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Posts from July 2018

Walrus in the Bathtub: Deborah Underwood and Matt Hunt

Book: Walrus in the Bathtub
Author: Deborah Underwood
Illustrator: Matt Hunt
Pages: 40
Age Range: 4-8

Walrus in the Bathtub is an over-the-top tale about a family who moves into a new house and find a walrus living in the bathtub. This causes all sorts of "bad things", like "bathtub tidal waves" that result in "soggy suppers" (the water leaking right through the dining room ceiling), and "toothpaste troubles" when the walrus uses it all up. The extremely loud walrus songs are a particular problem, at least for most of the family. The little sister seems to take it all in stride. But when the family gives up and decides to move out, a misunderstanding is revealed, and common ground is eventually reached. 

This is just pure silliness, of course. They ask a firefighter for help and he tells them "Call us if he gets stuck in a tree." They try dressing up to somehow entice the walrus out of the tub, and of course that utterly fails. And so on. But the writing style is fun. The book is written mainly in the form of lists produced by the older brother, together with some dialog. Most of the lists are of three items, but my favorite was this one:

"Things that are louder than walrus songs:

1) Nothing"

The above is on a page where you see "AAAAHHHROOOOOOOOOOOHHHHH!!!!!" weaving across the page, and the parents and brother trying to drown out the noise with headphones, hats, and pillows. The little sister seems to be singing along, gleeful. Matt Hunt's illustrations are colorful and cheerful, filled with details like "Walrus Weekly: Home Edition" set casually atop some boxes of clams. I especially liked the sister, with her red glasses and gap-toothed grin, and the way the brother carries a little notebook around everywhere for his lists. 

A note on diversity. The dad and the brother are clearly white, with brown hair and freckled faces. The mom and the sister, though, looked a little Asian to me, with darker skin and straight back hair. It's hard to say for sure, because of the informal style of the illustrations. But I took the liberty of telling my daughter that this might be a blended family. I thought that would be cool to see represented and unremarked in the text. But I can't say for sure. 

I'm not sure how well Walrus in the Bathtub is going to hold up to repeat readings, but my 8 year old thought that it was hilarious, and I enjoyed it myself. I liked the list-centered approach, and I thought that the ending was creative. I liked how the family stuck together, with the exception of the little sister, who silently formed her own option. I think Walrus in the Bathtub would make a nice library purchase - the eye-catching cover will have kids eagerly grabbing it from the shelves. Recommended and a lot of fun!  

Publisher: Dial Books (@PenguinKids)  
Publication Date: July 10, 2018
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2018 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: Building a Reading Nest

We have always had a window seat in our playroom. However, for years it was a repository for "Little People" stuff. We could never even open the shutters. We had been doing some cleaning in the playroom and I mentioned in passing that if we cleared that out, it could be a place to sit and read.

Well, my daughter ran with that idea. The next morning she wouldn't let me do anything until we had cleared out the window seat. Then she ran off and found some little used couch pillows and set them out for cushioning. She cleared out one of the drawers underneath the seat and filled it with some of her favorite books. And she's been spending time there, reading, ever since. [To me, putting books in a drawer didn't seem practical, since you can't see them very easily, but it was what she wanted and I did not object. I believe that part of the project is working for her.]

I ended up buying a better cushion for the seat, but kept the pillows around for comfort. Here is the result:


LiteracyMilestoneAThe reading nook was technically my idea, but she is the one who acted upon it and made it her own. I love that she's taking ownership of creating a cozy place to read. And of course I love that she's reading. The space would be a bit small for an adult, but it's perfect for her, with excellent light when the shutters are cracked open. We are indeed a fortunate family.

Thanks for reading, and for growing bookworms! Do your kids have dedicated reading spaces?  

© 2018 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 27: #DisruptTexts, Rereading, #LemonadeStands and #SchoolLibrary #Genrefication

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include #Amazon, #BookAwards, #BookLists, #CharterSchools, #DisruptTexts, #DiverseBooks, #FlexibleSeating, #GirlScouts, #HearingLoss, #Mindfulness, #RequiredReading, #testing, bookstores, education policy, gender, libraries, reading, rereading, schools, and undiscovered readers.

Top Tweet of the Week

GreatGatsbyIs 'The Great Gatsby' really ? driven movement challenges to reconsider the classics + expand perspectives

Book Lists + Awards

2018 Winners Announced! —

Books to Help Everyone Feel Welcome!, new from

Your Kids Will Relate to these Early about | by featuring

No Romance Required: 30 Books About Girl – Boy Friendships | from

BodieTroll: A Heroic Troll, Ghostly Girl, and Slice-of-Life Manga | July 2018 Xpress Reviews via

Diversity + Gender

Girls-only shop classes are spreading, upending stereotypes but running Title IX risk

Events, Programs + Research

Does this Program for Disadvantaged Kids Bypass , , and Fun, While Tracking Students? shares her concerns (+ some better ideas), and I agree

First survey of its kind for 50 years finds 65% of Americans still think they have above average

RT @KMPPerry: “Often, children of low-income households and children of color don’t get the early experiences that get them ready for school.” As shares in the , is tackling kindergarten readiness by focusing on parental support.

