Readergirlz: February Issue
Doctor Ted: Andrea Beaty

Children's Literacy Round-Up: Gregory Maguire, King and King, and Kids Building Libraries

Here a few children's literacy and reading tidbits that have crossed my desk recently:

  • School Library Journal just published an article by Joan Oleck about a fourteen-year-old boy who has spent the past four years working towards getting a public library for his 2,500 person New Hampshire town. R. J. Bolian has been working hard to solicit books and raise funds, and the town library is now becoming a reality. It's encouraging to read about a teenage boy who says: "Right now my hobby is working on this library!". See also Lois Lowry's blog post about R. J.'s library quest.
  • Elementary students in Bridgewater, MA are also seeking donations to fund their local library, according to a Bridgewater Independent article by Lauren DeFilippo.
  • In an article for the Age, Farrah Tomazin quotes Melbourne University professor Barry McGaw, "the man spearheading the Federal Government's first national school curriculum" as saying that "Australia has fallen behind in reading because there is too much focus on lifting the results of struggling students, rather than also making our top students perform even better". Professor McGaw believes that attention should be focused on kids at both ends of the spectrum, the struggling students and the students with high-level reading skills. This view, alas, appears somewhat controversial. Thanks to Reading Today Daily for the link to this article.
  • Also via Reading Today Daily, the Oregonian has an article by Betsy Hammond about "why our kids' love for reading fades." The article proposes that "Eighth grade has become a common tipping point, when book-loving children morph into book-spurning teens. Rising homework loads, increased independence from parents and the lure of cell phones, TV, e-mail and the Internet help explain why." Hammond posits that while trained school librarians, with "an insider's knowledge of young adult books", are able to lure kids from TV to books, decreased local budgets for librarians may lead to setbacks.
  • Readergirlz_2Speaking of keeping teens engaged in books, author and Readergirlz Diva Mitali Perkins is seeking young adult novels "with viral potential ... by authors who aren't white, or teen novels featuring female main characters who aren't of European descent." She wants "titles that may be off the radar but glitter with the possibility of word-of-mouth magic."
  • According to an article by Akilah Bishop in the Barbados Advocate, the Child Care Board and the National Library in Barbados have joined forces to launch a Leap Into Reading program, focused on encouraging a love of reading in preschoolers. The article says that "the programme aims at improving literacy skills, providing interactive real experiences and laying a sound foundation for reading. Furthermore, the programme seeks to educate parents of their formative role in the literacy development of their children."
  • According to a recent press release, "Chicago Tribune Charities, a McCormick Tribune Foundation Fund, announced that 55 programs committed to strengthening literacy in the Chicagoland area will receive grants totaling $945,000. Chicago Tribune readers' gifts through the newspaper's annual Holiday Giving campaign are a key source of funding for these grants." $155,000 will go to nonprofits focused specifically on children's literacy.
  • The North Brunswick Sentinel has a feature story by Jennifer Amato about a couple who started a literacy website for parents. The site is called Ethan's Bookshelf. According to the news article, the site "features reviews that Jennifer, a former Cherry Hill resident, wrote about books she has read and loved. She discusses, from a parent's perspective, why the child would enjoy the book, what issues are covered, how to prepare for certain questions that may arise from the topics and what skills will be developed. She is open to suggestions from other parents about books their children read."
  • The Minneapolis City Pages recently published an interview with author Gregory Maguire. My favorite part was this exchange:
    "CP: How then, do would you suggest parents and teachers get children to read with all the distractions they face? How can a book compare to a friendly green ogre?
    GM: It used to be that all you had to do was lock a child in a room for 18 hours with nothing but a book, no food, no water, no light. That would usually work. But the government doesn't smile on that anymore that the department of social services would come and put you in prison, so you can't do that. I think that what you really need to do is have your own personal domestic Oprah's Book Club. You have to in some way prove to children who are reluctant readers that reading is a communal activity too. Whether it be by reading the first chapter of a story out loud then having the kids go off and read the second chapter then coming back to read the third chapter out loud. There are lots of different ways you can invent to make it a collaborative effort and a source of joy and communion."
  • King and KingVia the ACLU website, "A Massachusetts federal appeals court today ruled that an elementary school can continue to use children's books that encourage tolerance for gay people. The ACLU cheers the decision, which rejected the claims of parents who said exposing their children to such books violated their ability to direct the religious training of their children." I'm glad to hear about this outcome. I've followed the case a bit, because it originated in my hometown of Lexington, Mass. The books in question were "Molly's Family," "King and King," and "Who's In A Family?".

I don't expect to publish a Children's Literacy Round-Up this weekend, but I'll try to get you some literacy news later in the week. Happy reading to all!