Book Review: Pink is for Boys by Robb Pearlman

A few summers ago, my family and I vacationed at Disney World. My youngest was six and everywhere she went, the cast members called her princess. She readily told them she was not a princess but a JEDI!

Socialization and gender labeling happens before birth. Gender reveal parties, pink or blue announcements, and nurseries decorated in either pinks and purples or blues and reds. Our children are not born believing only girls wear dresses and only boys play football, those are stereotypes that are taught.

I know talking about gender identity is a scary topic for parents. You don’t want to invalidate or confuse your child. This book can be enjoyed with or without the deeper discussions. You know your child best and what I have discovered is to follow their lead.

Picture Book Stereotyping

Picture books often get involved in the gender stereotyping. Books for girls on the covers are often pastel, soft and gentle. “Boy books” are often about dirt, construction, and transportation. There is not only a diversity issue in the children’s book world, there is also a problem with the gender roles established in the very books that are building children’s understanding of the world.

My favorite book when I was a child was Nurse Nancy. Although I am sure I liked it because it came with its own bandaids. In the story Nurse Nancy wasn’t allowed to play with the boys until one of them got hurt and she was needed to care for them. The companion book Doctor Dan was a book about a boy pretending to be a doctor. If I hadn’t had different parents, I would have believed that only girls became nurses and boys became doctors, because even though it is 2018, it is a storyline still often told in the books for our youngest readers and listeners. It wasn’t until my first daughter was born and I found the beloved Nurse Nancy book at the bookstore I realized how inappropriate the message of the book was!

I am happy to see more and more books are not gender specific, the authors and publishers could go a lot further in breaking down the dangerous gender roles that plague the advancement of girls (and boys) in our country.

All of that being said, Pink is for Boys by Robb Pearlman and Illustrated by Eda Kaban is a great book for babies, toddlers and preschoolers. It has simple text for listeners as young as 6 months, but preschoolers will also enjoy diving deeper into the conversations in the illustrations.

In this book your children will learn about colors and they will see diversity in the children on the page. All listeners will find a familiar face on the page. The vocabulary in the text is strong but also by using the pictures on the page, parents will have a lot of opportunities to describe the pictures and find new words!

Examples

  • On the first page spread is a dance party. In it point out the objects the child might not know, or use another word to describe a familiar object. Use baby grand piano instead of piano. Talk about the bunting in the window and mention when and why we use it. Name different shapes you see in the balloons, clouds, bunting, walls, piano keys and more. One page of illustrations will provide plenty of enriching conversation!
  • This will also be a great opportunity for preschoolers especially, to ask questions that go beyond what the words and illustrations show. For example the second page spread is about blue is for girls and boys. It shows a girl and boy in baseball uniforms. You can discuss what sports there are and name some that are unusual like polo, la crosse or running. To gauge your child’s understanding of the book, you can ask who plays basketball or baseball or soccer. This book provides an opportunity to show our children that boys can do whatever girls do and girls can do whatever boys do!
  • Sometimes the simplest books pack the most educational punch for our kids. This book will keep the child engage, help them learn about colors and new words as well as help break the stereotype that boys and girls can like the same colors, clothes and games.

TALK: Million Dollar Words

Below are words that appear in the text or illustrations. Find ways to use these words in conversation. Another way to familiarize the child with the words are to point them out after reading the book, or stop and point out while reading.

  • Valance
  • Bunting
  • Catcher
  • Column
  • Chandelier
  • Track
  • Dribbling
  • Fragile
  • Cuddle

TALK: Build Reading Comprehension. Ask Questions!

Don’t only read the book. Ask questions! It helps build reading comprehension and it also builds enjoyment. Don’t know where to start? Begin with these and add your own. Even have your child ask YOU questions.

picturebookquestions

PLAY: Low Cost Enrichment

Read the book and then try some of the activities in the youtube video. Lots of great ways to help kids learn sorting, ordering and more. All which help increase reading comprehension. Included in this video are ideas on strengthening the pincer grip which helps children learn to write.

