Literacy Milestone: Utter Satisfaction with the Latest Installment of a Favorite Series

LiteracyMilestoneAThe newest installment of Rachel Renee Russell's Dork Diaries series, Tales from a Not-So-Happy Birthday, was released last Tuesday. Being a sucker for books, I had acceded to my daughter's request that I pre-order it. It arrived while she was at school. I put it in the car so that she would have the earliest possible access. [The day could come when I would take a new book to her at school, but this was not that day.]

She loves her after-school care, and I always have trouble getting her to leave. But not last Tuesday. As she started her usual complaining I interrupted with: "Would it make a difference if the new Dork Diaries book was in the car?" She didn't even respond verbally. But she was in that car more quickly than ever before. [Side note: if authors that she loves could have new releases every week, we would never again be late for piano lessons. But it would be expensive.]

DorkDiaries13She read in the car on the way to and from piano. She stayed in the car for a while, reading, when we got home, and then settled herself in cozily on the couch under a blanket. She even took the book with her to the bathroom. She did not stop reading until Tales from a Not-So-Happy Birthday was finished. My husband and I were at the time watching Game 3 of the American League Championship Series. We are big Red Sox fans. She would interrupt periodically to say things like "This is SO good!" or "I can't BELIEVE it!". She even displayed mild irritation when we leapt up from the couch to celebrate Jackie Bradley, Jr.'s grand slam, because we were breaking her concentration. 

Soon enough, she finished the book. She closed it with satisfaction, declared it now to be her "favorite book", and added: "It's even better than the iPad." High praise indeed! In truth, she hasn't even looked at, or asked for, her tablet in several weeks. This I consider a parenting win, one that I am grateful for every day. But I was still pleased to hear her declare that a book was better. 

She's been excited about the arrival of new books before, of course. I think what stood out about this incident was how well the book itself lived up to her expectations. She immediately started pressing me to read it, something that she doesn't usually do. 

I suppose this isn't really a milestone. It's more an excuse to share with you how happy it made me to see my daughter so thrilled by, so immersed in, a book. Thank you Rachel Renee Russell. While I certainly enjoyed that Red Sox game, what will stay in my memory far longer is my satisfaction in looking over at her, curled up under her blanket, beaming with happiness. THIS is what growing bookworms is all about. 

© 2018 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook


Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: October 19: Halloween #PictureBooks, #DigitalReading + #RealFriends Sequel

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include #BookLists, #CharterSchools, #DigitalReading, #EdPolicy, #GraphicNovels, #GrowthMindset, #Halloween, #Introversion, #JoyOfLearning, #JoyOfReading, #KidLitCon, #MentalHealth, #PictureBooks, #Retention, #SchoolFunding, #ScreenTime, #ShannonHale, libraries, parenting, and reading.

Top Tweets of the Week

KIDLIT_con_poster_final_web_smLook Who’s Coming to ! Some excellent additions to the attendee list. Talk w/ bloggers, authors, librarians + more March 22-23 2019 in Providence, RI https://t.co/HfX00RfHOj

Lunch Session: All About Multicultural Children’s Book Day , organized by + |

Book Lists + Awards

The Awards are now accepting 2018 / submissions |

PomegranteWitchBest (an Entirely Subjective ) from

Down to Earth Publications for |

Events, Programs + Research

for 2 Washington DC schools!!!!!!!! | urges people to help students at two high-poverty by purchasing their requested books:

Study: story-listening shows promise as an intervention for people living with – This certainly sounds reasonable to me! |

New Neighborhood Data on , Prisons, and Poverty | Kids growing up in neighborhoods w/ more single parent homes are less likely to move up economically + more likely to be incarcerated as adults

Growing Bookworms

Is There Anything More Powerful than a Child Choosing a Book? w/ suggestions for how we can all contribute to kids choosing to read https://t.co/7GJ07RHswK

Help from | Explanation of w/ tips for incorporating it into everyday activities |

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

BestFriendsMy 8 year old daughter is going to be over the moon at this news: 'Best Friends' Will Be The Sequel To & You Can Peep The Cover Here +

So What Do YOU Do With Found Time? Author + basks in the joys of

All Those You’ve Bought but Haven’t Read? There’s a Word for That - Kevin Mims

Why Many Are Drawn to (and Are Really Good at It) | "If you’re an introvert who loves writing, it’s probably in part because you get to work alone."

"Where is the balance ... between doing something purely for enjoyment + then extending the love of that thing to others in a professional way" | interesting thoughts on from

Parenting

ConfidenceCodeThe for Girls: 5 Tips for of Tween and Teen Girls. Between the ages of 8 and 14, girls’ confidence levels fall by 30 percent. , ,

doesn’t only apply to – study finds it’s better to encourage children to help, than to be “a helper” –

These Are The Skills That Your Kids Will Need For The Future (Hint: It's Not ) |

Why You Should Like a via | make interesting items available, then "simply stand back" + let them

Schools and Libraries

Retired : “Stop Taking The Joy Out Of School” – | My favorite "stop treating small kids like big kids" + "let kids have "

What’s So Great about ? Deborah Robins + cite many reasons why https://t.co/X2j4JhzApt

The Fight for the Best in the Country: What Got Right and Wrong by Cara Stillings Candal

From 'Rotten Apples' to Martyrs: America Has Changed Its Tune on -

What happens when you pay to get ready for ? RI is about to find out, w/ help from the via

Holding back causes later to spike, studies say. "A policy meant to make sure students stay on track, then, appears to have caused more students to leave altogether."

How are America’s public schools really doing? guest post @valeriestrauss suggests that it's more the abstract perception of is suffering, while most people are pretty confident in their own kids' schools https://t.co/umQFV3sSFi

Teachers in America: followed 15 US around the nation on a day of "frustrations, pressures and hard-earned victories"

ScreenTime + Digital Reading

ArtOfConcentrationThe lost art of : being distracted in a | Put simply, better concentration makes life easier + less stressful + we will be more . Suggestions from https://t.co/skp6HVQL2u

Strategies for with deeper understanding, some ideas from | Develop a system for highlighting + more |

Do we read digitally as well as we read paper texts? No, says "as learning demands increase and the texts are more extensive, paper wins hands down" for

STEM

I like the from , which awards $22 million + star status |

Recent paper suggests overly narrow Focus In May Hurt Long-Term. They need a broader set of skills to prosper over entire | via   https://t.co/3IaZpGgd4y

Testing + Assessment

Doesn't Have to be a Dirty Word as an indicator of + - there's a lot more to data than https://t.co/pINNv3trqg

ACT Scores Show Drop in Readiness, Especially in - Only Asian students show improved scores

© 2018 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook.


Little White Lies (Debutantes): Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Book: Little White Lies (Debutantes, #1)
Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Pages: 400
Age Range: 12 and up

LittleWhiteLiesLittle White Lies is the first of the new Debutantes series by Jennifer Lynn Barnes. The protagonist of Little White Lies is Sawyer Taft, an 18-year-old girl who was raised above a bar by her less than reliable single mother. Sawyer's life changes forever on the day she first meets her wealthy grandmother, Lillian Taft. Lillian gives Sawyer an offer she can't refuse. Live with Lillian for nine months, participating in a debutante season, and receive half a million dollars in trust for college. Also, have the chance to investigate to figure out who her unknown father might be. 

Little White Lies actually begins as an inexperienced police office named Mackie is left to cope with the presence of four white-gloved debutantes, clearly from wealth, in a holding cell. As Mackie tries to figure out their story, the action flashes back nine months to Sawyer's meeting with Lillian. The primary action moves forward in jumps, narrated from Sawyer's first person viewpoint, interspersed with brief scenes with Mackie in the jail cell. This technique allows Barnes to build suspense, and foreshadow certain aspects of Sawyer's story. 

