100 posts categorized "Literacy Milestones" Feed

Literacy Milestone: Quoting from a Book

LiteracyMilestoneAThe other day my daughter was working on a self-selected science project of sorts. She was trying to set up a pulley system with yarn to raise and lower a pool towel over our staircase. The idea was to be able to pull on one end of the yarn and have the towel rise up out of the way. She had a few setbacks, however, in getting this to work. This may have been because she had no actual pulleys. After one of the experiments failed she became briefly frustrated. But then she said:

"Well, Mommy, the only true failure can come if you quit."

RosieRevereThis was pretty much a direct quote from Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty and David Roberts, one of our mutual favorites. And it made me so happy to hear it. Because she's taking lessons she learned from books and applying them in her life. Because she is demonstrating growth mindset. Because she is seven, and sometimes she does get frustrated and quit. But not that day, because she thought of what a character in a book would do. And she tried again. 

For the record, she kept trying, and eventually did get the towel to lift up as she had hoped. Thank you, Andrea Beaty! (And thank you Abrams Books for publishing this wonderful series, which I cannot recommend highly enough.)

© 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


Literacy Milestone: Keeping a Diary

LiteracyMilestoneAKnowing that my daughter enjoys writing, I recently picked up a 10-pack of bound composition books for her from Costco. To my surprise, she turned one of them into her first diary (others are being used to document her trips as well as her plans for the future). She was apparently inspired by the Owl Diaries series, part of Scholastic's Branches line of early chapter books, which are written in diary/notebook novel format. The cover actually lists the book as her own "Owl Dire". [I do recommend this series - it is super-cute, and my daughter has gobbled them down this summer.]

BaxterIsMissingHer first set of diary entries was written over the weekend before July 4th, when she spent three nights at our friends' house while my husband and I were out of town. On our return, I was quite pleased to be able to learn more about her weekend by reading the diary (with her permission). Her spelling remains a bit creative, but she is certainly literate enough at this point to get the basics across. She's enthusiastic, using exclamation points to highlight the most exciting moments. She also writes to the diary, as in "Dear Dire, How are you?". It's very fun!  

After the weekend she missed a couple of days because of the July 4th festivities. When she realized this, she had to take the diary with her in the car while we were running errands, so that she could catch up. She started worrying about how difficult it would be to catch up if she were to miss more than a couple of days. [Oh, does she ever take after her father.] I assured her that it's not necessary to write in the diary every single day. She can just write about days that are interesting. If she's going to keep a diary, I want it to be fun for her, not turn into some sort of stressful task. 

My guess is that the diary will soon fall by the wayside for now. But in the meantime it's fun for her, enlightening for me, and a great way to keep up her writing skills. Best of all, if we can manage to keep the diary, she is going to LOVE reading it when she's an adult. A win all around! 

I don't remember having a diary when I was as young as seven, but I did keep one in high school and college. That one, of course, I did not let other people read. How about all of you, my book-loving friends? Did you keep diaries when you were young? 

© 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


Literacy Milestone: Reading in the Treehouse

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This one wouldn't be a milestone on everyone's path to literacy, but it mattered to me. For my daughter's first week of summer vacation I didn't enroll her in any day camps or other childcare - I wanted her to experience the start of summer in a relaxed way. On that Wednesday we went out to lunch, and then popped into the used bookstore across the street. She was quite impressed, saying: "So many books!!" in awed tones. Heading back to the car with our loot, we tossed ideas back and forth for what to do with the afternoon. And then I struck bookworm parental gold. I said: "You could read up in the treehouse." And so was born what is sure to be one of my favorite memories of the summer.

IvyAndBean3I should explain that our treehouse is more of a "tree platform", though that doesn't have the same ring to it. There is one section with a partial wall that one can lean against. And that is where my daughter headed, with her water bottle and her current Ivy and Bean book. As for me, I sat at the patio table right next to the treehouse with my own book in hand, ready to pass things up to the treehouse reader as needed. She finished one book and moved seamlessly on to the next. And me? I let out a very deep breath, feeling the most relaxed I had felt all week.

It was very quiet, with the wind moving the branches of the tree about, and the temperature neither too hot nor too cold. I kept glancing up, looking at my daughter's bent head, smiling (and, ok, texting a photo to family members). Though the whole interlude didn't last more than an hour, it will stay in my memory as pure bliss.

I think the reason this particular experience resonated with me was that I used to sit reading in a tree in my side yard when I was a child. Even though it wasn't all that comfortable, there was something about the experience that I loved. I felt hidden away, reading in secret high above everyone else, able to see over the hedges to the street, feeling like part of the outdoors. Seeing my daughter having a similar experience felt … immensely comforting. In many ways my daughter is quite different from me. But we do have the enjoyment of reading in a tree in common. For a bookworm parent, it doesn't get much better than that.

