66 posts categorized "Joy of Learning" Feed

#JoyOfLearning Links from @TechNinjaTodd + @LarryFerlazzo: #Teachers as #Reading Role Models

JoyOFLearningLogoYesterday I came across two different articles, both of which discussed the importance of teachers being reading role models for their students. Todd Nesloney talks about reading programs that don't work, and shares tips for educators to both enhance their own reading lives and inspire students. Larry Ferlazzo interviews Pernille Ripp, who is promoting her new book on raising Passionate Readers. Their discussion ranges from the importance of an inclusive classroom library to "do's" and "don't's" for teachers looking to inspire young readers. Both articles are well worth your time. 

KidsDeserveItMust-read for educators: When Adults Don't Read, Kids Lose | https://t.co/j8EZW5ZoMv

Todd Nesloney: "And yet, in schools across America, students are being subjected to prescribed reading programs that we know don’t work. (Krashen 2003) These programs often require students to select books based on computer generated levels. Further, they reduce reading to a task that only matters if it’s accompanied by an assessment. What’s more, they allow teachers to assign texts to students without having a knowledge of children’s or young adult literature and, most crucially, without ever having a conversation about books and reading with their students...

Here are a few tips to help all educators unlock the reader inside them that’s just waiting to get out! ... (click through to read Todd's tips)

A good rule of thumb is this: if you wouldn’t do it as a real reader, you shouldn’t ask your students to do it. OR if you must employ some scaffolding to help students develop the skills they need to grow authentic reading lives, remember, scaffolding is meant to come down.

The bottom line is this: your students need and deserve for you to be their independent reading champion. Reading changes lives. Not only is reading the fundamental skill that underpins all learning, but it’s also a crucial component in the development in a curious mind, a gentle spirit and a loving and empathetic heart."

Me: This is an excellent piece, from the references documenting why it's important for kids to read for pleasure to a series of detailed tips for educators to support their own personal reading lives (and hence model and inspire reading for pleasure in kids). 


PassionateReadersAuthor Interview: speaks w/ 'Passionate Readers' author on + https://t.co/NQOuuP4B0P

Pernille Ripp: "Yet research now shows just how important it is to be reading role models for our students (Loh 2009) and how valuing independent reading time in class changes the reading experience itself. So we must look inward before we start to mold our classrooms. We must see how our own reading experiences shape the very experience we create for students; how what we value becomes what we make time for; how what we read becomes what we book talk...

Do be a role model of what a "real" reader looks like; share your great habits and the bad ones. Too often our kids who are not established readers think that strong readers have it all figured out; when to read, what to read, and how to understand the text, and yet this is not true.  I consider myself a strong reader and I often fall out of my reading habits, I have to plan for my reading, and I sometimes cannot find a great book to read. So share in order to have them share what their reading lives look like. And step aside, their reading journey is theirs to explore, not to be a copy of your own...

While there are many things I could list under don'ts, especially things like AR, reading logs, and neverending reading tasks to keep kids accountable, my biggest don't is: Don't be the teacher that kills the love of reading for a child. Question your practices, educate yourself, keep the conversation going with your students and then continue to push yourself to become a better teacher of reading. "

Me: I've been a huge fan of Pernille Ripp's work since discovering her blog a couple of years ago. I was pleased to see this Education Week Teacher interview highlighting Pernille's new book. The interview also covers the importance of students developing a personal reading identity, and suggestions for cultivating a culturally representative classroom library.

But the paragraph that resonated most with me personally was the last one that I quoted above, about the things that teachers sometimes do, presumably without realizing this, that kill the love of reading for kids. My daughter is just starting second grade. At her school, second graders start using the Accelerated Reader (AR) program, just to familiarize themselves with it. In third grade they are apparently expected to use it, and to earn a certain number of points. This makes me quite apprehensive. How sad is the fact that I am worried about the school killing my daughter's love of reading, rather than expecting the school to support it? I'll be addressing this topic more in future posts. For now, go read the interview

© 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. 


#JoyOfLearning Links from @JulieSuratt + @MelanieBCurtin + Margaret Kristin Merga + Sky Yonehiro

JoyOFLearningLogoI realize that I share these Joy of Learning links posts somewhat irregularly. That's because I generally wait until some piece strikes me so strongly that I feel a need to share it, and to quote from it, and to respond to it. Then there are usually a few others floating about that I decide are also worthy of a more in-depth look. In this case, a piece that I read today from Boston Magazine about letting your kids be mediocre (vs. pushing them with activities and academic enrichment) really hit home. It echoed concerns voiced by a Silicon Valley teen in a piece that I read over the weekend. I also ran across articles over the weekend about nurturing grit in children, and about the importance of continuing to read aloud to older kids. As these are both topics of particular interest to me, I have quoted from and responded to those here, too. I hope you find these articles as interesting as I did. 

This piece by in is so good! In Praise of Mediocre Kids | Accept kids' own interests

Julie Suratt: "Some see these early-education initiatives as a way to give kids a jump-start, while others, including one former middle school teacher who wished to remain anonymous, think they’re simply a waste of money. “There’s nothing a three-year-old should be doing academically,” she says. “That makes kids hate learning. A love of learning is what makes them successful.”...

Naylor, the sports psychologist, sees the same thing happening on the playing field: “As parents, we’re great at supporting our kids; we’re bad at letting them feel challenged.” If a child doesn’t get playing time, or if she has to sit on the sidelines, “that’s okay,” he says. Tears of frustration indicate passion—and intrinsic motivation. Look at Michael Jordan, who was cut from the varsity basketball team during his sophomore year of high school. He managed to turn out just fine...

A friend recently sent me a New York Times article in which college admissions officers shared advice they give their own kids. A quote from MIT dean of admissions Stuart Schmill resonated: “If you couldn’t write about this on your college application, would you still do it? If the answer is ‘no,’ then you shouldn’t be doing it.”"

Me: This long-form Boston Magazine piece resonated strongly with me. Author Julie Suratt talks about her desire not to push her kids too hard, and to pay attention to their actual interests, rather than forcing them into things that don't bring them joy but will help them to get into college (whether academic enrichment activities or sports, etc.). The piece is made stronger by Suratt's admission of sometimes being tempted, or getting caught up in what other people are doing. I especially liked the quote above from the college admissions officer on activities. 

What I struggle with is the balance between not pushing my daughter into activities but helping her to be more gritty about the activities that she does pursue. She has loved karate for two years, and I think it's really good for her. Recently, however, for whatever reason I've had to push her to go to class. If I let her off the hook, in the interest of letting her do some other open-ended play instead, am I teaching her that she should always follow her whims? What about her desire to get to Black Belt?

