As school starts, and summer reading season draws to a close, I've run across a number of articles from around the Kidlitosphere (the universe of children's and young adult book bloggers) that I thought readers here would find of interest. [Special thanks to Terry Doherty from The Reading Tub for pointing out some of these links.]
First up, Susan Stephenson (aka The Book Chook) and her team have produced a new installment of Literacy Lava, an electronic magazine dedicated to encouraging young readers. Here's the description of the second Literacy Lava from Susan: "Literacy Lava 2 is a free magazine that will bring you ideas: for motivating reluctant readers, for literacy on the go, for developing the imagination muscle, for linking math and literacy, for having a pirate party and a book picnic, for rhymes, games, activities and more!" You can download Literacy Lava from here.
Booklights' own Gina Montefusco brought to my attention a recent article by Phuong Ly from Catalyst Chicago. Here's the gist: "In libraries and bookstores, African-American boys are missing, both as characters in books and as readers. The two absences are related and feed off each other, according to literacy experts: If young African-American males don't see themselves in books, they aren't inclined to become readers, and if publishers perceive that black boys don't read, they won't approve books that might interest them." Also important: "Many librarians and teachers say that publishing more books for African Americans isn't merely a matter of political correctness. It's crucial to lowering the achievement gap."
Speaking of boys, Trevor Cairney at Literacy, families, and learning shares some thoughts about getting boys into reading through non-fiction. He says: "For many boys (like girls) the narrative form is the best way into literacy, but some boys are reluctant to read narratives... So we should seek to explore any textual form available to introduce them to reading and then gently push them to explore other forms of reading, as well as to read in more sustained ways and for all imaginable purposes." He gives several suggestions. He adds, however, "our aim in using factual forms of reading isn't meant to be an alternative to reading literature. Eventually, we should aim to have our boys loving literature too." Trevor continues with another post about encouraging kids to read what he calls "environmental print", or non-book sources of literacy. He suggests keeping an eye for print in your child's world, and pointing it out when you run across it. [Image by Taliesin, shared at MorgueFile.]
At Getting Kids Reading, Joyce Grant has a nice little post about respecting the reading bubble. She says: "When kids are actively reading, they create a quiet bubble around themselves. It's a bubble they fill with the fantasy creations they imagine as they read. It's a bubble so necessary for a reader, and yet so easily burst. If you catch your child reading, remember that bubble." I know I love my reading bubble, and find it very irritating when anyone disturbs me when I'm deep into a book.
Dawn Morris at Moms Inspire Learning writes about why parents should read young adult fiction, in the context of a review of a particular title. She says "Sometimes, books raise issues parents are not comfortable with, but they can be used to discuss important topics that never would have come up otherwise. Open communication is important, especially these days... We can't live our lives for our children. They need to make their own mistakes. But we can and should find ways to open the lines of communication, and to share our thoughts, emotions, and values. A great way to do that is to keep track of what your tweens and teens are reading. It's a wonderful way to make connections that otherwise might have gotten lost in your busy lives." I completely agree with Dawn on this point.
At Literacy Launchpad, Amy suggests that when families go on vacation, they make an extra effort NOT to take a vacation from reading. She's looking in part for inspiration from others, because she finds that she has trouble keeping up her son's reading routine when they travel. She says: "In the future I would like to be much more intentional in making books a part of our vacations, just like they are a part of our normal, everyday life at home", and shares some ideas. Literacy Launchpad also ran a recent guest post by Adrienne Carlson about ways that parents can help children to improve literacy at home.
At Throwing Marshmallows, homeschooling mom Stephanie recently wrote in response to a School Library Journal article about graphic novels. She notes: "Graphic novels (along with comic books) are wonderful for emerging readers, especially for right-brained kids. The visual aspects of the book help them formulate the picture of the story in their minds, which helps ease the process of translating the words. Not to mention that they are just plain fun." Stephanie's post isn't long, but it's a nice reminder to try out different types of books, in search of books that work well for your kids.
