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Posts from May 2016

Mother Bruce: Ryan T. Higgins

Book: Mother Bruce
Author: Ryan T. Higgins 
Pages: 48
Age Range: 5-8

Mother Bruce by Ryan T. Higgins is one of my favorite new picture books (published late last November). It's a book that I liked immediately, and that has held up to repeat readings with my daughter. It has humor, warmth, and a delightful grumpiness. 

Bruce is an antisocial black bear who likes to cook and eat eggs. One day, however, something goes wrong with a batch of goose eggs, and Bruce finds himself the surrogate mother for four goslings. Bruce resists, strongly, but the goslings are not to be deterred. Bruce eventually accepts his new role, and does his best, but never without a certain stoic grouchiness. 

Where to begin? Mother Bruce is filled with engaging details that will please adult readers, like the way that Bruce "liked to support local business, you see" (as he pilfers honey from a nearby hive), and the time he asks Mrs. Goose if her eggs are "free-range organic". These both went right over the head of my six-year-old, but she did giggle over the way Bruce uses a shopping cart in the river, where he catches salmon. The geese go from being "annoying baby geese" to "stubborn teenage geese" to "boring adult geese". When Bruce tries to get the geese to migrate he first flaps his arms, and then tries shooting them off via a giant rubber band. It's a dry sort of humor, accentuated by Bruce's relentlessly unsmiling face. For me, all of this comes across as pitch perfect.

And the illustrations! Bruce and the goslings are adorable, in their own different ways. The cover image tells you the story. There's a wonderful image in which Bruce is stomping about, and the geese stomp right along after him. In another, Bruce holds four goslings in a baby carrier strapped to his chest, frowning all the while. Higgins uses a dark palette, but lightens this via friendly details (like the goslings in four high chairs).  

Recently my family watched the movie Fly Away Home, in which a young girl becomes the surrogate mother for a flock of geese. Seeing this phenomenon (geese thinking that whatever moving creature they see first after they hatch is their mother) made my daughter and I both appreciate Mother Bruce that much more. 

Mother Bruce is a pitch perfect read for early elementary school kids and their parents. I could (and will) read it over and over again. Right now, this is my top candidate for next year's Cybils Fiction Picture Book nominations. Highly recommended!

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion 
Publication Date: November 24, 2015
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).

Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: Gendered Reading, Growing Bookworms, #SummerReading + #BookADay

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include book lists, book covers, verse novels, gendered reading, diverse books, #EdTech, #BookADay, #STEM, growing bookworms, summer reading, schools, libraries, play, author visits, math, therapy dogs, re-reading, bookstores, and parenting. 

One Personal Link

This is neat. My blog post On the Virtues of Not Overscheduling Kids is being featured today @BAMRadioNetwork  #play

Book Lists + Awards

Sorry, Junie B.: Early Chapter Book Characters I Actually Like  @GeekMomBlog via @tashrow

Announcing the Biggest + Best New Award in Children’s Literature: The Undies — per @100scopenotes + @CarterHiggins 

Enchanting New Fairy Books + Fairy #Booklist from @rebeccazdunn  #kidlit

On the #Cybils blog: #BookList Fun: Women in the Spotlight / performers who broke barriers  by @AnnettePimentel

RT @TheReadingTub: Thinking you'll dig this @JensBookPage - 5 Illustrated Books for Kids Who Dig #Math  @ReadBrightly

#SummerReading: #BookLists and Tips for Every Age (preK to adult) from @ReadBrightlyEditors 

Non-didactic Children's Books about characters w/ Special Needs / differences  @momandkiddo #BookList #kidlit

Jean Little Library: RA RA Read: Quick Reads: Books in Verse for Elementary and Middle Grade  #kidlit #poetry

Diversity + Gender

Gender Politics + Construction Equipment: The Eyelashening — @fuseeight  #kidlit

How “Girl Books” Could Save the World (if we could get more boys to read them) by Jen Malone  @nerdybookclub #kidlit

How One Woman Is Helping Black Kids See Themselves In Books via subscription boxes  @_TARYNitUP @HuffingtonPost

#Diversity in children's books goes deeper than race  @MPRnews w/ @mattdelapena + C. Robinson via @PWKidsBookshelf

MIRRORS, WINDOWS AND . . . PENGUINS and the motivation behind LILY AND DUNKIN  @DGephartWrites @nerdybookclub #kidlit


What a Decade of #Education Research Tells Us About Tech in the Hands of Underserved Students  @EdSurge @drdouggreen

Educators: Connect Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself!  @bethhill2829 on why social media networks help in #education

Events + Programs

Good news! It's time for the 8th Annual #bookaday Challenge by @donalynbooks  #SummerReading #kidlit 

Growing Bookworms

1 Easy, Fun Way to Ignite a Love of #Reading: A tip for parents + teachers  @coolcatteacher

Therapy Dogs Work Wonders for Struggling Readers  @sljournal #literacy

Tips on #RaisingReaders in the digital age, a Guest Post by @randallde  @MrSchuReads

Parents – How to Help Your Child Love #Reading Over the Summer  | Great advice from @pernilleripp #SummerReading

Sharing wordless books with children: tips & favorite books (for kids of all ages)  @MaryAnnScheuer #literacy

What Every Teacher of Reading Should Do According to @pernilleripp 's  Students  | Book talks, choice + more

Good advice here: 4 Mistakes I Made Trying to Raise a Middle School Reader  @Bookopolis @ReadBrightly

On helping kids to find the books that interest them to hook them on #reading @Catherine_D2013 @nerdybookclub


Various tidbits of #kidlit interest in Fusenews: The occasional library-centric “unruly pleasure”  @fuseeight

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

Interesting: Surveying Stories: The risks of rage in Robin Stevens' Wells & Wong mysteries  by @tanita_s_davis

I do like this idea: Host a Silent #Reading Party in 7 Easy Steps  @BookRiot I would add wine for mine! #introversion

Must-read for book-lovers from @aquafortis on The Comfort of #Rereading  What are your favorite re-reads?

Author Nicola Morgan explains why she expects/needs/deserves to be paid her speaker fees  @AwfullyBigBlog

'People are hungry for real bookstores': Judy Blume on why US indie booksellers are thriving  @GuardianBooks


MacArthur 'Genius' @angeladuckw Responds To A New Critique Of #Grit  @npr_ed @anya1anya 

To Help Kids Thrive, Coach Their Parents (+ teachers) to have better interactions w/ kids  @nytimes #parenting


Now this is a place kids can #PLAY | Check Out the 57-Foot Mega Slide and More at Governors Island  @mommypoppins

Summer Bucket list: things we did as kids that we should share w/ our kids today: picnics, kites, + more  @POPSUGAR

Why #Play Matters — No Matter How Old You Are  @rolland_rg on @cogwbur via @litsafari

Schools and Libraries

For #schools: How to score top marks in organizing author visits  @lizkesslerbooks #kidlit

Small Ideas for a Better Organized Classroom Library from @pernilleripp  #reading #schools

Tips for librarians to make sure they are supporting outside paid performers' work  @mrskatiefitz

An Open Letter to School Boards Everywhere on the importance of school #libraries + certified #librarians  @sljournal


How A Strengths-Based Approach to #Math Redefines Who Is ‘Smart’  @Kschwart @MindShiftKQED #STEM

Your Brain Has A Delete Button-- How To Use It (think about what's important to you)  @FastCompany via @drdouggreen

2016 Maker Faire Bay Area Highlights from @mamasmiles  w/ links to #educational tools, kits, crafts + #STEM

Examples of #Math #Play in the classroom from @sxwiley  Coins, sorting, shapes, games + more

© 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

With Malice: Eileen Cook

Book: With Malice
Author: Eileen Cook
Pages: 320
Age Range: 12 and up

I picked up With Malice one afternoon, when I needed a little break from work, and simply could not put it down. With Malice begins when 18-year-old Jill wakes up in a hospital. She's been seriously injured in a car accident, and has no memory of the previous six weeks, including what was supposed to have been a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Italy. She soon learns that she is not the only one who has questions about what happened in Italy, and particularly what led to the car accident. A media frenzy and legal case ensues. 

What follows is a deconstruction of the events as revealed through police interviews, news stories, blog and Facebook posts, interspersed with the experiences (mainly from before the accident) that Jill does remember.  Every piece of information, every revelation about personality or intentions, feels like a tiny clue, as the reader (and Jill) tries to figure out what happened. I read With Malice over about 24 hours, because I simply could not stop until I knew what had happened. 

Eileen Cook's characterization is masterful, particularly of Jill and her best friend, Simone. Jill's roommate from rehab is a delight. Even some of the tertiary characters, revealed mainly through interviews with the policy, come through clearly. But of course it is Jill's experience that is at the heart of the story. She suffered brain damage in the accident, and struggles with aphasia (not being able to come up with the right word when she is talking). Like this (as she is thinking to herself):

"I'd never been in the hospital before. Well, once in second grade. I fell off the -- Dammit. Now I can't think of what they're called. The ladder thing, suspended above the playground. Lion bars? No. Elephant bars. That's not it either, but that's like it. You swing across them. I'd had to get stitches, but I'd never stayed in the hospital before." (Page 6)

Impossible not to empathize with Jill - her perspective is so immediate. I'd like to talk about her more, but I don't want to give anything important away. With Malice is a book about which the less you know ahead of time, the better. Just read it. With Malice is a compelling mystery and a fascinating character study, with a ripped from the headlines subject. It is a pitch perfect summer reading delight! Recommended for teens and adults. 

Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers (@HMHKids)
Publication Date: June 7, 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).

