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Growing Bookworms Newsletter: January 16: Focus, Reading Achievement, and the Percy Jackson Books

JRBPlogo-smallToday, I will be sending out a new issue of the Growing Bookworms email newsletter. (If you would like to subscribe, you can find a sign-up form here.) The Growing Bookworms newsletter contains content from my blog focused on growing joyful learners, mainly bookworms, but also mathematicians and learners of all types. The newsletter is usually sent out every three weeks.

Newsletter Update: In this issue I have two literacy milestones (reading the Percy Jackson books and using a Word-A-Day Calendar). I also have a post about whether my reading is an experience or an achievement. I also share my "one word" for the year: FOCUS. I have three posts with links that I shared recently on Twitter, full of reading- and education-related news. 

Reading Update:  In the last four weeks I finished eight adult titles. I read/listened to: 

  • MomentsChip Heath and Dan Heath: The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact. Simon & Schuster. Adult Nonfiction. Completed December 19, 2018, print library copy. This book is about how certain experiences have a bigger impact on you, and how you can sometimes engineer those moments for positive change. It provided me with food for thought, and I've recommended this book to friends. The writing style is also quite engaging. 
  • Susan Furlong: Fractured Truth (Bone Gap Traveler Novel). Kensington. Adult Mystery. Completed December 29, 2018, on Kindle. I didn't like this book as much as I enjoyed the first one, but it was still a good travel book over the holidays.
  • James Rayburn: The Truth Itself. Blackstone Publishing. Adult Thriller. Completed December 29, 2018, on Kindle. This I read in one sitting on the plane ride back from Boston. I don't remember much about it now, but I did enjoy it. 
  • Janet Evanovich: Look Alive Twenty-Five. G.P. Putnam's Sons. Adult Mystery. Completed 1/3/19, on MP3. Another popcorn book from Evanovich. 
  • 10PercentHappierDan Harris: 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works--A True Story. Dey Street Books. Adult Nonfiction. Completed 1/9/19, on MP3. I rarely listen to nonfiction, but I quite enjoyed this memoir about how Harris changed after discovering (and becoming quite rabid about) meditation. He's a bit of a jerk at first, but he improves quite a lot over the course of the book. 
  • David DeSteno: Emotional Success: The Power of Gratitude, Compassion, and Pride. Eamon Dolan/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Adult Nonfiction. Completed January 11, 2019, on Kindle. I picked up this Kindle deal as part of my quest to learn more about willpower. DeSteno's thesis is that instead of needing to use willpower at all, people can learn to channel gratitude, compassion, and pride to make self-control relatively effortless. I'm not completely sold (and he waxed a bit grandiose for me near the end of the book), but it's an interesting approach. 
  • Nataly Kogan: Happier Now: How to Stop Chasing Perfection and Embrace Everyday Moments (Even the Difficult Ones). Sounds True. Adult Nonfiction. Completed January 13, 2019, personal copy. This was a Christmas gift from a dear friend that went straight to the top of my stack. It's full of little tips about acceptance and living in the moment, some of which I think I will be able to really use. I actually downloaded a gratitude journal app while reading this, and am appreciating it so far. 
  • Dana Stabenow: A Cold-Blooded Business (Kate Shugak, Book 4). Gere Donovan Press. Adult Mystery. Completed January 15, 2019, on MP3. This is a series that I am slowly making my way through. I really like Stabenow's writing, and the uniqueness of the Alaska setting. 

CharlieBoneI'm currently reading The Power by Naomi Alderman, a Christmas gift from my husband. I'm reading Readicide: How Schools are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It by Kelly Gallagher on my Kindle (the research is a little dated, but it's still brilliant). I'm deciding what audiobook to listen to next, having just finished a Kate Shugak book. I've just started reading Midnight for Charlie Bone (Children of the Red King #1) by Jenny Nimmo aloud to my daughter. I've been thinking that these might be a good fit for her, and couldn't pass up a used copy for fifty cents in the Friends of the Library bookstore last week. We're enjoying it so far, but we are not very far in yet. 

BearsAndBlossomsIn terms of her own reading, my daughter is still working her way through The Lightning Thief (the first Percy Jackson book) by Rick Riordan. As I mentioned last time, it's a pretty challenging book for her, so she takes regular breaks to read and re-read graphic novels and picture books. Santa was kind enough to bring her most of the Bears on Chairs series by Shirley Parenteau and David Walker, a set of picture books that she had fallen head over heels in love with. We've been reading those a lot, and I'm sure that the library is happy to have back the copies that we've been monopolizing for, literally, months. We've also been seeking out other books illustrated by David Walker.

