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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.
TV for tweens
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?
Books about strong women
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.
Our Wired Home
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?
The best way to sell a book
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!