Growing Bookworms Newsletter: May 20: Literacy Milestones + Responses to the @Scholastic Kids + Family Reading Report

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 to four weeks. This issue is a tiny bit early because I'm going to be away from my computer for most of this week, and have some things I'd like to share before I go. 

Newsletter Update: In this issue I have two posts with my daughter's latest literacy milestones. The first is about attending her first author signing. The second is about making connections through reading. I also have two posts written in response to the Scholastic Kids and Family Reading Report, one about the "Decline by Nine" and the other about factors that encourage frequent readers. I also have three posts with literacy and reading-related links shared over the past few weeks on Twitter. I have a summary of our recent reading below. 

Reading Update:  In the last three weeks I finished two middle grade titles and six adult titles (three fiction and three nonfiction). I read/listened to: 

  • Rachel Renee Russell: Dork Diaries 13: Tales from a Not-So-Happy Birthday. Aladdin Books. Middle Grade Fiction. Completed May 7, 2019, read aloud to my daughter. This one did improve for me by the end, but I still prefer the Wimpy Kid books. 
  • Jeff Kinney: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever. Harry N. Abrams Books. Middle Grade Fiction. Completed May 14, 2019, read aloud to my daughter.
  • EnchantedHourMeghan Cox Gurdon: The Enchanted Hour: The Miraculous Power of Reading Aloud in the Age of Distraction . Harper. Adult Nonfiction. Completed May 2, 2019, personal copy. This book is basically a call to society to make reading aloud a priority. While she talks mostly about the many rewards to kids from having their parents read to them (bonding, vocabulary, etc.), she also advocates for the gift of reading aloud to other adults (e.g. in the car) and especially to the elderly. I'm already a pretty strong advocate for reading aloud myself, and Gurdon succeeded in making me want to do it more. 
  • William Kent Krueger: Trickster's Point (Cork O'Connor, No. 12). Atria Books. Adult Mystery. Completed May 7, 2019, on MP3. I'm still a fan. Definitely enjoyable!  
  • TextMeWhenKayleen Schaefer: Text Me When You Get Home: The Evolution and Triumph of Modern Female Friendship. Dutton. Adult Nonfiction. Completed May 8, 2019, personal copy. This book was a gift from a dear friend. Schaefer focuses on the importance of female friendships in a society that puts more emphasis on spouses and children. I thought she was a little over the top on that point, but I still appreciated her musing on the many gifts that female friends bring to one another. This was a good followup read for me after The Village Effect
  • Paula Munier: A Borrowing of Bones (Mercy and Elvis, Book 1). Minotaur Books. Adult Mystery. Completed May 10, 2019, on Kindle. This is the first book in a new series featuring Mercy, a young, retired female MP, and Elvis, the service dog that she is caring for after the death of the dog's handler, Mercy's fiancé. There's also an attractive game warden with his own search dog who plays a major role. I enjoyed this one, and look forward to future titles. 
  • Victoria Thompson: Murder on Trinity Place (Gaslight Mystery). Berkley Press. Adult Mystery. Completed May 15, 2019, on MP3. This is the latest in another series that I've enjoyed for years. I saw one of the twists coming very early, but still enjoyed my time with these characters, and the historical background about milk deliveries as well as the rise of automobiles in the early 1900s. 
  • Thomas M. Nichols: The Death of Expertise: The Campaign against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters. Oxford University Press. Adult Nonfiction. Completed May 17, 2019, on Kindle. I read this book after enjoying an article by Nichols on about not letting students run the university (by getting professors fired over politically incorrect views, etc.). The book is quite outspoken on the larger issue of an increasing resentment of expertise, and people's belief that all opinions are equally valid (even when they are in outright contradiction of research). I found this book sometimes entertaining and sometimes irritating, but it will make me think twice about how I consume and share news in the future. 

HardLuckI'm reading She Lies in Wait by Gytha Lodge and listening to Tamarack County by William Kent Krueger (the 13th of 17 Cork O'Connor books - I'll have to find something else to listen to before too long). My daughter and I are back to reading Jeff Kinney's Wimpy Kid books together. Our current installment is Book #8: Hard Luck (we do not read in any special order). 

In terms of her own reading, she just finished Who Was Princess Diana? and seemed to enjoy it. Funny moment for me: she found a reference in there to Hillary Clinton and exclaimed: "FIRST LADY, Hillary Clinton! She was married to a President?" She had no idea. You forget how young your kids are sometimes. But I guess it was another example of making connections through reading. 

