109 posts categorized "Literacy Milestones" Feed

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

Literacy Milestone: Screening Books for Mom's Blog

LiteracyMilestoneAWhile this is not a typical milestone on the path to literacy, I've noticed a new behavior on my daughter's part that I thought my readers might appreciate. When new picture books for potential review come to the house, I normally place them on the kitchen table so that I can read them with my daughter. She's become gradually aware that I write about some of the books, but not all of the books, and she has started giving specific feedback.

Yesterday I was a bit busy, so she sat herself down, read through a stack of five books, and sorted them according to whether or not she though I should blog about them. She calls the ones that make the cut "write books", meaning that I should write about them. Of the five books in yesterday's stack she pronounced three "write books" and one "meh, you don't need to write about this one." The fifth book she was uncertain about, and said that I would have to read it myself to decide. It was like she had taken on the responsibility of doing the first pass screening as her job (for which she is amply paid in books). 

VampirinaBeachI should clarify that I will read all of the books and will decide myself which ones call for a review. She's a bit harsh these days on books for younger kids, for example. But I do find her input helpful. When she loves a book, chances are good that I will appreciate it, too. We've been reading together for seven years, after all. She also checks back sometimes to make sure I've written about the books that she particularly likes. As I picked up Vampirina at the Beach (which we had read previously) from the floor of her room this morning she said: "You did write about Vampirina, didn't you, Mommy?" [Yes, I did.]

What say you, blogging parents? Do you ever use the opinions of your kids on your blog? Am I ruining my child by making her a critic at such a young age? I don't really think so. I think it's useful to learn that there are books we like more than others, books we think are better-written, or better illustrated, or that other people would like to know about. So I guess we can call this one a milestone on the path the literacy for children of book reviewers. 

© 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: Making Inferences

LiteracyMilestoneAThe other day I read a post by Daniel Willingham about the importance of teaching kids to make inferences when they read. Making inferences is something I'm quite experienced at myself (to a fault, and to the tune of many a ruined surprise ending of book or movie). It so happened that a family read aloud session later that day suggested that my daughter is doing just fine in developing this critical reading skill. 

I was reading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban to my husband and daughter, all of us snuggled together in her bed. We finished Chapter 10, and I pointed out that the title of the next chapter was The Firebolt. My daughter sat up and clapped her hands and said: "Oh! I wonder who is going to give Harry the Firebolt." My husband said something like: "How do you know that's what the title means?" and she scoffed. "Daddy! Of course that's what it means." And she proceeded to think about who would be most likely to give Harry a Firebolt. 

Here she was drawing an inference from two incidents earlier in the book. The first was when Harry saw and fell in love with the new Firebolt brooms, but decided that he could not justify buying one. The second was when Harry's trusty Nimbus 2000 was destroyed in a conflict. Putting these two things together with a chapter titled The Firebolt, my daughter had no doubt whatsoever. And, of course, she was correct (though her guesses about who might have delivered the Firebolt were understandably incorrect). 

I thought: "Yes, that's my girl." 

Thinking about this more, I do think that we as adults can draw a couple of inferences from this incident. The first is that if you read frequently to a child, and you model making inferences yourself along the way, your child may very well pick up this skill naturally, through observation.

The second is just a reminder that the benefits of reading aloud to your children are considerable. We only read a few pages a day of Harry Potter (usually in the mornings, to avoid any scary dreams). This means that my daughter has to hold details in her head over an extended period. But we stop frequently and talk about the book, and we talk about the book at other times too. She's learning about drawing inferences. She's learning about plot and characterization. She is certainly expanding her vocabulary. And the beauty of it all is that we are having an amazing time. 

One more tiny incident from the same night. As my daughter requested (demanded?) a family reading session of Harry Potter, I mildly pointed out: "Some families don't read together, you know." She stopped in her tracks and shouted: "WHAT!!!??? WHAT???!!" The mere idea was shocking. It was kind of funny. But as I look at the many benefits that my daughter has accrued from being read to, and the enjoyment that my husband and I have had from the process, I wish I could whisper in the ears of those families to encourage them give it a try. 

© 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 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