458 posts categorized "Literacy" Feed

Some Ideas for Encouraging Kids Who Can Read but Choose Not To

A couple of friends have said something to me lately along the lines of: "So, [my elementary-age child] can read, but never chooses to read. What can I do?" I've shared various posts in the past with suggestions for encouraging reading from birth. But this is a more specific question. What do you NOW when, whatever you have or haven't done before, your child just isn't that interested in reading. Here are a few thoughts for parents about trying, after a late start, to ignite a joy of reading:

ReadAloudHandbookRead Aloud: Even though it might be awkward to begin, studies show that one of the best ways to get kids engaged in reading is for the adults in their lives to read aloud to them. Reading aloud, even to kids who can read themselves, offers tremendous benefits. [This is especially true if the dad reads when you are talking about boys, but either parent reading is great.]

  • Reading aloud shows kids that you value reading.
  • Reading to them shows kids that you value them enough to take time out to read together.
  • Reading together fosters closeness.
  • Reading to your children helps you to expose them to books that they aren't ready to read on their own. 

I'm currently reading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix aloud to my 8-year-old daughter. While she's a reasonably strong reader for her age, she is in no way ready in terms of skill or emotional maturity to read a book like this on her own. I pause to define words or to clarify plot points. Or (in one memorable case) so that I can comfort her when she cries over a character. There is no question in my mind that reading this book together, over the months that we've been at it, has brought us closer together. Probably it has helped with her vocabulary, too, but for me that is incidental. Reading together is helping her to bond with books, to LOVE reading. And that's the goal. 

It doesn't matter when you read. Many families read together before bed. Personally, I get too sleepy for that, so I read to my daughter while she eats breakfast. On lazier summer days, we can often move over to the couch when she's done, and keep going. If you're going on a road trip, the parent who isn't driving can read aloud to the whole family. You just have to be a bit creative to find the time. 

As a caveat, if you find reading aloud awkward, you might also try listen to an audiobook together in the car, or in the kitchen while you're preparing dinner. You can play them on Alexa, your phone, etc. As another caveat, if a book you are reading together isn't working for you or for the child, it is completely fine to stop and try another instead. You want the experience to be joyful. See Jim Trelease's The Read-Aloud Handbook for lots more on this topic. 

LightningThiefNot sure what to read? What you want is something that is popular and engaging and that they might not be ready to read on their own. Harry Potter or the Percy Jackson Lightning Thief books are two good places to start. You want the book to be something that you are interested in reading also, not something that you are reading out of some sense of duty. Kids can tell. Is there a movie coming out that you want to see that is based on a book? Try reading that. A new film version of A Wrinkle in Time came out recently. Louis Sachar's Holes is an excellent book and an excellent movie. There are loads of choices. A quick google search for "movies based on children's books" brings up any number of lists. And of course you could ask and see if your child has any suggestions. Which leads us to... 

Let Them Choose: I say this all the time, but I can't emphasize it enough when you are talking about a child who can read but chooses not to. You simply must let her choose what she wants to read. If you are pushing her to read the books that you loved a kid, or that you think will strengthen her reading skills, or that will give her a leg up on the Battle of the Books contest in the fall, please stop. I've heard parents lament that their kids aren't reading when in reality, their kids are reading. But what they are reading doesn't count because it's graphic novels or joke books or activity books. You should celebrate anything that makes your child want to read, and go out and find more of that. 

My daughter has been reading constantly this summer. I am so, so, so grateful for this. For the most part, she is only reading graphic novels, notebook novels, and picture books. I have mixed some chapter books that I think she would like into her book baskets (Clementine, Ivy and Bean, The Bland Sisters), but she mostly ignores these. This is fine with me. I'm just glad that she has found books that she wants to read. 

If your child isn't reading, my best piece of advice content-wise is to try graphic novels and/or notebook novels (Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Dork Diaries are the two biggest series, though there are certainly others). There are graphic novels available for a range of age levels and interests. The ones I would start with for newer readers are the Lunch Lady series by Jarrett Krosoczka and the Babymouse and Squish series by Jennifer Holm and Matt Holm. For slightly older kids, the Babysitters Club graphic novels are hugely enticing, as is the Amulet series. Just pick up a few at the bookstore or the library, and leave them in the backseat of the car.  Which brings us to...

