Oct 032015
 

Alaska Book Week, 2015

Whoop-whoop!

After a (typically) crazy Alaska summer of fast-growing veggies; salmon, shrimp, and berry harvests; and hosting visitors, I welcome winter with open arms, colored lights, fragrant candles, a stack of books, and hours to write. How perfect is it that Alaska Book Week happens now?

This state-wide event showcases Alaska authors and books, as well as bookstores, libraries, and schools. Live events take place all over the state.

Being ensconced at the remote Kenai Fjords Glacier Lodge for the month, I will celebrate here online, beginning with . . . what else? . . . a puzzle contest!

Let’s Have a Puzzle Contest!

  1. Print and solve one or both puzzles. You’ll get an entry for each if you do both.
  2. Email your answer(s) to jen [AT] funkandweber [DOT] com by 11:59 p.m. (Alaska time), Friday, October 9th. Write “Puzzle Contest” in the subject line. One email per puzzle entry.
  3. Emails containing correct answers will be tossed into a file from which a winner will be randomly selected and posted here on Saturday, October 10th.
  4. The winner will receive a collection of my puzzle books, but not until November, because my remote location = no mail service.

That’s it!

The Puzzles

New Alaska Books Logic Puzzle, Jen Funk Weber

New Alaska Books, a logic puzzle

Simon Says, a puzzle by Jen Funk Weber

Simon Says, “Find the quote.”

The New Alaska Books puzzle is a logic puzzle, probably best for older kids and adults.

Simon Says is for all but the youngest kids—some wee ones will be able to do this with help, and that’s encouraged!

Why Puzzles?

Because they’re fun! Fun to make, fun to solve!

I’ve been writing puzzles for kids—and adults—for years. They’ve been published in books (Simon & Schuster, Sasquatch, Alaska Geographic, Evan-Moor Educational Publishers) and magazines (American Girl, AppleSeeds, Games, Highlights, KidZone, National Geographic World, Spider, Sports Illustrated for Kids, and more), on the Web, and in some unconventional places, like a grocery store chain and other retail stores. Hey, puzzles go great anywhere! Besides being fun, they’re excellent vehicles for conveying and reinforcing information, whether that’s an answer to a joke or facts about vegetables or math.

In recent years there’s been much research and talk about the benefits of puzzles and games for keeping brains fit. I propose there’s another benefit, as well: Puzzles can be an alternate path to literacy.

Reading with kids may be the expressway to literacy, but there are scenic byways that offer fresh views and fun while still getting us there. Puzzles are a scenic byway that shouldn’t be missed.

Puzzles–math, word, logic, you name it–approach words, ideas, and literacy in a roundabout way. They highlight the drama of language, the absurdities, the bizarre, and the fun. Puzzles tease us, make us laugh, challenge us, and surprise us. In short, they entertain us while leading us to our destination: literacy.

Just as a Sunday drive is associated with recreation and relaxation, puzzles are associated with games and play, even though they require reading, understanding, and following instructions. They are short excursions into brain work–they don’t require a huge commitment of time, and the reward comes quickly. As kids attempt more difficult puzzles, they build the stamina that reading longer books requires.

When kids solve puzzles they learn to play with words. They get comfortable with them and enjoy them. They learn that sometimes words don’t mean what they seem to mean and that sometimes they can mean more than one thing. Discovering the complexity of words introduces kids to their beauty, revealing what’s clever and what’s funny. When kids embrace words as play things, they aren’t intimidated by them.

Like unfamiliar roads, puzzles have an air of mystery. We don’t know where they’re going, but we’re eager to find out. In the process of solving the mystery, kids learn how to think.

Puzzles can help pre- and early-readers develop letter recognition and writing skills and build vocabulary. Solving more advanced puzzles requires critical and creative thinking: developing and using logic, reasoning, fluency, associative thinking, and identifying forced relationships.

The challenges posed by puzzles can encourage us to step back and take a panoramic view of a problem, searching for a new perspective. Learning to try different approaches and to see things from new angles teaches kids flexible thinking and persistence, useful skills as they tackle more difficult words and text.

I approach puzzles from the opposite direction: I write them. Making puzzles is as fun, mysterious, and surprising as solving them. It’s the same adventure, just in reverse. I start with an answer–riddles and trivia are great puzzle fodder–then select a puzzle style that fits the answer: is it a one-word answer, a sentence, a shape or picture, a number? From there I work backward to generate the necessary clues, seeking out twists and turns to challenge puzzle solvers.

We all want kids to reach a place where they can read and write effectively. How they get there doesn’t matter. Providing alternate routes entices more kids to find their way.

How do we improve kids’ chances for success and thereby improve the world? By way of literacy. Be sure to include puzzles in your itinerary.

Available Books

TNR-Sudoku

Good Fun Sudoku: Supporting Feline Trap-Neuter-Return

Enjoy some good fun while you support a good cause: Feline Trap-Neuter-Return programs. This volume contains easy, moderate, and difficult sudoku puzzles, including six hidden-word puzzles that reveal answers to cat jokes. Also included are cat facts, quotes, photos, and information on how you can help domestic, stray, and feral cats. Buy Now

Good Fun Sudoku For Kids: Supporting Feline Trap-Neuter-Return

Puzzles for kids or any beginner—4×4, 6×6, 8×8, 9×9—with fascinating cat facts, photos, and jokes.

Ari’s Garden is all about Good Fun. We also believe in supporting Good Causes. Our Good Fun Books are produced to raise money and awareness for causes and programs that make the world a better place. Buy Now

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