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23 Preschool Words Account for 96% of English Language

That’s right 23 Preschool Words!
A study of children in a childcare setting functioning at age-appropriate developmental levels showed that the following 23 words accounted for 96% of the language used over a three day period.

23 Preschool Words in descending columns of the frequency of use:

yes/yeaisgoonoutall done
Furry The Little Penguins That Could Curriculum
Email – [email protected] to get our complete FREE CURRICULUM

Shared Reading with non-verbal
emergent readers.

Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) is an increasingly prevalent option for individuals with delays or disorders in their expressive communication abilities. For school-aged children, the use of research-based language selection and well-designed AAC systems are integral to academic success.

To read more on this complex and unique study download The Dynamic Learning Maps Core Vocabulary Overview developed by the DLM Professional Development Team at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Note: These core boards should never replace a well constructed currently available device/system.


The final 36 core words have been researched by the Center for Literacy and Disability Studies and reflect words that are most commonly used in a classroom setting. In addition, Furry adds words that allow class participation for all children. Furry – The Little Penguins That Could Curriculum uses the 36 ACC Project Core cards as indicators, you are free to use any of the many varieties of cards. A full range of ACC free downloads are available at:

For example, Chapter One in Furry The Little Penguins That Could Curriculum begins with learning the DLM Core Vocabulary word “I’ and for fun Furry added “penguin”. Children learn best by playing together and we have designed this curriculum so almost any child can participate in shared reading.

Furry The Little Penguins That Could
curriculum utilizes the work of the
Center for Literacy and Disabilities Studies.

The DLM Core Vocabulary Project was initiated to determine the vocabulary that is necessary for students with significant cognitive disabilities to engage, learn, and demonstrate knowledge in an academic environment. Instead of identifying every possible word, the goal was to identify and prioritize the smallest set of required words.

The first 40 words in the DLM Core Vocabulary:

5memakeget look
10open turnstopover

The first set of 40 words was designed to create groupings of words that could help students with both communication and language growth. The words are organized in groups of 4 that lend themselves to expression and modeling of language usage.


Try out the FREE Communication Training Series Webinars

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Getting Started

  • Read Furry – The Little Penguins That Could to yourself so you:
  • Know the story and characters. Think about the students you have in your classroom.
  • Can this story help children enjoy reading?
  • Will this book help your students value each other’s differences?
  • Will the lessons learned in this book empower the children to develop friendships and acceptance that encourage inclusion?

How do I get started with The Furry Curriculum?

Start by surveying your students

We hope that Furry will make a difference to enhance the love of reading and increase inclusion, friendships, and acceptance in your school and community. We ask that you join us to create an evidence-based curriculum for all students.

The Elementary Reading Attitude Survey can be administered to an entire classroom in about 10 minutes.

The survey consists of 20 questions using the cartoon character Garfield to provide a quick indication of students’ attitudes toward reading.

We recommend administering this assessment before beginning the Furry curriculum and then administering after completing the Furry curriculum.

The Elementary Reading Attitude Survey can be found at

Note: The Professor Garfield Foundation is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) educational collaboration between Paws, Inc., the global headquarters for Garfield the Cat, and Ball State University, a nationally recognized leader in teacher training and digital education.

Let’s get started.

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Stuffed Animal Sleep Overs Encourage Reading

Homeschool learning ideas

Did you know Stuffies can help children learn to read?

Stuffies do not care about difficulty sounding out words or missing a word or getting frustrated. They are designed to listen quietly.

One way parents have discovered to help children learning to read is take a stuffie to the library and leave it for a sleepover.  The stuffie job is exploring the library to look and read and listen to books specially picked for the child. Pictures are taken of the Stuffie reading favorite books so when

Children take their toys to a library for the night and drop them off before going home.

The animals then ‘search’ for books they want to read in the children’s absence – staff and volunteers take staged photos of the animals exploring the library and reading together.

The next day, the children collect their stuffed animals and the photos of what they did during the night.

They’re also given the books their animals ‘chose’ to read.


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You Can Be S.M.A.R.T. at Home


S.M.A.R.T. is a developmental approach to teaching that takes advantage of current brain research. Its developmental approach is a critical and foundational part of learning readiness! Students who have developed mature readiness skills through S.M.A.R.T. have shown an increased attention span, ability to focus, and improved reading scores.

S.M.A.R.T. (Stimulating Maturity through Accelerated Readiness Training) integrates fun and challenging physical activities into the classroom that are designed to prepare the brain for reading and learning in a way that traditional instruction does not. Compatible with any existing curriculum, the multi-sensory activities stimulate the brain and increase its capacity to learn.

Simple Preschool Readiness Games
To Play Together With Very Young Child

Put the Rabbit in the Hole Game:

Tell the child to put the rabbit into the hole and he/she will do the necessary repetitions happily (up to ten reps, with longer and longer spaces between the targets. The path to the target will be wobbly at first but the job of starting and finishing a line is basic and fun.

V   V   V       V         V

O   O   O       O         O

Put the Apples on the Tree Game:

Draw a simple tree and have the child put apples on it. The apples will be varied squiggles for a time, but eventually round out and become more circular.

Dr. Lyelle Palmer, co-developer of the S.M.A.R.T. program shares, “The responsibility for success lies with the teacher/trainer in knowing both the content and the students and also have appropriate measures for regular feedback to all and appropriate action in response to that feedback. One of my goals is for all students to master the content to the level I have in mind.”

The S.M.A.R.T. Program integrates movement stimulation for kinesthetic, tactile, visual, and auditory stimulation to produce unprecedented results. Young children must move and some moves are better than others. Dr. Palmer shares his Reading Readiness charts with us.

Thousands of teachers have been trained in school teams (including the physical education teacher) for brain stimulation in the classroom, gymnasium/floor, and playground. A huge part of the program is movement activities that produce high levels of agility and coordination, strength, endurance, and flexibility.

Valuable Wisdom from Dr. Lyelle Palmer:

S.M.A.R.T. research has found more efficient ways to teach common knowledge for emergent readers. Young children are vulnerable to confusion in the testing/guessing environment when confronted with difficult/advanced choices. We want students to concentrate on the content rather than the process. We want to process to become automatic and unmediated. These distinctions are important for speed and accuracy. Our letters and words are tools that we use for construction.

The Right/Left Choice:
The S.M.A.R.T program does not teach left and right because teaching both together can confuse some children for life. S.M.A.R.T. only teaches right and when individuals know “right” direction. The person then automatically know anything that is not the “right” direction is “left”.

The Upper/Lower Case Choice:
Early letters are all upper case where confusion is minimal. Separate each letter and teach individually on different days and do not compare them during teaching. This rule applies to all pupils. Kids learn to read easier in capital letters. Lower case letters are presented in late K or first grade. Once young children master the Uppercase letters, the lower case is presented. Only seven or eight letters are different from the upper case forms (Bb, Dd, Ee, Gg, Hh, Qq, Rr).

The b d p q Choice:
Once all Uppercase letters are solid, B D P Q are introduced as individuals in contrasting presentations such as B b O o. S.M.A.R.T. never teaches lowercase b d p q in the same lessons. In fact, the program uses great care to not show them together. The letters b d p q follow the same principle as the “right” principle. S.M.A.R.T. strives to prevent the possibility of confusion by not adding in extra work. This creates the automatic mastery without the need for thinking about differences (automatic means not thinking about differences).

Use ballpoint pens not pencils with erasers: What?
Use ball point pens (crayons, markers, paint) in order to prevent corrections. Students can put a bracket around an error to show that they know the error, but proceed with the correction. A GREAT deal of time in classrooms is wasted by some children who spend all of their time erasing and the production is never satisfying. Knowing an error and trying again is an additional life skill.

S.M.A.R.T. uses lined paper.
The purpose of lined paper is to give the pupil structure as to where letters begin and end. Without lines anything goes and the child is unprepared for early academics.

