116 posts categorized "Literacy Milestones" Feed

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)"


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


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


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