She also finished Macarons at Midnight, a Wish novel by Suzanne Nelson, which she had been reading in fits and starts for weeks. And just in time, too, because the library is going to eventually want that back. She's already started her next selection in the series. She also enjoyed Red's Planet: Book 1, a new to her graphic novel by Eddie Pittman, and is asking for the sequel. Otherwise she's been mostly re-reading her favorite graphic novels and picture books. 

But I will share something that she put on my Mother's Day card that made me happy. It was a fill-in-the-blanks card that she did at school. Here is a prompt and her response:

  • You are the best mother because: "you have taught me how to read more than do electronics"

She's been expressing lately that she appreciates that she isn't as addicted to screens as other kids that she sees, and that she likes reading more. Mentioning it in the card shows me that she really values this. As anyone reading this can probably guess, this pleases me more than I can even express. 

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

Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: May 17: #EducationalEquity, #KidLitCon, #SummerReading + #Playgrounds

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include #CharterSchools, #Cybils, #DiverseBooks, #eBooks, #EducationalEquity, #grit, #GrowthMindset, #Happiness, #KidLitCon, #Kindle, #play, #ReadAloud, #schools, #STEM, #SummerReading, curriculum, Daniel Pink, math, poetry, recess, and testing.

Top Tweets of the Week

THIS! The Benefits of #ReadingAloud to #MiddleSchool Students | Enriching classroom community, sharing a #LoveOfReading + more | @shortisweet3 @edutopia

The Biggest #Education News Story You've Never Heard Of | @natwexler @Forbes on the teaching of skills + lack of focus on #curriculum content #EducationalEquity

Events, Programs + Research

AMazeMeNaomi Shihab Nye is the #Poetry Foundation’s Young People’s Poet Laureate, term from 2019-21 via @tashrow @PoetryFound #kidlit

Big #Kidlitosphere News: The @CybilsAwards have announced that the now #nonprofit #Cybils will be the parent organization for #KidLitCon | Next @KidLitCon will be March 2020 in Ann Arbor, MI

Success in academia may be as much about #grit as talent. New research suggests scientists who fail early in their careers may benefit from the experience @TheEconomist #STEM #GrowthMindset

How #Exercise Affects Our #Memory. Even a single workout may make our brain’s memory centers, like our muscles, more fit. Gretchen Reynolds @nytimes

James Patterson funds UK "Buy A Book, Give A Book" #literacy scheme w/ Penguin, Asda + NLT | @thebookseller @JP_Books | Goal: to encourage reading in kids + families from disadvantaged backgrounds

Growing Bookworms

RT @EliseGravel (via @rapunzel543): Ever heard kids (and even grownups!) denigrate other people's book choices? "This book is for babies!", "This book is for girls!" or "You should be reading real books by now!" This poster shows kids that they can read whatever they like. Download here. [Image above shared per the author's permission stated on her website]

MalorieBlackmanGreat stuff! How do you turn kids into bookworms? All 10 UK children's laureates share their tips | "Read to them. Let them read to you. Don’t criticise what they are reading" + lots more @GuardianBooks

Looking for ways to get kids #reading this summer? @KylaMcDonald10 suggests #BookDating. I think it looks like fun! | @nerdybookclub

The Great Debate: #SummerReading | Assigned summer #reading titles don't put the child/teen at the center of #ReadingChoice @meg_lopez0 @3TeachersTalk

Parents will find useful links + tips in Terry's @TheReadingTub Early May #LiteracyTips Newsletter #ReadingLogs #BookLists #JoyOrReading

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

IWantMyHatHow children’s books have changed in the past 10 years | @globalnews via @100scopenotes, input from @burstofbeaden @barbreidart @AudreysBooks #kidlit #DiverseBooks

To Kindle or not to #Kindle? @AwfullyBigBlog Lynne Benton shares the reasons that she was converted to an @AmazonKindle #eBook reader, despite the relatively minor downsides #reading

Parenting + Play

Making #Playgrounds a Little More Dangerous - "Junk playgrounds" help foster kids' independence + creativity @Schiffman108 @nytimes #freeplay #play

Advice from @raisinghappines for a parent seeking to help stressed out teenage daughters @GreaterGoodSC @LDamour #MentalHealth #parenting

School is (Almost) Out! Time to Get Creative. @TheReadingTub suggests a plan for using leftover #SchoolSupplies to build a #Creativity Zone

Teens Smuggle Burner Phones to Defy Parents. This @juliejargon @WSJ article includes tips for identifying + managing when your kid has a secret phone #ScreenTime #parenting

