Children’s Literacy and Reading News Roundup – mid-September 2011

Let us be the first to wish you a happy Autumn! It’s a great time for grabbing a book (and maybe an apple cider!) and enjoying those crisp days reading together! But I digress …

Welcome to the mid-September Children’s Literacy and Reading News Roundup brought to you by Jen Robinson’s Book Page, The Family Bookshelf, and Rasco from RIF. Over the last few weeks, Jen Robinson, Carol Rasco, and I have collected content for you about literacy & reading-related events; literacy and reading programs and research; and suggestions for growing bookworms (with special thanks to Susan Stephenson, The Book Chook, for sending us several links). There is a ton of great stuff going on out there.

Literacy & Reading-Related Events

This is more a phenomenon than an event. In her 3 September House Watch column (Washington Post Real Estate Section), Katherine Salant focused on how homeowners overlook exterior upkeep for their homes. So what does that have to do with literacy? Well, listen to these remarks by J.D. Grewell, a Silver Spring-based private home inspector for nearly 40 years.

Grewell also lamented a decline in shop classes in high school, which once exposed all the boys and some of the girls to the basics of working with tools and doing maintenance. “This has robbed an entire generation of the skills needed to make simple home repairs correctly,” he said. “If a light switch stops working, they plug in more lamps, run a lot of extension cords or feel their way around in the dark.”

Literacy includes “life skills” of all types. We’re not teaching kids these skills … and worse yet, if they don’t know how to read, they can’t teach themselves! I can see the headlines now about a house burning down because of a lamp plugged into a series of extension cords to “solve” a problem.

Lauren Barack just wrote in School Library Journal’s Tech Trends about the deluge of support that Kate Messner garnered for an Adirondack library that lost it’s entire children’s collection due to Hurricane Irene. Jen’s favorite part of the story is this quote from Kate: ” The community of people who make children’s books and love children’s books is a pretty amazing one, and they’re rallying around this tiny library in a way I couldn’t have dreamed.” Of course it’s also nice to see that these networks that we’re building through Twitter and blogging can have a real, positive impact.

Teachers, the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation minigrant applications are now online. The deadline isn’t until March 15th, but we can’t imagine that there is any harm in being early. Betsy has more details at A Fuse #8 Production.

The Edinburgh International Book Festival was the latest recipient of an anonymous “book sculpture” in a series being left periodically for various literacy related groups there in Edinburgh. The posting will lead you to photos of all left thus far, what incredible detail!

September 22nd is International Day of the Girl. Here’s the main point: “Two thirds of all the world’s illiterate people are women. On September 22, we will stand up for girls and their right to go to school and to learn to read and write. Let us join together to launch a campaign to advocate for a transformative new era in girls’ education.”

In the earliest days of lighthouses along the coastal areas, what did the “keepers” and their families do for reading materials? Read in Library History Buff Blog about traveling lighthouse libraries started in 1876! It would be interesting to have a child or a classroom determine what each family represented would choose today to have in the first wooden cabinet to arrive. Thank you to American Libraries Direct for this interesting feature.

Literacy Programs and Research

Digital Directions often offers articles that not only talk about Literacy 2.0, but offer thought-provoking ideas. E-Learning Expands for Special Needs Students is just the newest. Some students with physical and learning disabilities have the opportunity to attend school from home via virtual classrooms. At issue is NOT the quality of the content, but access. “Not all online classes are welcoming to students with disabilities. The courses may not be accessible to them, or the students may never be offered the courses in the first place.”

OpenClipart QR code by LbearMore and more we read about QR codes; Kelly of iLearn Technology has posted about a teacher using QR codes for a scavenger hunt to help students learn about their new school facility on the first day of school. Reading the article promotes all manner of ideas about how such a “hunt” might be crafted with suggestions given in the closing paragraph for art, literature and math. [image: by LBear]

In Australia, popular author Andy Griffiths found that he connected better with indigenous students when he asked them to tell the stories. His school visit project turned into a book of silly stories, edited by Griffiths, but written and illustrated by some of the kids he met as ambassador for the Indigenous Literacy Project. See details in this article by Elisabeth Tarica in the Age, via Jenny Schwartzberg.

Suggestions for Growing Bookworms

Just in case Jen is homesick for Bah-st-en, here is something she’ll love from the Boston Mamas blog: Raising Avid Readers! Yes, it is from 2009, but the worries and recommendations are timeless. (via @SchoolFamily)

In a recent post at Teach Mama, Amy Mascott let us in on a secret: “Every time [my kids] don their aprons in the kitchen with me, they’re secretly working on their reading, math, science, and so many more important skills while they’re looking at recipes, measuring ingredients, and watching their creation come to life.” She even gave me an idea for what to do with some very stale candy canes!

If you’re going to grow bookworms, one of the best ways to do that, of course, is to read aloud to them, and to continue to read aloud to them even after they are old enough to read themselves. That’s why we were so thrilled to see this amazing list of “Readalouds for a “snarky-smart precocious almost-12-year-old” girl” at Bookshelves of Doom. Leila compiled recommendations from various commenters to come up with a wonderful list of titles. Do check it out!

And speaking of reading books with older kids (whether aloud or not), Jen enjoyed this guest post by Stephanie Wilkes at Cheryl Rainfield’s blog. Stephanie, a young adult librarian, proposes that ” while doing the daily duties of a young adult librarian brings teens closer to books, maybe I should change focus for a short time and target the PARENTS.” She’s looking at YA book clubs with parents (with or without teens present), to help ” 1) facilitate discussion amongst teens and adults; 2) allow adults to indulge and learn more about young adult fiction; and 3) open the door for adults to embrace this new generation and to understand their dilemmas.” These sound like good things to us!

Two interesting posts out recently about boys and reading. First, Trevor Cairney at Literacy, Families and Learning shares excellent, detailed tips on Making Reading Exciting for Boys. He says: ” For too many boys, encounters with books speak of boredom, inadequacy and separation from fun. This feeds a sense of failure, frustration and lack of interest in reading. Our job as parents and teachers is to break this cycle.” Then he discusses various ways to do that.

On a lighter note, middle school librarian Ms. Yingling recently “flung the gauntlet” at publishers regarding the publication of more boy-friendly books. She notes: “This is what we need: A web site that says “Hey, girl librarians recommending books to boys are busy! Let us help! Look, focus groups of actual boys like THESE books.”” What do you all think?

While we’re discussing book options, do stop over at the Book Whisperer. Donalyn Miller has a wonderful piece about making room for graphic novels. It is a wonderful complement to Ms. Yingling and Trevor Cairney’s suggestions. Her points about motivation and scaffolding will be helpful for parents and teachers alike.

On WGN9 (CW in Chicago), J Richard Gentry talks about his book Raising Confident Readers in a Focus on the Family segment. It always amazes me that just by reading aloud with our kids we can give them 32 million words. I also like his point that reading is a fringe benefit of the bonding that comes with reading with a baby on your lap!


Thanks for reading, and for caring about children’s literacy. Carol will be back at the end of September at Rasco from RIF with the next roundup, but I’m sure that Jen will have tidbits for you in the meantime at Jen Robinson’s Book Page. You can also find us talking literacy on Twitter and Google+.

For those headed to KidLitCon in Seattle, we wish you safe travels and we’ll see you there. If you can’t attend, be sure to follow @KidLitCon on Twitter as folks will be tweeting the presentations as the day rolls along.

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