14 Books to Promote A Healthy Body Image

Reading about characters who are comfortable in their own skins helps kids learn self-acceptance. By Regan McMahon
14 Books to Help Kids Feel Good About Themselves and Their Bodies

We all want to find entertaining reads for our kids and tweens, but unfortunately, even some of the best stories reinforce body and gender stereotypes. You know the ones: girl characters judged by how pretty they are; boys teased if they’re not big and strong; boys and girls dissed for being overweight or having freckles or the “wrong” color hair or skin; good-looking protagonists who often have a chubby or scrawny sidekick who’ll never be considered cool or attractive. And so on.

But we’ve found some shining examples of books featuring characters who are comfortable with their bodies, no matter their size or shape. They’re appreciated for their talent, skills, and integrity, and they don’t trade on their looks to get ahead. Check out our full list of body-positive books starring kids (and animals) who are at ease in their own skin — or who learn that’s the way to be truly cool. We’ve highlighted some of our very favorites here:

  • Brontorina, by James Howe and illustrated by Randy Cecil, age 4+. When a brontosaurus shows up at ballet class, some of the students insist, “You are too big!” But the open-minded ballet teacher decides the problem is that her studio is too small — and moves the class outdoors. It’s a lighthearted lesson about not letting your size or shape prevent you from following your dream.
  • Flora and the Flamingo, by Molly Idle, age 4+. This charming, wordless picture books feature a spunky yet graceful little girl. Flora has a pear-shaped body, yet does a pas de deux with a flamingo. So many images in books, movies, magazines, and ads feature young girls with slim bodies; it’s nice to see an image of a girl with a round tummy who’s athletic, graceful, and creative.
  • Firebird, by Misty Copeland, age 5+. A young girl who wants to be a dancer but has a low self-image and almost gives up before ballet great Misty Copeland inspires and mentors her to reach her full potential. This exuberant picture book emphasizes hard work and self-discovery.
  • Freckleface Strawberry, by Julianne Moore and illustrated by LeUyen Pham, age 5+. The main character feels self-conscious about her freckles, especially when other kids make comments and give her a nickname she doesn’t like. The final message isn’t that her freckles are beautiful but that maybe they don’t matter. More important, it’s that people are happier when they accept who they are and what they look like.
  • Ivy + Bean, by Annie Barrows and illustrated by Sophie Blackall, age 6+. Two “opposite” 7-year-old girls become best friends in the first of a wonderful 10-volume series. Bean is a rough-and-tumble tomboy who wears pants and a T-shirt and gets dirty; Ivy wears dresses, thinks a lot, and is always reading books. They appreciate each other’s qualities, and the kids in their neighborhood appreciate them for their individuality and imagination.
  • Confessions of a So-Called Middle Child, by Maria T. Lennon, age 8+. Charlie is comfortable with her out-of-shape body (while trying to make healthy food choices) and confident in her bold sense of style in this light middle school tale. In the sequel, Watch Out, Hollywood!: More Confessions of a So-Called Middle Child, she tries out for a TV show and kids tease her about her body, but the TV people admire her for being comfortable with her shape. It’s a refreshingly positive body-image message to find in a book about middle school.
  • The Littlest Bigfoot, by Jennifer Weiner, age 8+. A lonely human girl strikes up a friendship with a girl from a secret Bigfoot tribe in this light fantasy about two girls who feel like outcasts in their families. It has strong messages about respecting people who seem different and appreciating that they have unseen strengths and struggles.
  • Randi Rhodes Ninja Detective: The Case of the Time-Capsule Bandit, by Octavia Spencer, age 8+. Randi moves to a new town and becomes best friends with two boys who also are outsiders; one is bullied for being hearing impaired but is as passionate about martial arts as Randi is,and the other is lanky, into music, and super smart. Together the diverse pals — Randi’s white, and her friends are Latino and African-American — solve a mystery using brains and the occasional Bruce Lee move.
  • Blubber, by Judy Blume, age 9+. An overweight girl is teased mercilessly by some classmates, and no one stands up for her in this brutally honest look at (pre-Internet-era) bullying among fifth-graders. The novel doesn’t spell out moral lessons but teaches kids by portraying repugnant behavior and showing the value of true friendship and courage under peer pressure.
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Ugly Truth, by Jeff Kinney, age 9+. Middle schooler Greg Heffley goes through puberty in this series installment and suffers the indignity of teeth-fixing head gear. He deals with it all through humor and utter cluelessness, as always. He may not become more accepting of himself, but kids reading about his travails understand that everyone goes through this stage and that you can have a good laugh at the embarrassing stuff.
  • Grace, Gold, and Glory: My Leap of Faith, by Gabby Douglas and Michelle Burford, age 10+. This moving memoir shows the Olympic gymnast’s dedication in the face of homelessness, bullying, and having a coach tell her she should get a nose job. Gabby stays focused, works hard, and accepts herself as she is, even as she strives for greatness.
  • The Girl of Fire and Thorns, by Rae Carson, age 12+. A plump princess is chosen by God (in a fictional religion) for a special unknown task. She begins the book as intelligent but insecure and afraid and ends it confident and powerful.  Rising to challenges and having faith in yourself are big lessons here — as is the message that a girl of any size can be a respected and capable leader.
  • In Real Life, by Cory Doctorow, age 12+. This exciting graphic novel portrays girls as skilled online gamers. Main character Anda is a teen gamer who learns about harsh working conditions in other parts of the world. She’s smart, competent, and compassionate, both in real life and as her online avatar.

About Regan McMahon

Regan has been reviewing children’s books for more than a decade. A journalist and former book editor for the San Francisco Chronicle, she cites as one of her toughest assignments having to read and review the 784-page… Read more

Mining online data on struggling readers who catch up

Hechinger Report

A tiny difference in daily reading habits is associated with giant improvements

Photo of Jill Barshay

Education by the Numbers

What’s the difference between kids who remain at the bottom of the class and those who surge ahead to the top half?

It might be as little as 4.7 minutes, in the case of reading.

According to a November 2015 report on almost 10 million U.S. schoolchildren who practice reading using an online software program called Accelerated Reader, a shockingly small amount of additional daily reading separated the weak students who stay at the bottom from those who catch up over the course of a school year.

The analysis of struggling readers was part of an annual report, called What Kids Are Reading, produced by Renaissance Learning, the maker of Accelerated Reader. The report also noted which books are the most popular at each grade level, and attempted to gain insight into how kids become better readers as they progress from first grade through 12th. Real student data was used, but the children’s identities were kept anonymous in the research analysis. (Findings from the first report and an explanation of the report’s limitations can be found in a piece I wrote last year here).

In this year’s report, Renaissance Learning found that roughly 200,000 of the 1.4 million fifth graders in its student database began the 2014-15 school year reading at a very low level, among the bottom quarter of fifth graders nationally. Most of them finished the school year in this unfortunate category. But 28 percent of these students somehow got out of the bottom quarter by year’s end. And a smaller subset of those students — five percent of the 200,000 — did something spectacular: in less than a year, they were reading as well as the top 50 percent of fifth graders.

The computer doesn’t know everything that affected them, but it does know that these spectacular students read an average of 19 minutes a day on the software. By contrast, the kids who remained at the bottom read only 14.3 minutes a day. Over the course of fifth grade, the catcher-uppers read 341,174 words. That’s 200,000 more words that those who remained strugglers.

“I wouldn’t say to a group of educators, ‘Hey, all you’ve got to do is five more minutes,’ but five more minutes is really helpful,” said Eric Stickney, director of educational research at Renaissance Learning. “But if they’re just sticking with low-level books that aren’t expanding their vocabulary, and not really understanding what they’re reading, five extra minutes isn’t going to be helpful.”

There were two other differences, too. The kids who caught up were choosing to read more challenging texts. (Accelerated Reader allows students to select their own books and articles from a list). And they had higher comprehension, answering 80 percent of the multiple-choice questions after each book correctly, compared with a 72 percent correct rate among those who remained at the bottom.

