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 at Jen Robinson's Book Page. This week Terry Doherty and I have collected plenty of content for you about literacy & reading-related events; literacy and reading programs and research; 21st century literacies; and grants, sponsorships & donations.
This just in from Reading Rockets: "March 2nd is Read Across America Day, the nation's biggest read-in! Celebrated each year in honor of Dr. Seuss's birthday, it's a chance for families, schools, libraries, and communities to join together and celebrate reading. Send an e-card to your favorite book lovers and learn more about this NEA-sponsored event on our Read Across America resource page, where you'll also find great ideas for integrating Dr. Seuss into classroom and at-home literacy activities. Looking for great book ideas? Browse our themed book lists, featuring engaging stories for children (0-9 years old)."
And here's another idea for promoting literacy and encouraging community service. The Reading Tub is looking for student reviewers. Terry says: "If you have a reader – or know a reader – who is interested in reading and writing book reviews, we can help! Over on the right-hand side (at the Reading Tub's blog), I have created a widget that lists middle-grade books for which we need a target audience review (I’m still loading titles). We have an established protocol to guide the student through the review process. The books on our list are easily found, as they include many popular titles in libraries. Help from individual students, student groups, social groups, etc. would all be welcome. We have volunteer opportunities listed with 1-800-Volunteer.org for those who want (or need) a formal record system for tracking their work."
The NCBLA blog offers another opportunity for taking action. Inspired by the news that the Boston Public Library system may have to close 10 branches and lay off one quarter of its staff, they warn: "There are young people right now who do not have access to libraries because their school libraries have been shut down and their branch libraries have been closed. If you care, raise your voice for libraries in your own community and in our nation! Call, email, write, and fax your local, state, and national representatives and let them know how you feel!"
Other library news was mixed this week. School Library Journal's Lauren Barack reported last Monday that the Mount Diablo Unified School District in California is eliminating school librarian positions. Wednesday, however, brought the more upbeat news that school librarian positions in Santa Rosa CA have been spared (at least for now) thanks to support from the teacher's union. A little ray of light in an otherwise dark time for libraries, especially school libraries.
We've mentioned these things before, but you still have a few days left to vote for literacy-related programs in the Pepsi Refresh project (vote through the end of Feburary - $1.3M will be given away in various categories, including education) and in Ideas for Change in America (the first round ends February 25th). In Ideas for Change, "the 10 most popular ideas will be presented at an event in Washington, DC to relevant members of the Obama Administration, and Change.org will subsequently mobilize its full community to support a series of grassroots campaigns to turn each idea into reality." You should obviously vote for what you believe in. But should you be interested, here's the direct link to vote for Everybody Wins! idea of a National Read to Kids campaign. And here's the direct link to vote for Reach Out and Read's Pepsi Refresh proposal to help 25,000 kids enter school more prepared.
Literacy Programs & Research
@DebbieDuncan brought to our attention a feature story by Jennifer Golson from the Star-Ledger about Project Storybook, a program that lets incarcerated New Jersey parents use tapes to read to their children. "The program began at Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women in Union Township in 2003 through a collaboration between prison officials and children’s author Pat Brisson of Phillipsburg."
Science Daily reports that a new study found that "the home literacy environment-what parents do at home in terms of literacy-and motivation predict children's various initial literacy skills, such as letter knowledge and vocabulary, differently across languages. These skills, in turn, ultimately predict future reading ability." Because English is such a difficult and inconsistent language, the home literacy environment is particularly critical (when compared with other languages). Link via @RascofromRIF. Image credit: Microsoft ClipArt Gallery.
The UK Press Association reports "Children who are read to daily at the age of three are more than two months ahead of their classmates in literacy and maths by the age of five, research has found. Reading is more important to a child's academic development than teaching them the alphabet or how to count, a study by the Institute of Education, University of London suggests. The study analysed the Foundation Stage Profile (FSP) results - the teacher assessment of five-year-olds carried out at the end of reception year of primary school in England - for more than 10,600 children taking part in the Millennium Cohort Study (MCS)." See also this article by Charlotte Martin in the Sun.
The Telegraph reported recently, in an article by Stephen Adams, on a National Literacy Trust study that found that fewer than half of children between the ages of 9 and 14 read fiction more than once a month. The article says: "Little more than four in 10 boys (42 per cent) regularly open the pages of a work of fiction, while among girls the proportion is only marginally higher, at 48 per cent. By comparison, websites, emails and blogs or social networking sites are now all more popular forms of leisure reading among that age group. " The actual study, as clarified by the National Literacy Trust, was from research conducted in 2007. Thanks to Jenny Schwartzberg for the link.
Parenting.com has an excellent special report by Lisa Moran on the early literacy crisis. It includes background for why early literacy is important to future achievement, highlights from some ongoing efforts, and suggestions for taking action. Here's a snippet that caught my eye: "A poll by the Pearson Foundation and Jumpstart found that while 95 percent of Americans consider early childhood literacy an important issue, they were not aware that reading to a child between the ages of 3 and 5 is critical for future achievement." But do read the whole thing. Link via @TeachStrategies.
You know that Terry and I both like programs that put a creative spin on promoting literacy. So you can understand why we noticed this Greenville News article about a "Pancake Palooza" to celebrate literacy and learning, and this Tennessean article about a Scrabble tournament for literacy. Fun stuff! Despite all of the depressing news about government funding for literacy programs and libraries, I remain encouraged by the endless variety of grassroots efforts.
21st Century Literacies
At KindleBoards.com there is an interesting proposal (and lots of discussion) about the merit of providing used Kindles for low-income/at-risk children as a way of raising literacy rates. Specifically, "refurbished Kindles, and Kindles with minor defects that can't be sold, [would be] provided to high-risk/low income children or schools at no cost, with the restriction that downloads be limited to free public domain titles (or maybe the massive number of titles between 99¢ and, let's say $1.99, IF there is a pre-funded account attached, though there are obvious risks and problems involved with such accounts.)"
The NCFL's latest Literacy Voices Roundup links to another interesting article about technology in the classroom. SCNow.com reports, in an article by Juan Antonio Lizama and Jeremy Slayton, that mobile devices may be the next wave in education, citing a Richmond, VA classroom where students watch historical videos on their iPods. The article does note that "While some schools embrace smart phones, iPods and other hand-held devices for instruction, educators are wary of students’ improper use of the technology and their exposure to the perils of the Internet."
Terry wrote last week about the ongoing debate on whether or not school libraries still need physical books. Middle school librarian Ms. Yingling responded by sharing her thoughts on technology in her library. Noting the realities of cost, she concludes: "The only way that I see, right now, to get them (the students) the number of books they need for a price that the tax payers in my district can afford is to buy paper books. It is not because I am resistant to technology; it is because I am a realist."
Grants and Donations
According to a recent press release in the Tucson Citizen, "Make Way For Books, a non-profit organization that promotes early childhood literacy in limited resource areas of Tucson and southern Arizona, today announced it has received a $20,000 grant from Staples Foundation for Learning (SFFL), a private foundation created by Staples, Inc. Funding from SFFL will support Read to Me, Arizona!, a public awareness campaign to encourage parents to read aloud to their children every day, starting at birth." Link via Jenny Schwartzberg.
According to another news release, "The Dollar General Literacy Foundation strengthens its commitment to education and literacy opportunities for the entire family by donating $500,000 to Volunteer USA. The funds will be used to advance family literacy programs in communities throughout Florida, Georgia and Tennessee."
In other news, "City National Bank's Reading is The way up(R) nonprofit literacy program, in partnership with Barnes & Noble, has donated nearly 11,000 new books to schools in the Los Angeles, San Jose, San Francisco and San Diego areas in an effort to promote literacy and support the local community. The donation marks an expansion of Los Angeles-based City National's literacy program from four schools in California last year to 12 schools in 2010."
Wrapping Up ...
I have some additional children's literacy links, these focused on helping parents to encourage young readers, at Booklights today. Terry may also have some last-minute literacy and reading links at The Reading Tub. Although with more snow in the forecast, she may be out shoveling the driveway. [Have I mentioned lately how happy I am to be living in California this winter?]