This balance, I think, is going to be a work in process. But meanwhile, I highly recommend that parents (especially parents struggling with implied pressure to put your kids in extra tutoring, competitive sports, etc.) read Julie Suratt's article. 

Sad OpEd by local teen about how Silicon Valley culture leads to stress in teens and adults

Sky Yonehiro: "This is the culture that has been passed on to all the children of Silicon Valley. When articles talk about helicopter parenting, “checklisted” childhood or outside pressure, they are missing a crucial part of the puzzle: the children.

My classmates are always trying to do more, always wondering if there is something more they should be doing and always worried that they are missing something. I’ve had classmates frantically ask me if I’d heard that so-and-so is doing something, and if they should be doing that and more. I’ve also had classmates privately divulge summer plans, internships and extracurriculars to me as if they were secrets, hoping that others don’t do the same thing."

Me: This OpEd is a lament by a Silicon Valley teenager concerned about the pressure that she see exerted on herself and her friends by the competitive local culture. Her view is that this is exacerbated by the mindset of parents here ("Silicon Valley loves the toxic startup culture, loves the materialism of owning Teslas and loves the competitiveness that drives the anxiety and fakeness of the area. It loves its image and its money, no matter what the cost.").

As the Boston Magazine article shows, this pressure is not unique to Silicon Valley (though it's certainly possible that it's worse here than in other parts of the country). But I think that the article is worth reading because it gives a student's perspective on the pressure that is undeniably being brought to bear on many teens. All I can do is share articles like this and maintain my determination not to put such pressures on my own child. 

GritWant Your Kids to Succeed in School and Life? Science Says to Instill This 1 Thing Above All  https://t.co/vpXFnyBiqJ

Melanie Curtin: "As Duckworth defines it, grit is, "passion and perseverance for long-term projects; having stamina; sticking with your future, day in, day out ... and working really hard to make that future a reality." (my emphasis)

In other words, grit is tenacity. It's the ability to stay connected to a goal, even when that goal is far away or there are setbacks...

But when kids in Dweck's research studies read and learn about the brain (particularly how it grows in response to challenge), they become more brave, more resilient, more likely to try even harder things, more ... gritty.

Why? Because they start to see that simply doing the hard thing helps them expand. That it doesn't matter whether you get the answer right--it just matters that you try, and keep trying.

It's a lesson we can all take to heart, especially since grit research showed something else totally fascinating: there is no relationship or an inverse relationship between grit and talent. Hang on and make sure you got that last part -- inverse means the less talented you are, the more gritty you are likely to be ... which may be exactly what leads to your success."

Me: This Inc. Magazine article is a high-level introduction to the impact of grit on student success, and the impact of a growth mindset on grit. While the concepts weren't new to me, and there wasn't a lot of detail about what parents should actually do, it was good to see these concepts introduced in a mainstream magazine.

As I noted above, grit and tenacity are something I'm working on with my daughter. She's about to start taking piano lessons. Her teacher told us that kids who practice get better, and kids who don't practice end up quitting, because they get frustrated by the lack of progress. So, I suspect that the piano lessons will be a good experiment for us. Of course it's going to depend on whether she enjoys learning to play as much as she thinks she will. She's already nervous about the prospect of doing recitals, which I think means that they will be good for her, too. 

Research shows the importance of parents with children – even after children can read

Margaret Kristin Merga: "Research has typically found that shared reading experiences are highly beneficial for young people. Benefits of shared reading include facilitating enriched language exposure, fostering the development of listening skillsspellingreading comprehension and vocabulary, and establishing essential foundational literacy skills. They are also valued as a shared social opportunity between parents and their children to foster positive attitudes toward reading.

When we read aloud to children it is also beneficial for their cognitive development, with parent-child reading activating brain areas related to narrative comprehension and mental imagery. While most of the research in this area focuses on young children, this does not mean that these benefits somehow disappear as children age....

In addition, children were sometimes terrified of reading aloud in the classroom, and this fear could potentially be alleviated through greater opportunities to practice at home."

Me: This article in The Conversation reports findings from a more detailed academic report (linked within the article) by Margaret Kristin Merga. While I was already on board with most of the benefits reported in the article, I appreciated seeing them verified and publicized here. I especially appreciated the point about kids being nervous about reading in class, and how helpful it can be for them to read aloud with their parents at home. 

I do know how tempting it is to scale back on reading together once a child can read on her own. Because reading on their own is good for them, too. They need the practice, and we need the quiet. My daughter likes to read in bed to herself some nights, and I'm either sleepy or interested in getting into my own bed for my own reading. So I don't read to her at night very often these days. My husband still does, though, and I try to read to her over breakfast instead. She's seven, and even though she's reading middle grade graphic novels on her own, we still come across many vocabulary words that she's not familiar with, whether we are reading picture books or Harry Potter.

So, if you need a little extra dose of motivation to keep reading together, go on over and read this Conversation piece. And if you really want to delve into the details, you can click through and read the full research report, too.   

© 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. 


Play-Based vs. Activity-Based Summer Day Camp (repost from @BAMRadioNetwork article)

PollitasHouse_1This article was originally published on the EDWords blog at BAM Radio Network. I am re-posting it here.  

This is my first summer without home-based childcare. Although I work from home, keeping my seven-year-old, only child daughter home with me is not a good option because she is (as previously described on my blog) not very good at entertaining herself. I have work that I need to do, and I certainly don't want her on her device all day long.

Most of the time, she goes to a small nearby childcare center that is play-based. During the summer they have weekly themes, and they offer supplies for different craft projects according to those themes. But they are very low-key, and it's typical for me to go by to pick my daughter up and find the kids doing something like making a cooperative book or practicing a show. [And sometimes they are watching a movie - you can't have everything.] But in general, it's a pretty relaxed environment, and ranges from 2 to maybe 6-7 kids there at one time. She's there during the school year after school, too, but there are more kids then.

Wanting to mix things up a bit, I had also signed her up for two weeks at a bigger, more structured day camp, held at a local elementary school. There were lots of STEAM activities - science and art projects (which are now taking up considerable space around our house). There was plenty of time outside running around, themes for the different days, music, and tremendous enthusiasm on the part of the young counselors. We know a bunch of other families who also attended this camp the first week, and most of the kids loved it.

My daughter? Not so much. After the first day, I basically had to force her to go every day. She kept whining and asking why she couldn't just go to the regular place. (Because I had pre-paid, and was not about to pay for 2 different things at the same time.) The best she could tell me about WHY she didn't like it was that it was too much like school. Reading between the lines a bit, it was like school but without the free play at lunch and recess, without any reading, and without seeing as many of her friends (especially the second week - the second week was very painful). She didn't like having to go from activity to activity on someone else's schedule. She didn't like having to run around outside in the heat. She didn't like being with 150 kids instead of the usual handful.

Some of this, I think, is a tendency in the direction of introversion. But I also think it's just the appeal of free play over structured activities. When I went to pick her up today, her first day back at her usual place, she begged me not to make her leave. About six kids were in the middle of a project to make a restaurant, which was at least partially my daughter's idea. She was punching holes in construction paper to make … something. I'm not really sure. Other kids were arranging chairs and thinking about how to make centerpieces. The teachers were offering ideas if the kids wanted them, but weren't pushing them or telling them what they had to do, or when they had to finish. I felt guilty that it was time to take her home. As any working parent knows, having your child beg you to STAY at childcare is a true blessing.

Please understand that I'm not knocking the STEAM-based day camp. Everyone there was clearly working hard, and most of the kids seemed to be having a good time. Even my daughter was inspired by the camp to build a cardboard and duct tape house (shown above), on her own at home, for the camp director's stuffed bird. But for my daughter overall, even when she had close friends also attending, it just wasn't a good fit.

The local place isn't perfect. The kids don't get outside as much I would like, or get much exercise, and there's the aforementioned movie watching. But there are some plusses that I hadn't really noticed before. The kids are of different ages, ranging from maybe 3 or 4 to 10 (which my reading on play tells me is good for kids). And even when they are watching movies, they have to decide themselves which one to watch. They negotiate and cooperate, and the teachers seem to maintain a pretty light hand through it all.

So, unless something changes, I expect that we'll be using the local place for most of the summer next year, and foregoing the more formal camp. My daughter and I will both be happier.

© 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


#JoyOfLearning Links from @DTWillingham + @ERobbPrincipal + @TelegraphSci: Enjoying Reading + #Playing Outdoors

JoyOFLearningLogoToday I have three articles that are seemed deserving of a bit of extra attention. The first two are about helping kids to enjoy reading, one aimed more at parents and the other aimed more at teachers, but both full of good sense. The third article is about a British initiative in which streets are closed down periodically so that children can get outside and play, with many resulting benefits. Wishing you joyful reading!

ReadingMindWhat Works For Getting Kids to Enjoy ? | Make access easy, offer no rewards  https://t.co/3HeVU3DQZS

Daniel T. Willingham: "The implication of these examples is that books should not just be available, but virtually falling into children’s laps, or at least, visible in as many locations as possible: in the classroom, in every room of the house, in the car, and so on...

Obviously some video content is more enriching than others—Sesame Street is not equivalent to Tom and Jerry cartoons—but if children are to choose reading, controlling the content of screen time won’t do it. The amount must be controlled as well." 

Me: After explaining why external rewards are unlikely to motivate kids to enjoy reading, Daniel Willingham draws on "the expectancy-value model" to suggest strategies that make reading a higher value activity to kids, like choosing books about subjects that they enjoy and using graphic novels to make decoding easier. I haven't read Willingham's newest book (The Reading Mind), from which this article is excerpted, but have enjoyed his previous titles. While the ideas of keeping books readily available, limiting external rewards, limiting screen time, and choosing books at the right reading level are not new, I am in agreement with Willingham's suggestions, and appreciate his science-based approach.

TeachingReadingBid Farewell to “I Hate Reading”, 7 concrete tips from Laura Robb | class , choice + more

Laura Robb: "Choice. Let students choose their reading materials. Let them abandon a book if it doesn’t resonate with them. I have a quick conference with students who abandon a book to find out why. The “why” offers insights into what they do and don’t enjoy.

Read aloud every day and introduce students to a wide-range of literary genres. Read those texts you love, as your passion will rub off on students. Reading aloud also builds students’ listening capacity, vocabulary, and their experiences with literary language."

Me: Laura Robb is a teacher, author and coach. Here she offers seven tips for teachers to help them encourage kids to enjoy reading. I was especially struck by her emphasis on the need for wide ranging classroom libraries (wide ranging both in terms of reading levels and subjects). In the above-referenced article, Daniel Willingham gave an example of students who were interested in a book, but not willing to make the extra effort to go to the nearby school library to check it out. The easier it is for kids to find and pick up books, the more they will read.

I hope that Laura Robb's advice reaches many teachers. If there was more emphasis in our schools, across all age ranges, on helping kids to ENJOY reading, more reading would be taking place. It's as simple as that. 

Close roads so kids can in the street like their parents did, say British public health experts

Sarah Knapton: "Roads should be closed regularly to allow children to play in the street as they did a generation ago, health experts have said, after a study showed pilot schemes increased youngsters’ activity five-fold.

More than 500 communities in Britain have already signed up to the ‘Playing Out’ initiative, which works with local councils to temporarily pedestrianise roads for an hour or two each week to allow children to play safely near their homes.

A new analysis of the simple scheme by the University of Bristol found that residents reported a greater sense of a community, overall happiness, and said their areas were more friendly and safer. One woman claimed the project had even helped her combat post-natal depression."

Me: This is just cool. My own issue is more that my daughter doesn't have other kids to play with in any nearby homes, but if we knew that some street nearby was being closed at a certain time, so that kids could play there, you may sure I would find a way to get her there. 

© 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. 


"I'm Bored. What Should I Do?"

I believe in the power of free play. I believe that kids should have time to dream, and to pursue their own interests. I believe that parents should try not to over-schedule their kids, to allow time for these things. I have a daughter who doesn't like to be over-scheduled, and protests when she feels like the frequency of activities is too high.

And yet. Self-entertainment is something that frequently seems elusive. My daughter is an only child. Not only that, she's an only child who for quite some time had a mother who worked from home AND had a full time nanny. She is as a result more dependent than I would like on having someone to play with her. 

ImBoredWe recently had a free Saturday together, our first in a while. My daughter spent what seemed like the entire day either asking me to play with her (which I did, some of the time) and/or complaining because none of her friends were available to play. She would have been happy to entertain herself (if you can call it that) had I allowed her to be on her tablet all day, but this I wasn't willing to do.

She tired fairly quickly of both reading and writing, and claimed that there was nothing else that she could do on her own. My suggestions of building something with blocks or cardboard boxes, coloring, playing a one-person logic game, etc. were all rebuffed. We ended up spending a big chunk of time sorting through her outgrown clothes, making up bags for Goodwill. Which was useful, but hardly the creative play that I had in mind for her (and hardly the chance to sit quietly and read for a while that I had in mind for myself).

It's not that she never plays on her own. She likes to read, write, draw, and build things. She'll sometimes play with barbies or her stuffed animals. But she'll only do these things on her own for short periods. Then she's back with "I'm bored. What can I do?". 

Playdates are a huge help, of course, and I'm grateful for every single one. But there are always going to be times when no friends are available, and I want her to be able to entertain herself. Some friends have offered advice on Facebook: knitting, quilting, sewing, personal scavenger hunts (in which the items are super hard to find). One friend, Sandhya Nankani, shared an article that she published this summer about the benefits of saying "That's fine, be bored." Sandhya is totally right, and her article is well worth a read. But I'm still struggling a bit.

I'm a pushover for buying my daughter books (of course), notebooks, and craft supplies. She has Legos and other toys coming out of her ears. Clearly it's more of a mindset than an actual lack of things to do. The bottom line is that this is something we're going to have to keep working on, little by little, building up her self-entertainment muscles. I'm determined to do this not just because I want more reading time for myself (though I do), but because I think that being able to entertain yourself is a life-long gift.

I know this is something that many parents struggle with. The tablet makes it more challenging, because she is used to being entertained by a screen. [And no, I'm not ready to get rid of the tablet altogether, though I do restrict its use, especially in the car.] Being an only child makes it more challenging, because I can't say "Go play with your sister". [And no, I'm not going to provide her with a sibling at this point.] Not living in a neighborhood where a dozen kids are out roaming around and playing outside every day makes it more challenging, compared to my own childhood. [And no, we're not moving.] But I also expect that the "I'm bored. What can I do?" refrain is timeless and near universal. [The cover image shown above supports this theory, from the picture book I'm Bored by Michael Ian Black and Debbie Ridpath Ohi.] 

Thoughts? Suggestions? Validation? As always, I welcome your feedback. 

© 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


#JoyOfLearning Links from @PernilleRipp + @JoeOcalaNews + @ValerieStrauss: Reading Enjoyment and Eliminating Homework

JoyOFLearningLogoToday I have three articles to share with you. The first is for teachers on the need to work not just on students' reading skills, but on their enjoyment of reading. The second and third are both coverage of the decision by the new Superintendent of Schools of Marion County, Florida to eliminate elementary school homework and replace it with 20 minutes of reading a day. Every time I hear such stories, I want to shout them from the rooftops. But I'll settle for sharing them with you here. 

Yes! On the Need to Plan for Enjoyment "what (will we) do to protect the love of reading?"  

PassionateLearnersPernille Ripp: "And yet, while I gladly share what we do as I try to help my students become better readers, there seems to be a missing part in this curriculum conversation; the need to plan for reading enjoyment.

Why does this matter? Because our assumptions about what we can do to kids’ reading lives through our well-meaning intentions are wrong.  We have assumed for too long that kids will just like reading, no matter what we do to them in class...It seems, in our eagerness to create amazing readers, we have lost sight of the end game; people who actually want to read once they leave our schools."

Me: Instead of quoting Pernille Ripp practically every time I do one of these #JoyOfLearning posts, why don't I just suggest that if you care about teaching and/or raising kids who love to read, you should follow Pernille's blog and/or join her new Facebook group, The Passionate Readers Book Club. I'll just add that I wish with all my heart for all of my daughter's future teachers to care as much as Pernille does about protecting my daughter's enjoyment of reading. Kids who enjoy reading will spend time reading, and (for most of them,  anyway) the rest will take care of itself. 

This is great! No ! District superintendent does away with it for elementary schools by  https://t.co/bQ7qqnbXXo

Joe Callahan: "Parents of Marion County’s 20,000 elementary school students will no longer have to badger their young children to do those worksheets, spelling words and math problems. That’s because Superintendent Heidi Maier on Wednesday issued a “no homework” mandate to teachers at 31 elementary schools for the 2017-18 school year, citing research that shows young children do better in school when they are given a break from the rigors of a typical school day.

The district alerted educators of the new mandate in an automated voice message Wednesday evening. It was sent to more than 1,200 elementary teachers in all of the district’s K-5 schools. Maier said the research is clear that homework causes more harm than good...

School District spokesman Kevin Christian said that instead of homework assignments, parents will be asked to read with their children for 20 minutes every evening. Maier said the district will send out an automated voice message to parents asking them to spend 20 minutes of quality time reading with their children. And the actual type of book is something the parent and child should pick, or what she calls self-selection.

“It does not have to be Emily Bronte (‘Wuthering Heights’), it can be ‘Barbie Gets Her Nails Done,’ ” said Maier, adding that the Barbie book example was not an actual book. Research shows that when a caring adult sits together with their child reading it can increase reading comprehension, Maier noted."

Me: How great is this? I love it! I wish our elementary school district would do it. I especially love that the district is asking parents to read with their kids every night, instead of doing homework. As my dad pointed out in response to my sharing this on Facebook, if kids read for 20 minutes they are likely to get invested in what they are reading, and keep reading for even longer.

Valerie Strauss has a bit more on Heidi Maier's decision below. 

Why this superintendent is banning — and asking kids to instead by  https://t.co/t9a51jTNLM

Valerie Strauss: "Heidi Maier, the new superintendent of the 42,000-student Marion County public school district in Florida, said in an interview that she made the decision based on solid research about what works best in improving academic achievement in students.

(That may seem like something of a no-brainer, but in the world of education, policymakers are notorious for making a great deal of policy without knowing and/or caring about what the best research shows.)

The policy will apply to all elementary school students in the district — about 20,000 — but not to middle or high school students. Maier, an expert on reading acquisition who started running Marion schools in November after serving as lead professor of teacher education at the College of Central Florida, said she is basing her decision on research showing that traditional homework in the early years does not boost academic performance but reading — and reading aloud — does...

Maier said that students would be allowed to select their own reading material and would get help from teachers and school libraries. For those children who have no adult at home to help them read — the same students who had no adult at home to help them with their traditional homework — volunteers, audiobooks and other resources will be made available."

Me: I think I love Heidi Maier, sight unseen. Here she is, brand new superintendent of the district, and she just sends this out over the summer. She says in this article that feedback from parents has been mostly positive, but I'm sure she's dealing with a fair bit of pushback, too. More power to her!

If all teachers in the US focused on nurturing the enjoyment of reading, and all elementary schools replaced other homework with free choice-based reading time, I believe that there would be measurable positive results in reading scores, number of books read, percentage of students reading for enjoyment, and so on. I believe that kids around the country would be happier, and become better, more confident readers. I know that many parents would be happier, too. Perhaps someday... 

© 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. 


#JoyOfLearning Links from @PernilleRipp + @Lisa_Westman: Nurturing a Love of Reading in Kids

JoyOFLearningLogoToday I would like to share quotes and my responses to two recent articles from teachers about nurturing a love of reading in kids. Although these articles are both technically aimed at educators, I think there are important messages for parents, too. Pernille Ripp calls for helping kids learn to love reading by letting them read books that are easy for them (while also encouraging them to develop their skills). Lisa Westman makes a similar point when she says that teachers should be focused on helping kids to love reading, rather than taking away the joy by making reading a chore.

In my own post about summer reading tips, I talked about how parents should let go of reading levels and just let kids read, and how they should give kids choice. These two recent post thus both resonated with me. If you are a parent reading this, I would suggest that you channel your energies towards making summer reading FUN for your kids. The rest will surely follow. 

PassionateLearnersMust-read for parents by | helping kids to become by supporting "easy" reads that they enjoy https://t.co/pXIMgN6t9f

Pernille Ripp: "A better reader is someone who sees reading as valuable.  Who recognizes the need to read because they will feel less than if they don’t.  Who sees reading as a necessity to learning, for themselves and not just for others. Who sees reading as a journey to be on, something worth investing in.  And so I wonder; when we tell children not to read easy books, how much of that individual reading identity journey do we dismiss?

Easy books, whether they be graphic novels, books below their actual comprehension skills, free verse, audio books, or even picture books, can get such a bad reputation in our schools... Yet these are the books that keep us loving reading.  That keeps us coming back.  Those books that we devour in one sitting because we must find out what happens next, aren’t those “easy” books for all of us?...

While our job, as educators, is to develop children who can read, our job is also to develop children who want to read. "

Me: I wish that all teachers could feel as Pernille Ripp does, that part of their job is to develop kids who want to read. I wish that all of the teachers who do feel this way could have the support and tools to make that happen. What I know is that as a reader, I absolutely choose books that are "easy" on one level or another much of the time. I don't get enough sleep these days for various reasons, and when I try to things that are dense, or that bore me even a little bit, I fall asleep. And then I don't get any reading done. And so, at least for now, I gravitate towards mysteries and page-turners. That is what's working for me right now. 

For my daughter, as I've said before, I feel that my job is to make sure that reading at home (and in the car, and on trips, and so on) is enjoyable for her. The more she enjoys it now, at seven, the better she'll be able to withstand the challenges to her life as a reader that I fear are coming (AR points, whole class reads of dry classics, reading logs). But in any case, Pernille's words give me hope. I would like to see many teachers and parents read them in full. 

Educators should cultivate a love of in to prevent  https://t.co/Wjrt67KBxW 

Lisa Westman: "If (as advertised) reading is the key to preventing the summer slide; the one thing all educators must do is curate a love of reading.

Unfortunately, however, we tend to do just the opposite and systemize reading. For many students, reading is seen as a chore, a measure of compliance, or worse, something it is ok to "lie" about (read more about this here or here).

With this in mind, it is no wonder that students choose to not read in the summer. They need a break because reading feels strenuous and stressful." (Click through for Lisa Westman's suggestions for what teachers should do instead to curate a love of reading). 

Me: This article is about how teachers can better prepare kids NOT to regress so much in their learning over the summer. The reading section is only one part of it, together with thoughts on building awareness so that kids can synthesize learning from different sources and incorrectly using assessment. But of course it was the reading part that resonated for me. While the author's point in this regard is that teachers should do more to nurture a love of reading in kids (and I certainly agree), I think this is another reminder for parents to keep reading fun, and avoid anything that makes reading feel like a chore. 

I do keep a log of what my daughter reads, for example. Just a simple paper list, which I use to write down the titles so that I can then track them on my blog. My daughter used to enjoy writing the books down herself, but this seems to have gotten old. So, no problem. I write them down myself, sometimes having to dig out the books from the back seat of the car to see which ones she has finished. My job is to keep the fun books coming, and to know what she needs next in this week's series of interest. Her job is just to read. And if she tires of a series and wants to read something else, of course that's fine, too. Reading at home, especially during the summer, should be guilt-free, stress-free, and fun. That is all. 

© 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. 


#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. 


#JoyOfLearning Articles from @NYTimes, @RaisedGood, @GCouros, @NoguchiOnK12, @TimDWalk, @Salon

JoyOFLearningLogoThis week I have a plethora of quote-worthy articles related to play, homework, and the joy of learning. First up is a piece about how parents come down on both sides of the debate about homework levels. Next is a piece about how simplifying childhood, by reducing activities and distractions, would helpful for kids' mental health and development. In the third, George Couros responds to a letter published by students at a high school asking for more flexibility in the expectations of the adults around them. Next, from my local paper, a survey by Project Cornerstone (a YMCA group) finds an alarming drop in engagement among high school students. Finally, I have two articles about the need for young children to have time in school for play and recharging. Special thanks to Sandhya Nankani, who was my source for multiple articles. Happy reading!

HomeworkMythThis is a balanced piece (inc. socioeconomic side) regarding the debate + how it divides parents https://t.co/o0FXYK3pt1

Kyle Spencer: "The focus for many anti-homework parents is what they see as the quality of work assigned. They object to worksheets, but embrace projects that they believe encourage higher-level thinking. At P.S. 11 in Manhattan, even parents who support the no-homework policy said they often used online resources like Khan Academy, a nonprofit organization that provides free educational videos. The school’s website also includes handwriting exercises, scientific articles, and math and reading lessons. Sophie Mintz, whose son is in second grade at the school, said that the no-homework policy had afforded him more time to build elaborate Lego structures.

But parents with fewer means say the new policies don’t take into account their needs and time constraints, and leave them on their own when it comes to building the skills their children need to prepare for the annual state tests.

Me: This article linked to and discussed various situations that I was already aware of. But it also covered an aspect of the homework wars (some parents want it and some parents don't) that I hadn't much thought of. Spencer quotes from lower income and/or working parents who complain that while more affluent parents can provide enrichment (tutoring, etc.) for their kids, less well off families rely on the school to provide homework that they see as needed for their kids' development. I've been more familiar with the flip side of the argument, which is that more affluent families are more likely to have a parent available in the afternoons to help kids with their homework, such that homework can increase learning gaps. 

Now, what I really think is that rote worksheets are probably not doing much for anyone's development in the early grades. But I do think that the question of whether and how much homework to require does require input from families of various circumstances.  And for that, this article is a good addition to the discussion. 

PowerOfPlaySimplifying Childhood (more free , less stuff, fewer activities) may be good for Kids Mental Health https://t.co/SgcY9HLQfj

Tracy Gillett: "When children are overwhelmed they lose the precious down time they need to explore, play and release tension. Too many choices erodes happiness, robbing kids of the gift of boredom which encourages creativity and self-directed learning. And most importantly “too much” steals precious time...

