Blogs about Reading
Sound It Out
Dr. Joanne Meier
Along with her background as a professor, researcher, writer, and teacher, Joanne Meier is a mom. Join Joanne every week as she shares her experiences raising her own young readers, and guides parents and teachers on the best practices in reading.
It's hard for me to believe that Molly is really a tween, but sometimes she sure acts like one!
This is never more apparent than when it comes to her TV habits. Our girls have never been allowed to watch much TV — maybe 30 minutes a day during the week, and lots of days the one set we own never gets turned on.
But lately Molly's been more and more interested in watching TV, and less and less interested in watching her former favorite shows. "That's for babies," she exclaims when I offer to turn on Charlie and Lola or Wonder Pets. She's clearly moved into the next stage of TV shows designed for tween audiences. There's a whole slew of shows she wants to watch, and not many that I'm willing to let her. A bit of a struggle going on around here!
I'm not the only one grappling with this issue. Diane Levin wrote an interesting article for PBS Parents about protecting children from a sexualized childhood. In it, Levin describes some of the strategies parents can use to work with (rather than against) their children. I suspect several of the strategies could be applied to our TV watching situation.
While we're working with those strategies I'm also using two resources to help me find new and appropriate shows for Molly and Anna. First, PBS's Child Development Tracker recommends PBS shows by age level. And for other shows, Common Sense Media has TV and movie reviews that I generally trust.
How about you? How do you navigate the water between what your child wants to watch and what you think is appropriate?
As the mother of two girls, I'm interested in books that feature strong girls or women in central roles.
There are lots of booklists that feature strong women. One my favorite lists is below. Sadly, I can't relocate the source! I was just sure it was from Choice Literacy, a site I love so much, but I couldn't find it there today. If you recognize the list and know the source, please let me know! I certainly want to credit the correct author. It's a wonderful list, although abbreviated from its original source.
Ivy and Bean by Annie Barrows and Sophie Blackall
The thing I like about this book is that Ivy and Bean, two neighbors who think they have nothing in common, become great friends. Bean likes to get dirty and stay busy. From Bean's perspective, Ivy is very prim and proper, always reading. The two become friends and have great fun together in each book in this series. I love that two girls who are so different are portrayed as strong, interesting characters.
Clementine by Sara Pennypacker
Clementine is laugh-out-loud funny. Clementine is a creative soul and her parents and teachers appreciate this about her — even though her ideas often get her into some trouble. Marla Frazee illustrates this series and the drawings add to the fun of getting to know Clementine. How could you not love her when the light in her eyes is so clear in the illustrations!
Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat by Lynne Jonell
Emmy is a child who is held captive by a not-so-nice nanny. Her parents don't have much time for her since they inherited a large sum of money. She feels almost invisible at both home and school. But then, with the help of the class rat and her friend Joey, she discovers what has really been controlling her life and she then takes control herself! It is really a fun book. It has many of the traits and situations I've found compelling in other books — a child who isn't getting lots of attention from her parents, a mean nanny, magic and friendship. It is a story told in a way that makes it fun and suspenseful throughout.
Babymouse by Jennifer Holm and Matt Holm
I cannot write about strong female characters without including Babymouse! Babymouse is a newer graphic novel series and each book tells us one story of Babymouse. She has big dreams. Babymouse has disappointments too, but she gets through it all with friends and humor.
This month's Wired Classroom theme on Reading Rockets got me thinking about our wired home, and how our kids use technology. I know I'm not alone in my conflicted feelings about the role of media in my kids' lives.
Here's a rundown of our Wired Home, what's yours like?
E-mail: The girls don't have their own e-mail address, although they do like to type with the keyboard. When they type e-mails to aunts and Grandma, they use our account, which works just fine.
Websites: Both girls are obsessed with Poptropica, a site they learned about at school. At first I thought it was an okay site because it seemed to encourage some strategic planning, but now I'm wondering just how "educational" it is. Plus I'm terrible at it! No help at all.
I've introduced Molly and Anna to a thousand "educational" game sites, but none of them stick for too long. It's like they can smell "skill and drill" a mile away!
One book site caught their attention for quite awhile. When Molly was into the Magic Tree House series, she really loved the activities on the Magic Tree House site. Her enthusiasm spread to Anna, and we had two MTH passports laying around for quite awhile!
iPod: I mentioned that Molly wanted an iPod for Christmas, and she did get one. So far, she has kept the volume low, and hasn't been tuning us out (as we feared). Both girls really enjoy listening to audiobooks. I'm contemplating a subscription to Audible, but I can't decide!
Software: The girls LOVE Encarta Kids! I've wondered if we should get a set of encyclopedias for our house; Molly always wants to know the background on things. Why do we use Christmas trees? Does Shay (our kitten) see in color? For now, Encarta Kids is a great place to turn for all kinds of answers. But the old-school Mom in me would love for her to have some real encyclopedias to leaf through.
Looking over this list, I can see that more and different types of media are seeping into our lives. I'll be "staying tuned" to our overall use for awhile to try to keep it all in balance. Any ideas for doing that?
Being January, I know lots of parents and teachers have resolutions that include getting kids to read more and different kinds of books.
Around our house, one sure-fire way to pique Molly and Anna's interest in a book is to put it on my nightstand! I usually have quite a stack there...books I plan to read or re-read before handing them over to the girls. Like Harry Potter. It's been 10 years since I read the first one, and I wanted to do the “scary check” before letting Molly read it. Not a day has gone by that she hasn't asked me if I'm finished yet. Apparently I'm taking too long!
As a teacher, I had the same phenomena in my classroom. There was this tiny half shelf in the front of the room on which I kept our current classroom read aloud. As soon as a book appeared there, kids would scramble to the library to get their own copy. They enjoyed following along with me as I read, and I thought that was just fine!
Booktalks are another great way to get kids interested in books. A booktalk is usually a fun, teasing summary of a book told with the passion of someone who really liked it. In my class, we often used booktalks as sales pitches for the next round of reading group books.
In my opinion, the best and most convincing booktalks are led by kids. Who doesn't love those last minutes of Reading Rainbow where the kids talk about books they've read? (If you don't know what I'm talking about, watch the show and you'll be hooked!)
However you do it, whether it is by nightstand, shelf, or booktalk, find a way to sell a book to a reader today!
Lately I've been spending lots of time in my car. This week while driving around I was fortunate enough to hear two children's authors talk about their craft and what writing means to them. I love to discover how authors write, what inspires them, and how hard they work at their craft.
Sachar's writing process is incredibly long; he writes at least five drafts before he shares it with anyone. He feels each draft shapes the characters and the plot in an important way. For any teacher who has pulled teeth to get her children to revise a piece of writing, Sachar's words might help them understand the value!
The second author I heard was Kate DiCamillo, whose book The Tale of Despereaux opened as a movie this week. Talking on Bob Edwards Weekend, DiCamillo spoke candidly about her writing process (only two pages a day!), and how important words and books have been to her throughout her life. She has a great regard for librarians, especially those who “recognized her as a reader” at a young age.
These extended interviews and readings are little treasures to me! If you like them too, be sure to browse the collection of video interviews we have on Reading Rockets.
Was it really a year ago that I wrote this post about feeling frenzied and guilty about the lack of quality reading and writing time at our house? Because it's happening again! And once again I realize that my girls ARE engaged in reading and writing. It just looks different this time of year.
Here what we're doing, language arts style, to get ready for the holidays:
Molly used Audacity to record herself reading 'Twas the Night Before Christmas. And because my Mom will be in SC for Christmas, we'll send her the .WAV file so she can enjoy that traditional retelling as much as we do. If you have a microphone on your computer, it's a pretty easy program to use.
Anna's been hard at work typing her list for Santa. New this year is her interest in learning more word processing features. Her (numbered!) list is complete with alternating fonts and a fancy Word Art title.
Our copy of The Elf on the Shelf gets read and read and read and read. This set is new to us this year, and Anna's very concerned that Santa takes the Elf when he comes (as the illustrations suggest). For anyone else out there who has one….does Santa take the Elf until next year?! Help!
Both girls have spent lots of time making Christmas cards for their friends. After filling our art area with holiday-oriented supplies, both girls happily design snowmen on skateboards (item 4 on Anna's wish list) and beautiful glittery snowflakes. Their handwritten greetings always bring a smile: We hope you have a great Christmas and have you got your tree?
And so it goes. What are your kids doing (language arts style) to get ready for the holidays?
Thanks for your feedback on the report card comment two weeks ago. Your comments highlighted the need for balance between the need to provide parent-friendly information with the need to provide accurate, research-based information. In a perfect world, a good comment would do both.
