Growing Bookworms Newsletter: October 15: #BookwormMoments, #ReadingLevels + #ReadingChoice

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 sent out every three to four weeks.  

Newsletter Update: In this issue I have three posts about my daughter's latest "Bookworm Moments": one about having a book call out to her; another about building a reading nook; and the third about mourning a ruined book. I also have a post in which I share some sad snapshots of the impact of reading levels on families and another about when giving kids reading choice is hard on a parent. I have published several posts with literacy and reading-related links that I shared on Twitter. Since there are so many, I've included only the most recent one in the newsletter. You can find the previous ones here: September 20, September 27, and October 4

Reading Update:  In the last four weeks I finished four middle grade, one young adult, and seven adult titles (three fiction and four nonfiction). I read/listened to: 

  • TimeMuseumMatthew Loux: The Time Museum. First Second Books. Middle Grade Graphic Novel. Completed September 20, 2019. Read my daughter's copy at her request. She wanted to be able to talk about it with me, and I've promised her that I will read any such books. It wasn't quite my sort of thing, but I can see why she likes. And books with time travel are often a bit confusing, whether text or image-based. 
  • Matthew Loux: The Time Museum 2. First Second Books. Middle Grade Graphic Novel. Completed September 20, 2019. ,Read my daughter's copy at her request. 
  • Lincoln Peirce: Big Nate Flips Out. Harper Collins Children's Books. Middle Grade Hybrid Graphic/Text. Completed October 2, 2019, read aloud to my daughter. I like the Big Nate books much more than I expected (as was the case with the Wimpy Kid books). They are witty and entertaining. I  have not read the ones that are 100% comic strip, but we've been working our way through the ones that are more of a text/comic hybrid. 
  • Lincoln Peirce: Big Nate in the Zone. Harper Collins Children's Books. Middle Grade Hybrid Graphic/Text. Completed October 3, 2019, read aloud to my daughter.
  • ShatterCityScott Westerfeld: Shatter City (Imposters, Book 2). Scholastic. Young Adult Speculative Fiction. Completed September 21, 2019, on Kindle. I read this one in one sitting, happy to be back in Westerfeld's Uglies world. 
  • Robert Putnam: Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis. Simon & Schuster. Adult Nonfiction. Completed September 21, 2019 (skimmed a bit, but got the main points), personal copy. This book, about the gap in opportunities that are available to kids from different backgrounds, is important. It's a mix of detailed anecdotes of individual students and more quantitative results from studies. I personally tend towards reading the quantitative stuff, and have less patience for anecdotes/personal stories, hence the skimming. 
  • Craig Johnson: Land of Wolves (Walt Longmire). Viking. Adult Mystery. Completed September 23, 2019, on MP3. Always good to spend  some time with Walt. In this installment, Walt is recovering in body and soul from his challenges of the previous book, and it is a bit depressing. But still good, as far as I'm concerned. 
  • MillennialsGui Costin: Millennials Are Not Aliens: ...but they are 80 Million Americans Who Are Changing How We Buy, Sell, Vacation, Invest, and Just About Everything Else. Forbes Books. Adult Nonfiction. Completed September 30, 2019, personal copy. I read this book for work. It's about how technological changes have driven generational changes in expectations/preferences, and the implications of this for providing any kind of product. It's both fascinating and highly useful, and a quick read. 
  • Todd Borg: Tahoe Night (Owen McKenna, No. 7). Thriller Press. Adult Mystery. Completed October 6, 2019, on Kindle. It took me a while to get through this installment of this PI series, and I think I'm done with the series, at least for now. 
  • Joy Ellis: Darkness on the Fens. Joffe Books. Adult Mystery. Completed October 8, 2019, on MP3. This UK-based cop series, however, continues to hold my attention, at least on audio. The killings in this one were pretty dark, but I like the characters enough not to be put off by that. 
  • BookGirlSarah Clarkson: Book Girl: A Journey through the Treasures and Transforming Power of a Reading Life. Tyndale Momentum. Adult Nonfiction. Completed October 8, 2019, personal copy. This is a book about the joys of loving books and reading well, aimed at women (as you would guess from the title). I skimmed some of the author's specific recommendations (she is much more religious than I, for one thing), but I loved her premise overall, and have added a number of her favorites to my TBR list. Sherry over at Semicolon has been posting about some of the discussion questions from the book, and can give you a much more nuanced feel for this title. 
  • Carla Naumburg: How to Stop Losing [It] with Your Kids: A Practical Guide to Becoming a Calmer, Happier Parent. Workman Publishing. Completed October 15, 2019, on Kindle. I was inspired to read this parenting book by an article in which the author recommended  "single-tasking" instead of multitasking as a way to avoid losing your temper with your children. I have noticed that when I try to squeeze in a few work emails while my daughter is in the room, I often end up extra stressed out, so I wanted to read more. While I wasn't thrilled with the level of profanity in the book, I otherwise appreciated the author's direct, non-judgmental voice. Her main point is that we all have certain things that trigger us (make us more susceptible to losing our tempers), and that understanding what those are and mitigating them where possible (e.g. by single-tasking) helps. 