Morning Notes: Facepalm Edition — | Seconding Travis in congratulating Kathy, blogger from , on opening real-world

RT @DTWillingham: New data: "modest effect" of one-shot growth mindset intervention on beliefs about intelligence ($)

Growing Bookworms

LionWitchExcellent advice from on encouraging kids to - "We naturally want more of the things we love... should be grateful students want to recreate the experiences they had when reading beloved books."

Why and How Is in Crisis in our by | "Everyone would agree that the goal is to help children become confident learners who can read and write and choose to do so"

What should we call "reluctant readers" that is less de-motivating: selective, developing, undiscovered? Whichever, is seeking Tips & Tricks to Motivate

For : How to Easily Do A by | Don't forget to transfer ownership of talks to early on |

How to to Differently Aged Children for Fantastic Family Time!, advice from , who reads aloud a lot

EnormousSmallnessWhy for Year 6?| talks about why + how should aspire to get kids to ENJOY + in detail how to use Picture Books to help, w/ for older kids

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

How To Do a Beloved Classic Today: Some thoughts from on new Anne with an E, Season 2 (+ some other remakes)

Phone Addiction? Here’s One Way to Fix It - writes in about how she is much more thanks to leaving her phone in the kitchen at night h/t

Today Show, Jimmy Fallon, Reese Witherspoon Lead Online Revival | via | Seems like everyone has recommendations, which is nice to see.

Parenting + Leadership

MIndfulGames for Children - w/ tips for kids (+ their ) at different ages

Grown-Ups Fight for Children’s Right to Sell Lukewarm Lemonade -

This is very cool: How the Humble Is Becoming a Pipeline for Young - | trying to fight decline in

You’re Never Going to Be “Caught Up” at Work. Stop Feeling Guilty About It. | w/ tips for avoiding the negative effects of guilt + shame

Schools and Libraries

ElDeafoHow Are Trying To Overcome 'Language Deprivation' For Kids |

: What’s the Point? Elementary principal shares some questions and reflections after discussions on Twitter

On Rewards – "for longterm motivation and behavior, I have come to question more and more the place of tangible in the ", but remain open to nuanced approaches, says

Moving Beyond a to an by – going beyond, say, learning to doing something w/ math

DragonHunterHow Makes More Like , making it easier for kids to find books + for to identify collection gaps |

Here's one of many, many responses refusing the recent opinion piece suggesting that should replace local . Personally I thought that headline was a joke when I first saw it. nails it.

11 Things I Will Never, Ever Admit to My Local | | "I put multiple books on hold — (i.l.l. books) — and then forget to pick them up"

Politics / Education Policy

Trump Priority Gathers Steam as Senate Passes Career-Technical Bill - | Idea is to update existing federal grant program to also boost +

must grapple with rising costs of . This piece by in sums up what's happening around CA (inc. my daughter's district)

Opinion piece by | A Plea for a Fact-Based Debate About - Nice to see someone try to look at both sides in any debate these days


Nice! add 30 new badges in , and |

A Baltimore program uses the arts to combat the , sneaking in + learning and keeping it fun |


Seven things research reveals — and doesn’t — about Advanced Placement -

© 2018 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 Bittersweet Literacy Milestone: Crying over a Book

HarryPotterPhoenixThe other day my daughter experienced a bittersweet milestone on the path to literacy: crying over a book. We were reading the fifth Harry Potter book (Order of the Phoenix), and I had wondered how the death of a major adult character would affect her. I ended up warning her a few pages out that a sad event was coming. She actually guessed that it was a death, and almost immediately guessed who it would be. This did not protect her from sobbing in my arms when the death did occur.

"Why does she (Rowling) have to make such sad things happen in her books?" she wanted to know. I tried to explain about high stakes and the satisfaction of triumphing over true evil. We also discussed the tendency in children's books and movies to remove the parent figures, at least temporarily, so that the kids can take action. This she's noticed for years, so it helped her to understand the reasons for this particular death. But she was still sad. We had to put the book aside for later.

CharlottesWebAs for me, I feel her pain, and I feel sadness that I brought that to her by reading her the book. But I feel proud, too, that she can care so much about characters from the printed page. Crying over a book is unquestionably a milestone on the path to being a book lover. Do you remember the first book that you cried over? I do not, though I remember being quite disturbed about Mary's blindness in the Little House books, and over the tribulations of Sara Crewe in A Little Princess. I also recall sobbing over Matthew's death when listening to Anne of Green Gables as an adult, but that can't possibly have been the first.


