153 posts categorized "Love of Books" Feed

How I'm Preparing for my Daughter's #SummerReading

Last week I posted some tips for parents on encouraging kids' summer reading. My main argument was: 

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.

Today I'd like to share a few more specific examples of how I'm preparing for my daughter's anticipated summer reading. Things I have done:

  • Read a new book called The Read-Aloud Family: Making Meaningful and Lasting Connections with Your Kids by Sarah Mackenzie. Even though I was already well on-board with the idea of reading aloud, and fostering my daughter's love of books, this book energized me to do more reading aloud this summer with my daughter. 
  • Started going to the public library more regularly (we don't go much during the school year because she goes to school library and because we have so many books at home. And because her "graphic novels only" phase has pretty well exhausted the public library's selection. But in the summer we will go more, and just sit and read picture books, or whatever she wants to do. (Choice)
  • Made sure we have our current Harry Potter book (Order of the Phoenix) in print and on Kindle for travel. (I might not do this with a shorter book but this is a total bargain in this case - we will be reading this book together all summer long. And I do not intend to carry the print copy on any trips.). (Choice and Access, because she ADORES this series)
  • 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. This is already working. I might need more bins. (Access)
  • Went through the booklist for her school's Battle of the Books. The contest is scheduled for the fall, and as a rising third grader this will be her first opportunity to participate. Battle of the Books is a quiz show-like contact for which kids form teams and answers questions about books. I am not at all sure that my daughter will want to participate (she tends to be a free spirit when it comes to reading), but my thinking is that if she is going to read anyway, and if there are books on the list for her age group that she is interested in, then she may as well read them. (Access and Choice, because I won't MAKE her read anything)
    • Of the list of 20 books I pulled two of them off my shelves, and ordered seven others that I thought she might like. I didn't order anything with depressing covers or any picture books (which she could read in the fall quickly anyway).
  • Ordered some other books that I thought she would like, including
    • The Cardboard Kingdom, a new graphic novel for which I've seen very positive reviews. 
    • Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin (because Lin's Year of the Dog series remains the only middle grade series she's devoured that isn't a graphic or notebook novel, even though I know this other book is very different). 
    • Spy School by Stuart Gibbs (because she loves spies, and it's the first of a series)
  • I'm also planning to sort out some other books that are stacked up around the house (like the stacks of books that my neighbor recently handed down) and add things that I think she might like to her summer reading baskets. There's a stack of the Geronimo Stilton books, for example, that I think may catch her fancy. But that's just about access and organization. Reading any of these books will be up to her. 
  • Got her to agree to a 30 minute per day limit on iPad time during summer vacation. Now, we all know that there will be many battles over this once vacation actually starts, but I'm going to try to enforce it. What I told her, and what I truly feel, is that I want her to have time to do other things: reading, swimming, drawing, playing, etc. And that while a little device time is fine, all of these other things are better for her development. We'll see how that goes, in terms of applying the limit, but I know that it will work in terms of more reading.  This past weekend she had her device taken away for a misbehavior, and she spent more time reading, doing Perler beads, writing, painting, etc.(Time)
  • Signed her up for a childcare option that offers a flexible start time. This way, if she becomes immersed in a book, I don't have to tear her away to meet some deadline (as happens all the time during the school year). I realize that not everyone has this option, but I am grateful that I do. (Time)

Here is what I did not do to prepare for my daughter's summer reading:

  • Sign her up for any formal summer reading programs with prizes. I believe that such programs take away the implicit motivation to read. I think there is a place for them for some kids, to jump-start reading, but I don't think we need that at this point, so I am staying away. 
  • Pay any attention to AR points on anything in the baskets. I do not care if she reads anything that will help her in third grade. I just care that she's reading something. 
  • Think much about what books I loved as I selected options for my daughter - her taste is clearly different from mine (though I am planning to read Spy School). 

Obviously, this set of actions is very specific to our situation. I buy more books than most people do, I know. I do this in part to encourage re-reading and in part to support authors and publishers. And, ok, because I'm just weak that way. But obviously, one could accomplish the same goal by going to the library every week and taking advantage of generous check-out policies and easy online renewals, or prowling around used bookstores.

The point is to have plenty of appealing books around, so that when the child has free time, reading is an attractive option. And, of course, to provide that free time. 

I'll report back and let you know how well this prescription works in our household. What are you doing to prepare for your child's summer reading? I welcome other suggestions. 

© 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


On the Emotional Benefits of A Family Reading Together

BigMeanMikeThis is a follow on post to one that I wrote last week about my daughter turning to favorite picture books for comfort. My friend Judy commented that I had under-emphasized an important aspect of the incident that I related. I had spoken of how my daughter was comforted by a particular book (Big Mean Mike), but Judy pointed out that my daughter hadn't selected that book to read by herself. She wanted ME to read it to her. Judy added: "during that reading and sharing of the book, the two of you were able to transform her sad and angry feelings." I realized that not only was Judy right, but that this topic called for another post. So this is with thanks to Judy. 

There are many benefits that accrue to my child from reading (empathy, vocabulary, imagination, self-soothing, etc.). One benefit that I particularly appreciate that affects both of us (and applies for my husband, too) is that reading together brings us closer. Part of this is physical - when we read together we are often snuggled up on the couch or in her bed, sharing a blanket. We even occasionally snuggle together when we are each reading our own book, though that's not quite the same. I love the feeling of being snuggled up together, reading a book. But even larger benefits are on the mental/emotional side. 

SwingItSunnyPart of the closeness that we achieve through shared reading is the building of a shared frame of reference. My husband and I still refer to our daughter as being like Mo Willems' Pigeon when she's tired but denying it. (She professes to hate this, but I think she will look back on it with affection). We frequently end up referring to what Harry or Hermione would or wouldn't do. We had to start watching old Brady Bunch episodes together because of Jenni Holm and Matt Holm's Swing It, Sunny. The examples of inside jokes and cultural references that have come to us from books are endless. 

Another part of the closeness stems from our mutual self-declaration of being people who enjoy reading. I'm very clear that this is a major part of my identity. Seeing my daughter start to declare this too is both validating and happy-making (because I know that reading will make her happier and more successful over time).

HarryPotterGobletofFireThen there is the building of shared values. Reading together is wonderful for that, and is going to increase, I think, as we read more chapter books. As one small example, my daughter was outraged when Ron accused Harry of putting his own name into the Goblet of Fire. We had a brief and mutually satisfying discussion to the effect that yes, you should trust your friends and offer them support instead of resentment. We've also discussed bullying, conformity, and reaching out to new kids, as a result of picture books. I look forward to shared reading of further portrayals of loyalty, bravery, kindness, and persistence.  

13ReasonsAnd while I wouldn't say that I look forward to this, exactly, I think that as my daughter and I continue to read together, we will be able to use books as stepping stones to discuss difficult topics. Several of my friends who have slightly older daughters are already reading books about puberty with them. These same friends have proposed reading Wonder with our kids, and then seeing the movie together. I fully intend to read books like Speak and 13 Reasons Why with my daughter when she is older and ready to understand them. 

So yes, she can read on her own now. But I plan for us to keep reading together, also, for as long as possible. Reading together brings us closer, physically and emotionally. It's not something that any parent should give up lightly. 

© 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 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).


Let's Not Be Hypocrites When It Comes to Reading Choice for Kids

Hardcore24The other night my friend texted me about how much she was looking forward to getting the kids to bed so that she could read "my trashy, stupid, not educational, seriously below my reading level Stephanie Plum book". She added "I haven’t read one in awhile and love the humor break in my life. I love reading funny, silly, entertaining books that let me escape for just a little bit." As a matter of fact, I share my friend's occasional enjoyment of Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum books (I listen to the audio versions). My friend went on to muse "why on earth would I ask my child to read for any reason that is not fun? Why would I care about AR points and levels?"

And here we are, as is often the case, on exactly the same page. 

I understand that there are reasons for teachers to ask kids to read certain things, things which may or may not be fun.  I can even understand that there may be instances where a child is struggling with reading, and some corrective practice is necessary at home. I understand that I am fortunate not to be in that situation. But for the situation that I am in as a parent, I agree with my friend. My only goal in terms of my daughter's reading is to nurture her enjoyment. I truly believe that as long as she enjoys reading, she will keep doing it, and that her skills (and range) will eventually improve. More importantly, I believe that if she enjoys reading, she will be set up for a lifetime of joy from books. 

Pushing my daughter to move on to chapter books, instead of re-reading the same graphic novels that she's read 10 times each? I think that this would be hypocrisy. And this is one hypocrisy (unlike a few others I have named) that I intend to stay far, far away from. 

Me, I read mostly middle grade fiction, mysteries, and science fiction. Sure, I throw in the occasional nonfiction title that catches my eye. And I do read two newspapers every day, as well as various news magazines over the course of the month. But when it comes time to read in bed or outside on a sunny Sunday afternoon? Naturally enough, I gravitate to reading something that I know I will enjoy. 

CaptainUnderpantsI do not care if my daughter decides to read nothing at home but Captain Underpants books for the next six months. I do not care if the level that allows her to check out books in the school library is green, though her classmate's is red. I do not care if her name is never on the leaderboard for AR points for her school. 

What I care about is:

  • Hearing her laugh out loud from the back seat of the car as she reads The Babysitters Club.
  • Having her say to my husband: "Is it ok if I read on my own for a bit first, before we read together tonight?"
  • Seeing her curled up on the couch reading Junie B. Jones while I make dinner (and having her be genuinely puzzled to learn that some parents don't approve of the books.) 
  • Hearing her squeal with joy when a new book that she's been waiting for arrives at the house, and having her throw her arms tight around me in thanks. 
  • Having her recommend the books that she likes to her friends. 
  • Listening to her demand that I read Harry Potter for three more minutes, even though we have finished the chapter, because we usually read until 7:30 in the morning and it is only 7:27.
  • And so on... 

I think it's easy as a parent to get caught up in the competition. To feel inadequate if our child is not reading quite at grade level, or gets the minimum number of AR points, or reads slim books while the kid sitting next to her is reading a fat novel. Even I succumb sometimes. When my daughter told me, not lamenting, about her school BFF being at a higher reading level, I started to tell her that if she were to read more challenging books, she would likely advance to that level herself. Then I stopped and said: "But all I care about is that you are reading and that you enjoy it." That's all I care about for myself, isn't it? I strive to find time to read because I like to read. And I read what I like. My job, at least at home, is to defend my daughter's right to do the same. 

There are many reasons why my Stephanie Plum-reading friend is my friend. Her excellent example of not being a hypocrite when it comes to reading choice for her kids is an important one. I am thankful for the reminder. 

© 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


In Which I Admit to Some Hypocrisy Re: My Daughter's Reading

Something I generally try to avoid is hypocrisy: claiming beliefs to which one's actual behavior does not comply. However, I have recently noticed a few instances of hypocrisy in my behavior regarding my daughter's reading. 

  1. Once my daughter was in first grade, and I was the one driving her around to her various after-school activities, I banned her from using her tablet in the car for any drives of less than 30 minutes. What I told her (and this was true) was that driving around while she sat in the back absorbed by her device made me feel like an unpaid chauffeur. I told her that I didn't like it, and was going to keep it from happening. Hence the 30 minute rule. Fast forward to second grade. My minivan looks like a lending library, with books all over the back section. Pretty much the minute my daughter gets in the car, she is absorbed into one of these books, not talking to me or responding to anything that I say. (See previous post: I'm in my book now.") And although I once again do feel a bit like a chauffeur, I feel happy that she is reading, instead of feeling irritated. Fortunately she has not noticed this inconsistency on my part (that it is ok for her to be immersed in a book, but not ok for her to be immersed in a device).  
  2. BabysittersClub1OldThe other day my daughter asked for a new set of Legos (not a kit, just more pieces for free construction). I told her that she would have to either save up her allowance or add that to her Christmas list. Even though I do support her use of Legos in general, I am trying to teach her the value of money and that she can't have everything she wants. But when it's a book that she asks for, well, let's just say that I am a MUCH softer touch. I did still draw the line when she asked for the entire series of both old Babysitters' Club and Rainbow Magic. But the new Babysitter's Club Graphic Novel? The personal copies of the two additional books by Raina Telgemeier that she HAD to have? Well, don't be surprised if you see those on her reading list.
  3. Then there's bedtime. As the person who is responsible for getting her up every morning, I am also the person who badgers her to go to bed at a reasonable hour every night. I take a hard line right up until she is in bed, with teeth brushed and jammies on. But then, when she begs to read for a few minutes, because it will help her to fall asleep...? Well, I guess I can struggle with getting her out of bed for one more day. 

Of course all of these behaviors do comply with my core belief that kids should grow up with the chance to love reading. I suppose this is true whenever you see anyone engaging in hypocrisy. They claim some secondary beliefs, and probably stick by them some of the time. But when those secondary beliefs run up against a primary internal conviction (whether it is acknowledged or not), actual behavior deflects to support the higher (sometimes unstated) goal. And so, I will own and accept these particular hypocrisies regarding my daughter's reading. Because the real goal is for her to enjoy reading. We'll work the rest of it out as best we can. 

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


On Required Reading Time

My daughter just started second grade. The second grade teachers at her school don't have reading homework per se. They just ask that kids read whatever they like for 20 minutes each night, and that parents check a box to indicate that this has been done. This I find greatly preferable to last year's worksheet-driven reading homework. 

PiratesPastNoonSo, the first night this was assigned, I asked my daughter to read for 20 minutes for homework. Can you guess what happened? She picked up a Magic Tree House book, rather than one of her usually preferred graphic novels, and started reading. After exactly 20 minutes she asked if she could stop. Told yes, she dropped the book (never to be picked up again, as far as I can tell) and went to do something else.

This scared me a little bit. I don't want reading to be some chore that she does because she must and drops as soon as she is allowed. Later the same night she begged to be allowed to read in bed before going to sleep. With an inward sigh of relief, I said yes.

The fortunate truth is that my daughter pretty much always gets more than 20 minutes of reading time a day. On school days, I read to her for 20-30 minutes in the morning while she eats breakfast. She reads in the car as we drive between her various activities. This is good for at least 15 minutes a day. If the book is interesting to her, she will stay in the car when we get home so that she can continue reading. Most nights she reads in bed. Either she reads to my husband or he reads to her, and often she reads to herself also.

Every time I see her choose to read, it makes me happy. Thus the idea that forcing her to read as homework might make reading less desirable is disturbing. So, here's what I decided to do. I told her that as long as I do see her reading as she goes about her day, I'm going to just check off that "read for 20 minutes" box every day. We are not actually going to time anything. 

This is what I believe makes sense for us (and I'm more than happy to share this plan with her teacher). Other kids will be of course different in their responses. I do think that in general assigning 20 minutes of free reading time as homework is vastly preferable to having to read little curriculum-dictated stories and answer questions about them. And I think for kids who don't read, and/or who need the extra reading practice time, a parent being able to say "Hey, you have to read for 20 minutes now for your homework" is probably a good thing. The message that the teachers think that reading is important is also good. And the fact that they give the kids free choice about what to read is excellent. 

If I hadn't had this experience with my daughter, of her pushing to ONLY read for 20 minutes on the very first day that reading was made into homework, I don't think I would have questioned the policy at all. I would have been too busy cheering the fact that there were no worksheets or reading logs or quizzes. But even this. Even a very light touch, hands-off version of reading homework felt to me like, if I enforced it, it would diminish my child's joy of reading. So I stopped doing that. Very quickly.

The bottom line is that as a parent who wants to raise a child who loves to read, I'm going to have my work cut out for me. I will need to vigilant, and listen to the signals that come from my daughter. But it's something that I know for certain is worthwhile. 

What do all of you say? Do you enforce a dedicated time for reading as homework, if it is assigned? Or do you take a more organic approach? 

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


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. 


On Reading Physical Books with Kids

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wishing you all happy reading!

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


A Quick Thought on the Importance of Voice

GoldfishBoyI was fortunate to have a significant chunk of free reading time this weekend. I started out with a stack of recent children's books, and ended up finding three that caught my interest (one of which I'm still reading). I realized something through this process, something that I think has been gradually becoming more true for me over the years. I realized that whether or not a book hooks me comes primarily down to narrative voice. Plot and settling and characterization are all helpful and necessary, of course. But what hooks me (or doesn't), what keeps me reading (or not) is voice. When the narrator makes me smile, makes me flag multiple passages in the first chapter, I know that I'm in good hands. When I find myself skimming instead, I have learned to move along to the next book. Even if the topic is something that I might normally be interested in.

The voice can be humorous or profound, sarcastic or inspiring. It's not that I'm looking for one particular voice. But I'm looking for a voice that connects with me on some level. 

