143 posts categorized "Love of Books" Feed

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


#JoyOfLearning Articles from @thebrodybeat + @PeterFonagy + @Bookopolis | Raising Readers by Reading Together

JoyOFLearningLogoLast week I was fortunate enough to come across three different articles, all aimed at parents and focused on the benefits of reading with kids (or at least encouraging kids in their own reading). In the first piece, Sharon Brody shares a nostalgic view of reading aloud to her sons, long after they could read on their own. In the second, Dr. Peter Fonagy suggests reading together as a concrete way that parents can bond with their children. And in the third, Kari Ness Riedel encourages parents to stay engaged with their kids' reading, even as said kids move into elementary school. She does mention continuing to read aloud to kids at this time, but also offers tips for talking with kids about their own reading. All three of these articles are well worth your time. 

SeriesOfUnfortunateThis piece I LOVE! "Keep reading (aloud) to the kids until you cry yourself silly, people"  @cogwbur @thebrodybeat https://t.co/9zRMWylwCq

Sharon Brody: "I ask only this: consider, at least, that you have options. The magic of being read to does not disappear just because it’s no longer a practical necessity. We took the read-aloud game into quadruple overtime...

The overarching perks? Beyond the pure fun, family reads helped make my sons the readers and thinkers and listeners and dreamers they are, and helped forge unbreakable bonds. The older the kids became, and the further they traveled from the land of pretend, the more they seemed to appreciate the oasis of the read-aloud."

Me: An old friend who knows of my interest in this matter sent me the link to Sharon Brody's piece for WBUR. Brody waxes nostalgic for the years she spent reading aloud to her her two sons, long after they could read on their own, and of their particular enjoyment of the Series of Unfortunate Events books. The benefits that she talks about, like having a shared family experience and vocabulary, are things that I hope for with my family. And her tears over the final book that she read aloud to her boys (because they were getting older and busy) made me determined to appreciate every moment that my daughter still wants to snuggle up against me to listen. 

TigerWhoCameToTeaHow to bond w/ your child through #reading + why reading together is worth making time for  @PeterFonagy @Telegraph https://t.co/IAFx6Llc2X

Peter Fonagy: "There are many ways in which parents can interact in this way, but there are certain activities that can support it. There is good evidence that ‘book sharing’ is one effective way of building this kind of behaviour in parents who struggle with it – perhaps for reasons of temperament or the way they were themselves brought up.

For anyone in the vastly busy day-to-day, having some time to read together perhaps at the end of the day can create a space for the kind of meeting of minds between parent and child which is developmentally so helpful to children...

Reading with your child can feel like a hard ask at the end of a day – particularly when it’s a book that you’ve read to them a hundred times, and which you never particularly liked in the first place – but it is an activity really worth making time for, especially if you can steer them towards a book that you can both love (The Tiger who Came to Tea was my favourite). 

Remember, with each minute you can help them maintain their interest in your story telling, you have improved their ability to focus on the things in their lives which are important."

Me: Professor Fonagy is a British psychoanalyst and clinical psychologist who has published a variety of scholarly work. This Telegraph piece, however, is designed to give parents a concrete way to interact with their children. Dr. Fonagy cites academic research, as one would expect, but also speaks powerfully of the benefits of finding joy in reading. There is no question in my mind that reading together has helped me to bond with my daughter, both when she was an infant and now that she is in grade school. 

BookopolisLogoHow to Stay Engaged w/ Your Reader as They Grow even if you can't read everything w/ them @Bookopolis @ReadBrightly http://ow.ly/bR7R3088wWj 

Kari Ness Riedel (who runs a reading community for kids): "What can we actually do as parents of school-age children to engage them as readers beyond signing off on their nightly reading log? It’s wonderful if you have the time and passion to participate in a parent/child book club. Or if you can read all the same books as your kid and compare ideas. But this isn’t realistic for many parents.

A simple and effective thing you can do is ask your kid about what they are reading... From my experience, what you ask, when you ask, and how you ask matters." (Details follow) 

 Me: I am still reading with my six year old, of course, and I intend to keep reading with her for as long as I can. But I've also been happy to see her starting to read books on her own. I so want for her that experience of being lost in her own book. Kari offers what I think is good advice in how I can share a bit more in the books that she is reading by herself. For parents who aren't already reading lots of children's books themselves, these tips will be particularly valuable. 

