108 posts categorized "Literacy Milestones" Feed

Literacy Milestone: Real-World Interest Sparked from a Book

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Recently my daughter asked for a book from which she could study sign language. Does she have a friend who is hard of hearing? No. Well, not a friend she's ever met, anyway. No, she wants to learn sign language out of loyalty to Cece Bell, because she adores El Deafo that much. She's been scheduling weekly sessions (my daughter, not Cece Bell) in which she works with my husband and I on our lip-reading and sign language. After trying to learn sign language from El Deafo itself, she realized that she needed a better resource. 

ElDeafoI bought her Signing for Kids, Expanded Edition. Because we all know that I'm a sucker for any request for a book. In truth, her interest had already faded by the time the book arrived. But I think it quite likely that she'll want it someday. [This is why I have such a ridiculously large number of books in my house. Because we might need them. Someday.]

You couldn't make this stuff up. We also made blackberry fool after reading A Fine Dessert awhile back, so I suppose this isn't our first experience with this dynamic. But it is the first one for which a reference book was required. 

Have your kids had real-world interests sparked by books?

© 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


Further Evidence that It's All About Choice

My daughter regularly grumbles about her math homework. It's not that she usually finds it difficult, but that she resents having to do it at all. When it's easy for her she resents it more, because she sees her time as being wasted. Luckily for me, she usually does her math homework at her after school care (where all of the kids are expected to do homework at the same time), so I don't have to listen to the complaints.

MathWorkbookImagine my surprise the other morning when she asked to cut short our breakfast reading session so that we could work together on "math facts". She pulled out the workbook from a previous math module (they get to keep them after the module is completed) and started filling in unused pages. The next morning she asked to do the same thing.

So, when it's homework, she is annoyed and irritable about having to do it. But when it's her choice, she will happily pull out the same workbook and do the same activities.

It is possible that some of this difference stems from the fact that I'm sitting snuggled with her on the couch doing this "math facts" activity, vs. her sitting at Kids Club or at our kitchen table on her own. I could test this theory by doing her math homework with her on the couch (though this runs counter to my goal for her to learn to do her homework independently).

But I think it mainly boils down to free choice. When we're playing "math facts" she picks which pages look interesting. She stops to sketch on the unused backs of pages. She stops mid-activity if something is boring. When it comes to homework, it's not doing math that's the problem. It's doing a particular set of math problems that someone else expects her to do at a certain time, regardless of her own mood and inclination. The parallels to required reading are obvious here. 

This makes me wonder: if her teacher were to assign her to read graphic novels every day as homework, would she grumble and complain and stop enjoying them? This is an experiment that I do not wish to undertake. Because it is quite possible that the answer would be yes.

It's all about free choice. Which is not to say that teachers don't have to follow a logical curriculum, or that my daughter won't have to learn that sometimes you have to do things on other people's timeline. But it's also true that self-directed inquiry is more engaging for her than assigned work, particularly in that outside of school time that she considers her own. This is probably the case for most of us.

© 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 the Emotional Benefits of A Family Reading Together

BigMeanMikeThis is a follow on post to one that I wrote last week about my daughter turning to favorite picture books for comfort. My friend Judy commented that I had under-emphasized an important aspect of the incident that I related. I had spoken of how my daughter was comforted by a particular book (Big Mean Mike), but Judy pointed out that my daughter hadn't selected that book to read by herself. She wanted ME to read it to her. Judy added: "during that reading and sharing of the book, the two of you were able to transform her sad and angry feelings." I realized that not only was Judy right, but that this topic called for another post. So this is with thanks to Judy. 

There are many benefits that accrue to my child from reading (empathy, vocabulary, imagination, self-soothing, etc.). One benefit that I particularly appreciate that affects both of us (and applies for my husband, too) is that reading together brings us closer. Part of this is physical - when we read together we are often snuggled up on the couch or in her bed, sharing a blanket. We even occasionally snuggle together when we are each reading our own book, though that's not quite the same. I love the feeling of being snuggled up together, reading a book. But even larger benefits are on the mental/emotional side. 

SwingItSunnyPart of the closeness that we achieve through shared reading is the building of a shared frame of reference. My husband and I still refer to our daughter as being like Mo Willems' Pigeon when she's tired but denying it. (She professes to hate this, but I think she will look back on it with affection). We frequently end up referring to what Harry or Hermione would or wouldn't do. We had to start watching old Brady Bunch episodes together because of Jenni Holm and Matt Holm's Swing It, Sunny. The examples of inside jokes and cultural references that have come to us from books are endless. 

Another part of the closeness stems from our mutual self-declaration of being people who enjoy reading. I'm very clear that this is a major part of my identity. Seeing my daughter start to declare this too is both validating and happy-making (because I know that reading will make her happier and more successful over time).

HarryPotterGobletofFireThen there is the building of shared values. Reading together is wonderful for that, and is going to increase, I think, as we read more chapter books. As one small example, my daughter was outraged when Ron accused Harry of putting his own name into the Goblet of Fire. We had a brief and mutually satisfying discussion to the effect that yes, you should trust your friends and offer them support instead of resentment. We've also discussed bullying, conformity, and reaching out to new kids, as a result of picture books. I look forward to shared reading of further portrayals of loyalty, bravery, kindness, and persistence.  

13ReasonsAnd while I wouldn't say that I look forward to this, exactly, I think that as my daughter and I continue to read together, we will be able to use books as stepping stones to discuss difficult topics. Several of my friends who have slightly older daughters are already reading books about puberty with them. These same friends have proposed reading Wonder with our kids, and then seeing the movie together. I fully intend to read books like Speak and 13 Reasons Why with my daughter when she is older and ready to understand them. 

So yes, she can read on her own now. But I plan for us to keep reading together, also, for as long as possible. Reading together brings us closer, physically and emotionally. It's not something that any parent should give up lightly. 

© 2017 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).


Literacy Milestone: Turning to Favorite Picture Books for Comfort

LiteracyMilestoneAThe other night my overtired seven-year-old had a bit of a meltdown. It was bedtime, and she was in the awkward position of being angry with me, but also needing me for comfort, because I was the only one home. She was stiff, and responding to me only with nods instead of words. So I asked her if she wanted me to read. Nod. I gestured to the stack of graphic novels next to her bed, and asked: "One of these? Or a picture book?" She lifted her chin towards the shelves of picture books. Then she finally spoke.

"I want Big Mean Mike." 

BigMeanMikeAlrighty then. After a bit of hunting, I found Big Mean Mike (by Michelle Knudsen), and also ran across Donut Chef (by Bob Staake) along the way. We snuggled down to read. It only took a couple of pages for her to start pointing out details of Big Mean Mike, which we have read many, many times. She was soon cooing over the cuteness of the bunnies, and commenting on the talent of illustrator Scott Magoon. She took over some of the reading late in the book, and was pretty much back to her usual self by the time we moved on to Donut Chef (which we know more or less by heart).  By the time we finished Donut Chef, she was ready to go to sleep. 

DonutChefI suppose this isn't really a milestone, because it isn't the first time that my daughter has turned to books for comfort. But it stood out to me that she knew that when she was sad, certain favorite picture books would do the trick. And of course she was correct. May she continue to find reading her old favorites with me a comfort for a long time to come. 

Thanks for 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


Do Audiobooks "Count" As Reading?

PippiAudioRecently, in response to a post that I wrote about my daughter's 20 minutes a day of required reading, a mom of a four-year-old boy commented. She said that she and her son listen to audiobooks together constantly. She wondered if, when he is in school, those sessions would count towards time spent reading. I thought about this for a bit, and decided that the short answer is: "It depends." Here's the longer answer.

I would think that listening to audiobooks would count in the same way that books a parent reads aloud to a child would count. For instance, when my daughter was in kindergarten her teacher asked for a list of books that we had read aloud to her each month. I believe that I would have added in any audiobooks that she listened to for that list. And of course I think that listening to audiobooks is a wonderful way for parents and children to spend time together, especially in the car. 

Once kids are reading on their own, however, I think the question of whether audiobooks count would be up to the teacher. On the one hand, I believe that listening IS reading - I certainly consider that I've read a book when I've listened to it. Listening prevents me from skimming, in fact, and I generally retain audiobooks better than I do print books. Listening to audiobooks is great practice for holding stories in your head and for visualizing. Listening to audiobooks is particularly helpful for literacy when a parent and child listen together. If the child has a question about a vocabulary word or the meaning of some plot element, it's simple enough to pause the audio and discuss. So, all in all, yay for listening to audiobooks, especially together.

On the other hand, when kids are just learning to read, they do need practice sitting down with a printed book and decoding the words themselves. So, at that point it's important for kids to spend some time reading print books, in addition to listening to audiobooks. 

Of course any required reading assignments are going to depend on the individual teacher. I think that when the time comes, this parent could talk to her son's teacher to see what the teacher's goals are and what the best way might be for this mother to support those goals at home. My feeling is that any mother who listens "constantly" to audiobooks with her four-year-old is already doing a great job with literacy development, and probably doesn't have too much to worry about. 

What happened in my own household was that my daughter and I dabbled in listening to audiobooks in the car for a while. But then, as her reading skills advanced, she became impatient and wanted to just read books on her own in the car. This was probably influenced in part by her love affair with graphic novels, which don't lend themselves as well to the audiobook format. So the audiobooks have fallen by the wayside for us, for now. I imagine that we'll pick them up again at some point.

As long as kids are reading, it's all good. That's what I say. The details of format will certainly sort themselves out. 

© 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 Help Fall Asleep

LiteracyMilestoneAI must admit that I do not usually read to my daughter before bed. I keep a very early schedule, and reading (a book that I've likely already read) in her comfortable bed simply doesn't work for me. I can't get through more than a few pages before I am asleep. So, I read to her over breakfast. My husband does read with her at night. Sometimes her reads to her, and sometimes she reads to him. Lately, for instance, she has been reading Real Friends aloud to him, one chapter a night. 

RealFriendsThe other night, after they finished their chapter, she asked if she could read some more on her own (a different book). She said that reading to him charges her up, and that she likes to read silently to herself to help get sleepy.

This made me happy when I heard it, because it is certainly true for me. The busier the day, the more I need to read for a few minutes before I fall asleep. It helps me to calm my mind down. This is one of the many contexts in which I consider reading a gift. The fact that my daughter has access to the same gift pleases me tremendously. 

I'm sure that many of you can relate. All of these are steps along the path to becoming a Reader. 

© 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 Required Reading Time

My daughter just started second grade. The second grade teachers at her school don't have reading homework per se. They just ask that kids read whatever they like for 20 minutes each night, and that parents check a box to indicate that this has been done. This I find greatly preferable to last year's worksheet-driven reading homework. 

PiratesPastNoonSo, the first night this was assigned, I asked my daughter to read for 20 minutes for homework. Can you guess what happened? She picked up a Magic Tree House book, rather than one of her usually preferred graphic novels, and started reading. After exactly 20 minutes she asked if she could stop. Told yes, she dropped the book (never to be picked up again, as far as I can tell) and went to do something else.

This scared me a little bit. I don't want reading to be some chore that she does because she must and drops as soon as she is allowed. Later the same night she begged to be allowed to read in bed before going to sleep. With an inward sigh of relief, I said yes.

The fortunate truth is that my daughter pretty much always gets more than 20 minutes of reading time a day. On school days, I read to her for 20-30 minutes in the morning while she eats breakfast. She reads in the car as we drive between her various activities. This is good for at least 15 minutes a day. If the book is interesting to her, she will stay in the car when we get home so that she can continue reading. Most nights she reads in bed. Either she reads to my husband or he reads to her, and often she reads to herself also.

Every time I see her choose to read, it makes me happy. Thus the idea that forcing her to read as homework might make reading less desirable is disturbing. So, here's what I decided to do. I told her that as long as I do see her reading as she goes about her day, I'm going to just check off that "read for 20 minutes" box every day. We are not actually going to time anything. 

This is what I believe makes sense for us (and I'm more than happy to share this plan with her teacher). Other kids will be of course different in their responses. I do think that in general assigning 20 minutes of free reading time as homework is vastly preferable to having to read little curriculum-dictated stories and answer questions about them. And I think for kids who don't read, and/or who need the extra reading practice time, a parent being able to say "Hey, you have to read for 20 minutes now for your homework" is probably a good thing. The message that the teachers think that reading is important is also good. And the fact that they give the kids free choice about what to read is excellent. 

If I hadn't had this experience with my daughter, of her pushing to ONLY read for 20 minutes on the very first day that reading was made into homework, I don't think I would have questioned the policy at all. I would have been too busy cheering the fact that there were no worksheets or reading logs or quizzes. But even this. Even a very light touch, hands-off version of reading homework felt to me like, if I enforced it, it would diminish my child's joy of reading. So I stopped doing that. Very quickly.

The bottom line is that as a parent who wants to raise a child who loves to read, I'm going to have my work cut out for me. I will need to vigilant, and listen to the signals that come from my daughter. But it's something that I know for certain is worthwhile. 

What do all of you say? Do you enforce a dedicated time for reading as homework, if it is assigned? Or do you take a more organic approach? 

© 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: "I'm Reading! (And I DON'T want to be interrupted)"

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Here's a small milestone for the readers among you. The other day I was driving my daughter home from her child care. We had been having a discussion while walking to the car. Foolishly, I tried to continue the discussion after we were in the car. After a moment or two she responded, in an exasperated tone: "I'm reading!". As in, "please don't bother me, these car rides are my reading time. So what if I'm reading El Deafo for the fourth time - I still don't want to be interrupted." The next day this scenario was repeated, except that she said: "I'm in my book now" when she no longer wished to be disturbed by conversation.

ElDeafoYou reap what you sow, people. That's all I have to say. We've all been there - so engrossed in a book that we respond irritably to any interruption. I can hardly be surprised when my daughter acts like this. 

Mind you, when we got home she still didn't want to talk to me because I had previously promised some device time, and she chose that over continuing the reading. And then friends invited her over, and she was out the door for that. So that's the pecking order, I guess. Friends, device, book, talking to Mommy. Ah well. At least I'm on the list somewhere. And the readers among you all know that I'm actually ok with coming after books, at least some of the time.

© 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: 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