Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: March 15
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Children's Literacy and Reading News Roundup: Mid-March

JkrROUNDUPWelcome to the latest children's literacy and reading news roundup, brought to you by Carol Rasco from RIF and Quietly, Terry Doherty from The Reading Tub and The Family Bookshelf, and me, here at Jen Robinson's Book Page. For this mid-month roundup I have simply buckets of information regarding literacy and reading-related events; literacy programs and research; and suggestions for growing bookworms.

Literacy and Reading-Related Events

ShareAStoryLogo-colorThe fifth annual Share a Story - Shape a Future Literacy Blog Tour took place last week. The theme was Literacy: The First Five Years. There were tons of amazing posts about literacy activities and experience with kids, from babies to kindergartners, across the participating blogs. Each day featured writing prompts, to encourage others to participate. Winners of a contest for writing prompt participants are listed here. Terry will be back shortly with a full recap, and a handy list of links to all participating posts. Please stay tuned for that (though only when you have plenty of time on your hands - there is a LOT of material). [Updated to add: I missed that roundup of Share A Story links before - it's here.]

PBSKidsThe PBS Kids GO!Writers contest is launching for spring. Here's the scoop: "It's a Contest held by many local PBS member stations for kids in K-3rd grade who want to write and illustrate their own stories. If your local PBS station is participating, you can submit your story to your local station for judging, and a chance to win prizes! Plus, everyone who enters gets a Certificate of Achievement."

March 21st is UNESCO's World Poetry Day. From the UN website: "According to the UNESCO’s decision, the main objective of this action is to support linguistic diversity through poetic expression and to offer endangered languages the opportunity to be heard within their communities. Moreover, this Day is meant to support poetry, return to the oral tradition of poetry recitals, promote teaching poetry, restore a dialogue between poetry and the other arts such as theatre, dance, music, painting and so on, support small publishers and create an attractive image of poetry in the media so that the art of poetry will no longer be considered an outdated form of art but one." That all sounds quite ambitious. But we think it's a good occasion to try reading some poetry with your children. 

IbbyApril 2nd is IBBY's International Children's Book Day, (via Tarie at Into the Wardrobe), "celebrated to inspire a love of reading and to call attention to children's books." The theme for 2013, hosted by IBBY's US section, is "Bookjoy around the world." The poster to the right was designed by Ashley Bryan. The message was created by Pat Mora

The shortlists for the most prestigious literary awards for children's literature were announced this week. They are wonderful lists! I first saw them on Tasha Saecker's blog, Waking Brain Cells. Here Tasha posts the Kate Greenaway Medal shortlist for picture books, and here she posts the Carnegie Medal shortlist for middle grade and young adult books. 

Literacy and Reading Programs and Research

Carol shared a thoughtful piece at Quietly this week, written by Deborah Kenny, founder of Harlem Village Academies, for the Washington Post. Kenny takes on the implementation of the common core standards for kindergarten, and proposes that the right curriculum for kindergartners involves more play. She says: "Play is not a break from learning or a way to fill time for the little ones: play, imagination and discovery are how kindergartners learn."

Reading Horizons recently shared an interesting post about the gap between perceived ability to teach reading and actual ability to teach reading. The post cites the "The Illusion of Explanatory Depth", the idea that people believe that they understand complex phenomena better than they really do, and applies this idea to reading instruction. A survey of teachers found "some major gaps in teacher knowledge about reading instruction and understanding of the structure of the English language." (via @pacrapacma)

Terry found an article by J. Richard Gentry on Psychology Today about a quick method for assessing your child's reading level by looking at his or her drawings (published a couple of years ago, around the time the author published his book, Raising Confident Readers). 

FirstBook.jpgFirst Book announced two $500,000 grants to publishers for its Stories for All project. First Book offered to purchase $500,000 worth books "featuring voices that are rarely represented in children’s literature: 

Stories-for-All-group-photo-newsletter.gifminorities, characters of color, and others whose experiences resonate with the children (they) serve" from a publisher. They ended up having such a strong response from publishers that they decided to award two grants, one to HarperCollins and the other to Lee & Low. Many relevant books will be getting into kids' hands thanks to this effort. (Photo credit to First Book's blog)

The Independent, in a story by Jonathan Owen, cites recent research by Jessica Horst from Sussex University to suggest that re-reading the same books to children over and over again has more benefit than reading them a host of different titles. The article concludes with this from Dr. Horst: "Obviously, the more times you read to a child and the more books you have will help them, but you don't need to go crazy and buy every single Thomas the Tank Engine book. Reading the same books over and over again helps." Parents may find this a relief. (via @PWKidsBookshelf)

School Library Journal's Debra E. Kachel and Keith Curry Lance reported last week on a study that found that "a full-time school librarian makes a critical difference in boosting student achievement". The article (which is quite detailed) concludes: "Students are more likely to succeed when they have library programs that are well staffed, well funded, technologically well equipped, well stocked, and more accessible. And, the neediest learners may benefit the most from trained librarians and quality library programs." The study specifically looked at schools in Pennsylvania, but I would imagine that this conclusion holds most everywhere. 

