The early November children’s literacy and reading news round-up, brought to you by Jen Robinson’s Book Page, Scrub-a-Dub-Tub, and Rasco from RIF is now available at Jen Robinson's Book Page. Over the past couple of weeks Terry Doherty, Carol Rasco 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.
Before I get into the specific news items, I'd like to take a minute to make a plug for the use of Twitter to find literacy-related news. These days, with a six-month old who is dying to crawl and a full-time job, my blog-reading time is very limited. But I do find myself with various chunks of time when I'm holding the baby, have one hand free, and can read Twitter on my cell phone (I use MoTweets, designed for Windows phone platforms). I have a handful of literacy leaders who I follow (see my newly public @LitRoundupSources list - I find having a small set of accounts to follow on this topic is the key to keeping things manageable). I also have saved searches for #literacy and #kidlit, and find links from other sites through those tags. Then what I do is star the links that I think might be roundup-worthy as favorites, and go back to them when I have more time. I do find other articles from newsletters and magazines that I subscribe to, and emails that people send to me, but Twitter broadens my reach immeasurably.
So, if you're writing blog posts or articles about literacy, and you aren't sharing them on Twitter, well, it's certainly something to consider to expand your reach. And if you're someone like me who is constantly on the hunt for interesting children's #literacy and #reading news, Twitter is definitely your friend. OK, on to the actual news.
Today, November 1st, is National Family Literacy Day. "National Family Literacy Day, celebrated across the U.S., focuses on special activities and events that showcase the importance of family literacy programs. First held in 1994, the annual event is officially celebrated on November 1st, but many events are held throughout the month of November. Schools, libraries, and other literacy organizations participate through read-a-thons, celebrity appearances, book drives, and more." Read more at the NCTE (National Council of Teacher's of English) Inbox blog.
Carol, our top event scout, found this one. Nominations are open for The Kennedy Center/Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Awards. From the announcement: "These are the teachers who define us, teachers who widen our horizons and encourage us to explore. These teachers are touchstones to paths of achieving more than we might have otherwise accomplished, in directions we might not have gone. To celebrate the significant role of teachers in society, The Kennedy Center/Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Awards will spotlight some of the country’s most inspirational teachers and recognize them for their contributions." The application deadline is December 15th.
A conference was just held to launch the Reading Association of South Africa, and discuss reading and language challenges. I liked this bit: "conversations held at this conference opened up the idea that literacy is more than what happens at school, it is a daily activity that also occurs in homes and communities."
Scholastic just launched their new social netw0rking site, You Are What You Read, in which people build their profiles according to the five books most influential in their lives. There's a nice write-up in Publisher's Weekly (which I found via @PWKidsBookshelf), which says: "Like GoodReads and other social networking sites for readers, users can find other people with shared literary interests, or “Bookprints,” as Scholastic calls them. Scholastic books don’t appear to get special billing on YouAreWhatYouRead.com, and nearly every book in print from any publisher is available for users to catalog on their profiles. There is a strong celebrity angle to the site, with visible profiles for more than 130 well-known personalities ranging from Bill Gates to Whoopi Goldberg." Interesting stuff!
Literacy Programs and Research
Dr. Gabrielle Miller shared a very well-received piece at Good Education titled Superman Can Wait, Parents Hold the Power. Responding to David Guggenheim's new documentary about parents feeling powerless to fight poor school systems, Miller says: "The truth is, though, that parents do have power—tremendous power that they may not even realize. And one of the most effective ways to begin to exert that power begins at home with their child. It doesn’t involve funding, politics, taxes, or school boards. It involves regularly reading with children and starting to take an active role in their child's education."
Adobe and Microsoft are working together to fund a non-profit in Brooklyn, NY. According to Zimmer Barnes, their goal is to "promote raising literacy rates and a general societal enjoyment of literature of all kinds. This NPO, the New York Literacy Society, has been in operation over a decade and promotes unique but vague strategies for achieving their goals." More details here.
In his latest Huffington Post column, Reach Out and Read CEO Earl Martin Phalen sat down with Dr. Robert Needlman (aka Dr. Book), co-founder of the organization. Their interview covers a little bit of history and offers tips for parents, as well: Sometimes you let the child pick. Sometimes you pick, and if it's not the right book -- it doesn't matter!
Teacher Magazine reports, in an article by Liana Heitin, that "High school students today tend to read an "idiosyncratic" and unchallenging selection of texts and are generally not learning how to do close reading, concludes a recent study published by the Association of Literary Scholars, Critics, and Writers. The study argues that that those factors have contributed to a decline in reading skills among American adults."
At ParentDish, Honey Berk draws attention to a new study by the NIH that finds: "A mother's reading skill is the greatest determinant of her children's future academic success and outweighs other influences, such as neighborhood and family income. So, improving mothers' literacy skills may be the best way to boost their children's achievement". (Via @ParentDish)
Terry thought that this article (from the Press in New Zealand) about the secret life of buttons was a neat approach to connecting kids and stories. Here's a snippet: "Each (button) has a story, a history, especially if it has come from a piece of vintage clothing. Way back, garments were generally secondary to the button. Clothes weren't washed as often as we do today, but each time they were, the buttons were taken off, and then sewn back on again after washing."
Suggestions for Growing Bookworms
Joyce Grant from Getting Kids Reading shares notes from her second mother-son book club meeting. This captures it all: "It's a great example of parents taking their children's literacy into their own hands. And anyone can do it – you can do it. Once again, the evening was total chaos… and I wouldn't have changed a thing."
At Literacy Toolbox, Dawn Little (@LinksToLiteracy) shares some ideas for using technology to entice boys to read more. I think she has an excellent point with: "Historically, science and math have always interested boys. Now we have technology which is a newer form of science and math is used to create it. Hmm. Sounds right up a boy’s alley if you ask me."
Speaking of boys and reading, author and father James Preller is looking for photos of fathers reading. He says: "I’ve reached the conclusion that one of the most powerful, positive factors to encourage and inspire boys to read is, very simply, to see their fathers read. Look, there’s dad sitting down with a book. Any book. Fathers don’t just chop down trees, fix door jambs, and watch football. We read, too. It’s a valid male activity, like burping. Think of the power of that simple image. There’s Dad with a book in his lap." And he's working on a website to show just that. Please do send him your photos for the developing site fathersread.com. (Via Doret.)
Susan Stephenson, The Book Chook, shares tips for reading aloud with toddlers. She says: "Parents of toddlers have wonderful opportunities to develop literate kids. So much of the play we do naturally with babies - finger plays, nursery rhymes, chat, naming things - grows into extended play that we enjoy with our toddlers." She recommends, among other solid suggestions, "surrounding your little one with print". She should see my Baby Bookworm's board-book-ringed playspace.
In closing, I'd like to send you all off to Aaron Mead's interview with our own Carol Rasco at Children's Books and Reviews. Learn more about the journey that led Carol to RIF, her thoughts on the barriers to children's literacy in the US, and "some practical ways that ordinary adults can further children’s literacy". That last bit is my favorite part of the interview, of course. Carol says: "Talk to/with children. Read to/with children. Make sure certain books are easily accessible to children year round. Volunteer in schools. Give books as gifts to children with whom you celebrate birthdays and holidays and other special occasions…" And more. Don't miss this great discussion of children's books and literacy.
Thanks for reading the roundup, and for your interest in Children's Literacy!