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Jen Robinson: March 2010 Archives


Tips for Growing Bookworms: #10 Let Them Stay Up Late Reading Under the Covers

Posted by Jen Robinson on March 30, 2010 at 6:00 AM in Literacy NewsRecommendations
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This is Part 10 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. Then we'll recap, and see what we can do to come up with some more.

ReadingAtNight.jpgTip #10: Once in a while, let your kids stay up late reading under the covers. Pretending you don't know is probably acceptable in this case, though I'm not generally a big advocate of deception. Staying up past bedtime reading a great book under the covers makes reading fun. It's a special treat. It's a way to keep reading a joyful experience. It feels sneaky and grown up at the same time. It's the kind of thing that kids remember, and helps them to associate reading with pleasure as they grow older. [Image credit: Microsoft ClipArt Gallery]

redpyramid.jpgI think that this idea could tie in to the whole concept of "social reading", too. Say, when the new Rick Riordan book (The Red Pyramid, featuring Egyptian mythology) comes out in early May, or the next Diary of a Wimpy Kid book by Jeff Kinney is released. If your child stays up late reading that buzz-generating book under the covers, and can brag about that at school tomorrow, well, I think that could go a long way.

As kids get older, one of the challenges is that reading isn't always perceived as "cool." I say, if your child wants to read enough to sneak a flashlight into bed - you should consider yourself very lucky. (See Tricia's post about this at The Miss Rumphius Effect. That post was the inspiration for this tip.) Of course sleep is important, too. But I think that the occasional bending of the rules about bedtime could be a real asset in growing bookworms.

What do you all think? Do you ever let your kids stay up late, reading under the covers?

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.


Literacy 'Lights from the Kidlitosphere: March 22

Posted by Jen Robinson on March 22, 2010 at 6:00 AM in Literacy News
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Last week I shared some links from the Share a Story - Shape a Future literacy blog tour that I thought Booklights readers would be particularly interested in. This week, I have just a few quick links for you to other recent posts dedicated to helping parents grow young bookworms.

Amytshirt.jpegAt Literacy Launchpad, Amy shares Part 4 of her series on tips for fostering a love of reading, about the joys of reading aloud. Of course we've talked about the importance of reading aloud many times here at Booklights (it's #1 in my Tips for Growing Bookworms series, for example). What I like about this particular Literacy Launchpad post is that Amy adds specific tips for the parent who "discovers the power of reading to their child a little later", and feel a bit awkward about starting. Like "Read interesting articles you find to your child (articles you think would also interest them)." [Image credit: a pro-reading t-shirt that Amy designed. You can order it from Literacy Launchpad.]

Speaking of reading aloud to older kids, I posted yesterday on my own blog about a father and daughter who read together for 3218 nights in a row (from fourth grade until the daughter's first day of college). It's an inspiring story, well worth a look!

At Getting Kids Reading, Joyce Grant suggests that parents read the books that their children are reading. This was #2 in the Tips for Growing Bookworms series, and is something that I highly, highly recommend. I was thus happy to see Joyce promoting it, too. She says: "My son's copy of Percy Jackson has two bookmarks in it--his and mine. We're both reading it. Not only is it a great series and a lot of fun to read, but I'm realizing there are huge benefits to reading what he's reading."

frog.jpgMama Librarian has a thought-provoking rant about why parents shouldn't be reading early chapter books aloud to their kids. She says: "Books like Frog and Toad and Mr. Putter and Tabby are written especially for children who are learning to read on their own. They don't have any significant concept challenges, so readers can focus on decoding and fluency... As a media specialist, I suggest you save junior fiction for beginning readers to enjoy on their own." The basic idea is that kids will likely be interested enough to read those easy reader-type books on their own anyway. Parents can instead read aloud more advanced books, books that kids wouldn't have discovered on their own. All of which makes sense to me!

Just in case you missed it, Terry Doherty had a great post here at Booklights earlier this month about letting kids write wordless stories, using images. She says: "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."

And, in a link suggested by Terry, Barbara Freedman-De Vito, at Activity Village, shares several ideas for sharing stories aloud with children. She says: "despite a panoply of print and electronic media, purely oral forms of storytelling do still exist and are in fact used every day by talented entertainers, by skillful teachers and librarians, and by loving moms and dads quietly sharing good books with their children at bedtime. The purpose of this article to suggest some variations on the concept of bedtime stories and to offer some additional ways that parents and others can both share precious moments and create some precious memories with their children."