I haven't read Charlotte's Web to my daughter (she's seen the movie, and isn't that interested in the book), but I've personally choked up while reading picture books to her. (The end of Corduroy, the end of Knuffle Bunny Free). And I believe that we both cried over the end of the movie Toy Story 3. But this was the first time that she has cried in my arms over something that happened in a book. I doubt it will be the last. 

Stories that touch your heart are the most powerful. Even, or perhaps especially, when they hurt.

© 2018 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 20: #GrowthMindset, #Audiobooks, and #IndependentReading

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include #AndrewLuck, #audiobooks, #BookClubs, #GrowingBookworms, #GrowthMindset, #JoyOfReading, #MarshmallowTest, #math, #reading, #ReadingChoice, #schools, #STEM, #SummerReading, #SummerSlide, independent reading, and self control.

Top Tweets of the Week

I'm delighted to report that after 13 months I finally finished reading and the Order of the Phoenix to my 8-year-old daughter. It was an excellent experience, from laughter to tears, and I loved sharing it with her. to kids! So worth it. [Not a link, but this was quite a much-liked tweet so I wanted to share it here.]

Well this is depressing: Leisure in the U.S. is at an all-time low, per recent study reported in via | I agree w/ that this reinforces need to give time to read in

Book Lists

ElDeafoMulticultural Books for Children: 60+ all in one place from |

Getting Ready for the First Day of Books for | a from |

Diverse Books

Cleveland Students Lead Initiative To Diversify Local Elementary |


Free Speech + Ideological Diversity

To Get Along Better, We Need Better Arguments - Our polarized keep us from learning from our opponents | Prof Walter Sinnott-Armstrong has suggestions (+ in his new book) #IdeologicalDiversity

This resonated | The mob is a danger to society - "We are slowly normalizing the policing of speech and opinion. Sometimes overtly, and sometimes through ... intimidation"

Growing Bookworms

RestartHow , parental support + an understanding helped 's son go from not to "Kinda A Reader" in 5th grade |

Cal running back who loves offers free football tickets to young readers via Challenge

"We hear again and again about the power of independent ... So why isn't everybody doing it?" Yes, You Can Find Time says , w/ tips on how

BookWhispererYes! The Problem With Our Early Obsession| We need to stop crowding out w/ fear-based focus on skills – | w/ quotes by +

Growth Mindset

Let’s Stop Telling Kids to ‘Find Their Passion’ – " the reality is this: most kids are too young to know their passions; it’s just plain unfair to make them" + it breeds + says

8 Habits that Block Productive Struggle in Students | "Praising students for their smarts" + more |

Kids Today Are Actually More Patient Than Kids 50 Years Ago - Susan Pinker reports on re-enactments of

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

MixedUpFilesToo Busy for a ? Join an Online Version - Did you know about 's online book club ? They're reading this month

New study suggests that pack a more powerful emotional punch than film –

Schools and Libraries

Revisiting Reagan's 'A Nation at Risk' Report 35 Years Later - Talking about US is misleading because "the United States does not actually have a national system"

What Actually Means—and 5 Ways for to Help Fight it | | + more

Screen Time

Frequent Technology Use Linked to Symptoms in Teens, Study Finds - + | This shows correlation not causation but seems worth further study. Also makes me wonder about increasing in


MathematicalMindsetsStanford research shows that students (esp. girls + ) do better on tests when elementary school teachers face down their own demons —

Why Do Women Shun STEM? It’s Complicated says Professor | Professors outside mischaracterize subjects as not creative + poach bright female students

© 2018 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: July 18: Two New #BookReviews and the Completion of Our #HarryPotter 5 #ReadAloud

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 usually sent out every three weeks.

Newsletter Update:  In this issue I have, believe it or not, two book reviews (one middle grade and one YA). I also have a post about encouraging kids who can read but choose not to, and two literacy milestones for my daughter (distinguishing between reading and skimming, and making inferences). I also have three posts with links that I shared recently on Twitter, full of tons on reading-related news. 