MyLifeAsABookI'm listening to Manitou Canyon (Cork O'Connor, book 15) by William Kent Krueger. I'm reading My Life as a Book by Janet Tashjian and Jake Tashjian aloud to my daughter for our breakfast reading. I picked out the latter in my ongoing quest to find new books that my daughter will enjoy given that she has read pretty much every graphic novel and notebook novel I can find that is remotely at her interest level. I was hopeful of this series because while the books are mostly middle grade text, there are small cartoons in the margins on most pages illustrating the more challenging words. I had to push her just a little to give My Life as a Book, the first  in the series, a chance, but we are both really enjoying it now. She was nearly late to school this morning, in part because we both wanted to read one more chapter. 

In the aftermath of a planned (though not well executed) power shut-off where we live, we have chosen our next read aloud already: The Disaster Days by Rebecca Behrens. 

On her own, my daughter is generally reading one longer book at school, interspersed with reads and re-reads of graphic and notebook novels  at home. Her recently completed long book was Pandora Gets Jealous, the first book of Carolyn Hennessy's Mythic Misadventures series. She enjoyed it, and brought home the next book in the series  from her school library, but she seems to be only reading these during silent reading time at school. 

StargazingShe quite enjoyed Stargazing by Jen Wang, which I picked up on the recommendation of several blog reviews. She's also taken with the newest Sunny book by Jenni Holm and Matt Holm, Sunny Rolls the Dice, and has been re-reading that. She's pretty much counting the days until the new Dork Diaries book is published (October 22 - I have this on my calendar). 

She is mildly annoyed by having to read at her designated reading level for school  and having to participate in a whole class novel read in school. But so far her love of reading is undimmed. I keep the books she is excited about coming, talk to her about them, and read aloud to her every morning. This is doing the trick, so far anyway. 

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: October 11: The New #HungerGames Book, Recycled Legos and #JoyOfReading

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include #AchievementGap, #BookAwards, #BookLists, #ClassroomLibraries, #EdTech, #gender, #grades, #GrowingBookworms, #LoveOfReading, #OutdoorPlay, #ReadAloud, #ScreenTime, #ThirdGradeCliff, parenting, publishing, schools, sleep,  and  writing. 

Top Tweets of the Week

Ballad_of_Songbirds_and_Snakes_Cover_3DToday @Scholastic announced the title + cover of the new #HungerGames prequel: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, releasing May 19 w/ 1st print of 2.5M copies | It's going to be huge | #yalit #publishing

I think this is very cool. Have #Legos lying around? @LEGO_Group says US customers can mail them in for free and they'll be cleaned and donated to schools via @TeachForAmerica

Book Lists + Awards

#NYCC ’19: The Harvey Awards Winners – Congratulations to @StudioJJK + @GraphixBooks on Hey Kiddo's win for Book of the Year @multiversitycom #GraphicNovels

55 Great #HistoricalFiction Books for Readers Aged 8-14 Years | Detailed #BookList from @TrevorHCairney (some titles may only be available in Australia)

Top Ten Quick-Start Books for #MiddleSchool that will hook readers right away by @ChristiansenLMS @nerdybookclub #BookList #ReluctantReaders

Diversity + Gender

The problem with boys' academic underachievement "is not going away + its consequences ... are potentially dire" but maybe it's not fashionable to address it says @greg_ashman

Events, Programs + Research

Parents who read to their child on a tablet end up having less interaction together, a new study finds - @cnnhealth via @tashrow #ReadAloud #ScreenTime

How Sleep Influences College Students' #Grades | | @Jamie_Ducharme @TIME via @ResearchDigest | MIT professor finds consistency of #SleepSchedules correlates w/ academic performance, which may benefit women

This is interesting (if not surprising): Who (in terms of demographics) doesn’t read books in America? | @pewresearch via @tashrow #JoyOfReading #EducationalEquity

SCBWI’s Third Annual #Literacy Initiative Gives Books, Builds Dreams, and Offers Hope to Readers In Need | @nerdybookclub @scbwi

Growing Bookworms

Book Hooks: Nurturing #LoveOfReading in the youngest readers via #BoardBook + #PictureBook Series @TheReadingTub #GrowingBookworms

#Teachers, please read: Readers, in Spite of School by @donalynbooks @nerdybookclub | "do you think there’s a way we can teach (already engaged readers) ... without killing or disrespecting their reading lives in the process?" #LoveOfReading