My Ninja Child: Or, Why Kids Should Pursue the Activities that Bring them Joy

I always have my eyes open for articles and posts about play and joy for kids. So I naturally read and shared a recent Washington Post article by Lena Aberdeen Derhally entitle "Kids don't know how to play on their own anymore. Here are four ways to change that."

The whole article is well worth a read. The author begins with why parents should care about getting their kids to play more and then gets into her specific suggestions. Here is the first one:

"Encourage your child’s unique strengths: Everyone has something they enjoy and usually we are pretty good at doing the things we enjoy. If your child truly enjoys an activity, encourage him to develop it. If the child loses interest in the activity and doesn’t want to do it anymore, listen to him. Forcing him to do something that is no longer enjoyable can hurt him in the long run and take the joy out of the activity. The purpose of hobbies and activities is enjoyment."

When I first read this paragraph, I have to confess that I thought it was rather obvious. I've been reading a lot of parenting books and books about the importance of play, and this of course made sense to me. But then I thought about the first sentence of that paragraph again: Everyone has something they enjoy and usually we are pretty good at doing the things we enjoy. This has always been my approach in terms of getting kids interested in books and reading - you have to help them to enjoy it, or they won't do it. 

But then I realized how much this outlook applies to my daughter's experience with karate lessons, and how very much she's been getting out of them. The other day our family met a couple of my husband's colleagues for lunch. My daughter was seated next to a man she knows fairly well (the father of two daughters himself), and she spent the entire lunchtime telling him all about her experiences and accomplishments with karate.


She was reciting exactly how many and which badges she has received ("teamwork", "respect", etc.) and sharing her belt level. She was talking about when her graduation ceremony would be to the next level, and relating with much pride her experience in breaking a board with her hand. She was just brimming over - so proud and so excited to talk about this passionate interest of hers with an adult who would listen attentively (bless him!). 

Ninja_print__79938.1440167600.500.571_1024x1024Of course this enthusiasm shows up at other times, not just at this lunch. She had a ninja-themed birthday party (hence the broken board). She runs around the house in a ninja mask, selects ninja-themed picture books, and was SO excited when for sharing at school she had to do or bring something that started with "K". She was beside herself when I bought her a dress with hidden pink ninjas on it (from Princess Awesome, a new discovery - see the fabric to the left). She used her own money to buy Kung Fu Panda 3. I think you get the idea.

Vision-martial-artsA couple of my friends, as well as my daughter's karate instructor, have commented on how much her confidence has increased since she started doing karate. Her karate studio (Vision Martial Arts in San Jose) is fabulous. They focus not just on karate, but on nurturing teamwork, self-reliance, and other core values. We are grateful to the friends who recommended that we give karate a try. 

But I think that my husband and I deserve some credit, too. We listened when she said that she wanted to give karate a try. We supported her sticking with karate vs. swim team this summer, even though most of her friends were doing the latter. We arranged the ninja-themed birthday party. My husband practices with her. I make sure her uniform is clean. In general, we have prioritized the karate, because it's clear that it is working for her. And the dividends from the decision have been significant. 

If and when her interests change, we'll respect that, too, of course. And it's not that she doesn't have other interests now. I also understand that karate isn't for everyone, and that parents will have to experiment to find the right thing for each kid at each stage of development. My point is that if your child develops a passionate interest, it's worth going out of your way to let her pursue it. You never know which activities are going to be the ones that make your child sparkle. But it's the sparkle that matters. Find it. Follow it. That's what makes kids shine. 

© 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 @ValerieStrauss + Lara N. Dotson-Renta + @MsSackstein

JoyOFLearningLogoI have three new articles to share with you today. The first two are about how early education has become more academic and less playful, particularly for less advantaged children, despite evidence in favor of play-based learning. The third article, by Starr Sackstein, suggests some ways to re-think elementary school homework to make it less harmful. 

How ‘twisted’ early childhood ed has become — from a child development expert  @valeriestrauss via @frankisibberson [This piece is from November 2015, Strauss shares a speech by Nancy Carlsson-Paige that is more relevant than ever today.]

Nancy Carlsson-Paige: "Play is the primary engine of human growth; it’s universal – as much as walking and talking. Play is the way children build ideas and how they make sense of their experience and feel safe. Just look at all the math concepts at work in the intricate buildings of kindergartners. Or watch a 4-year-old put on a cape and pretend to be a superhero after witnessing some scary event."

Me: Carlsson-Paige makes the particular point in this piece that "It’s in low-income, under-resourced communities ... where children are most subjected to heavy doses of teacher-led drills and tests." She talks about the number of kids who are suspended from preschool. She laments that despite clear research on the developmental benefits to kids of play, schools, particularly schools serving less advantaged children, are moving in the opposite direction. I, too, think that this is a crisis. I'm doing my small part here to keep spreading the word and getting people thinking. 

Why Movement is Essential in Early Childhood + #Schools shouldn't stifle this  @TheAtlantic #play

Lara N. Dotson-Renta: "Research has shown time and again that children need opportunities to move in class. Memory and movement are linked, and the body is a tool of learning, not a roadblock to or a detour away from it. Any parent who has brought home a kindergartener after school, bursting with untapped energy yet often carrying homework to complete after a seven-hour day, can reasonably deduce why children today have trouble keeping still in their seats. Many children are getting 20-minute breaks, or none at all...

It would be unwise and impractical to pretend that children do not need any structure, or that academic skills are unimportant in school. Yet it is necessary to recognize that the early-childhood classroom has been significantly altered by increasingly rigorous academic standards in ways that rarely align with how young children learn."

Me: This is yet another piece, full of links to research, about how the increasing focus on ever-earlier academics in schools runs counter to what child development experts know about how kids learn. The author does mention how some individual teachers and schools are effecting change in this area. However, she notes that "for now (such practices are) unlikely to become widespread given the current focus on assessment and school readiness, particularly in underserved communities." I think that last point is especially telling. And sad. 

Some things to consider (eg no reading logs) in rebranding our idea of #homework  From teacher + parent @mssackstein

Starr Sackstein: "There is a lot of research out there that supports its negligible purpose and positive support of achievement; yet, many are tied to the belief that students must have it to be successful. Parents are a large part of this challenge as many think that for a class to be rigorous, homework must be given. But it's time to rebrand our concept of "homework" - we need to give it a facelift and use it appropriately."

A list of suggestions / questions follows. My favorite is "Reading should be an expectation not a homework assignment (and PLEASE NO reading logs)"

Me: In this balanced piece, Starr Sackstein isn't saying to get rid of all homework. But she does suggest getting rid of busywork, finding other ways to teach kids accountability, and giving students more choice. I think that her point about parents being a large part of the challenge is going significant, but I'm not sure what to do about that beyond sharing research about the detrimental effects of homework with my own networks. 

© 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. 

Fortune Falls: Jenny Goebel

Book: Fortune Falls
Author: Jenny Goebel
Pages: 208
Age Range: 8-12

Fortune Falls is an isolated small town in which superstitions become reality. Step on a crack, you really will break your mother's back. Breathe in the air in the cemetery, you'll die. Following a fairly new policy, the young people in the town are sorted after they turn twelve, via a test, into Lucky or Unlucky. Luckies have smooth sailing ahead. Unluckies are sent off to Bane's School for Luckless Adolescents. Sadie is due to turn twelve soon, on Friday the 13th (not a day that is kind to the Unlucky), with her luck exam to follow shortly. If she doesn't pass, she'll be separated from her mother and five-year-old brother, as well as from her long-time best friend (now a Lucky), Cooper. 

I found the premise of Fortune Falls intriguing, though actually following along with what was fact and what was perception and/or self-fulfilling prophecy was a bit tricky sometimes. If you tell someone that they are lucky, and they believe it, they probably will do better in certain areas, after all. But when you have lucky students just randomly guessing correct math answers, or getting every basketball into the hoop, you know that there's something more than perception going on. 

Actually, what I found most implausible in Fortune Falls had nothing to do with luck. It was Sadie's relationship with Cooper. Cooper's parents, and Sadie herself, have tried to keep him away from her, so that her bad luck doesn't rub off. Cooper remains loyal, and continues trying to spend time with Sadie, no matter how poorly she treats him. To me, his persistence didn't quite ring true. 

But that's a minor nit. Overall, I did enjoy Fortune Falls, particularly the later part of the book, when Sadie stops feeling sorry for herself, and starts to take action, even in the face of daunting bad luck. Here are a couple of quotes, to give you a feel for Sadie's voice:

"The Luckies' parents made a huge fuss whenever they thought their fortuitous children were being jeopardized by an Unlucky. Sometimes, even parents of Undetermined kids complained." (Page 8) - Note Sadie's advanced vocabulary. She ends up participating in a couple of spelling bees. 

"I held my breath and barged right in. If a lifetime of mishap and embarrassment had taught me anything, it was the quicker you got the discomfort over with, the better." (Page 10)

"Arriving home to find Cooper on my front lawn was as good as stumbling upon a four-leaf clover. Just one look at his face--his rich brown skin and long dark eyelashes--made me feel happier inside. And, as any hapless person knows, happy is a close brethren to lucky." (Page 30)

Hmm... Makes you consider the connection between the word "hapless" and "happiness", doesn't it? 

Bottom line: if the premise of a place where luck-related superstitions actually come true sounds interesting to you, then you should give Fortune Falls a look. It's a quirky story with a fair bit of heart, as well as emotional growth by the main character. Recommended for 8-12 year olds. 

Publisher: Scholastic Press (@Scholastic
Publication Date: January 5, 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).

The Power of Spending Your Own Money

Girl-Scout-DaisiesMy daughter and I had an entertaining day recently, with an experience that I thought was both educational and empowering for her. It started out when she was looking through her Girl Scout Daisy handbook. [Have I mentioned that she ADORES Girl Scout Daisies? It is true.] She found an exercise that her troop had not gotten to this year, in which participants are supposed to list something that they want, and figure out how long it will take to save for this item.

