Children’s Literacy and Reading News Roundup – 29 March

Literacy Reading News RoundupWelcome to 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 Jen Robinson and I have collected plenty of content for you about literacy & reading-related events; literacy and reading programs and research; and 21st century literacies.

As many regular readers know, Jen and I have been publishing literacy-related roundups for several years; first independently, then as a team. We are thrilled that interest in growing bookworms has grown so much and that there are so many voices talking about literacy. With so many avenues for information, studies reaffirming the core elements of learning to read, as well as changes in our own lives, we thought we would take a step back and transition the Roundup to a biweekly feature on Jen Robinson’s Book Page and Scrub-a-Dub-Tub.


“Everybody bunny needs a friend who is all ears.” Mrs. P! Just in time for Easter, Mrs. P. has a wonderful activity for you … bunny bookmarks! (PDF) What I love about them is that you don’t need to be Martha Stewart craft certified. Mrs. P. relies on the things most of us have at home: white paper, scissors, and a ruler; colored pens, pencils, markers, or paint ; and (if you’re a parent) pipe cleaners and googly eyes. To find some great book choices to pair with your new bookmark, check out Jennifer’s spring book suggestions at 5 Minutes for Books; Pam’s Thursday Three at Booklights; and Becky’s alternatives to candy at Young Readers.

Gotta BookBy week’s end it will be April, and you know what that means … National Poetry Month. Jen had a full list of events in last week’s roundup, but we couldn’t resist posting Greg’s new 2010 button for 30 Poets/30 Days. Go grab a button for your blog. Kudos to Greg for being the lead item in this week’s Big Fresh, the Choice Literacy newsletter.

Literacy Programs & Research

Last week the National Reading Panel announced its thoughts about The Nation’s Report Card, a biennial assessment of test scores, as evaluated by the National Association of Educational Progress. In a nutshell, not much has changed for either 4th or 8th graders in the last year. Steven Paine, a governing board member explained: “What NAEP shows us over the past two decades is that in reading there have been only slight gains and no sustained trend of improvement.” Paine’s contrast with math (which has shown significant improvement in the last two test cycles) is particularly interesting.

Learning math is largely confined to math classrooms, and the subject is taught with cohesive, sequential curricula reflecting standards adopted by national math groups and echoed in textbooks. Reading comprehension, by contrast, is acquired across all courses, with “no similar cohesion or emphasis” on a clear reading curriculum, he said. Also, students’ reading-comprehension skills can be deeply influenced by what they do outside school.[emphasis authors]

And, in another troubling study released this week, Brian Toporek reports at Education Week that “A recent study led a Massachusetts Institute of Technology physics professor reveals troubling statistics for students who copy a large percentage of their homework from their peers, according to the Washington Post’s Answer Sheet blog.” For example: “students who copied more than 30 percent of their assignments were four times more likely to drop out of classes in the course of a two-semester sequence than their peers who completed homework legitimately.” A major cause of the copying is procrastination. [image credit: Mr. Stein’s Cheating Cheaters stream on Flickr.]

Eric Robelen summarizes the findings of a recent gender analysis study in Boys Trail Girls in Reading for Education Week. Unlike the inflammatory article Cathy Miller references in her blog post, Robelen pulls specific data from the Center on Education Policy study. In some areas, gaps narrowed, but “based on changes in the average of test scores, the gaps between boys and girls in reading widened across all three grade levels [elementary, middle, and high school] as often as they narrowed.”

Before you get too down, though, head over Dakarai Aarons’ Education Week article about the rise in reading scores for big cities. Aarons links to Beating the Odds, an NAEP study, and explains “urban students showed progress on both sets of data [math and reading], in some cases outstripping the performance of other students in their own states and nationwide.”

Cassandra Barnette, president of the American Association of School Librarians and a school librarian at the Fayetteville High School (Arkansas) adds a helpful hint on how to turn around reading scores: “Students who performed at or above proficient were more likely to read for fun … and who is the most logical person to help them read for fun? Librarians.” You can read Lauren Barack’s full article in this week’s SLJ’s Extra Helping, a free online resource of the School Library Journal.

Jim Randolph is still an hour behind (gotta read TeacherNinja to get the reference), but he sent us to a Wall Street Journal article about the Joy of Wasting Time. The story’s main focus is on the (myth of ) multitasking, but as we think about kids and learning, there are some very valuable nuggets, like this one: “[multi-taskers are] suckers for irrelevancy—everything distracts them … they seem to like to be flooded with information … It’s almost like they prefer to scan the environment for new information rather than ponder what they have.”

At the 2010 Bologna Children’s Book Fair, Scholastic CEO Dick Robinson “delivered a call-to-action to worldwide children’s book publishers, inviting them to join Scholastic in a campaign for global literacy for all children. ” More details are in this press release.

Guest contributor Dana B offers a personal story and a nice way to help you engage teens with books and still be a parent. In her 5 Minutes for Books post, Dana shares how she guided her pre-teens through books that were too violent or had mature content beyond their age. “Here is the key to my ability to say I don’t forbid, I discuss: I work to know my teenagers. I know their beliefs and opinions, and I trust that they have developed a filter of discernment that will only strengthen as they grow.”

21st Century Literacies

Kristen McLean has a great article at Pixie Stix Kids Pix about using books to help prepare kids for the digital future. For example: “adults need to get better at understanding and encouraging active engagement with media. In general we tend to lack understanding of exactly how sophisticated a learning tool a great children’s book can be. Asking questions about the story, looking for details in the illustrations, anticipating what might happen next–-these kinds of activities create great analytical skills and an empowered reader.”

At the ALSC blog Teresa Walls has so perfectly put together a description of the Web Site of the Month is I Was Wondering… A curious look at Women’s Adventures in Science, that I’m not even going to try to parse it. “The site, along with the books, is a project of the National Academy of Sciences. There are 10 biographies of contemporary scientists: a robot designer, a forensic anthropologist, a planetary astronomer, a physicist, a climate scientist, a planetary geologist, a sociologist, a neuropsychologist, a biomechanist, and a wildlife biologist. Not only does it offer games, a time line, and a teacher’s guide, but there is also an Ask It! section, an online community where you can ask questions, answer questions, and vote for questions to be answered by an expert.”

Wrapping Up …

Nonfiction MondayTricia Stohr-Hunt his hosting the final March 2010 Nonfiction Monday round-up at The Miss Rumphius Effect. Kate Coombs will have the first Poetry Friday of April at The Book Aunt.

As I mentioned above,beginning in April, Jen and I are moving the Children’s Literacy and Reading News Roundup to a bi-weekly format. We want to keep the content fresh and valuable, and believe that a few tweaks will help us do that. Jen will continue to have her Literacy ‘Lights at Booklights, highlighting parent-related content, as well as her Afternoon Visits. Likewise, if I see something fun, I will post a Daily Blurb. Both Jen and I will continue to post items to the News Between the Roundup widget and are still exploring the best way to get daily feeds of that information to the Book(re)Marks blog, our archive for children’s literacy and reading news, in ways that make sense for visitors.

Thanks for your interest in children’s literacy!

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