Monday, June 25, 2012

A Healthy Addiction

Late last night, I awoke to the howling and yips of our puppy, Piper.  She was conversing with our friendly neighborhood Coyote, who roams through our neighborhood periodically in search of cute furry creature snacks (one of which our little Corgi could become if she was not safely snuggled inside).
I've witnessed these late-night exchanges between our pup and Wile E. before, as my family blissfully snoozes, unaware of the moonlit party outside our walls.  They don't believe, as I do, that it is an actual coyote.  They've even begun to tease me about it, conducting imaginary coyote "hunts" with BB guns in the tiny patch of woods out back.  Last night, though, I had a witness (in the form of P.J.) to our nocturnal friend, and while I was excited to Finally have a partner on my Coyote-Quest, I must admit he was freaked out a little bit. 
After scaring the silver beast away- my method is jumping up and down while clapping my hands and yelling, "Go away, Coyote!" followed by flashing the outside lights on and off- it occurred to me that my son was up awfully late.  He said that he was up reading.
<Gasp!>  I engaged in some more jumping up and down and clapping (happy this time), and told him to get right back upstairs.  READING!  After midnight!  And I know that this is the second night in a row.  We have started a pattern, and I finally think that something has changed.  He has caught the bug, found the key, turned the corner, (insert other cliches here), and is reading for pleasure.  For FUN!  Late at night!

Motivating kids to read for pleasure is tricky business.  Many parents, teachers, school systems, and even librarians use extrinsic (outside/external) methods to motivate kids to read.  Reading incentive programs abound, clocking pages, books read, or time spent reading to add up to a "reward" like a toy, extra video game time, or ice cream/pizza party.  The intent is pure: entice kids to read more, because we know that reading is good for them.  The problem with this method is that once you take away the reward from the outside, there is no guarantee that children will continue of their own accord.  This is why I purposefully set out this summer #bookaday challenge with no promises of special treats or points or prizes.  My agenda is purely intrinsic.  Yes, it is more work on my part as the parent/coach, but I know that the long term benefits of instilling that internal motivation and reward for reading is the key.  This becomes more critical as they enter these teen years, as Mom becomes less and less cool (already happening), and their World expands and separates from Home.

They have to want it for themselves.

I am so happy to see that (at least for one of the Boys) it has happened so early this summer.  How did we get there?  Series books.  P.J. started reading the H.I.V.E. series by Mark Walden on Friday.  He finished book #1 Saturday night and downloaded #2 immediately afterward (on MY Kindle, which he is "borrowing").  He and C.J. are not strangers to series books, and I will list some of their faves below.  From my experience as a reading specialist and as a Mom to Boys, I know that series books are great ammunition for reluctant readers.
One Sunday night a month at 8pm on Twitter, I follow #titletalk, a chat that is dedicated to discussing favorite books for kids. I tweet primarily for literacy and educational purposes and I am thrilled to have this expanding Professional Learning Network.  Anyway, I tend to be more of a stalker on the chat, because it is bursting with enthusiasm from teachers and librarians, and I am not deft enough with the hashtag to keep up (just imagine your favorite Roadrunner cartoon and me a-la-Wile E. with a big virtual Acme box that explodes when I try to tweet something).  Just by hanging out, though, I am energized by the discussion and it just so happened that last night the discussion revolved around Series Books for kids.  What a happy coincidence! 
This tweet from @yabookbridges (who is also a Mom and a teacher) struck me:

Series are the gateway drug to reading for reluctant readers, IMO.
There has been much brain research on reading, as it relates to reading instruction, reading disabilities, but also how it effects the affect, or feeling/emotional center of the brain.  This really is the key to motivating kids intrinsically.  I found a blog entry in the NY Times that touches on this connection.  In it, the author, Annie Murphy Paul states, "The brain, it seems, does not make much of a distinction between reading about an experience and encountering it in real life; in each case, the same neurological regions are stimulated."*  Reading must elicit that same pleasure response in the brain, and series books are a great "gateway" to this new (healthy) addiction for our reluctant ones.  The key is finding a series that your child will crave, and luckily there are MANY!  

Enjoy Hunting for good series books with your kids, and get them HOOKED!  Meep Meep! (That's a Roadrunner reference, by the way... sorry about that.)

The Boys reviews!
Hey this is C.J.and it is raining chickens outside and this is my blog.
Today I decided to take a break from Mockingjay and read a little bit of a book I have been reading along with the hunger games series. the book is called ThE sEa Of MoNsTeRs!!!! by Rick Riordan. So far Percy, Annabeth, Grover, and Tyson got back to camp Half-Blood.  Once they got back they put a special golden fleece on the poisoned tree that protected the camp. Once that happened Thailia, daughter of Zeus popped out of the tree. (She sacrificed herself and made herself a tree to save Grover and Annabeth).  That's where the book ended. I enjoy books like The Hunger Games and Percy Jackson because they have lots of battles throughout the series. 
C.J.'s Fave Series Books:
Percy Jackson (The Lightning Thief) series by Rick Riordan
The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins
Origami Yoda (The Strange Case of Origami Yoda) series by Tom Angleberger
Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney
Magic Tree House books (when I was little, like I read them 5 years ago) by Mary Pope Osborne
Phineas L. MacGuire series by Francis O'Roark Dowell
Nathan Abercrombie, Accidental Zombie by David Lubar
Swindle (Griffin Bing series) by Gordon Korman
Goosebumps series by R.L. Stine

Hi this is P.J., and as my mom said I have been reading the book series H.I.V.E.   I have to say I am impressed at how well the author mapped out the series of events so it would always keep you on your toes.  In other book series, the author tried to keep things a mystery and have it stay so intense that you are dying to read the next page to find it out. Rick Riordan did this but I feel that Mark Walden (H.I.V.E. author) took it to a whole other level. Now don't get me wrong, I love Rick Riordan's books (they are among my favorite books of all time) but I just feel that Mark Walden took it to a different level.

P.J.'s Fave Series Books:
H.I.V.E by Mark Walden
Percy Jackson (The Lightning Thief) series by Rick Riordan
Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling
The Kane Chronicles (The Red Pyramid) by Rick Riordan
The Shadow Children series (Among the Hidden ) by Margret Peterson Haddix
The Spiderwick Chronicles (The Field Guide) by Holly Black and Toni DiTerlizzi
The Heroes of Olympus by Rick Riordan
Swindle (Griffin Bing series) by Gordon Korman
and of course, Captian Underpants by Dav Pilkey (when I was 8)

*Paul, Annie Murphy. "OPINION; Your Brain on Fiction." The New York Times. The New York Times, 18 Mar. 2012. Web. 25 June 2012. <>.


  1. Great article and I will be referencing your boys' lists for my boy students! Thanks.

    1. Awesome! Thanks again for the inspiration! :)


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