92 posts categorized "Literacy Milestones" Feed

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

LiteracyMilestoneA

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

LiteracyMilestoneA

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


Literacy Milestone: Changing the End of A Book

LiteracyMilestoneAI usually read a few picture books to my daughter while she eats breakfast (I eat my own breakfast very early). The other day we read a book called Stop Snoring Bernard, by Zachariah Ohora. I don't know if I had read this to my daughter before, definitely not recently, but I had reviewed it back in 2011. Here's what I said in my review (note especially the second paragraph):

StopSnoringBernardStop Snoring, Bernard!, as you might guess from the cover and title, is a picture book about an otter named Bernard. Bernard's only problem, in an otherwise idyllic zoo life, is that he snores. Loudly. When fellow otter Grumpy Giles complains, Bernard searches the zoo for other places to sleep. But not only are the other habitats less than congenial for the young otter, the other animals aren't so thrilled with him either. He continually hears: "Stop snoring, Bernard!".

I personally found the resolution of this book, in which the other otters miss Bernard and want him back, snoring and all, a bit unsatisfying. Bernard doesn't really DO anything that fixes the problem - it basically resolves itself. But young children will probably find the ultimate message, about being accepted for who you are, reassuring.

I didn't remember this when I was reading the book to my daughter. And I didn't really comment to her on the ending one way or another. I was trying to hustle her along to get ready for school. But she caught my attention by remarking that a better ending of the book would have had the character Grumpy Giles start snoring in the final scene. I'm not sure that this would have resolved my own criticism of the ending, but I do think that it would have been funnier. 

What I told her was that she can write her own books in the future, and end them whatever way she likes. I think that revising the ending of other people's books is a natural first step to that. [Kind of like authors who start out writing fan fiction, I guess, but in picture book context.]

Do your kids suggest tweaks to the end of 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


Literacy Milestone: "I Love to Write"

LiteracyMilestoneAAt my daughter's back-to-school night last week, her first grade teacher, in speaking to the room full of parents, mentioned that one little girl in the class had made her day by saying that she loved to write. The teacher looked right at me with a little smile as she said this, adding that most kids at this age do not love writing. [Presumably because it's still quite difficult.] I was pretty sure that she was talking about my daughter, and confirmed this afterwards. I said something to the teacher like: "Well, we read to her a lot." My husband added that he had shown her a story that he wrote when he was in first grade, and that this had made a strong impression on her, errors and all.

I share this incident not so much to brag (though I am proud of this), but because THIS is the kind of payoff that you get as a parent from reading thousands of books to your child and encouraging your child's literacy whenever you can. You can end up with a child who is comfortable with the idea of writing, and who delights in the written word.

We still read aloud to my daughter MUCH more than she reads herself. Her spelling remains quite hit or miss, because she hears the words more than she sees them. But this has not so far slowed her down. She writes the words the way they sound to her, because she wants to get them down on paper. She is confident that someone will want to read them. The fact that she has a first grade teacher who values this makes me optimistic regarding the coming school year.

My daughter asked me if I would order special "rough draft paper" like they use in class. I was, needless to say, more than happy to comply. 

© 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


The Many Benefits of Sorting Our #PictureBooks

Recently my six-year-old daughter was complaining tearfully about not being in charge of anything. Keeping her room clean didn't cut it as a suggestion. So I suggested that she could be in charge of organizing her picture books and setting some aside for donation. This suggestion took, and we've been working in small chunks on this rather large project. 

First my daughter made a plan. This involved a sketch of one set of bookshelves and some boxes, with a mass of connecting lines. It's not very legible, but the general idea is to sort the books into several categories:

  1. Books she wants to donate
  2. Books that are a "maybe" on keeping vs. donating
  3. Books that she definitely wants to keep
  4. Favorite books that she super-definitely wants to keep
  5. Books that she doesn't want in her room, but that we are allowed to keep for when she is older (e.g. books with scary covers)

We agreed that all three of us would have veto power on anything going into category 1. At the end of the process there won't be any books in category 2. The books in category 3 will go back on the shelves, with at least some level of organization as they are shelved. We'll find a special spot for the category 4 books. And the books in category 5 will go in my office. My daughter does the first pass sort, and then I go through and do a second pass. My husband checks the donate box to make sure there isn't anything he wants to keep. 

