454 posts categorized "Literacy" Feed

Two Points on iGen and the Critical Importance of Kids Reading for Pleasure

IGenRecently I read the book iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy--and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood--and What That Means for the Rest of Us by Jean Twenge. It's about the generation of kids born between roughly 1995 and 2010, a generation Twenge dubs iGen, is different from previous generations. Twenge relies on analysis of several surveys of high school kids and young adults that have been asking the same questions for many years, supplemented by interviews with junior high, high school and college kids. I was interested in this book in part because my daughter falls right at the tail of the time window, and also because my company has been looking to hire students graduating from college (the other end of the iGen window). 

There are a lot of interesting ideas and conclusions in the book, and I do recommend that people give it a look. The take home message for me is that I want to put off getting my daughter a smartphone for as long as possible, while encouraging her to continue participating in sports and spending time in person with other kids. Because these things are all associated with more positive outcomes. 

But what I want to talk about specifically today is two points that the book makes regarding reading for pleasure. In Chapter 2, there's a section of the book titled "Are Books Dead?" Sadly, Twenge's conclusion is that reading for pleasure, while not dead, is in decline among today's kids. She notes that:

"In the late 1970's, the clear majority of teens read a book or a magazine nearly every day, but by 2015, only 16% did. In other words, three times as many Boomers as iGen’ers read a book or magazine every day. Because the survey question was written in the 1970s, before e-readers existed, it does not specify the format of the book or magazine, so Millennials or iGen’ers who read on a Kindle or iPad would still be included... 

By 2015, one out of three high school seniors admitted they had not read any books for pleasure in the past year, three times as many as in 1976. Even college students entering four-year universities, the young people presumably most likely to read books, are reading less (see Figure 2.4)...

This huge decline flatly contradicts a 2014 Pew Research Center study cheered by many in publishing, which found that 16-to 29-year-olds were more likely to read books than older people. Why the difference? The Pew study included books read for school assignments, which younger people are of course more likely to have. Thus it committed the classic mistake of a one-time study: confusing age and generation. In the data here, where everyone is the same age, iGen teens are much less likely to read books than their Millennial, GenX, and Boomer predecessors."

There's a graph. Twenge shows similar results for reading magazines and newspapers. She posits (after looking at data showing that teens are not spending more time on homework or other extracurricular activities) that this decline is due to teens spending so much time on smartphones that reading time is basically squeezed out. She also shows that this decline in time spent reading coincides with a decline in SAT scores, especially in writing and critical reading (though of course it is impossible to directly claim causation). She expresses concern that as today's teens head into college, reading long textbooks will be extremely difficult for them, and suggests changes that may be necessary to accommodate the iGen'ers. 

So that's point 1: Teens today are reading less, at least in part because they are spending a lot of time on smartphones.

For the second point that I'm interested in sharing, we turn to Chapter 4 of iGen: Insecure: The New Mental Health Crisis. In this chapter, Twenge shares a range of demoralizing statistics about how today's teens are more emotionally fragile, more lonely, and more prone to depression and suicide. She looks at a variety of survey data and attempts to discern causes, applying a two-part test to possible causes: "(1) it must be correlated with mental health issues or unhappiness and (2) it must have changed at the same time and in the correct direction." She finds: 

"Time spent doing homework fails both tests; it’s not linked to depression, and it didn’t change much over that time period. TV watching is linked to depression, but teens watch less TV now than they used to, so it fails test number two. Time spent on exercise and sports is linked to less depression, but it didn’t change much since 2012, so they fail test number two, too.

Only three activities definitively pass both tests. First, new-media screen time (such as electronic devices and social media) is linked to mental health issues and/ or unhappiness, and it rose at the same time. Second and third, in-person social interaction and print media are linked to less unhappiness and less depression, and both have declined at the same time as mental health has deteriorated.

A plausible theory includes three possible causes: (1) more screen time has led directly to more unhappiness and depression, (2) more screen time has led to less in-person social interaction, which then led to unhappiness and depression, and (3) more screen time has led to less print media use, leading to unhappiness and depression. In the end, all of the mechanisms come back to new-media screen time in one way or another. By all accounts, it is the worm at the core of the apple."

You'll have to read the book for the full details of which studies Twenge is referencing and how she comes to these conclusions. But what particularly struck me (as will not surprise regular readers) is that reading print media, like participating in sports and spending time with friends, was associated with positive mental health outcomes. So that's point 2. 

So here's what we have: teens are spending less time reading for pleasure, and this decline is associated with negative mental health outcomes. What this says to me is that encouraging kids to enjoy reading is even more important than I already thought. Reading for pleasure has so many benefits: improved vocabulary, increased empathy, and improved math skills, to name a few. And now, it seems, it may also be tied to mental health and happiness. 

