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My daughter had another little literacy milestone last week that I wanted to share. We had been drawing pictures (with her supervising, and telling me how to draw a pig). I left the room for a minute, but I could hear her, and she said:
"I'm going to write Mom on your picture."
And sure enough, when I came back, there was my picture, labeled "MOM" in pencil.
She's been writing her own name for a while now, with reasonable legibility, and, well, her name does have an M in it. So writing Mom wasn't a huge stretch. But still, she:
- Knew that it would make sense to write the name of the person who had drawn the picture.
- Knew how to spell Mom.
- And wrote the letters, legibly and without help, on her own initiative.
She'll be reading the Junie B. Jones and Ramona books before I know it!
Actually, she is pretend-reading Robert Parker's Widow's Walk even as I speak. She just came in and asked for a bookmark. It's a bit violent for a 3 1/2 year old, but fortunately, she can't actually read. At least as far as I know.
[I hope these posts don't come across as bragging. Each child follows his or her own path to literacy, and I know that these paths can meander and diverge. It's just that for me, having spent so many years thinking about how to grow bookworms in the abstract, I find observing the actual process fascinating. And sharing is what we bloggers do.]
© 2013 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.
My three-year-old's latest literacy milestone involves memorizing books. This is not exactly a brand-new behavior, but it has accelerated greatly in recent weeks. A year ago, when I'd read one of her favorites aloud, she might chime in with a punchline here and there. But now? If I get a single word wrong when reading aloud a book we've read a few times, she swoops in to correct me. Often with peals of laughter and exclamations of "Silly Mommy!". And as regular bedtime readers-aloud know, it is very, very easy to get a word wrong when one is sleepy...
I know that this sort of memorization is common, but her level of detail surprises me sometimes. I mean, how many books can she hold, word-for-word, in that little head of hers? More than I, certainly.
A side benefit of this memorization is that my daughter can "read" to herself, when no adult reader is available. I have a delightful iPhone video of her quietly reading a book to herself in the back of the car. (My husband was driving - I suffer from motion sickness and can't read in the car.) I've also enjoyed seeing her "read aloud" to her dolls from time to time.
I'm not sure exactly how this memorization plays in to learning to read, but I'm sure that it's a step along the way. Not that we're in any rush. We're having a great time just as things are.
© 2013 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.
Blog: Kid Lit Reviews
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, Library Donated Books
, Middle Grade
, childrens book review
, class division in 18th century London
, learning to read
, Leon Garfield
, middle grade novel
, Phoenix Award in Children's LIterature
, relationships and trust
, The New York Review Children’s Collection
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.. Smith: The Story of a Pickpocket by Leon Garfield The New York Review Children’s Collection 5 Stars . . . . . . . . .. . . .(illustration free). Back Cover: Twelve-year-old Smith is a denizen of the mean streets of eighteenth-century London, living hand to mouth …
The Shark King, a Toon Book by R. Kikuo Johnson (April, 2012, 40 pages), is an easy reader graphic novel that's multicultural, intellectually interesting, and emotionally engaging, which is just about the swellest combination of descriptive phrases I can imagine combining (and the pictures are nice too!).
It's the story of Kalei, a girl in long ago Hawaii, who all unwittingly marries the Shark King, a shape-shifting deity. On the night before their child is born, her husband returns to the sea, leaving her to raise the boy alone. But Nanaue is no ordinary child. His inherited enough of his father's shape shifting magic so as to appear monstrous at times (jaws snapping from his back!), and his appetite is insatiable. So much so that the fisher folk of the nearby village grow hungry....and when they realize Nanaue is to blame, they try to hunt him down.
But the father Nanaue longed to meet is waiting for him, and so all ends well. Except that poor Kalei is left alone, which I found sad (in as much as I automatically relate, quite naturally, to the mother. I would be very sad if my boys dove off into the sea and I never saw them again, and the handful of shells Kalei gets as a memento would not be much comfort. Young readers doubtless won't have this particular issue).
The story is simple enough so that the young reader can read it independently, and enjoy it as an adventure story, but complex enough, with it's themes of finding one's true self, parent/child relationships, and being different, that the young mind will be fed on a deeper level. As a bonus feature, there's a little guide at the end on how to read comics with kids.
I'd have loved another bonus feature giving more information about the original myth, but that's my only complaint.
disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher
The One and Only Stuey Lewis by Jane Schoenberg, illustrated by Cambria Evans (nominated for the Cybils by Sarah Wendorf at Page in Training) is the first book I’ve read with my book-judging hat on, and if all the books I read as part of the Cybils judging process are as good as this, I’m in for a really wonderful next few months.
Four perceptive, funny stories following a school year in the life of The One and Only Stuey Lewis make up this Early Chapter Book. The book opens at the start of Stuey’s second school year with him full of worries about what the year, his school, his teacher will be like. All his fears are magnified because he feels he’s not a great reader and doesn’t want anyone to know this secret of his.
