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Children's Literacy Round-Up: NEA Study, Math Skills, and Pirates

Here are some recent children's literacy and reading-related news stories from the press:

  • There are articles everywhere about a study just released by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) on the reading habits of Americans. According to the Hartfort Courant (and other sources), the study says that we are reading less, and reading less well, and that poor reading skills are limiting people's work and life opportunities. For instance, "Americans, especially teenagers and young adults but also college graduates, do little recreational reading. Nearly half of those ages 18 to 24 who were surveyed read no books for pleasure at all. Those ages 15 to 24 who read voluntarily did so for only seven to 10 minutes a day. And among college graduates, reading literature, such as fiction, poetry and plays, dropped by 18 percent from 1982 to 2002." Liz B. has some more detailed thoughts on the report at A Chair, A Fireplace, and a Tea Cozy. I think I'm going to have to follow her example, and read the entire report. It's available for download here. But for now, I refer you to the AP press release.
  • On a lighter note, according to a recent press release, "Canadian Children's Book Centre (CCBC) and TD Bank Financial Group (TDBFG) are celebrating the 30th anniversary of TD Canadian Children's Book Week from November 17-24 with a host of activities planned at schools, libraries and community centres across Canada. As part of TD Canadian Children's Book Week, nearly half a million copies of The Zlooksh by renowned children's author Dominique Demers and illustrated by well-known Quebec illustrator Fanny will soon be in the hands of grade one students courtesy of TD." Thanks to Cheryl Rainfield for the links to this item and the next.
  • The Ocala Star-Banner has a feature article by Lisa C. Gant about Dolly Parton's Imagination Library program (which I have written about in the past). The article says: "Managed nationally by the Dollywood Foundation, the program mails one free book per month to every child under age 5 in households across the country. Although the Imagination Library was first launched in 1996, United Way's Success By 6 did not become its Marion County (Florida) affiliate until this year, after receiving a grant from the organization's Women of Worth initiative."
  • According to a Times Online article, the Conservative government in the UK is proposing nationwide reading tests for all children when they reach six years of age. "The announcement has been criticised by teachers’ leaders for being too demanding. The National Primary Headteachers’ Association criticised the move towards a reading test at the end of Year One. Chris Davis, a spokesman for the group, said: “It flies in the face of international evidence that suggests children do better if they start formal education later on.”" See also the Guardian article about the same proposal.
  • According to a press release, the "Orlando Sentinel recently announced George Selden's The Cricket in Times Square as the 2008 book selection for its seventh annual market-wide reading program One Book One Community(TM)... The six-week program will run April and May 2008 as part of the company's Reading by Nine literacy initiative. One Book One Community encourages Central Florida children - and the adults in their lives - to read the same book. Other events such as read-alouds and a writing contest also will be part of this annual program."
  • Science Daily reports that "Children entering kindergarten with elementary math and reading skills are the most likely to do well in school later, even if they have various social and emotional problems", according to date from six studies of nearly 36,000 preschoolers. The results held for children from affluent and less affluent families, and for boys and girls. The study also found that "the mastery of early math concepts on school entry was the very strongest predictor of future academic success."
  • Teaching Expertise (UK) is starting a series of lesson plans for challenging gifted and talented students within a whole class environment. The first article is called "Pirates ahoy! A literacy lesson plan." The idea is to challenge the G&T kids without making them do twice as much work as the other kids, and while ensuring that they also receive their share of teacher attention (instead of being left alone, while teachers spend more time with the kids who are struggling).
  • The Telegraph (UK) has an article about how children's books in the UK are being purged of risky activities by publishers, because of fears regarding health and safety. Author Lindsey Gardiner "claims publishers banned youngsters from walking alone in one novel and removed sharp objects from another." Another author talks of being pressed to remove a scene involving a Ouija board. The article concludes: "The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators warned against censoring young people's fiction. A spokesman said: "Honest literature opens communication and gives young people the opportunity to test their values and make positive choices for their lives."" This has been a high-profile topic in the UK this week, with articles in various publications about it. I think it has applicability to raising readers, in part because if children's books are to be purged of "dangerous activities", will they become more dull? Will fewer kids want to read them? This, I think, would be a dangerous consequence.

That's all for this week. Not too many articles, but some meaty topics for your perusal. I welcome your feedback.