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Children's Literacy Round-Up: May 4

Terry_readingtubfinal_1 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; and other new resources. We hope that you'll find some nice food for thought!


The Aurora Examiner (Colorado) has an article by Christin Fynewever about an upcoming celebration of literacy, in support of the Ethiopia Reads program. We've mentioned Ethiopia Reads before. This program, founded by Johannes Gebregeorgis, uses donkeys to deliver books as a mobile library in Ethiopia. The event will take place at the Aurora Library on May 9th, and will feature donkeys. Terry found this article at the Tadias magazine website ("the leading lifestyle and business publication devoted exclusively to the Ethiopian-American community in the United States").

Via Patricia Newman's Book Notes blog, we learned about Kids Otter Read Day: "A day to celebrate children's literacy! More than 50 authors and illustrators will visit 12 spectacular independent children's book stores in the San Francisco Bay area on the maiden voyage of this event. Author appearances will take place from 1:00 to 3:00 pm on Saturday, May 16, 2009."

Logo_bos_small Last week, Terry mentioned the Youk's Kids Reading Group (founded by Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis). My fellow Red Sox fan Kathy from Library Stew  followed up on this post and identified another Red Sox-related reading program. Kathy says: "if you live in Massachusetts your kids can get into summer reading by participating in the Mass. Teachers Association's Red Sox Reading Game. The spokesperson for this program is none other than Sox catcher, Jason Varitek... The program is run through Massachusetts schools, and the cool thing is, winners can take their teacher to a Red Sox game - my aunt went with one of her students last year and she said it was a BLAST!". Like I didn't love these guys already!

Foundation_logo Speaking of sports and reading, one of our new favorite blogs is Get In the Game--Read!, a blog linking sports and children's literacy, founded by Lori Calabrese. This week, Lori wrote about a pro football draft day party to benefit children's literacy. She says: "Former Tennessee Titan Steve McNair and The Steve McNair Foundation hosted a Draft Day Party last Saturday at the Crow's Nest in Nashville, TN to benefit local children's literacy organizations Book’em and Books from Birth of Middle Tennessee."

In addition to enjoying it when sports figures promote literacy, I also like to see other community figures of authority taking time to encourage kids to read. So I naturally enough gravitated to this Ledger-Enquirer article by Annie Addington about a police officer participating in Heroes Read Day at the Columbus Public Library. "Saturday’s event, which coincides with a national Free Comic Book Day, is targeted toward boys in fourth through sixth grades – although everyone is welcome. The carnival-style event will feature stations where children learn to draw comic book-style characters; listen to books about firefighters, policemen and other real-world heroes; and visit with Columbus area heroes — including soldiers, police officers, firefighters and emergency medical personnel — as they show off their vehicles and discuss how they use reading in their careers and personal lives. Children will also receive a free comic book and lunch.

One of our favorite literacy advocates, Jim Trelease, has recently partnered with the Springfield (MA) school board to urge parents to read with their kids and to be part of a city-wide initiative to ensure children have the skills they need to be proficient readers by age 9. Terry found this one via @everybodywins. See also my notes from a talk that Jim Trelease did here in California a couple of years ago - the subject material is timeless.

Booklights Over at Booklights (the new PBS Parents blog that I'm working on with Pam Coughlan, Susan Kusel, and Gina Montefusco) on Thursday, I posted about a couple of picture book-related contests. I also just learned about a contest being hosted by Beth Kephart for young poets. Beth explains: "I am (and I say this without excess) astonished, daily, by the poems that so many of you are writing and posting. I would like, then, to announce a contest, the winner of which will receive a signed copy of the UNDERCOVER paperback. I'd like those of you who might be interested to send to me, in the comments section of this post, a link to your best blogged poem." You can find more details here.  

Raising Readers

ShareAStoryLogo2 I do NOT know where she finds the time, but Terry has added tons of new resources to the Share a Story - Shape a Future blog this week. She's pulled together references from the entire 2009 literacy blog tour, across many blogs. She's organized them and put them into a series of posts. So we have links to Books and Booklists for Adults and Preschoolers, Picture Books and Easy Readers, Middle Grade and Young Adult Books, and All Audiences. The last post also links to read-alike lists mentioned during the tour (though she notes that there are many others out there). These lists are wonderful resources, well worth a look. (Image credit to Susan Stephenson.)

We found several nice articles this week why it's important to raise readers in the first place. First up, Trevor Cairney concludes his series at Literacy, families and learning about the power of literature, discussing the ways that literature can transform people . He concludes: "Literature has great power to teach, enrich and transform us. We must value literature and storytelling. In this age of mass and instant communication, where writing and reading more than 160 characters is a challenge for some, we must protect literature and share it with our children and with all future generations of children." But do read the whole series.

I also loved a recent post Eva Mitnick at the ALSC blog about how the books read during childhood can change people's lives. Eva asks: "If my passionate childhood reading shaped my very being and the way I still approach both books and the world, then what is it like to be a child who doesn’t read - and how does not reading affect the adult this child will become?" I know for me, the books that I read absolutely shaped who I am - I think this is part of why I care so MUCH that kids have the opportunity to grow up loving books. I'm grateful to Eva for articulating this so well.

At the NCTE Inbox blog, Traci Gardner proposes: "rather than telling people the benefits of literature, let's ask them to tell us. Let's ask them to share what they've gained from reading literature. We can take advantage of the popularity of short surveys, quizzes, and lists on sites like Facebook and MySpace by creating our own five questions that demonstrate why people read literature." She includes her suggested questions, and her own responses.

Still looking at the benefits of literacy, Terry and I were both unable to resist this post at Interesting Nonfiction for Kids (I.N.K.). It's a guest post from Linda Salzman's 12-year-old son about where reading has led him (hint: from books about siege weaponry to detailed plans for a working catapult). We love kids who talk about books!

Moving on to taking action to raise readers, the Times Online has a nice article by Sarah Ebner with 8 tips to to help your child to read & to support them if you're worried about their progress. The tips are from Cathy Beck, infant teacher and mother of three. I especially liked: "7. Read to your child. Buy books. Join the library. Let your child associate books with bedtime and cuddles. Make sure that your childminder or nursery takes books seriously." and "8. And of course make reading fun." Terry found this article via Twitter from Everybody Wins and Book Dads.

I also liked this short post at 5 Minutes for Books about how to raise a reader, written by Mary Ostyn, mother of 10. Mary includes practical tips like: "Let your kid read under the covers with a flashlight late at night. Pretend not to notice." and "Let your kid read wherever she wants (yes, sometimes even while playing right field at a baseball game.)"

Tasha Saecker
from Kids Lit links to a recent Telegraph article by Elizabeth Grice about "what schools need to do to inspire a love of reading in children." While agreeing on the importance of the role of teachers, Tasha asks: "But don’t we also need to tell parents that it is their job to raise readers? And how about librarians? Isn’t it our job too to try to entice, entertain and encourage young readers? I don’t think it’s a simple answer of if only teachers would do more. I think it is a complicated formula of parents, teachers, librarians and great books that make the difference." I do think that all of these people can play a positive role in the quest for inspiring a love of reading in kids.

Dawn Morris at Moms Inspire Learning writes passionately about why children aren't reading, and what we can do about it. She cites some recurring problems that she's observed in her children's classrooms, and turns to recent books like Donalyn Miller's The Book Whisperer and Kelly Gallagher's Readicide for further ammunition. (Dawn also mentions Terry, Susan Stephenson and me, I must confess - but the title of her post would have caught my eye in any case). She has a nice discussion going in the comments. It's well worth checking out, and an interesting counterpoint to the previous article.

Speaking of Kelly Gallagher, Sarah Mulhern from the Reading Zone talks about discussing current events in the classroom. She links to a post at the Stenhouse blog on making reading relevant to real life for students. The Stenhouse post says that "Kelly (Gallahger)’s Article of the Week activity puts students in touch with real world writings from news stories, essays, editorials, blogs, and speeches. Reading and interacting with these articles each week ensures that students graduate with a better chance of comprehending the world around them."

