January Edition of The Edge of the Forest
Children's Books for Adults, Books for Teen Boys and Girls, and Henry Winkler

Children's Literacy Round-Up: Efforts by Parents, Doctors, Retired Volunteers, and Improv Comedians

There continues to be plenty of reading and children's literacy news available. I find this encouraging.

  • Walter Minkel writes at The Monkey Speaks about the Pittsburgh-based early literacy organization Beginning with Books. He also links to the organization's latest "Best Books for Babies" list, which he recommends for parents and librarians. Here is the Beginning with Books Mission Statement (from their website): "The mission of Beginning with Books is to increase meaningfully the numbers of children who become capable and enthusiastic lifelong readers. This is accomplished through research-based programs respectfully offering the information, materials, skill development, and encouragement that enable parents and other adults to promote the literacy development of the children in their care."
  • The Friday Flyer (CA) has a list by Wendy Mass of tips to help parents select books for their children. Most of the suggestions are things that we've already discussed recently on this blog, but I did like this one: "For young children, bring them with you to the library or bookstore, and let them sample a few different types of picture books to see what art styles appeal to them the most." She also specifically says that parents should let older children choose books "without judgment on their selections."
  • The Patriot Ledger (MA) has an opinion piece by Dr. Barry Zuckerman, board chair for Reach Out and Read, about the importance of school readiness, and how doctors need to reach out to parents. In light of the recent "Reading Across the Nation Report, Zuckerman notes that "the report demonstrates the need to reach more than 40 percent of parents - especially low-income parents - with books and information about the connection between daily reading and school readiness" and that the report "points to the need to redouble our efforts in Massachusetts to reach even more high-risk families."
  • The York Press (UK) has an article by Jenny Bell about a program by which older people come back into classrooms to help kids with reading. According to the article, "The Retired and Senior Volunteer Programme (RSVP), which celebrates its 20th anniversary next year, is a national organisation which encourages the growing number of those aged fifty plus to help school communities in their local areas." I love the idea of programs like this - there are many retired people who have some spare time, and who care what happens to kids, and it's wonderful to see them being used as a resource in this way.
  • In a similar vein, the Sunshine Coast Daily (Australia) has a feature article about a new statewide reading to children program. "The state government has announced a $2.1 million grant to the Centre for Community Child Health, which, in conjunction with The Smith Family, will co-ordinate a state-wide Reading to Children program. It will involve recruiting volunteer storytellers – especially seniors – to read to children in community venues and libraries. Communities Minister Lindy Nelson-Carr said the initiative would bring children and older people, especially grandparents, together to interact and learn from each other."
  • The Telegraph (UK) has an article by author Michael Morpurgo that "sets out the case for reading pleasure." This article is an introduction to the Telegraph's guide to the best children's books (100 each for early years, middle years, and early teens). Morpurgo discusses the connection between reading and happiness levels, noting that "Finland finds itself at the top of a recent child happiness table as well as child literacy levels." His concern is the alienation of much of our society from "its own stories". He says that "We have to stop proclaiming reading as a ladder to academic success. Treated simply as an educational commodity, some kind of pill to be taken to aid intellectual development, it is all too often counter-productive and ultimately alienating." He proposes that the solution lies in parents and teachers passing on a passion for stories. This is must-read stuff. There's also a longer version available from here.
  • The Courier News (IL) has an article by Charity Bonner about "the first ever Laughter for Literacy Night fundraiser" for the local Literacy Connection organization. Funds raised through the improv comedy show "will be used to support programs such as Family Literacy, Summer Youth Tutoring, Workplace Literacy and various English as a second language programs." I like this fresh approach to literacy fundraising, one that keeps things fun.
  • And, in another unusual literacy fundraiser, "ten students at universities across Canada will pitch tents and move into university libraries to raise money for literacy. They aim to bring in $20,000 in donations coast to coast to construct five school libraries in Nepal, with donations being made through the internationally renowned charity, Room to Read." Read more in this Exduco.net article.
  • Just One More Book! interviews Margaret Eaton, President of the ABC Canada Literacy Foundation about the upcoming Family Literacy Day. This is the tenth anniversary of Canada's Family Literacy Day, which promotes the idea of families reading together, and puts a spotlight on reading-related activities. Margaret discusses the importance of reading aloud to kids, starting as soon as they're old enough to focus on a book, and discusses various literacy-building activities for older children (playing board games, even playing Internet games). Mark and Margaret also discuss possible campaigns for fighting illiteracy, and the idea that showing literacy success stories is the way to get people's attention. But I'm leaving out a lot - please click through to listen over at JOMB! And I'm sure to have more on Canada Family Literacy Day activities in next week's round-up.

That's all for this week. Happy reading! And happy Martin Luther King Day!