Literacy Milestone: Librarian for a Day

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

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

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

Thanks for reading, and for growing bookworms! 

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


Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: March 1: Friendship Books, Reading Levels + Teacher Pay

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. This is a relatively brief post, because I was on vacation for much of the time, and didn't spend much time online. But I do have a few links for you on #BookLevels, #BookLists, #BookRecommendations, #DiverseBooks, #GrowingBookworms, #LoveOfBooks, #mindfulness, #ReadAloud, #reading, #TeacherPay, parenting, and teaching. Happy reading!

Book Lists

SunnySideUpRA RA Read: Real Girls, Real Friendships and Best Frenemies, books that librarian Jennifer Wharton recommends frequently, +

2019 – Winter & Spring | w/ blurbs from

Growing Bookworms

I agree w/ | Stop Freaking Out About | "shouldn’t be entirely leveled, parents shouldn’t prevent a child from picking a book they would enjoy. We have to stop this book leveling madness."

A mom mourns the realization that her bedtime sessions w/ her daughter are ending | | Kiley Frank

Top Ten Reasons School Counselors Want Students to Read: Social-Emotional Learning Opportunities! by

Passing on A Few (Book) Recommendations – where teacher gets + book ideas | + more

UK study finds only 1/4 of pupils get recommended reading for pleasure time in school |

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

Remote Control Reading by | Defending the reader's right to read multiple books at one time, fall asleep while + more https://t.co/uJkg1Z6nWW

Parenting + Play

UnderPressureHow Can Help Kids (and Parents!) Weather Emotional Storms - via |

Schools and Libraries

Higher Pay Leads to Smarter Teachers, Global Study Says - | Teachers have stronger cognitive skills in countries that may them more |

STEM

Non-profit teaching to girls from kindergarten up -

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


Growing Bookworms: Seizing the Opportunity to Validate #ReadingChoice

MaxAndTheMidknightsI recently bought my daughter a new book that I thought, based on reviews that I had seen, she would like. The book was Max & the Midknights by Lincoln Pierce (but could have been anything). She read the book, or part of it, anyway. Then she asked me how much the book had cost. Not sure where she was going with that, I gave her what I figured was the approximate price, $10. At that point she apologized to me because, as she tentatively explained, she didn't really like the book. She felt guilty about this knowing that I had spent money on it. 

I was surprised by this guilt, because I am a huge advocate of giving kids choice in their reading. To me it was self-evident that there would be books that I would give her to try that she wouldn't like. But apparently, I had NOT made this evident to my daughter. At least not when the books were paid for.  

As you may imagine, I was very quick to tell her that it was totally fine not to like the book, or any book, and that in her home reading she never has to finish a book that she doesn't like. [There will be books she has to finish for school - I can't help that.] I think she was relieved. 

InvisibleEmmieBeing too lazy to return the book (purchased online), I suggested that we could give the book to a friend who I thought would be more interested, or donate it to a toy and book drive going on at school that week. She decided to hold off on that for now, because she might want to give it another try at some point. Of course I told her that was fine, too. She had recently discovered that she loved a different book that I had bought for her a year earlier that she hadn't liked at first, so this made sense. 

Everything that I have read about growing bookworms (and I have read a LOT on this topic) says that the number on thing that keeps kids reading for pleasure is having free choice in what they read. I thought that I was giving my daughter free choice. I have hundreds of children's books in my house, many from publishers and many that I have purchased or received as gifts over the years. I take her to the library every week, too, and let her pick out whatever she likes. I buy her new and used graphic and notebook novels when I learn about them because she loves them and those are areas in which my own collection tends to be weak. I have always tried not to pressure her to read or finish certain books.

Despite all of that, she still felt guilty when she didn't like a book that I had picked out for her. I'm truly not beating myself up over that. But I do think it goes to show that kids really, really need us to tell them that it's ok NOT to like certain books. My message to other parents out there who want their kids to love books is, once again, do anything you can to preserve your child's reading choice. Tell them that you are doing so. Tell them that it's fine for them not to like the books that you liked or picked out, and fine to abandon books (even if they cost money). Seize opportunities, as I did this one, to validate reading choice.

The love of reading is a precious thing, and it can be more fragile than you think. Protect it where you can. At least, that's what I intend to do. 

© 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.


Links I Shared on Twitter Recently: February 15: Benefits of Reading Fiction, Stories about Girls, and Intrinsic Rewards for Reading

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include #BookAwards, #BookLists, #GraphicNovels, #GrowingBookworms, #IntrinsicMotivation, #Literacy, #LoveOfBooks, #math, #parenting, #play, #Podcasts, #RickRiordan, #schools, #STEM, and reading. I'll be taking next week off from Twitter for my daughter's school vacation week, but I'm sure that I'll save up some links for the following week.

Top Tweet of the Week

Fiction Really Will Make You Nicer and More Empathetic, New Meta-Analysis Says | | showed small improvement in social-cognitive performance vs. not reading or reading

Book Lists + Awards

AllOfAKindDon't miss the for the 2019 , honoring the "best in Jewish literature and scholarship" from

The 2019 Awards as unofficially selected by elementary | Featuring +

The 2018 Winners were announced this morning, titles ranging from to , inc. fiction, nonfiction, +

On a quest NOT to fill her daughter's lunch box with bad jokes, identifies a few recent for kids that are actually funny |

14 Children's Books with Characters Who Have Medical Challenges | the newest from

Jennifer Wharton rounds up 's own books + imprint, as well as other mythic fantasy series. Great guide for anyone looking to keep + fans

Diversity + Gender

LostGirlWhat about the girls? What do they hear when we treat their stories as if they don’t matter, as if they take up too much space? by

Events, Programs + Research

100th Anniversary Children's Book Week Poster w/ artwork by Revealed | |

Children’s Book Creators Join Forces to Provide High Quality Books to Two Worthy Organizations by |

Growing Bookworms

Great post challenging approaches that are used to nudge kids towards : "We are actively training them to think ‘books = hard, boring compulsory work that I should be rewarded for.’"

I could relate to: How Visiting My Local Library Makes Me a Better Parent by |

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

BookLoveTungThese are wonderful: 14 Stunning Illustrations / from That Perfectly Capture the Introvert's | Can't wait to show daughter

are Books, Too! by 5th grade ELA | learn vocabulary + inference, find difficult topics more accessible, + lots more

Parenting + Play

One more reason to let kids : Research suggests that young kids can learn through | via |

UnderPressureWhy Girls Beat Boys at School and Lose to Them at the Office | "What if school is a confidence factory for our sons, but only a competence factory for our daughters?" | Parents, stop praising inefficient overwork

Is It Healthy to Study in Bed? Experts weigh in. Sounds like it's ok, but kids should re-read things from right before they fall asleep

Schools and Libraries

I liked this OpEd by about how CA are setting a poor example for re personal +

STEM

HiddenFiguresYAWomen's History in Is Hidden in the Footnotes - | New study uncovers female programmers who made important but unrecognized (beyond footnotes) contributions to |

and with Confidence by Jerry Burkhart via | Lack of confidence in math traces to past experiences + inaccurate beliefs about learning |

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


Things I'm Doing to Improve My Focus

Focus3_1I thought I'd do a quick update on how I'm progressing on my word of the year: FOCUS. It's going well. I have been making various changes inspired by several of my recent reads. [Links are at the end of the post.] Most importantly, I try to work for an hour or so in the mornings with no email or other notifications. I go to a different room from the one I usually work in, to provide a visual separation that says: "This is focus time." I really love the focus / deep work time, and hope to be able to expand the amount of time I can commit to it.

Even when I'm not doing that deep work time, I'm trying to work and live in a less distracted mode. Here are some of the things I'm doing for that:

