Links I Shared on Twitter Recently: February 15: Benefits of Reading Fiction, Stories about Girls, a

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TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include #BookAwards, #BookLists, #GraphicNovels, #GrowingBookworms, #IntrinsicMotivation, #Literacy, #LoveOfBooks, #math, #parenting, #play, #Podcasts, #RickRiordan, #schools, #STEM, and reading. I'll be taking next week off from Twitter for my daughter's school vacation week, but I'm sure that I'll save up some links for the following week.

Top Tweet of the Week

#Reading Fiction Really Will Make You Nicer and More Empathetic, New Meta-Analysis Says | @EntryLevelRebel @Inc ow.ly/OW3330nD71r | #fiction showed small improvement in social-cognitive performance vs. not reading or reading #nonfiction

Book Lists + Awards

AllOfAKindDon't miss the #BlogTour for the 2019 #SydneyTaylor #BookAwards, honoring the "best in Jewish literature and scholarship" from @JewishLibraries ow.ly/Fmru30nEOcM #kidlit

The 2019 #KidLit #Podcast Awards as unofficially selected by elementary #librarian @MrBenjiMartin ow.ly/5Jlr30nFK1y | Featuring @MatthewWinner @100scopenotes @colbysharp + @FuseEight

The 2018 #Cybils Winners were announced @CybilsAwards this morning, #kidlit titles ranging from #BoardBooks to #YA, inc. fiction, nonfiction, #poetry + #GraphicNovels ow.ly/PM8v30nHDv2

On a quest NOT to fill her daughter's lunch box with bad jokes, @fuseeight identifies a few recent #JokeBooks for kids that are actually funny ow.ly/OKgI30nGCB3 | #BookList #kidlit

14 Children's Books with Characters Who Have Medical Challenges ow.ly/tr8W30nEP8H | the newest #kidlit #BookList from @momandkiddo

Jennifer Wharton rounds up #RickRiordan's own books + imprint, as well as other mythic fantasy series. Great guide for anyone looking to keep #SpeculativeFiction + #mythology fans #reading ow.ly/Yhaw30nEbpu @camphalfblood @DisneyBooks #kidlit

Diversity + Gender

LostGirlWhat about the girls? What do they hear when we treat their stories as if they don’t matter, as if they take up too much space? by @anneursu @nerdybookclub ow.ly/r7q930nFJVd #kidlit #gender #FemaleProtagonists

Events, Programs + Research

100th Anniversary Children's Book Week Poster w/ artwork by @yuyimorales Revealed ow.ly/SbYZ30nH1Af | @PublishersWkly @CBCBook | #CBW19 #kidlit

Children’s Book Creators Join Forces to Provide High Quality Books to Two Worthy Organizations by @linoliver @nerdybookclub ow.ly/gmWW30nD6De | #SCBWI @FirstBook #Literacy

Growing Bookworms

Great post challenging approaches that are used to nudge kids towards #reading: "We are actively training them to think ‘books = hard, boring compulsory work that I should be rewarded for.’" @KMcCaughrain @AwfullyBigBlog ow.ly/jClr30nEOSa

I could relate to: How Visiting My Local Library Makes Me a Better Parent by @ivamarie @ReadBrightly ow.ly/hlTz30nHCGG | #LoveOfBooks #libraries #parenting

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

BookLoveTungThese are wonderful: 14 Stunning Illustrations / #ComicStrips from @WheresMyBubble That Perfectly Capture the Introvert's #LoveOfBooks @IntrovertDear ow.ly/q96530nDbIu #Introversion #Reading | Can't wait to show #bookworm daughter

#GraphicNovels are Books, Too! by 5th grade ELA #teacher @readinginthemg @nerdybookclub ow.ly/jRIU30nFJC9 | #Students learn vocabulary + inference, find difficult topics more accessible, + lots more

Parenting + Play

One more reason to let kids #play: Research suggests that young kids can learn #perseverance through #PretendPlay ow.ly/srW930nEbRe | @GreaterGoodSC via @MindShiftKQED | #SelfDiscipline #EmotionalHealth

