Posts tagged ‘literacy’


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


5 Bookish Ways to Boost Kids' Twenty-First Century Literacy | Barefoot Books

Do you ever wonder how you’ll keep up with our ever-changing, information-saturated world? How you’ll teach the children in your life to navigate its twists and turns? How they will gain the skills they’ll need to thrive in our complex present and uncertain future?

We do, too. Through recent chats with teachers, we’ve discovered that encouraging your children or students to read nonfiction is an effective way to prepare them for our brave new world. In addition to opening “possibilities” for children, nonfiction builds skills vital to twenty-first century literacy, particularly the ability to teach themselves. “The ability to discover information and tools for yourself,” as technology teacher Vanessa Vosburg explains, “is absolutely vital in our constantly-changing world.”

Whether you’ve got an avid or reluctant reader on your hands, it’s easier than ever to find great nonfiction books your children or students will love, thanks to the recent boom in children’s nonfiction publishing. So help give him or her a headstart on developing twenty-first century literacy by following these easy tips:

  • Find nonfiction books that “specifically relate to his or her interests,” Ms. Vosburg says. “The topic could be a traditional academic area, such as a scientific book about animals, or just something the child is passionate about, such as a favorite movie or music group.”
  • Don’t shy away from nonfiction picture books, Ms. Vobsurg suggests, as they “grab kids’ attention”—even the littlest ones!
  • “Encourage your children or students to share any interesting facts they learn while reading,” Ms. Vosburg says. “Ask them questions about the topic. Having kids retell parts of books to you will help build their paraphrasing skills and cement their understanding of the material.” It’ll also give you an opportunity to ask discussion-starting follow-up questions. The more practice kids gain discussing topics that interest them now, the more capable they’ll be as adults of participating in the conversations that will shape our world’s future.

5 Bookish Ways to Boost Kids' Twenty-First Century Literacy | Barefoot Books

  • Read intentionally—and interactively! Walk your children or students through how to navigate a print nonfiction book, from the Table of Contents to the Index and everything in between. Ask them how the book’s organization makes the topic easier to understand, as in Wonderful Words—or, as in our World Atlas, even adds meaning (Find out how here!). Grab multiple pens in various colors and index cards; in one color, write each of the book’s main ideas or major sections on a different index card; then, in a different color, write each individual section’s main ideas on a different index card. Work your way through the book like this, then lay all the cards out on the floor. What can you see now about how the author constructed the argument or narrative? Then grab all the cards and toss them in the air! Rearrange them at random on the floor and take another look. How does reordering the cards show new relationships between the ideas? Then, imagine that you’ve just Googled a keyword related to this topic; all the cards on your floor represent a small fraction of the different webpages that appear in the search results—and they may be buried under hundreds of less reliable, relevant or interesting results. How would you find the pages you need? How would you know which ones to read? Which is most important? Which is most relevant? Finally, without referencing the book, try to reorder the cards to reconstruct the book’s main narrative or argument. How does this help you think about the way you gather, analyze and synthesize information online?5 Bookish Ways to Boost Kids' Twenty-First Century Literacy | Barefoot Books
  • Help your child or student follow her interests from one medium to another. If she’s already adept at navigating a print nonfiction book, help her research the same topic online, at the library, even on YouTube or Netflix. It may sound counterintuitive, but reviewing the same or similar content on a different platform—such as reading our print World Atlas and then exploring the mobile and tablet app—opens up new avenues of understanding. By interacting with a topic on more than one medium, you’ll not just learn new facts about the topic, but you’ll begin to see how authors have to structure their text differently on different media platforms, and how that difference impacts what you learn from the text as the reader.

However you incorporate nonfiction into your children or students’ reading routines, keep it fun! As media theorist Henry Jenkins explains, “In a hunting society, children learn by playing with bows and arrows. In an information society, they learn to play with information.” So give them children’s nonfiction, and let them play! With strong twenty-first century skills, your children or students will find today’s fast-paced, information-saturated world an endless source not of worry, but of wonder. Empowered by children’s nonfiction, they’ll keep on teaching themselves, learning and adapting and thriving, all throughout their lives.


How Does Children's Nonfiction Build Twenty-First Century Literacy? | Barefoot Books

“What does print nonfiction do for children that a web or mobile resource can’t?”

This question concluded our previous post about children’s nonfiction, in which we chatted with three teachers about why nonfiction is great for kids. Among other things, we learned from elementary and middle school technology teacher Vanessa Vosburg that children’s print and digital nonfiction work together to build vital twenty-first century literacies.

What is twenty-first century literacy?

Ms. Vosburg defines twenty-first century literacy as the ability to participate in and contribute to our information society. “It’s not just creating a PowerPoint based on information you’ve read about animals,” she says. “It’s starting a discussion on the topic, noticing trends and patterns. It’s understanding why those patterns are important and what they mean in the big picture.”

“Previously,” she explains, “elementary school students would memorize facts, like the fact that polar bears live in the Arctic and penguins in the Antarctic. Now, we’re teaching children to participate in discussions and use their innate reasoning skills to understand why a polar bear lives in the Arctic, and why that fact is relevant to their lives.”

How Does Children's Nonfiction Build Twenty-First Century Literacy? | Barefoot Books

Developing twenty-first century literacy is thus as complex a goal as our twenty-first century world. But, parents and teachers: don’t feel overwhelmed! Children’s print nonfiction lays a strong foundation on which kids can build the twenty-first century skills they need to succeed in school—and the rest of their lives.

Reading print nonfiction teaches children “how to teach themselves.”

When asked which foundational twenty-first century skill is most important for children to learn, Ms. Vosburg says, “I want my students to know how to teach themselves.”

So Ms. Vosburg prioritizes showing her students how to “use their computers for research, especially finding reliable sources and incorporating information from multiple sources,” she says. It’s no easy task. “For children, researching a topic online can be overwhelming,” she explains. “There’s so much information readily available in our digital age that narrowing down where to look and then deciphering a digital source can frustrate students, especially younger children. Not only do they need to comprehend the material, but they also need to judge whether or not a website can be trusted as a reliable source. But I’ve found that the wider the variety of nonfiction children have read, the easier it is for them to grasp these skills. Early exposure to nonfiction empowers children to find answers to their own questions for themselves.”

How Does Children's Nonfiction Build Twenty-First Century Literacy? | Barefoot Books

One way reading nonfiction empowers children is by teaching them how information is structured. A novel’s structure is emotional and story-driven; a website or app’s information architecture is intuitive and user experience-centric; but one can argue that a print nonfiction book’s structure is rational, designed to present content in a logical way. Often, a book begins with an introduction that provides context for the argument and ends with an epilogue that recaps the argument and its importance. In between, chapters discuss related, but distinct topics, which logically progress from beginning to end.

For example, our World Atlas begins with three introductory spreads that provide context: “The Story of Our Planet” offers geological context; “Mapping the World,” historical context; and “The Oceans and Continents of the World,” geographic context. The Atlas ends with a glossary that reinforces key terms used throughout the text. Between, distinct spreads feature each region of the globe, moving from oceans to land mass, with Oceania as a transitionary region. Each spread includes the same categories of information—“Physical Features,” “Climate and Weather,” “Natural Resources,” and so on. The spreads move in a logical order from region to region from beginning to end. And the structure itself has meaning: the ocean-to-land organization emphasizes the fact that Earth’s five oceans, despite their lack of permanent human civilization, are just as diverse and important as the seven continents.

How Does Children's Nonfiction Build Twenty-First Century Literacy? | Barefoot Books

Reading a nonfiction book like the World Atlas or Wonderful Words, Ms. Vosburg says, “gives children an overarching view of how information and themes are structured. Instead of seeing facts in isolation—which is easy—they can see how each fact ties into the next, how larger topics flow together and how all the parts combine into the whole.” Children who understand how facts relate to each other and to larger concepts will have greater success doing Internet research, where one keyword search leads down a rabbit hole into a network of diverging, overlapping and intersecting tunnels. When children understand how one small fact can contribute to a larger argument or narrative, they can more readily identify which of the dozen scattered scraps of information they’ve found is most important, and can more effectively combine those scraps into one holistic whole.

As it provides this “big-picture view” of information, Ms. Vosburg explains, reading nonfiction helps children learn to think for themselves. Children who read nonfiction find a larger realm of understanding open before them: they can use their “critical thinking skills to form their own opinions about the information presented and see how it relates to themselves,” Ms. Vosburg says.

Moreover, reading nonfiction helps children use critical thinking skills to identify reliable sources online. “Being exposed early to print nonfiction material increases a child’s understanding of the structure, language and style of digital nonfiction,” Ms. Vosburg says. Since a logical argument or unbiased historical account has the same basic characteristics in any medium, a child who is familiar with print nonfiction will be more likely to gravitate toward logical, unbiased information online. Thus, reading nonfiction in elementary school helps children “overcome many of the common struggles they have with independent research in middle and high school,” Ms. Vosburg says—and throughout the rest of their lives.

Ready to wield the power of children’s nonfiction to empower the kids in your life to build twenty-first century skills? Keep your eyes open for our next post on nonfiction—Ms. Vosburg will share her top tips. You won’t want to miss it!



Three reasons why nonfiction is good for children. If you fell in love with fiction as a kid, you might be surprised to learn that children’s nonfiction is booming. This summer, Publishers Weekly suggested that children’s nonfiction is “having its moment,” due in part to Minecraft’s continued popularity and Common Core’s emphasis on nonfiction. Meanwhile, literacy advocates like the Federation of Children’s Book Groups and Scottish Book Trust are raising the profile of children’s nonfiction in the UK.

Still, when you imagine reading nonfiction with your children or students, you might be a bit bewildered. Curling up with nonfiction sounds about as exciting and enlightening as reading a phone book. Why even have the Yellow Pages in the Google age?

But the fact is that nonfiction is good for kids. So is fiction, of course; the two are complementary, not mutually exclusive. As teacher and storyteller Karyn Keene puts it, “Fiction opens other worlds; nonfiction opens this one.”

To find out how nonfiction “opens” our world for kids, we asked teachers to share the concrete ways they see nonfiction impact their students. Here’s what we learned: Three reasons why nonfiction is good for children.

Nonfiction sparks kids’ inherent curiosity.

Has a preschooler ever driven you nuts by repeatedly asking, “Why?” If you’ve ever been around a four-year-old for even four minutes, you’re probably nodding. As elementary technology teacher Vanessa Vosburg explains, “Children have a natural desire to learn about the world around them and are highly motivated to explore materials that will answer their questions.” Thus, giving kids easily-accessible knowledge in the form of children’s nonfiction ignites their natural desire to learn.

For example, the labelled illustrations in Wonderful Words give children an easy way to learn the names of different objects, people and places. Familiar sights are labeled, like swings and skateboards; as are potentially less-familiar ones, like hummus and a hearing aid loop sign. When a child learns words for objects she’s never seen, her world expands. With a jolt of joy, she realizes that the adventure of learning will never end.

Nonfiction develops contextual knowledge, helping kids to make connections.

It’s difficult to absorb new information when you have no context for it—no place to put a city on your mental map, or no culture in which to place a person. For this reason, young children have a distinct disadvantage when encountering new places, people or ideas. Fortunately, nonfiction books give children the factual knowledge they need to process new ideas effectively and face the world around them with curiosity instead of fear. As history teacher Emily Anderson explains, reading nonfiction in early grades “helps kids to make connections more easily as they get older.” In other words, the more you know, the more you can know—and the more fun learning becomes!

Three reasons why nonfiction is good for children.

For example, our World Atlas illustrations locate familiar people and places in their geographic context alongside less familiar landmarks, which enables a child to weave new facts into her existing purview. With each colorful spread, the reader’s tapestry of knowledge expands, and with it, her comprehension of our complex world.

Even today’s world needs to be understood in the context of yesterday’s. Since we can’t understand the present without the past, our Atlas explores how each region’s climate and geography has influenced its cultural development. By introducing kids to the forces that shaped the past, we prepare them to understand the present and identify ways that they, too, could impact the future.

Kids discover real-world heroes.

Speaking of the past: There’s nothing more motivational than a true story. Nonfiction shows children “real heroes and real people in both ordinary and extraordinary circumstances,” Ms. Anderson says. When a child reads about the incredible achievements of real people like Rosa Parks, Ada Lovelace, Cesar Chavez or Leonardo da Vinci, he realizes that even he, too, could do the extraordinary.

“Seeing these real people gives kids heroes to look up to, people whose heroics they could achieve themselves,” Ms. Keene says. “Nonfiction could inspire our future social activists or research scientists.” In this way, she adds, nonfiction “opens doors of possibility for children.”

Our world is full of things for children to learn and do and be. With nonfiction books like World Atlas and Wonderful Words, the door to that world is open: all children have to do is step through.

But wait: what does print nonfiction do for children that a web or mobile resource can’t? That was our next question for elementary technology teacher Vanessa Vosburg. Find out her answer in our next post!

 

For example, our World Atlas illustrations locate familiar people and places in their geographic context alongside less familiar landmarks, which enables a child to weave new facts to existing knowledge. With each colorful spread, the reader’s tapestry knowledge expands, and with it, her understanding of complex world.


Types of Literacy and Why You Should Care | Emotional and Cultural Literacy | Barefoot BooksWhen you hear the word “literacy” what comes to mind?

Most likely, books and the ability to read and write. This type of “book” literacy is hugely important, as we know, but as much as we want our children to be book literate and academically successful, we are also concerned about our children’s character development. What kind of people will they grow up to be? We want them to be caring and socially conscious citizens of the world: self-confident, curious and compassionate.

This is where two additional types of literacy come in: emotional literacy and cultural literacy. We’ve pulled together a list of books that will help you cultivate cultural literacy and a list of books that foster emotional literacy. Many of the books on these lists support both.

And, of course, reading these books with your kids will support “book” literacy as well!

Cultural Literacy and Books to Help

Research shows that children often draw incorrect conclusions about other cultures, and that it’s important for adults to gently correct such misconceptions and challenge stereotypes through open conversation. Sharing diverse stories like these from around the world is a great way to start a conversation about diversity.

My Granny Went to Market (ages 3-7)
This rhyming story will take young readers on an adventure to different countries while teaching them to count along the way.

Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush (ages 3-7)
Follow four children from different countries, each going through their early morning routine and getting ready for school. See the different ways of life in Europe, Africa, India and China.

Off We Go To Mexico | Barefoot BooksOff We Go to Mexico (ages 4-10)
Trek to native villages and sing and dance to the music of Mariachi bands. Along the way, you can learn Spanish words and phrases and discover Mexican culture. (Also available in Spanish!)

We’re Sailing Down the Nile (ages 4-10)
Set sail along the mighty Nile River. The rhyming story is followed by eleven pages full of educational information about ancient Egypt, gods and goddesses, a helpful map, and much more.

We All Went on Safari (ages 4-10)
Set out on a counting journey through the grasslands of Tanzania. The lively, rhyming text is accompanied by an illustrated guide to counting in Swahili, a map, notes about animals, and interesting facts about Tanzania and the Maasai people. (Spanish and French formats available!)

The Barefoot Book of Jewish Tales (ages 7+)
This engaging collection includes eight delightful tales from the Jewish tradition. Each story has been chosen for its appeal to families and each has a simple — yet powerful — message.

The Barefoot Book of Buddhist Tales (ages 6+)
Explore numerous tales from the folk traditions of countries including India, China, Japan and Tibet. This is a collection of enthralling stories illustrates various important aspects of Buddhist thought.

The Great Race (ages 4-9)
Race with the animals of the Zodiac as they compete to have the years of the Chinese calendar named after them. The excitement-filled story is followed by notes on the Chinese calendar, important Chinese holidays, and a chart outlining the animal signs based on birth years.

Lin Yi's Lantern | Barefoot BooksLin Yi’s Lantern (ages 5-9)
This heartwarming story shows the rewards of putting others first, and includes educational notes at the end about the Chinese moon festival, life in rural China, and the legend of the moon fairy.

Mama Panya’s Pancakes (ages 4-10)
On market day, Mama Panya’s son Adika invites everyone he sees to a pancake dinner. How will Mama Panya ever feed them all? This clever and heartwarming story about Kenyan village life teaches the importance of sharing, even when you have little to give.

Barefoot Books World Atlas (all ages)
This is the atlas for twenty-first-century readers. It’s packed with information about the way in which communities and cultures around the world have been shaped by their local environments, and it looks at the ideas and initiatives that are shaping the future.

The Barefoot World Atlas app for iPad is also available.

Learn more about our World Cultures books and take the kids in your life on an imaginary journey around the world!

Emotional Literacy and Books to Help

Through books and thoughtful discussions, we can help children feel confident in their unique identities, identify and express their feelings, and develop empathy towards others. Like reading, math or science, emotional literacy can be taught, but it’s not a quick and easy process. This area needs to be addressed regularly, like any other academic area we care about.

Ruby’s Baby Brother (ages 3-7)
Ruby’s mom is having a baby, but Ruby is not very happy about it. When baby
Leon comes along, will she change her mind about having a baby brother? (Available in Spanish!)

Ruby's Sleepover | Barefoot BooksRuby’s Sleepover (ages 3-7)
Ruby and Mai are camping out in the backyard. As the night draws in, all sorts of scary characters head towards their tent. Luckily, Ruby has some magical objects in her backpack, but will they be enough to keep the girls safe and fight their fears?

Emily’s Tiger (ages 3-7)
This little girl has a problem with her temper, and every time she gets angry she turns into quite the little tiger. This quirky picture book addresses behavioral issues with humor and an emphasis on intergenerational relationships.

Herb the Vegetarian Dragon (ages 4-10)
Herb is captured by the castle’s knights in armor. Treacherous Meathook and his dragon cronies will only help if Herb, a vegetarian, agrees to eat meat. Will he give in to their blackmail and bullying?

The Boy Who Grew Flowers (ages 4-10)
Climb to the top of Lonesome Mountain to meet a very special boy named Rink — every full moon, he grows flowers all over his body. This heartwarming story celebrates difference and friendship, as Rink meets a girl with her own secret, and they discover ways to help each other.

Chandra’s Magic Light (ages 6-10)
A heartwarming story set in Nepal of two resourceful sisters who bring the safety of solar-powered light to their family. This story provides an introduction to Nepali village culture, environmental science and feminism.

The Girl with the Brave Heart | Barefoot BooksThe Girl with a Brave Heart (ages 4-10)
Shiraz, a kindhearted young girl growing up in Tehran, has a miserable life at home with her stepmother and stepsister, who treat her like a servant. When the wind blows Shiraz’s ball of wool into the garden next door, she spends the day helping and caring for the old lady who lives there, with miraculous results.

Lola’s Fandango (ages 4-10)
Lola is a young Spanish girl in awe of her glamorous older sister. However, she discovers her own talent and duende, or spirit, through secret fandango lessons from her father. The text is infused with the rhythms, movements and sounds of the dance.

Learn more about our books that boost Social Emotional Learning.

 

Ready to read around the world? Join our Summer Reading Club!


Wordless Wonder: The Many Benefits of a Wordless Book | Barefoot BooksDid you know that wordless books are powerful tools for promoting literacy? One of our favorites is Out of the Blue, an extraordinary seaside adventure by Alison Jay. Since we published Out of the Blue in 2014, we’ve often been asked how to use wordless books. If you’re wondering the same thing, you’re not alone! We’re delighted to share Team Leader Laurie Mattaliano’s insight into wordless books, below (first posted on her team’s blog Footnotes). Get ready to discover the wonders of a wordless book!


Last week, I went to a neuroscience-meets-psychology seminar in London about infant-parent relationships. It was delightful to be reminded how even the smallest babies are ready and eager to engage with the adults in their world and to tune into what is being shared with them. In the wake of this experience, I was very happy earlier this week to read the news from the American Association of Pediatrics that it will now be a requirement for health professionals to give guidance to young parents of the value of reading to their new babies.


 

You’ve probably heard the term “brain drain” tossed around in the media. What is it? Is it a real phenomenon?


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.


I have been wondering about picture books lately. I have been wondering what it is that attracts me to this very particular art form. What was the impulse that led to the founding of Barefoot Books — to twenty years of shaping and sharing stories with words and pictures? The child in me has one way of exploring this question, the adult another.