Literacy Milestone: Doing Book Reports

LiteracyMilestoneAThis one is not, alas, a universally happy milestone. My daughter's kindergarten class has started doing book reports. Each child can pick out a book to bring home in a special book bag each Monday. The book has to be returned on Thursday with a book report. The book reports are to be written in a little notebook, using a proscribed format. The kids did get to decorate the cover of the notebooks, and the whole thing was billed as a special fun treat. But I was skeptical from the beginning. 

My daughter was excited for the first book report. Her first book was Froggy Learns to Swim by Jonathan London and Frank Remkiewicz. We have another Froggy book at home, and she enjoyed this tale of a frog too intimidated to learn to swim. She whipped through the four questions comprising the book report: "Who are the characters? What is the setting? What happens in the Story? Did you like the story? Why or why not?" She seemed to feel some sense of accomplishment.  

BlankCopyBookReportBut then she got the book report back the next Monday, with criticism for not having used complete sentences, or put the words in the right place on the template (there's a lined page on the back - she was supposed to draw pictures on the front). She found this feedback as she was starting to work on the report for the second book (Love You Forever, which she had picked because the cover made her think that it was going to be funny).

And before you could blink, her joy was gone. She started moaning about not wanting to do this second book report, with four drawings and four (or more) full sentences. This is exactly what I was afraid of. For another friend (whose family perhaps read the directions more closely initially), there was never joy. The mom had to force her son to do even the first report. If you ask me, kindergarten is too young for book reports. [Please know that I do not blame the teacher in any way - this is a grade-wide initiative at our school, and I'm sure there are "standards" that the kids are supposed to reach.]

I talked with another mom about this at school the next day, and her take was that the kids need the writing practice, because they are going to have to write full paragraphs next year. And I get that writing practice, and thinking about the elements of the books that you read, are necessary skills for kids to work on. Eventually. In some way. But I feel like there could be a better way...

The bottom line for now is that I am watchful.  If I find that these book reports are taking away my daughter's joy of reading, something I've worked for nearly six years to build, I'm going to look into having her not participate. Because I feel, quite strongly, that it is more important that she continue to love books than that she does book reports in kindergarten.

What do you all think?   

© 2016 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: #Teaching, #STEM, Reading Choice + more

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include book lists, chapter books, science books, diversity, Global School Play Day, Black History Month, growing bookworms, book reviews, creativity, schools, libraries, Genius Hour, STEM, and reading choice. I also shared a few #JoyOfLearning links, with quotes, in a post yesterday. 

Book Lists + Awards

A #BookList with timeless appeal from Jennifer Wharton: Pink and Fancy #PictureBooks  #kidlit 

Read Around Town: The Dentist's Office, 10 #PictureBooks about dentists + teeth from @mrskatiefitz  #BookList 

18+ American Folktales and Tall Tales for Kids from @momandkiddo  #PictureBooks #kidlit

Review Round-Up: Books for Beginning Readers (easy readers + chapter books), January 2016, by @mrskatiefitz  #kidlit 

A good list: Top 10 (or so) Chapter Books for Transitioning Readers by @librarianarika @NerdyBookClub  #kidlit 

A Tuesday Ten @TesseractViews |#kidlit that takes place on the Red Planet (Mars)  #BookList

2016 AAAS/Subaru Prizes for Excellent in #Science Books: @tashrow shares winners in #PictureBook, middle grade, YA 

2016 @EJKeats Book Awards for best new talents announced. Congratulations to @Devas_T + @PhoebeWahl  #kidlit 

2016 Best Fiction for Young Adults list is out from @YALSA@tashrow shares the top 10  #YA #BookList

2016 Great #GraphicNovels for Teens, a #BookList from @YALSA shared by @tashrow  #kidlit


African-American Experience Children’s Literary Reference Guide (books published 2011-2016) — @fuseeight  #kidlit

Increasing #Diversity in #kidlit Reviews: Behind the Scenes w/ @sljournal "Gatekeeper" @LibraryVoice @ReadWhileWhite 

Where are the #diverse children's books? | @mumfordmumford @MPRNews  @LEEandLOW @mattdelapena 

Events + Programs

GSPDPlay, Baby, PLAY! Why teachers should participate in Global School Play Day on Feb. 3 #GSPD @GSPlayDay  #PLAY

Interview of founder of 24th Annual African American Children’s Book Fair @brownbookshelf  #BlackHistoryMonth 

Informational #PictureBooks Celebrating African American History | Joy Fleishacker @sljournal  #BlackHistoryMonth

McNuggets with a side of 'Paddington': McDonald's serves books in Happy Meals for 2016 @paperhaus @latimes 

Growing Bookworms

Thoughts from @frankisibberson on new Every Child a Super Reader book by @ernestmorrell + @pamallyn @Scholastic 

"Anytime we tell someone that what they’re reading is wrong.. we make them like reading a little less" @JulieFalatko 

#RaisingReaders: How My Parents Raised Readers w/out Being Avid Readers, guest post by @housefullbkwrms @SunlitPages 

Good advice here from @BookChook | Three Parent Plans to Create a Strong Reader  #GrowingBookworms 

Reading Ahead! How to Keep Your Advanced Reader Challenged and Interested - @JenniBuchanan @ReadingRainbow 

Why It's Never Too Early To Start Reading With Your Kids | @HPCAParents @canpaedsociety  #RaisingReaders 

Going Schoolwide w/ Reading Engagement: Start with Success (+ lots of interesting books) says @ReadByExample 

Keeping Independent Reading FUN is Critical to Student Achievement | Judy Newman from @Scholastic at @NEAToday 

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

UK author SF Said campaigns for more children's book reviews in newspapers says @TheBookseller  via @PWKidsBookshelf 

.@Amazon Is Said to Be Planning an Expansion w/ up to 400 Retail Bookstores @nickwingfield @NYTimes 


Stanford educator Denise Pope says students need more sleep, family time, @chalsuccess in @MercuryNews  #EdChat

RT @TedFujimoto: How to Raise a Creative Child. Step One: Back Off  #creativity #edchat #deeperlearning

Playful Learning

10 Ways to Make Handwriting Practice Fun, guest post by @Creekside_Learn for @momandkiddo  #JoyOfLearning

How Turning #Math Into Maker Workshop Can Bring Calculations to Life + get kids clamoring for more @LindaFlanagan2 

Schools and Libraries

Enough with the Teacher Talk- Ideas from @PernilleRipp for Getting More Student Talk (like, just ask the question) 

The Professional Books that Changed Me as a Teacher (and why for each) by @PernilleRipp  #teaching #EdChat

Tips for Parents in Week 1 of School (& Some for Teachers Too!) from @TrevorHCairney in Australia  #learning

'Micro Schools' (< 150 kids) Could Be New Competition for Private K-12 @AriannaProthero @EducationWeek 

What Character Strengths Should Educators Focus On and How? (Results from Boston study) @Kschwart @MindShiftKQED 

So You Teach a Whole Class Novel – A Small Idea to Help keep the process positive for all students @PernilleRipp 

"one of the most valuable things educators can do is to help kids accept + celebrate mistakes" @AndReaBeaty at #4OCF 

Laughter In the Library: Reading and Sharing Books That Make Kids Smile by @LarnetteS @NerdyBookClub  #kidlit

Kindergarten teacher: Don’t blame us if your kids are overworked. It isn’t our fault @ValerieStrauss @washingtonpost 

The 4 essentials of a successful #GeniusHour (1: let students explore their passions) by @jillbad @ESchoolNews 

Thoughts from @ReadByExample on how to handle #reading logs in high school (try using social media)  #teaching


Finding the #Math in Storybooks for Young Children, why and how | Herbert P. Ginsburg @MindShiftKQED  #STEM 

Full #STEAM Ahead: Why Arts Are Essential in a #STEM #Education | @mbteach @Edutopia 

Do Elite Colleges Lead to Higher Salaries? Only for Some Professions (Yes for business, no for #STEM). Study at @WSJ 

#CommonCore standards for mathematics expect students to conceptually understand math @dailyjournalnet  #STEM

© 2016 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

#JoyOfLearning Articles from @MattPetronzio + @MariaGuido + @Scholastic + @thomascmurray

JoyOFLearningLogoI've been sharing a variety of articles related to education on my primary Twitter feed, and on my @JoyfulLearners feed (the latter is a sub-set). Four that I wanted to discuss here address encouraging girls (and kids in general, especially minorities) to learn coding, giving kindergarteners more recess time instead of pedal desks, and using classroom read-aloud time to give kids "joyful" experiences. I welcome your feedback on any of these (or other Joy of Learning) topics. 

