Welcome to the mid-August Children’s Literacy and Reading News Roundup brought to you by Jen Robinson’s Book Page, The Family Bookshelf, and Rasco from RIF. Over the month of August so far, Terry Doherty, Carol Rasco, and I have collected content for you about literacy & reading-related events; literacy and reading programs and research; and suggestions for growing bookworms (with special thanks to Susan Stephenson, The Book Chook, for sending us several links). There is a ton of great stuff going on out there. Apologies for the length of the roundup. But there should be something here for everyone!
Literacy & Reading-Related Events
This is cool. According to BBC News, "Ambitious plans are being unveiled to turn the house which inspired the story of Peter Pan into a Scottish centre for children's literature... "What we want Moat Brae to become is Scotland's first centre for children's literature," said project development director Cathy Agnew...She said the centre could become a place to celebrate children's stories and "their history, their heritage and their past". "It is a very fitting legacy for JM Barrie - this was his enchanted land which was the genesis for his character of Peter Pan"." Link via Susan Stephenson.
Also via Susan, a post at The Book Chook on how to celebrate Australia's upcoming Children's Book Week, August 20-26. The theme of this year's Children's Book Week is One World, Many Stories. Susan has tons of concrete suggestions on how to "celebrate books and the gift of reading with kids", with emphasis on introducing "children to literature from other cultures".
Now here's a summer camp that I would have enjoyed! Publisher's Weekly's Sally Lodge reports on a summer camp for bookish kids. "Chris Raschka, Gordon Korman, Adam Gidwitz, Matthew Cody, Jacqueline Woodson, and Lauren Oliver are among the 15 authors who are entertaining—and challenging—kids attending Thalia Kids’ Book Club Camp this summer" in Manhattan. There are writing exercises as well as occasional field trips to locations tied in to the featured books. So cool! (Via @PWKidsBookshelf). Els Kushner also shared a link with me to a Vancouver writing and book camp. Of course one can also (if very lucky) attend Camp Half Blood in Austin, TX.
Young adult author James Kennedy emailed me about a 90 second Newbery video contest that he's curating with Betsy Bird from Fuse 8 this fall. Here's a brief description: "open to anyone: make a video that compresses the story of a Newbery award-winning book into 90 seconds or less. It turns out that any book, no matter how worthy and somber, becomes pleasingly ludicrous when compressed into 90 seconds. Please watch our very first entry... a 90-second version of A Wrinkle in Time (1963). We’re planning a star-studded 90-Second Newbery Film Festival at the New York Public Library on November 5, 2011. And at the Chicago Public Library on November 16, 2011!" So, if you're a Newbery fan, or you like the idea of making short, entertaining videos, check out the contest for more details.
And speaking of video and Betsy Bird, check out this list of last gasp summer reading suggestions for kids video by Betsy and Monica Edinger, at the Huffington Post.
And while we're on the subject of #KidLit videos, School Library Journal suggests that you create a YouTube video for Banned Books Week. "Librarians, bookstores, and others celebrating the freedom to read from September 21 to October 1 are encouraged to take part in this year's Virtual Read-Out on YouTube. The criteria are simple: create a video that's less than two minutes long of anyone reading a book that's been banned. If you choose to talk about a personal experience battling censorship, then feel free to extend the video to three minutes."
Literacy Programs and Research
I received an email this week from the director of The Family Reading Partnership, "a non-profit community organization that promotes early literacy... by promoting family reading practices throughout our community." What I especially liked, and wanted to bring to your attention, is their 2012 calendar, featuring art by illustrators like Debra Fraser, Iza Trapani, and Tad Hills, as well as "word play and book activities, holidays and important dates for many cultures, and suggestions for great books to read." They note that "All families will see themselves in the diverse illustrations of reading together!" Nonprofits can order the calendar at a deep discount to give out to families that they work with. I'm not a nonprofit, but I do plan on ordering one for myself.
Jules from Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast recently profiled LiteracyHead, and thought, correctly, that this might be something that we would like to mention in the literacy roundup. LiteracyHead is a small, fairly new company that helps teachers to build literacy while connecting children with art. But I think if I let Jules tell you why she loves LiteracyHead, that will be all you need to know. She says: "Because, as you can see at this page of their site, the folks over there love children’s literature and art (”the connections between the two make us positively giddy”); they want to “help teachers nurture their creative lives while they meet the demands of high accountability to which they are subject”; and they “believe that the arts are a basic component of a healthy life, not an afterthought or a bonus if there is time or funding.”
Susan Stephenson sent us the link to a Telegraph story by Murray Wardrop about how a growing number of children in the UK (and I'm sure other places) "don't know their own name when starting school". According to the article, "Parents are failing to teach their children how to speak because they spend too much time on the internet and watching television, experts claim. The problem is most acute in deprived areas, where researchers found half of youngsters have communication difficulties when starting school." Like Susan, I find this truly appalling. To take a more proactive approach to getting kids ready to start school, check out this article by Ann Barbour in the PBS Parents Expert Q&A archive on helping children prepare for kindergarten.
I ran across two interesting articles recently about the rise in adults who read young adult literature.
- The first (via Susan Stephenson) is an Atlantic piece by D.B. Grady called How Young Adult Fiction Came of Age. Grady spoke with a number of people in the publishing industry, in an attempt to understand what YA is, why adults are reading it, and whether or not publishers "now target adults when buying and marketing ostensibly young adult literature" (the answer to this was "no"). Lots of food for thought.