Her first item was a fish, with tank, which is going to require some time for saving. But her second item was three packets of seeds (flower or vegetable). I told her that this would likely only cost $7 to $10. She ran upstairs to check her "spend" box (which still contained some leftover birthday money), and came down brandishing a $20 bill. She wanted to know if we could go seed-shopping immediately. We were somewhat at loose ends, with my husband away, so I said "Sure."

BaskinRobbinsHere's how she spent her $20. First she spent just under $10 for three packets of seeds. Then she bought herself an ice cream cone from the nearby Baskin Robbins, at a cost of ~$3.25. Then she decided that she wanted to buy small gifts for the friends she was going to see later in the day. She picked out three items from the dollar bins near the front of the nearby Target (one was for herself), at a cost of $5.46 with tax. She had about $1.50 left over.

Leaving the hardware store, she remarked: "This was already a good day, but now it's a GREAT day." 

At all three stores, she paid with her own money, with much pride (though I did hold on to the change in between). As made sense, I encouraged her to do the required math. The three Target items cost $1, $1, and $3, so getting to $5 was easy, though she's not quite ready to compute San Jose's 8.75% sales tax in her head. When she handed over $5.50 at Target, I had her figure out what her change would be. I rounded the prices of the three seed packets and had add those numbers together. But I didn't push it too hard. I wanted our time together to be fun. 

But this whole experience highlighted to me why it's important for kids, once they are old enough, to have some small amount of money of their own. My daughter was empowered by the whole process of deciding what she wanted to buy, figuring out  how much things were going to cost and what she could afford, and physically being the one to pay the sales clerks. The day would not have had nearly the same feel had I just been buying her things. In fact, at one point, I offered to buy some cookies to take over to her friends' house. She said: "Mom, they're MY friends. I should buy the presents, not you." What parent could argue with that? 

We are currently deferring her allowance for the next few months, to save up for that fish tank. I'll keep you all posted. 

© 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: #Parenting, #Play, #SummerReading + #ReadingWithoutWalls

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include book lists, #ReadingWithoutWalls, diverse books, gender norms, reading choice, reading aloud, summer reading, parenting, schools, #EdTech, free speech, #Readathon2016, Sherlock Holmes, print books, play, recess, growing bookworms, physical education, and STEM. 

Book Lists (more lists under Summer Reading below):

Awesome! Ignite Her Curiosity: 25 Books Starring Science-Loving Mighty Girls  @amightygirl via @tashrow #STEM

Books for 3rd-5th grade Fairy Tale Lovers  #BookList from @frankisibberson #kidlit

The Best New Children's Books of Summer 2016  per @ImaginationSoup @ReadBrightly @JensBookPage #BookList #kidlit

RA RA Read: Scary Stories from Beginning ( #PictureBooks ) to End (middle grade + #GraphicNovels )  Jennifer Wharton

Ten “Comfort Food” Books/Series by Jennie Albrecht  @nerdybookclub #BookList

Diversity + Gender

ReadWithWalls-criteria-300x225On National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature @geneluenyang 's #ReadingWithoutWalls Challenge  @medinger

Guest Post @CynLeitichSmith | @leewind  on Little Pickle Press’ 7 Steps To Changing Kids' Publishing… + Our World 

Challenging Gender Norms with “Boys Read Pink” Celebration  | The fabulous @MsYingling shares @sljournal #kidlit

Events + Programs

NationalReadathonDayThumb2This sounds nice! Support Child #Literacy Via National #Readathon2016 Day, Sat. May 21, noon to 4  @GalleyCat

SLJ Day of Dialog 2016 Recap: Chicago Edition! — @fuseeight  @RichardPeckAuth keynote + more

Empowering Parents to Increase #Literacy in the Home: PCHP Approach  @parentchildhome @LEEandLOW @CynLeitichSmith

Growing Bookworms

Serendipity. "Browsing books w/ abandon develops vital skills readers need to find joy + competence"  @donalynbooks

Why every parent should read to their kids: vocabulary, listening skills + more  @malbers2 @Salon via @tashrow

5 Ways School Librarians Can Meet Needs of Students in Poverty  @jenniferlagarde Be A Reading For Pleasure Evangelist

I covet this awesome Make Time for Reading clock from @Scholastic | Here are more pix: 

Print at home #SummerReading Bookmarks to Color  from @momandkiddo

Higher Education

Why Free Speech Matters on Campus  Purpose of college #education isn't to affirm student beliefs, but to expand @WSJ

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

Interesting take from @gail_gauthier on #SherlockHolmes as a 19th Century Superhero 

Guest Post @CynLeitichSmith | Jennifer Swanson on how authors can jump on #STEAM bandwagon  #nonfiction

Books are back. Only the technodazzled thought they would go away | Simon Jenkins  @GuardianBooks


