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Posts from December 2010

Five Years at Jen Robinson's Book Page

Byear5c Today is the fifth anniversary of the day that I started Jen Robinson's Book Page. I remember exactly where I was, sitting on the couch in our old rental duplex (2 moves ago) with the computer on my lap, figuring I'd give this whole blogging thing a try. [Image credit Guide to Web Clip Art]

I never would have though that I'd still be here blogging five years, 1935 posts, and ~470,000 page views later (so says Typepad). But it's funny. When I look back on my early posts, I find that what I'm trying to do with this blog hasn't changed much at all. In the first couple of weeks I published:

In January of 2006 I published my first children's book reviews, made lists of "comfort books", and highlighted a range of children's literacy and reading topics. So, yes, I think I've stayed pretty true to my blog's roots over these five years. I still focus on children's literacy news and organizations, children's books, and the joys of reading.

Oh, I've branched out here and there, participating in cross-blog efforts, like the Cybils, BooklightsKidlitosphere Central, Mother Reader's 48 Hour Book Challenge, Kidlitcon, Share a Story/Shape a Future, and (a while back) the Winter Blog Blast Tours and Readergirlz. I've started working together with Terry Doherty and Carol Rasco on the literacy roundups. I've published quite a few reviews. I've become active on Twitter. I created an email newsletter version of the blog. Etc..

I've found it necessary to refine my focus (this is a recurring activity), deciding that interviews and giveaways weren't my thing, and honing in on the particular sub-categories of books that most interest me. But still, I'm pleased when I see that the things that were important to me when I started the blog remain important to me today.

What's changed the most, in terms of my blog, is that I no longer feel like I'm one person sitting on the couch sharing my thoughts out into the world. I feel instead like I'm part of a community of people who care about children's books and growing bookworms. And I've become a person who has friends (whether I've met them in person or not) all over the world who share these same interests. What an amazing gift!

Not to mention the other gifts that my blog has given me, like:

  • The chance to go to Kidlitcon every year.
  • The stacks of books.
  • The opportunities to meet and chat with authors.
  • The chance to make a difference to organizations like RIF and Reach Out and Read.

The blog has been a bit on the back burner for me this year, following the birth of my daughter (10 weeks early) in April. Ironic, that having a child of my own makes me less able to review and discuss children's books, but that's life, and I wouldn't have it any other way. (Growing a bookworm of my own is changing how I blog in other ways, but that's a topic for another post.)

But even when I don't have the time that I would like to spend on my blog, rest assured that it's never far from my heart. And it's comforting to know that the friends that I've made over these five years are still out there, ready to talk books and growing bookworms with me when I'm able to pop in.

My thanks to everyone who has stopped by Jen Robinson's Book Page these past five years (or followed me on Google Reader, or Twitter, or Facebook, or wherever). You've all changed my life for the better, and I am grateful. Wishing you all a joyful holiday season, and lots of great books in 2011.

Children's Literacy and Reading News Roundup: Mid-December Edition

JkrROUNDUPThe mid-December children’s literacy and reading news round-up, brought to you by Jen Robinson’s Book Page, Scrub-a-Dub-Tub, and Rasco from RIF is now available at the Reading Tub. Over the past couple of weeks Terry Doherty, Carol Rasco, and I have collected plenty of content for you about literacy & reading-related events; literacy and reading programs and research; and suggestions for growing bookworms.

This particular roundup is an interesting mix of heart-warming (like the 9-year-old who started a letter-writing campaign to get his community a bookstore) to the depressing (US rankings in world-wide literacy statistics). But like Terry, I especially liked the suggestion Anita Silvey in the Washington Post to make a book the FIRST gift that each child unwraps on Christmas morning (A Book on Every Bed). I'm going to try to remember that one for when Baby Bookworm is old enough to open presents (and, well, sleep in a bed). I did just order us a copy of The Night Before Christmas, but I won't wait until Christmas morning to read it, of course.

One more feel-good article came my way today, too late for the full roundup, via Jenny Schwartzberg. Vanessa McCray of the Traverse City Record-Eagle has a feature piece about a new project launced by The Big Box of Books project "targets students who are struggling with reading and whose families may not be able to afford a well-stocked home library. Participants receive a box of six age-appropriate books. For the pilot project, the titles centered on a heroes theme." Participating families make a pledge to read together for at least 15 minutes a day.

I also enjoyed this Teacher Magazine book report about an upcoming book for teachers focused on how to get kids fired up about reading. "In her latest book, author and documentarian Kathleen Cushman takes an inventive approach to exploring the question of how educators can better engage and inspire students: She asks kids. In writing Fires in the Mind, Cushman worked with 160 “ordinary teenagers” assembled by the nonprofit What Kids Can Do to examine how and why young people become interested and often acquire impressive skills in particular projects and activities, whether in school or out."

