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May 13 / ReadingTub

Children’s Literacy and Reading News Roundup – early June 2011

This is the archive edition of the monthly roundup of resources for promoting reading and connecting kids with books. The original can be found at Jen Robinson’s Book Page.

The June 8th edition of the children’s literacy and reading news round-up, brought to you by Jen Robinson’s Book Page, The Family Bookshelf, a Reading Tub blog, Rasco from RIF, and The Book Chook, is now available at Jen Robinson’s Book Page. Over the past couple of weeks, Terry Doherty, Carol Rasco, Susan Stephenson, and I have collected content for you about literacy & reading-related events, programs, and research. Carol shared a host of news at Rasco from RIF at the end of May, including a tons of news about book-related events. Today, I have a couple of events, a plethora of information for you about literacy and reading programs and research, and a few tips for growing bookworms.

Events

As summer reading season begins, Donalyn Miller (The Book Whisperer) invites fellow readers to join her third annual Book-A-Day Challenge. The idea is to read one book a day for each day of summer vacation, and share what you’re reading on a blog, Twitter, or Facebook (somewhere that you can build community around reading). You can read picture books, and you can read multiple books on the same day, the idea is on average to complete one book a day. I’ve signed on, though so far I’ve been reading primarily picture books. It’s still nice to think, each morning, what will my #BookADay be today?

A tempest erupted in the #kidlit world last weekend, while I was happily immersed in MotherReader’s 48 Hour Book Challenge. The Wall Street Journal published a very critical article by Meghan Cox Gurdon about “hideously distorted portrayals of what life is” in today’s young adult fiction, and specifically lashing out at a number of books. A storm of protest erupted around the kidlitosphere and the twitterverse in defense of young adult fiction that tackles difficult, but real, problems. See articles by Liz Burns at A Chair, A Fireplace and a Tea Cozy, Donalyn Miller at The Book Whisperer, Laurie Halse Anderson, and Cheryl Rainfield for more details. Or search for #YASaves on Twitter.

Literacy Programs and Research

The Huffington Post has a piece by College Board President Gaston Caperton on the College Completion Agenda: State Capitals Campaign, part of a national campaign to once again make the United States a world leader in college graduation rates.  Capterton notes: “Unfortunately, despite the overwhelming evidence demonstrating the importance of education, too many young Americans are opting out of college. Some feel it’s not worth their time. Some feel it’s not worth their money. Some just feel they aren’t college material.”

Pragmatic Mom recently shared conclusions from an interesting study described in Education Week. The gist is that “people remember better and longer when there are “desirable difficulties” in the study process – when they self-test themselves on big chunks of material and space out study sessions over days and weeks before an exam… The ideal thing is to put students in a situation where they are challenged. You want them to eventually feel something is easy to process, but only because they’ve worked through it.”

David Bornstein has a must-read two-part piece (part 1, part 2) at the NYTimes Fixes column about First Book’s marketplace, and why kids (and teachers) need a low-cost source of NEW children’s book. In part 1 he introduces First Book’s “new market mechanism that is delivering millions of new, high quality books to low-income children through thousands of nonprofit organizations and Title I schools.” In the second part, he addresses feedback that he received from a number of readers asking why low-cost new books are needed (vs. strictly reusing donated books). Both pieces are well-informed and include feedback from First Book founder Kyle Zimmer. [Second link via Jenny Schwartzberg]

Charles London offers a strong defense of boys’ reading in Boys Don’t Read, Except When They Do in the Huffington Post. He argues that “boys are reading. Just like girls, boys are hungry for stories that speak to them, that excite their imaginations and reflect their experiences. They are hungry for information to help them make sense of the world, or achieve a goal or just to geek-out on whatever is holding their attention at that moment. … Boys today are consuming more text than at any time in human history. Adults simply are not valuing the reading that boys are doing.” London is certainly not the first to make this point (Jon Scieszka immediately comes to mind), but it’s a strong piece, with examples, well worth a look. (via @linkstoliteracy)

Latina Lista recently ran a spotlight feature about the California-based nonprofit Raising a Reader. Raising a Reader’s emphasis is on “working with parents when their children are still babies and helping them establish “book cuddling” routines with their children until they reach the age of five.” We love that. “Book cuddling.” Because that is what it’s all about – giving kids positive associations with books and literacy, so that books become their friends.

