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Posts from July 2016

#GrowthMindset and Connect 4

ConnectFourMy daughter (age six) is currently obsessed with playing Connect 4. We have the Red Sox / Yankees edition. But she is finding it frustrating. Her strategic thinking skills just aren't developed enough for her to win more than the occasional round, and I am constitutionally incapable of cheating to let her win. With this baseball-themed edition, the person who wins nine rounds first wins the game. This morning, when the score was something like five to two, she became very whiny and defeated. 

But I believe in growth mindset (the idea that one's abilities can be improved through practice and hard work). So first I:

  • Explained the difference between games of skill and games of luck. ("You will never get better at Chutes and Ladders");
  • Reminded her that I don't cheat to let her win, so that when she does win, she knows she really got me; and
  • Told her again and again that she needs more practice, and that she will get better.

When none of things approaches perked her up, I tried something new. We played a couple of rounds in which I explained to her what I was doing as I was playing. ("I'm going here to block you from getting three in a row here", etc.) She didn't end up winning those rounds, but the process still seemed to perk her up a bit. 

Currently (after some time in between spent doing other things) she is downstairs playing Connect 4 with her babysitter (who also doesn't believe in cheating to let her win). I just heard a cheery "Heh, heh, heh" from my daughter, so it sounds like she's doing better, but I haven't checked in.

Here's the thing. It's difficult to listen to your whiny, defeated child when she is losing at Connect 4 (or anything else requiring skill). You feel a bit mean, knowing that you have had X more years of practice with strategic thinking and playing games. But I truly do think that this is an occasion that calls for tough love. Here are some of the things that my daughter is learning as she struggles at Connect 4.

  • How to cope with failure, and try again;
  • How to be a good sport, even when you would prefer to toss the pieces onto the floor;
  • How to take an extra minute to check your logic before you drop that piece into the slot; and
  • How to anticipate what the other person is going to do next, and preempt them.

Hopefully she will eventually learn that she improves with practice. That's a message that we try to convey to her in many contexts. When the day comes that she gets to nine wins before I do, and that day will come, it will be an accomplishment that she can be proud of. 

© 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: July 8: Storytelling, International Books + #Homework

TwitterLinks Here are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics for this relatively light week include book clubs, book lists, Books on Bikes, classroom reading, growing bookworms, homework, international books, libraries, literacy, raising readers, schools, and storytelling.

Book Lists

Spotlight Friday - transitional #ChapterBooks, part 1, #BookList from @knott_michele  #kidlit

Some Student-Favorite Book Club Books for Middle School from @pernilleripp  #BookList #YA


What Good Are Windows + Mirrors When the Windows Just Look at Your Own Back Yard? — @fuseeight on international lit 

Events + Programs

This is super cool. Teachers + librarians visit kids during the summer to bring books  @BooksonBikes @nerdybookclub

Growing Bookworms

5 Must-Have Books for Parents #RaisingReaders from @housefullbkwrms    #ReadAloudHandbook + more 

What 10 Minutes of #Reading Really Is. Why @pernilleripp makes the investment for her students + how it works

Teaching Kids to Make Inferences with Magazine Pictures by @thisreadingmama  #literacy

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

Interesting: Why Good Storytellers Are Happier in Life and in Love by @EBernsteinWSJ

9 Children’s Book Authors on the Joys of #SummerReading | @olugbemisola @ReadBrightly  @KateMessner + more

Schools and Libraries

Debunking the Belief That Earlier Is Better in Early Childhood #Education  by @raepica1 via @drdouggreen

New study of #homework finds self-reporting of time spent by kids is inaccurate, more research needed  @DTWillingham

This is pretty powerful: An Analogy to Help Teachers Understand #Homework  @d_mulder #EdChat #schools

New Study Finds Positive Association between Public Library Use + #ReadingAloud for Families w/ Young Kids  @JPediatr

“…many kids are learning how to be good at going to school.” #InnovatorsMindset@gcouros  #Curiosity

No grades, no timetable: Berlin #school turns teaching upside down | @guardian  #EdChat 

How #Schools Can Help Notice and Serve the ‘Quiet Kids’ | @ElissaNadworny  @MindShiftKQED  #Introversion

Should #reading groups in #schools be based on ability groupings? Nicole Hewes @HornBook shares alternatives 

© 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

It Came in the Mail: Ben Clanton

Book: It Came in the Mail
Author: Ben Clanton
Pages: 40
Age Range: 4-8

ItCameintheMailIt Came in the Mail by Ben Clanton is about a boy named Liam who desperately wants to receive some mail. One day, he write a letter to his mailbox, asking to get something in the mail. Something big. And lo and behold! A dragon comes out of the mailbox. After that, Liam gets a bit greedy, and asks for more and more stuff. Only when things get out of control does he find a better solution. Not to worry, though. He keeps the rather adorable dragon.

Ben Clanton displays a nice, quirky humor in It Came in the Mail. My favorite page is this one:

"But then, on a day much like any other,
an idea struck Liam.


The picture shows a winged lightbulb bonking Liam on the head, invisible to his nearby friend (who is busy thinking about a horse). 

The other illustrations are entertaining, too. When Liam is "met by a blast of fire" on the arrival of the dragon, the illustration is shown on the back of an envelope with the corner burned off. When the mailbox is creating stuff, there are lots of satisfying sound effects (KRINK, TOOT!, etc.) as well as a kind of visual, colorful confetti strewn across the page. Liam is a wide-eyed, freckle-faced every-kid with tousled hair. His letter to the mailbox are shown on lined paper, in kid-style print, with occasional cross-outs. They reminded me of my own daughter's letters to the Tooth Fairy. 

Liam is a bit inconsiderate to his friend, Jamel, and to his dragon. But he grows over the course of the book, and the ending is quite satisfying. Though there's a hint of messages about friendship and greed, It Came in the Mail is primarily pure, kid-friendly fun. Libraries will definitely want to give this one a look. I think it would be excellent for library or classroom storytimes. Recommended!

Publisher: Simon & Schuster (@SimonKids) 
Publication Date: June 21, 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).

#JoyOfLearning Articles from @DEY_Project + @HornBook + @GrowingBBB

JoyOFLearningLogoToday I have three links to share related to joy of learning. In the first, an elementary school principal looks to bring back play in school, starting with Kindergarten. In the second, a former teacher reflects on the damage that leveled classroom reading can do to students' motivation to read. In the third, a mom and blogger shares straightforward advice for preparing preschoolers for Kindergarten, including making sure kids have plenty of time for play. I think that all three of these articles are worth your time.  

“Yes, You Are Allowed To Do That!” One Principal’s Mission to Bring Back #Play in #School @DEY_Project

Brett Gustafson: "It is clear to me, as it should be to all principals, that play is a necessary component of learning.  This should come as no surprise to early childhood educators but many elementary principals are slow to embrace.  I share this account with Defending The Early Years not to boast “Look how great I am!” because, had it not been my wife (who worked with Senior DEY Advisor Dr. Diane Levin in college), I might not have been so quick to try this experiment this year.  I share this because I know there are many well-intentioned principals out there who don’t have the early childhood background to know how crucial play is for learning.  Please share this with them to let them know, “Yes, you are allowed to do that.”"

Me: I am doing my part here to share Brett Gustafson's experience as a principal who is working to turn around a troubled school by bringing back play. Gustafson started in kindergarten, and ended up with an experiment in which one classroom focused more on academics while the other two went to a play-based format. Guess which style resulted in fewer discipline problems AND better academic outcomes? 

DolphinsAtDaybreakDoes leveled reading create life-long #readers? Nicole Hewes on why it can undermine student motivation @HornBook 

Nicole Hewes: "...I believe that students will be more motivated readers if they are empowered to be involved in determining what a “just right” book means for them. Three key ways in which leveled reading programs potentially undermine student motivation are the lack of autonomy and empowerment given to students regarding what books they will read, their lack of translation into the real-world. and their failure to account for student interest as a factor in reading ability...If we all aspire to create lifelong readers, we must take steps to structure our reading instruction so that it reflects what actually leads to increased motivation and engagement."

Me: My six-year-old is currently reading a Magic Tree House book a page at a time, because it is so challenging for her. She wanted to take it with us out to dinner the other night. In the car, I suggested, casually, that she might want to try a book that was a bit less challenging, so that she could get more practice and learn more words. She took my point, saying that she found The Princess in Black a bit closer to her reading level. I gave her an example, explaining that she could probably figure out what C-A-S-T-L-E spells from the content, and then she would recognize it in other books. But I was very careful not to say that she couldn't read that Magic Tree House book. She pulls middle grade novels from my shelves sometimes to see what progress she can make with them. [Answer: not so much, yet.] But she finds the process of choosing both fun and empowering. Why on earth would I want to take that away? 

Solid suggestions: 5 Ways to Get Your Child Ready for Kindergarten + future #reading development from @growingbbb

Jodie Rodriguez: "It sounds so simple.  But, it is the single most important thing we can do to help young children grasp language and develop a love of reading...Children need to hear lots and lots of language in order to talk, read, and write. Look for little ways numerous times a day to talk WITH your child...Don’t be afraid to use big words.  There is no need to dumb down language when we are talking with kids.  If your child doesn’t know a word you used, he’ll ask, and then you can have a quick lesson about the word... Oh, the power of play!  Maria Montessori said, “Play is the work of the child.”  Our preschooler’s day should be filled lots of free play and guided play."

Me: This was a tough piece for me to quote from because there are useful snippets all through. Basically, Jodie offers common-sense advice based on the importance of both reading and free play for getting preschoolers ready for Kindergarten. She includes examples of what has worked for her own family. I especially liked her advice not to be afraid to use big words in talking with your kids. This is something that I have always done with my daughter, and she sometimes catches me off-guard with her use of strong vocabulary words. Anyway, this piece is well worth a read for parents or caregivers of toddlers and preschoolers. 

© 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. 

Agatha Parrot and the Odd Street School Ghost

Book: Agatha Parrot and the Odd Street School Ghost
Author: Kjartan Poskitt
Illustrator: Wes Hargis
Pages: 160
Age Range: 7-10

AgathaParrotAndGhostThe Agatha Parrot books by Kjartan Poskitt are illustrated (by Wes Hargis) early chapter books originally published in the UK, and now being issued in hardcover in the US by Clarion Books. The first book, Agatha Parrot and the Odd Street School Ghost, is a humorous and only very slightly scary ghost story involving an excessively ringing school clocktower, a mysterious glowing face, a spunky narrator, and a quirky cast of characters.

Agatha Jane Parrot lives on Odd Street, close to her school. She has a competent mother, a hapless father, and two siblings. Her friends are helpfully drawn and captioned at the front in the book, and soon introduced by Agatha as she rates each of their lunches with points out of ten for "interestingness." All of them are odd. One of them doesn't even make sense most of the time, and one of them is unrepentantly "big and hearty" (with a running joke about how much she eats). When the friends start hearing the school clock ringing and ringing during the night, and then see a strange glowing face in the window, they decide to investigate. Hijinks, including a late-night school ghost watch organized by the principal, ensue.

Agatha's narrative style is unconventional and kid-friendly. She speaks directly to the reader, and uses a lot of asides, exclamation points, and capital letters. Like this:

"My name is Agatha Jane Parrot and I live on house number 5, which has a red front door if you want to color it in." (Page 2)


"Good old clock. No wonder I went straight back to sleep with a smile on my face. (Although I couldn't see the smile, of course, because I was asleep.) (And it was dark.) (And it was my own face and I didn't have a mirror, so I couldn't have seen it anyway.) (This is getting silly -- ha ha!) (Sausage pie.) (Just thought I'd put that in for no reason!) (I bet the printers take it out.) (The meanies." (Page 10)

The book overall has a bit of an over-the-top Dahl-esque feel, with one teacher who imposes ridiculous contradictory rules, a kid who can climb anything, and a disgusting cereal called Fish Popz. Hargis's illustrations, full of exaggerated and sometime unpleasant characters, contribute to this feel. This over-the-top feel also helps keep the book from being too scary for young readers. Even when scary things are happening, Poskitt regularly lightens the mood. 

Agatha Parrot and the Odd Street School Ghost gives kids an entertaining narrator and ghostly mystery to solve. It stands out from more ordinary  chapter book series, while maintaining a school and home setting. I think it will be a welcome addition to the ranks of chapter books here in the US. Libraries serving 7-10 year olds will definitely want to give this one a look.

Publisher: Clarion Books (@HMHKids) 
Publication Date: July 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).

Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: July 1: Accelerated Learning, #Reading + #SchoolLibraries

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. It's been a fairly quiet week on the blogs, but I do have posts on #BookLists, #PictureBooks, Amazon, Feminist Books, Lois Duncan, Pernille Ripp, playgrounds, reading, Rick Riordan, school libraries, teaching, accelerated learning. 

Book Lists

LouiseAndAndie10 Encouraging Books About Making Friends from @growingbbb  #BookList #PictureBooks

Shape Books that Think Outside the Box #PictureBook Edition @housefullbkwrms  #BookList

On the #Cybils blog: #BooList Fun: #Diverse Cybils #PictureBook Finalists, list by Katie @thelogonauts 

The Ultimate #SummerReading List for 6- to 8-Year-Olds (w/ nice #diversity) by @olugbemisola  @ReadBrightly  #kidlit

TheodosiaRoundup of the @camphalfblood series + read-alikes from Jennifer Wharton  #kidlit #mythology #fantasy

11 Books Every Feminist Read Growing Up  @bustle via @tashrow #StrongGirls #Matilda #PippiLongstocking

Top Ten Titles That Promote Summer Fun by @jdsniadecki @nerdybookclub  #kidlit #nonfiction #poetry

This #BookList @sljournal  caught my eye: 11 #YA #Thrillers That Would Make Lois Duncan Proud 

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

BeaverIsLostBeautiful! An Illustrated Guide to the Best Places to Read w/ Children, Elisha Cooper @ReadBrightly  @PWKidsBookshelf

Fun! Braking for Books: @HMHKids Kicks Off Curious World Tour to encourage #SummerReading + #Play  @PublishersWkly

Love it! How Being A Book Nerd As A Child Turned Me Into A Better Adult, Averi Clements @bustle  via @PWKidsBookshelf

"Reading is NOT answering questions at end of a passage" + lots more in: What #reading is not by @profesornana 

A plan for giving books that time they deserve: READ, REFLECT, REACT by @Kateywrites  @nerdybookclub  #Reading


Redefining playgrounds: "Play should be imaginative, it should have some element of controlled danger"  @BostonGlobe

Schools and Libraries

PassionateLearners"What if every decision we made (as teachers) was centered on what is best for students" asks @pernilleripp

.@amazon Unveils Online #Education Service (marketplace w/ free lesson plans, etc) for #Teachers @nytimes

Trend Alert: More #SchoolLibraries Staying Open all Summer, sometimes giving books away  @sljournal 

Why Don't #Schools Accelerate More Students? @PeterMDeWitt @educationweek  via @drdouggreen

Will homework disappear in the age of blended learning? 3 examples from @cliffcmaxwell @ChristensenInst  @drdouggreen

© 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 Tiny Parenting Win re: Reading

The other day my daughter was on her device for the duration of a 1 1/2 hour drive home from Monterey. When she got home, she wanted to keep using the device, particularly because I had agreed to let her download a new app. When my husband and I said no, that she had reached her limit for the day and then some, she was, shall we say, none too happy. She proceeded to mope about, with much whining, complaining, etc. My husband and I ignored this as best we could, and left her alone. 

DinosaursBeforeDarkTen minutes later I popped back into the kitchen and spotted her sitting on the couch in the family room, reading a Magic Treehouse book. I immediately slipped away again, thinking: "Now there is a win for parenting." She can't comfortably read the Magic Treehouse books on her own - there are too many words that she needs help with - and she only ended up reading a couple of pages. But still -- when her device was taken away, after a relatively short period of sulking, she turned to a book.

I think that if a book that was more at her reading level had happened to be handy at that moment, she probably would have continued reading longer. As it was, she ended up going into the playroom and writing me, as the fictional Emily, a note about how she would not be able to attend my upcoming birthday party because she, as the fictional Sara, had a science camp reunion that day. There is no Emily. Her name is not Sara. She's never attended science camp. I do not know where these things come from. But I did send a response.

What I do know is that if my daughter had been on her device, she would not have been trying to read a Magic Treehouse book, nor would she have been practicing writing and storytelling. And so, a small win for parenting. 

None of this is to say that I will never give her device time, or that there aren't educational benefits to some of the things she does on her tablet. But this small incident still reinforced to me the upside of setting limits on screen time. Even if one has to endure some sulking. 

© 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