Frankie Pickle and the Closet of Doom: Eric Wight
The Magic Thief: Lost: Sarah Prineas

Children's Literacy Round-Up: June 29

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. We hope that you'll find some tidbits of interest.

Pbby_logo PaperTigers shares announcements from the Philippines Board on Books for Young People (PBBY) about two upcoming children's book-related events in the Philippines: The Second National Conference on Children's Literature (July 16-17) and the 26th National Children's Book Day (third week of July).

Ncblasmall-logo The National Children's Book and Literacy Alliance has some additional details about the upcoming National Book Festival (which we announced a couple of weeks back). For example, "The Pavilion of the States will represent reading- and library-promotion programs and literary events in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. trusts and territories. The popular Let’s Read America pavilion will offer reading activities that are fun for the whole family." Also via the NCBLA, a defense of libraries from Ray Bradbury.

Following up on the United We Serve campaign that Terry talked about last week, I was extra-pleased to see this little news item, about the first family stuffing backpacks for the children of military personnel. They included two of my favorite books in the backpacks: The Penderwicks and The Lightning Thief. I found this link via Rick Riordan's blog. The Obamas have also called upon libraries to promote United We Serve, as described in this School Library Journal article.

In related news, from Lori Calabrese Writes!, "U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recently kicked off the Department's summer reading campaign--"Read to the Top!" --with the children's classic books "Clifford the Big Red Dog" and "Where the Wild Things Are." The Secretary read to young children, including his own, on the plaza of the Department's Lyndon Baines Johnson headquarters building. The initiative is in response to President Obama's "United We Serve" national volunteer campaign that calls for all Americans to serve in their communities over the summer."

Raising Readers

In her post In Defense of Summer Reading, Kate Messner offers her thoughts as a parent and teacher: keep the fun in summer reading. Her progressive model: "Ask parents to commit to a daily reading time at home. Teach kids how to request the newest YA titles through inter-library loan. And if you really like lists, what about letting kids make their own, based on your suggestions and recommendations from classmates?" See also a followup post at Kate's, with links to responses on some other blogs. I'm going to share some other responses to Kate's post from around the Kidlitosphere over at Booklights next week.

New Hampshire's statewide summer reading theme is "Summertime . . . and the reading is easy. I enjoyed this article by Sarah M. Earle in the Concord Monitor about summer reading, especially because of Earle's irreverent tone. For example: "Try nonfiction or the new genres like graphic novels, which are good for reluctant readers and kids who are visually oriented. (That's right parents, graphic novels are okay, but feel free to keep telling your kids they're off limits if you're into reverse psychology.)"

At Oh! Just One More Thing, Mel is inviting visitors to name Books that Belong in the Treehouse. She is looking for our favorite childhood/tween/teen books of summer to share with her students. She says: "Who knows, your idea just might be THE book that hooks that reluctant reader."

Pbskids No FCC problems here. We are pretty transparent about our love of PBS Kids and its literacy programming. The Mom behind LA Story has a great post about Super WHY and a recent PBS-Kids-sponsored meet-and-greet for LA Mom bloggers. Daycare was provided, so Moms could bring their kids! Participants got to learn about the program's philosophy and offer feedback. They also got a 5-day project to try at home to put the program to work with their preschooler. Terry adds: "What I found most fascinating was that Super WHY creator Angela C. Santomero found a curriculum first, then built the show around it."

At the Book Chook, Susan Stephenson shares a literacy activity for young writers suggested by Dee White, the author of an upcoming YA novel about Leonardo da Vinci. Basically, White suggests that kids look at a photo of someone they don't know, and then use a combination of questions and letters to write a story. Speaking of kids and writing, author Barbara Shoup has an insightful post about her recent experience leading a writing workshop for a group of teens.

Joyce Grant at Getting Kids Reading shares an energetic recommendation for creating smart readers. She says "Want to create a smart reader? Get your child on a trampoline. According to brain researcher Bernadette Tynan, trampolines are so good for the brain, "even NASA astronauts use it to boost their brain power."" Joyce also has the more disheartening news that a well-known rapper recently announced publicly that he doesn't like reading (this despite the fact that he's published a book). Just, sad.

In other dispiriting news, Farida Dowler at Saints and Spinners links to a sad article from the Seattle Times about school librarians being reassigned to classrooms in Bellevue, WA. There are a slew of outraged comments, both on the Times piece and at Farida's. I know that my elementary school librarian made a huge difference in my life - I can't even imagine those years without her there in the library, guiding me towards the right books.

INK_Logo_box_colorrightsize On a brighter note, Gretchen Woelfle has a must-read post over at Interesting Nonfiction for Kids (I.N.K.). Gretchen says: "I’ve invited Guest Blogger Deb Hanson, Media Specialist, to describe the Guys Read program at Veterans Park Academy for the Arts, Lehigh Acres, Florida.... Deb’s report made me contemplate, once again, the special place in heaven reserved for hard-working innovative teachers and librarians." And really, Deb's report, about a mentoring program that successfully turned a group of reluctant middle school boys into readers, is well worth your time.

Trevor Cairney from Literacy, families, and learning has a new post in his Key Themes in Children's Books series: Conquering Fears. He says: "While many children will express freely their feelings about such fears, some do not. Books can offer a means to expose some of these fears and allow parents and teachers to discuss them openly. In this post I will review some of the books that address the conquering of fears. I will do this by also considering some of the sub-themes that are evident in books of this type for children".

Literacy & Reading Programs & Research

Literacy and Reading News reports that "
Neuroscientists at Georgetown University Medical Center have found that an area known to be important for reading in the left visual cortex contains neurons that are specialized to process written words as whole word units... The findings from this study lead to better insight into the normal reading process, providing a framework that in a next step can be applied to examine disordered reading, eventually leading to better detection, diagnosis, and treatment of reading disabilities."

Also from Literacy and Reading News, "A study conducted by Jimmy Kim at Harvard's Center for Evaluation found that reading four or five books over the summer months had an impact on fall reading achievement comparable to attending summer school." "Another study concluded that, "children who read more than a half an hour per day during the summer had significantly higher reading comprehension gains by the fall compared with children who did not." Encouraging stuff! Do click through to read the whole thing.

In an opinion piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Robert Tietze and Richard Chevrefils propose that the upcoming boom in the number of retired people offers a solution to the problem of elevated school dropout rates. They note that "These potential tutors will be the most well-educated, financially well-off, healthiest, and most engaged generation of retirees in history." The article is admittedly biased (the authors are seeking government funding for a particular program that uses retirees for tutoring), but it is an interesting idea.

According to an article in the Birmingham Post (UK), Education Secretary Ed Balls has pledged 10 Million Pounds (British) to help students with dyslexia and other literacy difficulties. The money will go to developing courses so that teachers have the necessary expertise and to placing specialists in schools. Mr. Balls said: "Responses to overcoming dyslexia and other literacy difficulties must be robust and part of a continued drive to develop literacy in all children, especially in primary schools."

At Unwrapping the Gifted, Tamara Fisher shares "a handful of gems of advice" for gifted students. She adds: "I’m calling it “strange” advice because I like to look at things from unusual angles and this advice comes from perspectives others may not consider." This is a friendly, detailed post that I really think could help gifted kids.

Education World published an article for teachers about the benefits of reading aloud in the classroom, from a discussion with Jim Trelease, author of The Read-Aloud Handbook. It's actually an old article (from 2001), but still has some useful gems. We found this via @momsinspire. [See also my notes from a talk that Jim Trelease gave in Santa Clara two years ago.]

At, Robin Hansen shares real life tips for boosting reading skills, with emphasis on tips and suggestions for kids who have reading disorders. For example, she strongly recommends, if watching television, turning on closed captioning or subtitles (Jim Trelease recommends this, too, I recall).

CNN recently published a feature about the Book for Africa program, a nonprofit group that ships donated books to Africa. "Is there a moral obligation to feed poor children's minds as well as their bodies? Books for Africa's leaders think so. The group says it shipped 2.7 million books to 24 African countries last year to combat what it calls a "book famine."" The article also discusses the high value that recipient children place on their books, protecting them "like gold." Link via @KristyMyers.

Catch Up, a UK nonprofit gives foster care-givers literacy training. A recent study by the group (in concert with the Norfolk County Council) shows that the effort is paying off for foster kids. One study looked at trend data in a school environment; a second study looked at trend data in a home environment. The leaps were greater at school, but half of the students whose caregivers had Catch Up training also showed improvement as a result of reading at home. via @everybodywins

Mary Ann Zehr has an article about an education bill pending in Congress in the current edition of Education Week. The U.S. Senate has drafted a bill it hopes to introduce this summer. The proposal would replace three federal reading programs, including Reading First, and authorize nearly a fivefold increase in the amount of money the federal government provides for literacy in grades 4-12.

