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Children's Literacy Round-Up: Library Cards, Book Exchanges, and Young Readers

Here is the recent children's literacy and reading related news that caught my eye. We begin with two grass roots programs that help with literacy in other countries, take a quick swing over to look at reading in the UK, and then move closer to home.

  • The Sherman Denison Herald Democrat (Texas) has an article about a local Rotary project called the Guatemalan Literacy Program. The GLP "is designed to be a self-sustaining and long-term program to break the cycle of poverty through education. GLP provides textbooks to middle school students, and later puts computer labs in their schools." According to the article, "the majority of students able to take advantage of the literacy project are Mayans living in the Western Highlands of Guatemala", especially girls who are not able to attend school at all.
  • Elizabeth Hochstedler has a feature story in the Chippewa Herald (Wisconsin) about three women from a local family who are starting a literacy non-profit to bring textbooks to students in Nicaragua. According to the article, the "non-profit organization that will be called From Books to Brilliance, with St. Anthony’s Alliance as their financial backer. Maggie (Covill, co-founder) said the non-profit is “dedicated to opening and supporting and maintaining libraries in impoverished countries.” The women will start by supplying books to places in Central America."
  • A BBC News article references Professor Lilian Katz as saying that "Children are too young to learn to read when they first start school in the UK ... (and that pushing) pupils too hard could put them off for life, especially boys". See also the Guardian article on this topic. Both articles mention Sweden, where children do not start formal instruction until they are six or seven. This topic is particularly timely in the UK, where there has been recent pressure to start teaching kids to read before age five.
  • The Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier (Iowa) has a feature article by Andrew Wind about a local Family Literacy Program at  Hawkeye Community College. Examples are given of parents who "learned about the important role parents play in a young child's developing literacy skills... Participants have monthly parent meetings to talk about getting their children interested in reading, to review parenting issues and to exchange career resources."
  • Terry Murry writes in the East Oregonian about local children's book week programs. I liked this quote: ""It doesn't matter what they read," McKay School Library assistant Tammy McCullough once said to an interested mother. "They can read cereal boxes. The important thing is they read."" The article discusses the importance of reading aloud to children, and has concrete suggestions for making reading a family ritual.
  • The El Paso Times has an article by Diana Washington Valdez about a local author and musician, Willy Welch, who works to increase children's literacy. The article also quotes "Martha Toscano, literacy coordinator for the El Paso Main Library Literacy Center, (who) said special events at libraries help to make reading appealing to children and adults." She describes one program that involves getting parents to sign up their babies for library cards. The babies get a free t-shirt. "This is meant to show that it's never too early to start reading to a young child, and make it a pleasurable family event."
  • Courier-Life Publications writes about a New York literacy program, The Puppetry Arts Theatre’s (TPAT) Annual Reading Exchange Event. Kids from different neighborhoods get to meet and talk to each other. According to the article, "kids are asked to bring a new copy of a favorite book to the movie theatre to exchange with another student. Inside the book cover, kids are asked to write their name, age, and why they liked the book so much." I like that idea. Kids sharing books, and why they liked them, with other kids from their community.
  • The Elmira Star-Gazette has an article about children's magazine gift subscriptions to give to kids for the holidays. The article recommends some titles, but also suggests that givers contact local librarians, with a list of the child's interests in hand.
  • The American Library Association President, Loriene Roy, has issued a statement regarding the NEA's recent report on American reading levels. According to a news release, the ALA is "is more than happy to take up this cause" (of raising interest in reading). Roy suggests that "An excellent first step is making sure that our libraries are well-funded and staffed by qualified professionals who have a passion for making everyone-child, teen or adult-into a lifelong reader." [This is similar to what Colleen Mondor said on her blog the other day. See also this post of Colleen's about the NEA report. And, for a more "live and let live" perspective, see this post at Educating Alice.]
  • The folks at First Book are kicking off their holiday campaign to raise money for giving kids new books. When you check out at Borders or WaldenBooks, you can make a donation to First Book at the register. Donations will be converted to Borders gift cards and distributed to local organizations to buy new books.
  • And, closest to home of all for me, today's San Jose Mercury News profiles a woman named Jean Witucki. "Grandma Jean" reads aloud to a local preschool class, many of whom are Latino with non-English-speaking parents, every week. She says: "If I had to pay someone so I could keep reading to these kids, I would".

That's all for this week. Thanks for reading!