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

  • Robert Beatty: Willa of the Wood. Disney-Hyperion. Middle Grade Speculative Fiction. Completed July 5, 2018, print ARC. My review.
  • J. K. Rowling: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Scholastic. Middle Grade Fantasy. Completed July 16, 2018, read aloud to my daughter. See comments below.
  • Sheryl Scarborough: To Right the Wrongs (Erin Blake #2). Tor Teen. Young Adult Mystery. Completed June 26, 2018, on Kindle. This one was unrealistic but nevertheless a fun ride. 
  • ImpostersScott Westerfeld: Imposters. Scholastic. Young Adult Science Fiction. Completed July 6, 2018, print ARC. Review to come, closer to publication date. 
  • Ally Carter: Not If I Save You First. Scholastic. Young Adult Fiction. Completed July 8, 2018, print review copy. Review below. 
  • Victoria Abbott: The Christie Curse (Book Collector Mysteries, Book 1). Berkley Publishing. Adult Mystery. Completed July, 2 2018, on Kindle. This is a new cozy mystery series about a young woman who goes to work for a grouchy older woman to help her collect books (mysteries). The characters are quirky and fun, and I'm enjoying the details about the book collecting. The first one had a twist that I didn't see coming. The second, not so much. But I've still moved on to the third. 
  • Stephen King: 11/22/63. Gallery Books. Adult Speculative Fiction. Completed July 4, 2018, on MP3. This was a very long audiobook, but fabulous. Among King's best books, I think (with time travel but with a relative minimum of gore or other supernatural effects).
  • Mona Charen: Sex Matters: How Modern Feminism Lost Touch with Science, Love, and Common Sense. Crown Forum. Adult Nonfiction. Completed July 5, 2018. This is a book written in defense of women who choose to spend more time at home raising their children (and various other gender-role-related topics). I didn't agree with all of the author's positions, but I thought that she made some interesting points. 
  • Victoria Abbott: The Sayers Swindle (Book Collector Mysteries, Book 2). Berkley Publishing. Adult Mystery. Completed July 12, 2018, on Kindle.
  • StayHiddenPaul Doiron: Stay Hidden (Mike Bowditch). Minotaur Books. Adult Mystery. Completed July 13, 2018, on MP3. The latest book in this series about game warden (now Warden Investigator) Mike Bowditch, Stay Hidden is set on an isolated island off the coast of Maine during a fog-out. Certainly atmospheric. 
  • Pamela Wechsler: The Fens (Abby Endicott #3). Minotaur Books. Adult Mystery. Completed July 14, 2018, on Kindle. I enjoy the Boston references in this series, even though I'm not actually crazy about the assistant district attorney protagonist. This one has important Red Sox connections. 
  • James Swain: The King Tides (Lancaster and Daniels). Thomas & Mercer. Adult Mystery/Thriller. Completed July 14, 2018, on Kindle. This is the first of a new series by Swain, about an ex-SEAL who hunts for missing people. There are some interesting tidbits about crime (how people crack cell phone encryption, schemes for kidnapping, etc.) in this fast-paced story. Although some of the material is dark, Swain manages to keep the overall tone feeling moderate. 

LongLostHomeI'm listening to the final book in Maryrose Wood's The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series: The Long-Lost Home. It starts out with Miss Lumley separated from her beloved Incorrigibles, which is a bit sad, but I'm hoping that they all meet up before too long. I'm reading the third book in Victoria Abbott's Book Collector series: The Wolfe Widow

The big news is that my daughter and I FINALLY finished reading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. I looked back and found that we started sometime before June 14th of last year, making this a 13-month marathon read. It was definitely worth it, though. We stopped to discuss things on nearly every page, meaning that we talked about all sorts of things, and she learned about all sorts of vocabulary words, throughout our journey. We laughed together over Harry's dating woes. I held her when she cried over Sirius. It was, all in all, a fabulous experience. 

I was impressed by how well she kept most of the details in her head, too. After we finished we watched the movie, and she was OUTRAGED by how many things were left out (though I had warned her). She kept saying things like: "But that didn't happen at that time." To me, those complains meant that she had a pretty strong grasp of the book. OK, and that we should have waited a bit before watching the movie. 

Gone-AwayLakeWe're going to move on to something shorter now, though I doubt she'll want to wait too long before getting into Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. This morning I described Elizabeth Enright's Gone-Away Lake, and she thought it sounded fun, so we'll try that. It's a bit of a risk on my part, because this is one of my all-time favorites, and I'll be a bit sad if she doesn't like it. But I think I can handle it. 

Other than that, she continues to re-read her favorites, and ask for updates on the releases of any new installments. We experienced an unexpected bonus when the sixth Jedi Academy book, The Principal Strikes Back by Jarrett Krosoczka, showed up early from Scholastic. She hugged me so far that she literally lifted me off the ground. She did discover a new graphic novel series, the Three Thieves books by Scott Chantler. But she's read the first four and hasn't asked for the other three, so I don't think this one will be a top of the list favorite. 

Thanks for reading, and for growing bookworms! Hope that your summer reading is going as well as ours is!

