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Children's Literacy Round-Up: July 27

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. Happy reading!


Ncblalogo The National Children's Book and Literacy Alliance blog reports: "The nonprofit organization First Book invites Americans across the nation to celebrate United We Serve's Education Week (this) week by advocating for literacy activities. How can you participate? Read with a child, volunteer at a library, or organize a book drive. Even small gestures can make a difference in the reading life of a child." Education Week starts today (July 27th).

Sara Zarr reported on the 2009 Writing for Charity event in Ogden, Utah. This year the event will be held August 29. From the event description: "The Writing for Charity Event, a workshop for aspiring children’s book writers (age 13 and up only), will provide participants with professional advice and the opportunity to have their work evaluated by one of the event’s participating authors... All proceeds from the event will benefit the non-profit Treehouse Children’s Museum and its award-winning Family Literacy Programs."

The NY Times Caucus Blog reports "Marian Robinson, the mother-in-law of President Obama, was the headliner at a Washington story-time event on Wednesday, reading a book to dozens of schoolchildren and speaking wistfully about watching her granddaughters grow up... The event was organized by Arne Duncan, the education secretary, as part of a summer reading initiative." (The book read was Rainbow Fish...) Link via @CulturattiKids

Via News 8 Austin, we found this announcement: "News 8 and the Round Rock Express are asking fans to help spread the message of reading and literacy to area children. Donate a new or used children’s book to the nonprofit BookSpring at Wednesday night's game and you’ll receive one general admission ticket to the baseball game. Collections will go directly to BookSpring, which gives free books to families in need." (This particular event already happened, but we always like to highlight events when sports fans are asked to encourage literacy.)

We always like creative literacy events. In SF Gate we found this announcement: "The Reading Clinic and My Pony Party are teaming up once again to promote literacy and animal appreciation. In previous years, they have hosted “Read to a Pig” events for children at The Reading Clinic's Bay Area locations. This year they are co-hosting a "Barnyard Book-A-Thon" at Webb Ranch in Menlo Park (CA). Children are encouraged to bring their favorite book to read to a farm animal of their choosing, including pigs, chickens, and ponies." How fun is that?

Raising Readers

RIFF_logo Via a recent news release, we learned that Reading is Fundamental has launched a new program. Read for Change is RIF's contribution to President Obama's call for service as part of United We Serve. With Read for Change, RIF is encouraging adults to read with children. Participants log their time at Read for Change website. At the end of the campaign, RIF will randomly select five participants to receive a children’s multicultural book collection as well as the opportunity to select a school in their community to also receive a book collection.

A Google Alert led us to an article by NMDad about the art of reading aloud to children. This is a comprehensive, nuts-and-bolts piece that not only covers environment and using voices, but also talks about the benefits of that 15-20 minutes a day. "Interactive reading goes beyond reading to your children. It's reading with them. The distinction is important because it engages them in the process and aids their linguistic development and understanding of the subject matter."

T. Wright is an educator with a brand-new blog called Room to Grow: Making Early Childhood Literacy Count! In one of her first posts, T. takes on reading instruction programs for babies, saying "I just think babies have more important stuff to learn. Exposing children to language and literacy in meaningful and relevant ways is what helps children become happy and effective readers; reading skills rarely come in a neatly packaged box tied with a bow." She goes on to suggest "things that parents and early childhood educators can do to promote early literacy skills in young children," things that don't require purchasing an expensive, formal program. She also has a fun post with activities to go along with several humorous picture books.

Terry found an interesting post in the Guardian Book Blog by Kavitha Rao about whether or not some children's classics are now unsuitable for kids.The focus is on some of the more "close minded" characters in the classics. Rao, struggling with this issue, says: "I don't want my daughter feverishly scrutinising books for things to be offended by, and I would never support a ban on any book. I want her to hate the prejudice, not the author." It's a tricky issue. But certainly another argument for parents to read books alongside their children, so that these issues can be discussed openly.

The Choice Literacy weekly newsletter, The Big Fresh, is one of our go-to sources for literacy and reading information. This week, Brenda Power links to two articles from the Choice Literacy archives about classroom read-alouds for the start of the school year. One is by our own Mary Lee Hahn from A Year of Reading, and the other is by Shari Frost. Brenda also links to a practical article on classroom read-alouds by Sarah Mulhern from The Reading Zone. Terry and I, of course, love seeing this emphasis on read-aloud in the classroom.

Literacy & Reading Programs & Research

Via a tweet from @RascofromRIF (who found it via @EduFlack), we found a
Wall Street Journal article by Emily Esfahani Smith about The Great Books Summer Program at Stanford (aka Book Camp). "Each summer, students ages 12 to 17 gather against the idyllic backdrop of either Stanford University or Amherst College. They attend lectures, participate in discussions, eat meals, and live together as a community of precocious ­thinkers... The program started eight years ago with a group of 30 students, many of whom were underprivileged, meeting on weekends."

As part of its Making a Difference series, NBC's Rowena Ellis tells us about the Horizons Summer Enrichment Program, an public-private partnership that works to close the achievement gap for economically disadvantaged students. The program has been around for more than 40 years; and where it once served one community, it now operates in 16 communities, helping 1,600 kids of diverse backgrounds every summer. "Not only have Horizon students avoided the summer brain drain, they have advanced their learning by three to four months in reading and math." Watch the NBC Nightly News video, it only takes three minutes.

