I wasn't sure what to say in this final Booklights post, so I went to my library and asked my favorite characters for advice.
Mo Willems' pigeon begged me: "Let me WRITE the POST!!!!" but I wanted to do it myself.
David Wiesner's frogs said they'd get back to me on Tuesday.
Richard Scarry's Goldbug told me he'd help, but I couldn't find him.
I tried to collaborate with Doreen Cronin's cows, but I don't have a typewriter.
I almost brokered a deal with Karma Wilson's characters, but the bear wanted more.
Dr. Seuss' sock wearing fox started to dictate but my fingers got tied in knots.
Virginia Lee Burton's Mike Mulligan and Mary Ann tried to dig me out of my writer's block, but they couldn't do it in one day.
I spoke to Gene Zion's dog Harry about cleaning up some parts of the post, but he ran away.
I asked E.B. White's Charlotte for advice, but she was too busy writing for some pig.
I finally came to the conclusion that I'd have to write the ending myself. So, here's a fond farewell from all of us here at Booklights. Happy reading!
As we say goodbye to Booklights, I'd like to share with you three of my favorite memories related to the blog.
In June 2008, I was at the American Library Association Annual Conference in Disneyland and was hosting a dinner at a pizza restaurant for children's literature bloggers. During dinner, Jen Robinson told us all that she had been asked to write a blog for PBS Parents. She had done a guest post several months earlier, and was now being asked to do a regular blog. Excitement flowed around the table as we all congratulated Jen on her wonderful news.
The next night was the Newbery/Caldecott banquet. Jen and I attended together and were interviewed by Betsy Bird, sat next to incomparable and groundbreaking librarian Effie Lee Morris, were wowed by Brian Selznick and mesmerized by Laura Amy Schlitz. Somewhere in the middle of all of that, Jen told me that she hadn't been able to mention it at dinner the night before because the details were still being worked out, but PBS wanted me to write for them too. Of all the amazing events that evening, that's the one that took my breath away.
Fast forward to a much more recent memory. I was at another ALA conference, this time it was the Midwinter Meeting in Boston in January 2010. I was attending a huge Tweet-up for children's literature folks that use Twitter. I had registered late and didn't have a pre-printed tag with my Twitter identity printed on it. I grabbed a marker and a blank nametag and just wrote "Susan" and "Booklights" on it. I found myself in a throng of people and started to introduce myself. A woman I had never met before looked at my name tag, stopped me mid-sentence and said that of course she knew who I was... she was a regular Booklights reader. I said "Really? You read Booklights?" and then blogger Liz Burns who was in the group, turned, looked at me and said "Susan, we all read it." I was amazed and grateful then (and still am) that what was being written on Booklights was being read by so many people.
And lastly, the best memory of all. I was sitting at the reference desk at my library talking to a patron. I had already helped her find the books she was looking for when she mentioned that she thought I looked familiar. Did she know me from the library, I asked? No, it was her first time there. We talked about places we might have in common... my son's elementary school, the pool, etc. And then she realized she recognized my picture from Booklights. She told me that she read the blog all the time, used our advice and recommendations with her kids and that it had helped her a lot. Of all the memories, that one means the most, because it shows that we accomplished our mission helping parents instill a love of reading and books with their children.
Blogs are very public... and yet as writers, we only hear from a very small percentage of people who comment on posts. I hope that Booklights has helped you in some small way and that you've enjoyed reading what we've had to say. We've definitely enjoyed writing it. Thank you for all the memories.
In the beginning, when we talked as a team about what we wanted to share at Booklights, I knew wanted to do straight, short book reviews. It was a format I had used at my other blog, MotherReader, and I liked the structure it gave me in focusing my selections and my write-ups. It also seemed like the perfect fit alongside the broader posts that my colleagues contributed. They could get people thinking, and I'd come in with a few concrete selections. Also, I had to admit that the essay format was not my comfort zone, which tends more to throwing in phrases that I believe to be hip but are more likely so last year. Like that one. Fo'shizzle.
