Prejudices, or how we pick what we want to read now, next or never

My sister attended Conservative rabbinical school here in L.A. back when I was a California greenhorn, still getting confused because the ocean was to the west instead of east, that people called flip-flops slippers and jimmies, sprinkles. At the time, I was exploring Orthodoxy, but shared many of my sister’s friends from the UJ (now American Jewish University) and her Conservative synagogue. Despite my move to Orthodoxy, I remain friendly with many of her friends and colleagues.

Recently, one of my sister’s classmates came out with a book. Naturally, I was excited, so I checked read the synopsis on Amazon.

Within 30 seconds, I decided that I couldn’t and wouldn’t read the book. Continue reading

Summer reading

Boy and girl reading.
image from ClipArt ETC

I’m not a Pinterest fan, but here’s a wonderful post by a fellow blogger at the Nerdy Book Club that gives super projects to make summer reading fun in your family. 

Summertime is the perfect time to develop a love of reading in your kids. Kids can select their own reading material based on their own interests rather than what their teachers think they should be reading. They can also read at their own pace without meeting a deadline. If your family (or your child’s camp bunk) goes on an interesting outing, they can select books that dovetail nicely with the subject matter.

Many libraries have summer book clubs that your kids can join. Just go see the children’s librarian for details at your neighborhood branch.

How to Increase Literacy Through Changing the Genre of Classroom Materials

When I said, “change genre” in the title of this post, I meant it literally. Many advocates of reluctant readers have in the past mentioned that U.S. school rely too heavily on fiction–especially certain kinds of fiction–to teach students. Studies of boys’ reading preferences have pointed out that boys frequently prefer non-fiction selections, but that their schools often rely on fiction. Students sometimes complain about the value of reading short stories and novels in the long term. Are they really going to need to know the major characters and plot points of Lord of the Flies, Catcher in the Rye, or Moby Dick as adults?

Now a study in New York City schools described in today’s New York Times online adds evidence that increasing the use of non-fiction in classrooms has concrete benefits. Students using an experimental–mostly non-fiction–curriculum scored better on reading comprehension assessments. They also internalized the content of those pieces sufficiently to increase their scores on tests of social studies and science knowledge. The NY Times article mentions that this is particularly useful, as classrooms have generally reduced the amount of time they spend on those subjects in an attempt to improve students’ scores on standardized test that focus on reading and math skills. Interestingly, the students that participated in the study were largely from lower socio-economic backgrounds.

The study has its opponents, and I would never say fiction should be tossed out of schools (I love novels! I love short stories!), but I hope that this study will prompt school districts to reconsider their current balance of classroom materials.

The Stuff You Find When Cleaning Your Kid’s Room

Looking to make storytime more interactive with your kids? I was reshelving books in my kids’ room today, and came across this book:
Fox's Best Trick Ever
This “We Both Read” book is one of a series put out by Treasure Bay. What sets these charming books apart is that the books are meant for young readers to share with an adult. Each pair of facing pages contains a page on the left with adult-level words, and a page on the right with leveled vocabulary perfect for the child to read. The parent/teacher and child work together to tell the story, building it jointly. It really enhances the bonding element of bedtime reading, and that coupled with the ease of reading the “kids” page often motivates the reluctant reader.
(You can take turns reading a more traditional text–I find the strategy highly effective with my newest reader at home–but these books make it EASY.)
There are fiction and non-fiction titles in the “We Both Read” series, many multicultural selections, and levels K-3. For more information, follow the link below.

More groovy graphic books for new readers

I’m still on my graphic literature kick. Here are several more graphic books for young readers that will get them really reading…all are appropriate for the “kosher” audience:

The wonderful “Elephant and Piggie” series by Mo Willems.
Today I Will Fly (Elephant and Piggie Series) by Mo Willems: Book Cover
Today I Will Fly is the first book my almost 6 year old read entirely on his own. Elephant and Piggie books are accessible even to many 5 and 6 year olds and are a fabulous way to ingrain the pleasure of independent reading. The stories are so silly, with easy vocabulary and spare but charming illustrations. The kids have so much fun, they forget they are reading.
Luke on the Loose
For readers at 2nd grade level and up, the oblivious misadventures of a boy lost in the big city as he chases pigeons in the park. For fun, comic fans can spot Tintin, Captain Haddock, Olive Oyl, and the Incredible Hulk in the book.
Binky the Space Cat
The wacky adventures of a very indoor cat who thinks Outer Space starts in his front yard. For ages 7 and up. Adults will especially enjoy this one, particularly if they are cat lovers.
Rick and Rack books from Balloon Toons
The timeless encounter between unlikely friends: the optimist and the pessimist. Lots of wackiness and a character lesson about the merits of optimism to boot.