Developmental Psychologist David Elkind reports kids have lost more than 12 hours of free time per week in the last two decades meaning the opportunity for free play is scarce. Even preschools and kindergartens have become more intellectually-oriented. And many schools have eliminated recess so children have more time to learn.

The time children spend playing in organized sports has been shown to significantly lower creativity as young adults, whereas time spent playing informal sports was significantly related to more creativity. It’s not the organized sports themselves that destroy creativity but the lack of down time. Even two hours per week of unstructured play boosted children’s creativity to above-average levels.

Me: Parts of this article did hit home for me, especially when Gillett is urging parents to free their children from excessive activities (and stuff) to give them more mental space to grow and develop. This is something that I really struggle with as a parent. My daughter wants to do each thing that comes up (the school play, swim team, softball, karate, playdates, birthday parties). But she gets burned out, too. I certainly listen when she pushes back. However, it may be that I need to push back more directly, too. Food for thought, for sure... 

InnovatorsMindsetThere is Not Only One Road to Success | responds to a HS student petition seeking alternate life paths https://t.co/XgAEPvJBJd 

George Couros: "Katie Martin shared this article on Facebook, with the title, “Student petition says too much pressure to succeed at Naperville North“...

kudos to the students for sharing their voices.  This is not about being soft on the students; personally, I expect anyone who is working toward success to put in the time and effort. I love the Simon Sinek quote,  “Working hard for something we don’t care about is called stress: Working hard for something1 we love is called passion.” This is not about having low expectations; it is ensuring that the students have a voice in those expectations in the first place...

Success means different things to different people, but take note of this statement made by the student petition; “Start defining success as any path that leads to a happy and healthy life1. Start teaching us to make our own paths, and start guiding us along the way.”  Yup.  I don’t know what else to say. It is just perfect, and even more perfect that it comes from the voice of students."

Me: Like Couros, I liked what these students had to say about defining success as paths that lead to a healthy and happy life, instead of defining success as one particular path (e.g. the path to an Ivy League college). I also thought that the Sinek quote was spot on. People don't mind working hard for things that they care about - they mind working hard for things that they don't care about. I am already thinking about how I'm going to protect my daughter from the academic rat race when she is in high school. Articles like this do give me some hope. 

ProjectCornerstoneSilicon Valley teens report big drop in engagement | reports survey

Sharon Noguchi: "Fewer high school students are drinking, having sex, doing drugs and resorting to violence, a large-scale survey of Santa Clara County public school students shows. At the same time, engagement in school has plunged, as has students’ optimism about their future.

This mixed picture of youth well-being emerges in Project Cornerstone’s Silicon Valley youth survey — the first in six years —  of 43,000 youths at more than 180 elementary, middle and high schools in Santa Clara County. The survey was administered last fall, and the results were released this spring...

Among high school students, the drop in school engagement was striking. It fell to 38 percent — compared with 66 percent in 2010, the last time Project Cornerstone conducted its survey."

Me: The student engagement piece was only a small part of this survey, but it was the one that struck me. In seven years, the percentage of students engaged in what they are learning at school fell almost in half. This is consistent with other studies I've seen (see this article for more on the subject of declining student engagement). It's all just so demoralizing for those of us who want to see kids finding joy in learning. As I said above, do already worry about the high school rat race.

TeachLikeFinlandHow Kids Learn Better By Taking Frequent Breaks Throughout The Day via

Timothy D. Walker (in an excerpt from his new book shared at Mind/Shift KQED, in which he describes what he learned teaching in Finland, after having taught in the US): "Once I incorporated these short recesses into our timetable, I no longer saw feet-dragging, zombie-like kids in my classroom. Throughout the school year, my Finnish students would, without fail, enter the classroom with a bounce in their steps after a fifteen-minute break. And most important, they were more focused during lessons.

At first I was convinced that I had made a groundbreaking discovery: frequent breaks kept students fresh throughout the day. But then I remembered that Finns have known this for years—they’ve been providing breaks to their students since the 1960s...

Initially, I thought that the true value of Finnish-style breaks is related to free play, but I no longer hold this view. I’ve concluded that the primary benefit of Finnish breaks is in the way it keeps kids focused by refreshing their brains. Daniel Levitin, professor of psychology, behavioral neuroscience, and music at McGill University, believes that giving the brain time to rest, through regular breaks, leads to greater productivity and creativity."

Me: I am happy to report that my daughter does have three recesses per day (except for the short day of the week). It's not quite breaks every hour like they do in Finland, but it's not too far off. If I ever hear the school talking about reducing recess (which I have not), I will have my ammunition ready... 

Kindergartners get little time to . Why does it matter? Christopher Brown via

Christopher Brown: "As a former kindergarten teacher, a father of three girls who’ve recently gone through kindergarten, and as researcher and teacher-educator in early childhood education, I have had kindergarten as a part of my adult life for almost 20 years.

As a parent, I have seen how student-led projects, sensory tables (that include sand or water) and dramatic play areas have been replaced with teacher-led instructional time, writing centers and sight words lists that children need to memorize. And as a researcher, I found, along with my colleague Yi Chin Lan, that early childhood teachers expect children to have academic knowledge, social skills and the ability to control themselves when they enter kindergarten...

Research has consistently shown classrooms that offer children the opportunities to engage in play-based and child-centered learning activities help children grow academically, socially and emotionally. Furthermore, recess in particular helps children restore their attention for learning in the classroom.

Focus on rules can diminish children’s willingness to take academic risks and curiosity as well as impede their self-confidence and motivation as learners — all of which can negatively impact their performance in school and in later life."

Me: Brown's views in this piece on changes to Kindergarten are consistent with other things I've read (Rae Pica's book, for example). But this is certainly a nice summary to share with parents newer to the discussion, with tons of links for further reading. It always made me sad, when my daughter was in Kindergarten, to see the unused play kitchen and toys, which sat in the back of the classroom... 

© 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. 


Four Recent Articles About Growing Bookworms: #eReading, Pleasure Reading + #ReadingAloud

JoyOFLearningLogoRecently, I've run across a number of articles that all touch on aspects of growing young bookworms. The first is about how kids prefer to read print books, and how research has shown that kids who have access to electronic devices tend to read less (even if the devices have books on them). The second article is a list of ten tips for parents to encourage kids to enjoy reading, written by a youth service librarian. The third is about how and why teachers should read aloud to older students, and the fourth is also aimed at teachers, discouraging the grading of students' independent reading. Each of these articles spoke to me on one level or another, and I hope that you find them useful. 

