Children’s Literacy and Reading News Roundup: 20 July

jkrROUNDUPWelcome to  the 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. Jen and I collected plenty of content for you about literacy and reading-related events; raising readers; literacy and reading programs and research; 21st Century literacies; grants, sponsorships and donations; and other new resources.  We hope you find new and useful information.

This week Jen was the savvier media maven as I continue to search for that elusive summer groove.  Thanks to Jen for some really nifty finds.


Children’s entertainment website has announced its first Mrs. P’s Be a Famous Writer Contest. This is a writing contest for kids ages 13 and younger. According to the press release, the judges will be “Dave Barry, Pulitzer Prize-winning humorist and author of dozens of bestselling books of both fiction and non-fiction; Andre Bormanis, writer and producer of the popular fantasy series, Legend of the Seeker and author of Star Trek: Science Logs; Craig Ferguson, host of the CBS Late Late Show, noted screenwriter and author of the acclaimed novel, Between the Bridge and the River; and Diana Leszczynski, author of the novel, Fern Verdant and the Silver Rose, a comic adventure recently selected as a Smithsonian Notable Children’s Book and currently being developed as a motion picture.” (emphasis mine). Grand Prize winners’ will have their stories produced as videos with Mrs. P reading them aloud from her Magic Library. In addition, each winner will receive an actual bound copy of the story and illustrations as a keepsake to treasure for years to come. All winners will receive gift certificates to purchase books from Powells Books, official sponsor of the event. Trivia: Did you know Mrs. P. is none other than actress Kathly Kinney?

fast_breakYou all know how we love programs that tie together sports and reading. This week, we would like to highlight the Fast Break to Reading Summer Reading program. Here are some details: “Fast Break to Reading is a partnership between the WNBA and Pitney Bowes designed to encourage childhood literacy. Through Fast Break to Reading’s Million Minute Madness program – which tipped off nationwide on June 17th, 2009 – kids will be encouraged to read, keep track of their reading minutes and report their total online (at every week of the summer. ” This year, WNBA teams are promote the million minute goal, including the Atlanta Dream, Chicago Sky, Connecticut Sun, Detroit Shock, Indiana Fever, Los Angeles Sparks, New York Liberty, Phoenix Mercury, Seattle Storm, and Washington Mystics.”

While we’re in DC … Former Washington Wizards star Juwan Howard  also encourages kids – and their parents- to read. From the Chicago Sun-Times article by Maudlyne Ihejirika:  “Howard, 36, graduated with honors from (Chicago Vocational High School) and became the first NBA player to enter the draft early and still graduate with his college class.” He is a big proponent of education. Howard, who currently plays in the NBA for the Charlotte Bobcats, hosts a Celebrity basketball camp for 300 Chicago Public School students (grades 3 through 8) who are the winners in a reading contest.  (via @linkstoliteracy)

Speaking of sports and reading, the National Children’s Book and Literacy Alliance has put together a nice post about baseball and reading, inspired by President Obama’s throwing the first pitch in the All-Star Game last week. They suggest: “If you are are a parent or guardian who is finding your best attempts to get your kids reading this summer thwarted, think about your kids’ other passions–such as baseball and other summer sports–and the opportunities they might provide to focus the kids’ reading choices.”

blogathonAs reported on the First Book blog, several bloggers will be supporting FirstBook in Blogathan 2009. First Book say: “If you are unfamiliar with what a Blogathon is, it’s essentially like a marathon without the running part. Blogathon 2009 is a 24 hour event during which participants blog every half hour to raise money for the charity of their choice.”

July 15th was National Children’s Book Day in the Philippines. There was a nice editorial about the importance of reading in the Manila Bulletin. For example: “Exposing children to quality books of all kinds throughout their childhood sparks the creativity and imagination of children. It introduces them to new people, places, and ideas; builds their vocabulary”.

bbaw_vote July 15th also marked the opening of the blog nomination process for Book Blogger Appreciation Week. Amy Riley of the My Friend Amy blog started this annual event last September. By all accounts this year’s event – held September 14-18, 2009 – is destined to be even larger than the 2008 event. If you’d like to be part of the BBAW Directory of Bloggers, you’ll want to register. You have until August 15 to nominate a blog. Go to the BBAW Nomination post and enter the URL of your favorite blog in any (or all) of the 40 categories.