Familyofreaders Also not to be missed is this School Library Journal interview with Roger Sutton and Martha V. Parravano about their new book: A Family of Readers. Here's a snippet: " We spend a lot of time trying to get people who don't read to read—or don't read as much as we want them to—but we need to pay attention to the people who do read. And this book is for people who themselves love to read." I already love this book (thanks, Col!), even though I haven't really had a chance to sit down and read it yet.

That's all for today (though I just shared a bunch of other stuff on Twitter). Carol may be chiming in later this month with some final literacy and reading thoughts for the year. But if she doesn't have time, we will certainly understand, because she's deep in the midst of a fight for RIF's future funding. As Terry said, "We love having Carol, but there are millions of children who need her passion and all that RIF has to offer … not to mention a bit of a holiday for Carol, too." In any case, Terry and I will be back with a roundup shared across our two blogs in mid-January.

Wishing all of our literacy community friends a joyful and book-filled holiday.

Children's Literacy and Reading Roundup: Early December Edition

JkrROUNDUP The early December children’s literacy and reading news round-up, brought to you by Jen Robinson’s Book Page, Scrub-a-Dub-Tub, and Rasco from RIF is now available here. Over the past couple of weeks Terry Doherty, Carol Rasco, and I have collected plenty of content for you about literacy & reading-related events; literacy and reading programs and research; and suggestions for growing bookworms.


WBBT-2010 The 2010 Winter Blog Blast Tour is going on this week, hosted by Colleen Mondor of Chasing Ray. The WBBT is a week-long series of in-depth author interviews, spread across a collection of blogs. Colleen and the other interviewers work together to ensure a diverse pool of participating authors and genres. I think that the WBBT represents the best of what blogging can be. Do check it out. Colleen will be maintaining direct links to all of the interviews, with quotes, here. [WBBT logo to the left designed by Sarah Jamila Stevenson]

I-can-read-meme2 Also ongoing is the December I Can Read Carnival | Celebrating New Readers, hosted this month by Zoe @PlayByTheBook. The I Can Read carnivals celebrate early literacy, easy readers, and short chapter books. Zoe says: "The I Can Read carnival is all about sharing finds, approaches, successes and more when it comes to books aimed at those just beginning to read for themselves, or those consolidating their reading skills. If you’ve a review, commentary, or an experience you want to share on this topic, please leave a comment on this post including a link to your piece and I’ll add you to the carnival." Posts can be up to one year old.

GORhmgraph10 Various programs out there are working to bring books to kids this holiday season.

  • I always donate boxes of books to the Mercury News Gift of Reading Program here in San Jose, a program that gives new and like new books directly to kids in the community.
  • I was also pleased this year to see that Readergirlz and First Book are partnering to provide more than 125,000 (!) free books to low-income teens. If you are involved with any programs that work with young adults–schools, after-school programs, church youth groups, community centers, etc.—please let them know that these books are available now (more details at Readergirlz).
  • On December 6th, Reading Is Fundamental (RIF) and First Book "announced a partnership to keep the current "Grinch economy" from spoiling the future for many children this holiday season. Together, the organizations are giving the gift of reading by providing 500,000 new books for children in RIF programs nationwide." More details in this news release.
  • And while they aren't donating books directly, we always like to mention the Toys for Tots programs, since many toys obviously have literacy-enhancement potential. This year, Touchdown for Tots is a partnership with the National Football League.  According to the news release, "Now through December 24, football fans across the country can spread the joy of the holidays while cheering on their favorite team, either at the stadium or when watching the game at home."

Speaking of sports and philanthropy (and as I am a big baseball fan, as regular readers know), Terry thought I might enjoy this story ... the Seattle Mariners have two seasons every year: the playing season and the holiday season. The team's owners have a very active team-affiliated foundation that works within the community to help those in need. This year, they raised more than $800,000 for various charitable programs in the Northwestern US. The one that caught Terry's eye was this: PACCAR (a global technology company) donated $100 for every Mariners RBI during the season to Page Ahead Children's Literacy Program, with the third-year program raising $75,000. You can read all about their activities (with video) here.

ShareAStoryLogo-color Looking forward a bit, Terry and a whole team of literacy advocates have been thinking about the 2011 Share a Story, Shape a Future Literacy Blog Tour (March 7-11). Terry just announced a contest to design logo buttons for this year's theme - Unwrapping the Gift of Literacy. And, as I mentioned the other day, you can now follow @ShareAStory on Twitter. [Share a Story logo to the right designed by Elizabeth Dulemba.]