Research suggests providing kids w/ #eReading devices can inhibit their #reading - response + tips @ConversationUS https://t.co/4rbl0FOK0b

Margaret Kristin Merga and Saiyidi Mat Roni: "In a study of children in Year 4 and 6, those who had regular access to devices with eReading capability (such as Kindles, iPads and mobile phones) did not tend to use their devices for reading - and this was the case even when they were daily book readers.

Research also found that the more devices a child had access to, the less they read in general.

It suggests that providing children with eReading devices can actually inhibit their reading, and that paper books are often still preferred by young people."

Me: This post is a response to / recap of a recently published study. In addition to discussing the reasons for the results quoted above, it also includes tips for encouraging children to read. The primary conclusions, that kids prefer to read print books, and that access to devices is tied to less reading by kids, matches with my own intuition, and with what I've observed in my daughter. For instance, we have a family rule that she's not allowed to use her tablet in the car if the drive is less than 30 minutes. So, she reads. But if I would let her, she would use the tablet nearly every time.

As for print books, I've just always felt that those would be better for her, and I've never really dabbled in eBooks for her. She likes to see the pictures, and to have a sense of how much of the book is left. She likes to figure out what percentage of the book she has completed (and I would MUCH rather have her figure this out than spot it in the footer on a Kindle). She's also been passing books back and forth with a close friend, something that would be much more difficult for them in digital format. 

CaptainUnderpantsWell-done: Top 10 Tips for Parents of Kids Who HATE to Read | "Pleasure reading should be just that" + don't judge https://t.co/CLbOp7rsR0

Meredith Hoyer: "3. Forget about progress. In schools, the focus is on progress and growth, as it should be. When you come to the public library, you will notice that we don’t level our books, and that stems from the philosophy of public libraries being a place of informal learning. “My child is at an M level and he needs to be reading P level books but he hates to read and won’t read anything I give him,” a parent might say. It is natural for parents to want to support progress. However, once reading becomes a battle in the home, our best advice is to take a breath, forget about reading levels, and gently guide the child back to a point where reading is comfortable, relaxed and pleasant again. Your child’s teacher will focus on development and progress. Pleasure reading should be just that: pleasurable."

Me: I see a lot of these tip-based posts for encouraging reading, and I share them often. But I thought that this one, written by a youth services librarian, was particularly good. The above quotation gives a nice flavor of Meredith Hoyer's balanced, parent-focused approach. I also especially liked tip 4, about withholding judgement, ending with "If your child chooses comic books, joke books, or Captain Underpants, take the long view and let him/her have fun." 

I feel strongly that my job as a parent who wants to raise a child who enjoys reading is to do whatever I can to make reading enjoyable. Meredith Hoyer and I are clearly on the same page about the ways to do that. 

RivetingReadAloudsCoverRiveting Read Alouds (How and Why to #ReadAloud in classroom with Older Students) | @Scholastic http://ow.ly/1ivb309Ngxv 

Janet Allen: "Television shows vie for the best time slots during prime time; reading aloud is prime time in the classroom because you have used the time to get students engaged. While many factors influence whether teachers choose to read aloud with adolescents, the benefits of establishing reading aloud as an important part of your literacy instruction are well-known. Let’s talk about just a few of the benefits my students and I discovered as we make a case for reading aloud.

Enjoyment: When reading a well-chosen text as a read aloud, you provide readers with a risk-free opportunity to experience the "charm, magic, impact and appeal" (Mooney, 1988) of language and story. It helps them see that text has meaning, especially because their comprehension can often be greater during read-aloud time than when they try to decode text on their own. This results in students being motivated to read more."

Me: I like that this article, on the Scholastic education blog, is specifically focused on reading aloud to older kids, and on the reasons that teachers should read aloud. In addition to the reasons (the first of several is quoted above), Janet Allen offers teachers tips for getting started. The article concludes with a pitch for the author's new book, Riveting Read Alouds for Middle School (with Patrick Daley, published by Scholastic). The book includes "35 engaging read-aloud selections for older students: fiction, nonfiction, poetry, humor writing and more."

While I follow a number of blogging teachers who read aloud to older students, I suspect that this is relatively rare in practice. I think it would be great if this book helped inspire other teachers to give it a try. 

PassionateLearnersPlease, YES! Can We Please Stop Grading Independent Reading? asks @pernilleripp  http://ow.ly/Eatc309PQAc  #RaisingReaders

Pernille Ripp: "So just like we would never grade a child for how many math problems they choose to solve on their own, how many science magazines they browsed or how many historical documents they perused, we should not grade how many books a child chooses to read.  We should not tie pages read with a grade, nor an assessment beyond an exploration into how they can strengthen their reading habits.  Number of books read, minutes spent, or pages turned will never tell us the full story.  Instead it ends up being yet another way we can chastise the kids that need us to be their biggest reading cheerleaders."

Me: I spoke the other night to a young man who loved to read as a child, but railed against the elementary and middle school AR program. He said that it had kept him from reading the books that he wanted, because either they weren't part of the program, or they weren't at the approved level for him. His arguments were against how the program as implemented affected him as an advanced reader. But me, I was just wondering why we need to be measuring the reading of kids who love books at all. When I was in elementary school I read constantly, with some guidance from teachers and the school librarian. But even the public library's summer reading programs turned me off, because I wanted to just read, not track what I was reading.

Now, I get that not all kids are avid readers, and that there may be tracking programs that help in some cases. And I get that Pernille Ripp's more individualized assessment approach is probably more time-consuming. But still ... I was pleased to see a teacher publicly calling for not grading independent reading. Teachers can find more information on nurturing readers in the classroom in Pernille's book, Passionate Learners.

© 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. 


#JoyOfLearning Articles from @savitakalhan, @PsychToday + @EDmerger on #ReadingChoice and #Homework

JoyOFLearningLogoToday I have three articles that I've shared recently that I thought warranted further discussion. In the first, UK author Savita Kalhan shares a situation that she recently observed in a secondary school in which kids are limited to reading a pre-selected set of books on school supplied kindles. In the second article, for Psychology Today, authors Paula J. Schwanenflugel and Nancy Flanagan Knapp share an article inspired by their new book on the psychology of reading. They focus on the problems with limited students to read within narrowly defined reading levels. In both of these articles, seemingly well-intentioned schools are taking away students' love of reading by restricting choice. In the third article, Paul G. Moss outlines some issues with overloading students with homework, including the creation of negative attitudes. Such negative attitudes, of course, threaten the joy of learning. 

