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Posts from May 2016

Mathematical Milestone: Counting Redeemable Cans Backwards from 100

MathMilestoneThe other day my daughter brought home Earth Day -- Hooray!! by Stuart J. Murphy and Renee Andriani as her book report book. It's about three kids who want to plant flowers in a local park that they are cleaning up for Earth Day. They decide to redeem cans to make money to buy the flowers, which their teacher tells them will take 5000 cans. They end up launching a can drive at their school and around their neighborhood, and of course succeed in time for Earth Day. There's a fair bit of math involved as they group the cans by 10s, 100s, and eventually 1000s, and add each day's haul to the total.

This type of overtly lesson-driven book would not normally be my personal cup of tea, but my daughter enjoyed it. And there are some cute details (e.g. squirrels helping to collect the cans). But I knew what was coming next. I read Earth Day -- Hooray!! to my daughter at breakfast. As soon as she got home from school she started digging through our kitchen recycle box, looking for cans. She is now on a mission, though she does seem to understand that 5000 cans would be too many to target on her own. She stood at my side while I drank my lunchtime Fresca, waiting impatiently for me to finish, so that she could have the can. 

She decided that she wanted to collect 100 cans, and then have them taken in for redemption. She seems to be motivated by a combination of environmentalism and an interest in the money. Where the math milestone for her comes in is that she is counting backwards from 100 as she adds cans to her bag. A friend kindly contributed a bag of cans (which my daughter simply had to go pick up within the hour). She counted them up, and excitedly came to me to say "We're in the 70s now." No, we don't have 70 cans, but we are in the 70s if we are counting backwards from 100.

So, redeeming aluminum cans turns out to be another unexpected way to incorporate math into the life of a six-year-old. Setting and counting down from targets, estimating how many cans can fit into one garbage bag, and, eventually, figuring out how much money she'll be due. Math is everywhere!

Thanks for reading! I hope that some of you will find this useful. 

© 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

Announcing the Hallmark Great Stories Award for #PictureBooks

GREAT-STORIES_Seal_FINAL3I received an email today about a new award for picture books from Hallmark, complete with a cash prize for the author and illustrator of the winning book. From the email:

"For the inaugural year, judges include Betsy Bird, Alfredo Lujan, Alan Bailey and Cheri Sterman. Eligible books include those published by publishers in the United States between January 1 and December 31, 2016 and must be entered into the competition by the publisher. The inaugural winner will be announced in March 2017."

From the award website:

"Throughout its history, Hallmark has worked to enhance relationships and enrich lives in everything it does. Because stories are fundamental to how people connect with and understand each other, Hallmark has created the annual Hallmark Great Stories Award.

The award recognizes excellence in writing and illustration in new children’s picture books that celebrate family, friendship and community.

Picture books published in the United States in 2016 will be considered for the inaugural year of the award. The inaugural winner will be announced in March 2017.

Picture books are nominated by publishers and the winner is selected by an esteemed panel of judges including experts in the fields of children’s storytelling, literacy, child development and library science. Each year a senior Hallmark artist and writer also are chosen to participate on the selection committee.

The award includes a Hallmark Great Stories Award medal and a cash prize of $10,000 to be shared by the book’s author(s) and illustrator(s), or granted entirely to the sole creator if it is written and illustrated by the same person."

© 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: #BookLists Galore, #SummerReading + the Achievement Gap

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. I have rather a full slate of links this week, because I was catching up after traveling last week. Topics this week include the Children's Choice Book Awards, book lists (many!), the Cybils Awards, growing bookworms, Summer Reading, libraries, schools, celebrity children's books, picture books, growth mindset, play, education gap, Facebook, gender, Roald Dahl, and STEM. 


2016 Children’s Choice Book Awards have been announced  @tashrow has the scoop, as usual. @CBCBook 

Book Lists

50 Sensational Books of Summer  @Scholastic 2016 #SummerReading list #kidlit #Booklist

Shape Books That Think Outside the Box (Board Book Edition)  @housefullbkwrms #BookList

Fun! Beyond Lift the Flap: Interactive #PictureBooks for Kids of various ages  @momandkiddo #BookList

Favorite Children’s Books About Weather  The water cycle, rain + more from @rebeccazdunn #kidlit

Stories with Science Experiments, a #BookList from Jennifer Wharton  #kidlit

A Springtime #KidLit Round-Up  @RandomlyReading #BookList

50 Great Historical Fiction Books for Readers 7-14 Years  @TrevorHCairney #BookList #kidlit

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

You Gotta Have Heart: Out-of-the-Park #Baseball Novels For Middle Grade Readers  #BookList @sljournal #kidlit

The Best Books for Middle School According to @pernilleripp 's Students |  #kidlit #YA #BookList

A Tuesday Ten: A Science Fiction Pathway VII (15-18 year-olds)  @TesseractViews Huxley, Asimov + more #SF


On the #Cybils blog: Interview with JonArno Lawson + Sydney Smith re: fiction +PictureBook winner SIDEWALK FLOWERS 

On the #Cybils blog: #BookList Fun: Cybils Books of Jewish Interest  @heidiestrin

Diversity + Gender

Boy Books, Girl Books, + Missing Out on Anne Frank b/c it might make boys "uncomfortable"  @alisoncdoherty @BookRiot

Events + Programs (inc. Summer Reading)

ReadingSuperheroThe 2016 @Scholastic #SummerReading Challenge has begun!  w/ stories from 19 authors inc. @varianjohnson @StudioJJK

Getting Books into Students' Hands for #SummerReading  @ClareandTammy @ChoiceLiteracy

Penguin Random House Announces New Award to highlight extraordinary programs in public #libraries  @randomhousekids

Partnerships Promote Culture of #Reading at Texas Elementary School  @sljournal

Growing Bookworms

Life After (being consumed by) Harry Potter by Dawn Michelle Brown  @nerdybookclub #kidlit #LoveOfBooks

Between Picture Books and Middle Grade Novels: Beyond Levels Part I (matching books to readers)  @alybee930 #kidlit

When Your Kids Don't Love Your Favorite Childhood Stories  @RebeccaSchorr @BookRiot

When Storytime Blows Kids' Minds: The Power Of The Plot Twist + the joy of an excited kid  @nprbooks

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

The History Of Children's Books from 1693 to now  Byrd Pinkerton @npr_ed #kidlit

Can Adult Authors Be Taught?: Considering the Alternative Celebrity Children’s Book  @FuseEight #kidlit

In Praise of #PictureBooks (+ continuing to read them when older) by Randall de Seve @nerdybookclub

Roald Dahl's "subversive, un-PC writing... is a breath of fresh air" notes @femmorrison  @HuffPostAU @PWKidsBookshelf

Reading Through Trauma: How Story Helped Us Navigate Challenging Days  Lauren Davis @ReadBrightly

Why headteacher who believes reading Harry Potter causes mental illness is wrong  Samantha Shannon @GdnChildrensBks

Positive Life Lessons from Harry Potter + Other Fantasy Novels  @JenniBuchanan @readingrainbow #Gandalf + more

8 Reasons Why People (and I) Buy Books ("Entertain me now" + more)  @StaceyLoscalzo


Talking About Failure: What Parents Can Do to Motivate Kids in School  @tarahaelle @MindShiftKQED #GrowthMindset

The 3 Most Important Questions You Can Ask Your Teenager - let's go back to basics  @HuffPostEdu via @SophieBlackall


Playing to Become Part of Society at ages 6-12  @sxwiley discusses David Elkind's book on #play

#Play is our brain’s favourite way of learning.”  @GeorgeCouros

Schools and Libraries

What Young Men Of Color Can Teach Us About The Achievement Gap  @npr_ed #EdChat #schools

Data show segregation by income (not race) is what's getting worse in #schools  @jillbarshay @hechingerreport

This is lovely! Teacher Gives Best #Homework Ever Before Standardized Tests  @ScaryMommy via @RaiseAnAdult


How Teens Benefit From #Reading About the Struggles of Scientists  @dfkris @MindShiftKQED #GrowthMindset #STEM


Former @facebook   Workers: We Routinely Suppressed Conservative News from "trending" section  @Gizmodo

© 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: Life Imitating Art with Safety Tips

LiteracyMilestoneAThe other day I stood very briefly on my (wheeled) office chair to reach the inkjet printer refills from the cabinet above my desk. My daughter caught me and chastised me for doing something unsafe. Then she left the room giggling. A few minutes later she came back and taped the following sign to the wall near my desk (where I can't miss it):


I believe that she did have some spelling help from her babysitter. She later added a little checkmark to the upper left-hand corner, to mark the one incident of my standing on the chair. She told me that if I had two more incidents, I would lose access to my wheeled office chair. This actually does not seem unreasonable. She added a couple of other safety tips over the course of the afternoon (thankfully not in response to actual safety violations):




These safety tips were, of course, inspired by the delightful, Caldecott-winning picture book Officer Buckle and Gloria, by Peggy Rathmann. I'm sure that there will be more. But what I loved about this incident was the way my daughter took immediate action, and put her thoughts to paper. The fact that she was bringing a beloved book to life was certainly a bonus, though.  

Clearly I will have to be more careful in the future. Office Buckle, Gloria, and my six-year-old are all counting on 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

#JoyOfLearning Articles from @SergioRuzzier + @KateyWrites + David Brooks + @MarkBarnes19 + @MsSackstein

JoyOFLearningLogoI'm just catching up now after traveling last week/weekend. Today I have quotes from five articles that I've recently shared on Twitter that I think are particularly worthy of additional discussion. Two are about raising readers in general, and giving kids choice about what they read in particular. One is about GPAs, grit, and finding your passion. The last two are about homework and teaching with the interests of child and family in mind. To me, all of these articles touch on the central questions of how we can make reading and learning more joyful and rewarding (and less painful) experiences for kids. I welcome your feedback!

So right! We should let kids read anything they want, w/o imposing on them our adult ... prejudices  @SergioRuzzier

Sergio Ruzzier: "What’s wrong with trying to read a “difficult” book, if that’s the book that is inspiring a child to read? They will understand all of it or parts of it, or they might discover something that not even the author was aware of. They might love or hate the book, read it from cover to cover or abandon it after the first few lines. All this happens to any reader anyway, no matter the age...

Age-labeling is yet another obstacle to reading, and if we restrict what kids can read freely, many may never come to love books. We should let children read anything they want, without imposing on them our adult insecurities and prejudices."

Me: Sergio Ruzzier hits it out of the park with this post at Nerdy Book Club. He defends the rights of kids to read books that adults might deem to young for them and books that might seem to old for them. His focus is on kids being able to read the books that seem right for them at the time. This, my friends, is how you raise kids who love books!

Great advice here! 8 Small Tools That Parents can use to Make Reading A Big Deal  @Kateywrites #RaisingReaders

Katey Howes: "6. Your open mind: The books your child (or grandchild, or student) enjoys reading may not always be the books you WISH he would read. (I’d personally give a lot of money to not have to discuss Captain Underpants any further!) But giving children the right to choose books that interest them, without judgement or criticism based on reading level or subject matter, is crucial. Ask questions about what your child is reading, and be enthusiastic about their choices. In this way you build confident, empowered readers – who are more likely to KEEP reading."

Me: I like the mix of practicality and passion that Katey Howes brings to this article about encouraging kids to love books. From reminding us to visit the library (where circulation numbers help to influence funding) to promoting reading choice (even when this is tedious for parents), Katey clearly knows from experience what she is talking about. Even for me, someone who thinks about this all the time, this piece offered some good suggestions and reminders. 

Interesting thoughts on #grit re: what students care about vs. GPA-driven mentality  David Brooks @nytopinion

Interesting thoughts on David Brooks: "Success is about being passionately good at one or two things, but students who want to get close to that 4.0 have to be prudentially balanced about every subject. In life we want independent thinking and risk-taking, but the G.P.A. system encourages students to be deferential and risk averse, giving their teachers what they want...

I don’t know about you, but I’m really bad at being self-disciplined about things I don’t care about. For me, and I suspect for many, hard work and resilience can only happen when there is a strong desire. Grit is thus downstream from longing. People need a powerful why if they are going to be able to endure any how."

Me: This OpEd piece by David Brooks is fairly brief, but really resonated with me. Brooks talks about the inherent conflict between the skills that kids need to get a good GPA vs. the skills that they'll need to excel in life, and how that conflict plays out in the presence of focusing on grit. The part about being best at being self-disciplined when you care about something is so, so true. I'm still working for myself on spending more of my time on things that really matter to me, and I worry about my six-year-old, as she heads into the GPA-focused school years... 

6 Bad Reasons Teachers Assign #Homework and Why Each One Sucks  @markbarnes19 #EdChat

Mark Barnes: "Begin by discarding the worksheets, workbooks, and mundane rote memory activities. Instead, provide kids with choices about what they want to learn and how they want to learn it. Consider the skill or concept you’re teaching, and brainstorm ways that students can extend the learning in ways that they will enjoy.

Instead of assigning do-this-tonight-and-turn-it-in-tomorrow activities, provide multiple options that kids can do at their leisure outside of class and ask them to share their approaches later in the week.

Think about what students like to do: play games, use social media, read content they choose that is enjoyable and relevant to them, explore, talk to fascinating adults, and shop. How can these activities engage students in what you are teaching?"

Me: This article is a synopsis of a more detailed podcast, but I think that the text version does a fine job of capturing the essentials. I especially appreciated Barnes' dismantling, in a single paragraph, of the argument that homework teaches responsibility. He also laments how slow the pace of change is in the educational system. This is one that gets me. It seems like the research on homework is pretty clear: it is NOT helpful. But what is it going to take to get change made in actual schools? I wish I knew... But I'll keep sharing articles like this in the  meantime. 

Good stuff! How Being a Mom Changed My Teaching  @mssackstein @educationweek

Starr Sackstein: "My stance on homework has changed a lot since having a school-aged child as well. I value home time differently and therefore have worked hard to make homework (when necessary) flexible. Projects are done over time rather than on demand. This way I can respect the sanctity of what happens in the home and with the family."

Me: Starr Sackstein identifies a number of positive changes to her teaching after having a child of her own. The one that resonated with me, of course, is that she tries much harder to make homework flexible (or not assign it at all), to respect family time. I feel like if more teachers had fought this battle personally, in their own homes, there would be less homework in schools. But perhaps I am being overly optimistic. 

© 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. 

This is not a picture book! Sergio Ruzzier

Book: This is not a picture book!
Author: Sergio Ruzzier
Pages: 40
Age Range: 3-6

This is not a picture book! by Sergio Ruzzier is about a yellow duck who is initially outraged to discover a book that doesn't have any picture. His insect friend is baffled (calling the very idea of a book without pictures "wacky"), but asks if Duck is able to read the book. He is! Inside the book he finds words that are funny, sad, wild, and peaceful, among others.

The reader sees the mood that Duck is experiencing on each page through Ruzzier's lovely pen, ink, and watercolor illustrations. My favorite is "and peaceful words", with which we see Duck lounging in a rowboat on a pink sea, with multicolored hills and clouds in the distance. If I had a print of that page, I would think seriously about putting it on my wall, to remind me of calm. The end of the book, where we see that Duck has been in his room the whole time, imagining the various scenes, is one that will resonate with book lovers everywhere. 

This is not a picture book! uses minimal text. My six year old daughter wanted to read the words herself our first time through, though I did offer some commentary. I only had to help her with a couple of less familiar words - this is definitely a book that can function as an early reader. 

The duck in the book bears a strong resemblance to the duck in Ruzzier's Have You Seen My New Blue Socks? (which my daughter and I love). My daughter actually thought that is was the same duck, though the two ducks are different colors. Ruzzier's illustration style is distinct, and perfect for this gentle but profound little book. I love his use of color, and the quirky supporting characters that show up in Duck's imagination. 

This is not a picture book! is one that I doubt librarians or book-loving parents will be able to resist. Ruzzier uses a picture book to convey the wonder of books that are only illustrated inside the reader's imagination. This would be an absolutely perfect book with which to introduce the idea of starting family chapter book read-alouds or audiobook listens. Fans of Ruzzier's work will also want to check this one out. This one is going on our keep shelf. Highly recommended!

Publisher: Chronicle Books (@ChronicleKids
Publication Date: May 3, 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).

On the Virtues of Not Over-Scheduling

I try not to over-schedule my daughter (who just turned six). This is harder than I ever would have imagined. There are so many things she could do, should do, wants to do, and/or could learn from in some way. We are constantly seeking the balance that is right for her and for our family. Sometimes things get a little out of whack (for example, when seasonal activities don't line up quite right), but we keep trying.


One thing that helps is the fact that my daughter seems to understand herself, and to know that she doesn't like it when she is over-scheduled. She recently opted not to do our local Swim Team this summer, despite the compelling fact that many of her friends are on the team. Selfishly, I was happy about this choice, but I truly do think that it was better for my daughter. She needs downtime. She needs time for unstructured play. She needs time to just goof around and try things out. She needs time to read and be read to. She just needs time.

She had this afternoon mostly free (except for an hour for karate class). She used the time to rearrange my office (sigh), start reading a middle grade book (she did not get far, but I applauded the effort), build some things with Legos, brainstorm a poem that she wants to write for next week's Teacher Appreciation Day, and learn to ride a bike without training wheels. I would say that this is a pretty typical day, but the truth is that there is no typical day when you are six years old and provided with free time. [Of course the bicycle was an accomplishment, of which she is quite proud.] 

It's not that Swim Team (or piano lessons or softball or tennis or whatever else we might have chosen) wouldn't have been valuable in a different way. But I can't let go of the feeling that having big chunks of free time to dabble about is more valuable. At least for now, when she is six years old. And the fact that at six she thinks so too is pretty much all I need to know. 

I have read a number of books and articles over the past couple of years that make this point, from Free Range Kids by Lenore Skenazy to It's OK to Go Up the Slide by Heather Shumaker to Overwhelmed by Brigid Schulte to Free to Learn by Peter Gray. But I think that the reason all of these books have resonated with me has been that they coincide with my own instincts on this topic.

When I was a kid I had a few structured activities over the years: summer day camp one summer, swim lessons for a season or two, skating for a season or two. But mostly, I played, either alone or with other kids. Some of that play involved group games in the street or outings with friends or playing Barbies in my room with my best friend. But a lot of it was time spent at home, reading, writing, climbing trees, making dioramas and paper dolls, and so on.

I understand that my daughter doesn't have the same options to just go play around the neighborhood that I did. I do work to ensure that, as an only child, she get time to play with other kids. She needs that. But she also needs time to just putter about, pursuing her own interests. And I feel that it's my job to make sure that she gets it. Even when it's hard to say no. Even when she is missing out on enriching activities.

She is six. She has the rest of her life to fill up her schedule. For now, I want to let her play. 

How do other parents handle this, I wonder? Does it get harder as the kids get older (I can't imagine otherwise)? 

© 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: Children's Book Week, May the 4th, and #KidLitCon

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Lots of events this week for some reason (maybe just because it's the first week of the month). Topics include Arbor Day, Children's Book Week, early readers, KidLitCon, play, National Readathon Day, poetry, graduation, Growing Bookworms, Teacher Appreciation Week, summer reading, teaching, student engagement, and testing. 