On a related note, another homeschooling mom, Becky from Farm School, recently mentioned that her sons are so taken with Calvin & Hobbes books that she's devised a "Calvin and Hobbes Spelling and Vocabulary" lesson plan for this year. She shares a sample vocabulary list from the comic strips, and it's remarkably advanced.
In case any of you missed it, there was a nice New York Times article by Motoko Rich a couple of weeks ago about using a reading workshop approach (in which kids choose their own books to read) to encourage young readers. While the approach itself isn't new, it was great to see these ideas discussed in the NY Times. I've seen various responses to the article, the most recent one by Karen Strong at Musings of a Novelista. Karen says: "I do like the idea of kids being able to choose some of the books they read. It can help them become life-long readers. Maybe a lot of the kids and teens think of books they read in class as "boring." Maybe it turns them off from reading as adults. Giving the choices may help them enjoy books more."
And, of course, Pam and Susan both had excellent posts about nurturing young readers here at Booklights last week. On Wednesday, Susan wrote about the ups and downs of reading aloud. She offered practical advice for parents who might be disappointed by their young kids' unwillingness to sit still for read-aloud. Her conclusion: "Go easy on yourself and your children when it comes to reading aloud. And enjoy the wonderful moments when they happen." Then yesterday, Pam used her Thursday Three feature to offer reading help for "the three people involved in your child's reading development - the teacher, the child, and yourself." I especially liked her strong suggestion that parents try to avoid The Reading Game (parental competition over kids' reading levels and books).
I hope you find some of these links useful. If you'd like more children's literacy and reading news, I hope that you'll check out this week's Children's Literacy Round-Up at The Reading Tub (scheduled for publication today).
There's a magical series in the world of children's books. I've seen kids who hate to read devour these books. The copies at my library keep falling apart and we can never keep the books on the shelf. When I worked in a bookstore, I was always tripping over kids in the aisles who had sat down to read right in front of where these books were displayed. I've watched everyone from 6 to 60 become mesmerized by them. What's the name of this incredible series that casts such a spell?
You thought I was going to say Harry Potter, didn't you? I'll save that series for another post.
Bill Watterson's comic strip about a hyper kid and his stuffed tiger ran in the newspapers for only ten years, from 1985 to 1995. It's been fourteen years since the last strip appeared and Calvin's popularity doesn't seem to have waned for a minute. It's a timeless creation that can be enjoyed by nearly every age.
What does this have to do with children's books? Reading is reading, no matter what form it takes. Popular comic strip such as Calvin and Hobbes frequently sell out in bookstores and have incredibly high circulation rates in public and school libraries. Children and teenagers ask all the time for Calvin, Zits, Foxtrot, Garfield and Peanuts. Unfortunately, at least half of the time I get a request for a comic strip book, I hear a parent tell their child that they shouldn't be wasting their time with comics, and urging the kid to pick out better books.
This pains me every time I hear it. Calvin is somebody kids can relate to. He has temper tantrums, he gets in trouble, he has a huge imagination and he doesn't always pay attention. In short, he's a typical kid. And the books are full of are full of complex words and ideas that challenge readers.
Think about a child who is struggling with reading. A chapter book full of words can be completely overwhelming but a comic strip is far less threatening and full of visual cues. Comic strips can help kids learn to read and develop a sense of humor. Reading a small number of panels to get to the punch line can give kids a sense of accomplishment. A collection can be put down and picked up at any time without interrupting the continuity. And most important, comic strips can show kids how fun reading can be.
Look at the picture below. Doesn't it make you want to read the book?
Comic strips are universal and appeal to a wide variety of people of all ages. A while back, I commuted into D.C. via the subway. Practically everybody on the train bought a copy of the Washington Post before they got onboard. And, every single day, 90% of the papers were open to the comics section.
My husband and I have completely different literary tastes. When we got married and merged our book collections, there was only one series that we both owned. Garfield.
The next time you see your child gaze longingly at Calvin and his stuffed tiger, let them give it a try, even if you think they're too young to get the jokes. Or hand a collection to a kid who's struggling and feeling unsuccessful at school. It might make a bigger difference than you think.