How to Choose a Children’s Book, Parts 1 and 2 – Subjective Appeal is Not Optional

PART 1: INTRODUCTION

It goes without saying that a child’s engagement with good books is important and valuable in the child’s development. Not only can reading good books expand a child’s cognitive abilities, but it can also spur a child’s emotional, moral, and spiritual development. However, a quick visit to one of the big online or brick-and-mortar book retailers is enough to make you realize there are zillions of children’s books. Some of these books are good, but many are not. So, if you are looking to buy a book for a child, you are left with a question: “How do I choose a good children’s book?”

In this article I will present the first two parts of a multi-part article series that I hope can go some way toward answering that question in a general way, such that after reading the series (or part of it) you will be more equipped to choose a children’s book, even if you do not have access to reviews or recommendations. I have chosen to write on this topic in a series of articles since I hope to treat the topic in some depth.

The roadmap for this series is as follows. In the first section of the series I will discuss the factors that make up what I call the subjective appeal of a children’s book. In other words, I will try to explain the considerations that might make a book appealing to the key person we have in mind, namely the child that will engage with the book. Simply put, these are the reasons that the child will like the book. So, for example, in the articles on subjective appeal I will be talking about things like humor and illustration quality. Some of these considerations will be general–i.e., they will apply to all children–and some will be particular to the child you have in mind. In addition to simply listing and explaining these considerations, I will try to emphasize the importance of considering subjective appeal when choosing a children’s book. Indeed, I will take up the topic of the importance of considering subjective appeal in Part 2 of this article, following the introductory Part 1.

After discussing subjective appeal, in the second section of the series I plan to take up the factors relevant to the developmental value of a children’s book. The factors I have in mind here are those that allow a book to contribute to a child’s cognitive, emotional, moral, and even spiritual development. The assumption here is that as an adult choosing a children’s book you have some goals for your young reader that go beyond sheer delight (though this is important, as I will emphasize); presumably you will want the book to educate or spur growth in the child in some way, or at least not to detract from this process. In my lingo, books that educate or spur growth in this way have developmental value. Moreover, you might think of a book with developmental value as possessing certain qualities that you hope your child will one day fully appreciate in a book, such as beautiful language, or creativity. Given this hope, you will want to choose books that exhibit these lofty qualities–even if the child doesn’t fully appreciate them now–so that she can develop a taste for them. As a bonus, some of the considerations that make a book developmentally valuable will also make the book attractive to you as an adult, which will help you want to read it to your child!

In the third section of the series I will discuss pitfalls to avoid when choosing a children’s book, such as books that slide by on marketing alone, and books that set particularly bad examples of adult-child interaction. In the final section of the series I will point out the value of “trusted opinions” in choosing children’s books. I am thinking here of such things as “top-100” children’s book lists and children’s book reviews, where authoritative voices weigh in and help you decide which books to choose.

PART 2: SUBJECTIVE APPEAL IS NOT OPTIONAL

With that introduction to the article series, I will begin discussing a book’s subjective appeal in more depth, and in particular I will argue for the importance of considering subjective appeal when choosing a book.

So, here is the central–and what I take to be very important–point: choosing a book with subjective appeal is not optional. Rather, it is a crucial, non-negotiable part of the selection. Now, this might go without saying for most of us: of course we aim to choose books that kids will like! However, this is not obvious to everyone. I have in mind here a certain kind of parent or caretaker that tends toward the “all business” approach to child education and development. This kind of adult might tend, at least sometimes, to read a book to a child because it is good for the child, regardless of the fact that the child would rather not be reading it.

I know that adults with this tendency are out there because I sometimes exhibit it myself! For example, my wife and I are trying to help our children learn French from a young age. Part of the way we encourage French language learning is by reading French language children’s books to them, such as a French translation of Goodnight Moon, by Margaret Wise Brown, called Bonsoir Lune. My kids enjoy this to a certain extent, but they get tired of it pretty quickly, and when they do I sometimes turn into a book nazi, forcing them to attend to a book that they are not enjoying.

However, this kind of practice–where we neglect what is enjoyable to a child–can have disastrous effects. First of all, it tends to erode the child’s desire to be read to. (My children are definitely less inclined to go back to the French language books after an episode like that.) And that fact is, of course, terrible given all the amazing relational and emotional (not to mention cognitive) benefits that derive simply from an adult sitting down and reading a book to a child.

However, as if that were not bad enough, forcing a child to bear with a book they do not like also erodes a child’s desire to read at all. In other words, such a practice may well contribute to turning the child off of reading altogether. Keeping in mind that what we want to cultivate in a child is a love of being read to, and a lifelong love of reading in general, it will be crucial to choose books that a child will enjoy reading, i.e., books with subjective appeal. After all, do you consistently read things you find boring or unappealing?

There is one final caveat to my emphasis on the importance of considering subjective appeal when choosing a children’s book: simply choosing a book that a child will like is also not enough. Why? Because sometimes children like books that are not so good for them (so do adults!). For example, my kids love the Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey, which I do not think serves them well.

The implicit point here is that we, as adults, have certain developmental goals in mind for the children in our lives, so we also need to consider those goals when choosing children’s books (I will say more about what constitutes a book’s developmental value in future articles). So, given a child’s proclivity for certain forms of junky books, and given that we have certain developmental goals in mind for our children, that a book has subjective appeal for a child should not be enough to seal your choice, but it is a crucial start since it encourages a love of reading. Plus it is just plain great to see a child enjoying something!

In the next article in this series I will begin to discuss the particular factors that contribute to a book’s subjective appeal. Specifically, I will take up the topic of the themes of appealing children’s books.

Cooking and Your Bilingual Baby – Mixing Recipes And Words

One of the easiest ways to teach bilingual baby is to get your children involved in the cooking process. Every time you cook, you can make the experience of learning a new language extremely fun. By also teaching them the cooking of another country, you can also open them up to a whole new world of tastes. A lot of children always like to stick with the basics: chips, fish fingers and burgers. Getting them involved in the kitchen experience will help them not only learn a new language but also enjoy a new variety of food.

  1. Prepare for each lesson: Every time you cook with your child, look at it as though you are going to be giving a lesson. Make sure that you write down the words of each food in the other language (and if English if you want). Do some research on the recipe so that you can talk to your child about the history of the recipe.
  2. Divide the recipe into tasks: Each recipe should be divided into specific tasks. Make sure that you know which one you should come first. As you are doing a specific task (with the help of your children, of course) make sure that you explain each process in the other language.
  3. Make them repeat the words out loud: if your child is going to start beating eggs, first make sure she knows what the word is in both languages. For example, if you were teaching Spanish then make them repeat “huevo” while working with the eggs and using them in the recipe. The more time they repeat it the better.
  4. Revise once the cooking starts: Once you put the food in the oven or let it cook on the stove pot, review the recipe and the ingredients with your child. Go through each ingredient and ask your children how to say it in Spanish. If they still don’t know, repeat the words again for them to hear.
  5. Don’t give up: Teaching a second language, especially bilingual baby, can be a daunting process. Don’t give up and have a lot pf patience when it comes to your children.

Teaching your bilingual baby almost seems easier when you combine learning a language with cooking. Many parents complain that there are not enough activities when it comes to bilingual baby. You just need to be creative and your children will learn both languages in no time!

Teaching your bilingual baby can never be boring – especially when done in the kitchen.

Review of the Best Online Professional Development for Educators and Teachers

Professional Development for Educators

Professional development is an essential way for teachers to refine their strategies, methods, and understanding of their work. In order to provide educators with the tools they need, a market in professional development (also known simply as “PD”) has developed around online and offline tools built for teacher training.

This list is a guide of the major and minor players in the PD field. Our analysis of each competitor shows PD 360 from School Improvement Network to have the most tools and training videos in the industry, and they are also one of the most inexpensive. Teachers can buy individual licenses to PD 360 for $125, but the most inexpensive method is to purchase a license for an entire school or district, which often drives the price well under $100 per license.

Each school and district must determine what their needs are and what is most effective. We hope to have been as open and objective as possible in the following analysis.

PD 360 – School Improvement Network

PD 360 has 1,500+ videos, training from 120 experts, 97 topics, a community of 700,000, new content added daily, and a year’s complete access costs around $100 or less per teacher. The platform also integrates with an observation tool equipped with prescriptive technology, Common Core Standards training, and a unique product for Title I schools. PD 360’s community is closed to the public.

Pros: You get the most bang for your buck. PD 360’s entire platform costs less per teacher than one course from any of the competitors.

Cons: The platform is currently built in Flash.

Bottom line: School Improvement Network provides a true tour de force that is unstoppably effective and cost efficient.

EdWeb

EdWeb has a K12 Educator Store that sells eBooks and teacher aid materials, but it is not presented as a focused resource for teacher improvement. The store and its products are open and available to anyone, though the main product seems to be the online teacher community. The number of users is unpublished.

Pros: EdWeb sends out weekly emails to help subscribers stay up-to-date.

Cons: The community is open access, meaning that one does not have to be a teacher to participate in the forums. The user interface is very difficult to navigate and participation in the community is small.

Bottom line: EdWeb’s site only provides forum capabilities-no professional development is connect to the community. EdWeb sends helpful emails, but the community is difficult to navigate.

Schoolnet

Schoolnet focuses on improving education through data analysis and positions itself as “the leader in data-driven education for K-12 school systems.” They have an open-access community, and their website seems to provide professional development solutions la carte. The number of experts, users, and community participants is unpublished. Pearson Education purchased Schoolnet in April 2011.

Pros: Pearson Education will likely be able to expand Schoolnet’s resources.

Cons: The community is open access. Their products are not one comprehensive whole.

Bottom line: Schoolnet provides free resources on their website to assist educators as much as possible. They have connected tools to their community, and Pearson Education will probably be able to expand Schoolnet’s resources.

Edutopia

Edutopia is backed by the George Lucas Educational Foundation. Edutopia provides 150 free videos that average four minutes each, a community of over 100,000 members, and other free resources for educational professional development. The community is open access, so the public can and does participate in the forums.

Pros: The free materials are high quality and the community has good participation.

Cons: The materials and resources are limited, the community is open to the public, and the community is relatively small.

Bottom line: Edutopia may be one of the best free resources available to teachers, but the resources are very limited.

SimpleK12

SimpleK12 offers a community as the main professional development solution. The community does not have free registration as all other communities have in this competitive analysis; a registration fee of $297 per year will give a person access to the community. SimpleK12 claims to serve 500,000 worldwide and offer 500 hours of classroom technology how-to videos on the community.

Pros: If the community serves 500,000, then there could potentially be good participation.

Cons: There is no way to test the product without buying it, and it is quite expensive.

Bottom line: SimpleK12 is expensive and veiled.

Knowledge Delivery Systems

Knowledge Delivery Systems (KDS) has eClassroom, mVal, eWalk, and custom PD programs for some of its main products. KDS does not provide a community, but it does provide a way for educators who are following the same course to communicate with each other. The product eClassroom is the platform on which educators follow courses which they buy one at a time. The mVal product is an evaluation tool, and eWalk is a classroom walkthrough tool. KDS offers approximately 760 hours of training videos from 55 experts.

Pros: Educators have up to 760 hours of content from which to choose and evaluation tools that work effectively.

Cons: The observation and evaluation tools are not integrated with a professional development platform, KDS offers no community, and districts and teachers buy one course at a time.

Bottom line: KDS offers primarily specialty courses from which educators can gain college credit, but they are not meant to be a district-wide solution.

Teachscape

Teachscape offers courses that a school or district must buy one at a time. They offer 108 courses from 12 experts as of July 2011. Teachscape’s tour de force is the 360-degree camera technology they employ with their classroom observation platform.

Pros: Teachscape boasts a 360-degree camera for their observation technology.

Cons: Teachscape’s professional development, much like many other companies in the industry, is only available one course at a time from only twelve experts. They also do not offer an online professional learning community.

Bottom line: Teachscape provides extensive training, and any training must be universally applied.

ASCD

ASCD is a nonprofit organization that serves 160,000 educators in 148 countries with myriad products. ASCD offers several levels of membership, from a $25 student membership to a $219 premium membership (as of July 2011). ASCD offers several professional development solutions, including PD in Focus, a professional development platform with 90 hours of video and 49 experts. The community is theoretically open to all, but the group facilitator must approve each member.

Pros: ASCD has many resources at their disposal, meaning that users have the opportunity to access many resources in one place.

Cons: The resources are spread thin, and the actual PD training is minimal at only 90 hours, 55 hours, and a small community.

Bottom line: ASCD is affordable due to their membership breakdown. There are good resources, but those resources are spread thin.

PBS Teacherline

PBS Teacherline provides 130 graduate-level courses for teachers. They have recently added Peer Connection, their own online community. The courses and trainings are available one at a time, and separate licenses are purchased for each user.

Pros: The number of graduate courses available is tempting for anyone looking to advance in school while in his or her career.

Cons: The community is not free, and educators must pay for each resource that they use rather than having an open library. The licenses make providing specific training to multiple educators a logistical challenge.

Bottom line: PBS Teacherline is a good option if educators want to work toward a higher degree.

Learner.org

Annenberg Foundation has created Learner.org to provide free educational resources online. Learner.org has great resources for the average learner, but the site is not built for professional development on a district- or school-wide scale.

Pros: It’s all quality, and it’s all free.

Cons: Learner.org is not a viable resource for specific training as its PD content is limited.

Bottom line: Learner.org is the professional learner’s dream, but it is not a source of training for classroom management or teaching techniques.

Staff Development for Educators

Staff Development for Educators (SDE) coordinates both traditional and online professional development. SDE does not provide a community on which to collaborate, and online courses are only available with individual licenses. Educators can choose any one of 54 courses to buy and follow online.

Pros: It is simple and straight-forward: each teacher buys a course and finishes it.

Cons: SDE does not provide a library, a community, or a true PD platform.

Bottom line: SDE started as a traditional PD company, and they have retained that model even in their online endeavors.

Please feel free to leave comments about aspects we may have missed, companies you have seen or used, and your honest-and respectful-opinion about what has worked for you.

Ranger Rick Magazine – For Kids Who Love Nature

What magazine should you get for your kids that they can enjoy the entire year? Like most kids, mine love nature. So after looking into things, I found that Ranger Rick Magazine might be areally good choice. The number one rated nature magazine for kids, Ranger Rick Magazine has garnered many awards. In addition, it is affordable and fun.

Dating back to 1988, Ranger Rick Magazine has received many awards and honors for their work as a nature magazine aimed at kids. In 1988 the magazine took home the EdPress Golden Lamp Award as the best overall educational magazine. In 1991, Ranger Rick Magazine was recognized as a National Magazine Award finalize for their special issue on frogs. EdPress awarded Ranger Rick again in 1992 with its Distinguished Achievement Award then with their Golden Lamp Honor Award in 1993; EdPress also honored the magazine in 1998, 2001, 2002, and 2003. In 1996 Ranger Rick Magazine got the Parents’ Choice Gold Award, and then did so again in 1999 and 2003. All of these are based on the work Ranger Rick Magazine has done for children and for nature.

Many parents will tell you that if you buy your child a $20 toy, he or she will likely have lost, broken, or grown tired of it within a month. However, for that same price, you can get a one year subscription to Ranger Rick Magazine, which is a monthly publication. Children will look forward to its arrival every month and if you have more than one kid, there will be competition to get to it first. It is better than a $20 in that they will play with it for a year, plus it is an educational publication. There are fun nature facts, activities and articles in each edition that children can appreciate and enjoy.

Ranger Rick Magazine is also a fantastic resource for improving reading skills. The children will enjoy reading it and the text is targeted at elementary children. They will grow their vocabulary with nature words and definitions that they can use. When students know something is useful to them, they are much more likely to retain the information.

If you have children who love animals and nature, then you may want to consider Ranger Rick Magazine as a gift for them. They can learn from it, improve their reading skills, and will actually enjoy it every month of the year. It will be the best $20 you have spent for them in terms of education [http://www.exeterdaily.com/category/home-news] and entertainment all wrapped into one.

Generation Dead Review

Background on the Author

Daniel Waters is the author of three books that are all in the same series. The books are called Generation Dead, Kiss of Life, and Passing Strange.

Setting

The book is set in an average size town. The plot mainly takes place in a high school, in a haunted house where the differently biotic live, and the woods where the differently biotic kids hang out, and the football field.

Conflict

The conflict is that teenagers are rising from the dead throughout the United States. Not everyone likes this. The undead teenagers moves to a town where Karen, her friend Adam, and the later antagonist Pete lives. The differently biotic go there because the school has more oppurtunities for them. The undead people face discrimination such as being bullied and even killed. The antagonist Pete doesn’t like, what he calls names such as wormburgers, moving into the school.

Suspense

The suspense is what the anatagonist Pete will try to do next to the undead kids. Will he just bully them…hurt them…or kill them?

Protagonist

The two main protagonists are Karen and her friend Adam. They support the undead teenagers moving into their school and even befriend some of them.

Antagonist

The main antagonist is Pete who would love nothing more than for all of the zombies to die again.

Theme

The theme of the novel is discrimination. The discrimination is like what groups of people have faced and still faced. The differently biotic are taunted, joked about, and even killed.

Symbols

The symbol in this book is the undead. They are going through what real life people have went through because of discrimination.

Plot Structure

The exposition is the first few chapters that explain the main plot. The rising action is when the differently biotic teenager Tommy joins the football team and no one except for two people on the team are happy about it. The climax is when Pete and his friends attack Karen, Adam, and the differently biotic kid Tommy. The falling action is Adam jumping in front of Karen to protect her from being shot. The resolution is Adam dying and then coming back to life as a differently biotic person.

Reaction

I enjoyed this book and I liked how it wasn’t even close to the typical zombie story. I also liked that the differently biotic people faced types of discrimination that real life miniorities have faced.