SIUE Head Start/Early Head Start teacher Loretta Haynes engages children with her book, Ten Little Pennies for Some Bubble Gum.EDWARDSVILLE - Little Pennies and Little Hands seemingly jump off the pages whenever Loretta Haynes and Mariah Tolson, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Head Start/Early Head Start (HS/EHS) authors, read their books to young, eager audiences.

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To expand their audience and assist at-home parents, videos of Haynes and Tolson reading their work were recently uploaded online. Both are teachers at Discovery Center for Little Scholars HS/EHS.

“I’ve been storytelling for years,” said Haynes, author of Ten Little Pennies for Some Bubble Gum. “I realize the benefit of telling stories, because it helps children’s language.”

“Reading is a great way to help children develop their imagination and strengthen their confidence,” said Tolson, author of Little Hands.

Haynes crafted her first book to the tune of “One Little, Two Little, Three Little Indians … ,” which follows children who acquire 10 pennies, go to a store, pick out and buy some bubble gum, and enjoy it. “I want purple, blue, yellow, green … pink … red … Ten little pennies for some bubble gum,” sang Haynes, mother, grandmother and 30-year HS/EHS employee.

“The children always ask for an encore,” she added. “That’s when you know you have a good story.”

“When you were born, you had such little hands,” read Tolson. “Your little hands aren’t so small now. Your fingers are almost as long as mine. You’ve grown so much, with much more to go, but you can always hold my hand, and my love for you will forever grow.”

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Mariah Tolson, Head Start/Early Head Start teacher, reads from her book, Little Hands, to a quiet audience of one.“The book is about how fast children grow up,” said Tolson, mother and foster mother. “The purpose is to let parents talk to their children about how much they’ve grown, and to let the child know ‘I see you’ and really care about you.”

In Tolson’s second book, Your Colors which was published this year, the author affirms children through the introduction of yoga.

“I want parents to be engaged with their child about yoga as a calming mechanism,” she offered. “The book is a yoga guide. At the end, it has affirmations like, ‘I am safe. I am enough.’ Hearing your child say the words, and your child hearing you say them is a good thing and helps promote healthy relationships.”

Haynes’ second book, Mystery Socks, is based on her poem by the same name. The book, which is currently in production, tells of a quest to find a missing sock.

“Everyone is looking for the sock, which is hiding outside,” Haynes informs. “The police become involved in looking for the sock, and one little boy becomes Super Sock Finder.”

“We are so proud of Mrs. Haynes and Ms. Tolson,” said Heidi Eichenseer, Discovery Center coordinator. “It is important to promote literacy with little children and to share the accomplishments of our teaching staff. We value it when our teachers are engaged in ongoing professional endeavors and development. More information can also be found on our Head Start 2 Success Facebook page.”

Even in this digital age, there is still much value in holding a physical book and reading, noted Haynes.

“When little ones see someone actually holding a book in their hands, they gravitate to it, to the activity and to you,” she continued. “Nothing can substitute for a book in your hands.”

The SIUE Head Start/Early Head Start Program serves more than 860 families and children birth through age five, including children with special needs, throughout St. Clair County. The program also provides services to expectant mothers. The program is housed in 12 early childhood centers, seven managed directly by SIUE staff and five collaborations. The program includes a rigorous school readiness program and provides comprehensive services, such as health/ dental screenings and family engagement and support activities.

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