Literacy Programs and Research

Terry has recently struck up a conversation with Spectrum Mom, who blogs at Books for Children with Autism.  Spectrum Mom describes how her son engages (or doesn't) with books of all sorts. She recently wrote a piece for the Toon Books blog about how and why graphic novels are so valuable for kids on the Spectrum.  "Every reader with autism is different, and no one program could address all their needs. Many are reluctant readers, some are dyslexic, and some are hyperlexic (where the ability to read outstrips the ability to comprehend). Still, readers with autism do share common traits. These include literal thinking, a need for structure, and a tendency to repetitive behaviors."

Jenny Schwartzberg recently brought to our attention a blog post at Books and Adventures about an Australian literacy program that gives books to babies before they leave the hospital, and continues to teach families to celebrate literacy right up to the start of school.

And for a much more local program, I found an article by Shelly Meron in the San Jose Mercury News (via @RIFWEB) about a Richmond program that will provide stock bookshelves at places kids end up waiting, like laundromats. Kids will be able to read the books there, or take them home. I love it!

Medallion I was very pleased to see a CBS News article today (link via @AnitaSilvey) in defense of picture books. The article extensively quotes Dr. Deborah Pope, executive director of the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation, on the continued relevance, and joy, of picture books for kids. ""If a parent pushes a child through their developmental stages too quickly, the child often ends up frustrated and behind later on," she said. "What's sadder is that they miss out on something they can never get back -- their childhood." She added, "Picture books nurture a child's ability to conceptualize."" Hear, hear!

Suggestions for Growing Bookworms

Not a suggestion, exactly, but certainly further motivation for growing bookworms, @MrsPStorytime (aka Kathy Kinney) has a lovely post about how the books we read as children become a part of us for life. This is something that I've always believed. My daughter is only 8 months old, and I already find myself referring back to books that we've read when I talk with her. I look forward to building on that for a lifetime, so that when she is my age, she won't even know which of her cultural references are from books - it will all be part of one rich tapestry.

I'm also trying to talk to my daughter as often as possible. I was already doing this, and felt spurred even more to action by this Huffington Post article by John Medina (link via @ImaginationSoup). Medina discusses research results on talking to your kids, how the number and variety of words matters, and how talking to your young children can actually raise their IQs.  I liked this quote: "Few interactions with children are as much fun as learning to speak their language. As they learn to speak ours, heaping tablespoons of words into their minds is one of the healthiest things parents can do for their brains."

I was taken by an article by Julie Williams about how kids who learn to read early don't always end up bookworms, and that kids will, and should, learn to read when they're ready and not before. Pushing kids to read before they're ready can lead to self-esteem problems and stalling out early, according to reading specialist Joanne Rossi. So, "what should parents do? Rossi, like many researchers, recommends a focus not on skills but on a love of reading and books."

And for more on what NOT to do if you want to grow bookworms, School Library Journal recently wrote, in an article by Lauren Barack, about how "bribing children to read and do well on tests isn't an effective way to increase their academic achievement in school... Even teachers are being bribed with pay incentives to help get student test scores up. Yet a recent report from the National Center on Performance Incentives at Vanderbilt University says that tactic doesn't raise student achievement either."

Elephant And finally, my friend Alex, who blogs about nature at Outside In, shared with me an article from my hometown (Lexington, MA), about a local woman who co-authored a new book about reading with kids.  Ashley Dowse reports in the Lexington Patch on "Help Me Get Ready to Read, a how-to guide giving parents and caregivers an approach to reading with children from birth to age 5", by Susan Marx and Barbara Kasok. Also from Lexington, this happy news about the upcoming opening of a new children's bookstore downtown (via @PWKidsBookshelf). I would have loved that when I was living there (especially when I was working downtown right after college).

That's all we have for you today. Terry will be back soon with a mid-month smattering of literacy and reading news. Thanks for reading, and for caring about growing bookworms!

Growing Bookworms Newsletter: December 6

Jpg_book007Tonight I will be sending out the 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 contains content from my blog focused on children's and young adult books and raising readers. There are 1318 subscribers. Currently I am sending the newsletter out once a month.

Newsletter Update: In this issue I have two book reviews (one for early elementary school readers, and one for later elementary/middle school readers), along with two children's literacy roundups (one here, one posted in detail at Rasco from RIF, and one at The Reading Tub). I also have three posts that were originally published at PBS Parents Booklights blog, one on my favorite picture books, one on my favorite chapter books, and one about not letting a focus on reading levels take the fun out of reading for kids. The last of these posts has quite a bit of discussion in the comments. Finally, I have a very short post with some Kidlitosphere news.

Not included in the newsletter this week, I also shared a post about a funding issue facing RIF, Reach Out and Read, and other nonprofits, as well as an announcement about the November Carnival of Children's Literature.