Thoughts from @ReadByExample on #ClassroomLibraries + Student Involvement, inspired by recent @donalynbooks questions about #schools + encouraging (or not) #JoyOfReading

3 Things Parents Should Do to Raise Lifelong Readers (Besides Bedtime Stories) | | @EntryLevelRebel @Inc shares highlights from @jpinsk + @DTWillingham | #JoyOfReading #BackgroundKnowledge #WordPlay

Stop Rushing Kids out of #GraphicNovels – A great reminder from @pernilleripp for parents + teachers to "embrace the books they read and help them find more books like it instead"

Give Kids Good Books And They'll Love Reading Forever | @JolieRancher posits that the #ThirdGradeCliff in #LoveOfReading stems from schools pressing kids to "dense and outdated" books vs. more relevant fare @HuffPostLife

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

Sometimes writers of #nonfiction books get abused online, too. If you disagree with a writer, don't be vicious or abusive to them personally says @annerooney @AwfullyBigBlog #writing

Fond memories of the @Scholastic #BookFair from @literacious #JoyOfReading #LoveOfBooks

For those who follow such things, the @nytimes is again making changes to its #BestsellerLists @PublishersWkly via @CynLeitichSmith #Publishing

Parenting + Play

Multitasking is making parents lose it with their kids. Here’s how to break the cycle. @SWMama @onparenting suggests parents try focusing on one thing at a time | #parenting #focus

Schools and Libraries

UK's first outdoor primary school opens in London. Kids to spend 95% of their days outside | @nomiackerman @EveningStandard via @drdouggreen #OutdoorPlay

Brain Wars: Evaluating #Montessori #Education Principles via lens of Modern #BrainScience - @MarlaSzwast calls it brain-friendly

Educational disparities among minority students are largely driven by their concentration in high-poverty areas, new @StanfordCEPA study finds @mcjomcg @WSJ #AchievementGap #integration

#EdTech Usage Levels Are Low: What Should #Schools Do? - @AlysonRKlein @educationweek | "Most software licenses districts buy never get used... a median of 30 % of ed-tech licenses are never used at all."

After listening to her 8th graders complain about an assignment, @MsYingling completes her own #BookProject on A Tale of Magic | #reading #accountability

Finally, Feel Free to Return That Library Book You Checked Out in 1981 | This @WSJ piece is about the #libraries that are eliminating late fees

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

Bookworm Moments: Mourning a Ruined Book

AnneGraphicNovelMy daughter was out with my husband the other day. When she came home she immediately came to find me, with something in her hands. I couldn't quite see what it was when she called out: "Mommy! Something died!". I thought maybe they had seen a dead animal by the side of the road or something. But no. The "something" that had died was her copy of the Anne of Green Gables graphic novel by Mariah Marsden and Brenna Thummler. Apparently after the book sat in the heat in my husband's car for some period of time, the glue binding the pages together gave way. The book fell to pieces in my daughter's hands. She was devastated! 

We've all been there, mourning a ruined book. I'm still sad over my copy of The Scalawags of Oz, which was lost to water damage in my basement bedroom when I was young. In this case, I did put the pages  back in order, but it was  going to be pretty tough to read the book. [I find that difficult enough with unbound picture book ARCs.]

BookGirlOf course, this is the age of eCommerce. My daughter begged me to order another copy. Immediately. And while I really am trying to teach her that not all whims  need to be immediately granted ... this was Anne of Green Gables! Coincidentally, the very next page of the book that I was reading at the time, Sarah Clarkson's Book Girl, waxed rhapsodic over  the original Anne books. And  so ... one more Amazon  delivery came to our house this week. Anne with an e was restored. We kept the fallen apart copy to use for projects. 

A small price to pay for a child who loves books, I say. My daughter later rewarded me by remarking: "What I love about Anne  is how great her vocabulary is."  Then she quoted me a line from took. 

One day, I hope that she'll read the original. But for now, it's enough that she loves Anne enough to genuinely mourn damage to a book. 

