Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: November 10: Mirror Books, #GrowthMindset, #KidLitCon + Pretend #Play

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. In addition to what I've shared here, I also retweeted quite a few posts from last weekend's Kidlitosphere Conference. To see all of the KidLitCon related tweets, simply search for the #KidLitCon hashtag. Other topics this week include #BookLists, #Cybils, #DiverseBooks, #GrowthMindset, #KidLitCon, #math, #nonfiction, #play, #STEM, early literacy, flexible seating, libraries, movie adaptations, parenting, personalized learning, reading, teaching, and writing.

Top Tweet of the Week

The Power of Being Seen | article about a Nevada middle where teachers make effort to know kids [This was retweeted more than 30 times, mainly by educators.]

Book Lists

WorstPrincessHere Be Dragons: 16 Books Starring Dragon-Loving Mighty Girls from

Reading for Empathy, + links to others from

The Best Illustrated Children’s Books of 2017 according to

of Favorite Books for 6 Year-Olds from + her son

Holiday Cheer: New Titles To Help Celebrate Christmas and Hanukkah | w/ short reviews

Young Adult Book Holiday Gift Guide: 2017 Edition from


ShacklesFromTheDeepToday's featured REVIEW: Shackles from the Deep, jr. high nominee, reviewed by

Today's Featured REVIEW: Yvain: The Knight of the Lion, rev. by Benedict Hutchinson, son of

Today's Featured REVIEW: Amina’s Voice by , reviewed by

Diversity + Gender

College-Savings Imbalance: Parents Put Aside More $ for Sons Than Daughters - (subscription req.)

The Importance of “Mirror Books” in the Classroom | Anna Nardelli via

SofiaMartinezWe Need Diverse Series by

Events and Programs

UK launches CWIG Award from authors to |

Baby's Got Mail: Free Books Boost Early :

Growing Bookworms

Fear Not The Adaptation. makes the case that it can be ok for kids to see the movie first

For those who love connecting kids w/ books, reading THIS from When a Moment Can Change A School Year [It brought a tear to my eye. Seriously. Read it.]

Growth Mindset

. power of ‘I can't do this ... Yet!’ isn’t just for kids; it can change the world Sal Kahn


MsYinglingKidLitConPanelSome photos + memories from [Image credit to Ms. Yingling Reads, where you can see the list of panelists shown in the photo]

It's Monday! What are you reading? list with memories from

10 Years of Scope Notes: Reader Survey Results | A lot of (mostly) women who really like

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

TheEmptyGraveIn Memorandum: Lockwood & Company — Thoughts from as 's series comes to an end

Top Ten Nerdy Book Places to find new titles by Jennifer Ansbach

Mentor Texts for the Process, by Shari Frost


Hoping to learn from a sad incident with high schoolers not to judge other , wise words from

Mean Girls of 1974, still relevant: Thoughts running through 's head while reading Judy Blume’s Blubber

FreeRangeKidsWhen we say "Be Careful!" we are teaching children to fear and NOT teaching them to navigate risk, warns [Free Range Kids author Lenore Skenazy is quoted.]


The Power of Pretending: Playing or other heroes helps kids' performance,

Schools and Libraries

A reminder from to say Open to Possibilities when kids

Study finds standing + exercise breaks improve thinking. Should do this for kids via

Five Tips For Helping Angry Children Have Better Days -

Ideas from for libraries promoting to students | Meeting ALL types of readers where they are

The Case(s) Against | digs into the 3 main critiques


5 Beliefs that Prevent Teachers from Increasing Rigor | Jessica Carlson

© 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.

Yes, #GraphicNovels Are Real Books

I've had a couple of parents approach me recently with questions akin to: "How do I get my child to read something else besides graphic novel? I want him to read real chapter books." To which I say: "Why do you need to do this?" If your child is reading graphic novels, then he is reading. Graphic novels are real books. If your child is reading graphic novels avidly, then my suggestion is not to try to push him to chapter books. My suggestion is to find him more graphic novels.

RealFriendsNow, I will concede one issue that I've run into due to my daughter's devotion to graphic novels. There just aren't as many graphic novels as there are chapter books. This means that we can actually run out of books for her to read that are even remotely age appropriate (and believe me, I have stretched this upwards). She doesn't help matters by having only passing interest in fantasy - she wants thick, realistic graphic novels only. And she pretty much has all of the ones I can find that she can understand. She simply reads those over and over again. I'm fairly sure she must know Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham's Real Friends by heart. 

Because of this shortage I have tried introducing some notebook novels into the mix. These still have plenty of illustrations, but also have more text. My daughter is having none of it. This means that unless I can find new graphic novels that she likes, she ends up reading less. Which is certainly not the goal. But I personally think it would be worse to push her to read books that she's not interested in. So I don't. 

Graphic novels, by their nature, provide more scaffolding to new readers. They can often figure out what's going on by looking at the pictures, even when the vocabulary might be above their heads. My daughter told me that she finds graphic novels easier to read because "you don't have to read all that 'he said' 'she said' stuff." To her, it's more intuitive to just SEE who is saying what. 

Graphic novels are also generally fast reads - our eyes can scan pictures faster than we can read words. My daughter is currently whipping her way through the Amulet series (here we have branched out a bit from the realistic fiction, though she doesn't expect to have an interest in re-reading these). Because they can be thick, but still a fast read, graphic novels give new readers a sense of accomplishment. 

