Book Talk: Ten Tips for Raising Readers by Fran Hawk

Parent book on raising readersTen Tips for Raising Readers
written by Fran Hawk, MLS
Pond House Press, 2009
audience (reading level): adult (Flesch-Kincaid 5.6)

book source: sent by publicist Sara Dobie

As I mentioned in my Bookworms Basics post at Booklights post recently, rare is the day that I sit down with an “adult” book. When I do, it is likely to be reading about reading, which is exactly what Fran Hawk’s Ten Tips for Raising Readers is all about. Fran tells you what’s inside right on the cover: Strategies that Work and Specific Book Titles by Age Group. She also puts her goal up front too: Lifelong Reading Success.

Fran is a fellow English major who went on to earn a Masters in Library Science (lucky duck!). She spent many years working as a school media specialist and now writes “Books for Children,” a weekly column for the (South Carolina) Post and Courier. On her website she explains that her book – like her column – is based on her experiences working in schools, raising four children, and being the grandmother of six. She is also the author of two picture books for children: Count Down to Fall and The Story of the H.L. Huntley and Queenie’s Coin.

What I Loved …

The book is filled with very practical advice, and plenty of personal examples. Each tip is its own chapter. Some tips – like read aloud with your child – are what I would call “bonus tips” because they are woven throughout the book and are part of every chapter.  Most of the tips are broken down by genre:

Tip 2 – Read Mother Goose Rhymes to babies and young children to help them develop literacy skills.

Tip 4 – Read fairy tales and folk tales to connect children with ageless and timeless truths

Tip 5 – Read poetry to children of all ages.

I particularly like how Fran closed each chapter with Be Your Own Librarian, a short narrative that offered parent-friendly details about where to find a particular type of book in the library. She also added a short list of some of her favorite books in that subject area, too. I also like how she was direct, but not judgemental.

I believe that infants and young children make the positive connection with books very early in life. Very early is the very best. A little later is still a lot of good. And anytime is better than never.

Choosing the “best” Mother Goose book is a matter of preference rather than a matter of expertise. My suggestion is to look through several editions and form your own opinion.

One of the things I love most about this book is its size. It is an “easy reader” shape (roughly 6×9), and is only 88 pages long. The Ten Tips are covered in 46 pages, the other half of the book comprises 14 appendices which are book lists. These are two things that will make it attractive to parents who might need a little nudge.

The Speedbump …
Who is the audience? For those of us in the “literacy business,” there is little new in what Fran says. Like her, we are disciples of Jim Trelease and Donalyn Miller. We know and practice what we preach. So that takes me to parents. Parents who are inclined and/or already read with their kids will find a nugget or two, and some book suggestions. The audience the book will help most is the dormant-reader parent: the mom or dad who doesn’t like reading or who hasn’t “bought into” how important it is to read with their children.

Fran has put together the perfect package for them: the book is nicely sized; the chapters are short; the advice is very down-to-earth and practical; there are handy book lists … but the pages are crammed tight with text.  The margins are 1/2 inch left and right, 1 inch at the top (including the header), and 3/4 inch at the bottom; and there are no illustrations. Ouch! When we are working to help dormant readers what do we look for? Illustrations and lots of “white space.” Hence my confusion and frustration.

Although they are called appendices, the material it the back of the book are a series of book lists. The first ten offer recommendations based on the discussion in each of the Ten Tips, and Fran also includes a quick rundown of the Dewey Decimal Classification, books about books for adults, and magazines for children. Her list of recommended Internet sites connect you with more book lists, sites for dormant readers, and general interest sites about books.

The book lists are great takeaways … ready-made lists that offer author, title, recommended audience, and a one-sentence description of the story. Just make a copy and go, right? Not so fast. About half of the books that Fran describes in the chapters are not on those lists. If you’re going to include a list of suggested reading, then it should be comprehensive. There are lots of books that Fran liked and/or described as “valuable” – even some of her favorites – that aren’t on those takeaway lists. Unlike me, most parents aren’t going to annotate that appendix with the other titles.

Part of me understands not including the names of books Fran didn’t particularly like; but then again, she said that finding the “best” book is a matter of “preference not expertise.” She even has examples of books that she didn’t like but that her grandson loved. Why not have it on the list so readers can decide for themselves?

Overall, I like Ten Tips for Raising Readers. There is a lot to love about it – it keeps things “real,” it is packed with usable (not just useful) information, and you can use the lists in lots of ways. I think it has wonderful potential and would love to see teachers and librarians share the recommended reading with parents and patrons. It is a book that I would consider recommending to caregivers at back-to-school night. I just wish that it “looked” like the kind of book we would share with a dormant reader … even one who is an adult.

Other Reviews

Review on ePinions.com (April 2010)
In the Pages (April 2010)

Other Books by Fran Hawk

picture book mathnonfiction picture book Count Down to Fall, illustrated by Sherry Neidigh (Sylvan Dell Publishing, 2009)
The Story of the H.L. Huntley and the Queenie’s Coin, illustrated by Dan Nance (Sleeping Bear Press, 2004)

Note: The cover image and titles link to Amazon.com, with which the Reading Tub has an affiliate relationship. If you make purchases through those links, the Reading Tub may earn income … at no cost to you. This is a passive fundraising effort for our nonprofit.

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