September 5, 2016

Democracy is the worst form of government there is except for everything else. – Winston Churchill

      There must be some political system better than our present American democracy.
     As we close in on the presidential elections of 2016 everyone seems to agree that the whole process has become a complete, totally unprecedented and depressing mess. 
     Insults are tossed everywhere. But smart strategies for solving serious national problems – like trade and terrorism, our growing national poverty and economic inequities, our public education system, better medical care and better job opportunities for our children – are almost never discussed.
     Maybe it's finally time to just give up, and move on to a better system to take America forward.
     For example, what if dogs ran the world?
    Here on KBN is an important, detailed sociopolitical study on some of the advantages of a totalitarian government opportunity just maybe no one ever thought of before.

     Think about it. How bad could it be?
    Yep, unlike conventional politicians dogs really do like kissing babies.
     What if dogs ran the world?
     You know, even Winston Churchill might like it.

December 26, 2014

If toddlers are so starved for words that their cognitive development is crippled shouldn’t American education care enough to stop it?

    After almost four years we can’t keep waiting for a big lightbulb to click on in American education.
   We need your help.
   We need to act now to repair the problem discovered by researchers Hart and Risley in the 1990s – that perhaps one half-million toddlers in American families are having their brain development starved and permanently crippled every day, year after year.
    But to this point almost no one in the leadership of American education really seems to care. Or is willing to work to change it.
    Perhaps because later, when the same children drop out of school, it's much easier just to blame their teachers.
    At KBN we have proposed that every child deserves better.
    The basic objective is clear, and even some politicians are starting to understand and agree:
    Every baby and toddler deserves to be in the arms of a caregiver who talks, and talks, and talks with the child to help their brain develop to the greatest potential and highest power in both thought and language.
    But how do we make that happen? And in a way that's both (a) affordable, and (b) effective?
    First, every parent and caregiver needs to understand that nothing helps a toddler learn to speak – and to read and to think – like being held in their lap with the easy, convenient and unique power of an on-paper book.
    You can't just talk with your baby.
    You have to talk and read with your baby –  just like you hug and feed your baby – every day.
    The research is clear. Children whose baby minds are fed with a lot more reading also learn a lot more words.
    If you hug and talk with a baby while reading a book together for one hour or even just a half-hour, every day, that baby will develop a much stronger working vocabulary – and a lot more thinking power.
    And that's more thinking power for life.
    Which is why – working with the U.S. Reading Team Foundation – KBN created and introduced the free Teach Your Child To Read At Two program in 2011. And does it work? 
     Read At Two was originally developed for a toddler who later entered Kindergarten already reading above the highest elementary test level. 
    And after we launched Read At Two on KBN in 2011? See the outcome captured and sent to us by one toddler’s parents on the video here.

     Read At Two was developed on a unique language-based early learning protocol and yes, it really does work. Which is why we published it in the first place.
     But now we need more. 
     We want educators to join and support us with more national research in early-stage language learning – both oral and visual – to identify the solutions that will work best for every child. To confirm our own results independently, and with a larger study population. Plus research to test outcomes in multiple languages, in different learning environments, with alternative program concepts, and with books in other formats. And to begin a long-term controlled study to confirm what common sense already tells us – that children with stronger reading and thinking power before they enter Kindergarten will grow up with more power to handle the learning challenges of high school and college.
    The power they’ll need to stay in school – to become our next doctors, engineers, inventors, architects, scientists, economists and even educators.
    So how can you help?
    You can begin right now with something very important. And very simple.
    You can tell all your friends who have toddlers in their family – or who may know families with toddlers – to watch our KBN video. And ask them each to send this very important learning “secret” on to another ten of their own friends. And then, to ask each of them to send the secret on to another ten of their friends. And so on – until there is no parent with a toddler who does not know the “secret” that can help their baby develop into a super-bright child with a super-bright future.
    You can tell every teacher, educator, caregiver and politician you know, and all of your friends on Facebook, too.
    The U.S. Reading Team Foundation and KBN want to give every child in America the same chance to read, learn, think and lead.
    And with your help we can do it.

November 17, 2014

What's been happening to KBN? Not much, just a worldwide cyber attack on kids.