- On a lighter note, the Faster Times (via @PWKidsBookshelf) has a piece by Laura Goode called Your Mom Reads More YA Than You. Goode says (in reference to the Meghan Cox Gurdon tempest from earlier this summer) "What struck me about the WSJ debate was not whether or not YA veers into a damaging darkness; rather, it was the allegation that mothers are unaware of, or disapprove of, the current YA offerings. It was striking to me because, in my own experience promoting a YA novel, mothers have been some of the most ardent and vocal harbingers of what’s new and what’s next in the genre." Her explanation of why adult women are reading YA is "When you’re covered in kid puke, haven’t had sex in five months, and are in the middle of explaining where babies come from to a five-year-old who throws wet Cheerios in your face in response, the simple escapism of reading a first-kiss story might be blessedly necessary."
By the way, if you are an adult who reads YA, you might be interested in checking out Dystopian August at Presenting Lenore. Chock-full of information about great books in one of my favorite genres.
The Huffington Post reports that more schools (and a high school in Indianapolis in particular) are teaching boys and girls in separate classrooms. Seems like the jury is still out on whether or not this is a good idea, but it will be interesting to watch. Link via @TrevorHCairney.
The New York Times reported recently, in an article by Pam Belluck, on a new study that found that dyslexia may also affect listening comprehension. "Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have found that people with dyslexia have more trouble recognizing voices than those without dyslexia... Dr. Sally Shaywitz, a director of the Center for Dyslexia and Creativity at Yale University, said the study “demonstrates the centrality of spoken language in dyslexia — that it’s not a problem in meaning, but in getting to the sounds of speech.” That is why dyslexic children often misspeak, she said, citing two examples drawn from real life."
Last week the US Census Bureau reported an increase in the number of children being read aloud to every day by a family member. Griselda D. Ramirez of The Californian reports: "In 2009, half of children ages 1 to 5 were read to seven or more times a week by a family member." I'd like to see that number at 100%, but an increase is still good.
NPR's Planet Money had a good piece this week by Alex Blumberg about how, dollar for dollar, preschool is the best job training program available. Nobel prize-winning economist James Heckman found that the soft skills that enable people to learn later are acquired way back in preschool ("things like being able to pay attention and focus, being curious and open to new experiences, and being able to control your temper and not get frustrated"). Another study cited by Heckman found that 27 year old men who had gone to a particular preschool program were "half as likely to be arrested and earned 50 percent more in salary that those who didn't." How much better is it to spend money on preschools than prisons? There are not enough words to express this. (Carol found this piece)
Although it's not directly about literacy, I was pleased to see an article at Today Parenting (link via @PBSParents) offering a strong defense of more playtime/recess in schools. LiveScience writer Stephanie Pappas talks about the top 5 benefits of play, the reasons why unstructured playtime is vanished, and the consequences of this (including an increase in childhood obesity). I'm really hoping that all of these article that we're seeing in defense of play are early indicators that the pendulum is going to start to swing the other way.
On Reading Rockets, experts Deb Linebarger, Lisa Guernsey, and Marnie Lewis discuss (on video) " what the growing exposure to media means for children's literacy development." They tackle questions like "Can parents and teachers use media effectively in their homes and schools?" and include links to a variety of followup resources. (Via @ReadingRockets)
Suggestions for Growing Bookworms
Donalyn Miller, the Book Whisperer, has a great post this month, written in response to an excerpt from a new book by English Professor Alan Jacobs. The topic (of book and post) concerns whether or not one can teach students to love reading (and definitions regarding what a serious reader is and isn't). Discussing what she thinks it takes to create kids whose eyes light up when talking about books, Donalyn concludes: "Do most children grow up in environments where reading is a desired behavior, a cultural norm? Do most children have reading role models? Do most children have the opportunity to read for sheer pleasure? Do we value all types of reading and embrace all types of readers? Do we expect children to read a lot? If not, then we exclude most children from developing a love of reading at all."
ReadAloudDad pointed us to an excellent article on Boys and Reading by Ian Whybrow at Daddy Be Good. After musing on why he believe that boys don't read as much as girls do ("As long as men are marginalised in primary schools, one of the casualties is boys reading books for pleasure. Men and boys have come to see reading fiction as a girly thing"), Whybrow shares four concrete suggestions for dads. I wish that every dad who has ever been unhappy with a son's academic performance could read these tips. See also Why Don't More Teen Guys Read YA? by author Mike Mullins.
Another must-read article that I cam across recently was at RIF, on motivating children who can read, but don't. I'm not sure when this article was first published, but Choice Literacy highlighted it recently in their newsletter (you are reading The Big Fresh, aren't you?). And the content sure looks likely to me. The article includes reasons why some kids don't like to read, a list of things NOT to do, and 20 ways to encourage reading. (Personal soapbox: articles like this are just a small part of why RIF should continue to be funded).
And speaking of RIF, I'd like to close with congratulations to RIF, and our own Carol Rasco, for the success of the recent Be Book Smart campaign at Macy's. The campaign raised $4.9 million much-needed dollars for RIF, considerably above the initial goal of $3 million. Happy, happy news!
Thanks for reading, and for caring about children's literacy. Carol will be back at the end of August at Rasco from RIF with the next roundup, but I'm sure that Terry will have tidbits for you in the meantime at The Family Bookshelf. And I'll be sharing children's literacy links as I find them on Twitter and Google+.