49 posts categorized "Parents" Feed

My Ninja Child: Or, Why Kids Should Pursue the Activities that Bring them Joy

I always have my eyes open for articles and posts about play and joy for kids. So I naturally read and shared a recent Washington Post article by Lena Aberdeen Derhally entitle "Kids don't know how to play on their own anymore. Here are four ways to change that."

The whole article is well worth a read. The author begins with why parents should care about getting their kids to play more and then gets into her specific suggestions. Here is the first one:

"Encourage your child’s unique strengths: Everyone has something they enjoy and usually we are pretty good at doing the things we enjoy. If your child truly enjoys an activity, encourage him to develop it. If the child loses interest in the activity and doesn’t want to do it anymore, listen to him. Forcing him to do something that is no longer enjoyable can hurt him in the long run and take the joy out of the activity. The purpose of hobbies and activities is enjoyment."

When I first read this paragraph, I have to confess that I thought it was rather obvious. I've been reading a lot of parenting books and books about the importance of play, and this of course made sense to me. But then I thought about the first sentence of that paragraph again: Everyone has something they enjoy and usually we are pretty good at doing the things we enjoy. This has always been my approach in terms of getting kids interested in books and reading - you have to help them to enjoy it, or they won't do it. 

But then I realized how much this outlook applies to my daughter's experience with karate lessons, and how very much she's been getting out of them. The other day our family met a couple of my husband's colleagues for lunch. My daughter was seated next to a man she knows fairly well (the father of two daughters himself), and she spent the entire lunchtime telling him all about her experiences and accomplishments with karate.

JoyfulNinja

She was reciting exactly how many and which badges she has received ("teamwork", "respect", etc.) and sharing her belt level. She was talking about when her graduation ceremony would be to the next level, and relating with much pride her experience in breaking a board with her hand. She was just brimming over - so proud and so excited to talk about this passionate interest of hers with an adult who would listen attentively (bless him!). 

Ninja_print__79938.1440167600.500.571_1024x1024Of course this enthusiasm shows up at other times, not just at this lunch. She had a ninja-themed birthday party (hence the broken board). She runs around the house in a ninja mask, selects ninja-themed picture books, and was SO excited when for sharing at school she had to do or bring something that started with "K". She was beside herself when I bought her a dress with hidden pink ninjas on it (from Princess Awesome, a new discovery - see the fabric to the left). She used her own money to buy Kung Fu Panda 3. I think you get the idea.

Vision-martial-artsA couple of my friends, as well as my daughter's karate instructor, have commented on how much her confidence has increased since she started doing karate. Her karate studio (Vision Martial Arts in San Jose) is fabulous. They focus not just on karate, but on nurturing teamwork, self-reliance, and other core values. We are grateful to the friends who recommended that we give karate a try. 

But I think that my husband and I deserve some credit, too. We listened when she said that she wanted to give karate a try. We supported her sticking with karate vs. swim team this summer, even though most of her friends were doing the latter. We arranged the ninja-themed birthday party. My husband practices with her. I make sure her uniform is clean. In general, we have prioritized the karate, because it's clear that it is working for her. And the dividends from the decision have been significant. 

If and when her interests change, we'll respect that, too, of course. And it's not that she doesn't have other interests now. I also understand that karate isn't for everyone, and that parents will have to experiment to find the right thing for each kid at each stage of development. My point is that if your child develops a passionate interest, it's worth going out of your way to let her pursue it. You never know which activities are going to be the ones that make your child sparkle. But it's the sparkle that matters. Find it. Follow it. That's what makes kids shine. 

© 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


The Power of Spending Your Own Money

Girl-Scout-DaisiesMy daughter and I had an entertaining day recently, with an experience that I thought was both educational and empowering for her. It started out when she was looking through her Girl Scout Daisy handbook. [Have I mentioned that she ADORES Girl Scout Daisies? It is true.] She found an exercise that her troop had not gotten to this year, in which participants are supposed to list something that they want, and figure out how long it will take to save for this item.