Sing

Try this song from Teaching Mama. It will help your child identify colors and label clothing and follow directions.

Retrieved from Teaching mama on September 3, 2018 at https://teachingmama.org/10-preschool-songs-colors/

PLAY

Learning isn’t only about reading and information. Our children need to play more than any other activity at this stage in life. Some ideas for independent play:

  • Create a dress up box. Include items from mens closets as well as women’s. Thrift stores are a great place to find gently used items.
  • If you have a back or front yard, take off your child’s shoes and socks and let them run around in bare feet. There is a lot of research that shows the link between no shoe childhoods and brain development. Read an article in the Washington Post here
  • Find a park or a safe space and let your child pedal on a bike, tricycle, or any other object that moves. They can pretend they are on the race track like the children in the book. Get a book out for yourself and watch the play.

What to read next

Julian plays dress up after spotting three beautiful women on the subway ride home. He makes a mess and is worried how his Abuela will feel when she sees what he’s done.

The colors fight and a big mess ensues. See how they solve their problems.

A blue crayon is labeled red and must find a way to follow its heart no matter what obstacles the crayon faces.

Annie is forced to wear a dress to a wedding and Annie hates dresses. See how she overcomes this dilemma.

Share in the comments different ways you find to include the Million Dollar words in your conversations.

Happy Reading

Book Review: Belinda the Unbeatable by Lee Nordling and Scott Roberts

Graphic novels and comics often get a bad rap from teachers and parents. They are seen as not as legitimate as “real books.” But they have been a game changer in our family. My son is an avid reader, but not in the traditional sense. Give him Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Garfield or any graphic novel and he will read for hours. Graphic novels have deep narratives, help kids derive context from the pictures which builds reading comprehension, teach how to follow a story through the panels, and are just plain old fun.

Graphic Novels are becoming more prevalent for young ages which is a great thing. Reluctant readers will pick up a book that is more picture drive, boys and girls alike will find something they like with the diversity of what is published now. I was even excited to see that there was a wordless graphic novel which isn’t only perfect for school age kids, but a great way to introduce the genre to preschoolers. It will give them a way to “read books” on their own. And it will strengthen reading comprehension and narrative skills through the story they create where they can practice their growing vocabulary and understanding of the printed word.

I am an Amazon Affiliate. If you click on the images it takes you to Amazon, where if you make any purchases I receive a portion of the sale.

Belinda the Unbeatable is a great first graphic novel. It is about Belinda and her best friend Barbara. Belinda is outgoing and Barbara is shy. They join a musical chair game at the school and it becomes more than just the run-of-the-mill game. Will they work together to stay in the game?

This is a book you have to see for yourself. The pages will take you and your child on a journey of imagination.

Graphic Novels for Kids

Common Sense Media has a great article with suggestions on why graphic novels for kids. Read it here.

I Love Libraries has suggestions by age/grade here.

Three Reasons Graphic Novels Can Be Great for Young Readers by Scholastic.

Other Graphic Novels to Enjoy

Ages 6+

Ages 6+

Ages 7+

Ages 7+

Ages 6+

Have you and your family enjoyed graphic novels? Share what you’ve read in the comments.

 

Happy Reading

Book Review: On a Magical Do-Nothing Day by Beatrice Alemagna

Smartphones, tablets, computers are a part of our lives and the lives of our families whether we embrace it or not. The American Academy of Pediatricsdeveloped guidelines to help parents make decisions about how and when to incorporate screen time into a child’s life. Under the age of 18 months, they do not recommend having screen time other than video chatting with family. Any age over that parents need to engage in a family media plan that will set boundaries on when, where and how media and screens will be consumed.

Although, technology is here to stay, it doesn’t mean we as parents have to give in to it. Our children still need time to play outside in mud puddles, be bored, and read.

(I am an Amazon Affiliate, the links to the pictures take you to Amazon, where if you make a purchase I receive a portion of the sale.)

On a Magical Do-Nothing Day, the author Beatrice Alemagna explores the complicated relationship parents, families and children have with screens. On a rainy day a mother and daughter go to a cabin in the woods while the father stays in the city. The mother works and the daughter mindlessly plays a videogame which irritates her mother. Who tells her, “Is this another day where you do nothing.” She takes the game and hides it, but the daughter finds it and goes outside. What she discovers is a world she couldn’t find in her video game.

smart phone and kids

Alemagna’s book reminds me of my youth spent exploring the woods and creek outside my front door. We weren’t allowed to watch TV during the day and at that age I wouldn’t want to. Boredom isn’t lethal, but sometimes as parents we act as it is. My kids are forever asking me to watch T.V. or play on the tablet or have “screen time” because they are bored. We set strict limits that works for our family but even with the limits it doesn’t stop the kids from asking to cure their boredom with so easy to digest media.

natural world

The book doesn’t just provide rich discussion about how to combat boredom it also has rich, lyrical vocabulary filled with imagery using metaphors and similes. The book uses a lot of directional/positional language which is great for young preschoolers beginning to understand the concept of over, under, top, bottom and etc. But the book can also be used with older preschoolers/kindergarten aged children with its sophisticated vocabulary.

As you read this book with your child you will notice that the narrative skills are developed strongly throughout the text. It focuses on imagination, discovery of the natural world, parent relationships, and yes screen time. This will help foster a conversation between you and your child and even family about how to handle the balance between t.v., games and quiet times without those screens. After reading the story talk about how you find quiet time in your day without screens. And if that isn’t something you do, maybe as a family you can learn to incorporate media free times together.

Kid painting Santa on a paper plate

Our kids need space to explore the world independently in a safe and unstructured way. They need time that isn’t scheduled with activities. They need time to be bored so they can create, develop and grow. Play is one of the most important times in our child’s day. It is where the most learning takes place. On a Magical Do-Nothing Day will take the story of a boring, rainy, dreary day and encourage our children to go explore a fascinating and ever changing world.

After Reading the Book

Go outside. Even if the weather is terrible. Dress appropriately and go explore.

As you walk with your child, ask her what she notices? How is today different than other days? What is the same? And if it is age appropriate, go to the backyard or a park and allow them some free range time to look around and play on their own.

For Parents

A good picture book is one that not only makes kids think and learn, but parents as well. There is a lot in this book to make us think about how we spend our time. The work/family balance, our relationship with phones and screens, and how we include time for ourselves to explore, create and dream. Use this book as a starting point for discussion about how your family will handle screens. Each family is different, so do what works best for you. We have decided that screens are limited to weekends, but during the week we will watch movies or a T.V. show together. And during school breaks, the rules are relaxed. But if the kids have screen limits, it is only fair to see how grown ups should too.

Articles on Screen Time

Common Sense Media

Consumer Reports

What do we do all day

Becoming Minimalist

Books on Wonder, imagination and exploration

Do you have a favorite book about play, imagination or boredom? Share in the comments at the end of the post.

Happy Reading

10 Ways to Ruin Reading for Your Kids

Madereaders

  1. Make them sit while you share a story. Kids bodies are meant to move and even if it doesn’t look like they are listening, they hear and are learning. Toddlers are more apt to run around, but keep reading.
  2. Keep books where they can’t reach them. One of Raganathan’s Five Rules of Library Science is books are for use. If kids can’t reach the books, they can’t use them! Have books on low shelves, baskets around the house, in the car and anywhere else they fit. And don’t worry if the books are destroyed. It doesn’t mean the kids aren’t ready for them, but that the books are well loved.
  3. Use books as punishment. Please, promise me right now, you will never use reading as a punishment. We want kids to associate reading with positive thoughts and memories, but if you use reading as a way to punish, they will hate reading.
  4. Read books like it is a punishment for you. We all have books that elicit a groan from our lips as soon as we see our child pick it off the shelf. It has no plot, it is longer than a George RR Martin book, or the stereotypes make you cringe. Still read the book like it is the most exciting piece of literature you ever read. Change the speed of your reading. Use lots of expressions and voices. Make it as fun to listen to as their favorite T.V. show.

mem fox quote

  1. Tell them to read while you watch T.V. or scroll through your phone. Our kids copy what we do, so if we want to build readers we need to be readers. And this means a physical book. Our kids can’t tell if we are using an e-reader app on a phone or tablet. Pick up a book and read.
  2. Reward your kids for reading. I am not a huge fan of Summer Reading Clubs and I get that it is a controversial statement. The intent is wonderful, but reward based behavior usually backfires and makes kids relate reading to something they have to be forced to do. Make reading a routine and skip the rewards.
  3. Don’t leave time in the day to read together. Many kids, even at a preschool age, are overscheduled. We don’t want them to fall behind in sports, music or technology, but think nothing of putting off reading time for another day. Reading should be a non-negotiable. Not only will it encourage a love of reading, it gives you and your family uninterrupted time together.
  4. Choose all the books for them. Did you like your summer reading list from school? Take your family to the library or bookstore and let them pick books. Slip in a couple of classics they might not choose on their own, but let them drive the selection and they will be excited to read.
  5. Don’t give them a place to read. Make reading special. Make sure there is a special spot for reading. It doesn’t take much. A couple of pillows, a blanket and a basket of books. You can get creative if you have the time or desire. Tents, blanket forts are all great places to snuggle up and read.
  6. Focus on the results not act itself. Don’t make story time together learning time. It will happen all on its own through the book choices and the discussions you have as you share the time together. The more books kids hear from the earliest age, the better they will do in school. It will happen. Don’t force it.

No substitute for books

 

What do you believe helps create kids who love to read? Share ideas in the comments.

Happy Reading

 

Building Future Writers

Play Matters to reading success

Rock Wall

We’ve talked a lot about reading in this blog and I was reminded at a work training this week that not only do we prepare our kids to become future readers, but we prepare them to become future writers as well.

I was under the misconception that writing was all about fine motor skills. I did a lot with my kids to strengthen their pincer grasp, but I didn’t know how important shoulder, back and forearm strength was for future handwriting success.

This workshop opened my eyes to a whole new level of early literacy success.

Some of the ideas I share below came from the workshop and others came from a great website called Your Therapy Source: Gross Motor Skills and Handwriting. I’ve put it in a graphic format so you can print it out and remind yourself to add play into your day to help your child develop the muscles he needs to become a strong handwriter.

Develop Future Writers

This afternoon go find a park and try out some of the activities, not only will you and your child spend some quality time together, the play will actually build the arm and hand strength needed to be a successful student.Hanging

There are also great blog posts about how handwriting develops.

Developmental Progression of Handwriting Skills at Mama OT

Activities to Practice Handwriting Skills at Home at Growing Hands on Kids

What other gross motor skills have you used to build shoulder, back, and arm muscles for writing?

Reading aloud should never stop

When my kids were toddlers and preschoolers we literally spent hours a day reading. First thing in the morning, right after lunch, after naps, before dinner, and as a getting ready for bed routine. We were a read aloud family.

As the kids get older it is harder to keep up with the routine. First my oldest started reading independently and then soon after her brother followed and my youngest will still hand us books to read but as she becomes a more confident reader the read aloud routine is sporadic at best.

I know the research that shows reading aloud benefits all ages. Babies, toddlers, preschoolers, school age kids, tweens, teens and yes, even adults.

“The first reason to read aloud to older kids is to consider the fact that a child’s reading level doesn’t catch up to his listening level until about the eighth grade,” said Trelease, referring to a 1984 study performed by Dr. Thomas G. Sticht showing that kids can understand books that are too hard to decode themselves if they are read aloud. “You have to hear it before you can speak it, and you have to speak it before you can read it. Reading at this level happens through the ear.”

Jim Trelease, The Read-Aloud Handbook.

Retrieved on 10-11-17 from https://ww2.kqed.org/mindshift/2013/05/14/why-reading-aloud-to-older-children-is-valuable/

Read aloud tips for older kids:

  • A level or two above their own reading level. This helps mature reading comprehension and vocabulary.
  • Give them something to do with their hands while you read. Coloring books, Legos, knitting, drawing, it doesn’t matter what, as long as their hands stay busy their minds and ears stay open.
  • Make it a family event. Turn off phones and the TV. Make it part of the bedtime routine or after dinner routine or even in the morning. Find a time that works for your family.

It does become challenging the older our kids get to find time to read together. Sports, homework and extracurricular activities overtake the evenings and weekends, but there isn’t a better gift you can give your children then reading together as a family.

Copy of Building Future Reader's Read Aloud List for Big Kids

 

More Resources

Check out the Read Aloud Revival podcast for read aloud tips

Look for the read aloud classic and find book lists at  Jim Trelease’s Website

Common Sense Media: 10 Amazing Books to Read Aloud to Big Kids

Common Sense Media: 10 Reasons You Should Read Aloud to Big Kids Too

What are your favorite chapter books to read with older children? Post in the comments section to share ideas.

 

Happy Reading!

What Makes a Reader?

On my Facebook feed yesterday, there was a link to an article on a new study published by the journal Developmental Psychology. The study found that children who find reading success use something called “inventive spelling” as she writes. Find a link to the full article here.

WHAT IS INVENTIVE SPELLING?

Inventive spelling is how a child writes the words he hears. Children use the sounds they here to create the words on the page. I often see this in my own children’s writing work when they create stories. School will often be written as skul or skl. As the child matures, according to the study, the consonant and vowel sounds develop.

In the Children’s House in the Montessori classroom, this type of invented spelling is encouraged through the work, the moveable alphabet. The children use wooden letters and place them on a large mat, lined like a piece of paper. Children start by placing the letters on the mat, writing single words. Then stories. After the letters are placed on the mat, they will copy what they see onto a piece of paper and illustrate the story. Reinforcing hand strength, reading comprehension and phonological awareness.

The large takeaway from this study is memorizing sight words does not lead to reading success. The exploration of reading and words by the child and child directed, however does.

How to encourage “invented spelling”

  1. Have a lot of writing material available. No matter where you are, it is easy to carry a small notebook and pencil with you. In the car, waiting in line at the grocery store, or waiting for your child’s turn at the doctor’s office, have a notebook and pencil at the ready. Have her write down what she sees or a story about what will happen.
  2. Chalkboards work too. Chalkboards are great for many reasons. But I like the versatility of them. Children can use chalk, or even their fingers to form letters and words in the dust.
  3. Foam letters. Even if your child hasn’t mastered writing, he can use foam letters to form words and stories.
  4. Don’t worry about correcting or editing the words. At this stage your child is learning how words are put together and they sounds he hears. All of this leads to developing the skills he needs to become a future reader. Spelling comes later!

Take a look at the article. There are a lot of great tips on how to further encourage and build your child’s love for reading!

 

 

2017: Building Lifelong Reading Habits

 

This week we have written about three habits you can start now with yourself and your family in order to build reading habits for the lifetime of your children.

Read Every Day

The most important is to read every day. Twenty minutes is the recommendation but don’t let the number keep you from building the habit. Any amount of time spent in reading is helpful in future literacy success.

Know what good quality books to read

6prereadingskillsKnowing what books to read also helps build successful reading habits. Balance what your child loves to learn about with good quality picture books that highlight the six pre-literacy skills. The content will motivate her to hear the story and while she listens important literacy building blocks happen.

 

 

Be a reader to raise a reader

Lastly, be a reader. Our kids watch everything we do and love mimicking our actions. Make one of those parroting activities be reading. Read while you wait for appointments, read while your child plays independently or make a space for independent reading every night for your family. Make sure your child catches you reading everyday.

Start with these three habits and see how your child’s reading explodes over the course of the year.

 

Reading aloud

 

What Will I Read Today

resolution-two

Planning is an important part of completing any task. The more prepared you are, the easier it is to get something done. It’s why we meal plan, or make to do lists, create outlines for papers or set goals. Knowing what we will do, makes it easier to do it. It is no different when we read to our kids.

Yesterday we talked about setting the habit of reading every day. You have decided on a consistent time, a time you know you will be free, now plan what you will read during that time. Having books on hand will help to make sure you are able to use your reading time fully.

read across america

Find Good Books

There are a lot of ways to find good books. This blog, amazon, bookstores, libraries, friends, Facebook groups and more. Plan out a trip to the library or bookstore each week so you have books on hand to read with your child. I always want reading to be child directed but you are your child’s best teacher. Take them with you to choose books. I always make a pile and go through it with my kids. It helps them select books they might not normally have picked up and I also know what catches their eye for next time.

Know what your child is interested in. I know one of my kids prefers books with tons of pictures. Another child prefers fantasy and another loves to learn facts. Use conversations and screen time habits and creative play to help guide book choice. The more a child enjoys the material she reads, the more enthusiastic a reader she will become.

Use technology and people power to discover new books

I love Amazon and Goodreads and other websites to help discover books I didn’t know about. In Amazon you can search a book you know your child likes and it will show suggestions for similar type books. Goodreads offers book reviews. And don’t forget your local librarian. He or she will love to help you discover new books or favorite authors.

Being intentional with reading is one of the best habits you can build this year. It will make the time you spend reading more impactful and enjoyable.

Do you have a favorite author and want to find new or similar books? Ask in the comments and I will help you discover new books!

HAPPY READING!

 

Read Every Day

readevery-day

The advice most parents have heard in recent years to ensure reading success for children is read at least twenty minutes every day. We want to do this, because, who doesn’t want their child to succeed. But there is work and playdates and school and activities and housework and the list goes on. Somehow it gets to bedtime and you realize you haven’t picked up a book today. You promise to do better tomorrow and tomorrow comes and the same thing happens.

I believe strongly in setting smaller goals in order to accomplish big things. Sure, twenty minutes is the ideal. It is the sweet spot of introducing new vocabulary and familiarizing our kids with story narratives, how books work and much more.

But twenty minutes is intimidating in a world that never seems to stop. What I always suggest to parents is find a consistent time, no matter how long, and read.

No matter how long, find time each day to read

If you spend a lot of time in the car, pick up an audiobook from the library and the picture book to go along with it. As you taxi your family from place to place, turn on a book and make the most of the time in the car.

Reading doesn’t have to happen at bedtime. If mornings have more time, make your day start with reading. Or if bathtime is the only time you have your child’s full attention, read a book while he splashes in the tub.

Reading happens more often than you realize. Any time you are driving, in a store or at an activity there are words around you. Point this out to your child wherever you are. Create a story with the signs you see. The important part isn’t how great of a story you tell, but the word connection your child makes in the world around him.

Choose a book the whole family can listen to. For me, the kids are at all different stages of reading. Trying to fit in twenty minutes of reading with each of them is impossible. Pick a classic story or a brand new tale and sit down as a family and read. It can be at the dinner table or the minutes you have before you head out for the day. A family who reads together, grows together.

A consistent reading habit is what matters

Don’t worry about how much time you spend. I believe you will find more time as your family reading habit grows. Just like when you start eating better or exercising more, the less pressure you put on yourself to be perfect, the easier it is to achieve your goals.

Make 2017 the Year of Reading by starting with the habit of reading everyday.

What tips or tricks do you have to include reading time each day? Share in the comments section.

Happy Reading!