Personal Growth

Interesting piece by @EBernsteinWSJ on the surprising boost you can get from positive interactions w/ strangers + acquaintances #Happiness

Schools and Libraries

WhenPinkHow #Schools Can Spend Time More Wisely: 4 Big Tips From @DanielPink | Want better academic performance from your students? 'Give ‘em frickin’ #recess' @educationweek @AlysonRKlein

#CriticalThinking is a 21st-century essential — here’s how to help kids learn it. Going beyond what to how + why | Mary Halton, Brian Oshiro, @TED_ED

Can successful #CharterSchools replicate + maintain effectiveness ? They can according new study of Boston's charters @WSJopinion #learning #schools

Dear STAR Test, We Need to Talk Again… @pernilleripp shares the negative experiences of her students w/ this computerized #ReadingTest #ReadingLevels

Georgia governor vetoes bill requiring #recess in all elementary #schools, supporting the policy but deferring control to local #SchoolBoards | @BrendanNRand @ABC


#Math Teachers Should Be More Like Football Coaches, sharing passion for the subject + giving students a sense of purpose | @JohnCUrschel @nytopinion via @drdouggreen

Kids Are More Motivated To “Do Science” Than “Be A Scientist” – A Finding That Could Help Address The Profession’s #Diversity Problem – @mattbwarren @ResearchDigest #STEM


#SAT to Give Students ‘Adversity Score’ to Capture Social and Economic Background - | @dougbelkin @WSJ #HigherEd #testing #EducationalEquity

Don't Abolish the NYC High-School-Admission Test, Help Black Kids to Ace It, says @JohnHMcWhorter @TheAtlantic | #TestPrep #EducationalEquity #Giftedness

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

Access, Choice, and Role Models: Factors that Drive Frequent Readers per @Scholastic #KFRR

I'm making my way through the 7th edition of the Scholastic Kids and  Family Reading Report, released in April. In this report, Scholastic summarizes results of a bi-annual survey dedicated to kids, parents, and reading. I shared a response to the new report's finding of a "Decline by Nine" or "Third Grade Cliff" earlier this month. Today, I'd like to discuss the report's findings on the factors that are common to kids who are frequent readers. These include:

  • Reading role models;
  • Access to books at home and in school; and 
  • Reading choice

Reading Role Models

Here are a few summary findings from the report. Frequent readers:

  • "Get more encouragement to read from family members, friends, principals, teachers and school librarians than  infrequent readers,
  • Are far more likely to say that nearly everyone or a lot of people in their lives enjoy reading (82% say a lot or nearly everyone they know enjoys reading, versus infrequent readers at 34%),
  • Are more likely to have parents who value reading and who read frequently"; and ...
  • (A)re twice as likely to receive encouragement to read books for fun from their school librarian (37% vs. 18%)."

The statistics on the third point are especially strong. "Parents of frequent readers are far more likely to consider reading books for fun important compared to parents of infrequent readers (95% vs. 70%, emphasis mine). The difference is most notable when comparing parents who agree reading books for fun is extremely important (70% vs. 27%). Parents of frequent readers are also more likely to be frequent readers themselves (39% vs. 16%)." What this says to me is that parents who prioritize their kids' enjoyment of reading can absolutely make a difference in raising kids who choose to read. 

KFRR_Access_HighResDownload_Fig2The result that I don't understand  is: why are older kids less likely to say that everyone around them enjoys reading? [See Figure 2. Click to enlarge.] Are  kids just more skeptical as they get older? Or is this part of the decline in reading aloud to kids? When we read aloud to kids, we show them that we love reading. Maybe when we stop they start to see that we talk a good  game, but don't really enjoy reading that much ourselves. In any event, it does seem that parents who are concerned about a decline in their kids' reading as the kids get older might consider more actively demonstrating their own love of reading... 

Book Access

Kids who have better access to books, at home and in school, are more likely to be frequent readers (though the study can only confirm correlation, not causation). There's a wide variety in terms of number of books in the home by demographic groups, of course. But I agree with the report writers that the most striking difference is that "frequent readers have an average of 139 books in their homes vs. 74 in infrequent readers’ homes." [See Figure 3. Click to enlarge.]


Kids who have plenty of books at home are going to be more likely to pick those books up. They're going to be more likely to find the book that hooks them. They are  going to spend more time reading, and get better  at it, and thus enjoy it more. Books in the home are key to raising readers. As a society, we need to do more to make sure that all kids have books in their homes. As individual parents, we should do what we can to provide books, too, of course.  

Classroom libraries appear to matter, too. Kids who have access to "robust classroom libraries" are more likely at all ages surveyed to be frequent readers. Here are the numbers: 

  • "Among 6–8 year-olds, 60% of kids with a robust classroom library are frequent readers, compared to 51% of kids without a robust classroom library.
  • Among 9–11 year-olds, this split is 40% vs. 31% and among 12–14 year-olds, the gap narrows to 26% vs. 23%.
  • Among 15–17 year-olds, the gap widens once again with 17% of kids with a robust classroom library being frequent readers, compared to only 10% of kids without a robust classroom library (see Figure 4)"

The  problem, though, as identified in the report, is that only a minority of kids (43%) do have access to a robust and accessible classroom library. The situation is a bit better in terms of school libraries (70% have a school library). However, in both cases an even smaller percentage says that the library has enough of the types of books that they like to read. Which brings us to... 

Reading Choice

And here's the big one. "In the 13 years of the Kids & Family Reading Report, one thing remains constant no matter what: when kids get to choose, they read. Across demographics, the majority of kids (89%) agree their favorite books are the ones that they have picked out themselves." This includes infrequent readers. Even the kids who aren't reading as much still appreciate the books that they pick out themselves more than other books.   

The report also notes that "Four in 10 kids agree (42%) that they have trouble finding books that they like. This is far higher at 59% among infrequent readers and is true of roughly half of kids by age nine." 

These two findings suggest that parents, teachers, and librarians need to give kids as much choice as possible when it comes to reading, while also giving them the help that they may need to find engaging books. This can be a bit of a balancing act, but it is critically important in nurturing young readers. 

Recommendations for Parents

This section of the Kids and Family Reading Report suggests several recommendations for parents who would like to see their kids enter or remain in the "frequent readers" category. 

  • Let your kids know that you want them to enjoy reading, and that you think that spending time reading is important. Consider family Drop Everything and Read time. Let your child see you reading in bed. Try reading something in print instead of on a screen, because that's more visible. Extend bedtime as long as there is reading involved. Do whatever works to prioritize reading. Don't fake it, but if you can help them to see you as a reader, this will help them to see themselves as readers, too. 
  • Make sure your kids have plenty of books around them at home and support classroom and school libraries and school librarians in your district. If you can't afford new books, buy them used books and/or take them to the library. Keep those books handy so that kids will pick them up. I find the bathroom and the car to be the highest yield locations for impromptu home libraries, but your situation may vary. Kids won't read if they don't have books available.
  • Last but definitely not least, whenever you can, let them choose what THEY want to read, not what you think they should read. Yes, graphic novels are real books. Yes, comics anthologies are real books. Yes, fact-based almanacs and joke books are real books. Kids in the Scholastic report specifically said that they enjoy funny books and diverse books, but of course individual kids vary. Help your kids to find the books that make them light up, and then get out of the way. Kids read when they enjoy the experience of reading, and the number one thing that makes them enjoy the experience is reading choice. 

Many thanks to the Scholastic team who produced the Kids and Family Reading Report, and to whom the above images are attributed. I'll continue reading and will most likely share responses to other sections here, too. 

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. Links to be books may be affiliate links, for which I receive a small commission.

Literacy Milestone: Making Connections through Reading

LiteracyMilestoneAMy daughter was reading in the back seat of the car the other day (on our way back from seeing Raina Telgemeier) when she exclaimed in delight. She had made an unexpected connection. A book helped her to more fully understand something that she had heard about in pop culture. Specifically, she was reading her just-purchased copy of Who Was Milton Bradley (she's a big LIFE fan), and learned that he was involved in the early history of the zoetrope (a pre-film animation device, see Wikipedia entry).

MiltonBradleyApparently a zoetrope also plays a significant factor in a Ninjago episode. I must confess that I didn't completely follow the details as she explained (though I found an online fan-generated plot summary here). But my daughter had apparently been hearing about the zoetrope in Ninjago world and hadn't really understood it. She was SO happy that the Milton Bradley book helped in this regard. I think her delight was greater because this random connection was so unexpected. 

I was restrained in my response to this. I said something: "Yes, that's one of the nice things about reading. I love it when that happens." But inside I was delighted myself, thinking: "Here's another literacy milestone. This will reinforce the value of reading for her."

At least that is my hope! 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

Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: May 10: Books Are Good for Camp Prep, #SummerReading + Winning Jeopardy!

