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Posts from January 2016

I'm Now Posting at the EdWords Blog

Child-316510_1280This week I started blogging for EdWords, a BAM Radio Network blog, after being invited by Rae Pica. My first post there was my recent article on Encouraging Your Child to Like Math: Why and How. Today I shared an update of my 10 Tips for Growing Bookworms (originally published on this blog back in 2007, last updated in 2011). The main tip that needed updating was a tip about reducing time that kids spend watching TV - this now more generally applies to all screen time, not just time in front of the television. 

I'm excited about this opportunity to blog at EdWords. Here's what the EdWords guidelines for bloggers say: "our audience consists of teachers, school administrators, parents, education advocates, and others interested in what’s happening in the world of education and looking for practical steps they can take". Sounds right up my alley, given my growing joyful learners focus, doesn't it? Also, the EdWords focus on practical, actionable articles will push me in a good direction, I think. 

I imagine I'll cross-post most of my EdWords articles here, but if you would like to follow me there, you can subscribe to updates my JoyfulLearners EdWords profile. I would also recommend, if you are interested in education, that you check out all of the EdWords posts - I've been finding lots of great stuff there. 

© 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

Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: #DiverseBooks, #RaisingReaders, Creativity + more

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics include book awards, book lists, snow days, speculative fiction, the Cybils awards, poetry, diverse books, gender, STEM, coding, Multicultural Children's Book Day, Black History Month, growing bookworms, grit, parenting, schools, libraries, creativity, publishing, Mo Willems, reading, and growth mindset. 

Book Lists and Awards

Why “The Hired Girl” Won the 2016 O’Dell Award (w/ recap of controversy)  

Snow Problem: 7 Books for Snowy Days | by

Slightly More Recent Books on Slavery for Young People, list from  

A Tuesday Ten from | The most recent Speculative Fiction titles that won the Newbery


For : Ones that Got Away per

RT @SLJournal:What to Read? Check out and the — Good Comics for Kids  

Diversity + Gender

A good thing: gets more realistic with 3 new body types + 7 skin colors, reports

"Books are tools through which children + adults see the framework of difference + learn to deal w/ it"  

Including in Your Home Library: Global Kids by w/

RT @SLJournal: Book Publishing—from Executives to Reviewers—Is White and Female, Survey Finds

Infographic from in Publishing: 2015 survey shared

Details on the book drive that is doing to support Marley Dias'

Support Pours In for 11 yo Girl Gathering 1000 Books w/ Black Girl Protagonists |

MCBDUseful! Resources for Finding Multicultural Children's Books from

Kids missing out on fab books b/c adults around them think there are books for boys vs for girls"

Really good article: 8 ways you can empower girls to learn coding by  

Events + Programs

28dayslogo (1)Congratulations to the 2016 Honorees, authors/illustrators to be showcased during

Vietnamese Children's Favorite Stories reviewed by for |

Growing Bookworms

"learning to read pictures is the first step in learning to read" on writing  

How We Created A Community of Readers |Looking for next steps beyond finding reading time by teacher

Why schools must create a culture of reading, w/ concrete tips for teachers from


Bosses: Are You Too Gritty for Your Own Good? Do you keep trying to win losing battles

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

An informal taxonomy of Childfree adults in children's literature from Clémentine Beauvais  

Cool! will oversee new Elephant & Piggie Like Reading line of early readers for reports

The Conversation Around A Birthday Cake for George Washington | rounds up links, in time order

How Storytelling Works in the Brain and Why We (especially students) Need Stories via

Why You Should Read 50 Books This Year (+ What to Read + How To Do It) by via


Five Tips for Watching Videos with Toddlers (Plus a List of Favorites!) from  

"Just as effort alone can’t deliver results, praising effort isn’t enough to help a child.."

Schools and Libraries

The loss of (UK) libraries is another surefire way to entrench | Mary O'Hara

"what are the best ways that + can cultivate creativity?" Start of conversation at

On schools moving from Standardization to Personalization by after reading

How to Get Started With Genius Hour for Elementary Classrooms? by (helping kids uncover unique gifts)

Cultivating a Classroom Culture of Creativity (e.g. add Stop and Think time) by at blog

Makes sense to me: Teacher Burnout Is More Likely Among reports

9 Reasons Every Educator Should Embrace Change from principal w/ ideas from

How Can Schools Tap Into Parent Power For the Good of Students? On teacher home visits |

"we don’t focus on being able to learn that much in schools" but on making sure kids can be taught

Technology for the Sake of Technology: Consider the Why and the How says

8 competencies that schools should facilitate per SirKenRobinson in CREATIVE SCHOOLS, shared by

Ten Things Drawing Can Teach Us About (high levels of creativity, insight, etc) from

© 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

#JoyOfLearning Articles from @TonySinanis + @AJJuliani + @Catlin_Tucker

JoyOFLearningLogoToday I have 3 more articles that I thought were worth quoting and commenting upon. Topics include questioning the value of homework, why creativity begins with purpose, and combatting a culture of learned helplessness among kids. All of these articles have given  me food for thought, and I hope they will do the same for you. 

How elem. principal + dad has evolved to question value in giving homework

Dr. Tony Sinanis: "So, if our kids don't want to do the homework and their only motivation is to be compliant and please someone else, does the homework actually have any sustainability or value? From my lens, the answer is no. Maybe I'm missing the mark... maybe there is some value to homework but I have yet to see it... (On doing homework with his son:) Homework became the "black hole" of our time together - it sucked out the fun and took away time from the things we actually wanted to do together (build Lego sets, read books for fun or play video games)...

Can we throw out homework completely at the elementary level? Why or why not? Please share your thoughts, insights and opinions!"

Me: This piece is about how a principal's views on homework shifted once his son started having significant amounts of homework in 3rd grade. Dr. Sinanis looked to research (e.g. by Alfie Kohn) and was surprised to find if anything research seemed more to show harm than benefit from homework for elementary school kids.

I'm not a principal or a teacher, and my daughter has quite minimal homework so far in kindergarten. But I'm reading this research, too, and becoming preemptively worried about the impact that homework will have on my daughter's joy of learning, and on our family life, as she moves through the school system. What can be done? That is my question. 

Why Creativity Begins With Purpose (Not Passion). (A purpose carries you through difficult times) by

 A.J. Juliani: "I used to think all I needed to create something that mattered was passion…I was wrong. It turns out passion might start the engine and get the creative process moving, but purpose is what takes it all the way to the destination (and beyond)... In the last year I’ve learned to really focus on projects that I’m not only passionate about, but also have a purpose that can carry me through the difficult times in the creative process. I’ve gone from a passionate creator, to a purposeful creator. And it’s made all the difference."

Me: To me, this is about the difference between being passionate about some topic and having a specific problem that you want to solve (your purpose). As I've been thinking about the new direction in which I'm taking my blog, I'm PASSIONATE about the idea that kids should grow up as joyful learners, but my PURPOSE has to be around working towards the improvement of particular things that get in the way of joyful learning. 

Combatting a Culture of Learned Helplessness (teach them how to learn) by teacher

Catlin Tucker: "Our students are conditioned from a young age to ask a teacher for help the minute something doesn’t go right or the moment they have a question. Where is the curiosity? Why don’t they want to figure it out themselves?..More and more, I have come to feel that my main responsibility as an educator is not to teach students about literature, writing, vocabulary or grammar. My job is to teach them how to learn."

Me: Tucker's advice for teachers resonates for me as a parent, too. She advises that we stop and think before answering kids' question, and encourage kids to figure things out for themselves. 

© 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. 

Encouraging Your Child to Like Math: Why and How

In today's quantitative world, it's important that kids grow up with a positive attitude concerning math. When we raise our children to believe that they "hate math" or are "bad at math", we do them a grave disservice in terms of both life skills and the job market.

"Taking math courses matters. Research studies have established that the more math classes students take, the higher their earnings ten years later, with advanced math courses predicting an increase in salary as high as 19.5% ten years after high school (Rose & Betts, 2004). Research has also found that students who take advanced math classes learn ways of working and thinking--especially learning to reason and be logical--that make them more productive in their jobs." (Jo Boaler in Mathematical Mindsets, Introduction)

ChalkboardEaselBadAtMathThis is especially true for those of us who are raising girls. I have a kindergarten-age daughter, and this is something I work on every day. To have the full spectrum of options available to her in the future, she needs to not be afraid of math now.  

Here are some tips for making math a positive experience for young children:

1. Stop saying that you yourself are bad at math, or hate math. Don't grumble when you have to balance the checkbook. Kids absorb these messages, even if you aren't directly talking with them. (See Mathematical Mindsets for more on the impact of both parents and teachers giving out negative math messages.) 

2. Find ways in your day-to-day life to use math, and to point out occasions when math and numbers are useful. For small children, this could mean pointing out speed limit signs when you are driving, or counting out the Cheerios that you put on their plates. As kids get older, you can incorporate ever more complex examples. Does your child want to know when dinner will be ready? Instead of saying "in an hour" try this: "It's going to take me about 10 minutes to finish preparing, and then it will have to cook for 40 minutes, and then cool for 10 minutes. How long do you think it will be?" Which brings me to my next piece of advice...

3. Whenever you can, turn your child's questions into word problems. When your child asks a question involving time, dates, or anything else with numbers, this is an opportunity. Whatever the child is asking about is something that (at least for the moment) she cares about. You can have her practice doing a bit of math in her head, and see why she would want to understand math. I do this constantly with my daughter. If she says: "How many minutes until my Girl Scout Daisy Meeting?" I tell her, "It starts in two and a half hours. An hour is 60 minutes, which means that a half hour is 30 minutes. So how many minutes is two and a half hours?" Of course I help her - I don't want these little word problems to become onerous.