Book Lists

Books for Beginning Readers, Round-Up of #Reviews from April 2016 @mrskatiefitz  #EasyReaders #ChapterBooks

Read Your Way Around the World With 50 Children's Books from different countries  A @momandkiddo #BookList

This Month in Middle Grade, May 2016, quick reviews of > 10 titles from @mrskatiefitz  #kidlit

A Tree-mendous #BookList for Arbor Day from @rosemondcates  #kidlit

Top Ten #YA Books That Address Teenage Suicide by @teachingfactor @nerdybookclub

#PictureBooks for Graduation Gifts  #BookList from @housefullbkwrms #kidlit


Today on the #Cybils blog, an interview w/ Kevin Sands, @cybils winning author of THE BLACKTHORN KEY  #kidlit 

Diversity + Gender

Why Socializing Girls to Be Perfect Could Be the Worst Thing For Them  @MindShiftKQED #GrowthMindset @reshmasaujani

Events + Programs

CBW-2016-poster-front1-326x400Happy 97th Annual Children’s Book Week (May 2-8)! | @CBCBook  #CBW16 #KidLit

For #CBW16, The Top 100 Children's Books on @goodreads  | From Aesop's Fables to A Wrinkle in Time #kidlit

Wishing all of my #Teacher friends a lovely Teacher Appreciation Week. Nice words of thanks from @pernilleripp

National #Readathon Day, May 21: Ice Cream, Grab Bags, + of Course, Books  @sljournal @randomhousekids @ALALibrary

Children’s Literary Salon: The Art of Enthusiasm — @fuseeight w/ @100scopenotes @MrSchuReads + @colbysharp 

Growing Bookworms

May The Force Awaken Reading, honoring some of the Star Wars books that are engaging kids in books 

 #RaisingReaders: The Quick and Easy Method (Guest Post @sunlitpages )  | Ignore your kids + let them have fart books

An April #Poetry Picnic for @mrskatiefitz + her daughters w/ links to various kid-friendly poems 

One of the saddest things @literacious hears in the #library is “That’s a Baby Book!”  #PictureBooks for all!


KidLitCon2016LogoSquareBig news! #KidLitCon 2016 Registration and Call for Proposals are now open!  @book_nut @charlotteslib #kidlit 

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

'Where The Red Fern Grows' Gets A New Cover To Celebrate Its 50+ Years In Print | @bustle  @randomhousekids #kidlit

Can Boys Beat Girls in Reading? French study finds boys do better when they think #reading test is a game  @WSJ

On Reviewing Bad Books When You're Part of the Literary Community  Balancing honesty + compassion @BookRiot


"Instead of sheltering kids from the burn or the fall, teach them what to do when it happens"  @HeatherShumaker

Kids are social creatures. A few ways adults can encourage them to collaborate:  @sxwiley @BAMRadioNetwork

"Study after study has found that too much praise does exactly the opposite of what we hope"  @mrdad #GrowthMindset

Play/Outdoor Learning

Kindergartners get little time to #play. Why does it matter?  Christopher Brown @ConversationUS via @DEY_Project

Intentionally Creating Rich #Play Spaces for Kids: Adventure Playgrounds and Nature  Bethany Todd + @LauraBarrEd

This is a sad post: Ana Menéndez Mourns Her Four-Year-Old’s Childhood  @ECEPolicyWorks On the need for #play

Dramatic, pretend #play "is the work of early #literacy"  @NotJustCute @BAMRadioNetwork

How can #OutdoorLearning boost pupil development + wellbeing |  @GuardianTeach #PlayfulLearning

Schools and Libraries

I Used to Be a Fun Teacher | 7th grade teacher @pernilleripp wonders how to make her 7th grade ELA class more joyful 

On Student Engagement + Closing the Opportunity Gap | Focusing on gaps (vs passions) creates problems  @ReadByExample

Student Engagement + Closing the Opportunity Gap: An Action Plan at a Title I elem school, Part 1 @ReadByExample

Student Engagement + Closing the Opportunity Gap: An Action Plan, Part 2 –  @ReadByExample #EdChat

What Exactly is #SingaporeMath ?  Jen Rigsby @LauraBarrEd shares the scoop #STEM

7 Strategies Educators Can Use to Think Like An Innovator  @DavidGeurin #EdChat

Summer Reading

Scholastic-Summer-Reading-RV-Driver-Side_FINAL.@Scholastic Brings #SummerReading to Communities Nationwide w/ 1st-Ever, 10,000 Mile "Summer Reading Road Trip" 


Is Michigan really going to start having kindergartners take #StandardizedTests ?  @valeriestrauss @washingtonpost

© 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

Developmental Milestone: Appreciating Art

StarryNightThe other morning I was hovering outside the doorway while my daughter was in her room getting dressed (a certain amount of nagging is required for this process on school days). I heard her say to herself, with a little sigh, "That picture is so much better than mine." I peeked in, and found her looking at a print of Van Gogh's Starry Night. She had appropriated this print previously, and keeps in her book nook.

I reassured her by telling her that Van Gogh's paintings are better than 99.99999% of people's pictures, and that Starry Night in particular is going to be a famous painting for as long as there are people in the world. She did seem to find this comforting, and we moved on to a discussion of how "Gogh" sounds like "go" but is spelled differently. I told her that there was even a song written about Starry Night, and I promised to find it so that she could listen later in the day.

Then she asked: "Does Van Gogh have any other paintings?". When I said yes, she asked if we could get a book of them so that she could see. Because (as regular readers well know) I never pass up the chance to buy books, I found and ordered both a picture book about Van Gogh created by the Metropolitan Museum of Art and a little $2 notebook with Starry Night on the cover. [My daughter is obsessed with notebooks, as I was when I was a kid.]

A few thoughts:

  1. I love that she is starting to appreciate art. I'm guessing that our years of looking at the art of picture books have helped to inform her opinion, but I think it's amazing that it was Van Gogh who first prompted her to make value statements about some art being better than other. 
  2. I did not even consider telling her that her paintings are, or will ever be, as good as Van Gogh's. I can imagine some parents being tempted to do that, in the interest of feeding their children's self esteem, but I think that would be a serious error. For one thing, it would have been a lie. For another thing, she would have known that it was a lie, and it would have undercut her belief in her own judgment. She's just starting to see that there is a difference in the quality of art - I want to embrace that. If she were to ask (which she didn't in this case), I would tell her that her art will get better with time and practice, but that very, very few people reach the level of Van Gogh.
  3. All of this took place over about two or three minutes, while she was getting dressed for school, thus providing further evidence that kids are little sponges, seeking learning opportunities everywhere and at any time. 

Now, I'm off to dig out the other miscellaneous picture books that we have that are about famous artists. I won't force them on her, but I will get them into the candidate stack of breakfast books. 

© 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: Crossword Puzzles, Playful Learning + Middle Grade Reviews

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, and is being sent a day early this week due to schedule constraints on my part.

Newsletter Update: In this issue I have three book reviews (two middle grade books and one for adults) and two posts about my daughter's latest literacy milestones (doing crossword puzzles and understanding the ending of an ambiguous books). I also have one post about playful learning: throwing away the instruction manual. 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

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

I'm currently listening to Journey to Munich by Jacqueline Winspear and reading The Bishop's Wife by Mette Ivie Harrison. I have a business trip coming up, so I expect to get some good reading done next week. 

The books my husband and I (and our babysitter) have been reading to our daughter in 2016 can be found here. April was a good reading month for us. We turned in a healthy reading log comprising more than 160 titles. I think that the funniest reading moment for me was last week, when my daughter came down from my office with her nose buried in The Truth About Twinkie Pie by Kat Yeh (a middle grade novel that is pretty clearly about my daughter's current reading level). She insisted that she could read it, and was on page 3.

However, when we asked her what it was about, she couldn't say, explaining that she was working so hard to understand the words that she couldn't follow the story. I told her that she was welcome to read the book, but that she might get more enjoyment out of something a bit easier to decode. I then told her (somehow for the first time) about the Lunch Lady books by Jarrett Krosoczka. She loves spying and gadgets and the like, so I thought it would be a good fit. And it is. She's working her way through Book 1, Lunch Lady and the Cyborg Substitute, determined to read it herself. 

And that, my friends, is why it's a good idea, if you can swing it, to have various books around the house. Because you never know when a particular book will catch your child's interest. 

