Welcome to the first edition of our reformatted weekly 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. Although we were both catching up after long weekends away from the computer, Jen got back in the groove a bit faster … and did most of the collecting this week!
As you may remember from our game-plan post two weeks ago, we’ve moved Raising Readers out of the weekly roundup. Jen will feature this family-focused content over at Booklights as a regular (but not necessarily weekly) feature. She starts this week with a Back-to-School edition of Literacy Lights. We’ll publish the first New Resources column in October. Even without those sections, we’ve got plenty of news about events, literacy research, reading programs, 21st century literacies, and grants and donations.
Scattered throughout the Roundup you’ll find news items related to libraries … and very little good news. It is always painful when library services are on the chopping block when budgets start getting cut, but eliminating libraries (not just closing the doors) is most distressing.
President Obama’s recent speech to school children was big news around the wires last weekend. Leaving political views aside, we don’t see how anyone can object to an authority figure telling kids (or reminding adults) that they need to take personal responsibility for their own educations. Like this: “we can have the most dedicated teachers, the most supportive parents, and the best schools in the world – and none of it will matter unless all of you fulfill your responsibilities. Unless you show up to those schools; pay attention to those teachers; listen to your parents, grandparents and other adults; and put in the hard work it takes to succeed. And that’s what I want to focus on today: the responsibility each of you has for your education. I want to start with the responsibility you have to yourself. ” Dawn Morris responded at Moms Inspire Learning, sharing picture books with themes of “individuality, motivation, and determination.” Dawn also linked to a response from Reading Rockets, where Joanne Meier suggested five picture books on persistence.
To all the dads Down Under, Happy (belated) Father’s Day. Our thanks to Julie at the Ferntree Gully Library for pointing us to The Best Present for Dad, an article in the Herald Sun that suggests reading with your child is the best present a dad can give to himself! Julie agrees: “One of the greatest gifts a father can give a child is the pure pleasure of reading books to their children.”
Wednesday, September 8th was International Literacy Day. Jen and I were both occupied with other things on that day (nearly every day is a literacy day for us, one way or another), but Dawn Morris shared a bunch of Twitter-discovered literacy links, in honor of the day. Dawn also shared some lovely photos showing the faces of reading. At the Book Chook, Susan Stephenson reported that “on International Literacy Day, Crayola offered resources that encourage kids to write.” Susan also let us know that all of last week was National Literacy and Numeracy Week in Australia, and shared some suggested activities. Author Lisa L. Owens donated books, and encouraged others to celebrate ILD. And our friends at RIF spotlighted two internationals RIF programs. It was a good day!
The National Book Festival is coming up later this month. Monica from the Library of Congress was kind enough to send us some related tips and links: “The festival, which will be held on Saturday, September 26, 2009, is slated to feature over 70 best-selling writers, illustrators and poets…. New this year, the Library is bringing the festival direct to mobile phone users with their first-ever mobile campaign. By texting ‘BOOK’ to 61399, mobile phone users can opt-in to receive the latest festival announcements as well as author presentations and signing schedules. The text campaign is one of many interactive features to bring booklovers up-to-the minute festival information. The Library’s Twitter feed (@librarycongress, hashtag #nbf) and Facebook page already have thousands of followers. (If you’ll be at the festival, a tweet-up is also in the works.) Additionally, festival fans can now download author podcasts, which can be accessed free of charge through the Library’s website or on iTunes. The recordings feature candid interviews with award-winning authors George Pelecanos, James Patterson, Rickey Minor, Nicholas Sparks, and more. Finally, The Washington Post is hosting live online discussions in the week leading up to the festival with several participating authors, including Annette Gordon-Reed, Ken Burns, and Douglas Brinkley.” You can read more here.
Teen Read Week 2009 will be celebrated October 18th – 24th. Teen Read Week is an initiative of the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA). Teen Read Week started in 1998. According to the YALSA website, “This year’s theme is Read Beyond Reality @ your library, which encourages teens to read something out of this world, just for the fun of it.” Registration will be open through September 18th.
And finally, you all know that Jen can never resist events that combine literacy and baseball (especially when the baseball is Red Sox-related). So of course we had to mention the “Give a Book, Get Paw Sox Tickets” promotion (the Paw Sox are minor league Triple-A affiliates of the Red Sox). More details in this ABC6.com story. Thanks to Charlotte from Charlotte’s Library for the link.
