Posts tagged ‘reading’

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.

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

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.

Since writing about Ruby’s first walk to school, I’ve loved every minute of creating her further adventures. From sleeping in a moonlit tent amid giants and dragons, right through to her apprehension at the impending arrival of her impish baby brother, Leon, Ruby has been fun.

The crew at Barefoot Books is coming together and everyone is making paper boats to celebrate the release of Starlight Sailor in a new format—a large board book! Use these easy-to-follow instructions to join the crew and make your own paper boat, then share your nautical creations with us by tagging @BarefootBooks and #paperboat on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram. If you’re in the neighborhood of our Oxford, UK or Concord, MA studios this month, stop by and make a paper boat for our maritime displays!

We Barefoot editors refer to our book projects as our babies. So you can imagine how proud I am to have just brought a trio of beautiful book babies into the world! I had the privilege of working with an incredible team—storytellers Hugh Lupton and Daniel Morden, illustrator Carole Hénaff, and editor-in-chief Tessa Strickland—to create our brand-new Greek Myths series. Want to learn a little bit more about how we brought these ancient myths to life for a young audience? Read on for some fun behind-the-scenes tidbits.


We were delighted to have Emmy-award winning actress, Debra Messing, at our  Book Expo booth at the packed Javits Center in New York City yesterday.  Debra has narrated two of the books on our Autumn 2013 programme: The Little Red Hen, and The Barefoot Book of Jewish Tales. She spent a busy hour signing posters and meeting fans. Afterwards, we had a few minutes to speak to her about storytelling, motherhood, and Barefoot Books:

Our newest independent reader series is based on stories from Greek mythology, retold by master storytellers Hugh Lupton and Daniel Morden and illustrated by Carole Hénaff. The creative process to take text to vivid illustrations is a fascinating one. We are delighted to share an interview with Carole and an introduction by Editor-in-Chief Tessa Strickland.