GreatExpectationsSad piece by @savitakalhan  about a secondary school that is sucking pleasure from kids' #reading by limiting choice http://ow.ly/H6w2309BCZT 

Savita Kalhan: "But I have noticed something very worrying, and I hope it is not a trend that is being repeated in other schools.

The use of eReaders, in some schools, has taken the place of paperback books almost completely. I know of one very large secondary school where every Year 7 and 8 pupil is given a kindle preloaded with books. Older years are given a nook. They are used for lessons as well as for reading for pleasure, apparently...

The kids are NOT allowed to read anything else other than one of the books on the school kindles. If they are caught reading a paperback book, they are given a detention!"

Me: I found the situation documented by Savita Kalhan simply horrifying.Talk about taking away the joy of reading. It's bad enough to expect kids to read from a pre-installed set of titles. But to punish them for selecting their own outside choices. Words fail me. Savita theorizes that this policy is due to the need for the school to be able to measure and document what kids are reading (to justify the expense of the devices). What I know is that if my daughter's school had a policy like this I would speak up, very loudly.  

PsychologyOfReadingYes! Why you should use passion + curiosity, not #ReadingLevels to help kids find good things to read @PsychToday https://t.co/6XJ2RxB2x2

Paula J. Schwanenflugel, Ph.D., and Nancy Flanagan Knapp, Ph.D.: "Most school reading incentive programs require students to read texts within a restricted range of their measured reading skill levels, either within the Lexile range just mentioned, or, if using another rating system, within five months of their measured reading levels... Many schools now even restrict the books students can check out from the school library to those at such “appropriate” levels...

Myth #1: Each text has a discrete, accurately measurable reading level...

Myth #2: Each reader has a discrete, accurately measurable level of reading skill... 

Myth #3: Readers should (almost always) read texts very near their reading level...

Passion, curiosity, and knowledge are at least as important as reading levels in helping children find good things to read. "

Me: There is a lot of detail in this article (excerpted from a new book), so please do go and read the full piece. There's quite a bit on the benefits to kids of reading above and below their suggested reading level. To me, forcing kids to read within some narrow range is clearly a way to take away the joy of reading.

I let my daughter, who is in first grade, read anything she finds lying around the house that catches her eye. (We have a LOT of books lying around the house). When something is too difficult for her, she'll plug away for a bit, and then get bored and find something else. I did teach her the five finger rule, and she finds that useful in identifying the books that she's not ready for yet. As for books that are too easy for her, I want her to enjoy those for as long as she likes. We just pulled a bunch of easy readers to donate to a book swap at her school. She was happy to jettison some of them, but some she kept because she loves the characters (Amelia Bedelia, Elephant and Piggy, Dodsworth, and, yes, Sponge Bob). 

If more schools could focus on what makes kids LOVE reading, the world would be a better, and more literate, place in the long run. 

HomeworkStrikeOverloading #homework reduces performance, stresses students + creates a negative atmosphere in classroom @EDmerger https://t.co/T0KMglJMHc 

Paul G. Moss: "Despite a new surge in notification tools, homework assignment still remains a lawless enterprise, with even the best of willed teachers being reduced to mavericks, having to set work for their students with no idea of how much work they have already been set by other teachers. The teacher cannot tell if they may be overloading them, and this results in a range of issues...

Students spend a long day at school, and the amount of energy it takes to then have to work at home and carry on the effort should not be underestimated. Students who are overworked face the very real possibility of burning out, either physically, mentally, or probably both...

Another issue that stems from overloading students is the creation of a negative attitude towards homework. Understandably, getting students to buy into the policy is impossible when the overarching perception is that the process is unfair, inequitable, and exhausting. "

Me: This article was written with middle and high school students in mind, responding to the situation where different teachers are assigning homework, and the overall homework load is too strenuous. [This was the situation in Greg Pincus's The Homework Strike.] I worry about this issue in my daughter's future. But the problems of excessive homework (reduced performance levels, etc.) certainly show themselves in elementary school, too.

My biggest concern in this is the last point from Moss that I quoted above. Overloading creates a negative attitude towards homework. And, I would argue, towards school and learning in general.

As with reading, if more schools had a focus on (or just paid more of attention to) fostering the joy of learning, students would be much better served. 

© 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. 


On Homework and Our Own Recent Experiences

Sandhya Nankani shared a Washington Post article by Valerie Strauss with me this week that I want to highlight here. It's about the positive outcomes that a Vermont elementary school has been experiencing since replacing homework with free reading time. Principal Mark Trifilio did his research, and then proposed an experiment to his school's teachers:

"stopping all homework in every grade and asking students to read on their own at school — or, if they were not ready to read on their own, to do it with a parent or guardian. He said he was surprised when every one of them — classroom teachers as well as those who work with special-education students and English-language learners — signed on to the idea."

Here is the school's policy, posted on their website, which I LOVE:

"No Homework Policy
Orchard School Homework Information
Student’s Daily Home Assignment

1. Read just-right books every night —
(and have your parents read to you too).
2. Get outside and play —
that does not mean more screen time.
3. Eat dinner with your family —
and help out with setting and cleaning up.
4. Get a good night’s sleep."

They are only six months in, but Trifilio has declared the experiment a success, with most parents (excepting a small minority) happy with their kids having more time for family and for other interests. Please do go and read the whole article

This article was particularly timely for me because I recently had the harrowing experience of having my first grade daughter sobbing  and begging not to have to do her homework one night. It wasn't that the work was too hard for her. It was just not how she wanted to spend her time on that particular evening. The complaints rolled off of her. "It takes up too much time." "I have other things I prefer to do." "This is boring." "I don't WANT to." "WHY do I have to?" There was even an "I hate homework" song. 

She did get through it, and most days are not nearly this bad. [And yes, I did let her teacher know that the homework level had made her cry, and we do like her teacher very much in all other regards.] I've been making extra effort since then to make sure that she's not too tired when homework time rolls around, which makes a big difference. But this isn't easy, either, because it cuts into my work time (I have to pick her up from after-school care earlier) and because she has other afternoon activities that we value (karate, school play, Girl Scouts, time with friends). 

Here's what I know. If our elementary school established a policy like the one at Orchard School in Vermont, I would be absolutely thrilled. Many (though certainly not all) parents I know would be equally thrilled. My daughter would literally turn cartwheels if she could read instead of doing worksheets. She would undoubtedly read more. Her reading ability would improve, and she would enjoy reading even more. I think that she would spend more time writing, too, because that's something she likes to do when she has the time. Our evenings would be more peaceful. We would have more family time. And we would have more flexibility in managing my daughter's other activities, especially time with friends.

While none of this seems very likely at the moment, articles like the one this week from The Washington Post give me hope. 

© 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.