Raising Readers

Ms. Mo’s New Jersey has an article, with tips from several other bloggers, about how to “sneak in reading during the summer.” Not sure we like the analogy at the start of the post, which compares reading to eating zucchini, but there are some good tips. Like “If it’s not going to be book, try a magazine. Surprise them with a subscription to a special interest mag or let them pick one from your local B&N or Borders. Just try NOT to DISCOURAGE magazine reading. It’s words and content that your child is READING. Done.”

Cathy Puett Miller, The Literacy Ambassador, shares her thoughts (with a nod to Mem Fox) on stamping out illiteracy, one child at a time. She says: “I’d like to challenge those of you following and visiting this post to do two things: first, read regularly with your own child. Make it a priority this year and beyond. Secondly, find a child you can read to, maybe not every single day but frequently and build a team of supporters around that child. It can be done!” If you’re on Plaxo,  Cathy also started a chat about reading. She wants to talk about the power of conversation as a reading tool. Here are her opening thoughts: “Do you realize the power you have to influence and engage learners of any age with conversation? Whether it’s a book or content area discussion, a debate about current events, a prediction, a sympathetic ear, or a “heart-to-heart” with a student everyone else has given up on — you are in a position of great power.”

fathersdayEleanor C. Macfarlane has a useful article with suggestions for parental involvement in children’s literacy development. Here’s a snippet: “You may want to help your child get “over the hump” of starting a new book by offering to read the first few chapters aloud at bedtime (or alternate pages with your child). When you finish, you may hear, “Do you mind if I read the next chapter by myself before I go to sleep?” and you will know you have succeeded in your endeavor.” Link via @linkstoliteracy @MySchoolToolz.

You know how we love the Literacy, Families and Learning blog; and you know we have a H-U-G-E soft spot in our hearts for boys and reading. So imagine how we feel when we see Trevor Cairney talking about helping boys become readers. As always, Trevor does an incredible job presenting the facts and then engaging readers in easy ways to turn the ship around. I love his sure-fire starters, especially “Read a story that they’ve heard before but mess up the story line as you go along.” If you want to see the new-and-improved Three Little Pigs you’ll have to click through. We don’t do spoilers here.

Speaking of Aussies we love (two already mentioned: Mem Fox and Trevor Cairney), Susan Stephenson has yet another great Book Chook post this week. This time, she is challenging to take our reading out to the playground. She offers her own example of drawing on a children’s book to get kids to create games and use their imaginations, essentially giving you a step-by-step guide on how to bring stories and characters to life through play.

Jen found this article about paying attention and reading in Passages, the Missouri Humanities Council e-Newsletter. Julie Douglas, the author, draws on three non-book experiences (watching an old black-and-white movie, visiting a museum exhibit, and a movie trailer) to frame her discussion of how kids react to – and enjoy – reading. Thanks Jen, this is probably my favorite article this week!

Last but not least, Wendy Zachrison has 10 Tips for Building Your Classroom Library at the Hands-On Learning Hot Spot blog.

Literacy & Reading Programs & Research

@RascofromRIF linked to an interesting USA Today article by Greg Toppo about why school is such a chore for many kids, and what to do to make the learning process more enjoyable. We agree with Carol Rasco that the last couple of paragraphs contain particularly good advice regarding literacy. For instance: “The secret to getting smarter is really not a big secret: Engage in intellectual activities. Read the newspaper, watch informative documentaries, find well-written books that make intellectual content engaging.

29jun08eIn Jamaica, according to an article in the Jamaica Gleaner, the Minister of Education has called for stronger collaboration between schools and parents/caregivers in order to increase children’s literacy. The article includes research-based suggestions for schools to increase such collaboration, as well as tips for parents. For example: “Talk with your child often about their interests, family events, their friends, and activities at school. Ask questions to encourage your child to give details. Share with the child what you understand from the conversation with them.

Science Daily reports on how a certain subset of readers have more trouble differentiating between sounds, and have extra difficulty when trying to read in a noisy environment. The study they are reporting on, from Northwestern, is “the first to demonstrate an unambiguous relationship between reading ability and neural encoding of speech sounds that previous work has shown present phonological challenges for poor readers.”

Over at the Discursus blog, Jess Glass pointed us to What Reading Does For The Mind in his post On Literacy. The study was published in 1998, well before some of us got serious about literacy blogging. Some of the study’s findings are timeless … like this one: “[An analysis of 86,741 English words shows that] children’s books have 50 percent more rare words in them than do adult prime-time TV and college-graduate conversations.” Huzzah!

There is a fascinating article about deconstructing a child’s grades in Sunday’s edition of the St. Petersburg Times. Shary Lyssy Marshall relates her experiences as a “rookie district administrator” tasked with figuring out why test scores and failure rates were going in opposite directions. Her conclusion? It wasn’t about learning deficiencies. “We identified student engagement, homework and grading policies as our highest priorities for discussion and professional development. And we took responsibility for getting kids motivated. Our students had to improve, but so did we.” (via @andreshenriquez on Twitter)

21st Century Literacies

In his article about how the Internet has changed K-12 education (Literacy and Reading News), Brian Scott draws on a podcast interview with Don Tapscott. Tapscott’s expertise is information technology and its impact on business, government, and society and education. His conclusion in the interview: “The old model of learning based on lecturing is so encoded in our culture. Teaching needs to be about creating a context where students can discover. We need people who can think, solve problems, and communicate in the knowledge economy. Technology has transformed their lives in a positive way to facilitate the new style of learning.”

From a recent news release sent to us by Meghan Clinton of Goodman Media: “On the eve of the 40th anniversary celebration of the Coretta Scott King Book Award, is launching the Coretta Scott King Book Award Curriculum Resource Center (, a free, online resource center for educators and families, featuring over 250 original recordings with the award-winning authors and illustrators and hundreds of lesson plans. The resource center was developed to assemble teaching materials that connect the award-winning books to the curriculum in any classroom, and to add a multimedia dimension to reading activities for any library, academic or book enthusiast.”

Our thanks to Mary Lee Hahn for introducing us to Shelly and Lisa, teachers who just launched the Two Learning Journeys blog. Stop by, say hello, and check out their footer! “Enjoy the journey. Teaching is a climb and journey. But the view along the way is great.” I LOVE that!

Grants and Donations

In Greenville, SC, a local swim team recently raised $500 to support the nonprofit Lapsits for Early Literacy. Details are in this News Channel 7 article by Rob Landreth. Lapsits for Early Literacy “guides underserved parents and caregivers of young to children in an effort to help the children create a love for books, readiness for reading and provide children’s books in homes.”

New Resources
Tune Up to Literacy– We found this link to 20 original literacy-related songs by Dr. Al Balkin. On the American Library Association website you can download the files (MP3) in vocal or instrumental versions, and also download the sheet music, too. We found the site on the Oregon State Library’s LIS Collection blog.

This week’s Nonfiction Monday round-up is hosted by Sherri Petersen at Write About Now. You can read more about Nonfiction Monday and the full schedule at Picture book of the Day.

photo credits: adult and child reading – Ben McLeod,

Father and daughter talking – Terry Doherty.  All rights reserved.

12 responses to “Children’s Literacy and Reading News Roundup: 20 July

  1. Thanks Carol, It is always fun putting together the round-up. I’m guaranteed to learn something new!

    Jen – The hammock is a favorite spot in our yard, as you can imagine. I took that picture in July and Catherine is wearing a long-sleeved flannel night gown. I still sweat when I see the pic.

  2. Love the photo of father and daughter talking, Terry! And I’m glad that you liked the Passages article. I’ve become quite a fan of Julie’s column.

    I especially liked this tidbit this week: ““[An analysis of 86,741 English words shows that] children’s books have 50 percent more rare words in them than do adult prime-time TV and college-graduate conversations.” And seeing all the sports and reading stuff, of course…

  3. I am delighted to have found your blog this evening! It has a wealth of really useful information for me as a newbie to children’s lit blogging. I’ll be following from now on! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    1. Hi Caroline – Thanks for the kind words. There is some great stuff in what we affectionately call the Kidlitosphere. I’d highly recommend checking out Kidlitosphere Central to get a good tour of all of the opportunities and ideas in the children’s lit blogging world.

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