Recapturing My Reading Flow

ReadicideI'm happy to report that after a period of … flatness, I seem to have recaptured my reading flow. I was lucky enough to finish reading Readicide: How Schools Are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It by Kelly Gallagher right before a weekend during which my husband and daughter went out of town (giving me the gift of a reading weekend). I enjoyed many aspects of Readicide, but the part that is relevant here is in Chapter 3. Gallagher talks extensively about the need to help kids find their "reading flow":

"The flow is where we want all our students to be when they read, the place Nancie Atwell, in The Reading Zone, describes as that place where young readers have to “come up for air”."

SimonThornBook3This struck me, especially in connection with a post that I wrote a couple of weeks ago musing on whether I am reading for the experience or for the achievement. I realized that I've lost my reading flow. Then I was at the library and spied out of the corner of my eye the third Simon Thorn book by Aimee Carter, remembered that I had enjoyed the first two, and brought it home.

As my reading weekend started, I got about 40 pages into the Simon Thorn book before stopping and thinking "oh, how is this useful?" Then I reminded myself about finding reading flow, and I kept at it. And by the end of the book, I was hooked and eager to finish. Then I read the last 2/3 of The Power by Naomi Alderman in one sitting, after struggling a bit to get into the book when reading in little chunks before bed. I didn't like everything about the book, but it was compelling and thought-provoking.

StoryWebThen for my next book I chose the ARC of The Story Web by Megan Frazer Blakemore, and author whose work I have always enjoyed (see reviews here, here, here, and here). And this time… I fell headlong into the book. I laughed, I cried, I was unable to resist flagging many passages. I barely paused to go to the bathroom, and hurried back, as though the book was going somewhere. I closed the book and thought: "This! This is what I've been forgetting." It is wonderful, and I highly recommend it.

I read several other books over the course of the weekend, some that I enjoyed more than others, but each one read in pretty much one sitting. And in only one case, in the evening, did I have trouble staying awake while reading (which has been a real problem for me lately). I think that was a combination of it being a less interesting book and my being tired. 

This identifies for me four ingredients for my own personal reading flow: 

  1. Reading excellent books. (I also very much enjoyed 48 Hours, the newest book by William R. Forstchen.)
  2. Reading in longer, uninterrupted chunks of time (which are admittedly hard to come by when my husband and daughter are at home). 
  3. Reading things that I've chosen just because I feel like reading them (and not because I'm trying to learn about something or because I have some obligation to review a particular book). 
  4. Reading when I'm not struggling to stay awake. This one interacts with #1 a bit, because sometimes it's the interesting book that keeps me awake. But the real truth is that I'll never find reading flow if the only times I try to read are when I'm in bed half asleep. 

Thank you to Kelly Gallagher and Nancie Atwell for making me think about reading flow. Thank you to Terry Doherty for making me think about whether I am reading for the joy of it or not. Thank you to my husband and daughter for gifting me a quiet reading weekend. Thank you to the San Jose Public Library, Amazon and Bloomsbury for the books. And most of all, thank you to Megan Frazer Blakemore for writing a book that caught me up in its web. The Story Web is about a town (and a family) that's been damaged and the children and animals who work together to repair it. I feel like reading it, at the right time and under the right circumstances, repaired something in me.

Wishing all of you reading flow. 

© 2019 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage. Links to be books may be affiliate links, for which I receive a small commission.


Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: January 18: #CriticalThinking, #BookLists Galore + Laundromat #StoryTime

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include #BookLists, #BookTalks, #FakeNews, #GraphicNovels, #GrowingBookworms, #JoyOfReading, #learning, #MentalHealth, #MiddleGrade, #play, #ReadingAloud, #SchoolImprovement, #ScreenTime, #STEM, #teaching, libraries, motivation, parenting, and publishing.

Top Tweet of the Week

Fact vs. Fiction: Teaching Skills In the Age of by + | "we see skilled as the kryptonite against" it

Book Lists

SheepInAJeep10 Books for our Earliest Emergent Readers That Are Actually Enjoyable https://t.co/aLxkUyEfJI

RA RA Read: organizer Jennifer Wharton rounds up Stories w/ themes for younger + readers

8 Featuring - followup from https://t.co/5Q72Faln0O

LucyAndyNeanderthalA right up my daughter's alley | Funny Series for (Younger) Kids

New Timeless: Recent + Titles That Thinks Might Be Around a While

Events, Programs + Research

How the Chicago Public Is Bringing to the Laundromat | via | receive tips from on instilling at home

w/ children boosts language acquisition by eight months (+more for espec. socially disadvantaged kids) | Newcastle Univ. study funded by |

Americans are happier in states that spend more on public goods inc. , parks + highways says study via |

Growing Bookworms

PassionateReadersOn the importance of in developing kids as readers | "one of the biggest gifts I can give our students is a passport into the ... And that happens through a "

What Happened to My ? + Jared Passmore share time-tested tips for overcoming in older kids | The biggest piece of the puzzle is also the simplest:

Kidlitosphere

News for bloggers + authors: The organizers report: Our Reserved Room Block is Almost Full! | is March 22-23, sure to be an amazing opportunity for learning + meeting kindred spirits

Get up to speed on various tidbits at Fusenews: All the news that’s fit to fuse — , + more

And even more news today in Morning Notes: Legends of Greemulax Edition — +

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

BestFriends Trends & the Most Anticipated Books of 2019: | , memoirs, + lots more

‘They Own the System’: Rewrites Book Industry by Marching Into -

Parenting + Play

Strong blog post: Our Children’s is not a badge of Honour – and why we need to change it! "Why have we taken something so beneficial () away?" via

full of"Family tech" gadgets meant to appeal to parental anxiety, but experts like question whether toys and monitors are a good idea

CoddlingBy mollycoddling our children, we're fuelling in | +

Schools and Libraries

Rethinking “Just Right”: and Text Variables that Impact by | Just as we are different readers in each book we pick up, so too are our

Academic : The Obligation for Universities to Evolve - + |

New York City offers some unpleasant truths about | "To think that seriously low-performing schools can be turned around in a few years with an infusion of money — even a big one — is wishful thinking"

RaisingKidsWhoReadWhat should improvement funders fund? Projects that stick close to the + that explore which content is most effective for kids to + how to it says

Defining and : Is There a Difference? Yes, says Julia Freeland Fisher

Self Development + Personal Growth

All Need to Keep - "if we are railing against systems ... then it is incumbent upon us all, to keep , exploring, discussing, problem-finding, + problem-solving"

Study Identifies The Most Effective Mental Strategies That People Use To Get Through Aversive Challenges –

© 2019 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage.


Having "Reader" Be Part of My Daughter's "Self-Concept"

SchoolhoueRockMy daughter recently auditioned for the school play. They are doing Schoolhouse Rock.  Everyone gets a part - the auditions are about the director getting a sense of the kids and what roles they should play. This year, one thing the director had the kids do was stand up and say one thing about themselves, naming something that they like or like to do. One boy we know said he that likes go-karts.

My daughter didn't get a turn on the first day and was able to discuss with me what she planned to say when her turn came around. She was deciding between saying "I like reading" or saying something about how she cares about her family and friends. (Secretly thrilled) I suggested that she go with the first option, because it would be more specific to her. I would think that all 1st to 3rd graders care about family and friends. This logic resonated with her, as she remarked that no one else had yet said anything about reading. 

RaisingKidsWhoReadLater the same day (serendipity), I happened to be looking back through Raising Kids Who Read by Daniel T. Willingham. I came across a section in which Willingham talks about what it takes to raise a child who chooses to read. He said that it’s not enough for your child to have a positive attitude about reading and be a competent reader. The child needs to have “reader” be part of his or her “self-concept”. He illustrates the idea of self-concept (basically how you see and define yourself) using examples of Twitter bios (where people are forced to introduce themselves using relatively few word). He says:

"If “reader” is part of your self-concept, it will occur to you as a viable activity more often. “What will I do on that two-hour train trip? I could bring my iPod. Oh, I should bring a book too.” And of course, the more you read, the more “reader” becomes cemented as part of your self-concept. What I do and what I think of myself reinforce one another. Conversely, children who do not have “reader” as part of their self-concept are not likely to think of it as an option. They may be neutral or even mildly positive in their attitudes toward reading but do not see it as “one of the things I do.”” (Page 24, Raising Kids Who Read)

“Reader” is certainly a major part of my own self-concept, and has been for as long as I can recall. Knowing that my eight-year-old has "reader" as part of her self-concept is something for which I am deeply, deeply grateful.

