151 posts categorized "Literacy Milestones" Feed

Literacy Milestone: Falling in Love with A Middle Grade Book Series

Last week I shared a "Bookworm Moments" post about my daughter toting around books in the Magic Kingdom on our recent vacation. My loyal commenter Judy thought that I had buried the lead. She said that what I should have focused on in the post title was that this was the first big, thick book that my daughter read straight through that wasn't a graphic novel. Judy is right, of course, that this was an important part of the story. But I was waiting for my daughter to finish the Candymakers series to write about that aspect of it. And I'm glad that I did.

My daughter finished The Candymakers and the Great Chocolate Chase earlier this week. She has since declared the two Candymakers books (by Wendy Mass) her all-time favorites, giving a 2% edge to the second book. She is now distraught because there are no more Candymakers books. She's walking around saying things like:

  • The Candymakers books are "clinging to my brain" and I can't focus on starting any other books.
  • I wish (my friend who wants to be an engineer) could invent a "brain eraser" to that I could erase these books from my memory, and read them again for the first time.
  • I MISS the Candymakers. WHY aren't there any more books in the series?
  • It's so frustrating that you can't re-read mysteries, because you already know  what happens.
  • And so on... 

She is unwilling to start another book (not even another Wendy Mass book), because it won't be the same.

CandymakerThe time came Friday morning that she had to pack up The Candymakers and the Great Chocolate Chase to return it to the school library. She clutched it to her heart and pouted. She only agreed to return it when I said that we could check it out from the public library over the weekend. She doesn't intend to re-read it yet, mind you. She just wants to have it nearby, because she loves it so much. 

I told her that I understood. I told her that The Candymakers books will always have a special place in her heart, because they are the first books the she truly immersed herself in. Graphic novels are wonderful, but they're much quicker reads. And the pictures are, obviously, created by someone else. Falling deeply in love with some 1000 pages (over two books) of text, and creating the pictures in your own mind, is a more immersive experience. 

I also told her that it's not about this particular copy of the book. That it's the story that matters. I told her that to this day there are books that I pat on the spine when I run across them in a library or a bookstore, because they are my friends. I told her that one day, when she's grown and has children of her own, the Candymakers books will be like that for her. I believe that this is true. 

The other reason that this milestone made me happy was that this opens a door for my daughter. Although I'm happy for her to read graphic novels whenever she likes, I have really struggled to find enough of them to keep her engaged. But if she can sit down and plow through a 500 page middle grade novel over a few days, just THINK of how many other wonderful books there are for her to  choose from.

Once those Candymakers characters stop clinging to her brain, anyway, and let someone else in.  

Thanks for reading, and for caring about growing bookworms. 

© 2020 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage

Literacy Milestone: Collecting Words (the Bigger, the Better)

LiteracyMilestoneAMy daughter has been writing since she could pick up a pencil, more or less. Right now she's going through a stage that I remember going through myself (though I was older): collecting words, the bigger the word, the better. I first noticed this as she was writing thank you notes for her Christmas presents. She ended up thanking my parents "supercalifragilisticexpialidociously much" for a new dress. Because "very" just wasn't cutting it anymore. 

The other day she asked me to read a story she was writing. I noticed that the story featured a girl standing on the "periphery" of the seashore, "pondering about" something. She told me that Alexa had given her "periphery" when she asked for a synonym. A later draft had a couple of word sketched in very lightly, because she planned to later fill those in with stronger synonyms. Once she discovered them, anyway. 

I was reminded of a story that I wrote in junior high, full of words like "frangible". The teacher had me read it aloud to the class. Recalling how pretentious it was makes me cringe. But I was a true lover of words. Does anyone remember the "It pays to increase your word power" feature from  Reader's Digest? I certainly do! 

I suppose it makes sense that my daughter is using the much more state of the art tool of Alexa to learn new words. Do you think she'll one day be talking about how old-fashioned it was to need a standalone AI for that? Of course, for both of us the vocabulary words that we learn and use come mostly from reading.

Not completely, though. The other day my daughter correctly used the word "cronies" in conversation. When I asked her about it, turned out she had picked that one up from a song in the school play (she had a small role in Aladdin). 

Words are everywhere. You just have to look. And listen.