Debunking the Myth of the 10,000-Hours Rule: What It Actually Takes to Reach Genius-Level Excellence  @brainpickings

#Bullying: Why Zero-Tolerance Doesn't Work  @HeatherShumaker reports on new @theNASEM report

We need to share our mistakes w/ kids so they know making mistakes is ok  @Jonharper70bd @BAMRadioNetwork #MyBad16

The Decisions I Don’t Regret – One Parent’s Take On Impossible Choices  @SheInTheCle via @ECEPolicyWorks

Mothers feel most stressed about #parenting when their kids are in middle school, study finds  @WSJ

Beyond Firefighters, Doctors + Ballerinas: Inspiring Kids to Break the Mold  @AndraAbramson @readingrainbow


Sigh! Lessons from ‘The Goonies,’ and from the loss of unsupervised time for kids  @byclintedwards @washingtonpost

It's not "Wasting Paper" if kids are #learning /discovering /exploring  @sxwiley #PlayfulLearning

How to Re-think #Recess so that it's Accessible To Everyone?  @LauraBarrEd #play #schools

The Privatization of Childhood #Play | the impact of formal playdates  @BigMeanInternet via @frankisibberson

On the benefits of giving kids choice | Choices allow children to #play in self-initiated ways  @sxwiley #ECE

Schools and Libraries (inc. #EdTech)

Cultivating Wild #Readers: 5 habits that translate well into classroom practice  @donalynbooks @Scholastic

16 Modern Realities Schools (and Parents) Need to Accept. Now.  @willrich45 @Medium #EdChat #EdTech

False promise of #EdTech in schools: "Technology may change quickly. Our brains don’t."  @DTWillingham @NYDailyNews

30 terrific (mainly UK) edu-tweeters you should follow per @InnovateMySchl #EdTech #EdChat

Stop drugging #ADHD kids — and start teaching them to use their gifts  @petershankman @nypost via @drdouggreen

Heisman Trophy Winner: Physical #Education Saved My Life, we need to invest in PE  @HerschelWalker  @educationweek


Code With Kids and See What Happens #hourofcode #edtech #edchat #caedchat  TK-5 Principal @awelcome via @drdouggreen

Why Teaching #Math (through #Play ) to Preschoolers Makes Sense + ways to do it  @easycda @BAMRadioNetwork #STEM

Summer Reading

6th Grade #SummerReading List For Globally Conscious Kids  @momandkiddo #BookList @Malala + more

Roundup of various #SummerReading Programs from @LiteracySpark  Adventures in #Literacy Land

It's time for 2016 #SummerReading Recommendations from @HornBook  Nice lists grouped by age, w/ printable PDF option

12 Tween Titles to Add to Your #SummerReading Lists  @thegoodread @sljournal #BookList

Kate DiCamillo’s Recommended #SummerReading for 2016  @booklistreader #kidlit

Integrating #Nonfiction into Your Summer Booktalking | Jennifer Wharton @sljournal  #kidlit

© 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: "Say It Like This"

LiteracyMilestoneAThe other day I was reading my daughter one of our favorite new picture books: Mother Bruce by Ryan T. Higgins. (I really must review this one - it is delightful). Lately she's been chiming in here and there when I am reading a book, and correcting me if I miss something. (The latter occurs frequently when I am sleepy.) But this time she took it a step further, and started making requests for me to change not WHAT I was saying but HOW I was saying it. 

Mother Bruce is about a grumpy bear who accidentally becomes the surrogate mother to four goslings. Bruce resists this. On one page, the text says: "Bruce could take it no longer and became EXTRA grumpy with them." A text bubble says: "ROAR!" in big letters. Well, I did say "ROAR!" but apparently I didn't say it loudly enough. My daughter gently chastised me. "Mama, it says he was EXTRA grumpy. Say it like this: ___". And then she roared quite loudly.

A few pages later Bruce is frustrated when the goslings refuse to migrate.  There's a page where the only text is "Sigh...". After I read this page I got another: "No, Mama, say it like this: ___". And then she said the gentlest "sigh", on a resigned little exhale. 

There are doubtless parents out there who would prefer not to have their reading style critiqued like this. But I found it to be an excellent sign regarding my daughter's appreciation for the read-aloud process. She's able to take in visual cues, like the size and color of the font, and she knows how one is supposed to respond to these cues. She can also take her cues from the text itself. The second example particularly pleases me, because it shows that she understands how the character is feeling, and wants to see that reflected in my reading. 

People who stop reading aloud to their kids just as the kids start reading on their own are missing out on many things. Watching your child develop a sense for how a read-aloud is supposed to sound is just one of them. But it's a particularly fun one, I think. 

What say you, fellow parents? Do your kids critique your read-aloud style? If not, just you wait... 