I admire the teacher's effort to provide specific information about Jack's reading. It's clear that she has a handle on at least three important aspects of Jack's reading: phonics, fluency, and comprehension. Maybe what's missing is some context? My notes are below. Let me know what you think!
Report card comment:
Jack's currently reading at a Rigby level 18.
Clearly this sentence needs more context. What does a Rigby level 18 mean? Jack's mom wasn't sure if he was reading on grade level or not. According to this equivalency chart, Jack's doing just fine.
Report card comment:
At this level with narrative text, Jack's reading is fluent (75 WCPM) and he has adequate comprehension. With expository text, however, Jack's reading becomes disfluent (60 WCPM) and he's unable to answer implicit comprehension questions.
This part really needs some work. I wish the teacher had (1) provided some sense of the WCPM expectations for third graders, and (2) described "expository," "disfluent," and "implicit comprehension" questions.
Report card comment:
We will continue teach strategies such as DRTA and graphic organizers to help assist Jack's comprehension.
Report card comment:
In spelling, Jack is a within word speller. He's currently studying long vowels and ambiguous vowel patterns.
Again, great info, no context! A short explanation of "within word," "long vowels," and certainly "ambiguous vowel patterns" is definitely needed! Maybe this article would help (see Dylan and Delayne).
Those are my two cents. What are yours?
Every year our paper goes into a preschool to ask the kids their expert advice on how to cook a turkey. I couldn't resist sharing a few of their answers. As a teacher, I'd feel compelled to put these into a class "cookbook," and as a parent, I'd hang the page in the kitchen!
Here are some of their recipes:
Maya: Put in salt and tomatoes and strawberries and ice cream.
Miles: Put it in the oven. Cook it for 6 minutes. Yell for my dad to come to the table.
Landon: Put it in a pan, salt, butter on top, then shut the door. Push the buttons. Add sprinkles. Cook for 40 minutes. Put it on the table.
Collin: Keep it on a high counter so my dog won't eat it.
Katelyn: I don't know! It's a lot of work. Just ask my mom.
Out of the mouth of babes! Anna came home yesterday with a real keepsake: a turkey made from her feet and hand tracings. On each feather she had written someone or something she was thankful for.
I know we're running out of years that include these types of crafts, which makes this one even more special. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
PS: Revised report card comment coming next week!
A friend in Northern Virginia sent me the text from her son's third grade report card comment. Her e-mail message to me said this: ??????????????????????????????
I've typed the text below, and would love to hear your thoughts. Is it clear? Does it make sense? Are there things parents might need more information about?
Comment in with your suggestions for improvement or with your own experience with report card comments. Next week: I'll combine our ideas to write a revised (interpreted) report card comment for my friend!
Jack's currently reading at a Rigby level 18. At this level with narrative text, Jack's reading is fluent (75 WCPM) and he has adequate comprehension. With expository text, however, Jack's reading becomes disfluent (60 WCPM) and he's unable to answer implicit comprehension questions. We will continue teach strategies such as DRTA and graphic organizers to help assist Jack's comprehension. In spelling, Jack is a within word speller. He's currently studying long vowels and ambiguous vowel patterns. Thank you for your support at home. Daily reading will support the work we're doing here at school.
Banana in my cereal.
Yep. That's our six year old at the dinner table. She so desperately wants to make up her own side-splitting knock knock jokes, but she's not quite there yet. She loves jokes and all things silly, but she's just not at the point of being able to come up with her own word play to make up a (really) funny one.
The October 2008 issue of Reading Teacher published an article (on Reading Rockets here) by Marcy Zipke about teaching metalinguistic awareness and reading comprehension with riddles. For teachers and parents, it's a great refresher read about multiple meanings in words and sentences, and ambiguous language. It's also a great reminder about the role adults can play in helping kids discover the fun of language!
Zipke includes an annotated bibliography of riddle books and ambiguous language books that is a helpful resource to those who want to torture themselves by having joke books laying around the house or classroom. The list includes books by Fred Gwynne like The King Who Rained and A Chocolate Moose for Dinner and the ever popular Amelia Bedelia series.
Because Anna's in a very intense joke-telling phase right now, I'm sure she's going to turn that metalinguistic corner very soon and start coming up with some real zingers. Right? Please?