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Posts from November 2017

Literacy Milestone: Understanding Someone Else's Need to Read

LiteracyMilestoneAMy daughter had the day off from school a couple of weeks ago for Veteran's Day. She attended a birthday party, and I spent some of the time that she was there sitting outside reading my current book on my Kindle. I was reading The Things We Wish Were True by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen, and getting near to the suspenseful ending. When we got home, I was able to sneak in a few more minutes of reading, but then my daughter wanted me to play with her. 

I said: "Look, I have 15 minutes left of this book, and I NEED to finish. How about if I do that, and then we play?"

ThingsWeWishAnd because she is now a reader, someone who shushes me in the car when she's immersed in her book, and has to stay up late sometimes to finish a book herself, she understood and agreed. [Which is not to say that she didn't interrupt me several more times, thus stretching out the 15 minutes, but she did get where I was coming from.]

This, my reading friends, is a reason to encourage your kids to love books. Because they will understand when you just need a few minutes to finish. Of course you will have to grant them the same courtesy from time to time.

Don't you hate it when someone interrupts you when you have just a few pages left? I know I do! 

© 2017 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: November 29: Intrinsic Motivation, Reading for Pleasure, and Babymouse!

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 contains content from my blog focused on growing joyful learners, mainly bookworms, but also 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 (picture book and early chapter book) and one post about rekindling intrinsic motivation for reading, after extrinsic rewards have damaged it. I also have a post on what the book iGen had to say about the critical importance of kids reading for pleasure. I also have two posts with links that I shared recently on Twitter

Reading Update: In the last two weeks I finished five middle grade, five young adult, and three adult titles. I was lucky enough to have a three day reading mini-vacation at home, and have been reading shorter books aloud to my daughter. I read/listened to: 

  • 52StoryTreehouseAndy Griffiths: The 52 Story Treehouse. Square Fish. Middle Grade Fantasy. Completed November 16, 2017, read aloud to my daughter.
  • Kara LaReau (ill. Jen Hill): The Uncanny Express (The Unintentional Adventures of the Bland Sisters, Book 2). Amulet Books. Early Chapter Book. Completed November 20, 2017, print ARC. Review to come, closer to publication. 
  • Jennifer L. Holm (ill. Matthew Holm): Babymouse #1: Queen of the World. Random House Children's Books. Early Graphic Novel. Completed November 27, 2017, read aloud to my daughter.
  • Jennifer L. Holm (ill. Matthew Holm): Babymouse #13: Cupcake Tycoon. Random House Children's Books. Early Graphic Novel. Completed November 27, 2017, read aloud to my daughter. My review.
  • Jarrett J. Krosoczka: Lunch Lady and the Picture Day Peril. Random House Children's Books. Early Graphic Novel. Completed November 28, 2017, read aloud to my daughter.
  • Cristin Terrill: Here Lies Daniel Tate. Simon & Schuster Books. YA Mystery. Completed November 19, 2017, on Kindle. Intriguing, and with a surprising ending. 
  • E. Lockhart: Genuine Fraud. Delacorte Press. YA Thriller. Completed November 20, 2017, on Kindle. This was also intriguing, with an unusual reverse timeline. Ultimately, though, this was not as surprising as Lockhart's We Were Liars
  • Mindy McGinnis: The Female of the Species. Katherine Tegen Books. YA Thriller. Completed November 21, 2017, on Kindle. Gail Gauthier had recommended this one, and I liked it a lot, enough to seek out a couple of other titles by the same author. 
  • NotADropMindy McGinnis: Not a Drop to Drink. Katherine Tegen Books. YA Dystopia. Completed November 21, 2017, on Kindle.
  • Mindy McGinnis: In A Handful of Dust (Not a Drop to Drink #2). Katherine Tegen Books. YA Dystopia. Completed November 22, 2017, on Kindle. This duology kept me reading, but was a bit dark. I had trouble sleeping afterward. 
  • Michael Connelly: Two Kinds of Truth (Harry Bosch). Little, Brown. Adult Mystery. Completed November 16, 2017, on MP3. I always enjoy spending time with Harry Bosch, and this was no exception. 
  • Ruth Ware: The Lying Game. Gallery/Scout Press. Adult Mystery. Completed November 19, 2017, on Kindle. Also suspenseful, and also with a bleak ending, this book fit in well with my recent passion for books that keep me wondering. 
  • R.R. Haywood: Executed (Book 2, Extracted Trilogy). 47North. Adult Science Fiction. Completed November 23, 2017, on MP3. This was a bit slow-paced for audio, but I liked the characters. Although the title says "Trilogy", I'm pretty sure there are only two books. 

AmbroseDeceptionI'm currently listening to Murder in an Irish Village by Carlene O'Connor and reading The Ambrose Deception by Emily Ecton. My daughter and I are taking a break after reading a couple of the 13 Story Treehouse books and are now working our way through the Babymouse books. Graphic novels aren't my favorite for read-aloud, but I try to go with what she wants to do. And these are short enough that we can finish one over breakfast. Plus I like them, which is a bonus. 

For her own reading, she has been racing through the Dork Diaries series, completing Books 2 through 5 over the Thanksgiving break. A close friend is also reading these, and has been able to pass along the books to us. She's also still reading Rainbow Magic books at school. She was absolutely thrilled when I came home from the library yesterday with Comics Squad: Lunch. Reading about Lunch Lady as a child made her day. She's been reading picture books more lately, too. She just pulls a bunch off of whatever shelf is nearby and immerses herself. This pleases me, of course. 

Thanks for reading, and for growing bookworms. 

© 2017 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

Bug Blonsky and His Very Long List of Don'ts: E. S. Redmond

Book: Bug Blonsky and His Very Long List of Don'ts
Author: E. S. Redmond
Pages: 80
Age Range: 6-9

BugBlonskyBug Blonsky and His Very Long List of Don'ts is a full-color early chapter book by E. S. Redmond about a boy who is the ultimate annoying little brother. Benjamin is called Bug by all, either because he is super-wiggly like a bug or because he is super-annoying like a bug, depending on who you ask. He is the bane of his older sister Winnie's existence. The book consists of Bug's list of things not to do, learned from a series of painfully bad choices. For example:

"#19 DON'T tell Dylan Farkler that Winnie wrote his name with hearts all around it in her diary.

Because if you do, Dylan will look like someone just punched him hard in the stomach and his best friend, Billy Butcher, will laugh and make kissy-face sounds the whole way home.

And Winnie will wonder later why Dylan has suddenly stopped talking to her."

Each of 21 don'ts makes up a short chapter with multiple illustrations. Redmond's illustrations add humor throughout. For instance, Bug's grouchy teacher is shown sitting at a desk with stacked books titled: "Silence is Golden", "Coloring Inside the Lines", and "The Joyless Classroom", She's sipping from an "I Love Cats" mug and staring into space. Where love (or like) is in the air, there are hearts shown above the relevant child. Sometimes the hearts are broken. 

I will say that I didn't love the way that Redmond draws women. Bug's mom has ginormous hips, and his teacher has prominently sagging breasts. If a man had drawn them, I would have said that they were misogynistic. The recess monitor, Mrs. Killjoy, is also cartoonish, with a large torso and very thin legs. I suppose kids will find these illustrations funny. For me, they were a distraction (though I was less bothered by Bug's dad's beer gut). 

Overall, though, I think that Bug Blonsky and His Very Long List of Don'ts is super boy-friendly, from the early sketch of Bug as "Bug-Boy with the Power to Annoy" (complete with "two sets of armpits for twice as many fart sounds") to the classroom's unabashed glee when Bug produces fart sounds as Ms. Munster bends over. Bug is a boy whose dad calls him "impulsive and distractible", and who can make his sister literally cry with rage. He makes mistakes, but is capable of learning, as when he says the wrong thing to the principal and recalls his mother telling him "THINK it, DON'T say it!". 

Bug's concerns and mishaps are age-appropriate and relevant for first and second graders, as is the book's vocabulary. The font is nice and large, and the color illustrations will be sure to draw in young readers. Adults might find Bug Blonsky a bit annoying, but luckily, this is a book perfectly suited for kids to read on their own. And kids, especially boys, are going to love it. Bug Blonsky and His Very Long List of Don'ts is well worth a look for home or library purchase. 

Publisher: Candlewick (@Candlewick)
Publication Date: January 2, 2018
Source of Book: Advance review copy from the publisher

© 2017 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: November 24: Book Awards, Non-Traditional Reading, Creativity + #STEM Gifts

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. While it's a bit of a light week for blog posting, with the Thanksgiving holiday, I do have a few interesting things to share. Topics this week include #BookAwards, #BookLists, #Cybils, #GraphicNovels, #RaisingReaders, #SocialMedia, #STEM, audiobooks, creativity, gift guides, independent reading, makers, math, Robin Benway, science, and teaching.

Top Tweet of the Week

Teaching High-Level to Young Students | | Let them engage + persevere, don't tell them it's advanced

Book Lists + Awards

FarFromTheTree. Wins 2017 National Book Award | via

Announcing the Children’s Book Awards

Katherine Paterson’s Recommended Reads for Middle Grade + Readers | Modern + Classic via

Top 10 2017 | from | I'm always on the lookout for good GNs for daughter

101 Great Books for Kids 2017 (Evanston Public Library Edition) —


OlinguitoToday's featured REVIEW: Elementary / Middle Grade nominee The Search for Olinguito, review by

Today's featured REVIEW: Early Chapter Books nominee Princess Cora and the Crocodile, reviewed by

Today's featured REVIEW: Victorian Gothic middle grade fiction nominee Elizabeth and Zenobia | review by

Events and Programs

Guys Lit Wire: Cyber Monday means Round 2 for the Ballou Library Book Fair! Chance to buy books for teens who need them

This program works with at-risk preschoolers to brings books + personal tutoring into the home

Growing Bookworms

Finding the Time for Independent in class – Every Day, Every Kid |

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

FireAndThornsYes! This: That’s Not a Real Book: In defense of non-traditional reading ( + ) by Amy Gibson "reading is reading is reading"

Does Affect Your ? - has a short survey


I like this: A gift is something that comes without rules, control, or manipulation. Give kids gifts for Christmas, not expectations.

Schools and Libraries

LifelongKindergarten4 Myths About | No it's not just about artistic expression | |

"Do the kids that we teach want to be in our presence? If the answer is yes, then we can accomplish most anything"

In the Classroom: 3 Hacks from 4th grade teacher


Top 3 Tips To Get Rid Of 'I-am-bad-at-Math' Syndrome | via

MagicScienceThe Gift of Curiosity: Top 60 Toys for Mighty Girls |

Holiday Gifts for Young , list from The Page Turning Librarian: |

Best Gifts for Tweens For Creativity & Thinking Skills List from

© 2017 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.

Valensteins: Ethan Long

Book: Valensteins
Author: Ethan Long
Pages: 32
Age Range: 3-6

ValensteinsValensteins is a sequel to Ethan Long's Fright Club, featuring a not-so-scary group of young creatures (vampire, ghost, mummy, bunny, butterfly, etc) who hang out in a cool club house. In this installment, the other creatures take note of Fran K. Stein, who is cutting out a pink paper heart. They mis-identify is as various things like a rounded bat or a big pink nose. They are baffled and revolted when Bunny tells them what it is, and why you would give someone a heart for Valentine's Day. As for Fran, he quietly goes about his own business, goes outside, and finds the person he had in mind all along. The overtly sappy message about the true meaning of love is leavened by the response of the majority of the Fright Club members, who think that Fran and his lady friend are just "Weirdos". 

Valentsteins is humorous through and through, full if entertaining details. For instance, when the creatures don't know what "LOVE" is, Vlad looks it up in a dictionary. When Bunny speaks of a fluttering like butterflies, the actual butterfly says "Don't drag ME into this." When Ghost says that love "is making my skin crawl" the butterfly points out "Ummm, you don't have any skin." And the the universal horror when Bunny says that people in love sometimes "KISS ON THE LIPS!!" is a delight to behold, particularly set against Bunny's clear delight in the concept.

 Long (or the book's producers) uses large fonts for emphasis when needed ("EEEEWWW!" for example), while various text bubbles give the book an early graphic-novel type feel. This is a book to read aloud to an individual or a classroom. Valenstines is pure fun, perfect for the sensibilities of preschoolers and kindergartners who are utterly grossed out by love and kissing (or at least who pretend to be). Recommended!

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's (@BloomsburyKids)
Publication Date: December 19, 2017
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2017 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).