© 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: Milestones, Not Overscheduling, and Favorite Picture Book Sequels

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 (one picture book and one middle grade) and three posts about my daughter's latest milestones (one regarding literacy, one math, and one art). I also have one post about the virtues and difficulties of not overscheduling kids. I also have two posts with links that I shared on Twitter, and two more with quotes from and responses to links about to the joy of learning. Not included in the newsletter, I shared an announcement about a new award from Hallmark for great picture books

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

  • Lauren DeStefano: The Peculiar Night of the Blue Heart. Bloomsbury USA Children's Books. Middle Grade Fiction. Completed May 17, 2016, print ARC. Review to come, closer to publication. 
  • Mette Ivie Harrison: The Bishop's Wife. Soho Crime. Adult Mystery. Completed May 7, 2016, on Kindle. This was an unusual story told from the viewpoint of the wife of a Mormon bishop. I learned things I didn't know about Mormom beliefs and customs, and quite liked the protagonist. I do expect to read the next book in this series. 
  • Jacqueline Winspear: Journey to Munich: A Maisie Dobbs Novel. Harper. Adult Mystery. Completed May 11, 2016, on MP3. The Maisie Dobbs series creeps closer and closer to World War II, as Maisie visits 1937 Munich for a dangerous undercover mission. 
  • Thomas Perry: Forty Thieves. Mysterious Press. Adult Mystery. Completed May 14, 2016, on Kindle. This standalone by Perry features two husband and wife sets of viewpoint characters, one a pair of former cops working as private investigators and the other a pair of assassins for hire. I found the mystery intriguing, but sometimes got confused as to which wife was narrating. 
  • Charlaine Harris: Night Shift: A Novel of Midnight, Texas. Ace Books. Adult Mystery. Completed May 17, 2016, on MP3. This is the third book in a new series by Harris, a distant spin-off of the Sookie Stackhouse books. I quite like the small town full of quirky supernatural characters.

I'm currently listening to Murder on St. Nicholas Avenue by Victoria Thompson and reading The Importance of Being Little by Erika Christakis

The books my husband and I (and our babysitter) have been reading to our daughter in 2016 can be found here. We have discovered that not one, not two, but three of our very favorite picture books have sequels out or coming soon. I purchased The Not-So-Faraway Adventure by Andrew Larsen and Irene Luxbacher, sequel to The Imaginary Garden (reviewed here). I have a review copy coming for Sophie's Squash Go to School by Pat Zietlow Miller and Anne Wilsdorf (review of the first book here). And I have Louise and Andie: The Art of Friendship by Kelly Light on our wish list (review of Louise Loves Art here). I was also just quite pleased to overhear my daughter reading Elephant and Piggie books aloud, back to back, to her stuffed animals. 

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 @michellek107 + @ShawnaCoppola + @DonalynBooks + @HuffPostParents

JoyOFLearningLogoToday I have two articles about wanting kids to have intrinsic, vs. extrinsic, motivation for reading, and two that address the lack of play in early elementary school classrooms today. These are both topics near and dear to my heart, and I hope you will find these articles of interest. 

We Don’t Need Badges for #Reading | How a class lost intrinsic motivation when badges in app took over  @michellek107

Michelle Baldwin: "Just like that… my students’ motivation to read – because they love reading and want to learn more – flipped like a switch. This is what happens every single time we apply extrinsic motivation to something we want to encourage. EVERY. TIME. I’ve taught long enough to see cycles of rewards for reading… or learning to play the recorder… or learning multiplication tables… whatever you want to add to the list. You might help a kid memorize something or change a behavior, but extrinsic rewards always fail on a long-term basis. ...

I saw firsthand what happened to my littles when they were incentivized with something other than reading itself. They already loved reading… but then their focus changed for the worse. I have some “badge damage” to undo with a few of my kids."

Me: I see my daughter excited about coins and points in an app that she likes to play, and I cringe a bit. I worry about next year, when I believe she'll have to start logging Accelerated Reader points at school. I want her to her to read for the love of it, not for points or badges or gold stars. There's a nice list of references in Michelle's piece, if any of you would like to read more about this subject. 

Reading Is Its Own Reward: Ways to encourage kids' #SummerReading + the 7th Annual #Bookaday Challenge  @donalynbooks [This post is actually from last year, but I re-shared it. The 8th challenge is starting soon.]

Donalyn Miller: "While you may be able to share the success of individual summer reading programs, there is little evidence that such programs foster lifelong reading habits or engage children with reading after the program ends. I suspect that most schools with successful summer reading programs invest in students’ reading lives all year long. If we want to engage our students with reading over the summer, we must focus our efforts on the fundamental best practices that encourage children to read for a lifetime instead of short-term external goals."

Me: When I was a kid, I was never particularly motivated by summer reading programs. I do remember participating in the town library's program at least once, and I think I may have gotten a book at the end to show for it. But this memory pales in comparison to my many other childhood memories of being immersed in books in locations indoors and out. One of the reasons I loved summer as a kid was because I had more time to read. I was lucky. I had time. I had books. I had choice. I had a mom who took me to bookstores and the library. I had a library within biking distance (when I was old enough). I wish that all kids had such opportunities, and I'm glad to see Donalyn, in this important post, talking about what kids need from their schools to nurture the intrinsic rewards of reading.

