Friday Afternoon Visits: May 15
Books Now Available: After the Moment

Children's Literacy Round-Up: May 18

Jpg_book008 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 literacy & reading-related events; raising readers; literacy and reading programs and research; 21st century literacies; grants, sponsorships & donations; and other new resources. Enjoy!


DarknessNow here is an event that I would have attended if I still lived in Boston. Mystery author Dennis Lehane spoke at a reception to benefit ReadBoston, a nonprofit children's literacy organization. According to Victoria Groves in the West Roxbury Transcript, "The $25 tickets were oversold, and about 100 people showed up for the event — a testament to his popularity. Funds raised will be used for the organization’s Storymobile program, which provides storytelling and free books to children at 75 sites across the city, 10 of which are in Roslindale and West Roxbury." I love Lehane's books (dark mysteries, including Gone, Baby, Gone and Mystic River), and I would have donated to a good cause to meet him.

Raising Readers

Via a tweet from @everybodywins, we found a new PBS Parents article about how to create a literate home. The article begins: "What exactly is a "literate home?" It is an environment that encourages children to learn to read and write and become lifelong readers and writers. Transforming your home into a literate home is simple and inexpensive. You need to consider what kinds of materials to have on hand and how to arrange materials so your child will use them. More importantly, you need to interact with your child in ways that foster literacy development." It then moves on to provide specific recommendations by age range. Well worth checking out.

Pbskids And speaking of PBS, we liked this press release about how Super WHY, a PBS Kids Series is helping Kids in Low-Income Families Read. “PBS Kids series Super WHY? is helping kids read, particularly those in low-income families. That’s according to studies conducted by the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania and Florida State University’s Center for Reading Research for PBS in conjunction with the Department of Education’s Ready To Learn grant program (RTL).” From Broadcast Newsroom. (Via Meg Ivey's May 15th Literacy Voices roundup on the NCFL Literacy Now blog.)

Terry found an interesting article (also via @everybodywins tweet) on the Bookshop blog, about Why Encouraging Literacy should be part of your Business Plan. The article lists lots of stats, and then asks this question: "What does all this have to do with bookstores? The key to literacy is access to books. In low income areas, 80% of preschool and afterschool programs have NO age appropriate books for kids! In middle class neighborhoods, there’s roughly one age appropriate book per 13 kids between the library and private holdings. In low income neighborhoods, the ratios is 300 to 1."

In Setting the Stage for a Lifetime in Love with Reading in the National Post, reporter Shannon Sutherland shares stories about the relationship between conversation and reading. There's a great story about a dad reading Afterlands to his newborn in the hospital! It reminded me of a friend of mine, who used to read Anne River Siddons novels aloud to her infant daughter (now a teenage bookworm).

Via tweet from @jeanetteMcLeod (yes, there's a bit of a recurring theme here), Terry found a nice article by Jim Gibson on about how reading aloud to children has benefits that go beyond language. Gibson talked with children's author Frieda Wishinsky about the benefits of parents reading aloud to their children. For instance, "A story can be calming for an upset child." The article includes facts on reading aloud, and suggestions for what to do even if you don't think that you're good at it.

Rap to Roots, an afterschool program, is a new pilot program at the Wyatt-Edison Charter School in Five Points, Colorado. The program engages kids in creating rap to help them with their learning. Michael Schenkelberg created the program when schools began cutting arts from their curriculum. What the organizers discovered was that kids in the program "did significantly better in standardized testing, attention spans in the classroom, and some improved their writing skills" in the four years the organizers tracked their progress. The full article is by Colleen O'Connor in the Denver Post.

Thanks to @CircleReader for the lead to Barbara Fisher's article Publishers and Librarians: Two Approaches, One Goal (Library Journal, 1 May). To help her illustrate the perspectives, Fisher uses a (generic) librarian's and editor's answer to the comment "Gee, I wish I could spend all day reading books." I also liked this snippet: "Publishers work closely with authors and use sales figures to tell them what readers want, interpreting those figures like tea leaves. Librarians work closely with readers, using them as informants to help them select books that will satisfy the diverse tastes of a community."

At Librarian Mom, Els Kushner recaps the Six Early Literacy Skills (from referenced sources). She concludes: "So, that's it: six skills that you can encourage and teach in the comfort of your own home. Reading books together hits all of them, but there are so many ways they can be woven into the fabric of daily life. And when your kid has them mastered--at age four, at age eight, whenever they're developmentally ready and have enough of these skills under their belt--they'll be ready to read."

Summer Reading is on everyone's mind, as the end of the school year approaches. Here are a host of ideas from various sources:

... by way of Dubai, Literacy is Priceless shares a summer literacy and technology round-up, with links for kids, tweens, teens, and adults.
... by way of Brimful Curiosities, Janelle links to an article about summer reading programs for kids at Freebies 4 Mom and to the Barnes and Noble summer reading program.
... TD Bank even has a Summer Reading Progam. The Summer Reading Program encourages young people to read and additionally provides a goal for them to learn the importance of saving and money. TD Bank and TD Banknorth contribute $10 into a new or existing young savers account for each child who reads 10 books throughout the summer.
... Reading Rockets shares a beach bag full of summer reading ideas. also has a uses the beach bag theme for sharing recommendations; their ideas focused on older kids and teens. AdLit also has a list of hot reads for summer.
... Mitali Perkins has a guest column in The Boston Globe about A Boston Summer of Children's Books. Reading about all of these events is almost enough to make me wish I still lived in Boston. Still not quite, though. Not even with the Dennis Lehane event above.
... This week's sponsor of the Unshelved blog, Random House, offered its Summer Reading List for high school students. The list of 20 new and classic titles is organized by category and has the reading level (by grade). If you don't know about Unshelved, then read the 100 Scope Notes post about the comic strip's book promotion potential in your school library.
... From the Bookworm: A Themed Booklist - The Beach, a set of ten picture books at the Bookworm's Booklist.
... Teaching with Books has two posts with baseball-themed picture book: Extra Innings (boy books) and A League of Their Own (girl ballplayers).  Keith Schoch's presentation style is perfect at home or in the classroom. His "Before Reading" questions can be very helpful to parents not used to booktalking. He also links to other sources on the subject, which are great to have handy with the inevitable requests for "more." (Link via The Big Fresh from Choice Literacy)
... The Intelligencer has a nice article by Donna Kaye about using the outdoors to enhance children's literacy. She says: "Literacy can happen anywhere, anytime, and the back yard or garden is no exception. Young children enthusiastically embrace the perennial ritual of planting seeds and flowers, digging holes and getting down and dirty. When children interact with attentive adults in the great outdoors, learning and growing will happen naturally."
... And if you're looking for book ideas, I have a post up today at Booklights which lists the Cybils winners by category for the past 3 years. There are some great book suggestions there.

I'm sure that we'll find other summer reading resources in future weeks, but this should get your started.

Literacy & Reading Programs & Research

Terry and I were both very glad to learn, via this post at Rasco from RIF, that support for RIF has been included in the President's requested 2010 budget. Carol Rasco said: "Yesterday the President’s requested budget for FY10 was released, and we are thrilled that RIF is recommended for a $25 million contract. This is a result of hard work by you, our supporters, and the RIF government relations team. There is much hard work still ahead as we progress through the budget process, but a major hurdle has been cleared with this announcement."

We also liked this School Library Journal article by Renea Arnold and Nell Colburn: Something to Smile About: A Statewide Early Literacy Program Is Making a Big Difference. The authors explain: "now more than ever, it’s important to appreciate the work that energizes us and gives us hope. Here in Oregon one such program is our new statewide training project to increase early childhood literacy skills. In 2008, after many years of planning and securing funds, Reading for Healthy Families: Building Communities of Learning was launched in 14 of Oregon’s 36 counties. Reading for Healthy Families (RFHF) represents our state’s version of “Every Child Ready to Read @ your library,” a research-based early literacy curriculum created by the Public Library Association and the Association for Library Service to Children."

The Tri-County News (MN) has an article by Candi Walz about a local early literacy program that gives baby literacy packets to new parents. "The delivered kits give parents interactive books, a booklet of activities to help develop children's brains, a growth chart, a list of available parenting services and a bib. The delivery also welcomes new children into the community. "Our goal is to get parents to interact with their babies," (program director Maggie) Lundorff said."

Learning disorders related to writing may be as common as reading disabilities, according to a study published in the May 2009 edition of Pediatrics. Terry found this Yahoo News item via tweet from @philiplee95. Here's more detail: "Learning disorders related to writing are ... are especially likely to affect boys, a new study suggests. Written-language disorder, also known as dysgraphia, includes problems with handwriting, spelling and organizing thoughts on paper; it is diagnosed when a child's writing skills fall "substantially below" the norm for his or her age and IQ. In contrast to reading disabilities, like dyslexia, there has been little research into writing disabilities, and the rate of the problem among U.S. children has been unclear."

21st Century Literacies

Literacy R Us is a "a hub for an ongoing intellectual discussion among a class of college students about the meanings of literacy." To start the process, the students generated a list of statements in answer to What is literacy? There are some expected answers, and some nifty ones. Terry liked "Literacy is a map to the road ahead." I kind of liked "Literacy is like a lamp" (maybe because of Booklights) and "Literacy is like a vacation without leaving your seat". We'll see what else they come up with.

A new study from the University of Leicester says that early word recognition is the key to lifelong reading skills. According to a recent Science Daily article (which Terry found via @everybodywins tweet), the study "found that the age at which we learn words is key to understanding how people read later in life." More specifically (quoting Dr. Tessa Webb in the School of Psychology at the University of Leicester) "When adults read words they learned when they were younger, they recognise them faster and more accurately than those they learned later in life." Fascinating!

From Meg Ivey's Literacy Voices Roundup May 15:

  • Meg credits Angela Maiers for the link to Video: 21st Century Schools that adds to the discussion of why schools “shouldn’t see themselves as the sole provider [of education] but as something that coordinates and brokers learning from a whole range of sources.”
  • Meg's link to the Newseum is both a 21st Century Literacy and a new resource. From Meg: "Thanks to iLearn Technology for this link and a summary of this site: Front pages of newspapers from around the U.S. are displayed on a map. Scroll over the map and the front page of the newspaper pops up. Click on a different country to display newspapers from around the world."

Smartboard Over at A Year of Reading, Franki Sibberson muses on the possible uses of Smartboards to promote literacy development in the classroom. She asks: "Why aren't more of the Reading/Writing Workshop people out there writing about ways they use the boards to support literacy development? How can we somehow collect great clips and posts of great uses of this tool in Reading/Writing Workshops? I imagine it is out there but, why can't I find these samples easily? Am I looking in the wrong places?" Perhaps some of you can help!

In the May 16 edition of The Big Fresh (Choice Literacy Newsletter), we learned about the Educational Podcast Network. The site offers free downloads of hundreds of podcasts. There are student and class podcasts, as well as podcasts on specific topics on everything from the traditional core curriculum to healthful living and theater arts education.

Grants and Donations

This week, we read about two large-scale literacy-related grants. First, via Fox5News - Vegas, "three southern Nevada with largely Hispanic populations will share a $600,000 grant from the Toyota Family Literacy Program to fund children’s literacy programs." Also, according to the Kalamazoo Gazette, in an article by Julie Mack, "Kalamazoo Public Schools has received a $150,000 planning grant to set the stage on a multi-pronged literacy initiative linked to college readiness and The Kalamazoo Promise. The W.K. Kellogg Foundation grant was announced Wednesday by KPS Superintendent Michael Rice, who envisions both developing new programs and expanding existing efforts to remake Kalamazoo into a ``literacy community'' where no adult is functionally illiterate and every KPS graduate is capable of handling college-level work."

But we also noticed that much smaller grants are having a significant impact, too. For example, this article from the South Boston, VA News and Record, talks about a $1000 grant to help the local library buy more young adult books. Teens helped to select the books purchased. Here's the part that especially caught my eye: "A total of 120 books were selected. In addition to the manga books that were selected, several books were also selected from a list of books recommended by the American Library Association for “reluctant readers”. Unbeknownst to the National Home Library Foundation, the grant that sparked this initial meeting was just the beginning. The group of young adults, age 15-21, has now formed a young adult club that meets at the South Boston Library every Thursday at 4 p.m."

The Corsicana Daily Sun (Texas) also reported on the results of a $1000 grant for literacy. "Carroll Elementary School received a $1,000 grant for books, given by the Association of Texas Professional Educators Foundation. A short awards ceremony took place Thursday in the school’s library. Five schools in Texas will receive the grants... In addition to the ATPE grant, Carroll Elementary did a Reading Rocks fundraiser Friday evening, which raised about $800 for the library."

Meanwhile, in Exeter, preschoolers were awarded 100 books as part of a literacy grant. An article by Jennifer Feals in SeacoastOnline reports: "The pre-school received a donation of 100 new books through the Kensington Public Library, which received a grant for $2,000 worth of new books through the Children's Literacy Foundation. The foundation provides libraries and child care centers in rural areas with good quality books".

GLWHeader3 And, of course, there are the grassroots efforts of the Guys Lit Wire Book Fair for Boys (as I reported on Friday). It cost me less than $30, including shipping, to donate four books to incarcerated boys. A small price to feel like I've made a difference. I'm grateful to the Guys Lit Wire team (especially project champion Colleen Mondor) for creating this opportunity.

New Resources

The Encyclopedia of Language and Literacy Development - This web-based resource is being developed by the Canadian Language and Literacy Research Network to help provide answers to questions about children’s language and literacy – answers that are based on relevant and up-to-date research presented in an easily accessible format. Thanks to Marnee at for the lead.

Terry and I will be off doing some summer reading of our own next weekend (Memorial Day in the US). We'll be back with the next children's literacy and reading news round-up on June 1st. Happy reading!