This is Part 9 of a continuing series on encouraging young readers. These ideas were originally captured in a post that I did on my blog in 2007, 10 Tips for Growing Bookworms. Here at Booklights I'll be expanding upon and updating each idea, and adding links for more information.
Tip #9: Create cozy reading spaces within your house, and keep books handy in different places. The idea here is to a) continue to make reading a pleasurable activity, one that kids will want to repeat often, and b) make it convenient to read, so that kids will choose books as an option when they happen to have some free time. [Image credit: MorgueFile, photo by taliesin]
Amy wrote about this idea recently at Literacy Launchpad, when she said: "Have Books Everywhere... and Watch the Magic Happen!". Jim at Teacherninja talked about books as "bait", and said (of keeping books in convenient locations) "If you build it, they will come...". And of course Jim Trelease talked about this in The Read-Aloud Handbook (which I reviewed here).
Think about all of the places that you child could read, if you were to provide the right environment and materials. Here are a few ideas:
I can see that it would be tempting to keep all of the books in, say, the child's bedroom. Tempting to keep the piles of books out of the way, and thus keep down the clutter. But there are all sorts of moments throughout the day when your child might read, if a book happened to be nearby. And you'll miss those moments if the books are hard to get at. For example, say you receive a phone call on your way out the door, and your child is waiting for you, bored, at the kitchen table. A book could help keep the peace AND squeeze in a little reading time.
One final point is that how you set up your house sends a strong message about how you feel about books, a message that your kids will read loud and clear. If all of the shelf space in your living room is dedicated to DVDs and video games, and books are nowhere to be found, how can you expect your child to choose books? (Matilda Wormwood was a notable exception, dragging her little wagon to the library on her own.) On the other hand, if you've carved out comfortable reading spaces, and you've piled up books in most of the rooms of the house, your child is going to think "hey, reading is what people do." And isn't that what this growing bookworms thing is all about?
Do you have cozy reading spaces set up for your child? Where do you keep your child's books? What am I missing in the above tips?
On a personal note, I've just shared the news on my own blog that my husband and I are now growing a bookworm of our own. She's due to make her first appearance in June. But you may be sure that we're already reading to her. And that we already have plenty of children's books around the house.
How many times have we heard that? Imagery tells stories and explains things without words. Photographs, maps, and illustrations are images that freeze a moment in time: when your Mom held your new baby the first time, when your son held up the "big catch," or the kids waving to a train going by. Each of those images reveals a story, or at least part of one.
Images can be writing prompts, too. When I was in school, our teacher would present an image and ask us to tell her/him about it - describe what we see, what we think we see, or create a story, depending on the assignment. Some would be fictional/creative writing, others would be more factual.
I have become fascinated with stories presented completely without words. One of the "hot" genres for children's books is the wordless book ... and they're not just for little kids. One of the most popular picture books last year was Jerry Pinkney's Caldecott winning book The Lion and the Mouse. It is the folktale we all grew up with, told only in imagery. The story we remember may be "simple," but the illustrations are far from it!
For children who struggle with reading or writing, sharing and creating stories with just pictures may be just the thing to get them excited about literacy. First, they let kids stretch their imaginations. It also gives them a chance to tell a story in their own words ... the way they see it, without feeling hemmed in, overwhelmed, or intimidated by the actual text. There is a list of wordless and near-wordless books at the end of this post that may help you find books of interest.
Younger children draw "simple" pictures that tell very complex stories. Sometimes they'll launch into stories that would rival Tolstoy's War and Peace. But if they don't, ask them questions: Is that a tree? Does anyone live there? Do they have a name? Asking them to tell you about their picture today can encourage their long-term interest in stories and reading.
Older children may enjoy making cartoons. Because they are telling a complete (albeit short) story in 3 to 5 "boxes," they have to think carefully about what details they want to show and also how to organize their thoughts.
For kids who don't like to draw, grab some magazines. Let them cut out images and put them together in a single "picture" or sequence them to create a book. If writing practice is important, ask the artist annotate the images as the text of the story.
Pictures, maps, charts, and drawings can be great literacy props. We use them for everything from teaching kids colors to helping adults put together a bike. [I can't remember the last time I actually looked past the illustrations to read the instructions on how to put something together!]
In creating and telling their stories, kids are practicing their vocabulary, sequencing (putting events in order), and communication skills. Images help us get kids excited about reading, and ultimately writing ... without reading a word!
Prompt Ideas for March
Each month I'll close the column with some starter ideas. This month, I'm building on the theme of wordless writing and including a few "traditional" prompts, too. For kids who aren't ready to write, you can talk about them as conversations.
