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Sunday Afternoon Visits: It's Good to be Back Edition

Children's Literacy Round-Up: March 30

I'm still unpacking. We have boxes in just about every room. Except for the kitchen, where the box containing the cooking utensils and potholders is mysteriously missing. I'm pretty well ready to have life get back to normal, but I have a ways to go yet.

Meanwhile, I'm daunted by the >1000 new posts that have made their way into my Google Reader in the last 8 days (as Mary Lee pointed out, "mark all as read" may be necessary to create a clean slate). I'm still falling asleep after a few pages of reading every night, and have no new reviews. But I have been able to take some time this afternoon to catch up on the children's literacy and reading news from the past couple of weeks. There is plenty going on that is worth sharing.

  • This one is about adult literacy, but I thought that was interesting. Via the International Reading Association Blog, I found this ABC News story about a book club for homeless men. Donna Kelly, an outreach nurse, "began the club last fall after noticing how many homeless men brought books to the health clinic she helped run in the shelter's cafeteria." She found that when she "talked to the homeless about the books they were reading, they seemed to trust her more." Books, building bridges in all sorts of unlikely places.
  • Also via the IRA blog, the Press Democrat has a feature article by Kerry Benefield about gender differences in reading and writing in Sonoma County, and California as a whole. According to the article, "Today, California's STAR test shows that girls and boys are both improving overall. There is virtual parity in general math scores, which go only through seventh grade, but girls are consistently outpacing their male counterparts in language arts, which includes reading comprehension and grammar." Various statistics and potential causes for the gender differences in reading are discussed. Personally, I think it's important to work on encouraging a love of books for both girls and boys. But I agree that exploring different techniques to reach different kids makes sense.
  • In the Washington Post, Valerie Strauss writes about "how difficult it is for librarians, teachers and parents to match children with the right book at the right age in an effort to turn young people into lovers of reading." Among others, the article quotes Teri S. Lesesne, a professor of young adult and children's literature at Sam Houston State University in Texas on the importance of choosing developmentally appropriate books for gifted children. Thanks to Aerin for the link.
  • I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that MotherReader is blogging part-time at BigUniverse.com. BigUniverse's founder, Anil Hemrajani, sent me the link to this press release, about the formal launch of this "unique website where kids, parents, teachers, librarians and authors can read, create and buy quality children's picture books." In the press release, Hemrajani says “BigUniverse.com is the culmination of a longtime dream of combining my professional background and my love of children's books in creating the place to go to maximize the enjoyment of reading and everything that grows from it. We want to leverage the power of the Internet to increase the love of reading and writing children's books." I'm in favor of anything that increases the love of reading among kids, and I hope that BigUniverse is successful with that quest.
  • Speaking of quests to get kids interested in reading, the readergirlz divas are on the job. Their new joint teen literacy project, Operation Teen Book Drop (or TBD) will take place on April 17th. readergirlz and YALSA will be organizing a "massive, coordinated release of 10,000 publisher-donated YA books into the top pediatric hospitals across the country." They are encouraging authors, and anyone who has books to spare, to donate teen books that they love. You can read the full details here, at Mitali's Fire Escape.
  • The Register-Guard (OR) has a guest column by Paul Weill, curriculum coordinator for the Springfield Public Schools, about the importance of schools promoting the "hows and whys of reading". Weill says "we know that our efforts to address the how of reading are not enough. We must also attend to the why of reading if we are to be successful with all of our students, especially our reluctant readers. Our students must know why they are being asked to learn to read. They must learn to see for themselves why reading is important and why reading connects to their own lives and interests." He outlines several specific examples of local programs.
  • The Louisville (KY) Courier-Journal has an article for parents about ways to boost the reading skills of middle schoolers. It's a short article, but it includes some useful tidbits like "If your child seems bored with a book, encourage him or her to put it aside and pick another. If the book is a novel and your child can't put it aside because it's a homework assignment, encourage him or her to choose a favorite character -- even if it's a minor one. When children identify with a character, they become much more interested in finding out what happens to him or her."
  • The Miami Herald has an article by Sue Corbett (author of the wonderful books Free Baseball and 12 Again) about the ways that teachers are using graphic novels to reach reluctant readers. She says "Comics are infiltrating the schoolhouse like never before because they are reaching that most elusive of creatures -- the reluctant reader. Faced with a generation raised in a visual environment dominated by television, the Internet and electronic games, teachers and librarians have found comics will lure readers -- especially boys -- who have a limited interest in books." See also this Daily Observer (Ontario, Canada) article by Lianne Bowles about the appeal of graphic novels to adolescents.
  • The Orangeburg Times and Democrat (SC) has an AP story today by Joe Milicia about a Cleveland after-school program called Toddler Rock! The program, aimed at three to five-year-olds, "gives inner city children lessons in music and literacy in an environment that they otherwise wouldn't experience", the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The developer of the program, Deforia Lane, says: "A child will sing A-B-C-D-E-F-G long before they learn to recite the alphabet... If we can use that concept of rhythm and melody in learning other skills, that's what we try to do as music therapists to instill some of the pre-literacy skills that we're working on." What a fun way to teach kids about words!
  • Science Alert (Australia) has a brief article with the appealing title Kids should read for fun. The article quotes Dr Alyson Simpson, a senior lecturer and director of the primary bachelor of education program at the University of Sydney, on the importance of "encouraging children to read for enjoyment and not dictating particular books." According to the article, "Dr Simpson - who outlines the findings of interviews and surveys with 100 NSW schoolchildren aged from seven to twelve in the book - is calling on education ministers to return to a more balanced approach to literature in school literacy programs (English)."

I can't tell you how recharged I feel, after reading through all of these literacy-related articles. I hope that you find some of them of interest, too.