© 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. 


Life Imitating Art: The "No, Pigeon!" Bus Loop

DontLetThePigeonMy daughter's elementary school had a raffle associated with the annual PTO Pledge Drive. Our family won the right to name the bus loop at the school for this year. Since there were buses involved, it struck me that we should in some way incorporate Mo Willems' Pigeon. I mentioned this to my daughter, and she immediately seized on the idea, deciding that we should call it the "No Pigeon!" Bus Loop. I was a bit concerned that people wouldn't get it, but I'm happy to report that everyone we have mentioned this to immediately got the reference. My daughter attends a book-appreciating elementary school, it would appear. 

So, if you happen to be in my neck of the woods in San Jose, keep your eye out for the "No Pigeon!" Bus Loop. Life does sometimes imitate art sometimes. 

© 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


Do You Care About Getting Kids Reading? Consider Attending #KidLitCon in October

To all of my readers who care about getting kids reading, and keeping them reading, I would like to suggest that you consider attending KidLitCon on October 14-15 in Wichita, KS. KidLitCon, an annual gathering of people who are involved with, and blog about, children's books, is always a valuable conference. But this year's KidLitCon will be of special interest to those of you who care about kids and reading. This year’s theme is Gatekeepers and Keymasters: Connecting bloggers, librarians, teachers, authors, and parents to promote literacy.

KidLitCon2016LogoRect

We are currently seeking proposals to present on this topic (or other related issues). Registration for KidLitCon is now open. The KidLitCon hotel is taking reservations. We have just announced two fabulous keynote speakers: Clare Vanderpool and A. S. King. But now, we need all of you.

If you are an author, publisher, teacher, librarian, or parent who works to get books into kids' hands, this conference is for you. We're expecting to talk about ways that bloggers can better support all of you in finding the books that will hook kids on reading.

  • Do you blog about raising readers? Come to KidLitCon to talk about how to broaden your audience.
  • Are you a teacher who thinks that getting kids talking about books on blogs or social media will help get them excited about reading? Come to KidLitCon and share your ideas, and learn from others.
  • Are you a parent who wishes that book reviews on blogs were more helpful to you in some concrete way? (More reviews of older titles that are already in the library? More tagging of reviews to make them searchable?) Come and tell us what you're thinking.
  • Are you a librarian who needs books that offer windows and mirrors for particular segments of your patron population? Come share with attending authors and publishers the gaps that YOU see in the diversity of books. 

There are hundreds of people out there publishing reviews of children's and young adult books on blogs, GoodReads, Amazon, etc. These reviewers would love to know how to make their recommendations more useful to people who share books with kids. There are thousands upon thousands of teachers, librarians, and parents who worry about kids reading fewer books, swayed by the distractions of screens and the pressures of testing in school. There are countless authors and publishers and publicists who want to write and publish and promote books that will engage kids, and turn them into readers. What this year's KidLitCon offers is a chance for some of those stakeholders to get together in a single room, share ideas, and talk about solutions. What we all want to see is kids growing up with the chance to fall in love with books. 

KidLitCon is a small, intimate conference, perfect for discussion with and learning from like-minded people. It is a relatively inexpensive conference (early bird registration is $80 for 2 days, including lunch), and hotel costs in Wichita are quite reasonable. I found an inexpensive airfare from San Jose, too. KidLitCon is an introvert-friendly conference (as most attendees are introverts), with plenty of downtime. I've attended nearly all of the 9 previous KidLitCons, and have always found them to be worth my time and effort. 

This year’s primary organizer is Melissa Fox from Book Nut, aided by a team of past organizers and dynamic new assistants. For more information about KidLitCon, please visit our blog or website. We hope to see you all there!


My Daughter is Lucky to be a Girl: Pirate Robes and Princess Books

An experience that I had the other day got me to thinking about at least one way in which girls are luckier than boys in our society. They can choose "girl stuff" or "boy stuff", including books, with essentially no negative repercussions. Not so for the boy choosing "girl stuff", in most contexts.

