy, just like any literacy, is about helping children to develop the ability to understand, interpret and communicate. Media literacy adds the ability to apply those skills to pictures and sound using different tools, which can include television, videos, DVDs, and computers.

In a well-rounded approach to media literacy children learn about media and with media. Learning about media helps children understand, and interpret the ideas and concepts they encounter. Learning with media teaches children how to access and use media in productive ways. This guide offers suggestions to help you do both of these things, because the habits children develop around media use in their early years can last a lifetime.
How Do Children Develop Media Literacy?

Media can provide exciting and unique learning opportunities, and it can lay a foundation for literacy in a technology-filled world. Learning with and about media works best when children and adults use media technologies together, with grown-ups serving as facilitators, choosing developmentally appropriate media that promote interaction and creativity.

Babies learn the most when they can touch what they are seeing, so screen time should be very limited. Sesame Workshop programs are designed for children two years of age and older, so we do not explicitly encourage viewing by infants. However, we realize that television is an important part of many families lives, and believe that when used appropriately, parents can use television as a springboard for discussions and learning. When your child is ready to begin watching television, point and label objects that you see, ask questions, and interact with your child as you would when reading a picture book.

Toddlers are beginners when it comes to using language; it is easier for them to learn when they can see something rather than just hear about it. Media that presents information in pictures, as well as with words, is appropriate for this age. Simple stories that relate to a toddler's experiences will be especially appealing and can help expand the options they consider as they learn to make choices. At this stage, allow your child's interests and abilities to help you determine when it is appropriate to introduce new technology.

Preschoolers are ready to connect what they see onscreen to things in their lives. You can help them integrate the use of technology into their learning by engaging in hands-on follow-up activities and reading related books. Talking with your youngsters about which onscreen messages you value is very important in helping them learn to make healthy media choices. You can also help preschoolers to practice good decision making by allowing them to make their own program selections from options you provide. Making available pre-approved software and videotapes can encourage this process. Similarly, set time limits for media use and help preschoolers plan how they will use their time.
Tips to Enhance Children's Experiences with Media Literacy

Media tools like television, videos, DVDs, and computers can open new worlds for children to build new skills and an enthusiasm for learning, especially when you help. Here's how:

Establish a routine that balances using media with other activities. Help preschoolers learn how to use media well by setting realistic time limits and helping them plan how they will use that time. In addition, make sure each child's routine includes a variety of activities, such as playing outdoors, talking with you, touching things to explore how they work, looking at books, drawing, or cuddling up with a stuffed toy.

Help children learn to make healthy viewing choices. Allow children to make program selections from options you provide. Making available pre-approved software and videotapes can make this easy. If you need recommendations, ask a childcare provider, local children's librarian, or the Ready To Learn Coordinator at your local PBS station.

Connect what children see onscreen to real life. Encourage children to participate by singing or dancing along, predicting what will happen next, or helping characters solve problems. Read books together and plan activities that explore topics they have seen onscreen.

Take advantage of teachable moments. Talk about the programs, videos or software the children enjoy. Watch together and ask what they think, and let them know what you think.

Learn together. There are wonderful CD-ROMs and Internet sites that tell stories and invite caregivers and children to interact by clicking on various pictures within the pages, as well as fun games that help children improve skills like letter and number recognition. The Internet can also provide a place to discover new things.

Know what children are watching. Put the television set or computer in a room that everyone shares. Pay attention to their behavior during and after viewing or using the computer. If a child is agitated, moody, aggressive, or upset by what he or she is viewing consider making a different choice.

Remember that you are a role model. One of the best ways to help children learn to use media in healthy ways is to be an active and selective user yourself.

Adapted from the "Learn and Grow with Sesame Workshop: Making the Most of Screen Time" guide.