Later in the school year we meet Stuey conjuring up schemes to collect as much Halloween candy as possible, and then learning tough lessons about being his own man, stepping out of the shadow of his big and brilliant brother Anthony. By the time the school year draws to a close, Stuey is actually sorry to see the summer holidays start: It’s been a great year for him, he’s learned to read well, he’s been brave and found his own way, and he’s discovered that he can survive, that he can actually make anything work.
This book has many strengths but I particularly enjoyed it for its humour, its warmth and lightness of touch. It’s a book full of love and optimism, without ever being patronising or sickly sweet. I think its an ideal book for a kid in his or her second year in school to read themselves, although perhaps at the start of the year it will still be a little challenging a read for many children.
The physical book is a very nice thing too – just the right size and weight for young hands to hold and feel like they’ve got a “proper” book in their mitts; hardback but pocket sized, with a sprinkling of fun illustrations that match the tenor of the text to a T.
Although with a clearly American setting (Stuey is a second grade student, football is called soccer, the tradition of Halloween candy collecting plays a major role) I think this book will be enjoyed by 6/7/8 year old kids across the world – kids whether in Sydney, Nova Scotia or Sydney, Australia may worry about what their teachers will be like, how they are going to deal with kids in their classes they don’t get on with, and what skills they’re going to need to survive school. With The One and Only Stuey Lewis in their hands and heads, they’ll feel more confident, more reassured, and will no doubt have a good giggle along the way.
Disclaimer: This revie
Looking for a great book to use to help your young child understand the driving force behind evolution? Try Charlie and Kiwi: an Evolutionary Adventure (Atheneum, June, 2011, 48 pages). Peter H. Reynolds, Fablevision, and the New York Hall of Science teamed up to create a picture book that does a brilliant job clearly explaining the principle of survival of the fittest, with the science set in an engaging narrative of a time-travel adventure.
Young Charlie picks the kiwi as the subject of his bird report in school, bringing in his own newly acquired stuffed kiwi as an example. But the other children are doubtful--"Izzat a bird? Where's the wings?" asks one. And Charlie, when asked why the kiwi is so very different from other birds, draws a blank.
Fortunately, his stuffed kiwi is ready to help out, taking Charlie back in time (the box Kiwi came in magically becomes a time travel machine) to meet his many times great grandfather. Together Charles Darwin, Kiwi, and Charlie go on an evolutionary adventure, to observe first hand the ancestral proto-kiwis of New Zealand. And then they head back even further in time, to see for themselves how birds evolved from dinosaurs.
My kids and I thought this was a great book--we were charmed by the stuffed kiwi, and thought the explanation of natural selection/survival of the fittest was interesting and clearly explained. It might be a bit wordy for some picture book affectionados, but for kids with an interest in science and nature, I recommend it highly.
Here's Grandpa Charles beginning his explanation of natural selection:
"Long ago, maybe kiwis were more like regular birds.
Maybe they had wings and flew.
But say one family was a little bit different.
Say some stayed on the ground a little more and smelled bugs
a little better. They'd be safer, and catch more dinner...."
I love the idea of using a time-travel story in an educational way--I vaguely feel that lots of books say "let's go back in time," but one like this, that uses a fictional narrative, with engaging characters and touches of humor, is very rare indeed. (It's the first time I've ever applied my fantasy label and my non-fiction label simultaneously!)
(and it's awfully nice that Charlie is a kid of color)
Blog: Playing by the book
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Books / Libraries
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In a little departure from the norm, today I’m not reviewing a book, but rather a film, Eleanor’s Secret, directed by Dominique Monfery.
The reason why I’ve wanted to share Eleanor’s Secret with you is because it is a celebration of the joy of reading and a tribute to the power and magic of stories.
Seven year old Nat cannot yet read and is terribly disappointed when he discovers he has inherited his Aunt’s library. Although he adored having stories read to him by his Aunt, when Nat himself opens a book he almost drowns in a jumble of letters. Understandably Nat wants nothing to do with what makes him feel so uncomfortable.
Only after his parents sell the collection to a dealer who has realised the library is packed with first editions does Nat learn that he has an important responsibility. He must save all the characters in the stories read to him by Aunt Eleanor from disappearing forever by reading aloud a magic inscription. If the spell is not read by midday, all his storybook favourites will be lost for eternity, and children the world over will only ever be read true tales.
Eleanor's Secret - Aunt Eleanor's house
Alice in Wonderland, the Match Girl, Peter Pan, Rapunzel, Mowgli and many other colourful characters climb out of their books and beg Nat to help them before it is too late. Only the wicked fairy, Carabosse from Sleeping Beauty, throws a spanner in the works. She refuses to believe that Nat is the true inheritor of the library – after all he cannot read. In a puff of magic she shrinks him and in doing so makes his race against time to return the books to the library, and to learn to read, even more difficult.
I was instantly entranced by the story in this film – swept up in its passion for developing a love of reading, for wearing its heart on its sleeve. “Mankind can never live without dreams” says Aunt Eleanor, whilst the inscription Nat must read before the clock strikes 12 is “Just because it’s a story doesn’t mean it’s not real“.