To all parents reading this, I implore you: put as much focus as you can on making sure that your kids ENJOY reading. Don't worry about their reading level, or how many graphic novels they read, or whether or not they make spelling errors when they write. If you help them to ENJOY reading, they will eventually read, and many good things will follow. You'll be helping them academically in the long run. You'll be giving them hours of pleasure in the short run. And you'll be doing something that appears to protect against ills like anxiety and depression. If that's not worth doing, I don't know what is. 

© 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.


Rekindling Intrinsic Motivation After Extrinsic Rewards Damage It

Last summer a mother lamented to me that her son, who had been a big reader during the school year, wasn't reading over the summer. She said that this was because he was no longer getting AR points for his books. So, whereas the previous summer he had always had a book in his hand, this summer he did not. The difference being that that he had been reading for AR points during the school year. [See my other post about AR.]

I've been occasionally mulling over this question ever since. More recently, I talked with another couple about this subject. These were parents who have older children and who have been through a similar experience. They said that they had to create some loose incentives for their kids during the summers, once AR tracking started in earnest. "Read 500 pages and get some reward" - that sort of thing. I imagine this is a reason why many parents enroll their kids in summer reading programs. To insert extrinsic motivation (you read and then you get something) when the intrinsic motivation (you read because love it) has faded.

These things probably work, at least to some extent, in making kids read over the summer. But it seems to me that this problem will get worse and worse over subsequent summers. What I wonder is this: is there a way to rekindle intrinsic motivation in someone who has become dependent on extrinsic rewards? Can we ever get them back to reading for its own sake? I don't have any definitive answers, but I do have some thoughts. 

Obviously, the ideal big picture solution is to keep your child from becoming dependent on outside rewards in the first place. [I personally don't enroll my daughter in summer reading programs for this reason.] But what can you do if you are already there?

You can do the usual things that I and many others have recommended for raising readers: read aloud, take your child to the library, subscribe to magazines that suit their interests, set an example by reading yourself, listen to audiobooks in the car, keep print books everywhere, and limit screen time, to name a few. 

LunchLadyReadingWhat I would add is that if your child was previously an avid reader, perhaps you can turn to nostalgia. If your child was into Harry Potter last summer, but has yet to pick up the next book this summer, try watching all of the movies for the books that he's already read. Do not offer the movies of any unread books. Find some subtle way to remind the child of how happy he was previously when reading. Are there photos? Bring them out. I'm going to be prepared to break out the photo shown to the left in the future, if my daughter ever needs reminding. Are there favorite titles for which you only had library copies? Buy one. Break out your family's favorite picture books and allow yourself to be spotted reading them. Your previously internally motivated child is still in there -- see if you can draw her back out.

If you are dealing with a child who has never been intrinsically motivated to read, then the challenge is harder. Here what I might try is extrinsic rewards that are experience-based, rather than stuff-based, and related to the books being read. "After you read this book about a kid surviving in the wild, we'll go on a camping trip." That sort of thing. It seems like this would create positive associations with reading in a more nuanced way than just "read 100 pages and I'll give you a dollar".

I would also highly recommend trying to create some sort of family reading routine. Maybe read aloud an old family favorite together at bedtime. Or initiate family D.E.A.R. time, when everyone reads the book or magazine of his or her choice. Start a project and borrow books related to that project: dig a garden, build a shed, plan a trip. The idea here is again to create positive associations with reading. You don't want "I read and I feel happy because I got a sticker from the library." You want instead "The time that my family and I spent listening to that book together in the car made us closer, and now we have all these fun inside jokes" or "Reading snuggled up on the couch next to my mom, with each of reading our own book, was a nice way to spend time every afternoon before dinner." 

We choose to spend time doing what we enjoy. We want our kids to spend time reading because they love it, not because they got a sticker or got a certain number of points next to their name on the board. If your child has lost that internal motivation to read, the path back could be to remind her of why she used to enjoy it, and/or show her why it's enjoyable now. That's what makes sense to me, anyway. 

Does anyone else have direct experience with this issue that you can share? 

© 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


Tips for Encouraging Summer Reading

I wrote an article for my daughter's school website recently that included tips for parents to encourage their kids to read over the summer. Reprinted here are my main suggestions from that article:

KFRR-6ed-cover"1. Give your kids CHOICE. There are many other activities and screens vying for kids' attention. If you want them to choose reading, you have to make reading as enjoyable as possible. And the number one way to do that (see the Scholastic Kids and Family Reading Report for details) is to give them choice in what they read. Take them to the library or a local bookstore. Let them browse on Amazon. Go to a garage sale or visit a Little Free Library. Just make sure they have plenty of choice and give them (within your parental values) free rein.
 
