102 posts categorized "Literacy Milestones" Feed

On Reading Physical Books with Kids

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wishing you all happy reading!

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

Literacy Milestone: Getting Lost in a Book


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

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

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

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

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

Literacy Milestone: "I wish I had a book" OR Reading in the Car

LiteracyMilestoneAThe other day, as we got into the car to drive home from her karate lesson, my daughter remarked "Oh! I wish I had a book to read for the drive home." And then she realized: "But it's ok, we can listen to my audiobook." Which we did.

The drive home from karate is less than two miles, and having something to read isn't really pressing, but I certainly appreciated the sentiment. When I was a child I would never have considered undertaking the 15-20 minute drive to my grandparents' house with a book to read. For longer trips I would carefully plan out which books I was going to take. 

Alas, thanks to motion sickness I am not able to read in the car anymore (with the wonderful exception of audiobooks). But it gives me great pleasure to know that my daughter can, and wants to. 

MagicTreehouseTigerShe'll still choose her tablet when she can (and the tablet was necessary on a recent cross-country plane trip). But I made a rule a while back that she is not allowed to use the tablet for drives less than 30 minutes. That rule is paying off now, as she starts to think before every outing "What book should I bring?"

When she was younger I tried keeping picture books in the car at various points, but it never worked all that well. My daughter had only limited interest in looking at picture books by herself. She wanted someone to read to her. [Perhaps because she was so accustomed to having someone read to her.] Now that she can read to herself, however, it's a whole new world. 

You may be able to hear my sigh of contentment from wherever you are. 

© 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: 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