The look of the film is utterly gorgeous. The colours and textures at times reminded me of Shaun Tan’s illustrations whilst the library and magical characters made me happily remember How to Live Forever by Colin Thompson. It was only after I’d seen the film did I discover that its art work is based on drawings by French illustrator Rebecca Dautremer whose The Secret Lives of Princesses has been well received in the English speaking world.
As well as being a pleasure to look at, the characterization is great. I think the animation of what Nat feels when he’s presented with a text he can’t read is acutely, brilliantly imaginatively observed. The tricky, teasing but ultimately supportive and loving relationship between Nat and his older sister is also very believable.
3 Comments on “Reading is an invitation to dream”, last added: 6/23/2011
By: The Storylady,
The foundation for learning to read begins way earlier than most people realize. It's not just learning the ABC song, and it's not just learning to recognize letters. It starts way back when you hold your baby on your lap and read the first little board book out loud. Babies learn that books have pages that turn, and pictures that are different on each page, and that when you use this book, you always hear this story, but when you hear that book, you hear that story. Next comes print awareness, knowing that print has meaning, and the same print always has the same meaning. They may recognize the word "McDonald's" even though they don't understand how to sound out the letters.
I think many children can begin to read on their own well before kindergarten. Of course, it's also like learning to ride a bike - for some it just clicks way before others. But there's no need to wait for kindergarten to start teaching your child the basics, just like you don't need to wait 'til the magic age of five, or six to try to teach your child to ride a bike.
One of the best ways (in my phonics-biased opinion) is to get a very simple alphabet book, one that shows just the letter, a picture, and maybe the word. And make sure the word represents the main sound of the letter, not something like "owl" for "O". (My one big complaint about my blue alphabet rugs.) Read the book aloud by saying "A says a like apple. B says b like ball. C says c like cow." Read it over and over and over. I found a great alphabet book like that when Lauren was about 15 months old. She fixated on that book, and I didn't really understand why until I saw her looking at a book (not the alphabet book) and pointing at a word, saying "f". I looked at her book, and sure enough, she was pointing at the letter f. I quizzed her and she knew lots of letters. She knew the whole alphabet by the time she was 17 months old, and I definitely credit that alphabet book. Something just clicked with her, like a child learning to ride a bike at 4. I do believe, though, that kids are capable of getting started way before kindergarten, even before preschool. You are your child's first and best teacher!
Adventures in Cartooning Activity Book, by James Sturm, Andrew Arnold, and Alexis Frederick-Frost (First Second, 2010).
Adventures in Cartooning, published last year, introduced young illustrators to an un-named knight and his trusty steed, Edward. The first book didn't have much story, qua story--it was clearly a book designed to build cartooning confidence, which it did with much delightful humor. Although this sequel sounds like it should have less story, in as much as it is an "activity book," the activity sections are embedded into a coherent cartoon narrative, that tells of an adventure the young knight (and Edward) find in their own castle one rainy day (there are robots! a cookie monster! a giant!). Even once all the pages of activities are filled, this is a book that will be read again and again. It is the just the sort of fun, easy reader to give to your 1st or 2nd grader.
The tips for cartooning are both useful and clearly presented, and the knowledge gained is not only applicable to creating comics, but also to reading them (the types of speech balloons, for instance, are all explained, and neither my house guests, my children, or I knew that a dashed line balloon meant a whisper).
Of all the books that I brought back from ALA, this is the one that brought most happiness home with it. For the past few days, my seven year old has spent hours (literally) absorbed by this slim yet tightly packed paperback (63 pages of the book proper, then several pages of blank comic boxes to draw in). By extension, I love it too, but even if I hadn't had a seven year old to hand it over to, I would be writing a glowing review of it for its own sake...(well, actually, in large measure for Edward's sake, because he is my favorite graphic novel horse ever).
[In fishing for words I seem to have caught rather a lot - this is quite a long post so please enjoy with a nice cup of tea or coffee!]
M has been learning to read at school since November. It’s been a delight and a source of amazement to me to see her skill unfold and now with just a week left till the summer holidays begin I’ve been looking for different ways to support her reading whilst school’s out. She’s not what I would call an enthusiastic reader at the moment – yes, she loves to listen to stories and can spend a long time taking in every detail of illustrations, but reading by herself hasn’t yet become something she does for the sheer pleasure of it.
I’ve wondered if this might be partly because she’s had such a rich diet of books already – fantastic picture books with great stories and delicious illustrations, or audiobooks and bedtime chapter books with engaging stories of real literary merit that whisk her away to wonderful worlds where she can spend hours and hours, and swapping all of this for simple, cheaply illustrated early readers is asking a lot.
I know that I find it hard to go from The Secret Garden (our current bedtime book), How to train your dragon and all the other stories in that series (M’s favourite audiobooks at the moment) and picture books like One Smart Fish, The Tale of the Firebird or Nothing to Do to things like Ron Rabbit’s Big Day (even if it is written by Julia Donaldson) or A Cat in the Tree.