This is a slow process. What makes it time-consuming is that we are unearthing books that we love but haven't seen in a while, so we have to stop and read those. Some of the category 3 books also need to be read, so that we can assess whether or not we want to keep them. And some of the books in category four, well, we can never have those in hand without stopping to read them. In truth, not very many books actually stay in category 1, but there are a few. Here are some benefits of this project:

  • GoodnightTrainMy daughter feels empowered from being in charge of something.
  • We are reading a lot of books, including long-lost favorites (like The Goodnight Train). 
  • We are creating some much-needed space on our bookshelves.
  • Others will be able to enjoy our donated books when we are ready to drop them off. [There's a nearby Little Free Library that we plan to visit. We've already given away three boxes of board books.]
  • When we are finished, it will be easier to find particular books, particularly the super-duper favorites. 

I do realize that we are fortunate to have so many books in the first place, and I am working to convey this fact to my daughter. I just read an article about a study that identified "book deserts" in low-income neighborhoods in several US cities. Here's a quote from the article:

"The researchers found stark disparities in access to children's books for families living in high-poverty areas. Borderline communities in all three cities had substantially greater numbers of books - an average of 16 times as many books per child - than did the high-poverty neighborhoods in the same cities.

This disparity was even more pronounced in Washington, D.C. In the high-poverty neighborhood of Anacostia, 830 children would have to share a single age-appropriate book, while only two children would need to share a book in the borderline neighborhood of Capitol Hill."

When I compare the picture painted by this article with the stacks of books in our house, I feel sad. Certainly I feel determined to make sure that our unwanted books eventually find their way to good homes.

But in the meantime, we are enjoying the process of sorting picture books. When we're finished I'll post the list of the super-duper favorites. How do you all organize your picture 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


Literacy Milestone: Inventing Connections to Authors and Illustrators

LiteracyMilestoneAI always read the name of the author and/or illustrator aloud to my daughter when we begin a book. If I have some connection to the author or illustrator, I will mention it to her. I've been doing this for years. I think I do it so that she understands that authors and illustrators are real people, and to increase her excitement level about particular books (though the latter tactic is rarely successful - she judges books on the book, not who the author is).

LailaTovThe other night we read Good night, laila tov by Laurel Snyder. This had been a family favorite bedtime book when my daughter was younger, but we hadn't read it in a while. I said: "I know Laurel Snyder - I met her at a conference that I went to, and we are Facebook friends." 

Without missing a beat, my daughter pointed to the name of the illustrator, Jui Ishida, and said: "I know the illustrator. This is John's uncle." John is my daughter's imaginary friend. And clearly she didn't know that Jui Ishida was a woman. But I went with it anyway.

When we picked up our first book the next morning, A Tale of Two Beasts by Fiona Roberton, she told me that it had been written by John's mother. When I asked about the dedication, she said that the person named was John's little sister. Then she gave a little grin and added: "I like pretending." 

This is admittedly a milestone that is most likely to occur for people active in the children's book community (authors, bloggers, etc.). But I think what this shows is that our kids pick up on and emulate whatever it is we do. If I'm going to share my own connections with children's books authors and illustrators, then my daughter is going to do so, too, even if she has to invent the connections. It made me smile. 

© 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: Adding A Dedication Page to Stories

LiteracyMilestoneAThe other day my daughter decided that she would make my husband a book for his birthday. The book is called "The Case of Pirititis" (pirate-itis). It's about a girl named Olive who finds herself transformed into a pirate, though it's not finished. This is not my daughter's first book, but what struck me about her work this time was that she added a dedication page. The book was dedicated to my husband and me, with our full names listed. 

She's been noticing dedication pages for a while now, though I haven't always made a point of reading them to her. I do always read the name of the author and illustrator, and we'll frequently talk about what other books the same person has written and/or illustrated. If I've met the author I'll tell her that, too. And if we received the book as a gift I'll mention that, of course.

Anyway, the book for which she started noticing dedications was a book that included her own name along with the name of a family friend. Even though she understood that the book wasn't really dedicated to her, she got a kick out of this, and it has added to her enjoyment of a favorite title. Now we often look at the dedication page as part of our reading, and we sometimes speculate on who the person might be.

And now, apparently, her own work will also have dedication pages. I think this is great, and I wish that I had always highlighted the dedication pages in our read-alouds. I think that seeing the dedications helps her to see authors and illustrators as real people with loved ones. It also shows her, example after example, in a non-pushy way, authors and illustrators demonstrating appreciation for the people in their lives. Can't go wrong with that!