And what a story it is: full of suspense, secrets, and yes, lies. I found Little White Lies to be compulsively readable. Although it's fairly lengthy, I devoured most of it in a single afternoon. [Luckily I have turned my 8-year-old into a bookworm. She understood and mostly let me be.] The characters aren't all particularly likable, but Sawyer is. And Lillian grows on you. The posh setting of the debutantes (country clubs, balls, charity auctions, spa days, and pearl necklaces) is nicely counter-balanced by Sawyer's much less polished manners. Here's Sawyer interacting with a man in a bike shop (where she works pre-Lillian):

"It's times like this," I told him, "that you have to ask yourself: is it wise to sexually harass someone who has both wire cutters and access to your brake lines?" (Chapter 1)

And here she is interacting with her new-found relatives:

"If there was one thing I'd learned growing up bar-adjacent, it was that sometimes, the best way to keep someone talking was to say nothing at all." (Chapter 10)

"For the record," I told my cousin, "any lock-picking ability I may or may not have acquired growing up has less to do with where I lived and more to do with the fact that I was a very weird, very obsessive little kid."

The lock popped open." (Chapter 17)

But really, I could have picked any of dozens of passages. Sawyer has a strong personality. Her rough edges are set against the knife in velvet glove mannerisms of the society set, where women cut one another down by saying sugary things that could be taken as compliments. The makes the book pleasurable to read. The twisty plot, with clues false and real planted throughout, makes it compelling.

Although Sawyer's mother's teen pregnancy is a major plot point, and there are references to teen drinking, there's no overt sex in the book. There is a blog that plays a part in the story on which someone is posting secrets written on intimate (but not too intimate) parts of her body (her face hidden). The fact that Sawyer is out of high school (via GED), and the importance of various adults to the story, makes this a book that I think will work well for adults as well as teens. 

My only complaint, really, is that I'm sure it will be at least a year until the next Debutantes book comes out. I highly recommend Little White Lies, and expect it to be a hit with teens and adults. 

Publisher: Freeform (Disney)  
Publication Date: November 6, 2018
Source of Book: Advance review copy from the publisher

© 2018 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).


Literacy Milestone: Actively Wanting to Transition to Reading More Text

LiteracyMilestoneA

I wrote last month about my daughter (age eight, third grade) expressing a preference NOT to influence her younger cousin towards reading graphic novels, so that he would not become addicted. The other night she brought this up again, even more directly, saying that she wished she had never discovered graphic novels, even though she loves them, because she thinks that reading them has made it harder for her to learn to read books with more text. Her worry made me wonder, for the first time, whether such a thing could be true.

StuartLittleI think her concern has been triggered by two things. First, she's participating in her school's Battle of the Books (quiz show-themed reading incentive contest), and is feeling (self-imposed) pressure to read at least some of the books on the booklist. There are some appealing titles on there (Stuart Little, a Magic Treehouse book, a Judy Moody), but none of them are graphic or notebook novels.  Second, her teacher has asked her to try to read (and take AR tests on) more nonfiction titles. I am not an AR fan, but I am ok in general with the idea of her reading more nonfiction, as long as it doesn't dampen her enthusiasm for reading. And although there are a few nonfiction graphic format books, the pool of these in the school library is fairly limited. 

I ran her question by my Facebook and Twitter communities and received an array of responses. Most people said things along the lines of what I've always believed, that she will get there in her own time or when she finds the right book, and that the important thing now is to keep up her enjoyment of reading. This was helpful and encouraging, and there were some suggestions for encouraging her to diversify her palette a bit (see below). But a few quieter voices did say things like "Well, it took my son until 8th grade" for that to happen. Or, "I'm seeing 8th graders who will only read Wimpy Kid and Big Nate and I worry about them in college." Or, "I'm an adult and I still read mostly in graphic formats."  And these things, together with my daughter's own concerns, gave me pause.

SmileI've defended my daughter's love of graphic and notebook novels always. I've bought her a ton of books, and checked out piles of library books. I've loved watching her curled up on the window seat reading these books over and over again. But I've done all of this secure in the understanding that she will one day move beyond them into also reading more text-heavy books. [See Pernille Ripp's recent defense of graphic novels, complete with examples of some high quality graphic novels that tackle serious subjects.]