Anyway, with the closing of Booklights, I wanted to look back. While Jen was so sweet in identifying her favorite posts of all of us, I'm not that nice, and will only share mine. Actually it's less about me being ungenerous and more about me being lazy, but either way it leaves me linking to a few of my own favorite posts and self-quotes. Even though I just remarked on the practicality of my book review posts, they don't leave me with enough words of wisdom to sum up over a year of writing here at Booklights. That said, I at least have to mention my Thursday THIRTY: Summer Books, Tot to Tween, because I'm pretty proud of that contribution. But now I'll leave you with my words of wisdom...
1. Reading Resolutions, 12/09
On modeling reading:
I'm telling you to read during the day, perhaps in the actual presence of your child. I know it sounds crazy. But sometimes the dishes - and yes, even your kid - can wait.
2. Reading Help, 9/09
On teaching your child to read:
Other than potty training, I've found nothing that has tested my patience on a continual basis more than the beginning reading stage. There are wonderful successes, often followed by the third laborious rendering of the word then. (P.S. This impatience doesn't mean you're a bad parent.)
3. Summer Reading, Having a Blast, 6/09
On establishing reading time:
I am asked often enough how I find time to read. My answer is more like a mission statement: You don't find time to read, you make time to read.
And as I say goodbye to Booklights, I continue my theme with three quick, personal thanks: to Susan for getting me involved, to Jen for saying the right things, and to Gina for supporting us tirelessly. I'll miss our collaboration which gave us such a wonderful blog.
As one of the founding bloggers here at Booklights, I'm sorry to see the blog shutting down. I've been on hiatus from Booklights for the past 4 1/2 months (since my daughter was born 10 weeks early, and threw my schedule completely out of kilter), but the blog has remained dear to my heart. I've been grateful to Gina, Pam, Susan, and Terry for keeping things going in my absence, and I'm so sorry that external issues have caused us to have to close down the blog.
Booklights began as a place to celebrate children's books and help parents and other caregivers to get those books into the hands of kids. We've had a lot of fun posting over the past year and a half. We've talked about things like: libraries; summer reading; book awards' picture books, board books, and chapter books; outdoor reading; adventurous girls; reading levels; and creative literacy. We've enjoyed comments from parents, teachers, librarians, authors, and other children's literature and literacy fans. We've been highlighted on the PBS Facebook page from time to time, and we've shared many of our posts on Twitter. Most importantly, we've learned from one another, with many of our posts inspired by and adding to ideas that others initiated. (Image credit: photo by taliesin, made available for use at MorgueFile.)
Here are a few of my favorite posts from Booklights:
Many thanks to all of you who have tuned in over the past 18 months. Special thanks to Gina, whose hard work and dedication got this blog going in the first place. And to my Booklights co-authors, I'll miss working with you on Booklights, but I know that we'll find other ways to work together. It's been a great ride!
As you may have seen, Gina announced last week that we're winding down here at Booklights. Susan has brought some cake, and I'll bring something to the bon voyage soon, but today I'm going to finish up talking about reading as a family.
As I mentioned last week, reading with your kids - even when there are many years between them - can be enjoyable for everyone to share together. Sometimes it may be about the book, but every time it is an opportunity to connect with your kids and connect them with each other!
In The Read Aloud Handbook, Jim Trelease emphasizes that as readers, we have a listening level and a reading level. In Hey! Listen to This! (an article on his website), he re-emphasizes this point.
"A consistent mistake made by parents and teachers is the assumption that a child's listening level is the same as his or her reading level. Until about eighth grade, that is far from true; early primary grade students listen many grades above their reading level. This means that early primary grade students are capable of hearing and understanding stories that are far more complicated than those they can read themselves."
What does that mean? Well, you don't have to read just simple picture books. Young audiences can be enticed to enjoy text-heavy picture books and chapter books alike. There are a number of genres that naturally lend themselves to reading to mixed-age audiences, including ...
Nonfiction. More specifically, nonfiction picture books. One of the best ways to hook kids of any age on reading is to give them some nonfiction books. The great thing about nonfiction picture books is that they have something for everyone. These are books that invite exploring, so whether you read all of the text or just talk about the illustrations, you're in for an enjoyable, shared read.
Poetry. Jack Prelutsky and Shel Silverstein write poetry that is meant to be read aloud. Their poems are very "graphic," allowing readers to "see" what they describe, and they often have a nonsensical quality that strike kids' funny bones.
Humor. Despite the dictionary description, defining "funny" is a matter of personal taste. Still, a good laugh is something we all enjoy. As a parent, you understand the types of humor your kids enjoy ... and you can decide what types of things you want to share together.
Books with lots of dialogue. "Dialog books" aren't a specific genre, but a lot of short chapter books use conversation among the characters to tell the story. There are usually only a few characters (often school-aged kids and an adult or two) so it is an opportunity for everyone to take a role and read together.
These are by no means the only genres. On her website, storyteller Mary Hamilton offers a handy checklist that describes reading interests for various ages, from preschool through high school.
Before we go, we'd love to hear what books you like sharing with your kids. What books would you bring to our party?
Mom reading with kids: Family Story Minute by Sean Dreilinger on Flicker. Copyright. Some rights reserved.
Collage of nonfiction picture books: University of Maryland News photostream on Flickr. Copyright. Some rights reserved University of Maryland Press Releases.
Bookshelf with poetry books. Thingamababy Awesome Wall photostream on Flickr. Copyright. All rights reserved.
Roscoe Riley by Katherine Applegate. Book cover image by Mr. Biggs photostream on Flickr. Copyright. All rights reserved.
It's time to start our going away party here at Booklights. Time to reminisce and say goodbye. But, before we go any further, it's time to offer you a piece of cake.
One of the posts I enjoyed writing the most for Booklights, was this one about cakes based on children's books. I've searched long and hard to come up with more books good enough to eat.
I've got just the thing to start us off. Once upon a time, there was a beautiful cake.
Lise also made this incredible, edible version of the Wonderful World of Oz, complete with a blue gingham background. (I found all three of these cakes separately, and was amazed when they turned out to all be made by the same person!)
Speaking of The Wizard of Oz, here's the nicest Wicked Witch of the West I've ever seen. Check out the tutorial on the baker's website, it's amazing how much detail work went into this cake. All of that effort, and it was made for a school bake sale!
I've saved the best for last. Here it is, the pièce de résistance.
Here's a look at every angle of this unbelievable cake, made for a Children's Care Awareness Expo, and large enough to feed 300 people!
Parting is such sweet sorrow... but hopefully this post has helped make it a little bit sweeter. And remember my motto: you can have your cake and read it too.
Now, will someone make a cake for me? =)
We've had a wonderful and wonderfully informative run at Booklights, and sadly, it's time for us to bring the blog to a close. Although we'll all miss getting our weekly dose of wisdom from Jen, Pam, Terry, and Susan (we're all pictured at right with Ann Neely), we'll still be talking shop at Twitter.com/Booklights and archiving and featuring posts right here on PBS Parents.
In the next several days, come here for some thoughts and goodbyes as we wind this down. And afterward, please explore other PBS Parents blog resources like the dynamic Supersisters and the ever-resourceful Craft Apparent with Vickie Howell.
And so you don't go through any serious book-love withdrawal, keep up with the bloggers individually:
* Jen Robinson's Book Page
* Pam Coughlan's MotherReader
* Terry Dougherty's The Reading Tub
* Susan Kusel's Wizards Wireless
This week Terry talked about reading aloud as a family, and I'd like to build on that concept with ideas for reading aloud to groups. With school starting, parents may find themselves presented with the opportunity to share books in the classroom as guest readers. It is something I've done in my kids' classrooms from preschool through fifth grade, and have always enjoyed. While parents are usually aware of reading with expression and showing the book to the students, there are other tips that can help you shine as a guest reader:
1. Try it out
Before reading a book aloud to a class, try it on your own child. As you read notice factors of the book that are relevant reading it aloud to a group. Is it appropriate in length and topic for the age group? Is it is keeping your child's interest? Are there any words or concepts that need explanation? Are there key parts where you might pause the story for impact or to ask questions? Are the illustrations big enough that they could be shown to a group? Are you comfortable reading it? Some of these questions seem obvious, and yet I've seen a teacher grab a book from a shelf to read it to the class with apparently no knowledge that it was about the death of a family pet. Oops! I've also had parents come into the library looking for a book to read to the class that same day, so I know that these are mistakes that people make. But you don't need to make them. Go in prepared and you'll feel better.
2. Plan the order
If you are reading multiple books, keep in mind the order in which you'll present them. Read longer books first while the kids are at their maximum attention. If you have a funny book, save it for last. If you are reading on a theme - like seasons or apples or ocean life - start with the more informational book, and progress to a more storylike title. Also, if the book is not working well, allow some abridgment. You can also allow for a break where the kids can talk about their favorite part, share a connection, or ask a question. Remember that kindergartners and first graders tend to be unclear about what constitutes a question, but will take any chance to raise their hands to share something.
3. Bring a back-up
You may arrive with your carefully chosen selection to find that the librarian has read that book the previous day - which the kids will be delighted to tell you. Always have an extra book that you can use instead or can toss in the mix if you have more time than you think. If you don't have enough books on the particular topic of the day, have a seasonal or a school story. I'm particular to A Fine, Fine School because it's a lightly funny book that translates to a variety of ages, but there are many other books that would work.
Most of all, have fun!
When it comes to sharing a book with young kids, reading aloud seems the natural thing to do. They can't read the words on the page, so you do it for them. Once young readers become independent, though, we sometimes forget that they still enjoy - and can also benefit from - listening to you read.
That said, picking the right book can get tricky. The 9-year-old doesn't want to hear "baby" books, and the preschooler isn't ready for some of the subjects nor can they sit still that long! Finding books that interest your 4-year-old AND your preteen may be easier than it sounds.
Don't give up on picture books. As Pam points out in her post Reading Aloud: Picture Books Rule! (MotherReader, March 2009) sometimes those pre-teen protests are a surface reaction. After the requisite "that's for babies" teens will still sit and listen to a picture book. They may even surprise themselves with how much they enjoy their little brother's reactions. The secret bonus: you are modeling reading for them so they can read to their brother later!
Chapter books need pictures, too. Illustrated chapter books are helpful because young audiences often need the images which engage their interest while you read pages with a lot more text. In general, the chapters in these books are short, making it easy to read in small spurts and over consecutive nights.
Mix up the formats. Sometimes you have enough time - and the kids' temperaments are in sync - to read something that each child likes, and you can share a picture book and a chapter or two from a longer story. On those days when your energy is low, just pick one. That quiet time reading will probably help you feel better!
Regularly sharing a book as a family will not only let you reconnect and renew a love of stories and books. Who knows, as everyone becomes readers, maybe everyone will want a turn!
Next week: Genres that are good choices for family read-alouds.
Toes and a book: Public photo on Flicker.com. Copyright All rights reserved by Tina Cockburn Photography, tcockburn2002.
Picture Books in the library: Bozeman Public Library by JSemenza on Flicker. Copyright All rights reserved.
Know a child just starting to learn to read? How about one who is having trouble with the process or is discouraged? I've got the perfect book for them.
Tad Hills' wonderful new picture book How Rocket Learned to Read is just right for beginning readers, struggling readers, and picture book fans of all ages.
Beautiful, vibrant and silly paintings fill every inch of the book. Tad did countless sketches of his dog (who just happens to be named Rocket) and you can see the results throughout the book. There's Rocket in the snow, in the mud and taking a nap (not for long!) He seems ready to leap off the page and into your lap and along with his wonder and excitement about learning to read.
Rocket sets just the right tone for starting school. If anyone asks where you heard about the book.... just tell them a little bird told you.
Tad is also the author and illustrator of the Duck and Goose series, books that are well worth checking out.