4. Surround your child with toys that build her spatial skills. Your child can never have enough blocks. In my house, we have a mix of plain wooden blocks, castle-themed wooden blocks, and Magna-Tiles. I also recommend Legos, once your child is old enough for them. It's better to get the big tub of classic Lego pieces rather than having a lot of specific sets with step-by-step instructions. Tinker toys and Lincoln Logs are still available, too. Also good for building math skills are toys that can be sorted and categorized. We have a set of 100 little plastic teddy bears in six colors which my daughter has played with for years now. 

5. Include books that have positive depictions of math in your child's library. When your child is small, buy or borrow plenty of different counting books. Try to steer towards books that are FUN, rather than anything that seems dry. And if your child rejects a book, do NOT press him. Find a different book. Turning the reading of counting books into a chore runs the risk of turning your child off from reading AND math. 

Some math-themed picture books and early readers that my daughter and I like are:

6. Most importantly, push back when other people erode your child's enjoyment of math, and guard against this in yourself. Many schools are unfortunately full of dry math worksheets and repetitive homework problems. Your job, as your child's advocate, is to push back on this if you can. Talk to your child's teachers. Refuse to work on the "optional" homework problems or apps. If your child uses a tablet, replace dry, quiz-based apps with apps that your child enjoys. Do not get sucked into those informal parental competitions about how high your child can count, or how many worksheets he did yesterday.

Your goal is for your child to ENJOY math. The rest will follow. Do anything you can to make math more, not less, enjoyable. A positive attitude about math will keep doors open for your child that might well close otherwise. This is worth some effort. 

© 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

Should Kids Be Studying or Playing on Snow Days?

Have your kids been home from school for the past few days, snowbound on the East Coast? If so, did they bring home extra work from school that they are supposed to do? Are they expected to log in and do schoolwork online? Or are they able to play in the snow, drink hot chocolate, and treat this time off as a delightful break? 

I'm showing my age now, but I remember being home from school for at least a week after the Blizzard of '78 outside of Boston. I do not recall doing any homework during that time. I do recall making a snow fort, jumping off the wall in back of our yard to the much lower rural property behind us, and walking down the middle of the street to get to my dad's store. I'm sure that I also read books and played games, though I don't remember that specifically. The experience conveyed in John Rocco's excellent picture book Blizzard resonates with me. 

Sheila Ruth shared (on Facebook) a Washington Post article by Moriah Balingit: Expecting to enjoy a lazy snow day? Teachers urge parents, students to think again. Most of the article is about schools (even preschool) expecting kids to do work at home, either worksheets that were sent home with them, or via online login. I only noted one exception to that approach:

"Evan Glazer, principal of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Fairfax County, said teachers at the elite magnet school do not give assignments on new material during snow days. While that can create stress for teachers, who worry about how they will cram a year’s worth of advanced curriculum into one shortened by snow days, it is also a bit of a respite for students who will likely be studying and working on long-term projects anyhow, Glazer said.

“We want them to go out and play and make snowmen and snow angels, because it doesn’t happen all that often,” Glazer said. “You might as well take a break when Mother Nature gives you the opportunity.”"

I know which of the schools in the article that I would prefer for my daughter to attend. 

I also ran across a similar NPR article: For Some Schools, Learning Doesn't Stop on Snow Days. This article does make the point that (for at least one school) e-learning during snow days is a way to avoid having to make up the snow days at the end of the year. But I don't know... I'd still rather see kids out playing in the snow than sitting in front of their computers, listening to podcasts from their teacher. 

On a lighter note, I liked this blog piece by mom and freelance writer Laura Goodman: Advice for Bored Children. Goodman says that if kids are tired of playing the snow, they should create something, or build something, or read something, or play. They should not expect the adult to entertain them. She specifically instructs that the kids should play amongst themselves (with a guideline or two), and leave the adult to do "a list of activities as long as your tiny bored little arm that I do each day to keep our household in order". The piece is written in a tongue-in-cheek style, but I think that Goodman is absolutely right.

A couple of unexpected days at home are a great opportunity for kids to play, read, build, and create. For kids with neighbors or siblings, snow days offer a chance to practice negotiating and cooperating. And have fun! I find it sad that many kids today are expected instead to sit around on their computers or tablets, logging in to do school projects. [I also have concerns about inequity, for the kids who can't log in, or don't have parents at home to help them, but that's a topic for another post.]

What do you all think? We are extremely unlikely to experience any snow days here in San Jose, but I wonder how those of you in snowy places handle this? I say: let them make snow forts. 

© 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. 

Two Apps Making Math Learning Fun for My Daughter

I don't usually do app reviews on this blog, but I wanted to mention a couple of apps that my daughter LOVES that are helping to keep math fun for her. You should consider these more recommendations than formal reviews. 

First, some background. My 5 year old daughter enjoys playing games and watching shows on her Kindle Fire. This is something she is allowed to do only within defined time limits. Her teacher recommended / suggested that the kids work at home on math using an app called ScootPad. And I tried to do this, despite the fact that my overall goal is to limit the amount of time that my daughter spends using her device.