Her first item was a fish, with tank, which is going to require some time for saving. But her second item was three packets of seeds (flower or vegetable). I told her that this would likely only cost $7 to $10. She ran upstairs to check her "spend" box (which still contained some leftover birthday money), and came down brandishing a $20 bill. She wanted to know if we could go seed-shopping immediately. We were somewhat at loose ends, with my husband away, so I said "Sure."

BaskinRobbinsHere's how she spent her $20. First she spent just under $10 for three packets of seeds. Then she bought herself an ice cream cone from the nearby Baskin Robbins, at a cost of ~$3.25. Then she decided that she wanted to buy small gifts for the friends she was going to see later in the day. She picked out three items from the dollar bins near the front of the nearby Target (one was for herself), at a cost of $5.46 with tax. She had about $1.50 left over.

Leaving the hardware store, she remarked: "This was already a good day, but now it's a GREAT day." 

At all three stores, she paid with her own money, with much pride (though I did hold on to the change in between). As made sense, I encouraged her to do the required math. The three Target items cost $1, $1, and $3, so getting to $5 was easy, though she's not quite ready to compute San Jose's 8.75% sales tax in her head. When she handed over $5.50 at Target, I had her figure out what her change would be. I rounded the prices of the three seed packets and had add those numbers together. But I didn't push it too hard. I wanted our time together to be fun. 

But this whole experience highlighted to me why it's important for kids, once they are old enough, to have some small amount of money of their own. My daughter was empowered by the whole process of deciding what she wanted to buy, figuring out  how much things were going to cost and what she could afford, and physically being the one to pay the sales clerks. The day would not have had nearly the same feel had I just been buying her things. In fact, at one point, I offered to buy some cookies to take over to her friends' house. She said: "Mom, they're MY friends. I should buy the presents, not you." What parent could argue with that? 

We are currently deferring her allowance for the next few months, to save up for that fish tank. I'll keep you all posted. 

© 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


Literacy Milestone: Life Imitating Art with Safety Tips

LiteracyMilestoneAThe other day I stood very briefly on my (wheeled) office chair to reach the inkjet printer refills from the cabinet above my desk. My daughter caught me and chastised me for doing something unsafe. Then she left the room giggling. A few minutes later she came back and taped the following sign to the wall near my desk (where I can't miss it):

SafetyTip1

I believe that she did have some spelling help from her babysitter. She later added a little checkmark to the upper left-hand corner, to mark the one incident of my standing on the chair. She told me that if I had two more incidents, I would lose access to my wheeled office chair. This actually does not seem unreasonable. She added a couple of other safety tips over the course of the afternoon (thankfully not in response to actual safety violations):

SafteyTip2

and

SafetyTip3

These safety tips were, of course, inspired by the delightful, Caldecott-winning picture book Officer Buckle and Gloria, by Peggy Rathmann. I'm sure that there will be more. But what I loved about this incident was the way my daughter took immediate action, and put her thoughts to paper. The fact that she was bringing a beloved book to life was certainly a bonus, though.  

Clearly I will have to be more careful in the future. Office Buckle, Gloria, and my six-year-old are all counting on me. 

© 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


On the Virtues of Not Over-Scheduling

I try not to over-schedule my daughter (who just turned six). This is harder than I ever would have imagined. There are so many things she could do, should do, wants to do, and/or could learn from in some way. We are constantly seeking the balance that is right for her and for our family. Sometimes things get a little out of whack (for example, when seasonal activities don't line up quite right), but we keep trying.

LearnThroughPlay

One thing that helps is the fact that my daughter seems to understand herself, and to know that she doesn't like it when she is over-scheduled. She recently opted not to do our local Swim Team this summer, despite the compelling fact that many of her friends are on the team. Selfishly, I was happy about this choice, but I truly do think that it was better for my daughter. She needs downtime. She needs time for unstructured play. She needs time to just goof around and try things out. She needs time to read and be read to. She just needs time.