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include #AchievementGap, #audiobooks, #BookDeserts, #BookLists, #Bullying, #curiosity, #Cybils, #DiverseBooks, #giftedness, #GrowingBookworms, #GrowthMindset, #poetry, #ReadAloud, #STEM, #SummerReading, parenting, and schools.

Top Tweets of the Week

SnakesThe ‘Jeopardy!’ Whiz Reads Like a Kid. So Do I, says @jasongay @WSJ | "Children’s books, especially simple books about single topics like sharks and snakes, have sharpened my intellect in a way that no fancy adult book ever has."

Using #Literacy Skills to Solve Math Word Problems has formerly struggling elem. school showing big #math gains| @CommKr8veWriter @edutopia

Book Lists + Awards

In this week's round-up of #MiddleGrade fantasy + #ScienceFiction from around the blogs @charlotteslib urges reviewers to consider judging for the @CybilsAwards awards

27 #Nonfiction Books for Preschoolers (w/ Printable #BookList) from @growingbbb | Informational #PictureBooks about animals + nature

#NationalPoetryMonth Ain’t Over Till I Sez It’s Over: The Shockingly Good Verse of 2019 — @fuseeight #poetry #BookList

DontEatClassmates2019 #IndiesChoice and E.B. White #ReadAloud #BookAward Winners Announced | @ABAbook

17 Children's Books about #SummerCamp, a #BookList from @momandkiddo that I will use to help prep my daughter | #MIddleGrade

PW’s Best Books for #SummerReading 2019 – @PublishersWkly @tashrow | Lots of fun-looking #PictureBooks #MiddleGrade + #YA

Events, Programs + Research

RevengeEnginerds#KidsNeedBooks (of their own) for #SummerReading@Jarrett_Lerner shares his efforts to fight #BookDeserts

May is National Share a Story Month in the UK. No reason we can't celebrate in the US, I say | @AwfullyBigBlog #NSSM #ReadAloud #LoveOfBooks

Welcome MAY! Diverse #Kidlit Linkup is @TheReadingTub #DiverseBooks #BookReviews

Terry's May Question @TheReadingTub is about remembering #teachers that you appreciate from your own childhood for #TeacherAppreciationWeek

Growing Bookworms

PsychologyOfReadingRethinking #ReadingLevels: Some Practical Advice from the Experts | @lalalalambert @ReadBrightly

5 Great Places to Stash Books Around Your Home to Encourage #Reading | @ReadBrightly | #GrowingBookworms

Higher Ed

Don’t Let #Students Run the University. Trying to get professors fired because you don’t like their views isn’t activism—it’s preening would-be totalitarianism | @RadioFreeTom @TheAtlantic

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

BabysittersClubOriginalThis might nudge my 9 year old towards #audiobooks | @audible to Release Classic #BabySittersClub Series on audio this summer | #kidlit

7 in 10 #students aren’t writing at grade level + only 3% are advanced. Not surprising b/c we aren't really teaching #writing as part of knowledge base, says OpEd @hechingerreport

This @nytopinion by @bendolnickbooks is spot-on | Why You Should Start Binge-Reading Right Now | When you read a book straight through you get much more out of it than #reading in little chunks

Good advice from @BookChook | #Writing Tips for Kids 9 - Remove Fluff Words #literacy

SnowyDayA is for Activist: why children’s books are getting political | @lucia_graves @GuardianBooks #DiverseBooks #Kidlit

Parenting + Play

This open letter will warm your heart: @pernilleripp thanks @Pink for her #kindness to Pernille's daughter, who has been experiencing #bullying

Oh, the Places They’ll Go—If You Let Go. An economist's guide to happier, more relaxed #parenting @reason

Schools and Libraries

How Schools Struggle to Serve #GiftedStudents w/ #Disabilities | @MindShiftKQED @hechingerreport #TwiceExceptional

Perseopolis#GraphicNovels Belong in Your English Class. Here's How to Use Them "to engage + challenge our students" | Paige Classey Przybylski @EdWeekTeacher

Developing a #GrowthMindset in Our Students - @mssackstein offers concrete tips, like talking to kids about the concept of "yet" #teaching


Ditch the #Math Worksheets and Stop Killing Kids' #Curiosity says educator + new parent Kathy Liu Sun @EdweekComm #CommonCore #STEM

Palo Alto, CA teens expand #nonprofit #RoboticsForAll program that sends teen to teach elementary schoolers to help tackle #STEM #AchievementGap @MaggieAngst @mercnews

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