Children will develop eye-hand coordination
beginning at ages 2 1/2 – 3 when we make it fun
to draw vertical lines beginning at the top mark
(dot or circle) and draw the line downwar

S.M.A.R.T. works to spare children arm/hand/finger fatigue from undue pressure and better control.
S.M.A.R.T. teachers may use paint instead of crayons, markers or pens. They may place a sponge beneath the paper so that pressure punctures the paper to help the child work to lessen the pressure. Taping papers/templates to the wall or easel forces the child to use the entire arm and develop control without pressing down so hard. Pencil grippers also help. Upper case letters for younger children provide longer strokes and create a base of coordination for later use with lower case letters.

S.M.A.R.T. Tracing is not practice,
it is instruction with instant feedback.

Tracing lines and outlines on wall posters is also necessary. Play “Drivers Ed” found on page 70 of Get to the CORE of Readiness.

So what is S.M.A.R.T.?

Simulating – Brains learn by seeing, hearing and touching things many, many, many times.
Maturity – Brain stimulation through the S.M.A.R.T. Pre-K program aims to mature sensory pathways of vision, auditory and tactile/kinesthetic.
Acceleration – To help messages travel in our brain with efficiency and speed.
Readiness – Creating foundation skills so the Brain Stem can perform automatic functions and the Cortex can perform higher functioning work.
Trains – The body and brain to be ready to learn

Compared to norms, half of the students in the Stimulating Maturity through Accelerated Readiness Training (S.M.A.R.T.) program achieve at the 75 percentile on formal and informal tests, and 25% are in the top 10 percentile.

Remember lines before circles!


Furry and the Stuffies are on board with the Minnesota Learning Resource Center and the S.M.A.R.T. Program. A 2011 study found that children who received S.M.A.R.T. programming maintained their reading gains through second grade, while more than half of the control students were failing again in reading by second grade.

We highly recommend you purchase S.M.A.R.T. Pre-K Program Guides CORE and MORE. Or attend the ACTG Teachers Classes!

Learn more?

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Read Aloud 21 Day Challenge

The USA has a literacy problem. Join us as we work to change this!

Literacy is the foundation for all learning, yet nearly 40% of all fourth graders in the United States read below the basic level. 60% of all juvenile offenders have problems reading. 40% of adult Americans have trouble reading.

Furry supports the Read Aloud
21 Day Challenge initiative for families.

Furry – The Little Penguin That Could is designed to be read one chapter at a time aloud. Through the true story of a Kindergarten full of stuffed animals and a little boy who could not speak a miracle happens.

And that miracle builds empathy in children, besides increasing love for reading and being read to. Fictional characters help create empathy in children. Furry and Mac are REAL!

U.S. literary average: below-basic –
Let’s become a nation of readers again instead of screentime

Put it all together, and what do you get? Our average literacy score of 270 (global literacy rate: 273) out of 500 puts U.S. adults at Level 2, or basic, literacy. What’s the latest US Literacy Rate

According to a 2018 survey of American families, only 30 percent of parents reported reading aloud to their kids for at least 15 minutes a day. Yet reading together aloud for only 15 minutes a day creates immense rewards for children and their families.

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How Stuffies Help Children Learn

Cuddle Up Challenge

Furry uses Stuffies as bridges
to help remember new learning

Furry encourages Stuffie Study Buddies

It is free! EMAIL US

A Stuffie becomes the connection in the non-training settings and an educational Emotional Support Partner. Some children may work hard to learn something at home or school and they are incapable of using that new learning in another location. Generalization refers to the transfer of what is learned in one setting to another setting without explicit teaching in the second transfer setting. A Stuffie with a light scent (essential oil) that appeals to the child can become a bridge “common stimuli” between classrooms, or home and school to help connect to new learning.

Reading Furry – The Little Penguins That Could allows all children to interact:

For the word “I” non-verbal children can use a chosen movement to indicate “I” (blink, sound, or tap body).
For “penguin” all children flap their little wings or ASL sign penguin. Verbal children can say the word, sign, and/or flap. In this process, all children will be moving together creating acceptance for children who may not have more refined motor development.

Each chapter lesson builds on learning through friendships, fun, and laughing together!