Make Reading the Most Desirable Option (Sometimes): One of the most successful things I ever did in terms of encouraging my daughter to read was to ban her from using her tablet for car rides of less than 30 minutes. I actually did this because I didn't like feeling like her chauffeur, and that's what I told her. But then I put some books in the car. Now she starts reading the minute she gets into the car and doesn't stop. She frequently stays in the car (in the relatively cool garage) when we get home, so that she can finish what she's reading. So, I still end up feeling like a chauffeur sometimes, but I don't mind, as long as she's reading. The point is that whenever we are in the car for a short drive she is a captive audience, with no choices but to talk to me or read. Seems like a win-win, doesn't it? 

Another friend told me that she bans devices for the first hour of any road trip in her family. I've heard of other people who ban devices while on camping trips, or even on vacation in general. Maybe there's dead time between races at swim meets, or when you're out at a restaurant, or at grandmas's house. It couldn't hurt to have a book handy for such situations.

You do have to be a bit careful with this suggestion. You don't want to be always taking away the desirable thing (devices) and have reading be used as a punishment. But if you can find ways to limit the screen time, while also making sure that potentially interesting books are available, you give kids a chance to choose reading. 

ReadingInTheWildSummary: There's a belief among many reading advocates (Donalyn Miller comes especially to mind) that there exists a right book that will hook each child on reading. The trick is for the child to find that book at the right time. The best teachers and librarians work during the school year to match kids with those gateway books. But there's no reason parents can't do their part to help, especially during summer vacation.

You can try reading aloud to your child, something exciting that he wouldn't read on his own. You can try to figure out what sorts of books your child finds most engaging, and keep those around. You can ensure that there are times when your child does choose to read, even if it's only out of boredom because no screen is available. All of this is in the hope that your child will run across that right book, that gateway book, that will make him want to keep reading. 

The primary guiding principle that I follow in nurturing my daughter as a reader is to make the reading experience as enjoyable as possible. If in doubt about any decision I ask myself whether it adds joy to the process or not. Then I respond accordingly. Thanks for reading!

© 2018 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.


How My Schemes for Keeping My Daughter Reading this Summer Are Working So Far

In recent posts I shared How I'm Preparing for my Daughter's Summer Reading and Some Thoughts on Limiting Screen Time (in part so that she would have more time for reading). Summer vacation is, happily, still young, but I wanted to share a few notes on how things are working out so far.

Book Bins

BookBinJensBookPageEarlier I ordered a set of 3 collapsible storage bins to put in the car, bathroom and next to the kitchen table to keep summer reading books handy. These were so successful that I soon ordered a second set, so that we would have six book bins to distribute around the house and cars. There are currently two in our cars, two in bathrooms, one in the kitchen, and one in her bedroom. How are they working out? Well:

  • Every time I go into the downstairs bathroom I find the bin scooted over to be closer to the toilet.

  • My husband picked up a book from one of the bins and started reading it. My daughter noticed him reading it and reported this to me. (Modeling reading is good, right?)

  • My daughter ALWAYS reads in my car now, because "the best books are in Mommy's car.

  • She has complained about the mix of books in some of the bins - I apparently slipped in too many books that were not already favorites. I told her to change them up as she likes. However, I also continue to drop in new books that pop up, on the chance that they might strike her fancy. 

Library Trips

ClownCarnivalWe visited the library recently and checked out 26 titles, including many of the Babymouse books, and a new-to-use series of Scooby-Doo-themed Choose Your Own Adventure books. She's been whipping her way through those, and we'll have to go back soon. Now that I think about it, I think I should repurpose the bin in her bedroom and dedicate that one to library books, to make it easier for her to see them.

Screen Time Restrictions

I now have a policy in place that she can have 30 minutes of screen time each day, but only AFTER brushing her hair and teeth, getting dressed, eating breakfast, and tidying up (putting away clean laundry, etc.). I didn't hold to this policy while we were on vacation, but since we've returned, well, she hasn't been able to meet her requirements to even get to the screen time. Which is a success as far as I'm concerned. Examples:

  • The other day she grumbled "I hate 30 minutes of screen time policy." But not five minutes later I heard her singing in the playroom, while doing something else. I'm not sure what it was, but it was some sort of active, creative play.
  • She used to get out of bed early and get straight onto her tablet on weekends. Now that she's lacking that incentive, she's been sleeping later,which I think she needs. Most days she also reads in bed for a while after she wakes up.