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

Snapshots from a Focus on #ReadingLevels

Here are a few things I've seen or heard about from classrooms where students are required to read within their designated "Reading Level" (as determined by the Star Reading Test and monitored via regular AR quizzes):

  • A third grade boy who read happily over the summer, but then for whatever reason did poorly on his first Star test of the year. He wasn't allowed to read for school from the book series that he'd been enjoying on his own. 
  • A fourth grade girl lamenting the unfairness of getting a relatively high score on her first Star test of the year. Because kids in her class were allowed to read and test above their designated level but not below she griped that: "Everyone else gets to read what they want except for [a few other kids] and me." 
  • A fourth grade girl who started reading The Hunger Games because it was at her reading level (though to be fair the "interest level" listed for it is higher) and was disturbed by the content. She self-censored and no harm was done but it was a wake-up call for her mother that reading levels and interests levels aren't always aligned. 
  • A fifth grade girl who did poorly on a mid-year Star test and was THRILLED, because then she could read from a series she had fallen in love with. 
  • A mother scouring the AR  Book Finder for books that her son would be willing to read, because his reading level was slightly below his interest level. 
  • Another mother scouring the AR Book Finder for books that her daughter would be willing to read, because her reading level was slightly above her interest level.  
  • A mother quickly ordering books that her child wanted to read, before she might test out of that level again. 
  • Multiple kids each declaring an intention to do poorly on the next Star test. 

So much friction coming between these kids and the enjoyment of reading. So much wasted time on the part of parents. So many dedicated teachers who want kids to enjoy reading, yet end up putting kids and parents into these situations. 

I do agree that there is benefit to pushing kids out of their comfort zones. I do agree that some kids need practice reading books at their level. I do know that not all teachers use reading levels this way, and I do know that these reading levels when they are used apply only to books read for school. Parents who know to do so can give kids reading choice at home (though only kids who are relatively strong readers will have the time, depending on how many books they are required to read for school). But it still feels to me like a lot of families are working around this system, instead of the system helping to nurture readers. This makes me sad. And frustrated. 

[I just noticed, right before publishing this, that Donalyn Miller has also written about this topic this weekend. See her post: Readers, in Spite of School, which is an excellent way to put it, but still sad.]

© 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: October 4: On Encouraging #LoveOfReading + Hard Work in Kids

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include #BookLists, #Bullying, #coding, #eBooks, #GrowingBookworms, #LoveOfBooks, #MentalHealth, #ReadAloud, #ScreenTime, #testing, parenting, publishing, and  hard work. 

Book Lists

11 Best Books for 6-Year-Olds | "the best books for any 6-year-old are the ones they love the most — no matter how silly the story may seem" | @strategist via @CynLeitichSmith

Chapter Book #ReadAlouds for 1st Graders – excellent #BookList from @literacious | Please keep sharing books w/ your kids, parents, even if they can read themselves

Books About #Bullying for Kids, new #BookList from @growingbbb #PictureBooks #MiddleGrade

Latinx and Hispanic #MiddleGrade Books by #OwnVoices Authors, new #BookList from @momandkiddo #DiverseBooks

Growing Bookworms

Should You Read to Older Children? Why I Read My Tween Bedtime Stories – @SheKnows | I love that this mom + her 12 y.o. daughter still read #PictureBooks together

Hook them on Reading with Book Series | Series satisfy our inner need for serial stories + provide the comfort of familiarity for kids, says @TheReadingTub  | #JoyOfReading

Parents play a key role in fostering children's #LoveOfReading | "Continue to read to your child" + more | | @medical_xpress @ConversationUS @tashrow

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

How Do Kids Learn to Read? What the Science Says + why systematic, explicit #phonics instruction is important via @JGCanada #ReadingInstruction

Strange Bookmarks: An Overview — funny post (if somewhat disturbing for #BookLovers) @100scopenotes

Why This Librarian Is Using Twitter To Fight Changes To Library #Ebook Pricing Terms @kidsilkhaze @Forbes #publishing

Children's books are tackling dark and taboo topics. AU author Morris Gleitzman says that's nothing to be afraid of - @abcnews via @tashrow | #kidlit #censorship

Parenting, Play + Screen Time

#School Doesn't Have to Be Fun All the Time, Hard Work Benefits Kids, even if it doesn't always pay off | Good stuff from @kagmoran @WeAreTeachers #Failure

More good advice: Do You Think Your Child is Being Lazy with Their Schoolwork? How to tell + how to help them overcome it | "Working hard is transferable" says @MarlaSzwast

Not all #ScreenTime causes kids to underperform in school, study says. Only the time spent watching TV + playing #VideoGames mattered. But kids spend a lot of time on those @CTVNews @drdouggreen

Students in high-achieving schools are now named an “at-risk” group because of impact of chronic stress on health + well-being @washingtonpost #MentalHealth #parenting


Teen Hackers Try to Convince Parents They Are Up to Good - @juliejargon @WSJ | #Coding #STEM | "Hacking club" apparently sounds cooler than "coding club"

Why Girls’ Superior #Reading Skills May Be Lowering Their Future Salaries – @ResearchDigest | Girls who are good at #math tend to be even better at #reading + to focus on that instead of #STEM fields


Support Builds For Making the #SAT Untimed For Everyone: A possible solution to the "Gaming the System" problem @gtoppo @EducationNext #testing #VarsityBlues #EducationalEquity

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