A small related story that some of you will perhaps appreciate: yesterday she was negotiating with me to receive a prize for a particular behavior. I'm not a big fan of using extrinsic rewards, and I was pushing back. She said to me, with a gleam of triumph in her eyes: "But don't you want to know what the prize I want is? It's a new notebook for writing more stories." She does know me pretty well, and that I'll be much more likely to okay a notebook than, say, a toy. I'm proud to report that I still refused to give the reward. However, a new pack of exam books may have landed in my shopping cart at Costco yesterday, to be given at a later date. 

For those of you who wrote your own stories/books as a kid, did they have dedications? I can't remember doing that myself, though my memory isn't what it might be... 

© 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


A Tiny Parenting Win re: Reading

The other day my daughter was on her device for the duration of a 1 1/2 hour drive home from Monterey. When she got home, she wanted to keep using the device, particularly because I had agreed to let her download a new app. When my husband and I said no, that she had reached her limit for the day and then some, she was, shall we say, none too happy. She proceeded to mope about, with much whining, complaining, etc. My husband and I ignored this as best we could, and left her alone. 

DinosaursBeforeDarkTen minutes later I popped back into the kitchen and spotted her sitting on the couch in the family room, reading a Magic Treehouse book. I immediately slipped away again, thinking: "Now there is a win for parenting." She can't comfortably read the Magic Treehouse books on her own - there are too many words that she needs help with - and she only ended up reading a couple of pages. But still -- when her device was taken away, after a relatively short period of sulking, she turned to a book.

I think that if a book that was more at her reading level had happened to be handy at that moment, she probably would have continued reading longer. As it was, she ended up going into the playroom and writing me, as the fictional Emily, a note about how she would not be able to attend my upcoming birthday party because she, as the fictional Sara, had a science camp reunion that day. There is no Emily. Her name is not Sara. She's never attended science camp. I do not know where these things come from. But I did send a response.

What I do know is that if my daughter had been on her device, she would not have been trying to read a Magic Treehouse book, nor would she have been practicing writing and storytelling. And so, a small win for parenting. 

None of this is to say that I will never give her device time, or that there aren't educational benefits to some of the things she does on her tablet. But this small incident still reinforced to me the upside of setting limits on screen time. Even if one has to endure some sulking. 

© 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: Anticipating a Potential Sequel

LiteracyMilestoneAMy daughter has been aware for some time that books can have sequels. I'll often point this out. As in: "Hey, I heard that there's a sequel to Louise Loves Art coming out later this year. Isn't that cool?" But the other day was the first time that I'm aware of that she finished a book and anticipated that there should be a sequel forthcoming. 

We were reading Frankie Stein by Lola M. Schaefer and Kevan Atteberry, about a little boy who baffles his scary monster parents (Mr. and Mrs. Frank N. Stein) by turning out to be completely human-looking and rather cute. After the parents spend most of the book trying to make Frankie look and act more like them, Frankie ends up deciding to be his own cute=scary-to-monsters self. The book ends with the birth of Frankie's even cuter baby sister. As we closed the book, my daughter said "I can't WAIT for the sequel."

I gently pointed out that I didn't think that there was going to be a sequel to this title. [Though later research proved me wrong about this.] Her response was: "But there was a baby born at the end." I thought it marked progress in her development as a reader that she could recognize a situation that seemed likely to require a sequel. There are babies born at the end of Maple by Lori Nichols and One Special Day by Lola M. Schaefer and Jessica Meserve, and both of those books have sequels. So why not Frankie Stein? 

It turns out that the sequel, which actually was published several years ago, appears to be more about Frankie than about his sister, but I haven't read it yet. I did order it, though, to show my daughter that she was correct in her instincts. 

Katherine Sokolowski wrote recently on her blog about how her son is eagerly waiting for a third book in a favorite series that won't even be published until next summer. She said: "Thanks, Phil (Bildner), for making my kid love a book so much he wants to spend a summer day reading it - a year from now." Here I'll express my thanks to Lola M. Schaefer, and to the many other authors who I am sure will follow, who make my daughter say: "I can't WAIT for the sequel."

I think that eagerly awaiting books that haven't been published yet (or that we don't know have been published yet, anyway) is the hallmark of a true reader. 

© 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