Friday, June 1, 2012

FUN ways to enhance communication - using your EARS not your MOUTH! Introducing Night Light Stories!

Think about what you hear all day long but don't pay attention to:  the air conditioning kicking on and off, the tick tock of the clock, cars outside our window.  What do we really listen to?  What sounds do you choose to tune into?  We have to consciously decide when we want to listen.  We hear involuntarily, we listen by choice.

Good listening skills can be taught to our children by reading to them.  We know they are listening when they correct a rhyme we misread in their favorite book, or catch us when we skip a page!  And good listening skills come with practice.  Think about all the lectures you had to LISTEN to in school.  You first learned those listening skills when you were read your bedtime story as a child!  This is why you hear all the time how important it is to read to your child every day for at least 20 minutes.
 
When we ourselves listen, without actually seeing a picture, it forces us to "flex" our imagination muscle. That's why reading a book before seeing a movie is always so much more rewarding! The same happens with our children. When they hear stories, their thoughts run wild with creating their own versions of characters, settings, and events.

We hear parents, teachers, and therapists speak of language.  The first thought that comes to mind with this word is oral or spoken language, but  RECEPTIVE language is just as important and is often left out of the conversation! Receptive language is our comprehension of spoken language.  Examples include when someone asks a question we understand and respond appropriately, or when we are given a direction to follow, and we know what to do.  We often KNOW what we want to say or do but can't effectively SAY it.  The same holds true with children. We all know that "uh uh uh" sound coming out of a child's mouth while we dance around providing option after option..."Do you want a drink? Nap? Snack? Play?" And it goes on and on until we guess correctly, but that baby knew he or she wanted our cell phone or keys. Those words just weren't ready to come out just yet.

Little ones first show comprehension of language when they respond to their name being called and look for their bottle or blankie when they are named.  Parents are often fascinated with how early their child can recognized those named objects by looking at them when they hear their names or labels. This often occurs months before spoken language. And receptive language doesn't develop effectively without good listening skills.

What's one of the best ways to enhance those listening skills? PRACTICE! Beyond enriching your child's day with labeling objects you encounter (yes we are proponents of naming fruits and veggies at the store, even if your baby isn't talking yet! Who cares if people look at you like you are nuts!), routine reading and listening to music are great opportunities for receptive learning. Another wonderful way is LISTENING to stories. In a world so focused on TV, movies, and handheld devices, the simpleness or using our ears to LISTEN and imagine is often and forgotten and the benefits missed.

Listening to stories on an I-pod was a life saver when my then three year old had bedtime troubles (and troubles is putting it kindly).  Allowing her to focus on a story, helped her to forget her fears at bedtime and met my goal of getting she and I both to bed!

We recently were introduced to a very creative couple, Mel and Chris Bugaj.  Together they formed Night Light Stories and they provide incredible FREE stories that they have written and recorded on their website, nightlightstories.net. They can also be found on Face book and Twitter. We interviewed them for this blog post. Enjoy reading their answers below and have fun learning about and discovering their work.  Download some Night Light Stories to motivate your little one at bed time, or even in the car or during quiet times during the day --and let the magic of their imagination grow!
 


Tell us about yourselves and how Night Light stories began.

 Welcome to Night Light Stories!  We are so happy you found us! My name is Miss Mel.  My husband and I are both special educators with twenty-four years combined experience. I have taught all grade levels from preschool to grade five in both general and special education. Currently, I am a Supervisor for student teachers for Walden University as well as a Homebound Teacher. My husband is a speech-language pathologist and founding member of the Assistive Technology Team for Loudoun County Public Schools. He and a co-worker recently were published by the International Society for Technology in Education. Their book is called "The Practical (and Fun) Guide to Assistive Technology in Public Schools".  After hours he also produces and hosts the A.T.TIPSCAST, an award-winning podcast about free or commonly found technology that can be used to help students meet their educational goals.

My husband and I created the podcast called Night Light Stories where I narrate original children's stories that we've written. Every episode is available for free in audio format on our compendium blog or on iTunes. On this blog you will find vocabulary from the story as well as comprehensive activities that engage the child's imagination. We also produce a weekly visual dictionary called "Lighting The Way With Words" where we choose a vocabulary word and pair it with an original photo. The audience is invited to send in their own pictures to help define the word. Our goal is to promote education and family time.

We started the podcast and blog as a creative thing to do together. We thought it would be a fun alternative for families, educators, and classrooms to listen to our stories on car trips, around the house, transition times in the classroom, or anytime.  We also thought that since our kids seemed to enjoy the stories, other kids around the world might like them too.  We say in the podcast that the stories are "for children of all ages" and it is our hope that families are enjoying the stories together. 

Besides the blog, you can find us on Twitter and our Face book Page . This is where people can get updates about all things related to Night Light Stories; including what's going on with story development, recent pictures, and more. We hope you enjoy listening to our stories as much as we enjoy creating them!  As always, we look forward to watching the glow grow brighter with the many stories we can share together.

Who/what inspires the stories you write?

Inspiration comes from a variety of sources. For instance, our 6yo drew a picture of the number 8 as a person with an opossum as a sidekick. Who is this mysterious number 8 man? Why does he have an opossum as a sidekick? This is just one of many ways a story idea may start.

What is your favorite NL story and why?

Ms. Mel's is "The Watermelon Seed". It holds a special place in my heart because it reminds me of when our daughter was born and how our son reacted to it. A fun fact about that story is it took me about 17x to record the ending without crying.

Mr. Chris' is "Alien Pursuit" because it has aliens and hip hop. Who doesn't love aliens and hip hop?

Who is your favorite children's author, favorite children's book?

Ms. Mel's is "The Cookie Monster and the Cookie Tree". My grandfather used to read that to my brother and I whenever we stayed over their house. His voices for the characters were so perfect. No matter how many times I read that story to my children, I'll always hear the voices as the way he read it.

Mr. Chris' is tempted to say "The Piano and Laylee Learning Adventure Series" about two dogs teaching students how to become positive digital citizens. But, if he had to pick just one, it would be "Good Night, Good Knight". Whenever I get the chance to be a guest reader in a classroom, I read this book and kids love it.

How do you want NL stories to benefit/impact children and their families?

Research shows that listening to audio stories improves the reading abilities of children.
It's our hope that while kids listen to the stories they are engaged and entertained with their families.

What are some ways your listeners have tied your stories into their daily routines?

Listeners have told us that they have incorporated our stories into their bed time routines. They've also used the stories to help pass the time on car rides, during bath time, or before school. What is most heartwarming is when listeners share stories of how a particular Night Light Story helped them through a difficult situation. For instance, one listener listened to the story "Stitches" while waiting in the ER to see the doctor after cutting themselves.

Do you wish to have your stories published into books one day?

Yes. Currently our stories exist in audio format only.  Therefore we would love to see the stories come to life with brilliant illustrations and/or some interactive components.

What is your favorite thing to play with your children?

Ms. Mel likes to play Zingo. The kids always get so excited when they beat me.

Mr. Chris likes to play dress-up. I finds that they create rich characters and hilarious stories which spark not only their imaginations, but mine as well. 

Thank you to Nightlight Stories for creating FUN resources to enhance family routines and receptive communication skills!





2 comments:

Chris said...

Thanks so much for posting the interview and spreading the word about Night Light Stories and the use of audio in helping children improve their literacy skills!

Miss Mel said...

Thank you, Ladies for posting our interview. This was a great blog post start to finish! :)

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