October 25, 2010

Why make books?

      Of course with all of the books in the KBN library available for convenient, on-screen or on-projector reading in the classroom some may wonder why we continue to emphasize the importance of making KBN books on paper.
      Is that not perhaps obsolete?
      Actually it’s just the opposite.
      First, only the on-paper book gives the young reader the experience of a book as a solid object of content and value. Not just another form of flowing video.    
     The concrete, on-paper book gives the young reader-learner a much stronger way to become engaged with the concept of book, and to bond with the meaning of the story. In terms of Piaget’s views on both the preoperational and concrete operational stages of cognitive development, it accelerates the ability of the reader to construct a stronger, more useful schema of what a book is and what it may hold.
      It serves to deepen, as well, the experience of reading satisfaction, and strengthens the reader’s ability to absorb and retain the specific story or information content.

      Reading an authentic on-paper, page-turning book also provides a unique platform for the developing reader to read the story over and over. It enables the reader to reinforce “learning” in terms of text recognition and, in the case of early reading development, it supports better character and word recognition as well.
      Recent studies on the learning impact of handwriting exercises in contrast to typing exercises provide an illuminating parallel. A 2008 study reported in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience showed that the physical experience of hand-writing characters on paper leads to better and longer-lasting visual recognition of these same characters later.
      The importance of the direct sensory connection of the reader with the book in his or her hands, and the kinesthetic experience of turning pages, cannot be overemphasized.
      Plus, when you learn how you can actually make copies of a book that you like, well, that’s pretty darn exciting. And color the book yourself? That’s so much fun, too.
      Suddenly it’s not so difficult to see how the close connection with a physical book you make yourself and you can carry around in your backpack might help children place a higher value on both the book and the experience.
      Q. How did Johannes Gutenberg become such a great reader?
      A. He made his own books.

September 10, 2010

The next big technology. The new excitement of reading.

    I don't know if you've noticed, but young readers today seem to face more electronic distractions than ever.
    Originally it was year after year of TV reruns. Then more recently it became hour after hour after hour of the endless bam, splat, and zonk of video games.
    And whatever time is left is now devoted to peer conversations on Facebook.
    But the power of strong, active literacy remains the most important human skill for the 21st century. It is the neurotech core at the foundation of all personal control over reasoning and logic, and the critical engine of human scientific and social progress.
    Readers are the next leaders.
    So in the year ahead our KBN objective is to make reading more fun and more satisfying at every level.
    And we hope more and more parents, teachers, librarians, kids, politicians, critics and dogs will all join with us to make it happen.
    It becomes all the more important that we engage young readers today with the full experience of reading, and that means capturing their attention to develop their skills with books – along with teaching and learning concepts – that are bright, original, surprising, fresh and perhaps sometimes challenging, but always exciting.

August 13, 2010

Looking back on KBN's amazing Year One. And a look at what's coming next.

     A few weeks ago our KBN Teacher Talk Center looked back at KBN's Year One. But not every KBN visitor reads Teacher Talk, so perhaps what was noted there is worth repeating here.  Both the Kids' Book Network and the teaching year got off to a fast start last September 1, and by June 24, 2010, both KBN and our teacher colleagues concluded an amazing year in U.S. education.
     Reflecting on what we've accomplished in Year One, it's clear that we've come a long way in less than ten months.
      First, we introduced the concept and practical possibility of free, self-made books for every child in the world. Picture books, coloring books, adventure books, puzzle books, microbooks, and literary classics. Even one book in eight languages.
      Our original KBN books are witty and fresh books you can download, print and form into classic on-paper, page-turning quality books to read and share with friends and family, at home or in the classroom.
      Next, we introduced the unique device-free reading technology of live on-screen bookcasting. And suddenly reading is more fun and exciting than ever.
      The Kids' Book Network website has now been identified as an information resource for young readers from Kindergarten through Grade Six by CLRN, the official California Learning Resource Network. And we're pleased to see that visitors from around the planet have begun to discover KBN – from Australia and Brazil to China and Russia.

       But we're just getting started. As kids and teachers now return to school in September, 2010, KBN will be working with in-the-classroom educators to make classroom teaching smarter, more effective and easier than ever. For our Year Two we have plans for many more fresh and original KBN books for young readers, of course, but also more great teaching and learning features for America's teachers.
      In just a few weeks, for example, we'll be publishing the first of what we hope will become many original KBN books written by kids themselves, starting with a very special book for a very special moment in history – the story of Fr. Hidalgo, considered the father of Mexico, on bicentennial of the Mexican Revolution. When teachers can show students what other students are writing, featured on KBN, students are encouraged and inspired to write more stories of their own.
      We'll also be introducing a new category of foundational reading books to support an exciting new style of reading instruction by our pre-K, kindergarten and early grade teachers. And we'll be working to bring parents into our KBN teaching program as well, with our Read At Two program which will connect early at-home and pre-school reading development with in-school instruction.
      It's going to be another exciting year.
We want every teacher to succeed, we want every child to read.

July 3, 2010

Words are not given to Man in order to conceal his thoughts.

Several weeks ago the world witnessed the passing of the Nobel Prize-winning Portuguese author José Saramago.
      "Words," the novelist once observed with dry simplicity, "are not given to Man in order to conceal his thoughts."
      Saramago appreciated the core function of language, allowing us to communicate with each other for survival, and our human need to share our thoughts and ideas.
      Nowhere is this critical exchange and compression of meaning so powerfully captured as in the book.
      And that is why, despite every new form of serial information made possible by electronic technologies, reading is. and literacy will remain. the critical human skill in the 21st century.

April 4, 2010

Better health for every child in the world.

Everyone is concerned that children today are becoming seriously overweight. Pediatric body fat and health problems have become a national epidemic.
      So here's one answer.
      When it's time to reward students in the classroom, maybe it's also time to replace the traditional reward of sweets with a new classic prize that has no calories at all. One that might actually provide some nutritional benefit to the brain.

      Now, for less than the cost of a couple of fat-loaded candy bars the size of your thumb, you can print out a complete, 48-page free minibook from KBN.
      Sure, the actual cost either way is only a few pennies. But look at the nutritional difference.
      Two of those tiny chocolate crispy bars provide all the nutrition of 120 junk food calories, including 53 calories of saturated fat. And that's it.
      On the other hand a free 48-page KBN picture book has no calories at all. But it provides a child with a real on-paper, page-turning book experience that he can read and enjoy personally, share with friends, and then keep to read again and again.
      For healthier children in America's classrooms let's agree to forget the candy. Instead, let's think about the special nutritional fun for young readers in the prize of a book from KBN.

February 18, 2010

KBN introduces a new, very different computer-based media experience. What should we call it?

      First came the Kindle. Then a few weeks ago it was the iPad.
      Now, finally, KBN is pleased to announce the introduction of a new, very different media experience featuring the most advanced design and user technology yet. Our new invention is far more performance-driven, requires users to buy no new hardware, and actually lets people read whole books, without squinting, up big on the largest computer monitors – or even projected theater-size on your family room wall.

      Just imagine. Now your whole family can sit down together in the family room and, instead of watching old Lassie reruns and reality cooking shows on TV, you can read a whole book together up on the wall of your new state-of-the-art family reading center.
      We need a name for this new media experience, so what should we call it?
      What do you think? Bookcasting™ maybe.
      After you say the word only a few hundred times you actually start to get used to it.
      Try it again. Bookcasting.
     This week we are introducing the first authentic bookcasting to the world on the KBN website, so sit back with some popcorn and get ready to enjoy reading a good book like never before.
      Just select any KBN picture book, for example, click on the flashbook option,  and start reading.
      Tired of all the same old arguments between Republicans and Democrats? Want to see some solid new ideas for our political future? Consider the thoughtful options you will find in the recent KBN sociopolitical study What If Dogs Ran The World?

      Or are you possibly in the mood for something lighter? Then you might enjoy Possibly The 100 Worst Jokes Of All Time.
      Or would you prefer something more educational? Then you'll want to read the documentary The Tooth Fairy Goes Off To School. 
      See? The possibilities are almost endless. Now you understand why more and more kids, parents, teachers, politicians, pundits and phrenologists are turning to KBN. 
      It's starting here and it's starting now.

February 13, 2010

KBN welcomes Linda Lee. And the fun of reading books you sometimes just have to write yourself.

This week we are pleased to welcome Linda Lee as a contributing KBN author/illustrator.
        An extraordinary artist living in Amsterdam, her work can be  charmingly innocent one moment – as in her new book for KBN for which the story was lost, apparently, because her dog ate it – and sharply witty and complex the next as in her sophisticated visual commentaries appearing in the euro design magazine DZone. 
        Linda Lee has illustrated literally hundreds of picture books, educational books, magazines, games, puzzles, and much more. A visit to her website at www.lindalee.nl offers a delightful exploration of the visually unexpected.  
         Interactive reception concepts are also an important focus of the artist. Recently, for example, she developed a series of nursery paintings which children can not only observe, but touch and feel as well. Now, with The Metal Detector, she brings KBN readers a fresh interactive children’s story.
        Like a silent movie, The Metal Detector can be read perfectly well without text. But with the help of limited metatext the work also invites young readers  to tell the story they observe in the cinematic flow of images in words, which of course are their own words. Children are encouraged, further, to inscribe the story they create directly into the book, which becomes a unique interactive work actually written by its readers.

Parents will treasure this book. And teachers are provided with more classroom suggestions in our KBN Teacher Talk review.