Young Child Week Begins

Allan Appel PhotoSinging and striking her tambourine, storyteller Mae Gibson-Brown invited about 60 pre-schoolers to go to Garth’s house for a pancake breakfast.

Make that Superintendent Garth Harries.

The invitation to drop by the superintendent’s place for pancakes and milk was extended Monday morning by Gibson-Brown (pictured) at the kickoff event for the Week of the Young Child in New Haven.

The inaugural story—about pancakes that disappeared—and the announcement of a week of book-giveaways and story-telling citywide drew whole pre-school centers, like the United Community Nursery on Temple Street and Centro San Jose in Fair Haven, to the second floor of City Hall.

Also attending were stay at-home parents like Elizabeth Pereira who had heard about the event on a flyer that she picked up at the library.

Gibson-Brown didn’t truly invite the kids to the superintendent’s house. In little-kid-appropriate remarks, Harries did reveal his understanding that he’s called “superintendent” because “I have super powers.”

She was using the refrain of her song-story to illustrate the letter G.

Previously she had invited the whole happy assemblage to Amber’s house.

But the fun and indispensability of storytelling and reading to young kids was on display. The kids paid attention to the superintendent, the mayor, the governor’s point person on early childhood education, Myra Jones-Taylor, all before they got to the story.

They were into the story, clapping away and enjoying themselves.

“This year we’re really focused on story-telling and oral language,” said Jennifer Heath, co-chair of the New Haven Early Childhood Council on the theme of New Haven’s week of events.

The council is part of the National Association of Education for Young Children (NAEYC) which organizes the Week of the Young Child across the country.

Co-chair of the New Haven Early Childhood Council Cyd Oppenheimer was attending with her daughter Klara (pictured). Klara said her favorite part of the story she heard was “when the pancakes disappeared.”

Oppenheimer, who is also a senior policy fellow at the Connecticut Voices for Children, said she reads to Klara and her three other daughters approximately two to four hours a day, sometimes far more, lately, “when no one is interested in playing in the snow.”

She referenced Connecticut Children’s Museum Director Sandy Malmquist, who runs many reading programs for little kids: “Sandy Malmquist says you’re supposed to read five books a day to your toddler.”

And enjoy them for a serious reason.

Harries touched on that when he asked kids to raise their hands if they enjoyed school. Nearly every kid raised one hand, some two.

Haries said that through early love of reading, “We want to make you [continue to] love going to school.”

Click on the play arrow to hear the kids sing about going to his house for breakfast.

Jones-Taylor addressed the parents in the room:  [One of the]“the best thing you can do as a parent is to tell stories.”

Asked what she sees as the deepest fundamental value of story telling, Gibson-Brown said that it goes way beyond learning to read and enjoying reading to a profound human necessity: “When you start to tell the story, you’re arousing a personal story in the other person. Everyone has a story, even if it’s painful, it has to be told.”

The next days’ story-telling events take place Tuesday at the Fair Haven Branch Library at 10 a.m. and the Leitner Planetarium at 5 p.m.

On Wednesday, little-kid narratives will unfold at the Wilson Branch Library at 10:30 a.m. and then later in the afternoon at 2 p.m. at the Yale University Art Gallery.

While they last, Tomie DePaola‘s Pancakes for Breakfast will be given out at each venue. Heath said they have planned to give away between three and four thousand books during the Week of the Young Child in town.

There was no word by press time about arrangements for the visit to the superintendent’s house, or what kind pancakes will be served.

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posted by: Josiah Brown on April 8, 2014  1:27am

It’s good to see this attention to the Week of the Young Child—and efforts to advance its principles throughout the year, throughout the community.

Last year, Myra Jones-Taylor, Cyd Oppenheimer, and Sandra Malmquist presented at a Literacy Forum on early learning:

For more information, see:

There, under Resources, are slides from Sandy Malmquist’s presentation on the importance of “WORDS”: