Books, Children, Musings

Transitioning Out of Kids

One of the biggest questions and perhaps most difficult things to navigate with your kids is how exactly to transition out of the kids section.

Most kids are ready to start reading Young Adult titles around 11 to 12 (some sooner and some a bit later) but that is still relatively young when the teen section boasts a great variety of themes like sex, suicide, mental health, war, etc.  The rest of the bookstore can be a dangerous place for young minds, or at the very least it opens doors that are better left closed for a few years.

There are a number of ways to check and see if a particular title is appropriate for your young one and I’ll list a few here now.

Common Sense Media

Is a great all around resource that gives you no nonsense reviews of books, movies, and television.  I really appreciate that they don’t simply put an age on everything but also list out the reasons for placing it in that category.  Some kids might be better with violence than other and there are some kids who have no problem with some explicit language but would rather stay away from anything to do with .  They list the themes or instances of questionable content which allow you to decide whether it is appropriate for your child.  No one knows your child like you do so be sure and click through to the full review to better understand the ins and outs of the media you choose to share with them.

Dove.org

Is another site devoted to reviewing and categorizing modern media for parents.  They don’t separate into specific ages but rather good for everyone, good for 12+ (which is perfect for your teens), and good for 18+.  If you want to browse just be sure to filter the results by their age categories.  They will also break down how they came to that rating.  Showing which particular category (sex, violence, language, etc.) pushed out of one category and into the next.  It takes a little more work to understand the minutia on this site but if you want an easier one glance rating, this site might work better for you.

Plugged In

At this point you probably have picked up the gist.  Plugged In is another site dedicated to  reviewing media aimed at kids and discussing the areas that might cause some alarm or be better for older kids.  I find this one best if you have a particular series or title in mind as browsing the site is a bit difficult for me personally but it might work better for you so I thought I would add it in here as well.  I will say that they thoroughly go through the themes and content so if you really want a well researched and explained review this sight might be better for you.  They also feel more christian oriented which could be a pro or con depending on your point of view.

I will say that these sites are great background research but will always be coming from a slightly biased stand point.  They won’t be discussing whether the book is popular or enjoyable they are simply breaking down the possible things that one might not want to introduce to their child.  For a more well rounded review there are book reviewers like myself out there talking about the content and themes in a greater capacity.  You can always talk with your local booksellers as well about which titles they enjoyed or have seen others enjoy and do the background research afterwards.

The last resort is always to either read the book together so that you can discuss any issues that come up as they come up or to read it first and then hand it over because again, you know your kid best.

I am going to be making more posts in this series where I discuss some books I suggest for kids so be sure to follow the blog in whatever way suites you best!

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0-2, 2-5, 3-6, Books, Children, Musings

Best Bedtime Picturebooks

As someone who has the joy and the challenge of a two and a half year old I will be the first to tell you that nap time and bed time are two of the most stressful times of the day … despite being necessary reprieves.

If you, like me, need some help with the bed time routine it might be a good idea to grab one of these books and make it part of the routine.  It might be boring for you to read the same story over and over but it helps with relaxation, pattern creation, and eventually will help lead to reading as memorization allows for word recognition allows for a continued understanding of letters, sounds, and grammar patterns… but we were talking about bed time.

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This one is my personal favorite and it is a newer one.  I do also have a young boy who is fascinated with trucks and construction vehicles so it may just be a personal thing.  I feel like the particular cadence of this one lends itself to a good wind down activity.  It just seems to slowly loose steam, which in a bed time story is a good thing.  You want it to help bring the energy down a little bit.  If your kid falls in love with it.  A sequel has come out that is all about sharing and asking for help and that is really great as well.

6557873This next one is great to read alongside or just before the bed time routine.  It follows Little Pookie (a beloved character of mine from childhood, how about you?) while he goes through his bedtime routine.  There is a little bit of open interaction in it so I would definitely recommend this one earlier rather than latter because it stimulates the brain a bit too much to lull a child to sleep, but it definitely has its own benefits.  Helps create routines which again… important for young children.

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Goodnight Moon is maybe the quintessential bedtime story.  I think we all remember it from childhood and there is a reason.  Don’t fix what isn’t broken.  If you haven’t tried incorporating this one into your nightly routine it might be a time to revisit it.  There are board book and picture book versions so it can grow with your child.  Margaret Wise Brown is one of the staples of picture books and all of her books are worth adding to your child’s library.  She has a similar quality to Goodnight-Goodnight Construction site in that the cadence of the story helps wind down after a long day, so it would be good in bed.

122125Jane Yolen is one of the upcoming names in children’s books.  Her series about Dinosaurs is well worth the read and this one is great for parents of kids who try and talk their way out of bed time, or throw tantrums.  It shows several ways one should not act at bedtime, and discusses the proper way.  No shouting, no tantrums, no bargaining just a kiss and a sigh and a great rest.  I know lots of kids who are obsessed with Dinos and this one is great to stimulate their imagination because the parents in the story are human, and the child becomes the dinosaur.  One typically would think the Dino’s would be very rambunctious when in fact they go straight to sleep calmly.  It doesn’t rile kids up and has a great teaching element.  Well worth the read.
835495I’m ending this list on another classic and this one is one that worked well for my mother getting me to sleep when I was a baby.  I really loved animals and this one teaches baby animal names as well as winds down for the night.  Its just a sweet book that rhymes and uses repetition to lull a sense of calm into the child.  If you haven’t read it, I would recommend grabbing a copy.  It definitely helps wind down at the end of the day.

 

So whether you needed some suggestions of books that slowly bring a kid into bed time or books to teach the bedtime routine here are a few to try and add to your library both new and old, tried and true.

What are your favorite bedtime stories?  I would love to hear in the comments section below and maybe I will make another list like this one in the future.

Books, Children, Musings

Reading: Empathy Training

One of the greatest complaints I have heard from parents, grandparents, and the general public concerning children is a simple question?

Why don’t kids understand that what they say has repercussion.

Kids are cruel and seem to say the one thing that cuts deepest without even a nanosecond of hesitation.  Part of this is something learned over time.  Part of it has to do with the development of the brain and an understand of consequence but most of it has to do with empathy.

                 em·pa·thy
                ˈempəTHē/
                    noun
                          1. the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
Some people think that everyone learns empathy while growing up and once our brains are completely grown it is cemented.  This leads to vast disparaties in adults from people with over empathetic tendencies who are crippled by the imagined, projected emotions of others and sociopaths who cannot relate to anyone and believe that emotions are just an act.
However, there has been copious amounts of research in empathy training and the only way that has been proven to improve empathy in children and adults alike: reading fiction.
Fiction opens up our imagination to other points of view.  It literally places us in someone else’s shoes and forces us to experience something outside ourselves.
If your kids are struggling with empathy it might be a good time to encourage reading some fiction.  If you find yourself struggling to connect with others it might be time to pick up a new fiction book.
It is important that it is fiction and not nonfiction or other forms of writings as nonfiction is always from the perspective of the other.  It is set in the real world with other people you will always be removed, however fiction requires more suspension of disbelief, it forces the imagination to stretch to allow one to accept the reality presented even if only for a little while.
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I am by no means an expert.  I only recently learned about this but I wanted to pass along the knowledge that reading can do something that literally no other activity out there can.
If this interests you there are plenty of scholarly articles that discuss the studies done on this and the extent to which one can train their empathy I have linked a few of my favorites below:
Books are powerful and they need to be emphasized in kids lives.  Whether you make a commitment to read every day, once a week, or as much as you can it needs to be a part of lives.  It will give your kids the skills they need to navigate the world as adults.
2-5, 3-6, 5-7, 7-12, Books, Children, Musings

January 2018 Book Releases for Children

I’ve been working on a way to share the books that are coming out each month for kids with you guys and it has been hard to find a system that I like, I am going to keep playing around with it but for me, browsing the cover art is helpful since they tell you a lot about a book and also lets you know whether your kids will be interested in it.

This month I tried making a Pinterest Board that would allow you to scroll through the covers and click on something interesting.  The link brings you right to the Goodreads pages for the titles which include the release dates, reviews, genre denominations and links to buy the books.  Let me know if this works for you guys because aesthetically I do think that it is a great idea.

As far as new releases go, there were significantly fewer this month.  Which makes sense as most people don’t want to spend money after Christmas, they did all their shopping the last few months and are backing up, but there are a few books coming out that are worth looking at.

Again, let me know how you feel about this format of release round up and any other commentary, suggestions, or critiques are welcome as well.

Happy New Year!

 

Books, Children, Musings

5 Commonly Banned Books and Why I Loved Them

This post is what it says on the tin.  I attempted to look at some of the most commonly banned books over the ten years or so (found on the american library association website) and pick out a couple of books that I really loved.  I wanted to show them for their merit.  Now I don’t think that there has been a single book on any of the lists that made me upset or worry for the health and safety of the kids reading them, but my opinion on book banning has already been discussed in detail this week.

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark was a staple book in my fourth grade life.  I loved the whole series.  I took them out, one after the other.  As soon as one was available in the library I would snatch it up.  This should be of no surprise to folks who know me.  I have always been a horror fan, even tiny me was drawn to the spooks and the scares.  I can understand why some parents would find this book offensive.  The images alone were enough to give some kids nightmares.  I will also admit that there were particular stories that actually followed me throughout life.  I remembered them in the same way that I remember the purple muck monster from the finale of ghost writer.  If you watched that show then you know exactly what I mean.  I wanted to pull this guy out first because it was so well loved by me.  I can’t really talk to the literary merit… it is an interesting collection of fables and folk tales, ghost stories, and warnings.  I recently reread the first book as I saw that it was re-released (with far less traumatizing art disappointingly) and while it was a pleasant enough and full of nostalgic pleasure but I’m not sure it actually teaches kids anything.  I’m not sure it needs to.  It was a book to take home and read and giggle about.  It was a book to read aloud to your friends and scare their pants of during sleep overs.  It was meant to be fun, and I think that is defense enough.  It is a book which is only meant to be fun.  It has no motives, no hidden meaning, no message.  It simply exists to be consumed and shared.

Speaking of fun: The Adventures of Captain Underpants.  Now I will admit, that I only read the first one when I was young.  I was very much a tom boy when I was young and I was usually reading the books that the boys in class were reading.  At least in public, I did have my fair share of babysitter’s club novels, Laura Ingalls Wilder’s complete works, and Mary Poppins right next to my bed.  I remember parents being outraged at this book when I was a child.  How on earth could something so crass as a naked super hero who fights toilets and poop monsters be acceptable reading for kids.  I agree, the humor was not really for me.  I found it a bit gross, the tiny girl in me existed.  However, it completely matched the sense of humor of most of those third grade boys.  They were all about bathroom humor.  Some of them grew up and continued to love it.  I have no problem with boys reading fart jokes and honestly the drawing of this young boy wearing nothing but his underpants is anything but provocative.  I think the the stigma around it has fallen away a bit.  Again, I think the main problem here is that this is a book created entirely to be fun.  It is meant to install a joy of reading.  You can read books because they talk about poop.  Isn’t that silly.  Not just for girls with their silly girl things.  I wouldn’t take this away from a kid who enjoyed it.  Perhaps they will be hooked on stories eventually.  What do you think?  Too gross, inappropriate, too lascivious.  Look at the red cape, oh how dirty.

This is the last book on this list that I read before high school, in fact most of the top banned books are definitely being read in high school, or found in libraries where open access is important (I’m looking at you books about puberty, or sexual education).  I would like to point out that this book won the Newberry Award.  This book was picked as the best book for young readers the year it was published.  Clearly, it has literary merit.  It was a book that discussed, friendship, imagination, escapism, abuse, life, death, and growing up.  I read it in elementary school, but most of my peers didn’t read it until Middle school.  I distinctly remember this book making me cry.  Now this wasn’t a shocked and forever scarred type of cry it was the crying of deep empathy and loss.  I fell in love with the characters and I cried because they were hurting.  Many authors and teachers have lauded how reading helps build empathy.  This is true whether you are a child or an adult.  The act of reading asks you to willfully suspend your disbelief and follow other people, sometimes literally within their own head.  It builds the ability to see yourself in someone else’s point of view.  To look at problems from many different perspectives.  For children this is extremely important because they are still learning this skill (there are some adults who need a brush up on it as well).  This book was profoundly moving and one that I will always love.  I have not picked it up to reread yet, but it is on the list.  It may be a while before I get to it, because my own mental health has me leaning toward books that don’t tear my heart out and crush it in one blow.  The pain is good.  It helps you grow.  Just know when you are ready for it.

Speaking of incredibly heart breaking books that help build empathy.  The Perks of Being a Wallflower is one of the best Young Adult books tackling depression and suicide that I have ever read.  A lot of books make depression seem like an unending rain cloud that blinds the person it affects and prevents them from doing anything but sleep.  While it definitely can do this from time to time, the protagonist does discuss how he is able to make friends, to fall in love, to have fun.  In so many ways he is a normal teenager.  Yes, he experiments with drugs and alcohol, yes he experiments with a bit of sex and romance.  This is also something you will find in most high schools.  This fictional world is very real.  Trying to keep it out of schools because of the aspects of teenage life that show up in glimpses is like trying to get rid of roses because they have thorns.  Sure, it might be prettier without them, but is it really a rose any more.  Those elements add legitimacy to a book that is meant to discuss mental health.  The point of the book is for the teens reading it to fall into the head of the protagonist and to understand his motives and emotions.  It breaks your heart at the end, but it also helps show how his emotions were real, they were a legitimate disease and not a lifestyle or an emotion.  Look at the whole picture.  Look at the things this book does exceedingly well.  The rest is just costuming and set pieces.  Necessary for the presentation of the show.

This book is maybe the pinnacle young adult novel.  This is a book found on every single state’s curriculum.  It is a must read.  Not only is it a brilliant book, and interesting frame narrative, a great book for the discussion of literary tools like imagery, metaphor, unreliable narrators, etc.  A book that reduces teenage angst into its most potent and pure form.  My own experience with this book was a bit rocky.  My class read it after having read three brutal war novels and I just could not take Holden seriously.  However, I could recognize why this book is considered a modern classic, why it is a great book and why it was important to read and discuss.  Yes, Holden does a bit of drinking, orders himself a prostitute that he has a very civilized conversation with.  It discusses what it is like to feel like you aren’t quite right in the head.  Like you don’t really fit in.  That you are playing a part in your own life.  The simultaneous dread and excitement for finally being free of the education system and being free to make your own choices and be your own person.  It is an important book.  It has a lot to teach.  This many professionals do not put a book in such high standing without it having at least a smidge of merit.  Again, the few counterpoints that would make this book seem corrupting are besides the point.  They are flavor text meant to add depth to the character who is on his own and trying to figure himself out.  Again, mental illness is a theme here and the “adult” actions he attempts to participate in, don’t really work out for him.  He wishes he could keep everyone safe and young.  He feels tainted himself.  This is a lesson that anyone who would want to ban should also appreciate.

I may have fallen a bit into English major mode by the end there, but here you have it.  Five books that are consistently in the top ten of banned books of the year.  I hope you are all having lovely banned books weeks.  Are there any banned books you want to pick up this week?  Are there any that I didn’t talk about that you think I should have discussed.  I didn’t include Harry Potter because I’m not even sure I could form an argument where witchcraft is an acceptable excuse for banning a book, and I didn’t discuss John Green’s Looking for Alaska because I didn’t read it until I was an adult and John Green made a video on the topic that sums up why it shouldn’t be banned already.

Friday, as a change of pace, I have a book review of a book that has not been released yet.  It does include witchcraft and spirits as integral parts of the plot.  It may be something that some folks request to ban in the future, but you should read my review to hear what I thought of it.

Books, Children, Musings

Banned Books Week, Censorship, and Tackling Difficult Topics!

Good evening folks,

Apologies that today’s post is excruciatingly late, I have been having a hard weekend mental health wise.

I didn’t want to miss this week though!  It is a big week in the bookish world:

Banned Books Week!

If, somehow, you have never heard of it, this is a week long event meant to raise awareness for the countless books that are brought up for removal from libraries and schools.  The goal is simply to promote anti-censorship and the freedom to read. (If you click the link centered above it will take you to the event website to learn more.)

When we talk about being against censorship of books it does not mean that we condone a person who would hand 50 Shades of Grey to a 10 year old child.  Rather it is meant to discuss the right for books like 50 Shades of Grey to exist in public libraries where 10 year olds may also be.  Parents are still advised to discuss or screen the books their children are reading with them.  Parents do have the right to veto a book chosen for a child if they feel the content is too graphic, inappropriate, or malignant in some fashion.  Most libraries have cards that only allow access to certain parts of the library to certain age brackets (meaning a 10 year old cannot use their card to rent a rated-M game for instance).  It is also extremely easy for parents to ask a note be attached to a child’s account that would allow the librarian to screen the content they are trying to take out of the library for certain materials.

The issue of censorship comes when people take their opinion and attempt to force it upon an entire community.  Rather than requesting their child be excused from the assignment they petition the school, the county, what have you, to remove it from the curriculum entirely.

This manner of thinking it has no place in a public school, public library, or any other public forum.

Many schools and libraries will be participating in various events, and I definitely recommend you look at the list of books that have been banned the most in the last few years (on the banned books website linked above).  Some make sense, others feel a bit much, and even more are down right confusing.

Later this week I plan to post a list of 5 commonly banned books that I personally loved and discuss the most common reasons for being banned and why despite these issues they still matter.

Again, I agree that parents should have the right to know what their kid is reading, and can veto a book if they disagree with the content, but I don’t believe they have the right to banish that book from communal existence.

While books are banned for something as silly as promoting witchcraft (Hello, Harry Potter) I do understand how some parents would find problems with books that include sexual situations, situations of extreme abuse, or violence.  I completely understand that some kids simply cannot handle it and as a parent you have the right to protect them.  There were books that I read in high school that have left a lasting impact on me, and while they were, emotionally jarring to read about, they also helped widen my world view.

Difficult topics, such as sexuality, abuse, war, eating disorders, sexual violence and many other subjects are important to discuss.  While you may not believe in homosexuality, reading a book that includes it, or references it will not corrupt your children.  They will not read the book and suddenly become gay (though they could have been gay the whole time and that book simply allowed them to discover that fact, who knows.)  It is important to teach girls about abusive relationships, or teach children what parental negligence looks like, to teach boys the horrors of war (both real and imagined).  In the same way that it would be wrong to completely erase World War II from History Classes it is wrong to erase difficult subject matters from English classes when they are meant to educate and prevent behaviors.

My general rule of thumb, if you feel uncomfortable with your child reading something, talk with them about it.  You would be surprised how many kids know much more than you think they do.  They may have been introduced to the topics in some other manner and would be perfectly fine reading the book.  If they also feel uncomfortable, then by all means you may take the necessary steps to remove that media from their lives, but please don’t try and protect someone else’s kids.  Let every parent decide for their own kids.  I put my trust into the teachers who have advanced degrees in their areas.  They know how kids brains have developed and what is happening in their social lives and can judge what their students are ready for.  There are state mandated guide lines that they need to teach in many cases as well, where boards of legislatures and educators discuss which particular books should be taught to all kids.  There are professionals behind these decisions, not just any old yahoo from the street, have a little faith, its easier to clean up a mess once it happens than it is to try and prevent one from happening in the first place.

This in itself is difficult to discuss, and I fear that my rhetoric has been a bit aggressive.  If you agree, or disagree with me please feel free to leave your ideas in the comments below.  In general I highly suggest you look into banned books week.  Maybe pick up a banned book to read with your kids.  Talk with them about censorship and ask them their thoughts.

Musings

Easier to Follow!

I am one of those people who is constantly starved for time.  I want more time to read, more time to sleep, more time to relax and I end up skipping out on things that don’t feel efficient.  I figured this was doubly true for anybody who would read the blog so I have compiled a list of other places you can follow the blog to make getting content a little bit easier.  You can follow on whatever site you find yourself spending the most time with.

Follow the blog with Bloglovin

Follow the blog with Pinterest

Follow the blog with Tumblr

Follow the blog with Facebook

Follow the blog with Twitter

Follow the blog with Instagram

I hope this helps all of you on the go folks get the content you want.  I know that I definitely love having my content all in one place.  It means that I can scroll through Bloglovin on my break at work and everything is right in one place for me.

I know this isn’t exactly the best content I could throw out there for you, but one of the goals I have been trying to meet within my own life is to stay on top of housekeeping type content.  I need to make sure that I am consistently updating my social media, and staying on top of my schedule, adding videos to the appropriate posts, and all of the behind the scenes things that you don’t necessarily need to be made aware of constantly but that helps my own stress levels and helps you guys in smaller hidden ways.

Hopefully this post is helpful even if not completely full of content, I will talk to you again on Friday with an ARC review that I read forever ago, but couldn’t really talk about until now.

Adult, Books, Children, Musings

Ladies and Gentlemen, I Present: Summer Reading Challenges

I wanted this post to be more than just a link to a Pinterest board I have been curating for a while now, so I figured I would give the link:

I AM THE LINK!

as well as talk a bit about why I enjoy reading challenges.

For the past two years I have participated in a year long reading challenge, I figured now would be a good time to post this (rather than waiting until December or January) because I know that some parents struggle with getting their kids to read over the summer.

My answer to this: Gameify that.

Gameify is not a word.  What I’m saying is that if you make reading into a game, kids will be more motivated to do it, I know I am.