So with the summer holidays almost upon us I’ve been looking for ways to keep her reading and to bolster her enjoyment. One complaint she explicitly makes about the books she brings home from school is their length. So in thinking how to overcome the lack of motivation when it comes to reading I’ve been looking at … dictionaries.
Perhaps not the most obvious choice when it comes to texts for early readers, especially as I wasn’t looking at them to boost her vocabulary, or to help with her spelling (although this may come later on) but rather as a source of short texts that we could dip in an out of, perhaps a few times a day, rather than sitting down for a “long” reading session (almost an impossibility with a younger sibling around anyway!)
If like me you grew up (mostly) in the UK in the 70s and 80s and you’re asked to think of a famous witch from the canon of children’s literature, I’m fairly confident the name Meg would be one of the first to trip off your tongue.
Back in 1972 Meg and Mog arrived on the scene (in a flash of lightning, out of a cauldron, the wonderful result of a spell gone not quite according to plan, I like to think), the creation of Helen Nicoll and Jan Pieńkowski and they’ve been delighting children ever since. I loved their books when I was little and now my children share my laughter when we read the stories of crazy japes and spells gone wrong which come together to form the Meg and Mog series.
With Halloween not far off the timing couldn’t have been better for the release of the first new Meg and Mog book in four years. Meg Goes to Bed is a worthy addition to the collection. Although the story is perhaps not quite as satisfying as Meg at Sea, Mog’s Missing or Meg’s Car, many features that you would want to find in a quintessential Meg and Mog story are here to delight in.
There is an apparently simple scenario – Meg, Mog and Owl are hungry – but yet disaster still manages to strike. There’s a classically illustrated recipe for a spell, followed by the inevitably unintended results when the magic words are incanted. Meg’s catch phrase (“Oh dear, oh dear“), Mog and Owl’s nigh on obligatory crash landing and the idea that hard work and perseverance rather than the swish of a magic wand will get you what you need all add up to making this a book that my children were thrilled to read and that I was very pleased to add to our collection.
Pieńkowski’s bold, graphic design influenced illustrations, with their bright, sheer palette and tone are dramatic and exciting. In Meg Goes to Bed the articulation of the familiar characters, Meg, Mog and Owl is slightly less smooth than in earlier Meg and Mog books, but then I would not expect characters which have been drawn for almost 40 years to be identical today with their first incarnations. Indeed when I asked Jan about this as part of an interview I held with him (which will be published on Monday) he had this to say: “Change is inevitable… The Great Masters have “an Old Style”, perhaps humble illustrators are allowed to have one too!“.
An additional joy of reading Meg Goes to Bed was that it made a great early reader for M – in fact she has taken great pride in reading it to J. As M said, it’s a “real” book (rather than one written as an early reader), with engaging, familiar illustrations. Seeing M’s happiness at being able to read a brand new story from a s
Word play is something we all enjoy in our home – whether it is J making up rhyming nonsense words or me making a terrible joke based around the multiple meanings of a given word (what my husband calls “a Zoe joke”). Unsurprisingly, books that play on words are also favourites, and a recent discovery for us that we’ve really enjoyed is Word Builder by Ann Whitford Paul, illustrated by Kurt Cyrus.
With just a single sentence or phrase per page, accompanied by outsized illustrations on a grand scale Word Builder instructs its reader on the steps needed to construct first words and sentences before moving on to paragraphs and chapters, ultimately leading to the creation of a whole book.
Begin your new construction
with twenty-six letters.
Hammer a through z into words.
Pile your words like blocks
into sentence towers -
measure some tall,
saw others short.
This is no dry reference book, but instead something like a poem. The use of the imperative gives the text and immediacy; the reader/listener is directly addressed, making it seem like the story has been written for them alone – a great device for engaging little people in the perhaps otherwise somewhat (potentially) dull subject of composition.
The large scale illustrations showing the construction process, with giant letters mortared and buttressed together, all overseen by a young yellow-helmeted boy are exciting; the sometimes unexpected perspectives on the building process are thrilling. All in all, an interesting example of a picture book great for those already at school rather than pre-schoolers, a super book for those interested in words, for children beginning to write and for anyone who loves a good digger, crane or bulldozer!
Having read Word Builder we set straight to constructing some sentences, paragraphs and word cities of our own. Inspired by this post from Letter Soup, and this post from Filth Wizardry I picked up a bag of construction blocks from a charity shop. M and I prepared stickers with various words on them: M chose many of the words herself and then I wrote them on the stickers before both girls stuck them on the blocks ready to start building with.
As the building blocks we had came in a lot of different colours I chose to use one colour for e
Everyone remembers his or her first time, right? That magical moment when the squiggles on the page crystalize into words, and a new world, a world of reading, unfolds.
Mine occurred in the second half of first grade. In those long ago days, children weren't pressured into reading while still in diapers. We listened to picture books in kindergarten, but we didn't have readers of our own. There wasn't time. Kindergarten lasted half a day. Was this good or bad? I don't know. But my daughter, who went to preschool and full-day kindergarden where reading was very definitely taught, learned to read at exactly the same age as I did: six-and-a-half.
