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Children's Literacy and Reading Roundup: January 11

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; literacy and reading programs and research; 21st century literacies; and grants, sponsorships & donations.


BookpalsBW Today is the last day to participate in The Screen Actors Guild Awards® online auction to win Red Carpet Fan Bleacher Seats. The SAG Foundation uses the proceeds from these auctions (there are three each year) to support its literacy work. From the press release: "the Foundation’s nationwide children’s literacy programs now [reaches] 100,000 children per week through BookPALS (Performing Artists for Literacy in Schools) and Storyline Online, the Foundation’s Actors Center and Foundation programs providing emergency relief to members in economic distress, emergency funds for members with catastrophic illnesses, video and audio preservation of the creative legacy of SAG members and scholarships for performers and their children.

The First Book Blog offers some hands-on suggestions from Reading Rockets for the upcoming National Day of Service (January 18th, Martin Luther King Day). For example, "Become a pen pal with a young learner." The post, by Tina Chovanec, also offers links for more information.

In her latest Muse Briefs post, Carol Rasco from RIF asks: "Know of a person, a group or an institution doing something really special to instill/promote a lifelong love of reading ? It’s time to nominate for the National Book Foundation’s Innovations in Reading Prize, 2010 and you may know just the right nomination to make! A number of prizes of up to $2500 each will be awarded. Deadline for nominations: February 17, 2010."

Literacy & Reading Programs & Research

Educationtipster Kathy Stemke reports in a guest post by Rae Pica that "According to a new study from researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, only 13.7% of child care centers in North Carolina offered 120 minutes of active playtime during the school day." The post includes book suggestions on getting kids moving. There is an interesting complement to the study in this article about language acquisition at the Continuing Education ( website

Education Week reports that reading aloud to teens is gaining favor in classroms. Mary Ann Zehr writes that "many teachers across the country are reading to students in middle and high schools, too, and some education researchers say more teachers of adolescents ought to be using the same strategy." Many of the teachers credit Jim Trelease with inspiring this effort. We found the story via @NancyTeaches and @DonalynBooks

We love inspiring stories, and 16-year-old author Riley Carney is an inspiration. In reading her guest post at Elizabeth Varadan's Fourth Wish, we learned about Breaking the Chain, a nonprofit that Riley started when she was 14. In Riley's words: ""My love of reading is partially what inspired me to create my nonprofit for children’s literacy, Breaking the Chain. I believe that the way to help people, especially children, break the cycle of poverty and exploitation is through literacy." Bravo! Do head over and read her post ... she is a very articulate young woman, whether she's talking about her writing process, her books, or the reasons for creating her literacy nonprofit.

And for anyone who might be tempted to take their children's education for granted, do take a minute to read this blog post from Room To Read. It's about a father in India thanking Room to Read for providing his youngest daughter with an education. Here's a snippet: "We get to see Kripa two or three times each term. Her mother misses her especially when there is a festival or family gathering. Sometimes I catch her crying softly at night and I know she is missing Kripa. But, I chide her and remind her that we are lucky that our child has this opportunity and we should encourage her to do well instead of making it difficult for her."

At the Harvard Graduate School of Education site, there is a very interesting summary of a study by Paola Ucelli and Mariela Paez about the literacy development of bilingual children. "Uccelli and Paez found that, on average, first-grade English narrative quality scores were higher among children who, at kindergarten scored higher on the English vocabulary test, used a greater number of distinct words in their English narrative, and had higher story structure scores on their Spanish narrative. First-grade Spanish narrative scores were best predicted by kindergarten Spanish vocabulary scores." There is a sidebar that offers suggestions for educators, too. (Via RT of @HarvardResearch via @KidsResearchCtr)

Stitches Terry and I were both intrigued by a recent discussion at School Library Journal's Good Comics for Kids blog. In light of David Small's Stiches being shortlisted for the National Book Award for Young People's Literature, Esther Keller asks whether there's a perception that all comics are published for kids. She talks with several experts, and the discussion ranges into a general discussion of identifying age appropriateness. I especially liked this part: "whenever I've had to consider a title as for an age range, I go to readers in that age range as much as possible and ask them what they think. I know as an adult I've lost track of what was great (and what was boring) when I was ten, or thirteen, or sixteen. That helps me answer the question of what makes a title for a teen or a child - if THEY like it." (via @PWKidsBookshelf)

Now here's a fun, grass-roots literacy program. According to ROCNow, "The community arts project Benches on Parade will partner with the Rochester Literacy Movement, allowing some City School District students to promote literacy by designing benches. Nine schools will each design and create a bench that supports literacy within the community".

At Choice Literacy, Shari Frost has a new article chock-full of ways that schools can promote a culture of literacy. Shari uses a sports analogy to motivate the article, asking: "How do sports fans develop that undying devotion and fanaticism? Can it be replicated? Is it possible for students to have the same level of enthusiasm for reading and writing?" Then she gives examples. My favorite (and the one highlighted in this week's Choice Literacy newsletter), is about a middle school that displays "Currently Reading" posters on each student's locker. What a great way to show enthusiasm for books! [Joyce Grant at Getting Kids Reading also suggests putting "Currently Reading" posters on kids' bedroom doors at home.] See also this article from the Choice Literacy archives, written by Brenda Power, about school-wide literacy events for families.

Whisperer Speaking of literacy efforts in and out of schools, reading teacher Donalyn Miller shares a heartfelt letter that she wishes she could send to all of her students' parents, about the importance of carving out free reading time at home. She explains why she doesn't use reading logs, and laments that her request that students read for 30 minutes a day is considered less important than other activities, and other types of homework. It's an eye-opening piece by The Book Whisperer.

21st Century Literacies

Susan Stephenson, the Book Chook, sent us the link to a YouTube video from November 29th, about what it means to be literate in the 21st century, including the expansion of the definition of literacy to include techno-literacies. The producers are teachers with strong literacy backgrounds, and they interview various other teachers over the course of this 8 minute video.

Pratham Books recently posted about a literacy program in Punjab delivered through cell phones. According to the story from FutureGOV, "The five-month programme, initiated by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), targeted 250 females aged 15 to 24 years old in three districts... In this pilot project which ended last month, these learners who have just completed the basic literacy course, were given a mobile phone each. They receive three text messages a day in the local language." Terry found this story via @Terri4literacy.

Grants and Donations

CLIF-RCLG Voting for the BetterWorldBooks Readers' Choice Literacy Grant runs through January 20th. Here's the gist: "Better World Books has funded a USD $20,000 grant to benefit a meaningful literacy project. You, the literacy-lovin’ readers of the world, pick the winner." There are 10 finalists to choose from, with details provided about each project. We learned about this via email from the Children's Literacy Foundation (CLiF), one of the contenders. At the 10 Engines blog, you'll find additional links for literacy program opportunities in New Hampshire and Vermont.

According to a recent news release, "Everybody Wins! USA, a nationally recognized literacy and mentoring organization, has been awarded a $50,000 grant from the Pitney Bowes Foundation. The grant will expand opportunities for low-income youth and the communities they live in by replicating the successful Everybody Wins! Power Lunch program in cities where Pitney Bowes has offices."

NCFLlogobig According to Business First, "Toyota Motor North America Inc., through its Toyota Family Literacy Program, has awarded a total of $600,000 to three Louisville elementary schools... The program, which brings parents and children in the classroom to develop reading and English skills, is being coordinated by the Louisville-based National Center for Family Literacy."

The Gus Bus of Harrisonburg, Virginia, was named one of 50 finalists for a Power A Bright Future grant offered by the makers of Clorox Clean-Up. Late this month, the company will award five grants of $10,000 each to the children's programs that receive the most votes online at Facebook. Nearly 5,000 submissions were received from across the country. The Gus Bus, part of the JMU Institute for Innovation in Health and Human Services, serves more than 2,500 children each year. The self-described "Reading Roadshow" makes weekly visits to low-income neighborhoods and brings learning and literacy opportunities to families. The bus also provides children with homework assistance and tutoring and helps connect families with resources within their communities. Terry found this via a article and the JMU website.

Terry_readingtubfinal_1And that's all I have for you here today. Terry will likely have some last-minute links at The Reading Tub. At Booklights today, I have a post about the Cybils shortlists, and how they are useful for parents, teachers, and librarians - really anyone looking to connect kids with excellent books. Thanks for your interest in children's literacy!