© 2018 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

Not If I Save You First: Ally Carter

Book: Not If I Save You First
Author: Ally Carter
Pages: 304
Age Range: 12 and up

NotIfISaveYouNot If I Save You First is a recent thriller by Ally Carter. 10-year-old Maddie, daughter of a senior secret service agent, is best friends with Logan, son of the recently elected President. The two children are inseparable and the White House is their fiefdom. After a near-kidnapping of the first lady, however, Maddie's dad moves her to a remote cabin in Alaska, with basically no outside human contact. Six isolated years and hundreds of unanswered letters to Logan later, Maddie is furious with both Logan and her father. When Logan is sent on a visit to the cabin as a punishment, she has every intention of making him pay. When Logan is kidnapped, however, Maddie finds herself with no choice but to go after her childhood friend. A thrilling chase and quest for survival follows, full of twists, turns, and tidbits about the Alaska wilderness. 

Maddie is a resourceful, if somewhat bitter, character. Her life in Alaska has taught her various survival skills, though she maintains hints of her previous glam-loving self (such as a bedazzled hatchet). She is more than a match for her enemies, but is vulnerable to Logan's charms. Logan, despite a reputation as a rebel, turns out to have some self-defense skills, too. Here's Maddie:

"... Maddie walked to the river and gathered the biggest rocks she could then placed them like an arrow, pointing the way. She piled a few smaller stones on top, just high enough to be noticed in a few inches of snow and ice, but not so high that they might topple.

Then Maddie lowered her hood. She brought her hand to the side of her face and pressed her palm against the largest of the rocks until her bloody handprint shone like an eerie beacon, announcing the world: Trouble came this way.

But trouble was Maddie's family's business, so she did the only thing that made sense. She followed it." (Page 89)

And here's Logan:

""So what's your name?" Logan wanted to sound casual, maybe crazy. A sane person would be terrified by now, he knew, ranting and rambling and promising to give the man with the gun anything he wanted. 

But Logan had learned a long time ago that there was nothing you could give a man with a gun to make him happy. Men with guns were only satisfied when they took. And Logan was going to hang on to the last of his self-respect for as long as he possibly could." (Page 101)

Not If I Save You First is a bit far-fetched in terms of the plot, but the details about survival in the Alaskan wilderness feel authentic. The conflict and growing attraction between the characters rings true, also (though I never really understood why Logan didn't write back to Maddy). Anyone who has enjoyed Ally Carter's other books while certainly want to give it a look, as will fans of teen survival or spy stories. Not If I Save You First is a fast-paced read that you'll want to devour in a single sitting - ideally on a warm summer day, or beside a cozy fire. Recommended!

Publisher: Scholastic 
Publication Date: March 27, 2018
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2018 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).

Some Ideas for Encouraging Kids Who Can Read but Choose Not To

A couple of friends have said something to me lately along the lines of: "So, [my elementary-age child] can read, but never chooses to read. What can I do?" I've shared various posts in the past with suggestions for encouraging reading from birth. But this is a more specific question. What do you NOW when, whatever you have or haven't done before, your child just isn't that interested in reading. Here are a few thoughts for parents about trying, after a late start, to ignite a joy of reading:

ReadAloudHandbookRead Aloud: Even though it might be awkward to begin, studies show that one of the best ways to get kids engaged in reading is for the adults in their lives to read aloud to them. Reading aloud, even to kids who can read themselves, offers tremendous benefits. [This is especially true if the dad reads when you are talking about boys, but either parent reading is great.]

  • Reading aloud shows kids that you value reading.
  • Reading to them shows kids that you value them enough to take time out to read together.
  • Reading together fosters closeness.
  • Reading to your children helps you to expose them to books that they aren't ready to read on their own. 

I'm currently reading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix aloud to my 8-year-old daughter. While she's a reasonably strong reader for her age, she is in no way ready in terms of skill or emotional maturity to read a book like this on her own. I pause to define words or to clarify plot points. Or (in one memorable case) so that I can comfort her when she cries over a character. There is no question in my mind that reading this book together, over the months that we've been at it, has brought us closer together. Probably it has helped with her vocabulary, too, but for me that is incidental. Reading together is helping her to bond with books, to LOVE reading. And that's the goal. 

It doesn't matter when you read. Many families read together before bed. Personally, I get too sleepy for that, so I read to my daughter while she eats breakfast. On lazier summer days, we can often move over to the couch when she's done, and keep going. If you're going on a road trip, the parent who isn't driving can read aloud to the whole family. You just have to be a bit creative to find the time. 

As a caveat, if you find reading aloud awkward, you might also try listen to an audiobook together in the car, or in the kitchen while you're preparing dinner. You can play them on Alexa, your phone, etc. As another caveat, if a book you are reading together isn't working for you or for the child, it is completely fine to stop and try another instead. You want the experience to be joyful. See Jim Trelease's The Read-Aloud Handbook for lots more on this topic. 

LightningThiefNot sure what to read? What you want is something that is popular and engaging and that they might not be ready to read on their own. Harry Potter or the Percy Jackson Lightning Thief books are two good places to start. You want the book to be something that you are interested in reading also, not something that you are reading out of some sense of duty. Kids can tell. Is there a movie coming out that you want to see that is based on a book? Try reading that. A new film version of A Wrinkle in Time came out recently. Louis Sachar's Holes is an excellent book and an excellent movie. There are loads of choices. A quick google search for "movies based on children's books" brings up any number of lists. And of course you could ask and see if your child has any suggestions. Which leads us to... 

Let Them Choose: I say this all the time, but I can't emphasize it enough when you are talking about a child who can read but chooses not to. You simply must let her choose what she wants to read. If you are pushing her to read the books that you loved a kid, or that you think will strengthen her reading skills, or that will give her a leg up on the Battle of the Books contest in the fall, please stop. I've heard parents lament that their kids aren't reading when in reality, their kids are reading. But what they are reading doesn't count because it's graphic novels or joke books or activity books. You should celebrate anything that makes your child want to read, and go out and find more of that. 

My daughter has been reading constantly this summer. I am so, so, so grateful for this. For the most part, she is only reading graphic novels, notebook novels, and picture books. I have mixed some chapter books that I think she would like into her book baskets (Clementine, Ivy and Bean, The Bland Sisters), but she mostly ignores these. This is fine with me. I'm just glad that she has found books that she wants to read. 

If your child isn't reading, my best piece of advice content-wise is to try graphic novels and/or notebook novels (Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Dork Diaries are the two biggest series, though there are certainly others). There are graphic novels available for a range of age levels and interests. The ones I would start with for newer readers are the Lunch Lady series by Jarrett Krosoczka and the Babymouse and Squish series by Jennifer Holm and Matt Holm. For slightly older kids, the Babysitters Club graphic novels are hugely enticing, as is the Amulet series. Just pick up a few at the bookstore or the library, and leave them in the backseat of the car.  Which brings us to...

Make Reading the Most Desirable Option (Sometimes): One of the most successful things I ever did in terms of encouraging my daughter to read was to ban her from using her tablet for car rides of less than 30 minutes. I actually did this because I didn't like feeling like her chauffeur, and that's what I told her. But then I put some books in the car. Now she starts reading the minute she gets into the car and doesn't stop. She frequently stays in the car (in the relatively cool garage) when we get home, so that she can finish what she's reading. So, I still end up feeling like a chauffeur sometimes, but I don't mind, as long as she's reading. The point is that whenever we are in the car for a short drive she is a captive audience, with no choices but to talk to me or read. Seems like a win-win, doesn't it? 

Another friend told me that she bans devices for the first hour of any road trip in her family. I've heard of other people who ban devices while on camping trips, or even on vacation in general. Maybe there's dead time between races at swim meets, or when you're out at a restaurant, or at grandmas's house. It couldn't hurt to have a book handy for such situations.

You do have to be a bit careful with this suggestion. You don't want to be always taking away the desirable thing (devices) and have reading be used as a punishment. But if you can find ways to limit the screen time, while also making sure that potentially interesting books are available, you give kids a chance to choose reading. 

ReadingInTheWildSummary: There's a belief among many reading advocates (Donalyn Miller comes especially to mind) that there exists a right book that will hook each child on reading. The trick is for the child to find that book at the right time. The best teachers and librarians work during the school year to match kids with those gateway books. But there's no reason parents can't do their part to help, especially during summer vacation.

You can try reading aloud to your child, something exciting that he wouldn't read on his own. You can try to figure out what sorts of books your child finds most engaging, and keep those around. You can ensure that there are times when your child does choose to read, even if it's only out of boredom because no screen is available. All of this is in the hope that your child will run across that right book, that gateway book, that will make him want to keep reading. 

The primary guiding principle that I follow in nurturing my daughter as a reader is to make the reading experience as enjoyable as possible. If in doubt about any decision I ask myself whether it adds joy to the process or not. Then I respond accordingly. Thanks for reading!

© 2018 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 13: #Reader Identity, the #MarshmallowTest + #FlexibleSeating (or not)

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include #BookList, #Dystopias, #FlexibleSeating, #GrowthMindset, #LearningStyles, #Literacy, #SummerReading, #Treehouse, #YA, gender roles, failure, play, Project LIT, reading, and science.

