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Children's Literacy Round-Up: Franklin the Turtle, Beverly Cleary, and Valuing Books

Here is some recent children's literacy and reading news from around the wires. There is still discussion going on about the recent literacy and reading studies, especially in the UK and Australia. Personally, I'd like to see more discussion going on on the US, too. Perhaps after the holidays...

  • Colleen Mondor sent me the link to this press release, which, although not about children, I think is a cool literacy thing. "Laura van den Berg of Boston, Massachusetts is the winner of the first annual $5,000 Dzanc Prize. Selected from more than 160 applicants for her proposal to teach creative writing in area prisons and on the quality of her fiction writing, the Emerson College MFA student will begin her service in 2008 with half of the prize awarded in January and the other half awarded once the service is completed."
  • Cheryl Rainfield sent me the link to this News Blaze announcement, about the unveiling "of THE JOAN GANZ COONEY CENTER at Sesame Workshop (the nonprofit organization behind Sesame Street). The Center, an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit research and production institute, will explore the 21st century equivalent of her (Cooney's) original question, "How can emerging media help children learn?" The release has all of the details.
  • And one more announcement: "Scholastic, the global children's publishing, education, and media company, and Hoy, the nation's leading Spanish-language newspaper with daily editions in Los Angeles and Chicago, today launched a year-long joint Public Service Announcement (PSA) campaign to promote the Latino early literacy program, Lee y seras(R) (Read and You Will Be)."
  • As a reaction to recent literacy test results, the UK will be unveiling a "radical overhaul of primary education", according to the Telegraph. The article notes that "The proposal follows intense campaigning by teaching unions and a series of studies warning that the pressure to perform in tests is damaging children's education", and indications are that the new system will be less test-focused. A new plan was also announced in the UK this week for helping kids with dyslexia, according to this Guardian article.
  • has a column by Avirama Golan about literacy levels in Israel. Golan discusses the need to maintain the ability to read and write well in an age of quick emails and instant messages, as well as the gaps in literacy between the haves and the have nots. The column concludes " No 'computer for every child' program will succeed if the hand that moves the mouse can only type a few words, with spelling mistakes and no comprehension." See also this article by Peter West in Online Opinion about possible responses to Australia's recent test scores.
  • On a lighter note, Franklin the Turtle visited with kids this weekend as part of the Portsmouth Children's Museum Books Alive! event. According to the Foster's Daily Democrat (NH): "The goal of Books Alive! is to engage children in reading by sharing stories and activities with some of their favorite storybook characters. Past visitors include Clifford the Big Red Dog, Eloise and Curious George. In March 2008, the entire Berenstein Bear family is to visit with children and families." So fun!
  • My attention was also caught by this opinion piece by teacher Katie Hutchinson in the Chicago Daily Herald entitled: "It's not the schools; it's a failure to read." She says that "schools alone cannot magically transform our children into a collection of brilliant test-takers", and proposes that we need a change in the core values of the country to place more value on reading as compared to "Celebrity, sports, (and) material goods." This is a short piece, but I'm certain that it will have many teachers, and book lovers, nodding. She concludes: "Our nation needs to make a collective and unified effort to turn off the TVs, endorse a Library-Card-for-Every-Family campaign and help our children find the joy in reading. Schools alone cannot solve this crisis. It's not about the money, and let's be honest, it's not about the ACT. It's about literacy." Sounds right to me.
  • The Hurricane Valley Journal writes about an early childhood literacy program just launched at Dixie Regional Medical Center. According to the article, "the parents of every newborn at VVMC (Valley View Medical Center) will be shown  a literacy promoting DVD and given a Great Beginnings Literacy Packet. Similarly, the program is launching in Washington County. The DVD teaches parents about the benefits of reading to young children and babies." I like the idea of starting at the very beginning, and talking about literacy to brand new parents.
  • Finally, the LA Times has a lovely essay by Denise Hamilton called "the magic of Klickitat Street" about a trip to Portland where she found Ramona's namesake street and the Beverly Cleary Sculpture Garden. She says of the garden "It's a magical place, with quotes on granite tiles from her most famous books. The sculpted figures by local artist Lee Hunt capture Cleary's characters in all their pesky, kinetic glory." She also analyzes "why Cleary's writing seems as fresh today as it did a half-century ago", and discusses some details from Ms. Cleary's two memoirs. While not strictly a "literacy" article, this is one not to be missed for fans of Cleary's books, young and old.

And that's all for this week. Happy reading!