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RT: Welcome to the Tub! The Itty-Bitty Bookworm is a company you started several years ago as a result of your effort to find a curriculum-based reading program for preschoolers. Were you surprised at your discovery?

Tara: Yes, I was surprised. I was able to find several quality preschool curriculums, but none based on children’s literature. The programs that were based on literature were very expensive and were geared more towards public schools.

RT: You have created a multi-faceted program, drawing on children's books that many of us are familiar with. How do you select the books?

Tara: We are former preschool teachers/directors and mothers; so this task is simple. We choose books that our students and children love. Some of the books are classics, some are popular, and some are newer titles. We want to have a wide variety.

RT: Your program runs in a two-year cycle, so children won't see the same collection even if they are in preschool for two years. Have you ever "retired" any books or lessons?

Tara: Yes, we have had to “retire” one unit because the book (upon which it was based) went out of print.

RT: As a professional that wants reading to be a meaningful experience for young children (toddlers and preschoolers), what advice would you have for authors hoping to have the next "classic"?

Tara: In my experience, young children like books with lively, funny, and likeable characters. They want to be able to imagine that the characters are their friends. Putting themselves in the books seems to make the story come alive for them.

RT: With the perception that kids need to read before school these days, how much time should parents spend teaching their kids to read?

Tara: I feel that this is a sad “perception.” I do not feel that all preschoolers should be expected to read. It is just not developmentally appropriate. That being said, I do understand that all children develop at different rates and some are ready to begin learning before Kindergarten. Parents should take cues from their children. It is vital that children be read to every day. However, at this age, it is more important to teach children about the joy of learning and the beauty of books, rather than technical skills needed to read.

RT: How worried should parents be if their child doesn't recognize words before they start Kindergarten? or seem to be struggling in First Grade?

Tara: Young children develop at different rates. Parents should not worry if their child is not recognizing words before Kindergarten. However, if the struggling continues into the first grade year, I would recommend scheduling a conference with the child’s teacher to see which direction to take.

RT: What are the kinds of things parents can do to help their kids and ease their own minds?

Tara: This list of ideas/activities offer things parents can do with their children to foster pre-reading/writing skills and further develop language:

• Provide your child with lots of opportunities to draw, paint, and color. This is the first step in learning to write.
• When your child draws or paints a picture, ask him questions about his art. Then label it with what he says. This shows children that their work is important and meaningful. It also helps them to understand the connection between their drawings and writing/reading.
• Point out different places that print is found: newspaper, grocery store ads, menus, computer, signs around town, etc.
• Talk about books you have read together. Encourage your child to retell the story. Ask him if he remembers what happened first, next, and last.
• Play silly rhyming games. Say a word and have your child make up a word that rhymes with your word. For example: You say, “Silly” and your child says “Tilly.”
• Give your child old magazines, grocery store ads, coupons, and catalogs. Have her cut out logos and print that she recognizes. Then glue them on a piece of construction paper.

RT: When you read a book, do you find yourself subconsciously thinking "this would be good for the Itty-Bitty Bookworm"? Is it hard to just enjoy a story without thinking about its educational potential?

Tara: When I first started writing the curriculum I was always on the lookout for new titles. Now I am able to just read with my children and enjoy. If I read something that is spectacular I simply write down the title and keep it in my files for future use.

Reading Tub: What are your thoughts about eBooks for our youngest pre-readers?

I think the computer is a wonderful tool. My own preschooler loves it. In fact, she visits Starfall almost everyday; and it has helped her tremendously with letter sounds.

RT: What has been the most surprising (and/or rewarding) thing about watching your children's interests in reading? Do they like books?

Tara: My oldest child is in the first grade and is now able to read beginning reader chapter books. I love seeing her excitement when she reads to her younger sister and brother. My middle child is in preschool and is currently working on blending three letter words. She is so motivated to learn to read because she wants to do everything like her older sister. My youngest just turned two. He likes concept books with bright colorful pictures. Needless to say, we are a family of readers!

RT: Did you like reading as a child as much as you like reading now? Do you have an all-time-favorite book that you have shared (or can't wait to share) with them? What kinds of things do you read now?

Tara: ABSOLUTELY! Some of my earliest memories are of my mother reading to me. She loved books, as well. Not only did she read to me, but she read herself. Seeing how much she enjoyed reading her books made me want to be able to read to myself. This motivation helped me learn to read when I was four years old. From that time on, I have never lost my passion for books.

I love all kinds of books. However, with three small children, I usually read lots of children’s books. When I have time to read to myself I enjoy the works of Maeve Binchy, Elizabeth Gilbert, Yann Martel, and too many more to list.

Reading Tub: Is there anything else you'd like to add?

The Itty-Bitty Bookworm currently offers two programs. The Bo Curriculum is for 3-5 year olds and the Bailey Curriculum is for 2 and 3 year olds. Both programs are sold monthly on CD. You can also download the monthly curriculums from our website. When you visit the site, ther are links to order the books that coordinate with our curriculum.

Check out our free printables, sale books, and monthly resources, as well. We add new ones each month. We also send out a monthly newsletter. t contains links to free printables, offers a sneak peek at the next month’s curriculum, and much more. Sign up and you will be entered to win a CD of your choice.

If you are interested or would like more information, please visit our website or send me an email . We are always happy to help!

Website: http://www.ittybittybookworm.com


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