Thursday, March 31, 2011

March is Reading Month, Tip #31: Read to a Dog!

Read to a dog!

Don't let the March is Reading Month momentum end! The Ann Arbor District Library/ Traverwood branch is hosting a reading dog EVERY SATURDAY this month. And Colby will be the reader on April 30th...

Keep reading- and enjoying what you read!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

March is Reading Month, Tip #30: Make a Board Game!

Make a Board Game!

At first, this post was just going to be about playing board games. Board games are a fabulous developmental tool: counting, matching, reading, strategy, luck, taking turns. But in light of Fran's recent creation, the "Who Let the Dogs Out" Game, I thought I would share his project.

Fran asks that important question...
Photo by Mary Roderique

Fran really wanted to make up a game. So we talked about what it could be: he decided that it would be a game where dogs would leave their homes and go to a potty spot. He sketched out two possible game boards on easel paper and wrote out directions. Next, we got an old game at the PTO Thrift Shop. I spray painted the game board and box white. I also ordered tiny plastic toy dogs (after I promised him dogs and then learned that Michaels had every tiny plastic animal except dogs) to be used as pawns. Once the paint was dry, he traced little houses for the start and then used post-its to mark the places on the board and traced around them. Next, we colored in the board. The final step was typing the directions and decorating the box. It looked glorious.

When it was done, we played.  And it was fun.

We only had one misunderstanding in the whole process, when I suggested in the very early planning stages that maybe the potty spot wasn't the best ending place, at which point Fran turned to me and yelled, "No!  They go to the potty spot.  And hey- I'm the one who thought of who let the dogs out in the first place." So now you know- you know who thought of WLTDO first...

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

March is Reading Month, Tip #29: Find a Little Drama!

Find a little drama!

Dramatic play can have a huge impact on young children's language development and reading and writing lives. This experience can range from acting out familiar stories to acting our original stories to ad-libbing. Just like puppets can inspire, so can some drama!

I feel lucky to have a drama-queen in our neighborhood who comes over and helps the younger kids all work together to put on some "shows". That facilitating she does sticks- and they do a better job acting out stories even after she has to go home.

Acting out stories can be a huge tool in developing comprehension, especially with understanding a character's feelings and motivation. Claudia and I act out the Three Little Pigs regularly. She has a fantastic wolf growl. Her play is inspired by her love (going on about two years) of the three little pigs and perhaps also our wolf hat. We* also play "Bears," which seems to be inspired by a dreadful Magic School Bus reader. And when Fran is around, we play plenty of Star Wars (typically with new story ideas- maybe he'll write some fan fiction.)

* I am often not a willing participant in the game of "Bears."  For example, on Sunday, I was forced to be "Baby Bear" while "Mama Bear" Claudia shoved pattern blocks (food) in my face. I had to say "Mmmmmm" and stay under the covers (cave) for my own safety.  I think we may have a tempestuous director on our hands.

Monday, March 28, 2011

March is Reading Month, Tip #28: Find a New Author

Find a New Author!

Fran is figuring out that finding an author or a series is a good way to know what to read next. And Fran is smitten with the Froggy books by Jonathan London.  They're easy, Claude will sit and listen to him read them, and they're silly.  And I love that they are sharing a book together.

Now, if you are looking for a new author, this week's hot-author recommendations from TRWH are:

Jan Thomas
Frank Asch
James Marshall
Laurie Keller
Melanie Watt
Lillian and Russell Hoban

Make a decision to find a new author, a new-to-you author, or a knew-but-forgot-about author.  So many books, so little time!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

March is Reading Month, Tip #27: Gather a Book Collection

Gather a Book Collection.

As a classroom teacher, I liked to involve children with setting up the classroom library. There were books organized by level, by author, by genre, by series, and by topic or theme. It was interesting to see that a book could belong to more than one category; with plenty of people using the library, sometimes we needed to look in two baskets to find something. The year I had the kids overhaul the nonfiction section of our library, creating categories that made sense to them, was a year the library worked so well. Since they were invested in it, they took care of it.

My initial goal for this post was to finally create book lists I want (to help support my ever deflating memory): dog books, bunny books, books with characters who write, books with strong grandmothers, funny books, books with interesting structure...

I was planning on gathering the dog books in a basket for my house for the kids. Yesterday, without knowing this, Francis looked up at me said,"You know what? I am really interested in spiders." And the dog books didn't seem very pressing (until my next Colby Dog Story time).

It's just like setting up the library: if kids do it themselves, it means more. I could work my tail off and gather dog books, but right now- he's thinking spiders.  I know I could sell the dog books (with Colby's help), but the spiders will sell themselves. If we gather together, instead of me gathering what I think he should read, we will work together to gather what he wants to find out about, which surely will be more meaningful to him.

So here we are, gathering books about spiders: fiction and nonfiction. (Holy cannoli, could I have asked for a better introduction to reading "Charlotte's Web?")

So- to be delivered soon, a spider book list by Francis.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

March is Reading Month, Tip #26: Check Out the Movie Version!

Check out the Movie Version!

Get out the popcorn! One of my favorite things to do is to watch a movie and then compare it to the book (or kvetch how much better the book was...) There are great movies, great books, and great books that became movies.

Today we will discuss the latter. Some of my favorite movies from books are Babe, Charlotte's Web, Harry Potter (for older kids), Alice in Wonderland, Winnie the Pooh, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Wizard of Oz, and Ramona and Beezus.

Here's a great list of movies-from-books for grown-ups and kids alike. And another list with just kid movies-from-books. And here's a great place to check out the appropriateness of movies for different age groups.

So, get out the popcorn and the raisinets.  It's show-time!

Friday, March 25, 2011

March is Reading Month, Tip #25: Read a Cookbook

Read a cookbook...and try a new recipe!

Cookbooks are art. If I ever were to design a kitchen, it would include adequate shelf space for cookbooks. I like the shiny-paged ones, like Ina Garten's. I love the photography, font, and design in Martha Stewart's. I like the accessibility and attitude in Jamie Oliver's. And trying the new recipes is always fun.

For children, cookbooks are a great way to read with purpose! First, you have to flip through and find what looks tasty. Next, you gather your ingredients and then it's time to cook! I am a huge fan of Pretend Soup: Hide and Seek Muffins and Carrot Pennies are our favorites. The cookbook is set up with each step clearly communicated with simple illustrations and limited text. (The full recipe, with extra details, is also included for the adult helper.)

This little out-of-print cookbook looks quite intriguing, too:

I can't wait to make Twin Suns Toast...but SHHH...keep this under wraps until Fran's birthday!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

March is Reading Month, Tip #23: Give an Author Another Chance

Give an author another chance...

Now, I'm not one to hold a grudge. But sometimes I do with authors. If I have really disliked a book, I often avoid that author. I recently read The Children's Book by A.S. Byatt. It was long, so very long. It had rich descriptions (that I found in many cases to simply be details provided ad nauseum.) There were so many characters that they were not discussed in depth, and I just wanted to know more about less of them. Now, Byatt is a brilliant writer and there were fabulous ideas about creation destroying the creator and her use of setting and her understanding of the time period was impressive. But, as a fiction reader, I like stories to move faster. This one does not move fast. (But this is not the place for a book report, nor do I have the time.) Overall, I'm glad I read it. But I wouldn't read it again, and I would crinkle my nose instead of recommending it.

All this being said, reading The Children's Book made me want to know Byatt better as an author. So, I've placed her book Possession on deck. I've checked it out from the library, I've read a few reviews, and it got a thumbs-up from my running partner. And it's MUCH SHORTER than The Children's Book.

In the spirit of this, I have brought up from the catacombs (otherwise known as my basement bookshelves) a book that didn't work the first time I read it to Fran: Miss Nelson Is Missing. I think he wasn't ready. But I think it's time to try it again.

Sometimes a reader just needs to give an author or a book a second chance. Sometimes it's the right author at the wrong time. Trying an author or a book again later might help you find a great fit.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

March is Reading Month, Tip #22: Read Some Nonfiction

Read some nonfiction!

As a classroom teacher, I was astounded by how expanding my nonfiction library changed the tone of my reading workshop. For some kids, nonfiction is their passion. I noticed that more boys were (intensely) on-task when nonfiction books were an option. Reading a variety of materials- or genre- is important. It's one way to find what interests you in the world and it can get you out of a reading rut.

Tony Stead's Is That A Fact helped me be a better nonfiction
writing teacher after I became a better nonfiction reader.
It's important to read different kinds of things.  Nonfiction and fiction require different reading strategies. Some nonfiction texts you would read straight through and others you would use the table of contents or index to find the pertinent sections.

A big a-ha for me was this: nonfiction conveys an idea and it can be well-written. It's not just a list of facts. Nonfiction is facts in a particular context. And well-written nonfiction can be gripping. (This realization as a reader-- sadly, not until I was an adult-- also drastically changed how I teach nonfiction writing.)

Also, with the proliferation in children's publishing in recent years, there are simply too many great options for nonfiction: authors like Steve Jenkins, Laurie Keller, Kathleen Krull, Anne and Lizzie Rockwell, Gail Gibbons, and Dan Yaccarino write innovative, idea-based non-fiction books. Nonfiction books can cover topics like concepts (ABC, 123, colors, opposities, etc), biographies, places, sports, animals, social issues, plants...the possibilities are endless.

Personally, I am doing my part. I just finished Peggy Orenstein's "Cinderella Ate My Daughter", which is a book that further examines her thinking from this NY Times magazine article, "What's Wrong with Cinderella?" in 2006. As always, she didn't disappoint. I had just finished a lighter fiction book and I have another heavy biography on deck, Cleopatra. My efforts to balance the kind of reading I do has led not only to a very fulfilling experience as a reader, but also to a greater professional understanding of reading and writing processes.

This experience as a reader has caused me to reflect on how important it is to get kids to expand the kind of reading they do. Reading different kinds of things builds reading and thinking "muscles" that help in other things you read.  I think it's like cross-training for readers.  And- just like a personal trainer- if I do this work myself, I understand it and teach it better than if I just bark what to do from a chair.  The only way I can teach kids to have a reading and writing life is to live one myself.

And to that- I say try some nonfiction,  It's not just for school anymore!

Monday, March 21, 2011

March is Reading Month, Tip #21: Read a Little More

Read a little more!

Now that the weather is warming up, baseball and bicycles are calling Fran louder than books after school. And clearly, there's room for all of that. So we've added some reading time in five or ten minute pieces. Fran has been reading while he eats breakfast on some mornings (especially when he wakes up before Miss C), catching a few minutes while I make dinner, and snagging a few more in bed at night. Chopping his reading time into smaller segments has made it seem more manageable. (And the log for March is Reading Month is a motivator for him.)

On her Preschool Days, Claude weasels plenty of stories from her teacher and also reads instead of resting. On home days, after playing "Annie," she and I have plenty of time for playing Zingo and reading as many wolf stories as we can find.

I squeeze in reading while I blow-dry my hair. It's a daily five minute reading boost. And I think we all know where Blaine reads (I'd consider this when loaning him a book); he plows through The New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, and other periodicals. He gets in plenty of daily reading.

So throw a book in your bag- and read just a little more. Even just five minutes more.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

March is Reading Month, Tip #19: Sleep More

Sleep more.

It's the weekend- climb into bed with a good book- and relax!  Or head to bed a smidge early.  If you don't wake up every day at about the same time (without an alarm), chances are you're not getting enough rest.
Sleep is so important to our mental and physical health.  Many grown-ups and kids are not getting enough.

Excuse me while I hit the feathers.

Friday, March 18, 2011

March is Reading Month, Tip #18: Go to the Library

Go to the library.

Seriously. Go there. Now.

Check out your library for books, music, movies, and programming.  If you live in A2, the Ann Arbor District Library is the best in the entire world: fabulous collections, amazing staff, great programs and films, top-notch storytimes, reading dogs, even book club bags!

Typical AADL patrons.  Photo by Mary Roderique

And if you don't have a library card, get one before I find out about it.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

March is Reading Month, Tip #17: Limericks!

Limericks! And we were just talking about poetry yesterday...

OK, I really hate seeing a poetry unit reduced to limericks- especially with young children; it is very hard for kids (especially under age 10) to consider content, humor, meter, and rhyme independently. That being said, if children have been adequately exposed to enough limericks- especially silly ones, they can work together to co-author some with support. (This could be a great shared writing or small group activity, minds working together yet process still being scaffolded.) Also, my love of silly, naughty, and parody can be embodied quite well in limericks.  And limericks are noticeable- and kids like that.

So today, I challenge you: write a limerick to amuse your child or yourself or a friend. Find some limericks suitable for kids or check some out from the library.

Photo by Chuck Roderique
And here's my hand at one:

There once was a dog named Colbine,
Who was known to make quite a scene.
She would push for a pet,
Which of course she would get.
No one can resist Miss Colbine!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

March is Reading Month, Tip #16: Read Some Poetry Today

Read some poetry today!

I don't read poetry with my children as often as I would like, which surprises me because it is my one of my favorite things to teach.  I also get really crazy about pushing free-verse rather than rhymey-schlop.

But then I had this epiphany: kids like rhymey-schlop, they like clever poems, they like shape poems, they like acrostics (oh, the horror), they like poems that have things they can try and notice.  Poetry is about discovery.

 When I was six I could tap out the beats to "The Swing" by Robert Louis Stevenson.  When I was seven I thought Shel Silverstein had magical powers.  And as a teacher, I cannot imagine first grade without the glorious free-verse poetry of Little Dog Poems.

So today, I'll read more poetry- both on my own and to my children.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

March is Reading Month, Tip #15: Less Texting, More Talking

Less texting, more talking...

Technology is a wonderful thing- until it isn't.  A while ago, Jane Brody posted this article in the NY Times vilifying the cell phone-stroller-brigade, pushing parents to be present and communicate with their children.  I think I see her point, but maybe for different reasons.  I want fewer digital distractions- not to raise super-children, but for us both to really experience the joy of connecting with each other.  And I have to admit in a Brody-like way, it is alarming watching groups of college students walking together and texting and talking but not looking at each other, it's crazy to see a parent making no eye-contact yapping on a cell phone at the grocery, and I am still cringing from a horrible coffee meeting I had with a certain someone who kept texting the whole time (although, considering this was in May of 2010, perhaps I need to let it go).

While I wait for my library-turn with Sherry Tuttle's book, Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less form Each Other, I think I know how I'll feel after reading it: sometimes it's hard to connect with someone in person if you are holding a device that connects you to the world and in-person connections are so vital to our well-being.

So I make a  commitment to connect with my kids a little better.  If I don't answer your call, your text, or your tweet: that's why.  I want to be present where I'm at, not virtually.

Monday, March 14, 2011

March is Reading Month, Tip #14: Read with a Buddy!

Fran and Claude, reading buddies (from Fall 2010).
Read with a Buddy!

There's nothing better than finding a buddy to read with. Buddy reading can be a way to rally a beginning reader. Buddy readers can share one copy of the book and read together, or read apart and come back to talk. They can sit next to each other, reading different books. Buddy reading can be a family reading the Sunday paper sprawled about the living room; it can be a friend you browse bookstores with.

Just like exercise programs (and diets) often go better with a buddy, so does a reading life. Find a buddy and talk and read togther!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

March is Reading Month, Tip #13: Read a Magazine

Read a magazine!

Once in a graduate class, a student kvetched to Lucy Calkins that her kids didn't want to read during Reading Workshop. Lucy just looked at her and said, "Looks like you need to get different books."


Sometimes when readers are stuck, some different books will help. And sometimes some magazine reading may be in order. When readers are working with periodicals, they will not abandon books. It is a different kind of reading. And reading different things, in my personal and professional experience, serves as a rallying point for reading. Reading begets reading.

So today, pick up a magazine. Try a new magazine. Fran just learned he likes Click! and Ask and Sports Illustrated for Kids. But there's still Ranger Rick and Highlights and Kids Discover. And our library keeps oodles of back-issues and lets you take out magazines for a week.

I remember as a graduate student --my brain full of Louise Rosenblatt, Marie Clay, John Dewey, and Reggio Emilia-- sticking to magazines as reading material on plane trips. My brain was full from the other reading; the magazines gave it a rest. I remember getting early copies of Real Simple when Blaine was putting it on the web from a dinky house on North Jefferson Street. I remember Blaine's joy when we finally subscribed to Atlantic Monthly. I remember reading everything that came in the house: from alumni magazines to grocery ads from age 7 and on.

Magazines nurture readers in an entirely different way than books. So check out, borrow, or buy some magazines.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

March is Reading Month, Tip #12: Let's Go to a Museum!

Go to a Museum!

Museums are a great way to support a reading and writing life. First, it's great to find things that interest you in the world, perhaps sparking further reading. (Many of our museum trips are followed by a library trip.) Kids love reading the plaques around art and exhibits and it's exciting to read outside of a book. Museum exhibits are a great way to actively practice comprehension strategies: you look at the parts of an exhibit, you read about them, you talk about it together, and you figure out how it all works or what it means. And children's museums are so great because you can touch and manipulate- and really experience- the materials.

So today- or another day- lose yourself in a museum and see where it takes you.

Reminder: Today I will be presenting an activity time to preschoolers at 11:30 and 12:15 at the Ann Arbor Hands On Museum. Colby is coming, too. I will be reading Woof! Woof! and talking about how everything is made of shapes. We will read, sing, dance, and use foam shape stickers to make something part-by-part. It should be fun- so please stop by!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Announcements, Announcements!

Saturday, March 12, I will be presenting an activity time to preschoolers at 11:30 and 12:15 at the Ann Arbor Hands On Museum. Colby is coming, too. I will be reading Woof! Woof! and talking about how everything is made of shapes. We will read, sing, dance, and use foam shape stickers to make something part-by-part. It should be fun- so please stop by!

March is Reading Month, Tip #11: Storytelling!


Storytelling is a fabulous way to nurture a reading and writing life! One trick that I use as a writing teacher is to tell a story across my hand, starting at my thumb. Following your five fingers across your hand naturally creates a story arc . It's such a handy trick. (Oooh- that was a bad one.)

The flexibility of telling a story across your hand is amazing: for a small child, sentences can even be broken into phrases and stretched across your hand, working up to a few sentences, and then a few paragraphs per finger. And you always have your hand with you! Also, adding to a familiar story is a great way to experience revision.

This is a little story I tell over my fingers to Claudia. (She loves stories from when she was a baby.) My thumb is number one and my pinkie is five. Telling a story across my hand helps me keep on track and follow a clear story structure.

Creaky Gran
1- We walked into the living room. Gran put out some toys.
2- Claudia and Francis sat down and played with the toy cars, rolling them on the road rug.
3- Claudia looked up at Gran with her big eyes and then tapped the floor. “Do you want me to sit down?” said Gran and then she sat down on the floor to play.
4- When it was time to get up, Gran was stuck.
5- I held her hands to pull her up off the floor and Francis pushed up her backside. “My old bones get a little creaky these days, “ said Gran.

The dinner table, waiting rooms, bedtime, and bath time are big storytelling opportunities for our family. And tonight, after the kids are in bed and Mr. TRWH has started the dishes, I will go to the Ann Arbor DIstrict library for a storytelling event: the First Story Collider Event outside of NYC! Everyone loves a good story.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

March is Reading Month, Tip #10: Book Organization

Book Organization!

Initially, this was going to be my first tip. But I walked in Claude's room and saw her books overflowing and it felt overwhelming to me.

Long ago, it was pretty streamlined:

But, as she's gotten older we've added more books and she still reads her favorite board books. Fran also delivered her a big stack of books when his bookshelf was bursting at the seams. And soon Claude's shelves were overstuffed. I planned to photograph her shelves looking glorious. But the job felt too big. And so I thought, hmm...if this is making me feel this way, perhaps it's not a good choice for Tip #1, so I suggested "relax" instead.

Somehow, I got my organizational Mojo back. I tried again. And it got a little better. I pulled out some books I find unpleasant to read that I didn't think Claudia would miss. I left her new library books and an old favorite and returned the rest. I made sure some books were front facing so she could choose them by looking at the covers. I grouped the Van Fleet books, the Clifford books, the Maisy books, the Little Critters, the Boytons, the Frank Asch books, and the board books. Her favorites and ones I think she'd like next are down low. She can reach up to the third shelf (if she stands on the bottom ledge- thank you to Charlie our fabulous carpenter friend for building a sturdy bookcase and mounting it securely to the wall!) Some are too high for her- but less are out and she can find what she needs. And it's looking better.

Fran's room is doing OK. I'd like to have more of his books front-facing and grouped together, but until he has a taller bookcase we just don't have the room to spread them out. We do have some categories for his books: Star Wars books, just-right readers, library books, animal books, vehicle books, oversize books (off the shelves in a giant basket), and chapter books. His shelves are looking "spine-y" these days, but it's the best we can do with what we have right now. Like any kid, Fran can be a bit of a pack rat.

I also weaned our extra library book spots to one basket inside and one shelf on the porch. We are down to 125 things checked out across our family and my work projects (as a writing teacher, I check out a lot...) My personal work books are a mess: I still have piles from last year's Indy Institute and have scads scattered about my office and in the furnace room. I am starting to think I need a classroom to put all these books in...

Here's the thing: you can have too many books. It can be overwhelming when you can't find what you're looking for. Kids like it simple. But whenever I start really gleaning, I start thinking about all these great books I want my kids to know, like City Dog, Night in The Country or Mrs. Piggle Wiggle. And the shelves start to get stuffed again.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

March is Reading Month, Tip #9: Write and Send a Letter

Write and send a letter!

There's nothing better than getting mail...and one way to get a letter is to write one that needs to be answered. Since we are basking in the success of all Christmas thank yous mailed by Valentine's Day, this just leaves old school correspondence. Today, we will write and send cards to my Gran- because that old bird always answers a letter.

Also, check out some fabulous picture books about letters: The Jolly Postman, Dear Mr. Blueberry, Yours Truly, Goldilocks, Dear Annie, Dear Mrs. LaRue: Letters from Obedience School, A Letter to Amy, The Gardener, and Messages in the Mailbox: How to Write a Letter.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

March is Reading Month, Tip #8: Puppet Show!

Puppet Show!

Puppets are so fabulous for storytelling. Puppet shows can be ad-libbed or planned, written, and performed. Mo Willems's Elephant and Piggie books make great "scripts" because they are straight dialogue.

You can use purchased puppets, or make your own! The possibilities are endless: sock puppets, stick puppets, bag puppets, marionettes (ok, maybe that's a bit much...)

Although we do have a fancy schmancy puppet stage at TRWR, all you really need is to cover a table with a blanket (or just go behind a couch) and stick you arms up!

Puppet shows are the kind of thing that sometimes happen spontaneously, and sometimes happen in a more sustained way over a few days. A story idea (or improvisation), time, materials, and an audience are all that are needed.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Fran knows that he is loved...

Fran started writing this at school for a class book, and misplaced it, so he wrote another one. I fished this out of the 1st grade recycle bin and asked him if I could take it home. Graciously, he said yes. I like that I am yapping my yapper in the illustration (it certainly looks like one "h-e-double-hockey-stick" of a minilesson) and that he divided his picture. I wonder what he would have put next. I have yet to see his finished assignment. That kid's a peach.

March is Reading Month, Tip #7: Sing, Sing a Song

Sing, sing a song!

One of my favorite ways to play with language is by singing. My ever-growing repertoire of show tunes and light rock songs brings joy to the entire town (or at least my mother.) And Claudia sings a convincing "Tomorrow".

Seriously, lyrics are a fabulous thing to consider for March is Reading Month. Some of the first things kids could read in my class were the class poems and songs that we would sing. And there are many fabulous picture books that take a journey through a song, ranging from "The Lady with the Alligator Purse" to "What a Wonderful World". Singing commits words to memory and like poetry, celebrates the rhythm and sound of language. With older children, it's my favorite way to study structure. But there's so much more: kids feel pretty empowered noticing the difference between verses and the chorus, changes in volume and intensity, modulation, and other relationships with words and music.

Listening to music is way to make a house where living well and feeling deeply matter.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

March is Reading Month, Tip #6: Keep Reading Aloud

Keep reading aloud even once kids are reading to themselves, whether your reader is 6 months, 6 years, 26, or 106.

My favorite read aloud picture... April 2008.  (Dated by Blaine's 826 Michigan Mustache Fundraiser goatee...)

Share something- even with older readers- often. Perhaps it's just an article or a clipping at dinner, reading aloud a favorite poem, sharing an email off your phone, or listen to an audiobook together. Maybe even just read a paragraph from the novel you're reading. Listening and reading are two very different skills and pleasures. Sharing a text is an important connection; it happens at schools, in churches, in homes. Sharing a text links people.Blaine (aka Mr. TRWH) and I once read aloud a Lemony Snicket book to each other at bedtime. It was so much fun. It was hard to read a chapter book (even a children's one) together because I would sneak and read ahead. (I just had to know what would happen to that Baudelaire baby.) "The Talk of the Town" from The New Yorker seems to be more up our alley.