What started me thinking about this was a bathrobe, of all things. My daughter had a terrycloth robe that she would wear after her bath. I had noticed recently that it was becoming too small. When I was at Costco this week I happened on a bin of kids' terrycloth bathrobes. I initially reached for one with a pink pattern on it. But then I noticed underneath a white robe with red, blue, and black drawings of pirates. Since my daughter adores pirates I scooped it up and brought it home. It was only when I was cutting off the tags to wash the robe that I noticed that the tag said that it was meant for boys. My response was to cut off the tag and throw it away, and tell my daughter that I found her a robe that I knew she would like.

But the labeling of the robe as being for boys niggled at me a bit, and I posted about my experience on Facebook. My friends celebrated my purchasing of a pirate robe for my daughter, even if it was allegedly meant for boys, and shared other, similar experiences. Because why shouldn't a six-year-old girl want a bathrobe with pirates on it? And indeed, the only complaint that my daughter had about the robe was that it was terrycloth rather than fleece, because fleece would be softer. She promptly put it on anyway, over her clothes, despite it being an unseasonably hot day. 

And that's when I thought: she's lucky to be a girl. Because she can choose the pink bathrobe OR the pirate bathrobe. I can even shop at Princess Awesome, and buy her dresses with pink ninjas on them. She pretty much gets general approval either way. Yay for girls who like pirates. Yay for girls who like pink. It's all good.

But if one of her six-year-old male friends happened to want the pink robe, would his parents be comfortable purchasing it? And if they did, would they be wondering "Is my son gay?" "Is my son transgender?" "Will my son be picked on if his friends see him wearing this pink robe?" Regardless of your opinion on those questions, the point is that it's just more complex. For all practical purposes, that six-year-old boy, except in rare circumstances, finds himself with only half as many bathrobe choices as my daughter. 

Of course a narrower range of bathrobe choices is not a serious hardship. But then my thoughts turned to books. And it's the same thing, isn't it? My daughter reads books about Fly Guy and Spiderman and Plants vs. Zombies as well as books about Fancy Nancy and Pinkalicious and princesses galore. A girl who wants to read about trucks or dinosaurs or trains is welcome and encouraged to do so. A boy who wants to read about princesses and tutus and fairies is, well, perhaps not so encouraged. The result is that the boy finds himself, effectively, with fewer book choices.  

This is not a new insight, of course. Shannon Hale has been writing eloquently about this issue for years, and launched the #StoriesForAll campaign to fight against gender-restricted reading. Ms. Yingling has been encouraging middle school boys to "read pink" for several years, too. There are lots of people thinking about and working on this issue.

But as a person who passionately loves children's books, thinking about this made me conclude that my daughter is lucky to be a girl. And I, as a book-pushing mother, am lucky to have a girl. My daughter can read about ninjas and pirates and superheroes if she wants. She can read about Critter Clubs and Mouse Scouts if she prefers. She can read all of it, any book that catches her fancy. 

For the record, I will happily defend any of her male friends who want to read about any of these topics, too. I will recommend books like the Princess in Black series and Babymouse and The Magical Animal Adoption Agency to any kid of the approximate right age who crosses my path. I believe (Jen Malone wrote recently on The Nerdy Book Club) that boys can benefit immensely from reading books that have girls as the central characters. If more boys read books about girls, they'll have more empathy for girls, perhaps even more respect for girls, and society overall will benefit. 

It's not really necessary to market bathrobes differently to six-year-old boys or girls. [And for the record, Costco just tossed them all in the same bin anyway.] In a perfect world there wouldn't be "boy books", which boys and girls feel free to read and "girl books", which mainly girls feel free to read. There would just be books - stories about ghosts and goblins and friendship and treehouses and whatever else any particular kid might be interested in on any particular day. There would just be #StoriesForAll. I think that's something to work towards. 

© 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


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


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).


Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss! Read Across America Day

Today, March 2nd, is Read Across America Day, a nationwide reading celebration hosted by the NEA that takes place on Dr. Seuss's birthday. Seussville.com, organized by Random House Children's Books, has a variety of printable activities and other resources for parents and teachers. Here are a few links celebrating Read Across America Day that I've run across this morning:

All of this makes today a great day to celebrate the joy of reading in general, and the joy of reading Dr. Seuss books in particular. I sent my daughter to school in red and white stripes today, in honor of The Cat in the Hat. Her favorite Seuss title, though, is Wacky Wednesday. My husband's favorite is Fox in Socks. Personally, I am partial to To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street. How about you? What are your favorite Seussian titles? 