I love graphic novels and believe that they are "real books". However, I do not want my daughter to be someone who grows up ONLY reading comics, graphic novels, and notebook novels. First of all, she would miss out on a LOT of amazing books. Second, she would struggle in high school and college, or whenever it becomes necessary to be able to read more dense prose. Third, she would eventually start to struggle with reading comprehension in testing (and say what you will about the amount of testing in our schools, she needs to be able to do it). So yes, she does need to add more to her reading repertoire than heavily illustrated reading at some point.

That point doesn't have to be in third grade, I would have said… But now here she is, feeling like it's time. This tells me that it's time to at least explore our options.

WimpyKidMeltdownThe first thing my husband and I told her when she brought this up the other day was that she could practice by reading something text-heavy but easier. We told her that she doesn't need to go directly from the 13th Diary of a Wimpy Kid to the third Harry Potter book. She immediately seized on the idea of the Magic Treehouse books, and set herself a goal of reading all 49 of the ones that we have (thank you Scholastic Reading Club) for practice. She thought that she could read 7 a day, and whip through the series in a week. She has already realized that this would only be possible if she was home sick from school for several days, or otherwise had her schedule magically become clear of other things. But she did whip through three or four of them. 

ChristopherMouseWhat I have seen her doing since then is switching back and forth between formats. The other day she read a couple of chapters of Christopher Mouse (a Battle of the Books title) on one couch, then moved over to the other couch to re-read a Dork Diaries book. She brought home Who Is Jane Goodall? and Crystal the Snow Fairy from the school library, and alternates between those and whatever graphic novel or picture book is near at hand. Now that I think about it, she's like someone working to build up a new muscle. She exercises for a bit, then takes a break with some other activity that's easier for her, and then returns. 

Meanwhile, I've been working on building up some titles that I think might be helpful for her during this transition. In the interest of beefing up her nonfiction options, I ordered a couple of the Who Is(Was) ... titles about people I knew she would be interested in. She shrieked with joy over Who Was Blackbeard?! I also picked up a few Science Comics, and dug a Nathan Hale Hazardous Tale title that I had previously picked up out of the stack.  

My Facebook and Twitter friends had other constructive suggestions, such as:

  • Me reading aloud something more challenge to her, to build up her listening comprehension. And yes, we will get back to this at some point, but we're taking a break after the very intense Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
  • Her reading something in print format that she has already read in graphic format, like City of Ember or a Babysitters Club or the first Wings of Fire book. 
  • Finding more in between books, like the Andy Griffiths Treehouse books and the various Scholastic Branches books, that are heavily illustrated by still primarily text driven. 

I'm keeping all of these in my back pocket, along with my own the thought of trying audiobooks again. But I don't want this to turn into some sort of a complex for her, either. Third grade: the year she had to give up reading what she loves. So I'm planning to take it very, very slowly. I'll keep buying her graphic novels (and science comics and so on) and helping her check them out from the library. I'll also help her if and when she wants to find other titles that are a bit less heavily illustrated, but still hold her interest. 

I will keep you all posted. Many thanks to those who have already chimed in and offered support on this topic! 

© 2018 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook


Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: October 12: #Cybils Nominations, #KidLitCon Panels and #Reading for Pleasure

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include #BookAbandonment, #BookLists, #Censorship, #Cybils, #DiverseBooks, #GrowthMindset, #homework, #introversion, #JoyOfReading, #KidLitCon, #LearningStyles, #MentalHealth, #Mindfulness, #Nonfiction, #PE, #SchoolLibrarians, #ScreenTime, #spelling, #ViewpointDiversity, parenting, schools, and testing.

Announcement of the Week

Cybils-Logo-2018-Round450pxNot a tweet, but: #Cybils Nominations are open through Monday, October 15th. Just a few more days! You can find the nomination link and details here. The Cybils award is for high-quality, kid-friendly children's and young adult books published in a variety of categories in the past year. Anyone can nominate. The Cybils shortlists (which come out on New Year's Day) are an excellent resource for parents, teachers, and librarians looking for excellent titles.