Stickney suspects that the students who are making these leaps are receiving extra help at school from talented teachers, and not just reading more on software.

Indeed, at least one expert in early literacy development, particularly among children living in poverty, says we cannot tell from this study whether the extra five minutes a day is causing kids to make dramatic improvements. In an e-mailed comment, University of Michigan Professor Nell Duke explained that stronger readers spend more time reading. So we don’t know if extra reading practice causes growth, or if students naturally want to read a few minutes more a day after they become better readers. “It is possible that some other factor, such as increased parental involvement, caused both,” the reading growth, and the desire to read more, she wrote.

Stickney also noticed in his data that it was possible to make this extraordinary one-year leap from bottom quarter to top half even as late as eighth grade. Again, we don’t anything about this subset of students. It’s plausible, for example, that some of these leapers hail from well-educated immigrant families and were already strong readers in their native languages. But it’s also possible that some of these leapers suddenly had a breakthrough after years of struggle.

Even the eighth graders who made the impressive jump aren’t reading very much, though; the report finds interest in reading rapidly deteriorates after elementary school. The eighth graders who leapt from the bottom to the top read for only 16 minutes a day, three minutes less than the motivated fifth-grade leapers.  Eighth graders who remained in the bottom quarter read less than 10 minutes a day, four minutes less than bottom students in fifth grade.  But the word difference was enormous. In that small amount of time, the eighth-grade leapers read almost 500,000 words — 300,000 more than those who remained at the bottom. The more exposure to words, the more kids build their vocabularies, and the more they understand.

Teachers typically recommend 20 to 30 minutes of reading practice a night. One data mining lesson here is that you can get away with a lot less and still make extraordinary gains.

Serious reading takes a hit from online scanning and skimming, researchers say

The Washington Post
Claire Handscombe has a commitment problem online. Like a lot of Web surfers, she clicks on links posted on social networks, reads a few sentences, looks for exciting words, and then grows restless, scampering off to the next page she probably won’t commit to.“I give it a few seconds — not even minutes — and then I’m moving again,” says Handscombe, a 35-year-old graduate student in creative writing at American University.

But it’s not just online anymore. She finds herself behaving the same way with a novel.

“It’s like your eyes are passing over the words but you’re not taking in what they say,” she confessed. “When I realize what’s happening, I have to go back and read again and again.”

To cognitive neuroscientists, Handscombe’s experience is the subject of great fascination and growing alarm. Humans, they warn, seem to be developing digital brains with new circuits for skimming through the torrent of information online. This alternative way of reading is competing with traditional deep reading circuitry developed over several millennia.

“I worry that the superficial way we read during the day is affecting us when we have to read with more in-depth processing,” said Maryanne Wolf, a Tufts University cognitive neuroscientist and the author of “Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain.”

If the rise of nonstop cable TV news gave the world a culture of sound bites, the Internet, Wolf said, is bringing about an eye byte culture. Time spent online — on desktop and mobile devices — was expected to top five hours per day in 2013 for U.S. adults, according to eMarketer, which tracks digital behavior. That’s up from three hours in 2010.

Word lovers and scientists have called for a “slow reading” movement, taking a branding cue from the “slow food” movement. They are battling not just cursory sentence galloping but the constant social network and e-mail temptations that lurk on our gadgets — the bings and dings that interrupt “Call me Ishmael.”

Researchers are working to get a clearer sense of the differences betweenonline and print reading — comprehension, for starters, seems better with paper — and are grappling with what these differences could mean not only for enjoying the latest Pat Conroy novel but for understanding difficult material at work and school. There is concern that young children’s affinity and often mastery of their parents’ devices could stunt the development of deep reading skills.

The brain is the innocent bystander in this new world. It just reflects how we live.

“The brain is plastic its whole life span,” Wolf said. “The brain is constantly adapting.”

Wolf, one of the world’s foremost experts on the study of reading, was startled last year to discover her brain was apparently adapting, too. After a day of scrolling through the Web and hundreds of e-mails, she sat down one evening to read Hermann Hesse’s “The Glass Bead Game.”

“I’m not kidding: I couldn’t do it,” she said. “It was torture getting through the first page. I couldn’t force myself to slow down so that I wasn’t skimming, picking out key words, organizing my eye movements to generate the most information at the highest speed. I was so disgusted with myself.”

Adapting to read

The brain was not designed for reading. There are no genes for reading like there are for language or vision. But spurred by the emergence of Egyptian hieroglyphics, the Phoenician alphabet, Chinese paper and, finally, the Gutenberg press, the brain has adapted to read.

Before the Internet, the brain read mostly in linear ways — one page led to the next page, and so on. Sure, there might be pictures mixed in with the text, but there didn’t tend to be many distractions. Reading in print even gave us a remarkable ability to remember where key information was in a book simply by the layout, researchers said. We’d know a protagonist died on the page with the two long paragraphs after the page with all that dialogue.

The Internet is different. With so much information, hyperlinked text, videos alongside words and interactivity everywhere, our brains form shortcuts to deal with it all — scanning, searching for key words, scrolling up and down quickly. This is nonlinear reading, and it has been documented in academic studies. Some researchers believe that for many people, this style of reading is beginning to invade when dealing with other mediums as well.

“We’re spending so much time touching, pushing, linking, scroll­ing and jumping through text that when we sit down with a novel, your daily habits of jumping, clicking, linking is just ingrained in you,” said Andrew Dillon, a University of Texas professor who studies reading. “We’re in this new era of information behavior, and we’re beginning to see the consequences of that.”

Brandon Ambrose, a 31-year-old Navy financial analyst who lives in Alexandria, knows of those consequences.

His book club recently read “The Interestings,” a best-seller by Meg Wolitzer. When the club met, he realized he had missed a number of the book’s key plot points. It hit him that he had been scanning for information about one particular aspect of the book, just as he might scan for one particular fact on his computer screen, where he spends much of his day.

“When you try to read a novel,” he said, “it’s almost like we’re not built to read them anymore, as bad as that sounds.”

Ramesh Kurup noticed something even more troubling. Working his way recently through a number of classic authors — George Eliot, Marcel Proust, that crowd — Kurup, 47, discovered that he was having trouble reading long sentences with multiple, winding clauses full of background information. Online sentences tend to be shorter, and the ones containing complicated information tend to link to helpful background material.

“In a book, there are no graphics or links to keep you on track,” Kurup said.

It’s easier to follow links, he thinks, than to keep track of so many clauses in page after page of long paragraphs.

Kurup’s observation might sound far-fetched, but told about it, Wolf did not scoff. She offered more evidence: Several English department chairs from around the country have e-mailed her to say their students are having trouble reading the classics.

“They cannot read ‘Middlemarch.’ They cannot read William James or Henry James,” Wolf said. “I can’t tell you how many people have written to me about this phenomenon. The students no longer will or are perhaps incapable of dealing with the convoluted syntax and construction of George Eliot and Henry James.”

Wolf points out that she’s no Luddite. She sends e-mails from her iPhone as often as one of her students. She’s involved with programs to send tablets to developing countries to help children learn to read. But just look, she said, at Twitter and its brisk 140-character declarative sentences.

“How much syntax is lost, and what is syntax but the reflection of our convoluted thoughts?” she said. “My worry is we will lose the ability to express or read this convoluted prose. Will we become Twitter brains?”

Bi-literate brains?

Wolf’s next book will look at what the digital world is doing to the brain, including looking at brain-scan data as people read both online and in print. She is particularly interested in comprehension results in screen vs. print reading.

Already, there is some intriguing research that looks at that question. A 2012 Israeli study of engineering students — who grew up in the world of screens — looked at their comprehension while reading the same text on screen and in print when under time pressure to complete the task.

The students believed they did better on screen. They were wrong. Their comprehension and learning was better on paper.

Researchers say that the differences between text and screen reading should be studied more thoroughly and that the differences should be dealt with in education, particularly with school-aged children. There are advantages to both ways of reading. There is potential for a bi-literate brain.

“We can’t turn back,” Wolf said. “We should be simultaneously reading to children from books, giving them print, helping them learn this slower mode, and at the same time steadily increasing their immersion into the technological, digital age. It’s both. We have to ask the question: What do we want to preserve?”

Wolf is training her own brain to be bi-literate. She went back to the Hesse novel the next night, giving herself distance, both in time and space, from her screens.

“I put everything aside. I said to myself, ‘I have to do this,’ ” she said. “It was really hard the second night. It was really hard the third night. It took me two weeks, but by the end of the second week I had pretty much recovered myself so I could enjoy and finish the book.”

Then she read it again.

“I wanted to enjoy this form of reading again,” Wolf said. “When I found myself, it was like I recovered. I found my ability again to slow down, savor and think.”

Michael Rosenwald is a reporter on the Post?s local enterprise team. He writes about the intersection of technology, business and culture.

Read, Kids, Read

The New York Times

As an uncle I’m inconsistent about too many things.

Birthdays, for example. My nephew Mark had one on Sunday, and I didn’t remember — and send a text — until 10 p.m., by which point he was asleep.

School productions, too. I saw my niece Bella in “Seussical: The Musical” but missed “The Wiz.” She played Toto, a feat of trans-species transmogrification that not even Meryl, with all of her accents, has pulled off.

But about books, I’m steady. Relentless. I’m incessantly asking my nephews and nieces what they’re reading and why they’re not reading more. I’m reliably hurling novels at them, and also at friends’ kids. I may well be responsible for 10 percent of all sales of “The Fault in Our Stars,” a teenage love story to be released as a movie next month. Never have I spent money with fewer regrets, because I believe in reading — not just in its power to transport but in its power to transform.

So I was crestfallen on Monday, when a new report by Common Sense Media came out. It showed that 30 years ago, only 8 percent of 13-year-olds and 9 percent of 17-year-olds said that they “hardly ever” or never read for pleasure. Today, 22 percent of 13-year-olds and 27 percent of 17-year-olds say that. Fewer than 20 percent of 17-year-olds now read for pleasure “almost every day.” Back in 1984, 31 percent did. What a marked and depressing change.

I know, I know: This sounds like a fogy’s crotchety lament. Or, worse, like self-interest. Professional writers arguing for vigorous reading are dinosaurs begging for a last breath. We’re panhandlers with a better vocabulary.

But I’m coming at this differently, as someone persuaded that reading does things — to the brain, heart and spirit — that movies, television, video games and the rest of it cannot.

There’s research on this, and it’s cited in a recent article in The Guardian by Dan Hurley, who wrote that after “three years interviewing psychologists and neuroscientists around the world,” he’d concluded that “reading and intelligence have a relationship so close as to be symbiotic.”

In terms of smarts and success, is reading causative or merely correlated? Which comes first, “The Hardy Boys” or the hardy mind? That’s difficult to unravel, but several studies have suggested that people who read fiction, reveling in its analysis of character and motivation, are more adept at reading people, too: at sizing up the social whirl around them. They’re more empathetic. God knows we need that.

Late last year, neuroscientists at Emory University reported enhanced neural activity in people who’d been given a regular course of daily reading, which seemed to jog the brain: to raise its game, if you will.

Some experts have doubts about that experiment’s methodology, but I’m struck by how its findings track something that my friends and I often discuss. If we spend our last hours or minutes of the night reading rather than watching television, we wake the next morning with thoughts less jumbled, moods less jangled. Reading has bequeathed what meditation promises. It has smoothed and focused us.

Maybe that’s about the quiet of reading, the pace of it. At Success Academy Charter Schools in New York City, whose students significantly outperform most peers statewide, the youngest kids all learn and play chess, in part because it hones “the ability to focus and concentrate,” said Sean O’Hanlon, who supervises the program. Doesn’t reading do the same?

Daniel Willingham, a psychology professor at the University of Virginia, framed it as a potentially crucial corrective to the rapid metabolism and sensory overload of digital technology. He told me that it can demonstrate to kids that there’s payoff in “doing something taxing, in delayed gratification.” A new book of his, “Raising Kids Who Read,” will be published later this year.

Before talking with him, I arranged a conference call with David Levithanand Amanda Maciel. Both have written fiction in the young adult genre, whose current robustness is cause to rejoice, and they rightly noted that the intensity of the connection that a person feels to a favorite novel, with which he or she spends eight or 10 or 20 hours, is unlike any response to a movie.

That observation brought to mind a moment in “The Fault in Our Stars” when one of the protagonists says that sometimes, “You read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.”

Books are personal, passionate. They stir emotions and spark thoughts in a manner all their own, and I’m convinced that the shattered world has less hope for repair if reading becomes an ever smaller part of it.

Students Reading E-Books Are Losing Out, Study Suggests

The New York Times Motherlode Blog

By ANNIE MURPHY PAUL

 APRIL 10, 2014

Could e-books actually get in the way of reading?

That was the question explored in research presented last week by Heather Ruetschlin Schugar, an associate professor at West Chester University, and her spouse, Jordan T. Schugar, an instructor at the same institution. Speaking at the annual conference of the American Educational Research Association in Philadelphia, the Schugars reported the results of a study in which they asked middle school students to read either traditional printed books or e-books on iPads. The students’ reading comprehension, the researchers found, was higher when they read conventional books.

In a second study looking at students’ use of e-books created with Apple’s iBooks Author software, the Schugars discovered that the young readers often skipped over the text altogether, engaging instead with the books’ interactive visual features.

While their findings are suggestive, they are preliminary and based on small samples of students. More substance can be found in the Schugars’ previous work: for example, a paper they published last year with their colleague Carol A. Smith in the journal The Reading Teacher. In this study, the authors observed teachers and teachers-in-training as they used interactive e-books with children in kindergarten through sixth grade. (The e-books were mobile apps, downloadable from online stores like iTunes.)

While young readers find these digital products very appealing, their multitude of features may diffuse children’s attention, interfering with their comprehension of the text, Ms. Smith and the Schugars found. It seems that the very “richness” of the multimedia environment that e-books provide — heralded as their advantage over printed books — may overwhelm children’s limited working memory, leading them to lose the thread of the narrative or to process the meaning of the story less deeply.

This is especially true of what the authors call some e-books’ “gimmicks and distractions.” In the book “Sir Charlie Stinky Socks and the Really Big Adventure,” for example, children can touch “wiggly woos” to make the creatures emit noise and move around the screen. In another e-book, “Rocket Learns to Read,” a bird flutters and sounds play in the background.

Such flourishes can interrupt the fluency of children’s reading and cause their comprehension to fragment, the authors found. They can also lead children to spend less time reading over all: One study cited by Ms. Smith and the Schugars reported that children spent 43 percent of their e-book engagement time playing games embedded in the e-books rather than reading the text.

By contrast, the authors observed, some e-books offer multimedia features that enhance comprehension. In “Miss Spider’s Tea Party,” for example, children hear the sound of Miss Spider drinking as they read the words “Miss Spider sipped her tea.” In another e-book, “Wild About Books,” sounds of laughter ring out as the reader encounters the line “Hyenas shared jokes with the red-bellied snakes.”

The quality of e-books for children varies wildly, the authors said: “Because the app market allows for the distribution of materials without the rigorous review process that is typical of traditional children’s book publishing, more caution is necessary for choosing high-quality texts.”

They advise parents and teachers to look for e-books that enhance and extend interactions with the text, rather than those that offer only distractions; that promote interactions that are relatively brief rather than time-consuming; that provide supports for making text-based inferences or understanding difficult vocabulary; and that locate interactions on the same page as the text display, rather than on a separate screen. (E-books recommended by the authors are listed below.)

Once the e-books are selected, parents and teachers must also help children use them effectively, Ms. Smith and the Schugars said. This can include familiarizing children with the basics of the device. Although adults may assume that their little “digital natives” will figure out the gadgets themselves, the researchers have found that children often need adult guidance in operating e-readers.

Parents and teachers should also help children in transferring what they know about print reading to e-reading. Children may not automatically apply reading skills they have learned on traditional books to e-books, and these skills, such as identifying the main idea and setting aside unimportant details, are especially crucial when reading e-books because of the profusion of distractions they provide.

Lastly, adults should ensure that children are not overusing e-book features like the electronic dictionary or the “read-to-me” option. Young readers can often benefit from looking up the definition of a word with a click, but doing it too often will disrupt reading fluidity and comprehension. Even without connecting to the dictionary, children are able to glean the meaning of many words from context. Likewise, the read-to-me feature can be useful in decoding a difficult word, but when used too often it discourages children from sounding out words on their own.

Research shows that children often read e-books “with minimal adult involvement,” Ms. Smith and the Schugars said. While we may assume that interactive e-books can entertain children all by themselves, such products require more input from us than books on paper do.

Recommended E-Books

For beginning readers

“Blue Hat, Green Hat” by Sandra Boynton

“Go, Clifford, Go!” by Norman Bridwell

“Meet Biscuit” by Alyssa Satin Capucilli

“Nickelby Swift, Kitten Catastrophe” by Ben Hecht

“Miss Spider’s Tea Party” by David Kirk

“A Fine Musician” by Lucy Thomson

For fluent readers

“Slice of Bread Goes to the Beach” by Glenn Melenhorst

“Who Would Win? Killer Whale Vs. Great White Shark”by Jerry Pallotta

“Wild About Books” by Judy Sierra

“The Artifacts” by Lynley Stace and Dan Hare

Read more of the latest research on how children learn, like “How to Build Children’s ‘Print Knowledge’ While You Read Together,” and “Get Your Kids Using Their Devices to Learn — With an App Purge,” on Annie Murphy Paul’s Brilliant Blog. Ms. Paul is the author of “Origins,” a book about the science of prenatal influences, and “Brilliant: The Science of How We Get Smarter,” to be published by Crown in 2015.

10 Ways To Help Boost Your Child’s Intelligence

Access this link for details on the following 10 things that you can do to help boost your child’s intelligence:

1. Play Brain Games

2. Make Music

3. Breast Feed

4. Foster Fitness

5. Play Video Games

6. Junk the Junk Food

7. Nurture Curiosity

8. Read

9. Teach Confidence

10. Breakfast Breeds Champions

Should Your Child Be Using an E-Reader?

Should Your Child Be Using an E-reader?

Should Your Child Be Using an E-reader? -- Mom's Homeroom -- © OJO Images/Justin Pumfrey/Workbook Stock/Getty Images

By Linda Johns

Last month I asked a book group of 7- and 8-year-old girls if they would help add titles to my “must read” list. Their enthusiastic recommendations came quickly and I hastily jotted down titles, not wanting to miss a single one. Somewhere between Goddess Girls and Cinderella Smith I heard something I hadn’t expected: One girl mentioned a digital reader.

“I read that one on my e-reader,” she said. Another girl chimed in with a book she’d read on her mom’s tablet when they were on vacation, which reminded her of another book she didn’t want me to miss, which reminded another girl of yet another book. The conversation continued, with young readers talking about books without getting hung up on the format of the book.

This group of girls gave me a valuable look at how our children view reading: They care more about the story and the experience than the format. Each of these girls had been to a public library in the past week and they were all regular customers at the independent bookstore where they meet each month. Books bought from bookstores, books checked out of the library and books downloaded to a device are all a part of their regular mix. If this is the future of reading, I’ll take it.

You’ve undoubtedly seen or read stories about toddlers and preschoolers using apps on their parents’ tablets, but there’s been very little information about elementary age students and e-readers. Studies about adults and digital books tend to look at consumer habits, but since readers are consuming books (always a good thing, right?) we can see some general trends about how people interact with downloadable books.

Adults who read e-books tend to read more books (an average of 24 per year, compared with 15 per year for print-only readers), according to results released in April 2012 from a study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project. Anecdotally, adult readers say that they are more likely (or at least think they will be more likely) to pick up something to read if it’s conveniently loaded onto a device they can slip into a purse or work bag. Many of the adults I talk with at my library first take the digital plunge because of travel, particularly if there is a multi-week trip in their future. Carrying six or seven books may not be feasible, and the ease of taking many books on your e-reader lightens the load and also assures that there’s a backup book if you don’t like the one you have.

Vacations often provide children’s first initiation into e-readers, too. Jenny Blackburn and her husband gave their son a tablet for his ninth birthday, which was shortly before a family vacation. “I loaded it with books before we left, so his first experience with reading it was on the airplane,” Blackburn says. “I could tell that he felt very grown-up. He read for hours and seemed to like it.”

Darcy Brixey downloaded a variety of free books to her own e-reader to see what might grab the interest of her 8-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter during a long flight. “The kids would sit together and read on the plane,” says Brixey, a librarian and chair of Children’s and Young Adult Services at the Washington Library Association. (Books from the All About Pets series were winners on that flight.) “Now if my son sees me reading on my e-reader, he wants it,” she says.

The novelty of a new device can be intriguing to young readers, and a survey of 1,000 students by Bowker Market Research found that younger siblings are taking to e-readers even more than their big brothers and sisters. Readers under 12 were more likely to think of e-books as “fun and cool,” while older teenagers leaned toward print preferences. The number of hours a teen spends each day with a laptop and phone could easily lessen the novelty of another digital device. In fact, the print book may seem like a prized diversion for teens.

For many of us, we’re constantly looking for ways to encourage our children to read for pleasure. Turns out nearly half the parents in one recent study think that e-readers and tablets might be the golden ticket, especially for reluctant or struggling readers. Close to 50 percent of parents said they think electronic devices will encourage their children to read, according to a study by the Reading Agency, a literacy organization in the U.K.

“My daughter definitely likes the fact that it’s a gadget,” said a Seattle mother who was comparison-shopping devices for her 11-year-old. “She’s easily distracted, so I want to get one that is just about books and reading. It’s way too easy to click on something else and soon be playing games or going online.”

Reading apps on tablets have big appeal — and possibilities — for toddlers and preschoolers as well.

Being able to change the size of the font is a feature that was first touted mostly for older people (especially if their reading glasses have a habit of being easily misplaced). That same feature has a lot of advantages for beginning readers, newly independent readers and reluctant readers. Also, the size can easily be adjusted, so an older child who benefits from reading larger type can quickly scale it down if he feels self-conscious when others are around.

One of the biggest advantages Blackburn has seen for her son is that he can use the adjustable font size for finding the spot where he left off. “He frequently loses his place in chapter books, and this causes him to get frustrated and stop reading. With the tablet, we adjust the font to be larger so that there are less words on the page. This helps a lot.”

Other built-in features help readers interact with the text. “Some books have a read-aloud function, and when there’s that option my kids love to click on it,” says Brixey. Sometimes there are also recording features, which can be a fun way for a child to practice reading aloud. A family member can record the story so that the child will hear a familiar voice reading.

One friend of mine likes the convenience of sharing e-readers, which enable more than one person to read a book at a time. Members of her family share an account for downloading the books that they buy. She and her 9-year-old daughter, who is a voracious reader, can read the same books at the same time — and then talk about them.

Free downloadable books from the library can also be shared among family members. What? You didn’t know that libraries have digital books? Many libraries offer digital books for all ages in a variety of formats that work with major brands of e-readers and tablets. See what your library has — you may be surprised at the options and the flexibility.

I keep thinking back to that book group of young readers I visited with last month. While some adults I know seem to think that reading formats represent an either/or scenario — either print or digital — those girls are growing up in a world where there are choices for print and digital.

Adults with e-readers and tablets continue to report that they’re reading more, a trend that we can hope trickles down to younger readers. After all, we should always be happy seeing children reading, no matter the format.

Linda Johns is a children’s author and a librarian at the Seattle Public Library.

Original article