Two Points on iGen and the Critical Importance of Kids Reading for Pleasure

IGenRecently I read the book iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy--and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood--and What That Means for the Rest of Us by Jean Twenge. It's about the generation of kids born between roughly 1995 and 2010, a generation Twenge dubs iGen, is different from previous generations. Twenge relies on analysis of several surveys of high school kids and young adults that have been asking the same questions for many years, supplemented by interviews with junior high, high school and college kids. I was interested in this book in part because my daughter falls right at the tail of the time window, and also because my company has been looking to hire students graduating from college (the other end of the iGen window). 

There are a lot of interesting ideas and conclusions in the book, and I do recommend that people give it a look. The take home message for me is that I want to put off getting my daughter a smartphone for as long as possible, while encouraging her to continue participating in sports and spending time in person with other kids. Because these things are all associated with more positive outcomes. 

But what I want to talk about specifically today is two points that the book makes regarding reading for pleasure. In Chapter 2, there's a section of the book titled "Are Books Dead?" Sadly, Twenge's conclusion is that reading for pleasure, while not dead, is in decline among today's kids. She notes that:

"In the late 1970's, the clear majority of teens read a book or a magazine nearly every day, but by 2015, only 16% did. In other words, three times as many Boomers as iGen’ers read a book or magazine every day. Because the survey question was written in the 1970s, before e-readers existed, it does not specify the format of the book or magazine, so Millennials or iGen’ers who read on a Kindle or iPad would still be included... 

By 2015, one out of three high school seniors admitted they had not read any books for pleasure in the past year, three times as many as in 1976. Even college students entering four-year universities, the young people presumably most likely to read books, are reading less (see Figure 2.4)...

This huge decline flatly contradicts a 2014 Pew Research Center study cheered by many in publishing, which found that 16-to 29-year-olds were more likely to read books than older people. Why the difference? The Pew study included books read for school assignments, which younger people are of course more likely to have. Thus it committed the classic mistake of a one-time study: confusing age and generation. In the data here, where everyone is the same age, iGen teens are much less likely to read books than their Millennial, GenX, and Boomer predecessors."

There's a graph. Twenge shows similar results for reading magazines and newspapers. She posits (after looking at data showing that teens are not spending more time on homework or other extracurricular activities) that this decline is due to teens spending so much time on smartphones that reading time is basically squeezed out. She also shows that this decline in time spent reading coincides with a decline in SAT scores, especially in writing and critical reading (though of course it is impossible to directly claim causation). She expresses concern that as today's teens head into college, reading long textbooks will be extremely difficult for them, and suggests changes that may be necessary to accommodate the iGen'ers. 

So that's point 1: Teens today are reading less, at least in part because they are spending a lot of time on smartphones.

For the second point that I'm interested in sharing, we turn to Chapter 4 of iGen: Insecure: The New Mental Health Crisis. In this chapter, Twenge shares a range of demoralizing statistics about how today's teens are more emotionally fragile, more lonely, and more prone to depression and suicide. She looks at a variety of survey data and attempts to discern causes, applying a two-part test to possible causes: "(1) it must be correlated with mental health issues or unhappiness and (2) it must have changed at the same time and in the correct direction." She finds: 

"Time spent doing homework fails both tests; it’s not linked to depression, and it didn’t change much over that time period. TV watching is linked to depression, but teens watch less TV now than they used to, so it fails test number two. Time spent on exercise and sports is linked to less depression, but it didn’t change much since 2012, so they fail test number two, too.

Only three activities definitively pass both tests. First, new-media screen time (such as electronic devices and social media) is linked to mental health issues and/ or unhappiness, and it rose at the same time. Second and third, in-person social interaction and print media are linked to less unhappiness and less depression, and both have declined at the same time as mental health has deteriorated.

A plausible theory includes three possible causes: (1) more screen time has led directly to more unhappiness and depression, (2) more screen time has led to less in-person social interaction, which then led to unhappiness and depression, and (3) more screen time has led to less print media use, leading to unhappiness and depression. In the end, all of the mechanisms come back to new-media screen time in one way or another. By all accounts, it is the worm at the core of the apple."

You'll have to read the book for the full details of which studies Twenge is referencing and how she comes to these conclusions. But what particularly struck me (as will not surprise regular readers) is that reading print media, like participating in sports and spending time with friends, was associated with positive mental health outcomes. So that's point 2. 