She had this afternoon mostly free (except for an hour for karate class). She used the time to rearrange my office (sigh), start reading a middle grade book (she did not get far, but I applauded the effort), build some things with Legos, brainstorm a poem that she wants to write for next week's Teacher Appreciation Day, and learn to ride a bike without training wheels. I would say that this is a pretty typical day, but the truth is that there is no typical day when you are six years old and provided with free time. [Of course the bicycle was an accomplishment, of which she is quite proud.] 

It's not that Swim Team (or piano lessons or softball or tennis or whatever else we might have chosen) wouldn't have been valuable in a different way. But I can't let go of the feeling that having big chunks of free time to dabble about is more valuable. At least for now, when she is six years old. And the fact that at six she thinks so too is pretty much all I need to know. 

I have read a number of books and articles over the past couple of years that make this point, from Free Range Kids by Lenore Skenazy to It's OK to Go Up the Slide by Heather Shumaker to Overwhelmed by Brigid Schulte to Free to Learn by Peter Gray. But I think that the reason all of these books have resonated with me has been that they coincide with my own instincts on this topic.

When I was a kid I had a few structured activities over the years: summer day camp one summer, swim lessons for a season or two, skating for a season or two. But mostly, I played, either alone or with other kids. Some of that play involved group games in the street or outings with friends or playing Barbies in my room with my best friend. But a lot of it was time spent at home, reading, writing, climbing trees, making dioramas and paper dolls, and so on.

I understand that my daughter doesn't have the same options to just go play around the neighborhood that I did. I do work to ensure that, as an only child, she get time to play with other kids. She needs that. But she also needs time to just putter about, pursuing her own interests. And I feel that it's my job to make sure that she gets it. Even when it's hard to say no. Even when she is missing out on enriching activities.

She is six. She has the rest of her life to fill up her schedule. For now, I want to let her play. 

How do other parents handle this, I wonder? Does it get harder as the kids get older (I can't imagine otherwise)? 

© 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. This post may contain affiliate links.


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).


Tips from Scholastic for Getting Kids Preschool-Ready

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Press Release: Screen Free Week is May 5-11

SFW-logo-with-2014-dateScreen-Free Week is May 5 – 11, 2014! 

Kids, families, schools, and communities pledge to spend 7 days unplugged.

BOSTON -- April 28 -- Children are spending way too much time with screens -- and it’s not good for them.

  • School-age children spend more time with screen media -- television, video games, computers, and hand-held devices -- than in any other activity but sleeping.
  • Screen media use is at an all-time high among preschoolers -- according to Nielsen, young children spend, on average, more than 32 hours a week watching just television.
  • A recent survey found that the amount of time children ages 0-8 spend using mobile devices tripled in two years.
  • Screen time is habit forming and linked to poor school performance, childhood obesity, poor sleep habits, and attention problems.
  • 64% of children ages 12 to 24 months watch TV and videos for an average of just over two hours a day -- even though the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends discouraging screen time for children under two.

For these reasons and more, so many leading health, education, and childcare organizations actively support this year’s Screen-Free Week (May 5 – 11, 2014), the annual celebration where children, families, schools, and communities turn on life by turning off screens for entertainment. Endorsers include the National Head Start Association, the National WIC Association, KaBOOM!, the US Play Coalition, the Association of Children’s Museums, the National Black Child Development Institute, and the American Public Health Association.

“Such wide-ranging support for Screen-Free Week reflects the growing national consensus that kids spend too much time with television, video games, apps, and computers,” said Dr. Susan Linn, director of Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, the official home of Screen-Free Week. “More screen time means less time for hands-on play, reading, exploring nature, and dreaming -- activities crucial to a healthy, happy childhood."