© 2020 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage

Literacy Milestone: Declaring a Favorite Book

LiteracyMilestoneAMy daughter has a stack of her 50 favorite picture books, and various stacks of her favorite graphic novels. She has declared favorite  picture book authors and illustrators a few times (Mo Willems, Bob Staake, Shirley Parenteau + David Walker), and has fan-girled other authors (Raina Telgemeier, Shannon Hale, Suzanne Nelson). But the other day, for the first time that I can recall, she declared a particular book to be her favorite. 

The book was Kristy's Big Day, the sixth book in the Baby-Sitters Club Graphix series, by Ann M. Martin and Gale Galligan. Why this one, I wondered. She explained thus:

KristysBigDay"Well, the Baby-Sitters Club is my favorite series. And Kristy's Big Day is my favorite book in the series. So, that makes it my favorite book." 

Impeccable logic, that. I wonder if it will hold up. I have a couple of childhood favorites that certainly remain in my top 10, though my all-time favorite is one that I first read as an adult. But that was before the days of graphic novels. Time will tell! 

Do you have a favorite book?

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: Sneaking in Amazon Pre-Orders

LiteracyMilestoneAI use Amazon to look up release dates for upcoming books of interest, many of which I add to my daughter's and my wish lists. The other day, after one such check-in, I gave my daughter permission to preorder the upcoming Dork Diaries book (Tales from a Not-S0-Best Friend Forever, due out Oct. 22). I figured, who am I kidding? We're GOING to end up buying it one way or another. That was fine.

However, when I logged in to my Amazon account the next morning, I found four new preorders. In addition to the Dork Diaries book, someone had also preordered:

When confronted with this, my daughter claimed that she was only trying to add the others to her wish list and that they had been ordered by accident. I consider this implausible, though not out of the question. Her case is supported by the fact that the only titles that she requested were preorders, but undermined by the fact that further investigation on my part revealed that we had preordered not one but two copies of Guts by Raina Telgemeier (Sept. 17). 

As a parenting matter, I have canceled a couple of the preorders and threatened to turn off one-click ordering on my laptop if it happens again. But as a bookworm-nurturer, I must admit that it made me laugh. 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

A Modern Literacy Milestone: A Preference for Specific Fonts


Recently my daughter has displayed a preference for certain fonts. She likes Century Gothic best, but also enjoys playing around with others when she is working in Microsoft Word. I feel  like this one is something of a modern milestone. When I was a kid there was no Word and I didn't learn to type until middle school. The fonts that came in books were just background, as far as I can remember, not something that one had preferences about. 

But my daughter, a budding writer and a reader of many picture books and graphic novels, notices fonts. She came up to me with a book the other day and said "Look! I think this is Century Gothic." I taught her about serif  vs. sans-serif fonts, since she was  interested.

She has taken to occasionally entering her hand-written stories into Word (hitting me up to help with the data entry). In those cases she spends time experimenting with the fonts (making important words larger and bolding them, etc.). She also leaves text boxes so that she can print out the document and add her own illustrations. 

I'm mulling setting her up with a typing app, but this is in conflict with my desire to limit her screen time, so I've been putting that off. In the meantime, I think it's neat that she has started noticing fonts and formatting conventions, much earlier than I ever did. 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

A Successful #GrowingBookworms Moment

KristysBigDayYesterday afternoon, after a busy day, my daughter left the bathroom declaring that she was going to read "every word" of Kristy's Big Day (a Baby-Sitters Club graphic novel that she has read many times). She curled up on the couch to do so and a period of quiet ensued. Then I heard her give a deep, satisfied sigh and say: "I love that book!".

That's all. Just a teeny tiny moment in the life of raising a young bookworm. But for me, such moments are what it's all about. I do have three conclusion to draw from this experience.

  1. If you want your children to love books, you should let them re-read to their hearts' content. It doesn't matter what they are reading, just that they enjoy it and choose it themselves. 
  2. It is worthwhile to purchase copies of the books that your children really love, because you never now when the whim to read a beloved title might strike. 
  3. It is also worthwhile to keep book baskets in convenient locations around your home, especially in  the bathrooms.

Just saying…

© 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.

