Guide to using Sylvan Dell books and online resource with your children
What we like to emphasize with parents and teachers using our books and eBooks is that we offer so much more than just a picturebook. We have developed a significant amount of value-added, teaching activities and interactive quizzes that are free on our website - if, folks want to use them. We view it as a sequenced process where trailers and eBooks are a fun tee-up for a much more in-depth, cross-curricular learning experience. Using Sylvan Dell books, or, the eBooks on your home computer is a great way to make learning fun. For parents and teachers wanting to work the science, math and other learning objectives, each book has a 3-5 page educational section in the back. But that is really just the beginning ... and our free, online resources are just amazing. If you are teaching Spanish or ESL children of all ages, our eBooks and audiobooks are phenomenol tools. At Sylvan Dell, it is about getting the children excited about the subject and then as we like to say: strike while the learning iron is hot!
Here are our free resources and sample of how the links are set-up on our Book Homepages … click image to go to the Whistling Wings book homepage page or just click the links below to explore the different resources.
First, thanks for being such a good parent. How can I tell? You are obviously reading to your children and you are on this site looking for more ideas of things to do with your children.
This letter is a heart-to-heart from one parent to another. Let me start by saying that I have no formal education training. All of my comments and thoughts come from pure observation and opinions.
My husband, Lee, and I have three daughters (Rachel, Katie, & Helen) in college and high school. I started reading to each of the girls when they were a few days old. I remember visiting my parents when Rachel, my oldest, was four months old. I reached for a Dr. Seuss book and my mother actually asked why I was reading to her, that she couldn’t possibly understand anything at such a young age. Now I confess that I was shocked. Didn’t my parents read to me? When did they start? Didn’t all parents start reading at an early age? I showed my mother that as soon as I picked the book up, Rachel’s little arms and legs started waving and kicking. There was real excitement and there was real understanding.She probably didn’t understand the words, but she did understand being held and read to, and she did understand the rhythm.
Years later, I had a morning to go shopping with a friend (a very rare occurrence!). I said that I needed to stop at a store to get a few birthday presents. I pulled up in front of a teacher’s store, but my friend wouldn’t even go in.She sat there and said “we can’t go in there, we aren’t teachers.” I admit that to this day, that statement still shocks me. If parents aren’t the very first teachers in their children’s lives, then who is?
Whether you know it (or like it) or not, you are your children’s teacher. It is up toyou, as the parent/teacher to instill a love or learning or not. By the time children start school, that feeling is already there—or not. There are now even television commercials geared to parents to talk to their children, even if to just explain what they are doing. There are early literacy programs galore trying to reach out and help parents and their children at an early age: way before school starts.
So what IS a busy parent to do? How DOES one find the time? The concept behind Sylvan Dell books is fairly simple: fun books to read with young children that have an underlying “learning” theme. The books are designed to get kids questioning and wanting to learn without being too “non-fictionish” or preachy. I equate the concept to a historical fiction novel: a great, fun read that teaches as it entertains. The fun facts and activities in the back of our books are designed for you to be able to point things out, work with your kids, and even to answer questions that you might not know (adults can’t know everything!). Each book is a mini “quality time” to spend with your children.
Lee and I started the company in the fall of 2004. He had retired from the US Navy, and even though I had written several best-selling cookbooks, my passion had always been in children’s books. Like any idea, things come together from a variety of sources.
Military members, especially Navy, spend a good deal of time away from home. Ships are gone for six months at a time, but that doesn’t count all the other “little” trips of a few weeks or months here or there and it doesn’t count extensions because of world conflicts. We made a decision to take some time off when he retired. We needed the family time before he moved onto another career. We rented out the house, put all our belongings in storage, and arranged to home school the children in order to travel. Our van and a pop-up camper became our home. We took off to explore the US in six months. We had family memberships at a zoo and at a science museum which allowed us to visit any other zoo/aquarium or science museum in the US (http://www.aza.org/FindZooAquarium/ & http://www.astc.org/sciencecenters/find_scicenter.htm). We ended up buying a National Park Pass which gave us entrance to every US National Park. Even though it had seemed like a long time, it soon became very apparent that six months was a tiny scratch on the surface.
Going to zoos, aquariums, nature centers, and parks is a sure-fire way of getting children excited about learning. Young children are SPONGES for knowledge. Each visit turned into science, history, or math class. But what were really impressive were the Junior Ranger programs at the National Parks. Almost all parks (66 out of the 67 we visited that year) had these programs available at no or minimal cost. The program was a mini lesson about the park; it had fun facts and activities like scavenger hunts to find things in the park, matching activities, or vocabulary games to learn park-specific topics. Some programs required the children to attend ranger-led hikes or talks. The girls LOVED them, and I will add that Lee and I learned so much more, too!
The “For Creative Minds” educational section in each book comes from that concept. We try to design the activities so that they can be photocopied or downloaded and done while in the car, at a table, or sitting curled up in a loving adult’s lap. Multiple copies of the activities can be made and done with several children. And, oh by the way, the books could be used as an inexpensive birthday party theme…
Each book also has “Related Websites” on the book’s homepage. These are safe links that contain more information about something in the book. Quite often the links will lead you to more fun activities that you can do with your children.
We also have on-line “teaching activities.” But remember that your home is a classroom, too! All of the activities are available for parents at the click of a button. In fact, parents at home can make some of the activities even more fun. Many teachers are unable to give children snacks or candy. I personally think it is a shame, but I understand. However, there’s no better incentive to get kids playing educational games than to provide candy. For example, many of the teaching activities have a bingo game. You need only print as many cards as you have children participating—as few as one. Instead of using pennies or markers for the bingo card, place a small candy (M&Ms, candy corn in the fall, valentine hearts in February, etc.) in the corner of the square at the start of the game. When the children match the hint to the square, they get to eat the candy! Play till all candy is gone.
Lee and I truly hope that you enjoy using Sylvan Dell titles with your children. We hope that your children develop a thirst for learning and that they have fun while doing so.