Reading Update: Since the last newsletter, I finished:

  • Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm: Babymouse: Cupcake Tycoon. Random House. Completed November 8, 2010. My review.
  • Zilpha Keatley Snyder: The Velvet Room. Back in Print. Completed November 14, 2010, read aloud to Baby Bookworm. This is one of my all-time favorite books, and held up very well as a read-aloud. Reviewed here and here.
  • Alexander Key: Escape to Witch Mountain. Completed November 15, 2010, on MP3. Nice to revisit the book from which came the classic 1970s movie. The stories are actually quite different, and I really enjoyed listening to this book. This book was reissued as a paperback by Sourcebooks last year, and is now available on audio, too. This makes me, a longtime Alexander Key fan, very happy.
  • Elizabeth Enright: Gone-Away Lake. Sandpiper. Completed November 18, 2010, on MP3. I've never reviewed this, but I adore all of Enright's books. My favorite of hers is Return to Gone-Away, which I also just picked up from Audible.
  • Madeleine L'Engle: Meet the Austins. Completed November 30, on MP3. As you can see, I was on a nostalgia kick. I enjoyed this one, which I hadn't read in a long time, though I thought that the anti-muffins chapter skated perilously close to being preachy. But I love the characters, especially Rob. And I love the grandfather's home in a former stable.
  • Rick Riordan: The Heroes of Olympus, Book 1: The Lost Hero. Hyperion. Completed December 6, on MP3. I just finished this one, and liked it a lot. Fans of the Percy Jackson series won't want to miss it. It has the same trademark blend of Greek mythology and modern middle school humor that I loved from the earlier series. And fans will be glad to know that several of the original characters make an appearance, though the primary focus in on three new teen heroes.
  • Harlan Coben: Play Dead. Signet. Completed November 11, 2010. I found this standalone novel a decent trip book, but a bit predictable.
  • Robert Crais: The First Rule (A Joe Pike Novel). Putnam. Completed November 12, 2010, on MP3. This one I really enjoyed. I like these spin-offs from the Elvis Cole series even more than the original books. The best part of this one is the interaction between tough guy Pike and a 10-month-old baby. A great mix of suspense, action, and dry humor.

I also got about half-way through Kathy Reich's first YA novel, Virals, before abandoning it. I wanted to like this book, about the teenage niece of Reich's series character Temperance Brennan, but I just couldn't get through it. I found the scientific background, delivered in a series of mini-lectures from one kid to the others, condescending. An explanation of exactly what a fingerprint is finally sent me over the edge. I haven't read any of Reich's adult novels recently, so I don't know if this is typical, or an adaptation for the YA market. If I had been reading instead of listening, I could have skimmed over this material, but it didn't work for me on MP3.

Penderwicks I'm still reading The Complete Tales of Winnie the Pooh to Baby Bookworm. I'm on the last chapter of The House at Pooh Corner, and doling the rest out in small chunks, because I don't want it to end. We're about halfway through the first Penderwicks book by Jeanne Birdsall. So so so wonderful! For baby books, her favorite right now is the board book edition of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, but I think that's because it's the right thickness for chewing. (Ironic, no? Chewing her way through that one?)

How about you? What have you been reading and enjoying? Thanks for reading the newsletter, and for growing bookworms.

© 2010 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. All Amazon links in this post are affiliate links, and may result in my receiving a small commission on purchases (with no additional cost to you).

Children's Literacy and Reading News Roundup: End of November Edition

Jpg_book008The end of November children’s literacy and reading news round-up, brought to you by Jen Robinson’s Book Page, Scrub-a-Dub-Tub, a Reading Tub blog, and Rasco from RIF, is now available at Rasco from RIF Carol Rasco, Terry Doherty, and I have collected plenty of content for you about literacy & reading-related events; literacy and reading programs and research; and suggestions for growing bookworms.

Naturally, the highlight of Carol's roundup today is the great news that, thanks to extensive and rapid grassroots advocacy over the Thanksgiving weekend, RIF and several other literacy nonprofits helped ensure the defeat of a Senate referendum that would have virtually ended RIF and other organizations. Carol has more details in the roundup and in this post. Many thanks to all who tweeted and blogged about this issue, and to those who took time out during the holiday to express your opinion to your local senators.

TYCBD-231x300Carol shares lots of other fun news and events, like:

  • This Saturday, December 4th, has been declared the first annual Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day.
  • A new edition of Literacy Lava, a free online magazine about children's literacy, is now available for download.

Carol also has some less fun, but more important, information about hunger as well as the plight of young black males in America today. Please do check out the whole roundup.

Thanks for tuning in! I'll be back next week with more children's literacy and reading news. And of course you can always follow Terry, Carol, and me on Twitter to get your #literacy news fix in the meantime. You can also follow the brand new Twitter account for the Share a Story, Shape a Future Literacy Blog Tour (scheduled for March 7-11, 2011).

Have a great weekend!