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Children's Literacy Round-Up: September 1

Jpg_book008 Welcome to 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. We've held the round-up until Tuesday this week, because we wanted to share some new ideas at the start of this new month, and new school year. Basically, as I'm sure many of you have noticed, the round-ups have been growing longer and longer since Terry Doherty and I joined forces last year. And while we think it's GREAT that there is so much literacy and reading news being published every week, we don't think that the round-ups are useful if they are so lengthy that they take all day to read. We've also been struggling a bit with timeliness - sharing things that are fresh, and not taking up space with things that have already been extensively blogged and twittered about. So we've decided to do two things.

First, after this week, we're going to shift two sections out of the weekly round-ups. I'm going to pull most of the "Raising Readers" content out, and share it once or twice a month at Booklights, in my "Literacy 'Lights from the Kidlitosphere" column. Terry is going to take on the "New Resources" section, and write that up once a month, instead of as a weekly section. In both cases, we think that running the features less frequently will encourage us to focus on only the most useful of resources.

Terry_readingtubfinal_1 Second, we're going to add a new Literacy & Reading News widget, by which you can, if you like, publish the news that we find on your own blogs. We'll be sharing news in four categories: Reading News, Raising Readers, 21st Century Literacies, and Literacy Events. Thanks to advice from Andrea Ross of Just One More Book!!, Terry has set these up as Del.ic.ous feeds. You can choose any or all of the individual feeds to populate the widget. You can see the widget in action in the right-hand side-bar at The Reading Tub. Alternatively, you'll be able to simply subscribe to any RSS feeds, and keep up with the news during the week in your regular blog reader. Terry has set up a blog that explains the feeds in more detail, and has also written more about all of this here. We welcome your feedback! And now, on to this week's round-up.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission Ruling on Lead Testing doesn't really fit into one of our round-up categories, but its importance makes it obvious why we're including a link to the Association of Library Services for Children (ALSC) guidance for libraries. First the good news: the CPSC confirmed that libraries have no independent obligation to test library books for lead under the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA). Final guidance for older children's books will be forthcoming. The ALSC blog is a great blog anyway, but it makes extra sense to follow them now to keep up-to-date on the ruling and for a list of possibly problematic titles the group will be sharing with libraries.


Literacy Lava 2 final-sml The new edition of Literacy Lava is available today, September 1st. You can read more about it at Share a Story - Shape a Future or at Moms Inspire Learning. Editor Susan Stephenson says: "Literacy Lava 2 is a free magazine that will bring you ideas: for motivating reluctant readers, for literacy on the go, for developing the imagination muscle, for linking math and literacy, for having a pirate party and a book picnic, for rhymes, games, activities and more!" The first one was truly excellent, and I'm sure that this new one is, too. You can find the link to download it here. I've printed mine out to read at my leisure.

According to a press release that Terry found (from Sylvan Dell), September is Read-A-New-Book Month, "a national event dedicated to promoting the lost art of reading." The release suggests: "Sure, with the advent of technology, it can be tempting to replace those books with more “hip” forms of entertainment, but none can compare with the thrill and satisfaction of delving into a book." I find it a bit sad that a declaration like this is needed - every month is Read-A-New-Book Month for me - but I suppose anything that promotes reading is a good thing.

What-book-2.thumbnail Voting for What Book Got You Hooked?, First Book's annual campaign celebrating the books that made you a reader for life, is now live! Visit FirstBook.org/whatbook to share your book memories, and vote for the state to receive 50,000 brand new books for children in need.

Did you see Lori Calabrese's list of books about going back to school at Lori Calabrese Writes? Very impressive. Pair it with Tricia Stohr-Hunt's Apples and Pumpkins or Fall-themed books at the Miss Rumphius Effect and you'll be set for months!

Speaking of Lori, she suggests supporting the Everybody Wins literacy auction in memory of Senator Kennedy. She reminds us: "As the world mourns Senator Ted Kennedy, many people have mentioned his work with the Washington-based reading program known as "Everybody Wins!" The Massachusetts Democrat was inspired to write his children's book, My Senator and Me, from his work with Everybody Wins!" Still speaking of Lori, at Get in the Game--Read she highlights "Books n' Balls, a charity netball tournament and after party in the U.K. open to anyone in the book trade... Two beneficiaries of this year's Books n' Balls tournament are Booktrust and Cancer Research UK. Booktrust is an independent charity dedicated to encouraging people of all ages and cultures to engage with books."

September 8th is International Literacy Day. In honor of this, Digital Philanthropy has been highlighting "efforts to improve literacy and education around the world". Last week they posted about the Room to Read program, which "has established more than 700 schools and over 7,000 bilingual libraries with five million books, and continues to support the education of nearly 7,000 girls" in countries like Nepal and Sri Lanka. They also highlighted the Literacy Site, through which people can click to support the purchase of books for kids, and the Alan Duff Charitable Foundation, which gets books into children's homes in New Zealand. We'll be staying tuned for more.

Raising Readers

The St. Louis Homeschooling Examiner has a new post by Tere Scott for homeschooling parents about how to teach children to read. The article includes a discussion of various approaches, links to some programs that can help, and simple suggestions for literacy-friendly activities. Link via @JeanetteMcLeod.

Meanwhile, at Throwing Marshmallows, homeschooling mom Stephanie talks about reading readiness in right-brained children. She describes the reading journeys of her two sons by way of example. She says that her family's trial and error approach: "works because “learning to read” was not the main focus of our homeschooling. And learning did not depend on being able to read. So we could continue to focus on their strengths and interests while trusting that reading would come when it was ready. It made for a much more natural and easy process".

Another Examiner article caught our eye from Cheryl Vanatti who blogs at Reading Rumpus. Cheryl shares ten tips for raising a child who loves to read. The tips are all good, but I especially liked "Time for reading, good lighting and comfort all need to be unlimited" and "Never, ever, criticize what they want to read or try to force them to read your idea of what’s good."

Pbskids Last Friday, PBS aired its Emmy-award winning program Reading Rainbow for the last time. Ann Dean, a self-described former educator has started a petition to return Reading Rainbow to the air. Although there have been no new shows produced since 2006, PBS stations have run Reading Rainbow episodes in the same manner they include Mr. Roger's Neighborhood in their PBS Kids lineups. (See also a eulogy for Reading Rainbow by RebekahC at Read Set Read Reviews, and others from Anne Bartholomew at Omnivoracious and Robin Gaphni at thebooknosher, as well as a call to Save Reading Rainbow at lybrio - lots of people are sad about this.)

At Moms Inspire Learning, Dawn Morris takes a page from the R.E.A.D. (Reading Education Assistance Dogs) program, and suggests "that even untrained pets can be read to! Children of all ages and reading levels would enjoy reading to a dog, cat, or even a guinea pig. Even toddlers and preschoolers would get a kick out of pets being included in family read aloud time! It's just one more way to make reading a fun and treasured activity." Also from Dawn, a lovely post in defense of picture books. She says: "Picture books are windows to real and imaginary worlds, and I believe that they are the keys to unlocking the doors of literacy, global awareness, self-understanding, and peace."

Literacy & Reading Programs & Research

NPR’s This American Life recently profiled the early literacy work of the Harlem Children’s Zone, "(a)n innovative and unique community-based organization, offering education, social-service and community-building programs to children and families since 1970." Thanks to the Lapsits(r) for Early Literacy blog for the link.

