Fact of Life #31: Denise Vega
Monday Night Visits: February 23

Children's Literacy Round-Up: February 23

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, is now available here. This week Terry Doherty and I have collected content for you about literacy & reading-related events; raising readers; literacy and reading programs and research; 21st century literacies; and other news. We hope that you'll find something of interest.


We learned from the Longstockings blog that author Lisa Greenwald is sponsoring a contest, "My Life in Pink and Green" for teachers and librarians. Deadline: 31 March 2009. Prize: AN EARTH DAY PARTY FOR YOUR CLASS on Wednesday 4/22 - EARTH DAY!!!! Lisa will send you: A gift card so you can buy snacks and goodies; a signed copy of MY LIFE IN PINK & GREEN for your classroom or library; and signed bookmarks for everyone in your class. More details here.

RORLogo Reach Out and Read announced (I saw it on Facebook) their 4th annual Read Romp + Rock event. "Read Romp + Rock is a hip, fun “non-gala” gala that benefits Reach Out and Read. The event includes drinks, dinner, music, dancing, and features our signature Celebrity Reader Raffle. Make this party your big night out, and help make literacy promotion a standard part of pediatric primary care, so that children grow up with books and a love of reading." More details are here. If I still lived in Boston, perhaps...

Kidsheartauthorlogo Publisher's Weekly has a nice recap by Judith Rosen of the recent Kids Heart Authors Day events in New England. Kids Heart Authors day was the brainchild of Mitali Perkins, and resulted in celebrations at 43 independent bookstores in New England on Valentine's Day. You can find other quotes about the event at the Kids Heart Authors Day blog.

Gail Gauthier issued a reminder last week that March 2nd is Read Across America Day. Gail says: " I'll be reading a selection from A Girl, a Boy, and Three Robbers to a couple of kindergarten classes here in Connecticut. This appearance came about because of my involvement with my local Kids Heart Authors Day event." Isn't it nice how things in the children's book industry tend to be connected? The NEA website explains: "The National Education Association annually sponsors Read Across America. Now in its twelfth year, the program focuses on motivating children to read, in addition to helping them master basic skills. The nationwide reading celebration takes place each year on or near March 2, the birthday of Dr. Seuss." Also in honor of Read Across America Day, Defiance Public Library (Ohio) is sponsoring a book drive. See the DPL Bookends blog for details.

2009-Conference-Banner-small Also in March, the National Center for Family Literacy will be having their 18th annual conference on family literacy. Carol Rasco has a post about RIF's plans for the conference, adding "RIF’ers are excited about hearing the keynote presentations by actor Henry Winkler, best-selling author Greg Mortenson (Three Cups of Tea), and famed illustrator Peter Reynolds (The North Star)." Speaking of the NCFL, they were discussed in an article in Sunday's Parade Magazine by Sheila Weller.

In a recent news release, the New York Red Bulls announced "that a celebrity game will be among the pre-match festivities as the team opens its 2009 Major League Soccer (MLS) home schedule against the New England Revolution ... The Red Bulls will donate a portion of each game ticket sold to the Books for Kids Foundation. For 23 years, Books for Kids has been responsible for distributing over five million books to needy children, in the New York area and across the nation."

Raising Readers

The National Children's Book and Literacy Alliance is concerned about the impact of budget cuts on school librarians, saying "The NCBLA urges you to contact your local school board and school department, your state legislators and education department, and your representatives to the United State Congress to ask for level funding for school and public libraries, and to keep state certified librarians employed in school and public libraries!"

Interesting Nonfiction for Kids (I.N.K.) has a nice post by Anna Lewis about nonfiction book baskets for toddlers, complete with a listing of reasons to gift book baskets in the first place, and a suggestion of titles.

First Book has a guest post by Lydia Breiseth about building literacy skills with word games, in both English and Spanish. She says: "Riddles and word games are not only fun for kids and for students learning a new language—they are great ways to build literacy skills, to practice spelling and vocabulary words, and to get kids thinking about patterns.  Even the simplest ideas may prove to be successful."

Jay Matthews had a nice column in the Washington Post recently about boosting schools' value without spending a dime. He shares seven concrete ideas (developed with some teachers), several of them focused on increased reading. For example: "Replace elementary school homework with free reading" and "Furlough everybody -- including teachers, students and parents -- for an unpaid national reading holiday". I first saw this article mentioned in the Rasco from RIF blog, but also saw responses at The Miss Rumphius Effect and TeacherNinja. TeacherNinja adds another thought on this: "One idea I think would not only not cost much, but would actually save us thousands of hours of instructional time, not to mention many millions of dollars would be to cut back on the amount of testing we're doing."

The Granite Falls Advocate Tribune has an article by Kathy Velde about the local Fathers Reading Every Day (FRED) program. "FRED is a program designed to encourage fathers, grandfathers, and other positive male role models to read to their children on a daily basis. The program aims to increase father involvement in children's literacy development and to improve the quality of father-child relationships."

And, three posts from the blogs about sharing the gift of reading:

  • The Book Chook has a lovely post about how "When you encourage a child to read, you are actually conferring two special magical powers on him - the power to solve problems, and the power to enter other worlds." She also recounts the virtues of books as gifts ("A book won't grow too big, bark incessantly, and have to be returned to the Shelter", etc.).
  • The Tiger's Bookshelf has a post by Janet Brown suggesting that in addition to parents reading to kids, older siblings can also do so. She says: "If parents don’t have time to read aloud, children do. All that’s needed is that they be infected with the joy of reading–then watch out! They will indeed pass that virus on, by reading aloud to everyone who will listen."
  • Terry Doherty has a post at Scrub-a-Dub-Tub about the importance of kids having their own books. She says: "If children don’t have easy access to books, how will they know whether they like reading or not? ... When a child owns a book … just one book … the possibilities are endless." 

Literacy & Reading Programs & Research

The Illinois State University Daily Vidette has an article by Hannah Tomlin about how "The national community service program, Jumpstart, has motivated college students throughout the nation to improve society and establish special relationships through educational intervention for low-income and poverty-stricken preschoolers."

At Literacy Is Priceless, Anna Batchelder shares some conclusions from reading the 2007 McKinsey report, How the World’s Best Performing School Systems Come out on Top. According to the report, "the best school systems: Get the right people to become teachers; Develop them into effective instructors; Ensure the system is able to deliver the best possible instruction for each child".

21st Century Literacies

There's been a bit of a conflict over the Kindle 2's ability to automatically convert digital books into computerized audio books. The Authors Guild's stance is that this is a violation of the authors' rights (conversion to an audio format without permission). We learned from GalleyCat (via a twitter from Liz B. from Tea Cozy) that the Federation of the Blind is now taking exception to the Authors Guild's response.

Liz B. also has a related post up at ForeWord magazine (where she is guest blogging this month) about eBooks, PDFs, and audiobooks. I tend to agree with Liz that "Because I'm an audiobook listener, I personally think the Author's Guild fears of a computer voice are unfounded. Honestly, audiobooks are superior; when readers have a choice, they will go for the book that is recorded, narrated, directed, and edited by professionals." But I think that the whole situation deserves a careful look, because once we start diminishing content creators' rights, we're potentially on a path towards there not being any creators at all. (Updated to add: see dissenting opinions, and a clarification of my point on this, in the comments. I'm really wishing I'd never brought the whole thing up at all...)

Time Magazine has an article about how the digital age is reshaping literature. Terry read this in detail, and found that although much of the article is about the publishing industry, it also talks about how the author/publisher (and ultimately the author/reader) relationships are changing because of technology. Thanks to Jocelyn of Teen Book Review for the link.

Trevor Cairney has an in-depth discussion on the Your Baby Can Read program at Literacy, families and learning. He says that the YBCR program "is primarily a word recognition program designed for children as young as 12 months. It aims to teach children to recognise words by ‘sight’ (instant word recognition), with the words being taught using a variety of stimulus materials including DVDs and word and picture cards." Trevor discusses, in particular, the benefits and risks of accelerating children's learning in this manner.

Other News

The American Library Association website I Love Libraries offers an action list, “Two Minutes Can Make a Difference,” that explains how you can advocate for public library funding. The action list includes not only ways to contact your congressman, but also means for staying informed and spreading the word about this critical issue. (via an NCBLA blog post)

We also have an exciting announcement about grassroots efforts to encourage reading coming later this week. Stay tuned!