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

The Wild Robot: Peter Brown

Book: The Wild Robot
Author: Peter Brown
Pages: 288
Age Range: 8-11

My daughter and I are big fans of Peter Brown's picture books, particularly The Curious Garden and Mr. Tiger Goes WildSo when Brown's first middle grade novel turned up, I put it on the top of my to read stack. The Wild Robot is a quirky but lovely little book. It's about a robot who ends up on an island populated only by animals (following the sinking of a container ship). The animals are initially frightened of Roz, but she takes time to learn their language, and eventually makes her way into their hearts. This process is helped by Roz's adoption of an orphaned gosling. 

The action in The Wild Robot is a bit slow-paced, particularly the first 2/3 of the book. But the chapters are brief (sometimes only a page or two), and the illustrations will keep kids turning the pages. Brown's illustration style in The Wild Robot is consistent with the nature-celebrating, slightly stylized look on display in Brown's other books. A few of the images (particularly one in which Roz watches Brightbill head off to migrate) have real pathos. In general, the images are a bit darker in mood than what one sees in Brown's picture books, but they'll feel familiar to kids weaned on The Curious Garden

Brown strikes a nice balance with Roz's character. She has the analytical nature of a robot. And yet, she learns to care about others, particularly her adopted son, Brightbill. She has some miscellaneous facts filed away, but the important things are the things that she learns via observation. Young Brightbill is delightful, as is his best friend Chitchat, a squirrel. 

There's a hint of a message about global warming in The Wild Robot that I didn't think was necessary to the story. But it's subtle enough that young readers won't find it intrusive. Brown mixes humor, wisdom, and even a bit of poetry into the book's text. Like this:

"Oh, it's nothing, you just have to provide the gosling with food and water and shelter, make him feel loved but don't pamper him too much, keep him away from danger, and make sure he learns to walk and talk and swim and fly and get along with others and look after himself. And that's really all there is to motherhood!" (Advice to Roz from a goose about motherhood, page 75)

and the following (as the animals are helping Roz to fertilize her garden):

"I shouldn't be much longer, now," said a smiling turtle as he slowly made his contribution.

As all this was going on, Roz walked around and thanked everyone. "I am not capable of defecating," she explained, "so your droppings are most appreciated." (Page 94)

and (after a harsh winter on the island):

"The wilderness really an be ugly sometimes. But from that ugliness came beauty. You see, those poor dead creatures returned to the earth, their bodies nourished the soil, and they helped create the most dazzling spring bloom the island had ever known." (Page 195)

For anyone interested in animals or robots, or for kids who grew up enjoying Peter Brown's picture books, The Wild Robot has a distinct appeal. The brief chapters, frequent illustrations, and somewhat slow pace make it suitable for kids on the younger end of middle grade. There are deaths and fights, too, but these feel like part of the Circle of Life, rather than anything disturbing for younger readers. I look forward to giving The Wild Robot to my six-year-old daughter in a couple of years, to see what she thinks. Recommended. 

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (@LBKids) 
Publication Date:  April 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).

Literacy Milestone: Understanding the Ending to I Want My Hat Back

LiteracyMilestoneAMy daughter has always been something of an optimist. Over the years, I have periodically read her Jon Klassen's I Want My Hat Back, which most adults would agree has a dark ending. [If you don't know what I'm talking about, go and read it. It's fabulous. Here's the link to my review.] I would ask her afterward what she thought happened to the rabbit in the story. She would always say something like "He ran away." I would let this go without a word. 

Recently, however, I read her the book for the first time in a while. We got to the end and I asked my question. She got a sly little smile on her face and whispered, pointing to the bear, "In his tummy. Or maybe he's sitting on it." 

I was torn between sadness at this loss of childhood innocence and pleasure that she could understand something that was only implied by the text. I went ahead and showed her the parallel text between the page when the rabbit is denying having seen or stolen the hat (while clearly wearing it) and the bear's denial at the end ("I would not eat a rabbit"). I told her about the expression: "Methinks he doth protest too much." I think she understood, at least on some level.

She still thinks that the little fish gets away in the sequel, This Is Not My Hat. But that one, to my mind, is far more subtle. I think we mainly assume that the little fish was eaten because we've read the first book. 

Anyway, I'm finding it fascinating to watch her comprehension and appreciation for books evolve over time. Thanks for sharing this journey with 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