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Bright Ideas Curricula and Books In The News

Children’s Books Now Available on Kindle!

Here’s some great news!

There are over 1,000 new titles available, with support for pop-up text and highlighting the artwork in individual panels.

Ana and I were just talking at lunch today about how to keep one kid occupied while another is having one-on-one school time, and one of our main options is to use a tablet and some apps for some self-directed educational endeavors. Now Kindle with children’s books is a great option!

I loved my Kindle Touch with e-ink (until it got misplaced), but never really cared much for the Kindle apps for mobile devices. The way e-ink is so easy on the eyes was the big seller for me personally. But for children’s books that are heavy on illustrations, iPads and Android tablets are absolutely perfect and intuitive for kids to use.

We may have to get another device now! The Kindle Fire is pretty reasonably priced, and there are some other options out there like the Archos Arnova Child Pad that are both cheap and kid friendly.

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In The News Just For Fun

Some Programming Notes

Some of you may have noticed the pace of new posts has slowed (even more) over the past couple of months. We’re very happy to tell you that the reason is that Ana is in a family way once again. For those of you who aren’t from the Southeast–she’s pregnant. Unfortunately for Ana, that means 20 weeks of extreme illness, 24 hours a day.

So for the past few months we’ve been in “survival mode” around our house, and that means housekeeping is at a minimum, much less blogging. The homeschool co-op had to go on a hiatus as well. The good news is that she experienced the same thing with the first two pregnancies, and the kids were both born healthy, so we’re hoping that bodes well for this one too. The other good news is that we are almost out of the woods…the nauseas has mostly subsided, and now she’s building her strength back up.

On a less happy note, we learned this past week that our dear friend Coupon Katie has been diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Many of you know Katie and/or follow her blog, so you already know what a great, strong, and inspirational person she is. On top of that, she can tell you how to get a bunch of stuff for free at Walgreens and end up having them give you money. Please keep Katie and Shawn (the Coupon Koala) in your thoughts and prayers as they overcome this obstacle.

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Bright Ideas In The News Just For Fun What Others Are Doing

Newest Carnival of Homeschooling Is Up!

Thanks to Christine at Our Curious Home for hosting this week’s Carnival of Homeschooling and including us!

There are so many good articles in this week’s edition, and these are some of our favorites so far…

Montessori Print shop has some good tips on getting started with Montessori at home. We are a far cry from full-blown Montessori style learning around our house, but it’s nice to have a little area set up for the kids to come and do self-directed activities they enjoy.

Robin at Crack The Egg has a great idea on creating and using a robot book. This idea can be used for whatever subject your child is interested in. For us, that would be a flower book. Two of them.

And finally, some advice on dealing with people who are hostile to the idea of homeschooling from The Common Room. Bottom line–everybody has to do the best for their particular families based on their particular situation. In the end, you may not be able to help them see why it’s the best decision for your family, but it may help  you understand why they react the way they do.

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Bright Ideas In The News

Cutting Back on Screen Time

From today’s Tennessean, Dr. Frank Boehm calls for replacing t.v. time with book time:

If we began to encourage our children to replace screen time with reading books, they would be more able to counter ignorance in themselves and others by being able to enter conversa­tions with real facts rather than sound bites from television programs and the Internet.

I won’t pretend our kids don’t watch any television. They do. But we’ve found it easier to limit their tube time by getting rid of cable and only using a Roku player to stream Netflix. This allows us to limit what they see to very specific programs and zero commercials. An added benefit of using only a streaming player is that when a show ends, it’s over. There aren’t any “Coming up next…” announcements. Pea usually gets up and turns the television off when her show ends, saying, “We don’t watch t.v. all day.”

It’s been good for us (the parents) as well. We watch considerably less television now. Gone are the days of flipping through channels looking for something to watch. The only time the television is on at our house is when we sit down to watch a specific movie or an episode or two of a television program we’re streaming after the kids’ bed time. If you thought DVD was the best way to watch a series, you should try streaming it!

Again, no commercials, and we spend a lot more time reading and talking than we do staring at a screen.

We’re also saving a ton of money. For the cost of one month of cable we were able to buy the streamer to connect to the television, and Netflix is less than $10 per month. Cutting cable completely may not work for every family, especially if you like to watch sports live, but we love it!

Image Credit

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Articles In The News

Celebrate The Freedom To Read What We Want

It’s that time of year again…the time to celebrate Banned Book Week. Held every year on the last week of September, BBW celebrates the freedom to choose or to create books that may sometimes be viewed unorthodox or controversial by some. Their goal is to promote intellectual freedom.

I remember one year in Florida there was a lot of buzz about a certain book that was being banned in all schools county by county. Guess what happened? EVERYONE wanted to read it…and just about everyone did. It’s still one of my favorites! It’s funny how banning books has that effect, no?

So go check out what it’s all about and also to see what titles are creating buzz this year. Enjoy your freedom!

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In The News What Others Are Doing

Start Your Kid’s Day With Cheerios and a Free Book!

They’re at it again…Cheerios will be giving away free books this fall for their Spoonful of Stories Program!

If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a program that works to donate books to kids who need them. From Cheerios:

In celebration of the 6th anniversary of the Spoonfuls of Stories® program, First Book and Cheerios® are distributing 100,000 children’s books by John Lithgow to programs serving children in need across the country.

The book titles for this year haven’t been released yet, but they will include 5 award winning books inside each Cheerios box. They will even be printed in English AND Spanish – can’t beat that! Although I prefer the honey nut variety, I’ll definitely be picking up a couple of boxes this fall!

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Articles In The News What Others Are Doing

Literacy On the Web

One of the issues we’re already concerned about is setting a good reading example for our kids. We feel like it’s important to not only read to them, but for them to see us reading on our own as well. Ana is much more apt to read books than I am. I’ve always been a pretty voracious reader. I’m constantly reading, but 90% of my reading now occurs online. I feel like I need to make a conscious effort to read books when little ones are around because I’m afraid they’ll associate a computer as some type of toy and won’t understand that what I do with the computer is actually reading. But even if they realize that I’m reading, is that the kind of reading kids need?

Yesterday’s New York Times has an excellent article discussing the changing face of reading and how it affects literacy. Reading online is increasingly popular with young people, and the experience of reading online resembles more of a zig-zag-bob-and-weave than the linear beginning, middle, end type reading most of us grew up doing in books, magazines, and newspapers. When I was a kid, I was big fan of “Choose Your Own Adventure” books because they offered a little bit of control over the story, and the story could change. One of the reasons I love reading online is because the experience is similar, and it offers many more tangents. The difference is that those books I loved so much still had a beginning, middle, and end to their stories.

From my own experience, I think the big issue with reading online is that I don’t tend to get as much granularity as I would from a book. I use my online reading as more of a macro view of a subject. Although I can get many more vantage points on a subject, I tend to miss out on the details. I tend to use what I read online as a guide to what I want to read more about in a book; the overview that I get online helps me decide what I’d like to learn about in detail. But, just as the article suggests, I think the way my brain works has definitely been changed by the availability of information we now enjoy.

I think it’s interesting that for kids born in the last ten years or so, this way of getting information is perfectly normal, and for the generation before mine (at least a large number of them), they haven’t really transitioned to life online the way many in my generation have. It’s definitely a strange spot to be in, having experience “extreme reading” both before and after the presence of the web.

Still, I tend to agree with this statement from the article:

Even those who are most concerned about the preservation of books acknowledge that children need a range of reading experiences. “Some of it is the informal reading they get in e-mails or on Web sites,” said Gay Ivey, a professor at James Madison University who focuses on adolescent literacy. “I think they need it all.”

What do you guys think? Does reading online really count as reading?

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In The News My Humble Opinion What Others Are Doing

Reading Phailure?

USA Today has a pretty scathing criticism of Reading First in its editorial section. The crux of the argument is that the system has been duped by textbook publishers into wasting a lot of money on a program that has no value. But does that mean the research is wrong? Is the problem with the research or the implementation?

…the studies the panel reviewed show that intensive phonics has little to do with students’ ability to understand what they read. Distinguished literacy experts Frank Smith and Kenneth Goodman have provided compelling evidence that comprehension is the basis for learning to read: We learn to read by understanding what is on the page.

But what happens after we learned to read? How do we learn to stretch our skills? What about reading to learn? Shouldn’t our goal be to eventually learn to understand by being able to read what is on the page? Mr. Krashen’s solution to literacy ills is the mere presence of books.

Instead of wasting billions of dollars more on Reading First, let’s invest much more in libraries in low-income areas. Let’s make sure all children have access to books, and solve the real literacy crisis forever.

Great. Now what do we do about the kids who don’t live next door to the library?

Whether taught at school or at home, with books paid for by the parents or provided free for loan by libraries, using researched based techniques or trial and error, children are ultimately going to be affected more by their parents’ attitudes toward literacy and reading than anything else.

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In The News Just For Fun What Others Are Doing

COH Issue For June 10

The Carnival of Homeschooling is up–thanks to The Common Room for hosting! Just a few of the interesting posts that caught our eye here at RCO:

Hands on ABC Order — some activities you can do with your child to exercise their alphabetizing skills.

First Grade Curriculum Review — great insight from a first year homeschooler on several subjects (not just reading)

There’s More to Education Than Smarts — an interesting post about the social responsibilities that come with an education.

And take a look at the test Phil gave his 4th grader.

There are several other great posts in the carnival for homeschoolers–check it out!

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In The News My Humble Opinion

Age Guidance For Children’s Books…No Thanks!

That’s what Philip Pullman and over 80 other authors, illustrators, librarians, and booksellers are saying in their petition against the proposed age banding for children’s books by leading publishers. This proposal looks to add suggested age ranges on children’s books (such as ages 5+ or ages 7-9) in order to help parents, teachers, and kids tell which books are appropriate for children to read. This has sparked much debate amongst those involved with children’s books. The publishers claim that this will be very helpful to parents when choosing books for their kids at bookstores and for teachers selecting material for their students.

Is this really necessary? Has there been some sort of epidemic of concerned adults wandering the aisles at bookstores and libraries unsure of what material is appropriate for their children to read? I don’t think this age banding proposal is a good idea and here are a couple of problems I see with it:

  • Not all kids are the same: Every child reads at different levels at different ages! Parents who homeschool have much more control over letting their child read out of the “appropriate” range that will appear on a book’s cover, so I’m sure we will continue to make decisions that best suit our children rather than allow an unnecessary age range deter us from purchasing a certain book. Yet will kids who attend schools still have the freedom to choose the books they wish to read? Will the advanced 7 year old (like this one) who devours chapter books deemed for older kids be allowed to read them at school?
  • It may discourage readers or embarrass others: A child who is interested in dinosaurs may excitedly pick up a book about them only to put it down quickly once he realizes it’s a “baby book”. There’s no telling how much he could have learned or how much fun he could have had reading it because he never even gave it a chance. And trust me, kids don’t want to be caught reading books that are considered too young for them! So what about the kids who read below their current grade or age level? How would an 11 year old who reads at a 3rd grade level feel when they are given a book that says it’s for ages 8-10? My guess is that child would not want to read that book…or any other that reminds him how behind he is. Pullman says it best:

“…Everything about a book should seek to welcome readers in and not keep them out.”

I really hope that these publishers take to heart the wishes of the petitioners and decide against including these age ranges on their books. Parents, educators, and kids should enjoy choosing books based on interest and curiosity without such limits!