Still, even in those more forgiving days, I was among the last in my class to learn to read. What was wrong? Our house was full of enticing books; my mother, a bookworm, read aloud to me and my sisters every night; the children's room at the library was as familiar to me as the back of my hand. Whatever the reason, the squiggles on the page stayed squiggles.
Then, on an otherwise ordinary day, the amazing happened. I was looking at the page and reading aloud--as I often did; I was able to memorize the words from listening to my mother and parrot them back to her--when something shifted and the squiggles changed into words that held meaning. (How I wish I could remember the book, but I can't.) "You're reading!" my mother exclaimed. I was? At first, it didn't seem possible, but as I continued to stumble over the words, my confidence grew. And after that day, I joined the ranks of my classmates. I was a reader.
What about you? Do you remember your first time?
Blog: Playing by the book
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, Gwen Millward
, Jenny Nimmo
, Learning to read
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I’ve been itching to review The Beasties by Jenny Nimmo, illustrated by Gwen Millward ever since we discovered it at the start of the year. It’s one of those books that we’ve renewed the maximum times possible from the library because we just can’t let it go.
Daisy has moved house and is finding it hard to fall asleep in her new room. She lies awake listening to unfamiliar noises.
What was that?
Daisy’s heart went pit-a-pat.
Was it a truck in the street?
It sounded like…
… a story!
From out of the darkness a growly voice tells Daisy an exciting story about a faraway king and his ring.
Daisy wondered about that ring.
Was it gold or silver
or studded with jewels?
and wondered until
she fell asleep.
The next night again there are again strange noises Daisy is not yet used to. But this time a clickety voice cuts through the darkness to tell a captivating story about a beautiful bird. Before Daisy knows it she’s transported, and happily dreaming.
The third night it’s a musical voice with a sing-song story that lulls Daisy to sleep, but on the fourth night everything is silent. Daisy can’t sleep and longs for a story.
And then there is the faintest of growls. Daisy summons up all her courage and looks under her bed and almost screams – there are The Beasties.
But the Beasties are so very small and so very friendly and it turns out that they are the secretive storytellers who have been visiting Daisy each night, leaving treasures under her bed to inspire stories.
And when Daisy asks for another story, Floot (the Beastie with the musical voice) insists that Daisy tell her own story and hands her a shell. At first Daisy doesn’t know what to do but she thinks hard, and slowly begins to weave a story around the shell. As her story ends Daisy smiles, hugs the shell tight and drifts off to sleep imagining herself in her own story.
The Beasties sneak out of Daisy’s room knowing her bed won’t seem so big and her room won’t seem so strange now she can tell her own stories. Their work is done.
A book about how stories can comfort, reassure us and makes us feel at home – this is a fabulous read. Perfect for bedtime, ideal if coming to terms with moving house or rooms, I love how the story acknowledges worries, but turns them round. The girls love joining in with the repeated refrain “What was that? Daisy’s heart went pit-a-pat” and they adore the pictures of trinkets and knick-knacks littering the floor under Daisy’s bed – they know this sort of treasure only too well as it’s exactly the stuff they are always collecting; a feather from here, a round stone from there, a button, a ribbon, a broken earring.
1. I don't need to read to my baby/toddler.FalseThe foundations of learning to read begins from the moment a baby can hear sounds. People talking, music playing, and the rhythms and repetitions in stories and nursery rhymes. It makes sense then to talk, sing, read and play with our babies, at such a crucial time in their brain development. 2. Children don't need to learn how to read until they
This week saw the release into the wild of the 8th edition of Literacy Lava, a digital magazine full of literacy activities to share with kids, edited by The Book Chook, a beacon in the world of children’s learning, literacy and literature.
I always enjoy reading the magazine (which you can download and distribute for free from here) but this time round I’m honoured to be one of the contributing authors, with a piece all about going out and about with your kids and collecting words.
So, pour yourself a cup of tea, download a copy of Literacy Lava 8 and be inspired – it’s erupting with tips for parents and teachers, suggesting ideas for incorporating literacy and learning into our every day
Meet Monster: Six Stories About the World's Friendliest Monster, by Ellen Blance and Ann Cook, illustrated by Quentin Blake.
Back in 1973, Blance and Cook teamed up with ordinary kids to create the six stories about a kindly, friendly monster--stories prefect for the young reader just finding their reading feet. Marshall Cavendish has just brought it out again for a new generation to enjoy.
"A monster comes to this city to live.
Monster is not ugly like other monsters. He's very tall, and his head is skinny."
And monster needs a house to live in, so he looks and looks till he finds one that's just right. Some are not right.
"This house is dark all over. Not many things happen in this house.
He can't live here."
(isn't that rather brilliant?)
But he finds a tall, thin house that's perfect for a tall, thin monster.
And monster needs to make his house tidy, and he needs a friend, and it's always nice to meet another monster....
Quentin Blake's illustrations bring Monster to charming life in true Blake style. And the end result is an easy chapter book that seems to me just utterly spot on for a kid learning how to read.