Growing Bookworms: In Defense of #GraphicNovels for Kids' #SummerReading

FirstDayOfSummerReadingMiaJust in time for kids' summer reading, I ran across two articles last week defending graphic novels as "real reading." Here I share some notes from those articles together with my response based on my experience with my daughter [pictured on her first morning of summer vacation, as I was trying to get her to rally to leave the house.]

In the first, written two years ago, librarian Molly Wetta at Book Riot shares her Annual Reminder that Graphic Novels are "Real" Reading. As far as I can tell, there's nothing much in this piece that is any less relevant today than it was two years ago. Molly  says:

"I love helping children select books they’re excited to read, and delight in finding them titles based on their own interests and reading tastes. However, without fail, I will encounter parents who are not allowing their children to read graphic novels, or are telling kids these “don’t count.”"

She then shares a number of talking points that she has developed for parents and other caregivers on the literary merit of graphic novels for kids. She also links to some lists of recommended titles (though these will not include the very latest releases, of course). Her arguments about the benefits of graphic novels for visual learners and the way that graphic novels help kids learn to make inferences are well worth a look

The second piece I came across was a recent blog post written by teacher Pernille Ripp titled Not Too Easy - Embracing Graphic Novels at Home. Pernille begins by reminding readers that graphic novels are the biggest reason that her oldest daughter believes in herself as a reader. She notes that despite kids' enthusiasm for graphic novels:

"... one of the biggest push backs in reading also happens to surround graphic novels with many parents and educators lamenting their “easiness.” Within these missives lies a movement to then steer kids away from these “dessert” books and into “harder” reading, or outright banning the reading of graphic novels, telling kids that these books are just for fun, don’t count toward whatever set goal or points, or even confiscating them from kids seen reading them."

In the remainder of her post, she shares reasons why parents should defend their children's reading of graphic novels, and why they are not, in fact, too easy. She notes that in her own experience "it is the pictures that actually add to the sophistication and difficulty of graphic novels because of the skills required to read the images."

LunchLadyReadingThis point meets with my own experience. Not having grown up reading graphic novels, or even as much of a fan of comic books, I find graphic novels difficult to read. I'm much more in my comfort zone reading linear text. When I have to move back and forth between the pictures and text bubbles, and potentially other text from a narrator, I don't know where to put my focus. Although I could certainly enhance my skills in this area, my point is that reading integrated text and pictures is a zone of relative weakness for me as a reader. My daughter, on the other hand, is a master at this. She has been devouring graphic novels since I first slipped Jarrett Krosoczka's Lunch Lady books into her eager hands (about three years ago, see photo to the left). And for what it's worth, despite what remains a primarily graphic novel diet, her standardized test and other reading scores are more than sufficient. 

Pernille also adds, in response to concerns that kids plow through graphic novels too quickly:

"However, here there is one distinction in the habit of many readers of graphic novels; while they may read the graphic novel quickly on the first try, what often happens then is the re-reads of the same graphic novel as they pore over the pages more closely once they have navigated the story once. This process is one that only adds value as their understanding deepens with each re-read." 

This certainly meets with my experience in watching my graphic novel-obsessed daughter. When a new graphic novel lands in her hands (particularly if it is from a series that she already enjoys) she sits down with it immediately and plows through it. She will often finish in less than half an hour. The other day she did this with Red's Planet, Book 2 and suggested to me that I should be borrowing graphic novels instead of purchasing them, since she reads them so quickly.

MegJoBethBut she re-reads them. Sometimes many times. Sometimes many times over a few days (as recently occurred with Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy: A Modern Retelling  of Little Women) and sometimes after a break (Invisible Emmie and companion titles). I find it fascinating to watch as she reads the same book over time, extracting different levels of meaning. Even though she can read them quickly, I consider purchasing these books a worthwhile investment. 

One other point: a commenter on Twitter argued (after I shared Pernille's piece) that a steady diet of graphic novels can harm some kids' ability to be able to visualize on their own. If they are spoon-fed illustrated stories, the argument appears to go, they become less able to make their own pictures when reading non-illustrated texts. I don't know about the research in this area, and I could imagine this being the case for struggling readers. What I do know is that my daughter says that she has no difficulty at all visualizing when she reads standard texts, and that she thinks reading graphic novels and picture books has helped in her case. 