  • DeepWorkI turned off text notifications on my watch and my laptop. Instead of getting actively alerted, I just check for texts when I'm already changing tasks. This does mean that I'm a bit less responsive to family and friends, but it also means that my attention is disrupted much less often. I especially appreciate this when I'm with my daughter. It's a slight headache when I'm actually expecting a text, because I have to keep checking, but I still find it worthwhile overall (and of course I could re-activate notifications in that case if there was something critical).  My phone does still vibrate for phone calls, which is how I would be notified if there was some problem with my daughter.
  • MakeTimeI removed social media from my phone (including Facebook messenger), so that I'm not tempted to use random moments of downtime to scroll down the various rabbit holes. I still have Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn on my iPad. I check them briefly in the morning after I read the paper. And I do check in on them on my computer sometimes during the day (and share things), but I try to always close the tabs in between checks, and only check when I'm between other tasks. I don't have any active notifications for social media (except for notifications of LinkedIn messages that go to my work email account).
  • I removed news apps from my phone and "breaking news" notifications from my watch. I read two newspapers every morning and usually check the WSJ app for updates while I eat lunch. I don't need other notifications in between.
  • I unsubscribed from a number of blog feeds, email newsletters, and podcasts. I'm trying to spend more time reading and listening to books.
  • I turned off email updating on my phone and erased the associated passwords. I left the app installed in case I get in to a situation where I really need to log in, but having to enter the password(s) is a real deterrent.
  • HyperfocusI started reading with a notepad and pen next to me, instead of my having my phone within reach. If I get distracted by something, or want to add a book to my reading list or something, I can write it down, instead of pulling out the phone. This makes me less likely to be distracted by some incoming text, etc.
  • On my computers (I have separate ones for work and blog/personal use) I shut my email programs down when not in use. I've had notifications for new email messages turned off for a long time.

These suggestions were compiled from the books below. I would recommend any or all of them. 

All in all, I'm pleased with how this journey towards being more focused is going so far. I feel less distracted, and like I have more of a sense of purpose about the work that I'm doing. These are both good things! 

© 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: Appreciating the Smell of New Books

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

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

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

Thanks for reading, and for growing bookworms!

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


Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: February 8: #Reading Deeply, Improving #Memory + Encouraging #Boredom

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include #BookAwards, #BookList, #boredom, #DigitalReading, #dyslexia, #EducationalEquity, #Giftedness, #grades, #JoyOfReading, #KidLitCon, #MentalHealth, #phonics, #Play, #reading, #SchoolChoice, #sleep, #SocialMedia, #WorldReadAloudDay, parenting, schools and teaching. This week's "Top Tweet" has been circulating really well - it is apparently resonating with teachers. 

Top Tweet of the Week

Understanding a Teacher’s Long-Term Impact | Fostering skills like does more for students' futures than helping them raise their https://t.co/wKjr2IScGc

Book Lists

YouAreNotSmall50 Of The Best Books For Beginning Readers | Katherine Willoughby via |

Favorite and Funny Books for 9-10 Year Olds, kid-tested from | Many kids are hooked on via funny books https://t.co/KELCowPwBq

Diversity + Gender

Only 2% of are black men, yet research confirms they matter. So why are there so few in ?

Events, Programs + Research

KIDLIT_con_poster_final_web_smCongrats to our Panelists honored at Awards! – | is March 22-23 in Providence

Celebration! talks w/ 4 educators + authors about joys of

Who knew? Rock-A-Bye Adult – Study Shows Grown-ups Enjoy Better And Consolidation In A Rocking Bed – https://t.co/5p8WyM5JIS

Growing Bookworms

Technology is the enemy and how I (still try) to get my kids to read | The mom at I love kids books laments letting the lure of video games get in the way of her boys |

Creating an Action Plan to Jumpstart a Better Experience for the kids who aren't there yet in their by https://t.co/aIc2pCICGt

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

ClariceBean'We need to talk about children’s books in a grown-up way’ | Lauren Child joins judging panel for | Wants to champion "left-field ways of looking at the world" in

Excellent conversation-starter today | Has changed how (and what) we read? Do we still read deeply? What about digital natives? | In my response I referenced + |

Thought-provoking article about how compounds knowledge by consuming information that is focused + has a long half-life (vs. that expires fast)

Books Are Not Dead. They're More Essential Than Ever | is fundamental to human beings. strengthens our imaginations. |

Parenting + Play

YesBrainHow with Your Children Can Help Them Develop a ‘Yes Brain’ | |

Opinion | Let Children Get Bored Again - | is useful, especially when you let your mind wander

When your gifted child disappoints: Good stuff in this post about struggles that can arise when a child struggles w/ relationships, underachievement, difficulties w/ socialization + more

Why You Shouldn’t Feel Bad About Canceling Extracurriculars | I love this@HonorsGradU equation | Stress of making activity happen > benefit of activity = CANCEL regret-free! |

'Sharenting': Can Parents Post Too Much About Their Kids Online? | via

Schools and Libraries

PowerOfQuestioningGo Rogue, But Be Prepared for a Fight When it Comes to Giving Up - It "isn't just about not labeling ..., it is about shifting a mindset about what learning is and how it should look in a classroom" https://t.co/smTkOdAqFY

Meet the ‘crazy’ moms saying one of Pa.’s top-rated school districts can’t teach |

An Open Letter: To , From a explores reasons some people depend on more flexible options, as well as some reservations https://t.co/vIsRJT8eO5

Isn't , It's A Million Little Mutinies, people making choices for their families |

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


Growing Bookworms Newsletter: February 6: Post Reading Slump 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 a review of an adult nonfiction title and a post about having reader be part of my daughter's self-concept. I also have a post about recapturing my reading flow and an idea from my daughter about customized levels of homework. I have three posts with links that I shared recently on Twitter, full of reading- and education-related news. 

Reading Update:  In the last three weeks I finished eight middle grade titles and six adult titles (three fiction and three nonfiction). I read/listened to: 

  • SimonThorn3Aimée Carter: Simon Thorn and the Shark's Cave. Bloomsbury USA Children's Books. Middle Grade Speculative Fiction. Completed January 18, 2019, print library copy. This was a fun read with which I kicked off a delightful reading weekend. This is the third book in an intriguing fantasy series about a race of people who can transform into animals. Kids from the different animal kingdoms attend school together, with associated rivalries, and there are also family secrets and a quest for a powerful artifact. 
  • Megan Frazer Blakemore: The Story Web. Bloomsbury USA Kids. Middle Grade Speculative Fiction. Completed January 19, 2019, print ARC. This book is wonderful. It has my highest recommendation, but won't be published until early June. It is discussed more in my post about recapturing my reading flow. 
  • Andrew Clements: The Friendship War. Random House Books for Young Readers. Middle Grade Fiction. Completed January 19, 2019, print review copy. This one was a quick read about a rivalry between two friends starting to grow apart and the inadvertent sparking of a craze for button trading. Not my favorite of Clements' work, but solid. 
  • Krista Van Dolzer: The Multiplying Mysteries of Mount Ten. Bloomsbury USA Children's Books. Middle Grade Fiction. Completed January 19, 2019, print ARC. This is about an artistic girl who accidentally ends up spending a week at a small math camp, and ends up immersed in a (mildly) frightening scavenger hunt. Kids who enjoy books with puzzles and realistic quests, and/or reading about math geeks, will enjoy it. This one releases April 9th. 
  • RabbitCynthia Lord: Because of the Rabbit. Scholastic Press. Middle Grade Fiction. Completed January 19, 2019, print review copy. This is a short, quiet read about a girl from rural Maine who starts public school for the first time after having been homeschooled. She hopes that one of the other girls in her class will become her best friend, filling a hole left by the older brother who has been growing away a bit. But she finds herself embroiled in a more complex friendship with a boy named Jack, who is apparently on the Autism spectrum. And there's a cute pet bunny. Releases March 26th. 
  • Zilpha Keatley Snyder: The Velvet Room. Yearling. Middle Grade Fiction. Completed January 24, 2019, personal print copy. This was a re-read of one of my all-time childhood favorites. Here's a link to a review I wrote back in 2006
  • Dan Wells: Zero G. Audible Studios. Middle Grade Speculative Fiction. Completed January 24, 2019, on MP3. This is a multi-cast Audible Original that I downloaded on a whim. It's about a boy who is going with his family on a colony ship to a new planet. Through some glitch, he awakens from statis early in the trip, and finds himself the only one who can save the ship from being hijacked by pirates. I had some trouble overcoming this coincidence as an adult reader, and I found some of the information dumps about space and space travel a bit didactic, but I did get into it by the end. It's definitely entertaining and kid-friendly. 
  • John Bellairs: The House with a Clock in its Walls. Puffin Books. Middle Grade Speculative Fiction. Completed January 29, 2019, on MP3. I listened to this book on audio, the first time I had read it in many years. The plot and suspense hold up well, as does the coolness of Lewis' uncle's house and magical abilities. However, I found Lewis a bit annoying. He's constantly in or near tears, in a way that you wouldn't see a middle grade character (boy or girl) today. I suspect that this improves with future books, as he gains a real friend, and I may well go ahead and try the next one out. 
  • ReadicideKelly Gallagher: Readicide: How Schools Are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It. Stenhouse Publishers. Adult Nonfiction. Completed January 17, 2019, on Kindle. I read this as part of a project that I'm working on. Although the research is a little dated (2009 edition) relative to some of the other books I've been reading, I still thought that it was brilliant. Gallagher makes an excellent case for the ways that schools are killing reading, and the things that teachers (and to a lesser extent parents) can do about it. The practices he discusses (excessive testing, too much close reading, lack of choice) certainly seem to be still widespread. 
  • Naomi Alderman: The Power. Back Bay Books. Adult Fiction. Completed January 18, 2019, personal print copy. This is a speculative fiction title about what might happen if women developed an internal power source that would let them damage or even kill men with a touch. I found some of it intriguing and some of it difficult to read (unpleasant imagery), but it did hold my attention. 
  • 48HoursWilliam R. Forstchen: 48 Hours. Forge Books. Adult Speculative Fiction. Completed January 20, 2019, on Kindle. This book was fabulous. It's about what might happen to society if we learned that there were only 48 hours left before an extinction-level event might occur. I won't say more, because the suspense is a major part of the story. But I couldn't put it down. 
  • Charlaine Harris: Shakespeare's Landlord (Lily Bard, Book 1). Minotaur Books. Adult Mystery. Completed January 21, 2019, on MP3. Eh, this one was ok. It's an older Harris title that doesn't have supernatural elements. It's about a woman who has fled to a small town after a terrible experience and works as a cleaning woman. She has very limited contact with people, until she ends up immersed in a murder investigation. 
  • Nancie Atwell and Anne Atwell Merkel: The Reading Zone, 2nd Edition: How to Help Kids Become Skilled, Passionate, Habitual, Critical Readers. Scholastic Professional. Adult Nonfiction. Completed January 25, 2019, on Kindle. This one is also fabulous. I took many notes, and got great ideas. I wish that my daughter could attend the school described in the book. 
  • W. Thomas Boyce, M.D.: The Orchid and the Dandelion. Knopf. Adult Nonfiction. Completed January 31, 2019, advance review copy. My review.