BunchOfBoysReading.jpgIan Newbold at the Tidy Books Blog has an interesting post about his policy of limiting reading time to encourage reading (the idea being that he feels that kids, especially boys, are more likely to desire something that they get a "little bit too little of"). While my gut instinct is to reject the idea of limiting reading time out of hand, I can see the appeal of making more reading time a reward, something to aspire to... Food for thought. What do you all think about that? [Image credit: Microsoft ClipArt Gallery]

I hope that you've found some articles worth checking out today. For anyone who would like even more children's literacy and reading links, this week's children's literacy round-up from Terry Doherty and me is available at Jen Robinson's Book Page.


Share a Story - Shape a Future 2010: A Blog Tour for Literacy

Posted by Jen Robinson on March 15, 2010 at 6:00 AM in Literacy News
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It_takes_a_village_2.jpgAs Pam mentioned on Thursday, the Share a Story - Shape a Future literacy blog tour was held last week. Share a Story is an annual celebration of literacy and reading - a cross-blog forum for idea-sharing and community-building. Share a Story was founded last year by Booklights contributor Terry Doherty. This year's theme was "It Takes a Village to Raise a Reader". [Image created by Susan Stephenson, The Book Chook, at]

I hardly know where to begin telling you about this year's celebration. There were amazing giveaways (such as two sets of RIF's collection of 50 multicultural books), interesting daily writing prompts (to allow a wide range of people to participate), and contributed posts on topics ranging from The Many Faces of Reading to Creative Literacy to Nonfiction to Reading through the Ages. I hosted Day 5, Reading for the Next Generation, with a dozen parent-friendly articles from reading advocates from around the Kidlitosphere.

Here's a quick tour through the posts from Share a Story that I thought would be of the greatest interest to Booklights readers (though of course every post is worth a look, if you have the time):

Terry_readingtubfinal_1.jpgStarting on Day 1 (hosted by Terry Doherty), The Many Faces of Reading, Lee Wind shares Dads! The 3 Secrets to Reading with your Daughters at I'm Here, I'm Queer, What the Hell do I Read. He talks about overcoming one's aversion to "Sparkle-Fairy-Pixie-Dust-Pink-Glitter" books, coping with the child's desire for repeat readings, and treating reading together as a shared experience. Great stuff, well worth a read for Dads or Moms. Also on Day 1, Dad Greg Pincus from Gotta Book has a lovely post about how sharing stories together is the gift that lasts a lifetime.

Still focusing on The Many Faces of Reading, we return to the topic of "social reading". Back last summer, I did a couple of posts here at Booklights about the power of social reading (here and here), wherein kids spark each other's enthusiasm for reading. Those posts were inspired by discussions from Sarah Mulhern at The Reading Zone. Last week, Sarah presented more detail on her thoughts and experiences with social reading, including some specific tactics for capturing social reading in the classroom.

BookChookLogo.jpgHeading on over to Day 2, Literacy My Way (hosted by Susan Stephenson) we find a post from Joyce Grant at Getting Kids Reading with tips on getting active kids reading. There's also a fun post by Danielle Smith of There's a Book about using activity and sticker books to promote literacy, and another from Jen Funk Weber of Needle and ThREAD about using math, word and logic puzzles to engage young readers. And, in a useful, tip-filled post, Amy Mascott of teachmama shares some clever ways to sneak literacy learning into your children's daily routines.

it-takes-a-village-pink.jpgDay 3, The Nonfiction Book Hook (hosted by Sarah Mulhern) includes a host of recommendations for using nonfiction to reach readers who might not be as interested in fiction. Many of the posts include book recommendations. There's also an interesting article from Dawn Little at Literacy Toolbox about doing "real world reading" with preschoolers, as well as some tips from Natasha Maw at Maw Books about selecting nonfiction for early readers. [Image created by Susan Stephenson, The Book Chook, at]

ShareAStoryLogo-color.jpgDay 4, Reading through the Ages (hosted by Donalyn Miller), talks about balancing old classics and new favorites on the quest to hook today's kids on reading. Donalyn's contributors ask readers to share favorite childhood books, and favorite first lines from books, as well as suggesting new titles and new methods for reading with today's kids. For those looking for book recommendations, Tess Alfonsin, offers classic and contemporary favorites at The Reading Countess, while The Goddess of YA Literature, Teri Lesesne, suggests several new titles for tweens that have classic themes. [Image created by Elizabeth Dulemba for Share a Story - Shape a Future]

jkrROUNDUP.jpgNow we come to Day 5, Reading for the Next Generation. For this part of Share a Story, I sought posts about the disconnects that can arise between parents and kids on the way to growing young bookworms. My contributors tackled practical issues like what to do when you struggle with reading to your kids, or you have trouble finding time for reading, or you feel silly reading animal sounds aloud, or your kids are obsessed with videogames or Princess books. Our collective goal was not to tell anyone what they "should" do. Rather, we wanted to provide some concrete help for parents and teachers looking to encourage young readers, but struggling with particular issues.

Really, I think that all of the posts from Day 5 should be of interest to Booklights readers, and I hope that you'll click through to see the full list. But, if you read nothing else, I do want to direct you to MotherReader's post, in which she asks moms to give themselves permission to sometimes find reading with your kids ... less than stimulating, and Esme Raji Codell's entertaining piece about ways to keep older kids engaged in family read-aloud time.

We also had a particular focus during Day 5 on a topic that's been addressed before here at Booklights - letting kids read the books that they enjoy, instead of pushing them towards ever-more-advanced titles. This important topic was discussed in different ways by Dawn Little, Melissa from Book Nut, Mary Lee Hahn, and Kate Messner. All of us here at Booklights feel that the key to reading kids who love books lies in making reading an enjoyable experience for them. All of these posts offer help with that.

Thanks for checking out my quick tour of Share a Story - Shape a Future 2010. I hope that you found some useful links, and discovered some kindred spirits.


Tips for Growing Bookworms: #9 Create Cozy Reading Spaces within Your Home, and Keep Books Handy

Posted by Jen Robinson on March 8, 2010 at 6:00 AM in Literacy NewsRecommendations
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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.

litnpugs.JPGTip #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:

  • Leon's Library.jpgSet up a cozy reading corner in your child's bedroom, with a beanbag or a comfortable chair, a good lamp, and access to a bookshelf. [This is a much better use of space than, say, putting a TV in the child's bedroom, that's for sure.] Personally, I find a cozy reading space a temptation in and of itself. I want to spend time there, curled up, lost in a story. [Image from Susan's earlier post, with thanks to Alex Zealand for the picture of her five year old's bedroom and his book collection. ]
  • Make sure your child's bed is reading-friendly - enough light, enough pillows, and a table or shelf nearby on which to store some extra titles. Make sure there's someplace comfortable for Mom or Dad to sit, too, to read aloud.
  • Keep a few children's books handy by your own bed, too, in case of late-night, bad-dream-inspired emergencies.
  • Have baskets of books in the kitchen, the bathroom, the family room, and anyplace else in the house that your child spends time. See Susan's recent post on home libraries for some examples. It doesn't matter how you store the books (baskets, piles, shelves, boxes) - it just matters that they're readily available, and the kids can find them. And of course they can be library books, too - you don't have to buy hundreds of books to do this.
  • Keep books in the car. Teacherninja Jim said: "The back of the driver's side car seats in both of our vehicles are stuffed with magazines and slim books that my daughter likes. There's no DVD player (except on long trips). Guess what she does when she's not bopping to the music?".
  • For older kids, have a bookshelf near the entrance to the garage. Make it easy for your child to pick up a book on the way out to the car. I know for me, some of best childhood reading was done in the car. I'd carefully choose a book, even for the 15 minute car ride to Grandma's house. And longer drives would have been unbearable without books to help me tune out my three younger siblings.

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.

Matilda.jpgOne 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.


Today is Read Across America Day!

Posted by Jen Robinson on March 2, 2010 at 6:00 AM in Authors and IllustratorsLiteracy News
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Seuss2.jpgEvery 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:

  • offers new activity ideas and resources for bringing Dr. Seuss into the secondary classroom, celebrating Read Across America with older readers, and making the day more meaningful with service. For example, the site lists Seuss-themed suggestions for youth service projects, such as a "Hats for Haiti" initiative.
  • At Reading Rockets, you can send an e-card to your favorite readers and get them excited about this special day of reading. There's also a whole Read Across America Day resources page at Reading Rockets, including a video interview with Dr. Seuss's widow, bookmarks, book suggestions, and more.
  • The NEA website offers tips for parents, contributed by both Reading Rockets and the PBS show Between the Lions. There are tips for reading aloud, tips for parents of preschoolers, and various book lists available.

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. 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.

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