2. Don't worry too much about reading levels for summer reading. Trying books above their official reading level because they are particularly interested in something can be a validating experience and can help kids to stretch their abilities. But if your child wants to re-read her favorites from two summers ago, let her do that, too, just as you permit yourself read that "beach read" at the pool. The most important thing is that kids enjoy reading. They'll naturally get better and better at it all the time if they choose to spend time reading. Comic books, graphic novels, fact-filled almanacs, joke books ... it's all reading, and it's all good.
 
3. Read with your kids some of the time. Continue reading aloud to your kids if/when you can, even after they can read on their own. This gives them a chance to hear more challenging books, and gives you the chance as a family to share and discuss all sorts of interesting things.
 
4. Let them see you reading. Ideally, let them see you reading print books. Even if you are reading a book on your phone, they won't see it that way. But if they see you choose a book instead of picking up your phone or turning on the TV, they will be more likely to do the same. This is especially true for boys who see their dads reading.
 
5. If you have long car rides together, try listening to audiobooks. As long as you pick something good, this can make the drive go by much more quickly. And yes, listening is real reading. New readers have a much higher listening comprehension level than they do decoding ability, so audiobooks are a chance to boost enjoyment and vocabulary."

Of course I can think of other tips, too, but these are a good place to start. What it all boils down to is, give kids choice and keep summer reading fun. 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. 


3 Tips for Reading Aloud to an Impatient 11-Month-Old

JRBPlogo-smallOne day last week, a mom who reads my blog emailed me looking for advice. She said that she had been trying to read aloud to her 11-month-old son, but that she was having a hard time getting him to stay put for the reading sessions. I sent her the following three suggestions:

1. Don’t try to get him to stay put. Read aloud to him while he’s wandering around, playing with blocks, or whatever else captures his fancy. Kids often are listening even when they don’t seem like they are listening. If he’s not looking at the pictures, you can actually read aloud from almost anything. When my daughter was an infant I read the first Harry Potter book aloud to her. The idea is to get him used to cadence of your voice when you are reading, and for him to hear lots of different (rich) vocabulary words.

2. Read to him while he’s in his high chair eating. Take advantage of him being a captive audience. Here you can hold the book up and show pictures, so it's good to stick with books that have simple, bright illustrations. Leslie Patricelli's board books are excellent for this purpose, but anything he's shown an interest in will do. I still read aloud to my daughter almost every day while she eats breakfast. I believe that I first saw this idea in Jim Trelease's Read Aloud Handbook.

3. When you are trying to sit with him and read together, try books with flaps and/or things to touch. You have to give them something extra to hold their attention at this age. My daughter adored books with flaps when she was a year old or so, and they remain among my go-to gift books for toddlers. Here are a few suggestions:

Young toddlers can be a tough audience for reading aloud, but it's absolutely still worth the effort. The trick is to accept that they may need to move around or play with the books. Whenever they are a captive audience, sitting in a high chair or in a car car seat, you can take advantage of that, too. 

What do other readers say? Do you have particular tips for reading aloud with one-year-olds? Thanks for reading!

© 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


Limiting Kids' Free Choice in Reading Will NOT Make them Avid Readers

This weekend I read a post called Kindles, Nooks and eReaders - or Paper Books? by Savita Kalhan at An Awfully Big Blog Adventure (the group blog of some UK-based authors). Kalhan shares the story of "a very large school" that recently invested in eReaders for all year seven, eight, and nine students. Here's the part that got me:

"The school has preloaded each eReader with a total of eighteen books for the school year. It also preloads subject specific word banks, revision tools, and other tasks to support work in lessons and out of school.

Interesting, although the school allows its pupils to read paper books, all their form reading time and reading in English lessons must be on the eReader. Even more interestingly, pupils require a permission note from the parent to bring a paper book to school!"

Now, I think there are arguments to be made for and against eReaders in general. This school administration apparently felt that the benefits of being able to look up words easily while kids are reading outweighed any disadvantages of using eReaders vs. print books. This may or may not be true. But they pre-loaded the devices with 18 titles each! I currently have 117 mostly unread titles on my Kindle (because I remove books after I read them). And I still find myself adding new titles all the time, especially before I travel, to make sure that I have enough books to choose from. How could anyone restrict kids, for their in-school reading, to choosing from such a small number of titles? Titles that someone else picked in the first place. Who could possibly think that this would be a good idea? 

Coincidentally I noticed this remark from Katherine Sokolowski on a blog post on the same day. Katherine will moving from teaching fifth grade to teaching seventh grade at a different school, and said:

"My biggest challenge of the moment is how to take my classroom library of 3500 books and sort it. Books that are really not for 7th graders will stay, I want to leave the person taking over for me something to start with. But how to even begin? I have no idea. "

That's right: "my classroom library of 3,500 books." Of course not every student is lucky enough to have a teacher who assembles a library of this magnitude. But I wish they did. I wish more teachers were like Katherine. 

