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National Editorials & Columns

Developing conversation skills is important in literacy

Good conversation starters with children are ones that aren’t threatening.  Talking about favorites improve thinking skills.  Ask “What is your favorite smell, color, type of transportation, dessert?”  Also, sharing a personal memory of your favorite childhood toy, place to visit or reading material makes good conversation.

Did you read about U.S. presidents last month?  If not, try a book this month.  Presidents add to our literary materials in numerous ways by inspiring others to write their biographies. Some biographies are very accurate and a good read.  It is important to decide if you want thorough research and accuracy, or if you just want to enjoy a story about a president.

Besides being written about, most presidents have written themselves.  Early presidents wrote their own speeches.  Some presidents also wrote publishable materials. John Quincy Adams published a book of poetry in 1832. Thomas Jefferson helped write "The Declaration of Independence."  Both Franklin Roosevelt and Theodore Roosevelt wrote well.

Children of presidents have also become writers such as Margaret Truman who writes mysteries using her knowledge of the intricacies of Washington D.C.  Franklin Roosevelt's son, Elliot, wrote a controversial biography about his parents and also wrote mysteries using his inside knowledge.

You might consider reading about our first president, George Washington, who was born on Feb. 22, l732 or our sixteenth president, Abraham Lincoln, who was born on Feb. 12, 1809.  His Emancipation Proclamation is still a model speech.  Our fortieth president, Ronald Reagan, was born on Feb. 6, 1911.  These are just three possibilities out of 44. 

As a Presidential and First Lady Buff, all presidential trivia interests me.  Thomas Jefferson wrote his own epitaph.  It reads, "Here was buried Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence, of the Statue of Virginia for Religious Freedom, and the father of the University of Virginia."  I wonder if he was proud of being the President of the United States?  He didn't mention it. 

Andrew Johnson was educated by his wife, Eliza, after they married.  Then consider this, The New York Times was started during President Taylor's years in office.  Gathering any kind of material is interesting and keeps your brain working. 

  I also enjoy collecting vocabulary and terminology.  Vocabulary is perhaps the most important part of understanding, so we need to make a conscious effort to expand our vocabulary.  It is more than the meaning of a word and it takes repeated usage (about 17 times) to make a word really ours.

   Some activities you can do with children are to cut out a lengthy newspaper article.  Then, together classify the types of vocabulary.  Make lists of categories, and then categorize the words.  For fun create a poster or a mini-dictionary using the words. Make a scrapbook illustrating the words in the category. Write up the Word Histories of five of the words in each category.

Create advertisements for words to add to your collection.  Complete any project that is unique and illustrates your category. Listening and talking to your child helps he/she develop meaningful vocabulary. The storyteller cannot live in a pointless world. The reader has to create with the writer in order for the book to come alive.

  Part of enjoying reading is being willing to live with open questions?  Our vocabulary is basically divided into two parts.  I think of them this way.  There is denotative--dictionary meaning which includes deduction- using clues and reasoning to come to a conclusion as to what a word means.  It is a more exact meaning.  I personally enjoy guessing which is connotative—context meaning. Context includes the words and phrases surrounding the unknown word.   Context clues suggest the meaning of the word and you guess at its meaning from those clues the author gave. 

  Margaret Lee Runbeck in Hope of Earth talked about “Footprints in Life.” A person leaves all kinds of footprints while walking through life.  Some you can see, like children and your home.  Others are invisible, like the prints you leave across other people’s lives, the help you give them and what you say—your jokes, gossip that has hurt others, encouragement.  Everywhere you pass, you leave some kind of mark.  All these marks added together are your footprints.  Authors leave footprints in our mind that motivate us or give us joy or make us want to get involved in a project.

  Parents and adults involved in Children’s education, not to harass the teacher, but to be a partner with the teacher, experiences lifelong dividends.  Children do better academically. Children are better behaved, thus less discipline time is needed. Parents feel more respected and are more satisfied and cooperative with schools. Parents have more confidence in teachers and administrators. Parents complain less because they understand more. Parents more willingly seek the school’s help with their children. Involvement means team work among child, parents, and school officials. Adapted from Dr. Carol Alexander Phillips.  Walking the road of literacy is exciting.   Until next week…  Christine Pauley

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