Posts tagged Reading
Kids Deserve good Poetry: Daffodils

There is a scourge on children's literature, and it is bad poetry -- sing-songy, not-quite-rhyming lines rife with an uneven number of syllables. But it doesn't have to be this way. The world is full of great verse -- A.A. Milne, Maya Angelou, Emily Dickinson, Edward Lear... You get the idea.

Sure, reading William Blakes' "The Tyger" might require a mental stretch from your kids (and maybe you, too) but that's a good thing! Plus, great poetry is simply fun to read!

Pro Tips

Poetry (like its cousin, music) is ancient, which is probably why children have such a natural affinity for it. Still, it never hurts to have a few tricks up your sleeve. Here are four:

  • Read it Morning and Night: Try reading poetry before bedtime or while your child is eating breakfast. Those two times work really well for listening.
  • Make it Available: Keep a poetry anthology on the dresser or in with the cookbooks. Adding poetry into your daily routine will make it, well, routine!
  • Don't Overthink It: Don't feel like you must pair every poem with activities or discussions of new vocabulary words or anything "schoolish." Just read and enjoy them!
  • Repeat: When reading a poem, go through it twice in a row if the kids allow it. This is especially important with the short poems. 

The Poems

To help you started on your good poetry adventure, here are three daffodil-ly poems to chew on.

Nursery Rhyme from The Little Mother Goose

Daffy-down-dilly has come up to town

In a fine petticoat and a green gown.


"Daffodowndilly" by A.A. Milne

She wore her yellow sun-bonnet

She wore her greenest gown;

She turned to the south wind

And curtsied up and down.

She turned to the sunlight

And shook her yellow head,

And whispered to her neighbour: "Winter is dead."


"I Wandered Lonely As a Cloud" by William Wordsworth

The waves beside them danced; but they

Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:

A poet could not but be gay,

In such a jocund company:

I gazed---and gazed---but little thought

What wealth the show to me had brought:


For oft, when on my couch I lie

In vacant or in pensive mood,

They flash upon that inward eye

Which is the bliss of solitude;

And then my heart with pleasure fills,

And dances with the daffodils

I wandered lonely as a cloud

That floats on high o'er vales and hills,

When all at once I saw a crowd,

A host, of golden daffodils;

Beside the lake, beneath the trees,

Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.


Continuous as the stars that shine

And twinkle on the milky way,

They stretched in never-ending line

Along the margin of a bay:

Ten thousand saw I at a glance,

Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

Can Your Child Read Too Much?

You wonder if your children are ever going to learn to read. They spend all their time running and jumping around, and when presented with a flashcard that spells C-A-T, they stick out their tongues and run away.

Then... somewhat magically... it happens! It starts with "The cat sat on the mat," but pretty soon it's "The cat pounced, swiped a paw, and devoured the fish with gusto."

Hooray for reading! You are elated! And one morning you proudly declare that your child is regularly sitting and reading stories alone for up to an hour at a time. This is great because it gives you time to sweep the house.

But an hour turns into two hours. You check your email and write a long letter to your mother.

Three hours. You are starting to feel guilty about the "me time" you are getting, but you are also grateful.

A potty break and a subsequent carrot pulled out of the fridge and slowly nibbled.

Four hours.

Lunch break then more reading?

Yet another hour passes!

You quietly suggest that perhaps the two of you could do some art together. You entice with scissors. Glue. Paint. You end up drawing a stick figure dog by yourself while your child ignores you. You give up.

He runs upstairs to join you while you are folding laundry on the bed, and he jumps into the pile of laundry and giggles. You are relieved that he is up, and you feel needed! You tickle him. He jumps up and down on the bed about twenty times, and once he is all good and sweaty, he disappears again.

You find him back in the chair reading!

Finally, you put your foot down and demand that he get dressed and come with you to the playground. He refuses. You just don't have the energy to fight it any more, so you let it go.

"Spends most of her time reading"

Here's some personal perspective. My most prominent memory of Kindergarten is of the classroom library. It was a closet that was stuffed with bookshelves and pillows on the floor. 

I can close my eyes now and feel the floor beneath me, my lap piled with pages, absorbed in one fantasy after another. I spent almost the entire year in there, just reading, and to my Montessori teacher's enormous credit, she just let me!

I know this because my Kindergarten report cards all say, "Spends most of her time reading. Does not choose any works on the math shelf." Listed on the report card are some of the math lessons she modeled for me or did with me.

She then goes on to explain that those are works that I avoided like the plague. She describes my love for reading with exclamation marks. Reading these notes, it is obvious that she respected my interest and trusted that it was the right one for the time.