How many of you ever read in a treehouse (or just up in a tree) as a kid?

© 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


Literacy Milestone: Noticing Gender Imbalance of Protagonists

LiteracyMilestoneAThe other day my daughter made an observation. She said: "It seems like there are more boys having adventures in books than girls having adventures." (Or something to that effect). For what it's worth, she made this observation as we were starting the fourth Harry Potter book together. She is seven, and just finished first grade. 

Caught off-guard - I was not expecting her to notice this so soon - I told her what I see as the simplest explanation. That people at least perceive that boys are less willing to read books about girls than vice versa, leading authors and publishers seeking the widest readership to write books featuring boys. My daughter accepted this as a logical explanation and we moved on. But I was left with a mix of pride that she's observant enough to figure this out and sadness that it's there for her to see, so soon. 

RubyRedfortI don't think that this one will be anyone's favorite of my daughter's milestones on the path to literacy. Certainly it is not mine. But I did think that it was worth sharing with you all as a data point. Coincidentally, I just ran across a BBC News piece about the new UK Children's Laureate, Lauren Child, in which Child brings up this exact issue.

Of course my daughter is lucky because I am more equipped than most to find her books that DO feature girls having adventures. 

© 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


Literacy Milestone: NEEDING the Next Book

LiteracyMilestoneAMy daughter has been reading up a storm lately. She reads in the car, in her bed, when she's waiting for us to be ready to go somewhere, etc. She's reading so much that it's become a slight challenge, despite all of the books I have in my house, to keep her in books. The reason is something that I should have predicted: she's come to appreciate the power of the series.

We always had some series characters in our read-aloud mix, of course. Little Critter, the Berenstain Bears, Elephant & Piggie, Paddington. But the picture book and early reader series is usually about giving kids a familiar character, more than about continuing a storyline. There's not particular need to read the Berenstain Bears books in order, after all (even though the family does change a bit over time). I think that the need for the NEXT book is also developmental on the part of the reader. The Magic Tree House books do feature some story arcs that continue across more than one book. We spent a lot of time over the past couple of years reading those books aloud, and my daughter never cared at all about reading them in order.

NancyClancySecretAdmirerBut now that she's reading early chapter books on her own, she's suddenly much more aware of the presence of sequels, and the drive to read the whole series in order. The other day she came in from the car, where she had stayed to finish her book after the drive home from karate. She announced: "Mommy, I NEED Nancy Clancy: Secret Admirer" (book 2 of the Fancy Nancy chapter book series). There are stacks and stacks of books in her room and in my office. But having finished the first book in the series, she now needs the second one.

I do understand. I've worked my way through many a series, most recently on audio. The first books that I clearly remember reading on my own are the Little House books. I can remember sitting on the windowsill in my third grade classroom reading them, one after another. I think it's no coincidence that it's a series that I remember first, though clearly I must have read other books on my own prior to those. And I do drop all of the books in my own TBR pile when a new book is released in one of my favorite series. 

Of course the publishers understand this fascination that emergent readers have with series books. Most of the books that my daughter is reading include at least a one-page description of the next book, if not a teaser chapter. She especially likes the various Scholastic Branches series, and Scholastic certainly knows how to make the next book, and the next one after that, appealing. 

BabysittersClub4Recently, knowing that my daughter had a plane trip coming up, I bought her the next books in several series that she liked. I stuck them on a shelf in my bedroom, instead of giving them to her, so that she would still have them for the trip. I wanted her to have books with her that I knew she would enjoy. Of course you can all predict what happened. She found the books, and accused me of lying to her, by not giving them to her to read right away. She made off with one of them, over my not all that convincing protests, and started to read. And then I had to go ahead and order the next next books. (OK, I didn't have to. But I am a very soft touch when it comes to books). 

For those who are interested, the series that are currently consuming my daughter's attention include:

But of course this list will evolve quickly. I also have the first Ivy and Bean and Ballpark Mysteries (set at Fenway) books on reserve. And we are reading the Clementine books together. So, my reading friends, does this milestone feel familiar to you? 

© 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


Literacy Milestone: Reading to Recharge

LiteracyMilestoneA

My daughter recently went on a family camping trip with my husband and a number of our friends (I stayed home to read - no surprise to anyone). My daughter was very excited about the trip and she had a great time. But I was not surprised to hear from two of my friends that my daughter had gone missing one afternoon and been discovered in her tent, by herself, reading.

My daughter is like my extroverted husband in a lot of ways. But this incident (together with others, since she was quite young) tells me that there's some of her introverted mother in there, too. I was pleased that she could self-diagnose the need for some quiet recharging time, and that she turned to a book.

BabysittersClub2She came back from the trip, which also included two four-hour car rides, and announced that she had finished four of the books that I sent and started a fifth. My inner child, the one who read for the entire car ride from Boston to Disney World at age 10, nodded in recognition. My adult self started thinking about which books to set aside for the plane trip she has coming up later this summer.

Readers read because they love it, of course. But many of the readers I know, the ones who really NEED to read, sometimes read to escape from a busy world and recharge their energy levels. The fact that my daughter slipped away from her friends during a trip for some quiet reading time tells me that she has joined our ranks. Many of you who are reading this post will understand and appreciate this particular milestone.

© 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


Literacy Milestone: Having Her Own Genre Preferences

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

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

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

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

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

© 2017 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook


Literacy Milestone: Staying Up Too Late Reading

LiteracyMilestoneAWe've all been there (those reading this blog anyway), groggy in the morning because we stayed up too late reading the night before. My daughter experienced this last week for the first time. It was my fault, really. When I read about Real Friends, by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham, I KNEW she would like it, and pre-ordered her a copy.

RealFriendsWhen it came, I left it on her bed. Because it was a busy day, she didn't see it until bedtime. She flipped through, immediately captivated by the full color graphic novel format. "Is this by the author of Lunch Lady?" she asked. I said: "No, but it's a graphic novel like Lunch Lady. It's by the author and illustrator of the Princess in Black books. Only for slightly older kids, kids maybe a little older than you. That's why I thought you would like it."

Her eyes grew very wide. Then she leapt up and flung her arms around me, saying "Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!" She hopped immediately into bed and started reading. The next morning I learned that she had read until 10:15 (I was already asleep, and I guess my husband decided to just go with it), and had read more than half of the book. Getting her out of bed was a bit challenging (but worth it, I think). 

It was clear for the rest of the morning that Real Friends had its hooks into her. We were already running late for school when I sent her upstairs to get dressed. I went up a few minutes later to find her half dressed, with her bookmark further along in the book. She had a visibly difficult time leaving the book behind when she went to school.

Oh, kiddo, welcome to book addiction. And to Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham, all I can say is, please keep your books coming!

© 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


Literacy Milestone: Screening Books for Mom's Blog

LiteracyMilestoneAWhile this is not a typical milestone on the path to literacy, I've noticed a new behavior on my daughter's part that I thought my readers might appreciate. When new picture books for potential review come to the house, I normally place them on the kitchen table so that I can read them with my daughter. She's become gradually aware that I write about some of the books, but not all of the books, and she has started giving specific feedback.

Yesterday I was a bit busy, so she sat herself down, read through a stack of five books, and sorted them according to whether or not she though I should blog about them. She calls the ones that make the cut "write books", meaning that I should write about them. Of the five books in yesterday's stack she pronounced three "write books" and one "meh, you don't need to write about this one." The fifth book she was uncertain about, and said that I would have to read it myself to decide. It was like she had taken on the responsibility of doing the first pass screening as her job (for which she is amply paid in books). 

VampirinaBeachI should clarify that I will read all of the books and will decide myself which ones call for a review. She's a bit harsh these days on books for younger kids, for example. But I do find her input helpful. When she loves a book, chances are good that I will appreciate it, too. We've been reading together for seven years, after all. She also checks back sometimes to make sure I've written about the books that she particularly likes. As I picked up Vampirina at the Beach (which we had read previously) from the floor of her room this morning she said: "You did write about Vampirina, didn't you, Mommy?" [Yes, I did.]

What say you, blogging parents? Do you ever use the opinions of your kids on your blog? Am I ruining my child by making her a critic at such a young age? I don't really think so. I think it's useful to learn that there are books we like more than others, books we think are better-written, or better illustrated, or that other people would like to know about. So I guess we can call this one a milestone on the path the literacy for children of book reviewers. 

© 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


Literacy Milestone: Making Inferences

LiteracyMilestoneAThe other day I read a post by Daniel Willingham about the importance of teaching kids to make inferences when they read. Making inferences is something I'm quite experienced at myself (to a fault, and to the tune of many a ruined surprise ending of book or movie). It so happened that a family read aloud session later that day suggested that my daughter is doing just fine in developing this critical reading skill. 

I was reading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban to my husband and daughter, all of us snuggled together in her bed. We finished Chapter 10, and I pointed out that the title of the next chapter was The Firebolt. My daughter sat up and clapped her hands and said: "Oh! I wonder who is going to give Harry the Firebolt." My husband said something like: "How do you know that's what the title means?" and she scoffed. "Daddy! Of course that's what it means." And she proceeded to think about who would be most likely to give Harry a Firebolt. 

Here she was drawing an inference from two incidents earlier in the book. The first was when Harry saw and fell in love with the new Firebolt brooms, but decided that he could not justify buying one. The second was when Harry's trusty Nimbus 2000 was destroyed in a conflict. Putting these two things together with a chapter titled The Firebolt, my daughter had no doubt whatsoever. And, of course, she was correct (though her guesses about who might have delivered the Firebolt were understandably incorrect). 

