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Jen Robinson's Book Page - 5 new articles



Literacy Milestone: Listening to Audiobooks on Her Own

LiteracyMilestoneALast week I ran across a guest post that Amy from Sunlit Pages wrote for Erica at the blog What Do We Do All Day? Both of these blogs are on my regular reading list, full of practical tips for encouraging young readers, plus book suggestions. This particular post was about helping kids learn to love audiobooks. A couple of things about the post caught my eye:

  1. Amy noted that listening to audiobooks can be especially good for kids who are introverted, because "he will probably welcome some alone time where he can relax and listen to a story." I had a feeling that this might apply to my daughter, too. 
  2. She mentioned that listening to audiobooks that he had heard before was helping one of her sons to fall asleep on his own, and that it was generally a good way for kids to fill time when they had nothing else to do. 

And then she got into tips for how to introduce audiobooks (what types of books to choose, what sorts of device to use, etc.), and ended with some suggested titles. 

Well, I myself am an avid listener of audiobooks. I listen when I am exercising, when I am in the car by myself, and when I'm doing mundane chores around the house (folding laundry, etc.). At all of these times, audiobooks turn what might otherwise be boring or tedious into something enjoyable. I've been known to exercise longer because I don't want to stop listening, or to continue tidying the house beyond what is strictly necessary. (I have only once missed my highway exit because of an audiobook.)

So I'm quite familiar with the joys of audiobooks. And I had dabbled a bit with listening with my daughter. We started listening to The Wizard of Oz when were are in the car together. But the truth is that I'm not in the car alone with her very often, for more than extremely short trips, and so our opportunities for listening together were slim. 

After reading Amy's article, though, I thought it might be worth trying to l find a device that would work for us to listen a bit around the house. I did a bit of research, and was pleased to learn that my old Kindle (not the PaperWhite that I currently use) supports audiobooks. And as Audible (where I've had a membership for about 12 years now) is now part of Amazon, this support is actually quite seamless. So I dug out the old Kindle (maybe 3 years old), charged it, and gave it a try. 

I took Amy's advice to start with a book that we had already read together. Well, sort of. I decided to start with the Ramona series. The whole set of 8 books is available for a single Audible credit, narrated by Stockard Channing. My daughter and I had only actually read the first couple of chapters of Beezus and Ramona aloud together, but she has also seen the movie. This makes Ramona and Beezus familiar to her. 

So while we were doing some coloring Saturday afternoon, I asked if she would like to listen for a bit. She said sure. I stayed with her to make sure she was able to follow the story, and she was. Eventually she stopped coloring and curled up on the couch to listen instead. That's when I knew she was hooked. She also asked to take the device with her on one of our very short car rides that evening.

The next day my husband and I had some chores to do, and she asked if she could listen to Ramona while she waited for us to finish. This time she just took the Kindle and wandered off to another part of the house. She kind of alternated between just listening and listening while working on other projects. And we got over an hour of work done. That evening my husband wanted to read to her himself, so he asked her where she was in the audiobook, so that he could pick up with the paper copy. She knew exactly what she had listened to and what she hadn't, so I do think that she's taking the story in. 

And so my daughter is now an audiobook listener. I expect to continue reading aloud to her just as much as ever, of course. But if she can listen on her own sometimes, to keep herself both occupied and immersed in the world of books, well, I think that's a great thing. I do happen to already own audio versions of a number of my childhood favorites...

One final point: It's also possible to listen to audiobooks on the Kindle Fire tablet. We do have one of those that my daughter uses. However, she is not aware, and is not going to be aware if I can help it, that she can use that device to listen to audiobooks. I fear that the distraction of knowing that videos are just a click away would be too much. The old Kindle (I don't even think this version is available any more) is gray and boring and all she can do is listen to the book. And really, isn't that all she needs?

I don't expect to be blogging much for the rest of this week. Wishing you all a peaceful Thanksgiving, and plenty of time for books. 

© 2015 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. There are some affiliate links in this post. 



Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: November 20

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include book lists, book awards, National Book Awards, Thanksgiving books, book-themed gift guides, nonfiction, diverse books, literacy programs, Shakespeare, reading aloud, libraries, Little Free Libraries, and growth mindset. 


Neal Shusterman Takes National Book Award for “Challenger Deep” | +

Great annual resource from 2015 Best Children's Books of the Year: A List of Lists + Awards  

Book Lists

Sharing family time this Thanksgiving: four to share (ages 3-8) chosen by

20 that "capture the essence of childhood" per (Yay for BLIZZARD from )

A Tuesday Ten | Books to help in Growing a young Star Wars Fan  

Best New for kids for the School Year! per Esme Raji Codell

Ten Books that Imagine the Unimaginable: Genocide (for middle schoolers + up) by


WNDBLogoSqaurePress Release Fun: Picture Book Summit Raises Over $7000 for

Libraries Reach Out to Young Black Men | Linda Jacobson | Finding hooks + building bridges to

On Making and Using Book Lists - Considering A Recent Mighty Girl Book List by

Nominations are now being accepted for the 9th annual campaign, a literary showcase  

Events + Programs

Reachoutandreadbwlogo#Literacy oriented charities to consider for year-end giving from +more 

: the invisible crisis that we can no longer ignore via w/ UN Petition

Taylor Swift (partnering w/ ) Donates 25000 Books to New York City Schools

It's very easy to donate a book! Update on the Book Fair for Ballou!!!! (now ) from  [I donated Fake ID by Lamar Giles]

Growing Bookworms

Introducing Young Children (as young as 7-8) to Shakespeare, how and why from  

How—and WHY—to Book Talk with Your Child by

Learning to Love Audiobooks: ways to cultivate a listening interest in kids by visiting


Various items in today's Fusenews incl. co's adaption of top 100 list w/ image descriptions  

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

Conspiracy Theories: Is There a Second Murder in 's I Want My Hat Back? |

Essay by Kate DiCamillo: ‘Reading aloud binds us together in unanticipated ways.’ via  

Declining Sales Hit Home in publisher bottom lines via

Schools and Libraries

Growth Mindset: Clearing up Some Common Confusions, adding nuance to the framework | Eduardo Briceño

I was wrong: How learned that taking away recess is not a good way to motivate student behavior  

© 2015 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



It's an Orange Aardvark!: Michael Hall

Book: It's an Orange Aardvark!
Author: Michael Hall
Pages: 40
Age Range: 3-6

It's an Orange Aardvark! by Michael Hall is about a group of five carpenter ants who live inside a hollow stump. One day a bold, yellow-helmeted ant decides to drill a hole in the stump, so that they "can see what's outside." Another ant, one with an orange helmet, worries that the hole maybe a problem because:

"What if there's an aardvark out there?
Aardvarks are gray and sneaky ...

and they have long tongues
that are perfect for eating carpenter ants"

When the ants glimpse something orange through the hole, a new dispute arises about whether or not aardvarks can be orange. Other holes drilled in the stump reveal other colors, but the fears about the aardvark continue and build upon one another (It's an orange aardvark "wearing blue pajamas!", etc.). Eventually, the brave, yellow-helmeted ant ventures outside, and finds a pleasant surprise (though his most fearful companion is never convinced). 

It's an Orange Aardvark is an entertaining celebration of colors as well as fears. There are holes in the pages, through which readers can glimpse the same colors that the ants do. Hall colors concentric circles around the inside of each hole, showing the color glowing right through the holes and into the darkness of the hollow stump. The colors of the helmets are used to illustrate the personalities of the ants: the yellow one is adventurous, the blue ones are easily led, and the reddish orange one is downright paranoid. 

I like It's an Orange Aardvark because it celebrates the ridiculous, both in the premise as a whole, and in the ways that the orange-helmeted ant works the various colors into his warnings ("gecko-guiding, dozer driving", etc.). Sure, one could infer a message about not jumping to conclusions in the presence of insufficient information, but this isn't necessary to enjoy the book. The peeking through holes bit lends additional visual interest to the book, and makes it, in my opinon, more a book for preschoolers than for older kids. It would make a fun storytime read-aloud. 

Publisher: Greenwillow Books (@HarperChildrens
Publication Date: April 22, 2014
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2015 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 and iBooks affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).



Growing Bookworms Newsletter: November 18

JRBPlogo-smallToday, I will be sending out a new issue of the Growing Bookworms email newsletter. (If you would like to subscribe, you can find a sign-up form here.) The Growing Bookworms newsletter contains content from my blog focused on children's and young adult books and raising readers. I usually send the newsletter out every two weeks.

Newsletter Update: In this issue I have four book reviews (all picture books). I also have two posts with literacy and reading links that I shared on Twitter recently, and one post with my daughter's latest literacy milestone (natural spelling). Finally, I have a post about how I've been using Kindle samples to screen my reading material

Reading Update: In the past two weeks, after abandoning a few titles, I finished one young adult title and one adult title. I read/listened to:

  • Jennifer Donnelly: These Shallow Graves. Delacorte Press. Young Adult Fiction. Completed November 10,2015, on MP3. The historical details (including realistic constraints surrounding young women in the 1890s) were very well done. But the plot was quite predictable, with nary a revelation that I didn't see coming.
  • Stefanie Pintoff: Hostage Taker. Bantam. Adult Mystery/Thriller. Completed November 15, 2015, on Kindle.

I'm listening to A Banquet of Consequences by Elizabeth George and reading Little Victories: Perfect Rules for Imperfect Living by Jason Gay. As you can tell by my low number of books read, I'm still in something of a reading funk, and really struggling to stay awake to read anything. Thank goodness for audiobooks! And Kindle samples. 

The books my husband and I have been reading to our daughter can be found here. Her latest obsession has been having us read Babymouse books aloud, which is always fun. She also sometimes wants us to read things that she has written herself (see this issue's Literacy Milestone), which is a new phase in our breakfast read-alouds. She is constantly scribbling away: from lists, stories, and rules to plans for what she wants to eat for breakfast every day (today was waffle day, complete with a little drawing of a waffle). This, of course, gives me great joy. 

Last night instead of having me read to her, she wanted to read The Princess in Black to herself. She couldn't really read all of it, but because she was familiar with the story, she was able to puzzle out words like "Frimplepants" and "princess" and "monsters". Quite a leap from the Bob books! (Though not at all a complete leap - she needs a lot  more practice with early readers to gain fluency.) But it goes to show that when a child is motivated to read a particular book, she can make surprising progress. 

What are you and your family reading these days? Thanks for reading the newsletter, and for growing bookworms. 

© 2015 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



Brimsby's Hats: Andrew Prahin

Book: Brimsby's Hats
Author: Andrew Prahin
Pages: 40
Age Range: 4-8

Brimsby's Hats by Andrew Prahin is about a little green guy (some sort of unidentifiable animal character) who makes beautiful hats. HIs best friend helps him by making "the most wonderful tea" and assisting in packing up the hats for shipping. But most importantly, the two friends have "the most wonderful conversations." When Brimsby's friend decides to move away, to fulfill a lifelong desire to be a sea captain, Brimsby is very lonely. Eventually, however, Brimsby uses his hat-making skills to help him to make some new friends. The book concludes on a happy note, with Brimsby and his new friends visiting the old sea captain friend, and all of them talking about "hats and shovels and ships and how wonderful it was that they had all been lucky enough to meet one another."

OK, when I read my own description of this book, it sounds a bit saccharine. But it doesn't read that way. I think this is because of Prahin's matter-of-fact tone. Like this:

"The hat maker worked for many quiet days after that, and had many quiet cups of tea.
(They weren't nearly as wonderful as the tea his friend used to make.)
It was quiet.
Very quiet.
Too quiet.
One day the hat maker realized he had become awfully lonely."

The above text is spread out across a series of panels, each showing Brimsby by himself at a table for two, making his lonely hats and drinking his lonely tea, as the seasons change outside his window, and winter comes. 

Prahin's Adobe Illustrator-generated pictures use the pure white backdrop of the snow to accentuate Brimsby's loneliness. But there's humor, too. Brimsby encounters a group of birds, all nesting in a tree, keeping warm with little stoves as they sweep the snow out of their nests. There's a graphic artist feel to the illustrations - they are a bit stylized - and I think this helps keep the book from feeling too sentimental, too. There's an early sequence in which Brimsby and his friend are talking, and the author shows the things that they talk about as images in text bubbles: the two friends dressed as pirates, fighting dragons and a giant purple octopus. 

Brimsby's Hats is a book that makes me happy when I read it. I think that young readers will enjoy it, too. Although it is technically about the importance of finding friends, Prahin steers well away from the didactic by focusing on the efforts and experiences of one quirky little hat maker. Recommended for home or library use. 

Publisher: Simon & Schuster (@SimonKids)
Publication Date: December 31, 2013
Source of Book: Library copy

© 2015 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 and iBooks affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).