Anyone with young children watching Nickelodeon recently has most likely seen the exuberant Josh with Blue the dog on the new Blue’s Clues & You show, based on Blue's Clues. Not being the bubbly sort, I was wondering as I watched the ads, will today’s children truly respond to this cheery man and his dog and the answer is apparently yes and in a positive way. From the first episode we watched, my 4-year-old daughter was glued to Blue and her clues, responding aloud to the questions, keeping an eye out for the clues and finding her own notebook to write the clues in and draw the pictures of Mr. Salt, Mrs. Pepper and others.
What we at BTBL have felt is essential for early literacy is vocabulary and background knowledge. I have tried to expose my daughter to many new experiences and read to her on a daily basis from the day she was born; poems, nursery rhymes, fairy tales and various story books. A parent never knows if what they are doing is actually making a difference but as I sat with my daughter watching an episode of Blue’s Clues & You, I was rewarded to see that yes, it is sinking in.
In looking for clues to the book Blue wants to read, the audience finds a moon, and I’m thinking Goodnight Moon but then the second clue is a cow and my daughter immediately says Hey Diddle Diddle, and proceeded to recite the nursery rhyme and lo and behold, the next clue was the word jump and she was correct. After reading research about the importance of children hearing and learning nursery rhymes, I have continuously read them to my daughter and so it was gratifying to see that they are now a part of her well of stored knowledge.
Seeing my daughter’s positive reaction to the show Blue’s Clues & You, I was curious about the show itself and found an article from 2002 written by Dr. Alice Wilder titled Literacy for Preschoolers: The Blue’s Clues Way. Wilder states that “so much of what a preschooler does every day involves literacy-related skills,” from exploring and making meaning out of what they do and learning and using new vocabulary words to role-playing and learning to think for themselves and understanding others’ points of view. Wilder goes on to say that “at Blue’s Clues, we understand that these sorts of literacy-related skills are important to a child’s future success as a reader. Blue’s Clues has two basic philosophical tenets when it comes to literacy for preschoolers. First, it is essential to expose children to stories, conversations, and the value of books and writing as well as provide a rich and stimulating language environment. Second, children need a balance of whole language and phonics instruction in order to learn to be a reader—one has to want to read in order to sit down with text, and one has to be able to sound out words in order to decode that text.”
Further reading brought me to an article in the New York Times: 'Blue's Clues' Returns, and Silence Is Still the Star. Blue's Clues was specifically designed with the preschooler in mind. One of the creators, Angela Santomero (who holds a master's degree in Child Developmental Psychology), says, "We wanted to do something very simple and graphic and slow. Something where preschoolers were treated like they were smart, and felt empowered, emphasizing those social emotional skills." The pauses and moments of silence throughout the show allow for interactivity, giving preschoolers a chance to play along with Blue, while working on early literacy, as well as social emotional skills and even kindergarten readiness. At the time, this was a completely new concept and paved the way for other educational shows. The new Blue's Clues & You sticks to this structure and from what I've seen first hand with my own daughter, it works.
These basic tenets of early childhood literacy have been with us for many years yet it seems that experts and educators are always searching for new ways to instruct children in reading instead of relying on the tried and true methods and the result has been declining reading scores. So, my suggestion is to go back to basics eschewing the digital gadgets and embrace the pen and notebook and help your child to search for clues to literacy.
-Kate @ BTBL
We are three generations that seek a way to get back to basics. It’s not that we eschew technology, but sometimes simpler is better, especially in raising our children. Mom was a reading teacher, Amanda is an early childhood educator and Kate a children’s literature specialist and former school librarian along with the latest additions, a daughter (now 4) for Kate, and two sons (now 1 and a newborn) for Amanda. We advocate reading aloud, the simple toys that use imagination and encourage creativity and learning in the kitchen, which can be a fun mess but also teaches life skills. Join us in raising healthy, happy, inquisitive and intelligent children.
We are mom Sandra and daughters Amanda and Kate, all with backgrounds in literacy and education, who want to share our philosophy of taking the basics of life; books, simple toys that encourage play, imagination and creativity, and using cooking and baking to teach math and real life skills to raise happy, inquisitive children. Join us in exploring the old and the new and sifting through the myriad of research to consider what is best for our children.