Literacy & Reading Programs & Research
Discussion continues about last week’s NY Times articles on Accelerated Reader and Reading Workshop, and related issues. Teacherninja chimes in here, recommending Kelly Gallagher’s take on balance between “choice” and “canon” in Readicide. Sarah Mulhern from The Reading Zone takes exception to a statement by Lois Lowry about “junk books” vs. the classics. She concludes: “Writers don’t write no junk in my eyes, because as teachers we never know which book will be the key that opens the door to the world of reading. Whether it’s Gossip Girl or Virginia Woolf, all the keys fit the lock.“
Another article that has generated a lot of attention is a School Library Journal article by Rocco Staino that Kathy highlighted at Library Stew: California School District Closes all 28 Libraries. “First California’s Folsom Cordova Unified Schools got rid of all its certified media specialists—and now it’s axing its support staff and closing its doors. As of today, all 28 K-12 libraries in California’s [Folsom Cordova district] will shutter, leaving 19,000 students with limited access to their media centers.” This one is generating howls of protest all across Twitter.
The Rainier Valley Post has a helpful article about Starting the School Year Right with Tips for Parents. The ideas: read with your child, write with your child, create a dedicated study space, and stay connected with his teacher. “Parents don’t need special training for any of these activities. They already have the basic ingredients: Dedication to their child and eagerness to share the joys of learning.”
In his post about helping children learn to spell, Trevor Cairney (Literacy, Families and Learning) does the the math to help us see how traditional methods (think: spelling tests) only scratch the surface of helping a child spell the 50,000 words in his/her vocabulary. He also shows the fallacy of relying on spellchecker to bridge the gap: “Spelling is an integral part of reading, writing, speaking and listening. It is learned as we use language for real purposes. But it isn’t simply ‘caught’; there is an important need for teaching.” We uh-gree.
We also agree with Mariana of Riding with No Hands that PBS Kids has tons of great stuff in store for fall. Mariana does a great job lining up the shows by audience (preschool, early elementary), and providing a glimpse into what’s new for each show. What grabs my attention in looking through the list is the broader immersion of science and problem-solving programs. Though, I will admit, that I’m most anxious to meet Velociraptor and Brachiosaurus, two new dinosaurs who join the cast of Between the Lions. These two “big guys” will offer strategies to help emerging readers with bigger words. Dinososaurs, Lions, and Books … oh my!
The Reading Rockets newsletter linked to a report published in June (link goes to PDF) about disparities in early learning and development. Reading Rockets says: “A new study suggests that cognitive gaps between poor and middle class children show up as early as 9-24 months — and that income and the mother’s education are the two biggest risk factors. The report, Disparities in Early Learning and Development: Lessons from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, recommends very early intervention for at-risk kids (starting at birth), as well as initiatives to support high school and college graduation programs for the parents and professional development for at-home child care providers.“
In a column aptly titled “where’s the fun gone?”, Malaysia StarMag columnist Daphne Lee defends “the joy of reading, ie, the simple pleasure of reading or listening to a good story”. She rants: “I can’t think of anyone from my generation who enrolled in a reading programme or was taught phonics by a parent or at kindergarten. Why is it necessary today? Because parents are now more determined than ever that Kok Leong Jnr and Little Shanti get a head start in the race to Oxbridge and the Ivy League universities?” She adds: “I would like to suggest that parents forget all the possible benefits of reading to their children, and simply focus on giving their children a daily treat. Instead of an extra hour in front of the telly, or a meal at McDonald’s why not just 10 minutes with a picture book?” Sounds good to us! Sandra Stiles responds from a reading instructor’s perspective at Musings of a Book Addict, saying: “As long as we have programs that are scripted and take the fun out of reading, and as long as we don’t teach children how to choose books that they might love then they will never find fun in reading.”
Speaking of focusing on pleasure reading, this week’s Big Fresh from Choice Literacy pointed us to a great article by Jim Burke at The English Teacher’s Companion about how English teachers should remember to make time for pleasure reading. Burke includes a number of concrete suggestions. He says: “I have written about these ideas before no doubt; they merit revisiting throughout the year. I write them here today for you as much as for myself. We can lose ourselves in our work. Making such time to read reminds us who we are, why we entered this profession, and what we love about reading; it also pays off in the classroom:”
You may have noticed that the Big Fresh is becoming a go-to source for us … and Frank Sibberson’s contributions of thoughtful, practical pieces is one of the big reasons why. This week Franki walks in a struggling readers shoes to help teachers understand learning from their perspective. Aligning Curriculum with Our Struggling Readers draws on her own experiences to offer points to ponder in helping students feel they are successful learners. “I worry that some of our students have many days that don’t make any sense to them at all. The day makes sense to the adults in the school, but I worry that some of our most struggling students are spending their time jumping from one activity to another without understanding how it fits together with the rest of their learning.”
21st Century Literacies
The LA Times Technology Blog ran a feature recently about how two dads turned the iPhone into a platform for children’s books. Feeling guilty about using their phones to distract their toddlers during errands, “Sears and Farrar came up with iStoryTime, a platform for creating children’s books for the iPhone that can entertain their kids during shopping trips, airplane hops or long car rides to grandmother’s house for a holiday weekend.” (Link via Jen’s friend Miles)
Anna Batchelder at Literacy is Priceless just published a roundup of essential web tools for teachers and students, highlights derived from a couple of lists published at Mashable. She concludes: “May your school year be filled with many awesome educational apps and organization tools!”
The above tools look neat. But sometimes, 21st Century Literacies can be taken too far. We were horrified to read in ShelfTalker about a prep school library that is getting rid of ALL of the books (because books are such an outdated technology). Josie Leavitt says: “Clearly, this issue strikes close to my heart. I cannot imagine walking into a “library” and not finding anything to thumb through, to hold and to smell. Books are our history as well as our future. To abandon books altogether in favor of flashy technology seems short-sighted and foolish. There is no middle ground, so smooth transition, no try-out period. Just one man’s opinion that books are worthless in the school setting (my English teacher is rolling in his grave) and boom, they’re gone. I am so angry I can barely see straight.”
Sometimes, however, 21st Century Literacies allow a reincarnation of 20th Century Literacy tools. We learned from the Reading Rockets newsletter that you can now do “old school” Mad Libs online (here). As the newsletter said, this is a fun way to build vocabulary, now updated for the Internet age. Many of us who grew up enjoying Mad Libs in our tween years are charmed.
Grants and Donations
A recent news release reports that “Target and The Heart of America Foundation will officially kick-off the Target Volunteers School Library Makeover program with the unveiling of one of sixteen extreme school library transformations in New York City on September 10, in support of the United We Serve nationwide service initiative. The additional unveilings, along with even more school donations, will happen across the country throughout September and October, just in time for the new school year.”
While not strictly a grant or donation opportunity, our attention was caught by a post at Ready Set Read Reviews about the plight of the Philadelphia Free Community Library system (Philadelphia’s public libraries). RebekahC reports “that due to state budget cuts or simple lack of financial planning all of the Philadelphia Free Libraries are at risk of being closed effective October 2, 2009.” She’s asking residents to contact their elected officials, to make their voices heard in defense of the libraries.
Youth Service America is partnering with the National Education Association to once again offer Youth Leaders for Literacy grants to children and youth, ages 5-25, who offer innovative ways to increase literacy skills and appreciation appreciation for reading among their peers. Youth Leaders for Literacy will award 30 young people from across the U.S. each with $500 grants and $500 in books from the Pearson Foundation. Youth can submit their applications through October 30, 2009. Successful projects will be youth-led and address an established literacy need in the applicant’s school or community. (via Literacy News)
Author Marilyn Perlyn is the force behind the Opportunities for Children to Help Others (OCHO) Project: Read for a Need, a youth educational program a three-fold focus: service, literacy, and character education. Through the OCHO Project, students read eight books, find eight reading sponsors to pledge $1.00, and use donated books to create a book fair for kids without books at home. Last April, Northwest Elementary School, a Title1 school with 700 children in Hudson, Florida, did The OCHO Project. The children read a total of 5600 books and had 3000 gently used books donated for their book fair! Each student was able to choose four books to keep. The 2009-2010 program will open in November 2009. (via The Gov Monitor)
This week’s Nonfiction Monday roundup is being hosted by the self-described Wild About Nature trio at Wild About Nature. Laura Crawford was so on top of things that she not only had her own post ready on Sunday, but the roundup post, too!
This is also the opening day of Book Blogger Appreciation Week. Looking beyond the awards portion of the week, this is an opportunity for the community of book bloggers to celebrate their passions. So I hope you’ll check out a new blog or two or three, and say “thanks for sharing” with someone who spends their free time like you do – reading books and talking about them.