Monday Afternoon Visits: May 5
Quick Hits from Across an Interconnected Community

Children's Literacy Round-Up: May 6

Here are some recent children's literacy and reading related stories from around the wires:

  • MotherReader has the scoop on the success to date of the campaign to save funding for Reading is Fundamental's book distribution program. RIF's President has said that "The combination of more than 45,000 e-mails, phone calls, letters, and faxes from supporters across the nation bolstered our effort to highlight RIF’s services and accomplishments throughout this year’s campaign. A notable achievement of this year’s campaign is the increase in the number of members of Congress who signed RIF’s funding letter. This year’s impressive increase can be attributed to all who gave their time to contact their members of Congress and voice their support for RIF." Many thanks to everyone who offered their support to RIF!
  • Via a USA Today article by Greg Toppo (via the RIF Daily News), a recent study found that a "$1 billion-a-year reading program that has been a pillar of the Bush administration's education plan doesn't have much impact on the reading skills of the young students it's supposed to help... Reading First last year was the subject of a congressional investigation into whether top advisers improperly benefited from contracts for textbooks and testing materials they designed, and whether the advisers kept some textbook publishers from qualifying for funding." Sigh! Surely there are ways to help raise readers, while steering clearly of costly, corruption-prone federal government programs. See also the Washington Post article on this topic. What's particularly sad about the lack of success of the Bush administration's reading program is that I believe that Laura Bush and Jenna Bush both truly care about kids and reading (see this Daily Herald article, for example, about the women's book, Read All About It!). And yet... The Early Ed Watch blog has a different perspective, feeling that "it’s too early for this to be the last word on Reading First".
  • While you're lamenting the effects of federal programs on reading, check out this heart-felt School Library Journal article by Jordan Sonnenblick about how No Child Left Behind is hurting students and teachers. He says: "No Child Left Behind has done to my school what it has done to untold thousands of urban schools. Our arts programs are gutted, our shop courses are gone, foreign languages are a distant memory. What’s left are double math classes; mandatory after-school drill sessions; the joyless, sweaty drudgery of summer school. Our kids come to us needing more of everything that is joyous about the life of the mind. They need nature walks, field trips, poetry, recess." And then he really says what he thinks. It is demoralizing. But important for people to think about. He concludes by asking parents to fight this if they can. Thanks to Sharon Levin for the link.
  • As long as we're dissecting bad reading news, check out Jill's response to the recent Renaissance study of kids' reading habits at the Well-Read Child. Jill reports: "Something that was very disheartening though were the number of books children read in 2007. Seventh-graders averaged 7.1 books in 2007, while 12th-graders averaged 4.5 books. Wow...why aren't kids reading more?" That's the question, isn't it, Jill? What keeps me out there reading all of these blogs, and all of these news stories, looking for things that might help to reverse the trend.
  • Meanwhile, in Jamaica, "Literacy Specialist with the Expanding Educational Horizons project, Maureen Byfield, has urged parents to embrace creative strategies to improve their children's literacy levels", according to the Jamaica Gleaner. "The Literacy Specialist cautioned that reading must never be used as a form of punishment but should be seen as a meaningful, functional and purposeful activity."
  • According to a recent press release, the nonprofit Reach Out and Read has now distributed more than 20 million books to children. Through Reach Out and Read, doctors give free books to children on their well-child visits, up to age five. According to the article, "Reach Out and Read now reaches 25 percent of low-income U.S. infants, toddlers and preschoolers." I think that this is a great program. Parents usually trust the pediatrician, and if he or she says that books are important, that has to help.
  • has an inspiring article about a man from rural Ethiopia, Yohannes Gebregeorgis, who grew up to become a children's librarian in the US, and an advocate for getting books into the hands of Ethiopian children. "Children could imagine everything from books -- connections to other cultures, to other people, to other children, and to the universe at large," recalls Gebregeorgis. "It gives them hope. It gives them pleasure. It gives them everything that they cannot otherwise get in regular textbooks." Also, "Reading storybooks to children who have no access to television or computers, Gebregeorgis believes that literacy and education will emancipate his impoverished land, gripped by HIV/AIDS."
  • According to a recent press release, "Elfrieda (Freddy) H. Hiebert, noted author of many influential reading programs, including Pearson's QuickReads, is this year's recipient of the International Reading Association's (IRA) highest award, the William S. Gray Citation of Merit. An adjunct professor at the University of California, Berkeley, Hiebert will also be inducted into the IRA's Reading Hall of Fame.

And that's all for this week. Thanks for caring about children's reading and literacy.