UnderPressureWhy Girls Beat Boys at School and Lose to Them at the Office @LDamour @nytopinion | "What if school is a confidence factory for our sons, but only a competence factory for our daughters?" ow.ly/j4iK30nEbXr | Parents, stop praising inefficient overwork

Is It Healthy to Study in Bed? Experts weigh in. Sounds like it's ok, but kids should re-read things from right before they fall asleep @HeidiSMitchell @WSJ ow.ly/9mvE30nHDcp #parenting

Schools and Libraries

I liked this OpEd by @DanCALmatters about how CA #SchoolDistricts are setting a poor example for #students re personal + #FiscalResponsibility ow.ly/gphD30nEbuT #OverSpending #BailOuts

STEM

HiddenFiguresYAWomen's History in #Science Is Hidden in the Footnotes - @edyong209 @TheAtlantic ow.ly/CbmK30nG18R | New study uncovers female programmers who made important but unrecognized (beyond footnotes) contributions to #genetics | #STEM

#Learning and #Teaching #Math with Confidence ow.ly/sVcy30nEbOv by Jerry Burkhart @middleweb via @MindShiftKQED | Lack of confidence in math traces to past experiences + inaccurate beliefs about learning | #STEM

© 2019 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage.

Things I'm Doing to Improve My Focus

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Focus3_1I thought I'd do a quick update on how I'm progressing on my word of the year: FOCUS. It's going well. I have been making various changes inspired by several of my recent reads. [Links are at the end of the post.] Most importantly, I try to work for an hour or so in the mornings with no email or other notifications. I go to a different room from the one I usually work in, to provide a visual separation that says: "This is focus time." I really love the focus / deep work time, and hope to be able to expand the amount of time I can commit to it.

Even when I'm not doing that deep work time, I'm trying to work and live in a less distracted mode. Here are some of the things I'm doing for that:

  • DeepWorkI turned off text notifications on my watch and my laptop. Instead of getting actively alerted, I just check for texts when I'm already changing tasks. This does mean that I'm a bit less responsive to family and friends, but it also means that my attention is disrupted much less often. I especially appreciate this when I'm with my daughter. It's a slight headache when I'm actually expecting a text, because I have to keep checking, but I still find it worthwhile overall (and of course I could re-activate notifications in that case if there was something critical).  My phone does still vibrate for phone calls, which is how I would be notified if there was some problem with my daughter.
  • MakeTimeI removed social media from my phone (including Facebook messenger), so that I'm not tempted to use random moments of downtime to scroll down the various rabbit holes. I still have Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn on my iPad. I check them briefly in the morning after I read the paper. And I do check in on them on my computer sometimes during the day (and share things), but I try to always close the tabs in between checks, and only check when I'm between other tasks. I don't have any active notifications for social media (except for notifications of LinkedIn messages that go to my work email account).
  • I removed news apps from my phone and "breaking news" notifications from my watch. I read two newspapers every morning and usually check the WSJ app for updates while I eat lunch. I don't need other notifications in between.
  • I unsubscribed from a number of blog feeds, email newsletters, and podcasts. I'm trying to spend more time reading and listening to books.
  • I turned off email updating on my phone and erased the associated passwords. I left the app installed in case I get in to a situation where I really need to log in, but having to enter the password(s) is a real deterrent.
  • HyperfocusI started reading with a notepad and pen next to me, instead of my having my phone within reach. If I get distracted by something, or want to add a book to my reading list or something, I can write it down, instead of pulling out the phone. This makes me less likely to be distracted by some incoming text, etc.
  • On my computers (I have separate ones for work and blog/personal use) I shut my email programs down when not in use. I've had notifications for new email messages turned off for a long time.

These suggestions were compiled from the books below. I would recommend any or all of them. 

All in all, I'm pleased with how this journey towards being more focused is going so far. I feel less distracted, and like I have more of a sense of purpose about the work that I'm doing. These are both good things! 

© 2019 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage. Links to be books may be affiliate links, for which I receive a small commission.

Literacy Milestone: Appreciating the Smell of New Books

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RevengeOfTheSisThis week an early copy of the upcoming Jedi Academy book by Jarrett Krosoczka and Amy Ignatow, Revenge of the Sis, landed on my doorstep. I knew that my daughter would be excited. I put the book in the car and gave it to her  when I picked her up from school. Perhaps some of you heard her piercing squeal of excitement - I am still recovering my hearing. 

The next thing I heard from the back seat was: "Oh, I love how new books smell!", accompanied by a deep sigh of satisfaction. Nothing more was heard from the backseat until we had arrived at our destination. As it should be.

BookLoveTungI don't believe that I've ever talked with my daughter about the wonders of "new book smell," though she did recently see this concept in a cartoon by Debbie Tung. [Click through to see 14 examples from Debbie's new book, Book Love, at Introvert Dear.] But here she is, showing yet another sign of becoming a true book lover. It was a small moment, but it made me happy. I thought that my book-loving friends would enjoy it, too.

Thanks for reading, and for growing bookworms!

© 2019 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage

Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: February 8: #Reading Deeply, Improving #Memory + Encouraging #B

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TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include #BookAwards, #BookList, #boredom, #DigitalReading, #dyslexia, #EducationalEquity, #Giftedness, #grades, #JoyOfReading, #KidLitCon, #MentalHealth, #phonics, #Play, #reading, #SchoolChoice, #sleep, #SocialMedia, #WorldReadAloudDay, parenting, schools and teaching. This week's "Top Tweet" has been circulating really well - it is apparently resonating with teachers. 

Top Tweet of the Week

Understanding a Teacher’s Long-Term Impact | Fostering skills like #SelfRegulation does more for students' futures than helping them raise their #TestScores @YoukiTerada @edutopia https://t.co/wKjr2IScGc

Book Lists

YouAreNotSmall50 Of The Best Books For Beginning Readers | Katherine Willoughby @BookRiot ow.ly/YOlO30nyOWh via @tashrow | #PictureBooks #ChapterBooks #EarlyReaders

Favorite and Funny #ReadAloud Books for 9-10 Year Olds, kid-tested #BookList from @momandkiddo | Many kids are hooked on #reading via funny books https://t.co/KELCowPwBq

Diversity + Gender

Only 2% of #teachers are black men, yet research confirms they matter. So why are there so few in #schools? @ChandraWrites @TheUndefeated ow.ly/oI4L30nyNbg #EducationalEquity

Events, Programs + Research

KIDLIT_con_poster_final_web_smCongrats to our #KidLidCon Panelists honored at #ALAYMA Awards! – ow.ly/35cC30nyP5S #kidlit #YA | #KidLitCon19 is March 22-23 in Providence

#WorldReadAloudDay Celebration! #MGBookVillages talks w/ 4 educators + authors about joys of #ReadAloud ow.ly/dCln30nxHMx @JBurtBooks @KarinaYanGlaser @CeCeLibrarian @amandarhill32

Who knew? Rock-A-Bye Adult – Study Shows Grown-ups Enjoy Better #Sleep And #Memory Consolidation In A Rocking Bed – @EmmaELYoung @ResearchDigest https://t.co/5p8WyM5JIS

Growing Bookworms

Technology is the enemy and how I (still try) to get my kids to read | The mom at I love kids books laments letting the lure of video games get in the way of her boys #reading ow.ly/ffgZ30nCeyO | #GrowingBookworms

Creating an Action Plan to Jumpstart a Better #Reading Experience for the kids who aren't there yet in their #JoyOfReading by @pernilleripp https://t.co/aIc2pCICGt

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

ClariceBean'We need to talk about children’s books in a grown-up way’ | Lauren Child @UKLaureate joins judging panel for #OscarsBookPrize ow.ly/6m5Q30nyPPB | Wants to champion "left-field ways of looking at the world" in #kidlit

Excellent conversation-starter today @TheReadingTub | Has #technology changed how (and what) we read? Do we still read deeply? What about digital natives? ow.ly/WhQZ30nBMA1 | In my response I referenced @MaryanneWolf_ + @jean_twenge | #reading #focus

Thought-provoking article about how #WarrenBuffet compounds knowledge by consuming information that is focused + has a long half-life (vs. that expires fast) ow.ly/px3j30nzxot @farnamstreet #AliceSchroeder