Since 1996, millions of children and their families have participated in Screen-Free Week (formerly TV Turnoff). Each year, thousands of parents, teachers, PTA members, librarians, scoutmasters, and clergy organize Screen-Free Weeks in their communities. Here are just a few of the upcoming festivities:

  • The Irving (TX) Public Library is hosting events all week long including sidewalk chalk art, a bubble bonanza, a science experiment, and opportunities to create books and build with construction materials.
  • In NYC, The Uni Project will take up residency all week on a wide stretch of sidewalk in the Lower East Side with their pop-up, open-air reading rooms.
  • The Wooden Horse toy store in Los Gatos, CA has a week of activities planned, starting with a pajama party and story time and ending with a play day that will be filled with arts & crafts, games, and races. A game night and nature-themed activities will also be offered during the week.
  • Spring Garden Recreation in York, PA will be joining with local businesses and Recreation departments to offer an activity for each day of the week free of charge. They’re starting the week off with a kids’ biathlon.
  • In Cambridge, MA families will celebrate Screen-Free (Screen-Wise) Week with cooking from the garden, building and playing with cardboard tubes, a kids’ walk and picnic at Fresh Pond, exploring materials with magical properties, and sketching plants and trees. They’ll end the week with a Mother’s Day bike ride.

Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (www.commercialfreechildhood.org) is a national coalition that counters the harmful effects of marketing to children. CCFC is a project of Third Sector New England (www.tsne.org).

_______________________________

See also my post about my family's experience with Screen Free Week last year. I'm going to try for "Less Screen Week" this year (see a post by Marge Loch-Wouters on this topic), but I think that's all I'll be able to manage right now. 


A Tip for Growing Bookworms: Avoid Bookshaming

A post at the Nerdy Book Club this week really made me think. Priscilla Thomas, an 11th grade teacher, wrote about the repercussions of what she called "bookshaming". Thomas says:

"To be clear, opinion and disagreement are important elements of literary discourse. Bookshaming, however, is the dismissive response to another’s opinion. Although it is sometimes justified as expressing an opinion that differs from the norm, or challenging a popular interpretation, bookshaming occurs when “opinions” take the form of demeaning comments meant to shut down discourse and declare opposing viewpoints invalid."

She goes on to enumerate five ways that bookshaming (particularly by teachers) can thwart the process of nurturing "lifelong readers." I wish that all teachers could read this post. 

But of course I personally read this as a parent. Thomas forced me to consider an incident that had taken place in my household a couple of weeks ago. We were rushing around to get out of the house to go somewhere, but my daughter asked me to read her a book first. The book she wanted was Barbie: My Fabulous Friends! (which she had picked out from the Scholastic Book Fair last fall). 

I did read this book about Barbie and her beautiful, multicultural friends. But at the end I made some remark about it being a terrible book. And even as I said it, I KNEW that it was the wrong thing to say. Certainly, it is not to my taste. It's just little profiles of Barbie's friends - no story to speak of. But my daughter had picked out this book from the Book Fair, and she had liked it enough to ask me to read it to her. She seemed to be enjoying it. And I squashed all of that by criticizing her taste.

Two weeks later, I am still annoyed with myself. Priscilla Thomas' article helped me to better understand why. She said: "When we make reading about satisfying others instead of our own enjoyment and education, we replace the joy of reading with anxiety." What I WANT is for my daughter to love books. And if I have to grit my teeth occasionally over a book that irritates me, so what? 

Rather than continue to beat myself up over this, I have resolved to be better. The other night I read without a murmur The Berenstain Bears Come Clean for School by Jan and Mike Berenstain, which is basically a lesson on how and why to avoid spreading germs at school. As I discussed here, that same book has helped my daughter to hone her skills in recommending books. It is not a book I would have ever selected on my own. But I'm going to hold on to the image of my daughter flipping to the last page of the book, face shining, to tell me how funny the ending was. 

Growing bookworms is about teaching our children to love reading (see a nice post by Carrie Gelson about this at Kirby Larson's blog). They're not going to love reading if we criticize their tastes, and make them feel anxious or defensive. I'm sorry that I did that to my daughter over the Barbie book, and I intend to do my best not to do that again. If this means reading 100 more Barbie books over the next couple of years, so be it. Of course I can and will introduce her to other authors that are more to my own taste, to see which ones she likes. But I will respect her taste, too. 

© 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. This site is an Amazon affiliate.


Back to Bed, Ed!: Sebastien Braun

Book: Back to Bed, Ed!
Author: Sebastien Braun
Pages: 32
Age Range: 2-5

I must confess that when I first received Back to Bed, Ed! by Sebastien Braun, I didn't fully appreciate it (and didn't review it). This was back in early 2010, when I was pregnant with my daughter (my first and only child). A picture book about a boy (well, a mouse) who keeps getting into his parents' bed, and the solution that his family finds for the problem, well, it seemed a bit ... slight to that pre-parent me. But NOW, 3 1/2 years later, I have come to consider Back to Bed, Ed! necessary and relevant. Now that I have a child who climbs into my bed multiple times a night, I can appreciate how spot-on Braun's work is. (Or at least I would be able to appreciate it if I wasn't so tired all the time.)

ClosedSignIn fact, my plan for tonight is to copy Ed's parents' solution. Since this is a picture book, I'm not going to worry too much about spoilers, so I'll tell you. After many nights of being woken up (and kept awake) by Ed, his parents hang a "Closed" sign on the door. When he gets out of bed, he is stopped by the sign from entering their room. His dad walks him back to his room, where he gathers up all his stuffed animals into his bed and tells them "There's no need to be scared. I'm here now." (Image created by me, though similar to the one in the book.)

My daughter loves Back to Bed, Ed!, and she was actually the one to suggest the "Closed" sign (she's much braver by daylight than she is at night). We're going to bring all of her stuffed animals up from the playroom, and put them nearby, so that she can gather them into her bed, just like Ed does. I can only hope that life will imitate art. 

For those of you facing a similar problem (or anticipating the possibility of facing a similar problem), Back to Bed, Ed! is an essential book for any preschooler's home library. The reactions of Ed's (tired) parents are spot-on. Braun's illustrations are a mix of realistic (groggy parents spilling cereal on the table) and fanciful (the monsters that Ed imagines following him into the bedroom).

Nothing in Back to Bed, Ed! is actually scary. The monsters look like friendly dinosaurs, and the night-time background colors are blues and purples, rather than the inky blacks of Lemony Snicket & Jon Klassen's The Dark. Jammie-clad Ed, clutching his stuffed bunny, is determined, then sad, and then, ultimately, pleased with himself. 

I kept Back to Bed, Ed! around, even when I didn't really anticipate needing it, because I found Ed a likeable character. Now, he's practically a member of my family, and I highly recommend this book for anyone struggling to keep a preschooler in bed. It is still in print, with a paperback coming out in February, which suggests that I am not alone in my assessment.  

Wish me luck!

Publisher: Peachtree Publishers (@PeachtreePub)
Publication Date: February 1, 2010
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

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

© 2013 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


Reading Aloud to Kids Builds Background Knowledge

I recently read the 7th edition of Jim Trelease's The Read-Aloud Handbook (more details here). The section (in Chapter 1) on Background Knowledge stood out for me. Trelease says: 

"Background knowledge is one reason children who read the most bring the largest amount of information to the learning table and thus understand more of what the teacher of the textbook is teaching... For the impoverished child lacking the travel portfolio of affluence, the best way to accumulate background knowledge is by either reading or being read to." (Page 13-14)

There is no question that my daughter has acquired background knowledge from books. Recently we were in the parking lot at the grocery store, and a taxi cab passed by. My daughter said: "Look! A taxi cab! I've never seen one in real life before." (Forgetting various airport trips, I guess.) She had, however, seen a taxi cab in Night Light by Nicholas Blechman. And despite the one in the book having been somewhat stylized, the rendition was accurate enough for my Baby Bookworm to know one when she saw it. 

Do you have examples of ways that your child has used books to build background knowledge? Or is this so pervasive that you don't even notice? 

See also my related post about making connections between books and day-to-day life, from this year's Share a Story - Shape a Future literacy blog tour. 

© 2013 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. 


Idea for Increasing Your Child's Literacy: A Rear-Facing Stroller

I'm sharing some ideas that I picked up from a recent read of the 7th edition of Jim Trelease's The Read-Aloud Handbook (more details here). In Chapter One, Trelease proposes "one inexpensive, commonsense move that parents could make that would impact their children's language skills". The simple idea is to purchase a rear-facing stroller. Turns out that:

"Researchers (of parents using rear-facing strollers) found it makes a huge difference in how much conversation takes place between parent and child--twice as much when the child faces the parent." (Page 17)

The larger idea is that talking with your child is one of the ways that you help to build your child's vocabulary (on which much of the success of their future education rests). So, if you are regularly taking your infant out for walks in a stroller, using a rear-facing stroller increases your opportunity to engage with the child. Such a simple idea, but one that could make a big difference. (Obviously, this is less practical with a curious 2 year old who wants to see the world, even if you could find a rear-facing stroller). 

We actually did have a rear-facing stroller when my daughter was an infant (it was like the one shown above, where the car seat snaps into a base). But I must admit that was luck (and generous friends). Have any of you deliberately tried using a rear-facing stroller, so that you'll talk more with your baby?

© 2013 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. 


Actions I'm Taking After Reading the New Read-Aloud Handbook

I've included some general responses to my recent reading of the 7th edition of Jim Trelease's The Read-Aloud Handbook in a separate post. Here, I'm sharing the bits that motivated me to want to take a specific action, and/or change something that I'm doing, in terms of my daughter's reading experience.

Mind you, I'm already reading to my daughter (now 3 1/2) regularly. She visits the library, and chooses her own books. We have books in the car, and we take books with us when we go on trips. We read mostly picture books, but are dabbling in early readers, and even dipping our toes into chapter books. I've read at least two earlier editions of The Read-Aloud Handbook, as well as various other titles on this subject, and I'm confident that we're doing a reasonable job already. 

Still, I found some useful take home messages, places where I think we can do a little bit better. Like these:

Perform Repeat Reads of the Same Book

"Research shows that even when children reach primary grades, repeated picture book reading of the same book (at least three times) increases vocabulary acquisition by 15 to 40 percent, and the learning is relatively permanent." (Page 10, Chapter 1)

The immediate take-home message for me on this is to make sure that we do read new picture books at least three times (unless we dislike them, of course). This isn't much of a problem with books that we own, but sometimes the big stack of library books goes back with books that were only read once or twice. I guess mostly this is a reminder of being patient about re-reads. 

Fill More Book Baskets

Another thing that Trelease advocates is the placement of book baskets in strategic locations throughout the house. I did this when my daughter was younger, but I haven't updated the baskets and locations recently. I need to stock a basket for the bathroom, and figure out a way to keep books closer to the kitchen table. This is going to tie in with another project that we're just starting - putting aside some of the board books (sob!), which currently fill the baskets. 

Get A Bedside Lamp

A related idea, Trelease also suggests buying your child a bed lamp, and letting them stay up 15 minutes later if they are reading in bed. We're not quite ready for this idea in my house yet (we tend to read to her until she falls asleep), but a bed lamp is clearly something that we're going to need soon.  

Read More Poetry

Trelease also talks about the need to read aloud stories that rhyme (Chapter Two). I haven't been as good about reading my daughter poetry as I would like. She's now starting to play with rhyming herself (and has just discovered tongue-twisters), and I think it's time for us to add more poetry to our repertoire. 

Always Say the Title and Name of the Author

In Chapter 4: The Dos and Don'ts of Read-Aloud, Trelease says:

"Before you begin to read, always say the name of the book, the author, and the illustrator--no matter how many times you have read the book." (Page 74)

I used to be very good about this, and had been letting it go a bit lately. This reminder has already gotten me back on track with attribution. I also like to say where the book came from, if it was a gift. 

Read More Slowly

Another reminder from Chapter 4, always good to hear again:

"The most common mistake in reading aloud--whether the reader is a seven-year-old or a forty-year-old--is reading too fast. Read slowly enough for the child to build mental pictures of what he just heard you read. Slow down enough for the children to see the pictures in the book without feeling hurried. Reading quickly allows no time for the reader to use vocal expression." (Page 75)

I think it's always tempting for adults to read quickly, and get through more books. There's a feeling of accomplishment if we read five books tonight before bed. But reading them better, more slowly, with more expression and discussion, is clearly better in the long run. I'm going to work on this.

