Growing Bookworms Newsletter: March 29: #PictureBook Reviews, Reading Print Books, and Encouraging Readers

JRBPlogo-smallToday, I will be sending out a new issue of the Growing Bookworms email newsletter. (If you would like to subscribe, you can find a sign-up form here.) The Growing Bookworms newsletter contains content from my blog focused on growing joyful learners, mainly bookworms, but also mathematicians and learners of all types. The newsletter is sent out every two to three weeks.

Newsletter Update:  In this issue I have four book reviews (picture book and middle grade) and one post about the advantages of reading physical books with kids. I also have two posts with links that I shared recently on Twitter, and one with more detailed quotes and responses to some joy of learning-related articles, all centered around growing bookworms. 

Reading Update: In the last two weeks I read three adult novels, and most of an adult nonfiction title. I read/listened to: 

  • Jacqueline Winspear: In This Grave Hour. Harper. Adult Mystery. Completed March 21, 2017, on MP3. This is the latest installment in the fabulous Maisie Dobbs series. England officially enters World War II, with various consequences. 
  • Charlaine Harris: Poppy Done to Death (Aurora Teagarden, No. 8). Berkley. Adult Mystery. Completed March 25, 2017, on MP3. This is a much lighter series, but I enjoy it. 
  • D.E. Stevenson: The Tall Stranger. HarperCollins. Adult Fiction. Completed March 25, 2017. This was a first read for me of this D.E. Stevenson title. Charlotte from Charlotte's Library was kind enough to loan it to me, long-distance.

PrisonerOfAzkabanI'm currently listening to Vicious Circle by C. J. Box (the latest Joe Pickett novel) and reading Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth. I'm still reading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling to my daughter. She returned from a weekend away on Sunday and the very first thing she asked me was to read Harry Potter to her. She continues to read more and more on her own, too, although she tends to start books without finishing them. She is currently reading The 13 Story Treehouse by Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton, and has pronounced the Piper Green and the Fairy Tree books by Ellen Potter and Qin Leng next on her list. But this could change any time. You can find her 2017 reading list here

Thanks for reading, and for growing bookworms. 

© 2017 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook


Charlotte and the Rock: Stephen W. Martin & Samantha Cotterill

Book: Charlotte and the Rock
Author: Stephen W. Martin
Illustrator: Samantha Cotterill
Pages: 32
Age Range: 3-6

CharlotteAndTheRockCharlotte and the Rock by Stephen W. Martin and Samantha Cotterill is about a girl who wants a pet, but instead is given a large rock. Charlotte tries to make the best of her unusual pet, celebrating the positives (hypoallergenic, good listener), but she can't help noticing that the rock is not good at eating her leftover broccoli from the table. Nor is the rock at all helpful in getting her out of trouble in school. ("You said WHAT ate your homework?") Charlotte adapts, but she never stops wishing that her pet could offer her more affection. A surprise twist at the end delighted me, and is sure to please young readers. 

I quite liked Charlotte and the Rock. Though I've read other stories about inanimate pets (My Pet Book by Bob Staake, Prudence Wants a Pet by Cathleen Daly), something in the matter-of-fact tone of Charlotte and the Rock really worked for me. Like this (over two page spreads):

"But as with any pet, some things proved difficult.

Walks were not fun.

Really not fun."

Here we first see a red-cheeked Charlotte gritting her teeth, struggling to pull the rock (wearing a knitted hat) up a hill with a leash. Then (the really not fun part) she is flying down the hill behind the rock, as a squirrel jumps out of the way and people stare from inside shop windows.

Charlotte is adorable, with freckled cheeks, round glasses, and a plausible range of expressions. You can't help but feel for her when she is playing with her rock in the bath (using it to model a deserted island), wistfully wishing that the rock "could love her back." Her joy at the end of the book is a true pleasure to behold. 

Charlotte and the Rock is my favorite picture book of the year so far. Although it may be targeted a bit more towards preschoolers than to elementary school kids, I eagerly look forward to sharing it with my daughter. I'm sure she will love Charlotte (and the rock) as much as I do. Highly recommended!

Publisher: Dial Books  (@PenguinKids)
Publication Date: March 14, 2017
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2017 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).


Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: March 24: #KidLit Mirrors, Transitioning to Chapter Books + Knitting

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include #BookLists, #DiverseBooks, #GrowingBookworms, #GrowthMindset, #STEM, #SummerReading, autism spectrum, baseball, chapter books, economic diversity, Edgar Awards, Eric Carle, knitting, librarians, literacy programs, new readers, Readergirlz, Scholastic, schools, Sesame Street, teaching, and Women's History Month.

