The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller

The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child by Donalyn Miller is a helpful book for educators and parents to gain ideas on how to help children embrace and love free reading time.

The emphasis is on letting children choose their books while providing guidance as experts in children’s literature. Our goal is to help our students (or children) recognize what they would enjoy most. Continue Reading

Picture Book Sunday: For the Right to Learn by Rebecca Langston-George

For the Right to Learn by Rebecca Langston-George (Capstone, September 2015) is a picture book biography of Malala Yousafzai, giving younger readers a background of just what she was able to accomplish. I’ve said before that her story is inspiring, and I think this book did a great job of also making it accessible to young kids.

This picture book is for middle and upper elementary children both because the text is dense on each page (4-7 sentences on each two-page spread) but also because the concepts of discrimination and violence against girls who want to go to school is such a deep concept for the very young to grasp. The vibrant digital illustrations, however, give added dimension to concept Malala faced. Children may be fascinated with the difficulties around the globe for children like themselves. With the combination of the vibrant illustrations (some of them featuring Pakistani writing) and the intriguing story, children will keep reading!

I asked my son, age 7 and soon-to-be a 3rd grader, what he thought of the book. He was impressed that she was still a child doing the things she did, although when he saw her photo in the back of the book he said, “Well, she looks like a grown up though!”

How often do we take our chance to get an education for granted?

Note: I received a digital copy of this book for review consideration. It will be published in September of this year.

Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens

Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens (published serially from 1838-1839) meets the Dickensian stereotype of a very long book. I began reading it when my daughter was newborn and I finally finished it, now that she’s three and half.

Nicholas Nickleby is definitely not my favorite Dickens novel. In some respects it’s obvious that its a early novel by the master of complex plots. It has many different plots and subplots and an abundance of clever characters, and yet there’s something that seems to be missing to tie the whole novel together. It simply was not an enjoyable read for me after the first few hundred pages.

That’s not to say I regret reading it. I’m always glad to read another Dickens novel, I really do enjoy both the complex and the superficial and stereotypical characters that are presented in a Dickens’ novel.

Nicholas Nickleby is about the once wealthy Nickleby family, which upon the death of the father of the family is left impoverished due to his unwise investments. Mrs. Nickleby is a ridiculous woman. Nicholas is of course the eldest, and since he is college educated and the new “man of the family”, he must find a way to support his mother and sister. Nicholas’s beautiful and innocent sister, named Kate, also needs taking care of. Upon the reversal of their fortunes, the Nicklebys first turns to their estranged uncle, Ralph Nickleby, in London, who is wealthy, in hopes that he will help them become established in some way with their new, less stable, future.Continue Reading

How We Learn by Benedict Carey

I read How We Learn by Benedict Carey (Random House, September 2014) at much the same time as I read Born Reading, so I found the correlation between the two quite interesting. Both books were written for very different and unique reasons and for different audiences. But, since I’m a homeschooling mom, I found that I was an appropriate audience for both!

How We Learn is definitely a more technical book, with plenty of references to studies in learning techniques from the past 50 years and more. Nevertheless, Mr. Carey wrote with a familiar tone sometimes, with examples from his own life. These felt more like digressions to me (I honestly did not want to know about his college drug habit!) but overall, the book had a professional feel due to the research involved.

Concepts Mr. Carey covered include basic concepts on how memories form and how we forget, how we best hold on to things we want to learn, what to do about distractions and other difficulties to learning, and how to best tap in to the subconscious to retain learning. I found the most interesting and useful concepts to me as a homeschooling teacher and parent to young children were those about how getting wrong answers and actually forgetting concepts helps strengthen long-term retention. I am all the more eager to give my children “pre-tests” and provide a spiral method to learning and then eventually revisiting concepts.

I also found that it helped me approach the things my son has forgotten in a different way. When he’s forgotten and relearns it, he is more likely to retain it for longer!

In retrospect, the book has stayed with me. While the technical details have escaped me, the basic concepts of learning and forgetting have intrigued me as a teacher. I think it’s a valuable contribution to for the library of teachers and learners!

Note: I received a digital copy of this book for review consideration.