ItWasntMeI'm currently reading Hyperfocus by Chris Bailey and It Wasn't Me by Dana Alison Levy. My daughter has been testing my commitment to provide her with judgment-free choice by asking me to read to her at breakfast from a Peanuts anthology. While I have a reasonable level of affection towards the Peanuts characters, reading comic strip after comic strip aloud does very little for me. And I don't think it does much for her (no narrative arc, no strong vocabulary), except that I am validating her choice. And so we continue. We have been interspersing this with picture books, so that helps. Her favorite recent picture book is Peep and Ducky: It's Snowing, the latest from her current favorite illustrator, David Walker (author David Martin). 

In terms of her own reading, my daughter is reading The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo for school. She's nearly finished and has so far cried twice over it. At home she's reading Dumpling Days by Grace Lin. Her school library book is Surprise Island: A Boxcar Children Mystery by Gertrude Chandler Warner. She's also enjoyed the first Surfside Girls graphic novel by Kim Dwinell. I picked up a couple of other new graphic novels for her upcoming winter school break, but she doesn't know about those yet. 

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


The Orchid and the Dandelion: W. Thomas Boyce, M.D.

Book: The Orchid and the Dandelion: Why Some Children Struggle and How All Can Thrive
Author: W. Thomas Boyce, M.D.
Pages: 304
Age Range: Adult nonfiction, especially relevant for parents and teachers

OrchidAndDandelionI found The Orchid and the Dandelion, by W. Thomas Boyce, to be an informative read. The premise of this adult nonfiction title is that there’s a normal distribution of kids in terms of sensitivity / reactivity to their environment. Boyce, a longtime researcher and professor of pediatrics and psychiatry, classifies the 20% who are most reactive as orchids and the rest as dandelions. His research, and that of others, suggests that the dandelions are relatively impervious to things that happen to them. They can thrive good or bad situations. They are resilient. They bounce back. The orchids on the other hand, can do extremely well when nurtured properly. They are “unusually vital, creative, and successful within supportive, nurturing environments.” But in the presence of adversity, they tend to do poorly. They get sick more often (especially respiratory illnesses) and can veer towards mental illness, anxiety, addiction, and other negative behaviors.

It’s not completely clear what causes orchids, but Boyce thinks there’s a strong genetic component and that it was selected for in evolution. The orchids were early warning systems when things were bad, and then high-achievers when things were stable, and both aspects were thus beneficial. He also thinks that there’s a strong epigenetic component – that how people genes end up expressing as orchids is affected by their environments, from natal to childhood. Boyce identifies the orchids primarily by testing kids’ stress responses (fight-or-flight and cortisol responses to challenges).

I found this book fascinating. It’s a challenging read, covering a lot of science, and definitely requires a high level of concentration from the reader. Boyce helps make it more accessible, however, by sharing his personal story of his orchid sister who failed to thrive and eventually committed suicide. He also shares lots of examples of actual (names changed) kids who he has treated, studied, or known over the years. Finally, he includes incisive little biographies of the people he works with over the years that humanize what could have been a dry recounting of research. Here's one example: “Growing up, he had been a rebellious, recalcitrant, and generally annoying adolescent, forever in trouble by virtue of his impulsivity and an intellect that well outstripped his school’s and family’s capacities for containing and challenging it.” (Page 108 of the ARC)

I did have a couple of issues with the book:

  1. Boyce says that 15-20% of kids have most of the health problems found within a population of children over time (and account for the majority of health care dollars spent). He also says that 20% of the population are orchids. Then he says that some of the orchids thrive and have unusually good health. So is it just coincidence that for each orchid that does thrive there’s a dandelion who for whatever reason does not, such that the percentages match up? This is not unreasonable, but I felt that this could have been addressed more directly. Perhaps it was, and I missed it.
  2. He’s somewhat absolute throughout much of the book about the orchid children vs. the dandelion children. However, this whole classification is based on a normal distribution of behavior. I kept thinking: wouldn’t it be more a spectrum, with some kids tending more towards orchids and some tending towards dandelions? He does state this about the spectrum clearly late in the book, and I get that he’s trying to make an already complex story more comprehensible, but as a person who understand variability, this bothered me as I was reading.

Those issues aside, I did find the book engaging thought-provoking. It made me think about my own development and my daughter’s, and about things that might help some of the people around me. I highlighted many passages and learned a variety of things. Here are a few of my (many) notes:

  • When Boyce started studying the correlation between adversity and propensity toward childhood illness, he found that while childhood adversity was predictive, the associations were not nearly as strong as expected. This is the data from which he and others started to see that for some kids adversity wasn’t highly predictive of illness, but for other kids it was. (Chapter 2, page 29, ARC)
  • Studies that looked at kids’ stress reactivity, social environments, and susceptibility to respiratory illness followed, resulting in the graph in Chapter 3 (page 47 of the ARC) that is the heart of the book. The kids identified as dandelions show only a slight increase in their respiratory illness rates as the stress in their social environments increases. The kids identified as orchids show much lower illness rates in low stress environments, but much higher illness rates in high stress environments (a line with a much steeper slope). The researchers’ conclusion/epiphany was that the orchid children “were more open, more permeable, more tender to the powerful influences, both bad and good, of the context in which they were living and growing.” (Page 48, ARC)
  • Chapter 7 is about “The Kindness and Cruelty of Children” and how dominance structures in preschool and later classrooms can disproportionately affect the orchid children, who may end up bullied or isolated. He talks about “the unsung valor of the kindergarten teacher”, saying “Preschool and kindergarten teachers earn the very smallest paychecks of those who staff our national system of education, and yet they are the educators most likely to profoundly shape young minds and lives, during the most neurobiologically formative period of early learning.” (Page 151, ARC)
  • Chapter 8 is about what you can do as a parent to help orchid children, distilled from his years of researching and treating orchid children, and watching his sister, his orchid daughter, and others. Here's a summary quote about these recommendations, which are well worth a look in full: “These then are the potent secrets of raising, teaching, or shepherding a happy and healthy, if delicate, orchid boy or girl: the power of sameness and routine, the gifts of attentiveness and love, the celebration of human differences, the affirmation of a true and genuine self, the balance between protection and emboldening challenge, and the beneficence of play.” (Page 172, end of Chapter 8, ARC)
  • In Chapter 10 he does get to the nature of the spectrum of orchid to dandelion. After describing on of his own childhood experiences he says: “Looking back on it now, it is one last reminder of an essential point: orchids and dandelions aren’t a binary division cutting humanity into two categories. The two flowers are powerful metaphors, or a vivid shorthand, for what is actually a spectrum.” (Page 220, ARC) I agree with this, but think he could have made the point a bit clearer earlier.
  • In the Conclusion, Boyce gets into what he thinks we should be doing as a society to protect orchid children. Using an analogy to legal protections for lead (which especially help certain kids who are the most sensitive to lead poisoning), he posits that making the social improvements that would help orchid kids would also help all kids. Even more compelling, he notes, "this same subgroup of orchid kids, most sensitive to the developmental and health effects of poverty, violence, and despair, are the same group that is most likely to dramatically benefit from exposure to supportive, nurturant, and encouraging social contexts." (Page 232, ARC, Conclusion)

If any of these tidbits catch your eye, then you should give The Orchid and the Dandelion, released last week, a look. It does take some time and mental focus to read it all the way through, but I think you'll find this investment worthwhile. I know I did. I learned a lot. Recommended!

Publisher:  Knopf
Publication Date: January 29, 2019 
Source of Book: Advance review copy from the publisher. Please note that quotes are from the ARC, and may differ from the final printed book, particularly in regards to page numbers. 

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


Links I Shared on Twitter Recently: February 1: Youth Media Awards, 28 Days Later, and Global School Play Day

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include #28DaysLater, #ADHD, #ALAYMA, #blogging, #BookAwards, #BookLists, #dyslexia, #Focus, #GrowthMindset, #GSPlayDay, #HigherEd, #Homework, #JoyOfLearning, #literacy, #Play, #SocialMedia, Henry Winkler, parenting, and schools.

Top Tweet of the Week

Mcbd_poster_nameFINAL-791x1024[Last Friday was] Multicultural Children’s Book Day!

Book Lists + Awards

For anyone who somehow missed this, the 2018-2019 Children’s and Young Adult Book Awards were announced yesterday. Here's a nice summary from

12 Books for Toddlers, from

RA RA Read: Laugh 'n' Read, Funny Beginning | from Jennifer Wharton | Funny books are a great way to hook kids on

The 50 Best Books for 7- and 8-Year-Olds to keep them voraciously, per + Meghan Dietsche Goel for

Events, Programs + Research

WRAD2019InstaFINALThis Friday, 2/1, is World Read Aloud Day, when people around the globe together + share stories to advocate for

Celebration Time: The 2019 Honorees for https://t.co/akyPvQVc6R

Very cool! featured 2019! saying "If you write books for young readers, this New England conference is an event you can’t miss." | March 22-23 in RI

Growing Bookworms

BugAndBear“Kindergarteners Need 2 Skills to Be Successful” | shares tips + book ideas for nurturing those skills via |

Can you keep a secret? Teacher describes her observations + interactions with a hidden group of stealthy teen https://t.co/o8nUexwl1h

Higher Ed

How Harvard + Other Universities w/ Large Endowments Hurt Small via dynamics | "a cycle where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer"

Transfers Outperform At Top , So Why Do We Ignore Them? https://t.co/jk1J8sGHF7

Learning Differences

HankZipzer Made Feel 'Stupid' For Years. Now, He's A Best-Selling Author | | His books for kids are what he's most proud of

Five Ways to Help Children w/ Develop Their Strengths | | + more

On Reading, Writing, Drawing, Blogging, and Publishing

Reaching a Wider Audience - wants to help + "find amazing children's books and ideas" |

Why Matters | "drawing is deeply entangled with development, but doesn’t often receive the same attention or regard as language" https://t.co/9k8dSCIGvA

Parenting + Play

FreedomToThinkI plan to check out the new by w/

through play: what are the benefits? | talks w/ of | Imaginative w/ others (even an adult who does this effectively) helps language acquisition +

Global School Play Day: One Day. Nothing But | | Watch on this important topic https://t.co/HdsMgOPuQp

Schools and Libraries

GSPlayDay250 Things to Do Instead of ! - Fun list by for ahead of coming up 2/6

Kinder Prep Frenzy Continued: On | thinks it "seems to involve too much fear, too much short-term, and too much “not-enough-ness.”" https://t.co/ZEkrTpYMD2

Now That Are Promoting Broader Definitions of Success, How Do We Measure Progress?

Self Improvement + Motivation

DigitalMinimalismIt’s Not Too Late to Quit - shares tips from author on breaking the habit + finding better focus

Getting Ahead By Being Inefficient | In expending extra energy, making , trying new things you develop flexibility + , says

Screen Time

New study reports toddlers who spent more time watching a screen at 2 years old did worse on developmental markers than those w/ less | Authors urge caution for via

Generation Z’s 7 Lessons for Surviving in Our Tech-Obsessed World - | doesn't distinguish online vs. |

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


An Idea from My Daughter Regarding Customized Levels of Homework

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: January 25: #ReadYourWorld, #BlackHistoryMonth, #SelfCompassion + the Power of Children's Books

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include #BoardBooks, #BookLists, #CommonCore, #copyright, #DiverseBooks, #GrowthMindset, #ReadYourWorld, #SchoolLibraries, #teens, #testing, learning, schools, and teaching.

Top Tweet of the Week

Why Prioritizing Relationships in Matters. Doing well on a isn't the end goal | vs.

Book Lists + Awards

GoodnightGorillaSome of my family's faves are on this list: Our Top Ten Tastiest by

24 Must-Have Books for Toddlers - from

RA RA READ: Beginning for Animal Lovers, + guide from Jennifer Wharton

2019 Nominees for Juveniles + | via

Diversity / Multicultural Children's Book Day

GhostBoys announces the 2019 Walter Awards – has the scoop

Children's Books! 3 stories Celebrating Cultural Heritage, Ecological Stewardship + https://t.co/FAHm0pYNAv

Best Multicultural Children's Books for Babies, Toddlers, & Preschoolers | from | PictureBooks

Events, Programs + Research

PoetA Plan to a in Honor of , w/ of selected titles, from https://t.co/Yk63mDIqku

New research finds that (to complete over the summer) Harm Degree Completion / long-run success, despite earlier results showing short-term promise |

Growing Bookworms

Ten ways improve in schools by Margaret Kristin Merga "Teaching how to choose books they like" + lots more

EnchantedHourThe Secret Power of the Children’s by Meghan Cox Gurdon - Even infants get profound cognitive and behavioral benefits from sharing a vivid story

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

Thousands of Previously Copyrighted Works Will Now Be Freely Available to Use by + Others (w/ more to come each January) via

seem like ‘Netflix for ,’ but they’re a drain on budgets + result in "book-lending inefficiencies"

Skulduggery1My friend Jennifer Wharton is even happier than I am to see reissuing the books by |

Personal Growth / Parenting

It Took Exactly 5 Words to Teach a Major Lesson in | via https://t.co/yyS686a5xT

Schools

Data Was Supposed to Fix the U.S. System. Here’s Why It Hasn’t. "Nationwide data suggests that the growth of data-driven schooling hasn’t worked"

Five years after , a mysterious spike in failure rate among NY w/ signs of lasting problems for low-achieving students

Teenagers’ Lack Of Insight Into Some Of Their Abilities Has Implications For Counselling –

SelfCompassionHow Supports Academic Motivation + Emotional Wellness |

Learn Better From People They Love - | "Emotions assign value to things" |

Should We Be Teaching Optimism? - Guest post by for @mssackstein | Our societal tendency to pessimism is influenced by | should show kids the world is getting better (+ how to spot )

Why -Based Is Exciting And Where It May Stumble | https://t.co/0NtXVn0Q83

This Is a Problem says (and I agree) : That Are Closed All (or too much of) the Time "WE EXIST FOR KIDS!"

STEM

How to Introduce Principles Early to Help Inspire Interest in | https://t.co/5egI5kpfV6

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