73 posts categorized "Joy of Learning" Feed

An Idea from My Daughter Regarding Customized Levels of Homework

My daughter has an idea for how elementary schools ought to treat homework. I'm writing about it here because I would love input from teachers and other parents on whether something like this has appeal and would be remotely feasible.

HomeworkMythgFirst, some context. My daughter attends an excellent public school in a suburban area of San Jose. Many of the parents of her fellow students are quite academically focused. There is a fair amount of homework. (Or so it seems to me, particularly relative to my own personal view after reading extensively on this topic that homework in elementary school should be minimal.) Most of the parents seem to support the homework amounts. Some even push for increased levels, while a quieter minority would prefer to see less homework. I tried to raise the issue of scaling back homework levels at the school when my daughter started there, but this idea pretty much fell to deafening silence. I think that the teachers, most of whom are highly experienced, believe that this is what most of the parents want. Thus it's very difficult to argue against that at the school level.

OKToGoUptheSlideMy daughter (now in third grade) has once again been lamenting homework. The discussion started near the end of the Christmas break, when she was expressing concern over juggling her extracurricular activities in the coming semester (while being unwilling to drop any of the those activities). She proposed that the real problem wasn't the activities at all, but rather having to balance them against homework. Then she went on a massive rant, which continued at intervals over several days, about how homework isn't useful, and it's not fair of the school to take up her time at home, and she's fine with learning all day long in school but that should be enough, etc… She makes an exception, somewhat, for reading assignments at home (if it's just reading and looking up vocabulary words), but otherwise dismisses it all as unnecessary and an imposition on her valuable time.

Part of her specific problem with homework turns out to have been difficulty in setting limits on herself. So if she had to read a couple of chapters her reading group book and clarify (define on a sticky note) vocabulary words, she would take 90 minutes and clarify dozens of words. With pronunciation and examples. This was much more than her (wonderful) teacher was asking. Her teacher and I have been working together to get her to be more focused in her approach, and the situation for this school year has improved significantly. (As a side note, I highly recommend talking with your child's teacher about any such issues, because every situation is slightly different.)

So things are much better, and I am deeply grateful to my daughter's teacher. However, my daughter still grumbles sometimes over homework keeping her from spending time on other pursuits, including lying around re-reading graphic novels. A position for which I have great sympathy. We're also concerned about next year (fourth grade), when by all accounts homework levels will increase. 

My daughter actually proposed a solution for elementary schools. She thinks that at the start of the school year, each parent should be able to check a box for the level of homework that their child receives (none, small amount, or larger amount). Then each family could decide for themselves how they want to treat homework (and kids who don't like their parents' choices could make their own arguments at home).

As someone who believes strongly in individual choice and personal responsibility, I see the appeal to this idea. It would be a fair way to balance the priorities of different families. Of course it also has clear drawbacks. It would probably be hard on teachers to customize things that much, and the jobs of teachers are quite challenging enough already. (Though, as an upside, there would be less homework to grade.) You also have to wonder if the kids not doing homework would fall behind in certain areas (even as they might increase their knowledge in other, self-selected areas). It's a complex issue.

Anyway, I'm wondering what all of you think. Has anyone tried something like this? Any input would be appreciated.

© 2019 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage. Links to be books may be affiliate links, for which I receive a small commission.

A Few Thoughts on Reading Logs

PassionateReadersTeacher and mother (and author of Passionate Readers) Pernille Ripp had a recent post (not her first on the subject) about reading logs. She wrote:

"As a parent, I have seen the damage firsthand.  When presented with a reading log one year, Thea quickly informed me that ALL she had to read was the 20 minutes that it said, after that, she was done.  It didn’t matter how much I told her that it was not just 20 minutes that she needed to read because the piece of paper told her so.  And the paper trumped my insistence to simply read."

This incident matched one that I had with my own daughter at the beginning of the school year last year. My daughter was supposed to read for 20 minutes each weeknight, and I was supposed to check a box indicating that she had done so. The very first night that I asked her to read for 20 minutes, she stopped on the dot at the 20 minute mark and said: "Done!". My heart sank, because this was a child who would keep reading until you dragged her off to do something else. But once it was an assignment to read for 20 minutes, she defaulted to read for ONLY 20 minutes. She was reading to check something off a task list, instead of reading for the joy of it. 

I was very lucky. I talked with her (absolutely wonderful) teacher about what had happened, and we agreed that I would quietly NOT enforce the official 20 minutes of reading time, but would instead just keep an eye out to make sure that she was reading more or less every day. This I accomplished, as previously discussed, by keeping books in the car and at the breakfast table. We finished second grade with her love of reading intact and without me having to lie on a reading checkbox every day. 

WitchesThis year, happily, there is no reading log. My daughter does have assigned reading most weekdays, a couple of chapters of a book that she is reading with a group of other kids. She has to do the reading so that she can participate in discussion the next day. But the first book was Roald Dahl's The Witches, which she enjoyed (but was at a slightly higher level than I think she would have read on her own). So this hasn't been a problem. And we don't do any logging for school of her other reading (beyond her taking AR tests on some of the books, which will be a topic for a different post). I still log the books that she reads myself, when I know about them, so that we'll have our own record, but that's not about tracking time spent. 

Anyway, back to Pernille's reading log post. After admitting that she lies on reading logs as a parent, and talking about how reading logs are one of the things that her students tell her makes them dislike reading, Pernille discusses how she knows that her students are reading. She also shares some tips for teachers who decide that they do need to use reading logs, to make them less damaging. This includes seeking input from both parents and students. She concludes:

"In the end, in our pursuit to establish classrooms filled with passionate readers, we must make sure that the things we do, even little parts of our day like reading logs, do not do more harm than good."

This post is well worth a read, by parents (it may assuage some guilt over how you handle reading logs) and especially by teachers. Pernille's post got Mary Wade, who blogs at HonorsGradU, also thinking about reading logs. Mary wrote first about the ethics of just signing off on reading logs (which she does, and which her 8 year old questioned). She says:

"I myself used to think that reading logs were a great way to remind kids to read at home. Now I know that they can create obstacles that stand in the way of reading itself."

She keeps her focus on not getting in the way of her daughter's love of reading. We are definitely kindred spirits on this. Mary wrote a few days later about ways that teachers can communicate that they care about at home reading without using reading logs. She suggests keeping it simple, but working to get the message across that reading is important, through efforts like ClassroomBookADay. I think these are also great posts for parents and teachers to read. 

I can't imagine that there are many teachers out there who WANT to dampen kids' love of reading. Teachers use reading logs with the best of intentions - they are asking parents to encourage kids to spend time reading while at home. For reading-focused parents like Pernille, Mary, and myself, this is unnecessary and can end up being detrimental.

