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Literacy 'Lights from the Kidlitosphere: Playgrounds, Princesses, and Read-Aloud

Posted by Jen Robinson on August 24, 2009 at 6:00 AM in Literacy News
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jpg_book007.jpgI've run across several recent posts from around the Kidlitosphere about encouraging young readers. I thought that I would share some of them here today.

At Moms Inspire Learning, Dawn Morris has a post about learning from Cinderella. It's actually a two-part piece, but the second part is the one that talks about books and reading. Dawn recaps the reasons why she feels "that reading is the most precious gift you can give to your child", and explains "if your daughter plays with princesses, you might be concerned that she'll focus on outer beauty alone. However, if your child reads a lot, she'll be a lot more likely to focus on the interaction between the dolls instead." I have to tell you, when I was a kid, I played with a set of US President figurines whenever I was at my grandparents' house. I didn't know anything about the Presidents, but I made my own paper dolls (of girls) in similar sizes, and just made up my own stories using my paper and plastic figures. For me, a reader pretty much from birth, it was always about the interactions.

Speaking of playing, the Book Chook (Susan Stephenson) has a nice two-part post about Literacy in the Playground (part 1, part 2). Susan notes: "Recently, I became concerned that some of the games (that kids play on the playground), particularly the skipping and clapping chants and rhymes, are not as prevalent as they used to be. I know there are many kids who enjoy them, or would enjoy them if they had access to them, so I decided to search for, and publish some." With help from friends around the Kidlitosphere, she shares a variety of suggestions (games, chants, etc.).

At Literacy, families and learning, Trevor Cairney suggests chapter books for younger children (for family read-aloud). He starts with tips on identifying whether or not your five to seven-year-old is ready to listen to chapter books, and then gets into reasons why reading chapter books together is a good idea. I especially liked this bit: "chapter books will enable you to build an even richer shared literary history with your children. Shared books will become part of your shared history within the family, and more broadly, they will help to connect your children to a literary culture that others will share with them." I think that people who don't have that shared literary culture miss out on things.

Bianca Schultz of The Children's Book Review recently published a lovely guest post from Andrea Ross of Just One More Book!! Andrea, mother of two book-loving daughters, writes from a parent's perspective about "the ways reading aloud to our children benefits ourselves as parents, our families and our relationships with each other." That's right - she focuses not on what's in it for the kids, but what's in it for the parents. For example: "The cuddly intimacy that it prompts is an obvious but overlooked benefit of taking time each day to read aloud to our little ones - regardless of how big said little ones may be!" I consider this a must-read post for parents.

Monica Edinger (who blogs at Educating Alice) recently linked to a New York Times Papercuts Blog post about surviving school summer reading lists. Julie Just reports: ""Summer reading? Good. Assigned reading? Bad." That's how Lisa Von Drasek, a children's librarian at the Bank Street College of Education in Manhattan, sums up her criticism of many summer reading lists: they're simply too short and too weighed down by good-for-you classics." I thought that this paired well with a recent guest post that our own Pam Coughlan wrote for Foreword Magazine's Shelf Space blog about summer reading. Pam said: "To me, a Summer Reading List is a selection of books that parents and kids might not otherwise know about pulled together in an easy format. So when those kids and parents come to the library and are looking for something to read--and they do ask that vaguely--the parent and librarians can direct them to some vetted books that will hopefully hold their interest." I also liked Pam's conclusion: "I believe in Summer Reading and lists and prizes. And I believe in lazy reading and informal book clubs and finishing the latest Gossip Girls book. There's room for both."

At Parents and Kids Reading Together, Cathy Puett Miller shares tips on making up for lost time, and getting into the habit of reading together when kids are older (10+). She begins: "Some families, in the midst of their whirlwind of life, never really got into the reading together habit when your children were young. It's so easy to become distracted and deal with what is most urgent rather than what might be more important. I often hear families say, "we just don't have time". First of all, let me tell you -- it's not too late. Make a conscious decision that this is a forever gift you can give your child."

At Throwing Marshmallow's, Stephanie also has a post about encouraging late/reluctant readers. It's a short post, but it includes a nice summary of "links to provide additional support for allowing your child to come to reading on his or her own timetable (something especially important if you have a right brained learner whose "normal" timetable is different from what is traditionally expected in school.)"

And finally, though not a new article, I would like to draw your attention to Elizabeth O. Dulemba's Coloring Page Tuesdays. Each week, Elizabeth makes a new coloring page available for free download. She encourages teacher, librarians, and parents to share these pages with kids. A classified archive of past pages (e.g. holiday-themed pages) is available. You can also sign up to receive weekly email alerts about newly available pages.

Have you run across any useful articles about raising readers this week? I would love to hear about them.


Thank you for more great links, Jen, and for including one of my posts! I still don't know how you do it all.

I especially like the articles at Throwing Marshmallows. One of the articles mentions how a 10 year old fell in love with Calvin and Hobbes. So did my son and nephews. There's something about boys, men, and graphic novels. It just goes to show that people of all ages still love books with pictures!

Thanks again. Enjoy the rest of your summer!

Jen RobinsonAuthor Profile Page writes...

Thanks for giving me something to link to, Dawn. And I agree with you 100% about people of all ages loving books with pictures. Especially male people, it seems like. Anyway, glad you liked the Throwing Marshmallows articles - I think that's a blog that you'd enjoy following in general.

susan writes...

I had a new twist on the reading requirement with my son's 5th grade teacher this week. He was told he has to read 3 books per month. My son is currently one-third of the way into Harry Potter #5 which is quite a hefty tome. He asked if that could count as more than 1 book given the amount of time it would take and was told that it would count as 1 book and 1 book only.

Now I ask you, if it is your business to encourage a young reader and you have one in the flesh who is choosing to read a book that might break a toe if it were dropped upon it, why would you emphasize only the quanitity of books as a measure? What purpose does that serve? How about we let kids read what they love?

Jen RobinsonAuthor Profile Page writes...

Susan, I do agree with you that letting kids read what they love is a good thing, and that it's sad when inflexible attitudes get in the way of that. However, in the bigger picture, I think it's great that your son's teacher is encouraging the kids to read lots of books over the course of the school year. For the classroom as a whole, there are benefits to quantity, in addition to quality, because by reading a range of books, there's a better chance that non-readers will find a book that they love. Personally, I think that you should try to turn it into a positive.

Maybe tell your son ... "hey, isn't it great that you get to read HP5 AND read two more amazing books this month?" And there's nothing stopping you from picking a couple of shorter books for the other two, just in the interest of time. I'd recommend Dodger and Me, and sequel, by Jordan Sonnenblick. Quick, funny, boy-friendly reads, with a bit of magic.

Enjoy the school year. At least you have a teacher who is encouraging the kids to read books that they choose.

Mary Ann writes...

Jen, what a great post. I'd add that you want to find ways to make reading fun. Most of the time, I try to do this with funny books. But it's also fun to try to mix things up a bit.

One teacher I know tells kids who are getting bored with their book to try reading their book sideways.

At Great Kid Books, I have a recent post called "Reading in the Dark" - different ways to have kids use flashlights to have fun while reading. Come take a look!

Thanks so much! Mary Ann

Jen RobinsonAuthor Profile Page writes...

Thanks for sharing that link, Mary Ann. Using flashlights while reading sounds like a great way to make reading fun.

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