So here's what we have: teens are spending less time reading for pleasure, and this decline is associated with negative mental health outcomes. What this says to me is that encouraging kids to enjoy reading is even more important than I already thought. Reading for pleasure has so many benefits: improved vocabulary, increased empathy, and improved math skills, to name a few. And now, it seems, it may also be tied to mental health and happiness. 

To all parents reading this, I implore you: put as much focus as you can on making sure that your kids ENJOY reading. Don't worry about their reading level, or how many graphic novels they read, or whether or not they make spelling errors when they write. If you help them to ENJOY reading, they will eventually read, and many good things will follow. You'll be helping them academically in the long run. You'll be giving them hours of pleasure in the short run. And you'll be doing something that appears to protect against ills like anxiety and depression. If that's not worth doing, I don't know what is. 

© 2017 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: November 17: #Cybils #Reviews, #Math in Preschool, and "Dessert Books"

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include #Cybils, #GraphicNovels, #GrowthMindset, #literacy, book awards, english learners, giftedness, homeschooling, kindness, learning, math, nonfiction, schools, and Veteran's Day.

Top Tweet of the Week

DorkDiaries1Child: "I don't want to go to school today. Can't I just stay home and read Dork Diaries all day?" No, but I did briefly consider saying yes. [And technically not a link, but an incident to please book lovers.]

Booklists + Gift Guides

9 Illustrated Chapter Book Series to Engage Early Readers | Jennifer Ridgeway + more

Other books for kids who are obsessed with Diary of a Wimpy Kid | from at

2017 holiday gift guide from suggests titles by age, focusing on things the found kids want in books, like humor


HereLiesDanielTateToday's featured review: Fiction nominee Here Lies Daniel Tate, reviewed by

Today's featured review is nominee We Come Apart, review by

Update + 4 Good for Teens recommended by category chair

Today's featured REVIEW: speculative fiction nominee Landscape with Invisible Hand, reviewed by

Cybils-Logo-2017-Round-SmA reminder from that Nomination Lists Make Great Reading

Events + Programs

Collaboration & Creativity! How my Be-a-Famous Contest Can be Used in Your Classroom! FREE resource roundup for K-4

Today is | Claire Noland suggests some kindness-themed + suggestions for spreading kindness while traveling

A good story for : nonprofit founded by teen connects Bay Area teens w/ veterans

Growing Bookworms

StrivingToThrivingThe Nutritional Value of Dessert Books, don't dismiss certain books + assume that reading them isn't valuable for kids |

Making time for independent at | How + why to do it via Wendie Old

Growth Mindset + Giftedness

Students Share The Downside Of Being Labeled |

RT @MindshiftKQED: "High achievers are being neglected in all sort of ways by schools that had no incentive to push them farther up"


Forget The 10,000-Hour Rule; Edison, Bezos, & Zuckerberg Follow The 10,000-Experiment Rule

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

WonderWonder No More: A Look at a Book to Screen Adaptation, positives + negatives

A Screen-Based Analogy of Books from | Like Kate, I'm all about meaty book series as well as complex TV dramas

Historical Children’s Books I’d Like to See (Based Entirely on Stuff You Missed in History Class Episodes) —

Guest post by for | The Overlooked Benefits of Expository | Different kids relate to different things


7 Things I Was Totally Wrong About When It Came to - From a Dad

Schools and Libraries

Keep-it-real-1Keep it R.E.A.L.! Relevant, Engaging + Affirming for Adolescent English Learners by

9 Ways to Shift the Energy in the Classroom + help potentially anxious or sad kids focus on

"Educators have more control of the future of than any outside source will. Continue to create that meaningful change."

Silent vs. Independent Reading: What’s the Difference? (plus digital tools to assess IR) –

Small things a new assistant principal does to show students that someone cares | passing on a book, celebrating positives, + more


Stanford's Deborah Stipek says we should teach more in

© 2017 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.

Rekindling Intrinsic Motivation After Extrinsic Rewards Damage It

Last summer a mother lamented to me that her son, who had been a big reader during the school year, wasn't reading over the summer. She said that this was because he was no longer getting AR points for his books. So, whereas the previous summer he had always had a book in his hand, this summer he did not. The difference being that that he had been reading for AR points during the school year. [See my other post about AR.]