I thought: "Yes, that's my girl." 

Thinking about this more, I do think that we as adults can draw a couple of inferences from this incident. The first is that if you read frequently to a child, and you model making inferences yourself along the way, your child may very well pick up this skill naturally, through observation.

The second is just a reminder that the benefits of reading aloud to your children are considerable. We only read a few pages a day of Harry Potter (usually in the mornings, to avoid any scary dreams). This means that my daughter has to hold details in her head over an extended period. But we stop frequently and talk about the book, and we talk about the book at other times too. She's learning about drawing inferences. She's learning about plot and characterization. She is certainly expanding her vocabulary. And the beauty of it all is that we are having an amazing time. 

One more tiny incident from the same night. As my daughter requested (demanded?) a family reading session of Harry Potter, I mildly pointed out: "Some families don't read together, you know." She stopped in her tracks and shouted: "WHAT!!!??? WHAT???!!" The mere idea was shocking. It was kind of funny. But as I look at the many benefits that my daughter has accrued from being read to, and the enjoyment that my husband and I have had from the process, I wish I could whisper in the ears of those families to encourage them give it a 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


On Reading Physical Books with Kids

I love my Kindle. It's wonderful for travel. It's easy to slip into a bag or backpack so that I can read comfortably in idle moments. I can adjust the font size. I love the "sample" feature that lets me try out books before purchasing them. I love being able to balance the Kindle on the sofa arm while I ride my exercise bike, using only a single finger tap to turn pages. I like being able to turn the lighting way down and read in bed in the middle of the night if insomnia strikes. I like the automatic synchronization between my devices that lets me read from my phone or iPad should I happen to be without my Kindle, without losing my place. All wonderful things that have made it easier for me as an adult to find time for reading.

BUT I am going to try to spend more time reading print books at home, because I have noticed that my reading a print book makes my daughter more likely to read. Now that she's reading books on her own, I suggested last weekend that we spend time snuggled on the couch, each reading our own book. We did, and it was very nice.

HorizonLast night my husband brought her home from a friend's house around 7:30. She found me sitting on the couch reading a print book (Horizon by Scott Westerfeld). Without missing a beat, she grabbed her book (Danger! Tiger Crossing, Fantastic Frame #1 by Lin Oliver) and cuddled up next to me, looking over to see what I was reading. She was DELIGHTED to notice that we were both on page 81 of our respective books. We did a bit of math, figuring out how many pages were in each chapter of our books, and as we each read our next chapter she kept an occasional eye on who was reading faster. Then I asked if she wanted to read the next chapter of her book aloud to me, which she did. That was helpful because I could help with a few unknown words, etc.

But here's the thing. If I had been sitting there with my Kindle or my iPad, even if I was reading the same book, I don't know if she would have been inspired to join me. Certainly she wouldn't have been leaning over to check out my page number, or flipping forward to see how many pages were in my book. She knows that when I'm on my Kindle I'm reading books, but that sleek little screen doesn't invite her to participate in the same way that a printed book does. And I want her to participate. I'm already loving our little reading sessions.

So, I'm going to make more effort to read physical books when we are at home together. It won't be difficult. My backlog of children's and young adult books is enormous.

The bottom line is that kids notice, and often emulate, what we do. If we want our kids to read physical books (which I do!), we need to let them see us reading physical books. I knew this, but last night's experience was a good reminder. [See also this reference for a recent report on the influence of access to eReaders and other devices on kids' reading frequency, and this piece written in response.]

Wishing you all happy reading!

© 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. 


Literacy Milestone: Getting Lost in a Book

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We started reading the third Harry Potter book last week (the day after finishing the second book). One morning while my daughter ate breakfast we commenced chapter three, in which Harry rides The Knight Bus. Mid-way through, my husband spoke up with a question about the day's schedule. My daughter looked up, startled. She said: "Oh. I thought I was IN Harry Potter. I forgot that I have school today." And I thought: "YES!". What I said was: "Yes, that happens sometimes, when you are lost in a really good book." Needless to say, this was a good start to the day for me. It makes me happy that she can have, and express, that experience known to book-lovers everywhere. 

HarryPotterAzkabanOne other note: As we watched the movie of the second book, my daughter remarked more than once, especially near the end, that things were not as she had pictured them. She had expected Tom Riddle to look more like Snape, but with longer hair, for example. I told her: "That's why we read the book first, so that you have a chance to imagine it your way."

As we move on to book 3, we leave the illustrated editions behind. And although I found the illustrations helpful in holding her interest at the start of the first book, I came over time to find them more of a distraction. I'm happy now to be moving on to the traditional editions, and I think my daughter is, too.

Wishing you all, and especially your children, that experience of getting lost in a book. 

© 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