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Posts from March 2016

Mathematical Milestones: Counting How Many Days

MathMilestoneI noticed recently that my daughter has acquired a new math skill. She can (with some help regarding the number of days in each month), figure out how many days it will be until some future date. This is an important skill for kids, because they often urgently want to know things like: 

  • How many days until my birthday?
  • How many days until April Fool's day?
  • How many days until summer vacation?
  • How many days until Christmas?

Of course counting the days is fairly easy if your target date is within the same calendar month as today. It still requires either counting forward or using subtraction, so even this simplest case is useful. My daughter used to do this by going to the wall calendar and counting the days, but she has grasped the abstraction of the numbers at this point, and usually doesn't need to. 

When the target date is in a future month, the calculations are more complex. You have to be able to count how many days remain in this month, and then add the relevant days from the next month (plus other months, as applicable). We went through this exchange on March 20th:

Daughter: "How many days until April Fool's Day?"

Me: "Let's figure that out."

Daughter: "OK. How many days in this month?"

Me: "31."

Daughter: "OK." Pause for thinking. "Ten, eleven, twelve. Twelve days until April Fool's Day!"

I was very proud. She counted by 10s to get to the 30th, then added in the 31st and the 1st. The next step will be counting the days until some event that's more than a month away. But there's no rush. 

I think a key to the fact that she can do this calculation stems from my asking: "Let's figure it out." I ask that question ALL the time. If you train your kids to figure out the answers to numeric questions, instead of just telling them, they get used to it. They learn how to do it. They'll eventually do it on their own. Especially when the question is of vital importance, like knowing how long they'll have to wait for April Fool's Day. 

Thanks for reading! I hope that some of you will find this useful. Wishing you all a fun April Fool's Day tomorrow!

© 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

Isabel Feeney, Star Reporter: Beth Fantaskey

Book: Isabel Feeney, Star Reporter
Author: Beth Fantaskey
Pages: 352
Age Range: 10-12

Isabel Feeney, Star Reporter by Beth Fantaskey is set in 1926 Chicago and features a 10-year-old newsgirl who aspires to one day be a crime reporter. When Miss Giddings, a woman who has been kind to Isabel, is accused of murder (with Isabel having been the first on the scene) the intrepid young girl tries to prove Miss Giddings' innocence. In the process, Isabel gets to know a woman she has idolized from afar, Tribune reporter Maude Collier (who is loosely based on an actual historical figure). Isabel also becomes friends with Miss Giddings' son, disabled by polio, and the murdered man's daughter. Largely unsupervised by a mother who works nights, Isabel roams about, stirring things up and annoying the police detective assigned to the case. 

I found Isabel Feeney, Star Reporter to be an enjoyable and absorbing read. I did solve the mystery somewhat before Isabel did, but I've had the benefit of reading a lot more mysteries than she has. Isabel is a strong character. She struggles to bring in income for her broken family (her father died fighting in World War I). She wishes she had been able to continue going to school, but she reads and writes as much as she can. She's too proud to accept charity, and is downright pugnacious when she feels insulted. She is loyal to a fault. Here she is:

"Maude didn't say anything else. She just turned her dark, confident eyes on stone-faced James Culhane, and the second I looked at him, I knew she was going to get her way. He didn't melt like a snowman in August, but his shoulders slumped, just a little. "Fine," he agreed through gritted teeth. "She can stay." (Page 91)


"I was starting to learn that being a reporter meant you couldn't always be kind. That sometimes you had to ask hard questions, even if some kid was under a blanket struggling to breathe.

Could I really do that job?" (Page 93)


"I didn't apologize for mentioning his disease. I felt sorry for Robert, but I didn't understand why people ways pretended they didn't even notice the bad stuff that happened to you. He'd had polio, for crying out loud, and not talking about it wasn't going to change anything. Just like everybody avoiding talking about my dad wouldn't make him any less dead." (Page 98)

Fantaskey offers a nice window into the time period, with enough details to give a sense of Prohibition Chicago (mobsters, speakeasies, Murderess's Row) but not so much as to overwhelm the story. She drops in a couple of direct references to the limited career roles available to women at the time, which I think could provide food for though in family read-alouds, but wondering about these things does feel true to Isabel's character. A brief author's note at the end of the book ties in to actual historical figures and situations. Al Capone is mentioned but doesn't play a direct part in the story (perhaps in a sequel?). 

Isabel Feeney, Star Reporter is listed on Amazon as being for 10-12 year olds, and I think this is correct. I think it's a better fit for middle schoolers than for elementary school kids. This is a story that begins, after all, with a 10-year-old coming across a recent gunshot victim. The Chicago setting, while certainly not overdone, is dark and gritty. Which is not to say that there's no humor to this book. The banter between Isabel, Maude, and the police detective is clever and enjoyable. But I think that Isabel Feeney, Star Reporter falls on the more challenging end of the middle grade spectrum. It would pair well with Kate Hannigan's The Detective's Assistant. Fans of mysteries and/or historical fiction about scrappy girls who are ahead of their time will not wan to miss Isabel Feeney, Star Reporter. I hope that Isabel has other adventures.  

Publisher:  HMH Books for Young Readers (@HMHKids)
Publication Date: March 1, 2016
Source of Book: 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).

Literacy Milestone: Appreciating Where the Wild Things Are

LiteracyMilestoneAWhen I was pregnant with my daughter, I started a wish list for her library on Amazon. One of the first books that I listed was Where the Wild Things Are by (of course) Maurice Sendak. One of my college friends kindly sent a copy to us, and I did read it to my daughter when she was an infant. But as she got older, well, she didn't care for it. Too scary, I think. I would try it periodically, then put it away again when she refused it. 

Finally last week I put it out with our breakfast books. She said: "OK, let's read that." I pointed out the shiny gold sticker on the cover, and remarked casually that this book had won a big award. I even added (though in retrospect I probably shouldn't have) that "some people believe this is the best picture book of all time." [I was thinking of the A Fuse #8 Production Top 100 Picture Books Poll from 2012, still a great list.] But then I said, "of course everyone has their own opinion."

Anyway, I started to read, and she was immediately captured by the story, reaching out syrup-sticky fingers to stroke the page. About 1/3 of the way in she requested that we finish the book on the couch. We don't really have time for that on school mornings, but it was Where the Wild Things Are! I said yes. Then we cuddled up, and immersed ourselves in the world of Max and the Wild Things. 

She still thinks that it's a bit scary, I think (hence the need to cuddle up). But for the first time, she appreciates it, too. She pronounced the monsters "cute". She pointed out details. She was happy at the end, when Max's supper was still hot. I was left quite satisfied myself, even though we did have to rush a bit to be ready for school on time. 

One of the lessons that book-loving parents have to learn is that their children may not love the books that they love. But sometimes, if you wait long enough, and you introduce the right book at the right time, you can still make magic. 

© 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: Square Root Day + #Play + #TheWalter Award

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include The Walter Award, historical fiction, the Cybils Award, diverse books, Square Root Day, raising readers, reading aloud, reading levels, comics, play, poetry, summer reading, schools, education, STEM, testing, and growth mindset. 

Book Lists

15 Authors Share Their Favorite Bedtime Stories for Kids (#PictureBooks + older) @ReadBrightly 

Great #Poetry #PictureBooks |  | #BookList from @pernilleripp

45+ Thrilling Historical Fiction Books for Kids from @momandkiddo #BookList #KidLit

A Tuesday Ten: A #ScienceFiction Pathway Part IV: (introducing 7-9 year olds to SF) |  @TesseractViews

On Your Mark, Get Set, Read! Middle Grade #BookList for #SummerReading 2016  @mrskatiefitz #kidlit


On the #Cybils blog: Interview with author @novaren  @book_nut  #TheWallsAroundUs


At 1st Walter Award, Honorees Ask Industry To Make Change Happen + Encourage #Diverse Readers... 

Mind the Gap: Questions about Power for Storytellers to ask themselves from @MitaliPerkins  #DiverseBooks

Reviewing When We Think We Know or A Little Learning is a Dangerous Thing | @medinger  #WeNeedDiverseBooks

How #WeNeedDiverseBooks is Working With #Libraries + changing the world  @PublishersWkly @diversebooks

Events + Programs

Another fun holiday for #math geeks approaches: Square Root Day is 4/4/16 (which is also opening day for baseball) 

A happy thing: North Texas Program Gives Moms Books For Newborn Babies @CBSDFW via @starbrightbooks  #literacy

Growing Bookworms

"I still read (aloud to my older kids) because it pulls us close. There is intimacy in a shared story"  @CarrieGelson

 Why I Created ‘Reading Rules’ for My Children – And Myself by mom of 4 boys @ArielLawhon 

How to Instill the Love of Reading, and why it's important from @levarburton @Edutopia  #RaisingReaders 

"there still should be places in our day where we just #readaloud for the #joy of the story" @CathyMere  #g2great

25 #Literacy Activities About Health and Fitness from @mrskatiefitz  #nutrition, movement, #play


Catch up on the latest #kidlitosphere news in Fusenews: Who are we to say? — @fuseeight 

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

Reading Pictures: What Comics Can Teach Young Children (emotions + more)  @jenniholm @ReadBrightly

Can children's books help build a better world? | Author SF Said thinks so  @GdnChildrensBks

How are our children's reading experiences shaping the people they will become? asks @donalynbooks @nerdybookclub 

Fun stuff! 10 reasons why you should eat chocolate while reading  @callaghansstuff  @GdnChildrensBks


Why #play is an #equity issue? guest post by @Ijumaaj @earlyedequity  via @sxwiley #education

Is There Hope for a Return to Common Sense (+ learning via #play) in Early Childhood Education? @laurieadvocates 

Inspiration from the Blogosphere: Why Play? @sxwiley recaps several articles about #play in #education 

Secrets of Life from teacher of young kids for > 20 years  "Let them play" "Read them stories" @CarrieGelson

Why Is It Hard to Understand #Learning Through #Play? @gailmult @BAMRadioNetwork  | Documentation could help

Sigh. Florida Senate Denies Parent Request for Required Daily #Recess | @Lynch39083 via @drdouggreen

Schools and Libraries

Ideas for getting kids moving in the classroom from @RACzyz  #4OCF #EdChat

Guest Post: P.J. Hoover at @CynLeitichSmith on The Awesomeness of School Visits + things teachers can do 

4 Ways to Promote #GrowthMindset in #ProjectBasedLearning @BIEpbl  via @drdouggreen

"raising test scores is not a vision for learning" | What core values should your school have @DavidGeurin 

Books, books, books, everywhere you look: Celebration of a classroom #library by @CarrieGelson 

"Can we modify our language (re: #Reading Levels) to help foster a passion and purpose for reading?" @LPalmReader 

We’re Trying To Do “The Wrong Thing Right” in Schools, says @willrich45 | We do what's easier for the adults 

10 Practical Ways to Innovate in Your #Classroom from @ajjuliani #EdChat #GeniusHour

"school libraries and librarians are essential to a child’s growth + development" - Advocacy Post from @literacious 


Good tips! The Top 6 Ways to Support a Mathematical Child (PDF download)  @joboaler #STEM @YouCubedOrg

Using #poetry to make connections between #math + #literacy in the classroom  Adventures in Literacy Land

© 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

A Small Example of the Benefits of Free #Play

The other day I was working away in my office when I heard my daughter call out "YAY! My experiment WORKED!" I did not immediately go to investigate (our babysitter was nearby, so I doubted that explosions were imminent). But my daughter soon came to drag me downstairs to see the results of her "experiment."

She had taken a plastic basket and filled it with balls. Then she used a jump rope to tie the handle of the basket to the back of a small chair. Then she tied another jump rope between the chair and the doorknob. When I pushed open the door to the playroom, the force tipped over the chair, which in turn caused the bucket of balls to spill out onto the floor. She explained that until she tried it for the first time, she didn't know if it would work, but that she hoped it would, and that her babysitter had not helped with building the experiment. She later added a full toy shopping cart, attached with fishing line, to the ensemble, and this also spilled on command. 


It just made me happy that she was so excited to experiment. To build something and try it out. To think through what might happen, and rejoice when it worked. And my first thought was, thank goodness she had the free time, and general purpose tools (ball, jump ropes), to be able to do this. I actually posted that thought to my personal Facebook right away, where it has 50 positive reactions and counting. 

I found a similar (though more elaborate) example of play-based experimentation in a post yesterday at the EdWords blog by Gail Multop. A boy in a play-based Pre-K program built a toilet for birds in the hope of keeping the school picnic tables cleaner. Not a success in its goal, perhaps, but a success in learning all the same. 

Kids need time to play. It's as simple as that. Well, it's not quite as simple as that - they need safe spaces in which to play, and adults nearby who can give them support if they need it. But the point is that if a child spends all her time in school and in structured activities, no matter how enriching those activities might be, she won't have time for spontaneous experiments. And we won't hear that joyful: "YAY! My experiment WORKED!"

© 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: Favorite #PictureBooks + Tips for #ReadingAloud

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 recently, and now contains content from my blog focused on growing joyful learners, including bookworms, mathematicians, and learners of all types. The newsletter is sent out every two to three weeks. 

Newsletter Update: In this issue I have two book reviews (illustrated early chapter books) and a list of six picture books that my daughter never refuses. I also have post about my daughter's latest literacy milestone (defining herself as a person who loves books), a post with tips for reading aloud to an impatient toddler, a post about making math fun by cooking with kids, and a post asking whether homework is "wrecking our kids" and what parents can do about it. I also have two posts with quotes from recent #JoyOfLearning articles as well as two posts with other links that I shared on Twitter (including lots of links related to Growing Bookworms).

Reading Update: In the past two weeks I read/listened to five early chapter to middle grade titles and four adult titles. I read:

  • Jenny Goebel: Fortune Falls. Scholastic Press. Middle Grade Fiction. Completed March 9, 2016. Review to come. 
  • Peter Brown: The Wild Robot. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. Illustrated Middle Grade Fiction. Completed March 18, 2016. Review to come. 
  • Judith Kerr: Mr. Cleghorn's Seal. Harper Collins Children's Books. Illustrated Early Chapter Book. Completed March 18, 2016. Review to come.
  • Barbara Park: The Kid in the Red Jacket. Yearling. Middle Grade Fiction. Completed March 19, 2016. Review to come.
  • Rodman Philbrick: The Big Dark. Blue Sky Press. Middle Grade Fiction. Completed March 21, 2016. Review to come. 
  • Ace Atkins: Robert B. Parker's Lullaby. G. P. Putnam's Sons. Adult Mystery. Completed March 9, 2016. This is the first Spenser book written by Ace Atkins, and the first of Atkins' that I've read (after reading maybe half of Robert Parkers books in the original series). I particularly enjoyed the book's Boston setting, which reminded me of the days when I worked in the Prudential Tower. 
  • Heather Shumaker: It's OK to Go Up the Slide: Renegade Rules for Raising Confident and Creative Kids. Tarcher Press. Adult Nonfiction. Completed March 14, 2016. SO good. I wish all parents and teachers could read this book.
  • Robert Crais: The Promise (Elvis Cole/Joe Pike). G.P. Putnam's Sons. Adult Mystery. Completed March 17, 2016, on MP3. There were a couple of books in this series that I didn't care for recently (too bleak and violent, for a series that had started out more humorous), but I thought that this one was excellent. It also includes Scott James and his K-9 partner Maggie, who were featured in a previous book. 
  • Greg Hurwitz: Orphan X (Even Smoak). Minotaur Books. Adult Mystery/Thriller. Completed March 17, 2016, on Kindle. This is the first book in a new series, about a boy who was covertly trained by the government as an assassin, and later "retires" and tries to help people. I liked the character and technical details, but found the level of violence to be a bit more than I like. I'll still probably give the next book a look when it comes out, because I did like the character. 

I'm reading Crucifixion Creek (Belltree Trilogy) by Barry Maitland and What If Everybody Understood Child Development: Straight Talk About Bettering Education and Children's Lives by Rae Pica. I'm listening to The Poacher's Son (Mike Bowditch Mysteries) by Paul Doiron. I also downloaded the first Penderwicks book on my Kindle (it was a Daily Deal and I couldn't resist) and I've been dipping into that one as a re-read. 

The books my husband and I (and our babysitter) have been reading to our daughter in 2016 can be found here. The other day before school we read The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig and Patrice Barton, one of our favorites. It's about a boy who is invisible at school, until he reaches out to a new boy, and is noticed in return. After reading it I asked my daughter if there is anyone invisible in her class. She laughed and said: "I wouldn't know, because they would be invisible." Fair enough, I guess. We've been reading more picture books and fewer chapter books lately (having set aside Harry Potter again after not making it through the first chapter). We just try to let her interests guide the reading. It's all good. 

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

Weekends with Max and His Dad: Linda Urban

Book: Weekends with Max and His Dad
Author: Linda Urban
Illustrator: Katie Kath
Pages: 160
Age Range: 6-9

Weekends with Max and His Dad is the first of a new illustrated early chapter book series by Linda Urban. The book is divided into three multi-chapter sections. Each section recounts a weekend that third grader Max spends with his dad in his dad's new apartment (following his parents' separation). In other hands, a book for kids about adjusting to such a new family circumstance could have been didactic. In Linda Urban's hands, Weekends with Max and His Dad is flat out adorable. 

In the first section, Max sees his dad's bare, white apartment for the first time. Max is in a spy phase, and he learns about the new neighborhood, and helps out a stranger, while playing spy. All I could think when I was reading this section was how much my spy-obsessed five-year-old daughter would love it. On the second weekend, Max and his dad meet a couple of neighbors, and add a couch to the apartment. On the third weekend, Max's best friend comes for a sleepover, and the boys have to go on a quest to find necessary supplies for a school project. The entire book is filled with kid-relatable issues, sprinkled with Urban's trademark slightly quirky characters.

While many of the illustrations in the advanced copy that I read were still "to come", there were enough to see a light treatment of multi-culturalism. Max and his dad are white, but their turban-wearing neighbor Mrs. Tibbet appears to be dark-skinned, as is Max's best friend, Warren. The denizens of the coffeeshop frequented by Max and dad are realistically varied. The pictures also add plenty of humor, especially in the first section, when Max and dad are wearing spy disguises. There are maps and charts, and a delightful sketch of a porcupine. 

Here's a sample of the text:

"This disguise is so good even I don't know who I am," said Dad.

"That's okay." Max patted Dad's elbow. "I will remind you."

"Thanks, Pal." Dad smiled and his mustache fell off.

"You can't smile, Agent Cheese. You need to remain inconspicuous."

"Inconspicuous, eh?" Dad as careful not to smile with his mouth, but his eyes smiled anyway." (Weekend One, Chapter Two, ARC)

And here's a scene with neighbor Mrs. Tibbet, who is wonderful. Max and his dad have offered to take Mrs. Tibbet's dogs for a walk:

"A caution: These are not greyhounds. Their pace is not swift, and they like an intermission."

"Don't walk too fast and let them rest sometimes?" said Max.

"Exactly." (Weekend Two, Chapter Two, ARC)

All three sections end with scenes that are heartwarming without being cloying. As I finished the first of these I though, "Yep, my daughter is really going to love this book."And did you know that baby porcupines are called "porcupettes"? Linda Urban is the queen of kid-friendly. Max's dad is kind and thoughtful, but uncertain and prone to mistakes, too. He and Max feel real. I look forward to their further adventures. Highly recommended for schools and libraries serving elementary-age kids. 

Publisher:  HMH Books for Young Readers (@HMHKids)
Publication Date: April 5, 2016
Source of Book: Advance 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 @ReadByExample + @ValerieStrauss + @RaePica1

JoyOFLearningLogoToday I have excerpts from three recent articles that all relate to Joy of Learning (or lack thereof). The first is about the depressing lack of engagement in school reported by US middle and high school kids. The second is by an elementary school principal about how she came to end "useless homework" at her school. The third is by Rae Pica, about the importance of dramatic play for young kids, with ideas for getting this message out to more adults. 

Student Engagement Still Low in U.S. Schools – @ReadByExample shares some demoralizing trends on bored kids 

Scott McLeod (as reposted by Matt Renwick): "The biggest indictment of our schools is not their failure to raise test scores above some politically-determined line of ‘proficiency.’ It’s that – day in and day out – they routinely ignore the fact that our children are bored, disengaged, and disempowered. We’ve known this forever, but we have yet to really care about it in a way that would drive substantive changes in practice. The disenfranchisement of our youth continues to happen in the very institutions that are allegedly preparing them to be ‘lifelong learners’."

Me: In this post, Scott McLeod (reposted by Matt Renwick) shares, in the form of graphs, the results from the latest Gallup poll regarding engagement levels of middle and high school students. The results ought to spark a revolution. Something is wrong with an educational system in which less than a third of high school students (out of a million surveyed) report being engaged in school. Or this: less than half of fifth graders report having fun in school, and the percentage drops to 17% by 11th grade. Even fewer kids report being able to do what they do best every day. This, I think, is a tragedy. 

This is an excellent piece about changing #homework into something better. RT: @RickWormeli2 Principal: What happened when my school ended useless homework 

Katie Charner-Laird (in a piece reprinted by Valerie Strauss in The Washington Post): "But when I finally did pick up “The Homework Myth,” I couldn’t put it down. One by one, my reasons for considering homework an essential part of the elementary school experience were dismantled... So in 2014, Cambridgeport became “the school that doesn’t give homework,” yet I heard repeatedly from students, teachers, and parents about the significant, meaningful work they are doing at home... Our school may be giving less homework but we have more students engaged in more meaningful learning activities at home than ever before."

Me: I quite liked this piece, about an elementary school principal who started out believing in the benefits of homework, but was won over by the arguments against it. Her school ended up still assigning homework, but this was focused on open-ended assignments to read and write, rather than dull worksheets and the like. I thought that this article struck a nice balance, and offered hope for the future. 

Foster Kids' Brain Development Through Dramatic #Play @raepica1 @BAMRadioNetwork 

Rae Pica: "Unfortunately, play is now too often considered “frivolous” and unrelated to learning. Few people, it seems, understand its connection to brain and cognitive development. So I invited Ann Barbour and Deborah McNelis to Studentcentricity to explore that connection, specifically as it relates to dramatic play."

Deb McNelis: "Our education system and entire society cannot afford to continue to allow large numbers of children to miss out on the positive and essential experiences that contribute to strong brain connections as a result of play. It is needed at every age as the brain develops, but interactive and imaginative opportunities are critical during early childhood. The costs in terms of lost potential and increasing rates of emotional and behavioral problems are too high."

Me: What I've seen is that my kindergarten-age daughter NEEDS dramatic play. At home, she is constantly pretending to be someone else: an veterinarian for stuffed animals, a baby, a parent, a pirate. As far as I know, she has no opportunities for dramatic play while in school. Perhaps during recess... I can only hope. 

© 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. 

6 Picture Books to which My Daughter Will Always Say "Yes"

I usually read to my daughter while she's eating breakfast. I try to always keep a stack of picture books to choose from on the kitchen table. Sometimes we read those. Sometimes she's feeling picky, and doesn't want to listen to any of my choices, and then she'll go off to the playroom or her bedroom and find something else. A similar process occurs at bedtime (though my husband is usually the one doing the reading). I try not to wear out her favorite titles (or ours), but I have noticed that there are a few books to which she always says yes. This list changes somewhat over time, but right now, these favored titles are (in no particular order):

1. Iggy Peck, Architect, by Andrea Beaty and Dave Roberts. Harry N. Abrams Books. My daughter adores this tale of an ingenious and dedicated architect. She wants to be an architect when she grows up, and this book has certainly contributed to that plan. I like Iggy Peck, Architect and companion title Rosie Revere, Engineer because in addition to conveying a positive impression of science and invention, they are a rhythmic joy to read aloud. The third book in the series, Ada Twist, Scientist, will be released in September, and is already on our wish list. I also just ordered for my daughter's birthday the Peck and Revere Two Pocket Journal, which she is going to LOVE. 

2. The Donut Chef by Bob Staake. Dragonfly Books. Full review here. Bob Staake was the second illustrator whose work my daughter could recognize and name on sight (after Mo Willems). We enjoy many of the books that Staake has illustrated, but our family favorite is hands-down The Donut Chef, a fun-filled rhyming tale of a sales battle between two rival donut makers. My daughter gets positively giddy when she spots main character from The Donut Chef, or someone who looks much like him, in other books. Most notably, there is a policeman in Mary Had A Little Lamp who she is sure is the chef in a different job. 

3. A Fine Dessert: Four Centuries, Four Families, One Delicious Treat by Emily Jenkins and Sophie Blackall. Schwartz & Wade. Full review here. I know that this book is controversial. That controversy has influenced and enhanced the discussions that I have with my daughter when we read this book. But she loves it, and I like that we have discussions about the changing role of women in families, changes in cooking technology, and yes, slavery. We even went so far as to make blackberry fool one day. She is, incidentally, starting to be able to recognize 

4. Blizzard by John Rocco. Disney-Hyperion. Full review here. What California-raised kid doesn't love the idea of a good snowstorm? I think what makes this book special to my daughter is knowing that my husband and I remember the blizzard that Rocco is writing about, New England's Blizzard of '79. But the other thing that keeps us both coming back to this book is Rocco's attention to detail as he merges text and pictures, like the snow that wouldn't stop piled up against a STOP sign, and the grocery items that the boy buys adding up to $19.78. 

5. Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen. Balzer + Bray. Extra Yarn is a Caldecott Honor and Cybils shortlist title. It's actually a book that didn't appeal to me on my first couple of reads. It was my daughter who taught me to appreciate it. Over time I've come to enjoy this magical little tale quite a lot, and to appreciate Klassen's subtle details in the illustrations. 

6. Louise Loves Art by Kelly Light. Balzer + Bray. Full review here. Louise Loves Art was one of my "books that got away" when I was judging the Cybils Awards for Fiction Picture Books. I loved it at first read, and have continued to find it cheerful and (non-cloyingly) heart-warming. My daughter seems to appreciate both of these aspects, too. She loves the central pun of the title. Louise, a budding artist, loves making art. But she loves her little brother, Art, even more. And the cat is hilarious. 

There you have it. Six picture books that my daughter always say "yes" to reading aloud. What picture books are the top hits in your house? 

© 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).


Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: #KidLitCon + #PictureBooks + Pi Day

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage.  Topics this week include Bank Street Book Awards, the Cybils Awards, book lists, summer reading, diverse books, boys in school, Children's Book Week, School Library Month, KidLitCon, series books, raising readers, picture books, parenting, play, homework, schools, libraries, poetry, and STEM. 

Book Lists + Awards

Newbery / Caldecott 2017: Spring Prediction Edition from @fuseeight #kidlit #PictureBooks 

Always a good list: Best Children’s Books of the Year, 2016 Edition from @bankstreetedu  #KidLit

ABA Announces 2016 Indies Choice/E.B. White Read-Aloud Award Finalists | @ABABook #kidlit 

Favorite Children’s Books about Spring (#nonfiction, stories, #poetry, maple syrup + more) from @rebeccazdunn 

On Your Mark, Get Set, Read! Chapter Book List (inc. series) for #SummerReading 2016 from @mrskatiefitz 

Great Books for Resistant Readers in Middle School and High School | @PernilleRipp #YA 

13 New #YA Books for Middle School Readers Coming Out This Month | @LibraryVoice @sljournal 


On the #Cybils blog: Interview with Joel Ross, author of elem/MG spec fiction winner The Fog Diver @harperchildrens 

Diversity + Gender

Why Publishing Is So White by @DeahlsDeals @PublishersWkly  #DiverseBooks

"Should White Authors Avoid Writing from the POV of a character of color?" @MitaliPerkins says no  #DiverseBooks

Instead of trying to make boys fit in better in schools, maybe #schools should be redesigned for boys @ReadByExample  

Events + Programs

Children’s Week Bookmark Reveal (psst . . . It’s El Deafo related!) — @fuseeight @CBCBook  #CBW @CeceBellBooks 

April is #SchoolLibraryMonth | @MrSchuReads talks with this year's spokesperson Megan McDonald 

A 9-Year-Old Girl in India Is Running A #Library For Underprivileged Kids Who Can’t Read (she reads aloud)  @buzzfeed

Growing Bookworms

Escaping Series Mania, how + why to get developing readers to read outside of series fiction, Betty Carter @HornBook 

Love this! #RaisingReaders Monday: Spring Forward with Books |On the many joys of #OutdoorReading from @kateywrites 

Don't try to make kids' reading "edifying .. If a child reads for pleasure, your battle is won." @SharonReader 

10 Non-Book Ways to Get Your Child Reading from @Scholastic  #RaisingReaders 

Higher Ed

"Why make campuses exempt from realities commonly found elsewhere" asks @VDHanson in @MercuryNews  #HigherEd


KidLitCon2016LogoSquareI've just booked my hotel for #KidLitCon 2016 in Wichita, KS (Oct. 14-15). Reservation link here:   | Don't miss it!

On the #Cybils blog: Announcing the #KidLitCon 2016 Theme, Logo, and Hotel  | It's our annual "family reunion" 

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

On the need for sad books / emotional stories in #kidlit, plus some recommendations from @carriegelson 

A call from #teachers to the media to #CoverKidsBooks more @MGStrikesBack 

Lois Lane is far more than 'just' Superman's girlfriend | @Gwenda @GdnChildrensBks  #YA 

On Book Buying Resistance (or rather, a complete lack thereof) from @carriegelson, clearly a kindred spirit 

OK, this is fun. Vending Machine Dispenses Random Books for $2 | @mental_floss 

Parenting, Play + Homework

The Dangers of Using a Sticker Chart to Teach Kids Good Behavior (they influence mindset) @DrEricaR @TheAtlantic 

Why Parents Should Not Make Kids Do #Homework (or at least not 4 hours/night) by @HeatherShumaker in @Time 

"In a homework-dominated culture, I think we forget joy." A Radical Solution to Elem. #Homework by @HeatherShumaker 

Baby Talk - @MrDad answers reader's question about why he should be talking (+ reading) to 2-week old son 

How Adults Can Encourage Kids To Be Original Thinkers : @ElissaNadworny @npr_ed 

The Job of a Child is to #Play. Kids learn best when they are having fun. @lgoodman222  #EdChat #JoyOfLearning

Picture Books for Older Kids

How I Use #PictureBooks in Our Middle School Classroom by @PernilleRipp | they help kids fall in love w/ #reading 

Big Kids Need #PictureBooks Too! Top 4 reasons from Andrea at Adventures in #Literacy Land 


4 Reasons to Start Class With a Poem Each Day | @theVogelman @Edutopia  #NationalPoetryMonth

Schools and Libraries

#Teachers + #librarians + @NerdyBookClub members are the real rock stars, says author @joshfunkbooks 

Tips for #Teaching Students to Receive Critical Feedback from @mssackstein @EducationWeek  #education

On figuring out what you're good at / passionate about, and pursuing that + how teachers can help by @thereadingzone 

Thoughts on nurturing grit + #GrowthMindset in #education from @TonySinanis | teachers need to focus on learning too 

Study Shows Link Between School #Librarians + Higher Test Scores | Librarians help kids' achievement @sljournal 

Guest Post by Bobbie Wooderson @DavidGeurin blog: 5 Ways to Create the Next Generation #Library 

Libraries, Libraries, Libraries... by Ruth Hatfield | Talk about them, so they won't be taken away @AwfullyBigBlog 

"the books were right there, so I read them.” On the Need for Classroom Libraries for All Ages by @PernilleRipp 

7 Qualities That Promote #Teacher Leadership in Schools | @Kschwart @MindShiftKQED  #education


Pi Day and BOOKS Help Kids Get Excited About MATH! @ReadingRainbow  #STEM

The Problem w/ Prepackaged #STEM Products | we want to establish cultures of inquiry + ongoing learning @rosscoops31 

On the Overselling of #EdTech by @alfiekohn | Does it "help kids create, design, produce, construct"?  

5 + 1 things teachers can do to close the #math achievement gap (inc. eliminate homework!) @GoorishWibneh  @JoBoaler

© 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: Defining Herself as a Person Who Loves Books

LiteracyMilestoneARecently my daughter and I got into a discussion about how she was made up of parts of both my husband and me. I believe this was inspired by an earlier reading of The Baby Tree by Sophie Blackall. Anyway, I said that if Daddy and I had married different people we might have had children, but they wouldn't have been her. As an example, I said that if I had had a daughter with someone else, she wouldn't have had Daddy's chin. But as my daughter doesn't have any obvious physical inheritances from me, I added this:

"If Daddy had a daughter with someone else, maybe she wouldn't have loved books."

My daughter's response: "That would be TRAGIC." 

Indeed. My daughter's love of books is as defining for her, at this point, as having her Daddy's chin. And the idea of anyone (or at least anyone related to her) not loving books is simply tragic. 

Some days, I do feel like I am doing something right as a parent. 

© 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

Keeping Math Fun: Cooking with Kids

I've blogged previously about ways to keep math fun for kids (following sports, building a lemonade stand). Today I'd like to share an idea that was suggested by Lara Ivey on Facebook. In response to one of my many Facebook posts on this topic, Lara suggested that cooking is a great activity for showing kids that math can be both fun and useful. I probably wouldn't have thought of this myself because, in truth, I'm not much of a cook. [The bible in our house is How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman, but we don't break it out very often.] But even the simplest of recipes offers the opportunity to practice math skills. 

TangPopsicleFor example, my daughter got it into her head the other day that she wanted to make a Tang popsicle. She chose a plastic cup that she wanted to make it in, and jettisoned a long-expired sorbet popsicle to gain access to a popsicle stick. Then we got out the Tang canister and looked at the directions. One eight oz. serving required half a scoop.

  • Easy math question: how many servings can you make with a full scoop?
  • Harder: if a quart takes two scoops, how many servings is that?
  • Bonus question: if two friends come over, how many scoops do we need for everyone to have one serving? What if we want everyone to have two servings?

This is useful stuff!

We always make a double batch when we make brownies. Plenty of math practice there, doubling all of the ingredients. Then we can decide how many rows and columns to cut if we want there to be a particular number of brownies to share. The opportunities are endless! 

Do you use cooking time to help your kids build math skills? What other suggestions do you have for demonstrating that math is both essential and fun?

© 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