Book Lists + Awards

QueenOfTheDiamondIt's almost #baseball season! Yay! @momandkiddo shares Best Children's #PictureBooks about Baseball #BookList https://t.co/EKFG9CK1XZ

2017 #AnnaDewdney #ReadTogether Award Finalists Announced | 5 excellent #PictureBooks http://ow.ly/g9V930a89dZ  @PublishersWkly @penguinkids

In honor of #WomensHistoryMonth 20 #PictureBook biographies about awesome women! from @literacious  http://ow.ly/s4M830a3x5f  #BookList

#EasyReader List for the 2017 #SummerReading Program, focus on Architecture, Building + Construction http://ow.ly/Snjj30a7DYN  @mrskatiefitz 

Chapter Book List focused on Architecture, Building + Construction for 2017 #SummerReading from @mrskatiefitz http://ow.ly/atB630aaal0  [See also middle grade list here: http://ow.ly/AmnA30ac8cQ]

2017 Edgar Award Nominees in juvenile + #YA categories from @tashrow    #mysteries #kidlit https://t.co/wJN7VPw3hE

Diversity

When Our #Reading Lives Help Us Understand Our Life Situations | #kidlit mirrors for financial stress http://ow.ly/bJuQ30a3wXP  @nerdybookclub

WalkWithMeWe need #kidlit mirrors reflecting class issues: @SevenImp shares 2 #PictureBooks w/ economic difficulty http://ow.ly/g1kc30a0Ypv  @FuseEight

This is interesting. @sesamestreet introduces first new TV muppet in 10 years: Julia, who has #autism @npr_ed https://t.co/3SzJTO7YMw

Judging Books by Their Covers, looking for brown people, post by Laura Reiko Simeon @LEEandLOW via @CynLeitichSmith https://t.co/LT5ewaZOTc

This made me sad: author @Barbaradee2 asked by teachers not to talk about her #lgbt -friendly book http://ow.ly/nMet30ac7Cf  @nerdybookclub

Events + Programs

VeryHungryCaterpillarToday is The Very Hungry Caterpillar Day | @greenbeanreads has the scoop  #VHCday @penguinkids  #kidlit http://ow.ly/kf4c30a56ed 

Educators: @Scholastic #SummerReading Challenge is a chance to win 500 books for your #school to encourage #reading http://ow.ly/I3KM30a589o 

New @scbwi #literacy initiative Books For Readers gets books into hands of kids + teens http://ow.ly/RGXc30a11Ue  @leewind @CynLeitichSmith

A toast to the end of @readergirlz Not so needed now to connect teen girls + authors but still loved http://ow.ly/6WqZ30a0Z1g  @lorieanngrover

Book drive for elementary school of robotics team champs told to "go back to Mexico" via @haleshannon  #STEM #kidlit https://t.co/2HlMtcASjh

Growing Bookworms

TheWildRobotCrossing #Literacy Thresholds: Tips for When Kids Are “Stuck” #Reading the Same Things — Julie Hakim Azzam @HornBook http://ow.ly/CvzJ30aadGd 

#Road2Reading Challenge: Navigating Chapter Books: What #Readers Need to Know @alybee930 http://ow.ly/vjDi30a7CpC  w/ #BookList

Chapter book Challenges: @CarrieGelson shares roadblocks + needed skills to help kids make the leap to chapter books https://t.co/QmvXLp9vNr

Toy “Sleepovers” at the #Library Boost Kids’ #Reading Skills, Says New Study | Linda Rodgers @sljournal https://t.co/A1H79eUcP5

Growth Mindset

AWrinkleInTimeYoung Adult (+ middle grade) Novels That Model a #GrowthMindset | @edutopia via  @tashrow http://ow.ly/cPgC30a13MA  #YA #AWrinkleInTime 

Schools and Libraries

Canadian #teacher wins $1M #GlobalTeachingPrize for work in Inuit community in northern Quebec http://ow.ly/8SSX30a59Dl  @CBCRadioCanada

If goal is to increase #reading scores, cutting #librarians + media specialists are steps in the wrong direction https://t.co/BYPIP7Pby6

Three Rules for a Fabulous #SummerReading Program from a #MiddleSchool teacher #librarian @sljournal  http://ow.ly/Uk7b30a7NCE  | Offer choice

ChildDevelopmentAsking children to accomplish tasks (e.g. writing) before they’re developmentally ready leads to failure! @raepica1 https://t.co/hd65kkMiIB

Why Kids Shouldn’t Sit Still in Class - movement breaks help attitude + #learning http://ow.ly/BS0W30aa99o  Donna De La Cruz @nytimes

Assigned #Reading often Fails where #ChoiceReading Soars | @3TeachersTalk on problems w/ whole-class novels https://t.co/reqDp647Gi

