87 posts categorized "Literacy Milestones" Feed

Literacy Milestone: The Delightful Frustration of Wanting to Finish a Book (and having to stop)

LiteracyMilestoneA HarryPotterBook2IllustratedThe other morning my daughter and I finished the 15th chapter (out of 18) of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. She was on the edge of her seat during the scene with the spiders, copying any expressions described (wide eyes and open mouths, e.g.), and pacing around the breakfast table. We had to cover the pictures in the book - they were too much. We read past our usual school morning time limit, because we could hardly stop with Ron and Harry in peril. 

When I told her that the next chapter was called "The Chamber of Secrets" she gasped. She didn't know what to do with herself. She was stammering things about wanting to know what happened next, and wishing she could just stay home to finish. And I … did not keep her home from school. But I knew exactly how she felt. This was the first time I've seen her truly on the edge of her seat, needing to know what would happen next and unable to find out right away.

Welcome to life as a lover of books, kid. Sometimes there are other commitments. But I do suspect that we will be finishing the book soon.

© 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

Not Quite Milestones: Little Steps along the Path to Literacy

LiteracyMilestoneAAs regular readers know, I occasionally post about my daughter's milestones along her path to literacy. Recently there haven't been any major leaps, but I've noticed a bunch of incremental incidents that I thought readers might find entertaining.  And if not, well, my daughter and I will still have these posts to look back on ourselves. Some of these are follow-up to things that I've written about previously. Others are just, well, reading-related:

WheresWalrusPenguinMissing Picture Books: Recently we went through about a two-week period in which we did not read any picture books. This was because we were reading the first two Harry Potter books, and my daughter was so consumed with those that she had no time for anything else. However, about a third of the way through the Chamber of Secrets, I mentioned something in passing about how missed picture books.

Coincidence or not I am not sure but several days later she asked my husband to read her picture books before bed, instead of Harry Potter. When he asked about it she said: "I miss picture books." And well she should! Picture books are not supposed to fall completely by the wayside once kids start reading chapter books, even if they do take a different position. For the past few days we've been back to reading picture books. The other day, noticing the large stack of review books that I had on the breakfast table she remarked: "We have a lot of catching up to do." We do, and it's going to be great fun.

DoryFriendTaking Partial Ownership of Bedtime Reading: Last night my daughter proposed that we alternate nights for bedtime reading. One night she would read to herself. The next night my husband would read to her. And the the next night I would read to her. And so on. She then proceeded to finish the second Dory Fantasmagory book, along with a Babymouse book and a Lunch Lady book. I'm not actually sure what time she went to sleep. I don't know if this particular rotation plan will stick, but I do like the idea that she wants to do some reading on her own and some reading with us. [Plus, the nighttime reading is difficult for me, because I get up early, and I tend to get sleepy...]

ExtremeBabymouseUnderstanding and Wanting to Share Inside Jokes from Books: She actually came to find me as she was reading Extreme Babymouse last night, because she had come across something hilarious and wanted to share. She had found a cameo of Lunch Lady in the Babymouse book. She was as excited as if she had run across her best friends while we were out to eat somewhere. I was especially pleased that she made a point of showing me the set-up for the cameo, as well as the result. She wanted me to really appreciate it. 

Recognizing Illustrators: My daughter recognizes the work of an ever-increasing list of illustrators. The most recent incident was this morning, when we read the upcoming Hats Off to You! by Karen Beaumont and LeUyen Pham. We didn't even get past the cover before she pointed at one of the girls and said: "I know who this author must be, because she is in a Princess in Black book." I clarified illustrator vs. author, but overall thought it was good recognition. We also received some board books by Junzo Terada, and she picked those out from the cover, too. We enjoy Terada's A Good Home for Max (review). 

PaxAndBlueGuessing Book Dedications: We were reading a new book called Pax and Blue, about a boy and a pigeon.  After reading it I mentioned that I had seen in the end material that the author, Lori Richmond, got the idea for the book from an incident that her son witnessed. My daughter said: "Probably she dedicated this book to her son." We looked, and sure enough, the book appears to be dedicated to her two sons (though we can't know for sure).

