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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!


It’s another Saturday and another day that I’m plugging away on my presentation for the ARSL conference coming up very soon in October in Denver. (I’ll also be at CAL in Loveland the week before, helping with the CLEL annual meeting and its early literacy un-conference.)

I love and adore teaching but don’t ever let anyone fool you into thinking it’s easy. Prepping is some of the hardest work I do.

But then presenting, ie teaching, time? It’s some of the most satisfying and rewarding work I do.

If you’re going to be at ARSL, drop me a comment or line. I’d love to see you while you are there!

And oh yeah, my presentation is titled “Early Literacy Storytimes: More than Eensy Weensy Spider.”

Hope to see you there,


P.S. Here’s the code for the acronyms: ARSL=Association for Rural and Small Libraries, CAL=Colorado Association of Libraries, and CLEL=Colorado Libraries for Early Literacy

Some things we want for our kids:

  • That they are healthy,
  • That they are learners and thinkers, and
  • That they can form good relationships.

That’s a short list. It looks pretty simple–until you start thinking about how to make it so especially in today’s world.

Yet it is simple.

Give them:

  • good food,
  • good exercise,
  • time with caring adults, preferably parents.
  • And make some of that time be with stories and books.

Well, yeah, you’re saying. But it can’t be that simple!

Many things in life are simple. But life throws so much at us–distractions, busyness, even real problems.

Children still need what children need. It may be simple but it’s also so important. As a culture, we have a hard time holding simple and important together in our minds and lives. If  it’s important, it has to be complicated and difficult and very, very time consuming–maybe even expensive!

Just simple and important. Give your kids food, exercise, and loving care.

(Here’s a terrific article from NYT on kids, exercise, and “brain power,” well worth the read.)

Feeling a bit like Pooh Bear,


I’m not a big fan of interviews. They just don’t flip my switches. But I couldn’t resist this one with Beverly Cleary, author of the Ramona books (among many others).

I remember reading and loving Ramona when I was a kid. I remember even more vividly reading Ramona to both my boys. They are so different from one another, it’s amazing they are biologically from the same two parents (they are).

But both boys adored Ramona.

So what is it about Ramona that elementary aged children, even boys, like so much? Cleary says it well and I’ll say it a bit differently–they identify with her.

Around age seven, kids head into a new stage of development with new interests and new tasks. Many of those involve becoming competent, in kid-like ways.

That might mean learning how to be friends or how to sit still for a little longer. It might mean learning how to keep up with their stuff, make things be it a pinewood derby car or cookies. It might mean learning how to have a good fight and settle differences or how to play baseball or handle a paintbrush.

Ramona is a normal kid, going through normal kid stuff in this stage of growing competencies. It’s a struggle sometimes. It’s funny sometimes. Kids root for and identify with Ramona because that’s where they are at too.

It’s no magic formula. When stories meet kids where they are developmentally, kid and story go click–and said kid loves the story and the book and the reading. Beverly Cleary remembers and understands what it’s like to be six or eight or ten. And six or eight or ten year olds have loved her for a very long time because of it.

Thank you, Beverly, for Ramona and Henry and Ralph S. Mouse and all the other “kids” you’ve introduced us to!


I don’t like rap. Never have. Before last week I would have said never will.

My mother always said, “Never say never.”

Take a look and listen here to what Lin-Manuel Miranda has done with what could be a dry as dust history lesson about the US’s first Secretary of the Treasury. A four and a half minute rap about an economist? All we usually remember about him is his death–he was killed by Aaron Burr in a duel.

You’ll remember much more about him after you give Miranda a listen. You may even find yourself (along with your kids) wanting to know more.

So why am I posting this on a literacy blog? Here’s a few reasons:

  • It involves language, lots of it, well chosen and carefully put together. Writing, communication, and creative expression don’t get much finer than this.
  • It’s well done. It’s so well done, it looks easy. But what he has created here is difficult to do. Kids need to see and hear the good stuff.
  • It demonstrates how the brain loves story. You learned most of this in school. How much did you remember before listening to Miranda? And how much do you remember now, now that you’ve heard about Hamilton through a narrative story, told in rhyme and rhythm? Quiz yourself in a few days. You’ll be surprised. Stories help us remember.

It’s an easy, fun history lesson as well. 😉

Watch it more than once. It actually gets better with each viewing.



33-35% of children start school already behind. What? Are they suffering from a lack of the latest educational toys? Did they not have access to and instruction in computers? Did their parents neglect them and not sign them up for baby gym, music, and ballet?

photo from flickr's The Commons

No, they simply weren’t read to between the ages of birth and five.

33-35% of children in this country begin kindergarten not knowing how a book works, not being able to listen to a story, not being able to sing a song or nursery rhyme.

And all those “not’s” and more add up to a child not ready to learn to read. They add up to a child more likely to drop out of school, become a teen parent, spend time in juvenile or jail. Even if they fall into the best case scenario rather than the worst, they grow into young adults who “fail to launch.”

Want to learn more about the why’s and why not’s? Want to become part of the solution? Spend four hours with me on one Saturday–and then 10 minutes a day with a kid. Come find out more at an early literacy class I’m teaching here in Alamosa. (It’s Sept. 11, 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Southern Peaks Public Library.)

You’ll learn what early literacy is (and isn’t), how it works, what resources are available (free) to encourage and promote it, and how to put its principles into action. The class is free and I promise I won’t waste your time. Just call the library at 719-589-6592 to register. Parents, teachers, childcare providers, and anyone else who cares about kids can gain from this class.

And you can even earn continuing ed credits. 🙂

(For those of you who care for kids in your home, join us Saturday and you can then sign up for Storybox Special! That’s all it takes to have book delivery to your home and your kids, free, every month!

Hope to see you there!


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Contact Info for Babette

email babette(dot)reeves(at)gmail(dot)com
snail mail
73 State Avenue
Alamosa, CO 81101

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