Fran is really into his own reading right now- and we are so strapped for time after school. Once he reads to us (or to himself), he is usually pretty beat from a long day and often asks to go to bed. I'm going to to try to squeeze in a little read aloud time by finding stolen minutes: after breakfast, waiting in the van before school (when we arrive to early to get out and wait in the cold), at the Y before swim lessons, at dinner.

Sometimes I think reading aloud is like exercise: sometimes you really have to plan your day so it is given time. But reading aloud shouldn't stop just because your readers can already read.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

March is Reading Month, Tip #5: Rethink your Library and Mix Books with Toys

Start rethinking your home library: mix some books along with toys.

When children are small, be sure to place tempting books along with toys. I placed board books in baskets in nooks around the house and on the toy shelves. Giving books real estate not only makes them easily available, it establishes that they have value.

When children are used to reaching for books, all you have to do is maintain rather than establish a habit.

Friday, March 4, 2011

March is Reading Month, Tip #4: Loan a Book

Loan a book.

Did you read something fabulous? Loan it to a friend! Books and magazines are a great thing to pass around for kids and grown-ups. Getting and giving recommendations is one way readers figure out what to read next.

One time, a friend (we'll just call her Christy- because that's her name) sent me a terrible book (I am too embarrassed to share the title publicly) that had been a Kelly Ripa Book Club Book, and ingeniously she added her written own "review" ("Awesome." -Christy M.) on the page with press reviews in the book (which were from trashy women's magazines in this case...). After adding my own comment to the page (I remember precisely what I wrote: "I actually felt my IQ dropping with the turn of every page" - Mary R.), I sent it on to a lady (we'll call her Stacey- because that's her name) in upstate New York. Writing our own reviews before passing on the book was fun.

Typically when I loan out a book, I expect it may not come back. Que sera, sera.

The woman referred to as "Christy" in this post very generously sends me many fabulous books. I owe her for "The Help" and "The Art of Racing in the Rain" among others. But she also sent me (with a warning post-it that it was terrible) the worst book in the world, for which she still owes me 2 hours of my life. Sending someone a book and saying it is terrible is a confusing challenge. You read it, thinking, "It can't me that bad." Well, it was worse than anyone could have ever imagined.
The woman referred to as "Stacey" in this post almost never does offensive things. Although she did once recommend "She's Come Undone" which freaked me out, she used to make me Snickerdoodles on a regular basis. Heaven knows she could pop a batch in the mail.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

March is Reading Month, Tip #3: Reread a Favorite Book!

Reread a favorite book!

Rereading favorites seems like par for the course with a toddler (for goodness sake Brown Bear- what do you see?), but as kids get older, sometimes we forget what can be gained with rereading: enjoyment, additional noticings about structure and word choice, celebration of the artwork, and building a common cadre of home literature for inside jokes.

We still shake our fists and yell , "Those Darn Squirrels" and Claude still says "Cock-a-Moo-Moo" for roosters at times. And we always add "eat a nut, look at view" to any to do list.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

March is Reading Month, Tip #2: Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss!

Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss!

In honor of Doctor Seuss's birthday, the NEA designates March 2 as "Read Across America Day". Many schools do special programs: even Colby Dog will be presenting at a school that day! (If only we had a Seuss hat for her to wear with her Service Dog Vest!)

Dr. Seuss is a fun way to play with rhythm, rhyme, and word combinations. Stories range from The Cat in the Hat to The Sneetches to And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street.

So serve some green eggs and ham via Rachel Ray (or from this cookbook), make oobleck after school, or just rhyme a lot to amuse yourself.

Be sure to grab some Seuss from the shelf today!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

March is Reading Month, Tip #1: Relax.

Relax. Really, relax.

In honor of "March Is Reading Month" (MIRM), I hope to suggest a tip a day (or close!) to support reading and writing at home.

But this is not a to-do list. If I find out that anyone did everything on this list, I would be pretty upset. Adding 31 things to anyone's life would make it hard to relax (Tip #1). So pick and choose; I hope your family will try some some tips now, save some tips for later, and just plain skip some tips.

So Tip #1 is...Relax and enjoy MIRM.