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

Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: May 3: Improving via #Literacy First, Celebrating #ChildrensBookWeek + Assessing #CommonCore

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include #BookLists, #ChildrensBookWeek, #CommonCore, #EisnerAward, #GenderEquity, #GrowingBookworms, #NAEP, #reading, #ScreenFreeWeek, #SmartPhones, #STEM, #teaching, #testing, libraries, parenting, and publishing. 

Top Tweet of the Week

How a #literacy first program revived an elementary school in a poor #SchoolDistrict @edutopia via @MindShiftKQED #reading #HighExpectations

Book Lists + Awards

CardboardKingdomThe 2019 #EisnerAward Nominees have been announced. @tashrow shares the #kidlit + #YA titles #GraphicNovels #BookAwards

12 Extra-Exciting Action-Adventure Books with Girls at the Center | @ivamarie @ReadBrightly #BookList #kidlit

May #ReadAloud Books that Aren't about Spring! #PictureBook + #ChapterBook recommendations from @momandkiddo |#BookList

Booklist’s 50 Best Middle-Grade Novels of the 21st Century, with Ample Edits suggested by @fuseeight #kidlit #BookList @ALA_Booklist

Diversity + Gender

Women Did Everything Right. Then Work Got ‘Greedy.’ In highly educated couples, the man is often on call at work while the woman chooses 'call' at home w/ kids -> pay gap @clairecm @nytimes | #GenderEquity

Events, Programs + Research

ChildrensBookWeek2019Poster2019 marks the 100th anniversary of #ChildrensBookWeek (not coincidentally #ScreenFreeWeek) @EveryChildRead #LoveOfBooks [Poster designed by Yuyi Morales.]

Information for 2019 Global Read Aloud #GRA19 starting this fall, including titles, schedules + #SocialMedia links – @pernilleripp #ReadAloud #literacy

Today is #IndependentBookstore Day | @librofm is giving away free #audiobooks to celebrate + sharing reasons why local #bookstores make a difference | #reading

Why Memorizing Stuff Can Be Good For You by @natwexler @Forbes | "the more factual knowledge people have about a topic, the better they can think about it critically and analytically."

Brain Wars: Classical Education vs. #BrainScience@MarlaSzwast discusses underlying principles + how they apply to skills like memorization | #Homeschooling #Learning

Growing Bookworms

GameChangerI wish that every parent + teacher would read this important post: How Misuse of the #40BookChallenge Made My Kid Hate Reading and Why (& How) I Pushed Back — @TLT16

#Teachers Are in Charge of Reading Celebrations says @TammyBMulligan, suggesting ways for students to experience FUN as #readers

6 Awesome Benefits of #ReadingAloud to Your Kids from @icsfblog via @drdouggreen | Bonding, learning + more

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

PassionateReadersSo You’re in a #ReadingSlump, Now What? – @pernilleripp shares her tips #JoyOfReading

RT @NYTimesBooks: Amélie Wen Zhao canceled publication of her young adult novel, “Blood Heir,” because of online criticism. Then she decided the critics were wrong.

How One #IndependentBookstore Succeeds in the Amazon Age - Susan Kitchens @WSJ | #SmallBusiness #bookstores

Students Fall for Misinformation Online. Is #Teaching Them to Read Like Fact Checkers the Solution? - @becksup @chronicle via @DTWillingham #FakeNews #FactChecking

Parenting + Play

RaiseSuccessfulPeopleI Raised Two CEOs and a Doctor. These Are My Secrets to #Parenting Successful Children @EstherWojcicki @TIME | independence, kindness + more

Schools and Libraries

Why It's Important To Say There Is No #TeacherShortage. Takes our eyes off the real problem = #teaching has become unattractive as a profession, says @palan57

You Might Be Surprised Which States Prioritize Higher Teacher Salaries - @MichaelPetrilli @EducationNext | Interesting data on ratios of #teacher pay to per-pupil spending by state

How can #teachers release responsibility to kids in the classroom, so that they become more independent? Ideas from @millerread @ChoiceLiteracy including #wordless #PictureBooks for pre-readers

DeeperLearningHow to make #HighSchools better for #students - @jal_mehta + @sarahmfine @latimes | kids need opportunity to do meaningful work under competent supervision | #learning #schools #IntrinsicMotivation

Private #Libraries That Inspire | @KatyMcL @WSJ | These are truly gorgeous!


