North of Beautiful: Justina Chen Headley
Starclimber: Kenneth Oppel

Children's Literacy Round-Up: Patriots' Day Edition

200px-Minuteman-250px Happy Patriots' Day! I know that Patriots' Day isn't a holiday for all of you, but as a native of Lexington, MA (where the first battle of the Revolutionary War was fought), I could never forget it. Anyway, 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. This week Terry Doherty and I have collected plenty of content for you about literacy & reading-related events; raising readers; literacy and reading programs and research; 21st century literacies; grants, sponsorships & donations; and other new resources. Enjoy!


First Book had a variety of events this week. On April 14th, First Book partner BOOK IT!® hosted "America’s Biggest Bedtime Story — an online special event (featuring) actor John Lithgow reading from his children’s book, I Got Two Dogs." More details can be found here. The webcast will remain available for "a limited time". BOOK IT! promised a donation to First Book, with the size depending on the number of people tuning in.

FB_logo Also at First Book, we found this news item: "First Book had the honor of hosting its first ever National Book Bank distribution in Louisville, KY last week - April 6-9. As the recipient of a 50,000 book donation from securing the winning votes from the “What Book Got You Hooked?” campaign, the Bluegrass State welcomed us with open arms and helped get a total of 250,000 books into the hands of children in Kentucky and across the nation."

This one is for big kids who want to write for little kids. Sherry from Semicolon wrote: "The Cheerios New Author Contest encourages aspiring authors to write and submit an original story for a book for children ages 3 to 8. You have to be over 18 to enter, and the deadline is July 15, 2009. I tell my children Maria stories, and I may send one in."

According to the Country Standard Time, "The Book Lady, a half-hour Canadian documentary film about Dolly Parton's campaign for children's literacy, will screen at the 40th Nashville Film Festival now underway. Parton, Miley Cyrus (Dolly's goddaughter), Keith Urban, Canadian singer/songwriters Sarah Harmer and Justin Rutledge and American-born Canadian children's author Robert Munsch are featured in the documentary, which chronicles Parton's Imagination Library."

Raising Readers

JPERClogo Natasha Worswick shares the results of James Patterson's Extreme Reading Challenge, explaining: "The challenge encourages fathers and carers to read with their children and the idea behind the competition was to picture dads and their children sharing a book in an unusual place to demonstrate that reading with your child really can take place anywhere. The winners, James and David Andrews are pictured reading in their freezer!"

Imaginary GardenNatasha also has a beautiful post about Reading Gardens. She says: "It is a lovely idea. Creating an outdoor garden space, somewhere to sit and read a collection of books that are especially appropriate for the garden. Apparently some bookshops are already putting this idea into action and have book boxes outside in their gardens for customers to sit and browse through in the sunshine." She's working on creating a reading garden for her son. (I also suggest reading The Imaginary Garden, by Andrew Larsen.)

As I mentioned last week, Terry has made tremendous strides towards beautifying the Share a Story - Shape a Future website. This week, she's been focused on making the site even more useful. She has a new post compiling reading tips and another with a comprehensive index to Share a Story - Shape a Future 2009. Please do check these posts out - I'm sure that you'll find something of interest.

Award-winning author April Pulley Sayre tells us about her observations of how kids understand and decode nonfiction text during a recent 10-day swing through Lexington, SC elementary schools. She offers specific examples of how teachers and librarians helped kids "develop skills to dig into nonfiction text."

At the Reading Rockets Page by Page blog, Maria Salvadore addresses the question of figuring out what boys like to read. After exploring some resources, she concludes: "Maybe we don't need Disney researchers, just adults who are willing to stretch their ideas of what boys respond to and why they may not respond like girls. Embedded in that should be how adults regard what reading is and what books should look like, along with a close-up understanding of what boys might read, and by extension watch on screens — it just may be more diverse than what we adults realize."

ABC Newspapers has an article by Mandy Moran Froemming about the importance of reading aloud to children. The article includes recommendations from Sue Klund, recent recipient of the Minnesota Reading Association Celebrate Literacy Award. For example, "Eight books a day, she prescribes, even for infants. But those books don’t have to be long or difficult. Klund encourages kids to read easy books.... to build skills and vocabulary."

Melinda Franklin has six easy-to-digest/easy-to-repeat reasons that explain The Importance of Reading to Children (though, as Terry first noted, I wish it was reading "with" children). Like many of us who grew up with books as a daily part of our lives, we sometimes are surprised that all kids don't get to share a book with their family every day. (Terry found this article via Twitter From EverybodyWins)

We found another article about reading with kids at new blog Moms Inspire Learning. Dawn Morris shares her Top 10 Ways to Raise an Avid Reader, Part 1, referencing some of our other favorite blogs, like The Book Chook, Literacy Launchpad, and The Almost Librarian. Dawn says: "The greatest gift any parent can give to their child is time spent reading together. You don't have to officially be a teacher to raise a reader. All you really need is an hour (or at least a half an hour) every day, a library card, and a desire to spend quality time with your child." Can't argue with that!

Literacy & Reading Programs & Research

The April 2009 edition of Phi Delta Kappan, the professional journal for education, contains an article by Harvard Family Research Project (HFRP), "Strengthen What Happens Outside School to Improve What Happens Inside." HFRP's article (also available directly from HFRP, with no login required) is one of seven that appear in the journal under the rubric, "Congress, We've Got Ideas for You!" that offer recommendations for the future federal role in K-12 education. The article offers research-based recommendations for federal education legislation that highlight the importance of out-of-school learning as complementary to school improvement strategies. The recommendations challenge the long-standing assumption underlying federal education legislation -- including the No Child Left Behind Act -- that K-12 schools can operate alone to level the learning field for poor children. [Terry found this one via Twitter from CircleReader - and yes, I'm starting to see a pattern with finding interesting resources that way]

Sue_steph1 At Lectitans, Kimberly shares 7 Resources for Literacy Activists. Terry and I were thrilled to see Share a Story - Shape a Future on the list, and we recommend that you check out Kimberly's other suggestions, too. (Image credit to Susan Stephenson from The Book Chook).

Via the NCTE Inbox newsletter, we found this article by James Vaznis in the Boston Globe, about a program that pairs students with retirees as tutors. The Ralph Waldo Emerson Elementary School "is among 10 elementary schools and four community centers in Boston that have enlisted 300 retirees to tutor students in reading through the national Experience Corps program. The program, which trains adults 55 years and older to tutor children in reading, was first adopted by a few Boston schools about 10 years ago. Recently, it has seen a resurgence in popularity as the district confronts stagnant reading and English scores for elementary school pupils."

The Beacon News (suburban Chicago area) has an article by Wendy Foster about Aunt Mary's Storybook Project. Mary Walsh visits women in prison and records them reading children's books aloud, to share with their children. "As a former teacher, Walsh said that she was drawn by the program's objective of promoting literacy. As a mother, she added, she cherishes the tradition of parents reading to their children. Aunt Mary's Storybook is a way of parents and children reconnecting with each other in a positive way."

Teacherninja highlights a new National Geographic video about a Columbian schoolteachers who, on weekends, uses a burro to deliver books to students in the country. You can read Teacherninja's earlier post about the Biblioburro here.

21st Century Literacies

In recognition of Teacher Appreciation Week (4 to 8 May), Learning will hold its our annual Open House. Teachers can register to explore the site and use it free of charge all week long. This is their way of saying "thank you" to the world’s teachers and all they do on behalf of our kids.

According to a news release, "kidthing® and Dr. Seuss Enterprises together with the National Education Association are proud to announce that they will be providing classrooms across America with free copies of an animated special edition e-book of Dr. Seuss's The Lorax in celebration of Earth Day. This announcement comes just after having given teachers across America over $175,000 in digital Dr. Seuss books as part of NEA's recent 2009 Read Across America program. The digital version of Dr. Seuss's classic, The Lorax--only available at kidthing--will be made available to teachers through May 15, 2009.

Grants and Donations

According to a recent news release, "City National Bank today announced that it has awarded 33 Reading Is The Way Up(r) grants totaling $16,500 to support literacy-based projects at elementary, middle and high schools in northern and southern Nevada... The $500 grants will help augment or expand literacy projects that were judged to be creative and engaging, and that would have a tangible affect on student achievement. The winning programs are expected to directly improve the literacy of about 2,000 students in Nevada.

An article by Korvell Pyfrom in the Forest Grove News Times reports that "A Forest Grove community-based organization was recently awarded a $17,620 grant to help to improve literacy among low-income immigrant children."

We [heart] New York - With $2.8 Million, the Bronx will (finally) have it's own children's museum. The borough has the most young people (1.4 million residents under 18) and is the only Manhattan borough without it's own children's museum. The proposed/approved Bronx Children's Museum is an interactive facility to educate young people "about the history and diversity of The Bronx, while also engaging and sparking their imaginations and curiosity. The Bronx Children’s Museum will foster a love of learning and help children to develop language and literacy skills." Read more at the Bronx Latino blog.

Doug Beldon
(Pioneer Press) has a detailed article about how the Greater Twin Cities (Minnesota) United Way is moving from a single-school model to a system-wide partnership. The local United Way chapter will invest $5.8 million annually to increase reading proficiency and access to health care among low-income people. With the new investment ($1.3M/year) St. Paul schools plan to expand the Minnesota Reading Corps program.

New Resources

The Corner - is the online book club for the Common Ground Foundation, a nonprofit devoted to empowering youth. The book club is one part of its The "Read For Change" program, which is focused on countering youth illiteracy. From the website: "This interactive platform provides youth across the country with an opportunity to discuss current reading selections, and fosters the development of critical thinking skills."

Latin Baby Book Club - This multi-author blog "provides parents with suggested reading for their families. Our goal is to help our children develop pride for their Latin culture through education and literature. We also strive to support Hispanic authors through interviews and our reviews of bilingual young adult and children's books." Christianne Meneses Jacobs has a concise post that lays out the skills children need to be readers by third grade, with ideas on how to start at home.

Happy reading! We hope that you find some resources of interest this week.