In this week's Big Fresh newsletter, Brenda Power highlighted an archived article from Choice Literacy by Suzy Kaback. It's about an informal assessment that some teachers did concerning their students' attitudes towards readers. In class, the teachers asked students to "draw a reader". The teachers expected kids to draw people reading in school settings. The results were surprising (and encouraging, I think). Brenda also linked to a video by reading advocate Jim Trelease on how to read a book you don't want to read. Jim uses an analogy of cutting down a tree to tackling a book with a required reading label. "The target audience is reluctant-reader preteens and teens but the contents apply equally well to reluctant-reader adults.

RIFF_logo The Children's Book Review recently shared an article from RIF about encouraging young writers. The article notes that "The scribbles of very young children have meaning to them, and scribbling actually helps them to develop the language skills that lead to reading. Young children who are encouraged to draw and scribble stories will learn to write more easily, effectively, and confidently once they head off to school."

Web Watch from Teacher Magazine reports that "Parents in Durham, N.C., are voicing concern that a new reading curriculum being implemented in the district’s elementary schools this year is overly test-driven and may dampen kids’ enthusiasm for reading, according to The News & Observer." In similar vein, Sunday's Boston Globe ran a magazine feature about "pressure-cooker kindergarten", and how "A new emphasis on testing and test preparation -- brought on by politicians, not early education experts -- is hurting the youngest students." The article leads with a dedicated kindergarten teacher who retired because of too much pressure to force five-year-olds to meet "academic standards". Sigh!

In contrast to the above, Denise Johnson from The Joy of Children's Literature linked to a New York Times article by Motoko Rich about teachers who are using a "reading workshop" approach, by which kids choose their own literature to study. Here's a snippet: "fans of the reading workshop say that assigning books leaves many children bored or unable to understand the texts. Letting students choose their own books, they say, can help to build a lifelong love of reading." I find that encouraging (though the article also points out criticisms and school districts that are going the other way, and, as others have pointed out, reading workshops are hardly a new approach). See also Kris Bordessa's take on the Times article at Paradise Found.

Also in the NY Times this weekend, an essay by Susan Straight lamenting the outcome of an emphasis on Accelerated Reader programs. Straight warns: "Librarians and teachers report that students will almost always refuse to read a book not on the Accelerated Reader list, because they won’t receive points. They base their reading choices not on something they think looks interesting, but by how many points they will get. The passion and serendipity of choosing a book at the library based on the subject or the cover or the first page is nearly gone, as well as the excitement of reading a book simply for pleasure." I found this article via tweet from @momsinspire.

Donalyn Miller comments at the Book Whisperer on both Times articles (and on the end of Reading Rainbow), putting into words the frustration that I was vaguely struggling with after reading these articles. She says: "No matter how much we discover about teaching reading we seem to ask the same questions. Are we really teaching if we do not micromanage every aspect of the reading process, from the books children read to how they respond? Is inspiring students to read more important than sharing a common literary heritage? Does pleasure reading matter anymore? I believe we can create literate, educated citizens who also love to read. I know a lot of you believe it, too. Who decided that these were incompatible or impossible aims?" Exactly! But do read Donalyn's entire piece. There are some great comments on the post from other teachers, too.

At Educating Alice, Monica Edinger also responds to Motoko Rich's Times article, sharing an overview of the methods that she uses in the classroom to keep kids excited about reading. These include independent reading, classroom read-aloud, occasional "one book for the whole class" readings, small group reading, and research ("Sometimes I think people are so invested in getting kids to love reading that they forget that there is all kinds of reading.  Sometimes it is to get information. My students read widely when working on their historical fiction stories about Mayflower passengers. They read primary sources, secondary sources, all sorts of stuff." See other great responses from Sarah Mulhern at the Reading Zone, author Meg Cabot, and author/teacher Kate Messner. There's too much in these three posts for me to quote here, but see especially the comments on Kate's post about parents deciding what books their children are, and are not, ready to read.