For Celebrate Your Name Week (March 7)
For each letter in your name, pick something you like that starts with that letter. Now do the dislikes. (This can be pictures, drawings, or words)
When you think of your name, what color do you see? Why?
If your name were a food, what would it be? This can be pictures, drawings, or words)
For Genealogy Day (March 13)
Pull out some old photographs and create a book about someone's life.
Work together to create a short interview with an older family member. Start with "What would you like to know about from the time [person] grew up?"
For St. Patrick's Day (March 17)
The pot of gold is gone. What would you find at the end of the rainbow? Who/What would protect it? (This can be words or pictures)
Wordless Picture Book Resources
Wordless and Almost Wordless Picture Books List Reading is Fundamental
Wordless Book Reviews Children's Literature (online journal)
Wordless Picture Book List, Weber County (Utah) Public Library
Booklist - Wordless Picture Books Louisville (Kentucky) Free Public Library
Wonderful Wordless Picture Books Ann M. Neely, on Booklights
Boy and Fish Image - Morgue File - http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photo-the-boys-the-fish-image12217640
Child holding Crayon - Morgue File - http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photos-drawings-as-a-child-image912268
Little girls holding up pictures - Flickr - http://www.flickr.com/photos/tigerlillyshop/2691767702/
Book title links to Cybils affiliate account with Amazon. Purchases made through that link may earn income for the Cybils and help fund this literary awards program.
The countdown of the Top 100 Children's Novels is on hold as the amazing author of the list, Betsy Bird, gets Internet access at her new apartment, and I am on pins and needles waiting! I don't blame her as she's a nice person, good friend, and deserves some time off to move her earthly belongings from one place in New York City to another, but it's so hard to wait when the results have been so interesting. Sure, a few of my choices have made it on and I expect a few more will before this show is over, but the real fun is seeing what other people thought of as their favorite books. Fascinating.
As I've gone through the countdown, I've seen many other titles that I could have chosen, but here are three books that I listed that have made it so far. What do you think?
by Sydney Taylor
At #79 we find this classic about a poor, immigrant, Jewish family living in New York City in the early 1900's. The book is about the everyday - chores, market trips, make-believe games - mixed with a helpful and healthy dose of Jewish traditions. It's historical fiction at its finest, putting the reader in the world while celebrating the time period. As for why love this book, I must quote myself for what I wrote for the countdown: Because the joy that the girls had in choosing what to spend a nickel on outweighs most of the excitement I could imagine then or now. It made me crave a dill pickle from the barrel, for goodness sakes.
The Bad Beginning
by Lemony Snicket
Coming in at #71 is the first book in this Series of Unfortunate Events. Here the Baudelaire children first become orphans and are placed with Count Olaf, who will soon become the villain in their long tale of woe. The wit and wordplay in the books bring in the fans, along with the ever-more-complicated mysteries that grow deeper with each title. What I still find interesting about this book over ten years, is that it tends to get a love it or hate it reaction. While the Amazon ratings for The All-of-a-Kind Family were overwhelmingly five stars with a handful of low ratings, the ones for The Bad Beginning come in at about a 6:1 ratio for the book. Unusual for a book of this caliber.
Little House on the Prairie
by Laura Ingalls Wilders
I'm actually surprised that this book is already making its appearance at #42, making me wonder if any other books in the series will show up later. While this title is not actually the first book in the series - that would be Little House in the Big Woods - this is the one that really kicks it off, letting the reader get to know Laura, Mary, Ma and Pa as they travel and set up a homestead on the prairie through difficult times. When I was a kid I loved the first books in the series, finding the other ones boring, but as an adult, I think that the later books are better written, with stronger characterization and plotting. I used The Long Winter in my mother/daughter bookclub and the girls there all thought the book was too slow, and most of them had given up on the series earlier because they were bored by the books with their extensive descriptions of scenery, food, and house-building. In fact, while my generation loved these books, personally I've yet to find a kid who also adores them - which may explain the lackluster place on the countdown.
If you click on the links in the reviews, you can read the extensive write-up done at Fuse#8 at School Library Journal. To be totally upfront, I also selected Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin which made the list at #81, but if I extol the virtues of that book one more time I going to be suspected of getting some kickbacks. Also, you might wonder where Harry Potter is, to which I guess Top Ten. Right?
Links to books in this post are affiliate links for the Amazon Associates program, for which the site MotherReader.com may receive a referral fee.
Dr. Seuss (aka Ted Geisel) wrote 63 books for children. Looking for one of them? You won't find them at my library today. They're all checked out.
Why the run on Dr. Seuss books this week? As Jen talked about yesterday, Dr. Seuss' birthday (March 2) is also designated as Read Across America Day. People from all walks of life read books to children on this special day and many of them select Dr. Seuss books to read.
