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Librarians promote summer reading programs with research and statistics that show that summer reading prevents “summer slide, ” the loss that children experience in reading and other academics if they “do nothing” during the summer.
If you want visuals to demonstrate the effects of “summer slide” year after year, this video is tremendous.
Two points to remember:
- We’re not just talking about losses in reading. This happens in all subject and learning areas.
- And this is not a promotional for summer schools. Every kid needs downtime and free play and a break from very “schooly” activities and routines. But they also need exposure to new things, and constructive, developmentally appropriate activities, and fun enrichments– things that are not very often present for children in lower income or poverty families. The video shows how these things make a difference over the years.
So support summer programs for all kids but especially those who do without so much.
Share the video!
I began my school year visits to Head Start in the past few weeks. I’m a new piece of the school day for most of the kids so I talk about who I am, where I work, and what a library is. While explaining about how the library has lots of books, I asked who had a book of their own at home (hoping to then talk about how they could come get more at the library!).
One child raised his hand.
I know this. But it still took my breath away.
This is why we do storytimes. This is why we have book giveaways. This is why we have libraries in neighborhoods and in the poorer parts of town. This is why we are librarians and teachers and Friends of the Library members and Board members and active parents.
This is why we read to kids. Because during that week, that may be the only time they see how to use a book. That may be the only story they hear. That may be the only time they sing a song and have fun with words.
That may be the only time that week that the part of their brain that’s trying sooooo hard to develop language–it may be the only time it gets fed.
Support programs that give good, new books away. And read to a child. You’ll change a life,
The parents in this video have done a stupendously good thing. They have given their child a book for a Christmas present. Books being part of every gift giving occasion is a great way to build a love for books and encourage literacy. The positive experience and emotions get paired with the books, thereby “teaching” that books are good and fun and enjoyable.
But what happens when the best laid plan goes awry? When the giftee hasn’t quite made the connection yet? What then?
First, you keep a straight face and you are quiet. The more you react, especially in a positive manner such as laughing and making a fuss about “how cute,” the more you reinforce the behavior you don’t want!
Second, this principle applies to most behaviors. If you want the behavior repeated, pay attention to it. If you don’t want it repeated, ignore it. It’s a simple rule of human learning that works throughout our lives.
Finally, maybe that particular Christmas morning wasn’t the time for whatever reasons, but at some point, a child needs to hear that “it” is a gift, gifts are given because someone thought you would like it, and even if you don’t like it, you smile and say thank you.
Remember, though, stifle the giggles when a kiddo does something you don’t want to see repeated, no matter how funny or cute it is. You’re doing you both a favor–and you can always laugh about it later, out of sight and hearing!
Hope your holidays were blessed,
I know it happens at our house. And we do have a good time with it. And believe it or not, it can be good family time between generations and even good literacy building time.
How, when there is no reading going on? Family building and literacy building can both happen if the viewings spur conversation.
So here are a few that are fun, intergenerational, and sure to get everyone talking.
Laurel and Hardy Meet Santana: Oh my, how this made me laugh! What a generational mash-up!
Around the Corner: Motorcycle acrobatists and differential gears? What? Just watch it; honest, it’s worth the minutes.
Why the Other Line Moves Faster: If you’ve found yourself stuck in impossible lines this season, this will throw a whole ‘nother light on it. (I make no promises that it will make the experience better though.)
Star Wars vs. Star Trek: On oldie but a goodie.
Twelve Days of Christmas/Africa: My favorite holiday or anytime group and one of my favorites of their songs. This is the original 1998 version.
Wherever you are and whatever you celebrate, may your holidays be blessed! See you in the new year!
Guess that won’t do, now will it?
Questions from non-librarian folks do me good. They bring me back to the real world and out of my tunnel vision land of assumptions.
She was ordering books online as gifts for two children. One of the books was listed as a board book. “What is a board book?” she asked.
Here’s the nutshell on board books:
- They are primarily for children ages birth through 3-ish.
- They are small (usually), the better for little hands to handle them.
- They are made of heavy, thick materials so that they can endure the hazards that happen at these earliest ages when one is learning about books. These include mouthing, early attempts at page turning, and juice cup spills among others.
- They usually have a few clear pictures or drawings and few words.
- Many have no actual story. Why? Because children ages babies to 3-ish aren’t really ready for stories yet. Their eyes are still learning to focus and they are still learning to recognize the “things” of their world. They love and prefer pictures of babies and activities of their daily life (eating, taking a walk, playing with blocks, seeing a puppy, hearing a fire engine, etc.). Of course, as they get closer to age 3, shorter stories become interesting as well.
- They are also ideal as special books that begged to be played with–for instance, books with cutaways and holes for peeking through or poking into.
Board books give young children the best chances for success as they begin learning about books. Asking children to do something they are not yet ready to do (like keeping things out of their mouths or turning pages gently) sets them up for frustration–and can lead adults to fussing at them. Negative experiences and emotions get associated with the book and the reading, leading to a decrease in interest in books and reading years later.
Finally, learning takes time and lots and lots of repetition. Playing with, exploring (poking, prodding, chewing, dropping etc.), pretending to read, and yes, even being read to can happen over and over and over again with board books for many years.
Board books are real books. They are real books for real kids of a certain age with certain needs and certain interests. Simply because they are age appropriate doesn’t make them less a book. You would never give a one year old a Neil Gaiman novel to read nor What is on My Head? to a sixty-five year old, yet both are equally a “real” book.
So feel confident this holiday season as you shop for babies through three year olds, that board books are a great choice for them!
I live in one of the poorest areas in Colorado. I do storytimes at the local Head Start programs. I see kids who come from homes that are struggling. And the kids from these homes experience the wear and tear of such a life on a daily basis.
So what kind of books do I choose for kids who probably haven’t grown up being read to? Who might not know what a book is or is for? Who might not care or be interested in books? Who might have even shorter than normal attention spans?
Do I choose books by famous authors? Books with award winning illustrations? Or do I choose the shortest books? Books with the fewest words on a page? Books with sounds and lights and gizmos and gimmicks?
Nope! I choose books with “good stories.”
Let me give you an example. The Monday after the Thanksgiving holiday (so already I have one stroke against me), I visit a Head Start classroom. Actually it’s two classrooms combined into a teeny tiny reading space (two more strikes against me). And I start to read Don’t Want to Go by Shirley Hughes.
I can see the teachers look wide-eyed at me as I open this book. It’s got LOTS of words in it. And there’s nothing snazzy, razzle dazzle about the pictures.
It’s the straight forward story of a preschooler whose mom wakes up one morning with the flu. So dad (who has to go to work) takes her to an adult friend’s house for the day. The little girl’s plaintive cry is, “Don’t want to go!”
Of course, she goes anyway. She really doesn’t have much say in it. But there she meets a smiling mom with a friendly baby. The dog licks her hand, she helps the mom glue pictures into a book, she plays peekaboo and holds the dog’s leash on the way to the older brother’s school and even gets to watch a little TV with him. At each transition her cry is, “Don’t want to go!”
And when dad comes to get her at the end of the day, once again she exclaims, “Dont’ want to go!” Adults love the ending–but kids? Kids love the in-between parts. These are situations and feelings they have experienced. They would want mom up in the morning. They would want to stay home, too, not go to a stranger’s house. They would lose their mittens on the way and pout under the table and say “don’t want to” but then with warmth and understanding and careful coaxing find themselves enjoying the new moments–just like Lily.
What’s this have to do with “good stories?” An essential element of any good children’s story (for children of any age up through teens) is that the story needs to meet the kid where the kid is at developmentally.
The books that hold kids’ attention with no gimmicks or gizmos are the ones that reflect their experiences, their perceptions, their learning edges, their developmental issues, their world. These are the books with staying power. These become the classics.
Shirley Hughes understands three and four year olds. You hear it in Lily’s reactions, whether in her cry, her pout, her laugh, or her saying no and then helping anyway. You see it in the illustrations–in the postures and faces of the characters. You hear it in the details she notices (“It was a yellow door, the color of the inside of Lily’s egg,” an egg which she remembers, btw, because she dropped it on the floor earlier). You see and hear it in the reassuring manner in which the adults react to her.
The book is clean and simple. It’s a “good story” for young children any time but perhaps especially right now during the holidays. There can be so many changes on a daily basis. And change is not easy when you are little and adults run the world.
So don’t let the number of words or the non-glamour of this book scare you away. My Head Starters were dead into it, all the way through! Yours can be too! It is a winner–for groups or for just one or two in the lap–cause it’s a “good story!”
Give it a whirl!
Thomas Cahill has a marvelous piece in the NYTimes today about the Irish and how they saved Western Civilization after the fall of Rome. How did an obscure, ragtag bunch of folks in the early days of the Dark Ages manage such a feat? They copied books.
What’s an added bonus in his article is his mention of their sense of play in the midst of all the seriousness of the world dissolving around them and the rest of Europe. And of course, it being St. Patrick’s Day, Patrick gets his fair share of credit as well.
I wish Cahill had mentioned another saint, though, one equally as important to the preservation of books and thereby civilization. That is St. Columba. I learned about him through a fascinating children’s book, Across a Dark and Wild Sea by Don Brown.
As a boy St. Columba was known as Columcille, and he was son of a king. But the church taught him reading and writing, and he was forever hooked–to the point that he copied a book rather illegally and thereby started a war. Yes, a war over a book. (Boys eat this up, let me tell you!)
Devastated afterward by what his actions had wrought, he exiled himself to an island off the coast–and thus was born the religious community of Iona.
The book combines fact, some of the legends associated with Columba, watercolor illustrations that stir up the windswept coasts of Ireland, a calligraphic guide to the Uncial alphabet from Columba’s time, and a bibliography. There’s even a diagram of a coracle (no, I’m not going to tell you; you have to read the books! ;-))
As you can tell, it’s one of my favorites.
Happy St. Paddy’s Day,
I’m really quite surprised because I usually find kids’ holiday books are either sappy, too wordy, or dreadfully illustrated. Someone got it right this year!
In no particular order, they are:
The Christmas Magic by Lauren Thompson–I bought this one because of the hype. It kept turning up on lists, and I knew if I didn’t get it, some parent was going to come in and ask for it! Oh, how pleasantly surprised I was! I grew up steeped in the magic of a secular Christmas. My family was dysfunctional nuts 364 days of the year but Christmas and Santa? They were always done right, year after year. There’s no dysfunction in this book but it does sooooo capture the feeling of magic. And the last double page spread of Jon Muth’s illustration made me gasp.
The Night Before Christmas by Rachel Isadora–I love clever creativity, but it also has to be done well (which is why I’ve so fallen for the group Straight No Chaser and their Christmas albums, hint, hint!). Those three elements are hard to come by. Rachel Isadora pulls it off here though. The poem is Clement Moore’s but the pictures are of a village, home, and family in Africa. There’s even a dark skinned, dreadlocked Santa. Sounds hokey but I was more taken by it than any Victorian/Coca-Cola version I have ever seen. This is fresh and will be a family classic. I may buy it for my grandkids (no, I have none and am a good five to ten years away from any).
Merry Christmas, Splat by Rob Scotton–I want to know HOW he draws all those fine hairs poking out from all over Splat! Ok, now that that’s out of my system, on to the book. I sheltered and protected my kids from everything having to do with the “naughty and nice” syndrome of Santa culture. And yes, I’ll admit, I’m a bad librarian. I censor the same from books I read to children during the holidays. But I may break that ban with Splat. It’s just too funny, funny, funny. Splat wants to be good so he can get a big present. So he “helps” his mom–with things she doesn’t need help with in typical preschooler style. “Being good is very tiring,” Splat eventually says. “It certainly is,” says his mom. I can just hear the loving exasperation in her voice.
Finally, A Pinata in a Pine Tree by Pat Mora–I wonder if anyone knew how much mileage The Twelve Days of Christmas would get over the decades. It can be a pretty obnoxious song (I do like Natalie Cole’s version) but this keeps the rhyme, rhythm, and fun of it while substituting in Spanish words and culture for the twelve gifts.
Whew! Go shopping!
Hanukkah at Valley Forge by Stephen Krensky: Based on a remark in a letter by George Washington, this book tells of a lone Jewish soldier at Valley Forge who is “discovered” lighting Hanukkah candles by General Washington. Krensky does a masterful job of weaving together the Jewish and American hopes for freedom. It’s realistic, not heavy handed or sappy, and tacks on no moral. No need to; the story says it all.
One Candle by Eve Bunting: A story that moves me so, sometimes I have a hard time getting through it. Again, no sap here but lots of truth about the things that are most important in life–and how they make us human.
Both are in picture book format so even preschoolers will probably follow along if they can see the pictures. But the stories are really for the older ones (even you and me).
I used to send Christmas cards, and I would spend hours picking out the perfect one each year. The costs and my handwriting got so out of hand, however, that I finally switched to the often maligned email Christmas letter.
This card by David Malki (who gives much joy to my life with his strip Wondermark) is sorely tempting me, though, to pick up the pen and plunk down the postage stamp cash just for the pleasure of providing a seasonally appropriate spiritual laugh to all my family and friends.
While I dither my decision, you take a look: Click here.
PS–Yes, you are not mistaken. My posts are a bit on the short and fluffy side right now. I’m behind from the holiday (somehow) and up to my ears with preparation deadlines either for the class I’m teaching in January or my family’s holiday celebrations. I do have some good stuff in line to blog about; just biding my time until I have time to do it justice. You please bide too! Thanks!
No matter which holiday you might celebrate at this time of the year, this quote captures the meaning and intent of so many of them:
If our lives demonstrate that we are peaceful, humble and trusted, this is recognized by others. If our lives demonstrate something else, that will be noticed too.
- Rosa Parks, civil rights activist (1913-2005)
If you want to do more than the simple paper chain for counting down the days to your holiday, check out The Crafty Crow.
Not only are these countdowners spiffy and lovely to look at, but they also look like a lot of fun to make with older kids.