It turns out that my daughter, who really enjoys math, HATES ScootPad. As we've experienced it, the app consists of a series of quizzes. They are repetitive and too easy for my daughter's experience level (she went to a fairly academic preschool). I tried to get her to get through them, because I thought that if we could get through the early ones, more challenging material would follow. But we never made it, because she was literally crying with frustration, and I eventually stopped having her use it. I'm not saying that ScootPad doesn't have value, and wouldn't be a good fit for some kids. But for my daughter, it was taking away her joy of learning

Sushi-monsterFortunately, there are two apps that my daughter really enjoys playing with that are helping her to build her math skills. The first one is from Scholastic, and it's called Sushi Monster. It is only available on iPad and iPhone, so I have to let her use my iPad to play it. Scholastic's website says:

"The game, which meets Common Core State Standards, offers students practice, reinforcement, and an extension of math fact fluency in a completely engaging and challenging way. Students will strengthen reasoning strategies for whole number addition and multiplication by helping monsters make a target sum or product. Students earn points, stars, trophies, and personal bests to challenge themselves and unlock new levels of play.

The addition mode gives kids a solution, and asks them to select which numbers add up to that solution, from a displayed set of numbers. Then you get another solution, and you pick from the remaining numbers to try for that number sentence. If you choose the wrong numbers for one sentence, you probably won't be able to complete successive sentences.

Each round increases the number of choices, so the game gets harder and harder as you go. If you successfully get through one level, the next level has higher numbers to work with. (E.g. at first you might be choosing which two numbers add up to 10, eventually you are selecting which numbers add up to 120 or 900 or whatever).

There are fun sounds, and it's very fast-paced and entertaining. Then you get virtual points and stars and such, which my daughter does find motivating. There's also a multiplication mode, which we've dabbled with, but she's not quite ready for it. But my general view with this app is that she's excited about it and asking to play, while practicing doing addition and even multiplication in her head. She basically learned that 20 plus 20 is the same as 2 plus 2, with an extra 0 at the end, by playing around with this app. 

Hungryfishss1-150x150More recently I found several recommendations for math-based apps in Jo Boaler's book Mathematical Mindsets. We tried a few of them out, and found one that was a hit: Hungry Fish from Motion Math. This one is available on iOS and Google platforms, including the Kindle tablets (which is definitely a bonus for us). Here's the Motion Math description:

"Your fish is hungry – hungry for numbers! This fun addition and subtraction game for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch has instant addition: touch two numbers together to instantly add. Most addition games teach in the form 3 + 4 = __; Hungry Fish challenges players to find different ways to make a 7 (1+6, 2+5, 3+2+2, etc.). There are 18 levels of challenge (for 4-year-olds to adults) and bonuses to customize your fish with new colors and fins."

So, it's similar to Sushi Monster, but with an underwater theme. The fish has a number on it, and then bubbles float out with different numbers on them. Kids have to combine the bubbles to make the number displayed on the fish, and then the fish eats them. As the fish eats, it grows bigger, and the kid is getting points. At certain intervals, you earn a new color with which to decorate your fish (which my daughter again finds motivating). She's experimented with the addition, subtraction, and negative number levels. In the latter, the target is a negative number, and you have to combine positive and negative numbers to get to the total. The first few times my daughter played this app she was positively giddy with how fun she found it. 

I've found it interesting to watch her with this app. There are lots of different ways to combine the numbers to get to the target numbers, in some cases. She doesn't just have the answers in her head all of the time (particularly for the two-digit numbers), but she uses strategies, like combining smaller numbers at random until she gets something that she recognizes will lead to a solution. Sometimes she sets the difficulty level too high and gets frustrated, but it's easy for her to slide it back to an easier level. She is sometimes learning through trial and error, which is how a lot of learning happens. I am happy to see her using this.

We don't get "credit" at school for using Sushi Monster or Hungry Fish. And I only let my daughter use them as part of her device limit, not on top of that limit. But if she's going to be on the device, I can't tell you how happy it makes me to see her practicing math effortlessly, enjoying herself, while continuing to build her knowledge and intuition.

Do you all have any other math app recommendations for us? 

© 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 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).

How to Capture an Invisible Cat (Genius Factor): Paul Tobin

Book: How to Capture an Invisible Cat (The Genius Factor, Book 1)
Author: Paul Tobin
Illustrator: Thierry Lafontaine
Pages: 272
Age Range: 8-12

How to Capture an Invisible Cat is the first book in a new five book series by Paul Tobin (lightly illustrated by Thierry Lafontaine). My only regret after reading this first book is that the entire series is not yet available. Because How to Capture an Invisible Cat is pure, kid-friendly fun. How to Capture an Invisible Cat is told from the first-person viewpoint of Delphine Cooper, a sixth grade girl who has a number of friends, and whose impulsive behavior frequently lands her in hot water. When Delphine becomes friends with Nate Bannister, a genius inventor who is in her class at school, she quickly finds herself drawn in to an over-the-top adventure involving a gigantic invisible cat, a talking dog, and a dangerous secret society. 