Secret Shame

Reading continued to be my interest, and this meant that I got much better at hiding it, as I transitioned from a Montessori school to a traditional public school. In every class from Kindergarten on, I had a book open inside my desk, hidden by papers.

I was notoriously disorganized, so there were plenty of papers available for a blanket of protection. If my teachers knew this, they usually chose to ignore it. I was quiet and studious and the teachers had much bigger fish to fry.

I was well aware that my addiction to reading was "wrong" in the eyes of the school, but I continued with my passion. My parents fed this with as many books as they could afford to buy me and frequent trips to the library.

Follow the Child

These days I have much less time for reading. There are always dishes to wash, soups on the stove, and outings to plan. Not so for my son. His days seem endless and full of free choice.

When I look at my little boy, totally immersed in the words on a page for hours and hours, I worry. Is he getting enough exercise? Does he have enough friends? Will he learn to like math as I never did? Will the fantasy life he devours pull his personality in another direction? 

Then I think about that little girl, curled up on a cushion, happiness overflowing in her lap, and I think...she turned out okay. Following the child can really be that simple. We don't all have to be well rounded, you know.

A Puppet Theater for Your Montessori Playroom

Puppets are readily available toys in traditional preschools, but do they belong in a Montessori classroom or a Montessori playroom at home? I am giving you the Big Thumbs Up. And here's why.

Maria Montessori taught reading with a clear, no-nonsense phonics approach. This made sense for the Italian language, which is a purely phonetic language. Pretend play was not a large part of the language curriculum, only down to earth language practice.

This made even more sense to Maria, who was concerned about the children she was working with living in a fantasy life to escape their lives in poverty.

Maria's first class of children were mostly unattended during the day and lived in a slum!

I want you to imagine a large group of undernourished, unsupervised, unclean children entering her classroom for the first time in turn of the century Rome, Italy. The needs of those children were immense.

The government stepped in, created a housing community, and allowed Maria to serve the children. These were truly "the projects" of Rome, and Maria desperately wanted to change their lives for the better. Her great achievement was bringing those children real, meaningful experiences.

The Science of Puppet Play

Back to puppetry. I never attended a class with Maria, but I kind of doubt that she went around her classroom tickling the kids with puppets and encouraging them to freely make use of a puppet theater. 

I completely understand her position on downplaying pretend play and encouraging real-life activities given that she was concentrating so very hard on reality. However...there is a huge body of academic research that says puppets have enormous benefits for kids.

"Puppetry offers a chance to create a visualization of the thinking process. Seeing one’s thoughts facilitates empowerment and initiates the ability to discover intelligence and feelings, thus, widening the horizons of understanding others." - from Farryl Hadari at Puppets and Therapy

Many Montessori teachers of today recognize that pretend play has an important place in the intellectual and emotional growth of all children. Ultimately what you are doing when you use puppetry is developing auditory awareness. I can't think of an example greater than the use of puppets and storytelling to form a solid foundation for reading and writing.

Learning to Read: The Three Period Lesson

The three period lesson is a staple of Montessori education. It can be used to teach the name of anything, including the sounds of the letters of the alphabet, setting the stage for reading. It is most effective with the age 2 and up crowd.

In a Montessori classroom, you are likely to find a more formal approach. Here's a simpler, more DIY style you can try anywhere.

The key is to have fun with your child while you use this technique and not to be too fussy about it. So grab a scrap of paper and join me!

The Lesson

1st Period: Naming. Simply name the object, speaking clearly and slowly, for your child. In our case, we are naming a letter symbol, and the name we want the child to associate with it is the SOUND of the letter. "This is _______."

2nd Period: Recognizing. This is your opportunity to play with your child with the letter symbol and sound. In this period, you may give your child small tasks, like brainstorming other words that start with that same sound. Example: cow, cat, kick, kite all start with the same initial sound. "Point to the ________."

3rd Period: Recalling. You are checking to see if your child can tell you the sound of the letter when you show him/her the letter symbol. "What is this?" If your child correctly tells you the sound, he/she is ready to move on to learning another letter sound. If your child is not able to tell you, you need to stay in the 2nd period and keep playing.

Rest and Repeat

It's okay take a break and come back to this lesson later. Some children are able to very quickly progress through the entire alphabet in a matter of days, and other children may stay on the same letter for days or even weeks, depending on their developmental interests at the time. If your child is not into it the first time, keep it casual and low pressure. All children learn at their own natural rate.

A little exposure can go a long way. If you begin teaching sounds early and your child is intensely interested, you know it's the right time. If your child is not interested at all, other areas of learning simply may be more important at this time.

The Crow and the Pitcher: Science + Literature Lesson

“Growth comes from activity, not from intellectual understanding.” - Maria Montessori

When you enter a Montessori classroom, you will likely first notice how pretty the shelves are with the "works" displayed in simple trays or baskets. If you stay and watch, you will notice that many of these activities are remarkably high level.

You think to yourself, "These preschoolers are doing algebra? You've got to be kidding me!" Yup, Montessori was reaching high. But when you take a look at what the kids are doing and how it is presented, you realize that they are not writing equations and discussing the hows and whys or the applications.

"The Child Will Absorb What He Needs to Know"

The theory behind Montessori's method is that the child will absorb what he needs to know at the right developmental time by using his own hands. And yes, Montessori felt that very small children were capable of learning/absorbing much more than traditional educators were giving them credit for. It's a wonderful material, but you don't have to purchase a trinomial cube in order to expose your child to the mystifying complexity of math and science. Everyday experiments will work.

Enter The Crow and the Pitcher. This science experiment plus literature activity has always been one of my favorites to do in the classroom, and chances are you already have what you need for it hanging around your house, but you don't need to begin with an explanation of water displacement. Simply showing, doing, and having fun with it is enough at this age. Like my kids, yours will probably want to do it over and over. 

Teaching Tip: Do this experiment yourself first if possible - how high you want to fill the vase is largely dependent on the size and shape of your vase and your stones.


The Plot

An Aesop's Fable...

A CROW, perishing with thirst, saw a pitcher, and, hoping to find water, flew to it with great delight. When he reached it, he discovered to his grief that it contained so little water that he could not possibly get at it. He tried everything he could think of to reach the water, but all his efforts were in vain. At last he collected as many stones as he could carry and dropped them one by one with his beak into the pitcher, until he brought the water within his reach, and thus saved his life.

Moral: Necessity is the mother of invention. 

The Materials

  • small necked jar or vase (mine is from maple syrup)
  • stones (glass is pretty, but pea gravel will work just as well)
  • sponge & drying cloth (cleanup)
  • pitcher and funnel (optional)
  • tray (preferably with high sides)

The Protagonist

When I introduce this story, I usually begin by making a bird with my fingers. The children are drawn in. I don't speak. I make bird-like movements. I fly my fingers around and peck at things. I may or may not caw. 

When I have totally 100% got their undivided attention, I begin the story in a calm, quiet voice. As the crow flies, so do my fingers. When the crow is thirsty and cannot reach the water, he hangs his head.

He perks up with an idea! He hops over to the pile of stones and picks one up in his pincer grip. He carefully deposits the stone in the water. At this point, the children take over spontaneously and my acting part is over. I recede quietly into the background.

The Big Finish

When the water reaches the top, the children are always surprised. Their crows happily slurp up the water, and they keep dropping more stones in, and the water keeps spilling out. See why you need the sponge and drying cloth on hand? And the tray with tall sides? They will likely want to do it again and again. When they do, you have the pitcher and funnel on hand so they can do it themselves.

Three Books To Help Teach How to Hug

Need to help a little one learn the right way to hug? Here are three books that can help.

How Do You Hug a Porcupine?

This simple story follows a child imagining how to hug different animals but perplexed when it comes to hugging such a prickly creature. "Can you hug a horse? Of course! But how DO you hug a porcupine?"

The answer turns out to be just exactly the gentle mindset you want to encourage in your child. It's the kind of book you'll happily read over and over. The writing is linguistically appealing; the rhymes actually rhyme (too rare in children's literature).

Time For a Hug

This sweet story encourages you to give your child a hug after every page! It gives great opportunities for practicing using a gentle touch. Walk with Little Bunny and Mama through their day and hug along with them. After every activity they do together, they take a little break to reconnect emotionally. It's 10:00! Time for a hug!

Hug, Hug!

All creatures great and small like to give hugs -- at least according to this delightful board book. As you see how each creature hugs, pretend you're the creatures and each other a hug. Follow-up by talking about modeling how to hug in different ways. For example:

When we hug Great Grandma, we do it like this (gentle). When we hug Uncle, we do it like this (bear hug).


For more about how to hug, check out our article on four tips

Acts of Love

Encouraging your children to read begins early in life! Here's a simple activity you can do with your children to build their confidence in reading. 

Reading at any age should be enjoyable and purposeful. 

Montessori gave children "command cards" to practice reading. This gave the children an action to perform so that the reading was not merely enjoyable but purposeful too.  This game is highly motivating to the pre-reader and the emergent reader alike.  For Valentine's Day, part of our family celebration will be going on a Valentine hunt today around our house.  

Naturally, they will all be in the spirit of love!

If you have a non reader, read it to/with them!

Hug your ___________.

Kiss your ___________.

Cuddle your__________.

Call your________ and tell them you love them.

Aubrey HargisReading