ReadingInTheWildBut it's not enough to just say: "Stop doing that." Because you DO still need ways to encourage and help the parents who are not as reading-focused (or who have kids who just need that extra accountability).  This is a really tricky balance. That's why I'm so grateful for teachers like Mary and Pernille and Donalyn Miller, who take the time to share their ideas on this subject with other teachers. And I'm grateful for my daughter's second grade teacher, who understood and worked with me last year, and for her third grade teacher, whose enthusiasm for reading and writing spills over to my daughter every day. 

I'll be taking a break from blogging next week and will be back on November 26th. Wishing you all a safe, happy, and book-filled Thanksgiving week. 

© 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 post may contain affiliate links. 

Yes, #GraphicNovels Are Real Books

I've had a couple of parents approach me recently with questions akin to: "How do I get my child to read something else besides graphic novel? I want him to read real chapter books." To which I say: "Why do you need to do this?" If your child is reading graphic novels, then he is reading. Graphic novels are real books. If your child is reading graphic novels avidly, then my suggestion is not to try to push him to chapter books. My suggestion is to find him more graphic novels.

RealFriendsNow, I will concede one issue that I've run into due to my daughter's devotion to graphic novels. There just aren't as many graphic novels as there are chapter books. This means that we can actually run out of books for her to read that are even remotely age appropriate (and believe me, I have stretched this upwards). She doesn't help matters by having only passing interest in fantasy - she wants thick, realistic graphic novels only. And she pretty much has all of the ones I can find that she can understand. She simply reads those over and over again. I'm fairly sure she must know Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham's Real Friends by heart. 

Because of this shortage I have tried introducing some notebook novels into the mix. These still have plenty of illustrations, but also have more text. My daughter is having none of it. This means that unless I can find new graphic novels that she likes, she ends up reading less. Which is certainly not the goal. But I personally think it would be worse to push her to read books that she's not interested in. So I don't. 

Graphic novels, by their nature, provide more scaffolding to new readers. They can often figure out what's going on by looking at the pictures, even when the vocabulary might be above their heads. My daughter told me that she finds graphic novels easier to read because "you don't have to read all that 'he said' 'she said' stuff." To her, it's more intuitive to just SEE who is saying what. 

Graphic novels are also generally fast reads - our eyes can scan pictures faster than we can read words. My daughter is currently whipping her way through the Amulet series (here we have branched out a bit from the realistic fiction, though she doesn't expect to have an interest in re-reading these). Because they can be thick, but still a fast read, graphic novels give new readers a sense of accomplishment. 

SunnySideUpAnd just like chapter books, graphic novels can cover serious issues. In Sunny Side Up, by Jenni Holm and Matt Holm, young Sunny's summer is overshadowed by her worries about her older brother, whose drug problem has led to erratic behavior. This is shown via flashbacks, and the graphic format allows the authors to imply the drug use without speaking of it directly. This means that it's not overwhelming for my daughter (I think it mostly went over her head), but it's there for older readers to process. 

For more on benefits of graphic novels, see this digital document created by the Comic Book Legal Defense Club: Raising a Reader! How Comics & Graphic Novels Can Help Your Kids Love To Read!, a resource for parents & educators about the learning benefits of comics. This is a great resource for parents covering things that graphic novels offer kids, tips for parents for navigating graphic novels, ideas for creating reading dialogs with graphic novels, booklists, and more.

So why are some parents (and many librarians, for that matter), so determined to push kids out of graphic novels and into chapter books? Here are three possible reasons:

  1. Parents don't like to see kids re-reading the same books over and over again when they could perhaps benefit from exposure to a broader array of titles.
  2. Graphic novels are different from the books that we grew up with, and we aren't as comfortable reading them. I personally don't much like reading graphic novels. I prefer the linearity of straight-up text. I find it distracting to have to look at the whole picture in each panel, and figure out what comes first. This bias on my own part makes it more challenging for me to support my daughter's graphic novel passion. But I do it anyway.
  3. The more academically-focused parents probably want their children reading more words, instead of looking at pictures, so that they are on a path to better test scores, etc. 

WrinkleInTimeGraphicTo reason one I say: try to find more graphic novels, if you can. Perhaps look to graphic novelizations of traditional chapter books. Did you know that there's a graphic novel version of A Wrinkle In Time? Ask librarians for help. And then maybe very gently offer things that stretch the child's reading zone. There are some nonfiction graphic novel-style books coming out - maybe these will lead into actual nonfiction on the same topics. For my realistic graphic novel-obsessed daughter I'm quietly mixing in some fantasy. I don't push, but I grab things from the library and offer them. If they are rejected I can return them easily enough. 

To reason two I say: try to get over your own feelings about graphic novels. Your child does not have to like the same books that you liked. I think it's ok to explain to your kids that you aren't as much of a fan as they are, as long as you respect their reasons for liking graphic novels. You can also learn more about graphic novels via resources like the CBLDF booklet linked above. Some extremely fine authors are producing simply fabulous books in this area. It's ok to take graphic novels seriously. They are much more than the old Archie comics from when we were kids.  

ReadAloudHandbookTo reason three I say this: our goal as parents should be to help our children learn to LOVE books. If we are successful at this, then they will read books. As they read more books, they will get better at reading, and they will want to read even more. We'll have a virtuous cycle in which their reading skill enhances their enjoyment, and vice versa. (See Jim Trelease's The Read Aloud Handbook for more about this).

I believe that if you have a child who loves books, she will eventually want to read MORE books, and she'll more than likely branch out from graphic novels. Maybe she'll move to notebook novels like Dork Diaries. Maybe she'll move to series books like the Rainbow Fairies. Maybe she'll go straight to the non-graphic version of A Wrinkle in Time, if she's old enough. Because that's what real readers do. As an adult, I like to read mysteries. If there's nothing new by any of my favorite mystery authors, perhaps I'll pick up some nonfiction, or science fiction, or re-read a classic. Readers find a way to read. Our goal should be to nurture readers. 

Shawna Coppola writes about this topic in "But they only read graphic novels". She links to some background on "the myriad of benefits that reading comics and graphic novels offer readers of all ages" but concedes that there can be a valid interest in teaching kids to have a more balanced reading diet. She suggests that we mine this food analogy to encourage kids to read different things, with different benefits. She also suggests for teachers "Perhaps we ought to simply let our students read what they want to during independent reading time–including as many graphic novels as their charming little brains can handle, for Pete’s sake–and be incredibly mindful about offering multiple opportunities for them to read and engage with other kinds of texts throughout the remainder of our time with them."

LunchLadyFieldTripMy personal belief is that this is what we should be doing at home - letting kids read what they want to read, to nurture their love of reading. What I also do is read aloud a more challenging work with my daughter, and talk her through the details, as a way to expose her to more complex plots and substantive vocabulary words. I feel like if she is listening to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, she's more than welcome to read the Lunch Lady books 10 times over on her own.

I've never personally been a big reader of graphic novels. But I will defend to all comers my daughter's right to prefer them. First, because there are many benefits to graphic novels, and second because I truly believe that one of the most important things we can do to nurture young readers is to give them choice in their reading. 

© 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

Further Evidence that It's All About Choice

My daughter regularly grumbles about her math homework. It's not that she usually finds it difficult, but that she resents having to do it at all. When it's easy for her she resents it more, because she sees her time as being wasted. Luckily for me, she usually does her math homework at her after school care (where all of the kids are expected to do homework at the same time), so I don't have to listen to the complaints.

MathWorkbookImagine my surprise the other morning when she asked to cut short our breakfast reading session so that we could work together on "math facts". She pulled out the workbook from a previous math module (they get to keep them after the module is completed) and started filling in unused pages. The next morning she asked to do the same thing.

So, when it's homework, she is annoyed and irritable about having to do it. But when it's her choice, she will happily pull out the same workbook and do the same activities.

It is possible that some of this difference stems from the fact that I'm sitting snuggled with her on the couch doing this "math facts" activity, vs. her sitting at Kids Club or at our kitchen table on her own. I could test this theory by doing her math homework with her on the couch (though this runs counter to my goal for her to learn to do her homework independently).

But I think it mainly boils down to free choice. When we're playing "math facts" she picks which pages look interesting. She stops to sketch on the unused backs of pages. She stops mid-activity if something is boring. When it comes to homework, it's not doing math that's the problem. It's doing a particular set of math problems that someone else expects her to do at a certain time, regardless of her own mood and inclination. The parallels to required reading are obvious here. 

This makes me wonder: if her teacher were to assign her to read graphic novels every day as homework, would she grumble and complain and stop enjoying them? This is an experiment that I do not wish to undertake. Because it is quite possible that the answer would be yes.

It's all about free choice. Which is not to say that teachers don't have to follow a logical curriculum, or that my daughter won't have to learn that sometimes you have to do things on other people's timeline. But it's also true that self-directed inquiry is more engaging for her than assigned work, particularly in that outside of school time that she considers her own. This is probably the case for most of us.

© 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

Some Thoughts + Recent Articles about Life without Accelerated Reader (AR)

My daughter is in second grade. At her school, this means dipping a toe into the world of Accelerated Reader (AR). I think she's supposed to get five points a month, but it's not required. The idea is apparently to get the kids used to the program. The AR tests haven't been a problem so far (because she hasn't actually taken any tests), but my fear is that AR will eventually drown her love of reading, if I do not fight back. 

WonderHere's one small example. My friend's daughter is in fourth grade at the same school. Recently my friend lamented that her daughter couldn't start the book that she wanted to read (Wonder by R.J. Palacio, a book that most parents and teachers would want a child to be reading), because she wouldn't be able to finish it in time to take the AR test by the end of the month. And she needed to get a certain number of AR points by the end of the month in order to achieve a particular grade in reading. This strikes me as so, so very wrong. When you have a kid who wants to read a particular book at home, the reading "incentive" program should not be what is stopping her.

Another mom talked to me a while back about how her son wanted to read the Harry Potter books, but wouldn't be allowed to take the AR tests because the books were above his so called reading level, and so read something else. This seems again wrong to me. If a child wants to stretch himself because he's fascinated by a particular book (and his parents don't have content issues regarding the book), he should be able to do so. The reading program should not be discouraging him. 

LunchLadyFieldTripOne of my personal concerns is that my daughter likes to re-read books. She reads a particular selection of graphic novels over and over again. Re-reading something that many avid readers do, each for our reasons. But AR is going to discourage this, isn't it? Because you can only take the AR test once. And will she be able to get "enough" AR points for graphic novels, or is the program going to push her to read books that she's not interested in? I know that not all books even have AR tests (particularly nonfiction titles), so that's an issue, too. 

Mind you, I do not intend to have my daughter competing for the leader board in the library, where the kids who have the most AR points are listed. I'm going to follow the example of another parent I know, who told me that she always encouraged her kids to get the minimum required number of AR points, and then read what they wanted. Her kids still read for pleasure in high school. But should we have to be working around the school's program to keep our children reading? This seems really counter-productive to me. The school is spending money on this program, money that could instead be spent on, say, books, and I'm afraid that it will keep my daughter from reading for pleasure? Crazy. 

I get that having a required number of a AR points is a way to force certain kids who wouldn't otherwise be reading to read. I get that the program isn't really aimed at my daughter, or at my friend's Wonder-reading daughter. But if the program is hurting the kids who already like to read, isn't that a problem? And what about the kids who are struggling, and for whom the AR tests are too difficult? Is the program really helping them?

Isn't there a better way? 

My sources say that yes, there is a better way. Here are a selection of articles that I have read and shared recently on the subject:

PassionateReadersPlease, + , read 's post On + All the Other Computer Programs https://t.co/1cHEBHzi3K

Pernille Ripp: "And before, someone tells me that for some kids programs like this works, I would like to know what we define as “works?”  Do we define “works” as rushing to read another book?  As sharing the incredible experience a book just provided them with others?  Do we define “works” as cannot wait to read another book, outside of class not because they have to but because they want to?  Do we define “works” as continuing to develop a positive reading identity that will carry them into adulthood?

Or do we define ‘”works” as kids doing it because they are rule followers and don’t want to cause a stir? Do we define “works” as a computer telling us how much a child remembered from the book they just read?  Do we define it as how many points they have gained this year as a supposed reflection on how they have grown as readers?  Or as now we know which book a child should read next because the computer told them so?

Because if that is what we mean be developing lifelong readers then I must have lost my mind."

Me: Pernille has a lot more to say about computer-based reading programs, and what schools should/could be doing instead to foster young readers. Please click through to read the full piece. Honestly, I wish that parents and teachers everywhere would read this, and believe it, and start conversations around change because of it. 

How can create Engagement in a non-AR School by , Connect, w/ authors

Angie's post begins with a reference to a YouTube rant by librarian Colby Sharp about AR. Colby is furious that he can't recommend a book that he thinks a high school student ought to read, because that book isn't on AR, and instead he has to waste his time finding a book that he can recommend to this kid that has the right number of AR points. Colby is not at all polite in his impressions of AR, shall we say. 

Angie Huesgen: "Colby is mad and rightfully so. This topic is not a new one. We know there is little research to confirm that AR increases reading achievement, or turns out readers beyond the books in the system, as Donalyn Miller wrote extensively about 7 years ago. We know the assessment that “places” these readers and provides a reading level range is flawed. Pernille Ripp digs into that assessment in this blog post which includes a response from Accelerated Reader’s parent company, Renaissance Learning.  

We know all this, and yet AR is still widely used as a reading achievement indicator and reading incentive. Colby’s message lit a fire in me and I went down the rabbit hole of reading the comments. The sheer number of those in defense of AR still baffles me but what I really took away from these comments was that human connection was never mentioned. I find it difficult to believe that a computerized program alone is the sole factor in a school’s increased reading engagement and achievement. I would strongly argue that a computer is not what gets kids excited about reading….people do."