All in all, the screen time policy is a win so far. 

Vacation Reading

We went on a four-night vacation to Hawaii last week. I made sure that our current Harry Potter book was on my Kindle, and we did read from it, though only once. She read the new graphic novel that I had purchased, Cardboard Kingdom, several times. And for what it's worth, I modeled reading by the pool for many, many hours. 

© 2018 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 Parents to Encourage Kids' #SummerReading

I recently wrote an article for my daughter's school website with tips for parents on how to encourage summer reading. I'm sharing a lightly edited version of that article here:
 
Do you want to encourage your children to read more this summer? Here are a few suggestions: 
 
SummerVacation1. Let your kids choose what they want to read. Do you enjoy reading a fast-paced thriller when you're on an airplane, or a thick romance novel while you are sitting by the pool? Great! How would you feel if your spouse was badgering you to read something more intellectual, something that would help you to improve yourself in some way? You would most likely be resentful, and you might well turn to perusing Facebook on your phone instead. Just like adults, kids deserve, especially during the summer, to read what they enjoy. Please try to resist the urge to steer them towards classics, or books that you liked as a kid, or books that you think will give them a leg up in school in the fall. It's fine if they WANT to read those books, of course. You can certainly offer them as options. But let them choose.
 
DiaryOfAMinecraftZombieSome specific points about giving kids choice:
  • It's ok if what they choose is above or below their official "reading level". Summer reading is about enjoyment, not AR levels. If a book is too hard for them, they will probably stop. Even if a book seems too easy, there is probably something that they are getting out of it.
  • It's also ok if what they want to read is not a traditional novel, but rather a fact-based almanac, book of comic strips, graphic novel, Minecraft how-to guide, or whatever. Reading is reading. It all counts.
  • Re-reading is also reading. It is very common for kids to read the same book or the same series over and over again. This is not lazy. This is about building competence and enjoyment at the same time. I know adults who re-read Pride and Prejudice every couple of years. That's their choice, and your kids should have that option, too.
Choice is the number one thing that makes kids enjoy reading. If they enjoy reading, they will spend time doing it, and their reading skills will naturally (and painlessly) improve. The best thing parents can do is get out of the way and let the kids choose.
 
KristysBigDay2. Make sure plenty of books and other reading materials are readily available. Buy books if you can. Subscribe to magazines. Go to the library every week and just spend time there, letting your children read whatever they like. Look online for the closest Little Free Library and make a visit. Go to garage sales. If your child becomes obsessed by a particular series, buy or borrow the next book, and the one after that. Keep books in your child's room, on the kitchen table, in the car, and in the bathroom. Take them with you on trips. Kids won't read them if they aren't handy. But if they have a spare moment with nothing to do and an interesting book is nearby, magic can happen.
 
3. Speaking of spare moments, make sure there are spare moments if you can. Kids who are busy with organized activities all day long and who are on their tablets all evening won't have a lot of time to read. Providing some unstructured time creates opportunities for reading. Limiting screen time is also important for many kids. Tablets tend to suck them in, and if you let them, they will spend all day watching videos or playing games. If you want them to spend time reading, it's necessary to pry the screens from their hands at least some of the time. It also helps if they sometimes see you put down your phone to read a book or a magazine.
 
Choice, access, and time are three key ingredients for a summer of reading. If you can provide all three to your kids, you will likely be pleased with the results. And you will be giving them a gift that can last a lifetime.
 
For more suggestions for parents on encouraging summer reading, this is an excellent recent post by Pernille Ripp, a teacher and advocate for kids' enjoyment of books: .
 
If you need book ideas for your kids this summer, here are a few suggestions:
  1. Check out the book lists for the 2018-2019 BookLists from America's Battle of the Books, a reading incentive program in which our school participates. There are separate lists of 20 titles each for rising 3rd-4th graders and 5th-6th graders that we use, with lots of great choices, classic and new. As a bonus, if your school participates, your kids' friends may be reading the same books, and they can discuss them together. The booklists are available to anyone, though to participate in the program's quiz show aspects, purchase of the questions is required.
  2. Another great source of themed book lists is the blog What Do We Do All Day. Erica has posted dozens of book lists with specific titles like Perfect Summer Read-Alouds, Diverse Early Chapter Books, Non-Boring Poetry Books to Make You Love Poetry, and lots more. Go to http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/books-for-kids/ for an index. There is something there for everyone. [Of course there are MANY other excellent sources of themed and age-appropriate book lists, but that's a topic for another post. Or see the BookLists section of my weekly Twitter link roundups.]
  3. Ask a librarian for help. Librarians know what kids are reading, and will be able to suggest books that you would never think of on your own.
  4. Consider organizing a book swap or a book club for your child and his friends. Kids often take recommendations from one another seriously, so this is a great way to get them reading.
Next week I will share some detail about how I am specifically preparing for my daughter's summer reading. Stay tuned... 
 