Furry uses Stuffies to play and to learn!
Furry loves to play “Red Light, Green Light”

Grab a Stuffie and Ready, Set, Go for a game of Red Light Green Light. Partner participation, movement and laughter go along with two words “go” and “stop”. Over time, Furry adds “Yellow Light”, “Yield”, or “Slow” with children as they practice using listening ears, watchful eyes, or supporting peers in play as they learn the words.

While playing Red Light Green Light Furry introduces:
– Street traffic signs and lights.
– American Sign Language.
– ACC Picture words
– Braille dots
30 chapters of FUN FREE curriculum progress.

Furry encourages Stuffie Study BuddiesSIGN UP TO GET OUR FREE CURRICULUM

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Family Fun Interactive Reading Strategies

Shared Reading

Quick Ways to Include Your Children in Shared Reading

Improve reading for emergent, beginning and conventional readers

Ann Yurcek, Jodee Kulp and Marcia Chambers are offering our 2020-2021 public school Furry The LIttle Penguins That Could curriculum FREE TO FAMILIES during this time of social distancing – SIGN UP TODAY! No strings attached!


Page-turning ideas, you can ask your child to:

  • Signal to turn the page
  • Turn the page
  • Provide the click to change the page
  • Provide the swiping motion.
  • After you have read the story once aloud and talked about the chapter, read the chapter again.
  • When you reach a word you and the child are practicing, keep your finger in place, pause, and allow the child to indicate the word with a sign, blink, click, breath or motion you have selected. Please do not do this with emergent readers as it will confuse their thinking process and the flow of listening to the story.
  • Act out the story as it unfolds and take turns doing what the characters are doing.
  • Pick an empowerment game card (FREE CURRICULUM FOR FAMILIES) Select ‘penguin’ or any other word you choose and say, “Look at this word. I will say the sounds in the word. You can say them in your head. Can you put a picture in your head?” More ideas available:
  • As you read, glide your finger under the word.
  • Provide a penguin as a prop for the child and each time you find the word penguin encourage the child to move the penguin.
  • Focus on Interest. If a chapter in Furry – The Little Penguins That Could pique an interest – take a field trip online to find more books on that subject.

Encouraging families to read together

  • Growing Book By Book offers excellent ideas to share with families. One of Furry’s favorite reading times besides bedtime is the family dinner time. There is even a book club!
  • Listen to audiobooks instead of watching television for a week.
  • Create a family reading time and ask your child’s opinion about what he or she is reading.

Promote and encourage a reading culture in your community.

  • Check out 25 Ideas to Motivate Young Readers – Arrest that book, musical books, stand up – these ideas are worth checking out.
  • Host a “Once a Month Evening Read-In” Choose a book, add some pizza or popcorn.
  • Students can bring Stuffies and wear pjs.
  • Invite parents, community members, local television, author, or local sports figures to be mystery readers.
  • Unveil the book for next month during the read-in.
  • Run a “Get Caught Reading Raffle” – every time a teacher ‘catches’ a student reading the student gets a ticket and goes into the draw for a weekly prize.
  • Have a book drive for your local police station of children’s books so they have a selection of books for children in crisis.
  • Raise money with a Read-a-Thon Instead of spending time selling overpriced fundraising products, students focus on reading. Students commit to completing 10 reading sessions, ranging from 10-30 minutes a day for 10 days. They can choose any book they want to read. Readers build personal Read-a-thon pages that they share with friends and family using social media, email or text. Those friends and family are asked to support the reader by making a one-time online donation.
  • Check out Kids, Communities, and Cops
  • Create an online book club
  • Host a community book swap where every book is free to trade and the remaining books are given to local non-profit, hospital, clinics or other places people may be sitting and waiting.
  • Create an escape place for children to chill out and read when overwhelmed or need a break time.
  • Check out 5 fun ways to get students to read aloud:
  • Download free lessons including a free homework pass
  • Have children join Storybird to write their own books
  • Launch young readers with Reading Rockets
  • Challenged readers check out Learning Ally
  • Join the Little Free Library program. Little Free Libraries inspire a love of reading, build community, and sparks creativity by fostering neighborhood book exchanges around the world. If you have public transportation set up your Little Free Library near the bus or train stop.

Let’s Go!

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Stuffies Help Children With Emotional Development

Cuddle Up Challenge

Stuffie Emotional Support Partners
connect bridges between children’s hearts and minds?

Think about your own comfort item as a child. Was it a blankie or a stuffie or both?

by Jodee Kulp

Emotional Development of a child provides confidence and strength as an adult. Healthy positive relationships without trauma allow children to develop compassion, empathy, and an understanding of right and wrong. They learn to trust.

Stuffies are filled with what Furry the Penguin calls “Stuffun-La-Muffins.”

Stuffies provide unbiased consistency by simply being available as a silent emotional support partner.

Emotional Support Partners are important in the development of children and actually help build skills in emotions, language, social skills and belief in the impossible.

Here are 4 ways a beloved Stuffie helps a child develop emotionally.


  1. Stuffie touch is powerful and cuddling with a soft Stuffies give children the touch of a friend. Children cuddle into the warmth and softness. Healthy soft touch provides a sense of peace.
  2. Stuffies are calming. Stuffies can help children calm and soothe when life is hard. Stuffies can help distract from a painful experience or give a child courage to face a procedure. They can also become the training wheels to love a pet or as Furry did to connect with other children.
  3. Stuffies help self-soothe. Stuffies help a child self-soothe without the help of mom or dad or grandparents. Stuffies are a source of stress relief. Stuffies give emotional well being when life can be scary, strange or just new.
  4. Stuffied encourage development of empathy and compassion. Stuffies are loveable and children connect to them.


  1. Stuffies whisper nice things to children and help them work out unsolved problems by speaking the problem aloud plus children whisper nice things back to Stuffies. They practice positive and loving speech.
  2. Stuffies listen. Stuffies know how to remain quiet when a child is talking and not step on their thoughts or words. You can tell a story to a stuffie and they pay attention to every word.
  3. Stuffies are available. Stuffies never ignore a child when a child needs comfort. Stuffies do not take time to watch a sports show, talk on the phone, play video games or look at their cell phones. Unless Stuffies are pretending they are usually not busy with laundry, or work, or cleaning.
  4. Stuffies understand what you are saying. Stuffies know and understand the language of each special child.


  1. Stuffies understand acceptance. Stuffies help children test emotions. Sometimes we are kissed, pulled, and dropped. Stuffies are positive and they help increase the positive.
  2. Stuffies practice life skills. Stuffies are fed and put to bed. Stuffies play doctor and dentist, they ride buses, and trains, and go to school. They help build the responsibility of caring for another thing, remembering to pick it up and keeping track of a Stuffie so you do not lose your friend. Stuffies usually need care and attention daily especially in the early morning and going to bed times.
  3. Stuffies go places. Stuffies become the transitional object that allows a child to feel safe and connected in new or more challenging environments (doctors, hospitals, visiting others). Stuffies feed imaginations and are great at pretending.
  4. Stuffies are friends. Stuffies are friends that love you just for being you in all your good behavior and behavior others may not understand. Stuffies are often a child’s first playmate or the playmate available when friends return home.


  1. Stuffies provide possibilities. We can’t tell you why or how, but when a Stuffie becomes REAL to a child it increases – confidence, courage, and creativity.
  2. Stuffies create goal setting. Children learn to plan new events with stuffies. They can practice their events and then be more confident when working toward the goal. Stuffies encourage children to try new things.
  3. Stuffies reach inside. Somehow a Stuffie reaches the kindness of the heart of a child and from that kindness of Stuffun-la-Muffins – the child’s lovely heart emotions for nurturing another also grow.
  4. Stuffies are conversation starters. Stuffies help children say things they may be afraid to say alone and in Furry the Penguin’s case, started a whole Kindergarten talking with a a little boy who did not have words in school.


Visit Furry The Penguin Shoppe
Click photo to purchase.

Furry The Penguin
is a Member of the Aurora
Sweet and Softer Collection.

9.5″ PERKY PENGUIN –“Mac named him, FURRY”
Silky soft and sweet to the touch!


