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. Special thanks to Terry for gathering so many of these items while I was lolling about on vacation.
In the Town of Westhampton, MA, they take the idea of a "community library" to heart. The town is building a new library and officials are "inviting everyone who supports public libraries and loves reading to join their groundbreaking ceremony in Westhampton's town center on Saturday, June 6 at 1:00 PM--rain or shine!" Free, colorful shovels will be given to the first 50 children. You can read more in this announcement from National Children's Book and Literacy Alliance.
The New Kids on the Block have a new foundation: Let's Get This Foundation. Their mantra is "helping the world, Step by Step." They are not limiting themselves to any one charity, but Step 1 is a children's book drive. This summer, they will be collecting new books for children at all of their concert stops. They're even encouraging people to forgo the T-shirt and "spend that money on a new book for a child that really needs it." Our thanks to Susan Stephenson (The Book Chook) for sending us the link.
First Book is launching their What Book Got You Hooked? program again this summer. Their blog explains: "Do you remember when you were little — staying up late under your covers with a flashlight to finish a real page-turner? Or what about that book you couldn’t put down at the beach last year? All of us at First Book can’t imagine what life would be like without great stories, which is why we’re kicking off What Book Got You Hooked? again this summer. We’re celebrating the favorite books that no child should grow up without."
The 2009 National Book Festival will be held on Saturday, September 29th in Washington, DC. Lori Calabrese reports (from a press release) that "President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama will serve as Honorary Chairs" of the event.
Over at Creative Literacy, Katie D writes about magazines as a reading option for her students. As you read her post, she lays out how she "book talked" two copies of Ladybug magazines she had on hand. "I sent the kids off and the idea of the magazine inspired a range of writing. Some kids were inspired to write a poem about an insect (lots of bumble bee, ladybug and butterfly poems) and some writers with significant stamina created their own magazines."
Leanna Landsmann, an education writer, recently answered a question about a reader's frustration in being told that Kindergartners can't check out nonfiction from the school library during the summer. In Nonfiction is for Young Readers, Too Landsmann shares the reactions of several library media specialists and also offers some alternatives, including a magazine recommendation and links to websites on subjects of interest to the writer. (via a RT from Anastasia Suen. Anastasia has a special Twitter feed for literacy-related news, as she explains here. Maybe I could sign up for Twitter, and just read that one feed...)
Things got a little sticky in Jackson, Mississippi last week when the students at Johns Hopkins Elementary transformed their librarian Melissa Strauss into a human popcorn ball. Last fall, Ms. Strauss challenged the kids to read 10 million words from library books. Well, 10.5 million words later, she's a popcorn ball! Thanks to Say What?!? for the link.
Els Kushner suggested a couple of posts to us, saying: "I thought of you when I read these posts at The Other Mother, a blog I read, about parents taking story dictation from and doing drama with kids, and wondered if you might like to see them." We did, and we recommend them to you.
Suite 101 has a blog for children's book writers. In this post about popular themes in children's books, Debbie Roome creates a handy list of book categories that can help parents understand the types of books kids enjoy.
The Big Fresh from Choice Literacy pointed us to an article by Kevin Washburn at The Edurati Review. In A Missing Piece of the Professional Development Puzzle, Kevin explains, in non-technical terms, the value that literacy coaches bring to the classroom. Here's a snippet: "A coach directs focus toward solutions. If we’re honest, we all tend to resist growth and change. It can be easy to find every reason why something will not work, and this perspective quickly defeats new initiatives. A coach can redirect thinking away from finding problems to designing solutions that enable a new initiative to progress."
The blog Once Upon a Good Time is encouraging grown-ups to use some summer reading time to read (and follow the example of) Reading Magic, by Mem Fox. The post urges: "Summer is around the corner. Make reading together part of your summer plans. Schedule trips to the library or bookstore and browse our recommended books in our online bookstore." There's a review of Reading Magic, and a proposed summer reading program for families.
YourHub.com has a nice article by Lori Romero, Begin with Books Literacy Librarian, Arapahoe Library District about making summer literacy learning fun. Some parts of the article are specific to the library's summer reading programs, but others are more general. For example, "Get creative - take advantage of time in the car by sharing nursery rhymes and telling stories from your childhood. Make up funny songs about the members of your family. Read street signs and describe the scenery as you drive. All of these things build literacy skills."
And here's another summer reading article that we liked, this one by teacher-turned-talk-show host Dom Giordano in the Philadelphia Bulletin: Summer Presents a Great Opportunity to Get Kids Reading. Dom says: "If you were to do just one thing this summer to nurture your child’s development, I would encourage that activity to be reading." He adds: "Your role as a parent is to serve as a sort of “reading coach.” When a child is reading a book, it is important that you discuss the book with them. Ask questions about the book. Solicit your child’s thoughts and opinions. By engaging them, you will help build the reading habit so that it becomes a natural, everyday part of your child’s life."
And one more summer reading article. This one is from Molly Millett in Pioneer Press: How parents can keep kids on track for successful learning. This article starts with details about the summer slide, and why continuing to read over vacation is critical, and then proposes other methods for keeping kids' brains active during the summer months (boggle, for instance, and having kids write out dinner menus each night). I found it a nice mix of standard and more personalized tips.
If that's not enough for you in the way of summer reading resources, Elaine Magliaro has a slew of links at Wild Rose Reader.
Literacy & Reading Programs & Research
Great news from Alabama. First, analysis of the Alabama Reading Initiative (K to 3) shows that the state's fourth graders lead the nation in the level of improvement in reading scores in 2007. Now, the Project for Adolescent Literacy (middle grade and high school), piloted and tested in 30 middle and high schools around the state, has proven so successful that Gov. Bob Riley announced that it will be expanded into 43 more middle schools for the 2009-2010 school year. The expansion means that 36% of Alabama's middle school population will get assistance with developing their reading comprehension skills. (via Tweet from @Curriki). Read Another Reading Success Story at Montgomery-Advertiser.com.
Carol Rasco had a post last week at Rasco from RIF about America's Troubling Achievement Gap. RIF is taking action. Carol writes: "RIF is dedicated to a Multicultural Literacy Initiative to bring the joy of reading to all children in order to motivate them to continue to work hard on literacy skills and expand their horizons... RIF advocates for all children to have access to books including ones they own, in well-stocked libraries, and in their classrooms." See also this later post, in which Carol highlights three other studies relevant to the achievement gap, and announces: "I was honored to be invited to a meeting last week where First Lady Michelle Obama outlined a summer of volunteer service she and the President will promote. One key component of this effort will be focused on children and reading. The initiative will be announced in late June and span a three-month period. Stay tuned for more details!". We certainly will stay tuned on that one!
And, in a more local (for me) multicultural literacy program, I enjoyed this article by Jessica Bernstein-Wax at MercuryNews.com, about an East Palo Alto (CA) summer reading program held for students from Costaño Elementary School. According to the article, "Most students from Costaño come from low-income households, according to a joint release from the organizations involved in the program. Many have immigrant parents who speak little English and don't have books at home." The program will be conducted in English and Spanish.
For two years, Yale University researchers Nancy Apfel and Patricia Brzustoski used three experiments to assess the value of writing as an intervention tool with low-performing students. Their work follows on research done at the University of Colorado at Boulder that found that "an in-class writing assignment designed to reinforce students' sense of identity and personal integrity increased the grade-point averages of African-American middle school students over a two-year period, and reduced the rate at which these students were held back or placed in remediation." The new findings are published in the April 16 edition of Science. Some of the study's findings are presented in Brian Scott's article for Literacy and Reading News.
Also at Literacy and Reading News, we found an interesting post about how: "A new University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) study published in the advanced online edition of the journal Social Indicators Research suggests a link between the ease with which older adults can access and understand health information and their happiness." Although this isn't children's literacy-related, we thought that it was an interesting aspect of the adult literacy issue. For instance, "The study found that those with lower levels of health literacy - those who reported having the most problems reading and understanding medical forms - were more than twice as likely to report being unhappy regardless of health and socioeconomic status."
In his post Irish Literacy and Some New Audio Resources, Tim Shanahan shares his experiences from a recent trip to Ireland. Shanahan had been invited to Ireland to offer his help with the Young Ballymun project. "[I] kept up the mantra that it is the children's experience that matters: amount of teaching, curriculum focus, and quality of delivery are what improve literacy--everything else is just commentary." He offers some interesting comparisons between Chicago (where he teaches) and Ireland schools.
21st Century Literacies
Katie D has started a new weekly feature over at Katie's Literature Lounge. Each week, she'll be talking about creating a Literacy Work Station in your classroom. The post will include "five activities, one for every day of the week and will have some sort of central theme."
Claire E. White and James S. Kim recently published a study that looks at the value of expanded learning time as a tool for improving literacy. The key finding: "The powerful combination of systematic vocabulary instruction and expanded learning time has the potential to address the large and long-standing literacy gaps in U.S. public schools, particularly with low-income students and English language learners." Via American Progress
We are always on the lookout for ideas and topics that can engage kids in reading and learning. If you've got a student interested in film, then Media Literacy: Reading between the Frames may be what you're looking for. This free teaching resource guide is produced jointly by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and Young Minds Inspired. From the website: "Geared for students in English, language arts, visual arts and communication classes, the guide is designed to encourage critical thinking, expand knowledge of filmmaking and increase overall interest in film and its cultural influence... Each teaching guide also includes a teacher's guide, activity worksheets in English and Spanish, resource lists and take-home activities." (See the full article on Literacy and Reading News)
Grants and Donations
Page Ahead will accept applications for its 2009-2010 Book Distribution Grant Program until 10 June 2009. This literacy nonprofit distributes books to organizations who work with children who are economically and/or educationally at risk from the ages of birth to 12 in Washington State. Full eligibility details are here.
Random House recently announced a new $5000 college scholarship program with a Dr. Seuss - Oh, the Places You'll Go theme. "Dr. Seuss’s Oh, the Places You’ll Go! College Scholarship recognizes high school seniors who understand and value the limitless possibilities that education can offer with a scholarship award." Applicants must answer an essay question: "Dr. Seuss’s Oh, the Places You’ll Go! delivers an important message about the chances and the troubles that life presents. Thinking about the book, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!, what kinds of opportunities and challenges do you think your education will present in the future?"
We're also always on the lookout for unique fundraising programs for children's literacy. So our attention was naturally caught by this LimaOhio.com article by Tyrel Linkhorn about the Cook for Books chef challenge. "Five area chefs whipped up the hors d'oeuvres for the Lima Junior Service League's seventh annual Cook for Books chef challenge Thursday at Veterans Memorial Civic Center. The event is a fundraiser for the service club's children's literacy program... Michelle Caprella, Cook for Books event chair, said the event enables the group to purchase books for elementary school students throughout the county. The program's main recipient is Lima City Schools, where the volunteers distributed 8,300 books last year."
See also this Washington Times article by Stephanie Green. In addition to discussing RIF's Read with Kids challenge (which we've mentioned previously), the article highlights the Everybody Wins! Chocolate for Literacy program, "a way for Everybody Wins! DC to introduce the program to interested Washingtonians and recruit new mentors for next school year." Chocolate and literacy - two of my favorite things!
Then there's the Ramp'd 4 Reading Skateboard Showcase, hosted by the Children's Literacy Center in Colorado Springs. We read about this in ColoradoConnection.com.
Kids Love Comics is a nonprofit organization started by award-winning cartoonists. Jimmy Gownley (Amelia Rules!) and Harold Buchholz (Apathy Kat) co-founded the organization, which advocates the use of comic books and graphic novels in schools and libraries. In his interview with Michael Jung on Suite 101, Gowley talks about why they created the organization and how they identify literacy-relevant comic books and graphic novels.
The Book Chook recently highlighted a new website that sounds interesting. Susan says: "Here's a great site where kids can find out about myths, legends and folk tales. Myths and Legends is one of the East of England Broadband Network sites. You can read all sorts of stories there, including many written and created by children."
We learned from a recent press release that "Barnes & Noble has launched a blog focused on helping parents encouraging their children to read. The blog called Letter Blocks offers advice, recommendations, stories about young readers and commentary from popular writers. The Letter Blocks blog is a summer reading series that is an extension of Barnes & Noble's 2009 Summer Reading Program, which promotes reading while school is out and rewards children for reading during the summer. Celebrity guest bloggers will offer narratives covering a variety of topics, including memories about the first books they read, reading milestones, their favorite children's books and how they influenced them and how they get their own children to read." For instance, a recent post by Rick Riordan is about his scariest reading experiences as a child.
I also have some more parent-focused literacy and Kidlitosphere links up today at Booklights (with no duplication of the items in this post). Next week, Terry will have the children's literacy roundup at Scrub-a-Dub-Tub. Me, I'll be busy next weekend participating in MotherReader's 48 Hour Book Challenge.