The publisher's description of the book likens it to Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. This is why I try not to read marketing materials - because now I can't get that comparison out of my head. It is apt (a comparison to the movie, that is). How to Capture an Invisible Cat is filled with crazy inventions and madcap adventures, with slightly cartoonish bad guys, and a geeky inventor hero. But because it's a novel (vs. a movie, or a picture book), there are other layers to the story, too. Delphine is not a genius, and she doesn't always understand what Nate is doing. Delphine's gift, in strong contrast to Nate's is friendship. I believe that we'll see Delphine's gift coming more and more to the foreground in future books.

What I love most about How to Capture an Invisible Cat is Delphine's breezy, funny, run-on voice. I was snorting and flagging passages by page two. Here are just a few examples:

"These tests took place a couple of weeks back, after school, in our sixth grade classroom. I'd stayed late to sweep the floor, since Ms. Talbot uses cleaning duty as a punishment for misbehaving children, among which I am numbered." (Page 2)

"...Plus, I have to pay for my cell phone by myself, and I'm also saving up for when my friend Liz Morris and I start traveling the world as a mysterious due of carefree adventurers. Sadly, from the looks of my savings, that will probably have to wait until at least seventh grade." (Page 3-4)

"I watched Bosper run across the dog park, completely in the opposite direction of where the balloon was going, running right past the poor screaming girl who had lost her balloon and who was now on her back rolling all over the ground, which is not something I'd recommend in a dog park." (Page 6)

"Simple," I said. It was not what I meant. I noticed he was reading a Nancy Drew mystery. I liked him for that. Most boys don't like girl detectives." (Page 7)

I could go on and on. Delphine is just pitch-perfect. While Nate is in many ways the hero of the story, I don't think it would have worked nearly so well had he been the narrator. He's brilliant, but somewhat lacking in social skills . He works much better as a foil for Delphine's humor. Like this:

""Here's some lemonade," Nate said. "I put out some cookies. That was a good move, right? They're chocolate chip cookies. I have some ice cream, too. It's also chocolate chip. Oh. That wasn't smart, was it? I was trying for a chocolate chip theme, but I only had two items of chocolate chip nature, so that's not really a theme, more a lack of variety."" (Page 35)

I do love reading about a character who is really smart yet still works to keep stretching and improving himself. Nate has been able to expand his dog's brain, so that the dog can talk. He can predict where Delphine is going to be, using a complex series of mental mathematical models, and can leave her notes along her path (not as creepy as it sounds, because he's both brilliant and hapless). He loves questions, saying "Asking questions is like bodybuilding for the brain."

So as I think I've made clear, I really love the characters, and the voice, and the humor, of How to Capture an Invisible Cat. But the plotting is also well done, featuring a quest for clues which Nate has hidden from himself (long story), with setbacks caused by Nate's evil nemesis. How to Capture an Invisible Cat will certainly  keep readers turning the pages. There are hints of "boy-girl stuff" in here for tweens. There's a kiss, even. But this is all quite secondary to the plot, and not sufficient to be off-putting to younger readers.

How to Capture an Invisible Cat is one of my very favorite new middle grade novels. It's creative, suspenseful, celebrates intellect, and is funny, funny, funny. It's everything a middle grade fantasy should be. I can't wait for future books in the series, and highly recommend that parents, teachers, and librarians all give it a look. 

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's Books (@BWKids)
Publication Date: March 1, 2016
Source of Book: Advanced review copy from the publisher

© 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 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).

#JoyOfLearning Articles from @sxwiley + @MrTeller + @jarredamato + @KJDellAntonia

JoyOFLearningLogoI have a few articles today that I thought were worth sharing in more detail than in my regular Twitter links post. Topics include the importance of play, the role of teachers in showing kids what it's like to love learning, ways for teachers to create a reading culture, and reasons why just praising effort is not enough to cultivate a growth mindset in kids. So much interesting food for thought out there on learning and education! I wish I could spend all day reading and thinking and talking about these issues. 

RT @raepica1: Brick by Brick: Play Is Being Silenced

Scott Wiley: "Less recess, less playful teaching practices, more drill, more rote learning methods. These are all creating less healthy, less fit, less creative, less prepared children... I want to know more about using play in intentional, purposeful ways to help children develop in healthy ways."

Me: Scott is reading The Power of Play: Learning What Comes Naturally by David Elkind. His post includes his summary of the introduction to The Power of Play, and Scott's own thoughts about this issue. The reduction in time that kids have for free, unstructured play is something that bothers me also. Another book that I liked on this topic was Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life by Peter Gray. 

"the root of what you want out of a teacher; a delight in what the subject is": @MrTeller @TheAtlantic @jesslahey 

Mr. Teller: "The first job of a teacher is to make the student fall in love with the subject. That doesn’t have to be done by waving your arms and prancing around the classroom; there’s all sorts of ways to go at it, but no matter what, you are a symbol of the subject in the students’ minds...What I have, however, is delight. I get excited about things. That is at the root of what you want out of a teacher; a delight in what the subject is, in the operation. That’s what affects students."

