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How Alice in Wonderland Changed Children’s Literature

By: Muffie Sandberg
Summer Reading Adventures with Classic Stories

One summer day long ago, an English mathematician went on a quiet river outing with an Oxford dean and his three young daughters. To entertain the girls, the mathematician spun a fantastical tale of another little girl who dreamt that she’d fallen down a rabbit hole, entering a topsy-turvy world inhabited by an execution-happy queen, a mad hatter, a tardy rabbit, a vanishing cat, and a host of improbable but unforgettable characters.

That tale was Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland—and 2015 marks the 150th anniversary of its publication. In honor of Alice's "birthday," we thought our own summer readers would want to know how Alice is still shaping what and how we read today.

Reading for Enjoyment

Before the publication of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland in 1865, children's books (such as they were) focused on moral instruction and academic basics. The language could be dull and moralistic, with children's characters resembling miniature adults more than real-life kids like the inquisitive and oft-annoyed Alice.

"'Tut, tut, child!' said the Duchess. 'Everything's got a moral, if only you can find it.'"

But Lewis Carroll and Alice changed all that, moving entertainment to the forefront and moralizing to the background. (As Carroll and his duchess character suggest, the moral is still there, but you may have to search to find it.) Placing the child at the center of the story's action, Carroll launched a golden age of children’s literature and even helped change how society viewed childhood.

Thanks in part ...

11 Book Resources to Help Parents Find Great Children’s Reading Books

By: Tracy Ostwald-Kowald
website list of children’s book reading resources

By now, you’ve gotten the hang of how to choose age-appropriate books for your child’s summer reading list. The next step is finding great books that fit his or her interests.

Browsing the library shelves, asking librarians or friends for recommendations are good ways to find children’s books, but there are also plenty of online resources you can try. You might even find a few tools to support your own summer reading!

Try the book resources listed below.
  1. Bookish
    Bookish is one of several websites that provide you with personalized recommendations based on the books you’ve read. Once you create an account, start adding favorites to your shelf to find new titles. Although older students will be able to manage their own accounts, you’ll have to use the site on behalf of a younger child.

  2. Goodreads
    Students in middle school and high school may enjoy using Goodreads, a book-focused site that encourages interaction. Users can write reviews, track books they have read and want to read, join book groups, take quizzes, and more.

  3. Children’s, Teachers’, and Young Adults’ Choices Reading Lists
    The International Reading Association provides recommended reading lists for kids, young adults, and teachers each year. A short description is included next to each book to give you a better idea of what it’s about.

  4. The Best Children’s Books
    Formed by a family of teachers, this site lists children’s book recommendations by subject. For example, you can find books about punctuation, fossils, and ...

3 Simple Tips for Choosing Age-Appropriate Children’s Books

By: Tracy Ostwald-Kowald
mother and daughters reading a book together

When you go to the library with your child, there are hundreds of books to choose from. How do you find books that are just right for your child’s reading level and interests?

You can take a chance and pick a few, of course, or you can ask a teacher or librarian for a recommended reading list. But you can also find the right books for your child just by using a few simple techniques.

  1. Determine your child’s reading level.

    Sometimes, finding an age-appropriate book is as easy as matching your child’s age to the reading level printed on the back of a book. If your child is 10, for example, then you can look for books in the 9–12 age bracket.

    Here is one tool that uses a measure called a Lexile to match readers of all ages with books and other reading resources.

    But before you rely on this method, remember that every child is different. Struggling readers fall below the normal reading level for their age or grade, while advanced readers may be several levels ahead. Difficulty varies within reading levels and within Lexile ranges, as well. If a book uses a lot of figurative language, metaphors, idioms, or hyperbole, it will be more challenging to understand than other books in the same Lexile.

  2. Do a background check.

    If you want to know more about the content of a book before your child chooses it, do some research. Read reviews online and ask for advice from ...

How to Turn Your Summer Reading List into Book Spine Poetry

By: Tracy Ostwald-Kowald
Book spine poetry examples grouped in a collage

Poetry abounds in the most ordinary surroundings. One popular and fun form of poetry is book spine poetry. Rather than being written from scratch, this type of poem gathers phrases, words, and lines already written. Just stack up books from your personal collection and summer reading list, read the titles, and rearrange them until a poem emerges.

Take several books—any books—and focus on the titles alone. Leave the meaning of the book itself behind, because the final poem may express something entirely different from the contents.

These poems are free verse, a poetry form where rhyme is unnecessary. Punctuation is optional. However, this poem needs a little punctuation to fully make sense.

Book Spine Poetry: In a pickle, little by little, make the impossible possible.

To me, this poem reads:

In a pickle?
Little by little,
Make the impossible possible.

Book spine poems reflect the personality of the poet because each poem comes from the poet’s own book collection. One of our middle and high school English language arts teachers offered this. It works with or without the repeated word painless.

Barron's painless book spine poetry

Papers, Papers, Papers,
Research Projects,
Everything but the kitchen sink.

This selection came together on a table of literature for middle and high school students. A collection of simple titles, in this case verbs, can take on a meaning of its own.

Middle and High School literature books stacked for book spine poetry

Okay for now,

Props are allowed. Poetry, by its very nature, gives a thoughtful outlook on the world.

Keep calm and garden on book spine poetry

The Happy Plan:
Herb Gardening
Grow Your Own Pizza
Gardening for Geeks ...

Books That Teach Kids about Kindness

By: Beth Werrell

books for kids that teach and inspire kindnessSelecting books that show positive character traits is a great way to teach your child about your family’s values. Reading a good story together will not only reinforce reading skills, but also open the door to talk about the characters and their actions. In recognition of National Bullying Awareness Month, we suggest that you begin by discussing bullying and the importance of being kind and compassionate toward others.

One easy way to start is by participating in Jumpstart and Pearson Foundation’s Read for the Record campaign on October 3 at 12:00 noon ET. This year’s featured book, Otis, by Loren Long, is a timeless story of friendship and kindness. The book and activity guides will be available to you online—for free!—when you complete the pledge to read.

Afterward, you can keep your kids reading and thinking about kindness by selecting age-appropriate books from the list we’ve compiled below.

Ages 4 to 6
A Sick Day for Amos McGee
by Philip Stead
Hey, Little Ant
by Philip and Hannah Hoose
How Do Dinosaurs Play with Their Friends? by Jane Yolen
How Kind by Mary Murphy
The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney
The Mine-O-Saur by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen
Stone Soup by Jon J. Muth
Stellaluna by Janell Cannon
Toot & Puddle by Holly Hobbie

Ages 7 to 8
All Families Are Special
by Norma Simon
The Ant Bully
by John Nickle
Enemy Pie by Derek Munson
Have You Filled a Bucket Today? by Carol McCloud
Horace and Morris But Mostly ...

Owning Books: Literacy and the Home Library

By: Tracy Ostwald-Kowald
Owning Books Affects Children's Literacy

When my son Paul was three, he brought home a book from his preschool’s tiny library. The book was Dr. Seuss’s ABC, and he liked it so much that we read it over and over. In fact, Paul would return this book on library day only to bring it home again. We took the hint and bought him a copy of his own, along with a computer program that read the story and provided fun learning activities.

It wasn’t a fascination with the alphabet or my interest in Dr. Seuss that led us to get Paul his own copy. We knew if Dr. Seuss’s ABC was available in our home, we would read it together again and again without having to send it back.

Having their own books will encourage children to read more often. They internalize the feeling that “I am a reader” and apply that confidence to their academic and leisure reading. Owning books increases language development and provides practice in reading skills that lead to improved comprehension.

Children who grow up surrounded by books and other reading resources have an advantage in school regardless of their family income or their parents’ educations. According to some studies, it may even increase the odds of a child’s eventually graduating from college.

A home library creates opportunities for parents to read aloud. Having books available makes rereading favorites convenient and simple. Starting a collection of books at home also establishes the philosophy that reading is important. This idea can ...

7 Great Online Reading Resources for Parents and Learning Coaches

By: Beth Werrell
online reading resources for parents

Why is reading so important?

Because once you learn to read, you read to learn!

Reading is a lifelong skill you never stop working on, and that’s why it’s a core subject throughout your child’s K–12 education.

Until students become fluent, independent readers in middle or high school, there are four major ways Learning Coaches and parents can offer reading support:

  • Prevent students from getting discouraged.
  • Help them with reading mechanics such as phonics, grammar, and spelling.
  • Choose books that interest them and fit their reading level.
  • Encourage students to read, and make reading fun for them.

Online reading resources make it easy and convenient to help students. Here is a list of websites that offer reading tools, activities, and ideas to help you address any of your child’s needs while you promote summer reading.

  1. AdLit.org
    AdLit.org, or All About Adolescent Literacy, supports parents and teachers of students in grades 4–12. Take a look at this site if you have older children, because it offers information on college readiness and awareness. Another highlight is the “Ask the Experts” page, which allows you to submit questions about students and reading so a team of experts can help you find answers.

  2. K12 Reader
    This site offers free reading instruction resources for teachers and parents. If you’re looking for practice materials for your child, you can find worksheets and detailed program supplements for reading, spelling, sight words, grammar, phonics, comprehension, writing, and more.

  3. Oxford Owl
    This is a ...

18 Ways to Enrich Summer Reading at the Library

By: Beth Werrell
18 Ways to Enrich Summer Reading

It’s time for summer! And that can mean fun activities, including reading.

In the next couple of months, children have more time to explore their interests, enhance their knowledge, and broaden their perspective by catching up on reading. If you need books or ideas to encourage young readers, visiting your local library can help you get started.

Besides offering a vast number of books, magazines, movies, and other resources to explore, libraries often give your child the chance to make a craft, listen to a story, join a book club, attend an event, and more.

But your child isn’t limited to reading library books at home and attending the occasional library event. Consider creating your own fun reading activities that utilize the library. These can empower children with more creative freedom and motivate them to plan reading activities that fit their interests.

Library Summer Reading Activities

Below are 18 ways your child can enrich summer reading at the library on his or her own or with your help.

  1. Plan a picnic and peruse a cookbook or food magazine at the library for recipes.
  2. Start a Picnic Book Club. Visit the library with friends to pick out some books to read and discuss during an outdoor picnic. Consider poetry or short stories if you want to read anything aloud.
  3. Before you check out more books at the library, do some summer cleaning by collecting old books and DVDs and taking them along to donate.
  4. Ask your librarian to recommend ...

Get Ready to BLAST OFF with Summer Learning

By: Beth Werrell

Blast Off — Tips for Summer LearningAdmit it, Mom (or Dad)! When warm weather and longer days arrive, it’s easy to let your mind drift away from education. While you may be tempted to “let kids be kids” this summer, this practice can result in significant learning loss. Most students forget two months of math skills, and many slip in their reading achievement as well. Fortunately, if you start planning now, you can prevent this learning loss by integrating learning into your child’s activities!

Here are some simple steps you can take now to get ready to BLAST OFF into a summer of learning and avoid the “summer slump”!

B is for Brainstorming. Ask your kids to put on their thinking caps and brainstorm about what they’d like to learn! Were there any subjects during the school year that captured their interest? Do they want to delve deeper into a topic related to their hobbies?

L is for Learning opportunities. Learning opportunities are everywhere! Can you work an educational side trip into your family vacation? Are there any historical sites, museums, nature preserves, factories, or other interesting places you can tour? Be sure to also look in your immediate area for any cool educational day trip ideas.

A is for Active! Don’t let your kids become summer couch potatoes! Start collecting exercise ideas and ways to combine fitness and learning, and your family will stay healthier for your efforts!

S is for Suggestions. While your virtual school is still in session, ask your ...

The Power of Rereading with Kids of All Ages

By: Tracy Ostwald-Kowald

The Power of RereadingIf you’re a parent, the sound of little voices saying, “Read it again!” is undoubtedly something you’ve heard often. The desire to reread a story is very common among young children. And their favorite books always seem to be at the top of the stack. While adults may find rereading children's books a bit monotonous, young readers and pre-readers savor the repetition of the language and the familiarity of stories, as well as the cozy feeling of sitting close to a loved one with a book. Rereading not only makes children happy, it also builds confidence and enhances reading comprehension.

Familiarity leads to understanding.

Each time a student reads a passage of text, his or her comprehension increases. When reading a classic for the second time, a young reader might realize, “Oh, that’s what it meant when it said, ‘He lived under the name of Sanders.’” These “instant replays” can reinforce new vocabulary, too. Reading books in a series also builds understanding, because the child recognizes familiar characters and gains new insights from seeing similar situations unfold.

Rereading builds confidence.

For young readers, rereading helps build a track record of reading success that results in increased confidence. As they read a well-known story, children may tell themselves, “I can read this. I know this. I think I can, I think I can.” And how many times have you heard your child say, “Oh, I love this part!”? By revisiting their favorite books, kids gain more of the predictability and comfort ...

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