129 posts categorized "Literacy Milestones" Feed

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


Literacy Milestone: Actively Wanting to Transition to Reading More Text

LiteracyMilestoneA

I wrote last month about my daughter (age eight, third grade) expressing a preference NOT to influence her younger cousin towards reading graphic novels, so that he would not become addicted. The other night she brought this up again, even more directly, saying that she wished she had never discovered graphic novels, even though she loves them, because she thinks that reading them has made it harder for her to learn to read books with more text. Her worry made me wonder, for the first time, whether such a thing could be true.

StuartLittleI think her concern has been triggered by two things. First, she's participating in her school's Battle of the Books (quiz show-themed reading incentive contest), and is feeling (self-imposed) pressure to read at least some of the books on the booklist. There are some appealing titles on there (Stuart Little, a Magic Treehouse book, a Judy Moody), but none of them are graphic or notebook novels.  Second, her teacher has asked her to try to read (and take AR tests on) more nonfiction titles. I am not an AR fan, but I am ok in general with the idea of her reading more nonfiction, as long as it doesn't dampen her enthusiasm for reading. And although there are a few nonfiction graphic format books, the pool of these in the school library is fairly limited. 

I ran her question by my Facebook and Twitter communities and received an array of responses. Most people said things along the lines of what I've always believed, that she will get there in her own time or when she finds the right book, and that the important thing now is to keep up her enjoyment of reading. This was helpful and encouraging, and there were some suggestions for encouraging her to diversify her palette a bit (see below). But a few quieter voices did say things like "Well, it took my son until 8th grade" for that to happen. Or, "I'm seeing 8th graders who will only read Wimpy Kid and Big Nate and I worry about them in college." Or, "I'm an adult and I still read mostly in graphic formats."  And these things, together with my daughter's own concerns, gave me pause.

SmileI've defended my daughter's love of graphic and notebook novels always. I've bought her a ton of books, and checked out piles of library books. I've loved watching her curled up on the window seat reading these books over and over again. But I've done all of this secure in the understanding that she will one day move beyond them into also reading more text-heavy books. [See Pernille Ripp's recent defense of graphic novels, complete with examples of some high quality graphic novels that tackle serious subjects.]

I love graphic novels and believe that they are "real books". However, I do not want my daughter to be someone who grows up ONLY reading comics, graphic novels, and notebook novels. First of all, she would miss out on a LOT of amazing books. Second, she would struggle in high school and college, or whenever it becomes necessary to be able to read more dense prose. Third, she would eventually start to struggle with reading comprehension in testing (and say what you will about the amount of testing in our schools, she needs to be able to do it). So yes, she does need to add more to her reading repertoire than heavily illustrated reading at some point.

That point doesn't have to be in third grade, I would have said… But now here she is, feeling like it's time. This tells me that it's time to at least explore our options.

WimpyKidMeltdownThe first thing my husband and I told her when she brought this up the other day was that she could practice by reading something text-heavy but easier. We told her that she doesn't need to go directly from the 13th Diary of a Wimpy Kid to the third Harry Potter book. She immediately seized on the idea of the Magic Treehouse books, and set herself a goal of reading all 49 of the ones that we have (thank you Scholastic Reading Club) for practice. She thought that she could read 7 a day, and whip through the series in a week. She has already realized that this would only be possible if she was home sick from school for several days, or otherwise had her schedule magically become clear of other things. But she did whip through three or four of them. 

ChristopherMouseWhat I have seen her doing since then is switching back and forth between formats. The other day she read a couple of chapters of Christopher Mouse (a Battle of the Books title) on one couch, then moved over to the other couch to re-read a Dork Diaries book. She brought home Who Is Jane Goodall? and Crystal the Snow Fairy from the school library, and alternates between those and whatever graphic novel or picture book is near at hand. Now that I think about it, she's like someone working to build up a new muscle. She exercises for a bit, then takes a break with some other activity that's easier for her, and then returns. 

Meanwhile, I've been working on building up some titles that I think might be helpful for her during this transition. In the interest of beefing up her nonfiction options, I ordered a couple of the Who Is(Was) ... titles about people I knew she would be interested in. She shrieked with joy over Who Was Blackbeard?! I also picked up a few Science Comics, and dug a Nathan Hale Hazardous Tale title that I had previously picked up out of the stack.  

My Facebook and Twitter friends had other constructive suggestions, such as:

  • Me reading aloud something more challenge to her, to build up her listening comprehension. And yes, we will get back to this at some point, but we're taking a break after the very intense Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
  • Her reading something in print format that she has already read in graphic format, like City of Ember or a Babysitters Club or the first Wings of Fire book. 
  • Finding more in between books, like the Andy Griffiths Treehouse books and the various Scholastic Branches books, that are heavily illustrated by still primarily text driven. 

I'm keeping all of these in my back pocket, along with my own the thought of trying audiobooks again. But I don't want this to turn into some sort of a complex for her, either. Third grade: the year she had to give up reading what she loves. So I'm planning to take it very, very slowly. I'll keep buying her graphic novels (and science comics and so on) and helping her check them out from the library. I'll also help her if and when she wants to find other titles that are a bit less heavily illustrated, but still hold her interest. 

I will keep you all posted. Many thanks to those who have already chimed in and offered support on this topic! 

© 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: A Renewed Affection for Picture Books

LiteracyMilestoneAThis isn't really a milestone, but I have noticed lately that my daughter (now eight, in third grade) is demonstrating a renewed affection for picture books. We never stopped reading picture books, but for a while we were mostly reading chapter books together. Now, since taking a break from the Harry Potter books and making more regular library visits, we've once again been reading picture books together at breakfast. I also constantly find picture books open or in piles in her bedroom and bathroom.

Duke!She's a bit less patient with these picture books than she was when she was younger. If she doesn't like a book, she will tell me to put it aside, and not even finish it. For instance, she found Aaron Reynolds and Dan Santat's new picture book Dude! annoying because it only had one word in it (though that was the point), and rejected it utterly. 

But she still has the potential to fall in love with a new book. We picked up the book Bears and Blossoms by Shirley Parenteau and David Walker at the library a few weeks ago. It's part of a series, but I had never run across the books before. They are aimed more at preschoolers, but my daughter fell head over heels anyway. I've had to renew Bears and Blossoms twice now, and we've checked out whatever other books in the series we have been able to find (I need to put the others on reserve). I finally gave in and ordered her a copy this week, because I am eventually going to have to return this one. 

FulBearsAndBlossomsl disclosure: her most special teddy bear has a strong resemblance to Fuzzy, the pink bear in the books. This seems to be the key to her interest. But it doesn't matter WHY a child loves a book, just that she does. Or so I think. 

Anyway, no real milestones this week, but I think it's kind of neat that my daughter is diving back in to picture books. Thanks for reading! 

© 2018 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook


Literacy Milestone: Pushing Me Towards Reading Print Books

LiteracyMilestoneAI have believed, since my daughter was small, that it's just better for her developmentally to read books in print, rather than onscreen. Sure, we had a couple of storybook-themed apps that she played with when she was younger (Jack and the Beanstalk, e.g.), but that was play time, not reading time. When I read to her (which was often), I read her print books. For picture books, in particular, I felt (and still feel) that print books provide a much better read together experience. 

Now that she's older (eight) there are arguments for letting her read books on a Kindle. I actually have an old one that she could use, and I own digital copies of a bunch of children's books. There's the portability argument for when we are traveling. I actually did set up and bring that old Kindle on a family trip this summer, just in case, but she didn't use it. There's also the ability to look up the meaning of words quickly and easily on a device. But usually I'm nearby and she can just ask me, which is even quicker. 

The truth is that it's just been my gut instinct that it's better for her to learn to love reading in the context of print books. She has her whole life to get more screen time in. And the fact that she mostly likes heavily illustrated books just reinforces the choice of print, for most titles. So that's that. Not very controversial. I know many parents who feel this way. 

WimpyKidOldSchoolWhat I didn't expect was that my daughter would start hounding ME to do more of my reading from print books, rather than screens. It started with her reading one of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books (probably it was #10: Old School, but I am not sure) and saying something like: "It says here that it's better for you to read books in print instead of on a screen." I agreed, and we talked about that.

Then (you knew this was coming) she started asking me why I do so much of my reading on a Kindle instead of reading print books. I tried to explain that I use a dedicated Paperwhite, rather than reading on a full-fledged tablet computer, so that I don't have distractions, and that the eInk screen isn't as disruptive as other screens when I'm reading at night, etc. That I take the lightweight Paperwhite everywhere so that I can read if I have a spare moment, and so on. She did not buy any of it.

Ever since, she's been nagging me about this whenever the opportunity arises. One day I made a point of locking the car even though we would only be gone for a couple of minutes. I said that my Kindle was in the car and that I didn't want it to get stolen. Her response was along the lines of:  "Well, if your Kindle got stolen then you would have to read some real books for a change, and that would actually be good." 