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Furry the Little Penguin – Shared Reading Curriculum

Developed by Marcia Chambers,
Ann Yurcek, Jodee Kulp, Jeff Peterson, Mac, his friends,
and all the Kindergarten Stuffies.

Read Together with Shared Reading

Furry – The Little Penguins That Could is designed to be a Shared Reading opportunity for children in schools, day programs, and homes. Children learn through play. Furry is playful, can be silly, and meant to be enjoyed. Shared reading creates a sense of togetherness in the classroom or at home. It empowers children to become peers and support partners. Shared Reading is an interactive reading experience that happens when students share reading a book while supported and guided by a teacher, friend, or caregiver.

The “Reader” models reading with expression and fluency. The child connects as he or she communicates with the story. As you will learn in Mac’s life, he connected through a stuffed penguin. Shared reading supports and encourages emerging readers to participate while listening and understanding the story.

The Furry -The Little Penguins That Could Shared Reading Curriculum is designed to enhance the love of reading through listening, playing, and participating with others.

We have worked hard to create a curriculum that includes almost ALL children.

The thirty chapters in this 204-page book stand-alone or can be read together. Each chapter is between 4-15 minutes of reading. Written above the reading level of many 3 to 8-year-olds, shared reading of this 30 chapter, fully illustrated book allows children to participate in a challenging reading experience regardless of ability. Children will get a sense of accomplishment. Main Readers will discover each curriculum chapter is filled with ideas to create a classroom that bridges friendships, promotes acceptance of differences, and includes everyone.

Furry provides chapter videos and links to help the main readers develop skills. We offer creative learning ideas for art projects, listening, talking, singing, movement, and playing games to build a love of reading.

Furry is a true story about a real child.
The story reaches out to all ages and stages of readers.

The Furry curriculum is designed for children ages 3-8 in three developmental reading levels:
1. Emergent readers.
2. Beginning conventional readers.
3. Conventional readers.

Emergent readers are individuals beginning to grasp the basic concepts of book and print.

Shared reading of this book with emergent readers is engaging and multi-sensory. If a child is showing interest, asking a question, or making a statement take the time to engage the child

Emergent readers are encouraged to:

  • Talk about the story.
  • Look and talk about the picture.
  • Enjoy the reading experience.

Emergent readers are learning the alphabet.
Research has shown that learning the UPPERCASE letters first, which have more variation leads to better understanding and allows for the transition to learning lowercase letters while developing many phonological awareness skills. These skills include recognizing phonemes (sounds that each letter makes), syllables, and rhyme. As they progress they begin to learn sound/symbol relationships starting with consonants and short vowels. This is why many emergent reader books contain CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) words, rhyming words and high-frequency words (Dolch/Fry words).

When searching for books for early emergent readers look for concepts of interest to the person, large print with wider spacing, natural language and picture support of the story. Often these books have carefully controlled text, repetitive patterns, and limited text on a page. Furry – The Little Penguins that Could is an introduction to a larger more robust reading experience to encourage children to develop the love of reading and listening to reading.

Children move towards a more conventional understanding of literacy as they have a means to interact and communicate.
Over time the student knows most of the letters much of the time and actively engages during shared reading.

Beginning conventional readers have a grasp of the alphabet, phonemes, and early phonics.

They also know many high-frequency words. Books for emergent readers will have more lines per page, contain less repetition, patterns, and pictures. Again focus on books that hold the child’s interest to make deeper discoveries and create a love for reading.

Beginning conventional readers may share in some of the reading as they recognize a word, number, or symbol they already know. Recognizing and sharing is a time of celebration for accomplishments.

Furry has created games to play to encourage enjoyment for beginning conventional readers.

Conventional readers are able to read, decode, and write.

Furry’s wish for you is that he and all his friends with their adventures and antics will bring you a joy-filled reading experience. Our team of educators, parents, adults challenged with disabilities, and a curriculum designer have worked tirelessly to bring you an exciting and fun curriculum to include all children.

The chart below has been adapted from the Literacy For All Instructions in Canada – For more information visit:

Download the Curriculum Overview