I've been occasionally mulling over this question ever since. More recently, I talked with another couple about this subject. These were parents who have older children and who have been through a similar experience. They said that they had to create some loose incentives for their kids during the summers, once AR tracking started in earnest. "Read 500 pages and get some reward" - that sort of thing. I imagine this is a reason why many parents enroll their kids in summer reading programs. To insert extrinsic motivation (you read and then you get something) when the intrinsic motivation (you read because love it) has faded.

These things probably work, at least to some extent, in making kids read over the summer. But it seems to me that this problem will get worse and worse over subsequent summers. What I wonder is this: is there a way to rekindle intrinsic motivation in someone who has become dependent on extrinsic rewards? Can we ever get them back to reading for its own sake? I don't have any definitive answers, but I do have some thoughts. 

Obviously, the ideal big picture solution is to keep your child from becoming dependent on outside rewards in the first place. [I personally don't enroll my daughter in summer reading programs for this reason.] But what can you do if you are already there?

You can do the usual things that I and many others have recommended for raising readers: read aloud, take your child to the library, subscribe to magazines that suit their interests, set an example by reading yourself, listen to audiobooks in the car, keep print books everywhere, and limit screen time, to name a few. 

LunchLadyReadingWhat I would add is that if your child was previously an avid reader, perhaps you can turn to nostalgia. If your child was into Harry Potter last summer, but has yet to pick up the next book this summer, try watching all of the movies for the books that he's already read. Do not offer the movies of any unread books. Find some subtle way to remind the child of how happy he was previously when reading. Are there photos? Bring them out. I'm going to be prepared to break out the photo shown to the left in the future, if my daughter ever needs reminding. Are there favorite titles for which you only had library copies? Buy one. Break out your family's favorite picture books and allow yourself to be spotted reading them. Your previously internally motivated child is still in there -- see if you can draw her back out.

If you are dealing with a child who has never been intrinsically motivated to read, then the challenge is harder. Here what I might try is extrinsic rewards that are experience-based, rather than stuff-based, and related to the books being read. "After you read this book about a kid surviving in the wild, we'll go on a camping trip." That sort of thing. It seems like this would create positive associations with reading in a more nuanced way than just "read 100 pages and I'll give you a dollar".

I would also highly recommend trying to create some sort of family reading routine. Maybe read aloud an old family favorite together at bedtime. Or initiate family D.E.A.R. time, when everyone reads the book or magazine of his or her choice. Start a project and borrow books related to that project: dig a garden, build a shed, plan a trip. The idea here is again to create positive associations with reading. You don't want "I read and I feel happy because I got a sticker from the library." You want instead "The time that my family and I spent listening to that book together in the car made us closer, and now we have all these fun inside jokes" or "Reading snuggled up on the couch next to my mom, with each of reading our own book, was a nice way to spend time every afternoon before dinner." 

We choose to spend time doing what we enjoy. We want our kids to spend time reading because they love it, not because they got a sticker or got a certain number of points next to their name on the board. If your child has lost that internal motivation to read, the path back could be to remind her of why she used to enjoy it, and/or show her why it's enjoyable now. That's what makes sense to me, anyway. 

Does anyone else have direct experience with this issue that you can share? 

© 2017 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: November 15: Choice in Learning, #GraphicNovels as "Real" Reading, and Harry Potter

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

Newsletter Update:  In this issue I have three book reviews (picture book and middle grade) and one post about my daughter's latest literacy milestone (having a real-world interest sparked from a book). I also have a post about the importance of choice in my daughter's learning and another in defense of graphic novels as real reading. I also have two posts with links that I shared recently on Twitter

One other newsletter-related item that I wanted to mention is that I learned after the last issue was mailed out that there was a problem with the newsletter sign-up form. My thanks to the determined new subscriber who contacted me to let me know about this. I have fixed the main signup form and also streamlined the form in my blog sidebar to make it easier to use (you don't have to leave the page to subscribe). If you find anything worth reading in the newsletter, I do hope that you'll consider passing it along to others. Thanks!

Reading Update: In the last two weeks I finished three middle grade books and three adult titles. I read/listened to: 

52StoryTreehouseI'm currently listening to Two Kinds of Truth (Harry Bosch series) by Michael Connelly and reading The Lying Game by Ruth Ware. My daughter and I finally finished reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire together.  It took us close to five months, though we didn't read as regularly as usual over the summer vacation. We have decided to take a (possibly lengthy) break before reading Book 5 (which is equally long and more depressing). We are currently reading The 52 Story Treehouse by Andy Griffiths together. 

For her own reading, she finished the Amulet series by Kazu Kibuishi quite rapidly, and is showing some signs of willingness to branch out a little from pure reading of graphic novels. This is not out of disloyalty to her format of preference, but because she has read all of the ones that she has quite a few times, and hasn't had any others grab her interest. After having various other ideas rebuffed, I suggested, very tentatively, that she could try reading the first Harry Potter book on her own. She was eager to do so, and did try for a couple of days, but she wasn't really ready.

DorkDiaries1She tried the first Dork Diaries book by Rachel Renee Russell instead, and has found that a much better fit. I suspect that Dork Diaries will be her next reading obsession. I had a copy of the first one already and how now ordered book 2. She took the first one in to school to read at D.E.A.R. time. 

However, as a small indicator of her continuing obsession with the world of Harry Potter, she remarked the other day: "I left the picture right there and one day it just disapparated." This was a genuine slip. "Disapparate" comes more readily to her than "disappear." She also had her first experience of being truly annoyed (and sometimes baffled) by differences between the book and the movie, in regards to The Goblet of Fire. My own take, after spending literally months reading the book, is that they may have gone a tiny bit too far in cutting things down for the movie. 

EllaSarahOne other title that grabbed my daughter's interest last week was an old lap-size board book that she picked up: Ella Sarah Gets Dressed by Margaret Chodos-Irvine. We read this book many times when she was younger, and I always liked it, but she apparently didn't remember it. She was completely charmed now by the book's message of self-determination regarding clothing. She wanted me to write about the book, and she wants to get another copy to give to her younger cousins. 

One final thing that she's reading these days: magazines. I recently subscribed her to National Geographic Kids. She's received her first two issues and LOVES them.  

Thanks for reading, and for growing bookworms. 

© 2017 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

Polaris: Michael Northrop

Book: Polaris
Author: Michael Northrop
Pages: 288
Age Range: 9-12

PolarisPolaris by Michael Northrop is historical science fiction, both creepy and suspenseful. In the 1830's, somewhere off the coast of Brazil, a ship (the Polaris) awaits the return of a boat that has gone ashore to explore. When the boat returns, however, part of the crew is missing, and one returning crew member is infected. Following mutiny and abandonment by crew members, a collection of six boys is left to handle the ship, and the mysterious danger that now lurks below decks. 

This story of young kids striving to sail a ship on their own would have been a compelling survival story in any event. The addition of a frightening creature that lurks below decks ratchets up the suspense. Northrop juggles the different personalities of the six young crew members skillfully. There is conflict between them, but they do eventually form a team, fighting a common enemy. The perspective of Polaris shifts between several of the quite different personalities, particularly those of Owen, chief cabin boy and nephew of the ship's one-time captain, and Henry, apprentice to the ship's botanist. Owen is strong and relatively skilled for his age, but, well, not terribly clever. Henry is an extremely poor sailor, but quite clever. As any reader will expect, the strengths of each boy come into play as the story progresses. 

Polaris conveys many details of old-time ships, from rigging to navigation to food to maintenance. Young readers interested in Columbus' voyage will definitely want to give Polaris a look. The supernatural elements have a Michael Crichton-like feel, with a basis in science. Any kid looking for science-based science fiction will also want to check out Polaris. While the science fiction elements give Polaris  a different feel from some of Northop's other books, there's no question that Polaris is a compelling and suspenseful read. Recommended, and well worth a look for libraries serving elementary and middle school readers. 

Publisher: Scholastic (@Scholastic)
Publication Date: October 31, 2017
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2017 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: Real-World Interest Sparked from a Book


Recently my daughter asked for a book from which she could study sign language. Does she have a friend who is hard of hearing? No. Well, not a friend she's ever met, anyway. No, she wants to learn sign language out of loyalty to Cece Bell, because she adores El Deafo that much. She's been scheduling weekly sessions (my daughter, not Cece Bell) in which she works with my husband and I on our lip-reading and sign language. After trying to learn sign language from El Deafo itself, she realized that she needed a better resource. 

ElDeafoI bought her Signing for Kids, Expanded Edition. Because we all know that I'm a sucker for any request for a book. In truth, her interest had already faded by the time the book arrived. But I think it quite likely that she'll want it someday. [This is why I have such a ridiculously large number of books in my house. Because we might need them. Someday.]

You couldn't make this stuff up. We also made blackberry fool after reading A Fine Dessert awhile back, so I suppose this isn't our first experience with this dynamic. But it is the first one for which a reference book was required. 

Have your kids had real-world interests sparked by books?

© 2017 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: November 10: Mirror Books, #GrowthMindset, #KidLitCon + Pretend #Play

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. In addition to what I've shared here, I also retweeted quite a few posts from last weekend's Kidlitosphere Conference. To see all of the KidLitCon related tweets, simply search for the #KidLitCon hashtag. Other topics this week include #BookLists, #Cybils, #DiverseBooks, #GrowthMindset, #KidLitCon, #math, #nonfiction, #play, #STEM, early literacy, flexible seating, libraries, movie adaptations, parenting, personalized learning, reading, teaching, and writing.

Top Tweet of the Week

The Power of Being Seen | article about a Nevada middle where teachers make effort to know kids [This was retweeted more than 30 times, mainly by educators.]

Book Lists

WorstPrincessHere Be Dragons: 16 Books Starring Dragon-Loving Mighty Girls from

Reading for Empathy, + links to others from

The Best Illustrated Children’s Books of 2017 according to

of Favorite Books for 6 Year-Olds from + her son

Holiday Cheer: New Titles To Help Celebrate Christmas and Hanukkah | w/ short reviews

Young Adult Book Holiday Gift Guide: 2017 Edition from


ShacklesFromTheDeepToday's featured REVIEW: Shackles from the Deep, jr. high nominee, reviewed by

Today's Featured REVIEW: Yvain: The Knight of the Lion, rev. by Benedict Hutchinson, son of

Today's Featured REVIEW: Amina’s Voice by , reviewed by

Diversity + Gender

College-Savings Imbalance: Parents Put Aside More $ for Sons Than Daughters - (subscription req.)

The Importance of “Mirror Books” in the Classroom | Anna Nardelli via

SofiaMartinezWe Need Diverse Series by

Events and Programs

UK launches CWIG Award from authors to |

Baby's Got Mail: Free Books Boost Early :

Growing Bookworms

Fear Not The Adaptation. makes the case that it can be ok for kids to see the movie first

For those who love connecting kids w/ books, reading THIS from When a Moment Can Change A School Year [It brought a tear to my eye. Seriously. Read it.]

Growth Mindset

. power of ‘I can't do this ... Yet!’ isn’t just for kids; it can change the world Sal Kahn


MsYinglingKidLitConPanelSome photos + memories from [Image credit to Ms. Yingling Reads, where you can see the list of panelists shown in the photo]

It's Monday! What are you reading? list with memories from

10 Years of Scope Notes: Reader Survey Results | A lot of (mostly) women who really like

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

TheEmptyGraveIn Memorandum: Lockwood & Company — Thoughts from as 's series comes to an end

Top Ten Nerdy Book Places to find new titles by Jennifer Ansbach

Mentor Texts for the Process, by Shari Frost


Hoping to learn from a sad incident with high schoolers not to judge other , wise words from

Mean Girls of 1974, still relevant: Thoughts running through 's head while reading Judy Blume’s Blubber

FreeRangeKidsWhen we say "Be Careful!" we are teaching children to fear and NOT teaching them to navigate risk, warns [Free Range Kids author Lenore Skenazy is quoted.]


The Power of Pretending: Playing or other heroes helps kids' performance,

Schools and Libraries

A reminder from to say Open to Possibilities when kids

Study finds standing + exercise breaks improve thinking. Should do this for kids via

Five Tips For Helping Angry Children Have Better Days -

Ideas from for libraries promoting to students | Meeting ALL types of readers where they are

The Case(s) Against | digs into the 3 main critiques


5 Beliefs that Prevent Teachers from Increasing Rigor | Jessica Carlson

© 2017 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.