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Monday, March 23, 2009

The Kitchen as Learning Lab

By Rosemarie Hester

When my children were young, I always kept a box of story tapes in the kitchen. I started playing the tapes from the time they first sat in a high chair until long after they had graduated to the table.

Often, they listened while they ate. If they were done eating, they would play with something on the tray of the chair, something like pattern blocks or matching cards. When they got old enough for the table, they would draw or work with clay.

These story hours represented very rich experiences. In addition to involving my boys in the pleasures of storytelling and literature, they also built vocabulary and a sense of syntax as well as the abilities to visualize and listen. Additionally, they were developing the habits of independent learning. Not only were they not dependent on me to read to them, they were experiencing me as a collaborator or “parallel learner.” As I cooked, swept the floor or wrote checks, I was listening, too. Afterwards, when they were old enough, we would comment on the stories.

Although I tended to use the tapes more during the first half of the day, I realize now how useful they would also have been at 5:00, always the roughest patch of the day!

In many homes, the kitchen is the heart of family life. Although cassette tapes and players are long obsolete, the use of stories to entertain and lay foundational social, emotional and intellectual skills remains as important as ever.

"On the first Monday of each month, I will be offering ideas about multi-sensory activities at Community Bookstore on 7th Avenue. Please bring questions about your child’s learning! We will begin at 7:00pm and follow a question-and-answer discussion format. I hope to see you there!"

Rosemarie has been a classroom teacher and head of school as well as a playwright and director for youth theatre. She has worked with kindergarteners through high schoolers and especially enjoys helping students with reading and writing. Currently, she maintains a private practice as a Learning Specialist for families in Brooklyn and Manhattan. She also blogs regularly about education and learning on Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn. You can find out more about Rosemarie on her website: www.rosemariehester.com You may e-mail her at rosemariehester@mac.com or call 734-709-8802.