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Children's Literacy Round-Up: June 15

Jpg_book008 This week’s children’s literacy and reading news round-up, brought to you by Jen Robinson’s Book Page and Scrub-a-Dub-Tub, a Reading Tub blog, is now available here. This week Terry Doherty and I have collected plenty of content for you about literacy & reading-related events; raising readers; literacy and reading programs and research; 21st century literacies; grants, sponsorships & donations; and other new resources.


48hbc Terry mentioned MotherReader's 48 Hour Book Challenge in her round-up last week (I was a participant, along with more than 100 others). You can find links to the blogs of the four winners here (they all, impressively, read for the entire 48 hours). And here, MotherReader has prepared lists of everyone who participated for more than 20 hours, and everyone who blogged for a cause. I have to say, the whole thing was an enormous success. And Pam Coughlan (MotherReader) is one of the most successful leaders by example, in the area of community building, that I have ever seen. [Terry seconds that!]

This post is a bit late for anyone to actually participate, but Corinne from PaperTigers wrote about an International Conference on Children's Literature that was held in Beirut, Lebanon this past weekend. Organizer Elsa Marston explains: " late husband, Iliya Harik, was from Lebanon; family connections and his work as a political scientist (Indiana University) took us to that part of the world many times. I want to share with young readers my own interest in those lands and peoples, and equally important, help contribute to better understanding of the Arab/Muslim world." I hope that it was a success!

Sesame Street is coming to San Jose. According to Yoshi Kato at the Mercury News, "It's the 40th anniversary of "Sesame Street" — the iconic PBS series that forever altered the landscape of children's television. So it's entirely fitting that the live musical version of the show — "Sesame Street Live," which comes to the San Jose Civic Auditorium on Friday for a weekend run — spans the history of the series with many of the long-running characters but also a few of the newer ones." Very cool!

Reach Out and Read has announced (on Facebook) a Summer campaign to get books to kids who have none. If you have gently-used books, you can take them to an ROR Center and the staff there will sort them and get them to readers in need. Visit the Reach Out and Read website to find a center near you.

Raising Readers

Speech Pathologist Marnee Brick published a list of the 20 Most Useful Websites for Children and Families that goes beyond the norm. She selected these websites for their literacy value. Marnee says "From a Speech-Language Pathologist point of view, there are so many opportunities in these websites to enhance early literacy, listening, talking, social, and speech-sound skills." She also offers ideas (with descriptions) on ways adults can enhance their child's online experience. (via Marnee's Speech Therapy Telepractice blog)

And speaking of talking, Maria Salvadore at the Reading Rockets Page by Page blog writes about how "simply talking to young readers provides a look into a book's appeal". She adds: "It seems to me that the more we talk to children about substantive things, the better we get to know them and their tastes. In fact, sometimes the power of the story just takes over itself." We found this one on our own, but Carol Rasco from RIF also pointed it out to us. And for another post that talks about the joys of "social reading" for kids, see Sarah Mulhern's recent post at The Reading Zone about a tiny student-led book club.

Rah-cov06 At Just One More Book!!, children's book advocates Andrea and Mark talk about "how reading aloud to our children benefits us as adults, our family and our relationships with each other." Andrea talks about what a gift it is to her as a parent when she sees her daughters completely responsive to a book that she's reading to them (whether responsive means laughing or crying). They do discuss the significant amount of time that's required to read-aloud as much as their daughters want, but it's clear to me that for their family, as I would hope is true for most families, the benefits far outweigh the cost. Do give a listen! And for another post about the joys of reading aloud, check out Dawn's recent post at Five Minutes for Books. She includes a major plug for Jim Trelease's book, The Read-Aloud Handbook.

Via Colleen Mondor at Chasing Ray, I discovered a nice article by Dan Wickett at Emerging Writers Network about how the Twilight books helped transform his daughter from reluctant to avid reader. There's a great discussion going on in the comments, too, complete with a similar shared story by another young reader, and a request for suggestions for follow-on reading. As you might expect, lots of people, myself included, have chimed in with suggestions.

For another perspective on what teens are, or are not, reading, there's an interesting (if slightly depressing) post at PJ Hoover's blog, Roots in Myth. PJ (author of The Emerald Tablet) was at a high school graduation party. She asked the kids what the best book they'd read that year was. And these fabulous YA titles getting buzz all over the Kidlitosphere: The Hunger Games, Graceling, The Forest of Hands and Teeth? Not mentioned. Sad. There's quite a discussion going on in the comments.

A recent article from Daphne Lee's blog, The Places You Will Go (also in Daphne's Tots to Teens column in StarMag), really resonated with me. Inspired by a recent Horn Book Magazine article, Daphne writes about some of the benefits that she has received from her years of childhood reading. For example: "I do believe that I am able to empathise quite easily with those around me because I have experienced all kinds of situations and emotions with and through characters I love and care about, or, if I dislike them, whose motives I at very least understand." And then she moves on to other, similar benefits. When you teach your kids to love books, the rewards that the books give back to them are countless, and this article is a nice reminder of that.

Articles about summer reading are still trickling in:

... Carol Rasco highlights a variety of summer reading resources available from RIF (along with a great photo of a girl reading in a hammock, perfect for encouraging that summer reading spirit).
... Over at Booklights, Pam Coughlan shares her tips (based on experience with her own family) for making summer reading fun. I especially liked her point (which I think applies to adults and to kids) that "You don't find time to read, you make time to read. Reading needs to be part of your schedule like eating or bathing, because in its own way it's as important. Sure, you can go a day without reading, but why would you want to?" And that, my friends, is why Pam is MotherReader. [Note: I also have a follow-up post at Booklights today about keeping summer reading fun by not pushing kids to read about their grade level.]
... Mary Ann Scheuer also has some suggestions for encouraging summer reading at Great Kid Books. And, like Pam, Mary Ann starts with "Make time to read. With all the activities in the summer, it's important to set aside time for our children to take it down a notch and read." She also talks about audiobooks.
... The San Diego News Network has an article by Ruth McKinnie Braun with "The Book Whisperer's tips reading". Donalyn Miller's number one tip (for this article): "Let them read what they love." Number two is "Make reading fun". But do check out the whole article, especially if you haven't had a chance to read Donalyn's book.
... The Intelligencer has an article specifically calling upon dads to get more involved in summer reading. Donna Kaye writes: "The longer and much warmer days of summer can be a great time for fathers and their children to share favourite stories together. Books can be read while out fishing in a row boat or snuggling up in a sleeping bag in the backyard tent. Sitting on the bleachers at an older sibling's soccer game is a great time for pulling out some books to share."

Literacy & Reading Programs & Research

Over at Get in the Game--Read!, Lori Calabrese has the scoop about the Cleveland Browns Read with the Browns program. I know, I've said this many times before, but I really do think that programs in which popular sports figures talk to kids about books can have a big impact. Lori thinks so, too, obviously, and she's become my go-to source for such news.

Via the Colorado Springs Business Journal: The Children’s Literacy Center is offering free one-to-one tutoring for children reading below grade level. Children are matched with trained volunteer tutors and meet twice a week for an hour each session. To learn more about the program, visit

From an unusual source ... Terry writes: "Smart Home Improve is a blog that started in March and features articles about (mostly) home improvement. This week, though, the feature post is about Earobics, a Houghton Mifflin learning technology. Earobics is an award-winning program that is used in more than 8,000 schools worldwide. What I didn't know is that there is a "home edition" for the program, as well. The post does an excellent job explaining how the program works and how readers chart their progress."

There's a new article by Graeme Paton in The Telegraph (UK) that quotes author Frank Cottrell Boyce on how children are "no longer reading for pleasure". Here's a quote from Mr. Cottrell Boyce: "The Government has done fantastic work on literacy, but that's not the same thing as reading. It is like comparing health to sport. One is something functional, the other is something you do because you enjoy it.... Children who read for pleasure will do better at school than those who don't. You won't promote that love of reading by subjecting children to a few work cards. It is just stupid." He's outspoken in his approach, but he certainly has a point.

And, for another outspoken article, check out Jennie Smith's recent article: How No Child Left Behind makes sure no child gets ahead. She discusses various problems with the test-taking focus that's come out of NCLB, including the demotivation, and sometimes outright neglect, of the kids at the upper end of the testing scale (after all, the focus is on closing the achievement gap, right?). Here's a quote: "Even high-performing children--to make no mention of average, grade-level children--are still children. They are still subject to boredom and frustration and lack of motivation, and if they are not consistently being challenged to strive harder and achieve more, many are liable if not to get behind where students their age should be, at least not to rise to where they personally could be. When a child is on grade level, that should not mean that he is stopped and kept right there until the rest of his peers catch up with him."

21st Century Literacies

21stCenturyLiteracies Franki Sibberson from A Year of Reading has a mission this summer. She calls it her "iPhone App-a-Day mission". In a recent post, she discussed several new apps, with particular emphasis on how they might be used with kids. For instance, she says that the "Wheels on the Bus" app is "A great way for kids to read and listen to text on the iPod touch." She concludes: "I think I am going to focus on some apps that might support booktalks and conversation next week." We'll certainly check back (though I, for one, don't have an iPhone yet - I'm holding out for the day I can get one through Verizon).

Iphone Speaking of iPhones, Literacy and Reading News reported last week: "The iPhone, today introduced iStoryTime, a series of illustrated and narrated children's book applications. The first three stories are now available for download on the iPhone App Store. Parents with an iPhone 3G, iPhone or iPod® touch can now turn their favorite portable device into educational entertainment for the kids (ages 2-7) when they're on the go." We'll bet Franki checks that out.

Over at What Adrienne Thinks About That, librarian Adrienne chronicles (with photos) her progress in changing the status quo for magazine distribution in the children's room. She's taken her cue in part from the Eric Carle museum (easy-access bins, strategically located) and in part from booksellers (lots of magazine covers visible). My favorite parts of the post are: "it occurred to me to ask myself WHY we were storing a high-interest, ephemeral, browsing collection in such a staid and stately manner, and the only answer I could come up with is the one that's never really adequate: Because That's What We've Always Done" and "It's still all very new, and the room's still in transition with our tween area coming together." I think it's going to be a success.

Speaking of magazines, the Book Chook reviews the new winter edition (in Australia) of Alphabet Soup, a magazine for "kids who love reading."

Grants and Donations

Clif_logo We love grass-roots efforts to raise money for literacy programs. Writer Todd Wheeler recently announced that in honor of his Summer Reading Program, he'll be donating money to the Children's Literacy Foundation based on people's participation in the program. He shares details about why he selected the CLiF program here, explaining: "CLiF started in 1998 with a focus on rural libraries. Based in Waterbury Center, VT, it provides new library books for children in towns in Vermont and New Hampshire that have a population of less than 5,000."

And speaking of grass-roots efforts, I'd like to highlight a project that was inspired by a children's book (though the resulting donation consisted of a heifer, "a pig, a trio of rabbits, two flocks of chickens, and two flocks of ducks." Becky Laney, one of the most dedicated and prolific reviewers in the Kidlitosphere (at Becky's Book Reviews), was inspired by the blog tour for the picture book Give a Goat to initiate a fundraising project with the children from her church. The kids collected coins, and did their own art auction, and despite the church being rather small, they raised $764.40 for the project. Their money will go to buy animals for families in need. Read more here.

New Resources

Valerie at The Almost Librarian spotlights Reading is Fundamental's new Leading to Reading website. She says: "This website is intended for caregivers and parents of babies, toddlers and preschoolers and is developed to promote and enhance early literacy skills. The interface is easy to navigate, bright and simple." Terry and I love RIF, so we were extra happy to see this new resource.

Getting ready for a road trip? Sign up for the Random House Audio newsletter and get THREE free audiobook downloads. (via a Tweet by Mary Ann Scheuer)

The most recent English Language Learner's (ELL) Newsletter, published by Delta Publishing Company, had lots of great information on places to explore.

  • The Cooperative Children’s Book Center has two comprehensive booklists. In the “Complete List” there are lists on dozens of topics, including books about “Family,” “Peace and Social Justice” and “Multiculturalism.” There’s also a list of Spanish/English bilingual books. The website is sponsored by the University of Wisconsin’s School of Education Library.
  • At World Book Encyclopedia’s Cyber Camp, students can take a nature walk through a forest or a wetland, learn cool things about plants and animals, visit the craft cabin and make things with their own hands, go to the dining hall and make easy recipes for summertime treats—and much more!

The Book Seer may be a good site to visit when the kids say "I want a new book that is just like this one." Type in the author and title of the book you just finished, and you'll get back read-alike recommendations from Amazon and Library Thing. Terry tested this out a bit, and observed that it is great for wildly popular books, but is less successful otherwise. Still, we think that you might find it worth checking out. Thanks to the Book Chook for the lead.

And that should be enough literacy links for anyone for one week. Next week's round-up will be at Terry's. Happy summer reading!