Knowing that this was a reissue of an earlier book, I read with gimlet eyes, looking for things that might seem odd to a reader in 2011. The only thing I noticed was that the authors use "fine" quite a bit, as in "it will look really fine." "Fine" seems to be falling by the wayside these days....nice, I guess, rules supreme!
At any event, if Marshall Cavendish had released this just three years earlier, I would have bought it in a shot for my little one! It is just fine (actually, what with Blake's illustrations, it's considerably more than fine--I'd go so far as to say very nice indeed).
(I'd especially recommend this one to the five year old (or thereabouts) who's moving to the big city. It makes the big city seem like a place in which one might be able to live....although I still have my doubts).
disclaimer: book received (just yesterday! It was the first one I read from the big box I got--I was drawn to it) from the publisher.
Last week the UK Secretary for Education Michael Gove suggested that children as young as 11 should be reading 50 books a year as part of a drive to raise literacy standards. This raised a lot of eyebrows amongst the British book-loving public, not least as it comes following large cuts in funding for libraries in the UK.
Whilst most commentators of course agreed that reading should be encouraged, many argued against a prescribed list of set length:
“I feel it’s the quality of children’s reading experience that really matters. Pleasure, engagement and enjoyment of books is what counts – not simply meeting targets” ~ Anthony Browne
“The important aim is a reading that should be wide and deep rather than numerical” ~Alan Garner
“When it comes to reading books children should be allowed – and encouraged – to read as much rubbish as they want to” ~ Philip Pullman
In response to Gove’s 50 books a year suggestion, The Independent newspaper published an article “The 50 books every child should read“, containing books for 11 year olds suggested by Philip Pullman, Michael Morpurgo, Michael Rosen and others. This list gave me lots of food for thought. Of course I want to do all I can to encourage a love of reading in my children, and one of the ways I do this is by reading lots and lots to them – if they don’t love books when they are 6 it’s unlikely they’ll love books when they are 11 or 16.
So I try to let them read whenever or whatever they want, but I also try to ensure they’re surrounded by superb, stimulating, brilliant and breathtaking (picture) books. But how do I, you, or any other person discover and choose such books?
I approached six brilliant UK-based illustrators and asked them to contribute towards a list of books every child should be read. Tim Hopgood, James Mayhew, Jan Pieńkowski, Katie Cleminson, Viviane Schwarz and Clara Vulliamy all very gamely accepted my challenge of producing a list of 10 or so books each that they love.
This list is not prescriptive, this list is personal. This list does not claim to be the definitive top 50 picture books of all time, although it certainly would create a fantastic library for any child. This list is merely a starting point and this list, hopefully, will generate lots of discussion; I look forward to hearing what you think about the books, authors and illustrators which have been included (and those which have been left out).
Tim says “This is not my top 10 – that would be impossible! My top 10 changes constantly as I discover more and more new (or sometimes old) picture books to add to my collection. And I don’t claim to be an expert on what makes a great picture book. The list I’ve put together is simply 10 books that I find inspiring and enjoyable to look at time and time again and hope others will too!”
3 Comments on 50+ picture books every child should be read – a non-prescriptive list for inspiration
, last added: 4/1/2011
By: Sandie lee,
Troo feels he's big and strong enough to climb the tallest tree in the Rainforest, even if his parents think he's not. But after an adventurous climb to the top, Troo learns the real reason for his parents' rule.Troo's Big Climb by Cheryl Crouch
is a wonderful book for your level two (developing reader). It's adventurous and educational - teaching a valuable lesson of God's principle of "Obeying Your Parents."
Troo and his Australian home is brought to life by Kevin Zimmer's wonderful illustrations - they're just the right mix of colours and detail to add to your young reader's experience.
Check out, Troo's Big Climb
and all the wonderful books by Zonderkidz
part of Zondervan publishing.
Want to win all of Troo's adventures? Just leave a comment in this or any of the Troo book review spots. I will do a random draw on Sunday April 24'th.
A big warm welcome to this month’s celebration of early literacy, easy readers and short chapter books! The I Can Read carnival is all about sharing finds, approaches, successes and more when it comes to books aimed at those just beginning to read for themselves, or those consolidating their reading skills.
If you’ve a review, commentary, or an experience you want to share on this topic, please leave a comment on this post including a link to your piece and I’ll add you to the carnival. The carnival will remain open until the evening of Monday 16th May so if you haven’t got a blog post all ready to submit you’ve a few days to write one to be included. Infact we’re happy to accept posts up to a year old – so really there’s every reason to join in
Over at Fantastic Reads Claire and her son Liam have reviewed Clever Polly and the Stupid Wolf by Catherine Storr. Liam and him Mum took turns in reading parts of this book, which “is split into lots of short stories for easy reading and while each one carries a similar theme of whether Wolf will ever catch Polly, the content is imaginative and varied as he tries every trick in the book.” I’m glad to say I have reserved it at the library on the basis of Claire and Liam’s review!
Anita writes beautifully about passing on the book bug, and the importance of adults being excited about reading if their kids are ever to feel the same way.
Over at Chez Spud, in New readers…beyond Biff & Chip Spudballoo writes about the (UK) reading schemes which have worked brilliantly for her and her sons, focussing on those that consist of “decodable books”, rather than “look and say” books. I found some useful suggestions there – so do go and check her recommendations out.
Julie at Just Playin’ Around has written about Stages of Reading Development and very helpfully has included several (US) book series recommendations for each stage.
Catherine speaks the truth (at least in my experience) when she writes Books for emergent readers can be boring over at Adventures with Kids. In her post she shares a tip about making reading more interesting for young learners, a simply thing we could all try if our kids are bored with their books and are loosing focus on the text…
Melissa at Imagination Soup reviews Flip a Word Books from Blue Apple Books – she describes them as “the most enticing early readers – colorful, bold, and absolutely perfect for learning to read and learning word fa
Due to the exigencies* of life, I do not have my beautifully insightful, articulate etc review extolling the virtues (and they are many) of The Midnight Gate, by Helen Stringer, ready to post yet. So some ferrets are filling in.
As far as I'm concerned, the only drawback to Ferret Fun, by Karen Rostoker-Gruber, illustrated by Paul Ratz de Tagyos (Marshall Cavendish, 2011) is that it will make your child pine for a ferret of their own. This utterly charming picture book, presented in graphic novel-esque panels, tells of two ferret friends who are confronted with a visiting cat. The cat is not a friend; when he sees the ferrets, he sees "double-rat snack pack."
And so the ferrets must determine just how they can survive the visit of this malevolent predator.
"We could ignore her." says one.
"She'll bug us more." says the other.
"We could run away."
"Then who would feed us raisins?"
"It's no use. We're doomed."
But soon the courage of the ferrets is revitalized, and in a bold full page spread that underlines the power of Determination in the face of Bullying, the ferrets take a stand. (Yay, ferrets!)
And all becomes well.
Share this one to your little one who is learning to read. It's perfect for the sort of reading in which your child takes one or two parts to read, and you take the rest. You can also leave this one around for your eight and ten year old boys to read and re-read--my boys got a kick out of it, as did I!
The pictures of the ferrets are awfully charming. I almost want one, or two, ferret friends myself....
disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher
*(how is exigencies pronounced, btw? EXigencies or exIgencies?)
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Language Magazine’s Editorial in the January 2010 issue focused on the importance of enjoying reading in order to develop literacy skills. I really liked the editor’s viewpoint and got permission to reprint the article here for you. If you’d like more information on or to subscribe to Language Magazine: The Journal of Communication and Education, please visit their website, www.languagemagazine.com.
Language and literacy are the tools with which knowledge is built. Without their acquisition, no child has the chance to become an astronaut, a scientist, a doctor, a movie star, or even a musician. Without aspirations, children cannot flourish and life loses some of its magic. Yet, we continue to deny so many of our children the opportunity to develop their own language and literacy skills by refusing them access to books that are suitable for them and might even excite them.
According to a newly released study (see News, p. 10 by the American Association of School Librarians (AASL), in more than 90 percent of school libraries, books in languages other than English account for less than five percent of the collection and, in nearly 60 percent of school libraries, they account for less than one percent. While nearly 14 percent of responding schools reported that at least 25 percent of their students were English Language Learners (ELLs) and a quarter of all respondents rated free-choice reading as the most effective ELL initiative.
Now, I can already hear the English-only brigade proclaiming that all books in school libraries in America should be in English because that’s the language spoken here, but even the most hardened English-only advocate must appreciate that children will never become literate in any language if they don’t enjoy reading. And reading in a second language is hard work at first —imagine being obliged to pick up War and Peace every night for your bedtime read.
Librarians consider “school-wide reading initiatives that encourage free choice reading” to be the most effective teaching strategy for ELLs. Many teachers and experts agree (see Opinion, p.26). Restocking our school and public libraries with books that will interest today’s kids is a relatively low cost policy with no drawbacks and an enormous upside. Not only is it a long term investment which will serve children for many years to come, but, for those who are counting, nearly all the money will end up with American publishers (yes, there are many American publishers of books in languages other than English) so the investment will satisfy stimulus package requirements.
Britain’s Cambridge University recently released the results of a three-year study (see News p.11) into elementary education, which warns “that prescribed pedagogy combined with high stakes testing and the national curriculum amounted to a ‘state theory of learning.’ Prepackaged, government approved lessons are not good for a democracy, nor for children’s education…Pupils do not learn to think for themselves if their teachers are expected to do as they are told.” This completely contradicts the blindly accepted notion that more standards and testing make better schools —the basis for the federal education funding.
Another $250 million was allocated to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) teaching earlier this month. About the same amount of funding would buy an appropriate library book for every child in public school across the nation. Instead of pinning all its hopes of school reform success on standards, assessment, and incentive schemes, the government, like all wise investors, should spread its bets.
By: Terry Doherty,
Is it Friday already? Wow, what a week! Today at Jen Robinson's Book Page, Jen is wrapping up the week with a look at how we take the next step. She and her guests are offering answers and ideas to some of the toughest questions we have as adults ... mostly parents, but not always. We have a few questions left ourselves, so here goes ...