Anyway Savita Kalhan has more to say about these eReaders in her post, and there are some thoughtful comments there already. But to me, the central point is: you can't restrict the reading choice of kids, and then expect them to end up as avid readers.

In a related incident, I shared a less-than-positive experience regarding my daughter's book reports on Facebook last week. [That will be a topic for another day.] One of my friends commented that her issue was that her granddaughter is only allowed to read books in school that are at her grade level. So this 11-year-old is not being allowed to read Coraline, which she really wants to read, because that book is for 8th graders.

My feeling on that you should let kids read books that they are excited about. If a book is truly too difficult, the child will become bored or discouraged, and will go read something else. What often happens is that if the child is interested enough, she will stretch herself, and advance her own reading skills.

Yes, there may be cases where you want to say no because of some mature content in a particular book. But that is not at all the same thing as having some blanket policy that says you can only choose from some sub-set of books that happen to qualify as your "age level." Presumably this girl is also not allowed to go back and read Magic Tree House or Princess in Black books either. 

It just makes me so angry when schools put policies in place that take away kids' joy of reading. The number one goal of schools should be nurturing the joy of learning, especially when it comes to reading. If you learn to love reading, doors will open to you throughout your entire life. In contrast, if you learn that reading is a chore, if you are rebuffed in your enthusiasms, you'll be harmed forever. 

© 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


News Release: Random House to Donate 50,000 New Dr. Seuss Books to First Book

I don't share full press releases very often, but decided to share this one in honor of today's celebration of Read Across America Day (Dr. Seuss's birthday). 

RANDOM HOUSE CHILDREN’S BOOKS AND DR. SEUSS ENTERPRISES TO DONATE 50,000 NEW DR. SEUSS BOOKS TO FIRST BOOK 

Nationwide “Hats Off to Reading” birthday celebrations honor the beloved children’s author 

TedGeisel_DrSeuss_4cNew York, NY (March 1, 2016)—In honor of Dr. Seuss’s 112th birthday on Wednesday, March 2, Random House Children’s Books (RHCB), together with Dr. Seuss Enterprises (DSE), will make a donation of 50,000 new Dr. Seuss books to First Book, it was announced today by Barbara Marcus, President & Publisher, RHCB. [Photo of Ted Geisel Courtesy of Dr. Seuss Enterprises]

The books donated to First Book by Random House Children’s Books and Dr. Seuss Enterprises will be provided to children in need through First Book’s network of more than 230,000 educators and program leaders nationwide. First Book supports educators and program leaders serving children from low-income families by providing ongoing access to free and affordable, high-quality new books and educational resources. To date, the organization has distributed more than 140 million books in the U.S. and Canada.

“Dr. Seuss’s incredible imagination, unique storytelling, and beloved characters have inspired generations of readers to learn to love to read, and we at Random House aspire to carry this legacy on in our work every day,” says Marcus. “We are thrilled to work with First Book to give children who do not have access to books the opportunity to experience the magic of reading a Dr. Seuss book.”

“Helping kids become lifelong readers is the number one reason why educators seek books from First Book,” said Kyle Zimmer, president and CEO of First Book. “Just imagine their excitement when receiving 50,000 brand-new Dr. Seuss books! Thank you to our heroes at Random House Children’s Books and Dr. Seuss Enterprises for sharing this generous donation of books to kids who need them most.”

“Ted wanted to make reading fun for children and inspire their imaginations so it would please him to know that those without books at home are being given the opportunity to read and imagine the possibilities by receiving their very own first book, says Susan Brandt, President of Licensing and Marketing, Dr. Seuss Enterprises, L.P. “We at DSE are thrilled to announce this donation in honor of his birthday, and together with our partners at First Book and Random House.”

Dr. Seuss’s birthday is an annually recognized nationwide reading event, with millions of children celebrating in stores, libraries, schools and even military bases across the country. Visit Seussville.com for a listing of events and more information about “Hats Off to Reading” activities.

HiRes_WhatPetShouldIGet_COVER2015 marked an extraordinary year for Dr. Seuss, with the publication of a newly discovered book, What Pet Should I Get?—making this year’s “Hats Off to Reading” events even more special, and a celebration of not only Dr. Seuss’s birthday but this exciting new addition to his classic canon. The manuscript and accompanying sketches for the picture book were discovered in the late author’s La Jolla, California, home and the book was published on July 28, 2015. It debuted at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list and went on to become the fastest-selling picture book in Random House Children’s Books history. [What Pet Should I Get cover image TM & © Dr. Seuss Enterprises, L.P. 2015. All Rights Reserved.]

