#JoyOfLearning Articles from @medinger and @biblioracle on #SummerReading and #JoyofWriting

JoyOFLearningLogoI ran across two articles about nurturing the joy of learning last week. The first was about how schools should NOT assign mandatory summer reading, something with which I agree strongly. The second was about the importance of nurturing a joy of writing in students, in addition to a joy of reading. This was a good reminder to me, the mother of a child who declares herself a writer. I hope you find these articles useful. 

Yes, yes, yes! The best ? Not mandatory. Don't send home required lists. https://t.co/gMIn95DXmh

John Warner: "As someone who loves and values books and reading and also has been teaching college writing for the past 16 years, I have a request: Please don't do that [send home required reading lists].

Seems paradoxical, I know. Why would a book lover like me discourage schools from requiring students to read over the summer?

Nurturing good reading habits is a long game, and whenever we tether reading to school, we hinder, rather than help, students. The National Counsel of Teachers of English has a list of best practices when it comes to effective reading instruction, including this: "Provide daily opportunities for students to read books of their own choice at school."

I'd like to add a personal recommendation: When not in school, let students read whatever the heck they want."

Me: I agree with John Warner 100%. I think it's fine to provide lists of titles that kids might enjoy, as a helpful tool. But to me, summer reading for kids, as it usually is for adults, should be about reading whatever is of interest at that particular moment. Comic strips, books of amazing facts, instruction manuals, notebook novels, verse novels, series titles, etc., etc., etc. 

JoyWriteA reminder of the need to maintain a joy of in the classroom + a response from to a new book https://t.co/fTy1U5sByR

Monica Edinger: "All of this informs my beliefs when it comes to teaching writing to 4th graders. These include:

  • Creating situations where students feel invested in their writing
  • That they have audiences
  • That they find joy in the work
  • That they understand that there are many different ways and reasons to write — some being completely private, some to figure out a problem, and more.

Of late my impression is that writing instruction in schools is highly driven by testing, common core curriculum, packaged programs, and consultants."

Me: Monica shares an early experience in school that harmed her confidence in her writing for years, and discusses how that experience informed her methods of teaching writing today. She also shares her responses to Ralph Fletcher's new book on "cultivating high-impact, low-stakes writing." This post really struck me because my daughter right now loves to write. But I do worry that emphasis on structure and spelling and the like will take away that joy as she gets older. Monica's post made me realize that in addition to my efforts to keep reading at home as joyful an experience for my daughter as possible, I need to do the same thing with writing. I certainly intend to try!  

© 2017 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 post may contain affiliate links. 

Go Sleep in Your Own Bed!: Candace Fleming & Lori Nichols

Book: Go Sleep in Your Own Bed!
Author: Candace Fleming
Illustrator: Lori Nichols
Pages: 40
Age Range: 3-7

GoSleepInYourOwnBedI thought that Go Sleep in Your Own Bed! would be one of those books designed to encourage kids to, well, sleep in their own beds, instead of with Mom and Dad. But if that is the point that Candace Fleming is trying to make, she has an unusually subtle approach. Instead, Go Sleep in Your Own Bed is a silly tale in which a succession of animals each attempts to go to bed, finds someone else in the bed, kicks out said someone else, and then goes to sleep. Then we proceed to the next page spread, where that kicked out animal also finds his or her bed taken. This structure is repeated half a dozen times. There is a mild surprise at the end when the final animal is offered the choice to sleep in someone else's bed. 

What made this book work for me was Fleming's use of apt descriptive language. Like this:

"Oh, w-w-w-h-o-o-o-a is me," whickered Horse. 
And he shambled to his stable, cloppety-plod.

But when he settled down--
Who do you think he found?

(next page)

"Get up!"
whinnied Horse.
"Go sleep in your
own bed!"

For a book with so little text, those are some great descriptive words. "Whickered", "shambled", "clopety-plod". And of course there is a hint in "Mehhhhh" about what the next animal is going to be. Vocabulary-building and read-aloud friendly! 

Lori Nichols' illustrations add humor on every page, from chicken feathers flying everywhere when the chickens try to evict a horse to the expression of righteous indignation on the face of the horse when he finds a sheepish sheep in his bed. She also includes visual hints of what the next animal will be (e.g. a bunch of shaggy wool that looks like a mop, in the above example), making it more fun for younger listeners to guess the next animal. She uses dim backgrounds throughout, and closes the book with a cozy nighttime scene perfect for saying "Goodnight" to young listeners.

Go Sleep in Your Own Bed! is a comforting bedtime read, perfect for preschoolers. There's enough interesting vocabulary to keep primary listeners engaged, too, and enough silliness that it could also work as part of a farm sounds unit for a school or library storytime. Definitely worth a look, for libraries and families! Recommended!

Publisher: Schwartz and Wade (@RandomHouseKids
Publication Date: May 2, 2017
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2017 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: Having Her Own Genre Preferences

LiteracyMilestoneAI've always tried to give my daughter choice in what we read, of course. And she's always had preferences for particular books, and, eventually, particular authors and illustrators. When she was younger, I would let her pick whatever she liked from the library, even if that meant a whole stack of TV tie-in paperbacks. But recently, for the first time, she identified herself as a fan of a particular genre. Someone asked her what she likes to read and she said: "I'm really into graphic novels." To me, this is a milestone because she's defining herself as a person who likes to read a particular type of book. She's starting to understand her own preferences, and seek out the things that work for her. 

This incident also stood out for me because, well, I'm not particularly into graphic novels. I enjoy some of the ones for younger readers, particularly Babymouse and Lunch Lady. But I'm not a very visually-oriented person, and for longer, more complex stories I prefer text. Shifting my focus between the words and the pictures in a graphic novel is a distraction for me. 

KnightsOfLunchTable1But my daughter! She adores graphic novels. I've written before of her love for Lunch Lady by Jarrett Krosoczka, and for Real Friends by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham. She's also reading the Knights of the Lunch Table series and the Babysitters' Club full color graphic novel editions. She loves them all. She stays up late reading them, reads them in the car, and talks about them with whoever will listen. At this point, she prefer realistic graphic novels to fantasy [Zita the Spacegirl didn't work for her, for example], but I can imagine that changing in the future. We'll have to wait and see. Right now, I'm just celebrating that she knows what she likes, and seeks it out.

The other night I left a new graphic novel on her bed. I said: "I think you'll like this one." She said: "Is there a graphic novel in this book? Then, YES, I will like it." (Awkward phrasing, but she was trying to quote the scene in Elf where he says he likes sugar.) 

Me, I like mysteries and post-apocalyptic stories. My daughter's preferences will likely evolve as she gets older. But right now she is doing what readers do, figuring out what she enjoys, and then asking for more. 

© 2017 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: May 19: Locus Award Finalists, #Audiobooks, Family Reading + Silent Reading

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. The roundup is relatively short this week because I had some travel, and wasn't able to spend much time with Twitter. Topics I did share include: #audiobooks, #BookADay, #PoetLaureate, #SummerReading, bedtime reading, book awards, reading aloud, reading parties, and science fiction.

Book Lists + Awards

DoubleDown2017 Locus Award Finalists in shared by https://t.co/zY89eSKTtP 

Congratulations! Margarita Engle named Young People's via

Best for Family Road Trips, a from

Week: Some of the Funniest Children’s Books of 2017 by Women —

Events + Programs

Read on the Fly program connects kids, books at Alaska airports  

Growing Bookworms

CharlottesWebThe Family Who Reads (Aloud) Together, Cries Together — Cynthia Platt

I’m Nearing the End of w/ My Daughter + It’s Breaking My Heart  

The Case for To Older Kids via

Why the Music of with expression Matters for Kids | https://t.co/ejkIhPa66S

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

PenderwicksThere Is A Difference Between Middle Grade and Young Adult Lit + It Does Matter  

What is the Best Way to Listen to ? suggests some sources

A fine idea: Silent Parties--How Great Does This Sound?  

Sharing Plans for Summer ! by


How Parents Can Help Kids Develop A Sense Of Purpose

To Raise Better Kids, Say No | keep them from being spoiled + nurture creative thinking |   https://t.co/deflSxzXNy

© 2017 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

Enzo and the Fourth of July Races: Garth Stein and R.W. Alley

Book: Enzo and the Fourth of July Races
Author: Garth Stein
Illustrator: R.W. Alley
Pages: 40
Age Range: 6-8

EnzoFourthOfJulyI like the previous books about Enzo very much (see reviews here and here). But Enzo and the Fourth of July Races I LOVE. Enzo is a cute little dog who lives with a girl named Zoe and her race car driver dad, Denny. The books are told from Enzo's perspective. In this installment, Enzo accompanies Zoe and Denny to Pine Cone Speedway for the Fourth of July Races. Denny will be competing as usual. And Zoe will be competing for her first time in the Kids' Kart Challenge. If she can overcome the hit to her confidence that comes from overhearing a boy scoff at the idea of a girl competing, that is. 

There's so much to love about this book. It's about how you need to have confidence in yourself to succeed, and how no one else can give that to you externally. It's about the rewards of working hard, and about how you should pay attention to people who might have useful information (even if they are not in conventionally "important" positions). And it's about how girls can, in fact, accomplish anything they set out to do. 

Of course regular readers know that I am very sensitive to books that are didactic. But Enzo and the Fourth of July Races manages to teach these growth mindset-inspired lessons without the tiniest hint of being message-y. I think Garth Stein pulls this off by keeping the viewpoint of the book squarely in Enzo's determined paws. Enzo isn't capable of thinking in didactic terms, and readers won't be, either. Enzo is just observing what Zoe and Denny do, with a few reflections on how they feel, and trying to figure out how he can support his family. It's brilliant. 

The book also highlights fun aspects of the fact that the narrator is a dog. Enzo has learned a bit about people since his puppy days, but he still has a decidedly dog-centric view of the world. Like this:

"This is what I love about the racetrack: the roar of engines, the smell of fuel and rubber, the dirt on everyone's faces, and the look of intensity in their eyes as they work on their cars to make them the fastest of the weekend.

And I also like that sometimes someone drops a hot dog and doesn't notice."

There's also a great spread in which Zoe and Denny are both qualifying at the same time. Enzo runs back and forth between them until he is tired and panting, observing: "They don't realize how much work it is for me to look after them!" You just have this feeling that dogs really think that way. 

R. W. Alley's illustrations of Enzo and his family are warm and pleasing. The illustrator of recent Paddington books brings the shaggy Enzo to life perfectly. 

One other thing I love about this book is what a great dad Denny is. When Zoe (temporarily) backs out of the Go Kart race he tells her: "A wise man once told me there is no dishonor in losing the race. There is only dishonor in not racing because you are afraid to lose." But he also tells her: " I respect your decision, and I love you whether or not you race." I kind of wanted to hug him right there. 

Enzo and the Fourth of July Races is long and text-dense for a picture book. I would recommend it more for first and second graders than for younger kids. Despite being long, to me (and I am not at all patient these days) it didn't drag on at all. Every page and paragraph was necessary to the plot. Because the vocabulary is relatively straightforward, I think it could work as a read-alone book for first or second graders, or for a classroom read-aloud (perhaps over a couple of days). Certainly my first grader had no hesitation whatsoever in assigning Enzo and the Fourth of July Races to the "write about this book" stack. 

Enzo and the Fourth of July Races is a new favorite in our household. Highly recommended for home or school use!

Publisher: HarperCollins (@HarperChildrens
Publication Date: May 2, 2017
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2017 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).