The early October 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. Over the past couple of weeks Terry Doherty and I have collected plenty of content for you about literacy & reading-related events; literacy and reading programs and research; and suggestions for growing bookworms.
This is my first round-up since the premature birth of my daughter, Baby Bookworm, nearly six months ago. She's doing well, amusing herself for stretches of time now, and I'm delighted to be back to working on the roundups. I'm very grateful to Terry for keeping the roundups going in my absence, with much-appreciated help from Carol Rasco from RIF and Susan Stephenson from The Book Chook.
This is a bit of a long round-up, because, being newly back, I find it hard to resist interesting articles. I hope you all find some food for thought.
Just in time for Banned Books Week, a storm raged over the blogosphere and Twitterverse, sparked by a book banning attempt that likened Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak (a young adult novel about the aftermath of sexual assault) to pornography. Many, many supporters chose to #speakloudly on Twitter and on blogs in defense of Speak, including brave souls like Cheryl Rainfield and CJ Redwine who shared their own personal experiences and voiced their strong feelings about the importance of a book like Speak being available to young adults. (My review of Speak is here). There are also hundreds of comments on Laurie's initial blog post. You can find a list of blog posts in support of #SpeakLoudly at Reclusive Bibliophile.
While there have been many other events and posts centering on Banned Books Week, far too many to list here, I did want to bring to your attention an article in Time Magazine online by Phil Bildner about book banning, sparked by a censorship dispute in Texas. Controversy erupted when YA author Ellen Hopkins was dis-invited from a literary festival because of complaints about her books. In a show of solidarity, a number of other authors withdrew from the festival, which was then canceled. I was familiar with the incident, but MotherReader brought this particular article to my attention, and pointed out that the Kidlitosphere's own Camille Powell, librarian and kidlit blogger at BookMoot, is quoted. Way to go, Camille!
Banned Books Week ended October 2nd. But it's never too late to speak up for open access to great literature, and the brave authors who write it. You can find a great round-up of Banned Books Week posts from around the Kidlitosphere at Finding Wonderland.
In other news, the Tribune-Star has a nice feature story by Sue Loughlin about a literacy initiative called Real Men Read. "Fifty-nine “MENtors” have volunteered for the United Way of the Wabash Valley program, aimed at encouraging and improving children’s literacy skills. Each MENtor will read to the same group of kindergartners once a month for five months, starting in October". The idea is to show kids that men can take an active role in reading and education. (via @RIFWEB)
TechCrunch reports that Twitter's new wine, produced and sold in support of Room to Read, is now available for purchase. A chardonnay and a pinot noir are available. The article adds: "Specifically, these bottles being sold will help promote literacy in Uttarakhand, India." TechCrunch is incidentally being acquired by AOL.
Programs & Research
This article was originally published in the NY Times in early September, but my local paper carried it on September 18th. Benedict Carey writes "Forget what you've learned about good study habits". Summarizing some recent research findings, Carey says: "For instance, instead of sticking to one study location, simply alternating the room where a person studies improves retention. So does studying distinct but related skills or concepts in one sitting, rather than focusing intensely on a single thing." And "An hour of study tonight, an hour on the weekend, another session a week from now: such so-called spacing improves later recall, without requiring students to put in more overall study effort or pay more attention, dozens of studies have found." Fascinating stuff!
More recently, the Times ran an article by Julie Bosman about the results of a Scholastic study on "the attitudes and behaviors of parents and children toward reading books for fun in a digital age". Here's the lead: "Many children want to read books on digital devices and would read for fun more frequently if they could obtain e-books. But even if they had that access, two-thirds of them would not want to give up their traditional print books." I liked this part: "Children ages 9 to 11 are more likely to be frequent readers if their parents provide interesting books to read at home and set limits on time spent using technology like video games, the report said." (via various people on Twitter, including @MStewartScience and @MitaliPerkins) See also the PW Children's Bookshelf article about the report.
In other digital media news, School Library Journal's Extra Helping Newsletter reported on "a new study by market research firm Harris Interactive, which questioned 2,775 adults and found that one in ten Americans use some sort of ereader" and that those who have ereaders read more and buy more books. Encouraging!
Donna St. George of the Washington Post recently shared the results of a study that "linked hours at the computer with achievement test scores and behavior and found little sign of harm for children ages 6 to 12 as they increased their screen time over a six-year period." (via @RIFWEB)
The Toronto Star, in an article by John Goddard, shared the story of a "desperate mother" who opened a literacy center after the school couldn't help her own son learn to read. Susan Co is "a former information technology consultant who out of compassion and desperation opened a literacy school for autistic children and young adults."
In Nevada, Public News Service reports: "State numbers point to a learning achievement gap, at least partly because only 40 percent of Nevada children are enrolled in a nursery, preschool or kindergarten, according to Nevada's Early Childhood Comprehensive Systems Strategic Plan. However, a "Virtual Pre-K" program is now available at many local libraries. " The program is designed to enable parents to help their kids with math and reading before starting kindergarten. (via NCTE Inbox)
On a lighter note, the Rye, NY Patch shares a fun feature story by Peter Gerstenzang about the Rye Free Reading Room's Paws-A-While-to-Read program, in which kids read aloud to two trained therapy dogs. ""We have the program to encourage literacy and to ease the fears of reluctant readers," said Donna Harvey, the library's Children's Room manager. "Being in a calm social setting with other kids and Charley and Nettie relaxes anyone who has social anxieties about reading.""
Suggestions for Growing Bookworms
You can imagine that my attention was caught when I saw a tweet from @ReachOutAndRead about a Parenting.com article titled: Raise a Baby Bookworm. Why yes, that's exactly what I'm working on every day. The article, by Carolina A. Miranda, outlines nine ways that parents can start forming good reading habits early. There's plenty of great stuff like: ""There are two major predictors of later reading," explains Maryanne Wolf, Ed.D., a cognitive neuroscientist at Tufts University and author of Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain. "How much a child is spoken to and how often the child is read to.""
The Baby Bookworm article suggests that it doesn't matter what you read during the first six months, "since the infant brain at this point is recording the cadence of language, not individual words." Which is good, since I've been known to read the newspaper aloud to BB, if that's what's handy. And I caught her father reading a manual to her yesterday. I also liked this bit: ""Many parents teach their kids to read so they can go to Harvard," (Tim) Shanahan says. "I've always seen it as an expression of love--a gift I've passed on to my children.""
At Literacy Toolbox, Dawn Little (@linkstoliteracy) shares a new suggestion for creating bookworms: connect to your own childhood. She says "I loved books as a kid (still do, of course!) and I’m so excited to pass on to my children all the books I loved from my childhood! These are the books that are timeless. They are as relevant today as they were when I was a child and even when my mother was a child." Speaking as someone who read The Secret Garden to my baby in the NICU, I can relate.
Over at The Reading Tub, Terry has re-launched and re-vamped The Wash Rag, an occasional email publication about books and reading. She explains: "Each edition will be tailored to your audience of interest: 0 to 4, 5 to 9, and 10 & up. Since we’re drawing from the blog, our current reading list on Goodreads, and Twitter, some content may overlap. The heart of each edition, though, will be a short list of books our reviewers are raving about and interviews with authors who write for that audience." Subscribe here.
The Wall Street Journal recently ran an opinion piece by Thomas Spence on How to Raise Boys Who Read (via @ImaginationSoup). Spence disagrees strongly with the current tendency to "meet boys where they are", by providing them with gross-out, slapstick sorts of books. He says: "One obvious problem with the SweetFarts philosophy of education is that it is more suited to producing a generation of barbarians and morons than to raising the sort of men who make good husbands, fathers and professionals. If you keep meeting a boy where he is, he doesn't go very far." His conclusion is that it's not a matter of what reading material is provided for boys, but more a matter of limiting their time spent on video games and other electronic media, so that they have time to read.
Based on her experience with her seven-year-old son, Amy Reiter at Strollerderby disagrees with Spence's conclusions, saying: "if he’s super-excited to read Sports Illustrated for Kids every month, whatever. Who am I to discount his taste? I don’t think it will ruin him for life. (Do you?) I also think the video-game argument smacks of “blame the parents.” We don’t have video games in our house (no one’s asked; no one’s offered), but I’m not prepared to allege that all evil stems from them." Like Reiter, I personally tend towards to "let them read whatever they want - it's better if they're excited to read anything" school. What do you all think?
Wrapping Up ...
Thanks for your interest in children's literacy! It's great to be back following and sharing news in this area.