About Dr. Seuss

Theodor “Seuss” Geisel is quite simply one of the most beloved children’s book authors of all time. His long list of awards includes Caldecott Honors for McElligot’s Pool, If I Ran the Zoo, and Bartholomew and the Oobleck, the Pulitzer Prize, and eight honorary doctorates. Works based on his original stories have won three Oscars, three Emmys, three Grammys, and a Peabody. Geisel wrote and illustrated 45 books during his lifetime, and his books have sold more than 650 million copies worldwide. Though Theodor Geisel died on September 24, 1991, Dr. Seuss lives on, inspiring generations of children of all ages to explore the joys of reading. For more information about Dr. Seuss and his works, visit Seussville.com.

About Dr. Seuss Enterprises, L.P.

The primary focus of Dr. Seuss Enterprises, L.P., is to protect the integrity of Dr. Seuss books while expanding beyond books into ancillary areas. This effort is a strategic part of the overall mission to nurture and safeguard the relationship consumers have with Dr. Seuss characters. Theodor Seuss Geisel (Dr. Seuss) said he never wanted to license his characters to anyone who would “round out the edges.” That is one of the guiding philosophies of Dr. Seuss Enterprises. Audrey S. Geisel, the widow of Dr. Seuss, heads Dr. Seuss Enterprises as CEO.

About First Book

First Book is a nonprofit social enterprise that has distributed more than 140 million books and educational resources to programs and schools serving children from low-income families throughout the United States and Canada. By making new, high-quality books and educational resources available on an ongoing basis, First Book is transforming the lives of children in need and elevating the quality of education. For more information, please visit firstbook.org or follow the latest news on Facebook and Twitter.

About Random House Children’s Books

Random House is the world’s largest English-language children’s trade book publisher. Creating books for toddlers through young adult readers, in all formats from board books to activity books to picture books, novels, ebooks, and apps, the imprints of Random House Children’s Books bring together award-winning authors and illustrators, world-famous franchise characters, and multimillion-copy series. Random House is the longtime home of the beloved and bestselling Dr. Seuss books, which continue to make learning to read fun for millions of children everywhere. The company’s website, Kids@Random (randomhousekids.com), offers an array of activities, games, and educational resources for children, teens, parents, and educators. Random House Children’s Books is a division of Penguin Random House LLC.


I'm Now Posting at the EdWords Blog

Child-316510_1280This week I started blogging for EdWords, a BAM Radio Network blog, after being invited by Rae Pica. My first post there was my recent article on Encouraging Your Child to Like Math: Why and How. Today I shared an update of my 10 Tips for Growing Bookworms (originally published on this blog back in 2007, last updated in 2011). The main tip that needed updating was a tip about reducing time that kids spend watching TV - this now more generally applies to all screen time, not just time in front of the television. 

I'm excited about this opportunity to blog at EdWords. Here's what the EdWords guidelines for bloggers say: "our audience consists of teachers, school administrators, parents, education advocates, and others interested in what’s happening in the world of education and looking for practical steps they can take". Sounds right up my alley, given my growing joyful learners focus, doesn't it? Also, the EdWords focus on practical, actionable articles will push me in a good direction, I think. 

I imagine I'll cross-post most of my EdWords articles here, but if you would like to follow me there, you can subscribe to updates my JoyfulLearners EdWords profile. I would also recommend, if you are interested in education, that you check out all of the EdWords posts - I've been finding lots of great stuff there. 

© 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


Raising Passionate Readers: 5 Easy Steps to Success in School and Life: Nancy Newman

Book: Raising Passionate Readers: 5 Easy Steps to Success in School and Life
Author: Nancy Newman
Pages: 222
Age Range: Adult 

Nancy Newman is a long-time teacher as well as a mother to three sons. Her book, Raising Passionate Readers: 5 Easy Steps to Success in School and Life is a practical handbook aimed squarely at parents on encouraging their children to love (and hence become good at) reading. Needless to say, this book was right up my alley. I found many passages that resonated with me. And despite already having plenty of motivation for and ideas about raising my daughter to love books, I found new ideas, too. I would recommend this book for any parent, whether a passionate fan of reading already or not. 

 The author has developed a simple five step approach, distilled from her years of professional and personal experience. For each step she offers motivation/context as well as concrete tips. Each chapter ends with a Review section broken out into bulleted Main Points as well as Actions. These sections feel a bit redundant on a straight read-through, but I think they will be very handy to refer back to.

Raising Passionate Readers is formatted for busy parents. There is plenty of white space, along with bullets, bolding, and italics to bring important text to the forefront. There are also call out quotes of key points. Most references to research are left for an extensive Notes section at the end of the book. Newman's tone is pragmatic without being preachy, and I think that the book will work for parents from a wide range of backgrounds. 

The chapter that I personally got the most of, as the parent of a preschooler, was Step Two: Encourage Free Play and Fiercely Protect Free Time. While this concept might seem a bit peripheral to the goal of raising readers, Newman explains why free play and free time are essential to the cognitive development of children. She warns that free play is becoming extinct (something I do worry about), but she strongly urges parents to try to change this. She specifically tackles the challenge of nurturing playfulness in young children even though it can be disruptive (delays, mess, etc.). She argues that when a preschooler is running wild "her passion for learning overtakes all other thoughts and she's off and running", adding:

"This is an important dynamic to understand because your attitude about your child's playfulness, and the way you express your anger and frustration when she disrupts your hoe or schedule, will have a tremendous impact on her attitude towards learning. While you want to keep her safe and teach her how to follow rules and behave well, you also want to nurture her intellectual curiosity and enjoyment of learning."

She goes on to provide concrete examples for redirecting behavior without stomping down on intellectual curiosity. I found myself taking heed of Newman's guidance almost immediately. I flagged many other passages, too. While there are far too many to share here, here's one to give you more of an idea about the book:

(On nurturing new readers) "As often as you can, invite your child to "keep you company" by bringing her reading book to wherever you are in your house and reading to herself while you are doing your own quiet activity -- reading the newspaper, paying bills, using the computer, knitting, doing yoga, nursing her baby sister... This will make practicing a much less lonely, far more palatable experience for her." (Page 130)

The last sentence of the above passage gets, I think, to the heart of this book. Newman's goal is to help parents to make reading an enjoyable, positive experience. She believes, as I do, that if you do this, the rest will follow. This echoes the ideas of Jim Trelease in The Read-Aloud Handbook, of course. But Raising Passionate Readers is a much quicker read than The Read-Aloud Handbook, with less integrated research, and more of a focus on practical tips. I think that busy parents who are not immersed in literacy all day may find Raising Passionate Readers to be a bit more accessible than The Read Aloud Handbook.

Newman does not include recommended titles, as Trelease does, and Raising Passionate Readers might have benefitted from some direction for parents on helping their kids to find particular books. However, she does get into pros and cons of various electronic devices. She likens setting media consumption guidelines to setting dietary restrictions, and with a realistic acknowledgement that sometimes one splurges for special occasions. 

Although there is no shortage of books aimed at encouraging parents to raise readers, I think that Nancy Newman's Raising Passionate Readers is a useful addition to the canon. Newman's genuine passion for and experience with her subject is conveyed in a practical, parent-friendly package. Recommended!

Publisher: Tribeca View Press 
Publication Date: September 30, 2014
Source of Book: Review copy from the author

© 2015 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 site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).


Scholastic Kids and Family Reading Report, Fifth Edition

ScholasticReportfifth-editionThe Fifth Edition of the Scholastic Kids and Family Reading Report was published today. There is a lot of great content available on the Scholastic website, from downloads of the full report to infographics outlining key findings.

Here are some of the findings from the report that stood out for me (see full set of Key Findings here), with some of my thoughts on them:

On The State of Kids and Reading:

  • Key Finding: "Both parents of children ages 6–17 (71%) and kids (54%) rank strong reading skills as the most important skill a child should have. Yet while 86% of parents say reading books for fun is extremely or very important, only 46% of kids say the same."
  • My take: It seems clear that many parents understand the importance of reading, but parents are apparently not doing a very good job of conveying this to kids. I wonder if this has to do with wanting kids to LOVE reading, and hesitating to make the case that reading is important and valuable. Is there a fear that if we tell our kids that it's important for them to read, this will take away some of the joy? How can we balance this, I wonder...  

On What Makes Frequent Readers:

  • Key Finding: "There are several predictors that children ages 6–17 will be frequent readers. Three dynamics among the most powerful predictors are:
    • being more likely to rate themselves as “really enjoying reading”
    • a strong belief that reading for fun is important and
    • having parents who are frequent readers."
  • My take: Again, I wonder about the innate tension in "reading for fun is important." Does knowing that it's important imply that it's not fun? Like eating your vegetables? I do know that in my household, I am modeling reading every single day to my daughter. That much I am sure of. In thinking about this all more, I believe that the message I want to convey to my daughter is: "Reading for pleasure is very important to me. I need it like I need breathing. And I truly believe that all of the books that I have read for pleasure have helped to make me who I am." 

On Reading Aloud at Home:

  • Key Findings:
    • "More than half of children ages 0–5 (54%) are read aloud to at home 5–7 days a week. This declines to only one in three kids ages 6–8 (34%) and to one in six kids ages 9–11 (17%); four in 10 children ages 6–11 who were read books aloud at home (40%) say they wished their parents had continued reading aloud to them.
    • When it comes to being read aloud to at home, more than eight in 10 children (83%) across age groups say they love(d) or like(d) it a lot—the main reason being it was a special time with parents."
  • My take: There needs to be better communication of this message to parents - that we should continue reading aloud to our kids long after they can read on their own. It's beneficial to the kids, and enjoyable to both parties. Personally, I intend to read aloud to my daughter (and/or have my husband do so) for as long as she will allow it. 