ReaderComeHomeThe truth is, she might be right. I read an article by Maryanne Wolf that talked about the impact on our brains of replacing "deep reading" with various forms of screen reading that gave me pause. Wolf talks about how digital reading is associated with more skimming, and hence lower reading comprehension. I haven't read Wolf's book on this topic: Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in the Digital World. I also talked recently with a friend who noted how much more throughly he reads the print newspaper vs. when he's reading in the app. I've noticed this myself with magazine that I get in print, but can read sooner in the app version. 

Then there's the fact that even if this isn't true (that the format of reading matters for adults), it does matter for what message I'm sending to my daughter. When she sees me reading a print book she KNOWS that I'm reading. When she sees me reading from a screen, even when it's my book-dedicated Kindle, she's just less sure. And I do want to model reading for her. It's one of the things as a parent that I am best at. 

I won't be giving up Kindle. I love the immediacy of being able to download the sequel the instant that I finish a mystery. I love being able to upload all my highlights to my computer when I'm reading nonfiction. I love always having several books that I want to read with me, especially when I'm traveling. I appreciate not having quite so many print books piling up (if you saw my house, you would understand). I value being able to set the Kindle on the arm of the sofa next to my exercise bike and tap with one finger to turn the pages (in a way that doesn't work at all with print books). I need these things, to varying degrees. 

However, I have started to think carefully before I make any book purchases, to see if it might be better in this case to get it in print, or from the library. Maybe my husband will want to read it, too. Maybe I'll want to keep it on the bookshelf. Maybe I want my daughter to see me reading this book. And so on.

IdRatherBeReadingOne recent case was the book I'd Rather Be Reading: The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life by Anne Bogel. I read the sample on my Kindle and was tempted to just order it. But one of the reviews specially talked about what an appealing little book it was in hardcover, just the right size to hold. Certainly it passed the test of a book that would make me happy to have my daughter see me reading it. So I delayed my gratification for a couple of days and ordered the print copy. I'm so glad that I did. I've been keeping the book on my nightstand and reading an essay or two each night. I love the physicality of the book. I give it a little pat on the cover when I'm done for the day. I appreciate this particular book more in print. 

This is all a bit of a work in progress. My daughter also wants me to spend less time on my phone and computer. But that's a topic for another post. But for now it's enough to share that she is expressing a very clear anti-device-reading message to me, and that I am listening. Thanks for reading!

© 2018 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. And yes, most of the links, including to the Paperwhite, are affiliate links. 


Literacy Milestone: The Joy of Regular Library Visits

LiteracyMilestoneAI must confess that although I have always loved libraries, public library visits have never been a regular part of my daughter's schedule. Oh, we've certainly visited over the years. We did some toddler storytimes when she was little, we'd go and read picture books at the nearby branch whenever we were at the hospital where my husband works, we'd pop by the branch that was next to a playground as a two for one outing, etc. We'd start out each summer vacation by bringing home bags of library books. 

But the truth that must be acknowledged about our book-privileged life is that we always had plenty of books at home. This was because of my blog (I was a round one judge for the Cybils in fiction picture books twice) and because I am a sucker for buying books, from the Scholastic flyers to freestanding bookstores to Target to Amazon. This abundance of books meant that we never really needed to make library visits part of our routine. They were more something we would do sporadically when it happened to be convenient.

But this fall, I finally found a way to make visiting the library a regular part of our routine. I signed my daughter up for a weekly art class. The class is in the same shopping center as a beautiful new library branch. It's just a hop-skip-and-a-jump between them. This branch, which I hadn't visited until last month, is fairly small but supremely kid-friendly. I cleverly scheduled her class so that the library branch would be open for nearly an hour following the class. 

AtTheLibrary_FotorAnd now: we have a routine.We park across from the library. We return the books that we are finished with. I walk her over and leave her at the art studio. I walk back and sit in the library and read for an hour. Then I pick her up and take her back to the library, where she greedily pulls dozens of books off the shelves and hands them off to me to carry. Then she finds a cozy spot (this branch has several) and reads until I drag her away because we are ridiculously late for dinner. 

The books that she is choosing, not incidentally, are mostly books that she's already read. She is finding her friends on the shelves and bringing them home. Last week she grabbed a half dozen Diary of a Wimpy Kid titles. The week before it was every single Babymouse or Squish title that was on the shelf (several of which we already had at home).  She also likes to grab picture books about which she is nostalgic, like Mo Willems titles, even if we own those, too. She picked a picture book that her class had read last year as part of Project Cornerstone, and a couple of early readers. She picks graphic novels that she's read but that we don't own (like the Amulet series, and the books about Cleopatra in Space). Sometimes I'll suggest something that she hasn't read that I think she might like. She'll shrug and toss it in, but these titles are likely to go back unread. I am fine with this. 

And here's the best part. We go home and she becomes a reading machine, plowing through the books that we brought as though someone was going to take them away. It's hard to even get her to eat dinner or go to bed. Piano practice is a lost cause on library nights. I, of course, am fine with all of that. 

We are rather late to having a real library routine, but I am celebrating it now. I'm more willing to put titles on hold now, too, because I know that we'll be going in within a week. I'll be able to pick them up without making a special trip. My already devoted reader of a daughter is reading more. I get to spend time browsing the shelves and sitting reading myself. It's all good.

If you would like to get your kids to the library more, I recommend scheduling some other regular activity to take place near to the library if you can. The power of building things into your routine cannot be over-estimated. Gretchen Rubin and Charles Duhigg would be proud.

How about you? Have you been successful in making public library visits a part of your regular routine? 

© 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: Writing a Newspaper

LiteracyMilestoneAPretty much since she knew what writing was, my daughter has loved to write. As I've noted before in these posts, she keeps notebooks everywhere. This week, however, she started a new writing project. She is creating her own newspaper. So far there have been two issues, each about five pages long. The issues have each included:

  • Two pages of ads
  • One page of comics
  • One page of news
  • One page of miscellaneous (one day it was movie listings, the other day it was a description of a skit)

The continuing news story has been about the "Eerie Fire". The headline for issue two was "Eerie fire Rages on!!!!" The situation is quite desperate. Many people, including babies (!) have been killed, some by smoke. The guilty party, Thomas, is in jail, complete with a picture of him behind bars with a sad face saying "I started it". If you have a somewhat dark sense of humor, as I do, these heavily illustrated stories are hilarious. And yes, you can tell she lives on the wildfire-prone West Coast, and that she's absorbed more news stories about fires than I realized. 

The ads have ranged from hair salons to restaurants. They include phone numbers and email addresses, and lists of services. And pictures, of course. The comics (while not as funny as the stories about the fire, if you ask me) are about things like parenting (poopy diapers, etc), drumming, and ninjas. The movie listings are, well, let's say unconventional. 

She is doing this largely on her own. She has asked me to help with copy-editing, mainly correcting spelling, and she has requested some input as she works on the comics. She has plans to continue producing new issues at least twice a week for the rest of the year. (Though this seems unlikely to me, as other projects will arise.) 

Don't you love it when kids get obsessed with a project? Especially a project that involves something creative, like writing or drawing (or both, in this case)? I know I do. I can't wait for the next issue. I'm especially curious to see what will be happening with the Eerie Fire, and Thomas's jail time.

Did your kids ever produce their own books or newspapers?

Thanks for reading! 

© 2018 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook


Literacy Milestone: Feeling Nostalgia for Past Favorites

LiteracyMilestoneAMy daughter is only 8, but she is already nostalgic about books that she loved when she was younger. When the Goodnight Train sequel arrived (review to come, it is lovely), she had to read it immediately. She adored it, but I know that love was partly a response to how much she had bonded with the first Goodnight Train book.

CuriousGardenA day or so later I got out a bunch of picture books that had been favorites and stacked them on the table for the next day's breakfast reading. (We were taking a break between Harry Potter read-alouds.) She looked through the stack said "Oh, The Curious Garden" in that tone we all use for nostalgia. Like "Oh, something that I have loved and haven't seen or thought of recently. How lovely." I couldn't even get her to eat dinner until she sat down and read it herself. 

She's also been quoting from Little Blue Truck recently, for some reason, even though we haven't looked at that one in years. It's not so much the quoting that catches my eye, but her affectionate tone when she does it. Like someone sharing a fond memory.  

ChangelingI think we can build on this nostalgia, actually. I know I have some books that are favorites now in part because I read them and re-read them over the years, constantly reminding myself about my previous love for the book each time. Gone-Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright and The Changeling by Zilpha Keatley Snyder come to mind from middle grade, Listening Valley by D. E. Stevenson from adult reads. So my task with my daughter is going to be to weed through the picture books so that I can keep the ones we LOVED in one place. Then we can reread them regularly, and keep that nostalgia building. 

What about you? Are you nostalgic about favorite books? How about your kids?

© 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: Building a Reading Nest

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

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

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

ReadingNest

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

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

© 2018 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook


A Bittersweet Literacy Milestone: Crying over a Book

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

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

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

LiteracyMilestoneA

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

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

© 2018 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook


Literacy Milestone: Distinguishing between Reading and Skimming

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading, and for growing bookworms!

© 2018 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook