Archive for January, 2011

Give your kid more – he can handle it

A boy, thinking about something in front of him.

Every new mom knows that her baby understands more than he can say. You say to a baby, “milk!” and that baby brightens right up. Long before he can speak, he understands.

That amazing, ahead-of-the-curve process never stops, as long as kids are constantly challenged with new ideas and offered the chance to learn new skills.

I’m not advocating French flash cards for infants or War and Peace for a toddler. But I am saying that our kids can handle more than we think.

Last year I brought newspapers into a grade three classroom – so the kids were eight years old. Every week we discussed a couple of ongoing stories. What were the kids most interested and engaged in? The G20 summit. The G8, and how it differed from the G20. How the oil spill off the coast of Mexico was going to be capped. New species of animals that were being discovered.

Those were their favourite topics. And we didn’t just skim the surface, we talked about real stuff. Like how the CEO of British Petroleum wasn’t being honest. And then later how he got fired… well, reassigned.

They were interested in the nuances. They made connections between the “adult” world and their own world. They thought of solutions. They rejected some of their solutions and thought of new ones. And they went home and discussed the G20 and the oil spill with their parents. Some parents told me they’d even taught them some things about the issues. The kids also learned the importance – and reward – of knowing what’s happening in the world through news and discussion.

Kids can handle more than we think.

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Happy Family Literacy Day, Canada!

Today is Family Literacy Day.

Bookmark, from’s a great day to… click on “15-minute ideas” or “Games” or “Crafts” in our tags and find a wonderful activity you can do with your kids that will help to get them reading.

At our school, a parent contacted the local library, which is having a bookmark-making contest. They gave us blank bookmarks and forms for all the kids at our school so they can enter the library contest. Fun!

More about FLD here.

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Teaching Kids the News

Teaching Kids the News (logo)We’ve just launched an exciting new website that offers kid-friendly news articles.
Teaching Kids the News provides daily news articles, appropriate for kids (approximately grades 1-6).
Some articles also have ESL (English as a Second Language) versions.
The site can be used by parents; by teachers in the classroom; by homeschoolers and by kids themselves.
Every article also has “Curriculum Connections,” which tie it to school curriculum – including grammar points and discussion points.
I’m working with two amazing educators on this site, Jonathan Ophek and Kathleen Tilly, who are passionate about education and want kids to have access to “real” news – not what marketers want them to read.
Please drop us a line and let us know what you think!

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Writing a review

Is your older child writing a book or movie review? Here’s a five-minute clip of arguably two of the best movie critics ever, Siskel and Ebert, talking about what makes a good film review–the discussion also holds for book reviews, restaurant reviews, or any other piece of writing you’re doing in which you must be critical.
Basically, they’re saying: start your review with what happened in the movie or book – what it’s about; convey your personal experience with the movie or book; and take risks.
Hard to believe it’s been 12 years since Gene Siskel passed away.
Worth watching – stay with it after 1:14.

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Why adults should read children’s books

Sepia illustration of a bookWhen kids see adults reading they’re more likely to read, themselves. It isn’t just a theory, there’s been research done on this.

When a kid sees an adult reading a children’s book, he’s even more likely to read. Try picking up a kid’s book for yourself the next time you’re at the library; the effect on your child will be very interesting.

My literacy colleague, Jen Robinson, has a slew of other great reasons why adults should read children’s literature:

*Re-reading the books you loved as a child will transport you, like a time machine, back to your childhood.

*Some of the new children’s books are fantastic. If you don’t read them, you’ll have missed out on some great reading.

*Bonding. If your child loves books already, you’ll be able to talk to her about what you’re both reading.

*You’ll better understand what your child is interested in (or concerned about) if you read what she’s reading.

*If you didn’t read much as a child, now’s your time to catch up on what you missed.

*Since good tends to triumph in kidslit, children’s books may uplift you and inspire you. It also tends to charge those imagination muscles that may have become slightly dormant in adulthood.

*If you read what your child is reading, you’ll be aware of the kind of content he’s being exposed to–especially if you’re wondering whether a particular book is appropriate for your child. It also gives you a chance to explain, or put into context, any content you think might be confusing for him.

*It’s a great way to show your child that you care about what’s going on in his world. You’re taking the time to be interested in what he’s interested in.

*Children’s books are faster reads than adult literature. Even if you “don’t have time to read,” you do have time to read a children’s book.

*It’s fun. Pick up Percy Jackson–I guarantee you won’t be able to put it down until you’ve finished it.

Children's literacy blogger Jen Robinson

Children's literacy blogger Jen Robinson

How to get started
Ask your child to recommend a good book. (He’ll be proud that you asked him, and it will be a chance for him to show off his knowledge a bit.) If he can’t decide on one, just pick up whatever he’s reading now–you can read it after he’s gone to bed.

Jen Robinson has also put together this handy list of 25 children’s books that adults will enjoy.

Let me add to her list my own favourites:

*The Twilight series;

*The Percy Jackson series;

*The MacDonald Hall series;

*The Encylopedia Brown series; and

*The Mysterious Benedict Society (book one).

Here’s Jen’s original article.
Image: Wikimedia Commons.

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A Bone… novel?!

Jacket cover: Bone - Quest for the SparkTake a dash of something kids like… and add a dash of something parents like… and you’ve got Bone, the novel.

The Bone series by Jeff Smith has long been an enormous hit with kids. At our elementary school library, we have tons of copies of each one of them and we can’t keep ’em shelved (I know, because I help do the shelving.)

The kids are nutty about Bone. Me, not so much. While I respect the plain fact that something that’s that popular with kids has to be on to something, I find Bone kind of hard to relate to. But that’s probably good (for me, and for Bone) since I’m not the target audience.

Yesterday, however, Nikole from Scholastic sent me something really neat. A Bone chapter book. It’s called Quest for the Spark and it’s a full-length novel – 216 pages – with one or two colour illustrations per chapter. Book one of a trilogy, in Quest for the Spark, “something evil has poisoned the Dreaming and is now invading the Waking World.” (From Scholastic’s media release – I haven’t read it yet, I just got it. Plus, I’m still reading Lucia. For, like, the fifth time.)

Since kids are already hooked on Bone, there’s a huge likelihood that they’ll read the novel.

Something they like plus something we parents like. Bonus! (See what I did there? Bone? Bonus?)

(BTW if you’re new to this website, no not everything we do here is about Nikole at Scholastic – she just happens to be on a roll right now.)

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Munsch’s next book

Robert Munsch

Photos courtesy of Scholastic Canada.

Remember the Scholastic poll we told you about awhile ago?

The one where kids could vote for one of three plots–in effect, choosing what Robert Munsch’s next book will be?
Well, more than 170,000 kids voted and their verdict is in!

Munsch’s next book will be set in Rigolet, Labrador. It will be about Cheryl, who fishes with her dad. Except the fish keep trying to catch Cheryl. And the pair come back with something pretty special (and it’s not a fish).

You can keep checking the Scholastic website here for updates on how the book is coming, as well as some behind-the-scenes stuff on the making of the book. There’s also a picture of Robert Munsch in Rigolet with his son and the girl on whom the book is based. Fun!

Thanks to Nikole at Scholastic who helped me out with this shot of RM.
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The “New” Getting Kids Reading

Books on a shelf

As you can see, we’re in the process of upgrading Getting Kids Reading.
All of the posts from the “old” site are here, but we’re still working on the look of the site.
So please continue to use GKR as normal… and in the meantime, if you have any ideas or suggestions for the new site, please let us know. Thanks for hanging in there while we reconfigure!


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Reading keeps those characters alive

Beautiful PSA about reading.

This brilliant and moving public-service ad expresses perfectly how I feel about kids and reading. It really touched me and I want everyone to see it, so please do share it.

It was created for a second-year Media Arts class at Sheridan College, Ontario. Mike Rilstone, Director of Photography; Directed by Steph Korski and produced by Bryn Ross. Here’s the original YouTube link.

Since posting this, the author has pulled it from YouTube; we’re still trying to determine where the video can be accessed and if we find out, we’ll repost a link for it.UPDATE: The PSA is back online – so, here it is. Enjoy!

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