Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Explore the Mysteries of Heaven

Bostrom, Kathleen Long. Elena Kucharik, illustrator. What about Heaven? (Little Blessings Series) Tyndale House Publishers.

Hardcover. 2/26/2000. 80 pages. List price $9.99. ISBN-10: 0842373535. ISBN-13: 978-084237531.

Paperback. 9/28/2012. 32 pages. List price $3.99. ISBN-10:1414375107. ISBN-13: 1414375106.

EBook. 11/1/2012. List price $3.99. ASIN B007V69BD8.

Stars: 5 - Outstanding       FYC- for Families with Young Children

What about Heaven tackles many of the questions children ask. Where is heaven? How will I find it? Who else will be there? Will everyone know who I am? What will I eat? What will I wear? What will I do? Is there room for animals? Will I get sick?

Bostrom acknowledges the questions are all acceptable ones and while there are some we will not understand the answers to until Jesus returns, the Bible has answers for the rest. Each answer she gives, she backs up with scripture references placed at the top of each page in small print. These references will help parents with follow-on questions and references for family devotions.

Kucharik’s illustrations support the content on each span of two pages. The pictures of multicultural children appeal to young children. They will appreciate the illustrations from other titles in the Little Blessings series. Some illustrations are repeated from other titles such as God Loves You! also written by Bostrom, and The One Year Devotions for Preschoolers written by Crystal Bowman.

This repetition of form assists children in making text to text connections (relating this book to others they have read), an critical reading skill.  The rhyming couplets, the font size, and the large amount of white space on each page makes this a good, you-read-to-me book for three through five year old children. First and second graders will enjoy the book as an I-read-to-you book.

What about Heaven? Is not only a beautiful book for young children and their parents, but will make an excellent addition to church and public libraries. It will also find a suitable place in early childhood classrooms and Sunday School rooms. What about Heaven? was nominated for the People’s Choice Award.

Dr. Bostrom is an accomplished author of numerous books for children and books for adults. She is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA) with degrees from Princeton and McCormick Theological Seminaries. Elena Kucharik’s not only creates colorful and captivating illustrations for the Little Blessings line, but was the lead artist and developer for Care Bears. She also designs and illustrates for major corporations and publishers.

I received a complimentary paperback copy of this book from the Tyndale Blog Network for my unbiased review.

Other books in the Little Blessings series include: Are Angels Real? – Blessings Come in Shapes – God Created Me! – Is God Always with Me? – The One Year Devotions for Preschoolers – The One Year Devotions for Preschoolers 2 – Questions from Little Hearts – Thank You, God! – What Is Prayer? – What Is the Bible? – Who Is Jesus? – Why Is There a Cross?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Family Literacy

The Importance of Family Literacy

Family Literacy programs are designed to improve the language and literacy skills of both parents and children. The majority are designed for parents with preschool or early school-age children and aimed at improving children's school readiness and success, while simultaneously supporting the language/literacy development of parents.  Most federal programs, such as Even Start, have adopted a specific definition for family literacy that addresses four program components.  Most federally funded programs must include all four components:

1.    Early Childhood Education programs for children that are age- appropriate and help prepare children for success in school and life.

2. Adult Education, specifically, parent literacy training that leads to economic self-sufficiency.

3.  Parenting Education, training that helps parents become teachers of
their children and full partners in educational systems.

4.  Parent and Child Together (PACT) programming that enhances the
interaction of parents and their children around language and literacy. 

Need for Literacy and Language Programs well documented.  

  • 1991 - in the Carnegie Foundation report, Ready to Learn:  A mandate for the nation, teachers reported that 35% of kindergarten children were not ready for school.  The area in which children were reported to be most lacking was in literacy and language skills ( Boyer, 1991).

  • 1998 - the Annie E. Casey Foundation reported that 39% of fourth-grade students scored below the basic reading level nationwide. 

  • Children for whom English is a second language are of particular concern  because  their numbers are increasing and they often have difficulty in school (Rossi & Stringfield, 1995).

  • Studies show that children who start Kindergarten without basic language and literacy skills have difficulty learning to read, and they continue to experience reading problems throughout school (Snow, et al, 1998).

  • Research on brain development helps explain why early home and child care experiences are critical to language development. 

  • By the time babies are a year and a half old, the bottom 10% will understand around 90 different words while the top 10% will understand  more than 300 words.

  • Research indicates that children who have books and other reading materials at home, as well as writing materials, do better than children who have none.

  • Children who see their parents reading and writing do better than children who do not see such models.

  • Children who have many opportunities to talk and listen, practice eye-hand coordination activities that will help develop the foundation skills for writing, and "read" books," gain invaluable experience with language.

  • Working with parents to enrich home environments, through family or intergenerational literacy programs, increases the chance that preschoolers will succeed once they reach school (Bus, van Ijzendoorn, & Pellegrini, 1995; Edwards, 1995; Edwards, Pleasants, & Franklin, 1999; Jordan, Snow, & Porche, 2000;  Neuman ,1996; Whitehurst, et al., 1988.

The foundation for literacy skills is set during the preschool years, and it is during this time that young children develop the skills that will help them be successful (Chall, Jacobs, & Baldwin, 1990).  Whereas it was once thought that children learned to speak and listen during their early years and later learned to read and write at school age, we now know that they develop literacy related abilities simultaneously from infancy.  Emergent literacy is the term used to describe young children's developing literacy skills before formal schooling and encompasses the constellation of speaking, listening, reading and writing skills young children acquire (Teale & Sulzby, 1989). 

There is increasing interest in teaching parents how to help children build essential literacy skills (Nickse, 1989).  Research has shown that parents can create supportive home literacy environments, express positive attitudes about literacy, and share literacy activities such as joint book reading (Arnold, Lonigan, Whitehurst & Epstein, 1994; DeBaryshe & Binder, 1994; Payne, Whitehurst, & Angell, 1994). 

Reading aloud with children is probably the single most important activity for building early literacy skills and understanding in preschool age children (Wells, 1985; Bus & van Ijzendoorn, & Pellegrini, 1995; Bus et al.; 1997; Whitehurst et al., 1994)


·       children feel emotionally secure

·       are active participants in reading

·       parents and caregivers engage the child  -  for example,  asking children to predict what will happen next

·       naming and talking about the pictures

·       rereading the story many times

·       helping children link what is in the book with what is in their own lives

·       giving the child many age-appropriate opportunities to build on book reading  with activities that encourage an understanding of  "reading," "writing," listening and speaking.

In addition to reading aloud, parents also can:

·       improve the quality and quality of verbal interaction with their children

·       show interest, valuing, and encouragement of reading and language

·       provide access to a wide range of reading, writing, and drawing materials

·       show their own interest in literature and modeling of reading and writing in the home

·       provide opportunities for literacy experiences within routine family interactions and activities.


Bialystok, E., & Herman, J.  (1999).  Does bilingualism matter for early literacy?  Bilingualism:  Language and cognition, 2(1), 35-44.

Boyer, E. L.  (1991).  Ready to learn:  A mandate from the nation.  Princeton, NJ:  The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

Bus, A., Belsky, J., van Ljzendoorn, & Crnic, K.  (1997).  Attachment and book-reading patterns:  A study of mothers, fathers, and their toddlers.  Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 12, 81-98.

Bus,  A.G., van Ijzendorn, M.H., & Pellegrini, A.D.  (1995).  Joint book reading makes for success in learning to read:  A meta-analysis on intergenerational transmission of literacy, Review of Educational Research, 65(1), 1-21.

Edwards, P.A. (1995).  Empowering low-income mothers and fathers to share books with young children.  The Reading Teacher, 48, 558-564. 

Edwards, P.A., Pleasants, H.M.,  & Franklin, S.H. (1999).  A path to follow:  Learning to listen to parents.  Portsmouth, NH:  Heinemann.

Jordan, G.E., Snow, C. E., & Porche, M.V.  (2000).  Project EASE:  The effect of a family literacy project on kindergarten students’ early literacy skills.  Reading Research Quarterly, 35(4), 524-546.

Learning to read and write:  Developmentally appropriate practices for young children (1998).  Young Children, 30-23.

Neuman, Susan B. (1996).  Children engaged in storybook reading:  The influence of access to print resources, opportunity, and parental interaction.  Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 11, 495-513.

Perez, B. (1998).  Language, literacy, and biliteracy.  In B. Perez (Ed.) Sociocultural Contexts of Language and Literacy,  (pp. 21-48).  Mahwah, NJ:  Erlbaum.

Rossi, R.J. & Stringfield, S.C.  (1995).  What we must do for students placed at risk, Phi Delta Kappan, 77, 73-76.

Snow, Catherine E., Burns, M. Susan, & Griffin, Peg,  (1998). Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children.  National Research Council (U.S.). Committee on the Prevention of Reading Difficulties in Young Children, National Acad. Press.

Wells,  G. (1985).  Preschool literacy-related activities and success in school.  In D.R. Olson, N. Torrence, & A. Hildyard (Eds.), Literacy, language and learning:  The nature and consequences of reading and writing  (pp. 229-255).  Cambridge, England:  Cambridge University Press.

Whitehurst, G. J., Galco, F.L., Lonigan, C.J., Fischel, J.E., DeBarshe, B.D., Valdex-Menchaca, M.C. & Caulfield, M.  (1988).  Accelerating language development through picture book reading, Developmental Psychology, 24, 552-559.

General Reading

Bridges to Literacy:  Children, Families, and Schools.  David K. Dickson (Ed.).  Cambridge, MA:  Blackwell Press, 1994.

Family Literacy:  Connections in Schools and Communities.  Lesley Mandel Morrow (Ed.).  Washington, DC:  International Reading Association, 1995.

The Role of Family Literacy Environments in Promoting Young Children's Emerging Literacy Skills.  Pia Rebello Britto & Jeanne Brooks-Gunn (Eds.).  San Francisco:  Jossey-Bass, 2001.

Literacy Development in the Early Years:  Helping Children Read and Write.  Lesley Mandel Morrow.  Boston, MA:  Allyn & Bacon, 2001.