SunnySideUpAnd just like chapter books, graphic novels can cover serious issues. In Sunny Side Up, by Jenni Holm and Matt Holm, young Sunny's summer is overshadowed by her worries about her older brother, whose drug problem has led to erratic behavior. This is shown via flashbacks, and the graphic format allows the authors to imply the drug use without speaking of it directly. This means that it's not overwhelming for my daughter (I think it mostly went over her head), but it's there for older readers to process. 

For more on benefits of graphic novels, see this digital document created by the Comic Book Legal Defense Club: Raising a Reader! How Comics & Graphic Novels Can Help Your Kids Love To Read!, a resource for parents & educators about the learning benefits of comics. This is a great resource for parents covering things that graphic novels offer kids, tips for parents for navigating graphic novels, ideas for creating reading dialogs with graphic novels, booklists, and more.

So why are some parents (and many librarians, for that matter), so determined to push kids out of graphic novels and into chapter books? Here are three possible reasons:

  1. Parents don't like to see kids re-reading the same books over and over again when they could perhaps benefit from exposure to a broader array of titles.
  2. Graphic novels are different from the books that we grew up with, and we aren't as comfortable reading them. I personally don't much like reading graphic novels. I prefer the linearity of straight-up text. I find it distracting to have to look at the whole picture in each panel, and figure out what comes first. This bias on my own part makes it more challenging for me to support my daughter's graphic novel passion. But I do it anyway.
  3. The more academically-focused parents probably want their children reading more words, instead of looking at pictures, so that they are on a path to better test scores, etc. 

WrinkleInTimeGraphicTo reason one I say: try to find more graphic novels, if you can. Perhaps look to graphic novelizations of traditional chapter books. Did you know that there's a graphic novel version of A Wrinkle In Time? Ask librarians for help. And then maybe very gently offer things that stretch the child's reading zone. There are some nonfiction graphic novel-style books coming out - maybe these will lead into actual nonfiction on the same topics. For my realistic graphic novel-obsessed daughter I'm quietly mixing in some fantasy. I don't push, but I grab things from the library and offer them. If they are rejected I can return them easily enough. 

To reason two I say: try to get over your own feelings about graphic novels. Your child does not have to like the same books that you liked. I think it's ok to explain to your kids that you aren't as much of a fan as they are, as long as you respect their reasons for liking graphic novels. You can also learn more about graphic novels via resources like the CBLDF booklet linked above. Some extremely fine authors are producing simply fabulous books in this area. It's ok to take graphic novels seriously. They are much more than the old Archie comics from when we were kids.  

ReadAloudHandbookTo reason three I say this: our goal as parents should be to help our children learn to LOVE books. If we are successful at this, then they will read books. As they read more books, they will get better at reading, and they will want to read even more. We'll have a virtuous cycle in which their reading skill enhances their enjoyment, and vice versa. (See Jim Trelease's The Read Aloud Handbook for more about this).

I believe that if you have a child who loves books, she will eventually want to read MORE books, and she'll more than likely branch out from graphic novels. Maybe she'll move to notebook novels like Dork Diaries. Maybe she'll move to series books like the Rainbow Fairies. Maybe she'll go straight to the non-graphic version of A Wrinkle in Time, if she's old enough. Because that's what real readers do. As an adult, I like to read mysteries. If there's nothing new by any of my favorite mystery authors, perhaps I'll pick up some nonfiction, or science fiction, or re-read a classic. Readers find a way to read. Our goal should be to nurture readers. 

Shawna Coppola writes about this topic in "But they only read graphic novels". She links to some background on "the myriad of benefits that reading comics and graphic novels offer readers of all ages" but concedes that there can be a valid interest in teaching kids to have a more balanced reading diet. She suggests that we mine this food analogy to encourage kids to read different things, with different benefits. She also suggests for teachers "Perhaps we ought to simply let our students read what they want to during independent reading time–including as many graphic novels as their charming little brains can handle, for Pete’s sake–and be incredibly mindful about offering multiple opportunities for them to read and engage with other kinds of texts throughout the remainder of our time with them."

LunchLadyFieldTripMy personal belief is that this is what we should be doing at home - letting kids read what they want to read, to nurture their love of reading. What I also do is read aloud a more challenging work with my daughter, and talk her through the details, as a way to expose her to more complex plots and substantive vocabulary words. I feel like if she is listening to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, she's more than welcome to read the Lunch Lady books 10 times over on her own.

I've never personally been a big reader of graphic novels. But I will defend to all comers my daughter's right to prefer them. First, because there are many benefits to graphic novels, and second because I truly believe that one of the most important things we can do to nurture young readers is to give them choice in their reading. 

© 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

Groundhug Day: Anne Marie Pace & Christopher Denise

Book: Groundhug Day
Author: Anne Marie Pace
Illustrator: Christopher Denise
Pages: 48
Age Range: 4-8

GroundhugDayGroundhug Day, by Anne Marie Pace and Christopher Denise, is a charming story about holidays and friendship. It's February 1st, and Moose, with the help of his friends Bunny, Porcupine, and Squirrel, is planning a Valentine's Day party. The animals want their friend Groundhog to be able to attend. They worry, however, that he will see his shadow in the morning and go back inside for six more weeks. As they fight over various schemes for keeping Groundhog from seeing his shadow, they end up too late. But they nonetheless make a valiant effort to convince Groundhog to stay aboveground and to learn not to be afraid of shadows. Although things don't turn out quite the way the animals wanted, they do end up with groundhugs all around, and the chance to celebrate other holidays going forward. 