STEM

Growing movement uses knitting + crocheting to teach #mathematical thought + interest girls in #STEM http://ow.ly/J1mS30a7D6i  @brightreads

© 2017 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook


Horizon: Scott Westerfeld

Book: Horizon
Author: Scott Westerfeld
Pages: 256
Age Range: 9-12

HorizonHorizon is the first of a new seven-book series from Scholastic. Scott Westerfeld wrote this one, and outlined all seven of the books, but other authors will be writing the remaining books (starting with Jennifer Nielsen writing Book 2). You can read Scott Westerfeld's announcement about the series here. Horizon is middle grade science fiction, intriguing enough that I certainly think that middle schoolers will also want to take a look. I read it in two quick sittings, finding it to be like the television series Lost, but aimed at kids. 

Eight kids are the only survivors of a plane crash. Although their flight was passing over the arctic, they find themselves in a jungle full of strange animals and phenomena. Four of the kids are engineers from Brooklyn, a robotics team on their way to a contest in Japan. After the crash they meet up with two young Japanese sisters returning home from boarding school, a Japanese-American teen also returning home, and a rather bossy Alpha male named Caleb. They have to learn to work together, while focusing on both basic survival and trying to understand what's happened. Their survival is clearly not random - they were somehow chosen by an electrical force that rejected everyone else on the plane. 

Things I enjoyed about Horizon:

  • The kids' application of engineering principles to understand things. They also find a device that disrupts basic physical principles, like gravity. This is a book that puts the science in science fiction, something particularly welcome (as far as I'm concerned) in a book for middle grade audiences. 
  • The multicultural cast. The kids from Brooklyn appear to include Hispanic and African American backgrounds. The Japanese girls don't even speak English, and end up teaching the American kids a few Japanese words along the way. 
  • The complex and intriguing setting. There are sentient vines, birds that attack humans, and other odd phenomena. 
  • The pacing of the story. Westerfeld keeps the kids in crisis, frequently separated, and often in peril. Middle grade readers will keep turning the pages to understand what happens next. 

My main quibble about the book as it stands was that I thought that the characterization could have been a bit deeper. I had trouble keeping defining characteristics of some of the characters in my head. But perhaps this is a deliberate way to allow more scope to the future authors of the series. There's definitely a videogame/movie feel to the book - it's clearly not meant to be a character study. [There's some sort of online game, apparently, but I haven't checked that out.]

As part of a seven-book series, Horizon naturally leaves pretty much everything unresolved. I think it will leave young readers eager to read the next book. I've personally not found in the past that series with different authors for different books tend to hold up for me, but I am interested to at least check out the second book. [See also Ms. Yingling's take on Horizon, she is weary of the 7 book series.]  

Science and survival, with a multicultural slant, aimed at middle grade readers. Libraries, at least those not put off by a longer series, will definitely want to give Horizon a look. Recommended for science fiction (and Lost) fans. 

Publisher: Scholastic (@Scholastic
Publication Date: March 28, 2017
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2017 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).


Four Recent Articles About Growing Bookworms: #eReading, Pleasure Reading + #ReadingAloud

JoyOFLearningLogoRecently, I've run across a number of articles that all touch on aspects of growing young bookworms. The first is about how kids prefer to read print books, and how research has shown that kids who have access to electronic devices tend to read less (even if the devices have books on them). The second article is a list of ten tips for parents to encourage kids to enjoy reading, written by a youth service librarian. The third is about how and why teachers should read aloud to older students, and the fourth is also aimed at teachers, discouraging the grading of students' independent reading. Each of these articles spoke to me on one level or another, and I hope that you find them useful. 

Research suggests providing kids w/ #eReading devices can inhibit their #reading - response + tips @ConversationUS https://t.co/4rbl0FOK0b

Margaret Kristin Merga and Saiyidi Mat Roni: "In a study of children in Year 4 and 6, those who had regular access to devices with eReading capability (such as Kindles, iPads and mobile phones) did not tend to use their devices for reading - and this was the case even when they were daily book readers.

Research also found that the more devices a child had access to, the less they read in general.

It suggests that providing children with eReading devices can actually inhibit their reading, and that paper books are often still preferred by young people."

Me: This post is a response to / recap of a recently published study. In addition to discussing the reasons for the results quoted above, it also includes tips for encouraging children to read. The primary conclusions, that kids prefer to read print books, and that access to devices is tied to less reading by kids, matches with my own intuition, and with what I've observed in my daughter. For instance, we have a family rule that she's not allowed to use her tablet in the car if the drive is less than 30 minutes. So, she reads. But if I would let her, she would use the tablet nearly every time.