Really good article: 8 ways you can empower girls to learn coding by

Matt Petronzio: "The lack of women and girls in computer science is a well-documented problem. Now it's time for the average person to finally do something about it. In the 1980s, even when companies primarily marketed personal computers to boys, there was more gender parity in the professional field. About 37% of computer science undergraduate degrees were awarded to women in 1984; that number decreased to 18% in 2014. It's estimated only one in every four schools in the U.S. teaches coding, even though56% of teachers think it should be mandatory....Here are some initial steps you can take to meaningfully advocate for getting girls into computer science in your own community."

Me: This is a solid piece with actionable steps and links to various organizations (like @GirlsWhoCode) that are working on this issue. My daughter's preschool participated in Hour of Code last year, and I was a bit disappointed not to hear anything from her elementary school this year. She loves to work her way through the problems on Code.Org, and I love that she is learning how to think in ways that support coding. It's not that I'm set on her becoming a computer programmer, but I think that a) coding ability can be useful in a lot of contexts; and b) coding teaches you a logical way of thinking, which is useful no matter what you do. 

Breaking the Code: Unleashing the Talents of Girls + Students of Color @thomascmurray @EdSurge  #STEM @GirlsWhoCode

Tom Murray: "Will she (his five year old daughter) remain confident and continue to love her current passions of math, science and technology? Statistics suggest not... Our nation must find ways to engage the amazing talents of our female students and those traditionally underserved—our students of color, not just those in wealthy school districts... The core of the conversation around computer science isn’t about coding. It’s not even about preparing students to be software engineers or “tech workers.” It’s about expanding access and opportunity for all students, empowering them to pursue their passions and unleash their genius."

Me: This opinion piece very much mirrored my own thoughts and fears for my math-loving five-year-old daughter. It's fine with me if she doesn't end up an engineer or a programmer - but it's not fine with me for her to have those options quietly removed from her future path when she is in elementary school. I actually think that her school is likely to do fairly well in this regard, but this is a much larger national issue. 

This is true! Our Kids Don't Need ... Pedal Desks, They Need Recess says at

Marie Guido: "Why are kindergartners even sitting in one place long enough to need pedal desks? That’s a question we should be asking ourselves...Like generations before them, kids just need to get out and play. Why are we over-complicating this? At a time when we so sorely need advocates and solutions for vanishing recess in schools, focusing on alternatives that keep kids in the classroom doesn’t seem like the best money or time spent."

Me: My friend Tanita Davis added, in response to my tweet: "Oh, SO TRUE. Sure, a new gadget is fun, but guess what: RECESS IS FREE & widely available!!" I could maybe see pedal desks for older kids, especially kids with ADHD who have trouble staying still during class. But for kindergartners? This is ridiculous. My daughter's favorite time of the kindergarten day is ... wait for it ... recess. As it should be. 

Why Joyful Classroom #ReadAloud Experiences Are Essential for Young Readers by Maria Walther @Scholastic 

Maria Walther: "In this post, I’ll share just a few of the many reasons why (classroom) read aloud is essential in the era of higher standards... (Conclusion:) If we want children to integrate meaning and ideas across texts, they have to have experiences hearing a lot of texts. They need a rich textual lineage—a wealth of reading experiences from which to draw. We are setting ourselves up for failure if we put forth all these grand ideas of voluminous independent complex text reading, but then don’t offer students voluminous, joyful read aloud experiences each and every day."

Me: Obviously this post caught my eye because of Walther's use of the word "joyful". But I do agree with her on the importance of teachers reading aloud in the classroom. I especially liked her point that "read alouds spark big questions and big thinking", and her suggestion that the first question to ask after reading a book aloud is: "What did you notice?". I hope that my daughter's teachers read aloud to her as she progresses through school. Time will tell... 

© 2016 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. 

Growing Bookworms Newsletter: February 3

JRBPlogo-smallToday, I will be sending out a new issue of the Growing Bookworms email newsletter. (If you would like to subscribe, you can find a sign-up form here.) The Growing Bookworms newsletter has refocused recently, and now contains content from my blog focused on growing joyful learners, including bookworms, mathematicians, and learners of all types. The newsletter is sent out every two to three weeks. 

Newsletter Update: In this issue I have a review of an excellent upcoming middle grade book, as well as recommendations for two math-themed apps. I have two posts with my daughter's latest literacy and mathematical milestones, a post about whether kids should be studying or playing on snow days, and another about ways to encourage young children to enjoy math. I have a couple of posts with quotes from recent #JoyOfLearning articles. Finally, I have a quick announcement about my new gig blogging for the EdWords site, with a link to a revised 10 Tips for Growing Bookworms

Because there is so much else to share this week, I've left out my two other posts wrapping up other links that I shared on Twitter over the past two weeks. You can find those here and here

Reading Update: In the past two weeks I read/listened to one middle grade and three adult titles. I read:

  • Megan Frazer Blakemore: The Firefly Code. Bloomsbury USA Children's Books. Middle Grade Fiction. Completed February 1, 2016 (printed ARC). Review to come. This one is lovely. 
  • C. J. Box: In Plain Sight (Joe Pickett, Book 6). Berkley. Adult Mystery. Completed January 22, 2016, on MP3.
  • Leonard Sax: The Collapse of Parenting. Basic Books. Adult Nonfiction. Completed January 28, 2016, on Kindle.
  • C. J. Box: Free Fire (Joe Pickett, Book 7). Berkley. Adult Mystery. Completed February 1, 2016, on MP3. This series gets more addictive with every book. 

I'm reading Creative Schools: The Grassroots Revolution That's Transforming Education by Sir Ken Robinson and The Case of the Girl in Grey by Jordan Stratford and Kelly Murphy. I'm listening to The Two Minute Rule by Robert Crais

The books my husband and I (and our babysitter) have been reading to our daughter in 2016 can be found here. She just gleefully used up all of her savings on items from this month's Scholastic flyers. Her items include things like a notebook and some tools for digging for shark teeth, but also books. I like that she's happy to spend all that she has on books and related items. 

What are you and your family reading these days? Thanks for reading the newsletter, and for growing bookworms. 

© 2016 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

Mathematical Milestones: Estimating #PictureBooks

MathMilestoneIn this new blog series, I am documenting some of my daughter's milestones on her path to numeracy. She will be six in about 2 months and is in kindergarten. The first entry in the series is here

The other morning my daughter, somewhat out of the blue, demonstrated her understanding of estimation. She was looking through a stack of picture books for something to read during breakfast. She called out to: "Mom, what's three eights and one five?"


I had to go look to figure out what she was talking about. She had counted the bottom eight books and measured the height of that part of the stack with her fingers. Then she moved her fingers up to find two other same-size sets, and then counted the remaining books at the top of the stack. Then she counted the actual books, to see how close she was. It was pretty good - the estimate was 29 and the actual number of books was 31. 

I think that she picked up on the idea of estimation from two different places. First, there's an early reader that we enjoy called Gumballs: A Mr. and Mrs. Green Adventure (link goes to full review). In this title, an alligator uses estimation to win a contest (guessing the number of gumballs in a jar). Second, her kindergarten class did a math project a couple of weeks ago involving little bags of M&Ms. The teacher asked the kids to estimate the number that they would find in their bags. So she had the idea of estimating in her head, though we hadn't discussed it recently at home. 

Estimation is a useful skill, so I was pleased to see my daughter using it. Thanks for reading! I hope that some of you will find this of interest. 

© 2016 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

I'm Now Posting at the EdWords Blog

Child-316510_1280This week I started blogging for EdWords, a BAM Radio Network blog, after being invited by Rae Pica. My first post there was my recent article on Encouraging Your Child to Like Math: Why and How. Today I shared an update of my 10 Tips for Growing Bookworms (originally published on this blog back in 2007, last updated in 2011). The main tip that needed updating was a tip about reducing time that kids spend watching TV - this now more generally applies to all screen time, not just time in front of the television. 

I'm excited about this opportunity to blog at EdWords. Here's what the EdWords guidelines for bloggers say: "our audience consists of teachers, school administrators, parents, education advocates, and others interested in what’s happening in the world of education and looking for practical steps they can take". Sounds right up my alley, given my growing joyful learners focus, doesn't it? Also, the EdWords focus on practical, actionable articles will push me in a good direction, I think. 

I imagine I'll cross-post most of my EdWords articles here, but if you would like to follow me there, you can subscribe to updates my JoyfulLearners EdWords profile. I would also recommend, if you are interested in education, that you check out all of the EdWords posts - I've been finding lots of great stuff there. 

© 2016 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