I'm going to try to participate in Donalyn's #BookADay challenge again this summer (I did it last year). I'm sure I'll mostly end up posting about picture books, but I certainly average more than one of those a day, so it won't be difficult. My plan is to choose a book worth highlighting for each #BookADay post on Twitter. And because I'm a compulsive list-maker, I'll probably round them periodically on my blog. Happy Summer Reading to you all!

4 Things Worse than Not Learning to Read in Kindergarten (like lack of #play )  @HuffPostParents

Gaye Groover Christmus: "If your son or daughter doesn't learn to read in kindergarten, relax. Because many, many things are worse than not learning to read in kindergarten. Here are four of them: 

Limited time for creative play. Young children learn by playing. They learn by digging and dancing and building and knocking things down, not by filling out piles of worksheets. And they learn by interacting with other children, solving problems, sharing and cooperating, not by drilling phonics. "

Me: Gaye Groover Christmus seeks to reassure parents whose kids don't learn to read during kindergarten, citing the example of her own son who learned to read late, and just graduated from college. She goes on to discuss other issues prevalent in today's early elementary school classrooms: lack of creative play, limited physical activity, teaching that focuses on standards and testing, and "frustration and a sense of failure" in kids who are not meeting (unrealistic) expectations. I think that this last point is particularly important, because it is this frustration (the kid who can't sit still, the kid who struggles with the book report, etc.) that sucks away the joy of learning. 

5 Educational “What Ifs”  #Teaching improvement ideas from @ShawnaCoppola after reading @ErikaChristakis new book

Shawna Coppola: "WHAT IF we spent a year devoted to re-discovering our “play mojo”? We’ve heard a lot about the benefits of play over the past year, particularly about how it supports the development of speaking and listening skills, collaboration, and written expression, among other things. We also know that most children, no matter what their age, are over-scheduled and wracked with more anxiety than ever before. And even though we see play as a “natural” behavior, Christakis argues that, like breastfeeding (another supposedly natural behavior among humans), play “is actually quite hard to accomplish without intention and assistance”" 

Me: This post by Shawna Coppola, convinced me to take a look at Erika Christakis' book. I've quoted some of Erika's articles, but hadn't picked up the book because my own daughter is no longer in preschool. Shawna, however, draws conclusions from the book regarding the education of older kids, too. Shawna's post is well worth a read for anyone looking for ideas to improve classroom education for kids. The point about learning through play requiring intentional effort particularly resonated with me. 

© 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. 

The Big Dark: Rodman Philbrick

Book: The Big Dark
Author: Rodman Philbrick
Pages: 192
Age Range: 8-12

The Big Dark, by Rodman Philbrick, is an apocalyptic survival story for middle grade readers. On New Year's Eve, narrator Charlie Cobb is outside with his family and friends watching for an expected dramatic display of the Northern Lights. Following an enormous flash in the sky, however, the residents of Harmony, NH (population 857) discover that nothing requiring electricity or using a battery works anymore: not cars, not generators, not flashlights. Certainly not central heating or water pumps. As some in the town band together, and others try to take control, Charlie and his sister stack wood and worry about their mom running out of medicine for her diabetes. Charlie ends up on a dangerous quest to try to find medicine, while the school custodian tries to keep things running smoothly in Harmony. 

The Big Dark reminded me a lot of One Second After by William R. Forstchen, an adult novel with a very similar premise (right down to diabetes of a loved one being a factor). The Big Dark is not nearly so bleak as an adult story, but does include enough danger to feel plausible. People die (offscreen) from cold, men with guns threaten Charlie at various points, and there is an instance of arson. Yet most of the people in Harmony, and the people Charlie encounters elsewhere, are fundamentally good. They line up for supplies. They tithe firewood to support the elderly residents. They have town meetings to decide what to do. While this may not all be entirely realistic, it works in this middle grade content. 

Although I love reading about the "what do we do now" kinds of practical questions that follow an apocalyptic event, my favorite part of The Big Dark was Charlie's quest for medicine, for which he skis out of town and into an unfriendly winter landscape. This is the part that I think will really hook young readers who crave adventure. 

The Big Dark is a quick read with short chapters. Charlie's first-person viewpoint lends an immediacy to the story that I think will work well for more reluctant readers. The characterization isn't especially detailed, but Philbrick keeps the action moving, while exploring themes or right and wrong. I didn't flag any passages to quote, because I just wanted to keep reading. And that's my best endorsement of a book these days: it made me want to keep turning the pages. Definitely recommended for library purchase, and a good introduction for middle grade readers to reading about post-apocalyptic landscapes. 

Publisher: Blue Sky Press (@Scholastic
Publication Date: January 5, 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).