Wednesday Afternoon Visits: May 21
Reviews that Made Me Want the Book: May 21

Children's Literacy Round-Up: May 21

Here's some recent children's literacy and reading news from around the wires. You'll find plenty of thought-provoking material this week:

  • Via the International Reading Association Blog, I learned that PBS is planning to air a new version of the Electric Company. Here's the AP story, which says that "The series, aimed at reducing the literacy gap between low- and middle-income families, will promote the idea that "reading is cool" with help from online and community-based activities, Sesame Workshop said in an announcement Monday." Way cool!
  • Via my friend Cory, the Columbia Journalism Review has an article by Ezra Klein about the future of reading. Klein notes: "I consulted my conscience, which is as much gadget-head as bookworm, and quickly came to a decision: I would simultaneously support reading and the introduction of expensive new electronic devices by buying a Kindle and proudly toting it around town for a month. That would give me time to determine whether this really was the future of reading, or whether the nation remained threatened by grave and unnamed consequences." Check out his detailed results and observations about the future of reading (don't worry: "content is (still) king").
  • The L.A. Times recently had an opinion piece by Esther Jantzen about the importance of what happens at home in children's literacy development. Via the IRA blog. Taking a page out of Jim Trelease's book, and citing the 10-year-old study by Betty Hart and Todd R. Risley "Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children", Jantzen calls for communication to parents on the importance of helping kids to hear more words. She says: "I contend that the interventions that must be made if we are to improve academic achievement in America need to happen in the home. And young, inexperienced, multi-tasking parents and caregivers need assistance, encouragement and clear information. Please don't look at this point of view with disdain and say, "That's been tried. We've tried parental involvement. We can't reach the parents who really need it." Parental education has not been tried the way it could be tried. How about an out-and-out, 10-year culture-change effort to assist parents in doing the things that help kids become better readers and learners?" Sounds smart to me. Maybe Esther Jantzen and Donalyn Miller should talk... (Updated to add: See also Tasha Saecker's response to the L.A. Times piece)
  • And while Esther and Donalyn (and Tasha) are talking, they should have a chat with Jill T. from The Well-Read Child. In a must-read post, Jill recently wrote about how fighting illiteracy is a community effort. She discusses the benefits that stem from reading with children, and the importance of reading for a productive adult life. She discusses literacy as a "basic survival skill", and the way that a focus on tests leaves some kids, who are given up on as expected failures, in the lurch. Click through to read her conclusion and passionate call to action.
  • In contrast to the above articles expressing concerns about literacy, this week Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post wrote about a study that found "no crisis for boys in schools". "The report by the nonprofit American Association of University Women, which promotes education and equity for women, reviewed nearly 40 years of data on achievement from fourth grade to college and for the first time analyzed gender differences within economic and ethnic categories. The most important conclusion of "Where the Girls Are: The Facts About Gender Equity in Education" is that academic success is more closely associated with family income than with gender." Now, personally I think that it can be true that family income plays a stronger role than gender in literacy, while also being true that boys are having a harder time in school than girls are. But the study found that "Over the past three decades, the reading gap favoring girls on NAEP has narrowed or stayed the same." I don't know - it seems to me that there's a lot of work to be done to increase joy in reading for boys and girls, and that programs that give books and literacy education to lower income families are critically important.
  • LcbbogoOn that note, Cheryl Rainfield writes about The Children's Book Bank, newly opened in Toronto. Cheryl describes it thus: "It’s like a cross between a children’s book store and a library, only they give books away for free to children from low-income families, help children find the books that fit them, and read with the children. Children are allowed to take one book per visit, and there is no limit on the number of visits a child can make. This encourages low-income children to read, and allows them to experience the joy of owning their own books."
  • For another article about giving people the chance to own books, see Tasha Saecker's post about the recent Fox Cities Book Festival at Kids Lit. Tasha says: "One event that I helped most with was a children's area at the Book Fair where School Specialty donated children's books for us to simply give away to children who came in. The books were lovely, shiny, new and so were the children who came in. What joy to be able to tell people that they could have a book to keep.  Just because of someone's generosity, because they cared, and because we care. It was a powerful message and I just couldn't get tired of delivering it over and over again." How great is that?
  • The Public School Insights blog shares a round-up of "five new public school and district success stories in the past weeks". For example: "Pateros School District, a small rural district in north central Washington, is working with a regional arts group in an indirect approach to improving student achievement. By increasing access to arts education, the community and schools are increasing students' understanding of other cultures." Pass rates on the state reading test were up significantly in 2007 for fourth graders in the district.
  • According to Alexandra Frean in the Times Online, "An influential panel of experts set up to advise on (UK) government policy for the under-5s is demanding radical changes to literacy targets for preschool children, which they describe as “overly ambitious for most children”."
  • The Evening Sun (Chenango County, NY) has a short but sweet article by Jessica Lewis about a teacher-organized literacy project. "In order to give children a jump start on some of the skills they need to be successful in the class room, teachers in the Sherburne-Earlville School District have put together literacy bags that will be distributed to the incoming kindergartners and pre-kindergarten age students in the district."
  • recently published an extensively referenced article by Grace Hui-Chen Huang and Kimberly Mason about the motivations of parental involvement in children's learning. The article describes "strong positive correlations between parental involvement in their child's learning and academic achievement, better behaviors, accountability, social skills, and attendance", but discusses findings that suggest "that African American parents are often uninvolved in urban school settings". Family education programs that foster parental involvement are discussed.
  • A new University of Minnesota research center will be studying "ways to improve early childhood literacy development", according to a UMN news release. The idea is to "improve lifetime academic success by monitoring and providing intervention to promote children's reading skills as early as age 3. The project is an initiative of the U.S. Department of Education."
  • As described in another news release, Justin Tuck of the New York Giants is teaming up with First Book to start a new literacy initiative. ""I have always felt passionately about literacy and now I am able to do something about it," said Tuck. "I cannot be more excited to partner with First Book and help thousands of children throughout the years through education and literacy."" Personally, I'm in favor of programs by which sports figures go out and tell kids how important they think reading is. I think they can reach kids who might not be interested in more conventional literacy programs.
  • And finally, if you need more literacy news, check out these two recent round-ups, by Terry, at The Reading Tub's blog, What Happens Next. If you're interested in children's reading and literacy, and you aren't reading What Happens Next, you really should start. Today.