MysteryClubMy daughter was very excited when a copy of Mystery Club, the second graphic novel by Aron Nels Steinke about Mr. Wolf's Class arrived from the publisher. She was completely unable to do her homework until she had finished it, and she highly recommends it to all middle grade graphic novel fans. I couldn't get much out of her about what she liked specifically. She said: "everything!" She also continues to read biographies from the Who Was ... ? series, and has had to move on to reading about some male historical figures (having exhausted her school library's selection of books about women). 

Thanks for reading, and for growing bookworms! Wishing you all plenty of reading time in this still new year. 

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


Literacy Milestone: Word-A-Day Calendar

LiteracyMilestoneALast month I wrote about my daughter's passion for "clarifying" (looking up and creating post-it notes) vocabulary words for her school reading. In the comments on that post, Karen Yingling from Ms. Yingling Reads suggested that I get her a Word-A-Day Calendar for Christmas. I thought this was a good idea and ordered the 365 New Words-A-Year Page-A-Day Calendar 2019.

WordADaySo far the calendar has been a hit. We keep it on the breakfast table and read about each new word together over breakfast. I add context and help with pronunciation where needed. Then my daughter tears the day's sheet off, punches a hole in the corner, and adds it to a string she's using to save them. I think she plans to show the string to her teacher at some point. 

It's not clear how many of the words she'll actually internalize and remember, but we are having fun with the experience. And in truth, I'm learning some new words, too. ("Adust: scorched, burned"). 

Reader's Digest used to have some sort of vocabulary quiz. I would try myself on those when I was a kid. This is what bookish people do, right? They read dictionaries and use book-a-day calendars and read and read and read, absorbing words everywhere they go. Special thanks to Karen for the excellent suggestion! 

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


Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: January 11: #ReadAloud Classics and Diverse Classroom Libraries

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics for this short week (I also had a post on Monday with links from over the holidays) include #BookLists, #EdPolicy, #focus, #GenderDifferences, #GraphicNovels, #HistoricalNovels, #KidLitCon, #learning, #LearningStyles, #literacy, #ReadAloud, #reading, #SchoolChoice, #STEM, #testing, #writing, schools and teachers.

Book Lists

ParentTrapBest Classic Books - You Haven't Read Yet! Another from | Love inclusion of

8 Featuring - from + more

Weird, Creepy, and Occultic Fixated Male Lead Characters, identifies a new micro-niche

Found a couple of new to add to my daughter's wish list here: (Some of the) Best MG of 2018: , Ep. 67 https://t.co/5j6I01OPg3

Diversity + Gender

“Boy/Girl Books:” Fighting Stereotypes While Honoring + not ignoring differences in what kids want | "a more benefited all my students"

Events, Programs + Research

KIDLIT_con_poster_final_web_smLook Who’s Coming to - March 22-23 –

Study Confirms The Power Of Are Calmed By Putting Them Into Words – https://t.co/H0oB6FzSyv

New paper Night-time screen-based media device use associated w/ risk of poor results for adolescents' sleep and health-related quality of life

Growing Bookworms

I LOVE this call from for families to set aside (Joy of Missing Out) time and have everyone lie around + (w/ free , no devices + no parents sneaking in work) https://t.co/wRoXnuULiF

This is cool: Illinois using giant murals to encourage - | Another painted lockers like + https://t.co/bzY1hCP082

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

Historical-fiction-for-the-school-libraryThe past is the future - a look at benefits of for kids - by Dawn Finch

Interesting discussion question from Terry | Is an achievement (look! I read 156 books!) or an experience? | I worry that I've tilted a bit towards reading to learn things and away from myself...

