Writing in light

So, here’s a pretty cool product.

Crayola’s Glow Station is essentially a flexible white board made of a phosphorescent material. It comes with a pen-flashlight so kids can “write” (or draw) using light.

At first, I thought it was a one-trick pony. My son used it the first time for half an hour and then didn’t really go back to it.

However, as time goes by, I’m liking it more and more. Here’s why. It hangs on his wall, so it’s always handy.

Come bedtime, our family inevitably writes messages to each other.

So actually, it’s becoming a pretty good literacy tool. It’s getting my son to write more, and that’s hard to do. (He loves reading, but writing – not so much.)

The Glow Station also comes with stencils and an adapter that creates little starbusts of light.
But the real genius of the thing is the fact that kids will use it, again and again, to pass messages back and forth. In the dark.

By the way, check out this website that’ll explain why things glow.

I couldn’t take a picture of my son’s Glow Station because it’s, like, really hard to get a picture of stuff that glows. You use a flash and it doesn’t glow – you don’t use a flash and you can’t see it. So you get the Crayola image, and they’re drawing not writing. Your kid will write.
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Great new books – the Bird is back!

Boo Hoo Bird
by Jeremy Tankard

Well, he’s not grumpy any more but really, he should be, since in this sequel to Grumpy Bird, our little blue friend gets bonked in the head.

And, just as in the last book, it’s Bird’s friends who make him feel better.
Beautifully illustrated and lovingly written in a non-condescending yet kid-friendly manner, your child will love this new book by the very talented Jeremy Tankard.

(Here’s a picture of my son five minutes after the book came into our house. Grabbed a glass of juice, and sat right down with it.)

Down the Drain!
by Robert Munsch and Michael Martchenko

I always think that Munsch’s books are best when they’re illustrated by Michael Martchenko. The two play off each other’s whimsical, weirdilicious style in a way that’s very compelling.

As with his other books, Down the Drain features improbable situations, impossible goings-on and the kids come out on top. Of the parents.

Fun to read out loud, and fun for kids to read alone, Munsch books are always a home run. It’s great when a new one comes out, because you can send it to your grandchildren without worrying that they have it. Do it quick though, because they soon will.

Click to order Boo Hoo Bird and Down the Drain from Chapters/Indigo.

Disclosure – Jeremy Tankard is an acquaintance of mine. Everything I said about his talent and his wonderful books still stands, though. I’d say he’s brilliant even if I didn’t like him so much. Also, did you know that Robert Munsch had a stroke a few months back? He’s OK, and has regained his power of speech, although he says he still can’t write new stories yet. Hang in there Mr. Munsch – it’ll come back. It will.

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France gives teens the gift of reading

Another way in which the French are awesome.

When kids in France turn 18, the government will give them a free one-year subscription to a newspaper of their choice, President Nicolas Sarkozy announced Friday.

The free subscriptions are designed to instill in young people the habit of reading the news regularly. Apparently, there are fears that the younger generation isn’t as into daily newspapers as their parents and grandparents.

With falling ad and subscription revenues, it’s hoped that the move will help boost the French economy.

What a great idea. I love it when economics and literacy collide. Oh Mr. Harper…?

I got this picture of N.S. by Google Image-ing him. It’s from Foreign Policy magazine. It’s such a great shot. Can you imagine our leader looking this spritely, this charming? Ya gotta love the French.

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Boys and girls are different

They approach literature differently, too.

Boys use different parts of their brains than girls to process emotions and words. They relate to characters in books differently, and enjoy reading different kinds of things.

Here’s what most boys like to read:
*Accounts of real events
*Books with action
*Illustrated accounts showing how things work
*Gross things – the slimier and more disgusting, the better.
*Books that get to the point. Boys don’t want the explanation—they want to get right to the action. Let your boy skip the book’s introduction and any long-winded, explanatory bits.

What most girls like to read:
*Great characters
*Books that let them analyse characters’ motives or emotions
*Books with relationships between two or three people
*Context. Girls want to know why something is happening, and why the characters are acting the way they are. Before opening the book, give your girl an idea what she can expect from it, and what the characters are all about.

Why is Harry Potter so popular with boys and girls? It’s got the sports and action boys love, and the great, complex character development girls go for. Accio, Potter!
Our source for this research information:

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Lunchbox surprise

Put a note in their lunchbox.

I like to put a little note in with my son’s lunch. Notes are great for kids who aren’t that into reading because they’re short, they’re fun, and they’re from mom. I keep my notes to the point, and very upbeat. Something like: “Hope you had a great morning. I put a treat in the outer pocket. Enjoy! I love you – Mom xoxoxo

I don’t tell him to eat his veggies, or remind him to check the lost-and-found for the mittens he lost. I want him to look forward to my little notes, and that’s good “reading reinforcement” behaviour. When what they’re reading is fun, they’ll look forward to reading.

Check out these Crayola “mini lunchbox messages” I found at a Michaels craft store. They even have a little envelope. But of course, any piece of paper will do – and don’t forget the xoxoxos.

I’ve got a call in to Crayola, to find out if you can purchase these notes online. When I hear from them, I’ll let you know. And yes, I did photograph this on top of snow. Tres Canadian, n’est-ce pas?

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Happy Family Literacy Day

This is the day.

The day you and your child read together for at least 15 minutes.
The day you buy her a magazine, out of the blue.
The day you help your child write a letter (or an e-mail) to gramma.
The day you listen to your daughter read a book.
The day you subscribe online to ChickaDEE.
The day you set aside some books to donate to the Children’s Book Bank.
The day you read the newspaper with your son.

The day you take a few moments to help your child be a better reader.

My son and I will be reading Harry Potter tonight. Last night Snape confiscated Harry’s potion because he forgot to put hellebore syrup in his Draught of Peace. Tonight, I think we’re going to have to sit through Professor Umbridge’s class. She looks like a toad, with a pale complexion, runny eyes, a slit for a mouth and she always dresses in fluffy pink cardigans. Blech.

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Family Literacy Day is Jan. 27

Tomorrow is Family Literacy Day

Celebrate and foster literacy in your home by:
*Reading with your kids;
*Creating a story together;
*Explaining some current events to them;
*Giving them a book or a magazine; or
*Letting them read to you.

I read the five Robert Munsch books to my son (see last post) and we entered our names to help Canada beat the US’s “reading to children” record. Since more than 190,000 people registered, it’s possible we blew that record out of the water. Oooh, literacy can get so competitive!

Even though my son has heard those Munsch books zillions of times, we had a great time reading them together. And in “Mortimer,” every time the parents put him to bed, our whole family sang at the top of our lungs, “Clang, clang, rattle bing-bang – gonna make my noise all day!” If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then here’s your FLD assignment: Read Robert Munsch’s Mortimer. You’ll be glad you did.

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It’s Canada vs. US in a literary show-down

  • January 23, 2009 at 7:00 am
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  • 1 comment

Beat the reading-with-your-child world record!

Literacy organization ABC Canada is trying to beat the U.S.’s world record for “Most children reading with an adult, multiple locations.” And you can help.

You need to read, with your child, five of Robert Munsch’s stories which you can download and print for free here. The stories need to be read, today, and in this order:
*Purple, Green and Yellow
*Murmel, Murmel, Murmel
*Something Good

Then, register your accomplishment here.

This has to happen today, from 2 p.m. until 2 p.m. tomorrow, Jan. 23, 2009, to count towards the world record.

The current record is 78,791 set in the U.S. Currently, more than 184,000 Canadians have signed up for the world record attempt. So, who needs Henderson to score the winning goal against the Americans, anyway? Goooo team Canada!

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Does your child know what happened today?

Talk to your child about the significance of the events of January 20, 2009. Talk to him about what it means to have an African-American president in the US. Explain why so many people were waiting and watching on this day. Why it’s so important not just to the US but to Canada, to the world.

This is a moment to bring your child into history. Explain the electoral process – teach them how to spell “inauguration.” And “Obama.” And “hope.”

Listen to Obama’s inaugural speech together and explain some of the profound things he talked about. The global crises. The ways in which Americans and Canadians and other citizens of the world were asked to come together. The role religion played in his speech. The reason he mentioned his father, 60 years ago, not being served in a restaurant; his son now president.

Literacy is more than words. It is an understanding of world events, and people who are helping to shape our world. Talk with your kids about this, and listen to what they say. Help them understand so they can embrace our history, and our future.

We can’t be cynical, or cool about the importance of this day. It’s historical, it’s important, it’s significant. Bring your child into it.

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Judging the age-level of books

What can your child read alone?

It can be difficult to decide what books are just right for your reader – not too hard or too easy. Here’s a great suggestion, from a book/pamphlet produced by the YMCA, called Raising Kids Who Read.

“To decide which books are right for independent reading, notice if your child can read a few pages of a book with 95 per cent accuracy. That is, does he or she miss only one out of every 20 words?

If a young reader falters on one out of every 10 words, take turns reading the book together. You can supply words too difficult for him or her to read. If your child misses more than one in 10, to reduce frustration, make this book one that you read aloud.”

Great advice.

This book was produced in 2004 by the YMCA, 42 Charles St. E., Toronto, Ontario, www.ymca.ca. Writer: Carolyn Munson-Benson, Design: Holmes & Lee, Photography: Stacey Brandford.

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