© 2018 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.  

How to Get Your Screen-Loving Kids to Read Books for Pleasure: Kaye Newton

Book: How to Get Your Screen-Loving Kids to Read Books for Pleasure
Author: Kaye Newton
Pages: 170
Age Range: Adult Nonfiction

ScreenLovingKidsReadHow to Get Your Screen-Loving Kids to Read Books for Pleasure is a well-researched, user-friendly guide for parents on this specific topic. Author Kaye Newton isn't a teacher or reading expert - she's a parent who struggled with her own children's falling off of reading during adolescence, and set out to look for solutions. While there's not a lot in the book that was new to me, because I read a lot in this area, I think that Newton did a nice job of distilling recommendations from sources like Jim Trelease, Donalyn Miller, Penny Kittle, and others. She also has a nice set of book recommendations that are designed to "hook" kids, with titles grouped by age range and category (history, nonfiction, humor, etc.). The books she recommends include many of what I would consider the "new classics" as well as some traditional classics, with a reasonable (though not extensive) representation of diverse titles. 

I agreed with and applauded most of Newton's recommendations throughout the book. She strongly supports giving kids choice in what they read, and she doesn't get hung up on reading levels or literary quality. She's a proponent of anything that involves long-form reading, vs. brief snippets on texts and Facebook, including fiction and nonfiction, magazines and audiobooks. She strikes me as not completely sure about graphic novels, but she goes with the research and agrees that they are "real reading" and can be used to hook readers. She's solid on choice and putting the pleasure in pleasure reading. 

I wasn't completely on board with some specific recommendations that she makes for boys and reading because I feel philosophically that boys should be encouraged to read books with female protagonists. But I think that the general audience of parents who are trying to encourage reluctant readers will find the specific recommendations helpful. Similarly, I'm not a fan of giving kids rewards for reading. And to be fair, neither is Newton, but she does outline cases where she thinks they can help, for particularly resistant readers. But those are my only, minor, quibbles.

I found myself highlighting many passages as I read through How to Get Your Screen-Loving Kids to Read Books for Pleasure. Newton starts by telling parents why they should encourage their kids to read for pleasure, with a nice section on the benefits for teens and preteens (stress reduction, improved concentration, increased empathy, etc.). She views encouraging reading as a parent's job, and she doesn't let parents off the hook in terms of modeling reading, though she's generous with her definitions. For example, one suggestion to increase summer reading is to designate a time that the whole family reads, but that reading could include articles for work, the newspaper, or other choices.

Newton is empathetic to the difficulties that parents can face in striving for more reading time (it's hard to get kids to put down their screens), but stays positive about the reasons to do so. She takes on various questions, like whether it's ok for kids to re-read (yes), whether it's ok to read on an e-reader, what to do about kids who are reading above their grade level, how to help kids with learning disabilities, and so on. She urges parents to surround their kids with reading material, whether from the library or other sources, and provides  suggestions for making reading "the most interesting and accessible activity in the room." 

As my daughter is not yet an adolescent (thank goodness), and is at this point still an avid reader (thank goodness), there were parts of this book that were not as relevant for me. I won't be setting up book clubs any time soon, for instance. But I still enjoyed reading this book, because I agreed with so much of what Kaye Newton had to say. I did pick up a few new ideas, too. How to Get Your Screen-Loving Kids to Read Books for Pleasure is a fairly quick read (with lots of lists and bullets). I think that any parent seeking to engage a reluctant teen or preteen reader could find something useful to try. It's also good just for refreshing one's general intent to raise readers (and be a reader). All in all, I definitely recommend giving this book a look! 

Publisher:  Linland Press
Publication Date: January 10, 2018
Source of Book: Review copy from the author

© 2018 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).


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).