Choosing Audiobook over Tablet (at least once): My daughter has been listening to Elizabeth Enright's The Saturdays when we're in the car together. She's not so hooked that she has asked to listen to it in the house (as happened with Pippi Longstocking). However, the other night we were going out to dinner, and the drive was going to be long enough that we would have allowed her the tablet (we have a 30 minute drive minimum for that, because otherwise I start to feel like a chauffeur). She thought about that, and then asked for the book, because she wanted to also sort and count some things she had collected. 

None of these incidents is, perhaps, a major milestone. But together, they show a child who enjoys reading now and who is well-positioned to love books as she gets older. And that latter point is one of my greatest hopes. 

Thanks for reading, and for caring about children's literacy! 

© 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: Listening to Harry Potter

LiteracyMilestoneAI think it's fair to say that a modern milestone for book-loving parents involves the reading to one's child of the Harry Potter books. My husband and I have been determined that our daughter will hear the books (at least the first book) before seeing the movies. This has not been easy. She saw an early snippet of the first movie while waiting for us in line at a ride at Universal a couple of years ago (the parent-share or whatever it's called where one of you waits with the child while the other rides). More recently, I went to pick her up at her after-school care, and found her happily, if somewhat guiltily, watching the movie. Luckily, I arrived early enough that she didn't get past the scene with Dudley and the snake in the zoo, early in the story. This happened again with the second movie. When I arrived, Harry and Ron were eating breakfast at the Burrow. While she knows we don't want her to watch the movies without us, the required degree of self-control is a bit much for a six-year-old.

IllustratedHarryPotter1As we are not keen to change our after-school care situation, this raised the pressure quite a bit. So we decided to make our third attempt at reading the first Harry Potter book. The first try had failed because my daughter just wasn't ready to process such a complex storyline. The second try failed because she started having nightmares (though these were later attributed to the imminent start of first grade, rather than to the book). But, as they say, the third time's a charm. As I write this we are ready to start Chapter 12 of the illustrated edition, and my daughter is hooked. There is no question that we will finish the book within a few days. We are now reading at breakfast and at bedtime, and if we can carve out any other time during the day, we will. She is admittedly motivated in part to finish the book because she wants to see the movie. But there is no question that she is interested in the story for itself, too. She is caught up in the excitement. 

Two of her responses so far have particularly pleased me. Last night we were reading about Malfoy's reaction to Harry receiving this Nimbus 2000 (an exception allowed for Harry because of his unusual election to the Quidditch team as a first year). My daughter remarked: "Malfoy is going to play for the other team, isn't he?" I acknowledged that she was correct in her assumption, though this would not actually happen until Book 2. But I love that she is using her past experience with story to make predictions about where this one is going, and that she has a sense already for what will ratchet up the drama.  That's my girl!

The second incident pleased me even more. This morning we came to a picture of Hermione holding a glass jar of blue fire. My daughter looked at the picture critically and said: "Is that supposed to be Hermione? That's not how I pictured her." And I thought: "YES! We were right to try to get her to listen to the book before watching the movie." Because Hermione doesn't appear in the snippets of the movies that she's seen, my daughter had a chance to form her own mental picture. In my daughter's mind, Hermione is a bit more "girly-looking", with longer, more reddish hair, than in the illustrated edition. But of course the details are not the point. The point is that she has her own impression, not created by this illustrator or by seeing Emma Watson. This is something that I wanted for her, something that I think is important.

HarryPotterBook2IllustratedI doubt very much that we'll be able to hold the line on reading all seven books prior to seeing the associated movies. (Though perhaps, since she's not ready to watch those later movies anyway.) I think that the later movies are less important in this regard, since there are fewer new characters. Still, we can try. And in that spirit, I have already ordered the illustrated edition of Book 2

For what it's worth, I do think that the illustrated edition was worth purchasing for the first book (even though we have at least two other copies of the book). It's not just the pictures, though those have helped keep the attention of a six-year-old who isn't accustomed to finishing such a long story. It's also the large size of the book, and the built-in ribbon bookmark. These give substance to our reading experiences. They make reading this book an event. If you are teetering on the fence, I would nudge you towards purchase, at least for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.

Currently my husband and I are taking turns reading the book to my daughter, depending on who is home and available. This is working ok for the first book, since we both know the story very well. This will become more challenging with the later books, but we'll figure something out... 

What do you say, other parents? What has been your family's experience in introducing your children to Harry, Ron, and Hermione? Whatever the details are, I hope you've enjoyed it as much as we have. 

[Addendum: Katie's comment below reminded me of something. I actually DID read my daughter the first Harry Potter book once before. She was an infant, newly home from the hospital, and I figured that the important thing was for her to hear my voice. So I read something that I wanted to read, which was Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. I also read her The Secret Garden while she was in the NICU. Of course she doesn't remember any of this. I barely remember it myself, given the sleep-deprived haze.]

© 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. Links to books are affiliate links. 

Literacy Milestone: Appreciating Audiobooks

LiteracyMilestoneAMy daughter recently became a convert to audiobooks. I had tried them before a couple of times, mostly when we were in the car, but they never really "took" with her. I remained hopeful, though, and kept a couple of children's audiobooks downloaded in the Audible app on my phone. The other day she was lamenting being bored during a short car ride and I suggested that we try a new book: Pippi Longstocking (by Astrid Lindgren, of course, and narrated by Christina Moore). And this one took. She would ask for "my audiobook" whenever the two of us were in my car together over the next few days.

Then yesterday she was looking for music on her tablet (a Kindle Fire) and happened upon the audiobook section. She spotted Pippi Longstocking and immediately asked if she could listen on the tablet. She was finished with her screen time for the day, but I decided that audiobooks shouldn't count, and I agreed. She sat and listened for a while, staring at the cover image on the tablet, before I suggested that she could color or something and listen at the same time. This completely did the trick. I left her home with my husband while I ran an errand, came back 45 minutes later, and found her still listening and coloring, happy as a clam. And when she finished the book shortly thereafter she was thrilled with her accomplishment.

This morning something came up about how a teen we know likes to read on her Kindle, and I said that enjoyed that, too. My daughter piped up with: "I like listening to audiobooks."

And so a convert is born! Next up: The Saturdays, by Elizabeth Enright. She is already charmed that the youngest Melendy, Oliver, is six in this book.  Special thanks to Katie Fitzgerald, whose recent post about listening to audiobooks with her daughters in the car nudged me to try again with my own. 

© 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 Bed (on her own)

LiteracyMilestoneALast night I was busy tidying up, and I asked my daughter to go get into her pajamas, and said that I'd be in shortly to read with her. Things took me a bit more time than I expected. When I arrived in my daughter's room I found her propped up in her bed, reading All-Time Favorite Classics, a thick collection of stories based on Disney animated movies. She was quietly reading 101 Dalmatians, and told me that she wanted to finish reading that herself, and then have me come and read Peter Pan to her. I, of course, backed slowly away, and left her to her reading. When I did return I took my own book with me, and climbed in next to her, so that I would be there when she was ready.

While I am more than happy to continue reading aloud to my daughter before bed for as long as she will let me, I also celebrate this milestone of her being able to read on her own in bed. Reading in bed is one of my favorite activities. It's how I relax and prepare for sleep. Many days, it is the only time I am able to spend reading for pleasure. I want this respite for my daughter, too. It warmed my heart to walk into her room and see her reading away. 

A note on her book choice may also be in order. I have literally dozens, perhaps hundreds (if we push the reading level a bit), of other chapter books that she could be reading. Most, one could argue, of higher literary quality than these movie-recap versions of classic stories. But she was interested enough in this book to dig it out from the bottom of a stack of other books.

101DalmatiansShe was specifically interested in 101 Dalmatians because this was the school play at her school last semester, and her friend played Cruella. This version of the story is text-dense, featuring words like "suspicious", and I doubt she could read every word. But there are large color illustrations on every page, and the story is familiar and safe. Most importantly, she was had a personal interest, and had chosen the book to read on her own. 

That's what it comes down to, for me. Choice. If you give kids choice in what they want to read, and you keep a variety of books strategically located in your home, you will sometimes be rewarded by walking in on your child, lost to the world, reading in bed. 

© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

Quick Tip for Including Math Practice with Reading

I MakerMischief'm always keeping an eye out for opportunities to give my daughter a bit of practice with math and show her that math is useful. This morning we finished the first chapter of a book (West Meadows Detectives: The Case of Maker Mischief). She looked at the number at the bottom of the page and remarked: "We read 20 pages." I said: "Well, no, because the story doesn't usually start on page one." So we looked, and sure enough, the text of the first chapter of this book started on page seven. She was quick to tell me that we had read 13 pages. (Technically, we read 14 pages, because we read pages seven and 20, but I didn't see the need to get into that right way. That will be a topic for another day.)

We attempted a similar calculation when we started reading a storybook collection with a table of contents (Biscuit's Christmas Storybook Collection), but the numbers weren't as easy (page five to page twenty-one), and so we dropped the effort for now. But I intend to try this again. 

Page numbers and book chapters provide a natural opportunity for practicing subtraction. Obviously, I wouldn't want to turn every reading session into some sort of drill concerning number of pages. But if you have a child who is achievement-focused ("How many pages did we read today, Mommy?"), I don't think that there's any harm in using page numbers for a bit of extra math practice from time to time.

What do you think? 

© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

Literacy Milestone: Using Cliches/Expressions

LiteracyMilestoneAIn the past 24 hours I've heard my daughter use two cliches/expressions correctly. Both of them caught my slightly by surprise, and I wondered where she had heard them. It struck me that correct use of such expressions is a mark of emergent literacy. 

First up was at lunchtime yesterday. We had been working on some household projects, and were having lunch a bit late. I asked her what she wanted, and she said: "Oh, I'm just going to take matters into my own hands." Then she scouted the refrigerator and ended up deciding to pour herself some Lucky Charms. I let this not-so-nutritious lunch pass in general support of her instinct for self-reliance. [And because dinner was only a few hours away anyway.]

Then this morning I was reading to her at breakfast. We were working our way through a stack of recent picture books that had arrived for potential review. She looked at one and said: "Well, it doesn't look that good from the cover. But you know what they say: you can't judge a book by its cover." After coughing in surprise I almost said: "well, sometimes you can", but I decided to let that go. And in fact, she was right that the book ended up not being to our personal tastes. 

As a society, shared communication rests on a common language, including a common understanding of phrases and expressions. It pleases me to see that my daughter, at six, is starting to pick these up herself. 

© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

Sneaky Older Parent Tip for Getting Your Child to Practice Reading

I don't like to push my six-year-old daughter to practice her reading. She has a bit of reading homework to do, and as far as I'm concerned that is more than enough in terms of obligation. My primary goal at home is to keep reading fun and enjoyable for her. However, I do understand that the only way we get better at things is to practice them, and if I can sneak her in a little extra reading time at home, without it feeling like work to her, I'm ok with that. 

ThisIsMyDollhouseSo the other evening we were in her room, and she asked me to read her a book (This Is My Dollhouse by Giselle Potter). It wasn't bedtime yet, but it was getting dark. And as I'm sure other 40-something adults can understand, I can't read in dim light (or hardly at all, really) without my reading glasses. So I said something like: "I can't. My reading glasses are all the way downstairs. How about you read it?" And she did.

So, fellow parents who need reading glasses, feel free to borrow this tip. Simply don't keep your reading glasses handy when your child is likely to desire a particular book, and she will likely be sufficiently motivated to read it on her own.

I have also started using a similar approach when I am cooking dinner, and she asks me to read to her. My response: "I'm busy cooking now. How about if you read it to me."

It is fun having an emerging reader in the house! 

© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

Literacy Milestone: Writing Essays


My daughter learned an essay format in school for writing nonfiction. This format consists of a topic sentence, followed by three fact-based sentences, followed by a conclusion. She loves this format, and has been writing little essays about various topics at home: Halloween, Christmas, friends, etc.

We were nearly late for school the other day because she had to come up with one more sentence about Halloween. What I especially enjoy about these essays is that the conclusions always start with "Clearly." As in "Clearly, I have told you all about Halloween."

I also love the phonetic spelling in the essays. She is much too impatient to get her ideas on paper to stop and ask for help with spelling. So she just writes away, as the words sound. Sometimes this makes the essays a little difficult to decipher, but she's always happy to help.

This path to literacy gets more fun every day.

© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

Literacy Milestone: Making Lists


Now that she is writing more, my daughter has a new hobby: making lists. She is never without a little notebook of some sort and a pencil. Here are some recent examples:

  • A packing list of items that she wanted to bring on a weekend family trip (important stuffed animals, books, a favorite dress, etc.). This list was illustrated, to make sure that I (the person doing the packing) understood what she meant.
  • A list of things she is going to do when she is an adult. This list I am keeping, because it is pretty funny. Sample: "never clyn up ever agen" and "yoos ipad as much as posbul". I liked the "as posbul", an acknowledgement that even as an adult she will not be able to be on the iPad 24 hours a day. Though who knows what advances in battery technology may be posbul over the years?
  • A list of "house rules" for our family. 
  • A planning list for a fictional birthday party that she was imagining for a young friend.

She sometimes seeks our assistance in determining the content of the lists, as with the "house rules", but otherwise she is happy to work on the lists on her own. She uses phonetic spelling (see above), so the lists can be difficult to decipher. So far we've been able to figure them out.  

What say all of you? Did your kids have a list-making phase? 

© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

Literacy Milestone: Obsession with a Series: #LunchLady

LiteracyMilestoneA My daughter is planning to be a combination architect and ninja spy when she is an adult (if not sooner). We sent her to spy camp for a week last summer. We frequently find her sneaking around the house. Until she lost it, she used to leave her camera stealthily recording us while we were talking. (Once you are a parent of an elementary school kid, privacy becomes an illusion.) She is especially obsessed with spy gadgets. She makes them herself out of things like q-tips and paper towel rolls. 

LunchLadyBook1Recently I introduced my daughter to Jarrett J. Krosoczka's series of graphic novels about Lunch Lady. For those of you who are unfamiliar with her, Lunch Lady is an elementary school lunch lady who has a secret identity as a crime-fighter. She knows various ninja moves and has an assistant, Betty, who creates various food-themed gadgets for her (spork phone, fish stick nunchucks, etc.). I have reviewed various Lunch Lady titles over the years, and had kept copies of most of the books. [See Lunch Lady and the Author Visit Vendetta, Lunch Lady and the Summer Camp Shakedown and Lunch Lady and the Bake Sale Bandit, Lunch Lady and the Mutant Mathletes, and Lunch Lady and the Video Game Villain.] 

I am here to report that my daughter became immediately obsessed with the Lunch Lady books. She's not quite ready to read them on her own, so she had my husband and I reading them to her. For the past week, this is pretty much ALL we've read aloud to her. At breakfast, after school, before bed. You name it. We got through the 10 books in the series in just a few days. She would use a charade-like ninja move to tell us what she wanted. I had to order the one book that I didn't have, so that we could read it as soon as possible. 

When we finished Book 10 on a Sunday afternoon my daughter groaned aloud, with the lament familiar to book lovers everywhere. "There aren't any MORE!?!" Alas, no. Monday morning she was ready to start re-reading the books. To her credit, she was aware that since my husband had read her some of the books, these were books that I hadn't read to her yet myself. So we started with those. But I'm sure we'll be re-reading all of them before we are through. She likes picking up on details that she might have missed the first time around. 

And yes, for anyone wondering, she is in first grade, and probably would be ready to read the books herself soon. But I say, why make her wait? What if her obsession with gadgets wanes in the meantime? It's simply not worth the risk. And she can read them again on her own whenever she likes. In the meantime, we've been having a fun time enjoying Lunch Lady's antics as a family. 

It's not that this is the first series she's been interested in. We've read her Elephant & Piggie, and the Magic Tree House books, and quite a number of Arthur Chapter Books. And she adores the Princess in Black books. But this is the first time she's devoured a whole series in a week, and then mourned the inevitable end. This made me feel like I'm doing my part here - I'm growing a reader. 

Do you remember the first obsession-inducing series for your kids? 

© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

Literacy Milestone: Borrowing Ideas from Books

LiteracyMilestoneARecently my daughter mentioned that her teacher had read aloud Waiting Is Not Easy! (Elephant & Piggie) by Mo Willems to the class. That evening (or possibly the next day) my daughter made a big point of telling my husband and me that she had a surprise for us, but that we would have to wait a bit. Not too long afterwards she dragged us upstairs to view what was, in fact, a spectacular sunset. She kept asking: "Do you like my surprise?". And we did. 

WaitingIsNotEasyI didn't put it together until my daughter and I read Waiting Is Not Easy! a couple of days later, and I was reminded that the premise of the book is that Piggie has a surprise for Gerald, for which he has to wait all day, and which turns out to be the stars in the night sky. 

So my daughter borrowed that premise, modified it for our home (from which we do often get nice sunset views), and made it her own. This is learning from books at its finest. I was very proud. 

Do your kids "borrow" ideas from books? 

© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook