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I had a blast at the SLV Fiber Festival this past weekend in Monte Vista, Colorado. I had storytimes with kids, demo’ed cat’s cradle string games, and sold the best and most fun kid’s books related to sheep, llamas, yarn–)and one chicken book ’cause it’s my favorite).
If you’re in the San Luis Valley and are interested in purchasing some books before I ship them back, shoot me an email at babette(dot)reeves(at)gmail.com. You know you’ve got birthdays, holidays, baby showers, and other special occasions coming up! And there’s nothing better than a book!
- Feeding the Sheep–a little girl follows her mother’s activities through the year, learning along the way where her warm and lovingly made sweater came from.
- Sheep in a Jeep (book & CD)–silly sheep try to drive a jeep, great rhymes and pictures, good for reading aloud or for beginning readers.
- Where is Green Sheep–a Mem Fox classic with more silly sheep doing silly things (skiing down a sliding board?!), available in board book bilingual version.
- Extra Yarn–brand new story about a magical yarn box and a girl who transforms her grey world with it, I think we’ve got a classic in the making with this one.
- Tillie Lays an Egg–I am ga-ga over this book, Tillie lays her eggs all over and kids get to hunt for it in the photos created with retro farmhouse collectibles.
- The Shepherd’s Trail–a cultural treasure, fabulous photos and just enough text to capture the dying art of the shepherd with the sheep in the back country, a real treasure. Only one copy left!
- The Surprise–gives me giggles to even think about it and elicits an “awwww” every time at the ending, and don’t you want to see a sheep on a bathroom scale, with a blow dryer, and on a motor scooter?
- The Dogs of Bedlam Farm–I generally despise children’s books written by adult authors (because they are usually just dreadful) but Jon Katz pulls this one off with just the right combo of photos and text to introduce children to Katz’ four farm dogs and their individual personalities and jobs.
- The Littlest Llama–an overlooked gem, the littlest llama in an Andean herd can find no one to play with, wanders off, escapes trouble only to hurry home and discover she’s not the littlest any longer, bonus points for being told in well-structured rhyme.
- Llama Llama Red Pajama–first in the series of Llama Llama books, if you don’t have this one yet for your little one, you need it (especially for bedtime “llama dramas” at your house).
If your budget necessitates getting these at the “big A,” I understand. Getting books to your kids is the most important factor.
But for now, you can get them from me with no shipping and only a dollar or two more. (And you’ll be supporting a local business with this mission).
Yeah, you can sing that to Aretha’s RESPECT and I won’t tell.
But DEAR and TCH really are not the latest in pop tunes. They are two great websites I discovered and wanted to pass on to you.
DEAR (Drop Everything And Read) has been around a while and is officially celebrated on Beverly Cleary’s birthday, April 12. But this video (1 minutes long) does a great job of showing how it can become a regular part of a school day–and the same can be done at home, of course!
Some of the things I love about this video are:
- it’s noisy: reading and storytimes do not need to be quiet; reading aloud and the conversation that goes with it is a noisy kind of learning;
- it’s wiggly: reading and storytimes do not need to be still; some kids like to sit and some like to move around or stand; they are all soaking it up;
- it’s fairly unstructured: while reading (and more so storytimes) sometimes need planning and care, just as often all it takes is to pick up a book; some kids are read to solo, some are in pairs, some are in groups and these “reading groups” are not assigned or planned;
- it’s easy: anyone can pick up a book and read to a child (and even if you can’t read, you can talk about the pictures or make up a story to go along with the pictures–it’s still “reading” for young children).
Finally, TCH Teaching Channel is one of the best sites for teaching and education ideas I’ve run across. Quality stuff! It’s worth exploring.
How could you adapt DEAR in your school, home, or library? Share your ideas with others!
If you love to read, you probably can’t imagine why someone would not like to read. But if you talk with kids, or the grown ups they’ve become, it’s not hard to find out why they don’t. Often you’ll find they were treated something like the following when they were learning to read:
First misstep is when we treat kids as little passive dummies that we adults pour “stuff” into. Ain’t so! They have lives, they have interests, they have concerns, they have thoughts about their world. They are involved.
If that’s the case, what happens when we read aloud to them or give them a “bad” book–one that’s poorly written, one that has nothing to do with their lives or worlds, one that in uninteresting? The sheer mechanical act of reading is not enough to make a reader. They probably have the same reaction that children’s book author Jon Scieszka had:
“At school I was trying to learn to read by deciphering stories featuring two lame kids named Dick and Jane. They never did much of anything exciting. And they talked funny. If this was reading, I wondered why anyone would bother.”
“Bad” books would make any thinking child wonder, “WHY bother!” Or to put the shoe on the other foot, what if you were in their position? What if someone gave you books with bad, uninteresting stories to read? After you read one, would you want to read another? Why do we ask our kids to do something that we wouldn’t even do?
There’s too many good books out there with good stories to risk losing a child’s interest in reading by insisting they read a bad one or one they don’t like. Those first years of being read to and then learning and practicing reading are just too critical.
Thanks to Anita Silvey for the Scieszka quote and check out her blog, Children’s Book-A-Day Almanac for a daily dose of “good” stories and books for kids of all ages.
Off my soapbox now,
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,
It’s just a book. It’s just a few minutes. (Or maybe a few seconds, if you’re reading to a baby. ;-)) You’re just a (fill in the blank); you don’t know anything about teaching a child to read.
Is it really making a difference?
Absolutely! The results will not show up for 1-5 years (in other words, not until after a child is developmentally ready to learn to rad around age 6-7 and after he or she starts school). Here’s one reason, though, why you can trust that those minutes of reading aloud are making a difference:
- According to 2009 U.S. Census Bureau data, about half of children under 5 are read to seven or more times a week by a parent or family member.
- Children under age 5 whose families are living below the poverty line were more likely to be read to seven or more times a week in 2009 (45 percent) than in 1998 (37 percent).
Both those statistics are reported by Early Martin Phelan and you can read more here.
Many of my conversations with concerned parents are some variation of the “it’s the number of words” talk. Statistics from the new National Literacy Trust report bear this out.
Here’s a few:
- 8 out of 10 children who read ten or more books a month are above average readers.
- 77% of children who read for an hour or more at a time are above average readers.
- Only 4% of children who read for an hour or more at a time are below average readers.
Basically, the longer a child reads, the more practice they get, the more words they read, the more internal reinforcement they get from the process (because the more they read, the easier it gets, and the more fun it becomes).
Interestingly enough, text messaging words don’t seem to apply–or at least not as well as sitting down with a novel. Children who read text messages but not novels are twice as likely to be below average readers. More research here would be great. My hunch is that it’s not the same because texts come in little chunks rather than continuous streams, ie, try to read texts for over an hour without interruption.
Want to read more? Here’s the summary article and link to the research. Or read Jim Trelease’s take on it in The Read-Aloud Handbook on pages 142-147. (If you’ve never read Trelease, you’re in for a real treat!).
Now that all the hoopla has died down–and since you asked–here’s my take on the supposed demise of the children’s picture book (read the NYT article that started it all here).
My take? It’s much ado over nothing (except on two points). Here’s why:
- The article’s point is a business point. Sales have dropped. The most obvious reason should be the economy. Did anyone check the sales on other goods purchased with disposable income? Are the figures on picture book sales really that much different from those of skateboards or barbies?
- Second, why does it sound like consumers are such dumb sheep that they will only buy what is on display right under their noses? If you want to buy a picture book, shop for a picture book, no matter what marketing ploys the seller is utilizing.
- Third, if we buy them, publishers will print them. If we don’t, they won’t.
So why should adults purchase (or check out of their friendly neighborhood library ;-)) picture books for kids?
The two most important reasons are:
First, for most of the time, for most kids ages birth through six-ish to seven-ish, picture books are developmentally the most appropriate reading format.
What does that mean? It means the child will enjoy the reading experience more. They will not feel pushed, rushed, or bored as they will with a chapter book or beginning reader. (When’s the last time you read one? They are good for practicing reading. They are not highly motivating.) Children who enjoy reading read more.
The second reason involves choice. Children who are allowed to choose their own books read more. Choice means they can choose anything, even if a grown-up deems it “too easy.” Reading increases reading. The type of reading “matter” is not what increases reading. The quantity of reading is what increases reading (as long as it is enjoyable). So if your child enjoyed hearing the phone book read aloud, that would make him or her a better reader!
Whoever you want to point the finger at for “pushing” kids into beginning readers and chapter books, the deciding factor is you, the parent. You hold the wallet–not the publishers, book sellers, school district, or teacher. Listen to and watch your kid. What is he or she truly turned on to in books? What does he or she choose? Buy it, check it out of the library, get more of it until he or she is ready to move onto something else. Read aloud even after he or she has learned to read. Make reading enjoyable. For most young children, that enjoyment will be through picture books.
Off my soapbox now,
I’m generally not too much into lists of this sort. After a while, they all seem to say the same thing–again.
But this list for making reading fun is worth perusing.
I especially like the first one. Why? Because it works! It’s so simple–but it still works! It’s so enjoyable for everyone–and it still works. Trust in the power of reading aloud (and for more motivation check out Jim Trelease’s The Read-Aloud Handbook). It still works!
I do wish the list makers had clarified in the read aloud tip that reading aloud needs to continue even after a child learns to read.
Even once a child has “figured it out,” learning to read is hard work. It takes lots and lots of practice. And most of that hard work practice time is not much fun and not very motivating.
Reading aloud, on the other hand, is fun–because mom or dad or any fluently reading person can read anything! And that’s fun!
Hearing sentence structure and vocabulary that’s above a child’s current reading level also helps them later when they get to that reading level. It’s not foreign; they’ve heard it before. In fact oral vocabulary and comprehension is directly tied to reading comprehension.
So please, continue reading to your children! For how long, you ask? Well, there’s absolutely no reason to stop. (Btw, I’m currently reading aloud Shelley’s Frankenstein to my 14 year old.)
Here’s an excellent article in the Wall Street Journal on the gap between boys and girls in reading and what to do about it.
I, like Mr. Spence, am the parent of boys, both voracious readers at ages 14 and 21. They have always been readers. And my experience matches with the “science” he quotes. They both have grown up with strong limits on screen times, be that TV, video games, computer time, or handheld screen games.
Screens are very easy to turn to as a kid when you’re bored and don’t know what to do. Finding something to do takes some time rattling around. Eventually if the house is full of constructive “stuff” (blocks, pots and pans, legos, dress up clothes including swords and capes, books, etc.), they will find something to do. I found it takes about 20 minutes.
They will not choose these other things, though, if screens are always available first. Especially boys. (I believe there is something different about boys and their brains that makes screens especially attractive to them.)
Mr. Spence leaves out a few important points though.
First, reading at early ages must be enjoyable. That means not insisting (or even asking) that your boy hold still and be very quiet while you are reading together. Boys are wigglers and squirmers and little noise makers. They can still listen while doing all this. My youngest at age seven was still falling off the back of the sofa during our reading times. He also could tell me everything I had just read aloud to him.
When an experience is pleasant, enjoyable, or fun, we as humans want to do it more. When we fuss at boys while reading, they associate the fussing with the reading and who wants to be fussed at? So no more reading. When we ask boys to do something they physically are incapable of at that developmental point in time, we put them in an untenable position. Who wants to be in that place? So no more reading.
We set the stage for loving reading early, early on, well before a boy ever starts school just by those simple actions, words, and attitudes from the adults boys want so much to please.
Second, I’m with Mr. Spence on the mistaken reliance upon grossology. Yet without stooping to it, there are books that boys like better. Most girls will sit and listen or will read most anything they are handed. Most boys will not. At least not until they are hooked on reading.
Boys like action. They like “big things” whether those are trucks or explosions. They like voyages, adventures, struggles, quests, and good vs. evil. They like heroes, monsters, and legends. They like to know how things work. They like dinosaurs and guns; they make them feel powerful and boys must learn over time what power is about. They like stories that show boys learning to be their best and boys becoming men–as long as that is not the point of the story; the story must come first. They like stories about boys doing the things they would like to–climbing trees, building rafts, getting chased by bulls, and generally getting into innocent trouble.
Turn off the screens. Get good “boy” books in your house. Get your adult attitudes out of the way. And watch your boy grow into a reader.
Here’s to reading for all, including those marvelous boys!
Ok, maybe I was skimming my reader too fast. But when I first saw this headline, Great ‘Read-Alouds’ for the New York Times, I thought it was for a kids’ book list.
I’ve never seen a read-aloud list for newspaper articles! What a fabulous idea! Children will hear a different style of writing and a different “grammar” beyond a story grammar. No one has ever said that when we read aloud to children, we need to read children’s picture books. But how often do we assume that’s what “read-aloud” means?
I spend a fair amount of time encouraging parents to continue reading aloud to their children beyond the preschool years and beyond the years when the child can read on his or her own. Now I have another angle to encourage!
Bear in mind, any reading aloud, as long as the child enjoys the time together, is good reading aloud. The material really doesn’t matter (my mother once read a dictionary aloud to my oldest when he was a baby; he was entranced! :-))
So find a book–or better still, change the pace and find a Times article and read on,
Reuters reported (Feb. 8, 2010) on an upcoming journal article in Pediatrics (March 2010) that shows a correlation between limited vocabulary at age five and low literacy levels at age thirty-four.
Two-thirds of the children with poor vocabulary, though, did go on to become competent readers. One of the factors that made it possible for them? Parents reading to them on a regular basis.
So read to your children–and encourage others who are struggling in life to do the same! It makes a difference!
Cathy Puett Miller has a wonderful post today with a letter from the author Aliki about reading to your children.
While the whole letter is worth reading, I think Aliki nails it here: “When I sometimes hear ‘I’m too busy’, I wonder what is more important? The dishes?”
We all need that kind of jolting reminder every now and then, not to make ourselves feel bad but to throw our world back into proper perspective.
So, go read to a child!