So when it comes to children's books, Mo Willems is basically my hero. Last semester for my Children's Literature class, I wrote my final paper on his books, for which he typically does both the text AND the images (and it included a presentation, complete with examples from several books on an overhead projector . . . I basically rocked it.)
Today on Mo's blog he shared that I Broke My Trunk! from his Elephant and Piggie series has been awarded a 2012 Geisel Honor for Early Readers. (You know those shiny circle stickers you sometimes see on picture books? They're often Geisel Honors, or Caldecott. Both are clues that the book is going to be great.)
Seriously, guys, if you haven't checked out his books yet, you MUST. He's made of awesome.
(this picture of the elephant is the one he posted on his blog. When I link to the entry on Facebook, the picture comes with it; I'm following that model. The image belongs to Mo Willems.)
P.S. If you want to see the cutest thing ever, look at the fan mail Mo posts on his blog. ADORABLE.
Today I started reading a new book: Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain, by Maryanne Wolf. It's an odd title, I know, but it's going to be awesome. It's rather technical and scientific, and I can tell already that it's going to challenge me because my brain hurts. (Totally serious. Anything having to do with literature or artistic expression is second nature to me, anything having to do with science or math or extreme technicality taxes me greatly.)
OK! The point of this entry - an amazing expression of WHY WE READ, found on page 7:
While reading, we can leave our own consciousness, and pass over into the consciousness of another person, another age, another culture . . . Reading enables us to try on, identify with, and ultimately enter for a brief time the wholly different perspective of another person's consciousness . . . We never come back quite the same; sometimes we're inspired, sometimes saddened, but we are always enriched.
And, finally, what I think might be my strongest reason for being a reader:
We are no longer limited by the confines of our own thinking.
Go forth and read, my friends. :)
At the beginning of this school year, I attended parent's night to get a sense of what Jake would be doing in 3rd grade. One thing that really interested me was a concept I had never considered before: reading stamina.
Jake's teacher talked about how most of their mornings are dedicated to reading: a mix of phonics work, independent reading, group work, one-on-one help, language activities, etc. Then she said that a lot of the focus for independent reading time is to build a child's reading stamina; at the beginning of the year there might be some children who can only read steadily for 5 minutes before being tired or restless or just plain DONE with it. The goal was to gradually move those kids up until they could read independently for long periods of time.
Once your child starts reading independently, you might be unsure where to start with choosing books - especially where chapter books are concerned. Well I was at Barnes & Noble the other day (oh, how I love that place . . . ) and they make it pretty easy to differentiate between the kinds of chapter books.
The first category is "chapter books" for ages 5 - 8 or grades PreK - 3, which I would call "first chapter books." These books typically have bigger text and often have pictures throughout the chapters. The chapters are shorter, and the syntax is easy to read. Books in this section often come in series, and this section is much smaller than the harder chapter books.
The other kid's chapter book category at B&N is "Young Readers," for ages 7 - 12 and grades 3 - 6. (After that, I guess they can look in the "teen" section?) There are SO many more options now for this reading level than when I was young - lots of seriously great series.
Amazon divides their children's books into the following age categories:
Baby - 2
Ages 3 - 5
Ages 6 - 8
Ages 9 - 12
Scholastic has the same age categories on their website. I guess Barnes & Noble kind of splits the difference. :) The best thing to do is go to an actual bookstore (hopefully you have one nearby!) or library, and spend some time exploring!
This book is PACKED with awesome information. It's the perfect place to start after reading "Growing a Reader From Birth." The authors focus on readers from preschool age through third grade. Here you'll find information on reading skill development, milestones, book lists, and how to enrich your child's learning at home. They also explain what your child will be learning in a classroom environment, and walk you through literacy buzzwords. I have a TON of notes from when I read this book.
Here are a few that jump out to me:
"We think we read with our eyes, and of course our eyes are part of the process. But what's even more important is the language-processing ability of our brains. Reading is a language skill more than a visual one." (p. 5)
"Emergent literacy isn't just about printed texts. It's also about speech - both talking and listening. Everything your child has been learning over the last few years about words, meaning, and how they go together will come into play as he begins to learn about print. That's because spoken language is the foundation of written language: without language, print is a meaningless code. Children who have trouble putting their thoughts into words or comprehending what others are saying will find it hard to figure out how the little black squiggles sprinkled across the page actually convey meaning. That's why hearing difficulties contribute to difficulties in reading." (p. 32)
This book really made me think about my interactions with babies and toddlers. It is so, so well-written; I typically type up great quotes from the books I read, and this one had so many jewels of information I ended up with five single-spaced pages!
You can preview this book over at Amazon (follow the link, above.) Here are some quotes that still stick out to me:
"You should also be aware that infants and young children understand a lot more than they can express. In technical jargon, language perception precedes language production. Not only do babies understand a lot more than you might imagine, they are also mentally working out some of the finer implications . . . Language comprehension is not just about what words mean. It is about every mental process that helps us interpret the world. It's about knowledge, about understanding time, sequence, and causality, about empathy, logic, and inference." (p. 18)
"As your toddler gets older, games get more intricate, more and more fanciful, and sillier. The toddler's sense of humor, I'm afraid, is just about as silly as it gets. Your main line of defense is to join in. You can find out some interesting things this way." (p. 79)
I am so, so fortunate that this book was on the shelf the first time I went to the public library to research literacy education. Rudolf Flesch's observations on the dangers of whole word / look-say / sight word intensive instruction are every bit as valid today as when he wrote the book in 1955. While this book is pretty old and his focus is very one-sided, he introduces a lot of very valid points.
Excerpts from the book:
"The truth is, of course, that any normal six-year-old child loves to learn letters and sounds. He is fascinated by them. They are the greatest thing he's come up against in his life. He loves making noises; he loves taking things apart and seeing what they are made of. So here is a wonderful new game where you take words apart to learn what they are made of. And you learn how to make signs on paper that stand for certain sounds and noises. The child thinks this is the greatest invention ever made . . . A normal child is ready and eager to learn to read because it's mankind's most fascinating game." (p. 74)
"Phonics is simply the knowledge of the way spoken English is put on paper. Among other things, this means that there is an end to phonics. Phonics is something a child can master completely, once and for all, with the assurance that he has covered everything there is."
In February of 2011 I started tutoring a friend's daughter in reading, confident that since I taught my son to read, I could help her. Being the nerd that I am, I started doing research. And then I got carried away.
I actually don't recommend most of these as must-read: they were interesting from a research perspective, but there are only 3 that I would recommend as must-reads to parents who are curious about early literacy. Those are:
Once you read those 3 book (the links above go to my reviews on this blog), you can read the descriptions online of the other books to see if they would be interesting to you.
Here's the list of all the books I read between Feb. and Aug. 2011 (in order of publication date):