Chart Reading Progress

My daughter loves to look at her growth chart, and see how much she's grown. Trelease advocates creating a home or school wall chart so that kids can see how much they've read. He says that:

"images of caterpillars, snakes, worms, and trains work well for this purpose, with each section representing a book. Similarly, post a world or U.S. wall map, on which small stickers can be attached to locations where your books have been set." (Page 76)

I especially like the map idea, because we LOVE maps in my house. I'll have to think about the best way to do this. US map? World map? Both? 

Initiate Home Drop Everything and Read (D.E.A.R.) Time

Trelease suggests setting aside time each day for the child to read by herself (even if she is just flipping through books that she can't yet read). He adds: "All your read-aloud motivation goes for naught if time is not available to put that motivation into practice." (Page 77)

We've done this informally, especially in the car. But I like the idea of having a designated quiet self-reading time. I'm happy to also use the time to model reading, by reading my own book. I'll have to think about how this could be integrated into our schedule. 

Spend Less Time Pecking Away on My Phone

I don't have one quote for this, but a number of references in The Read-Aloud Handbook have affirmed something that I've been concerned about for a while. I spend too much time looking at things on my phone, in my daughter's presence. I'd rather either be present with her, or have her see me reading books (or newspapers or magazines). If I am going to read electronically, I prefer to do it on the Kindle Paperwhite, which is only for reading books. I always call this my "Kindle Book", to reinforce the idea that when she sees me with it, I am reading.  

Continue Limiting TV Time, and Turn On the Closed Captioning

Trelease has a whole chapter on the impact of television and audio on kids and reading. I've been determined since before she was born that my daughter will not have a television set in her bedroom (and I won't have one in mine, either). We currently only allow her to watch television on weekends (though she does sneak in a bit of extra time on the iPad during the week sometimes). But she's like an addict, constantly asking if it's the weekend, and then binging on movies when it is. 

I'm particularly struck by the results of a study that found looked at children's schooling level by age twenty-six vs. the amount of television watched in childhood. "Children who viewed less than one hour a day were the most likely to achieve a college degree." (Page 147) Another study suggested "no detrimental effects on learning (and some positive effects) from TV viewing up to ten hours per week; however, after that, the scores begin to decline. The average student today watches three times the recommended dosage." (Page 148)

I'm not going to make any changes right now, besides turning on the closed captioning (something that Trelease has recommended for years, so that kids SEE the words). But I'm going to keep an eye on how many hours of TV watching creep in over the weekends. Just as soon as the baseball playoffs are over, anyway. 

Limit iPad Time When Traveling

We don't have a portable DVD player, or a DVD player in the car, and I don't see much need for one. But we have downloaded a few select movies onto the iPad. We've found this useful for long car trips, or other times when we need a break. (Most recently, when we brought our daughter along on a wine tasting trip to Napa.) I'm not prepared to give this up - it's been awfully handy on long flights. But I do take this point by Trelease into account:

"The recent addition of the DVD player to family transportation does nothing but deprive the child of yet another classroom: conversation with parents or the shared intellectual experience of listening to an audiobook communally." (Page 154)

I don't think that  my daughter is quite ready to follow along with an audiobook, but I do plan to use them for car trips when I think that she's ready. In the meantime, I'm going to work on talking more, and resorting to the iPad less, especially in the car (though I won't give it up entirely). 

Conclusion

A pretty fine list of actions to take, considering that this is at least the third edition I've read of The Read-Aloud Handbook (out of 7 published editions). Trelease has said that this will be the last edition that he writes, which makes me sad. But I'm very happy to have this one. 

How about you all? Have you read The Read-Aloud Handbook? Has it affected your efforts to grow bookworms in your own household? I'd love it if you would share. 

© 2013 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.