I figured I'd better get the children's literacy round-up out today (Sunday), because tomorrow all eyes will be on the ALA Announcements (Newbery, Caldecott, Printz, etc.). Thanks to Anastasia for the previous link. For the record, I'm not getting up at 4:45 PST to hear them live. The good news for me, though, is that by the time I do get up, the results will be widely available. Anyway, moving on, here are some highlights from this week's children's literacy and reading news:
- Newsday.com has a new article by Liza N. Burby about turning reluctant readers into enthusiastic ones. The article focuses in particular on middle school readers, and quotes new National Ambassador for Young People's Literature Jon Scieszka, along with several librarians. The article talks about the importance of parents continuing to read aloud as their children get older, and notes "That "reading" can even take the form of listening to books on tape while you're all running to activities or discussing a newspaper article over breakfast. The point is to rethink how you go about encouraging reading at home, says Scieszka". I'm happy to see an article like this in Newsday, and hope that lots of parents will see it.
- Meanwhile The Age (Australia) also has an opinion article, by Agnes Nieuwenhuizen, about "how to help our young enjoy reading." Clearly, a popular topic this week. Rather than focusing on parents, however, this article is more about what Australia could and should do as a country, like appointing a National Ambassador for Children's Books, hiring more librarians, and arranging for more review space in the major papers. The author even mentions a Dutch program that "made reading for young men "cool" by linking beer and books in ads."
- In a just-released post, Donalyn Miller, The Book Whisperer, writes at Teacher Magazine about the many problems with classrooms in which the entire class studies an entire novel at the same time. She says "Teaching whole-class novel units does not create a society of literate people... Teachers can always point to a few students who loved these books, but I doubt it was the majority or that any became future readers as a result," and runs through a series of "truths" about whole-class reading. She promises some ideas of compromises and alternatives next week.
- Via the International Reading Association blog, I learned of this guest column by Walt Gardner in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer: "From feds on down, AP students are being neglected." The author begins with the strong statement that "Faced with the daunting challenges posed by the new global economy, the U.S. is squandering one of its greatest assets in the form of its gifted and talented students. Yet the issue remains curiously absent from public debate among presidential candidates." He also includes tidbits like: "when school districts need to pay for after-school tutoring or other remediation, they siphon money from programs for the gifted,", and suggests that Advanced Placement programs are also suffering a backlash. While this isn't directly literacy-related news, I think it's something that the same parents who are working to raise young readers now should be paying attention to for the future.
- Also via the IRA blog, I found this article in Stabroek News. It says that Guyana's "Education Minister Shaik Baksh is proposing a nationwide literacy programme in schools this year that involves classes being extended in the afternoons and on weekends and holidays, in an effort to improve the quality of education locally." Baksh is making this proposal in light of recent assessment tests showing a decline in literacy. "A similar programme targeting adults at the community level is also planned". See also this followup article.
- According to an article by Dominic Mahlangu and Mpumelelo Mkhabela in the Sunday Times (South Africa) the ANC is working on literacy levels in South Africa, and "has promised to promote the status of teachers by “remunerating them as professionals” and improving the conditions in which they work... This year, according to the ANC, will see the launch by government of a National Mass Literacy Campaign, which will see “80000 tutors engaged to enable 4.7-million adults to achieve basic literacy and numeracy by 2012”."
- At Reading Rockets' Page by Page blog, Maria Salvadore highlights a program in Nebraska which gives books to newborns. I wrote about the relevant Omaha World-Herald article a couple of weeks ago, but Maria also discusses the ALSC's Born to Read program, and her own early reading experiences with her son. On a similar note, the Literacy is Priceless blog highlights the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) website for early literacy educators and parents.
- The Times Colonist (Canada) reports that British Columbia's new lieutenant governor, Steven Point, "plans to concentrate on early childhood literacy and to do what he can to ensure that more reading material for preschoolers makes its way into B.C.'s most remote communities... Point has asked the Government House Foundation to help improve literacy "by collecting as many children's books as possible and to create a a distribution program through the assistance of local community service organizations such as the Rotary.''
- Here's yet another reason why we as a country should be focusing more on raising readers. Emily Kampschneider writes in the La Vista Sun (Nebraska) about the connection between low literacy levels and crime statistics. She quotes Jean Slowinski, children's librarian at Gretna Public Library, as saying that "she heard at a children librarians' conference that officials decide how many federal prisons to build based on how many second-grade students cannot read." There's no definitive reference included for that statement, and the rest of the article is about ideas for parents to increase their own children's interest in reading. But I think that a correlation between literacy levels and crime levels does exist. I know that the National Institute for Literacy reported that in 1997, only 13.4% of state prison inmates had any college education, and 14.2% had an 8th grade education or less.
- Speaking of the correlation between crime and literacy statistics, the Ventura County Star (CA) has an article today by Cynthia Overweg about an "escape through books" program by which the co-owners of The Book Bag, a nonprofit community bookstore in Thousand Oaks have been sending free books to 170 inmates in 12 California jails and prisons. Program founders Melissa Cook and Jeanne Johnson "have dubbed their inmate book program "Escape through books" and said they believe the company of a good book can help reduce a sense of hopelessness that contributes to anti-social behavior." Inmates request their own books, and pay postage.
- And here is a lively literacy program. The Charlotte Herald-Sun (Florida) reports on the Bikers for Books fundraiser, scheduled for this weekend. The Defenders Law Enforcement Motorcycle Club is co-hosting the event with Chili's. 100% of the proceeds will go to the Meadow Park Elementary School's Family Center, with a goal of giving a free book to each of 500 children.
- According to an article by Preeti Jha at iExpressIndia, a program in India is focused on teaching street children how to read, in their own environment. "Zubair Idrisi, 22, and Pawan Sharma, 25, founders of this education programme for street children, explain why their informal approach works. “If these kids won’t attend school because they need to earn money, then we thought why not go to their workplace and bring education to the traffic lights,” says Sharma."
- The Wisconsin State Journal talks about the use of graphic novels to enliven literature for students, in an article by Gena Kittner. "Libraries have long been aware of the value of such "sequential art" in helping students become better readers, said Hollis Rudiger, a former librarian at UW-Madison's School of Education. "It's the classroom teachers that are finally starting to see the value," she said. This fall, students at Monona Grove and DeForest high schools studied graphic novels in English classes. Next year, if there's enough interest, Monona Grove plans to offer an art class focusing on the novels and cartooning."
And that should leave you with plenty of food for thought for one day. Thanks for caring about children's litereacy and reading!