A Passion for Children's Books
Trainstop: Barbara Lehman

Children's Literacy Round-Up: Mother's Day Weekend Edition

There have been a host of literacy and reading related news stories and blog posts in the past few days. This is, in part, because the International Reading Association annual conference was held last week in Atlanta, and in part because this coming week is the Children's Book Council's Children's Book Week. Here are a few highlights:

  • The International Reading Association's blog, News from Reading Today Daily, has published various short articles describing the goings-on at the annual reading conference. I especially enjoyed this one, about IRA President Linda Gambrell's presentation at the opening general session. Gambrell spoke in support of pleasure reading in the classroom, and the importance of instilling the joy of reading in students. This session, about "engaging adolescent African American males in reading", also sounds like it was pretty interesting. It was led by "noted educator Alfred Tatum and award-winning author Walter Dean Myers". Follow this link to see other articles at IRA blog about the convention.
  • Charlotte shares a link at Charlotte's Library, to "a rather cheering story from today's Providence Journal, about a book club formed last year at Hope High School. Hope is an urban, largely minority school that was in such a bad way a few years ago that the state intervened. It's better now, thanks in large part to dedicated teachers like those who founded the book club-- Jodi Timpani and Laura Almagno." The article includes quotes like this from students: "the book club “really opened my eyes that books can be interesting.”". The article concludes with a quote that "thanks to the book club, “it’s now cool for teenagers to read.”" Do click through to read it - I'm sure that it will brighten your day.
  • I linked a few days ago to a post by Sarah from The Reading Zone about how "NCLB is destroying our classrooms and the education we should be giving our children." An interesting discussion has sprung up in the comments there, ranging into censorship issues to "cultivating a culture of conversation and of acceptance" (the latter quote is from Jenny). I don't happen to agree with one of the other commenters (who feels that the ALA is deliberately promoting sexualized content), but I think that she's sparked some interesting discussion.
  • Sarah's post at the Reading Zone also helped inspire Jenny to write her own post on this topic, at Read. Imagine. Talk. Jenny says: "Somewhere along the way, we have forgotten to teach our kids how to think, talk and listen when it comes to books," and concludes: "there has to be some way to bypass what seems to be happening and get our 12th graders to read more than 4 books a year". We certainly have to try!
  • I've recently discovered, thanks to a friend at RIF, the Literacy and Reading News blog, from the staff of LiteracyNews.com. This week, I flagged two of their articles. The first post, by Brian Scott, is about a new weekly TV show called Read-Empower-Succeed, developed by Pro-Literacy Detroit, and carried on a Detroit cable station. The article says: "Backed by noted entertainment entrepreneur, R.J. Watkins, the program offers viewers a friendly instruction with a motivational approach towards the audience. Several local guest celebrities will talk about the benefits of reading. Pro-Literacy Detroit has a strong backing of literacy volunteers who will also share their experience, expertise and teach the audience."
  • The second article from LiteracyNews, also by Brian Scott, is about a new online children's book registry called My Book Stork. The article says: "My Book Stork is a philanthropic children's book registry designating 5% of sales to charity. My Book Stork inspires imagination, brings families together, creates an enthusiasm for books that contributes to the future academic success of children, and maximizes the contribution reading makes to the quality of our lives." I'm not a big gift registry person in general. But if you are going to register for something, registering books for kids is pretty cool.
  • According to a recent press release, the U.S. Department of Education, First Book, and Random House have joined forces for a 2008 summer reading initiative that will provide 850,000 free new Random House books "for schools, libraries and community organizations to encourage children to keep reading over the summer and throughout the year... Today's announcement marks the latest phase in the Book Donation Campaign. The Campaign is a multi-year effort of the U.S. Department of Education, First Book and a host of major U.S. book publishing companies to promote literacy and supply books to children in need."
  • Another interesting press release that I ran across is about the role of digital media in children's education, including literacy. It begins: "At today's first annual Joan Ganz Cooney Center Symposium called "Logging Into The Playground: How Digital Media Are Shaping Children's Learning," thought leaders from across research, communications, education and policy convened to set a new benchmark for the way in which digital media is used to improve children's literacy, learning and development." I'm still pretty old-fashioned, and I'd like to think that we could do the job on literacy with books. However, I do think that there are kids who are helped by screen-driven efforts as a supplement to that, so I think that this conference is interesting. The Joan Ganz Cooney Center is part of the Sesame Workshop (the nonprofit behind Sesame Street).
  • The Gainesville Daily Register has an article by Valerie Melton about the need for parents to serve as a model for literacy. The article references several experts on the importance of children having heard many spoken words by the time they start school, and recommends both read aloud and play-by-play descriptions of daily activities.
  • School Library Journal has an article about plans for Children's Book Week celebrations in New York, starting with a kick-off event that's already taken place as I write this. But there are still lots of other events planned for the rest of the week.
  • Not quite a news story, but a reference for people interested in early literacy: Jill reviews the book Jump into Literacy: Active Learning for Preschool Children by Rae Pica at The Well-Read Child. She says: "The basic gist is that the components of emergent literacy are listening, speaking, reading, and writing and children learn best through active involvement--by moving, by participating, by having fun." Click through for details and examples.
  • The parenting blog ParentHacks recently published a tip for encouraging a life-long love of books: "Let Young Readers Choose their Own Books". Thanks to Mindy from ProperNoun.net for the link, and for pointing out the discussion in the comments, about some of the challenges of letting kids choose their own books.
  • As a followup to last weekend's Free Comic Book Day, the Millbrook Voice Ledger (NY) has an article by Tabitha Lucas about the ways that comic books can encourage literacy. Third grade teacher Chris Shave gave away free comic books to his students. "Giving away the comics is part of a professional growth plan that Shave developed after doing some research and finding out that reading and language skills develop earlier in girls than in boys. Boys, Shave also found out, are generally more interested in nonfiction reading, such as in magazines and newspapers. During his research, Shave also found that boys are also more visually oriented. Putting this altogether, Shave thought that comic books would be an interesting tool with which to promote literacy in boys and encourage reluctant readers." The article goes into quite a bit more detail Shave's research and classroom experience on this topic.
  • Looking ahead to Father's Day, the National Center for Family Literacy writes about the role of fathers in children's literacy. The article includes "tips for fathers and families on how to teach their child by using the world around them and maximize time spent reading together", like "Make science come alive at home by checking out science experiment books from the library and then trying simple experiments at home."
  • Today's Duluth New Tribune has an article by Will Ashenmacher about Reach Out and Read efforts in Duluth, MN. I've linked to articles about Reach Out and Read (a program by which doctors give books to kids on their well-child visits) many times, but I think it's a program worth continuing to talk about. This article says: "The books are distributed at doctor’s offices because it’s believed the recommendation to read carries more weight if it comes from someone in a white lab coat. “The other big part, too, is just getting a prescription to read from your doctor,” (Dr. Heather) Winesett said. “Even a financially well-off family may not be going home every night and reading to their child. But if you get a prescription from your doctor — ‘Hey, reading is important’ — then you’re much more likely to read.”"
  • Last weekend's Atlanta Journal Constitution's MomMania column, by Theresa Walsh Giarrusso, was about the journey to literacy. Inspired by her five-year-old son learning to read, Theresa mused: "It’s an incredible journey for children to become readers. Parents must guide their kids from being non-speaking infants to talking toddlers and finally to school-age readers and writers. It is sometimes a slow and difficult process and many parents may wonder: How can I most effectively help my children become literate?" She turned to reading expert Kathleen Hayes for some insights into emergent readers. The result is some excellent, quite detailed information (and a whole slew of comments from interested readers).

And that is more than enough for one weekend. Hope you find some food for thought here. And Happy Mother's Day to all of the moms out there, especially my own!