Happy Birthday, Mr. Geisel!

© 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


My Pet Book: Bob Staake

Book: My Pet Book
Author: Bob Staake
Pages: 40
Age Range: 3-7

I love Bob Staake's picture books. I especially love Mary Had a Little Lamp, written by Jack Lechner and illustrated by Staake, about a little girl who has a lamp for a sort of pet. I also love a two other books about the crazy things that kids will select as companions: Sophie's Squash by Pat Zietlow Miller and Anne Wilsdorf and Prudence Wants a Pet by Cathleen Daly and Stephen Michael King. So you may imagine my delight when Staake's newest picture book, My Pet Book, landed on my doorstep. Yes, My Pet Book, as is clear from the cover image, is about a boy who has a book for a pet. My Pet Book is fun-filled AND has the bonus of making a statement about how wonderful books are. 

The boy, from Smartytown, doesn't care for dogs, and is allergic to cats. As he's casting about for a pet that will be easy, his mother suggests that "A book would make the perfect pet!". His father jumps on the bandwagon by suggesting that "no pet book had ever run away." Various benefits of book as pet are outlined in the book, including the fact that they don't poop. (This amused me because just the day before two young friends were lamenting the fact that dogs poop, and that kids in their home would be expected to help clean that up.) And so the boy selects "a frisky red hardcover." 

"Of all the books with the store,
He liked this one a lot!
The pages crisp, the printing fine,
It's spine so very taut.
He didn't need to give his pet
A name, like Rex or Spot.
It wouldn't answer anyway,
And so the book was bought!"

The boy has a number of good times with the book (not least immersing himself in the book's stories), and he is devastated when the book in fact does run away. A frantic search ensues, but not to worry. All turns out well in the end for boy and book. Here's my favorite part of the text:

"The boy's mom gently asked him
How a book could bring such joy.
"It's cuz every book's a friend!"
Said the yawning little boy.

While I generally resist overt messages in picture books, I am happy to be able to give this particular message a pass, because it is supported by an such exciting and amusing story. While the book is not alive (doesn't eat or talk or anything), Staake does allow the book a bit of apparently independent movement. It can march along ahead of the boy on its leash, and it is able to hide at one key point in the story. 

My Pet Book showcases Staake's colorful, detailed illustrations. The people have round, abstract faces in various colors. The houses are sometimes tilted, and the cars oddly shaped. Each page includes some small detail to delight young readers. My daughter, for instance, was pleased to point out fleas jumping off a dog's back on one page. And while there is no apparent reason for there to be a cat on a tightrope in the middle of the book, it's nice to see one there anyway. My daughter and I both particularly like one page spread in which the boy is imaging that he is in various stories. The smirk on his face as he ties a purple octopus in knots is priceless, as is his sheer joy to be headed into space in a yellow rocket ship.

Even the end papers of My Pet Book are fun. They feature various images of the boy doing things with his book, like juggling, eating ice cream, and taking a bath. 

My Pet Book is destined to be a family favorite in my house, and will find a place beside The Donut Chef (a frequent read) in my daughter's room. Especially recommended for libraries, My Pet Book will be a colorful, quirky addition to the ranks of books about the joy of books. What a treat!

Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers (@RandomHouseKids)  
Publication Date: July 8, 2014
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

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© 2014 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook


Raising Bookworms: Getting Kids Reading for Pleasure and Empowerment: Emma Walton Hamilton

Book: Raising Bookworms: Getting Kids Reading for Pleasure and Empowerment
Author: Emma Walton Hamilton (blog)
Pages: 208
Age Range: Adult nonfiction

I recently read two books dedicated to helping parents to raise readers (see also my review of Book Love, by Melissa Taylor). The second of these was Raising Bookworms: Getting Kids Reading for Pleasure and Empowerment by Emma Walton Hamilton. Raising Bookworms is a call to arms, written by a parent, "professional educator, children's book author and editor", aimed at encouraging parents to raise book-loving children.

Hamilton starts with the bad news, results from studies that show a decline in reading in the US (including a host of depressing statistics, like "Forty-two percent of college graduates never read another book once they have graduated."). She admits that she isn't a trained reading specialist or educator, and she doesn't get into the mechanics of reading at all, but she proposes the same essential solution that Jim Trelease does, emphasis (by parents and teachers) on the link between reading and pleasure. She says "This book is about creating--or restoring--the connection between reading and joy." She starts with context, giving a history of reading, and then she proposes concrete methods for encouraging reading, aimed at each age group (from birth through early adolescence).

The chapters for the different age groups are designed to allow each to be read independently, as needed by the parent of that age child. I think that this will be quite helpful for parents looking to inspire a particular child. This structure does make it a bit tedious to read Raising Bookworms straight through, however, as many of the tactics that Hamilton proposes apply to multiple age levels. These are thus repeated throughout the book. She does separate the previous suggestions from the new ones each time, so that it's not difficult to skip the ones that one has already read, but there is certainly extra page-turning. [Mind you, I don't have a better solution for the problem of creating standalone chapters but having content that applies to each. It's just tough to read straight through.] Hamilton also includes tables "encompassing all the ideas and recommendations", and indicating which recommendations apply to which age group, in the appendix.

One thing that I really like about Raising Bookworms is that Hamilton includes short, blurbed lists of book suggestions within the chapters for each age range. While I found her lists to be a bit heavy on classics (or relatively light on contemporary fare - she has nowhere near the breadth of Melissa Taylor), I liked that she took the time to tell parents why they should consider a particular book. Hamilton is the daughter of Julie Andrews, and there are some plugs for Andrews' and Hamilton's own books. But it's still clear that Hamilton is a genuine advocate for reading books of all sorts.

Hamilton is also "a great believer in the synergies that exist between literacy and the arts--and the ways in which each can inform the other". In addition to encouraging literacy and reading, she includes a number of suggests related to encouraging the arts in general (attending and participating in plays, etc.). I haven't seen this covered in many other literacy books, and this adds a bit of a personal slant to Raising Bookworms. She's also quite open with discussing the reading experiences of her own children, and what worked during their evolution as readers.

Raising Readers is well-sourced. There are references throughout to literacy organizations, books about encouraging readers, and research studies. There is a bibliography at the end of the book, as well as a helpful index. There is a short section on blogs and other online resources for learning about books (A Fuse #8 Production and Cynsations are both mentioned). Published in 2008, Raising Readers doesn't cover the rise of eBook readers, but these online references give the book a reasonable balance between traditional and contemporary (though without the up-to-the-minute feel of Book Love).

Raising Readers has a bit of a philosophical feel to it. Though there are certainly specific tips and recommendations, Hamilton is sharing her views in a number of areas related to literacy. The fact that these views tended to coincide with mine made this a satisfying read for me. Like this:

"By employing the techniques outlined in the following pages with your children, you stand a good chance of helping them to discover the power and wonder inherent in books. You also stand to enrich your own relationship with them, and to help them achieve rewarding relationships with others. You may even experience a greater sense of personal fulfillment--and might just gain (or rekindle) a new appreciation for reading yourself.

... Ultimately, my dream is that we might reestablish a society of readers ... and by extension, a society of thoughtful, engaged citizens who play an active, positive role in their community and their world." (Page 5-6)

and this:

"I believe that the main reason we move away from reading as an elective activity is because of our conscious association, often unwittingly learned at school and reinforced at home, between reading and "chore." (Page 12)

and this:

"Nothing will teach children to love reading more than seeing the adults around them showing enthusiasm for it. In fact, according to a recent survey by Scholastic, parents who regularly read for pleasure are six times more likely to have kids who read for fun." (Page 17)

Raising Bookworms is also sprinkled with quotes from other reading advocates (Jim Trelease, Esme Raji Codell, Daniel Pennac, etc.). This gives Raising Bookworms the feel of building on the efforts of those others. Most of the tips that I found in Raising Bookworms weren't new to me (a compulsive reader of books on growing bookworms), but I found it a nice refresher, something to rejuvenate my determination to help my child to grow up to be a reader. 

[Note: later this week I will be sharing some thoughts on the Kindle format of this book and Book Love. I wish that I had purchased the paperback copy of Raising Bookworms instead, so that I could more easily refer back to Hamilton's age-specific tips.]

Publisher: Beech Tree Books
Publication Date: December 1, 2008
Source of Book: Bought it on Kindle, after Darshana mentioned it

© 2012 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).