Top Tweet of the Week

JediPrincipalThe cries of joy from my daughter will be audible all across the neighborhood when she gets home today. Yes, we received an early copy of the new book by from today. [releases July 31st]

Diversity + Gender

Musings on strength, failure + gender in by | "I think a better reaction against the truly awful, helpless Mary Sues of the past is not ‘strong’ female characters, but realistic female characters"

Book Lists

Favorite Dragon and for Kids, new from

SummerBrainQuestKid Tested : Activity + Information Books | from | Making fun

10 Captivating to Read This Summer | from Dena McMurdie | I found a few worth checking out here

Events + Programs

First Project LIT Summit: shares the welcome address w/ background on this program started by high schoolers to combat w/ quality +

Spotlight: NY-based program Literacy for Incarcerated Teens (LIT), profiled , provides material + support for teens

Buckle-up for the Road Trip! | | Family events to meet authors + costume characters

Growing Bookworms

She Just Asked Google To Remind Her to “Read All the Books On the Bottom Shelf” reflects on how not pushing her agenda on her daughter probably led to her daughter CHOOSING to read this summer

PassionateReadersOn and Its Importance – need to help kids understand who they are as readers + set a path to grow, says |

Show and Tell Idea for from w/ printable resources

Growth Mindset + Self Control

"Find your passion" is bad advice, say Yale-NUS and Stanford psychologists | Sitting around waiting to find passion runs counter to + developing via

Try to Resist Misinterpreting the - "Early research with the marshmallow test helped pave the way for later theories about how undermines "

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

UgliesFor Teens, Seems Pretty Real — And That's Why They Like It : |

Resilience, strength, empathy: How books are helping my daughter find her place in the world -

You can never have too many books | This photo tour by Anne Rooney of her daughter's overstuffed bookshelves made me smile |

The series, by Andy Griffiths -- zany, over-the-top, can't-put-it-down stories | celebrates the latest release w/ words from the author about the series' kid-engaging vision

Parenting + Play

WildThingsAreGrowing Children's Imagination & Creativity by | Sample ways to encourage story-based by age group

Stop the Slide! Prevention Tips for 6- to 8-Year-Olds from Schools and Libraries

A counterpoint: The Case Against |

I found it refreshing to see someone advocate for Finding the Middle Ground in arguments (listen, assess other arguments for their strengths, etc). Thanks

How to help struggling when they are young | | in training need more support


LightningThiefApplying the Power of to Excite Students About | , +

How to boost skills in the early grades - |

Will New Standards Improve Elementary Education? | |

© 2018 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.

Willa of the Wood: Robert Beatty

Book: Willa of the Wood
Author: Robert Beatty
Pages: 384
Age Range: 9-12

WillaWilla of the Wood by Robert Beatty is the first book that I've felt compelled to review in quite some time. Honestly, not many books are capable of making me stay up late to finish these days, but this one did. It is suspenseful, beautiful, and thought-provoking, while featuring unique and memorable characters. The end brought a little tear to my eye. Willa of the Wood is set in the same Great Smoky Mountain region as Beatty's Serafina series (see reviews here and here), but features a brand new protagonist.

Willa is a Faeran, or night-spirit. She lives with her clan, most notably her grandmother, Mamaw, deep in the wood. She's been trained to be a jaetter, which is basically a thief, stealing money, food, and artifacts from the humans who are starting to populate the area. But unlike most of the jaetters, Willa possesses ancient abilities once common among her people. She can change skin color, and blend in with the forest. She can speak to plants and animals. She can ask a tree for help as she climbs, and find branches bending to help her. She knows little about the "day-folk" (homesteaders), but much about the problems that have arisen within her clan over her lifetime.  

The home of Willa's clan, and her abilities, reminded me a little bit of the world in Zilpha Keatley Snyder's Green Sky trilogy. Here's a description:

"She was part of this clan, and it was part of her, as inextricable as root and soil. Willa looked up, beyond the throng of the Faeran that surrounded her, toward the ceiling. The hall had been built for many thousands of people to gather here, but far fewer than that remained. The walls of the great hall rose up all around, vast expanses of dark brown woven sticks reaching to a large gaping hole broken to the sky above. What was left of the decaying ceiling and walls was held aloft by the ancient, massive woven-stick sculptures of giant trees, the columns of their trunks soaring upward to spreading canopies above. Thousands of hand-curled leaves glimmered with emerald green, and brilliant kaleidoscopes of ornately woven birds of all shapes and sizes and colors seemed to be flying through the branches of the trees." (Page 93, ARC)

I don't want to give away anything about the plot. Suffice it to say that Willa finds herself in peril on several occasions, and has to call on both her inner resources and special skills to survive. Parts of the story, as with the Serafina books, are quite dark. Although this book is certainly middle grade, I will personally wait until my eight-year-old is a bit older before recommending it to her. 

Other things worth knowing about the book: 

  • There is diversity. In addition to the Faeran, the humans include both white homesteaders and Cherokee tribe members. 
  • There are also loggers, and quite chilling depictions of the evils of clear-cutting old growth forests (as seen from the perspective of someone who knows the trees personally, and thinks of them as if they were people). The loggers were a bit one-note as villains, but I doubt most kids will mind that. 
  • A caring adult (human) plays a major role in the story, as he and Willa help one another. I found this refreshing - in so many children's books adults are either absent or presented as villains or buffoons. Beatty offers a nuanced treatment of the different viewpoints of Willa (who would never harm an animal) and the man (who has cut down trees to build his home, etc.). She is baffled, for instance, over the idea that he can own land.
  • Animals also play important roles in the story. 

In short, Willa of the Wood is wonderful, and has my highest recommendation. It is not necessary to have read the Serafina books to read this one. Though I certainly recommend those, too, Willa tugged more at heart. 

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Publication Date: July 10, 2018
Source of Book: Advance review copy from the publisher

© 2018 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: Distinguishing between Reading and Skimming

SwingItSunnyThe other day my daughter demonstrated a milestone in her understanding of reading. She's been a bit better over summer vacation about telling me which books she's read, so that I can add them to her reading list. (I don't push her about this, because I don't ever want her summer reading to feel like a chore, but I document what she tells me.) She put a stack of three books on the kitchen table the other morning. Then she sorted them into two stacks.

She waved Swing It, Sunny by Jenni Holm and Matt Holm at me and said: "I read this one." Then she set aside El Deafo by Cece Bell and Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Ugly Truth by Jeff Kinney and said: "I just skimmed these."

LiteracyMilestoneAAnd so I added Sunny to the list. This was a re-read, but it's not a book that she's read over and over and over again the way she has with El Deafo

I'm not sure where she picked up the wording for skimming, but she's actually been doing it with certain books for a while. She will skim her way through the entire set of 10 Lunch Lady books by Jarrett Krosoczka while we are eating dinner and talking at the table afterward, for instance. She'll also sometimes tell me that she didn't really read a particular graphic or notebook novel because she "only looked at the pictures." 

Once a child is reading on her own, the concept of keeping track of which books she has read becomes a bit murky. And that is totally fine. The important thing is that she's enjoying her time with the books, whether she is reading, re-reading, skimming, or just looking at the pictures. 

I will also add that as adult readers, we skim ALL the time. I read two newspapers every day. This would be virtually impossible without skimming. So skimming actually a useful reading skill to develop. Practicing by skimming books that one has already read makes a lot of sense. 

Thanks for reading, and for growing bookworms!

© 2018 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 6: #Reading Promotion and Summer #Vacation / Learning for #Teachers

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this relatively light week include #BoardBooks, #BookLists, #ClassroomBookADay, #GraphicNovels, #GrowingBookworms, #Math, #ReadAloud, #STEM, adventure stories, book challenges, pensions, professional development, teaching, and vacation. 

Top Tweet of the Week

Raising Kids Who Want To Read : Parents "should model reading, make pleasurable, to your kid in situations that are warm + create positive associations"

Book Lists + Awards

RealFriendsPress Release Fun | The Debut of the 2018 Excellence in Graphic Literature Awards | Some great on the 2018 nominee lists shared in this post [including nominee Real Friends, one of my family's favorites.]

Here's the first installment of the Top 100 Poll Countdown from | #100-91

Favorite for 4th of July | a timely from

Perfect : Adventure Books for Kids: A Gigantic of Exciting Page-Turners from | fantasy, mystery, humor, history + more, all adventurous

How I Am Growing by | A Few Professional Development Books for to Boost Work |

Growing Bookworms

ItsAllAboutTheBooksSetting Them Up For A Lifetime Of by Clare from | "I believe once a person has truly experienced the they will find their way back to a vibrant reading life"

"there is a simple way (for ) to help their students to be better readers, to love reading, + to grow and learn ... All they need to do is give kids time and let them read" independently

Promotion: Transforming the Reading Culture of a K-8 Building by + | + other ideas for

Be a Reader Leader – What Administrators Can Do to Promote a Culture in | time, protecting + more

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

South Carolina Police Challenge 2 of high school's Titles for "indoctrination of distrust of police" |

BookScavengerMy 10-year-old self would have adored the real-world book scavenger hunt + other experiences described in this post by BOOK SCAVENGER author

Schools and Libraries

Food for thought in this piece by | Why Are We Still Personalizing If It’s Not Personal? | Individualization has diminishing returns + increases potential for isolation

Newly retired assures fellow that they work harder in the summers than even they realize, and that their Teacher Brains never stop running

"Taking time to rest and recharge is essential for us as educators" | shares the strategies that are working for him this summer |

Why California Is Losing Teachers and Laying Off Secretaries - | This challenge with pensions has certainly been the case where I live

is the new hiding in plain sight. This piece by looks at some pros (autonomy to ) + cons (questions about


ChokeHow to help children overcome - speaks w/ |

RT @carolynjones100: San Francisco school finds key to raising math scores: Teacher training via

8 Fun Ways To Keep Learning Alive Through the Summer | | + lots more

© 2018 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.