The 10th Annual Mrs. P Be-a-Famous Writer Judges Choices are Announced! Meet the Honored Classrooms! -

! Life-saving AND awesome | Book shields woman during deadly shooting

CharlottesWebHarperCollins Launches Children's Book , monthly + dedicated to classic + contemporary

Parenting

Sad truth here: There is no room for ‘average’ students these days says | " has become a high-stakes Rube Goldberg machine, propelling our kids from one to the next with no end in sight." https://t.co/mqlZvNbICi

Personal Development + Learning

How to Do Great Things | shares highlights from Richard Hamming's book about | I am personally working on , discussed in the post

Schools and Libraries

Should Fewer Black Receive Services? Were there ever racist placements? Guest post from former principal https://t.co/rvrhReoDAH

Instruction: How Can We Offer Experiences Instead of "Stuff" – https://t.co/6XQz7RclHM

Design with Care: Information Displays Can Impact Ira Nichols-Barrer, Steve Glazerman and Jon Valant

WhyDontStudentsLikeSchoolIn debate, it's instructors (many in favor) vs. psychologists (mostly debunking), but interviews suggest some common ground | [w/ quotes from @DTWillingham)

I was pleased to see this in my local paper today: Foundation aims to inspire

Why Are Leaving Their Jobs? Chester E. Finn, Jr. identifies 5 examples "of the industry’s conspicuous failure to anticipate and forestall the HR woes"

Feel Like Things Are Being Done To Them, Not With Them. They trust each other, not "a growing array of institutions + organizations"

STEM

The problem with high-stakes and women in - | Could it be ? |

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


Is Reading an Achievement or an Experience?

My friend Terry Doherty has started a new monthly feature over at the Reading Tub blog in which she poses "a reading-ish question" for discussion. In her kickoff post Terry asks whether reading is an experience or an achievement. She notes that many year-end blog wrap-ups that she read recently included people asking things like:

"When did reading for the purpose of enjoyment/escape/relaxation/etc. morph into a something else?

What was the “something else”? Basically, three things:

  • A (self-imposed) competition to reach specific goals.
  • A means of self-promotion and selfie-ism.
  • A measuring stick of personal success or failure."

Terry reflects on this in terms of her own reading, and she inspired me to think about it, too. (Please do head over and read Terry's post, and share comments with her there.)

48hbc_newI don't do much in terms of imposing specific reading goals on myself. I've never been one to participate in reading "challenges", even though many people love them, because they make reading feel like work to me. I did participate in the MotherReader 48 Hour Book Challenge back in the day, but for me it was just an excuse to read all weekend, not something I was trying to win. I've read roughly 150 books in each of the past few years, but I don't set out to read a specific number, nor to increase it in quantitative terms (though I am always seeking out more time to read). 

However, I have made a pretty dramatic shift in what I've been reading over the years. I'm reading a much, much higher percentage of adult books now, vs. reading children's and young adult books, as well as a much higher percentage of nonfiction. Back in 2006 I read 156 children's and young adult books and 49 adult books. Five of the adult books were nonfiction. In 2018 I read 45 children's and adult books and 114 adult titles. 50 of the adult titles were nonfiction.

I'm not sure what to make of the shift towards reading more adult books, but I think that has a lot to do with burnout regarding reviewing. Since starting my blog, adult titles have been more recreational for me, while the kids and YA titles were "work" for the blog. Work that I enjoyed, sure, but still work in a sense. So I think the shift to reading more adult titles does reflect a wish to read more for my own personal enjoyment. It is a bit odd that I'm shifting away from reading kids' books right as my daughter is starting to read middle grade, but maybe that reflects the fact that reading books to recommend them to her is still work. A highly enjoyable part of my job as a parent, sure, but still work in a sense. If I'm reading adult mysteries and thrillers, that's just for me. 

The shift to reading more nonfiction, on the other hand, is different. Here I'm reading much more with a goal of learning and self-improvement. Like most working parents, I'm juggling a lot of things in my life (job, family and blog). I find I can justify taking the time to read if I'm reading something useful, in a way that I've had trouble justifying the reading time otherwise. For example, I'm using a chunk of my listening time to listen to podcasts about current events or productivity improvement. This even though I'm already primarily listening when I'm doing something else productive (exercising, cooking, folding laundry, etc).

IdRatherBeReadingDon't get me wrong. I've enjoyed most of the nonfiction titles that I've read (see my 2018 reading list here). I've learned a lot about things that I am deeply interested in (parenting, raising readers, happiness, communication, willpower, time management, etc.). I have a number of nonfiction books stacked up on my nightstand and Kindle that I very much want to read. I'm also not saying that people can't read nonfiction for pure pleasure (many people adore biographies, and more power to them). But I'm a bit concerned that in my specific case I'm replacing too much of my reading for the joy of it with reading for edification.

As Terry noted in her own case, this is certainly not the message that I want to send to my daughter. I want her to fall in love with books, and fall into them headlong (as she's currently doing with The Lightning Thief). I want it to continue being difficult to get her to leave the house, because she just has to finish this chapter. I want to get back in touch with my own childhood self, the kid who got sunburned reading on a raft in a lake, and couldn't go on a two mile car ride without a book and a backup book. 

But it's not going to be as easy as just deciding to read more of the mysteries and thrillers that I love. My reading time is limited, and I do have a lot of books that I want to read for various self-educational and self-improvement purposes. Clearly, I'm going to have to work to find more reading time somewhere, and try to mix it up a bit more. I think I'll start by reading novels before I go to sleep, instead of trying to read something more useful and then falling asleep. The price for that switch may be falling asleep later, and being more tired, but I think it will be worth it.

Wish me luck! Thanks for listening. 

© 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


Links I Shared on Twitter Recently: January 6: #DiverseBooks, #GrowingBookworms, and Alternative Paths to #HigherEd

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter over the past few weeks @JensBookPage. I know it's not Friday, but quite a few links piled up over the holidays, and I figured I should go ahead and post. I will probably be back with a short update on Friday. Topics today include #BookAwards, #BookLists, #careers, #Cybils, #DiverseBooks, #FreeRangeKids, #GameAddiction, #GrowingBookworms, #GrowthMindset, #Habits, #intelligence, #introversion, #JoyOfReading, #Learning, #Music, #ownvoices, #parenting, #phonics, #play, #ReadingAloud, #WorldReadAloudDay, schools, and vocational training.

Top Tweet of the Week

Cybils-Logo-2018-Round450pxThe 2018 Finalists are Live! This is a great source of high-quality, engaging , from to , , , , + more

Book Lists

A Dozen of the Best Published in 2018 | w/ mini reviews from

Diversity

Ownvoices-300x150The Real Way to Get Books Into the Hands of Readers (But It’s Not Sexy) —

Ten Ways New and Diverse Literature Changes Us as By Stephanie Affinito and Kris McGee |

Here's an invitation from @thereadingtub to participate in the Link Up – January 2019

Events, Programs + Research

2.0_WRAD-Social-Stat-1Save the date: February 1 is , a day to celebrate the joy of to kids |

Yes, World Day Is Real, and Here’s Why We Should Celebrate It | If I could I would celebrate by staying home, talking to no one, and taking no calls.

early can make your child a better | Anita Collins + Misty Adoniou

The Behind Making Your Child Smarter - Sue Shellenbarger assesses some possible pursuits | interactive w/ kids, working memory training + staying in help

Contradiction to a previous article I shared this week, via Does Not Improve Performance on Measures of .. Evidence From a Meta-Analytic Review

Growing Bookworms

GoneFishingReaction and Intention: Rethinking the in Early Winter | nudging kids to transition beyond the phase by

Excellent, comprehensive post from | Parents: Creating Joyful Routines at Home |

One Dad’s Resolutions for the New Year |

Easy Ways to Get Your Kids to Read More This Year |

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

On reading goals | "Yes, quantity, and increasing quantity and access to great material matters for all of us, but so does slowing down, savoring text, and actually enjoying the experience" https://t.co/NcHOwoZsi0

Parenting + Play

SwissLifeThis piece resonated w/ me: This year, let’s like it’s 1989 - "We call our country “the land of the free,” yet most children... have no freedom at all" | https://t.co/d4D4gRjb2r

The Age Four Transition to Responsible Childhood | Peter Gray via | | "Many 12-year-olds today are not permitted the independence that 4-year-olds were permitted until just a few decades ago"

The Relentlessness of Modern - | This article is depressing but certainly rings true

Screen Time

Detecting : Phone Apps Could Monitor Teen Angst - |

How Triggered an Unwinnable War Between Parents and Their Boys | |

Schools and Libraries

Stop Calling It - How we speak about reflects class prejudice says | Training is for animals, humans receive education

OnceAndFutureWorker Is Only One Option for Kids. How can we emphasize alternative routes? Guest post by | Referencing +

Looking for an Alternative to ? U.S. Studies German -

Seen as Falling Short in a Pillar of | addresses approach as applied (and not) in NYC https://t.co/2DZcRXaIbn

A 2018 federal report found that only 18 percent of the innovations funded by the lifted achievement | looks at reasons why this is so hard

