Follow-Up on Encouraging Read-Aloud Campaign
Books Now Available: Fade

Children's Literacy Round-Up: February 9

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 plenty of content for you about raising readers; literacy and reading programs and research; 21st century literacies; grants, sponsorships & donations; and other new resources. We welcome your feedback.

Raising Readers

The Telegraph (UK) has an article by Warwick Mansell about how author Frank Cottrell Boyce claims that "Children's love of books is being killed off by schools turning libraries into literature-free "learning resource centres"". We found this link via Chicken Spaghetti, where there is in an interesting discussion about the piece going on in the comments. Like Susan Thomsen, I think that there is at least a grain of truth to the whole argument. Pair this column with Kelly Gallagher's Readicide.  

On a more hopeful note, the Blog of the Two Hands Approach to the English Language reports (from the Ethiopia Reads newsletter) that "Ethiopia Reads is thrilled to announce the opening of three new donkey mobile libraries, which officially went into service during a gala inauguration ceremony on January 10... The donkey mobile library has introduced reading and books to children in some of the poorest areas of Ethiopia, a country where 99% of schools have no books." We think that's very cool!

Every month, the National Literacy Trust interviews "a well-known figure in the world of reading and literacy". This month, author Anthony Horowitz discusses books, literacy, and appealing to boys as readers. He says, for example, that "More time needs to be set apart in schools for reading. Not reading for exams. Not reading for the national curriculum. But reading for pleasure." He also comes down very strongly in favor of traditional books, over television and new gadgets. We found the link at Anabel's Children's Literature Blog.

Moon Over StarWe heard from several sources (including Reading Today Daily, the International Reading Association blog) about the President and the First Lady reading to second graders this week at a charter school in Washington, DC. See, for example, this Washington Post article by Hamil R. Harris, David Nakamura and Bill Turque, which reports that "Obama went to the Capital City Public Charter School on Tuesday with an autographed copy of "The Moon Over Star," by Dianna Hutts Aston, a book that chronicles the story of the 1969 Apollo 11 Moon landing." See also some photos of the visit in the Chicago Tribune (with thanks to Jenny Schwartzberg), and this CNN piece. Seems to me that the new President is off to a good start in demonstrating the importance of read-aloud, wouldn't you say?

On a more pessimistic note regarding the new administration, however, Tim Shanahan writes at Literacy Learning about "why the stimulus bill will not really increase school funding". He says: "The money isn’t targeted on any improvements, so there probably won’t be any. Schools will be tripping over themselves to push these bucks out the door, and that is not exactly the scenario for quality improvement." He adds: "I think states and cities will reduce the amount of tax support that they are now providing to these institutions and will use the savings to pay for their other responsibilities. In other words, I think the schools will still get cut, but the new arrangement will mean that a larger proportion of school budgets will be coming from the feds."

Over at Literacy Launchpad, Amy shares a nice list from the Calgary Herald of "basic pre-reading skills that are necessary for reading success... (laid out) in an easy to remember way". I agree with Amy that ""I Like Books" - Motivation/Having Fun Reading" is the most important, and that they "are all skills you can easily be helping your child build as you simply spend time reading to them on a daily basis." Yet more support for the importance of reading aloud.

The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette has an interesting article by Amanda Iacone about a new program called "Real Men Read." Thirty-five male volunteers are each being asked to "spend one hour a month with their (assigned volunteer) classroom reading a set of books geared to get boys interested in reading. United Way officials hope to improve literacy among low-income boys and provide good male role models who aren't athletes or entertainers." We found this link via Reading Today Daily.

We also found new articles about Reach Out and Read (the program by which pediatricians give books to kids during their well-child visits) in the Charleston Post and Courier and the MetroWest Daily News.

TadMack from Finding Wonderland sent this link from the Guardian Books Blog. It's a post by Michael Rosen about "how to start a reading revolution". Rosen observes that (in his opinion) in primary schools in the UK, "While "reading" and "literacy" have been made into a top priority, reading books has been sidelined." He explains that the BBC challenged him to "turn an ordinary school, that was doing all the right things as far as "literacy" was concerned, into a book-loving school in 10 weeks." The details will be available in a special on BBC Four (which I mentioned in another post yesterday). I'll be interested to hear more details. See also this post at Farm School, with a response to Rosen's post and a related Guardian article.

Literacy & Reading Programs & Research

As reported by Catherine Gewertz  at Education Week, "The fifth annual report on AP scores released by the College Board, the New York City-based nonprofit organization that sponsors the program, shows that in the graduating class of 2008, 17 percent of the students who took AP exams were from low-income families, up from 16.2 percent in the class of 2007 and 11.6 percent in the class of 2003."

The Bismarck Tribune has a nice article by Pam Krueger about the National Early Literacy Panel (NELP) report, and the importance of introducing kids to reading before they start school. While we've discussed the findings of the NELP report before, we thought that this article provided a concise summary of some key points, It's well worth a read. Terry found this article via a tweet from LiteracyLaunch (I'm still resisting twitter).

Reading Today Daily reports that this year's Global Action Week in Canada will focus on literacy. "Every year, the Canadian Global Campaign for Education (CGCE) works with partners around the world to organise Global Action Week, an international campaign to tell politicians and journalists that we need to provide quality education to the 75 million children and 774 million adults who cannot currently access this basic human right. ... The theme for the 2009 Global Action Week is Literacy, and CGCE will be highlighting the importance of providing opportunities for everyone to receive quality education and the benefits that literacy brings." More details can be found here.

Also via Reading Today Daily, we found this Indianapolis Star article by Betsy Reason about how the charter of some literacy coaches is expanding from a focus on lower-ability students to also help broaden the skills of higher-ability students. We find this an encouraging trend.

Literacy and Reading News reports that a new search invites kids ages 6 to 12 to create a new friend for ARTHUR (the PBS Kids television series based on the books by Marc Brown). "The "ARTHUR/All Kids Can Character Search" invites children ages 6-12 to send in their ideas for a new character for Arthur. And not just any character--one who can show that having a unique ability, character trait, or disability might make life a little bit different, but not any less fun."

An article by Catherine Woulfe in the Sunday Star Times (New Zealand) reports that "A breakthrough teaching approach is "spectacularly" boosting the reading and writing skills of some of the country's most at-risk children. The new approach sounds simple: teachers gather data to track each child's progress, then fine-tune their teaching to suit. And it is showing remarkable results." I found this article at

The Salt Lake Tribune has an article by Kristen Stewart about a school that is improving literacy through "brain fitness". Teacher "Shauna Venturino ... is heading up a Murray School District experiment at Longview Elementary involving 50 sixth-graders and a colorful computer program called FastForWord Language. Developed by Scientific Learning Corp. in Berkeley, Calif., the program applies neurological theory to language and reading problems."

21st Century Literacies

Education Week's Digital Education Blog reports that "A new study by Purdue University has shed some light on how to most effectively engage students in technology and engineering at a young age." Researchers found that students who followed a more hands-on learning process (in an experiment) "had "a deeper understanding" of the concepts than the students who had lecture-based lessons, especially in students for whom English was not their first language."

The New York Times has an article by Virginia Heffernan about reading experiences in print vs. on screen for kids ("Click and Jane"). We found the article via Liz in Ink's rebuttal. Liz takes exception to Heffernan's apparent approval of her three-year-old son's use of online reading sites "to enrich his solitude", calling that solitude "one of the most intensely pleasurable aspects of literacy". What irritated me about the article was the author's apparent displeasure that her son prefers printed books to books on the computer ("Or does he need the spectacle of hard- and softcover dust magnets eliminating floor space in our small apartment ...I sadly suspect he needs the shelves and dust."). 

Dope SickPublic School Insights recently shared an interview with Walter Dean Myers about the themes of Myers' new novel, Dope Sick. They also report that "Myers is collaborating with and the NEA on the Second Chance Initiative, which aims to help youth make better choices. As part of this initiative, the novel will be available for free on HarperCollins' website from February 10th through 24th. The initiative also offers Dope Sick reading guides and writing activities along with resources on preventing high school dropout, teen pregnancy and substance abuse." If that's not 21st Century Literacy, I don't know what is.

Grants, Sponsorships & Donations

The eBay blog reports that "Last week, eBay Foundation and First Book, a nonprofit providing new books to children in need, held reading parties in elementary schools in Austin, Texas; Omaha, Nebraska; and Venice, California, to celebrate the distribution of more than 300,000 Random House Children’s Books nationwide." The post has some great photos of happy children receiving books.

The NCFL Literacy Now blog recently posted a reminder that "NCFL is currently accepting applications for its highly successful Toyota Family Literacy Program (TFLP)? This innovative program, funded generously by Toyota since 2003, features a competitive grant award of $600,000 that is comprised of direct funding and support services such as training and technical assistance. Five new school districts will be chosen to begin implementing TFLP this fall."

The Daily Pilot (Newport Beach) reports, in an article by Michael Alexander, that more than 100 teachers were recently awarded grants for "materials they say will transform their classrooms", with total grants reaching $238,000. For example, "Newport Harbor High School English teacher Jason Mintzer appeared to have hit the jackpot, with $9,913 going to a program he called “Project Reading Revival.” Mintzer, who teaches ninth- and eleventh-graders, wrote on his grant application that he planned to buy a wide variety of “high-interest novels to tempt every reluctant reader into the world of books.”"

New Resources

Terry found a nice post about the importance of reading by Vonnie at the Keep up the good work blog. Vonnie mentions the same Reach Out and Read study that Terry and I have both been talking about, and she also links to various sources for finding book ideas (ALA lists, etc). She adds: "Another great source is one my friend Colleen (who has been an elementary school teacher and administrator for over 20 years) shared at our friends group meeting a few months ago. She gave a great presentation on Children's Literature and share this great site for matching books to readers, using leveled books in guided reading. Also look here for other reading resources that teachers use." The latter resources are both from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and we think that they are worth a look.

And that is quite enough news for one week. Hope that you'll find some food for thought!

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