Archive for parenting

Helping Hands Newsletter – July Edition

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Enjoy the Helping Hands Newsletter for July! Look for local updates and fun family ideas for the summer. Please note, the correct date for the Early Educators Conference is Saturday, January 18th, 2020.


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January Parents’ Pages Now Online!

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Office of Early Learning Parents’ Pages features articles this month about having a new baby, flu prevention, play at school and literacy celebrations… Read this month’s issue, full of great information that you can use, brought to you by the Office of Early Learning. Click here to read the full issue. 

Early Learning Coalition of North Florida

[Press Release] Free Family Concert Featuring Jack Hartmann

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PALATKA, Fla., September 12, 2012 — The Early Learning Coalition (ELC) is sponsoring a free community concert on Saturday, September 22, 2012. The concert will feature children’s singer Jack Hartmann, with special guest Elmo from Sesame Street.

Hartmann has written and recorded more than 700 educational children’s songs as well as a children’s book titled “Over the Ocean.” More recently, he received the Distinguished Alumnus Award from his alma mater, University of Florida.

The concert, geared for families with children aged two through eight, will be held at Beasley Middle School auditorium at 2 p.m. Each family will also receive a complimentary Jack Hartmann CD. Associates of the ELC will be present at the event and encourage families to donate any new or slightly used pre-school age-appropriate books to benefit less privileged children.

Beasley Middle school is located at 1100 South 18th Street, Palatka, Fla.

For more information, contact Joan Whitson at or call 904-819-3544. To learn more about Jack Hartmann, please visit To download concert information as a flyer, click here: Hartmann_Concert_Flyer

To download high-resolution photos of Jack Hartmann, click here or here.



Joan Whitson, Early Literacy Coordinator




Children’s Activity: Thanksgiving Placemat Craft

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When it’s time for dinner, your preschooler will be excited to share his or her artwork in the form of decorative placemats. Making Thanksgiving placemats is a great way for your child to express creativity. Dinner guests love these homemade placemats, and they can even do double duty as party favors.

Things You’ll Need
·         Large pieces of construction paper in fall colors

·         Clear contact paper

·         Non-toxic craft glue, markers, scissors, crayons, and glitter

·         Cut-out Thanksgiving shapes or stickers

What to Do
1.    Give your preschooler a large piece of construction paper and lay out the art supplies within easy reach. Have your child choose which guest will receive this placemat, and talk together about why you feel thankful for that person.

2.    Now that your child has some great inspiration, help him or her decorate the construction paper to make a personalized placemat for each guest. Write a special message from your child on a corner of the placemat. Don’t forget to date the artwork.

3.    When the glue is dry, you can laminate the placemat to keep it clean. Simply place it face down on a piece of clear contact paper. Place another piece of contact paper over the back, and then trim the edges to make them even.

If you make this, please share your creations at

Check Out Our Winter Newsletter!

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The Winter Newsletter is Hot Off The Press!

Hello Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library family and friends! Our winter newsletter is out and ready to be viewed by YOU. In this issue, you can find information on our upcoming Toddler Fests and other exciting winter events. Also, you can learn about what to read to keep your little ones calm at bedtime, how to share your family album to your children as a story, how to contribute to our books for bravery program and much much more!

You can go straight to the newsletter by CLICKING HERE or sign up for the emailed version HERE. Enter your name right under the Free Books For Babies logo on the left side of the page.By signing up for the email you receive our newsletter straight to your inbox every time it’s published. This way you are the  first to get all the latest and greatest reading tips and ideas, sign up today!

Happy Reading!

Photo Albums: Your Family’s Story Waiting to be Told

Posted by Kristin and Leann enjoy a recent Toddler Fest at the Anastasia Island Branch Library, St. Augustine, hosted by the Early Learning Coalition of Putnam & St. Johns Counties.

There may not be words printed beneath each photograph, but chances are, you know a story you can pass along to your child: the trip to Chicago in that old Plymouth Dart, the Christmas you had an emergency appendectomy, fishing in Nana’s lake.

Research has shown that it’s not just reading a book that stimulates your child—it’s the conversations you have while looking at the page. Your child’s vocabulary expands every time you point to and name an object or a person in the picture. And using a family photograph during story time can inspire you to tell a story with a beginning, middle, and end—which helps your child understand how language works. Chances are, you will also tell a family tale with more emotion in your voice and in your facial expressions, and that makes story time more interesting for your child.  In addition, those photos could prompt your child to share memories of his own. Verbal practice is important, even if he’s just repeating the words, “Grandpa’s truck” over and over.

Using photographs as a basis for storytelling has plenty of benefits for your son or daughter’s reading skills, but it can also help you accomplish something else.  In his book Writing About Your Life, author William Zinsser says that recounting your life stories has “the further value of telling your children and grandchildren who they are and what heritage they come from.” In a culture that values immediacy, we don’t always take care to preserve and pass on the gift of the past. You don’t have to write a 500-page memoir to instill a sense of family history in your child. You can do it one memory, one photograph at a time.