On Income Differences:

  • Key Finding: "Six in 10 parents with children ages 0–5 (60%) have received advice that children should be read aloud to from birth; however, just under half of parents in the lowest-income households (47%) received this advice vs. 74% in the highest-income households."
  • My take: Clearly, work needs to be done here. There are some other findings in the report that show that schools do make up some of the slack for lower income children. 

On What Kids Want in Books:

  • Key Findings:
    • "Ninety-one percent of children ages 6–17 say “my favorite books are the ones that I have picked out myself.”
    • The majority of kids ages 6–17 (70%) say they want books that “make me laugh.” Kids also want books that “let me use my imagination” (54%), “tell a made-up story” (48%), “have characters I wish I could be like because they’re smart, strong or brave” (43%), “teach me something new” (43%) and “have a mystery or a problem to solve” (41%)."
  • My take: Nothing new here on choice. When kids are reading for fun, for goodness sake let them read what they want to read. If that happens to be books that are funny, great. Find them more books that are funny. I always recommend that parents check out the Cybils shortlists, because the Cybils finalists are selected on the basis of being well-written and kid-friendly (which often = funny, especially in the books for younger kids). 

And here are the two infographics (both (c) Scholastic):

ScholasticWMFR_info-2

ScholasticReadAloud_info-2

Please do go and check out the resources on the Scholastic website. This is important research that I hope will be widely disseminated, and used to help raise coming generations of readers. 

© 2015 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 Holiday Season, 70% of Kids Wants Books That Make Them Laugh, Says Scholastic

Scholastic today released a sneak peek at their Kids and Family Reading Report, due out in January, focused on the kinds of books that kids age 6-17 are looking for. The top attribute that kids are looking for in books that they read for pleasure? Humor. I would say that this is worth keeping in mind, as you do your holiday book shopping. 

Here is a handy infographic, shared with permission from Scholastic. You can find a handy printable version here, go to Downloads .

ScholasticInfoGraphicWhatKidsWant

And here is the text of the press release:

"The Complete Scholastic Kids & Family Reading Report™ 5th Edition Will Be Released January 2015

NEW YORK, December 3, 2014 – To help gift givers select the right books for children this holiday season, Scholastic (NASDAQ:SCHL), the global children’s publishing, education and media company, has released new data on "What Kids Want in Books – a "sneak preview" from the fifth edition of the Scholastic Kids & Family Reading Report™. This national survey of children ages 6–17 and their parents explores attitudes and behaviors around reading books for fun. In this preview of the full report, kids share what they look for when picking out books to read for fun. According to 70% of kids ages 6–17, books that "make me laugh" rank highest on the list across all ages. Among the different age groups:

  • Children ages 6–8 are more likely than older children to want books with characters that "look like me."
  • Children ages 9–11 are more likely than younger children to want books that "have a mystery or a problem to solve."
  • Children ages 12–14 are more likely than older children to want books with "characters I wish I could be like because they are smart, strong or brave."
  • Children ages 15–17 are more likely than younger children to want books that help them "forget about real life for a while."

In addition, 73% of children ages 6–17 agree with the statement, "I would read more if I could find more books that like."

The Kids & Family Reading Report will be available in January 2015. To view and share the "What Kids Want in Books" infographic go to www.scholastic.com/readingreport. For a list of "books that make me laugh," go to http://bit.ly/1rSCVkf.

The Kids & Family Reading Report™ is a biannual report from Scholastic and managed by YouGov. Results are from a nationally representative survey of 1,026 parents of children ages 6–17, plus one child ages 6–17 from the same household, conducted August 29, 2014 through September 10, 2014. For the full methodology, see www.scholastic.com/readingreport."


Some Recent Articles on Growing Bookworms

JRPB-URLonly-smallI wanted to do some sort of growing bookworms post for today, but nothing particular came to mind. Luckily, there has been a fine crop of posts on this subject from some of my favorite blogs this week. Thus instead of sharing my ideas, I will point you to theirs:

At What Do We Do All Day?, Erica shares her strategies for avoiding frustration/burnout in her relatively reluctant younger son's emergent reading. She offers a list of 10 alternatives to forcing your kids to learn to read. Personally, I think her hands-off approach, focused on maintaining a love for books, is the right way to go. Here's one example, a technique that I have employed myself, but do click through to the full post for more:

"When reading aloud, take an extra long pause before a word. I have to be casual about this so my son doesn’t catch on, but if I pause long enough, he gets impatient and I see him looking at the word to figure it out."

At Literacy, Families, and Learning, Trevor H. Cairney shares some detailed recommendations for parents and teachers who are working with their beginning readers on oral reading. He discusses reasons why one should (and should not) practice reading aloud with kids, how to select books, and concrete DOs and DON'Ts. He concludes that oral reading should be used in a postive way, and should "virtually never" be used as a test by parents.  