As for print books, I've just always felt that those would be better for her, and I've never really dabbled in eBooks for her. She likes to see the pictures, and to have a sense of how much of the book is left. She likes to figure out what percentage of the book she has completed (and I would MUCH rather have her figure this out than spot it in the footer on a Kindle). She's also been passing books back and forth with a close friend, something that would be much more difficult for them in digital format. 

CaptainUnderpantsWell-done: Top 10 Tips for Parents of Kids Who HATE to Read | "Pleasure reading should be just that" + don't judge https://t.co/CLbOp7rsR0

Meredith Hoyer: "3. Forget about progress. In schools, the focus is on progress and growth, as it should be. When you come to the public library, you will notice that we don’t level our books, and that stems from the philosophy of public libraries being a place of informal learning. “My child is at an M level and he needs to be reading P level books but he hates to read and won’t read anything I give him,” a parent might say. It is natural for parents to want to support progress. However, once reading becomes a battle in the home, our best advice is to take a breath, forget about reading levels, and gently guide the child back to a point where reading is comfortable, relaxed and pleasant again. Your child’s teacher will focus on development and progress. Pleasure reading should be just that: pleasurable."

Me: I see a lot of these tip-based posts for encouraging reading, and I share them often. But I thought that this one, written by a youth services librarian, was particularly good. The above quotation gives a nice flavor of Meredith Hoyer's balanced, parent-focused approach. I also especially liked tip 4, about withholding judgement, ending with "If your child chooses comic books, joke books, or Captain Underpants, take the long view and let him/her have fun." 

I feel strongly that my job as a parent who wants to raise a child who enjoys reading is to do whatever I can to make reading enjoyable. Meredith Hoyer and I are clearly on the same page about the ways to do that. 

RivetingReadAloudsCoverRiveting Read Alouds (How and Why to #ReadAloud in classroom with Older Students) | @Scholastic http://ow.ly/1ivb309Ngxv 

Janet Allen: "Television shows vie for the best time slots during prime time; reading aloud is prime time in the classroom because you have used the time to get students engaged. While many factors influence whether teachers choose to read aloud with adolescents, the benefits of establishing reading aloud as an important part of your literacy instruction are well-known. Let’s talk about just a few of the benefits my students and I discovered as we make a case for reading aloud.

Enjoyment: When reading a well-chosen text as a read aloud, you provide readers with a risk-free opportunity to experience the "charm, magic, impact and appeal" (Mooney, 1988) of language and story. It helps them see that text has meaning, especially because their comprehension can often be greater during read-aloud time than when they try to decode text on their own. This results in students being motivated to read more."

Me: I like that this article, on the Scholastic education blog, is specifically focused on reading aloud to older kids, and on the reasons that teachers should read aloud. In addition to the reasons (the first of several is quoted above), Janet Allen offers teachers tips for getting started. The article concludes with a pitch for the author's new book, Riveting Read Alouds for Middle School (with Patrick Daley, published by Scholastic). The book includes "35 engaging read-aloud selections for older students: fiction, nonfiction, poetry, humor writing and more."

While I follow a number of blogging teachers who read aloud to older students, I suspect that this is relatively rare in practice. I think it would be great if this book helped inspire other teachers to give it a try. 

PassionateLearnersPlease, YES! Can We Please Stop Grading Independent Reading? asks @pernilleripp  http://ow.ly/Eatc309PQAc  #RaisingReaders

Pernille Ripp: "So just like we would never grade a child for how many math problems they choose to solve on their own, how many science magazines they browsed or how many historical documents they perused, we should not grade how many books a child chooses to read.  We should not tie pages read with a grade, nor an assessment beyond an exploration into how they can strengthen their reading habits.  Number of books read, minutes spent, or pages turned will never tell us the full story.  Instead it ends up being yet another way we can chastise the kids that need us to be their biggest reading cheerleaders."

Me: I spoke the other night to a young man who loved to read as a child, but railed against the elementary and middle school AR program. He said that it had kept him from reading the books that he wanted, because either they weren't part of the program, or they weren't at the approved level for him. His arguments were against how the program as implemented affected him as an advanced reader. But me, I was just wondering why we need to be measuring the reading of kids who love books at all. When I was in elementary school I read constantly, with some guidance from teachers and the school librarian. But even the public library's summer reading programs turned me off, because I wanted to just read, not track what I was reading.

Now, I get that not all kids are avid readers, and that there may be tracking programs that help in some cases. And I get that Pernille Ripp's more individualized assessment approach is probably more time-consuming. But still ... I was pleased to see a teacher publicly calling for not grading independent reading. Teachers can find more information on nurturing readers in the classroom in Pernille's book, Passionate Learners.

© 2017 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This post may contain affiliate links.