This is not really a “program or research”. But there’s a nice OpEd piece by Caille Millner in the San Francisco Chronicle about how literacy is about more than just reading and jobs. Comparing her own education and experiences with those of her illiterate grandfather, Millner says “when you can read, you can read other people’s stories. You can step into other people’s lives, other people’s existences. And when that happens, your own world expands.” She concludes that “helping children become literate is our patriotic duty.”

And here’s a study to make a book-lover cry. The National Literacy Trust in the UK recently did a study on books in the home. As reported by Bookseller.com, “Both the Daily Mail and Evening Standard reported on figures from the National Literacy Trust. The Mail reported the study found almost 40% of those aged eight to 17 live in homes with fewer than 10 books. However, 85% of those aged eight to 15 own a games console and 81% have a mobile phone. The Evening Standard focused on results from London, which revealed one in three children do not have a book of their own at home. The paper is publishing a week of articles focusing on illiteracy in the capital.” Link via @PWKidsBookshelf and @RileyCarney.

Unwrapping Literacy

Here’s an interesting tidbit from eClassroomNews (via @TrevorHCairney). “Test scores of iPad-using students are climbing.” The idea seems to be that using an iPad makes school (and the subject being studied), cooler and more interesting. Of course one wonders how lasting this effect will be… But still interesting.

Our thanks to Geraldine at Tidy Books for her thought-provoking post Facebook in Schools? She offers links to multiple perspectives: parent, teacher, and student. From there, we discovered digizen.org, a website that “information for educators, parents, carers, and young people. It is used to strengthen their awareness and understanding of what digital citizenship is and encourages users of technology to be and become responsible DIGItal citiZENS.”

A recent edition of Education Week’s Digital Directions by Ian Quillen offers a wonderful example of how Skype has become a valuable tool for students … as a way to connect language students with native speakers, conduct virtual field trips, and more. “What I’ve found is that the learning transcends the Skype environment,” (Colleen) Blaurock adds. “The kids saw a reason in a traditional classroom to learn. And Skype helped make that happen.”

Suggestions for Growing Bookworms

Amy shared a nice post at Teach Mama recently, about making connections during (and after) read-aloud sessions. She says: “I’ve found that among all of the comprehension strategies out there, connecting is one of the easiest for children to learn and for parents to model. It’s one that we do around here most often, without thinking, because it’s natural to try to figure out where we fit compared to the world around us.’ She gives examples for parents of ways to connect books with day-to-day life (objects, feelings, memories, etc.), and talks about why this is important. This is why every time my daughter sneezes I say: “Bless you, my little fur child” (in a nod to Margaret Wise Brown’s Little Fur Family).

Read Aloud Dad suggests a very simple way that families can double the read-aloud time that kids get: enlist Dads in family read-aloud sessions. [I especially liked the part that says "Skip this if you are married to Jim Trelease]. And of course there’s this important point: “A Read Aloud Dad is worth his weight in books!” So true!

Also via @ReadAloudDad, we learned of a book that bookworm-growing parents might be interested in. We shared the story a while back of the father and daughter whose “streak” of consecutive read-aloud nights stretched to 3218. Now the daughter, Alice Ozma, has written a book about the experience, The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We Shared. You can read more about the book in this Ventura County Star piece, which says: “Through a series of short stories, Ozma tells how books and time spent with her dad influenced her life, and provided comfort, laughter, and most importantly love — gifts that she continues to carry with her into adulthood.”

And finally, at Rasco from RIF, Carol shares her concern about the learning gaps that are going to grow as kids are out of school for the summer. She says: “If you do nothing else this week, watch the two minute video posted by Horizons National on their home page, share it with as many people as you can, particularly policy makers, and decide what you as an individual are going to do about the summer learning loss being experienced by children in your community this summer. It’s an issue that deserves high attention…that is if we care about improving the reading ability of our nation’s children.” I’ll close by sending you over there.

Thanks for reading, and for caring about children’s literacy. We’ll be back later this month with more children’s literacy and reading news. Meanwhile, I wish you all happy summer reading, and lots of it.