But I am running on. There's lots of other material for parents to help understand the benefits of graphic novels in Pernille's piece. Please do go and read the whole thing, along with Molly Wetta's piece. Take their guidance, together with my family's experience, as you  decide whether or not to encourage your children to read graphic novels this summer. My take is: yes, graphic novels are real reading. They have their own distinct benefits. Most important: kids love them, which bolsters reading choice (and hence reading itself). 

[See also this link to a list of articles defending graphic novels for kids, maintained by Jess Keating.]

© 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.

Literacy Milestone: Encouraging Others to Read More

LiteracyMilestoneARecently my daughter experienced a bookworm success. She encouraged my husband to get back  into the habit of reading in bed before falling asleep. He had developed a pattern of working on his computer after she and I went to bed and then watching some TV to unwind. Concerned that he wasn't getting enough sleep, she started lobbying him to get to bed earlier and to read in bed to unwind instead.

When he protested that he couldn't read in bed because the light would wake me, she suggested that he start reading on my old Kindle Paperwhite, with the brightness turned way down. She ranted at him about how TV isn't good for his brain and reading is, that reading would help him to fall asleep, and so on. Yes, I've created a pro-reading zealot. I couldn't be more proud.  

HungerGamesBook1Always one to encourage reading, I cooperated by charging up the old device and loading it up with some books that he was interested in. And now ... at least some of the time, my husband is going to bed earlier and reading. If I happen to wake up I do see the tiny glow of the Kindle, but in this context I find it satisfying. My daughter cared enough to essentially badger my husband into finding a way to read in bed. My husband cared enough about her to listen, and to change his routine. 

It turns out that choosing to re-read the Hunger Games books may not have been the best choice for increasing his sleep, though, because now he's staying up late to read. But you can't have everything. 

Thanks for reading, and for growing bookworms (of all ages)!

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

Literacy Milestone: Revising A Personal Narrative

LiteracyMilestoneAMy daughter disappeared into her room after dinner the other night with her door closed. I eventually (after getting some things done during the unexpected quiet) went to see what she was up to. I found her transcribing rough diary notes that she had made during her first trip to Lake Tahoe two years earlier, turning them into a much neater and more coherent narrative. She wanted to finish it all in one sitting and wasn't quite done, so I left her to it.

She later brought the several page long writeup to me and we read it together. She had clearly added some commentary that was absent from the original notes (including what I recognized as a reference to something we had read in a Diary of a Wimpy Kid book). But the details of the original experience certainly came through, from my husband's and my stress at getting the car packed up to her joy at the snowball fight that she and my husband had the very minute we arrived. 

In explaining the need  for the rewrite she said something to me like: "These are my really important memories And they were all messy and full of spelling errors. I wanted to write them over neatly so they’ll last." Can't argue with that!

I did keep a journal when I was a bit older than she is now, though I don't recall ever re-writing entries. But I know that revising is something that writers do. Incidents like this give me hope that this reader/writer thing is going to stick for her. I can only hope, anyway!

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: Making Connections through Reading

LiteracyMilestoneAMy daughter was reading in the back seat of the car the other day (on our way back from seeing Raina Telgemeier) when she exclaimed in delight. She had made an unexpected connection. A book helped her to more fully understand something that she had heard about in pop culture. Specifically, she was reading her just-purchased copy of Who Was Milton Bradley (she's a big LIFE fan), and learned that he was involved in the early history of the zoetrope (a pre-film animation device, see Wikipedia entry).

MiltonBradleyApparently a zoetrope also plays a significant factor in a Ninjago episode. I must confess that I didn't completely follow the details as she explained (though I found an online fan-generated plot summary here). But my daughter had apparently been hearing about the zoetrope in Ninjago world and hadn't really understood it. She was SO happy that the Milton Bradley book helped in this regard. I think her delight was greater because this random connection was so unexpected. 

I was restrained in my response to this. I said something: "Yes, that's one of the nice things about reading. I love it when that happens." But inside I was delighted myself, thinking: "Here's another literacy milestone. This will reinforce the value of reading for her."

At least that is my hope! 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: My Daughter's First Author Signing with Raina Telgemeier

ShareYourSmileOn Saturday I took my daughter to her first book signing, for Raina Telgemeier's new book: Share Your Smile. The event was about 45 minutes away, at Towne Center Books in Pleasanton, and by the time we were able to get there, it was PACKED. The line literally went around the outside of the building and and along the sidewalk. The author, understandably, was only autographing one copy of the new book per person and signing one backlist title. And still ... we waited in line for 90 minutes. Pretty sure that's the longest I've waited for an author, and I have signed copies of the Hunger Games ARC and the early Lightning Thief books. But my daughter is a huge fan. Raina's books were among the titles that made her into an  avid reader. So we waited. 

And really, the wait wasn't so bad. The people in line around us were nice. The bookstore staff kept things well organized and the line was always moving. It was a beautiful day. My daughter had time to read both of the books we bought for signing cover to cover while she was waiting. As for me, I was truly heartened at seeing so many kids and parents out there waiting in line on a sunny Saturday to meet an author. The bookstore had put up sheets of paper and provided markers so that the kids would write notes to Raina. They were lovely! The image below is just one section of an entire wall. 


And here's my daughter (well, her book anyway):


We saw Raina after she had been signing for 90 minutes, but she was still gracious and friendly. She offered my daughter a chance to take a photo with her, which we of course seized. Then we browsed the bookstore and bought several other books. We went to lunch, each reading our own book while we waited for our food, and had a lovely time.

But the best part was on the walk back to the car, watching my daughter skipping along chanting giddily: "I met Raina Telgemeier today!" 

I think it's safe to say that she's now (if she wasn't already) a fan for life. My thanks to Raina and to the kind staff at Towne Center Books. This was an excellent stop on our bookworm parent journey. 

Updated to add: Here's a review of Share Your Smile by Johanna Draper Carlson at the School Library Journal blog Good Comics for Kids. 

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

Growing Bookworms: A Success Story + Some Tips on Reading in the Car

SandWarriors3My daughter had her spring break recently. We stayed in California, and spent the first weekend on a wine trip down to Paso Robles. As I knew  that there would be a fair bit of car time, I was proactive and packed my daughter several new graphic and notebook novels that I knew she would be eager to read, such as the newest 5 Worlds book, The Red Maze. I also threw in a book that her teacher was kind enough to loan her over the break: The Tale of Despereaux. This effort was successful, in that she ended up not even asking for her tablet the entire way way (Bookworm Parent Win!). 

On our last morning we had to drive on a pretty windy road. She said that she was feeling nauseous, and I told her that she would have to stop reading for a few minutes. Later in the day she again said that her stomach was bothering her. I said something along the lines of: "I really hope you aren't developing motion sickness like I have." I haven't been able to read in the car in years. 

Her response touched my heart, though. She sat bolt upright and said: "That would be DEVASTATING!!!"

I tried to argue that such a thing doesn't really qualify as devastating, but she didn't buy it. And really, who am I kidding? It would be devastating for me, too, if she stopped being able to read in the car. My car is basically a mobile library at this point and I love it. In addition to significantly increasing my daughter's reading time, the books in the car have brought me quite a bit of peace and quiet. These days, when I am driving her friends around, they will more often than not read, too. I find this a beautiful thing. The books also sometimes spark discussions, either between the passengers or between the kids and me. This, of course, I love, too. 

CampKaylaMillerAnd yes, we will turn to audiobooks in the car if we have to. They are a lifesaver for me when I'm driving by myself. They would have the advantage that we could  listen together (instead of her shushing me because she's in her book, while I think quiet thoughts). But for now I prefer to give her lots of choices each day, to suit her particular moods. She also still favors heavily illustrated books, which don't lend themselves as well to audio. Fingers crossed that the nausea was just something that she ate, or the windy Paso roads, and not something that is going to stick. 

So, here are today's growing bookworm tips, based on our recent  experience:

  1. Stock up on books that your child hasn't read (but wants to read) before long car rides. Be sure to hide them until the child is actually IN the car, ready for the trip. Mine managed to snag one of mine, improperly hidden, the night before, and didn't have it for the trip. 
  2. If your child starts to feel ill, have her  stop reading right away. Motion sickness gets worse with each significant incident. (The threshold gets lower.) Nip this in the bud if you can by being proactive. 
  3. Always keep a variety of books in the car. Change them out frequently. You never know what your child will be in the mood for, and you certainly never know what his friends will be in the mood for. 

© 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.