Posts tagged ‘books’

Why You Shouldn't Pressure Your Child to Read Early | Barefoot Books

Should we expect our 4-year-olds to read? You may be surprised: that is actually not a developmentally appropriate expectation! Perhaps the better question is this: should we expect our 4-year olds to love storytime? To that, I say the answer is YES. The most powerful indicator that a 4-year-old will have long-term success with reading is for that child to adore books and read-alouds.

The Pressure of Common Core

I recently met someone who told me with pride that all of her children learned to read by 4-years-old, and that she will make sure her grandchildren do the same. I can see why this is important to her. In response to Common Core kindergarten guidelines, the public education system in the United States has been putting more and more pressure on kids to perform academic skills, like reading, earlier. One study, “Is Kindergarten the New First Grade?,” compared kindergarten teachers’ attitudes nationwide in 1998 and 2010 and found that the percentage of teachers expecting children to know how to read by the end of the year had risen from 30 to 80 percent. Teaching methods have changed in response, with teachers of even prekindergarten students expecting children to spend extended periods of time doing seated work, like phonics worksheets, independently. There’s the thought that if we want them to read younger, we need to teach them how to read earlier using a direct instruction approach.

Why This Doesn’t Really Work

Direct instruction, however, isn’t the best way to teach children to read, because learning to read is like baking a cake. When you bake a cake, you need to combine ingredients — eggs from the fridge, flour from the pantry, and so on. But the thing is, those eggs did not miraculously appear in your fridge. They came from your store, and before that from a packaging facility, and before that from a chicken. And the flour — it was packaged in a factory, and before that, it was wheat, and before that it was a seed. In other words, there were a lot of steps that needed to happen before you could even reach for those ingredients to mix them up and bake them.

Reading is the same way. The act of reading is made up of a huge number of foundational skills — some very sophisticated — that develop with time and practice, and include far more than recognizing alphabet letters and sounds. Learning to hear and manipulate sounds, sustaining attention, remembering information, thinking abstractly — these are skills that cannot be taught through direct instruction alone. In order for a child to learn reading in the true sense — to be able to read to obtain, interpret and evaluate information — we cannot skip steps. Can some young children technically learn how to sound out words? Sure. But more often than not, these children cannot meaningfully understand what they are reading. They are not set up for long-term reading success.

Research bears this out. Studies show that by fourth grade, children who were reading at age 4 were not significantly better at reading than their classmates who’d learned to read at age 7. What’s more, in Finland and Sweden, kids don’t even start formal schooling until they are 7 years old. Yet, Finnish and Swedish teenagers outperform American teens in international tests of reading, math and science.

A Better Way to Learn to Read

Here’s the good news: the ideal method for teaching reading is fun and free from pressure. The best way to develop the foundational literacy skills children need is to read aloud to them often, from birth – and to make these experiences joyful and interactive. Frequent conversations and pretend play also help develop the complex  language and cognitive skills necessary for reading and academic success.

So it is our job to instill a love of reading at an early age to set our children up for strong literacy skills. It’s amazing that the best outcome will come from the most joyful approach!

Want to learn more about how to ignite your child’s love of books and stories? Consider hosting a Children’s Literacy Workshop,which we’ve carefully constructed just for you. Your expert Ambassador will share the tips and tricks you need to prepare your child for strong literacy development – by making reading fun!

Stefanie Grossman, Sr. Product Director | Barefoot Books


Stefanie Grossman, Sr. Product Director | Barefoot Books



Stefanie Paige Wieder, M.S.Ed.

Sr. Director of Product, Barefoot Books

Out of the Blue Activity | Seashell Picture Frame for Kids

In our popular wordless book, Out of the Blue, children comb the beach for seashells and other treasures, which they then use to create art. Where do seashells come from? How many different types of seashells are there? In this activity, learn fascinating facts about seashells, work on early math skills with sorting games and create a beautiful, beachy keepsake.

About Out of the Blue

This evocative wordless book about the mysteries of the sea invites readers to tell the story in their own words, which stimulates the imagination and helps develop visual literacy. Follow Alison Jay’s distinctive crackle-varnished artwork as a storm — and what it brings — transforms the seashore for a day.

Includes endnotes on marine life, lighthouses and the intriguing world of items that wash up on beaches. This book suits all ages.

I love the way books travel; the way they crop up in quite unexpected places. But when I went over to New Zealand last month to tread in my grandmothers’ footsteps, I never expected to encounter our very own Barefoot bear! You can probably imagine my surprise and delight when I learnt that Bear on a Bike was the very favourite book of two three-year-old twins whose Mum works with my cousin Jeremy Jones in Blenheim. Here are the twins, Isabel and Alice, with me and their grandmother and of course, Bear!


Today is the first annual Multicultural Children’s Book Day, designed to shine a light on great books for children that feature stories from around the world.
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One of my favorite things about working on Chandra’s Magic Light has been learning so much about Nepal. We tried to capture the essence of this incredible country while also telling a compelling story about two resourceful big sisters working together to help their sick baby brother. We did a lot of research to integrate the culture, beauty, and some of the challenges facing Nepali people today into this book. Here are some Nepali details in Chandra’s Magic Light:

2013 was an action-packed year for us at Barefoot Books. Here are some media highlights:

Last month we shared with you the exciting news about Micha Archer, illustrator of Lola’s Fandango and The Wise Fool, and her magical decorations for a 10 foot tall Christmas tree, bringing Lola’s story to life. True to the story, big sister Clementina makes an appearance on the tree as well.

Jackie drawing Barefoot Books blog beach farm house

Illustration by Jackie Morris

Everyone knows that the best ideas happen in the kitchen. The kitchen at Beach Farm House saw lots of action. It was a cosy, narrow room with a small, electric cooker, a stainless steel sink and  a fridge running along one side. Above these ran a long, narrow storage shelf.  On the opposite wall was an electric storage heater, around which Francis, Rollo and Zoë would jostle for heat between meals. Unless the wood-burning stove in the sitting room was alight, the kitchen was the warmest room in the house, so this is where my meetings with interesting artists and writers took place. Here you can see the kitchen rendered in blue ink by Jackie Morris, the fantastic illustrator of The Greatest Gift,  Classic Poems and Starlight Sailor.

Princess of Springs Blog

Illustration by Martina Peluso from the upcoming The Princess of the Springs

American academic Jack Zipes is what a British newspaper calls the ‘Merlin of folklore studies.’  He has spent his life stepping inside stories and has written and edited scores of books, including The Oxford Companion to Fairy Tales and The Norton Anthology of Children’s Literature. He is passionate about fairy tales, their meaning and their importance. He believes in the power of fairy tales to hold up a mirror to our lives and show us ‘the gaps between truth and falsehood in our immediate society.’ Like all of us at Barefoot, Jack is convinced that story is not a commodity or entertainment but a means to explore and express ideas. So how lucky a few of the Barefoot Books Oxford office’s editorial team felt when we had the chance to listen to him talk at the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education (CLPE) in London.

The 18th Annual Family Trees: A Celebration of Children’s Literature at the Concord, Massachusetts Museum is quickly approaching! This year, the wonderful illustrator of Lola’s Fandango, Micha Archer, has the great honor of decorating the main tree at the exhibit. The Family Trees exhibit will be open from November 27 – January 1 and all proceeds benefit the Concord Museum’s education initiatives. If you’re in the New England area this season, bring the whole family to see Micha’s tree and dozens of others inspired by children’s stories!  If you’re not in the area, please share with those who are, it’s a real treat for children’s book lovers.