Me: This is a really interesting piece by Jessica Lahey about how an entertainer who has been a teacher sees the role of teachers in getting kids engaged with learning (education as performance art). I liked the idea that it is a teacher's genuine delight in a subject that will get kids interested. 

Why schools must create a culture of reading, w/ concrete tips for teachers from 

Jarred Amato: "There is no magic formula, special sauce, or computer program that will turn our reluctant, struggling readers into confident, proficient ones. Instead, it requires that we trust and embrace the process of developing and nurturing lifelong readers. If teachers and leaders commit to creating a culture of reading in their schools, the results will inevitably follow. And by results, I’m not just talking test scores, although those will improve too. Research shows that students who identify as readers are significantly happier, less stressed, more empathetic, and ultimately far more prepared to succeed in this crazy thing we call life."

Me: This is a solid piece with both motivation and concrete tips for teachers on building a reading culture in classrooms. Amato focuses on the importance of making sure that kids have time to read, and giving them choice in what they read. He also has a nice list of seven statements that people who are readers would tend to agree with, and he challenges people on whether their students would be likely to agree. He includes: "I generally only read about things that I deem interesting or worthwhile." As adults, we do this, and kids will certainly be more receptive to reading if we can find ways for them to make this true also. 

"Just as effort alone can’t deliver results, praising effort isn’t enough to help a child.." 

KJ Dell'Antonia: "In doing so, we take a big idea — that the ability to keep trying matters more than immediate success — and drag it down to a small scale. While we’re at it, we risk teaching our children to expect that any effort, no matter how puny or how enabled, should be enough to earn them the results they desire.That’s far from the real message of the research surrounding the growth mind-set.

Just as effort alone can’t deliver results, praising effort isn’t enough to help a child develop a love for the challenge of learning. Both parents and teachers should follow that “great effort” message with something more. Dr. Dweck provides a list of suggestions in anarticle for Education Week. "

Me: The point of this article is that if parents want to raise children who truly have a learning-focused, growth mindset, it's not enough to just keep praising them for trying. As in adult life, sometimes trying isn't enough. Sometimes you have to try something different. You can't sit back and say: "well, I did try," and let it go at that. There's also a nice point made in the article that for older kids, it can be important for them to understand that their successes are not always entirely due to their own efforts. Not everyone has had the same opportunities. Of course my 5 year old loves books - she has hundreds of them (with thanks to this blog). Developing that love of reading is a lot more difficult for the child who has no books at home. 

© 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. 

Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: World Read Aloud Day, Mathical List and Reading Aloud

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include book awards, diverse books, mysteries, Mathical list, Martin Luther King Day, Little House on the Prairie, STEM, feminism, picture books, math, World Read Aloud Day, First Book, growing bookworms, literacy, reading aloud, schools, libraries, play, nonfiction, and teaching. 


"Drum Dream Girl" by Margarita Engle Wins 2016 Charlotte Zolotow Award for outstanding writing in a PB:  

Announces 2016 Winners of the Walter Dean Myers Award for Outstanding in category

2016 Book Awards Roundup: APALA, Amelia Bloomer Project, and Other Non-YMA Awards |

RT @PWKidsBookshelf: Edgar nominations announced: see the nominees for Best Juvenile and Best Young Adult Mystery

Book Lists

A I love: The 2016 Mathical List from + | quality math-related fiction +  

Books for Martin Luther King Jr. Day from

The has announced their Choices for 2016, + up by category w/ diversity via

Books for Kids Who Like Little House on the Prairie from

Embracing the Darkness in Middle Grade Fiction | The Upper Deck | new column by Tara Kron

Funny, Action-Packed, Poignant | Middle Grade Series Update | Christopher Lassen

Diversity + Gender

Coming of Age, Universality + Reads You can relate to people who aren’t like you  

The Power of by "There’s a confidence that my kids have that they belong"

renewed campaign by to send girls messages of empowerment + support

Why STEM’s Future Rests In The Hands Of 12-Year-Old Girls by Erin Sawyer

Top 10 feminist heroes in children's fiction per Ronia, Lyra, + more

Events + Programs

WRAD2016Leading up to , it's Friendship Week. on how reading helps us connect + make the world friendlier  

This is neat! 11-year-old Jersey girl launches campaign via

Read a Book w/ an Astronaut on International Space Station w/ video library via

Vote for your state to win 100,000 books for kids from +

Growing Bookworms

Shaking Up Storytime with by | sharing visual art of WITH kids  

Babies Need Words Every Day blog tour: How encourages families to Read with their babies

Babies Need Words Every Day Blog Tour for | Singing in Story Time by

Let's Talk! Babies Need Words Every Day, and families need library workers who know this

BabiesNeedWordsBabies Need Words Every Day Blog Tour: Incorporating Play! in the Library by

Why we should all be reading aloud to children | Rebecca Bellingham TEDxYouth@BeaconStreet Video

Benefits of the Bite-Size Read (e.g. short story or mag article) by

Top Ten Ways to Match Books to Readers ("Create Buzz" + more) by + Maureen Mooney Corbo

RT @ReachOutAndRead:"Next time you read to your baby, pay attention to his babbling and respond."

