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Children's Literacy Round-Up: MLK Weekend Edition

Welcome to this week's children's literacy and reading news round-up, brought to you by Jen Robinson's Book Page and Scrub-a-Dub-Tub, a Reading Tub blog. Terry Doherty and I have been each collecting links, and then dividing up the preparation of this post. Terry's off in "the frigid climes of Wild, Wonderful, West Virginia" this weekend, so I have the round-up for you.

Literacy and Reading Programs and Research

FLDlogo_eng January 27th is Family Literacy Day in Canada. Andrea and Mark from Just One More Book! report: "We hope to celebrate Family Literacy Day on JustOneMoreBook by publishing FLD Celebration Plans of various members of our online kidlit community, and beyond. We’d love to include your voice in our celebration." Click through for details.

As you might expect, there have been many responses to last week's report by the National Early Literacy Panel (NELP).

  • EdNews has an article by Tom Sticht comparing the NELP report to a report from 100 years ago by Edmund Burke Huey: "The Psychology and Pedagogy of Reading (1908) (reprinted by the MIT Press in 1968). In his book Huey passed on professional wisdom about reading and the teaching of reading of his day." Sticht calls the NELP report "remarkably reminiscent of Huey's ideas of 1908", and gives examples.
  • Brian Scott has a summary of the NELP report findings at Literacy and Reading News. He leads with: "Learning to read and write opens doors to progress and prosperity across a lifetime. The years before kindergarten are a particularly fertile and profitable time to prepare young children to read and learn by teaching them essential literacy skills."
  • At Literacy Learning, Tim Shanahan, NELP Chairman, discusses criticisms of the NELP report by what he deems "the anti-research crowd". After linking to several examples (particularly to Kathleen Kennedy Manzo's Education Week article), Shanahan says: "Reading all of this made me wonder if the real complaints aren't that this report might undercut the critics' credibility with the public. After all, the critics have often claimed that their prescriptions follow the research (albeit based on pretty flimsy evidence)."

Tim Shanahan also addresses the recent NEA report: "Reading on the rise: A new chapter in American literacy." He has some issues with the report, with passages like: "The NEA has chosen to use its past reports to expound on the idea that young people are lost because they aren't partaking in literary pursuits and that this means they can't read and can't think as well as their predecessors. Not to put too fine a point on it, that is bunk!". The whole post is definitely worth a read. In case you missed it, here's the Washington Post article about the NEA Report, which most people are pleased with, because it does report that reading of "novels, short stories, poems or plays" is on the rise.

An Education Week article by Sean Cavanagh discusses a national study that found that "Informal science activities, such as trips to museums and zoos, viewing of television shows, and even discussions between parents and children, have the power to improve students’ learning in that subject and their appreciation for it... There is “mounting evidence,” the study says, that nonschool science programs can nurture students’ and adults’ interest in pursuing scientific careers. That finding could be valuable to policymakers, who worry that too few students, particularly girls and members of underrepresented minorities, are being encouraged to consider careers in math- and science-related fields."

An article by Shannon Proudfoot on Canada.com reports that "Far from providing the brain-boosting advantages promised by specialized programs aimed at the youngest viewers, TV time for children under two does more harm than good, according to a newly published review of international research." We found this link at the IRA blog.

Reading is Fundamental has launched a new ambassador program, to expand the nonprofit's reach into all 50 states. The press release reports: "The RIF Ambassadors initiative, sponsored by The Coca-Cola Company, bestows a working honor on a RIF volunteer coordinator in each state, recognizing the valuable role of committed local volunteers in advancing RIF’s mission of a literate America in which all children have access to books and discover the joy and value of reading. The initiative will also provide a structure of support for selected ambassadors to promote children’s literacy and RIF in their communities.

Enjoyment of Reading

The Book Chook has a nice post for parents about "revving up reluctant readers". It's worth a click through, if only to see the truly lovely photo by artist Jennifer Zwick. I also especially liked the Book Chook's suggestions about when it's better to back off a bit, and focus more on sharing the fun of reading.

Thanks to Fran Cannon Slayton's email newsletter, we found this Royal Gazette article by Darnell Wynn about boys and reading. Wynn recaps some research results about boys and literacy, and then discusses several "successful literacy strategies for boys." The article is quite detailed, and well worth a look.

In The Times Online, Amanda Craig "shares some tips on how to choose the right book for your child". She says (in context of teachers sending kids how with tear-inducing required reading): "Librarians are another matter, but these heroic figures are far too often overlooked and sidelined by professionals who tend to remain stuck in the kind of books that are considered “good for you” rather than fun. Fun, really, is the first and best test."