Should Teens Be Reading More Challenging Books? A recent survey conducted in the UK has sprouted a range of responses.  

  • Sean Coughlan at BBC News reported on the survey, published for World Book Day, concluding that "Teenagers are selecting "easier reads" in their book choices, rather than more challenging classics".
  • Journalist Annie Murphy Paul responded to the study on her blog, concluding: "Parents may be more inclined to be hands-off in regard to the reading habits of teenagers (maybe they’re happy that teens are reading at all). But this survey suggests that parents need to stay involved in guiding their children’s book choices—even when those kids are in high school." 
  • Matt Renwick (@HowePrincipal), however, defends teens' rights to read whatever they want in his post: I Say Let Them Read. He says: "Where some seem to see a problem in students not selecting challenging texts, I see this issue as a success story. Students are reading! Who here reads books because they are challenging? I don’t. I choose to read text that is interesting, engaging, and meaningful to me as a reader and a person. Sounds like this is what these students are doing. For the most part, I say leave them alone and let them read." 
  • Amanda Craig also shares some thoughts on this in the Telegraph, suggesting that parents become more involved in helping their kids to find great books. She concludes: "Not every child takes instantly to books like a duck to water, but I don’t believe there are children who hate books. There are just children who haven’t yet found the right books for them."
  • What do you all think? I'm with Matt Renwick on this, though I do think that Amanda Craig makes some useful points, too. 

Speaking of Matt Renwick, he had an encouraging piece recently at the Stenhouse Blog about how he revamped his school's reading intervention program (inspired by another post by Peter Johnston). Here's the bottom line: "At a fraction of the previous year’s costs, we have developed a literacy intervention that engages students and has the potential to increase students’ reading abilities at a faster rate than prescribed programming."

Ror.redAnd speaking of programs that cost less (and rely on books), there was a thought-provoking OpEd piece by Steven Cohen in the Wall Street Journal this week comparing Reach Out and Read's proven success (at a cost of $10/year/child) to the President's proposal for universal preschool (at a cost of $10,000/year/child). This is something that I've been wondering about ever since the State of the Union address. If the true concern is literacy and kindergarten readiness, there is an awful lot that programs like Reach Out and Read and RIF are already doing, and quite cost-effectively. Just saying... 

Suggestions for Growing Bookworms

WradNBC Latino shared a nice piece by Monica Olivera for World Read Aloud Day last week about using audiobooks to boost children's literacy. The article addresses the specific concerns that parents might have about the literacy benefits of audiobooks for struggling readers, and includes links to other resources on the topic. The author concludes: "It’s time to get creative and be more open-minded in order to boost our children’s literacy skills and help them succeed academically." (Terry found this one.)

At The Book Chook, Susan Stephenson shares ideas for playing guessing games with kids. She says: "Guessing games help kids to think critically, solve problems, develop skills in numeracy and literacy and generate ideas." That all sounds smart to me! Susan also has a nice post on questions to ask kids to promote visual literacy

PreschoolathomeAnd, since this seems to be a particularly strong week at The Book Chook, Susan just shared a post with recommendations for a mom who is unable to send her child to preschool. Susan outlines several things that Ethan's Mum can do with him at home (to prepare him for when he does go to school), most notably reading aloud to him. (Susan found this great picture by danitort, made available at

I am always on the lookout for initiatives that make reading fun for kids. So naturally, I had to click through when Travis Jonker reported this at 100 Scope Notes: "As part of World Book Day Davyhulme Primary School in the UK held an “Extreme Reading Competition”, where students and staff were challenged to take a picture of themselves reading in the most unique place. They posted a gallery of the results. Click here to check it out." So very fun!!

And that's all we have for you today. But Carol will be back towards April 1st with the end of March roundup. And we'll continue to share literacy news as we find it @JensBookPage@ReadingTub, and @CHRasco. I'll also share the links that I think are particularly relevant to people trying to grow bookworms on my new Growing Bookworms Facebook page. Thanks for reading, and for caring about children's literacy. 

This post © 2013 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.