Children’s Literacy and Reading News Roundup – 30 March

Welcome to this week’s edition of 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.

There were a couple of new studies released this past week, and the emphasis in literacy research continues to focus on multimedia reading and learning environments. It’s also nice to see the collections of practical ideas on ways to incorporate reading (and writing) into our day … all reinforcing that learning happens early and beyond our schools’ walls.


This isn’t really an event, but it is very important. Periodically over the last few months, bloggers have talked about the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008, which mandates that all children’s products be tested for lead – including books. We got a “stay of execution” for books in February, and a new bill in Congress (House Resolution 1692) is working to exempt book from lead testing. Krista McKensie at YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association) has the info you need in Making Change Happen Now-A Call To Action. I wonder if Melissa Wiley’s appeal had an impact?

Thanks to Best Book I Have Not Read for the reminder that voting for the 2009 Children’s Choice Book Awards is now open. Yes, we have until May 3, 2009 to cast our vote, but with National Poetry Month coming, why not take a quiet moment this week? Children and teens are able to cast their vote for their favorite books, author, and illustrator at bookstores, school libraries, and online. You can help promote the event by adding the Children’s Book Awards Widget created by the Children’s Book Council and JacketFlap to your website or blog.

Speaking of awards … The nomination process has started for the Canada Post Community Literacy Awards. The award honors “the front-line heroes-students and mentors-of Canada’s literacy community.” The awards (individual, educator) highlight the achievements of Canadians making a special effort or important contribution to improving Canada’s literacy landscape. Nominations close 31 May 2009; finalists will be announced in July 2009. Thanks to Brian Scott for this post at Literacy and Reading News .

Stone Arch Books announced the winner of its DC Superheroes Book contest, where a student (his hero and principal) will star in a Superman comic book produced by DC Comics. More than 250 students submitted entries in this contest where students grades 3-6 were asked to write about a real hero at their school, describing in their opinion what makes the person a hero.  Shannon Zigmund‘s post at the Stone Arch Books blog introduces us to Hakeem, a special ed student at Nathaniel Greene School (New York). She also unveils the universal truth revealed in the contest’s first entry: “My hero is [my teacher] because she will help us everyday. Her powers are: Mind reading, eyes in back of her head, knowing everybody’s names in the universe, Super running.” Read the full press release here .

Apparently they have the secret to getting more than 24 hours in a day in California … otherwise, when would Gregory K sleep? He’s been on quite a roll at GottaBook. I’m sure you’ve already heard about 30 Poets/30 Days , well, now he’s added more fun. On Friday, he invited all of us to # the (virtual) pavement to promote poetry and the kidlitopshere in April. “We can share ideas and resources. We can make some poetic noise. And really, now… doesn’t that sound like fun?” Yep, it’s tweet. (Okay, I’ll quit with the wordplay!)

Raising Readers

In the spirit of sharing reading ideas, TeachMama has this post with practical, everyday ideas for engaging kids in words … and ultimately reading. I love her idea of getting the kids to write letters and asking the receivers (friends, family members) to send a letter in return. “There’s nothing like getting real mail for little ones!” I agree. In his post Ten Ways to Encourage Preschool Writers, echoes the same themes about promoting reading and writing as complementary activities.

What if you read this statistic: “90 percent of people are illiterate”? What if you couldn’t see it – or read about it in Braille? 90 percent of blind people today are Braille illiterate. No matter how you look at it (no pun intended) it signifies a literacy crisis. This isn’t a stagnant problem, either. Each year, 70,000 people lose their sight. The National Federation of the Blind is trying to raise awareness of the crisis and the US Mint is issuing its first-ever coin with readable braille. From the press release: “Every coin sold will support Braille education nationwide and ensure that every blind American enjoys the same opportunities for success as sighted individuals. Note, only 400,000 coins will be minted and available for order at until December 31, 2009.” Thanks to the Reading Zone for the information.

Valerie Baartz, the Almost Librarian , regularly produces resource spotlights, a feature she uses to identify organizations dedicated to strengthening our communities. Last week, she talked about Zero to Three, an organization that provides tools for parents and other caregivers on all aspects of development in infants and toddlers. One whole section of the website is devoted to early language and literacy. Valerie’s profile is concise, useful, and filled with links.

Literacy & Reading Programs & Research

In Phonics is Not Enough to Improve Reading Skills, Brian Scott (Literacy and Reading News) offers a concise snapshot of a recent analysis of teaching effectiveness as it relates to literacy. Researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Education’s Center for Research and Reform in Education reviewed 62 previously released experimental studies evaluating the effectiveness of beginning reading programs used in kindergarten and first grade. From the summary: “The review concludes that instructional process programs designed to change daily teaching practices have substantially greater research support than programs that focus on curriculum or technology alone.” The full report is available on the Best Evidence Encyclopedia website at

At Her Cup Overfloweth , Michelle has a post suggests that we think of literacy and language as partners. Michelle says, “I want to do everything within my power as a parent to encourage (not pressure) them as they learn these key skills.”  So she created a 10-point strategy. Check out the Wiki article on literacy. The map of literacy rates around the world is quite telling.

In her March 27th Litearcy Voices Roundup, Meg Ivey links us to a study about the role music cognition may play in language and literacy achievement. The researchers focused on vocabulary and verbal sequencing, and studied two second grade classes: one that had formal piano instruction and one who had no musical instruction (in school or private lessons). Both groups were tested at the beginning and end of a 10-month period. The group with music instruction had “significantly better vocabulary and verbal sequencing scores.” I particularly liked how the study’s authos framed their conclusion: “This finding … provides evidence to support … incorporating a variety of approaches, including music, in their teaching practice in continuing efforts to improve reading achievement in children.” (emphasis mine)

This summer, Curriki is sponsoring its annual Summer of Content Initiative . It is an opportunity to get paid for a unit/course you are proud of and that you’d like to publish. This year’s emphasis is on elementary and middle school content in ELA, math, science, and social studies. Curriki is an online, “social entrepreneurship organization that supports the development and free distribution of educational materials to improve education worldwide.” The deadline to apply is 19 April 2009. For more details, click here. (Via Anna Batchelder at Literacy is Priceless)

Washtenaw Literacy in Ypsilanti, Michigan, has created special workshops for adults with limited literacy skills who are struggling to find or keep their jobs in this current economic climate. The workshops are built around Situation Judgement stories, which are written at a 4th to 6th grade reading level. The interactive workshop activities are complemented by Employment Packets “chock full of practical tools.” Thanks to Brian Brian Scott (Literacy and Reading News ) for the lead .

21st Century Literacies
Education Week is sponsoring a free Webinar “Technology Counts 2009: Breaking Away From Tradition: E-Education Expands Opportunities for Raising Achievement” on Tuesday, 31 March 2009 from 1:pm to 2:15 PM (ET). More than 1 million students are engaged in online courses (K to 12). From the Email: “Technology Counts 2009 examines how online learning is disrupting traditional ways of delivering education  and what this means for educators as they rethink the best ways to improve their schools and raise achievement … The report also examines the lessons that K-12 educators can learn from those sectors as they look to expand e-learning for students and educators alike.” You can register online.

On a similar note, Education Week is hosting a free online chat on Friday, 3 April 2009 (12:pm to 1:pm ET). The discussions will cover “e-learning lessons the K-12 system can learn from higher education.” Submit your questions ahead of time. Reading Michelle R. Davis’ Breaking Away from Tradition: E-Learning Opens New Doors to Raise Achievement is a great place to start. Ms. Davis looks at the value of e-learning across the spectrum of learners, from struggling students to overachievers.
As part of Education Week’ s rollout of Technology Counts 2009: Breaking Away from Tradition, Kathleen Kennedy Manzo has an article in this week’s online edition. Hunting the Internet for Quality Content focuses on the explosion of online content for teachers. Her bottom line: “The best sources, though, are more than just repositories of subject matter, authorities on Web-based learning say. They draw from individuals and organizations that have expertise in specific subjects, and have a screening or review process to ensure their quality. Ideally, they are organized by subject, grade level, and medium.”

Over at Choice Literacy, Franki Sibberson asks What Does It Mean to Be a Literacy Teacher Today? This is part of a year-long series that looks “beyond gadgets” to understand literacy in the context of today’s multi-faceted learning environment. I found myself nodding a lot, and it was hard to select one highlight. This nugget describes the playing field nicely: “What is most valuable is that my literacy has expanded my communities. Instead of learning only from literacy leaders and the few authors I’ve been fortunate enough to hear at an annual conference or two, I can now learn from so many different people on a daily basis by accessing the internet. The thinking that is possible when I interact in new communities has been key to who I have become as a reader, writer and thinker. I love the way that I can become part of a community that I did not even know existed only a few years ago.” Franki explains that she’s traded reading the newspaper on Saturday morning for reading on the Internet. She captures some of her favorite spots this week in My Blog Visits (A Year of Reading) a roundup of online spots that have helped her in thinking about 21st Century literacies.

Grants and Donations

When I saw this in a Google Alert, I just had to click through: 13-Year-Old CEO Gives Away Brand New Books in the Name of Literacy (Brian Scott, Literacy and Reading News). It grabs you on so many levels. Here’s the skinny … Adele Ann Taylor created Adele’s Literacy Library in December 2008. It is a nonprofit for literacy. Her goal is to give away millions of books to youth, elderly, and disadvantaged individuals, no matter where they live. She wants to offer scholarships for high school students to live their dream of going to college. Taylor, an 8th grader at Williamstown Middle School (Williamstown, New Jersey) currently hosts “Storytelling with Adele” where she attends schools and reads to classrooms. She is also in the progress of finalizing the details of a fundraiser with her school to promote literacy. Her plan is to offer this program to schools nationwide. If you’re going to BookExpo America (in New York this year), look for Adele Ann Taylor and Adele’s Literacy Library.

New Resources From the website: “ is on a mission to make spelling more fun, and give you the spelling help you are looking for. Our spelling program is a breakthrough.” You build a spelling list and then pick Teach Me, Test Me, or Play a Game to engage kids in building their written vocabulary. I discovered this through an Email from my daughter’s K/1 teacher. Catherine is hooked on Hang Mouse because it plays “Hail to the Chief” when you get the word right.

Children’s Picture Book Database In a recent post at the Children’s Web Writing Journal, Jon Bard asked the eternal question: Has Anyone Ever Written a Story About … ? That’s how I learned about Miami University’s Children’s Picture Book Database. Although Jon’s emphasis is for writers, this is a very useful resource for anyone who is trying to find books on a subject. You can search by discipline (e.g., social studies) or do keyword searches (listed in alphabetical order). I searched “adoption” and got a nice collection of 38 titles to consider, each with an abstract and set of keywords. With summer reading lists (inevitably) upon us, this could be a helpful tool.

At Katie’s Literature Lounge every day is a holiday. Well, if there’s a holiday, Katie will tell you … and she’ll give you books to go with it. Subscribe and you’ll not only learn about new holidays (National Puppy Day ?) you can learn about fun books, too.

Do y’all know about the Joy of Children’s Literature blog? It’s been around for a year this month, and, well, somehow I missed it … but not anymore. You’ll have to check out Denise’s quotes … it’s worth a daily visit just to see who’s talking.

Mind 360 – You’ll find this “website version of the Nintendo DS game Brain Age” on the iLearn website. The games last from 3 to 5 minutes and can be used at home or in the classroom. It is in beta, so it is free … for now! Thanks to Meg Ivey for the link.

Have a great week.

12 responses to “Children’s Literacy and Reading News Roundup – 30 March

  1. Thanks Carrie Anne – I thought that data base was really cool. I’m not a children’s author, but I’m always being asked “do you know any books about?” This will be a huge help.

    Jen – No thanks needed. Can you take the cold weather back to California with you? Maybe drop it over the Rockies or someplace?

  2. I’ve just started following this blog (found via twitter actually). Thanks for the tip on the Children’s Picture Book Database. I’m an aspiring writer and every time I get an idea, that’s one of the questions in the back of my head (has someone done this already)?.

  3. Thanks so much for doing this, Terry! I just put up a quick post linking, but I look forward to having time later in the week to follow and read some of these links in more detail (especially the one about the young girl who started a literacy program – I love stories like that).

  4. Great post! I’m gonna tweet all about it.

    And glad you liked the Children’s Picture Book Database — it really is a cool resource.


  5. Another great one, Terry. I plan to play at Mind 360 soon!

    I agree about the variety of approaches to literacy. I want to write a post soon about incorporating drama with literacy learning. While I have no anecdotal evidence of the link between piano playing and literacy development, I certainly do of singing!

  6. Thank you for mentioning the crisis in Braille literacy. The other side of the coin — sorry, couldn’t help myself — is that more than two-thirds of working-age blind Americans with no other disability than vision loss, are unemployed. However, of the ones who are employed ninety percent are Braille literate. With blindness on the increase from a number of conditions including diabetic related blindness, continuing to look the other way about this problem will serve only to further burden our Social Security system. The core reason behind the lack of Braille literacy is that people, especially those in education and even parents of blind children, don’t expect blind people to be able to live independent, productive and happy lives. Blind people are, by their successes, proving that blindness need not be an obstacle to becoming lawyers, chemists, mechanics, journalists, engineers and so on. Expect us to be productive and give us the tools, so that we can contribute to our world, which needs all of us to solve its many problems.

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