11 Simple Ideas to Promote the No Matter What You Teach from principal

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

Good advice here: 99 Ways to Spread the Word About a Book You Love by  

. on Writing, Trinidadian Folklore, + Scary Stories | interview by

Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day: Let’s Have Some Cake — w/ lots of comment discussion on Washington book

WARNING: This Book Might Be Recalled. Read it Fast. Decry it Faster. questions recall

. "By caving in to public pressure... you demonstrate a craven lack of faith in your own standards"

Writing Advice for Children + Teens (e.g. there's no such thing as writer's block) by via

What's Up in ? December 2015/Early January 2016 in YA News from adaptations, losses, + more


6 Rules That Don’t Exist That Will Surprise Most Parents from parents

Playful Learning

Ideas on ways to use the shapes around you as learning opportunities for young kids, from  

What I Learned From Sherlock. Need to allow kids time to daydream + explore, by

RT @KimberlyEHart: Play is an essential building block for learning! 50 reasons why :

Ideas for Early Around the House: The Bathroom (sing songs, write in mirror fog) from

Schools and Libraries

Selecting and Promoting in Your by Organizer Jennifer Wharton

How Empowering Influential Kids Can Change School Culture For the Better |  

Encouraging word on report re: Rethinking College Admissions process to be less frenzied

And the take on new report: Educators Seek to Ease Pressure in College Admissions Process from

A lesson for teaching taken from Patriots coach Bill Belichick: focus on showing positive examples by

in Middle School "have made the single biggest difference in the life of this teacher"

Is the Just a Scam to Sell Books? | Marc Aronson sees commitment, not greed

6 ways to support kids who don’t take ownership of learning (e.g. give more choice in little things)

© 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: Reading Her First Elephant and Piggie Book Aloud

LiteracyMilestoneAThe other night I was downstairs while my husband put our daughter to bed. I heard her intermittently yelling, but couldn't tell what she was saying. I finally went up to see what was going on. I found them snuggled together, with my daughter reading aloud from We Are in a Book! by Mo Willems. When I asked about the noise she said: "Well, there's a lot of yelling in the book." What could I say to that? I stayed to listen for a while, and sure enough, she was reading aloud to Daddy about Elephant and Piggie being in a book.

Now, there may have been a bit of memorization going on, because my husband told me later that he had read it aloud to her first. At the end of the book, Gerald asks: "Hello. Will you please read us again?" My husband didn't want to read the same book again, and told her that if she wanted to read it again, she would have to read it herself. So she did. It's not a case where we've read this book aloud to her 50 times, though. We do read the books from this series aloud from time to time, but I've kind of had in mind to save them for her to read them herself, so I've tried not to wear them out.

This is incidentally an example of a "meta" book working to engage kids. Gerald asked her to read the book again, and this made her want to do so. I will also add that having your child read Elephant and Piggie books aloud right before bed is not the best choice, in terms of inducing sleepiness. My daughter got so into the book (hence the yelling) that it took her a while to calm down and go to sleep. But for earlier in the day? Perfection!

There's a reason that books from this series have won various Cybils and Geisel Award mentions over the years. [This title won the Cybils Award in 2010, for example.] I'm going to be very sorry when there are no more new Elephant and Piggie books (alas, soon!). But I'm glad that my daughter still has most of the titles ahead of her to read aloud for the first time. 

© 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

Growing Bookworms Newsletter: January 20

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 has refocused a bit recently, and now contains content from my blog focused on growing joyful learners, including bookworms, mathematicians, and learners of all types.

Newsletter Update: In this issue I have a review of a new series of illustrated early chapter books, as well as some detailed notes about the adult nonfiction title Beyond Measure: Rescuing an Overscheduled, Overtested, Underestimated Generation. I have a post with some additional details about my plan for my blog's new direction: growing joyful learners, and a couple of posts with quotes from recent #JoyOfLearning articles. I have a post about my family's experience so far with reading logs, and another in which I kick off a new Mathematical Milestones series. Finally, I have posts wrapping up other links that I shared on Twitter over the past two weeks. 

Also, I didn't directly post about it, but I reformatted my blog last week to change to a mobile-friendly, responsive design. There will probably be other changes, but my clever friend Miles Crakow assured me that no time should be lost in making this change. I do really like it. It's much cleaner. If you click through on any articles, you should find that they load much more quickly, especially on mobile devices. My thanks also to Sheila Ruth for her helpful critique and advice. 