Self-Improvement / Growth Mindset / Habits

PowerOfHabitHow to Crush Your in the With the Help of | advice from , + , compiled by (via ) https://t.co/dflKNEBvFh

Being Wrong (+ not beating herself up over it) Has Made a Better Teacher - | via

It’s Two Weeks Until Your New Year’s Resolutions Die Young – Tips from to change your resolution mindset

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


Focus: My Word for the Year

Happy New Year! I wasn't planning to blog this week. However, I've seen a few people posting about their word for the year and I realized that I do have one for 2019. Some background: lately I've been feeling distracted and ineffective, like I am constantly pulled in a million directions, few of them by my own choice. [I'm sure that most working mothers feel this way most of the time.] Being a book person, I turned to books for guidance. I read three interesting books recently about time management, essentialism (working hard on one important thing), and deep work. These books gave me some ideas, and I've been making a few changes in my life. Things like:

  • Spending less time on social media (though I did purposely go onto Facebook this week to exchange holiday greetings with far-flung friends and family members). 
  • Deleting social media and news apps from my phone, so that when I find myself with some down time I will read or think, and not automatically turn to the black hole of endless feeds. 
  • Checking email less frequently during the day (both work and personal).
  • Turning off most notifications and haptics on my Apple watch, so that my focus isn't interrupted every time a text comes in. 
  • Setting aside an hour or so in the mornings to work with my phone and computer notifications turned off and my email closed down, so that I can concentrate, uninterrupted, on a single task. This I haven't been able to do over vacation, but I plan to get back to it once my daughter goes back to school. It was Cal Newport's Deep Work that convinced me to start doing this, as well as Make Time by Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky, and I LOVE it. 
  • Meditating every morning for 10-15 minutes. (This I've actually been doing for about six months, after being convinced by yet another book, this one about willpower.)

I've been doing all of these things, and I realize that they can pretty much all be placed under the category of: 

Focus3_1

I may find this word of the year frustrating, because it is pretty much impossible to focus when my daughter is awake and in the house. And because I WANT to focus one thing at a time so badly, I am more irritable than ever when I am interrupted. So this is going to be a work in progress. But I do think that in this era of incessant online distractions, attempting to focus my attention on one thing at a time is a worthy goal. 

Wishing you all success in whatever your goals might be for 2019, and the time to appreciate joyful moments along the way. 

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


Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: December 21: Happy New Year Edition!

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics in this very brief issue include #BookLists, #Cybils, #Failure, #FunnyBooks, #HigherEd, #JoyOfReading, #ScreenTime, education, reading, research, and technology. 

My daughter is on vacation for the next two weeks, and I will most likely not be blogging. Wishing all who celebrate it a wonderful Christmas. I hope that everyone has a peaceful New Year, and that you spend the holiday period surrounded by people you love. And books. Plenty of books. 

For what it's worth, when asked by my daughter what I want for Christmas I answered that all I want is more time to read. We shall see... Happy New Year!

Book Lists + Awards

FunnyGirlTen to get you laughing (ages 4-13), a from that will help kids find the

Ten to read again & again (ages 8-15), a from | My daughter has and re-reads most of these - it's a solid, kid-friendly list!

Don't miss the Armchair Shortlist Contest | Predict the finalists for a single category

Events, Programs, and Research

The 'dirty secret' about innovation - A 2018 federal report found that only 18 percent of innovations funded by lifted achievement via

Growing Bookworms

EnginerdsBetween a and a | What Happens When You Don’t Enjoy a Book? | + on helping kids learn to choose books that they enjoy

Higher Ed

101: Some Teach Students How to Cope With Setbacks

Schools

If You Want a Content-Rich Curriculum for All, Don't Ignore - | " of choice that implement a knowledge-rich curriculum well and willingly are a proof point" |

Screen Time

ArtOfScreenTimeHow Much Is Too Much for Kids? | talks w/ + industry experts like |

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


Growing Bookworms Newsletter: December 19: The 13th Blog Anniversary Edition

JRBPlogo-smallToday, I will be sending out a new issue of the Growing Bookworms email newsletter. (If you would like to subscribe, you can find a sign-up form here.) The Growing Bookworms newsletter contains content from my blog focused on growing joyful learners, mainly bookworms, but also mathematicians and learners of all types. The newsletter is usually sent out every three weeks.