     We must apologize.
Ten days ago the entire KBN website abruptly disappeared. Just went away. Poof.
      Then after several days working with our site support team some of our KBN homepage reappeared, but all the rest of our site and our free books for children were still missing.
     Then, after several more days of rework, all of those original books were finally restored. Links to other site pages were also reconnected, and we could see what happened.
     KBN got hacked.
    Why anyone would want to hack and damage a free concept and reading resource like the Kids' Book Network is not clear. But there you are.
     Now what?
    As of today much of our homepage – providing a direct link to many of our most popular books for young readers – is still missing. And we can't tell you exactly how long it will take to let us bring back the rest of the Kids' Book Network homepage, or how we will locate and restore or rewrite the missing site code  – to continue our mission.
     But you can be sure we'll get there.
     We want to bring free books to every child in the world.
     Meanwhile, all is not lost. You can still wander around and find our KBN books by exploring further into the site, directly on our book library pages. They're still all there.
     And you can rediscover what we all learned long ago.
     There's almost nothing more fun than browsing in a library.


September 25, 2013

Write your own book. Then what?

    Linda Lee is a completely amazingly illustrator who lives in Amsterdam. On one day she might be illustrating a work for children and on the next day it might be a witty piece of social satire for the Dutch press.
    So when the Kids' Book Network was recently privileged to publish her unique story sequence of wordless illustrations, reinvented as a book – The Metal Detector – our young readers could fill in to write themselves, it was terrific fun.

The book
you write yourself.

    Kids inventing their own words for The Metal Detector are soon thinking about the next book they want to write. And the next. And pretty soon they are writing and reading and writing and reading a lot more. And as big readers they quickly become better learners, too.
    Thank you, Linda Lee.
    But now Linda's gift shows us something more, that even the most exciting invention can be reinvented

The new "silent"

    Linda and her creative colleague Magda van Tilburg have now recreated Linda's illustrations again – as a delightful authentic silent movie.
    Visit!  and enjoy!

August 15, 2013

Some observations about the apparently eternal appeal of phrenology.

Let it never be said that the mysteries of the human mind do not merit close scientific investigation.
    So let's take a moment to consider the bold discoveries of phrenologists in the 19th century. Once they noticed that human heads are all shaped differently, and are often sprinkled with unique individual bumps, they concluded that with a one-foot ruler they had all they needed to decipher the variations in human personality and intelligence.
    After all, these head bumps could be carefully measured and calculated. And because the human mind was apparently located in some proximity to the human head, that made their conclusions automatically scientific and true, right?
    Today, of course, phrenologists are a scientific joke from the distant past and we wonder how anyone could have ever believed their head bump conclusions in the first place. No one today could ever be so stupid to believe something so moronic masked as science.
    Or could they?

    Today we have a bright new generation of phrenologists, now represented to us as statistical mathematicians, who are convinced that they can turn around the test scores of children in school to accurately measure, not anything about the children themselves, but the quality of teachers. They call this teacher measuring method "value-added." The only problem is, their analysis never includes any adjustments for the umpteen – which is a real and very large whole number – qualitative factors which are confronted every day by real teachers in real classrooms, and which make their pseudo-statistical conclusions completely meaningless. Complexity, both social and mathematical, is something they just don't like to think about.
    And yet, they will not give it up. It's like they invented celery yogurt or something, and then have to keep trying to explain why everyone should love it.
    How did this all happen in the first place?
    As their circulation continues to shrink, newspapers are looking desperately for new "issues" to keep their existence relevant, and they have lead the frenzy for test-based teacher evaluations. But even if this method makes no sense, "improving our schools" has always been a popular campaign mantra for politicians as well so why just not go along? And as for administrators, of course, well – you just never want to contradict politicians.
    So how will this all end?
    Don't worry. The end is finally near.
    Our complete national fixation on "fact-focused" student test scores will soon begin to wash away as we now move away from fact memorization as our total educational focus and return to teaching children, along with essential reading, writing and math skills, a greater ability to think. To analyze. To compare. To evaluate. To infer. To conclude. To hypothesize. To predict. To imagine. To invent and discover.
    It's called the Common Core, or the return to reason.
    And it's going to happen now.

December 10, 2012

Give everyone you know who cares about children a very special free gift for the Holidays.

     And we mean everyone.
    Who do you know who cares about children today?
    Only parents, teachers and everyone else who understands the critical importance of literacy in child development.
    That's why we created the Kids' Book Network. And that's why now we are asking you to help us spread the word about KBN to everyone you know who maybe still doesn't know about KBN, but would really like to.
    All parents who want their children to enjoy reading, and to open every new book with excitement.
    All teachers working with early grade children and middle grade children.
    All parents with toddlers who might want to give their children a critical cognitive edge.
    All educators who understand that, if children are not going to become early school dropouts, reading can't just be about passing tests.
    So how do all of these people who care about children find out about KBN?
    It can only come as a special holiday gift from you – because only you can tell them all.
    And we've made it easy. Just go to the KBN homepage and then choose and click on one or another of the social networking link buttons where you already share ideas – Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and more. Just press, and you're done.

    You can tell everyone what you like about KBN. And when they come back themselves to see what KBN is doing, they can share the good news with their friends, too.
    Their children can all read and enjoy our free KBN picture books, and make our KBN coloring books.
    They can all share our books projected up on their classroom wall, and all read together.
    And they can even teach their toddlers to begin reading even as early as 18 months – for a lifetime cognitive edge.
    As we approach 2013 we thank you for caring. And sharing.

March 24, 2011

KBN announces a new research-based national learning initiative to rebuild American education.

      The Kids’ Book Network, in cooperation with the U.S. Reading Team Foundation, is pleased to announce a new national initiative to refocus American education on solving a major problem in educational achievement.
As of today, the KBN website features a complete program of free books and instructional support designed to enable any parent to teach their toddler to begin reading before the age of two.
       You'll find a full explanation of the Read At Two program – including toddler learning objectives, parent teaching strategies, and much more – in the program's 28-page Parent Handbook. The Handbook is located and available for easy direct on-monitor viewing on the special KBN library page for every book featured in the program.

      We're introducing our Read At Two program primarily to support parents and caregivers of children from approximately 18 to 36 months old, the toddler age. Then, we've brought the same books into the KBN library, in our new Pre-K and Kindergarten book categories – with the addition of their California teaching/learning standards – for versatile use in the classroom with children from Pre-K and Kindergarten to First Grade and beyond.
      This way (a) parents can now have an easy-to-follow way to scaffold their children's early reading and language development at home, while (b) children can continue on and even accelerate their learning progress with the same familiar books as part of their first years in classroom education.
      And finally, (c) professional classroom teachers and educators now have a way both to support parent at-home teaching, as well as to work with traditional public and school libraries and librarians to overcome any other book shortages or other at-home reading/learning limitations.
      Why is such early reading development so crucially important?
      The answer has to do with both strong early vocabulary development and the habit of intellectual exploration during the at-home, toddler phase of child development – without which a child is later likely to experience an irreplaceable loss of learning facility in middle- and high school.
      As discovered through a major longitudinal study by educational researchers Hart and Risley [The Early Catastrophe: The 30 Million Word Gap by Age 3, In: American Educator, Spring, 2003], vocabulary use at age 3 is strongly predictive of both language skills and reading comprehension at age 9-10. And many parents, although they may love and nurture their children in other ways, simply don’t actively speak and converse with their children enough to build their vocabulary and related cognitive powers to the level necessary for easier and higher learning success.
      That’s what daily reading with books can achieve. And that’s what KBN’s new national initiative is all about.
      KBN today wants every parent and educator in America to understand that all children need to sit in their parent or caregiver’s lap every day and start reading books, and more books, starting as early as just 14- or 16- or 18-months old.
      To that end, KBN’s free Read At Two program and Parent Handbook provide a sensible, practical platform, or every-day learning/development instrument, to enable families to give their children the critical interactive parent-child experience they need for strong mental development. Reading development is almost a side benefit to the increase in vocabulary development and affirmation experience that comes with parents holding their babies on their laps and discovering together the meaning and content of books.
      Local site-level implementation of KBN’s national Read At Two initiative, including education and family support, will be directed in parallel by the U.S. Reading Team Foundation, which will seek to work closely with families in local and regional school, library and social services partnerships – to help us all step up to a new standard in American education.
      Now let’s get started.

January 14, 2011

Are you wearing your hardhat?

   By the time everyone got back in school in January KBN hoped to have construction complete and several important new options in national literacy development fully installed – to empower teachers, parents, and of course kids.
   But all that is still in progress. So please continue to excuse the construction noise along with confusing fragments of change now beginning to appear on the KBN website.
   And get ready for an exciting new year.
   From all of us at KBN, best wishes to the best teachers, best parents and best children in the world!

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.