Here are the passages that I flagged first in the three books that made the cut for me this weekend (and no, I'm not going to share the list of books that didn't). First: 

"Now here she was, six weeks into the school year at Dunwiddle. It was the first day of serious rain and her feet were soaked. But what was a girl to do? Wet feet were wet feet. Nothing to be gained by moping." (Page 5 of Upside-Down Magic #3: Showing Off by Sarah Mlynowski, Lauren Myracle, and Emily Jenkins)

Here I think what I liked was the matter-of-factness of "Nothing to be gained by moping." Second:

"I lived on a quiet, dead-end street in a town full of people who said how great it was that they didn't live in that big, smelly city of London--and who then spent most of their mornings desperately trying to get there." (Page 1 of The Goldfish Boy by Lisa Thompson)

This one struck me as insightful. I had a feeling I would like the narrator's sense of humor. Third:

"Silence is golden and, in this case, it's useful, too. It allows you a chance to look at Billy and see what kind of a boy he is. The first thing you'll notice is that he's tall, and kind of pale-looking -- even a bit sickly, like he's been ill or something. But that's only to be expected of someone who was in a serious car accident." (Page 2 of The Most Frightening Story Ever Told by Philip Kerr) 

I don't always like the device of third-party narrator talking directly to the reader, but in this instance, it worked for me. A reference later on the same page to books as "a kind of taxicab for the mind" sealed the deal. 

It used to be that I would read a book because I knew that I liked the author, or because someone had recommended it to me, or because I had seen a good review. And those things will still help to get a book onto my candidate stack in the first place. But it takes more than that now for me to actually finish a book. It takes something in that voice that grabs me and makes me want to keep reading. Because I get up very every day, and books that don't hook me are books that do not keep me awake. When I'm falling asleep after a few pages, struggling to continue a book, I don't end up reading anything. Which is a tragedy. So these days, I listen to what the voice inside my head is telling me about the voice of each book, and I respond accordingly. 

Side Note 1: I wonder if my current attachment to voice has to do with the fact that these days I listen to more books on audio than I read in print (though the stack this weekend was an actual print stack). There the quality of the narrator's voice also has an impact, though that's not what I'm talking about here. 

Side Note 2: Of course plot also has an impact on a book's ability to keep me awake. But I have to get far enough into the book for the plot to engage me. Usually, the voice comes first. 

Have any of you noticed a growing dependence on voice to get you interested in books as you get older? Or is this just me? Anyway, I thought that my book-loving friends might find the question of interest. 

© 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

 

 


A Post About Reading to Kids that Especially Brightened My Day

Today my long-time blogging friend Julie Danielson had a post published on the Horn Book Family Reading Blog (a blog well worth following). The title and sub-titles of the post are an entertaining experiment in the power of "clickbait" (“Her Kid Held Up a Book. You’ll Never Guess What This Mother Did Next”), but the post itself discusses three excellent reasons to read to your children:

  1. Because "there are consistently well-crafted, compelling books being published, and they are a joy to read on many levels."
  2. Because reading aloud to your kids brings you closer, and opens up opportunities for conversation (often much better conversations than "that whole Tell-Me-About-Your-Day thing").
  3. Because "Research shows time and time again that the more a child is read to at home or at school, the better his or her test scores are." [Jules notes, as I feel, that this is a wonderful side effect, more than a reason to read aloud to your kids.] 

I certainly agree with Jules about these reasons, and consider them all important. One of the greatest benefits to me from my blog, one that I didn't anticipate when I started it, is that I am exposed to so many wonderful books that I can share with my daughter (born 4+ years after I launched the blog). I would also add, to Jules' suggestions for finding great titles (including a wonderful linked list of picture book recommendations), that parents check out the Cybils Awards shortlists, a great source of recommendations for kid-friendly, well-written titles. 

WestMeadowsSnackSnatcherI am also certainly finding that reading books together brings my daughter and me (and my daughter and my husband) closer together. Yesterday we spent the drive home from karate discussing just what it was that happened at the climax of the first Harry Potter book, and why Quirrel might have wished to help Voldemort return. The West Meadows Detectives series (which she would like to see more of) has inspired discussion about kids who have learning differences, and how they cope in schools. Other books have led to discussions about being loyal to friends, being independent, etc. My husband has read my daughter a couple of his favorite books from childhood, and I know she loves thinking about young Daddy reading the same books. And so on, examples of this books-bring-closeness for me are countless. 

As to the third reason, I can't really speak for my daughter yet (she luckily has not really had test scores). But I've long believed that it was my love of reading that helped me (though test scores) get into my dream college. 

As you can see, this post on the Horn Book blog would have been right up my alley, regardless. But what particularly made it brighten my day was that Jules was kind enough to recommend my blog to parents looking for book ideas and literacy information. So if you are here from the Horn Book Family Reading blog, welcome! And if not, I do recommend that you hop on over and read “Her Kid Held Up a Book. You’ll Never Guess What This Mother Did Next” by Julie Danielson. You won't be disappointed. 

© 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