Web Watch reports an increase in parents raising funds to help cover school supplies and programs. For example, "In the Tacoma, Wash. school district, parents of kindergarteners at Lowell Elementary raised $16,000 in order to save the jobs of three teacher’s aides." However, some issues of concern have been raised. For instance: "Some observers worry that it can widen the gap between rich and poor school systems, shortchanging schools with primarily low-income families who can’t afford to contribute to the schools."

Meanwhile, Literacy and Reading News reports that Walmart is encouraging parents, teachers and students to write letters documenting their needs for school supplies. "The "Write to Change the Classroom" program will award 20 teachers with $4,000 in classroom school supplies to help make a difference in students' lives and further a cause that began with one courageous letter."

And speaking of classrooms, President Obama just revealed a $4 billion school improvement plans. Reuters reports: "The president wants states to use funds from the competition, dubbed the "Race to the Top," to ease limits on so-called charter schools, link teacher pay to student achievement and move toward common U.S. academic standards."

For a counterpoint on spending in schools, check out Kathy's recent post at Library Stew, in which she laments Georgia's just-announced plans to furlough teachers for three days this year. Kathy says: "I know things are tight all around and I should be counting my lucky stars that I have a job, but I have seen how much money is WASTED in the public schools... and don't even get me started on useless technology that has been put into the schools or how much the school districts/State would save if they eliminated some of the mandatory testing that is in place."

There is, however, great news from India. Terry found an article by Dean Nelson on the Pakistan Defense site that says: "The Indian parliament has passed a bill to provide universal, free and compulsory education for all children aged between six and 14. The law, passed more than 60 years after India won independence, has been hailed by children's rights campaigners and educationalists as a landmark in the country's history."

21st Century Literacies

The Critics Circle, the Arts blog for the St. Petersburg Times, has excerpts from a recent Salon interview with author Dave Eggers. Eggers is also one of the founders of 826 Valencia, a literacy nonprofit. The blog post draws out Eggers' thoughts on the future of newspapers. Given that Eggers is (a) a writer; and (b) working with readers in need, this is an interesting quip: "The vast majority of students we work with read newspapers and books, more so than I did at their age. And I don't see that dropping off. If anything the lack of faith comes from people our age, where we just assume that it's dead or dying. I think we've given up a little too soon."

21stCenturyLiteracies Franki Sibberson has two new posts about 21st Century Literacies. At Choice Literacy, she shares her favorite blog sources for learning about technology in education. She explains: " I feel lucky to have found many people over the past year who share their expertise on personal blogs and websites. I think the biggest gift of this new technology is the way in which it allows people with different expertise to come together and share thinking. I want to share the sites I have learned the most from so that you can begin to build your own network of blogs with a school literacy/technology focus that are worth visiting often". At A Year of Reading, Franki muses on Twitter as a source for learning, complete with a photo mosaic in which careful viewers can identify me, Terry, and many of our blog friends. (Franki's blogging partner, Mary Lee Hahn, however, is more conflicted about Twitter.)

Twitter_logo_header Search Engine Watch just posted an article by Ron Jones about using Twitter as an education tool. For example, "After giving his students a Twitter assignment one semester, (Professor David) Parry was curious to see how his students would react. He was surprised to see how it helped communicate with his students. After using it more and more he found "that it was one of the better things he did with the class." He then posted these tips for using Twitter in academia." We found this link through @linkstoliteracy and @web20classroom. Also found via Twitter (from @web20classroom and @azsgreen), 25 apps and websites for tech-loving teachers. And, via the same sources, English Raven blogger Jason Renshaw posts about Twitter for teachers -- why you should start tweeting.

Grants and Donations

According to the Muskogee Phoenix, "Bank of Oklahoma and the Muskogee Public Library partnered to collect books for underprivileged children throughout Oklahoma during the sixth-annual Caring for Kids Book by Book literacy campaign. In total, the campaign collected 41,084 books this year... This brings the six-year total for the literacy campaign to more than 150,000 books donated to children in need."

Lauren Barack of School Library Journal reports on new grants for libraries focused on family literacy. "“Libraries and literacy have such a natural connection, and we designed the award to help tighten that,” says Emily Kirkpatrick, vice president of the National Center for Family Literacy (NCFL), which co-launched the grant with online book site, Better World Books."

New Resources

KinderSiteLogo At Literacy Log, Brian Shephard recommends He says: "Kindersite's stated mission is twofold: first, the proprietors want to provide a portal to safe, educational content for children ages 2-8; second, they want to provide data to facilitate research on how children use such online content and how it affects their learning."

Children's EBooks - Australian author Anne Garton created this site as an alternative way to "improve their literacy levels and hopefully develop their own joy of reading in a way that they love...Children’s eBooks are not just for Primary schools. They can be used for students with reading difficulties, especially students who are Special Needs and ESL students." Thanks to Rhonnda's Reflections for the link. - New Jersey Parents Interactive Network for Gifted Education. Although the emphasis of the site is for helping families in New Jersey, parents and educators living elsewhere can find links to news, articles, and studies.

I have a few other raising readers links from the Kidlitosphere available today over at Booklights. And Terry has some additional links to help you celebrate Education Week over at The Reading Tub. I hope that you'll check out those posts, too. Thanks for reading!

© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.

You can also find me on Twitter and at Booklights from PBS Parents.