Books Are Not Dead. They're More Essential Than Ever | #Storytelling is fundamental to human beings. #Literature strengthens our imaginations. ow.ly/ajIX30nCyGJ | @likaluca #reading @TIME

Parenting + Play

YesBrainHow #Reading with Your Children Can Help Them Develop a ‘Yes Brain’ | @DrDanSiegel @tinabryson @ReadBrightly ow.ly/p3Ub30nBNVo | #MentalHealth #parenting #resilience

Opinion | Let Children Get Bored Again - @PamelaPaulNYT | #Boredom is useful, especially when you let your mind wander ow.ly/HI3P30nAYr6 #parenting #MentalHealth

When your gifted child disappoints: Good stuff in this @giftedchlnges post about #parenting struggles that can arise when a #gifted child struggles w/ relationships, underachievement, difficulties w/ socialization + more ow.ly/KCYB30nBMRj

Why You Shouldn’t Feel Bad About Canceling Extracurriculars | I love this@HonorsGradU equation | Stress of making activity happen > benefit of activity = CANCEL regret-free! ow.ly/buRb30nBM7E |#parenting #Play

'Sharenting': Can Parents Post Too Much About Their Kids Online? | @jeremyhobson @hereandnow ow.ly/vc4Y30nyNEi via @MindShiftKQED #parenting #SocialMedia

Schools and Libraries

PowerOfQuestioningGo Rogue, But Be Prepared for a Fight When it Comes to Giving Up #Grades - @mssackstein It "isn't just about not labeling #learning ..., it is about shifting a mindset about what learning is and how it should look in a classroom" https://t.co/smTkOdAqFY

Meet the ‘crazy’ moms saying one of Pa.’s top-rated school districts can’t teach #reading @Avi_WA @everyonereadste ow.ly/KODW30nBMXY | #phonics #dyslexia #schools

An Open Letter: To #SchoolChoice, From a #Teacher@HonorsGradU explores reasons some people depend on more flexible options, as well as some reservations https://t.co/vIsRJT8eO5

#SchoolChoice Isn't #BetsyDeVos, It's A Million Little Mutinies, people making choices for their families @MQ_McShane @edchoice @Forbes ow.ly/pvCG30nCyqZ | #schools #education

© 2019 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage.

Growing Bookworms Newsletter: February 6: Post Reading Slump Edition

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JRBPlogo-smallToday, I will be sending out a new issue of the Growing Bookworms email newsletter. (If you would like to subscribe, you can find a sign-up form here.) The Growing Bookworms newsletter contains content from my blog focused on growing joyful learners, mainly bookworms, but also mathematicians and learners of all types. The newsletter is usually sent out every three weeks.

Newsletter Update: In this issue I have a review of an adult nonfiction title and a post about having reader be part of my daughter's self-concept. I also have a post about recapturing my reading flow and an idea from my daughter about customized levels of homework. I have three posts with links that I shared recently on Twitter, full of reading- and education-related news. 

Reading Update:  In the last three weeks I finished eight middle grade titles and six adult titles (three fiction and three nonfiction). I read/listened to: 