21st Century Literacies

Twitter_logo_header has an interesting article about how libraries are using Twitter as a means of engaging their communities. Although the article focuses on the United Kingdom, the phenomenon and the potential uses are universal. In related news, the Washington Post has an article by Michael Birnbaum about Fairfax county school systems using Twitter to get word out to parents and staff. But the article notes that the system is not currently interactive (no inbound messages monitored). Story via @linkstoliteracy.

A recently published study by the Joan Gantz Cooney Center (the Sesame Workshop think tank) concludes that video games offer learning benefits. From the executive summary: "Despite their reputation as promoters of violence and mayhem, digital games have in fact been shown to help children gain content and vital foundational and 21st-century skills. From digital games children can learn: Content (from rich vocabulary to science to history); Skills (from literacy to math to complex problem-solving); Creation of artifacts (from videos to software code); Systems thinking (how changing one element affects relationships as a whole)." The study also adds that parental involvement is a key factor in the process. Thanks to Nerd Dads for the link.

Denise Johnson at The Joy of Children's Literature recently tracked down a two-part video by Kelly Andrus on YouTube EDU about the importance of quality children's literature. Denise explains: "In part one, Kelly discusses the importance of visuals in enhancing reading skills (7.15 mins). In Part 2, she discusses the importance of multicultural children's literature in the classroom (5.54 mins.)." Click through for the videos.

Kathleen Kennedy Manzo has an interesting article that looks at how U.S. students compare with their international peers in understanding technological resources, i.e., 21st century literacies. “Developing countries, such as India and others, are beginning to make significant financial commitments and investments in teaching technology skills in their schools,” says Ruwan Salgado, the director of World Links, a Washington-based organization set up by the World Bank to promote technology education in the developing world. (Education Week)

Elizabeth O. Dulemba recently wrote about her love of audiobooks. She recently learned about a new campaign in Florida to get people listening. She explains: "Random House is embracing audiobooks too with a new campaign called Listen Up Florida! They're working with the state to advertise audiobooks on billboards, radio, etc. They're also working with bookstores across the state to promote audiobooks and make them available." I agree with Elizabeth - this is a great program!!

Grants and Donations

"Every year in early May, comic book stores across the nation go all out for kids during Free Comic Book Day. Children who visit their local, participating comic shop receive a free, age-appropriate comic book. It is an innovative way to keep the spirit of comic book artistry alive for future generations and to encourage kids to read, write and draw." From Kids Need to Read.

A June 22nd news release reported that "the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy's Maine Family Literacy Initiative (MEFLI) has awarded $445,000 supporting family literacy programs in 21 Maine communities... Programs receiving support provide family literacy services including adult and early childhood instruction, and time for parents and children to read together. An additional four planning grants of $5,000 each will help communities develop the partnerships and resources needed to implement a family literacy program in 2010."

In Louisville, Half Price Books and the National Center for Family Literacy donated 3000 new and gently read books to kids for summer reading. "The books will be distributed to children across the Louisville area through youth service organizations, child development centers and churches." More details at

New Resources

Picturing Books Timeline Susan Stephenson (Book Chook) is becoming our intrepid field reporter. She found Mary Lee's post about picture books and sent us the link to this website. At the site you'll find lots of neat stuff, including this fascinating look at the history of picture books.

In Raising Readers, Amida from Blissfully Domestic blog offers a list of online resources with early literacy tools. She's navigated the site for you, so she has lots of links and she tells you what the site can offer (activities, checklists, etc.). "children start learning how to read the day they are born, with the right support we can make it easier and more fun for them to do it. We don't have to push or force them , we just need to be there to support them!"

Flocabulary is a teaching tool, that helps teachers integrate hip hop and rap music to ELA, social studies. math and science lessons. Thanks Literacy is Priceless for the link to this classroom literacy tool.

And that's all the literacy news for today. Terry and I are going to take next weekend off, in honor of the July 4th holiday in the U.S. We'll be back with the next literacy and reading news roundup here on July 13th. Wishing you all a relaxing and book-filled holiday!