16 Wonderful Women Scientists to Inspire Your Students - @WeAreTeachers via @drdouggreen #STEM #science #GenderRoles


BreakUpWithYourPhonePutting Down Your Phone May Help You Live Longer | author @Catherine_Price @nytimes describes effect of #smartphones on cortisol levels (stress hormone), suggests ways to break the cycle

Testing + Standards

Nearly a decade later, did #CommonCore work? One recent study found it appears "to have led to modest declines in 4th-grade reading and 8th-grade #math scores @matt_barnum @Chalkbeat

#MiddleSchoolers Are Doing Better on a Key Tech and Engineering #NAEP Test — Thanks to the Girls | @The74 @cphenicie #STEM

Instead of Standardized #Testing, Consider #PortfolioAssessment suggests @mssackstein @EdWeekTeacher | allow #students to gather evidence of #learning over time

True #Testing Stories; Bias, Boredom, and Futures in the Balance. @dirktillotson: Test scores matter + reducing #AchievementGaps would do massive good for Black, Brown + disadvantaged folks

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

The Third Grade Cliff: My Response to a Finding from the @Scholastic Kids and Family Reading Report

The 7th edition of the Scholastic Kids and Family Reading Report was released last month. Scholastic presents the results of a survey, managed by YouGov, of 2758 adults and children. This biannual report is, I think, one of the best windows into what families are doing and thinking when it comes to kids' reading. I'm in the process of going through the material and there are certainly causes for optimism overall. However, one of the major  findings hit me hard: The Decline by Nine. Here's a summary on this from this section of the report (there's more detail if you follow the link):

"The Kids & Family Reading Report has shown a child’s attitude towards reading enjoyment and importance is a predictor of reading frequency, which is why it also is striking to note the drop between ages eight and nine in the percentage of kids who think reading books for fun is extremely or very important (from 65% to 57%). Similarly, the number of kids who say they love reading drops significantly from 40% among eight-year-olds to 28% among nine-year-olds (see Figure 3).

What is to be done about the "decline by nine"? Rarely do we see a rebound from these benchmarks as kids grow older. Yet across ages, the majority of kids agree they should read more books for fun, and tell us they believe reading matters. This suggests it is possible to prevent the decline and even to re-engage a child in reading, provided the experience meets their needs and expectations."


This finding is particularly painful to me given that my daughter just turned nine last month. But I would find it deeply disturbing in any case. Right at the age when  kids are becoming proficient in reading, right when they are ready to start reading amazing middle grade fiction, they are reading less, considering it less important, and loving it less. What is going on? My guess is that there are three primary factors at play at this age level:

  1. Many (though happily not all) parents stop reading aloud to their kids once the kids can read on their own. 
  2. Many (though again, happily not all) schools and teachers push reading as something that is required and tested, and unwittingly but inexorably start to quash the joy of reading. Reading logs, reading incentive programs like AR, and testing are well-intended but harmful to the love of reading.
  3. Many kids are spending time on screens playing games instead of reading. 

Read Aloud: In my own household, we don't read aloud to my daughter as much as we did when she was younger. Reading aloud can fall by the wayside when we are traveling or having an extra busy weekend. But when we are home, I try to read to my daughter ever morning while she eats  breakfast. We almost never miss that on school days, because it's part of our routine, though weekends can be trickier. My husband usually reads to her at bedtime. My own takeaway from the Scholastic report is that we need to work harder to keep up the reading aloud. Because I truly believe that it makes a difference in showing kids that reading is a joyous and important activity. 

Schools: As for school, we have been lucky so far, but I am keeping a wary eye on our school's AR program. In third grade, my daughter is supposed to get five AR points a month. This has generally not been a problem, though she sometimes takes tests late in the month on graphic and notebook novels that she knows practically by heart. The challenge for her is that her five points are supposed to include nonfiction. And while she enjoys the Who Was/Is biographies somewhat, reading and testing on them feels like a chore to her. It's something that she puts off, and she sometimes get dinged for not having tested on enough nonfiction. I'm not crazy about reading ever feeling like a chore for her, but overall, this hasn't had a noticeable negative impact.

Next year, though, I understand that the required number of points will increase significantly and affect her grade (letter grades also start next year). While I don't care what her reading grade is, as long as she continues to love reading, she cares about it. She's in an environment where other kids care about grades and talk about them. So ... I'm a bit concerned, and prepared to do whatever I can at home to nurture my daughter's love of reading.

I was inspired by an article that I read last week by Karen Jensen at SLJ. Karen talks about her efforts to protect her daughter's love of reading in the face of misguided requirements from her daughter's school/teacher. And I'm inspired all the time by posts from teachers like Donalyn Miller and Pernille Ripp and others who focus on the love of reading. But not all kids have parents and teachers who are equipped  for these battles. 

Screens: I believe that one of the key reasons  that my daughter still enjoys reading is that her screen time is extremely limited. This was hard when she was younger, and will likely be hard again when she is older. But right now, she actually gets that her time is better spent reading, writing, drawing, etc. If anything she's on a mission to get my husband and I to reduce OUR screen time. 

So What Can Parents (and Society) Do to Stave off the Decline by Nine?

The above discussion suggests three steps that individual parents can (and I would argue should) take, in the interest of keeping kids interested in reading:

  1. Continue reading aloud to your children, even after they can read on their own. Reading together shows your kids that you value reading, and it makes reading a positive, nurturing experience. 
  2. Put limits on the time that your children spend using screens, and put off getting them their own devices (especially cell phones) for as long as you can. There are two reasons for this. One is simply time - if they are on screens all day, they don't have time to read. The other reason is that if they get used to having entertainment passively fed to them, they will lose their taste for the more challenging, but infinitely more rewarding, activity of reading. 
  3. When your children are reading at home, keep the focus on enjoyment. Push back against reading logs if you can. Get them the books that they are interested in (from the store or the library or from friends), not the books that you think they should read. Get them funny books and graphic novels and whatever else they love. There are a lot of things in schools that sap the joy of reading - your job at home is to nurture it instead. 

Of course, the parents who have read this far are the parents who already care about this issue. What's really needed to halt the Decline by Nine is a public information campaign that reaches more parents and more schools, and gets everyone on the same page reading the love of reading. Kids who love to read will spend their time reading. They'll become good at it. Reading will become even more enjoyable. And they'll become readers for life, with all of the advantages that this carries (enjoyment, empathy, vocabulary, math skills, and lots more). I believe that it is important for us as a society to get there, but I don't know how to achieve that. So I work on this in my own home and step on my soapbox for any other parents who care to listen. Thanks for reading!

© 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 Newsletter: May 1: Crossword Puzzles, Picture Books + Reading in the Car

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 to four weeks.

Newsletter Update: In this issue I have two posts with my daughter's latest literacy milestones. The first is making her own crossword puzzle. The second is reading 50 of her favorite picture books in a 24 hour period. I also have a post about our recent experiences reading in the car, with some tips for fellow bookworm-growing parents. I also have three posts with literacy and reading-related links shared over the past few weeks on Twitter. I have a summary of our recent reading below. 

Reading Update:  In the last four weeks I finished one middle grade title, two young adult titles, and seven adult titles (four fiction and three nonfiction). I read/listened to: 

  • Jeff Kinney: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Old School. Harry N. Abrams Books. Middle Grade Fiction. Completed April 4, 2019, read aloud to my daughter.
  • SkyjackedPaul Griffin: Skyjacked. Scholastic. Young Adult Thriller. Completed April 27, 2019, print ARC. I read this book in basically one sitting, and liked it enough to immediately download the author's earlier book (which I also read in one sitting). 
  • Paul Griffin: Adrift. Scholastic. Young Adult Thriller. Completed April 27, 2019, on Kindle.
  • Cal Newport: Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World. Penguin Portfolio. Adult Nonfiction. Completed April 5, 2019, personal copy. This book is excellent, and continues my efforts to learn about focus and cut back on screen time. And yes, I read the print copy. 
  • William Kent Krueger: Vermilion Drift (Cork O'Connor, No. 10). Atria Books. Adult Mystery. Completed April 6, 2019, on MP3. I like this series better and better all the time, and have passed over many other audio choices. 
  • Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson: Mistakes Were Made (but Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts. Mariner Books. Adult Nonfiction. Completed April 9, 2019, on MP3. This book is excellent. It helped me considerably in understanding how people think and (hence) behave. If I can find the time I will share some notes from the book. 
  • Jacqueline Winspear: The American Agent: A Maisie Dobbs Novel. Harper. Adult Mystery. Completed April 11, 2019, on Kindle. Another great installment in a top-notch series. 
  • VillageEffectSusan Pinker: The Village Effect: How Face-to-Face Contact Can Make Us Healthier and Happier. Vintage Press. Adult Nonfiction. Completed April 26, 2019, on Kindle. This book took me a long time to get through because it's quite detailed, but had a lot of interesting and useful material. It's hard for me as an introvert to prioritize face to face  (or phone) time, but both Cal Newport and Susan Pinker have made me believe that I do need to do so (at least to the extent that my introversion allows). 
  • William Kent Krueger: Northwest Angle (Cork O'Connor, No. 11). Atria Books. Adult Mystery. Completed April 28, 2019, on MP3. Also good. 
  • Jessica Barry: Freefall. Harper. Adult Thriller. Completed April 28, 2019, on Kindle. This was a thriller that a friend who knows me well recommended I listen to on audio. As I am immersed in the Cork O'Connor books, however, and needed something fast-paced to read this weekend, I ended up downloading it. I read it in one day, and found it compelling. 

EnchantedHourI'm reading The Enchanted Hour: The Miraculous Power of Reading Aloud in the Age of Distraction by Meghan Cox Gurdon  and listening to Trickster's Point, a Cork O'Connor novel by William Kent Krueger. I'm reading Dork Diaries 13: Tales from a Not-So-Happy Birthday aloud to my daughter. I have to confess that I don't enjoy reading the Dork Diaries books aloud. I really have no desire to return to the embarrassments of being a middle school girl. But it's not about me. At least we are reading together. 

DespereauxIn terms of her own reading, she recently brought home a classroom copy of The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo. She read that one cover to cover over break, after watching the movie in class. Apart from that, she mostly read picture books and graphic novels over break, though, leaving her three school library books (two nonfiction and one Boxcar Children book) untouched. She especially enjoyed Kayla Miller's Camp, at least in part because she will be going to camp for the first time this summer. (Hmm, I'll need to start saving up a few books for that.) 

The big news on her reading front, though, is that we are going to a book signing event this weekend featuring Raina Telgemeier. You should have seen her eyes widen when I told her that this was actually something we could do. It's a little bit of a drive, but worth it for my young bookworm to meet one of her heroes. And I know that we have at least two of Raina's books that are beyond battered from over-use and in need of replacement. I will report back on that next time. 

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

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.

Literacy Milestone: 50 Favorite Picture Books in One Day

LiteracyMilestoneAMy daughter, now nine, has never stopped reading picture books. She mostly reads them on her own at this point, though I'm happy to read with her when asked. I'll often find a little pile of them on the floor of her room or in the bathroom. She sometimes turns to them in times of emotional distress. But mostly she reads them just for fun. We still check them out of the library. And she received some new favorites for both Christmas and her birthday this year. 

Last week, though, she got on a real picture book tear. My husband  was out of town, and I had suggested that we read together in her room before bed (usually he is the bedtime reader). While I was getting myself ready, she started going through her bookshelves, pulling down favorite titles until she had a very large stack. I read a couple of them to her, but I think that was too slow - she mostly read on her own, devouring them while I lay in her bed reading my book. In the morning (it was spring break week), she continued. She started putting the read books into a pile and sitting on it while she read.

Here's the pile:


She eventually had to stop so that we could go out. I later counted the books that she had read. There were 49. We both agreed that evening that she should add one more, to make it 50 picture books read in (more or less) 24 hours. I think it's safe to say that's the most she's read on her own, though she still fondly remembers a day that she was home sick from preschool or kindergarten and her nanny read her picture books for hours. [Yes, we were very lucky.]

I  wouldn't say that this stack represents her top 50 of all time, because there were some bookshelves that she never got to and favorites that I know are missing. But  you could safely say it represents 50 of her top 100 titles. I  was pleased by many of the titles that I saw, including some that I had kept because I liked them, and didn't even know that she appreciated, too. You can see the list at the top of her 2019 reading list page. You can find the list stretching from A is for Musk Ox by Erin Cabatingan and Matthew Myers down to Peanut Butter and Jelly Fish by Jarrett Krosoczka.  

I was especially pleased to find a couple of titles in there that had been gifts from friends over the years, as well as some that were gifts from me. Many, of course, date to my days as a Cybils Fiction Picture Book judge, and picture book reviewer in general. Others we learned about from reading the blogs of my Kidlitosphere friends. All of these books (and sources for book ideas) are appreciated. 

I did ask her if any of the books she read hadn't held up, such that they might move over to the donate pile. She could only come up with one. This means that we will be overrun with picture books in our house for quite some time. I couldn't be happier.

Thanks for reading, and for growing bookworms. Look here to see the list

© 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: April 26: Studying Techniques, #SummerReading Encouragement + #KidLit for Adults

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include #BookLists, #GrowingBookworms, #Happiness, #JoyOfReading, #LearningDifferences, #parenting, #PBL, #ScreenTime, #SelfMotivation, #studying, #SummerReading, #Teaching, and #ReadingChoice. 

Top Tweet of the Week

5 Effective #Studying Techniques That Are Backed by Research | @edutopia | The most successful #students use their time more effectively, w/ higher intensity

Book Lists

PrincessInBlackVacation10 Illustrated #ChapterBook Series to Engage Early Readers | Jenn Ridgway @ReadBrightly | #BookList #PrincessInBlack #NateTheGreat + more

Events, Programs + Research

Rodney Robinson, Who Teaches Civics to Students in Juvenile Detention, Wins 2019 National Teacher of the Year | @EdWeekTeacher #education #teaching

#GenderGap: Why Are Girls Less Confident Than Boys? @tylercowen @Bloomberg | | Recent study suggests girls exposed to high-achieving boys do worse in #math + #science

Growing Bookworms

WholenovelswholeclassWhole-Class Novels vs. Choice #Reading: Why Not Do Both? - @arielsacks @EdWeekTeacher #ReadingChoice #GrowingBookworms

The Power of Choice and Time in helping #ReluctantReaders to find the #JoyOfReading by #MiddleSchool #teacher @bethiej1027 @nerdybookclub | #ReadingChoice #SSR

A Few Ideas for #Teachers to Help Students Read Over the Summer from @pernilleripp | I especially like "send home their TBR list" | #SummerReading #JoyOfReading #SummerSlide

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

ChildrensBookOldWiseWhy #HarryPotter + #PaddingtonBear are essential #reading … for grown-ups | @DonnaLFerguson @GuardianBooks talks w/ author Katherine Rundell about upcoming book | via @charlotteslib

Parenting + Play

It’s Grandparents vs. Parents in the Battle Over Kids’ #ScreenTime | @juliejargon @WSJ - #parenting

World health officials take a hard line on #ScreenTime for kids (never in 1st year, rarely in 2nd). Will busy parents comply? @craigtimberg + @rachsieg @washingtonpost #WHO

Understanding the Difference Between a 'Late' Reader and a Child with a Learning Issue | @lalalalambert @ReadBrightly #LearningDifferences #Reading #Parenting

A Reminder of the Fragility of Our Children’s #SelfDetermination from #TeacherMom @HonorsGradU | #Parenting #SelfMotivation

Personal Growth + Happiness

ChooseLifeYouWantThe Science of #Happiness: 3 Practices That Changed Perspective for @katiemartinedu #Gratitude #PersonalGrowth

Schools and Libraries

#EdTech Utopia Is Over says @ascendschools founder @EducationNext | "Enough #ScreenTime. Our #students need authentic relationships" w/ teachers to truly personalize #learning | #PBL

In the News: Proposed Law Would Require Illinois Children to Start School by Age 5, Threatening Kindergarten Redshirting - @EducationNext

#SchoolDistrict secession gathers speed in several states, accelerating resegregation @emmanuelfelton @hechingerreport via @MindShiftKQED

#LeBronJames Opened a School That Was Considered an Experiment. It’s Showing Promise. Inaugural class posted strong results on first round of #testing

I'm not sure whether this is funny or sad: #Schools Add a New Section of the #DressCode—for Parents - @Tawnell @WSJ


Why The Big Standardized Test Is Useless For Teachers @palan57 @Forbes | #testing #teaching

© 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: April 19: Climbing Trees, Creating Lifelong Readers + Reading on Paper

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage (with a few from last week, when I was on vacation and didn't do a link roundup). Topics include #DiverseBooks, #GenderRoles, #giftedness, #GrowingBookworms, #HigherEd, #Jeopardy!, #kidlitosphere, #literacy, #play, #Poetry, #ReadAloud, #ReadingLevels, #ScreenTime, #STEM, #teaching, parenting, and reading.

Top Tweets of the Week

Maya Awards for Creating Lifelong Readers & Maya Angelou Teacher Award for from +

The Biggest ! Winner says that fact-based children's books helped him win b/c "They are chock-full of infographics, pictures + all kinds of stuff to keep the reader engaged" via

Book Lists

Rounding up the Books for kids published in 2019 —

6 Great Books for Teachers, Parents & Grandparents who love children's books | Any that includes "Five on Brexit Island" is worth a look |

Highly Engaging Sure to Hook | from

Diversity + Gender

UnderPressureTeaching Girls to Be Great Competitors - Jennifer Breheny Wallace | "new research shows that many girls have trouble managing the stress and emotions that go along with competition"

Happy Spring! The April Linkup is (+ other blogs)

Author | Bringing into children's books | Why 'seeing yourself' matters for kids |

MomentOfLiftEquality for Women Must Start at Home (Even the Gates Home) - shares essay from her forthcoming book about empowering women

Events, Programs + Research

Guest Post | Danielle Goldman & , a program to make fun + encourage

I love this: Bus Driver Entertains Kids w/ by providing 'bucket of books' On Her Bus Route | Kids can grab books + in pairs, a guest reader comes on Friday afternoons to read to all

I love it! Netherlands makes trains free on for those who show a book instead of ticket |

ReadAloudHandbookA “million word gap” by kinder between children raised in rich environments vs. kids who aren’t read to at home at all |

The Progressive Poem is happening now. Here’s an update from

Growing Bookworms

10 Ways to Make Home a Path to Lifelong by adding more fun by Kyla McDonald | Backwards reading day, joke books, baking + more

Why Bitsy Parks doesn't worry too much about tracking her students' "I'm striving to lay the foundation for a love of reading"

How We Set Up in | Book clubs give students the chance to "engage in meaningful discussion"

Higher Ed

Why Has the Cost of Outpaced Inflation? - shares reasons, concludes "College presidents, trustees + politicians should feel some shame as they are the leaders in this cash grab" |

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

Worse for Comprehension than on Paper, Leads to Overconfidence, New Meta-analysis Concludes -

Parenting + Play

FreeRangeKidsClimbing trees is safer than organized sports + great for physical + emotional development | via

Why is Important for - via | Comprehensive w/ lots of references

Why & How to Nurture Wherever You Live (urban, suburban, rural) |

The Corruption Continuum | parents help kids seek limited spots in elite colleges | "there’s no way to peel away all the parent-conferred advantages and extras, for they’re inherent, multifaceted, and I think inevitable"

Why you should consider watching w/ your kids + list of the best ones to watch w/ them

Schools and Libraries

FewerThingsBetter"We're a Family" and Other School Norms that Can Cause Burnout | talks w/ about doing fewer things better in

Does help talented go ahead faster? Survey finds emphasis on developing creativity + critical thinking instead of acceleration above grade level

Parents Make a Big Difference in School Quality. I’m Living Proof. Thomas Sheppard |

What If Teachers Could No Longer Give B-minuses? Do we want our system to be a sorting system or a system? The case for |

Standardized really isn’t the problem. The issue is using as a (poor) proxy for quality. How can we have better accountability systems? asks

Sigh: Alum Rock school district cuts all to balance budget | | Not our district, but nearby

Interesting analogy from | What Can Learn from about Differentiating Instruction


Tuesday Spin Off: Books that illustrate the of | | , +

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

Literacy Milestone: Making a Crossword Puzzle

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

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

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


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

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

Thanks for reading, and for growing bookworms.

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

Links I Shared on Twitter Recently: April 5: A #LiteracyTsunamic, the #STEM #GenderGap, and the Scholastic #KFRR Results

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this busy week include #Audiobooks, #BookLists, #ChildDevelopment, #ComputerScience, #Education, #FreeRangeKids, #GenderGap, #Giftedness, #GRA19, #GrowingBookworms, #HigherEd, #Homework, #KFRR, #literacy, #LoveOfReading, #phonics, #Play, #ReadingLevels, #ReadingLogs, #Scholastic, #ScreenTime, #STEM, #Writing, and parenting.

Top Tweets of the Week

What Superintendents, Cabinets, and School Boards Need to Know About the (aka ) by |

The : Encouraging Girls to Persist in and , 3 barriers w/ proposed solutions | via , ,

Book Lists

NanetteBaguette5 that remind us to trust kids' development + foster independence in childhood

New -themed : the truly wonderful smattering of and titles for kids out in 2019 that struck as worth knowing

14 about Perspective + Observation, new from

Events, Programs + Research

FrontDeskAnnouncing the Global Read Aloud Choices 2019

Press Release Fun: Casting Call for Creative Kids to participate in new shared by [I checked: you need to be able to go to the New York recording studio to do this.]

by the Books! Highlights and about the recent children's book blogging conference from

Thoughts on why a not normally journal of should think twice before issuing a call for overtly political papers slanted in only one ideological direction, from

What Do Today’s Get Right And Wrong In How They Take Lecture Notes? – | Recent study shows more laptop note-taking, less organizing of notes + less self-testing than optimal


Where do I belong? The gifted person's lament. Challenges faced by gifted kids + teen + tips for parents to help from |

Growing Bookworms

KFRR_Fig3_I find this deeply depressing: New Kids + Family Reading Report shows large drop in both + between ages 8 and 9. Some highlights here [Click image for larger version of graph, source:

Great recap of definitions + resources for parents regarding kids' from Terry + more

Tips from for to help kids who aren't at home (something hard for to control)

Alternatives to (the dreaded) Home/School | Great ideas from coach

Higher Ed

Everything in Can Be Gamed by the Privileged. Eliminating Merit in Admissions Will Only Boost Their Advantage | | We need MORE high-quality education + ways to extend it to low-income kids

This is encouraging: U.S. college students excel in , outscore China, India + Russia |

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

SeeYouAtHarrysWhat Good Does It Do To Break A Child’s Heart? by | Books about sad topics can "open minds + inspire thoughtful discussion" + help kids grow

Terry has been posting themed questions each month. Her April questions are: What is (or was) your favorite , and have you created one w/ your kids? | Do share!

Print books still the most popular format. reading has flattened, while are on the rise says recent survey via

Read What You Love Until You Love to Read, eventually you get bored of the simple stuff says | The best way to yourself is to develop a

It's not every day you see driving a political scandal: Baltimore Mayor Takes Leave of Absence Amid Criticism Over ‘Healthy Holly’ Books

Parenting, Screen Time + Play

FreeRangeKidsMaking a Case for Free-Range Childhood | |

I Started Letting My Children Get Bored. Then, Something Amazing Happened | Good stuff from via

Why (in terms of the brain) Trigger the Nightly Meltdown—and How to Help Your Child Cope with shutting down |

One Year as a Free + Not Looking Back – shares her students' largely positive experience (less / , more socializing w/ friends in person instead of on )

Schools and Libraries

To Boost , Just Add Movement, w/ 6 ways to add more movement to instruction |

When You Disagree With Your Child's Teacher (or the policies at the school), What Can You Do? asks fellow | Seems relevant to me re: things like , +

DeeperLearning Doesn’t Have to Be Boring | + visited across the country, found "powerful learning was happening most often ... in electives, clubs + extracurriculars" + where kids get more agency + choice

is Key to Student Achievement. Many schools sap that motivation w/ rewards + punishments. But Schools Can Crush It |

Does Work? hears few regrets from teachers who did makeovers in class, suggests focusing on h/w where it's actually needed for

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

Growing Bookworms Newsletter: April 3: Reading Instead of Blogging 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 to four weeks.

Newsletter Update: In this very brief issue I have a post about the way my daughter is pushing my husband and I to cut back on screen time when she is with us. I also have one literacy milestone, about her newly expressed desire to be a journalist. I've also shared updates with my Twitter links for each of the past four weeks. Rather than include all of that, I'm going to only include the most recent one in my mailing. The links to the other three are here: March 8, March 15, and March 22. I also have a summary of our recent reading below. 

Reading Update:  In the last four weeks I finished three middle grade titles, two young adult titles, and eight adult titles (three fiction and five nonfiction). I was helped in my reading time by the fact that my husband took my daughter away for one weekend. I read/listened to: 

  • TheGetawayJeff Kinney: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Getaway. Harry N. Abrams Books. Middle Grade Fiction. Completed March 8, 2019, read aloud to my daughter.
  • Jeff Kinney: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Ugly Truth. Harry N. Abrams Books. Middle Grade Fiction. Completed March 22, 2019, read aloud to my daughter.
  • Jeff Kinney: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul. Harry N. Abrams Books. Middle Grade Fiction. Completed March 27, 2019, read aloud to my daughter.
  • TwoCanKeepKaren M. McManus: Two Can Keep a Secret. Delacorte Press. Young Adult Mystery. Completed March 16, 2019, on Kindle. I found this a compulsive read that kept me thinking. I enjoyed it enough to immediately download McManus's previous book and read that. 
  • Karen M. McManus: One of Us Is Lying. Delacorte Press. Young Adult Mystery. Completed March 23, 2019, on Kindle. I enjoyed this one, too, and look forward to McManus's future work. 
  • Naomi Schaefer Riley: Be the Parent, Please: Stop Banning Seesaws and Start Banning Snapchat. Templeton Press. Adult Nonfiction. Completed March 10, 2019, on Kindle. This book is very good and I recommend it to all parents. Here's a quick summary of Riley's premise: there are known and suspected problems that stem from kids spending time on connected devices. There are few documented benefits. We are as a society performing a big uncontrolled experiment on our kids by giving them as much access to devices as we are. Any small benefit that they might get from time on a device pales in comparison to the benefits of other ways they could spend their time: playing outside, reading books, writing stories, and being with other people face to face. 
  • Chris Bailey: Hyperfocus: How to Be More Productive in a World of Distraction. Viking. Adult Nonfiction. Completed March 11, 2019, personal copy. This book was part of my recent reading spurt about focus. I got some good ideas from the first part, about being disciplined in how we allocate our time and attentional space to activities. I didn't find the second part of the book, about "scatterfocus" as relevant to where I am right now, but I still flagged quite a few passages. 
  • NoMoreMeanGirlsKatie Hurley: No More Mean Girls: The Secret to Raising Strong, Confident, and Compassionate Girls. TarcherPerigeen. Adult Nonfiction. Completed March 15, 2019, personal copy. This book has some useful insights about the behavior of middle grade girls. Hurley also includes tons of activities that she recommends parents do with their daughters to help build self-esteem, resilience, etc. These for the most part felt a bit contrived to me (and to my daughter). But I still intend to go back through my many post-it flags and look for more concrete ideas to help my daughter navigate the social milieu of elementary school. 
  • James Tucker: Next of Kin (Buddy Locke, No. 1). Thomas & Mercer. Adult Mystery/Thriller. Completed March 15, 2019, on Kindle. This was  some sort of Kindle Deal that I picked up. I found it quite suspenseful and read it pretty much in one sitting during my reading weekend. It definitely kept me awake! It was a bit more violent than I prefer, though, and there were a couple of (to me) significant loopholes in the plot.
  • AtomicHabitsJames Clear: Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones. Avery. Adult Nonfiction. Completed March 17, 2019, personal copy. This is a strong book about habit formation. I've read a fair bit about this topic, but still found some new concepts that I think will be useful. I especially appreciated Clear's premise that what people should strive for is to continually make small improvements. Compounded effects will turn these into big improvements over time, if we can apply good habits  (e.g. exercise) consistently. Clear also has some nice followup resources on his website. 
  • Carlene O'Connor: Murder in an Irish Pub. Kensington. Adult Mystery. Completed March 19, 2019, on MP3. I've enjoyed this Irish Village series, but this one crossed the bounds of implausibility a bit too brazenly for me (how is it that a rookie guarda officer is given such ridiculous free rein to investigate a potential murder?). The characters and setting are charming, but I think I'm done with this series. 
  • Nicholas Kardaras: Glow Kids: How Screen Addiction Is Hijacking Our Kids - and How to Break the Trance. St. Martins Griffin. Adult Nonfiction. Completed March 24, 2019, on Kindle. This book ... is terrifying. Kardaras talks a lot about video game addiction in boys and young men, and a bit about the toxic effects of social media. He cites both research studies and his own experience as a clinical professor and rehab expert. He is a very strong anti-screen voice. I definitely felt sometimes like he was slanting which studies he discussed - he came across as much less balanced than Naomi Schaefer Riley (discussed above). But I'm still glad that I read the book, and I will likely have more to say about it in the future. It is well worth a look for people who are concerned about these issues. 
  • C.J. Box: Wolf Pack (Joe Pickett, No. 19). G.P. Putnam's Sons. Adult Mystery. Completed March 29, 2019, on MP3. I had just listened to the previous book in this series, and picked this one up as soon as it was available. I had taken a  bit of break from the series, but found myself glad to be back in Joe Pickett's game warden world. 

WimpyKidOldSchoolI'm reading Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport in print and Mistakes Were Made (but Not by Me) by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson on Kindle. I'm listening to Vermilion Drift by William Kent Krueger. I'm reading Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Old School by Jeff Kinney aloud to my daughter. I'm enjoying our stretch of reading Wimpy Kid books more than I would have expected. They sometimes make me laugh, and they bring up occasional topics worthy of discussion. Most importantly, my daughter loves them. She's read them all many times over. I think having me read them aloud to her is her way of sharing this interest that she has with me. This is something that I am happy to support (even if there are other books that I would have personally chosen if it were up to me. Which it isn't).

IOnlyHavePiesIn terms of her own reading, she's developed a bit of an obsession with books from the Scholastic Wish imprint, after receiving a couple as hand-me-downs from a friend. These are what I would classify as introductory romances. The back cover says that they appeal to 4th-7th graders. Last week she checked out an armful of them by Suzanne Nelson, with titles like I Only Have Pies for You and Macarons at Midnight. She takes at least one of these books with her everywhere she goes, though I'm not sure that she's yet finished any of this batch. She's still, when it comes to chapter books, in a mode of dipping into and out of books of interest.

AmeliaEarhartHer reading group book for school is Mr. Popper's Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater. She's also asked for books with clues where kids are solving real-life puzzles. She didn't finish the first 39 Clues book, but she's interested in the genre. I'll be putting some books into her hands that I think might fit the bill. She continues to re-read her favorite graphic novels and picture books - I don't even log them anymore because there is little new information to report about this. She will be getting two new nonfiction graphic novel biographies for her upcoming birthday that I think she'll like (thank you, uncle and auntie), as well as a picture book that I am tired of renewing repeatedly from the library (Peep and Ducky: It's Snowing). I also got her Book Love by Debbie Tung, featuring cartoons about an introverted book love. 

Can you believe that my baby bookworm is going to be nine?

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

Pressure from my Daughter for Screen-Free Family Time

My daughter  has been on an anti-cell phone kick for a while now. She is deeply resentful when she feels that my husband and I are texting or otherwise on devices when (she feels) we should be focusing on her. Her views have actually helped drive me in the direction of cutting back (see my post on improving my focus), because a) she's not wrong and b) I don't want to set a screen-obsessed example for her.

A couple of weeks ago she suggested/requested that my husband and I have a contest to see who could go longer without being on a screen. The loser would pay the winner $9 and pay her a $1 finders fee for organizing the contest. We agreed and on a Sunday at noon we put our cell phones into a drawer. Rather to my surprise, we both made it until her bedtime. I made it until my own bedtime and won the contest when my husband returned a few texts late in the evening. I wouldn't have made it past the early morning, though, because I like to read the newspaper on my iPad.

Going without my phone all afternoon was interesting. I didn't really mind not texting. But I did find things that I couldn't do. Adding groceries to my Wunderlist shopping list. Checking scores in the NCAA tournament. Listening to my audiobook while I folded the laundry. It was kind of refreshing, to tell you the truth, though I wouldn't / couldn't do it every day.

ScreenFreeWeekLogoI do recommend screen-free time as something that families should try out, though. It's a great way to make sure that you are focusing on one another, instead of giving diluted semi-focus to a bunch of other people or things. I later mentioned Screen Free Week to my daughter. Naturally, she wants us to try to participate. I told her I didn't think I could do it during the work day (though sitting around all week reading books while she's in school sounds heavenly right about now) but that I'd be open to trying it when she's at home. I'll have to report back on what we do there. I think it will most likely be a screen-minimum week that has exceptions for things like:

  • Family movie night
  • Texting with her friends' parents about playdates
  • Taking photos with my iPhone

GlowKidsBut if you ask me, screen minimum sounds pretty good, too. The more I read about kids and screens (and reading about topics that I'm interested in is what I do), the more I want to keep my daughter off of them as much as possible (and myself, too). More on that another time, but I refer you to Be the Parent, Please: Stop Banning Seesaws and Start Banning Snapchat by Naomi Schaefer Riley and Glow Kids: How Screen Addiction Is Hijacking Our Kids - and How to Break the Trance by Nicholas Kardaras. 

For right now I am cherishing the fact that my daughter has (somewhat anyway) absorbed the idea that HER time is better spent reading, writing, drawing, and playing than sitting around tapping away on a tablet. I love the fact that she feels the need to encourage this sentiment in her parents. Oh, she still watched more movies on her tablet than I would have liked during a recent long car ride to the Sierras. And she still sometimes gets sucked down the rabbit hole things like of making memojis on my cell phone. Just as I occasionally find myself scrolling down the Facebook wall. But we're trying. This Saturday afternoon, even without a contest, we spent some time in matching recliners each reading our respective (print) books, without a device in sight. And I was content. 

Thanks for reading!

© 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.