Saturday, January 30, 2016

Reading and READING

I love to read.

When I was a kid parents were told not to try to teach their children to read because they'd do it "wrong" and the kids would gave to unlearn before they could really learn. I didn't go to Kindergarten, and reading wasn't taught then anyway. But at the end of First Grade I was reading at Fifth Grade level and I've been a bookaholic ever since.

As a teacher I noticed that there's a big difference between being able to sound out words on a page and really reading.

Children (and adults) just learning to read are focused on the individual words and need to step back a bit mentally to get the sense of each sentence. They're constantly aware of the fact that they are reading.

But skilled readers don't even think about the specific words and sentences except at a semi-conscious level. Instead, they're immersed in the story or concepts they're reading about.

People with developmental delays or learning disabilities may be unable to become skilled readers, but, for most people, the best way to reach that level of reading is to read a lot.

When parents read to kids and the children can see the words on each page, that helps show them that reading can carry them away into imaginary worlds. And teachers can do the same thing to young kids with big (not thick) books that allow the words to be seen from a distance.

Reading to kids all the time helps motivate them to learn to read by themselves.

Once a child reaches the basic level of being able to sound out words and recognize familiar ones, the best way for them to become proficient readers is to read as much as possible.

And even adults who can read adequately, but don't especially enjoy doing it, can move from reading to real READING simply by reading a lot.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Mrs. Cow Knits A Sweater

When I first saw the title of Sharon Patterson Stanley's book, Mrs. Cow Knits A Sweater, I wondered how a cow with hooves instead of fingers could knit anything. But, of course, in real life no animals could do any of the things ascribed to them in this kind of fiction.

In this book the flock of sheep give Mrs. Cow all their fleece and she knits a sweater for herself to wear when Winter comes.

Then all the other farm animals beg her to make sweaters for them, and she does even though she doesn't have time to do anything else.

She can't even finish a cup of tea without someone begging her to make a sweater for them.

By the time Winter arrives all the farm animals have nice, warm sweaters - except for the sheep, who gave all their fleece to Mrs. Cow.

And she has used up all the wool.

What do you suppose she does then?

This is a cute book for little kids and the colorful illustrations by Robert Beers capture the feeling of the story perfectly.

Maybe as a result of reading Mrs. Cow Knits A Sweater some kids will be inspired to learn to knit themselves in the future.

Saturday, January 23, 2016


I enjoyed reading Woof, by Spencer Quinn. It's a mystery for kids, but it's different from most of those.

It takes place in a village on the Louisiana Swamp, which is an uncommon setting.

But the most unusual thing about the book is that it's told from the point of view of a dog, Bowser. And he certainly experiences things differently than humans do.

The plot is exciting and some scary things happen to the kids, but Bowser's descriptions of what's going on is funny.

Spencer Quinn is obviously an extremely creative person, and this book will appeal to kids who enjoy mysteries and excitement, those who love dogs, and those who like humor.

Woof was published in 2015 and, with that many potential readers, Woof should become a best seller.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Another Crazy Idea

Okay, my writerly imagination is working overtime again.

Imagine what would happen if all synthetics were to suddenly disappear.

That would include plastics, polyester, and many other substances.

Lots of people walking down the streets would suddenly become naked.

Cars and trucks would stop running and most of their seats and dashboards would be gone.

Without some of  the insulation on wires, fires would start and, depending on what the pipes were made of, gas lines and even water mains would leak.

Some furniture would collapse, panels and paint would disappear from houses, and some buildings would collapse.

Of course most technological devices would disappear, too.

We tend to take so much modern stuff for granted, but it would be interesting to see how we'd adapt to doing without it. Going back to the good old days wouldn't be easy now that so much of our planet is covered by cities.

How do you think people would react?

Saturday, January 16, 2016

More On Tech Stuff

My mother used to tell me I had too much imagination. But my imagination has come in handy for writing. Here's an imaginary event that could be interesting, to say the least.

What if something happened, such as waves of something-or-other from outer space, that instantly and completely removed all electrical power from our planet?

Most of us have experienced power outages.

While most are fixed in a matter of hours or, at worst, a few days, some caused by disasters have even lasted for days or weeks. But they are limited to certain areas, not the entire globe.

And, while our power is out we can rely on batteries and/or generators to help us get by.

But what if those didn't work, and the power was out permanently?

A hundred and fifty years ago people lived without electricity all the time, but the world was a lot different back then.

 Cars, trains, and other forms of transportation wouldn't work and neither would most ways we communicate with other people.  Even snail-mail wouldn't work without machinery to sort it and vehicles to deliver it. 

If all electric power vanished today would water still get pumped to our homes, even from wells? Would gas continue to flow through pipelines?
And, how would people react to the disaster?

Hmmm. If you're a writer like me perhaps this possibility will give you some plot ideas. Feel free to use it.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Tech Stuff

I consider myself a techno-idiot, but I do things with technology I couldn't have imagined doing a few decades ago. Technology has become part of our daily lives and it's everywhere from computers, tablets and cellphones to alarm clocks and heating systems.

And today's kids are absolutely addicted to their technological devices.

That's not necessarily bad, but it has some important disadvantages.

Decades ago I read a library book that had been published in the 1940s or 50s. I can't remember the author or title, but some of the content has stayed with me.

The book said back in Victorian times when ladies protected their skin from the sun upper class girls often didn't reach puberty until about 15 years old. The author referred to the song, Sweet Sixteen and Never Been Kissed, as an example. But, he said, lower class girls who often worked out in the fields reached puberty at around 12 or 13. But he said because kids at the time the book was written spent so much time watching television, and the light in the rays coming from TV screens was the same frequency as sun rays, kids would be reaching puberty earlier.

I don't know how valid his idea was, but today's kids are spending hours every day with their faces close to devices that emit the same kind of light rays. And it's not unheard of now for girls to reach puberty when they're eight years old.

Of course we've all heard of the problems getting kids to pay attention to other things when they're busy texting, and they often communicate that way with people standing near them.

Technology has given us wonderful advantages, but it also has some disadvantages.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Choosing Names

When people are expecting a new baby they have to choose a name for it.

Today those who want to know if it will be a boy or a girl usually don't need to wait until the baby is born to find out, so they can decide on a name well before the birth.

Some parents name their son or daughter after themselves, or choose a name that has been traditional in their family. There have been lots of Juniors in the world!

Other people name their infants after somebody famous, such as a movie star or political figure.

It's interesting how certain names suddenly become popular.

Years ago I'd never even heard of anyone named Mia. Then, one year while I was teaching preschool  I noticed there was at least one girl with that name in every class. Later when I was substituting in elementary schools, I met dozens of girls named Mia. Others had slightly different spellings of the same name.

Lots of expectant parents browse through baby name books to find one with a meaning and/or cultural history they like.

My name, Janet, is one of many that are similar. Let's see... Jane, Joan, Jean, Joanne, Janice, Joanna, Jeanette, Shawna Juanita, and lots more are all versions of the same feminine name. The masculine forms of the name include John, Juan, Shawn, Hans, Ivan, Jack, Giovanni, Zane, and many others.

All of those names share the same meaning, gracious gift of God, or God gives grace. It's easy to see why parents in lots of cultures chose versions of that name for their babies.

In case you're wondering why a grandmother like me still keeps baby name books, it's because I'm an author and I like to choose names for my characters that fit their personalities and cultures.

Do you know what your name means?

Wednesday, January 6, 2016


Trash is the title of a book for kids by Andy Mulligan and it's anything but trash.

The story is about kids in what the back cover copy calls "an unnamed Third World country" but, since the author is from Manila it's easy to guess that the story takes place in a fictionalized version of the Philippines.

The  book gives readers a view of what life is like for the people who must survive by living in and searching through garbage, but it's not depressing. The exciting plot and realistic characters make the book one kids will be glad they've read.

Middle grade readers who like mystery and adventure will find this book hard to put down because it's so well written.

In my opinion, Trash is a treasure.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Footer Davis Might Be Probably Is Crazy

Susan Vaught has written an exciting book. The plot involves danger and possible murder, but it's appropriate for middle grade readers.

The main character, Footer Davis, has a mother who is mentally ill and wonders if she might be mentally ill herself because of the strange things and possibilities she's dealing with.

But I don't just like this book because it involves a special need even though I often review books about those. It has believable characters and readers can't help caring about the girl who is telling the story. The plot drew me in and I couldn't put the book down until I finished reading it.

I recommend it highly.