Showing posts with label parenting. Show all posts
Showing posts with label parenting. Show all posts

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Summer reading: encouraging children to read

As summer approaches, kids get excited for freedom from the routines and structures of school. But parents often worry how they will encourage their children to keep reading. Kids have put a lot of effort into developing their reading abilities throughout the school year--what's going to happen to all those hard-earned skills over the summer?

Parents and children know that it’s important for children to develop strong reading skills--the question I hear so many parents asking is, “How can I get my child to enjoy reading more?” They’re absolutely right. Enjoying reading is key--we want our kids to get lost in books, totally absorbed in whatever they're reading.

Here are my tips for encouraging children to read:
1) Read aloud. Sharing stories together focuses on enjoyment and meaning. Keep reading aloud with kids, even as your children get older. If you're taking a car trip, try listening to an audiobook together.

2) Choice. What do your kids like to read? When they get to choose, they are more involved and engaged in reading. Use reading levels only as a general guide, not as a a limit on your children's reading.

3) Time and volume. Create structure that sets aside time for reading. The more children read, the better they'll get. Volume really does matter. My biggest question is how you take away distractions so kids can sink into reading a book.

4) Praise the behavior you want to see. Focus on noticing the positive. Ask your children's friends what books they'd recommend. Notice when your children read and praise their stamina.
Are you looking for summer reading ideas? Check out my 2017 summer reading recommendations, created for Berkeley Unified School District families. Please feel free to download these, print them and share with your friends. Most of all, try to make summer reading time a fun, relaxing part of your summer!

©2017 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Choose Kindness. Teach Empathy. Listen Actively.

I've spent much of the past week stunned and saddened by the presidential election, but I've also been reflecting on what we can do to make a difference. What messages are we sending to children about the way we behave? How do we treat each other? And what role do books and stories play in this process?

Stories help us see into the lives of other people, as well as into our own lives. New research shows that reading fiction improves empathy. We connect to characters; we feel their pain and delight in their joy. Sharing stories brings us closer together, in classroom communities and at home. It's more than stories, though--it's the conversations that stories can start.

Choose Kindness. We can actively shape the conversations by choosing books that focus on kindness. In my experience, though, kids don't like stories which are just supposed to teach a lesson. They want stories that grab their attention, help them see the world in a new way.

RJ Palacio's book Wonder remains one of my students' favorite books, especially as an audiobook (see my full review).  Auggie feels like an ordinary kid, but he knows that others don't see him that way. Readers are able to see life from a completely different perspective, and kids can see the impact of choices that they make.

Teach Empathy. Through conversations we have about stories, we are able to talk with children about what it means to understand someone else's feelings. We must then bring the conversations into their own lives, asking children to think about when they've noticed someone else thinking about another person's feelings.

Flocabulary has a terrific song & video my 4th grade students have been loving: Building Empathy. We are starting each library session singing this chorus:
I got empathy, I got empathy,
If you need a friend, you can count on me.
I put myself in other people's shoes,
To understand their thoughts and their moods.
Young children think best in concrete examples. Stories like The Sandwich Swap help young children think about examples in their own lives. Ask children about when they've seen other kids making a difference? For more picture books to share and start a conversation, I highly recommend this list put together by the Association for Library Services to Children:
ALSC booklist: Unity. Kindness. Peace.
Listen Actively. Children want to be listened to. Heck, all of us want to be listened to. But how can we listen to each other if we're all clamoring to be heard?

It's imperative that we listen to each other, especially to folks who have a different point of view, a different life experience. My biggest concern with society today is that we are isolated in different bubbles. We work hard to listen, but we are only listening to friends who share our opinions.

Active listening is the most important tool we can use at home, at school, in our political discourse. The Center for the Greater Good, based in Berkeley, describes active listening as expressing "active interest in what the other person has to say and make him or her feel heard." It is their number one advice in how to cultivate empathy.

Thank you, friends and readers, for your support and for sharing stories with children. Your work makes a difference.

©2016 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Summer reading: Encouraging children to enjoy reading more

from Flikr, by Enokson
As summer approaches, kids get excited for freedom from the routines and structures of school. But parents often worry how they will encourage their children to keep reading. Kids have put a lot of effort into developing their reading abilities throughout the school year--what's going to happen to all those hard-earned skills over the summer?

Parents and children know that it’s important for children to develop strong reading skills--the question I hear so many parents asking is, “How can I get my child to enjoy reading more?” They’re absolutely right. Enjoying reading is key--we want our kids to get lost in books, totally absorbed in whatever they're reading.
from Flickr, by Piulet
We do what we enjoy doing--that’s basic human nature, isn’t it? Reading develops only with practice -- the more you read, the better you get; the better you get, the more you read. So how do we help children enjoy reading and choose to read more often?

Research has shown that two elements are key: children's access to interesting books and choice of books that they can read. It makes sense, doesn't it? I love the way Dav Pilkey, author of the Captain Underpants series, put it in What Kids Are Reading:
"What if all of your reading material was selected by, or restricted by people who believed that they know what was best for you? Wouldn’t that be awful? Wouldn’t you resent it? And isn’t it possible that you might begin to associate books with bad things like drudgery and subjugation?"
The first step to supporting your child is to encourage them to pick what interests them. During the summer, encourage them to seize the power and declare their own passions or interests. Baseball fan? Read biographies, baseball mysteries or sports magazines. Dolphin lover? Dive in deep, learning all about types of dolphins, threats on their habitats and scientists who study them.

The second step is to get a sense of your child's approximate reading levels--not to prescribe what your child can read, but to help her find books that are easy enough to read independently. Children will find the most success reading books in that they can read easily and fluently, especially during the summer.

The final step is to recognize that learning is social -- kids will get engaged more if you value their ideas, ask for their recommendations, talk with them. Do they resist talking with you? Figure out another way for them to engage with others--maybe it's high-tech and setting up a blog, maybe it's old-school and having a reading recommendation journal that you each put entries into, maybe it involves ice cream and friends who like to talk about books and hobbies.

Are you looking for summer reading ideas? Check out my recommendations, created for Berkeley Unified School District families.
2016 Summer Reading Suggestions
Please feel free to download these, print them and share with your friends. Most of all, try to make summer reading time a fun, relaxing part of your summer!

©2016 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books2016, Mary Ann Scheuer
Great Kid Books & Berkeley Unified School District

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Making Time for Rhyme -- guest post by Susan B. Katz

I wrote to author Susan B. Katz, author of ABC School's For Me and several other books, asking her to talk with parents about the power of rhyming stories.

I notice that so many parents love reading these aloud to their kids. Why is that? Why do these stories play such an important part in children's language development? Can listening to stories actually help kids learn to read, even if they aren't reading the words at all? And what do you think makes the difference between a good rhyming book and a bad one -- what do you look for when you read aloud to kids?

Thank you, Susan, for your delightfully fun and thoughtful response.

Make Time For Rhyme
By Susan B. Katz

I grew up on a diet of books by the master rhymer, Dr. Seuss. I devoured Green Eggs and Ham, the Sneetches and that crazy Cat on the Loose. As a teacher for 20 years, I did lots of “rug” read alouds. Rhyme sure does please the little listener crowds. Parents will find that rhyme gives students a feeling of success. Children are able to predict the last word, they love to shout out a guess. That is what’s called a Cloze, and yes, it’s spelled with a Z. In my books, predictable rhyming patterns make clozing easy. Take for example, in MY MAMA EARTH, my second title. Students guess the ending words; that brain engagement is vital. I say, “My Mama makes the hippos snore and mighty lions proudly ________.” Clozing keeps them involved and on their toes so reading isn’t a bore. My most recent book, ABC SCHOOL’S FOR ME, features bears, at school, making all sorts of creations. Students also predict the rhyming words using the colorful illustrations.

Authors are discouraged from writing in rhyme by most publishers, of course. Editors receive a lot of rhyme that is, what we call, “forced.” But, there are those of us who continue to publish in rhyme, confident that children’s love of verse will stand the test of time. Rhyme helps students learn language patterns like: might, tight, bright, sight. This impacts their spelling, long term, so they get more words right. You can teach them that rhyming words live in a family. The “cat, sat, mat” words fill up the leaves on the “AT” family tree. Research shows that children who detect rhyme orally in their early years are much more successful as the time for reading print nears. Even “pre-readers” enjoy rhyme although they’re not decoding books yet. And, as for that Common Core rhyming Kinder standard—consider it met! Rhyming is fun and can even be silly sometimes. Dr. Seuss still offers the best example of funny, whimsical rhymes. Novels in verse are becoming more popular for sure. The most recent Newbery was awarded to THE CROSSOVER by Kwame Alexander.

The English language has so many exceptions to the rules. English Language Learners benefit from having rhyme as one of their literacy “unlocking” tools. I have written all four of my books in verse. Thinking in rhyme is both a blessing and a curse. I rhymed all of my middle and high school speeches when I was young. Rhyme and word play just roll off my tongue. Children like songs and poems, both of which are different forms of rhyme. Prose has a purpose and place too—you can’t rhyme all the time. But, rhyming helps children tune their ears and change out sounds. Rhyming is a natural part of jump roping on playgrounds. “Ms. Mary Mack Mack Mack, all dressed in black, black, black.” I probably haven’t jumped to that since I was very small. But, the rhyme makes it easy for me to recall. For songs that are on your phone, the radio, TV or in a Disney movie, rhyme makes words tickle the tongue, melts meaning into your memory. There is so much power in the rhyming word. For a child’s language development, it is like the wings of a bird.

Can you imagine a world without songs and chants? Rhyming invites imagination, it welcomes, it enchants. You’d be hard pressed to find a child who doesn’t like to play, with words, that is, like: say, day, way, today! I will continue to be a champion for writing and reading rhyming stories. The love lasts forever: college kids listen to rap (a.k.a rhyme) in their dormitories. So, find a good rhyming book that sings and allows kids to cloze. (Once in a while, you can still read them prose.) Rhyme is the foundation of word patterns and song. It makes students feels successful—how could that ever be wrong? Most importantly, rhyme gives children a love of language and reading. You feed your child three meals a day-- consider rhyme a literary feeding. It fuels your child’s brain; helps expand their vocabulary. Rhyme makes reading sound much less scary. Build a banquet of books for those picky readers at bedtime. I promise you, they will be delighted if you just feed them, I mean, read them, rhyme!

Many thanks to Susan B. Katz for sharing her thoughts on rhyme. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2015 Susan B. Katz, via Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Thursday, June 25, 2015

#FamiliesRead: Encouraging the Love of Reading

Parents and children know that it’s important for children to develop strong reading skills--the question I hear so many parents asking is, “How can I get my child to enjoy reading more?” They’re absolutely right. Enjoying reading is key.

We do what we enjoy doing--that’s basic human nature, isn’t it? Reading develops only with practice -- the more you read, the better you get; the better you get, the more you read. So how do we help children enjoy reading and choose to read more often? I love the National PTA's Family Reading Challenge -- check out the resources & ideas at

I love this video with Kwame Alexander and his family talking about about what they love about reading together as a family. Fills me with smiles hearing how much love and happiness reading together brings.

Across all age groups, children agree that their favorite books are the ones they pick for themselves. Not only that, they are also much more likely to finish books that they choose themselves.

from Scholastic Kids & Family Reading Report 2015
Encourage a love of reading by taking your kids to the library or bookstore and telling them: “Read whatever you want to! As long as you choose it, that’s what is important to me.” Kids love being in control.

Kids want books that make them laugh when they’re choosing books--and this is the dominant factor for kids in elementary and middle school. Kids also report that they look for books that let them use their imagination, inspire them or teach them something new.

Parents sometimes wonder: should I encourage my child to read on his or her own, instead of reading aloud? Shouldn’t they practice themselves? Reading practice matters, but kids have to practice all day long in school. Reading together builds bonds and helps children remember the pleasure that books can bring.

Children enjoy listening to more complex, interesting stories than they can read independently. Typically, it isn’t until eighth grade that reading comprehension catches up to listening comprehension. Nearly half of kids said they liked listening to their parents read aloud because they could listen to books that might have been too hard to read on their own.

Reading aloud at home is like an advertisement for the pleasures of reading. Why take away these advertisements just because kids can read on their own? Shared reading time provides special time for families, especially as the chaos of life multiplies as kids juggle activities and homework. It can lead to fun family jokes that stem from funny moments in a story, and it can provide safe opportunities kids bring up difficult, confusing big issues they’re thinking about.

I hope you can carve out time to read together this summer. It will make a difference in your children's lives.

©2015 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Storyline Online: a great resource spreading the joy of reading (ages 3-8)

I love reading stories aloud to children, but as a busy mom I know there are times my kids want to listen to a story when I just have too many other things to do. This even happens in the library! At Emerson, we have loved showing kids how they can listen to stories on the computer through Storyline Online. While this doesn't replace reading stories with our kids, it's a wonderful resource to know about.
Storyline Online
free website & videos
produced by the Screen Actors Guild Foundation
ages 3-8
Storyline Online is easy for young kids to use -- just click on a book cover, and then click the play button. Our students are really enjoying listening to these stories, and we've been really pleased with the quality. What we love about it:
  • terrific actors that bring warmth, joy and feeling to these stories
  • fantastic selection of stories, both old and new
  • nice balance between the actor reading aloud and views of the picture book illustrations
  • easy to use site -- kids can navigate it by themselves
  • engages children in a rich story experience, but satisfies their yearning for screen time
Here's one of our favorite stories: The Library Lion, by Michelle Knudson, read aloud by Mindy Sterling.

Come check out our redesigned Berkeley Public School Libraries websites. Anyone can access them, making resources easily available from home or school. Storyline Online is just one of the many resources available through our websites. Here's what Emerson Library's website looks like:
Emerson Library website
Let us know what you think of these resources. We'd love to know resources your kids enjoy using at home. I want to say special thanks to colleagues at BUSD DigiTech's team, especially Becca Todd District Library Coordinator, for helping marshal such a terrific collection of digital resources for elementary children.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Monday, August 4, 2014

Reading Online: How will it affect developing readers?

I read with interest a recent New Yorker article, Being a Better Online Reader by Maria Konnikova, and I would love to explore my thoughts on this article. We all are reading much more online than we did ten years ago, but how is this affecting the way young children are developing as readers? How is this affecting the way teachers and librarians help students learn to read, discover a love of reading, and develop their critical thinking skills?

Over the past several years, I have observed these changes:
  • most adults read for work online -- mainly on desktop or laptop computers
  • many adults read for pleasure using digital devices, like the iPad, Kindle or Nook
  • most children (ages 7-12) read primarily print books when reading for pleasure or school
  • students are learning to research online, starting at about age 8-9
  • standardized tests are shifting to online assessments
I feel very strongly that if we are going to start assessing students online, then we need to provide specific experiences and instruction for reading online. Explicit instruction is crucial -- it is unfair to assume that our children are "digital natives" and learn through osmosis how to read online. If we make those assumptions, we will simply reinforce the digital divide that is created by unequal opportunities and access.

Konnikova points out that the way we read online is different than the way we read in print. She steers clear of passing judgment, but rather ponders how this affects the way we acquire knowledge. Konnikova writes,
On screen, people tended to browse and scan, to look for keywords, and to read in a less linear, more selective fashion. On the page, they tended to concentrate more on following the text. Skimming, Liu concluded, had become the new reading: the more we read online, the more likely we were to move quickly, without stopping to ponder any one thought.
I would argue that this skimming is an essential skill for coping with the huge amount of information we have to sift through online. We need to teach our students how we skim effectively. But we also need to talk with them about strategies for when we discover a nugget -- how we need to consciously slow down to digest the information.

Later, Konnikova looks at research that has explored this point -- that we need to teach our students explicit online reading skills:
Julie Coiro, who studies digital reading comprehension in elementary- and middle-school students at the University of Rhode Island, has found that good reading in print doesn’t necessarily translate to good reading on-screen. The students do not only differ in their abilities and preferences; they also need different sorts of training to excel at each medium. The online world, she argues, may require students to exercise much greater self-control than a physical book.
I have noticed this with my own daughter, whose high school is now one-to-one iPad. She likes reading her English texts online because she can annotate them well, but she prefers to read in print if she is just absorbing and enjoying a book.

Schools must specifically teach students in 4th grade and above how to apply their reading skills to digital reading. Starting in elementary school, they need to practice researching online and teachers need to talk about how this might be different from reading a print book. It is essential that our schools invest in technologies, so that teachers and students can learn these skills. But I would also argue that it's essential for schools to invest in librarians who understand this intersection between reading, information and digital experiences.

Adults often ask me if kids will continue reading print books. I believe the answer is absolutely yes. First of all, there's access and quantity issues. Children in first through third grade need to read 10-20 short books every week. They want to browse through physical copies. Schools, libraries and families need access to inexpensive paperbacks. Even highly digital affluent families are reluctant to continue purchasing ebooks at this rate.

I would also argue that there is something more tangible, more comforting, more reassuring for young kids holding print books. Konnikova quotes Maryann Wolf, author of Proust and the Squid, as saying “Physical, tangible books give children a lot of time." Young children need that time. Families need that time.

It is interesting that I read this article online, following a link suggested by KQED's Mindshift blog. But I returned to it several times, reading it in different chunks, rereading it, skimming it again. This type of repeated reading might be what our students need to get comfortable doing, taking the time to dive into ideas and ponder them.

As you watch your children and your students, are you noticing that they are reading digitally more than they were a few years ago? Is the way they are reading changing? The digital world certainly brings more opportunities within easy reach for many students, but how are we preparing them to take advantage of those opportunities?

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Creating together: using ebooks and digital media with young children (Part 5)

Photographing nature, via USDA, Flikr
Kids love to create, whether it’s digging in the sandbox, making a paper collage, or creating a digital calendar. Think about how your kids can use digital cameras or mobile devices to create their own media. Take this example from Let’sPlay. Look for an old digital camera or flip-style video camera.
Take (digital cameras) to the park with you and put them in your child's hands—or on their helmet, firmly secured with duct tape. There's something about being able to document their own footage that brings out the adventurer/daredevil in kids. That's a recipe for awesome—and YouTube bragging rights at school.
Older children love creating their own mashups, learning how to digitally edit photos. This sort of active screen time is far different than passively watching TV.

One of our favorite apps is Toontastic (free with in-app purchase of puppet sets, or $19.99 for an all-access pass), created by Bay Area startup Launchpad Toys. This app encourages kids to create their own animated stories. It guides young users through breaking down a story into five basic steps, then adding cartoon scenes, music and characters along the way. You narrate the scene while moving characters with your fingers. Kids absolutely love it, and there’s a great guide to help parents, encouraging collaborative play between grownups and kids.

I love the way Jennifer Reed, a dynamic school librarian, is using an online story creating site Storybird with her 5th graders. She's showing great examples of "hooks" and stories her students have created. These kids are completely engaged in the creative writing process, in large part because they get to use digital media to publish their final products.

As you think about digital media, think about the way children are engaging. Are they passively consuming media, or are they creating something while they use it? I've seen kids learn essential digital skills while doing something as fun as creating a birthday invitation on the computer. What can be better than learning through play? Our role as parents is to create these opportunities, think outside the box and see what creative ways we can engage our kids while introducing them to new media.

This week, I am exploring different aspects of using eBooks and digital media. I am sharing my thoughts in six parts:
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this emerging field. What engages your kids? What do you look for when you choose digital media for your children?

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Growing up reading: a delightful & delicious memoir - guest post by Susanna Reich

In celebration of the publication of Minette's Feast, I asked the author Susanna Reich to share some of her memories growing up reading with her parents. Reading this brought back so many memories for me, and reminded me of all we give our children sharing that time together, reading together and talking about what books mean to us.

Growing up reading
by Susanna Reich, author of Minette's Feast

Most authors were avid readers as children, and I’m no exception. My reading habit began early, when my parents would tuck me in to bed with a pile of picture books. Nowadays I tuck myself in, but I still like to “settle my brains” with a good book. Here’s a baker’s dozen of favorites from childhood:
Reading wasn’t limited to bedtime. My brother and I devoured books all day long—literally and figuratively. Our Little Golden Books must’ve been bought when we were still in diapers, for our copies of Seven Little Postmen, The Poky Little Puppy and Five Little Firemen were extremely well-chewed.

Fairy tales were part of our diet, too. I especially loved our edition of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Swineherd and The Tinder Box, illustrated by Gustav Hjortlund and translated by R.P. Keigwin. We also read poetry, and I took great pride in being able to recite many of the poems in A.A. Milne’s Now We Are Six.

The first book I read on my own was The Cat in the Hat, by Dr. Seuss. I memorized it first, then spoke it aloud as I turned the pages. Eventually, the mysterious black marks on the page began to take on meaning as letters and words. I began reading on my own and fell in love with Astrid Lindgren’s Pippi Longstocking, A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh and, later, Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time and J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. I also read comic books, maps, series fiction like Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys, and nonfiction, especially books about dance. We visited the public library regularly, returning home with our arms weighed down by stacks of books.

My parents modeled reading, as well. Mommy spent hours at her desk, reading scholarly books related to her work as a teacher and music historian. Daddy, after a long day in the physics lab, would settle into a comfy chair after supper and disappear behind the New York Times or Scientific American. My parents subscribed to Life magazine, and I “read” the pictures before I could read the words. We got The New Yorker, too, and by twelve I was reading it cover to cover. There weren’t many YA books back then, so at that point I moved on to books for adults and never looked back.

There’s no guarantee that if you read to your child, take her to the library, and model reading for her, she will become an author. But this much I know: books and reading can endow her with knowledge, imagination, a good vocabulary—and strong arms!


Thank you so much, Susanna! Your memories really bring me back to days when I used to escape behind the couch, lost in my favorite book, hiding from everyone else in my family. The books we read when we are young really do leave a lasting impression.

Free giveaway of Minette's Feast!
Susanna is offering to give away a free copy of Minette's Feast. To enter your name in a drawing to win a free, signed copy of Minette's Feast, please email Susanna with the subject line "Minette's Feast giveaway." One entry per person, please. Winners will be selected at random on May 31.

Please read more about Minette's Feast at my review here, and make sure to stop by other blogs celebrating this delightful book. For more information on the Minette's Feast blog tour, head over to Susanna's site. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

©2012 Susanna Reich
Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Monday, January 23, 2012

Connecting with a community of readers

I feel tremendously lucky to be a librarian, to be able to reach out to children and parents helping them find books, stories, information that might just maybe find a home in their hearts and minds, or maybe provide laughter or escape, or maybe a glimpse of who they are or what the world is like.

I have done many different jobs, from helping little old ladies in Kankakee, Illinois figure out their Medicare problems, to analyzing health care reform plans, to teaching eighth grade English. While I did truly love teaching, no job has been as fulfilling as being a school librarian. I connect with so many kids, help all types of readers, see kids' eyes light up when they discover a new favorite book.

Take a moment to tell someone how much you value your local library, your school library, your local bookstore. Maybe tell your child's teacher how much you appreciate their classroom library (chances are they buy many of those books with their own money). Tell your school principal or PTA president how much your library means to you. Tell your neighbors how fantastic your local public library is. Sign this White House petition to “ensure that every child in America has access to an effective school library program.” Find a way to deepen the connection you have to people in your community who value and promote literacy.

But I also feel immensely grateful to have joined a profession with such a supportive community. I am just returning from the American Library Association's Midwinter meeting in Dallas. I had the incredible opportunity to participate in the Bill Morris Seminar to help librarians learn to carefully, thoughtfully evaluate materials for children. We listened to leaders in our field who had chaired Caldecott, Newbery and many other award committees talk about how we identify truly distinguished books for children. We discussed with our peers, other librarians with rich experiences, the strengths and weaknesses of picture books, novels, nonfiction and audiobooks for a wide range of children. We dug deeply into ways to analyze books, continually thinking about how the choices authors, artists and designers make impacts children's experiences with these books.

I want to thank so many people, from the co-chairs of the Morris Seminar, Jenny Brown and Connie Rockman, to my local mentors Kathy Shepler, Linda Perkins, and Nina Lindsay. I want to celebrate my friendships with librarians throughout the U.S.: Cathy Potter, Jill Bellomy, Kim Grad, John Schumacher - just to name a few.

As I sit collecting my thoughts, I am struck by a sense of community: a librarian's role in her community at home, our broader community of readers sharing ideas on the Internet, and the professional community of librarians, authors, publishers. These communities, and our engagement with them, enrich and support all of our lives. And so, yes, I do feel tremendously lucky. Lucky, indeed.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Getting to Calm: Cool-headed strategies for parenting tweens and teens

Although this blog is devoted to spreading the love of children's reading, there are times that I just have to give a shout out for a book that's bringing me some sanity as a parent. Our oldest has entered the wonderful world of tween-dom, and her world and ours have certainly changed. So when I heard about Getting to Calm one day after a morning full of door-slamming, stomping and shouting, I wondered if someone had known this was just what I needed. If you're in the midst of parenting tweens or teens, check out this level-headed, practical, ultimately reassuring book.
Getting to Calm: Cool-headed strategies for parenting your tween and teen
by Laura S. Kastner and Jennifer Wyatt
WA: ParentMap, 2010
available on Amazon and at your local library
In Getting to Calm, Drs. Kastner and Wyatt provide practical advice and useful tools for how to manage our emotions as parents. I have been stunned by how angry, hurt or frustrated I've gotten with my own child's comments or behavior. I know that I need to remain calm, but what do you do when you reach that breaking point? This book helps navigate these waters, providing ways for me to manage my emotions in the heat of the moment, and then how to steer the ship during calmer waters.
I particularly liked the balance the authors give between current brain research into the behavior of adolescents, and practical experience as parents and psychiatrists. Kastner, 55, is a clinical associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Washington. She also runs a private practice with a focus on children, couples and families, and has two college-aged children herself.

Throughout the book, Kastner and Wyatt focus on how parents can strike a balance in their parenting. Three key qualities are essential for effective parenting:
- thoughtful control, where the parent uses control judiciously, rather than out of anger or to assert power;
- high warmth, where the parent is appropriately engaged and cares about their child's life, without becoming overly connected with the ups and downs of their child's life; and,
- effective communication, where each person's perspective is considered and respected in a calm, reasonable way.
With headings like "Staying Calm in the Face of Rudeness," "When-and Why- Teens Don't Use Their Heads" and "What Am I, Chopped Liver?", give practical and reassuring advice to parents. Throughout are family stories, such as "Family Story: A Savvy Mom Avoids a Mother-Daughter Tornado", that illustrate the science that is the basis of Kastner and Wyatt's advice.

For more, check out the piece on National Public Radio from last August: Experiencing Teen Drama Overload? Blame Biology. Two other parenting books I'd highly recommend are Uncommon Sense for Parents With Teenagers, by Michael Riera, and NurtureShock, by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman.

The review copy was kindly sent by the publishers. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion will go to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you). Thank you for your support!