138 posts categorized "Literacy Milestones" Feed

Literacy Milestone: Making a Crossword Puzzle

LiteracyMilestoneAThe other day my daughter decided, for reasons that aren't completely clear to me, to make her own crossword puzzle. She started by coming up with a list of words, all related to trees. Then she formed them into a connected grid (each word connected to one other word by one letter, nothing too complex). I pointed out one spelling error that necessitated a correction to the grid, and she had to start over again, but she was enjoying the process, so that was no problem. 

She erased the words from the final grid, leaving the list of words to be filled in. She thought that she was done, but I pointed out that to make it a true crossword puzzle she needed to next convert the words into clues. Which she did, with a little bit of help from me. (I'm not sure she knew much about, say, a birch tree.)

She then make a clean copy, which she could duplicate using our printer/copier. She presented a copy to her friend for his birthday, and made him do the puzzle (with some help) before opening the rest of his present.  My husband also got a copy to work on, of course. The image of the puzzle is shown below (click to enlarge). 

TreeCrossword

What I loved about this project was that it wasn't based on any kind of assignment. It was just something that seemed fun to do. And in the process she learned a bit more about crossword puzzles. I'm guessing she will also remember how to spell "cedar" in the future (though this has admittedly limited applicability in her day to day life).

I don't remember ever making my own crossword puzzles as a kid, but I have certainly had my phases of doing crossword puzzles over the years. How about all of you?

Thanks for reading, and for growing bookworms.

© 2019 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage


Literacy Milestone: Wanting to be a Journalist

LiteracyMilestoneAThis won't come as a huge surprise, given her earlier newspaper creation project, but my daughter announced recently that she thinks that journalism might be a good future career for her. What made this stand out for me was that she had actually thought it through, based on the things that she likes to do and the things that she's good at. More and more, she's self-identifying as a person who likes to / needs to write. 

I'm not sure exactly where the idea of journalism specifically came from, but I had recently gotten her a subscription to a monthly printed newspaper written for kids called Xyza News for Kids. [It's pretty cool - I do recommend it.] She also knows that I read two newspapers every day. She has in general been asking me about news events lately, both current (Momo) and historic (the Holocaust), as she hears about things.

As a result of her interest, I've started being more proactive in telling her about news stories I think she'll find relevant. For instance, I told her about the recent college admissions cheating scandal. Her question there was: "What's going to happen to the kids who are in college?". Which is an excellent question. Of course I am selective about what stories I tell her about. 

But she has her own ideas about what she's ready to hear about, anyway. She got it into her head this week to research people who had escaped from prison and were still at large. I printed out an article that I found listing a bunch of escapees from New Jersey prisons. She made a little crime notebook about them. This notebook makes her feel like a journalist, and I guess that's the real point. 

LandryNewsI can't say that I would want to see her decide to be some sort of international war zone correspondent in the future. But in the relatively near term, if she wants to get involved in school newspapers, I think that could be a good fit for her. I slipped a copy of The Landry News by Andrew Clements into her book basket this weekend, and have a couple of other journalism-themed titles on her wish list. And, of course, I keep feeding her notebook habit (which is not small task - you would not believe how many notebooks she has accumulated). 

Reading and writing are so intertwined. I remain thrilled that my daughter is passionate about both of them, in whatever ways she chooses to express that. Thanks for reading!

© 2019 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage


Literacy Milestone: Librarian for a Day

LiteracyMilestoneAMy book-loving friends would have been cheered by seeing my daughter dance around the kitchen with joy after she learned that we had won our bid for her to be Librarian for a Day at her elementary school. The fact that we were the only bidder was a bit sad in theory, but worked out for us. 

Her actual experience being Librarian for a Day was last week. She was very proud. She came home talking about what kinds of research projects that kids in the upper grades were working on, and which friends from other grades she was able to see when they visited. She especially enjoys checking out books and adding tape to the corners of new books (something that she experienced last year, in her first librarian incarnation).

It makes me happy that my daughter loves the school library, and the librarian, enough to be utterly delighted to do this two years in a row. We'll see what next year brings!

Thanks for reading, and for growing bookworms! 

© 2019 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage


Literacy Milestone: Appreciating the Smell of New Books

RevengeOfTheSisThis week an early copy of the upcoming Jedi Academy book by Jarrett Krosoczka and Amy Ignatow, Revenge of the Sis, landed on my doorstep. I knew that my daughter would be excited. I put the book in the car and gave it to her  when I picked her up from school. Perhaps some of you heard her piercing squeal of excitement - I am still recovering my hearing. 

The next thing I heard from the back seat was: "Oh, I love how new books smell!", accompanied by a deep sigh of satisfaction. Nothing more was heard from the backseat until we had arrived at our destination. As it should be.

BookLoveTungI don't believe that I've ever talked with my daughter about the wonders of "new book smell," though she did recently see this concept in a cartoon by Debbie Tung. [Click through to see 14 examples from Debbie's new book, Book Love, at Introvert Dear.] But here she is, showing yet another sign of becoming a true book lover. It was a small moment, but it made me happy. I thought that my book-loving friends would enjoy it, too.

Thanks for reading, and for growing bookworms!

© 2019 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage


Literacy Milestone: Reading the Percy Jackson Books

LiteracyMilestoneAMy daughter's latest milestone on her path to literacy (or, more accurately, bookworm-hood) is obsession with The Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan. She's reading The Lightning Thief on her own and is about halfway through. It's a bit of a reach for her, in terms of reading level, but she is highly motivated. Her interest has been furthered by a Christmas gift of the version illustrated by John Rocco from her aunt and uncle. I have contributed by re-listening to the audio version, so that I can better answer any questions that she has as they arise. Her school librarian has supported her by sending her home with the second book over the holidays (though she's not actually there yet, I think that the vote of confidence was helpful). 

LightningThiefI knew that she was truly engaged, though, when she constructed a version of Camp Half Blood in her grandparents' basement. Though the details she was able to provide were limited (dining and swimming areas, signs pointing to cabins and restrooms, etc.), we were still able to act out our own scenarios. [For what it's worth, I was Percy's long-list twin sister, arriving at camp a couple of years after his first appearance.]

I'm not sure whether or not she knows that a graphic novel version of The Lightning Thief is available, but I actually don't think that she would pursue that anyway. She's enjoying (with plenty of graphic novels breaks interspersed for mental breaks) challenging herself with the full book. She know that there is a movie, but also that Rick Riordan isn't much of a fan of that, so I'm not sure whether she'll want to watch it or not. 

The Lightning Thief was one of the very first books that I reviewed on my blog, back in early 2006 (from the audio version). I was an early fan of Rick Riordan's (having previously enjoyed his adult mysteries), and he's one of the few authors that I ever interviewed for the blog (a post that, believe it or not, still generates traffic). This context around the book makes me even happier to see my daughter falling under the spell of these wonderful books. 

© 2019 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage


Literacy Milestone: Creating Graphic Novel Versions of Stories

LiteracyMilestoneAAs regular readers of this blog know, my eight-year-old daughter is a huge fan of graphic novels. She's been mixing in more prose-dominant texts of late, particularly for school, but graphic novels still hold a special place in her heart. Her latest innovation is to create graphic novel versions of texts that she is reading. She started last month with a folktale from an anthology, assigned for reading homework. For some reason, she decided that instead of just reading the story, she would adapt it to a graphic novel format.

This took much, much longer than it would have taken her to simply read the story. I eventually had to refuse to let her complete the adaption so that she would have time to finish the actual reading before (her already late) bedtime. I believe she plans to finish at some later time (the anthology didn't come home the next day, otherwise she would have done it right away). 

Apart from the fact this it was time-consuming, I supported the effort. To convert a story into another format, one has to first process the story. I also read an article by Emma Young in BPS Research Digest recently that said that "the act of drawing something has a massive benefit for memory compared with writing it down." Here's a snippet:

"Myra Fernandes and colleagues at the University of Waterloo, Canada ... first established what they call the “drawing effect” – getting people to draw quick pictures of words in a list (such as “truck” or “pear”) led to much better recall of those words than writing them out multiple times. Creating just a four-second drawing was also superior to imagining the items or viewing pictures of the words." 

There are promising implications here for people with dementia. I'm sure there's more to it than this, but to me it makes sense that the effort of understanding something well enough to draw it probably helps in remembering it. So I could certainly see some academic benefits to my daughter from adapting other narratives to a graphic format. There's also the practice at drawing, of course, and the fact that she is reinforcing her love of graphic novels by creating them herself (albeit with a head start on the story). I think it's safe to say that original graphic novel work is going to follow. (Well, she's already dabbling in that, too.]

Do your kids convert the stories they are reading into other formats? I don't remember doing anything like this as a child, but a) I don't have a very good memory and b) graphic novels weren't a thing at that time. So who can say? 

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


Two Side Benefits of Raising Your Child to Love Reading

There are many benefits that accrue to children who grow up as readers. Today I want to share a couple of recent incidents that illustrate benefits for parents of raising a child who enjoys reading. 

TheGetawayFirst up, during the Thanksgiving break I had to take my daughter to both Costco and Safeway one morning. Shortly after we entered Costco we swung past the book section. She begged for a Diary of a Wimpy Kid book that she hadn't read yet (The Getaway). Being a sucker for books, I agreed. She promptly climbed into the back of the cart (luckily I didn't need very much on that trip) and proceeded to read through the entire shopping expedition. She continued reading, in a different shopping cart, while we were at Safeway. Throughout both stores she only asked for ONE THING, and did not complain when I said no. Normally I try not to shop with her at all, because she's constantly asking me to purchase various items. But not that trip, when there was reading to be done. I figure that the $8 that I paid for the book probably saved me quite a bit of money. Certainly it saved me stress, while providing some extra exercise from pushing the carts.

PositivelyIzzyI repeated this experiment a few days later on a trip to the toy-filled, kid-mecca that is Target, agreeing (after some initial reluctance) to purchase a copy of Positively Izzy by Terri Libenson (companion book to Invisible Emmie, which my daughter had already read). This time, the only request she made throughout the rest of the trip was for vanilla yogurt (which was reasonable enough). 

Moral #1: if you can train your child to basically have blinders on whenever she had a new book in front of her, you can safely walk her past even the most tempting of distractions. Shopping trips will be more economical and efficient, all for the low price of one new book. 

SandWarriorThe other incident occurred on a recent Sunday afternoon. My husband and I were working on various chores around the house. My daughter asked for a playdate but the friends we tried were busy and it didn't work out. Normally, this would have produced whining, at a minimum. But in this case, she simply disappeared. We had a peaceful and productive 90 minutes before she reappeared, announcing that she had read all of the first Five Worlds book and about half of the second. She was proud of her accomplishment and happy as a clam. And I got most of my Christmas cards addressed. It was a win all around, thanks to the power of reading. 

Moral #2: if you can inspire your child to enjoy reading, and you ensure that there are always interesting books scattered strategically around your house, you will eventually be rewarded with periods of quiet time (during which no mess is generated). 

As any parent (particularly any parent of an only child) knows, these benefits are not to be sneezed at. So, if you aren't already convinced that you should nurture a love of reading in your children for their sake, do it for yourself. You'll be glad you did. 

© 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


Literacy Milestone: Voluntarily Clarifying Vocabulary Words

LiteracyMilestoneAMy daughter and I recently started reading Inkheart by Cornelia Funke together. She found a copy of Inkdeath on my bookshelf and became intrigued by the series, but she did understand that starting with the third book would be a mistake (I had listened to the first two on audio). Knowing that this would be a book that would take some time to get through, I purchased a copy. While Amazon lists the age range for Inkheart as eight to twelve, she gave the first chapter a try on her own and found the storyline and vocabulary a bit too complex to read on her own. So I started reading the book aloud to her instead. 

InkheartAs we read, we've been doing what her teacher calls "clarifying" in terms of the vocabulary, where she stops when she gets to an unfamiliar word, looks it up, and writes the definition on a post-it that remains in the book. Because we are reading together and this isn't for school I mostly just tell her the definitions and she writes them down. I don't have the patience to wait for her to look up the words herself. Funke uses a very rich vocabulary, and there are many words to look up. 

I have mixed feelings about doing this formal clarifying with an advanced read-aloud (vs. my just defining the most key words in passing as I go along, which is how we have handled previous books). Pages 6-7 of Inkheart required eight post-it notes between them, and we haven't gotten past Chapter 1. This definitely breaks the flow of the story.

On the other hand, my daughter is currently entranced and entertained by the process.  She was also very excited when I happened to use one of the words (sparse) in conversation and she recognized it from the book. She's dying to show her teacher our post-it-festooned copy.

What I really think is that doing this formal clarifying during read-aloud is fine as long as the novelty of it remains fun for her. Heck, I used to read the dictionary as a kid - I get having an interest in words. However, once we get further into the book (if we get further into the book right now), stopping frequently to write down definitions is going to become frustrating. 

Appreciating words for their own sake is a step on the path towards becoming a literate adult.  I remember, with a slight wince, a story that I wrote in junior high, and read aloud to my English class, that was chock-full of obscure vocabulary words. In my daughter's case, I think at least part of her interest in clarifying has to do with how much she looks up to her teacher. This is a further validation that we are fortunate in her classroom placement. 

Did your kids have a word-definition phase? 

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


Literacy Milestone: Identifying the Elements that Make Something a Good Book

LiteracyMilestoneAThe other day my daughter read a book that I had purchased for her back in August: Cardboard by Doug TenNapel. She said something along the lines of not having thought, based on the cover and title, that it would be interesting. She expressed her surprise that it was in fact interesting.

CardboardThen she started to tell me what made it a good book. I don't remember the exact details, but it was something along the lines of: "Well, there was a good guy, and a villain who is a bully, and then there are all these bad guys from the cardboard, and the plot was interesting, and there's a twist, and... " You get the idea.

Thanks to her book-loving third grade teacher, she's progressed this school year from just saying: "This is a great book. I love it. You should write about it." Now she wants to tell me why something is a good book. This is an important step on the path to being a true reader. If we know why we like certain books, we can more easily find other books that are like them. We can better recommend them to others, by pointing out their key features. 

Maybe when her writing skills advance a little bit further I will set her to work writing reviews for this blog. Given that my own enthusiasm for writing them has waned quite a bit, this might be just the ticket... 

I am very much enjoying see her mature as a reader and a writer this year. 

© 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


Literacy Milestone: An Appreciation for Biographies

LiteracyMilestoneAI've mentioned previously that my daughter's third grade teacher has been encouraging the students to read nonfiction (driven by common core, I suppose). My graphic novel-obsessed daughter had never previously displayed much interested in nonfiction. But she adores and wants to please her teacher, so she started picking up these little Who Is / Who Was biographies from the school library. The other day she remarked: "I never knew biographies could be so interesting." And so she is hooked (not to rival graphic novels, but she's reading multiple biographies each week). 

WhoWasAnneFrankShe mostly chooses biographies of women. She's read about Jane Goodall, Anne Frank, Marie Curie, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and J. K. Rowling, as well as Walt Disney and Dr. Seuss and a few others that I am probably forgetting. She periodically chimes in with facts about one or another of these figures. She was particularly fascinated by Anne Frank, and has been talking about her quite a bit. 

As for me, I'm happy to know that there are lots of books remaining in the Who Was/Who Is series, and that quite a few of those are about women. We do also have some nonfiction in graphic novel format, and have been reading a couple of fact-filled  Magic School Bus books each week. But it is biographies that are capturing her attention at this step along her pathway to literacy. It's fun seeing her develop as a learner and a reader. 

Did your kids have a biography phase? 

© 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


What Has Worked for Us in Reducing #ScreenTime

DorkDiaries13I cannot over-emphasize how effective it has been to require my daughter to do things before she can have access to screen time. Right now as I write it is Saturday morning. We have a free day ahead of us and are taking it easy. She asked, for the first time in ages, to have her 30 minutes of iPad time. (My fault: I brought up screens in the first place.) I said ok, after she gets dressed and brushes her teeth and hair (a policy that I established back over the summer). And so … 45 minutes later she is up in her room re-reading the newest Dork Diaries book, still in her pajamas with messy hair and unbrushed teeth, no screen in sight. [Update: she did eventually get the screen time, but she read the entire book first, so I still think it was a win.]

Since putting this policy in place, we've cut her iPad time almost to nothing. This despite the fact that the things I require her to do are things that she's going to have to do eventually anyway. It's a miracle of human motivation, at least in our case. In place of that screen time she is reading, writing, drawing, doing crafts, and building elaborate structures out of MagnaTiles. Honestly, I consider this one of my greatest ever parenting wins, second only to the fact that she now cheers enthusiastically for the Red Sox and is starting to understand the game. 

ReaderComeHomeAlso on the subject of screen time, I have taken my daughter's recommendation / request that I read more print books to heart. I've been reading more in print and less on my Kindle (though not none). This makes every book acquisition decision more complex, as I have to decide on format (print, kindle, library, audio). But I find the extra effort worthwhile. I'm validating her request as well as more visually demonstrating reading to my daughter. And there's the potential benefit that I'm reading more deeply myself. [See this article by Maryanne Wolf for more detail, and/or check out her book Reader, Come Home, which Mary Ann Scheuer recommends].

The more I read on this topic [see iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy--and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood--and What That Means for the Rest of Us and Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked, for example, as well as this recent NY Times piece by Nellie Bowles], the more I think that keeping my daughter's screen time down is important and likely to pay long term dividends. She reads more. She's less irritable. My guess is that she'll have better concentration in the long term. I know it will be harder when she's old enough for social media and when she has more homework that has to be done on a computer.

But for now, just requiring her to take care of routine business before getting on the device is working like a charm. I highly recommend giving this a try!

© 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 may be affiliate links, providing me with a small commission on purchases. 


Literacy Milestone: Utter Satisfaction with the Latest Installment of a Favorite Series

LiteracyMilestoneAThe newest installment of Rachel Renee Russell's Dork Diaries series, Tales from a Not-So-Happy Birthday, was released last Tuesday. Being a sucker for books, I had acceded to my daughter's request that I pre-order it. It arrived while she was at school. I put it in the car so that she would have the earliest possible access. [The day could come when I would take a new book to her at school, but this was not that day.]

She loves her after-school care, and I always have trouble getting her to leave. But not last Tuesday. As she started her usual complaining I interrupted with: "Would it make a difference if the new Dork Diaries book was in the car?" She didn't even respond verbally. But she was in that car more quickly than ever before. [Side note: if authors that she loves could have new releases every week, we would never again be late for piano lessons. But it would be expensive.]

DorkDiaries13She read in the car on the way to and from piano. She stayed in the car for a while, reading, when we got home, and then settled herself in cozily on the couch under a blanket. She even took the book with her to the bathroom. She did not stop reading until Tales from a Not-So-Happy Birthday was finished. My husband and I were at the time watching Game 3 of the American League Championship Series. We are big Red Sox fans. She would interrupt periodically to say things like "This is SO good!" or "I can't BELIEVE it!". She even displayed mild irritation when we leapt up from the couch to celebrate Jackie Bradley, Jr.'s grand slam, because we were breaking her concentration. 

Soon enough, she finished the book. She closed it with satisfaction, declared it now to be her "favorite book", and added: "It's even better than the iPad." High praise indeed! In truth, she hasn't even looked at, or asked for, her tablet in several weeks. This I consider a parenting win, one that I am grateful for every day. But I was still pleased to hear her declare that a book was better. 

She's been excited about the arrival of new books before, of course. I think what stood out about this incident was how well the book itself lived up to her expectations. She immediately started pressing me to read it, something that she doesn't usually do. 

I suppose this isn't really a milestone. It's more an excuse to share with you how happy it made me to see my daughter so thrilled by, so immersed in, a book. Thank you Rachel Renee Russell. While I certainly enjoyed that Red Sox game, what will stay in my memory far longer is my satisfaction in looking over at her, curled up under her blanket, beaming with happiness. THIS is what growing bookworms is all about. 

© 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