Library’s Reading Experts Celebrate Sesame Street Anniversary

Early Literacy Team Shares Favorite Moments, Tips for Reading-Based Fun With Your Little One

How can you keep a young child’s attention when teaching them the literacy skills they’ll need for school and life?

This is the question the Bringing Books to Life (BBTL) team at Nashville Public Library (NPL) tackles every day. 

Their answer: fun. 

These library-based early educators are devoted to showing children how much fun reading can be, because a child who first reads for love will later read for success in school, career, and life. 

Using story times, workshops, teacher trainings, and more, BBTL helps teachers and parents across Davidson County every day of the year. 

This week, BBTL is giving a nod to Sesame Street as the show celebrates its 50th anniversary. The team are big fans of Sesame Street, admiring the way it makes learning fun for kids while respecting their intelligence, just like BBTL.

To celebrate, here are a few favorite Sesame Street moments from each of the BBTL members, plus tips that every caregiver can start using now to make reading fun for their children.

Talking

Elmo loves talking about the word “pair” with Sarah Jessica Parker. Whether he knows it or not, it really helps his reading. Amber Williams, a BBTL outreach assistant, understands how important talking is for kids.

“Parents with infants and toddlers often want to start building literacy skills and ask me how I get these little ones to sit still for a story. My secret – I don’t!” Williams said. “At that age, literacy is all about language development and that comes from hearing lots and lots of words. So I encourage parents to narrate their day.“

Ready to get your gab on with your little one? Here’s some ideas to start.
  • Let your children talk about everything you say — instead of only making them listen.
  • Look for opportunities to keep a conversation going, practicing as many words as possible.
  • Gradually introduce new words to your children

Speak  in the language that’s most comfortable for you - research shows that it helps parents explain things better, and helps children learn more.

Singing

Cookie Monster loves singing almost as much as he loves cookies! Singing is a fun and important way to help children learn to read, and it’s BBTL outreach assistant Dara Bacon’s favorite way to teach them.

“Most of us aren’t comfortable singing in front of others, but when it comes to children, we should make an exception,” Bacon said. “Since singing slows language down, it gives children a better chance of comprehending the words they hear, making a positive impact on their literacy development.”

Not sure what to sing about? Here’s a few pitch-perfect starters.

  • Sing out the ABCs to teach the alphabet to your kids.
  • Sing your favorite nursery rhymes to teach different sounds.
  • Clap as you sing so your child picks up the syllables in different words.

Reading

The monsters on Sesame Street have a blast reading together. Reading with your child is– you guessed it– a fantastic way to teach them to read on their own. That’s why story time is BBTL curriculum and training coordinator Susan Frizsell’s favorite part of the day.

“With so many amazing, hilarious, beautiful children’s books, reading aloud to children to encourage early literacy could possibly be the best part of the day!” Frizsell said. “Read repetitive books and children will start finishing the lines. Use wordless books and take time to study the illustrations and narrate the story together.”

Frizsell’s suggestions are perfect to get you reading with your child, and here are a few more you should try.

  • Start by asking your child what they think the book will be about based on the cover.
  • Let your child pick out the words they know, then point out new words.
  • Most important of all — read every day.

Writing

If there’s one thing all Sesame Street fans look forward to, it’s the letter of the day. Oscar may not be as thrilled as his friends, but writing and drawing words and symbols is crucial for reading. Klem-Mari Cajigas, BBTL’s family literacy coordinator, knows just how important that is.

“When young children are scribbling, they are in fact working on their writing. They are learning that marks on paper are important — they are meant to be read,” Cajigas said. “They are also strengthening their hand muscles, which need to be very strong in order to hold a crayon, pencil, or pen.”

Writing might seem like a chore to some kids just starting out, but we’ve got some suggestions that won’t leave anyone feeling grouchy.

  • Start with scribbles and random marks, then refine into letters. 
  • Tell your kids to sign their name on anything they write or draw.
  • Have your children write captions for the drawings they make.

Playing

Bert might not but pleased that Ernie took his box, but Ernie’s having fun playing! Elizabeth Atack, BBTL’s program manager, believes that playtime is a critical part of how children learn to interact with the world around them.

“People usually think ‘Oh, they’re just playing,’ and assume that play is only for fun. What we don’t often realize is that play is very important for children’s literacy development,” Atack said. “Research shows that when children play, they use richer language than they do at any other time of the day. Play time is learning time!” 

Ready to take your playtime to the next level? Here are some suggestions.

  • Give your children plenty of playtime throughout the day.
  • Encourage your children to tell stories about what they’re doing.
  • Have your kids make up their own stories based on the pictures they see in books. 
  • Have them act out a story you’ve read together.

Bonus Clip: Cookie Visits the Library

Because the Sesame Street gang knows that libraries are awesome! 

(P.S. — our library has way more than just books.)

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