  • SimonThorn3Aimée Carter: Simon Thorn and the Shark's Cave. Bloomsbury USA Children's Books. Middle Grade Speculative Fiction. Completed January 18, 2019, print library copy. This was a fun read with which I kicked off a delightful reading weekend. This is the third book in an intriguing fantasy series about a race of people who can transform into animals. Kids from the different animal kingdoms attend school together, with associated rivalries, and there are also family secrets and a quest for a powerful artifact. 
  • Megan Frazer Blakemore: The Story Web. Bloomsbury USA Kids. Middle Grade Speculative Fiction. Completed January 19, 2019, print ARC. This book is wonderful. It has my highest recommendation, but won't be published until early June. It is discussed more in my post about recapturing my reading flow. 
  • Andrew Clements: The Friendship War. Random House Books for Young Readers. Middle Grade Fiction. Completed January 19, 2019, print review copy. This one was a quick read about a rivalry between two friends starting to grow apart and the inadvertent sparking of a craze for button trading. Not my favorite of Clements' work, but solid. 
  • Krista Van Dolzer: The Multiplying Mysteries of Mount Ten. Bloomsbury USA Children's Books. Middle Grade Fiction. Completed January 19, 2019, print ARC. This is about an artistic girl who accidentally ends up spending a week at a small math camp, and ends up immersed in a (mildly) frightening scavenger hunt. Kids who enjoy books with puzzles and realistic quests, and/or reading about math geeks, will enjoy it. This one releases April 9th. 
  • RabbitCynthia Lord: Because of the Rabbit. Scholastic Press. Middle Grade Fiction. Completed January 19, 2019, print review copy. This is a short, quiet read about a girl from rural Maine who starts public school for the first time after having been homeschooled. She hopes that one of the other girls in her class will become her best friend, filling a hole left by the older brother who has been growing away a bit. But she finds herself embroiled in a more complex friendship with a boy named Jack, who is apparently on the Autism spectrum. And there's a cute pet bunny. Releases March 26th. 
  • Zilpha Keatley Snyder: The Velvet Room. Yearling. Middle Grade Fiction. Completed January 24, 2019, personal print copy. This was a re-read of one of my all-time childhood favorites. Here's a link to a review I wrote back in 2006
  • Dan Wells: Zero G. Audible Studios. Middle Grade Speculative Fiction. Completed January 24, 2019, on MP3. This is a multi-cast Audible Original that I downloaded on a whim. It's about a boy who is going with his family on a colony ship to a new planet. Through some glitch, he awakens from statis early in the trip, and finds himself the only one who can save the ship from being hijacked by pirates. I had some trouble overcoming this coincidence as an adult reader, and I found some of the information dumps about space and space travel a bit didactic, but I did get into it by the end. It's definitely entertaining and kid-friendly. 
  • John Bellairs: The House with a Clock in its Walls. Puffin Books. Middle Grade Speculative Fiction. Completed January 29, 2019, on MP3. I listened to this book on audio, the first time I had read it in many years. The plot and suspense hold up well, as does the coolness of Lewis' uncle's house and magical abilities. However, I found Lewis a bit annoying. He's constantly in or near tears, in a way that you wouldn't see a middle grade character (boy or girl) today. I suspect that this improves with future books, as he gains a real friend, and I may well go ahead and try the next one out. 
  • ReadicideKelly Gallagher: Readicide: How Schools Are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It. Stenhouse Publishers. Adult Nonfiction. Completed January 17, 2019, on Kindle. I read this as part of a project that I'm working on. Although the research is a little dated (2009 edition) relative to some of the other books I've been reading, I still thought that it was brilliant. Gallagher makes an excellent case for the ways that schools are killing reading, and the things that teachers (and to a lesser extent parents) can do about it. The practices he discusses (excessive testing, too much close reading, lack of choice) certainly seem to be still widespread. 
  • Naomi Alderman: The Power. Back Bay Books. Adult Fiction. Completed January 18, 2019, personal print copy. This is a speculative fiction title about what might happen if women developed an internal power source that would let them damage or even kill men with a touch. I found some of it intriguing and some of it difficult to read (unpleasant imagery), but it did hold my attention. 
  • 48HoursWilliam R. Forstchen: 48 Hours. Forge Books. Adult Speculative Fiction. Completed January 20, 2019, on Kindle. This book was fabulous. It's about what might happen to society if we learned that there were only 48 hours left before an extinction-level event might occur. I won't say more, because the suspense is a major part of the story. But I couldn't put it down. 
  • Charlaine Harris: Shakespeare's Landlord (Lily Bard, Book 1). Minotaur Books. Adult Mystery. Completed January 21, 2019, on MP3. Eh, this one was ok. It's an older Harris title that doesn't have supernatural elements. It's about a woman who has fled to a small town after a terrible experience and works as a cleaning woman. She has very limited contact with people, until she ends up immersed in a murder investigation. 
  • Nancie Atwell and Anne Atwell Merkel: The Reading Zone, 2nd Edition: How to Help Kids Become Skilled, Passionate, Habitual, Critical Readers. Scholastic Professional. Adult Nonfiction. Completed January 25, 2019, on Kindle. This one is also fabulous. I took many notes, and got great ideas. I wish that my daughter could attend the school described in the book. 
  • W. Thomas Boyce, M.D.: The Orchid and the Dandelion. Knopf. Adult Nonfiction. Completed January 31, 2019, advance review copy. My review.

ItWasntMeI'm currently reading Hyperfocus by Chris Bailey and It Wasn't Me by Dana Alison Levy. My daughter has been testing my commitment to provide her with judgment-free choice by asking me to read to her at breakfast from a Peanuts anthology. While I have a reasonable level of affection towards the Peanuts characters, reading comic strip after comic strip aloud does very little for me. And I don't think it does much for her (no narrative arc, no strong vocabulary), except that I am validating her choice. And so we continue. We have been interspersing this with picture books, so that helps. Her favorite recent picture book is Peep and Ducky: It's Snowing, the latest from her current favorite illustrator, David Walker (author David Martin). 

In terms of her own reading, my daughter is reading The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo for school. She's nearly finished and has so far cried twice over it. At home she's reading Dumpling Days by Grace Lin. Her school library book is Surprise Island: A Boxcar Children Mystery by Gertrude Chandler Warner. She's also enjoyed the first Surfside Girls graphic novel by Kim Dwinell. I picked up a couple of other new graphic novels for her upcoming winter school break, but she doesn't know about those yet. 

Thanks for reading, and for growing bookworms! 

© 2019 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage

The Orchid and the Dandelion: W. Thomas Boyce, M.D.

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Book: The Orchid and the Dandelion: Why Some Children Struggle and How All Can Thrive
Author: W. Thomas Boyce, M.D.
Pages: 304
Age Range: Adult nonfiction, especially relevant for parents and teachers

OrchidAndDandelionI found The Orchid and the Dandelion, by W. Thomas Boyce, to be an informative read. The premise of this adult nonfiction title is that there’s a normal distribution of kids in terms of sensitivity / reactivity to their environment. Boyce, a longtime researcher and professor of pediatrics and psychiatry, classifies the 20% who are most reactive as orchids and the rest as dandelions. His research, and that of others, suggests that the dandelions are relatively impervious to things that happen to them. They can thrive good or bad situations. They are resilient. They bounce back. The orchids on the other hand, can do extremely well when nurtured properly. They are “unusually vital, creative, and successful within supportive, nurturing environments.” But in the presence of adversity, they tend to do poorly. They get sick more often (especially respiratory illnesses) and can veer towards mental illness, anxiety, addiction, and other negative behaviors.

It’s not completely clear what causes orchids, but Boyce thinks there’s a strong genetic component and that it was selected for in evolution. The orchids were early warning systems when things were bad, and then high-achievers when things were stable, and both aspects were thus beneficial. He also thinks that there’s a strong epigenetic component – that how people genes end up expressing as orchids is affected by their environments, from natal to childhood. Boyce identifies the orchids primarily by testing kids’ stress responses (fight-or-flight and cortisol responses to challenges).

I found this book fascinating. It’s a challenging read, covering a lot of science, and definitely requires a high level of concentration from the reader. Boyce helps make it more accessible, however, by sharing his personal story of his orchid sister who failed to thrive and eventually committed suicide. He also shares lots of examples of actual (names changed) kids who he has treated, studied, or known over the years. Finally, he includes incisive little biographies of the people he works with over the years that humanize what could have been a dry recounting of research. Here's one example: “Growing up, he had been a rebellious, recalcitrant, and generally annoying adolescent, forever in trouble by virtue of his impulsivity and an intellect that well outstripped his school’s and family’s capacities for containing and challenging it.” (Page 108 of the ARC)

I did have a couple of issues with the book:

  1. Boyce says that 15-20% of kids have most of the health problems found within a population of children over time (and account for the majority of health care dollars spent). He also says that 20% of the population are orchids. Then he says that some of the orchids thrive and have unusually good health. So is it just coincidence that for each orchid that does thrive there’s a dandelion who for whatever reason does not, such that the percentages match up? This is not unreasonable, but I felt that this could have been addressed more directly. Perhaps it was, and I missed it.
  2. He’s somewhat absolute throughout much of the book about the orchid children vs. the dandelion children. However, this whole classification is based on a normal distribution of behavior. I kept thinking: wouldn’t it be more a spectrum, with some kids tending more towards orchids and some tending towards dandelions? He does state this about the spectrum clearly late in the book, and I get that he’s trying to make an already complex story more comprehensible, but as a person who understand variability, this bothered me as I was reading.