21st Century Literacies

Clive Thompson on the New Literacy offers this quote from Stanford researcher Andrea Lunsford: "I think we're in the midst of a literacy revolution the likes of which we haven't seen since Greek civilization." It is her thought - based on her research for the Stanford Study of Writing project - that technology is reviving our literacy, and "pushing our literacy in bold new directions." (via @donalynbooks)

The Art Institute of Chicago's Department of Museum Education has just launched Curious Corner, a vibrant children's interactive game that brings the museum's collection of art to life. Packed with lively animation and fun features, the dynamic program encourages young Web users and their families to explore more than 30 works of art from around the world through playful and creative activities. (via a Brian Scott article from Literacy and Reading News)

Also via Brian Scott, "Faculty Focus, a website for higher education professionals, today announced results of a survey on Twitter usage and trends among college faculty. The survey of approximately 2,000 higher education professionals found that nearly one-third (30.7 percent) of the 1,958 respondents say they use Twitter in some capacity. More than half, (56.4 percent) say they've never used Twitter."

We found a nice use of a 21st century learning technique (podcasts) to defend the tradition of reading. To the Best of Our Knowledge, from Wisconsin Public Radio, has a new program "in praise and defense of the book. Ursula Le Guin takes book publishers to task and a beloved children's book editor recalls happy days with Danny the Dinosaur and Little Bear." Thanks to @iambrimful for sharing the link.

Grants and Donations

Kidsneedtoread Kids Need to Read has a new literacy partner: Highlights For Children, Inc. "This public/nonprofit partnership delivers more quality reading opportunities to the children KNTR serves. Each of the public and elementary school libraries we donate books to will receive free copies of Highlights High Five and Highlights for Children to give to each of their age-appropriate patrons.  So that these children will be able to continue to enjoy the magazines throughout the year, the libraries will also be given a one-year gift subscription to both magazines."

Granite State Reads offers financial support to New Hampshire organizations that provide literacy assistance to New Hampshire residents. This grants program is currently accepting applications for 2010. Learn more at Book Notes New Hampshire.

New Resources

The ALSC Blog reports "The ALSC Great Web Sites Committee has added more recommended Web sites to Great Web Sites for Kids (www.ala.org/greatsites), an online resource containing hundreds of links to commendable Web sites for children."

Bilingual Readers - Deanna Lyles, a Roundup fan, sent us a link and some information about Bilingual Readers and its blog, which offers tips, ideas, and information about raising bilingual readers.

Every week, Carolyn Howard-Johnson has great stuff in her Sharing with Writers newsletter. This week, she talks about using fReado.com, a source that lets you read "free books in a page-turning format." As of Terry's latest search, there are more than 170 free children's books you can read. It's not the whole book, but it is a chance to preview illustrations and content for books that might interest you ... but don't have the inside-the-book traditionally associated only with major bookseller websites.

Book_dads1-300x66 Terry has started a new feature at The Reading Tub. It's called The People Behind the Passion, and highlights people who demonstrate a passion for reading and literacy. In her first installment, she interviews Brian and Steven from Book Dads.

From Betsy Bird at A Fuse #8 Production: "New Blog Alert: I've a new and fellow NYC blogger on my radar now. Rebecca Searle is the founder of Nurturing Narratives, a company that runs storytelling/narrative-building sessions for children ages 3-6. The blog describes itself as, "a place to write and dialogue about stories, storytellers, literacy and all things related (which in my opinion includes a great many things!)."" I've added this one to my reader.

And last, but not least, we'd like to send a thank you to Andrea and Mark from Just One More Book!! for featuring the children's literacy round-ups in their latest newsletter. Just One More Book!! is a wonderful family-run podcast celebrating "family literacy and great books". They've just celebrated their third blogging anniversary, and we hope for many more book recommendations from them in the future. We especially recommend Mark's recent interview with Donalyn Miller (the Book Whisperer).

Terry has a couple of extra links in her post from yesterday at the Reading Tub, and she explains the changes and new widget/feed options here. Thanks for your patience as we work out the best way to continue bringing you all the latest literacy and reading news (without it being overwhelming for you, or for us).