I'm grateful to:

  • ReadAloudHandbookEveryone who has bought books for her, since before she was even born. (Did you know that some of my blogger friends arranged a virtual book shower for me? I still treasure those books, in each of which I've written the giver's name. Special thanks to Sarah Stevenson, who brought me the books.)
  • Authors like Daniel Willingham, Jim Trelease and Donalyn Miller, who have given me sage advice in my quest to raise a child who loves to read.
  • The many others from my learning network, bloggers and tweeting teachers and commenters on the blog, who are simply too many to name. 
  • The real-world friends with whom we have traded books and recommendations and ideas. 
  • The publishers and authors who have supported my blog over the years by sending books, more and more of which are finding their way into my daughter's increasingly greedy hands.
  • My daughter's teachers and school librarian, who have all encouraged her to develop and grow as a reader.
  • Most of all, my husband. He has encouraged and supported my daughter's growth as a reader from reading to her in the womb to reading The Action Bible with her every night before bed during this school year.

Of course the journey is far from over. It's well-known that kids' interest in reading for pleasure tends to decline over time, as other occupations and interests get in the way. But I will do everything that I can to protect my daughter's conception of herself as "reader". Many thanks to all of you who I know will be rooting for us along the way. 

© 2019 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage. Links to books may be affiliate links, for which I receive a small commission. 


Growing Bookworms Newsletter: January 16: Focus, Reading Achievement, and the Percy Jackson Books

JRBPlogo-smallToday, I will be sending out a new issue of the Growing Bookworms email newsletter. (If you would like to subscribe, you can find a sign-up form here.) The Growing Bookworms newsletter contains content from my blog focused on growing joyful learners, mainly bookworms, but also mathematicians and learners of all types. The newsletter is usually sent out every three weeks.

Newsletter Update: In this issue I have two literacy milestones (reading the Percy Jackson books and using a Word-A-Day Calendar). I also have a post about whether my reading is an experience or an achievement. I also share my "one word" for the year: FOCUS. I have three posts with links that I shared recently on Twitter, full of reading- and education-related news. 

Reading Update:  In the last four weeks I finished eight adult titles. I read/listened to: 

  • MomentsChip Heath and Dan Heath: The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact. Simon & Schuster. Adult Nonfiction. Completed December 19, 2018, print library copy. This book is about how certain experiences have a bigger impact on you, and how you can sometimes engineer those moments for positive change. It provided me with food for thought, and I've recommended this book to friends. The writing style is also quite engaging. 
  • Susan Furlong: Fractured Truth (Bone Gap Traveler Novel). Kensington. Adult Mystery. Completed December 29, 2018, on Kindle. I didn't like this book as much as I enjoyed the first one, but it was still a good travel book over the holidays.
  • James Rayburn: The Truth Itself. Blackstone Publishing. Adult Thriller. Completed December 29, 2018, on Kindle. This I read in one sitting on the plane ride back from Boston. I don't remember much about it now, but I did enjoy it. 
  • Janet Evanovich: Look Alive Twenty-Five. G.P. Putnam's Sons. Adult Mystery. Completed 1/3/19, on MP3. Another popcorn book from Evanovich. 
  • 10PercentHappierDan Harris: 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works--A True Story. Dey Street Books. Adult Nonfiction. Completed 1/9/19, on MP3. I rarely listen to nonfiction, but I quite enjoyed this memoir about how Harris changed after discovering (and becoming quite rabid about) meditation. He's a bit of a jerk at first, but he improves quite a lot over the course of the book. 
  • David DeSteno: Emotional Success: The Power of Gratitude, Compassion, and Pride. Eamon Dolan/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Adult Nonfiction. Completed January 11, 2019, on Kindle. I picked up this Kindle deal as part of my quest to learn more about willpower. DeSteno's thesis is that instead of needing to use willpower at all, people can learn to channel gratitude, compassion, and pride to make self-control relatively effortless. I'm not completely sold (and he waxed a bit grandiose for me near the end of the book), but it's an interesting approach. 
  • Nataly Kogan: Happier Now: How to Stop Chasing Perfection and Embrace Everyday Moments (Even the Difficult Ones). Sounds True. Adult Nonfiction. Completed January 13, 2019, personal copy. This was a Christmas gift from a dear friend that went straight to the top of my stack. It's full of little tips about acceptance and living in the moment, some of which I think I will be able to really use. I actually downloaded a gratitude journal app while reading this, and am appreciating it so far. 
  • Dana Stabenow: A Cold-Blooded Business (Kate Shugak, Book 4). Gere Donovan Press. Adult Mystery. Completed January 15, 2019, on MP3. This is a series that I am slowly making my way through. I really like Stabenow's writing, and the uniqueness of the Alaska setting. 

CharlieBoneI'm currently reading The Power by Naomi Alderman, a Christmas gift from my husband. I'm reading Readicide: How Schools are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It by Kelly Gallagher on my Kindle (the research is a little dated, but it's still brilliant). I'm deciding what audiobook to listen to next, having just finished a Kate Shugak book. I've just started reading Midnight for Charlie Bone (Children of the Red King #1) by Jenny Nimmo aloud to my daughter. I've been thinking that these might be a good fit for her, and couldn't pass up a used copy for fifty cents in the Friends of the Library bookstore last week. We're enjoying it so far, but we are not very far in yet. 

BearsAndBlossomsIn terms of her own reading, my daughter is still working her way through The Lightning Thief (the first Percy Jackson book) by Rick Riordan. As I mentioned last time, it's a pretty challenging book for her, so she takes regular breaks to read and re-read graphic novels and picture books. Santa was kind enough to bring her most of the Bears on Chairs series by Shirley Parenteau and David Walker, a set of picture books that she had fallen head over heels in love with. We've been reading those a lot, and I'm sure that the library is happy to have back the copies that we've been monopolizing for, literally, months. We've also been seeking out other books illustrated by David Walker.

MysteryClubMy daughter was very excited when a copy of Mystery Club, the second graphic novel by Aron Nels Steinke about Mr. Wolf's Class arrived from the publisher. She was completely unable to do her homework until she had finished it, and she highly recommends it to all middle grade graphic novel fans. I couldn't get much out of her about what she liked specifically. She said: "everything!" She also continues to read biographies from the Who Was ... ? series, and has had to move on to reading about some male historical figures (having exhausted her school library's selection of books about women). 

Thanks for reading, and for growing bookworms! Wishing you all plenty of reading time in this still new year. 

© 2019 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage


Literacy Milestone: Word-A-Day Calendar

LiteracyMilestoneALast month I wrote about my daughter's passion for "clarifying" (looking up and creating post-it notes) vocabulary words for her school reading. In the comments on that post, Karen Yingling from Ms. Yingling Reads suggested that I get her a Word-A-Day Calendar for Christmas. I thought this was a good idea and ordered the 365 New Words-A-Year Page-A-Day Calendar 2019.

WordADaySo far the calendar has been a hit. We keep it on the breakfast table and read about each new word together over breakfast. I add context and help with pronunciation where needed. Then my daughter tears the day's sheet off, punches a hole in the corner, and adds it to a string she's using to save them. I think she plans to show the string to her teacher at some point. 

It's not clear how many of the words she'll actually internalize and remember, but we are having fun with the experience. And in truth, I'm learning some new words, too. ("Adust: scorched, burned"). 

Reader's Digest used to have some sort of vocabulary quiz. I would try myself on those when I was a kid. This is what bookish people do, right? They read dictionaries and use book-a-day calendars and read and read and read, absorbing words everywhere they go. Special thanks to Karen for the excellent suggestion! 

Thanks for reading, and for growing bookworms!

© 2019 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage