148 posts categorized "Love of Books" Feed

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


#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