Ted Geisel's popularity isn't limited to March by any means. As someone who has worked in bookstores and libraries, I've found that in both venues Dr. Seuss books are consistently the most frequently checked out, purchased, and requested picture books and early readers. His books just have that special, magical something that we all look for when we read a children's book. As President Obama said in his proclamation for Read Across America Day yesterday, Dr. Seuss' "imaginative tales have helped generations of children learn to read, and they hold a cherished place on bookshelves in homes across America."
When Ted Geisel started out, success seemed a long way off. After illustrating two books written by Alexander Abingdon, (Boners and More Boners) Ted decided to strike out on his own, but it didn't go so well. Twenty seven publishers rejected And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street, the first chidren's book that he both wrote and illustrated. Here's how the book finally ended up being accepted:
"On the blustery day he learned of his twenty-seventh rejection, Ted fought back frustration and anger and decided to return to his apartment, stage a ceremonial burning of the now tattered manuscript, and get back to cartooning for adults. As he walked grimly along Madison Avenue, he was hailed by Mike McClintock, who had been a year behind him at Dartmouth.
"What's that under your arm?" McClintock asked.
"That's a book that no one will publish. I'm lugging it home to burn."
McClintock smiled. Three hours earlier he had become juvenile editor of Vanguard Press. "We're standing outside my new office," he said. "Come on up and let's look at it."
Half an hour later McClintock took Ted in to meet James Henle, editor of Vanguard Press. Henle agreed to publish the book."
(From Dr. Seuss and Mr. Geisel by Judith and Neil Morgan, page 82, hardcover edition).
Here are some of my other favorite Dr. Seuss facts:
- He won the Pulitzer Prize, two Oscars, two Emmys and the Peabody Award, but the most famous American children's book illustrator never won the biggest award in his own field: the Caldecott medal. He received Caldecott honors for McElligott's Pool (1948), Bartholomew and the Oobleck (1950) and If I Ran the Zoo (1951).
- At the end of college, he was voted the "least likely to succeed" by his fellow members of the Casque and Gauntlet honor society at Dartmouth. Clearly his high school friends at Central High School in Springfield, Massachusetts were more omniscient: they voted him Class Artist and Class Wit.
- His editor, Bennett Cerf, bet him fifty dollars that he could not write a book with a vocabulary of fifty words. The result was Green Eggs and Ham, which in 2001 was ranked by Publisher's Weekly as the fourth-bestselling English-language children's book of all time. Bennett Cerf made good on his bet, but I have a feeling that Ted made more than $50 from the book.
- He was the Berenstains first editor. He wasn't wild about their idea to write books about bears, though. He said they'd never sell. Obviously they did and after their first book The Big Honey Hunt was published, they wrote 16 more books for Ted's Beginner Books company. He was the one that shortened the author's names to "Stan and Jan" from Stanley and Janice and he also named the series "The Berenstain Bears." For more information about how Beginner Books was started, see Terry's great post on the subject.
The advertisement for And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street urged: "Booksellers, hitch on! This is the start of a parade that will take you places!"
Truer words were never spoken. The parade of Dr. Seuss books stretched from Mulberry Street in 1937 to Oh, The Places You'll Go! in 1990. Three more books were published after he died in 1991. The parade is still going on; almost every one of Dr. Seuss' books are still in print, which is truly a remarkable thing. You can find a full list of his books here.
If you're ever in San Diego, be sure to check out The Dr. Seuss Collection at the Mandeville Special Collections Library at UC San Diego. It contains everything from the original art for nearly all of his books to notebooks he doodled on in college, fan mail and Seuss products.
What's your favorite Dr. Seuss book? Which ones do your kids love? What is the first Dr. Seuss book that you remember yourself or your kids reading? Did you read a Dr. Seuss book for Read Across America Day? What's your favorite Dr. Seuss memory. I'd love to hear all about it.
I've got my own brand new Dr. Seuss memory from something that happened after I finished writing this post. My son (who loved seeing all the pictures in the post) asked to read Dr. Seuss books last night. And for the first time, he read a book he'd never seen before by himself from beginning to end! It was The Eye Book by Theo. LeSieg (one of Ted's pen names). A great book for beginning readers.
The photo of Michelle Obama reading The Cat in the Hat yesterday is from Getty Images. The photo of Dr. Seuss drawing sketches for the television special How the Grinch Stole Christmas is from the Wikimedia Commons.
Perhaps it is because we are having one more dreary, cold, wet (yes, still snow flurries!) day in Nashville, all I want to do is what Jen has just recommended: cozy up with a good book. And I would add that I'd like to cozy up under a fabulous quilt!
I will use that quilt metaphor in this month's posting. So many of the postings this past month provide great fabrics of ideas and suggestions for developing in young children a love of reading. I will try to sew some of those fabrics into a quilt of connections. Thanks to James Ransome's end pages in Under the Quilt of Night for this quilt that I would choose for wrapping myself.
Immediately upon reading Jen's post, I registered to vote in the contest Ideas for Change in America. I had not heard about this Change.org contest and was delighted to read so many great project ideas. The "Read to Kids" campaign gets my vote, of course. I particularly like what the creators have said in the description:
"By reading aloud with children, we can improve their interest in and attitudes toward reading and improve children's fundamental literacy skills, including reading comprehension, vocabulary, reading ability, listening comprehension, attention span and ability to articulate thoughts. Being read to by an adult also helps build a child's self-esteem and confidence.
A national "Read to Kids" campaign could engage national and local literacy organizations, schools, teachers, parents, authors, publishers and nearly every sector of business and society that understands that our nation's future depends on our children's literacy skills."
I join Jen in encouraging you to vote....and suggest that you send the "Read to Kids" description on to those you know in the business world as well!
Thank you, Pam, for reminding us about Goin' Someplace Special. This ranks very high on my "favorite books of all time" list. Those who share my love of this book should be sure to check out the Reading Rockets website that Gina has led us to. The writing prompts for Goin' Someplace Special are excellent. Even though the February challenge has ended, I plan to store the ideas inside a copy of the book.
NOTE to teachers....be sure to check for the March prompts. One of my former students entered one of her second grader's writing in January and her student was selected for an honorable mention. What a fabulous way to validate the efforts of a young writer!
Susan got us all thinking about how we organize, shelve, and attempt to easily locate our books. As a Mac computer user, I have used a software package called Booxter for several years. The program allows me to use a scanner like they have at the grocery store to record the ISBN codes on the back of each book (you can also manually enter these). All the information I need, including a picture of the cover, immediately pops up and is added to my catalog of books.
Finally, I'll add my own "piece of fabric" to this quilt. It actually brings us back to our many conversations around this year's Caldecott Award winner, The Lion and the Mouse. The website Teaching Books includes a video of Jerry Pinkney as he talks about the creation of the book. He ends the interview by saying that this fable is truly about family and helping others.
Scroll on down the link and check out the suggestions for enriching a reading of Benny and Penny in the Big No-No (this year's Geisel Award winner). The book becomes interactive when you click on the "Play" button.
Let's hope for lots of sunshine and even some days that will make us all want to take our books and young readers outside!
Every year, on March 2nd, the National Education Association (NEA) celebrates Dr. Seuss's Birthday as Read Across America Day. Here's a bit of background from the Read Across America website:
"NEA's Read Across America is an annual reading motivation and awareness program that calls for every child in every community to celebrate reading on March 2, the birthday of beloved children's author Dr. Seuss. NEA's Read Across America also provides NEA members, parents, caregivers, and children the resources and activities they need to keep reading on the calendar 365 days a year.
In cities and towns across the nation, teachers, teenagers, librarians, politicians, actors, athletes, parents, grandparents, and others develop NEA's Read Across America activities to bring reading excitement to children of all ages. Governors, mayors, and other elected officials recognize the role reading plays in their communities with proclamations and floor statements. Athletes and actors issue reading challenges to young readers. And teachers and principals seem to be more than happy to dye their hair green or be duct-taped to a wall if it boosts their students' reading."
So, what we have is an entire day dedicated to getting kids excited about reading. A day when people visit schools, and dress up like Dr. Seuss characters, and read books. PBS is a Read Across America partner. Here are a couple of PBS-affiliated resources (with thanks to DC PBS station WETA and Reading Rockets), to help you celebrate the day:
Many other partners and supporters of Read Across America Day are listed here. You can also fan Read Across America Day on Facebook, and, if you like, make a pledge there on how you plan to celebrate Read Across America Day.
I do have one other idea for how you can celebrate Read Across America Day, if you are so inclined. Change.org is running a contest on Ideas for Change in America. The top 10 rated ideas (out of 60 finalists) will be presented to members of the Obama Administration and media at an event in Washington, DC. One of the finalists is the Everybody Wins! proposal to launch a national "Read To Kids" campaign. Personally, I think that a national campaign that encourages reading aloud with children is a wonderful idea. If you think so, too, you can click here to see more details, and vote. Voting for this round of the contest runs through Friday, March 11, at 5:00 pm Eastern (each individual can vote once).
But really, the ultimate way to celebrate Read Across America Day is to curl up in a comfortable corner, and read a book with a child. Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss, and happy reading to all of you.