Showing posts with label good question. Show all posts
Showing posts with label good question. Show all posts

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Choose Kindness. Teach Empathy. Listen Actively.

I've spent much of the past week stunned and saddened by the presidential election, but I've also been reflecting on what we can do to make a difference. What messages are we sending to children about the way we behave? How do we treat each other? And what role do books and stories play in this process?

Stories help us see into the lives of other people, as well as into our own lives. New research shows that reading fiction improves empathy. We connect to characters; we feel their pain and delight in their joy. Sharing stories brings us closer together, in classroom communities and at home. It's more than stories, though--it's the conversations that stories can start.

Choose Kindness. We can actively shape the conversations by choosing books that focus on kindness. In my experience, though, kids don't like stories which are just supposed to teach a lesson. They want stories that grab their attention, help them see the world in a new way.

RJ Palacio's book Wonder remains one of my students' favorite books, especially as an audiobook (see my full review).  Auggie feels like an ordinary kid, but he knows that others don't see him that way. Readers are able to see life from a completely different perspective, and kids can see the impact of choices that they make.

Teach Empathy. Through conversations we have about stories, we are able to talk with children about what it means to understand someone else's feelings. We must then bring the conversations into their own lives, asking children to think about when they've noticed someone else thinking about another person's feelings.

Flocabulary has a terrific song & video my 4th grade students have been loving: Building Empathy. We are starting each library session singing this chorus:
I got empathy, I got empathy,
If you need a friend, you can count on me.
I put myself in other people's shoes,
To understand their thoughts and their moods.
Young children think best in concrete examples. Stories like The Sandwich Swap help young children think about examples in their own lives. Ask children about when they've seen other kids making a difference? For more picture books to share and start a conversation, I highly recommend this list put together by the Association for Library Services to Children:
ALSC booklist: Unity. Kindness. Peace.
Listen Actively. Children want to be listened to. Heck, all of us want to be listened to. But how can we listen to each other if we're all clamoring to be heard?

It's imperative that we listen to each other, especially to folks who have a different point of view, a different life experience. My biggest concern with society today is that we are isolated in different bubbles. We work hard to listen, but we are only listening to friends who share our opinions.

Active listening is the most important tool we can use at home, at school, in our political discourse. The Center for the Greater Good, based in Berkeley, describes active listening as expressing "active interest in what the other person has to say and make him or her feel heard." It is their number one advice in how to cultivate empathy.

Thank you, friends and readers, for your support and for sharing stories with children. Your work makes a difference.

©2016 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Thursday, March 11, 2010

How do I help my child learn to love reading if I am not a great reader myself?

I am honored to be part of the wonderful annual blog tour for literacy: Share a Story, Shape a Future.  Today's topic is Reading for the Next Generation, hosted by Jen Robinson.
Join us as we talk about how to approach reading when your interests and your child's don't match. It may be that you don't like to read but your child does, how to raise the reader you're not, and dealing with the "pressure" of feeling forced to read.
How do I help my child learn to love reading if I am not a great reader myself?

When I think about raising my children, I want to pass on the things I love to them. But I also am aware how I might pass on my own insecurities. My husband jokes that he was brought into the family to add math and singing skills to the family gene pool – and he’s probably right! I marvel at how each of my children has their own strengths – some of which I share, others are all their own. Two of my daughters have drawing skills that far outshine my own. I’m still at the stick-figure stage, much like my kindergartner! I’m fascinated by the question of how we help our children grow in ways that we might not have. I love reading, and so it is natural for me to want to share stories with my children. But it’s much harder for me to share a curiosity about math and numbers.

My question here for today is: how do I help my child learn to love reading if I am not a great reader myself? I think about my brother, who struggled with reading challenges all through school. But he loves stories – he loves listening to them, thinking about them. How can he help his children enjoy stories the way he did? How can you help your children to become readers, if you aren't much of a reader yourself?

Here are some tips that can help you foster a love of reading for your children.

Create warmth and bonds
If you want your child to enjoy reading, start by making reading time and story telling pleasurable. Think back to your own childhood. What memories bring warmth and a feeling of connectedness? Do any of those connect to stories, either that your parents told you or read to you? How do you want to create similar memories for your children?
I can remember snuggling up with my mom and my brother as she read Where the Red Fern Grows, as my mom sniffed and tried to hold back her tears as she read the climactic end. I don’t remember the details of the story, but I remember the feeling of warmth and closeness as we shared that story together.

Focus on stories
Children who enjoy reading are motivated by the pleasure they get from it. If you want to help your child enjoy reading, help them develop a love of stories. None of us are motivated simply to read words – we read to understand, to create stories and learn information. While the mechanics of reading are important, you want to help children bring stories alive. Create imaginative stories, tell stories about your own childhood, tell stories simply from the pictures in a book, talk about the stories you read and how they make pictures in your mind.

Patricia Polacco, one of our favorite authors, talks about how she couldn’t read as a child. But her family came from a long line of storytellers. She remembers the warmth of her grandmother’s stories, and that’s what she recreates with her own stories. By helping children fall in love with stories, you are planting the seeds to help them want to read and discover their own stories.

Find ways to share reading aloud
Children grow to love reading first by enjoying hearing stories told to them. Even though reading is difficult for you, try to find ways to share story telling. You can tell stories from your memories of growing up, stories your parents told you, or memories of when your child was a baby. You can listen to audiobooks together, whether short picture books or longer novels. You can choose short rhyming books to read together.

I’m sure that my love of stories stems from listening to my mother read aloud. The funny thing is, she talks about how reading was hard for her growing up; but she remembered her mother reading aloud to her, and so it was really important to her that she share that with us. I love listening to audiobooks, and that’s something that I have shared with my children. On the way to school, we listen to audiobooks as a way to capture our attention (and reduce the sibling squabbles!). We love the voices that professional actors do, how they bring alive a story. Sometimes, when we get to school a few minutes early, we even stay in the car listening to our story for a few extra minutes!
One father shared with me that while reading is difficult for him, he finds it easier to read Dr. Seuss books with their strong rhythm and rhyming. It’s easier for him to read (and sometimes memorize) these books because of the rhythm – they’re meant for reading aloud.

Involve your children in storytelling
If you or your child feel awkward about choosing a book, involve your children in the storytelling process. One father has made a story book about his adopted son’s birth story and is printing it into a self-made book using a site like Blurb. My father-in-law made stories about his cat, and narrated it using a Power Point presentation. My daughter was enchanted. Older children love stories that are the “choose your own adventure” format, where they can be involved in creating the story.

Do you have a way that helps you develop a love of reading with your child? Please share your ideas in the comments.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Easy Readers with children of color as the main characters


When children are in the beginning stages of learning to read, they need three things:
  * a story that engages them,
  * words that are not too difficult to read, and
  * pictures that help kids put the meaning together.

Easy Readers are a type of book addressed specifically to children learning to read - typically in late kindergarten, 1st grade and 2nd grade.  One of my concerns is that so many Easy Readers use animals as the main characters or stereotypical white children, so they do not reflect our student body today. So, I am continuing my search for great Easy Readers with children of color as the main characters.
Luke On The Loose
by Harry Bliss
NY: Toon Books, 2009
ages 4 - 8
Luke is a little boy that reminds me of so many kids I know.  He's standing by his dad on a walk, looking on at the pigeons, while his dad is lost in “boring Daddy talk.” Before you know it - Luke takes off chasing the pigeons!  He's running wild through New York City, and his dad has no idea what's happened to him.  Every parent's nightmare, right?  But all Luke cares about are those pigeons! Yaaah!  As you can see from this sample, Luke on the Loose is written in the style of a graphic novel or comic book.  But it works so well as an Easy Reader because the words are never complex and the pictures support the meaning of the words.

I love Luke's endless energy as he follows the pigeons wherever they go - across the street, up the fire escape, and onto the roof of a tall building.  This is a book worth searching out.  I also think it would work for older children (2nd, 3rd or 4th graders) who are struggling with reading.  They'll love the comic book style and the way that Luke looks like a real kid.  One idea, when you read this with your child, talk about how you read comic books, how you follow the panels.  Also, read all the extra words ("Screech! Honk!") with lots of energy and enthusiasm - and encourage your child to do the same.


The Pet Vet, by Marica Leonard, is another great Easy Reader.  It uses pictures of real kids, and these photographs really engage young children.  This Easy Reader is a phonics-based reader, which means that most of the words use the same word pattern, in this case "-et" like pet, vet, Bret.  This makes it easier for children who are just sounding out words.  But many phonics readers do not have engaging stories.  This one does!  Bret is a young boy who asks his friends if their pets are sick, and they bring him their stuffed animals to heal.
The Pet Vet
(Real Kids Readers)

Marcia Leonard
CT: Millbrook Press, 1999.
ages 4 - 6
My daughter enjoyed The Pet Vet because she's played doctor with her stuffed animals many times.  She could imagine herself taking part in this story.  She is a very new reader (kindergarten), and so she liked the simple sentences surrounded by lots of white space.  I loved the ending when we meet Brett's dad, a real vet.  This is a very early Easy Reader, so is right for ages 4 - 6.

My next quest: Easy Readers with children from Hispanic or Asian backgrounds.  If you have any to suggest, please let me know!

My review copies came from my local public library. Stop by your local bookstore and order yours. Or use this link from Amazon and support Great Kid Books buying more books to review and share with you.  If you make a purchase by clicking through to Amazon, Great Kid Books receives a small percentage, which will be used to buy more books to review.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Good Question - reading about kids living with divorced parents

A friend recently asked whether I had any good suggestions for books that showed kids living with separated or divorced parents.  A friend of hers had an 8 year old who's going through a transition with her parent's divorce.  It is important for all kids to read about characters who are figuring ways out to adjust to the changes in their lives.
Lucy Rose: Here's the Thing About Me
by Katy Kelly
NY: Delacorte Press, 2004.
ages 7 - 10
Lucy Rose is a spunky 8 year old who has to move to Washington, DC with her mom when her parents get separated.  In the beginning, she misses her father terribly and is sure that she'll never make any new friends in school.  But sure enough, she makes new friends in her new school and neighborhood.  I really enjoyed this book - it's written in first-person, diary format and you can just hear Lucy Rose talking in your head, much like I can hear Junie B Jones when I read her books.  Lucy Rose just comes alive, and her thoughts and feelings bounce right off the page.  Here, she tells about her teacher Mr. Welsh asking about how she's settling in:
Today Mr. Welsh came up to me and he said, "How are you settling in, Lucy Rose?"
And I said, "Okie-dokie." 
And he said, "That's great."
And I said, "Well, a little okie-dokie."
"Only a little?" he asked me. 
I told him, "Actually, it is not the easiest to be the new kid in the neighborhood and the new kid at school at the exact same time especially when you don't know any friends yet." 
He had sympathy for that because he told me, "I had a hard time when I was a new teacher and I didn't know any of the other teachers or any of the kids and, to tell you the truth, the principal made me a little nervous, but after a while it got better." 
"Are you still nervous of the principal?" 
"Nope," he said.  "But it took a little time for me to get the hang of everything.  I think that it will be true for you, too."
There are funny, laugh out loud moments throughout - like when Lucy Rose and her friend lose the pet guinea pig in her grandparent's house.  But what I truly appreciated about this book is how it shows Lucy Rose dealing with her feelings.  If you like Lucy Rose, you might also try the Amber Brown series by Paula Danziger or the Mallory series by Laurie Friedman.

Two picture books especially come to mind, showing young kids dealing with parents who live apart.  Molly and Her Dad is great book to share about a father bonding with his daughter.  Molly's mom needs to go on a business trip, so her dad flies in from far away to stay with her.  She's dreamed about her dad and told her friends stories about her dad, but he left when she was a baby -- so she's never really gotten to know him.  See my full review here

Fred Stays with Me is simple but powerful picture book about a young girl who travels between her mom's home and her dad's home. She spends nights at her mom's and her dad's, but Fred her dog stays with her, traveling to both homes.  I love how this picture book shows the little girl's family life as just accepted. The word “divorced” is never discussed. This is her life, and this is how she lives it. She has the same friend, the same school - but one of her rooms has a bunk bed and the other has a regular bed. Fred is her constant friend and companion throughout it all.  See my full review here.

I've just put two books on hold that librarian/writer friends have recommended.  Liz B, a librarian and blogger, recommended My Parents Are Divorced, My Elbows Have Nicknames, and Other Facts About Meby Bill Cochran. It's a picture book and sounds very funny recommended for grades 1-4. I like that it has a boy as the main character. You can find Liz's other recommendations at her blog: A Chair, A Fireplace and A TeacozyBoni Ashburn, a children's author, recommend the Moxy Maxwell series, which follow the travails of fourth-grader Moxy.  In  Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Writing Thank-you Notes, Moxy struggles to finish all of her thank you notes so she can go to visit her father who lives in Hollywood.

You can find these books by visiting your local bookstore or public library. You can also find them on Amazon.  The review copies came from my local bookstore and public library.



Sunday, August 30, 2009

Good Question - early readers with children of color

I've been searching for some good books for early readers that have children of color as the main characters. Our wonderful librarian Dawn, at the Claremont Branch of the Berkeley Public Library, helped me find a few. Here are some great suggestions. These are for very early readers. I'll do a post later with books for slightly more advanced readers.
Hamster Chase (Easy-to-Read, Puffin)
by Anastasia Suen
illustrations by Allan Eitzen
NY: Puffin Books, 2001
ages 4 - 7
When Peter takes his class hamster out of the cage, the little guy escapes! Peter and his friends Archie and Annie search the classroom for Mikey the hamster, but every time they get close Mikey escapes. Children love pets and this story will hook them from the beginning. How will they be able to get the hamster back to his cage? The illustrations are full of color, realistic and engaging. They help the children read the text and pull them into the story. Hamster Chase is a Level 2 Puffin reader. Here's the text from the first page:
Peter took the hamster
out of his cage.
"I'm going to miss you
next week, Mikey," he said.
"Why?" asked Archie.
"It will be Amy's turn
to take care of him," said Peter.
My 5 year old daughter loved Hamster Chase - she wanted me to read it to her three times the first night! This is part of a series of early readers called Peter's Neighborhood, based on the beloved characters created by Ezra Jack Keats. Other titles include: The Loose Tooth and The Clubhouse. If you like this, be sure to check out Anastasia Suen's blogs: Picture Book of the Day and 5 Great Books. She's the author of over 100 books for children.
Get The Ball, Slim
a Real Kids Reader, Level 1
by Marcia Leonard
photographs by Dorothy Handelman
CT: The Millbrook Press, 1998.
ages 4 - 7
Get the Ball, Slim is a great book for very beginning readers. Tim and his twin Jim are two real kids who want to play ball with their dog Slim. When they hit their ball too far, Slim has to chase it down and find it. I love the photographs that are in this book - they are vivid, clear, full of emotion and so real.

Part of me asks, what crazy family calls their kids Tim and Jim, and their dog Slim? But this is important for kids who are working on reading certain patterns. The text contains short, easy words - both with phonics patterns and site words. Here's the text from the first 10 pages - it's spread out with lots of pictures, and is easier for new readers to tackle.
I am Tim.
My twin is Jim.
We play ball with our dog Slim.
I get my mitt, the ball and bat. I get the dog....
Jim gets his hat.
This is a great series that shows children of today. I really want to see Best Friends. Here's what School Library Journal says about it: "Best Friends, the most successful title, includes two girls who describe their differences and similarities, concluding with a statement of strong friendship."

A series that I would like to read is the Just For You! series by Scholastic. They are early readers that feature African-American children. Has anyone read these? I'm tracking them down. Here are a few titles: Low-down Bad-day BluesThree's A Crowd



I'd like to finish with a thought. No matter our race or background, we need to share with our children books with all people of all races, ethnicities and backgrounds. Our books at home and in our schools need to reflect all our kids. I loved the way the illustrator Jesse Joshua Watson said it recently, "When someone reads a story with a black character and begins to empathize with them and crawl into their skin and their problems, major construction has been done in the heart of the reader." See his interview on Writers Against Racism.

These books came from my local public library. Find them at your local public library on Worldcat or at Amazon.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Good Question - board book that older kids enjoy

One question that I've been thinking about is when do we start clearing out the board books in our house? Or another way to look at it is, does my 5 year old still want to read her board books? I think the answer is that there's still a real benefit to having younger books around for familiar, independent reading. Let me recommend this title, No No Yes Yes by Leslie Patricelli, and share a story about it.
No No Yes Yes (Leslie Patricelli board books)
by Leslie Patricelli
MA: Candlewick Books, 2008.
ages 1 - 5 (and older!)
This is a very funny book - showing on each page spread the No, No (scribbling on the wall), and then the Yes, Yes (drawing on a piece of paper). From a very early age, parents and children will enjoy reading this book. The drawings are simple and full of silly situations, like eating dog food or floating bath toys in the toilet, that make even older children laugh out loud. The repetition will help young children want to read the story over and over again. It's a perfect first board book.

But it's more. My youngest daughter is 5 years old and her preschool class is asking them to practice talking in front of the whole class. She is at the very early stages of reading (her name, her friends' names, basic words). She was able to read this book in front of the whole class, confidently and with expression. What a wonderful thing - for a young child to think, "Hey, I can read! I can read this all by myself!"

So, if you have young children at home, seek out books by Leslie Patricelli. She has a gift for capturing the rhythms and heart of young children. If you have older children, keep your board books. You might find they have the magic key for helping unlock the reader in your children.

For another lovely review of No No Yes Yes, see the post at The Well Read Child.

Find No No Yes Yes at the Oakland Public Library. You can buy it online through IndieBound independent bookstores or Amazon. Thanks to John and Melissa for this great recommendation and a magical moment for Emily.

Do you have a good question? Post it in the comments, or email me at mscheuer(at)rdschool(dot)org

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Good Question - How do babies get inside their mommies?

Michelle asked me to recommend a book for her 5 year old daughter who asked, "Mommy, how do babies get inside their mommies?" It's a great question, and there are three books that come to mind. They differ in their focus, but are all good introductions to questions that young children have about our bodies. The most important thing that I have found in talking with young children is to really listen to their questions, and not to give them more information than they are asking for.
It's Not the Stork!: A Book About Girls, Boys, Babies, Bodies, Families and Friends
by Robie H. Harris
MA: Candlewick Press, 2006.
ages 4 - 8
It's Not the Stork! is aimed at children ages 4 - 8, and has lots of cartoons and short dialogues as part of the description. I like the way it starts with real basic questions, like how are girls and boys the same and different. It has a conversational tone, but clear information with lots of illustrations - drawings that look realistic. It shows special parts on the outside of boys and girls bodies, and on the inside of their bodies. It does talk about sex, but in a way I'm comfortable with: "When grownups want to make a baby, most often a woman and a man have a special kind of loving called 'making love' - having sex' or 'sex.' this kind of loving happens when the woman and the man get so close to each other that the man's penis goes inside the woman's vagina." My guess is that this has lots more than most five year olds want, but it would make an easy introduction.
My Mom's Having a Baby!
by Dori Hillestad Butler
IL: Albert Whitman & Co., 2005.
ages 5 - 8

My Mom's Having a Baby is also conversational in tone, telling the story of a little girl who's mom is having a baby. It goes month by month about the baby's development. It has a different focus from It's Not the Stork - this follows a baby, and so introduces sex that way. The book by Harris really starts with what are our bodies like, and so focuses on the child more. It would be a good book for children who are interested in where babies come from, or for older siblings whose families are expecting a new baby.
When You Were Inside Mommy
by Joanna Cole
NY: HarperCollins Publishers, c2001.
ages 3 - 5
When You Were Inside Mommy is a good introduction to the topic for younger children, especially the preschool set. Cole is a wonderful author who knows how to introduce complex topics to young children. She sensitively introduces the topic of how babies develop, without getting too graphic. It would be a great place to begin the discussions and see how your child responds.

These books are available at your local library or bookstore.

Good Question will be a new regular column. If you have a question or type of book you're looking for, please let me know. Either post a comment (click the comment link below the post), or email me at mscheuer(at)rdschool(dot)org. Thanks!

Nonfiction books are great ways to explore and answer questions with kids. For some great suggestions, check out Nonfiction Monday. Today it's being hosted by the ACPL Mock Sibert blog.

Good Question - Ask a Question, Offer Advice

Friends often ask me questions about finding the right books for their kids. I thought that "Good Questions" might make a great column on my blog.

If you have questions or suggestions, please let me know. Maybe it's books that might connect with your child's tastes or interests. Maybe you have an issue or topic you're trying to talk about with your child. Or maybe there's a series that your child loves and you want to share it with other parents.

Please write questions in the comment section of the blog (click on the comment box at the bottom of each post), or just send me an email to mscheuer(at)rdschool(dot)org. You can also send me an email by clicking the link on the right.

I'd also love suggestions from parents about what books work for their kids.

Some examples of questions friends have asked are:

* My 5 year old daughter has asked me about where babies come from. Can you suggest any books that would help me talk about sex with her?

* What books would you recommend for my 10 year old son? He likes fantasy and action/adventure stories.

* How do I know what length of books I can read to my 2 year old?
If you have any questions or suggestions, please let me know. We're all trying to help our children grow to love reading!