New Web Resources

It's a Small World is a portal for cultural diversity in learning. We learned about it from Anna at Literacy Is Priceless. As quoted by Anna from the It's a Small World website, "Here you will find preschool rhymes from around the world for something a little different to the usual mother goose kids rhymes! Imagine life without world music or ethnic food - that’s what a child’s reading life would be like without international kid’s books and poems - so spice up their literary diet and enjoy some armchair travelling for babies, toddlers and the young at heart!"

Grants, Sponsorships, and Donations

I received an email announcement last week that the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation invites public libraries and public school librarians and teachers to apply for a 2009 minigrant. Some details: "The EJK Foundation has awarded over half a million dollars in grants to public schools and libraries in all 50 states and the US Commonwealth, since the Minigrant Program was started in 1987. The deadline for submission of proposals for the $500 Minigrant award is September 15, 2009. Proposals are read directly after the September deadline and announcements will be mailed out in early November.  Applications are only available online at the Foundation’s website.

A brief story on KCBY.com reports that the Coos Bay (Oregon) Library received a $2,200 grant to improve children's library services. "The money comes from the Ready to Read program, which assists libraries across the state with early literacy programs. Children's Librarian Pat Flitcroft says the money will be put right to use, for their monthly bi-lingual reading program and their summer reading program."

Anne-Marie Nichols at My Readable Feast brought to our attention an opportunity for kids from National Geographic. Anne-Marie says: "Fifteen young explorers and two teachers will be selected as members of the 2009 National Geographic Kids Hands-On Explorer Challenge Expedition Team and will win the field trip of a lifetime — a 12-day expedition to Peru with National Geographic and local experts as their guides. Highlights include exploring the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu, voted one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, and visiting Tambopata Reserve deep in the Peruvian rain forest, where team members will have the opportunity to help in a research laboratory. All winners will also receive a digital camera courtesy of Nikon."

The Colorado Libraries website reports that: "Colorado Libraries for Early Literacy, an advisory group to the State Library, will expand the Every Child Ready to Read program to 10 more public libraries in Colorado. Every Child Ready to Read is a national initiative from the Public Library Association to promote pre-literacy skills in children from birth through age five in public libraries. Parents and caregivers can learn techniques for engaging their babies and young children in language and literacy games that promote learning and school-readiness."

My Own Book is a winner in the Best Buy @15 Challenge, winning a $10,000 grant that will be used to buy 8000 books. My Own Book "is an organization where teens visit disadvantaged K through 3rd graders, read a story aloud, tell about the public library, and then each child gets to choose their very own book from a selection of brand new books." It was founded by teenage brothers Kyle and Brady Baldwin. You can listen to a recent interview with Kyle and Brady at Just One More Book!

Other Literacy and Reading-Related News

We've seen mention in several places about the new Consumer Product Safety Commission rule that says that all products for children, including books, have to be tested for lead. We found this post by Elaine Magliaro at Wild Rose Reader (which quotes Karen Raugust's recent Publishers Weekly story) helpful in understanding the issue. Please just tell me that people aren't going to have to actually throw away perfectly good children's books, because they can't be cost-effectively tested for lead poisoning...

Over at Carma's Window, a blog about children's writing, Carma addresses the question of whether or not parents should correct their children's spelling. She recommends paying attention first to the other aspects of writing (plotting, characterization, etc.), for children and adults, and dealing with spelling errors more as part of a final polish.

At A Chair, A Fireplace and A Tea Cozy, Liz Burns addresses the negative reactions that people often have to award selections. She says, in defense of people questioning the outcome of awards, "Questioning the winners shows that people are invested in literature and the meaning of books in people's lives. It shows people care. It shows people are thinking and considering and are involved.

The New York Times reports, in an article by Dexter Filkins, about acid attacks in Afghanistan meant to terrorize girls, and their teachers, attempting to go to school. The good news is that it hasn't deterred very many of the young women from returning to school. But it's still a dreadful story. We first saw this story in the San Jose Mercury News.

According to The Times Online, "A Labour MP (in the UK) has provoked anger among literacy campaigners by calling dyslexia a “cruel fiction” that can often lead to criminal behaviour." We found this link at the IRA blog. See also this article by Fiona Gray in Scotland on Sunday, which touches on the MP's remarks, and also reviews a Literacy Commission report on dyslexia.

And that's all for this week. We hope that you enjoy MLK and Inauguration Days. Happy reading!

© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.

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