In a more off-the-cuff post than the previous two, Stacey Loscalzo muses on the joy of reading aloud. She says:

"I challenge us to ... ask our children to be children again and read aloud as often and long as we can. Even and especially after they can read to themselves because there is still something inherently important in hearing the written word spoke aloud." 

There was also an interesting discussion at A Fuse #8 Production earlier this week on whether (or when) it is rude to ask someone what their kids are reading now. Betsy Bird worries that:

"if used for evil instead of good, (asking what your child is reading) could act as an awfully effective way to engage in shaming your fellow parent."

At Growing Book by Book, as part of Sensory Processing Awareness month, Jodie Rodriguez writes about why her child can't sit still when they read. She offers  discussion and strategies. For example, this excellent point:

"If your child is comprehending what is read, does it really matter that they aren’t sitting still during the story?"

And there you have it. A few links of potential interest for those of us who are attempting to grow bookworms. 

And, ok, I do have one tiny literacy milestone to share that cropped us this afternoon. My daughter asked to read Naked! by Michael Ian Black and Debbie Ridpath Ohi, only our second read of this library book. Mid-way through, she pointed to a little cluster of toys in the foreground of the page. She said: "that doll and that potato were in I'm Bored!, except that the doll was wearing a different shirt." And sure enough, I looked back that the cover of I'm Bored! (by the same author and illustrator), and the doll in Naked! bears a strong resemblance to the little girl from I'm Bored! As does the potato.

This isn't quite a milestone, because she has certainly recognized characters from one book who crop up in another (most notably The Pigeon). But this one impressed me because it was so subtle, uncovered in a pair of books she didn't even know very well, and that had completely escaped me. I told her that I was impressed.

Yes, if you put enough books in front of your kids, they will start to notice details. Happy reading to all!

© 2014 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.


Tips from Scholastic for Getting Kids Preschool-Ready

ScholasticParentsScholastic sent me some tips for parents to help get kids ready for preschool. As my own daughter went back to preschool (for PreK) just yesterday, I thought that this would be a timely thing to share. You can find more tips from Scholastic parenting expert Maggie McGuire here

5 Tips (from Scholastic) to Get Every Child Ready for Preschool

1.      USE YOUR WORDS. Talk, sing and use rhymes with your child. Children 0 – 5 years of age develop literacy skills through conversations.   Talk about what you’re making for dinner or buying at the grocery store; talk about the people you see in your town – the firemen, policemen and the pediatrician and what they do to help people.  Research shows 3 year-olds who live in language-rich environments have a vocabulary of nearly 1,110 words, but children without this experience only know 500 words? (Source: The Preschool Experiences We Deserve: A Guide for Families, FIS, 2014).

2.      BOND WITH BOOKS. Use books to show that words and pictures go together and to create special bonding moments with your child. Ask your child questions about the pictures and letters. Even parents who are not confident readers can use picture books and create stories to go with the images. 

3.      PLAY IS LEARNING. LEARNING IS PLAY.  Preschoolers learn through fun and games. Role-play activities like serving pretend meals or dress-up, as well as doing puzzles and playing with blocks and other manipulatives all contribute to school readiness.  When adults talk about and participate in the activities, children learn new vocabulary and develop more sophisticated social skills that will serve them well in a preschool or school setting – sharing, taking turns, etc. 

4.      SHOW CHILDREN THAT MATH IS EVERYWHERE. Children ages 0 – 5 are hardwired for math - whether that’s counting their fingers and toes, learning shapes, manipulating objects like building blocks or dividing up cookies so everyone gets an equal share. Play with and talk about numbers, shapes and patterns everywhere you find them.

5.      GET CRAFTY AND BUILD MOTOR SKILLS. Arts and crafts activities help develop a child’s early writing skills. Have preschoolers paint, draw, cut and glue to develop fine motor skills. Connect literacy with these activities by asking a child “What’s the story?” in his/her picture.

(Back to Jen) These are all things that we do in my house. Some, admittedly, we do more than others. I am not personally very crafty, for example, though I'll share books with my daughter at pretty much any time of the day. But I do agree that it's important to pursue a variety of activites.

I especially agree with the notion that kids are hardwired for math. My daughter has recently starting throwing random math problems at me throughout the day, like "Mom, what's eight plus twenty million plus seventeen?" She thinks that the fact that I can usually answer these questions means that I am very good at math. I tell her that I have had a lot of practice, and that she'll be good at math, too, when she practices more. Last night (after her first day of PreK) we couldn't get her to go to bed, because she was sitting at the kitchen table doing pretend math problems (basically scribbling, but calling them math problems). 

Bottom line, there are many factors to school readiness. But Scholastic's tips are all solid places to start.

© 2014 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. (Except for the tips, which are from Scholastic.) You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook