About Allison

The name's Wonderland. Allison Wonderland. While my sense of direction could get me lost in a cardboard box, I DO know my way around a library catalog. I love all things Disney, the beach, telling bad jokes (although I still think they're "punny") the holiday season and the book "Lester's Dreadful Sweaters" by K.G. Campbell.

Accelerated Reader and Lexile Scales and Readability Formulas, Oh My!

Mother and boy reading togetherParents of new readers are absolutely inundated with information about how their child should be reading by what age and with what proficiency. I’m not a parent (but I did work at a public library’s children’s department last night! … No? Too old a commercial reference for that joke to land?) and I still find it overwhelming. Accelerated Readers and Lexile scales and readability formulas, oh my!

There’s so much data out there that sometimes the best impetus for getting children reading “where they should be” can get lost in the shuffle, and it is this – they have to want to be reading. A true enjoyment derived from reading and the skills that will naturally grow from that enjoyment will serve kids a million times better throughout the rest of their academic careers than any blood, sweat and tears shed by any involved party in order to hit the next percentile on a standardized test.

But that’s tough, right? School is a gigantic part of children’s lives, and the textbook or required reading they have to do for school is not going to stimulate every kid. And, at most schools at least, progress reports and/or grades do matter. It’s hard not to worry about children falling behind. Continue reading

Books We Love: Jinx

Jinx coverJinx” is a juvenile fiction book that was first brought to my attention when participants in DBRL’s own Heavy Medal: Mock Newbery program decided it their winner last year. Its win nudged me into giving it a read, and I am so glad I did.

Jinx” is the story of an orphan (of course he is an orphan, you have to get those pesky parents out of the way so that our young characters can have any sort of adventures, right?) who lives in a magical world with fantastical facets presented though humorously matter-of-fact narration. The story kicks off with a stepfather attempting to leave young Jinx in a dense and dangerous forest, called the Urwald, that surrounds all of the cities in Jinx’s world. After an unlikely rescue by a grumpy old wizard named Simon, Jinx finds himself a wizard’s apprentice and gathers some sidekicks along the way. Adventure naturally ensues, and the story does a lovely job of examining the fact that “good” versus “bad” is not always a black-and-white concept. Jinx’s internal ruminations on the subject are particularly touching. Continue reading

Classics for Kids: The Secret Garden

The Secret GardenWhen I was a little girl, I must have read Francis Hodgson Burnett’s “The Secret Garden” at least ten times. I was absolutely fascinated by almost everything about it. The old house with a name (Misselwaithe Manor? Why didn’t I think of this, let’s name our house! Suffice it to say, whatever title I dreamed up didn’t catch on in my childhood home) that was gigantic enough to make it hard to know who all lived there, the overgrown garden that had been locked up for mysterious reasons, the way the British lived in India, the sensory descriptions of how bringing the garden back to life felt and smelled…I ate it all up. It was like a fairy tale that could actually happen, and the story felt both nostalgic and exotic at the same time. I had never heard of a moor, and I had certainly never encountered phonetic spelling of a thick Yorkshire accent like that of the the undermaid, Martha. Continue reading

Best Books for Beginning to Read

Biscuit Beginning to Read bookA common assumption I’ve come across during my time in libraries is that picture books are for children to read. As a matter of fact, I think I probably made this same assumption before I started planning story times and the like. But here’s the thing: children’s picture books are really designed to be read aloud to children by adults. I know, I just blew your mind. Obviously there are some exceptions, like certain Dr. Seuss titles. (“Hop on Pop“, anyone?) But many picture books are actually too advanced for your average beginning reader to effectively tackle on his or her own.

If starting with traditional picture books is not ideal, then what in the world is? The answer varies. At DBRL, we call this collection “Beginning to Read.” These are also children’s books, and they also have a lot of pictures. They are different from most picture books in that their sentences are short, and the words are short, simple and do as much to help the reader figure them out contextually as possible. The words are big and few so they are not nearly as intimidating. You also won’t find any artsy typographies that, while charming in children’s books that are being read to them, can be daunting to new readers. Continue reading

“But I’m Not Tired!”

boy asleep with bookThe bedtime story already has been deeply planted in the early literacy landscape, the collective nostalgia and routines for tricking little ones into falling asleep. We have heard the benefits of reading to your baby bumpkins and terrible twosers daily touted near and far, but does the time of day a child is read to actually make any difference?

The answer is, um…well, probably. Maybe. Depends?

While there is some research on that question, obviously everyone is different. Personally, I am a big fan of the bedtime story, so what follows will be my case for the institution.

For one thing, your children are put to bed every day, so there’s a built-in “reminder” that allows reading to easily become part of a routine that’s already necessary. Plus, “bedtime story” rolls off the tongue a lot easier than, say, “after-school snack story.” If you have a snugglebunny or two who land closer to the reluctant side of the sleeper spectrum, sometimes a calming routine can help. According to chair of the Early Childhood Committee of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Peter Gorski, M.D., the most cognitive benefits from reading are reaped when the child’s experience with books is enjoyable and associated with love, safety and comfort. Well, what is more loving and comfy than being tucked in, surrounded by a beloved stuffed animal or two, while mom and/or dad tell you a story? Letting your nugget choose the story they want to hear can be both a bedtime selling point and encourages a positive association with being read to. Continue reading