I went to Pinterest and looked at some of the challenges that teachers and parents have built, I encourage you to make your own based on themes, or genres, or your own kids interests.  It can be self motivated, or a competition.  The point of the challenge is not to be a homework assignment.  You aren’t forcing them to write an essay at the end of the summer, you are just trying to get them to read as much, or as widely as possible.

I chose pop sugar as my yearly reading challenge because I felt it had the most interesting selection of challenges.  They felt more varied and open to interpretation.  Sure a challenge such as “Read and Espionage Thriller” is pretty straight forward but “Read a book set in a hotel” or “read a book with a cat on the cover” were very interesting challenges for me.  It made the challenge fun, and helped me read outside of my comfort zone.  I was a wide reader to begin with, but this helped me think about what I was reading in a bigger perspective as well as pick up books that I may otherwise pass by.  I found great books that I loved this way.  I recommend you try as well, with or without your kids.

This was a super short and sweet post but I wanted to put it out there.

Reading is fun, let’s make it even better!

Books, Children, Musings

Reading Together: A Lifetime of Stories

One of the, I guess, tenets when it comes to reading (in general not simply when it comes to children) is that it is important to read with others.

In my adult life this takes the form of book clubs, where we all read individually then come together to talk about what we liked, disliked, felt worked, felt was horrendously done, felt was pushing boundaries, or too stuck in the tropes.  In this way, the solitary act of reading becomes communal.  Ideas that never occurred to me are brought up by people I care for and trust.  I am forced to read outside of my comfort zone consistently, to varying results, and in general have way more fun.  In fact writing or filming reviews and responding to the comments is also an aspect of this.  There is less structure involved, but it is definitely me reaching out into the void and seeing if anyone is reaching back.

So, what does this have to do with kids?

Well, I am of a firm belief that just because a child has crossed the hurdles and is reading on their own, doesn’t mean that bed time stories or story time should disappear.  I wish that more parents would continue reading books to their kids as they grow.  Here is why:

  1. It allows the parents to bring up difficult topics in a safe environment (that of you living room) in a way that distances the topic from the child.
    • The example I often give for this is that I would get parents coming in asking if there were any books for kids who were just going into middle school that would give them examples of peer pressure and bullying.  There are, and if you read those books together, it allows your child to ask you questions about the story, as well as allowing you to give your own input.  “Wasn’t the way that Suzy just stood there and let her best friend say means things about that boy a little mean?  Don’t you think she should have said something to her friend.  It made her uncomfortable and it made the other boy sad so why not tell her to stop that?”  Then you can have complex discussions about what it means to be a bystander, or how hard it is to stand up to friends, without it being about their own friends yet.
  2. It allows parents to curate books for their kids that they loved.
    • I don’t know how many parents came up to me an explained how sad they were that their kids’ weren’t reading one of their favorite books from childhood.  I suggested reading together in these instances as well.  It means that your kid will participate in the story with you, and you can talk about what it was like reading certain sections as they come up in the story.  It helps bridge the gap.  They might not be interested in reading it on their own because the covers don’t look as flashy as newer books, but they love you and I’m sure that more than 1 or 2 of you have watched a kid who was adamant against listening to a story slowly get sucked in when it is read aloud.  Give it a try, you might be surprised.
  3. It is a great reason to turn the t.v. off and stay in touch with your kids
    • I was definitely a child who wanted more than anything to sit at my computer playing video games all hours of the day and night, but books would sing their siren song and pull me away to other worlds as well.  If you make story time a family event, in the same way that television is a structured event in their lives, they will likely love it as well.  One of the things that makes T.V. so enticing is its dependable nature.  Every Thursday at 3 they know they can watch favorite characters interact and enjoy themselves.  As they grow older they may be more inclined to doing things with friends, but if you have a routine of reading on a particular night during the week, it becomes scheduled and they will log off to join you, or miss crucial aspects of the story.
  4. It improves reading comprehension and fluency.
    • Yes, reading silently will do this as well, but not all kids will sit with a dictionary at their side.  They might treat you like a living one if you read a book that is slightly more challenging for them.  You can instill good habits in this way by looking up the words, or teaching about context clues.  It will build skills that they will use for the rest of their life, not to mention build their vocabularies instantly.  Take the time, learn together.
  5. It gives you a reason to engage with your kids.
    • In the same way that you might want to share favorite books with them, they might want to share favorite books with you.  Yes, they may love something that you can’t stand, but if you read together and they tell you about everything love, excitement is infectious.  You will stop feeling like they are speaking a different language.  You will gain insight into the characters they take as role models.  You can even blow their mind with your great trivia about the books they love.  Kids want to feel appreciated and this is a very simple  way to do that.

Those are just a handful of reasons to give it a try.  I still read aloud to my friends.  I still listen to audio books.  There is something about listening to stories that is extremely basic to us as humans.  I hope that you incorporate it into your lives.  Stories are meant to be shared and I hope you enjoy sharing them.

3-6, 5-7, 7-12, Books, Children, Musings

The Harm of “Too Hard” for Reluctant Readers

I want to talk about this but I figure I should give a disclaimer:

This is my personal opinion.  It is the opinion of someone who worked in the children’s section of a book store and heard time and time again, “Oh no, you can’t have that one, it’s too hard for you.” In various tones, from disgruntled exasperation to affectionate concern.  

I want this to stop.

Why? I hear you ask, it is just our way of getting our kids to put down a book that they aren’t ready for and pick something closer to their own reading level.

When you use words like “that is too hard”, or “that is not for you”, you are telling the child that a book they are interested in (even if it is only on an aesthetic level) is wrong, or that they are wrong for wanting it.  The English language is a remarkably versatile and malleable language.  There are ways to explain your concern so that the kid doesn’t feel shut down, discouraged, or in some cases indignant.

I had a teacher tell me that the easiest way to tell if a book is the proper reading level for a child is to use what she called “the five finger rule”.  You open to a random page, it could be the first page, the last, but I would suggest somewhere in the middle, and have them read.  For every word they can’t figure out (meaning they are allowed to take their time and sound it out, with your help if you wish) but if they give up they have to put up a finger.  [note: this excludes made up words or names as the child will likely not have heard them before] If all five fingers are up then the book is too challenging for them.  So rather than looking at the size of the book, the recommended age bracket, or any of that, sit down with them and take a minute.  See if they can read a page.  If they can’t then you ask, “is this a book that you still want to read?”

A lot of the time if it was too hard for them they will say themselves that it was too hard and put it down.  If they do still want to read it then ask if they want to read it together (I am going to make a post where I talk about reading aloud and how it shouldn’t stop when kids can read for themselves).  Sometimes they will agree and other times they want to struggle through.  In this case, I find it best to say, okay this is a book that we will get to challenge you, but let’s also find a book that is a little easier so you can give your brain a rest.  This way you are not saying the book is wrong for them, or they are wrong for the book, you are encouraging them to work hard and if they are truly interested in the subject matter they will be more willing to muddle through.  Often times when they find an easier book that they are also interested in they are willing to let go of the harder one because they realize that it was too hard but didn’t want to walk away empty handed.

I completely understand when parents tell me they don’t want their reluctant readers to become completely despondent.  They know that the kid will  have to write reports for years to come and if they make the wrong move it will become a never ending struggle to get their kid to complete simple assignments.

Kids aren’t born hating books.  In my experience all children love being told stories, they like flipping through books, they like being asked questions and having opportunities to show their knowledge.  The thing that discourages them from books is either feeling humiliated (how many people remember popcorn reading and how there would sometimes be that one kid who would hate reading aloud and they somehow were asked to read the most) or through deciding that books aren’t for them.  The latter is generally a result of people they either love or respect using discouraging language: Books are too hard, you aren’t good enough, that is for kids like your sister (who is two years older and therefor a stronger reader in general, you would be surprised how kids take this as meaning that they need to find something else to do when reading is their sibling’s “thing”).

If you make reading a family affair. (Think of reading aloud to the family as the new family game night, although I’m all for family game night as well).  Try and pick books that are interesting to you, your spouse, your child or children.

I am going to try and create a tag where I label stories I think are great read aloud books for older kids as I continue on this journey so that you have a resource.  If you ever have any questions regarding that please ask me as well on any of my socials.

This post, wasn’t meant to be a reprimand, or really to discourage parents at all.  It was simply to say that the words that we use have an effect.  They are internalized.  Books are important.  Stories are a great way to learn lessons in a safe environment.  They allow kids to ask questions.  They let parents introduce new topics with a predefined structure.  Don’t lose them over something so trivial as “too hard”.

I hope this helped.

If it didn’t, please feel free to tell me why in the comments down below, I might make another posts on this topic in the future when the little one in my life is older (he’s two and really just likes pointing to farm animals and saying their sounds, not so picky)