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Jen Robinson: December 2009 Archives

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Tips for Growing Bookworms: #6 Read yourself, and model an appreciation for reading

Posted by Jen Robinson on December 28, 2009 at 6:00 AM in Literacy NewsRecommendations
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This is Part 6 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 #6: Read yourself, and model an appreciation for reading. It's all very well to SAY that books and reading are important. But what kids notice is what you DO. If you turn on the TV during every free moment, and never have time to go to the library or the bookstore, your kids are unlikely to turn to books themselves. Terry just talked about this in her Dear Santa ... post last week. She said: "One of the easiest ways for us to get kids to see reading as just a regular part of their life is to catch us reading."

DadSonReading.jpgThis especially important for male role models, because boys often think of reading as an activity that's primarily for women. Every time a boy sees his dad (or uncle, or grandfather) reading, whether it's a novel, a history book, a business plan, or the sports section, he absorbs a tiny message that reading is something that guys do. Those tiny messages accumulate over a lifetime, and create a strong base for literacy. [Image credit: Microsoft ClipArt Gallery]

So what do you do if you're not much of a reader yourself, but you want your kids to grow up as bookworms? One answer is: tell them the truth. "I didn't read much as a kid, and now reading is hard for me. Plus I feel like I missed out on a lot of great stuff. I want better for you." That's modeling an appreciation for reading. Cap that off by making sure that your child has plenty of books.

FamilyCooking.jpgAlso, remember that all kinds of reading count as reading, and make sure your kids notice whatever it is you're reading. Point out when you come across something interesting in the morning paper. Talk about how much you love a particular cookbook, or how much you learned from a how-to manual. Listen to audiobooks in the car on long trips, or on your regular commute, and tell your kids about what you're listening to. [Image credit: Microsoft ClipArt Gallery]

Another way of modeling an appreciation for reading is to have lots of printed material in your home, especially books and magazines. This shows that you think that reading is a valued activity. Subscribe to the local paper, instead of just reading the news online. If you're planning a family trip, bring home some guidebooks about your destination. If you're planning a household project, pick up some books or manuals about that. Fill your house with printed material, and take books and magazines with you everywhere you go.

There are always competing demands on our time. Laundry to fold, bills to pay, phone calls to make, shows to watch on the DVR. And, hopefully, books that we want to read. But here's the thing. If we always prioritize the other tasks, and we let the books get dusty on the shelves, how on earth can we expect our children to think that reading is a valuable way to spend their time? Pam has a great anecdote at MotherReader about an incident playing house with her young daughter one day. The daughter, as "the mommy", sat down on the couch with a book, and told "her child" to go play with her sister, and let "the mommy" read for a while. Pam is justly proud of this story.

Here's what I recommend. Over the holiday vacation, take some time out to read. I mean, how great is it that you can do something to help your kids, and have it be enjoyable for you at the same time? So, curl up in that armchair in front of the fire with your book, lose yourself in its world, and be a reading role model, all at the same time. Years from now, your children will thank you.

Jen

Literacy 'Lights from the Kidlitosphere: Christmas Week Edition

Posted by Jen Robinson on December 21, 2009 at 6:00 AM in Literacy News
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It's been a quiet time in the Kidlitosphere lately. But I do have a few links saved up to share with you.

Literacy-Lava-Badge.jpgThe third issue of Literacy Lava is now available. Literacy Lava is a free downloadable magazine (in PDF format) dedicated to encouraging children's literacy. It's produced by Susan Stephenson from The Book Chook. Susan says: "It's another great issue, exploding with tips for parents about ways to encourage literacy in family life. Find out what your local library has to offer, read ideas on making books with kids, sneak some learning into shopping, discover games that build literacy skills, develop imagination while playing Grocery Store, make writing part of your family's life, read why picture books are so good for kids, and find out how literacy helped one child fight night terrors. Don't forget to check out the Online Extras page, and the Writing Prompt activity page for kids." I hope that you'll all check it out. [Image credit: Susan Stephenson, The Book Chook.]

The Book Chook also recently linked to an Australian study that found that most kids are largely sedentary, and that "Preschoolers are spending 85 per cent of their waking hours inactive". Susan went on to discuss ways to balance the need to encourage literacy AND encourage kids to be active. She suggests: "Making small changes might be the best way to start. We could swap half an hour of TV watching with half an hour of family walking or bike riding in the park. Once the whole family is involved, it becomes not only a healthy habit, but a way for everyone to wind down after work and school, and a great opportunity for casual conversation." She also suggests focusing TV time on shows that encourage kids to move around, rather than sitting passively.

Outgoing National Ambassador for Young People's Literature Jon Scieszka had a great article in the December 11th Huffington Post. Scieszka says: "I used my two-year term to work on reaching the reluctant reader: that's the kid who might be a reader, who could be one, but just isn't that interested in reading. The new Ambassador will have his or her own program, and ideas on connecting kids with reading." He then outlines his top advice for encouraging reluctant readers. Although the advice is technically focused on kids who aren't so into reading, I think that it's a great list of tips for anyone. For example: "If a kid doesn't like one book, don't worry about finishing it. Start another. The key is helping children find what they like." Click through to see the whole list. Thanks to Meghan Newton from Goodman Media for sending me the link.

The Washington Post's Answer Sheet recently ran a guest column from Donalyn Miller, The Book Whisperer about whether good readers are born or made. Miller says: "The widespread belief that some readers possess an innate gift, like artists or athletes, sells many children short. I often hear parents claim, "Well, my child is just not a reader," as if the reading fairy passed over their child while handing out the good stuff." She adds: "The strong readers always outstrip the weaker readers because they practice, finesse, and expand their reading skills through hours and hours of reading." She also outlines the conditions that have been found to increase "reading engagement" in kids. Things like time to read, access to books, and reading role models. Click through for more details.

Our own Terry Doherty has a timely post at The Reading Tub, chock-full of holiday gift ideas that keep an "I" towards literacy. She notes: "With the kids in my life, I look for gifts that look more fun than educational. For example, kids who love mysteries and riddles might enjoy word puzzles or games. Because it is a game, then don't notice that they're practicing spelling, expanding their vocabulary, or learning synonyms and antonyms." She then suggests pen and paper games ("that you can create yourself, find online, or purchase in a "formal" game") as well as board games.

Terry also found a fun article with tips for practicing family literacy at home and in your community. Cindy Taylor shares an alphabet themed list that has everything from "Ask your child questions about the story you're reading to ensure comprehension" to "Zap off the TV - pick up a book instead!". I also liked "Quiet, cozy reading spaces are good places for your child to read independently."

9780399251931H.jpgAlso from Terry, an article at Literacy News on teaching about language through reading aloud. The article emphasizes in particular the benefits of dads reading aloud to kids, saying: "When dads read aloud to them, children are learning many different things. They are learning about the world, they are learning to love books and reading, and they are learning about language. This learning about language occurs mainly as children hear, see and understand the language as it is used". My Dad always read us The Night Before Christmas every Christmas Eve, and I can testify first-hand that this kind of experience leaves a lasting impression.

And on that note, I'll leave you with my hope that for those of you who celebrate Christmas, it's a festive and happy experience for you this year. [And don't miss Pam's post on celebrating Christmas around the world.] For those who celebrate Hanukkah or Kwanzaa or some other holiday - I hope that is, or was, wonderful, too. Me, I'm wishing for, and giving, books for Christmas, and gifting myself time to read them. Happy Holidays!

Jen

Tips for Growing Bookworms: #5 Visit Libraries and Bookstores

Posted by Jen Robinson on December 14, 2009 at 6:00 AM in LibrariesLiteracy NewsRecommendations
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This is Part 5 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 #5: Visit libraries and bookstores. I talked last week about how I think that it's important for kids to have at least a few books that they can own and cherish. And that's absolutely true. But I think that libraries and bookstores are important in raising readers, too.

BoyReading.jpgLibraries
It would be impossible, not to mention incredibly wasteful, to try to buy copies of every book that might possibly work for your child. Libraries allow you to choose a variety of books on every visit, and to try books out before you buy the ones that your child really loves. This is a true gift. The library will have the big-name popular books, sure, but they'll also have books that you would never have heard of on your own. The array of choices can be dazzling. Some of those books might become your child's favorites. [Image credit: Microsoft ClipArt gallery]

But there's much more to it than just the chance to try out books for free. A library is a celebration of books and reading, day in and day out. Taking your child to the library is a way to show her that you aren't the only one who values books. Lots of people, from all sorts of backgrounds, work in and visit the library, and think that books are important. Libraries also have events and read-alouds, programming centered around showing kids that books are fun. Yes, you can (and should!) read books aloud at home. But being surrounded by other kids listening to the same book delivers a powerful message to pre-schoolers. Hearing someone besides Mom or Dad reading books aloud tells kids that literacy is a universal thing. All of this reinforces what you're already doing at home.

Another plus to visiting libraries, although one that not every visitor takes advantage of, is access to librarians. Youth service librarians excel at recommending books based on a child's interest. Sure, you can find book recommendations online, too. But if your school or community boasts a highly trained, caring person, someone who can get to know your child and help him to select books, why on earth wouldn't you take advantage of that? I still have books on my shelves that were recommended for me personally by my elementary school librarian.

For more on the services performed by librarians, from collection development to cataloging, check out this recent post from Liz Burns at A Chair, A Fireplace, and A Tea Cozy. Other Booklights posts that talk about the benefits of libraries can be found here (from Susan), here (from Terry), and here (from Pam).

JenwithJonScieszka.jpgBookstores
Many of the benefits of libraries (with the notable exception of the free access to books) are also true of bookstores. Bookstores show kids an environment and a culture filled with people who also love books. The good ones are staffed by people who can help you choose books based on your child's interests. Bookstores also often have fun events. A bookstore is more likely than a library to host author events. These can be an amazing opportunity to get kids excited about books. See my Booklights post about a Rick Riordan author event last summer, an earlier post on my own blog about an event by Jon Scieszka, and Becky Levine's recent post about a signing by Eoin Colfer. [Image credit: Photo taken by Susan Taylor Brown at Jon Scieszka signing event at Hicklebee's Books.]

And although the books aren't free at the bookstore, that can be a plus, too. Occasionally taking your child out and buying her a book says that you value books enough to spend money on them. My mother used to take me to our local used bookstore on a regular basis. She'd buy books for herself, and she'd buy books for me. We always had fun picking them out. I loved the treasure of finding a used copy of a book by one of my favorite authors. Is it any wonder that I grew up a reader? (And, actually, my mom and I still go to used bookstores together when we have the chance. And I still love finding old copies of books by cherished authors.)

Some of my fondest childhood memories are of visits to the library, and visits to bookstores. Taking your child to visit both can be a wonderful component to growing bookworms. And, as an added bonus, you get to visit libraries and bookstores yourself.

Jen

Tips for Growing Bookworms: #4 Make Sure Your Children Have Books of their Own

Posted by Jen Robinson on December 7, 2009 at 6:00 AM in Literacy NewsRecommendations
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This is Part 4 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. Today's tip also includes links to a variety of book suggestions for the holiday season.

Tip #4: Make sure that your children (and nieces and nephews and grandchildren) have books of their own. Sure, it's great to visit libraries (we'll talk more about that in the next tip) and explore a wide range of books. But it's also important that kids have at least a few books of their own. Books that they can re-read as often as they like. Books that they don't have to return by a certain date. Books that they can save and cherish and (eventually) look back on as priceless childhood mementos. I know that the books from my childhood that I still have on my shelves will always remain among my most treasured possessions.

ReadingAtNight.jpgThere's a special bond that comes with re-reading a book many times. Especially as a child becomes older, and is reading on his own. The experiences of reading a beloved book build upon one another. Each reading becomes a celebration of the book, and a reminder of the past readings. To have that bond, I think that you need to own the book. Sure, you can check the same book out of the library every year. But it's not the same as having the book on the shelf next to your bed, and being able to pick it up when you can't sleep, or aren't feeling well, or just need the comfort of familiarity. The shelf doesn't need to be large, but it needs to be filled with books that are loved.

ReadingOlderKids.jpgThere's also a sense of pride that comes with ownership of possessions. And attaching that pride to books elevates the importance of literacy. When you spend your hard-earned money to buy books for your children, you're putting your money where your mouth is. You aren't just saying that books are important. You're demonstrating that you value books and literacy. I think that's important. And books are a bargain, compared with video games, going out to eat, going out to a movie, etc.

So, if you're doing any holiday shopping for the children in your life this season, I urge you to consider buying at least a few books. Great books are truly a gift that can last a lifetime. I know that it can be difficult to know what books to buy. Fortunately, quite a few bloggers have taken the initiative to offer targeted suggestions. Liz Burns from A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy has a post in which she's keeping track of other people's gift-giving ideas (mostly books). You'll find lots of links there.

Here are links to a few of my favorite sources for book ideas this year:

I hope that you'll find these lists a useful resource. But really, however you choose the books, and whenever you buy them, the important thing is that you make sure that your children have at least a few books of their own, to keep. You'll give them books to re-read and fall in love with, and you'll show, in a tangible way, that you think that books are important. And that's worth doing, both at the holidays and year-round.

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