Me: Angie's school is a non-AR school, the only one in her district, and she offers a list of ways that kids pick out books in a non-AR school. This list, too, I wish would be widely read by administrators, teachers, and parents. My favorite observation is this one: "You give them total choice in the library. To quote our beloved librarian and some teachers in our school, “This is a library. They can get what they want.”"  

Interesting post  on how his  stopped using  | I'll be interested in outcome

Matt Renwick: "Now that we had collective commitments along with a focus on literacy, I think our lens changed a bit. Maybe I can only speak for myself, but we started to take a more critical look at our current work. What was working and what wasn’t?

Around that time, I discovered a summary report from the What Works Clearinghouse, a part of the Institute of Educational Sciences within the Department of Education. This report described all of the different studies on Accelerated Reader. Using only the research that met their criteria for reliability and validity, they found mixed to low results for schools that used Accelerated Reader...

With a finite budget and an infinite number of teacher resources in which we could utilize in the classroom, I started investigating the use of different technologies currently in the building. I found for Accelerated Reader that a small minority of teachers were actually using the product. This usage was broken down by class. We discovered that we were paying around $20 a year per student.

Given our limited school budget, I asked teachers both on our leadership team and the teachers who used it if they felt this was worth the cost. No one thought it was. (To be clear, the teachers who were using Accelerated Reader are good teachers. Just because they had their students taking AR quizzes does not suggest they were ineffective; quite the opposite. I think it is worth pointing this out as I have seen some shaming of teachers who use AR as a way to persuade them to stop using the tool. It’s not effective.)"

Me: I'll be interested to see Matt's followup reports (and I'm sure that he will post them at some point) on how his school is doing without the AR program. I particularly appreciated that despite the observation that most of the teachers at his school weren't using AR, Matt took pains not to criticize the teachers who were. Teachers have an incredibly difficult job, and it's a fine line to criticize AR if there are teachers who find that it makes their at jobs easier (see next post).

RT @PernilleRipp: On Computer Programs and Our Most Vulnerable Readers as we start our first assessments, please don't forget this 

Pernille Ripp: "A program like Accelerated Reader 360 is easy.  It is quick.  It is less work for us, the teachers.  A child reads a book, takes a test, the score determines whether they understood it, what they need to practice, and what they should read next.  One computer program and so much work has been done for us.

So we hand the companies our money, sometimes instead of buying books.  We place our children in front of computers who decide which books they should read, which skills they should practice.  All we have to do is sit back and print out the results.  We have all the data we need right there.  It is so much easier to teach a child when we don’t have to take the time to get to know them...

We create readers when we give them time to read.  When we help them work through text that they have self-selected.  When we give them choice and the room to explore.  When we offer them many ways to succeed.

When a teacher is there to protect, to guide, to help, to adjust and to learn about the reader that is in front of them..."

We take our most vulnerable.  The kids who hate reading.  The kids who are not where they should be.  The kids whose gaps continue to grow and instead of putting them with a specialist, instead of putting them in an environment where books, and conversation, and interaction, and being on a journey together rule the day.  We push start and then walk away….

And then we wonder why they tell us they never want to read again." 

Me: This post from earlier this summer by Pernille is one that tells me that just as AR seems likely to harm the love of reading for already-eager readers like my daughter, it also has the potential to harm the struggling readers. This makes me wonder: how big is the slice in the middle? How many kids are there that CAN read and take AR tests without too much difficulty, choose not to, but are incentivized to do so by a program like AR? Pernille does address this at the very end of her post, that there are some kids who LOVE the AR program, and enjoy taking the tests. And that's fine. But if you ask me, then the tests should be optional. There shouldn't be some rigid point scale by grade. 

BookWhispererTeacher shares tips for others on Life After | , communities

Leigh Anne Eck: "I fear that many of our teachers would struggle if we discontinue AR because we have used it for so long, and they do not know anything different.  I am sure many teachers, not only those in my district, have this same fear.  I am proof that there is life after Accelerated Reader.

If you know teachers who use AR and are afraid they can't teach without it, then send them a link to this post.  Let this post be their life preserver; give them something to hang on to and let it buoy up their strength to make the decision that is best for readers.

You have to believe that a reading community can and will exist without AR. You not only have to believe it, but you have to live it.  Is it easy? No. One of the positives (if there truly is one) of AR is the ease in its implementation and the little work it places on teachers."

Me: Leigh Anne goes on to first offer teachers suggestions for finding support, starting with reading Donalyn Miller's The Book Whisperer. She then shares a five-step process for life after AR, beginning with living a literate life yourself, and showing students that you are a reader. The last step is to find value in all reading. I've personally come to conclude that creating readers at home boils down to these things (though of course other things help). Read WITH them and give them choice in what they read. Leigh Ann's list suggests that it's the same in the post-AR classroom.

These posts all suggest, with a considerable degree of passion, that there is life after Accelerated Reader programs, and that there are better ways to nurture a love of reading in kids than giving them fact-based tests on a narrow range of allowed reading. These posts give me hope for the young readers of the future, including my daughter. I think it's safe to say that this will not be my last post about AR.

As I've said many time: my only goal for my daughter's reading is that she LOVES it. I'm not generally a confrontational person, but I will fight against anything that gets in the way of that. 

© 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 post may contain affiliate links. 

One #JoyOfLearning Link from @KatieMartinEdu about #Homework

JoyOFLearningLogoThis week I only have one article to share with you in detail (though various tweets will be rounded up on Friday). Fortunately, the one I have is a highly quotable piece on a topic to which I have plenty to contribute myself. Katie Martin wrote a substantial post about starting conversations in school communities around getting rid of (or at least improving) homework. I have a few highlights here, but highly recommend that you click through to read the whole article

Excellent piece by on ways we can have productive conversations about + why still assigned https://t.co/gE0yo8p8Qt

Katie Martin: (After commenting on how few of the teachers did prework assigned prior to a workshop.) "Thankfully, none of us were forced to miss our break or publicly humiliated for not doing our homework. But, it makes me think that if dedicated and passionate educators aren’t doing homework, why in the world are we expecting kids to spend their precious free time out of school doing more work?...

The live #IMMOOC chats with both Jo Boaler and Alice Keeler really resonated with me and helped me move from venting about homework and it’s lack of purpose (especially for elementary school kids) to thinking about some constructive ways to talk about it. So, here are three ways that I think can help me (and hopefully you) have productive conversations about homework and talk about why we are still assigning it...

I think there are a lot of assumptions that we hold about homework and because it has always been part of school, we think it is what we are supposed to do.  Many believe that it’s the responsibility of the teacher to assign homework, and as parents, we are good parents if we set time aside to do the homework, some are so invested they even do it for the kids:). I am asking that teachers who are assigning homework really think about why you are assigning it. I want parents to think about why they push for it. "

My Response: I'm drawn to pretty much any article that questions the assignment of homework (especially for elementary school kids). What I especially liked about Katie Martin's post is that she goes beyond railing against homework and on to discussing three specific ways that parents and schools can start the conversation about reducing it. She talks about goal-setting (is the homework that is being assigned moving us toward our goals for our kids?), reorganizing classroom time (so that homework isn't needed), and making the time that kids and teachers spend meaningful. 

In my daughter's elementary school, the second grade teachers dropped spelling homework last year. This year, the year that my daughter is in second grade, spelling homework is back. Rumor has it that this is because parents complained, though I don't know this for sure. The spelling homework isn't particularly burdensome. There's a set of about a dozen activities, and each week kids have to perform two of them using that week's spelling list. They get to pick which two activities to do. Most of them only take a few minutes, and there is some creativity involved in some of them. The teachers have clearly put effort into making the spelling homework as flexible and painless as possible (within the context of having weekly homework and associated spelling tests at all). 

Despite the second grade teachers' best efforts, my daughter CAN'T STAND doing the spelling homework. She feels like her time is being wasted. She would rather be: reading, doing Minecraft on her tablet, working on Sudoku, doing a craft project, practicing karate, or doing pretty much anything else. She rails against the spelling homework every.single.time. It's hard for me to argue with her because I don't disagree with her (though to me it feels like a bit of a mountain/molehill situation). For what it's worth, checking this homework can't possibly be mentally stimulating for the teachers, either. 

If this homework is truly back because parents requested it, I'm sure that they have their reasons. Just as I have my reasons for thinking that this isn't a particularly good idea. But if I am to take Katie Martin's advice, I'll need to start having that conversation in my own school community. Tweeting or writing blog posts is much easier, but is unlikely to have any measurable effect. But perhaps by sharing Katie's thoughts, and my own, here, I'll inspire some of you to start these difficult conversations, too. Thanks for reading!

© 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 post may contain affiliate links. 

#JoyOfLearning Links from @PernilleRipp + @NCTE on #Reading Choice + Pleasure Reading

JoyOFLearningLogoToday I share two posts that I read last week that talk about giving kids choice in their reading. I also wrote about reading choice last week myself, and was glad to see that the NCTE website and Pernille Ripp were on the same page with me. 

PassionateReadersTHIS everyone who shares books w/ kids should read. on why we should give kids true choice https://t.co/CLA1yUTduT

Pernille Ripp: "If we constantly limit choice in reading because we need kids to always be reading a just right book as determined by us, how will kids ever learn to self-select a book? ...

I will tell you, if we do not offer choice until they have reached their grade level reading level, then we will have lost so many readers before then.

So we offer choice and we offer our support.  We help them figure out how to book shop and we use tools, such as reading data as PART of the support.  But we don’t tell them that they can only choose from a certain bin, or shelf, or letter level.  We don’t tell them that this is the only section for them."

Me: The first thing I want to say here is that if you care about kids and reading, you really really should be reading Pernille's blog. She hits it out of the park every single day. If you are a teacher, I highly recommend that you invest in Pernille's latest book, Passionate Readers [I haven't read it, but I have been reading her blog posts on similar themes for a couple of years now]. 

This post was, I think, a response to people challenging one aspect of a broader post that Pernille had recently published: A Call for Common Sense Instruction | time to read, choice, access to books + a community . Also well worth your time. Pernille defends the right of kids to choose what they want to read, no matter where they are in the literacy process, both because they need to learn to choose for themselves and because if you don't let them choose, reading won't be fun for them.

I have tried over the past seven years to give my daughter as much choice as I possibly can, whether she is reading on her own or I am reading to her. I wish that I could count on all of her future teachers to feel the same way. [I do think that her current teacher feels this way, which makes me happy.] There is some concept of levels that she's supposed to choose from in her school library, and I try to give that as little validation as possible from home. Today I checked out some books for her at the public library. A few might be judged too easy for her "reading level" and a few too advanced. But my criteria was that they were books that I thought she would enjoy (mostly graphic novels). And if she doesn't like them - she is more than welcome to cast them aside. We'll find others. 

ReadingUnboundYes! Promoting the Pleasures of : Why It Matters to Kids and to Country - via https://t.co/wBObibWC0z

Jeffrey Wilhelm: "In our book (shown to right), we argue that pleasure reading is a civil rights issue. Why? Because fine-grained longitudinal studies (e.g., the British Cohort study: Sullivan & Brown, 2013; and John Guthrie’s analysis of PISA data, 2004, among many others) demonstrate that pleasure reading in youth is the most explanatory factor in both cognitive progress and social mobility over time.

Pleasure reading is more powerful than parents’ educational attainment or socioeconomic status. This means that pleasure reading is THE way to address social inequalities in terms of actualizing our students’ full potential and overcoming barriers to satisfying and successful lives...

Our data clearly establish that students gravitate to the kinds of books they need to navigate their current life challenges, and that many ancillary benefits accrue in the realms of cognition, psychology, emotional development, and socialness. So much so that we developed the mantra: Kids read what they need!

This finding led us to be more trusting of kids’ choices and to ask them about why they chose to read what they did, and eventually to championing these choices. We likewise found that each of the marginalized genres we studied (romance, horror, vampire, fantasy, and dystopia) provided specific benefits and helped students navigate different individual developmental challenges."

Me: This post is also related to material from a book, in this case Reading Unbound: Why Kids Need to Read What They Want and Why We Should Let Them by Jeffrey Wilhelm, Michael Smith, and Sharon Fransen [which I also haven't read, but I quite liked the research that Wilhelm described in this NCTE article]. There's a lot more to this article, and I do recommend that you click through to read it in full. The author talks extensively about how and why to focus on pleasure in reading. I, of course, especially liked the part about the importance of giving kids choice. 

I've never directly thought about pleasure reading as a civil rights issue, but I am certain that my own years of pleasure reading helped me to be one of the first people in my extended family to graduate from college. I have always felt that all kids deserve the chance to learn to love books. I understand that people are different, and that not everyone will become as book-obsessed as I am, but I feel that they should all have the opportunity. I was pleased to see the NCTE featuring this work. 

© 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 post may contain affiliate links. 

#JoyOfLearning Links from @TechNinjaTodd + @LarryFerlazzo: #Teachers as #Reading Role Models

JoyOFLearningLogoYesterday I came across two different articles, both of which discussed the importance of teachers being reading role models for their students. Todd Nesloney talks about reading programs that don't work, and shares tips for educators to both enhance their own reading lives and inspire students. Larry Ferlazzo interviews Pernille Ripp, who is promoting her new book on raising Passionate Readers. Their discussion ranges from the importance of an inclusive classroom library to "do's" and "don't's" for teachers looking to inspire young readers. Both articles are well worth your time. 

KidsDeserveItMust-read for educators: When Adults Don't Read, Kids Lose | https://t.co/j8EZW5ZoMv

Todd Nesloney: "And yet, in schools across America, students are being subjected to prescribed reading programs that we know don’t work. (Krashen 2003) These programs often require students to select books based on computer generated levels. Further, they reduce reading to a task that only matters if it’s accompanied by an assessment. What’s more, they allow teachers to assign texts to students without having a knowledge of children’s or young adult literature and, most crucially, without ever having a conversation about books and reading with their students...

Here are a few tips to help all educators unlock the reader inside them that’s just waiting to get out! ... (click through to read Todd's tips)

A good rule of thumb is this: if you wouldn’t do it as a real reader, you shouldn’t ask your students to do it. OR if you must employ some scaffolding to help students develop the skills they need to grow authentic reading lives, remember, scaffolding is meant to come down.

The bottom line is this: your students need and deserve for you to be their independent reading champion. Reading changes lives. Not only is reading the fundamental skill that underpins all learning, but it’s also a crucial component in the development in a curious mind, a gentle spirit and a loving and empathetic heart."

Me: This is an excellent piece, from the references documenting why it's important for kids to read for pleasure to a series of detailed tips for educators to support their own personal reading lives (and hence model and inspire reading for pleasure in kids). 

PassionateReadersAuthor Interview: speaks w/ 'Passionate Readers' author on + https://t.co/NQOuuP4B0P

Pernille Ripp: "Yet research now shows just how important it is to be reading role models for our students (Loh 2009) and how valuing independent reading time in class changes the reading experience itself. So we must look inward before we start to mold our classrooms. We must see how our own reading experiences shape the very experience we create for students; how what we value becomes what we make time for; how what we read becomes what we book talk...

Do be a role model of what a "real" reader looks like; share your great habits and the bad ones. Too often our kids who are not established readers think that strong readers have it all figured out; when to read, what to read, and how to understand the text, and yet this is not true.  I consider myself a strong reader and I often fall out of my reading habits, I have to plan for my reading, and I sometimes cannot find a great book to read. So share in order to have them share what their reading lives look like. And step aside, their reading journey is theirs to explore, not to be a copy of your own...

While there are many things I could list under don'ts, especially things like AR, reading logs, and neverending reading tasks to keep kids accountable, my biggest don't is: Don't be the teacher that kills the love of reading for a child. Question your practices, educate yourself, keep the conversation going with your students and then continue to push yourself to become a better teacher of reading. "

Me: I've been a huge fan of Pernille Ripp's work since discovering her blog a couple of years ago. I was pleased to see this Education Week Teacher interview highlighting Pernille's new book. The interview also covers the importance of students developing a personal reading identity, and suggestions for cultivating a culturally representative classroom library.

But the paragraph that resonated most with me personally was the last one that I quoted above, about the things that teachers sometimes do, presumably without realizing this, that kill the love of reading for kids. My daughter is just starting second grade. At her school, second graders start using the Accelerated Reader (AR) program, just to familiarize themselves with it. In third grade they are apparently expected to use it, and to earn a certain number of points. This makes me quite apprehensive. How sad is the fact that I am worried about the school killing my daughter's love of reading, rather than expecting the school to support it? I'll be addressing this topic more in future posts. For now, go read the interview

© 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 post may contain affiliate links. 

#JoyOfLearning Links from @JulieSuratt + @MelanieBCurtin + Margaret Kristin Merga + Sky Yonehiro

JoyOFLearningLogoI realize that I share these Joy of Learning links posts somewhat irregularly. That's because I generally wait until some piece strikes me so strongly that I feel a need to share it, and to quote from it, and to respond to it. Then there are usually a few others floating about that I decide are also worthy of a more in-depth look. In this case, a piece that I read today from Boston Magazine about letting your kids be mediocre (vs. pushing them with activities and academic enrichment) really hit home. It echoed concerns voiced by a Silicon Valley teen in a piece that I read over the weekend. I also ran across articles over the weekend about nurturing grit in children, and about the importance of continuing to read aloud to older kids. As these are both topics of particular interest to me, I have quoted from and responded to those here, too. I hope you find these articles as interesting as I did. 

This piece by in is so good! In Praise of Mediocre Kids | Accept kids' own interests

Julie Suratt: "Some see these early-education initiatives as a way to give kids a jump-start, while others, including one former middle school teacher who wished to remain anonymous, think they’re simply a waste of money. “There’s nothing a three-year-old should be doing academically,” she says. “That makes kids hate learning. A love of learning is what makes them successful.”...

Naylor, the sports psychologist, sees the same thing happening on the playing field: “As parents, we’re great at supporting our kids; we’re bad at letting them feel challenged.” If a child doesn’t get playing time, or if she has to sit on the sidelines, “that’s okay,” he says. Tears of frustration indicate passion—and intrinsic motivation. Look at Michael Jordan, who was cut from the varsity basketball team during his sophomore year of high school. He managed to turn out just fine...

A friend recently sent me a New York Times article in which college admissions officers shared advice they give their own kids. A quote from MIT dean of admissions Stuart Schmill resonated: “If you couldn’t write about this on your college application, would you still do it? If the answer is ‘no,’ then you shouldn’t be doing it.”"

Me: This long-form Boston Magazine piece resonated strongly with me. Author Julie Suratt talks about her desire not to push her kids too hard, and to pay attention to their actual interests, rather than forcing them into things that don't bring them joy but will help them to get into college (whether academic enrichment activities or sports, etc.). The piece is made stronger by Suratt's admission of sometimes being tempted, or getting caught up in what other people are doing. I especially liked the quote above from the college admissions officer on activities. 

What I struggle with is the balance between not pushing my daughter into activities but helping her to be more gritty about the activities that she does pursue. She has loved karate for two years, and I think it's really good for her. Recently, however, for whatever reason I've had to push her to go to class. If I let her off the hook, in the interest of letting her do some other open-ended play instead, am I teaching her that she should always follow her whims? What about her desire to get to Black Belt?

This balance, I think, is going to be a work in process. But meanwhile, I highly recommend that parents (especially parents struggling with implied pressure to put your kids in extra tutoring, competitive sports, etc.) read Julie Suratt's article. 

Sad OpEd by local teen about how Silicon Valley culture leads to stress in teens and adults

Sky Yonehiro: "This is the culture that has been passed on to all the children of Silicon Valley. When articles talk about helicopter parenting, “checklisted” childhood or outside pressure, they are missing a crucial part of the puzzle: the children.

My classmates are always trying to do more, always wondering if there is something more they should be doing and always worried that they are missing something. I’ve had classmates frantically ask me if I’d heard that so-and-so is doing something, and if they should be doing that and more. I’ve also had classmates privately divulge summer plans, internships and extracurriculars to me as if they were secrets, hoping that others don’t do the same thing."

Me: This OpEd is a lament by a Silicon Valley teenager concerned about the pressure that she see exerted on herself and her friends by the competitive local culture. Her view is that this is exacerbated by the mindset of parents here ("Silicon Valley loves the toxic startup culture, loves the materialism of owning Teslas and loves the competitiveness that drives the anxiety and fakeness of the area. It loves its image and its money, no matter what the cost.").

As the Boston Magazine article shows, this pressure is not unique to Silicon Valley (though it's certainly possible that it's worse here than in other parts of the country). But I think that the article is worth reading because it gives a student's perspective on the pressure that is undeniably being brought to bear on many teens. All I can do is share articles like this and maintain my determination not to put such pressures on my own child. 

GritWant Your Kids to Succeed in School and Life? Science Says to Instill This 1 Thing Above All  https://t.co/vpXFnyBiqJ

Melanie Curtin: "As Duckworth defines it, grit is, "passion and perseverance for long-term projects; having stamina; sticking with your future, day in, day out ... and working really hard to make that future a reality." (my emphasis)

In other words, grit is tenacity. It's the ability to stay connected to a goal, even when that goal is far away or there are setbacks...

But when kids in Dweck's research studies read and learn about the brain (particularly how it grows in response to challenge), they become more brave, more resilient, more likely to try even harder things, more ... gritty.

Why? Because they start to see that simply doing the hard thing helps them expand. That it doesn't matter whether you get the answer right--it just matters that you try, and keep trying.

It's a lesson we can all take to heart, especially since grit research showed something else totally fascinating: there is no relationship or an inverse relationship between grit and talent. Hang on and make sure you got that last part -- inverse means the less talented you are, the more gritty you are likely to be ... which may be exactly what leads to your success."

Me: This Inc. Magazine article is a high-level introduction to the impact of grit on student success, and the impact of a growth mindset on grit. While the concepts weren't new to me, and there wasn't a lot of detail about what parents should actually do, it was good to see these concepts introduced in a mainstream magazine.

As I noted above, grit and tenacity are something I'm working on with my daughter. She's about to start taking piano lessons. Her teacher told us that kids who practice get better, and kids who don't practice end up quitting, because they get frustrated by the lack of progress. So, I suspect that the piano lessons will be a good experiment for us. Of course it's going to depend on whether she enjoys learning to play as much as she thinks she will. She's already nervous about the prospect of doing recitals, which I think means that they will be good for her, too. 

Research shows the importance of parents with children – even after children can read

Margaret Kristin Merga: "Research has typically found that shared reading experiences are highly beneficial for young people. Benefits of shared reading include facilitating enriched language exposure, fostering the development of listening skillsspellingreading comprehension and vocabulary, and establishing essential foundational literacy skills. They are also valued as a shared social opportunity between parents and their children to foster positive attitudes toward reading.

When we read aloud to children it is also beneficial for their cognitive development, with parent-child reading activating brain areas related to narrative comprehension and mental imagery. While most of the research in this area focuses on young children, this does not mean that these benefits somehow disappear as children age....

In addition, children were sometimes terrified of reading aloud in the classroom, and this fear could potentially be alleviated through greater opportunities to practice at home."

Me: This article in The Conversation reports findings from a more detailed academic report (linked within the article) by Margaret Kristin Merga. While I was already on board with most of the benefits reported in the article, I appreciated seeing them verified and publicized here. I especially appreciated the point about kids being nervous about reading in class, and how helpful it can be for them to read aloud with their parents at home. 

I do know how tempting it is to scale back on reading together once a child can read on her own. Because reading on their own is good for them, too. They need the practice, and we need the quiet. My daughter likes to read in bed to herself some nights, and I'm either sleepy or interested in getting into my own bed for my own reading. So I don't read to her at night very often these days. My husband still does, though, and I try to read to her over breakfast instead. She's seven, and even though she's reading middle grade graphic novels on her own, we still come across many vocabulary words that she's not familiar with, whether we are reading picture books or Harry Potter.

So, if you need a little extra dose of motivation to keep reading together, go on over and read this Conversation piece. And if you really want to delve into the details, you can click through and read the full research report, too.   

© 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 post may contain affiliate links. 

Play-Based vs. Activity-Based Summer Day Camp (repost from @BAMRadioNetwork article)

PollitasHouse_1This article was originally published on the EDWords blog at BAM Radio Network. I am re-posting it here.  

This is my first summer without home-based childcare. Although I work from home, keeping my seven-year-old, only child daughter home with me is not a good option because she is (as previously described on my blog) not very good at entertaining herself. I have work that I need to do, and I certainly don't want her on her device all day long.

Most of the time, she goes to a small nearby childcare center that is play-based. During the summer they have weekly themes, and they offer supplies for different craft projects according to those themes. But they are very low-key, and it's typical for me to go by to pick my daughter up and find the kids doing something like making a cooperative book or practicing a show. [And sometimes they are watching a movie - you can't have everything.] But in general, it's a pretty relaxed environment, and ranges from 2 to maybe 6-7 kids there at one time. She's there during the school year after school, too, but there are more kids then.

Wanting to mix things up a bit, I had also signed her up for two weeks at a bigger, more structured day camp, held at a local elementary school. There were lots of STEAM activities - science and art projects (which are now taking up considerable space around our house). There was plenty of time outside running around, themes for the different days, music, and tremendous enthusiasm on the part of the young counselors. We know a bunch of other families who also attended this camp the first week, and most of the kids loved it.

My daughter? Not so much. After the first day, I basically had to force her to go every day. She kept whining and asking why she couldn't just go to the regular place. (Because I had pre-paid, and was not about to pay for 2 different things at the same time.) The best she could tell me about WHY she didn't like it was that it was too much like school. Reading between the lines a bit, it was like school but without the free play at lunch and recess, without any reading, and without seeing as many of her friends (especially the second week - the second week was very painful). She didn't like having to go from activity to activity on someone else's schedule. She didn't like having to run around outside in the heat. She didn't like being with 150 kids instead of the usual handful.

Some of this, I think, is a tendency in the direction of introversion. But I also think it's just the appeal of free play over structured activities. When I went to pick her up today, her first day back at her usual place, she begged me not to make her leave. About six kids were in the middle of a project to make a restaurant, which was at least partially my daughter's idea. She was punching holes in construction paper to make … something. I'm not really sure. Other kids were arranging chairs and thinking about how to make centerpieces. The teachers were offering ideas if the kids wanted them, but weren't pushing them or telling them what they had to do, or when they had to finish. I felt guilty that it was time to take her home. As any working parent knows, having your child beg you to STAY at childcare is a true blessing.

Please understand that I'm not knocking the STEAM-based day camp. Everyone there was clearly working hard, and most of the kids seemed to be having a good time. Even my daughter was inspired by the camp to build a cardboard and duct tape house (shown above), on her own at home, for the camp director's stuffed bird. But for my daughter overall, even when she had close friends also attending, it just wasn't a good fit.

The local place isn't perfect. The kids don't get outside as much I would like, or get much exercise, and there's the aforementioned movie watching. But there are some plusses that I hadn't really noticed before. The kids are of different ages, ranging from maybe 3 or 4 to 10 (which my reading on play tells me is good for kids). And even when they are watching movies, they have to decide themselves which one to watch. They negotiate and cooperate, and the teachers seem to maintain a pretty light hand through it all.

So, unless something changes, I expect that we'll be using the local place for most of the summer next year, and foregoing the more formal camp. My daughter and I will both be happier.

© 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

#JoyOfLearning Links from @DTWillingham + @ERobbPrincipal + @TelegraphSci: Enjoying Reading + #Playing Outdoors

JoyOFLearningLogoToday I have three articles that are seemed deserving of a bit of extra attention. The first two are about helping kids to enjoy reading, one aimed more at parents and the other aimed more at teachers, but both full of good sense. The third article is about a British initiative in which streets are closed down periodically so that children can get outside and play, with many resulting benefits. Wishing you joyful reading!

ReadingMindWhat Works For Getting Kids to Enjoy ? | Make access easy, offer no rewards  https://t.co/3HeVU3DQZS

Daniel T. Willingham: "The implication of these examples is that books should not just be available, but virtually falling into children’s laps, or at least, visible in as many locations as possible: in the classroom, in every room of the house, in the car, and so on...

Obviously some video content is more enriching than others—Sesame Street is not equivalent to Tom and Jerry cartoons—but if children are to choose reading, controlling the content of screen time won’t do it. The amount must be controlled as well." 

Me: After explaining why external rewards are unlikely to motivate kids to enjoy reading, Daniel Willingham draws on "the expectancy-value model" to suggest strategies that make reading a higher value activity to kids, like choosing books about subjects that they enjoy and using graphic novels to make decoding easier. I haven't read Willingham's newest book (The Reading Mind), from which this article is excerpted, but have enjoyed his previous titles. While the ideas of keeping books readily available, limiting external rewards, limiting screen time, and choosing books at the right reading level are not new, I am in agreement with Willingham's suggestions, and appreciate his science-based approach.

TeachingReadingBid Farewell to “I Hate Reading”, 7 concrete tips from Laura Robb | class , choice + more

Laura Robb: "Choice. Let students choose their reading materials. Let them abandon a book if it doesn’t resonate with them. I have a quick conference with students who abandon a book to find out why. The “why” offers insights into what they do and don’t enjoy.

Read aloud every day and introduce students to a wide-range of literary genres. Read those texts you love, as your passion will rub off on students. Reading aloud also builds students’ listening capacity, vocabulary, and their experiences with literary language."

Me: Laura Robb is a teacher, author and coach. Here she offers seven tips for teachers to help them encourage kids to enjoy reading. I was especially struck by her emphasis on the need for wide ranging classroom libraries (wide ranging both in terms of reading levels and subjects). In the above-referenced article, Daniel Willingham gave an example of students who were interested in a book, but not willing to make the extra effort to go to the nearby school library to check it out. The easier it is for kids to find and pick up books, the more they will read.

I hope that Laura Robb's advice reaches many teachers. If there was more emphasis in our schools, across all age ranges, on helping kids to ENJOY reading, more reading would be taking place. It's as simple as that. 

Close roads so kids can in the street like their parents did, say British public health experts

Sarah Knapton: "Roads should be closed regularly to allow children to play in the street as they did a generation ago, health experts have said, after a study showed pilot schemes increased youngsters’ activity five-fold.

More than 500 communities in Britain have already signed up to the ‘Playing Out’ initiative, which works with local councils to temporarily pedestrianise roads for an hour or two each week to allow children to play safely near their homes.

A new analysis of the simple scheme by the University of Bristol found that residents reported a greater sense of a community, overall happiness, and said their areas were more friendly and safer. One woman claimed the project had even helped her combat post-natal depression."

Me: This is just cool. My own issue is more that my daughter doesn't have other kids to play with in any nearby homes, but if we knew that some street nearby was being closed at a certain time, so that kids could play there, you may sure I would find a way to get her there. 

© 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 post may contain affiliate links. 

"I'm Bored. What Should I Do?"

I believe in the power of free play. I believe that kids should have time to dream, and to pursue their own interests. I believe that parents should try not to over-schedule their kids, to allow time for these things. I have a daughter who doesn't like to be over-scheduled, and protests when she feels like the frequency of activities is too high.

And yet. Self-entertainment is something that frequently seems elusive. My daughter is an only child. Not only that, she's an only child who for quite some time had a mother who worked from home AND had a full time nanny. She is as a result more dependent than I would like on having someone to play with her. 

ImBoredWe recently had a free Saturday together, our first in a while. My daughter spent what seemed like the entire day either asking me to play with her (which I did, some of the time) and/or complaining because none of her friends were available to play. She would have been happy to entertain herself (if you can call it that) had I allowed her to be on her tablet all day, but this I wasn't willing to do.

She tired fairly quickly of both reading and writing, and claimed that there was nothing else that she could do on her own. My suggestions of building something with blocks or cardboard boxes, coloring, playing a one-person logic game, etc. were all rebuffed. We ended up spending a big chunk of time sorting through her outgrown clothes, making up bags for Goodwill. Which was useful, but hardly the creative play that I had in mind for her (and hardly the chance to sit quietly and read for a while that I had in mind for myself).

It's not that she never plays on her own. She likes to read, write, draw, and build things. She'll sometimes play with barbies or her stuffed animals. But she'll only do these things on her own for short periods. Then she's back with "I'm bored. What can I do?". 

Playdates are a huge help, of course, and I'm grateful for every single one. But there are always going to be times when no friends are available, and I want her to be able to entertain herself. Some friends have offered advice on Facebook: knitting, quilting, sewing, personal scavenger hunts (in which the items are super hard to find). One friend, Sandhya Nankani, shared an article that she published this summer about the benefits of saying "That's fine, be bored." Sandhya is totally right, and her article is well worth a read. But I'm still struggling a bit.

I'm a pushover for buying my daughter books (of course), notebooks, and craft supplies. She has Legos and other toys coming out of her ears. Clearly it's more of a mindset than an actual lack of things to do. The bottom line is that this is something we're going to have to keep working on, little by little, building up her self-entertainment muscles. I'm determined to do this not just because I want more reading time for myself (though I do), but because I think that being able to entertain yourself is a life-long gift.

I know this is something that many parents struggle with. The tablet makes it more challenging, because she is used to being entertained by a screen. [And no, I'm not ready to get rid of the tablet altogether, though I do restrict its use, especially in the car.] Being an only child makes it more challenging, because I can't say "Go play with your sister". [And no, I'm not going to provide her with a sibling at this point.] Not living in a neighborhood where a dozen kids are out roaming around and playing outside every day makes it more challenging, compared to my own childhood. [And no, we're not moving.] But I also expect that the "I'm bored. What can I do?" refrain is timeless and near universal. [The cover image shown above supports this theory, from the picture book I'm Bored by Michael Ian Black and Debbie Ridpath Ohi.] 

Thoughts? Suggestions? Validation? As always, I welcome your feedback. 

© 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