Those issues aside, I did find the book engaging thought-provoking. It made me think about my own development and my daughter’s, and about things that might help some of the people around me. I highlighted many passages and learned a variety of things. Here are a few of my (many) notes:

  • When Boyce started studying the correlation between adversity and propensity toward childhood illness, he found that while childhood adversity was predictive, the associations were not nearly as strong as expected. This is the data from which he and others started to see that for some kids adversity wasn’t highly predictive of illness, but for other kids it was. (Chapter 2, page 29, ARC)
  • Studies that looked at kids’ stress reactivity, social environments, and susceptibility to respiratory illness followed, resulting in the graph in Chapter 3 (page 47 of the ARC) that is the heart of the book. The kids identified as dandelions show only a slight increase in their respiratory illness rates as the stress in their social environments increases. The kids identified as orchids show much lower illness rates in low stress environments, but much higher illness rates in high stress environments (a line with a much steeper slope). The researchers’ conclusion/epiphany was that the orchid children “were more open, more permeable, more tender to the powerful influences, both bad and good, of the context in which they were living and growing.” (Page 48, ARC)
  • Chapter 7 is about “The Kindness and Cruelty of Children” and how dominance structures in preschool and later classrooms can disproportionately affect the orchid children, who may end up bullied or isolated. He talks about “the unsung valor of the kindergarten teacher”, saying “Preschool and kindergarten teachers earn the very smallest paychecks of those who staff our national system of education, and yet they are the educators most likely to profoundly shape young minds and lives, during the most neurobiologically formative period of early learning.” (Page 151, ARC)
  • Chapter 8 is about what you can do as a parent to help orchid children, distilled from his years of researching and treating orchid children, and watching his sister, his orchid daughter, and others. Here's a summary quote about these recommendations, which are well worth a look in full: “These then are the potent secrets of raising, teaching, or shepherding a happy and healthy, if delicate, orchid boy or girl: the power of sameness and routine, the gifts of attentiveness and love, the celebration of human differences, the affirmation of a true and genuine self, the balance between protection and emboldening challenge, and the beneficence of play.” (Page 172, end of Chapter 8, ARC)
  • In Chapter 10 he does get to the nature of the spectrum of orchid to dandelion. After describing on of his own childhood experiences he says: “Looking back on it now, it is one last reminder of an essential point: orchids and dandelions aren’t a binary division cutting humanity into two categories. The two flowers are powerful metaphors, or a vivid shorthand, for what is actually a spectrum.” (Page 220, ARC) I agree with this, but think he could have made the point a bit clearer earlier.
  • In the Conclusion, Boyce gets into what he thinks we should be doing as a society to protect orchid children. Using an analogy to legal protections for lead (which especially help certain kids who are the most sensitive to lead poisoning), he posits that making the social improvements that would help orchid kids would also help all kids. Even more compelling, he notes, "this same subgroup of orchid kids, most sensitive to the developmental and health effects of poverty, violence, and despair, are the same group that is most likely to dramatically benefit from exposure to supportive, nurturant, and encouraging social contexts." (Page 232, ARC, Conclusion)

If any of these tidbits catch your eye, then you should give The Orchid and the Dandelion, released last week, a look. It does take some time and mental focus to read it all the way through, but I think you'll find this investment worthwhile. I know I did. I learned a lot. Recommended!

Publisher:  Knopf
Publication Date: January 29, 2019 
Source of Book: Advance review copy from the publisher. Please note that quotes are from the ARC, and may differ from the final printed book, particularly in regards to page numbers. 

© 2019 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).