Literacy & Reading Programs & Research

According to a recent press release: "Two children's authors discovered through contests sponsored by General Mills' Cheerios are being published in hardcover by Simon & Schuster Books. The writers are the first two winners of a new author contest launched as an extension of Cheerios' seven-year-old "Spoonfuls of Stories" literacy program."

School Library Journal highlights a recent report from America’s Promise Alliance, a nonprofit organization that hopes to help at-risk students. According to the article, "Nineteen of the nation’s largest cities—including Las Vegas, San Francisco, and Omaha—have seen a decline in their high school graduation rate over the last decade. At the same time, only a little more than half (53 percent) of teens in the largest cities graduate from high school on time... There is some good news, however. The top three cities that saw the greatest improvement in graduation rates are Philadelphia, PA (23 percentage points); Tucson, AZ (23 percentage points); and Kansas City, MO (20 percentage points)." (Terry found this via @sljournal on Twitter)

At the NCFL's Literacy Now blog, Sharon Darling addresses in detail a recent challenge to Education Secretary Arne Duncan to "look beyond the K-12 classrooms to early childhood education as well as adult education - in essence to family literacy." Sharon adds: "We are eager to help find solutions to the challenges of bolstering family literacy at the local, state and federal level through research, pilot programs and testimony before legislative bodies. But we need appointed and elected leaders to elevate the cause - for the sake of all education."

Hypnosis for Adult Learning and Literacy is an interesting article on the Education Week website. According to the article, "Hypnotherapy and specialist hypnosis accelerated learning techniques can give adults with poor literacy the skills and confidence they need to turn their life, and their children’s life, around. Hypnosis can place the mind into a state whereby it is receptive to learning and increasing confidence. Hypnotherapy can install a new subconscious level of belief in learning by removing barriers that have previously been blocking the way. Hypnotic accelerated learning can also increase the speed at which adults can learn and ensure the skills and knowledge are understood and retained.

The UK Department for Children, Schools and Families issued this press release that outlines the findings of Education expert Sir Jim Rose and "the most fundamental review of the primary curriculum in a decade." In the same release, the Department also offered these survey results: "97 percent of parents think that reading and writing are the most important skills for their children to learn at primary. The majority of parents (55 percent) also want their children to learn life skills such as communication, teamwork and creative thinking."

Cari from Book Scoops knows what literacy program she wants to participate in when she retires. She says: "I want to get a dog and participate in the Read Education Assistance Program or R.E.A.D." R.E.A.D. is a program that uses therapy dogs to work with kids and reading (the idea is that the kids are comfortable reading aloud to the dogs, and get practice that way). Cari says: "Therapy animals help people in numerous ways including reducing blood pressure, anxiety and depression and anger. Reading out loud can be really intimidating to children and just from reading some of the stories on the Intermountain Therapy Animals I am convinced that reading to dogs (or other animals) would be good for many reluctant and skilled readers.

21st Century Literacies

Bookshare Literacy and Reading News has an article by Brian Scott about a program that will make more books available to people with print disabilities. "Bookshare and Hachette Book Group (HBG) have entered into a partnership to provide digital books for Bookshare's accessible online library for people with print disabilities. This partnership has two components that break new ground in the publishing industry. First, Hachette has agreed to donate digital files for all 1,700 currently digitized frontlist and backlist titles. Secondly, Hachette will refer all customer service requests for accessible books to Bookshare for fulfillment."

New Resources

Parents and Kids Reading Together is the new bog by Cathy Puett Miller, the Literacy Ambassador. You may remember our interview with Cathy during Share a Story-Shape a Future. Cathy is a literacy consultant and educator, with an emphasis on pre-emergent literacy. We especially liked this article about enjoying reading together without letting it become a chore. Cathy warns: "If you press your child to read too soon, he/she is likely to lose any temporary benefit gained by the time 3rd grade is reached. If, instead, the child is given the opportunity to start reading at his or her "optimal time", it is likely that child will excel." [Full disclosure: Cathy is on the Board of Directors of the Reading Tub.]

Thanks for reading! And if you're looking for more directly book-related fare, I have a post going up today at Booklights about some of my favorite children's books.