Archive for Books & Movies


Create a Literacy Rich Home-6: “Books-I-Read”

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Here’s an idea to add to your literacy activities for kids: Have you ever wanted to know how many books you or your kids have read in a month or a year? Did you ever get stuck trying to think of the exact title of a book, or the author?

Since nowadays the titles and author names of books you check out of the library are printed on the return slip (at least in the public libraries around me), just keep that slip!

My memory is fallible, so for a few years now, I’ve kept a “Books I Read” list in the “My Treasures” section of my Way to Go! Family Learning Journal three-ring-binder. I never put much energy or time into this; I record date, author, and title.

Sometime I put a note if there were something significant I wanted to remember (like a quote from the book); sometimes I put a 1—10 rating on how good I thought the book was.

And believe it or not, I’ve referred to this list, especially when I wanted to recommend a book and couldn’t remember the author. I wish I had three kinds of lists from the days when I raised my daughter—books we read together, books I read on my own, and books she read.

She’s a mom now and we talk about these things occasionally—“Do you remember if we read The Celestine Prophecy aloud as we drove across country when you were in high school—I think we didn’t love it, right?” and “Did we ever finish Tess of the D’Urbervilles? Or did we both cry so hard we decided to complete it separately?”

Thanks to computers, now there’s a simple way to create such lists: just hang on to the library checkout tape. The trick is to put this slip where you and your kids can find it again (like in a binder). Keep adding to it over the months and years. (Of course, you may still also want to keep a written list of books purchased, or borrowed, since you don’t have a library receipt for them. Also, if you have comic book and magazine readers in your family, why not add those titles on the lists, too.)

Another idea is to have your kids paste or tape the computerized lists on three-hole-punched paper so there’s room for comments. It’s easy to add a 1-10 rating right on library printout: Try using a scale that’s 10 for All-Time-Favorites-to-Read-and-Reread and 1 for Couldn’t-Get-into-It, and the range in-between.

It’s a challenging, thoughtful exercise to rate a book; a child who does that frequently over time can develop a sophisticated awareness of his or her own interests, values, tastes, and growth. And it’s certainly a way to Plus It with an individual or shared reading experience.

Like watching the growing balance in a savings account that gets regular deposits, it’s satisfying to see a “Books I Read” list get longer and longer. And I’d say its value far exceeds anything in a bank, for it represents lasting, often thrilling, deposits to the mind and imagination.

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Create a Literacy Rich Home–3: Think Aloud When Reading Aloud

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Reading aloud to children is one of the very best things a parent or care-giver can do to prepare them for success in school. Sometimes people read aloud in a mechanical just-keep-turning-the-pages way. But you can also really PLUS a reading experience by using a technique called Think Aloud. I’ll bet both you and the children will have more fun when you use it.

What Think Aloud means is that you just stop briefly while you’re reading to tell your thoughts and feelings about what you read, or to ask about the child’s reactions. It might be as simple as saying, “Wow, I didn’t know that!” or “Eek, I wonder what they’ll use to put out the fire. What do you think…” before you turn the storybook page.

I was reading a classic book, Firemouse (written and magnificently illustrated by Nina Barbaresi) to my four-year-old grandson yesterday. We were into our third reading, at least, when I stopped and made a few “think aloud” comments. He joined right in, pointing out details I’d missed, because I was paying attention to the words and he was eating up the illustrations. What bonding that creates with a kid. And we laughed out loud at Suspender’s comment, “Little fur-wads!” even the third time through.

Please read more about how to Think Aloud when you’re reading aloud at this link.

The website What Kids Need to Succeed is going to regularly carry brief articles about how you can help children become better readers and learners. They’re all great, easy-to-do activities. (I know that because I wrote them and have given permission to What Kids Need to Succeed to use them.)

Good teachers use the Think Aloud technique often. So you can help prepare your children for school success by getting them comfortable with talking and thinking about stories and books.

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Book Business Is Booming!

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Well, that may be a bit of exaggeration. However, Plus It! received wonderful publicity this week.

The book is featured in the LA Parent magazine’s Education Directory for July 2009. The editors reprinted much of the first chapter in a two-page spread, and put a small picture of the book in the corner. I’m thrilled!

In addition, this week my publisher, David Hancock of Morgan James Publishing, pointed out that Plus It! is a bestseller in the grandparenting category on Amazon!

What that means is that the book is in the top 100 books in that category. On Tuesday, when David told me that, Plus It! was #81. Last night I checked, and it was #24.

My revised goal is to sell 5000 books by Sept. 13, 2009. LA Parent may help us meet that target.

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Why Mary Poppins Left

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Over the weekend I sat on the couch with Rose (age 7) and Calvin (age 4), watching them watch Mary Poppins for the first time. They knew the songs, of course, from “Dad’s computer” and sang along loudly with Mary and Burt.

But Mary Poppins is set in 1910 in imperial England. How does one explain (in the course of fast-moving scenes and continual puzzled why’s… from Rose), Mrs. Banks women’s rights sash across her bosom and her glee in leaving the children in the care of a nanny in order to “cast off the shackles of yesterday.”

Then there’s the issue of the cadre of uniformed servants in the household. What are they doing, and why is there so much glass in that house? And why was Mr. Banks was so “grumpy” all the time. What’s a chimney sweep? Why don’t we have a fireplace?

Calvin doesn’t like loud noises that he can’t control. Why is that guy always setting off the booming cannon? (Why, indeed?) Because he’s a little bit crazy.

Why did the man at the bank take Michael’s money? Why did the dad lose his job? (Try explaining a run-on-a-bank to a four-year-old. Try explaining the banking system to begin with—why it’s a good idea to put your money in the bank, and what compound interest is.) Why was the dad laughing after he lost his job? What’s funny about the joke about the man with one leg named Smith?

And after all was said and done, why did Mary Poppins leave Jane and Michael Banks?

“She said she was going to stay until the wind changes,” Rose declares with a bit of a pout.

“What do you think that means?” I ask.

The movie is over. (We’d watched the first half of the movie at night, and the second half on Sunday morning.) It’s time to put on shoes and walk the dog. The kids whizz their scooters while the dog and I tug-of-war over our pace. He does his business dutifully. Then right before we cross the last street back to the house, Rose calls out to me.

“I got it! When the dad lost his job, he got happy again. Mary Poppins meant that she’d stay until things got better. So that’s why she left.”

Mr. Banks did get his job back, you may recall, after he’d learned to enjoy children, wife, imagination, jokes, and song.

Perhaps there’s a message for our economy in there somewhere, you think?

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