Click here to read this mailing online.


Table of Contents:

Jen Robinson's Book Page - 5 new articles



Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: Reading Aloud, #Testing + #Technology in #Learning

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include Bank Street Book Awards, the Cybils Awards, book lists, growing bookworms, coding, reading aloud, science fiction, kidlitosphere, foxes, introversion, parenting, play, technology, education, schools, libraries, STEM, writing, and testing. 


Jon Agee and Mara Rockcliff Win Prestigious Bank Street #Awards  @sljournal @bankstreetedu  #kidlit

Book Lists

From @HornBook A Purple #BookList  #PictureBooks + Primary Grades

14 Books to #ReadAloud to a 2nd Grader (or similar listening age) @momandkiddo  @elockhart + Roald Dahl + more

Little Detectives: #Mystery Books for 6- to 8-Year-Olds  @denabooks @ReadBrightly #kidlit

Reading Allowed: Ten Compelling Middle School #ReadAlouds by Maggie Bokelman  @nerdybookclub #kidlit

A Tuesday Ten: #ScienceFiction Pathway VI (12-15 year olds)  @TesseractViews From Ender's Game to Jenna Fox + more


Today on the #Cybils blog, an interview with Victoria Jamieson, author of ROLLER GIRL  #GraphicNovels

On the #Cybils blog: #BookList Fun: Ghost Stories for All Ages from @LiteraryHoots  #PictureBooks to #YA

Growing Bookworms

#Reading w/ Little Miss Muffet + Little Bo Peep, April  @mrskatiefitz shares audiobooks, mags + more w/ her kids

5 Reasons to Read for Reluctant Secondary School Readers  @WordLib @edutopia #Reading makes you smarter


This week's Fusenews: from a literary auction to benefit refugees to @camphalfblood to @100scopenotes  @FuseEight

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

2016 is Foxy — @100scopenotes and @MrBenjiMartin have spotted a new #kidlit trend 

Happy to see recent successes for the #CoverKidsBooks campaign from @MGStrikesBack  #kidlit

A version of @susancain book Quiet Power (on #Introversion) is being released for teens. @book_nut has the scoop


What's Fair + What's Equal: "Don’t play favorites... but kids can handle differences" | Truth!  @HeatherShumaker

"Only by feeding the imagination of a child, can we help ... ask the questions that don't yet exist"  @lgoodman222

3 Parent Plans to Create a Strong Writer from @BookChook  GRAB any excuse for #writing + more

Playful Learning

Why Typical Preschool Crafts Are a Waste of Time  @thescienceofus Avoid the "grown-up cult of productivity" w/ kids

How can We Help Parents Understand the Importance of Messy #Play?  @easycda @BAMRadioNetwork "Just let me play!"

#SummerCamp at Home: 10 Budget-Friendly Plans from @momandkiddo  #play #STEM #SummerReading 

Schools and Libraries

What the “End of Average” (new book by Todd Rose) Means for K 12 #Education  @thinkschools @EdSurge via @drdouggreen

The #School Spending Debate: What Difference Does A $ Make?  @NPRCoryTurner on when money is most likely to matter

Get Rid of Grade Levels: A Personalized Learning Recipe for Public #School Districts  @travislape @EdSurge #EdReform

When Celebrating Learning Differences Is At Heart of #School Culture  2 examples from SF @Kschwart @MindShiftKQED


6 Ways to Help Students Understand #Math  @MathWithMatthew @edutopia #STEM #EdChat

Not Every Kid Wants to Learn How to #Code notes @pernilleripp  | What about the kid who just wants to read or write?


Nation's Report Card Says Most High School Seniors Aren't College Or Career Ready  @anya1anya @npr_ed #NAEP #testing

A Few Thoughts on Standardized Testing from parent + teacher @pernilleripp  "The test is not fair" to kids, for one

Race + the Standardized #Testing Wars - on growing test fatigue in minority communities  Kate Taylor @nytopinion

Chuck the #Tests - Project Based Learning is Better, including for elementary + middle schoolers says @teachbrooklyn

Technology + Learning

How is the brain in your pocket (smartphone) affecting your thinking?  @DTWillingham on research to date.

I believe this: Taking Notes By Hand May Be Better Than Digitally, Researchers Say  @npr_ed  via @gcouros  #Education

New Study of Impact of #Literacy Apps suggests they can help economically disadvantaged kids w/ #reading  @tashrow

© 2016 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



#JoyOfLearning Articles from @LGoodman222 + @easycda + @ValerieStrauss on #Play, #Math + Imagination

JoyOFLearningLogoToday I have three more articles related to children's need for play and maintaining the spark of the joy of learning. The first is by Laura Goodman, about trying not to quench the spark of imagination in kids. The second is from Deb Pierce, encouraging parents to let kids engage in "messy play". The third is a post by Petra Bonfert-Taylor, shared by Valerie Strauss in Answer Sheet, asking parents and teachers NOT to complain to kids about being bad at math. All three struck me on a personal level. I hope that you find them useful. 

"Only by feeding the imagination of a child, can we help ... ask the questions that don't yet exist"  @lgoodman222

Laura Goodman: "to allow a child’s mind to grow to its full potential, we must attend not only to the intelligence of his mind by imparting knowledge, but to his imagination as well. The reason is this: Only by feeding the imagination of a child, can we help him create pathways to find answers to all of the questions he has yet to ask. In fact, only by engaging the imagination, can he ask the questions that don’t yet exist...

How do we then, as a society, encourage the growth of imagination? In the same manner as our ancestors; we must tell our children stories, give them space to play, and allow them time to create."

Me: This post by Laura Goodman is about how we, as parents and as a society, should be nurturing the spark of imagination in kids, rather than little that spark die as a byproduct of the quest for intelligence. Which is exactly what I've been trying to get at with my whole pivot on this blog towards "joy of learning." When I see my child's innate excitement about learning new things threatened by dry math worksheets or overly structured book reports, I'm instinctively terrified. I don't want to see that spark, whether you call it imagination or joy of learning or whatever else, die. 

How can We Help Parents Understand the Importance of Messy #Play?  @easycda @BAMRadioNetwork "Just let me play!"

Deb Pierce: "As teachers of young children, the best we can do is model our own exuberance for play and discovery and provide opportunities for parents to experience it themselves. And, it never hurts to explain how important it is for children to engage in messy activities, using all their senses. This is exactly how a preschooler learns best. So, leave the special clothes and shoes at home and dress your child so he can get into things at school and be happy doing so. And, stop worrying. All of those rich experiences are forging new and critical connections in his brain- connections that will never happen looking out a car window in a white sweat suit."

Me: This piece, written by an early childhood education professor, resonated with me because, while I completely agree in spirit, allowing messy play is hard for me. I don't like mess. I don't care so much if my kid comes home from a camping trip all muddy, but I don't want to get muddy myself. And I'm bothered by mess around the house (paint, kitchen experiments), even when I know that the activities are good for my daughter. So, this was a good pice for me to read, and this is something for me to keep working on ... 

RT @Math_Rachel: Stop telling kids you’re bad at math. You are spreading math anxiety like a virus." Petra Bonfert-Taylor@WashingtonPost

Petra Bonfert-Taylor (quoted by Valerie Strauss in the Washington Post): "Why do smart people enjoy saying that they are bad at math? Few people would consider proudly announcing that they are bad at writing or reading. Our country’s communal math hatred may seem rather innocuous, but a more critical factor is at stake: we are passing on from generation to generation the phobia for mathematics and with that are priming our children for mathematical anxiety. As a result, too many of us have lost the ability to examine a real-world problem, translate it into numbers, solve the problem and interpret the solution...

You do not need an innate mathematical ability in order to solve mathematical problems. Rather, what is required is perseverance, a willingness to take risks and feeling safe to make mistakes."

Me: I grew up working in my dad's hardware store. The cash register was an old-fashioned one. I learned at a very early age to calculate the 5% sales tax in my head and to figure out the correct change for people. I don't think that "hating math" or even being bad at math were options. I'm grateful for this, and very conscious of keeping math something that my daughter sees as a positive thing. I can only hope that she doesn't run across teachers who profess to be bad at math, and thus give her other ideas. 

© 2016 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 post may contain affiliate links. 



Playful Learning: Throwing Away the Instruction Manual

For her recent sixth birthday, my daughter received a very cool gift from her godparents: an Amusement Park Engineer Kit from Kids First.  [I learned about this product from a product review at Mama Smiles, and had it on our wish list.] I knew that she would love it, and in fact she started playing with it immediately. The kit consists of 97 plastic pieces that kids can use to construct 20 different models. There's a manual written in the form of a storybook about helping two kids to fix and build amusement park rides.

I thought that this story-focused manual might capture my daughter's imagination. But it turned out that she had no interest whatsoever in the manual. She said: "Mommy, it's more fun just to build things on your own." She asked me to work with her, and together we made our own little amusement park, using all 97 of the pieces (my daughter's requirement). We then got a bunch of her Little People, and they lined up to wait for the park to open. Like this:


The whole process took some tinkering. We had to figure out which pieces went together. Not everything in the result was stable, particularly once the Little People started to play:


Never once did we consult the manual. This was free play, with a STEM focus, at its finest. If you ask me, it was a complete success. 

I did not actually throw away the manual. She may find one day that she wants to build some of the suggested items. But I didn't push. She does the same kind of thing with her Lego sets. She might look at the picture, to see how something is supposed to look. But, at this point, following the step-by-step directions seems more like work than fun to her. And I want building things to be fun. So the instruction manuals will wait, gathering dust, until when or if they are wanted. 

© 2016 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



Lily and Dunkin: Donna Gephart

Book: Lily and Dunkin
Author: Donna Gephart
Pages: 352
Age Range: 10 and up

I probably would not have picked up Lily and Dunkin if I were not a fan of Donna Gephart's work. Books that overtly tackle sensitive subject make me wary. It's too easy for them to become preachy, or just boring. But Donna Gephart has a real knack for getting at the heart of things, while keeping the characters at the forefront, and adding enough humor. I read the first chapter of Lily and Dunkin, and found that I wanted to keep reading. I ended up reading it in one sitting. The ending even made me a bit teary-eyed. And I feel like I now have a deeper understanding of the challenges faced by both transgender and bipolar kids. 

So, Lily and Dunkin is a dual first-person narrative about a girl named Lily, born into a boy's body, and a boy named Dunkin, struggling with both bipolar disorder and the absence of his father. Lily (aka Tim) has known since she was very small that she wants to be a girl. Her mother and sister are reasonably supportive, but her father and grandmother are having a much difficult time accepting her wishes. She is bullied at school, despite not having yet come out as transgender. Her best friend is pushing her to be herself (wear dresses to school, etc.), but she (and her father) are afraid of the consequences. 

Here's Lily, after her sister shows off some caps she is knitting for premature babies: 

""That's cool," I say. But all I can think about is how the whole boy-girl color code is determined right from birth. The moment a baby comes into the world, someone decides whether the baby gets a pink hat or a blue hat, based on the baby's body. Not brain. Why can't they put a neutral color hat on the baby and wait to see what happens?" (Page 73)

Dunkin (aka Norbert) has just moved to Lily's South Florida neighborhood from New Jersey, and isn't sure how he will fit in. He and his mother are living with his fitness-crazed Jewish grandmother, having fallen on hard times. Dunkin speaks of having left his father in New Jersey, with the gradually revealed implication that is father is in a mental health facility. Dunkin takes medication for his own bipolar disorder, but resists seeing a psychiatrist. His up and down moods are revealed masterfully through his first person viewpoint. 

Here's Dunkin, on his first day a a new school:

"At lunch, I hold the orange plastic tray in a death grip, wishing again that Phineas were here. Mom wouldn't like it if she knew I were thinking that, but I hate navigating this loud, crowed, foul-smelling cafeteria alone. The good energy of feeling a part of everything in math class has completely evaporated." (Page 90)

Although the narrators for the different sections of the book are not identified, I never had any trouble distinguishing Lily's voice from Tim's. That said, this would make a great dual-narrator audiobook, if you could find someone with the right androgynous voice for Lily. 

As in Gephart's Death by Toilet Paper, there's a lot going on in the background here. A bit of environmental activism over a favorite tree, coping with the loss of a grandparent, dealing with bullying, changing oneself in order to fit in, bringing a third person into a best friend relationship, and striving for healthy eating and fitness. There are random acts of quirkiness (decorated plastic flamingos left strategically around the neighborhood), a t-shirt shop that makes chronic and humorous production errors, and a few Yiddish expressions. The mugginess of the Florida setting virtually emanates from the page. But the heart of Lily and Dunkin is the relationships between the various characters, particularly the title characters. 

I think that Lily and Dunkin belongs in all libraries that serve upper middle grade and middle school kids. I believe that this book has the potential to open people's eyes about what it's like to be transgender, and also about what it's like to be mentally struggling in some way. The quirky trappings of the book, and the purity of the first-person perspectives, keep Lily and Dunkin from reading like an "issue book". I also appreciated Gephart's soft touch in the resolution of Lily's bullying - there is no magic wand ending that situation, which I think is realistic, but we do gain a bit of insight into the challenges of the primary bully. Highly recommended, and a book that will certainly stay with me. 

Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers (@RandomHouseKids
Publication Date: May 3, 2016
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2016 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, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).



Literacy Milestone: Doing Crossword Puzzles

LiteracyMilestoneASometimes when I am watching a movie (especially a movie that I've seen before) I have trouble staying awake. I've taken to keeping a book of relatively easy crossword puzzles handy to work on while I'm watching. If the puzzles are easy they don't take up too much of my attention, but they keep me busy enough to keep me awake. 

Recently my daughter noticed what I was doing, and declared that she wanted to participate. She started by filling in a couple of words, after I told her what the answers would be, but she did progress to reading clues, and to guessing a couple of the answers. She ended up filling in the upper left-hand corner of a puzzle, and was quite excited to show off her accomplishment to my husband. 

She's not quite ready to do crossword puzzles on her own (her sight word knowledge is still fairly limited), but I'm happy to work on some with her if she enjoys it. And because I am a person who never passes up the opportunity to buy a book, I ordered a crossword puzzle book aimed at kids. She was thrilled when it arrived, and was nearly late for school the next day because she wanted to work on her first puzzle. I'm finding that crossword puzzles help build her skills in spelling, vocabulary, and general knowledge, all in a fun way. 

I do have an app for crossword puzzles on my iPad but I don't like sending my daughter the message that I'm on the iPad during family movie night, so I use an old magazine-style book that I've had for years. Using a print crossword puzzle book also offers fewer distractions, and is fairly portable. My daughter wanted to take her new book on her school field trip, which involved a train ride. [Which I did not agree to, but I appreciated the intent.]

Sometimes the classics are still the right thing. Have you tried crossword puzzles with your kids? 

© 2016 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



Other Recent Articles from Jen Robinson's Book Page



This message was sent to you..

All of the above content is (c) 2013 by Jennifer Robinson. All rights reserved.

Thanks for reading! You can find additional content on my blog, Jen Robinson's Book Page, my Growing Bookworms Facebook page, or by following me on Twitter.