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Children's Literacy Round-Up: Family Literacy Day, Oral Storytelling, and Peter Pan

There are some excellent children's literacy and reading-related stories from around the wires this week. It's a veritable embarrassment of riches, in no small part due to the many article around this weekend's Family Literacy Day in Canada.

  • The New York Daily news has a guest column by Jon Scieszka about how to "turn the page on kids' book boredom." He starts out by saying "I think we can change the world by reaching the reluctant reader. This is the kid who might be a reader, who could be a reader, but just isn't that interested. There are millions of these kids. And we need to reach them. Because the dismal end result of not reading, as the National Endowment for the Arts' new reading study bluntly puts it, is "poorer academic and social outcomes . . . adversely affecting this country's culture, economy and civic life."" He also includes "some tips I've learned from 20 years of teaching, writing and listening to kids who weren't too crazy about reading". This is great article, by our new and well-chosen National Ambassador for Children's Literature
  • The Oregonian has an article by Angella Foret Diehl about parent Brian Martin's idea for increasing interest in reading through "Lunchbox Stories". According to the article, "Martin's love of reading, a summer road trip and a long-forgotten memory inspired the Intel business manager to create a unique reading experience for children and their parents. The result, "Lunchbox Stories," are sets of 5-inch-by-5-inch cards featuring a short chapter on each card. Parents can slip them into their kids' lunchboxes or use them for bedtime reading. The stories are designed for readers ages 7 to 12." You can find more information at the Lunchbox Stories website. Thanks to Cheryl Rainfield for the link.
  • The National Children's Book and Literacy Alliance blog this week published an excerpt from Ursula Le Guin's new Harper's article: "Staying Awake. Notes on the Alleged Decline of Reading". After a brief introduction to recent reports, Le Guin says: "Self-satisfaction with the inability to remain conscious when faced with printed matter seems questionable. But I also want to question the assumption—whether gloomy or faintly gloating—that books are on the way out. I think they’re here to stay. It’s just that not all that many people ever did read them. Why should we think everybody ought to now?". You have to be a subscriber to read the full article online, but it might be worth looking for at your local library.
  • Walter Minkel links to several early literacy resources from The Monkey Speaks. His links include articles from the Knoxville Sentinel (with reading tips), (with the suggestion to follow along with your finger while reading aloud to kids) and the National Institute of Early Education Research. They all look like great resources, and I recommend that you visit Walter's post for the links.
  • The Calgary Herald has an article by Rachel Naud about Family Literacy Day activities in Canada. Thanks to a post at the Family Literacy discussion list of the National Institute for Literacy for the link. The article includes the history of ABC Family Literacy Day, which I hadn't known before (interest was sparked from a made-for-TV movie called Penny's Odyssey, in 1999). The article discusses the importance of adult literacy in driving children's literacy, likening literacy efforts to "being on an airplane and the oxygen masks drop down. They always say put the oxygen mask on yourself before assisting the child." The article also notes: "Dariel Bateman, executive director of Calgary Reads, a literacy development program, says children need a foundation of three factors to become great readers. They need to see adults read at home, they need to be read to on a daily basis for enjoyment and they need to be involved in conversations." The need for conversations is particularly addressed.
  • For a more detailed treatment of the importance of adult literacy in assisting children's literacy, see this PDF article, presented at the National Center for Family Literacy Annual Conference by Tom Sticht.
  • For more on Canada's ABC Family Literacy Day, see this article in the Brantford Expositor, with a quiz to test your knowledge on children's literacy facts. There's also a "Literacy Fun Checklist", and a schedule of local events. I also read articles in Kingston This Week, the London Free Press, the Daily Observer (about how a players from the hockey club helped a school celebrate) and CBC Canada (which quotes author Robert Munsch as saying that "Children "catch" a love of reading from their parents and elders"). There are many other articles around the Canadian press, also, too many to list here.
  • I also enjoyed this profile by Ellwood Shreve in the Chatham Daily News (Canada) of a local school trustee, David Goldsmith, who volunteers at local schools because he is so passionate about encouraging a love of reading in kids. Sounds like a kindred spirit to me. Goldsmith has also personally worked to create and distribute hundreds of posters "around the community to promote the importance of early reading."
  • The Sheboygan Press (WI) has a nice feature story by Doug Carroll about how a local teacher's love of reading won her a state award. Teacher Doreen VandeWater says "I used to read to them (her children) every day... Parents need to read to kids every single day and instill in them a love of reading. If you can do that, they will be readers forever." She was "recognized recently by OfficeMax as part of a campaign to salute teachers who go above and beyond the call of duty."
  • According to an article submitted to the Reno Gazette, "University of Nevada Cooperative Extension (UNCE) has released two publications that provide free information on children's literacy and language development. The publications are especially useful to parents and early childhood educators, and can be accessed online at" The article says that "Both parents and educators can find tips on how to improve their children's literacy and language skills. For example, children do better when parents plan time to read and allow their children to look at books or read on their own. Children do better when teachers plan regular time to read during the day and have a quiet place in the classroom for reading." It looks like an interesting study.
  • In Jamaica, parents are being urged: "don't worry about GSAT (Grade Six Achievement Test), shift the focus. Worry about your child being literate and numerate." According to a recent news release, children won't be allowed to sit for the GSAT unless they are "certified as literate and numerate, said Minister of Education, Andrew Holness." See a related editorial in the Jamaica Gleaner.
  • A Hawaiian literacy program has a primary goal of getting parents involved in their children's learning, according to a Molokai Dispatch article by Jennifer Smith. The article mentions that "In tune with the Hawaiian history and culture, parent Hanohano Naehu brought up the strong oral tradition that exists in many Molokai homes. In an evening focused on books, he asked the presenter if telling stories could be just as effective as reading them." The answer was a strong yes. I think this is an interesting point, one I haven't seen made all that often. If you get your child hooked on stories, even if the stories are oral, instead of written down in a boo, you teach your child that stories matter. Eventually, the child will find books, for more stories.
  • has an article by Katie Collins about the third anniversary of the Knox County (TN) Imagination Library program, which delivers books to kids in their homes once a month until they turn five. A local library is also holding workshops for parents of preschoolers "offering guidance for how best to engage children and get them interested in reading in their earliest years. "What we do a really good job of right now is getting books in the hands of kids," library spokeswoman Mary Pom Claiborne said. "The next step really is to help parents understand the best ways to use those books to read to the kids and do some educational activities around that."" Sounds smart to me! A new Imagination Library program is also being launched in Peterborough County (Canada), according to Kawartha Media Group.
  • According to an article by Dorothy Shinn in the Akron Beacon Journal, "The Akron museum, the Cuyahoga Valley Youth Ballet and This City Reads! are collaborating to create imaginative interdisciplinary educational programs for Akron-area children and the community at large focusing on British author J.M. Barrie's classic tale. By spotlighting Peter Pan, the three groups hope to promote literacy, as well as the performing and visual arts, tying in a variety of programs and events taking place throughout the school year." Sounds like fun, doesn't it?
  • According to the Herald Times Reporter, the Milwaukee Bucks are sponsoring a Reading Challenge this year. Kids in the third to tenth grades earn points for number of pages read, and those who reach enough points "receive a voucher for a free ticket to their choice of two Bucks games at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee."
  • The Muskogee Phoenix has an article by Liz Hanley about how to encourage reluctant boy readers. The top recommendation are to give them choices in what they read, and for men to not be afraid to share what they're reading with the boys in their lives. Several recommended books for parents are also included.

And that is quite enough news for one week. I hope that each of you can find something of interest.