But what if you don’t have a huge family with old Plymouths and docks to fish from? What if it’s just you and your baby? Then reach for the photographs you took last month, and talk about those. It is just as valuable to say to your child, “Remember when we bought those sparkly shoes?” as it is to say, “Remember when Uncle Rob fell through the attic ceiling?”

Every detail you discuss will be building your child’s vocabulary, her understanding of story, and her concept of herself. You don’t have to be sitting around a Norman Rockwell holiday table, or rocking on a generations-old porch. You will always have the story that matters most to your child, the one that begins, “On the day you were born…”

Tell your child your family story today!

A Spring Reading Craft: Planting a Curious Garden

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The Curious Garden is a story about a boy’s dream and how one small person can help change the world.

The ground may still be frozen up north, but here in Florida it will be planting time soon. If you’d like to try an easy spring craft, read Peter Brown’s beautiful picture book The Curious Garden (Little Brown, 2009) with your child.

In the story, a child discovers a small garden on an elevated railway in the midst of a grey metropolis. Wonderful transformations ensue. After you’ve read the story, you can draw or paint a city skyline around the outside of a small pot. Then plant seeds inside and watch your own metropolitan garden bloom in the weeks to come.  Another book to consider: Ruth Klauss’s perennial The Carrot Seed (Harper Trophy).


Doctor’s Orders: Read, read, read!

Posted by Melissa and Noah enjoy a recent Toddler Fest at the Anastasia Island Branch Library, St. Augustine, hosted by the Early Learning Coalition of Putnam & St. Johns Counties.

If you need a pat on the back for the time you spend reading to your child, Dr. Mehmet Oz, renowned physician and co-author of YOU: Raising Your Child (Simon & Schuster, 2010), offers this advice:  “We can’t say it often enough: Read aloud. Read aloud. Read aloud.

Besides serving as wonderful one-on-one time, reading to your child will do amazing things for her vocabulary…Kids might not be able to respond verbally to you when they’re little, but they’re processing. Remember those neurons: With every sentence, you’re building stronger language connections.”  In addition to information on your child’s general health, YOU: Raising Your Child will help you understand and feed your baby’s developing brain.

Happy Reading!

What to Read…at Bedtime!

Posted by Sue and Emma enjoy a recent Toddler Fest at the Anastasia Island Branch Library, St. Augustine, hosted by the Early Learning Coalition of Putnam & St. Johns Counties.

As parents we are all familiar with this  nightly routine: she’s bathed, her teeth are brushed, and she’s settled in your lap for a few moments of reading before you say goodnight. The last thing you want is a bedtime story that makes her want to jump up and dance.These books will keep your little one calm when it’s rocking-chair reading time:

In Mem Fox’s classic Time for Bed (Harcourt 1993), different animal “parents” prepare their babes for bed under the nighttime sky. The last scenes focus on a human mother and child, with the child reclining on a pillow embroidered with stars. The gently-repeating rhyme and soothing illustrations create the sensation of a lullaby.

Caldecott Medal-winner The House in the Night (Houghton Mifflin, 2008), written by Susan Marie Swanson and illustrated by Beth Krommes, features just three colors: black, white, and small touches of gold. The text is a variation on the old “key to the kingdom” nursery rhyme, and with just over one hundred words, this book is a poem of comfort at bedtime.

Barbara Berger’s spare and elegant Grandfather Twilight (Putnam & Grosset, 1984) is a walk through the woods as the skies deepen toward darkness. In the center of the book are several silent pages that allow you and your child to whisper your own way through the story together.

For more information on what to read to your child please visit today!

Telling the Story Together

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When you read your child a bedtime story, you’re supposed to open the book and read what’s on the page, right? Not necessarily. Early learning experts agree that your child benefits as much from having a conversation about the pictures as they do from learning the story’s words. In her book Bright from the Start (Gotham Books), Jill Stamm, PhD, says parents can ask questions like these:

  • “What is that silly duck wearing?”
  • “What kind of animals do you think will be on the next page?”
  • “Remember when you were on the swing at Grandma’s house?”

This interactive style is often called “dialogic reading.” Besides helping your child develop her attention, vocabulary, and predicting skills, dialogic reading gives you a chance to bond, and to make each story your own. Psychologist and child development researcher Laura E. Berk says, “In dialogic reading, the adult encourages the child to become a participant in the narrative, even a storyteller.”

In Awakening Children’s Minds (Oxford University Press), Berk says this cooperative approach can lead to language development that lasts well beyond the end of story time. Telling the story together can also make your child feel involved and important, which could increase her interest in reading later.

An author’s words and an illustrator’s art are just the beginning. What you and your child create as readers may be the most meaningful part of the story.