- Is there a book from your childhood that you didn't like "back then," but that you've since re-read and liked? What was it about the book that you didn't like before?
- Do you have a favorite chapter book for reading with kids of different ages (e.g., 4, 9, 13)?
- What book(s) has your child recommended to you that you loved?
Just a reminder for new visitors. Here's how it works ...
1. Select the question or questions that resonate with you.
2. Find an old post or write a new one that answers the question. [Be sure to grab the Share a Story button from the sidebar to include in your new post!]
3. Come back here and link your post either via the inLinxz box or as a comment.
We'll be adding links for this question through tomorrow (Saturday). If you haven't had a chance to link up through the inlinkz box, don't fret ... the comments will remain open for 30 days, so if something strikes you next week, we'd love to hear from you then.
The Adventures of Benny, by Steve Shreve (Marshall Cavendish, 2009, 159 pages, ages 7-10)
First, the description. In the five stories that make up this book, a boy named Benny has various fantastical adventures, encountering Big Foot, a mummy named King Butt, a giant squid, the Booger-man, and some nervous monkeys. The stories are relaxed, over-the-top, and occasionally gross; they also are very easy to read, with relatively few words per page and lots of illustrations (you can get an idea of the book here at its website).
"They started back toward the door, but it was too late--they heard a noise outside.
"Now what?" asked Benny, "King Butt has caught up to us!"
"Oh, I wouldn't worry too much about that," said Uncle Howard. "The snakes will probably finish us off long before he gets in." (page 55)
Second, the personal experience part.
Is your emergent boy reader uninterested in the Magic Treehouse books? Obsessed with Diary of a Wimpy Kid (but too young for it, really)? The Adventures of Benny is an easy to read, copiously illustrated, kind of gross, chuckle producing, alternative. The short chapters, each of which stands on its on, make the book particularly friendly for the young reader.
Is your nine year old boy reader driving you absolutely mad by refusing to read any of the books you carefully find for him, after hours of blog reading to find possibilities, chats with the librarian, etc etc? Leave The Adventures of Benny casually draped on the sofa, and he will read it eagerly. In about ten minutes flat too, proving that he can read after all, which you might have been wondering.
If you are an adult reader, reading The Adventures of Benny with an eye toward a blog review, you might not find it a life-changing experience, and you might find smelly socks, farts, eating snakes, etc . don't in fact make you chuckle. But you might also acknowledge that the stories and pictures are not without amusing charm, and the reactions of your children will dispose you fondly toward the book. And it was a nice touch to name the Egyptologist uncle "Howard" (as in Howard Carter, of King Tut fame).
The Adventures of Benny is on the short-list of the Children's Choice Book Awards (chosen by kids), in the 5th and 6th category.
Here's the full list for those grades:
The Adventures of Benny by Steve Shreve (Marshall Cavendish)
Dork Diaries: Tales from a Not-So-Fabulous Life by Rachel Renee Russell (Aladdin/Simon & Schuster)
Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11 by Brian Floca (Atheneum/Richard Jackson/Simon & Schuster)
Outlaw: The Legend of Robin Hood by Tony Lee, Sam Hart, and Artur Fujita (Candlewick)
Zoobreak by Gordon Korman (Scholastic Press)
The link above shows all the lists. Kids can vote for their favorite until May 3, at libraries, book stores, schools, and at BookWeekOnline.com.
(disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher)
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Toon Books are among the loveliest early readers I know off. These graphic novels for the very young reader are, in general, smart, funny, and engaging, and I just had the pleasure of reading two recent titles.
Zig and Wikki, in Something Ate My Homework (by Nadja Spigleman and Trade Loeffler) tells of two alien kids who take a wrong turn in their space ship, and find themselves on earth. Zig had been hoping to arrive at his grandmother's house, where he planned to snag on of her puffle pups (his homework assignment, which is already late, was to find a class pet). Perhaps, think Zig and Wikki, Earth will have something to offer...but can two small aliens capture a fly? or a dragonfly? or a toad? Definitely Not a raccoon...
Interspersed with tidbits of nature lore (I didn't know that toads ate their own skins) it's a fun alien adventure that ends happily...(sample pages here)
Benny and Penny in The Toy Breaker (by Geoffrey Hayes) brings back the engaging mouse siblings for another backyard tale. When Cousin Bo comes over, Benny and Penny hurry to hide their toys, and, even more importantly, their treasure map. Because Cousin Bo is a Toy Breaker! But with Bo around, how can Benny and Penny find the loot? And will Penny's poor Monkey, ripped by the careless paws of Bo, recover?
When Bo gets into trouble of his own, he (somewhat miraculously) becomes a nicer mouse, and all ends well. A pleasant story of the perils of group play. (sample pages here)
But, although these are both books that I enthusiastically placed in the eager hands of my six year old, and he enjoyed them a lot, neither of these knocked Stinky, by Eleanor Davis, off its place as my family's favorite Toon Book of all...
(review copies received from the publisher)