Reading Update: In the past two weeks I read/listened to two early chapter books, one young adult book, and four adult titles. I read:

  • Sarah Dillard: Mouse Scouts. Knopf Books for Young Readers. Illustrated Chapter Book. Completed January 10, 2016 (read aloud to my daughter). My review.
  • Sarah Dillard: Mouse Scouts: Make A Difference. Knopf Books for Young Readers. Illustrated Chapter Book. Completed January 15, 2016 (read aloud to my daughter). My review.
  • Jan Gangsei: Zero Day. Disney-Hyperion. Young Adult Thriller. Completed January 14, 2016. This is a thriller, first of an apparent series, about a girl who was kidnapped at the age of eight, and returns eight years later, when her father is President of the United States. Definitely a page-turner!
  • Ken Robinson: The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything. Penguin Books. Adult Nonfiction. Completed January 13, 2016, on Kindle. I'll be sharing some detailed notes about this book soon. 
  • C. J. Box: Out of Range (Joe Pickett, Book 5). Berkley. Adult Mystery. Completed January 14, 2016, on MP3.
  • Max Wirestone: The Unfortunate Decisions of Dahlia Moss. Redhook. Adult Mystery. Completed January 16, 2016, on MP3. This was kind of a quirky mystery about a jobless 20-something who ends up playing at private detective. There was a bit too much gamer/geek detail for me, but I did like the character and find it well-written. 
  • Jo Boaler: Mathematical Mindsets: Unleashing Students' Potential through Creative Math, Inspiring Messages and Innovative Teaching. Jossey-Bass. Adult Nonfiction. Completed January 17, 2016, on Kindle (though presence of many graphics would have made this a better choice for print). I'll definitely have more details to share about this book soon. I also dabbled in sharing some quotes from this book directly on Facebook and Twitter (example here).

I'm reading The Collapse of Parenting: How We Hurt Our Kids When We Treat Them Like Grown-Ups by Leonard Sax on my kindle, reading Audacity Jones to the Rescue by Kirby Larson in print and listening to In Plain Sight (A Joe Pickett novel) by C. J. Box

The books my husband and I (and our babysitter) have been reading to our daughter in 2016 can be found here. She was home sick one afternoon, and her babysitter read her more than 30 picture books. I do love that books are what she turns to for comfort (well, books together with a caring adult and a cozy blanket). There was also an incident over the weekend in which she was annoyed about something and stormed off to her room. She came back later reaching for the reading log, so that she could document that she had read herself Brownie and Pearl See the Sights. Again, books for comfort. 

What are you and your family reading these days? Thanks for reading the newsletter, and for growing bookworms. 

© 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

#JoyOfLearning Articles from @JoBoaler + @RACzyz + @DonalynBooks

JoyOFLearningLogoThe articles that caught my eye over the past few days related to #JoyOfLearning include one about reducing the amount of testing in math, one calling on teachers to help kids to find greatness (rather than just meeting standards), and one calling on teachers who care about kids' love of reading to reach out to help others.

Stop all the testing in math, and set free a generation of American mathematicians - in

Jo Boaler: "Students rarely think that they are in math classrooms to appreciate the beauty of mathematics, to ask deep questions, to explore the rich set of connections that make up the subject, or even to learn about the applicability of the subject; they think they are in math classrooms to perform...We know that the most productive math learning environments are those in which students receive positive messages about their unlimited potential and work on interesting and complex problems; in which they feel free to try ideas, fail, and revise their thinking."

Me: This article is excerpted from Boaler's new book, which I have just finished reading. Facilitating real learning in math is deeply important to me right now, because my kindergartener is already somewhat frustrated with the math education in school. I'm just glad to see people talking about this. 

"Are we preparing students to be good enough or are we preparing them to be great?"

Rich Czyz: "Are we preparing students to be good enough or are we preparing them to be great?... . Many of our days are focused on making sure that students are meeting standards: that they can provide text evidence to support their thinking, that they can explain their conceptual understanding when solving a math problem. We must stop focusing on covering standards and instead, focus on uncovering all that students want to learn."

Me: This short piece is basically a call for teachers to help kids find greatness, without any detail on how they might do that. But I think that if more teachers set out to follow this path, many good ideas and outcomes would ensue. 

How can we extend conversation on reading beyond into local communities + schools?

Donalyn Miller: "I wonder how college-ready kids will be if they don’t read anything but test prep packets and excerpts from textbooks. If we graduate kids from high school who don’t read much and see little value in reading, we have failed...The administrators, teachers, and librarians who strive to remain current on literature for young people, invest time reading lots of books, and share our book knowledge with others may represent our profession, but we are not representative of many educators... How can we move beyond our own classrooms to improve our profession and the reading lives of children?"

Me: Donalyn is in general a strong voice for encouraging teachers to help kids learn to love reading. In this article, she laments the students who don't have teachers who take them to the school library, who don't have strong libraries in their classrooms, and who don't have books at home. She calls on those in the educational community who are trying to encourage reading to find a way to reach out to other schools and communities, too. There are many valuable comments on the piece. 

© 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.