A new study of 19 preschoolers ages 3-5 years old studied brain activity while the children listened to stories. Done with functional magnetic resonance imaging, the study focused only on listening to stories, no visual stimuli were involved.
Results showed that more reading at home was “strongly associated with activation of specific brain areas supporting semantic processing (the extraction of meaning from language). These areas are critical for oral language and later for reading.”
Areas associated with mental imagery also showed a strong activation, meaning that children were able to “see the story” and watch their imaginations make images.
Dear Hank Williams by Kimberly Willis Holt
Tate’s class has been told that they are doing a pen pal project and they can either be assigned pen pals or pick them. Tate has just the right person to write to, Hank Williams, who is an emerging star in 1948. Tate tells him all about her life in Rippling Creek, Louisiana where she lives with her Uncle Jolly, Aunt Patty Cake and her little brother Frog. At first, Tate tells Hank Williams that her parents are well known and gone because of their work, her father as a photographer and her mother in the movies. But as she continues to write to them, she reveals the truth of her family life where her father has disappeared and her mother is doing time in jail. There is one final secret that Tate can’t face at all and it will take all of her courage to admit to it.
Holt writes a story of a girl who has concocted a life of dreams for herself. Tate is unfailingly positive about many things. Even when she talks about her mother being in prison, she focuses on the fact that her mother is in an elite singing group while there. Her life with her uncle and aunt is stable and lovely, filled with small moments that demonstrate their love for her, like finding a way to hear her mother sing on the radio and discovering just the right dog at just the right time. Holt gives Tate all the time she needs to face her different truths. And the result is surprising and tender.
Tate is a marvelous character. She is quickly proven untrustworthy as she admits early in the novel to lying about her mother and father. Yet there is something so down-to-earth about her too that readers will somehow trust her despite all of this. Perhaps it is the details of her life that make that work, and the way that she hides truths even from herself. It is a delicate balance and one that Holt does very well.
Young readers will love this book for its heart and the beautiful spark of its main character. Appropriate for ages 8-11.
Reviewed from copy received from Henry Holt and Co.
The NSW Premier’s Literary Awards shortlists have been announced. The awards celebrate Australian writers. The winner will be announced in May. Here are the shortlists for the youth categories:
PATRICIA WRIGHTSON PRIZE FOR CHILDREN’S LITERATURE
The Adventures of Sir Roderick the Not-Very Brave by James O’Loghlin
Crossing by Catherine Norton
The Duck and the Darklings by Glenda Millard and Stephen Michael King
Figgy in the World by Tamsin Janu
The First Voyage by Allan Baillie
Rivertime by Trace Balla
ETHEL TURNER PRIZE FOR YOUNG ADULT’S LITERATURE
Are You Seeing Me? by Darren Groth
Book of Days by K.A. Barker
Cracked by Clare Strahan
The Cracks in the Kingdom by Jaclyn Moriarty
Razorhurst by Justine Larbalestier
The Road to Gundagai by Jackie French