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April 2010 Archives


Tips for Growing Bookworms: Series Recap and Future Plans

Posted by Jen Robinson on April 5, 2010 at 6:00 AM in Literacy NewsRecommendations
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jkrROUNDUP.jpgBack in 2007 I wrote a post for own blog about 10 Tips for Growing Bookworms. Over the past few months, I've been expanding upon and updating each of those original ten ideas here at Booklights. After all, helping parents to grow young readers is what we're all about at Booklights, right? It only made sense to share these tips here.

In today's post, I'm going to link to each of the 10 tips posts, as presented here at Booklights, so that they'll all be handy in one place.

  1. Read Aloud
  2. Read the Books Your Children Read
  3. Choose Books that Your Children Enjoy
  4. Make Sure Your Children Have Books of their Own
  5. Visit Libraries and Bookstores
  6. Read Yourself, and Model an Appreciation for Reading
  7. Point Out When You're Learning Useful Information by Reading
  8. Be Selective in Television Watching
  9. Create Cozy Reading Spaces within Your Home, and Keep Books Handy
  10. Let Them Stay Up Late Reading Under the Covers

It should be noted that the above tips owe a debt to the following references, all of which I read prior to writing the original post (versions updated here as appropriate). Any of these books would be an excellent place to start, in learning more about growing bookworms.

I'd also add Donalyn Miller's The Book Whisperer to my list of recommendations, of course. That hadn't been published yet when I wrote the original set of tips.

I would love to know if there are other tips that you'd like to share to help parents and teachers in encouraging young readers. In my mind, there's no particular reason why the list has to stop at ten tips, after all. Any suggestions? If anything here in the comments (or elsewhere) inspires me, I'll add further entries to the series. Thanks for reading, and for caring about growing bookworms!!

Links to books in this post are affiliate links for the Amazon Associates program, for which the site Jen Robinson's Book Page may receive a referral fee.


Prompt Idea: April Fools and Other Madness

Posted by Terry on April 2, 2010 at 8:00 AM in creative literacy
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april-sno.jpgJust when we thought winter was going to go on forever ... April has arrived. The almanac predicting snow this month is just an April Fool's joke, right? In our school district, Spring Break starts next week. I have been trying to think of some fun games to play (and sneak in a little literacy, of course), and then it hit me ...

Mad Libs! Remember those? For those who might not be familiar, Mad Libs is a word game where players create a unique, one-of-a-kind story simply by filling in some "missing" words. One person asks for words mad-libs.jpg to fill in the blanks, and (at least) one person provides them. The reader asks for specific types of words, but doesn't reveal anything about the story. Once all of the words have been gathered, the story is read aloud, usually with lots of laughs. Mad Libs have been around since 1953, and the creators (Leonard Stern and Roger Price) published the first book of Mad Libs in 1958. Mad Libs is a registered trademark, but the name is used universally, much like "kleenex" is used for "facial tissue."

Another form of this word game is called Consequences. In this version, one person writes a word or phrase, folds the paper to hide their answer, and then gives it to the next person. The first two people offer names; the third person a place; the fourth and fifth offer he said and she said, respectively; the next person offers a consequence, and the last person offers an outcome. Although there are seven parts to the story, you can play this game with two people passing the paper back and forth. The finished product might look like this.

Jeffrey and Mary Ellen visited the zoo. He said "I love bike riding." She said "Purple is my favorite color." He gave her a pickled beet. She gave him blue earrings. They ended up with no money. Then they ran away to find the library.

Exquisite Corpse cover.jpgBoth Mad Libs and Consequences are "home version" of a writing method called the exquisite corpse. That may sound familiar, as the National Center for the Book (part of the Library of Congress) and the National Children's Book and Literacy Alliance are sponsoring the episodic Exquisite Corpse Adventure, where children's book authors are writing a chapter, drawing on content of the previous writer. With each episode, a children's book artist adds an illustration. That alone is cool, but I would be remiss if I didn't mention that Reading Rockets and have a companion project that lets kids be writers, too. Each month, as part of The Exquisite Prompt project, two of the Exquisite Corpse Adventure contributors ask the kids to write something, based on a prompt they provide. Last month Nikki Grimes asked Kindergarteners, first and second graders to create an original joke, riddle, or short story. Oh there is bound to be silliness there!

When I was a kid, creating and reading Mad Libs was always good for an afternoon of laughs. I remember then as a "summer" thing and something we did at birthday parties. They were fun, and they ALWAYS got us laughing and being silly. What I didn't realize about them - but do now - is how valuable these word games are as a literacy tool.

  • In asking for words of specific types, kids are learning and practicing parts of speech.

  • The players are recording the words, which is writing AND spelling.

  • The completed story, which is read aloud (!) offers reading practice and vocabulary development, too.

  • Everyone can share in the fun ... this is social reading at its silliest.

Some of the online versions, like It's a Mad Libs World website, include prompts about what the various parts of speech do, which is helpful for developing readers and English Language Learners. Mad Libs have always been portable, but technology makes them even more so. There online versions and apps for your iPhone.

These are simple word games, adaptable to readers of all ages and abilities. For kids not yet reading, they can be adult-directed; for developing readers and beyond, they can do it all themselves. Once kids understand the concept, they can create their own word libs from some of their favorite stories. All they need to do is drop out a word here and there and create "blanks" for their friends to fill in. Oh, think of the possibilities for The Three Little Pigs!

Unlike the "old days," you can find Mad Libs for just about every branded character or television show. And that's no fooling!

Prompt Ideas for April
Here are the writing prompt starters for National Humor Month, National Poetry Month, National Karaoke Week, and more.

  • Kick off National Humor Month with a Mad Lib.
  • Then let the kids create a word lib with one of their favorite songs.
  • Let kids wax poetic. Let them come up with a theme/title, then ask for specific words or phrases to create poems.

Writing Prompts, Poetry, Earth Day, and a big Happy Anniversary!

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A blank page can be quite intimidating whether you write a lot or are a beginning writer! That is why we all need prompts for writing. As I think about it, my monthly postings for Booklights have been prompted by those of the other bloggers' postings throughout the previous month.

Terry started March out by giving great suggestions for prompting young writers. As she reminds us, a picture is truly worth a thousand words (or at least 20 if you are six-years-old). mcdonald-hand.jpgAnd while I don't want to "steal" any of the ideas for prompts for April that Terry might share, I think a delightful prompt for today comes from Megan McDonald, author of Judy Moody books.

Her prompt is an illustration of a practical joke the Judy Moody plays on her brother Stink. Young writers are then invited to write about a practical joke played on someone or make one up.

Pam's posting earlier today reminds us that we will celebrate National Poetry Month during April. Here is a website that provides great prompts for writing poetry. It includes a 40 minute webcast of Jack Prelutsky and interviews with Maya Angelou, Karla Kuskin, and J. Patrick Lewis.

Pam also reminds us that this is a wonderful time of the year to bring off the bookshelf Beatrix Potter's Peter Rabbit. While the book is rather dense in text, don't postpone reading it to young children. They catch on to language quite quickly. I tell my university students of the child who, after hearing Peter Rabbit numerous times, was overheard telling his tired, old dog, "I implore you to exert yourself!"

Susan has introduced me to several Passover books that are excellent. And the "old" Easter book of which Pam reminds us, The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes, was a favorite of an author I mentioned last August. I told about a visit with author Jean Davies Okimoto. She talked about The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes, by Dubose Heyward and illustrated by Marjorie Flack (who later won a Caldecott Honor). Although first published in 1939, this is a very progressive book. Jeanie remembers how she knew this was a tale with a truly feminist perspective. She noticed the ranges of bunny colors and the inclusiveness of the story.

In that same August posting, I suggested that parents and teachers might want to read Jeanie's picture book Winston of Churchill, One Bear's Battle Against Global Warming, which is illustrated by Jeremiah Trammell. As I said , the book brings forward concerns for the environment in an interesting way for children and their parents.

So that brings me to look ahead to April 22 which is Earth Day. While I don't usually start our recommendations for books to get for special days, I will go ahead and get us started this month with three books released this year that you might check out.
fancy nancy.jpg
Fancy Nancy: Every Day is Earth Day, by Jane O'Connor. An "I Can Read!" book for beginning readers.

polar bears.jpg
Where Do Polar Bears Live? by Sarah Thomson. This is a piece of non-fiction with challenging concepts written for primary graders. Be sure to notice the end papers!

global warming.jpg
Global Warming, by Seymour Simon. A publication by the Smithsonian and written by my favorite writer of science picture books. Wonderful photographs!

I would add to that list an older book, one that I mentioned in September, Peter, Pamela and Percy in the Big Spill. The story relates the oil slick off of Cape Town that harmed many sea birds in 2000.

It seems appropriate that this month, I have gone back to postings from March as well as throughout the year. For the day after Earth Day, April 23, was the day in 2009 that Gina first welcomed everyone to Booklights. So, happy anniversary to a wonderful group!

Happy Reading, Ann


Thursday Three: Poetry Month

Posted by Pam on April 1, 2010 at 10:09 AM in KidlitsospherePoetry
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I was going to follow my own tradition and give three bunny books to read if you missed the Easter selection at your local library, but then I looked up such books in my own library's catalog and found over three hundred picture book titles. Clearly, you don't need my suggestions as you would be much better off planting yourself in front of any picture book shelf and pulling out books at random - though as a hint, you'd have an easy time in front of the Rick Walton or Rosemary Wells books.

Okay, actually I will give one suggestion. (And if you count the Walton and Wells books than we're up to three recommendations.) Beatrix Potter books. You probably have this lovely collection on your bookshelves, and may always be looking for the right time to read it. There is a lot of text for younger kids, but the stories themselves are perfect for this age, so it can be a hard book to bring out. Here's your chance.

Now, today is the first day of National Poetry Month. Don't leave. Maybe you don't see how poetry applies to you and your kid, but stay with me. I used to think of posting about poetry as the Right Thing to Do. An educational experience I should share. The broccoli of children's books. But I have come to discover in a personal way that I was wrong.

In my inexpert, parental opinion poetry can be a great choice for slower, maybe less-than-strong, readers. I missed this because I read quickly and find it hard to take the time that a poem requires. My first daughter is the same way. But with my second daughter, now almost eleven, I'm seeing where poetry can be a perfect fit for a deliberate reader. This isn't even to go into the benefits of exposing your kids to all kinds of literature or the inherent beauty or playfulness or craftmanship of language in poetry.

So today I'll point you to the KidLitosphere Celebration of Poetry Month, and break it down in to three beginner sites that you simply must visit this month.

1. Poetry for Children is reviewing a poetry book a day during the month of April and will give you some fantastic recommendations.

2. 30 Poets/30 Days will introduce you to some of the fantastic poets for kids with an original poem a day.

3. Poetry Makers offers a series of interviews with poets, starting off today with Mary Ann Hoberman, our own Children's Poet Laureate. (You didn't know we had one, did you? Learned something already.)

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