Newsletter Update:  In this issue I have one middle grade book review and two literacy milestones (creating graphic novel versions of stories and clarifying vocabulary words). I also have a post about two side benefits for parents from raising a book-loving child. I have three posts with links that I shared recently on Twitter, full of reading- and education-related news. 

I should also mention here that Monday, December 17th, marked the 13th anniversary of my blog. I was too busy to write a separate post to mark the occasion, but I did take a moment to marvel at how thirteen years have passed since the afternoon that I sat down, laptop on lap, and started blogging. Thanks to everyone who has taken time out of their busy lives to check in occasionally and read what I have to say. Extra thanks to those who have taken time to comment!

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

  • Ginger Ly (ill. Molly Park): Suee and the Shadow. Harry N. Abrams Books. Middle Grade Graphic Novel. Completed December 12, 2018, read aloud to my daughter. I'm not personally a big reader of graphic novels, but my daughter had some trouble following this one, and asked me to read it to her. It's intriguing, but ends with some details unresolved and no word that I could see on when a sequel might be forthcoming. 
  • LightningThiefRick Riordan: The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #1). Disney Hyperion. Middle Grade Speculative Fiction. Completed December 17, 2018, on MP3. This was an audio re-read of an old favorite because my daughter is reading this in print, and had questions that were beyond my memory for detail.
  • Donalyn Miller and Colby Sharp: Game Changer!: Book Access for All Kids. Scholastic. Adult Nonfiction. Completed November 30, 2018, print copy. This book just came out and is fabulous. Any teacher who cares at all about encouraging kids to enjoy reading will want to get a copy. 
  • Michael Connelly: Dark Sacred Night (Ballard and Bosch mystery). Little, Brown and Co. Completed December 5, 2018, on MP3. This is the first of a new series in which Connelly pairs his long-time series character, Harry Bosch with a newer young female detective, Renee Ballard (introduced in one previous title). I think the pairing is going to work, and look forward to further installments.
  • Maryanne Wolf: Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World. Harper. Adult Nonfiction. Completed December 7, 2018, on Kindle. I had a bit of trouble getting through this very detailed look at the impact of different types of reading on the brain. It's a topic that I'm very interested in, however, and I persisted through some dense text to extract a few interesting points. 
  • Louise Penny: Kingdom of the Blind (Chief Inspector Gamache, #14). Minotaur Books. Adult Mystery. Completed December 11, 2018, on MP3. This is the newest installment in one of my favorite series, and did not disappoint. 

TheNutcrackerI'm currently reading The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact, by Chip Heath and Dan Heath (print library copy). I've been weeding my way through a host of Kindle samples and have loaded up my device with my choices in the hopes of getting some reading time in over the holidays. I haven't decided what to listen to next, but will get to that soon. After reading a graphic novel together, my daughter and I are back to reading picture books. We read a couple of versions of The Nutcracker, for example, prior to a family trip up to San Francisco to see the ballet this week. 

NotSoFabooIn terms of her own reading, my daughter is nearly halfway through The Lightning Thief (the first Percy Jackson book) by Rick Riordan. We have two copies for some reason, so she keeps one in her backpack (for spare moments) and one in my car. It's a pretty challenging book for her, however, so she takes regular breaks to read and re-read graphic novels and picture books. We visited a bookstore yesterday after seeing The Nutcracker, and she was excited to spot the second book in the Caveboy Dave series, Not So Faboo, by Aaron Reynolds and Phil McAndrew. In the interest of supporting independent bookstores, I bought her that, Monster Mayhem by Christopher Eliopoulos, and three titles from the Who Was...? series (all about women, as she requested). We did not get much conversation out of her during dinner. 

Thanks for reading, and for growing bookworms! Wishing you all much joy this holiday season. 

© 2018 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage


How to Properly Dispose of Planet Earth: Paul Noth

Book: How to Properly Dispose of Planet Earth
Author: Paul Noth
Pages: 192
Age Range: 8-12

HowToProperlyDisposeHow to Properly Dispose of Planet Earth is the sequel to Paul Noth's How to Sell Your Family to the Aliens (reviewed here). At least one more book will certainly be forthcoming, as this book ends on something of a cliffhanger. This wacky science fiction series features a middle school-age boy named Happy (Hap) Conklin, Jr. and his highly unusual family members. In this installment, Hap and his future-path-seeing sister Kayla try to save the world from being sucked into a black hole, a punishment from an alien race battling the Nolan's power-hungry grandmother. They do have help in the form of clues provided by a time and space traveling lizard named Squeep! Saving the world is almost as difficult for Hap as asking new girl Nevada to be his lab partner. 

Like the first book in the series, How to Properly Dispose of Planet Earth is chock-full of smart cartoon-like illustrations, self-deprecating humor, and intriguing science references. Hap spends considerable time trying to decipher clues from Squeep!, and a code-breaking dimension to the book. The tribulations of middle school (bullies, geeky potential friends, mean girls, and buffoonish security guards, for example) are sprinkled throughout with a light touch. Here are a couple of snippets to give you a feel:

"She's funny, I thought. You're funny too. You should ask her to be your lab partner.

So I walked up to her to introduce myself.

Then I walked past her.

I ended up in the back of the room sharpening a pencil.

(Picture of a pencil with callout "It was already sharp" pointing to the tip. 

and:

"Dad had been right about one thing. Just because I'd been in extra dimensional space-time didn't mean I understood it. And "fear of the unknown" is a picnic compared to the terror or the incomprehensible." (Chapter 12, ARC).

How to Properly Dispose of Planet Earth was a quick, humorous read. I think I would have enjoyed it more had I read it right after reading the first book, when the details and characters were fresh in my mind. But I still quite enjoyed the interplay between family dynamics, middle school, and over-the-top science fiction adventure. I look forward to the next book! Fans of How to Sell Your Family to the Aliens will definitely not want to miss this one. And for those who haven't read the first book, but enjoy over-the-top illustrated humor, this series is well worth a look, a great fit for elementary or middle school libraries. Recommended!

Publisher: Bloomsbury Children's Books
Publication Date: January 15, 2019
Source of Book: Advance review copy from the publisher

© 2018 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).


Literacy Milestone: 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


Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: December 14: Stop Glorifying Busy + #ReadAloud Some #Christmas #PictureBooks Instead

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include #Audiobooks, #BookLists, #ClassroomLibraries, #DiverseBooks, #FreePlay, #Homework, #JoyOfReading, #LearningStyles, #Math, #ReadAloud, #ScreenTime, #STEM, education, parenting, research, and schools.

Top Tweets of the Week

Build Your Stack: Four Ways Can Build a Community of Readers through | ,

This is encouraging: When doctors say ‘read to your toddler,’ new parents listen

Book Lists

SantaBruceA Round-Up from | Includes my new favorite

Here's a nice collection of for your Joy from , , suggestions + more

I especially liked this entry in the 31 Days, 31 Lists: 2018 Books for Kids

Diverse Fantasy Books, a new from | , , + strong princesses

Events, Programs + Research

Mindset2018 Research Highlights | | + more

Aren't a Reliable Way to Categorize , Study Says - |  [See also An additional reason to abandon learning styles -- teachers and pupils do not agree on the pupils' learning style from BPS Research Digest]

Changes Structure of Kids' Brains say early results from study | | "daily screen usage of more than 7 hours showed premature thinning of the brain cortex"

Another Study Finds Eliciting Explanations From Is More Effective Than Telling Them |

Later Start Times In Seattle Results In Improved , Better – And More Sleep | links to recent results https://t.co/tgmeToHrd1

Growing Bookworms

WizardsOfOnceGreat advice here: If we want our children to thrive, teaching them to read is not enough – they must learn to enjoy it |

What’s New | Links to useful resources like tools, a channel w/ stories + more

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

Is Listening to a Book the Same Thing as Reading It? Each is suited to different purposes says |

Parenting + Play

I didn't even have to click through to know that My Favorite “Learning” Toys in our House from would NOT feature

FreeRangeKidsDon't Let Your Kid Get Straight A's on recent piece | "Kids need free, unstructured time to discover what they find intrinsically -- extraordinarily -- motivating."

Schools and Libraries

"For 25 Years I was a Pro-Homework Teacher" - Tim Bedley, co-founder of shares his revised take on

Great stuff in this post from | 9 Assumptions to Scrutinize | I agree with Mary that kids WILL work at home w/out official assignments. Mine will anyway.

Down With , Say U.S. School Districts | "The goal of the changes is to give students more time to read, sleep and spend time with family" | I wish our elementary did this

Self Improvement + Motivation

Timely for the season: Stop Glorifying Busy. Start embracing care—for yourself and for the world around you. via (w/ graphic showing 50 ways to take a break) https://t.co/8BdMEDaXg1

© 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.