The bickering between the four well-intentioned friends follows a pattern throughout the book, sure to be reassuring to young listeners. Groundhug Day strikes me as more of a book to be read aloud to a child than for the child to read himself, with words like "silhouette" and "thundered". It would be fun for a parent or librarian to read aloud, doing distinct voices for the various animals. Here's a snippet to show the different voices:

""But you're not afraid of shadows
anymore," Moose protested.
"Now you don't have to miss my
Valentine's Day party."

"I may not be afraid,"
Groundhog said,
"but it is cold up here."

"But there aren't any balloons in your hole," said Squirrel.
"Or Valentine cards!" said Bunny.
"Or Valentine hugs!" said Porcupine pointedly."

Little snicker at: "Porcupine said pointedly." One can see that Anne Marie Pace (author of the Vampirina books) has put care into every work. I also like that she doesn't overly spell out details about Groundhog Day or the other holidays. She lets the details flow from the text, or from whatever auldt is reading the book aloud to young listeners.

Christopher Denise's digitally created illustrations lend both warmth and humor to the story. Each animal's personality comes through via details of their representation, with the paternalistic Moose wearing a sweater and glasses, and Porcupine thoroughly pouting when he laments the lack of hugs. When Groundhog emerges from his den in a St. Patrick's Day outfit near the end of the book, he's practically a different animal from the one who wasn't really ready to face the winter in early February. 

Groundhug Day is a fun addition to the ranks of holiday picture books - covering Groundhog Day, Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day, and even Easter. It would be a nice selection for any library serving preschoolers. My seven-year-old read it on her own and pronounced it a book that I had to write about. And so I have. Recommended!

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion (@DisneyHyperion)
Publication Date: December 5, 2018
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).

Further Evidence that It's All About Choice

My daughter regularly grumbles about her math homework. It's not that she usually finds it difficult, but that she resents having to do it at all. When it's easy for her she resents it more, because she sees her time as being wasted. Luckily for me, she usually does her math homework at her after school care (where all of the kids are expected to do homework at the same time), so I don't have to listen to the complaints.

MathWorkbookImagine my surprise the other morning when she asked to cut short our breakfast reading session so that we could work together on "math facts". She pulled out the workbook from a previous math module (they get to keep them after the module is completed) and started filling in unused pages. The next morning she asked to do the same thing.

So, when it's homework, she is annoyed and irritable about having to do it. But when it's her choice, she will happily pull out the same workbook and do the same activities.

It is possible that some of this difference stems from the fact that I'm sitting snuggled with her on the couch doing this "math facts" activity, vs. her sitting at Kids Club or at our kitchen table on her own. I could test this theory by doing her math homework with her on the couch (though this runs counter to my goal for her to learn to do her homework independently).

But I think it mainly boils down to free choice. When we're playing "math facts" she picks which pages look interesting. She stops to sketch on the unused backs of pages. She stops mid-activity if something is boring. When it comes to homework, it's not doing math that's the problem. It's doing a particular set of math problems that someone else expects her to do at a certain time, regardless of her own mood and inclination. The parallels to required reading are obvious here. 

This makes me wonder: if her teacher were to assign her to read graphic novels every day as homework, would she grumble and complain and stop enjoying them? This is an experiment that I do not wish to undertake. Because it is quite possible that the answer would be yes.

It's all about free choice. Which is not to say that teachers don't have to follow a logical curriculum, or that my daughter won't have to learn that sometimes you have to do things on other people's timeline. But it's also true that self-directed inquiry is more engaging for her than assigned work, particularly in that outside of school time that she considers her own. This is probably the case for most of us.

© 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

Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: November 3: #KidLitCon, #Cybils, #Halloween + Growing #Readers

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. First up, while I'm not sharing the related links, the Kidlitosphere Conference is taking place today in Hershey, PA. I was unable to attend (travel is pretty difficult for me these days), but I hope that everyone there is having a fabulous time!! Follow the #KidLitCon hashtag on Twitter for updates. I'll be retweeting as my schedule permits.

In other news, I have posts about #AcceleratedReader, #BookLists, #DiverseBooks, #GrowingBookworms, #Halloween, #math, #PictureBookMonth, #PictureBooks, flexible classrooms, grades, reading for pleasure, schools, teaching, the #Cybils Awards, and gender.

Book Lists

LovelyBadOnes5 Creepy Books Set in New England for Chilly Nights - by via

Historical + Contemporary Middle Grade Books, a from

Roundup of 2017 Best Books Lists started at w/ 's picks


EmptyGraveToday's featured REVIEW: Lockwood & Co., Book 5: The Empty Grave by , review by

Today's featured REVIEW by of nominee Chef Roy Choi and the Street Food Remix

Today's featured REVIEW: Circle, Triangle, Elephant: A Book of Shapes and Surprises, review by Tiffa Foster

Easy Readers/Early Chapters Nominations w/ links from Jennifer Wharton

Full list of Elementary/Middle Grade Nominations w/ links to chair Jennifer Wharton's reviews

Events + Programs

LegendRockPaperScissorsSome of the best -themed costumes from over the years according to

Speaking of costumes, Bookmark Wishes You a Happy Day

founders share tributes to Dianne de Las Casas , + more


I’m 10. And I Want Girls to Raise Their Hands. OpEd in @nytopinionabout girls + confidence

Growing Bookworms

ReadingUnboundThe Benefits of for Pleasure. How + can help via

"We need to be connecting kids with books" by

The benefits of wordless (esp. for pre-literate kids) by Hilary Hawkes

How Samantha Goodger is treating work in high school recovery courses as a "do over" to develop lifelong

Book Buzz: How Elementary Principal is Promoting a by Letting Students Shine in videos

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

In the quest for also include positive portrayals of / interactions w/ white characters says

Schools and Libraries

ReadingStrategiesRT The 18 Reasons Not to Use Accelerated Reader | Pennington Publishing Blog

A defense from of when implemented effectively | "If you don't like it don't use it"

[I rounded up other posts about Accelerated Reader, and added my own thoughts, in this post.]

How Can We Expect Students to Focus on When Educators Only Care About ?

RT @MindShiftKQED: Answers to some of the logistical questions that come up around flexibly classrooms

KickStartKindergartenSchool Readiness AND Developmentally Appropriate Practice? How to Get on the Same Page with Parents

Thoughts on Meeting Where They Are, and what can + can't control from


Jeannie Curtis urges to have More Talking about problems in Class

© 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.

The Little Girl Who Didn't Want to Go to Bed: Dave Engledow

Book: The Little Girl Who Didn't Want to Go to Bed
Author: David Engledow
Pages: 40
Age Range: 4-8

LittleGirlDidntWantThe Little Girl Who Didn't Want to Go to Bed is the first picture book by photographer David Engledow. The story itself is pretty straightforward picture book fare: little girl doesn't want to go to sleep because she feels like she is missing something. She ends up staying up all night, and is so tired the next day that she misses the real fun that she could have had. And so she decides that she will sleep at night after all.

What makes the book much more than that storyline, however, are Engledow's over-the-top illustrations, digitally manipulated photographs full of kid- and parent-friendly details. These are juxtaposed against text that is generally much more ordinary. For example: 

"Every night, she'd make up excuse after excuse...

"Just one more story. PLEEEEEEEEEASE?""

We see a picture of the little girl perched atop a teetering stack of picture books, surrounded by other stacks, and clutching a copy of "War and Peace." Small alphabet blocks spell out "ONE MORE STORY."

The blocks, as well as the girl's pink stuffed animal (in matching pajamas to her own) are in many of the illustrations, with the blocks spelling out key phrases. Then there are the parents. 

"Even after the lights were out, the little girl would lie awake imagining all the fun that must have been going on without her."

Here we see the parents, dressed up in fancy clothes, mom wearing a pink and white tiara, doing fun things like piñata, jigsaw puzzles, and bobbing for apples. At the very end of the book, when the girl is finally asleep in her own bed, there's a tiny hint that maybe that is the sort of thing the parents do.

But my favorite illustration is one where the girl sneaks out of her room at night and hides in the kitchen trash, banana peel on her head, apple in her mouth. The ones where she is tired and does things like put her arms through her pants are also pretty cute.

My seven year old thought that this book was hilarious. As for me, I thought at first that it would be a bit too gimmicky for me. But I have to say that The Little Girl Who Didn't Want to Go to Bed won me over through a combination of entertaining plot and humorous details. This would make a fun baby shower gift, in that it speaks as much to parents as to kids. It's definitely worth a look. Recommended. 

Publisher: HarperCollins  (@HarperChildrens
Publication Date: October 17, 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).

Growing Bookworms Newsletter: November 1: #PictureBooks, Family #Reading, #Homework + #AR

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 my daughter's latest literacy milestone (seeking comfort from favorite picture books). I also have a post about the emotional benefits of family reading and another about drawbacks to computerized reading programs like Accelerated Reader. I also have two posts with links that I shared recently on Twitter, and one post with more detailed quotes from an article about homework

Reading Update: In the last two weeks I somehow finished four middle grade books and five adult titles. I read/listened to: 

  • Michael Northrop: Polaris. Scholastic. Middle Grade Science Fiction. Completed October 21, 2017. Review to come.
  • Paul Noth: How to Sell Your Family to the Aliens. Bloomsbury. Middle Grade Fantasy. Completed October 22, 2017, print ARC. Review to come.
  • SunnySideUpJennifer L. Holm (ill. Matt Holm): Sunny Side Up. Graphix. Middle Grade Graphic Novel. Completed October 23, 2017. My daughter had me read this one to her, after she had already read it herself. I was glad that I did read it, because there are topics worthy of parent/child discussion here. 
  • Kazu Kibuishi: The Stonekeeper (Amulet, Book 1). Graphix. Middle Grade Graphic Novel. Completed October 24, 2017. My daughter insisted that I read this one, after she had finished it. It's not really my sort of thing, but I was glad that she liked it. 
  • Joy Ellis: Stalker on the Fens (Nikki Galena, Book 5). Joffe Books. Adult Mystery. Completed October 18, 2017, on MP3. I still like this series... 
  • Lea Waters: The Strength Switch: How The New Science of Strength-Based Parenting Can Help Your Child and Your Teen to Flourish. Avery. Adult Nonfiction. Completed October 18, 2017, on Kindle. This was an interesting read, and I am trying to be a bit more strength-focused in dealing with my daughter as a result. 
  • Brett Battles: The Destroyed (Jonathan Quinn, Book 5). CreateSpace. Adult Thriller. Completed October 21, 2017, on Kindle. These are popcorn books, almost entirely plot, but I enjoy them. 
  • Dan Ames: A Hard Man to Forget (The Reacher Files, Book 1). CreateSpace. Adult Thriller. Completed October 22, 2017, on Kindle. This is kind of a Reacher spin-off, and this one I didn't really care for. The conclusion came much too quickly, without the plot being fully formed. 
  • Joy Ellis: Captive on the Fens (Nikki Galena, Book 6). Joffe Books. Adult Mystery. Completed October 25, 2017, on MP3. I think that this series continues to improve. 
  • Harlan Coben: Don't Let Go. Dutton Books. Adult Mystery/Thriller. Completed October 31, 2017, on MP3. I found this standalone (with cameo from Myron Bolitar) satisfying, though one scene was a bit disturbing. The trouble with audio is that one can't easily skim... But I enjoyed it overall. 

AmuletBook1I'm currently listening to The Empty Grave (Lockwood & Co., Book 5) by Jonathan Stroud and reading iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy--and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood--and What That Means for the Rest of Us by Jean M. Twenge. My daughter and I are still reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire together at breakfast. We're up to the scene in the graveyard and expect to finish fairly soon. For her own reading, she is currently working her way through the Amulet series by Kazu Kibuishi. She didn't think that they were books she would want to re-read, however, so we got them from the library. The ones she reads over and over again are more realistic and character-driven (Real Friends, Babysitters Club), whereas the Amulet series is fantasy and apparently more plot-driven, so this makes sense to me.

She's also still re-reading the Lunch Lady series on a regular basis. The other night we played a couple of family rounds of Clue (her first time playing, except for an attempt with friends a couple of years ago). She got bored waiting for us during our turns, and started reading a Lunch Lady book while playing. Despite this, she somehow managed to win the second game, to my husband's and my astonishment. So much for our telling her that she needs to pay attention.

PomegranateWitchWe've also been re-reading some favorite picture books, and reading new and old Halloween-themed books. We had assembled a box of books to donate to a friend's school library, and I think that this sparked a renewed appreciation for the books that we wanted to keep. Also, though I didn't bother to log them on her reading list, she sat down the other afternoon and read all of our Elephant and Piggie books in one sitting (maybe 10 titles or so). I think she's getting a pretty good variety these days. As am I. 

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

Red Again: Barbara Lehman

Book: Red Again
Author: Barbara Lehman
Pages: 32
Age Range: 4-7

RedAgainRed Again is a new wordless picture book by Barbara Lehman. Like her other books (see my reviews of Rainstorm and Trainstop), Red Again offers quirky delights that celebrate friendship and make kids think. In Red Again, a boy on a bike (shown on the cover) finds a red book. When he takes it home and reads it, he discovers that the book is about a boy in a boat who also finds a red book. As the first boy reads his book, he see images of the boy in the book seeing images of him. So we have boy 1 looking at a picture of boy 2 looking at a picture of boy 1 looking at a picture of boy 2, and so on. It's fascinating and brilliant. As Red Again progresses, the boys find a way to meet in person, and the red book, cast aside, is found by a girl. Lehman doesn't have to show us what will happen next. 

I would have recognized the illustrations as Lehman's work anywhere. The first boy lives in a house in a city, along the waterfront. He travels up regular stairs, circular stairs, and a ladder to get to a glass cupola, where he reads his book (and from where he can eventually spot the boy in the boat). His setting reminded me very much of the settings in Rainstorm. It's not enough for Lehman to make the basic story intriguing, she also adds cool details like a glass cupola, and a telescope. The only red to be seen in most of the illustrations is the book itself, small compared to city- and seascapes, but visible throughout. 

As an added bonus, the first boy is African-American. The second boy is white, and from a much more rural environment. But of course no cosmetic differences matter once these two meet under such wondrous circumstances. 

Barbara Lehman's work just keeps getting better. Red Again is fabulous, and a book that I expect to keep for the long term. It will make kids think and make them smile. Highly recommended!

Publisher:  HMH Books for Young Readers (@HMHKids)
Publication Date: November 7, 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).

On the Emotional Benefits of A Family Reading Together

BigMeanMikeThis is a follow on post to one that I wrote last week about my daughter turning to favorite picture books for comfort. My friend Judy commented that I had under-emphasized an important aspect of the incident that I related. I had spoken of how my daughter was comforted by a particular book (Big Mean Mike), but Judy pointed out that my daughter hadn't selected that book to read by herself. She wanted ME to read it to her. Judy added: "during that reading and sharing of the book, the two of you were able to transform her sad and angry feelings." I realized that not only was Judy right, but that this topic called for another post. So this is with thanks to Judy. 

There are many benefits that accrue to my child from reading (empathy, vocabulary, imagination, self-soothing, etc.). One benefit that I particularly appreciate that affects both of us (and applies for my husband, too) is that reading together brings us closer. Part of this is physical - when we read together we are often snuggled up on the couch or in her bed, sharing a blanket. We even occasionally snuggle together when we are each reading our own book, though that's not quite the same. I love the feeling of being snuggled up together, reading a book. But even larger benefits are on the mental/emotional side. 

SwingItSunnyPart of the closeness that we achieve through shared reading is the building of a shared frame of reference. My husband and I still refer to our daughter as being like Mo Willems' Pigeon when she's tired but denying it. (She professes to hate this, but I think she will look back on it with affection). We frequently end up referring to what Harry or Hermione would or wouldn't do. We had to start watching old Brady Bunch episodes together because of Jenni Holm and Matt Holm's Swing It, Sunny. The examples of inside jokes and cultural references that have come to us from books are endless. 

Another part of the closeness stems from our mutual self-declaration of being people who enjoy reading. I'm very clear that this is a major part of my identity. Seeing my daughter start to declare this too is both validating and happy-making (because I know that reading will make her happier and more successful over time).

HarryPotterGobletofFireThen there is the building of shared values. Reading together is wonderful for that, and is going to increase, I think, as we read more chapter books. As one small example, my daughter was outraged when Ron accused Harry of putting his own name into the Goblet of Fire. We had a brief and mutually satisfying discussion to the effect that yes, you should trust your friends and offer them support instead of resentment. We've also discussed bullying, conformity, and reaching out to new kids, as a result of picture books. I look forward to shared reading of further portrayals of loyalty, bravery, kindness, and persistence.  

13ReasonsAnd while I wouldn't say that I look forward to this, exactly, I think that as my daughter and I continue to read together, we will be able to use books as stepping stones to discuss difficult topics. Several of my friends who have slightly older daughters are already reading books about puberty with them. These same friends have proposed reading Wonder with our kids, and then seeing the movie together. I fully intend to read books like Speak and 13 Reasons Why with my daughter when she is older and ready to understand them. 

So yes, she can read on her own now. But I plan for us to keep reading together, also, for as long as possible. Reading together brings us closer, physically and emotionally. It's not something that any parent should give up lightly. 

© 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).

Some Thoughts + Recent Articles about Life without Accelerated Reader (AR)

My daughter is in second grade. At her school, this means dipping a toe into the world of Accelerated Reader (AR). I think she's supposed to get five points a month, but it's not required. The idea is apparently to get the kids used to the program. The AR tests haven't been a problem so far (because she hasn't actually taken any tests), but my fear is that AR will eventually drown her love of reading, if I do not fight back. 

WonderHere's one small example. My friend's daughter is in fourth grade at the same school. Recently my friend lamented that her daughter couldn't start the book that she wanted to read (Wonder by R.J. Palacio, a book that most parents and teachers would want a child to be reading), because she wouldn't be able to finish it in time to take the AR test by the end of the month. And she needed to get a certain number of AR points by the end of the month in order to achieve a particular grade in reading. This strikes me as so, so very wrong. When you have a kid who wants to read a particular book at home, the reading "incentive" program should not be what is stopping her.

Another mom talked to me a while back about how her son wanted to read the Harry Potter books, but wouldn't be allowed to take the AR tests because the books were above his so called reading level, and so read something else. This seems again wrong to me. If a child wants to stretch himself because he's fascinated by a particular book (and his parents don't have content issues regarding the book), he should be able to do so. The reading program should not be discouraging him. 

LunchLadyFieldTripOne of my personal concerns is that my daughter likes to re-read books. She reads a particular selection of graphic novels over and over again. Re-reading something that many avid readers do, each for our reasons. But AR is going to discourage this, isn't it? Because you can only take the AR test once. And will she be able to get "enough" AR points for graphic novels, or is the program going to push her to read books that she's not interested in? I know that not all books even have AR tests (particularly nonfiction titles), so that's an issue, too. 

Mind you, I do not intend to have my daughter competing for the leader board in the library, where the kids who have the most AR points are listed. I'm going to follow the example of another parent I know, who told me that she always encouraged her kids to get the minimum required number of AR points, and then read what they wanted. Her kids still read for pleasure in high school. But should we have to be working around the school's program to keep our children reading? This seems really counter-productive to me. The school is spending money on this program, money that could instead be spent on, say, books, and I'm afraid that it will keep my daughter from reading for pleasure? Crazy. 

I get that having a required number of a AR points is a way to force certain kids who wouldn't otherwise be reading to read. I get that the program isn't really aimed at my daughter, or at my friend's Wonder-reading daughter. But if the program is hurting the kids who already like to read, isn't that a problem? And what about the kids who are struggling, and for whom the AR tests are too difficult? Is the program really helping them?

Isn't there a better way? 

My sources say that yes, there is a better way. Here are a selection of articles that I have read and shared recently on the subject:

PassionateReadersPlease, + , read 's post On + All the Other Computer Programs

Pernille Ripp: "And before, someone tells me that for some kids programs like this works, I would like to know what we define as “works?”  Do we define “works” as rushing to read another book?  As sharing the incredible experience a book just provided them with others?  Do we define “works” as cannot wait to read another book, outside of class not because they have to but because they want to?  Do we define “works” as continuing to develop a positive reading identity that will carry them into adulthood?

Or do we define ‘”works” as kids doing it because they are rule followers and don’t want to cause a stir? Do we define “works” as a computer telling us how much a child remembered from the book they just read?  Do we define it as how many points they have gained this year as a supposed reflection on how they have grown as readers?  Or as now we know which book a child should read next because the computer told them so?

Because if that is what we mean be developing lifelong readers then I must have lost my mind."

Me: Pernille has a lot more to say about computer-based reading programs, and what schools should/could be doing instead to foster young readers. Please click through to read the full piece. Honestly, I wish that parents and teachers everywhere would read this, and believe it, and start conversations around change because of it. 

How can create Engagement in a non-AR School by , Connect, w/ authors

Angie's post begins with a reference to a YouTube rant by librarian Colby Sharp about AR. Colby is furious that he can't recommend a book that he thinks a high school student ought to read, because that book isn't on AR, and instead he has to waste his time finding a book that he can recommend to this kid that has the right number of AR points. Colby is not at all polite in his impressions of AR, shall we say. 

Angie Huesgen: "Colby is mad and rightfully so. This topic is not a new one. We know there is little research to confirm that AR increases reading achievement, or turns out readers beyond the books in the system, as Donalyn Miller wrote extensively about 7 years ago. We know the assessment that “places” these readers and provides a reading level range is flawed. Pernille Ripp digs into that assessment in this blog post which includes a response from Accelerated Reader’s parent company, Renaissance Learning.  

We know all this, and yet AR is still widely used as a reading achievement indicator and reading incentive. Colby’s message lit a fire in me and I went down the rabbit hole of reading the comments. The sheer number of those in defense of AR still baffles me but what I really took away from these comments was that human connection was never mentioned. I find it difficult to believe that a computerized program alone is the sole factor in a school’s increased reading engagement and achievement. I would strongly argue that a computer is not what gets kids excited about reading….people do."

Me: Angie's school is a non-AR school, the only one in her district, and she offers a list of ways that kids pick out books in a non-AR school. This list, too, I wish would be widely read by administrators, teachers, and parents. My favorite observation is this one: "You give them total choice in the library. To quote our beloved librarian and some teachers in our school, “This is a library. They can get what they want.”"  

Interesting post  on how his  stopped using  | I'll be interested in outcome

Matt Renwick: "Now that we had collective commitments along with a focus on literacy, I think our lens changed a bit. Maybe I can only speak for myself, but we started to take a more critical look at our current work. What was working and what wasn’t?

Around that time, I discovered a summary report from the What Works Clearinghouse, a part of the Institute of Educational Sciences within the Department of Education. This report described all of the different studies on Accelerated Reader. Using only the research that met their criteria for reliability and validity, they found mixed to low results for schools that used Accelerated Reader...

With a finite budget and an infinite number of teacher resources in which we could utilize in the classroom, I started investigating the use of different technologies currently in the building. I found for Accelerated Reader that a small minority of teachers were actually using the product. This usage was broken down by class. We discovered that we were paying around $20 a year per student.

Given our limited school budget, I asked teachers both on our leadership team and the teachers who used it if they felt this was worth the cost. No one thought it was. (To be clear, the teachers who were using Accelerated Reader are good teachers. Just because they had their students taking AR quizzes does not suggest they were ineffective; quite the opposite. I think it is worth pointing this out as I have seen some shaming of teachers who use AR as a way to persuade them to stop using the tool. It’s not effective.)"

Me: I'll be interested to see Matt's followup reports (and I'm sure that he will post them at some point) on how his school is doing without the AR program. I particularly appreciated that despite the observation that most of the teachers at his school weren't using AR, Matt took pains not to criticize the teachers who were. Teachers have an incredibly difficult job, and it's a fine line to criticize AR if there are teachers who find that it makes their at jobs easier (see next post).

RT @PernilleRipp: On Computer Programs and Our Most Vulnerable Readers as we start our first assessments, please don't forget this 

Pernille Ripp: "A program like Accelerated Reader 360 is easy.  It is quick.  It is less work for us, the teachers.  A child reads a book, takes a test, the score determines whether they understood it, what they need to practice, and what they should read next.  One computer program and so much work has been done for us.

So we hand the companies our money, sometimes instead of buying books.  We place our children in front of computers who decide which books they should read, which skills they should practice.  All we have to do is sit back and print out the results.  We have all the data we need right there.  It is so much easier to teach a child when we don’t have to take the time to get to know them...

We create readers when we give them time to read.  When we help them work through text that they have self-selected.  When we give them choice and the room to explore.  When we offer them many ways to succeed.

When a teacher is there to protect, to guide, to help, to adjust and to learn about the reader that is in front of them..."

We take our most vulnerable.  The kids who hate reading.  The kids who are not where they should be.  The kids whose gaps continue to grow and instead of putting them with a specialist, instead of putting them in an environment where books, and conversation, and interaction, and being on a journey together rule the day.  We push start and then walk away….

And then we wonder why they tell us they never want to read again." 

Me: This post from earlier this summer by Pernille is one that tells me that just as AR seems likely to harm the love of reading for already-eager readers like my daughter, it also has the potential to harm the struggling readers. This makes me wonder: how big is the slice in the middle? How many kids are there that CAN read and take AR tests without too much difficulty, choose not to, but are incentivized to do so by a program like AR? Pernille does address this at the very end of her post, that there are some kids who LOVE the AR program, and enjoy taking the tests. And that's fine. But if you ask me, then the tests should be optional. There shouldn't be some rigid point scale by grade. 

BookWhispererTeacher shares tips for others on Life After | , communities

Leigh Anne Eck: "I fear that many of our teachers would struggle if we discontinue AR because we have used it for so long, and they do not know anything different.  I am sure many teachers, not only those in my district, have this same fear.  I am proof that there is life after Accelerated Reader.

If you know teachers who use AR and are afraid they can't teach without it, then send them a link to this post.  Let this post be their life preserver; give them something to hang on to and let it buoy up their strength to make the decision that is best for readers.

You have to believe that a reading community can and will exist without AR. You not only have to believe it, but you have to live it.  Is it easy? No. One of the positives (if there truly is one) of AR is the ease in its implementation and the little work it places on teachers."

Me: Leigh Anne goes on to first offer teachers suggestions for finding support, starting with reading Donalyn Miller's The Book Whisperer. She then shares a five-step process for life after AR, beginning with living a literate life yourself, and showing students that you are a reader. The last step is to find value in all reading. I've personally come to conclude that creating readers at home boils down to these things (though of course other things help). Read WITH them and give them choice in what they read. Leigh Ann's list suggests that it's the same in the post-AR classroom.

These posts all suggest, with a considerable degree of passion, that there is life after Accelerated Reader programs, and that there are better ways to nurture a love of reading in kids than giving them fact-based tests on a narrow range of allowed reading. These posts give me hope for the young readers of the future, including my daughter. I think it's safe to say that this will not be my last post about AR.

As I've said many time: my only goal for my daughter's reading is that she LOVES it. I'm not generally a confrontational person, but I will fight against anything that gets in the way of that. 

© 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. 

Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: October 27: #Halloween Reads, Standing Desks + #Reading Communities

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this relatively busy week include #BookLists, #curiosity, #cybils, #DiverseBooks, #GrowthMindset, #homework, #KidLitCon, #math, #PictureBookMonth, #reading, #STEM, blogging, censorship, classroom design, coding, Halloween, Jason Reynolds, parenting, raising readers, reluctant readers, schools, and teaching.

Book Lists

DayBreakBondMiddle Grade Standalones + Sequels from Favorite Authors | w/ reviews from

Here's a from that caught my eye: 3 Playful | + more

Favorites, old + new - A Roundup from

Just in time for : 25 Terrifying Horror Novels for Kids + Teens | from

CreepyUnderwear5 Recent Recommended | We need Creepy Carrots sequel

30 Days of for Kindergarten + First Grade , a

Elementary, My Dear Mighty Girl: 40 Books Starring Mighty Girl Detectives, from

Middle Grade Book Holiday Gift Guide: 2017 Edition from

Cybils Awards

Cybils-Logo-2017-Round-Sm Challenge: highlights some Nominations for / Early

Today's REVIEW: Easy Reader nominee King & Kayla and the Case of the Secret Code, rev. by Jennifer Wharton

Events + Programs

The 2017 (November) Calendar has been posted w/ hosts + themes for each day

First books have arrived at Ballou High School in DC thanks to the book fair

Today Is… Books with Barbers Day! over | See details about this great, expanding program

Growing Bookworms

ReadingInTheWildWhat's been working in Creating a Community of by Rachel Weidenhammer

Becoming A Reading Teacher – Benefits discovered by after focusing on

Young adult author is determined to get reluctant readers to read -

6 Ways to Encourage Toddlers to Read + Love It w/out Singing the ABCs | Laurel Elis Niedospial


What’s Going on Inside the Brain Of A Curious Child? |

Lots of news in today's Fusenews , news, Latino Book Awards,

Morning Notes: Bookit Edition — | Worth admission for the pumpkin photo by

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

ToKillAMockingbirdWhen making people uncomfortable is exactly the point | A defense of To Kill A Mockingbird from

bloggers: offers the Myers Briggs personality test, adapted for book blogs | prep


How Parents Can Help Their Child Thrive at School, w/ infographic | via

8 simple ways to develop + encourage speech in your toddler’s daily routine - via

Schools and Libraries

EthanMarcusA 7th Grade Teacher’s Shift to Flexible Seating | [Side note: Ethan from Ethan Marcus Stands Up would have LOVED this classroom. Second side note: this tweet went relatively viral for some reason and introduced me to many new tweeting teachers.]

Interesting post on how his stopped using | I'll be interested in outcome

Instead of just railing against pointless , offers 5 Ways to Make Homework Exciting

On 1st day of school, asks parents to tell her about their kids "In A Million Words Or Less…" | Love it!

What's on your Walls? 3 Charts that have Got to Go from Early Childhood Classrooms, says

FutureDriven10 Thoughts On Positive Attitude from to Share With Your Team


Infographic: How Game-based Learning Can Support Strong Mathematical Practices

10 Reasons Kids Should Learn to Code | via

share their definition of mathematical rigor + what it means in today’s

© 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.

Who Killed Darius Drake?: Rodman Philbrick

Book: Who Killed Darius Drake?
Author: Rodman Philbrick
Pages: 192
Age Range: 8-12

DariusDrakeWho Killed Darius Drake? by Rodman Philbrick is a rare realistic middle grade mystery that involves a potential murder. Narrator Arthur Bash (aka Bash Man) is a misunderstood bully who hires himself out for candy bars. When orphaned genius geek Darius Drake hires Arthur to help with a quest, the two become incongruous friends. With a bit of help from Arthur's wealthy, put-together stepsister, the boys end up involved with multiple ex-cons, searching for a long-missing diamond necklace. 

Arthur is a great character, with a much more sensitive soul than anyone seeing his large body and scowling face would imagine. Here are a couple of quotes to show you his personality:

"I knew about the home (for orphans)--everybody does, all the kids--but this is my first time inside it. No surprise, the place creeps me out a little. Not because it's spooky or scary, nothing like that. It's actually kind of cheerful, in a sad-but-trying way. But it made me think, what if it was me? What if both my parents died and nobody wanted me? Like that." (Chapter Three)

"The air smells of leather and old books. I must be some kind of weirdo, because to me that's a good smell." (Chapter Nine)

"Silence. If only I could melt into the flood, or turn invisible, or maybe go deaf. Because hearing them talk around each other is like getting poked with a sharp stick. It hurts in familiar places, even though I'm not an orphan like Darius, or a felon like Winston Brooks..." (Chapter Nineteen)

Darius is also interesting. He's bright and prickly and socially awkward, and determined to figure things out using inductive reasoning. His awkwardness around the attractive Deirdre is disarming. The way he gradually comes to appreciate Arthur for more than his bulk feels realistic. 

The plot of Who Killed Darius Drake? is suspenseful and fast-paced. There's an old-fashioned feel to the book, with the boys doing library research and scrolling through microfiche, despite the presence of modern trappings like a GoPro camera. This is either because the seeds of the mystery lie in the past or because of Philbrick's writing style. Some modern details aside, Who Killed Darius Drake? feels like a book that I would have gobbled down when I was ten years old. I do expect it to be a hit with today's kids, too. 

Any kid (or adult) who enjoys quest-type mysteries, with clues gradually revealed through research, will enjoy Who Killed Darius Drake? Although this is clearly a standalone novel, I personally would be more than happy to run across Arthur, Darius, and Deirdre again in the future. Recommended!

Publisher: The Blue Sky Press (@Scholastic
Publication Date: September 26, 2017
Source of Book: Advance 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).