Catalogue of Death: A Miss Zukas Mystery: Jo Dereske
Sunday Afternoon Visits: Book Awards, Book Lists, and Bookstores

Children's Literacy Round-Up: New Year's Weekend Edition

I have lots of children's literacy and reading-related stories for you this week, since I missed last week's round-up.

  • Via The Old Coot, this year's Queen's Honors List included "O.B.E. To be Ordinary Officers of the Civil Division of the said Most Excellent Order [of the British Empire]: Eric Gordon Hill, Author and Illustrator of Spot. For services to children's literacy." Isn't that cool? An OBE for services to children's literacy. See this Telegraph article for more details. Author and children's literature advocate Jacqueline Wilson was also honored, becoming an official "dame". See the Times article about her success.
  • Via the International Reading Association blog, the Press & Sun-Bulletin (Binghamton, NY) has an article by George Basler about the local success of the Reading First program, a "$6 billion federal initiative that focuses on improving reading instruction in kindergarten through third grade. Established as part of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, the initiative has the lofty goal of having all children reading at grade level by the end of third grade." According to the article, "In Binghamton, more than 60 percent of first-grade students were at grade level by the end of the year, 20 percent more than at the start".
  • Also via the International Reading Association blog (how did I not know about them before?), Delaware Online has a story by Alison Kepner about the lack of funding in Delaware for gifted children. Ironically, this story cites the negative consequences of the No Child Left Behind Act, saying (about gifted children): "Too many of their abilities, advocates argue, remain untapped by U.S. schools that don't serve them as they focus instead on lifting low-achieving students to meet the goals of the federal No Child Left Behind law." According to the article, "Delaware is one of six states that neither mandates gifted instruction nor provides gifted education funding". And that is part of why so many people homeschool their kids, isn't it? (My own theory, not from the article.)
  • The Seattle Times has an article by Linda Shaw about the Parent-Child Home Program, "created four decades ago by a clinical psychologist who concluded that the best way to reduce the number of high-school dropouts was to start when children are 2 and 3." The program, in which specialists visit people's homes to model literacy, has been shown to be successful on the East Coast, and has recently been initiated in Seattle.
  • Daphne Lee, who blogs at The Places You Will Go, has a lifestyle piece in the Malaysia Star about the importance of letting kids read what they want. She speaks out against the recommended age ranges planned for display on UK children's books, saying: "Sorry, but parents just have to spend half an hour talking to their kids to figure out what they want to read. And if a book has some hard words or complicated sentences, well, that’s what dictionaries and parents are for... Sensible parents will ignore the labels and tell their kids to simply read whatever they please."
  • According to a press release, "Primrose Schools, a leader in early childhood education, recently donated $146,000 to Reach Out and Read... More than 20,000 students from 170 Primrose Schools across the country participated in school- based fundraising events, and together, they raised $146,000."
  • Reach Out and Read also sponsored a recently released survey called Reading Across the Nation. According to an article by Kay McSpadden in the Charlotte Observer, the survey found that "fewer than half of all American children younger than 5 years old are read to daily. This lack of early interaction with language shows up dramatically by the time they begin school. Up to one-third of all children lack the skills they need to be successful, and most of those never reach their potential in school." What is particularly highlighted in the Observer article is the regional disparity in results. "The four states with the highest percentage of children being read to daily were all in the Northeast -- Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire, and Connecticut. The four states with the lowest percentage of children being exposed to reading every day were in the South -- Alabama, Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi."
  • In the Kansas City Star, Sara Shepherd writes about a local public library program called Books To Go that "helps children discover the joy of reading". According to the article, "the library picks up and delivers nearly 17,000 books (to preschools) each month, ensuring children have a rotating supply, for free."
  • The New York Times has an Education section article by Elissa Gootman about educators who are looking to comics to increase reading for pleasure, and hence reading scores. The article says that "The recent interest in comics as a literacy tool comes as graphic novels have cemented their status as sophisticated works of literature, and as teachers nationwide are struggling to boost reading scores. Proponents of comics in the classroom say that they can lure struggling readers who may be intimidated by pages crammed with text. They also say that comics, with their visual cues and panel-by-panel sequencing, are uniquely situated to reinforce key elements of literacy, like story structure and tone." (Free subscription required.)
  • An article in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review by Michael Machosky cites libraries as pivotal in the city receiving a high literacy ranking (number nine on the America's Most Literate Cities list). The article also includes the criteria for the literate cities survey, and various other statistics about national literacy levels. You can also find the complete list here, at My home city of Boston ranked 10th. Minneapolis is first on the list. Is it just me, or does it seem like cities with long winters tended to rank high on the list?
  • The Omaha World-Herald has an article by Judith Nygren about programs that send books and literacy information home with babies from the hospital. "
    The Omaha library's new baby packet comes with an easy-to-hold board book, a rhyme booklet and a tip sheet for reading aloud. Parents also are invited to register their babies as card-carrying library members. Each baby will receive a second free board book with the library card." The article discusses in particular funding issues faced by such programs.
  • The Central Maine Morning Sentinel has an article by Craig Crosby about a state program called Project Story Boost in which volunteers work with kids to try to create a lifelong love of reading. The idea behind the program is to give kids who may not be read to at home the experience of being read to by a caring adult. The project is spreading slowly within the state, and seems to be making a difference, though no quantitative results are available.
  • In the Orange County Register, Erika M. Torres writes about the United Through Reading program, by which "soldiers on long deployments in Iraq read children's books on video and then send the video along with the book to their children in the U.S. The program was started during the Gulf War in 1990."
  • According to an article by Michael Zeigler in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, children who leave the Children's Center at the Monroe County Family Court (where they spend time while their parents are in court), leave after each visit with a gift of a book. In order to get enough books to give to the kids, the Jury Commissioner has led a drive to encourage jurors to bring in new or gently used books to supply the center. What a way to put something positive into the whole court experience, for kids and for the jurors.

And that seems like enough for one day, though there are probably other interesting stories that have slipped through the cracks. Happy reading!