Fantastic New Addition to the Blogroll!

Stumbled across an article covering the StorySnoops, and I’m hooked!

If the old saying “You can’t judge a book by its cover” is correct, then four Los Gatos moms are definitely on the right track.

The foursome—Jen Nagel, Tiffany Boltz, Eden Manseau and Shannon Knowlton—recently launched Storysnoops.com, a website that offers children’s book reviews from a mom’s perspective, at a party in Saratoga to coincide with Children’s Book Week.

“We wanted it to be a resource for parents to either seek out a book or check on a book their child is reading,” Nagel said. “If they have a book in their hand at the book store, they can type it in and see if it might be a good fit for their child. We wanted it to be very simple and easy to use. We wanted to give a parent’s perspective, so what we communicate in our reviews is what I think another mom would want to know about a book.”

Later on:

The site is unique in that it doesn’t just offer reviews on the books, it also gives parents in-depth details on the plot summary, tells them exactly what type of content is covered and gives discussion topics. On the site, each book review has two parts—the story and the scoop.

“The story is basically what you could get off the jacket of the book. It’s an overview of the story and we don’t give anything away,” Boltz said. “In the scoop, we have a spoiler alert and may give away something like the main character dies in the end. Some kids only want happy endings, so we basically speak parent to parent.

The scoop offers good parent/child discussion materials, as well as all of the positive and negative things about the book. The scoop also offers content keywords, such as “problem solving,” “lying,” “courage,” “orphan,” “sex talk,” “drug reference,” “jealousy” and “virginity issues,” so that parents can find, or stay away from, books that deal with certain topics.

“We have about 100 content keyword to choose from,” Knowlton said. “You can pick anything from mild violence to cancer to pet death. Friendship troubles is a keyword and if your child is having those troubles and you are looking for a book dealing with it, click on the keyword and a whole list of books with that content will come up.”

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Seriously, go check out the StorySnoops. It’s great (and I’m TOTALLY jealous of their layout!)

Chinese Children Suffer From ‘Reading Malnutrition’

Google Alerts turns up some rather interesting stories from time to time. This one? Well, it’s not exceptional in terms of content, but I enjoyed taking a moment to realize that the concern of “kids don’t read enough” isn’t limited to just the U.S. Here’s an excerpt from the article, found on the English-language version of People’s Daily Online.

Although Chinese parents spare no effort to send their children to various after-school classes to acquire useful skills, they have neglected to let their children constantly improve one of the most important abilities – reading ability.

Chinese parents attach great importance to their children’s education. According to reliable statistics, education expenditures in most Chinese families account for more than 30 percent of the total household income, and is still growing. In contrast, spending on children’s books is even less than what is spent on toys and clothing.

I actually have no idea of comparable statistics in the U.S. or Canada. That would make a bit of interesting research, wouldn’t it?

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Reading Wisdom

Found this gem in an article on Parenting.com

The playing field between early readers and other children usually evens out by the second or the third grade. That doesn’t mean that reading shouldn’t be taught with some rigor in the first grade. But drilling 3- and 4-year-olds on phonics and expecting 5-year-olds to be fully literate isn’t the best approach. “It may squelch their natural enthusiasm for books,” says Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a professor of psychology at Claremont Graduate University, in California. “When kids are young, it’s more important that they imagine themselves as the pirates, runaways, and explorers in stories than they read every word. You want them to develop a love for reading before they try to master the mechanics.”

Later:

A child who’s really reading does more than just sound out a word like “cat.” He must also be able to know whether a “cat” is a person, place, or thing; to comprehend the grammar in each sentence (Does the cat wear the hat or does the hat wear the cat?); to dramatize and contextualize the story in his head (cats don’t normally talk and wear hats, do they?); and to empathize with the story’s characters and understand the ramifications of their actions (that mom is sure going to be mad when she finds the mess made by that silly cat).

My favorite quote:

As Mark Twain said, “The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them.”

The whole article is worth a few moments of your time.

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Rain Gutter Bookshelves

Rain Gutter Bookshelves – an excerpt from The Read-Aloud Handbook

Few grocery customers know that food companies pay nine billion dollars for shelf space (“slotting fees”), accounting for one-half of stores’ annual profits. In simple terms, they’re renting shelf space. Paying that kind of money, the manufacturer makes sure its product is displayed on the shelf to its best advantage—that is, face-out. This visibility is so connected to sales, the low-paying companies receive the worst seats in the house—the top and bottom shelves.

The reason companies want each product face-out is simple: It’s the cover that most often influences our choices—the picture of the cookie, cereal, cake mix, or magazine. Any magazine editor can tell you immediately the names of the persons whose images will immediately boost newsstand sales (once it was Diana, then it was Oprah, now it’s Brad or Brittany).

Compare that successful marketing approach with what we do with books and children. I often get the feeling that if most children’s librarians were brought in as consultants for the grocery industry, the first thing they’d suggest would be to turn all the boxes and bags sideways to squeeze more of them onto the shelf.

Unlike grocery stores, some libraries haven’t discovered that face-out marketing enhances circulation.

I remember this idea from The Read-Aloud Handbook, but I’ve never figured out quite how to implement it.

I’m not talking about positioning every book face-out. Bookstores don’t place every book face-out, but the ones they really want to move—the new arrivals, the bestsellers—always go face-out. Unlike most educators and librarians, publishers know the cover sells the book, so not only do they work extra-hard designing the right cover, many pay the book chains as much as $750 a month per book to have the cover showing.20 That’s how important the cover is.

Nonetheless, classroom teachers have even less room than libraries for this approach. In response to the space challenge, a few years ago a teacher (whose name I wish I had jotted down) told me how she’d solved the problem by installing rain gutters in the dead spaces throughout her classroom: the space between the chalk ledge and the floor, the two-foot space between the closet and the chalkboard. Then another teacher sent me photographs of the rain gutters she’d installed.

Somehow, “dead space” isn’t immediately obvious in my house. There’s the hallway, but given how often several of us are passing each other at once, I’m reluctant to narrow it farther. There’s a couple of feet in the bathroom, but I don’t want the kids camping out in there. Behind the doors? How useful is that? (How deep are these gutters, anyway?)

Has anybody tried this? Where did you place your rain gutter bookshelves?

Discovered The Read-Aloud Handbook Website

I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me to look for this until someone else mentioned it. I’ve got my own copy of The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease, and refer to it often. Now it turns out he offers ongoing book reviews and updated lists, plus a recommended Read Aloud of the Week, and weekly essays as well. Truly a treasure mine.

Jim Trelease’s Read-Aloud Handbook Website

Tidbit On Getting Boys To Read

Overall good article on encouraging kids to read, but I especially liked the bit on what sort of reading appeals to boys:

All children, but especially boys, like to feel that reading has some “social utility” that will help them make and keep friends, Corpus said. “Boys hooked on video games can read ‘cheat’ books and share that knowledge with others. They can wow their friends with sports knowledge from books on their favorite games or players.” Having a reading buddy and participating in book clubs or online books discussions also add a social dimension.

Check out the many Internet sources that encourage children’s reading and writing. Corpus likes “Guys Read” (www.guysread.com) by author Jon Scieszka (The Time Warp Trio series) and the “Parents” guide at http://www.scholastic.com. Parents and teachers wanting to engage older boys and teens as readers have found the writings of Jeffrey Wilhelm and Michael Smith helpful.

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When Overdue Library Books Inspire Dubious Parenting Choices

A bit of funny for you today.

I really only have myself to blame for the excessive number of overdue and unfinished tomes I accumulate. I know full well how much time I have to read, yet I am addicted to placing hold requests through the library’s online catalog. It’s free! I want to read it! Yes, I’ll join the queue for yet another new arrival! While in the back of my mind lurks the little logical voice muttering, um, when exactly are you going to read these…

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