Book Lists + Awards

DragonsHalloween -themed Early for Kids Ages 6-10, timely from https://t.co/vYbX2f8eUL

This is a super-fun : 24 Must Have Books for 1-Year Olds according to |

Not sure about celebrating ? has compiled a of Literature for Young Readers that you can peruse instead

NeverTooYoungTwo New Books for preteen + young teens w/ a lot to love

Yet To Be Nominated | suggestions from

books not yet nominated for the Awards, a from

Diversity + Gender

And a response to Shannon's piece: How handles Boys Who Boo Books — | "I looked every student in the eye and told them that whatever they like to read is okay. And that making fun of someone for what they like is not okay"

PrincessInBlackWhat are we teaching boys when we discourage them from books about girls? The goal is to encourage . The more we try to tell kids which books are for them, the more reluctant they are to read https://t.co/WLZQySGw0R

Let’s Indigenize Our Bookshelves & Fully Welcome Native Kids As Readers by

This is an interesting study: “My-side bias” makes it difficult for us to see the in arguments we disagree with –

This article about by in is fascinating | Large Majorities Dislike + don't fit into the divisive tribes that most people think they do https://t.co/31RXvDQxeL

Growing Bookworms

DogmanWhy Belong in All of Our Libraries – A defense from as + "Because you see when we tell kids that a book is too easy we are dismissing their entire journey"

We are Changed Because of Our Daily Stories | shares the way that has helped grow her classroom into a community of

Growing up in a house full of books is major boost to later and levels, 31 country study finds (w/ >80 books needed to be effective)  https://t.co/93GDYIAM5s

Kidlitosphere / KidLitCon

KidLitConNoDetailAnnouncing Big Issues in Panel! | This year's organizers are +

Don’t Forget the ! Panel w/ | Organizers

[To see the other KidLitCon2019 panels being announced individually, follow https://kidlitconprovidence2019.com or @KidLitCon. I'll share again when the full program is published.]

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

THIS: Children who enjoy + have significantly better mental wellbeing + are much happier than their peers says new report based on survey of UK children

Pleasure includes anything you read just because you want to. In this post for UK , shares benefits of + ways help

BadKittyCensoring the Unsaid, OR, Damned If You Do, #%&*@ If You Don’t — "If we start removing all the books that don’t contain bad words but mere allusions to them, where precisely does that end?"

Thoughts from on one of the key ways that she makes time for : leaving books that aren't working unfinished. We need to teach this to our kids.

Parenting, Play + ScreenTime

Kids and : What's a parent to do?

were concerned that my son plays alone at . Here’s why is ok with it | | FWIW my daughter does this sometimes, maybe due to

Schools and Libraries

WhyStudentsAre You a Visual or an Auditory ? It Doesn’t Matter, "there’s no good scientific evidence that actually exist" https://t.co/EO6Q5xOANa

I appreciated these musings from on working on a + something new every day |

6 Improvements Inspired By Practicing -

Should you teach kids ? has learned over time that avoiding spelling is doing the child "a complete disservice". She shares some tips https://t.co/OmwmgwE95Z

The Problem with, "Show Me the Research" Thinking. Understanding the limitations of + accepting responsibility for contributing to moving it forward via

is just as important as any other subject, say Andrew Sprake + Clive Palmer

In These Districts, Friday Is Not a School Day. More adopt a four-day schedule to save money, retain | | What do you guys say? Good idea, or no?

The Case for Quality : Why it improves , and how can help | argues that reducing homework might help some affluent kids but would deprive poorer kids

The Teen Brain: How Can Help Students Manage Emotions and Make Better Decisions - via

Testing / Assessment

Singapore abolishes exam rankings + various other + metrics, says is not competition + each should focus on his or her own learning progress

In similar news, UK's Ofsted (Office for Standards in ) inspectors to stop using results as key mark of success | +

The Data Says…What? (Or: Why we struggle to make sense of results) –

© 2018 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook.