Children’s Literacy Round-Up: 26 January

Welcome 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. By all accounts, last week’s Inauguration of President Barak Obama heartened us all ~ for far longer than the event itself.  Even the chilly (or downright cold) weather and continued gloomy economic news couldn’t deter our belief that there is room for hope and that our opportunity to participate in and propel change has arrived.

Reading and literacy news last week seemed to reflect that same spirit. Among the items we collected this week you’ll find an array of ideas for helping families raise readers and people with a strong desire to create tools that promote literacy are as strong as ever.  Enjoy.

Events and Contests

If I were President … It seems only fitting that our first item is, well, presidential. In celebration of President Obama’s inauguration, Reading Rockets and (Adolescent Literacy) have launched “Letters from the White House.” Kids from preschool through high school are invited to enter this creative writing contest  where they imagine  life at 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue. The contest opened on 20 January 2009 and will close on 16 January 2009 (President’s Day). Visit the or Reading Rockets websites to learn more.

This past weekend,  more than 723 libraries, schools, daycare, community and Oxford Learning Centers, families and shopping malls came together in an attempt to set a new world record. Their goal was to get into Guinness Book of World Records for “most children reading with an adult-multiple locations.” There was no update on whether they set the record yet this morning … all eyes and ears are on Denver for the ALA Awards.


Each year, Canadians celebrate Family Literacy Day on 27 January. At the ABC Canada website you’ll find ways to celebrate this wonderful event, as well as practical ideas for things to do the other 364 days of the year.  At GotPoetry?.com learn about Giving Life to Words, a workshop to help parents and teachers navigate the “how” of selecting reading materials at home or school. As Jen mentioned last week, Andrea and Mark of Just One More Book are publishing a podcast with “FLD plans of the online Kidlit community and beyond.” Read on for more ideas.

Raising Readers

Why Not Tonight? The Cass County (Iowa) Board of Supervisors have proclaimed the evening of 26 January 2009 as Book Some Time Together night. Cindy Miller, Griswold Library Director, describes this as “one night to slow down, stay home, turn off your screens and turn on to books and activities for a couple of hours.” Read more in the Atlantic News-Telegraph (online). Need help managing screen time? Check out  a new computer use and time management contract for families created by  We read about it in Brian Scott’s article for Literacy and Reading News.

Because those of us in the Kidlitosphere community are so passionate about books, reading, and literacy, we sometimes forget that we are  a minority. Megan Wilson’s article in last Thursday’s Denver Post reminded me of that. In her article about Reach Out and Read, she included this data point: “a study conducted for Reach Out and Read shows that fewer than half of American parents read to their children daily.”  Somehow, some way, that has to change.

Trevor Cairney’s Literacy, Families and Learning blog is always a great place to stop when you’re looking for ideas on ways to encourage reading. In one of his more recent posts he answers the question about why it’s important to read to and with your children. He makes the point that “there is no more fundamental way to support literacy” than to read with your child.

At the Book Chook, Susan has a post on how to use wordplay games to celebrate the joy of language. She gives you some examples and also shows you how to build games that grow with your child. As Jen points out, “this relatively new blog  stands out for its literacy/reading focus.”

Sticking with the theme of creative literacy, you’ll want to read Teri McKinnon’s article “Parents Play Pivotal Role in Fostering Reading” in the Calgary Herald. Her story focuses on Raising Readers for Life, an early literacy program at the Calgary Public Library.  In highlighting the program, McKinnon shows us that it isn’t that difficult to translate technical terms (phonological awareness) into vocabulary parents can understand (I Hear words).

Literacy and Reading Programs and Research

Report Cards are Out Two weeks ago, Education Week published Quality Counts 2009, its an annual “report card” on the state of public education. This year’s analysis focused largely on English Language Learners (ELLs). On the whole, not much changed. The national report card is still a “C,” with high- and low-grade states basically unchanged. Here is a bright spot (particularly in light of the NELP): “Quality Counts 2009 found that states are making considerable progress in the area of early-childhood education. For the first time, every state and the District of Columbia have aligned kindergarten learning expectations with elementary and secondary standards.”  To see the report you need to register with Education Week (free). Here is a link.

PBS & Curious George Need You PBS is asking for librarians’ input on the Curious George Earth Science Banner they recently received. A number of librarians will completing this survey will win 25-book sets of Curious George Flies a Kite to distribute to children. The ALSC blog has all the details in this post.

Yeah, Mary Lee! Mary Lee Hahn (of A Year of Reading) fame, has an article at Choice Literacy about using letter writing as a way to get kids excited about writing. Head over to read “The Joy of Letter Writing: An Integrated Unit for Intermediate Students.” She’ll grab you with the first line: “Note to self: Never underestimate the power of FUN in writing workshop.”

A Good Challenge I’m not usually a fan of student reading challenges, but the 100 Book Challenge may change my mind (sorta). Results from a pilot program in several Maryland districts (Baltimore County, Baltimore City,  Prince George’s County) and the District of Columbia, show that the 100 Books Challenge is an effective way to create self-motivated readers.   Arin Gencer’s article in the Baltimore Sun focused on the success in the BCPS, but does take data from all of the pilot schools.   A statistic worth mentioning: “Among the six pilot schools in the report, students on average saw eight months’ growth over the course of 4 1/2 to six months.”

Not Your Usual Bedtime Story When I saw “Libraries Help Bring Urban Calm in Colombia” (Reading Today Daily, IRA blog), I knew I had to click through to read more.  Colombia isn’t a place that comes to mind when you think “peace,” but, according to this article on the Comunidad Segura website, the libraries in Bogota and Medellin have had significant impact on the levels of violence in these cities. According to Jorge Melguizo, Medellín Secretary of Culture, because of the 5 library-parks in depressed areas of the city, Medellin has merely 9% of the violent deaths it had just five years ago.  Worth quoting: “The library parks meant, in a sense, laying the foundations for reading … I am not saying that the libraries single-handedly lowered levels of violence, since there are a series of factors in the city that have generated a new climate, but these spaces for social inclusion, for gathering, and for opportunities have made a contribution.” Bravo!

Keep Your Fingers Crossed Early last week (before Microsoft announced huge layoffs), I read this article about a joint project for global educational reform. According to the article, Microsoft, Intel, and Cisco will fund a research initiative to “develop the next generation of assessments: tests that measure 21st-century skills and provide a global framework for excellence.” You can read a summary in John Micklos’ article for Reading Today Daily (IRA blog).

More 21st Century Literacies There is an interesting article about eTextbooks at Inside The story highlightes the aggressiveness and flexibility of Northwest Missouri State University’s eTextbook pilot program.  After the first test (where students used a Soney e-reader), 50 percent of students didn’t like eTextbooks. Now, some students are using a different e-reader, others are getting their texts on their laptops. It seems ironic that colleges want to go paperless, but now we have a hardcopy blog-centric newspaper? (Thanks to Jocelyn for her post about The Printed Blog).

Don’t Forget the Adults Brian Scott recently interviewed David C. Harvey, president and CEO of ProLiteracy, a national nonprofit that works with adult new readers and learners. Harvey pointed out that because almost 32 million adults in the United States are considered to have “low literacy skills,”  we need to make a significant investment in adult literacy and adult basic education. There are lots of sobering details in Scott’s full article.

New Web Resources

We’re all happy to see that Here in the Bonny Glen is back! Even with a brand new baby, Melissa Wiley has time to tweet and blog about new book-ish tools. She introduced us to, a book-centric social networking tool. Even if you don’t join, you’ll find nice ready-made lists that can help you select books on themes or in genres that interest you.

Read ‘Em and Leap is a new blog that pairs activities with books for young children. Heidi’s labels make it easy to find books and activities on a theme, like trains.

Grants, Sponsorships, and Donations

Congratulations to the Toronto Public Library and its Leading to Reading program. From the Press Release: “AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) today announced a contribution of $10,000 to the Toronto Public Library’s Leading to Reading program. The donation will allow for the literacy program to continue during the summer months at the St. James Town location — a high priority neighbourhood in Toronto that is a priority focus for the Toronto Public Library.”  There are more statistics about literacy in Toronto in the full press release.

Improving Literacy through School Libraries is a US Department of Education grant initiative. Public school districts, charter schools, or state-administered schools that are considered local school districts by their State Educational Agency are eligible to apply. You can read the full details in this School Library Journal article. Thanks to Meg Ivey’s post on the Literacy  Now blog for the lead.

Way to Go! Last November, two high school boys in Canton, Ohio, organized a book drive. They collected 3,400 books to be sent to a small school in Tanzania. Even at the best rate, it cost them nearly $3,000 to ship them. Wow! You can read the full article “Two Teens Ship Literacy to Tanzania” at or the summary post in Reading Today Daily (IRA blog).

3 responses to “Children’s Literacy Round-Up: 26 January

  1. Thanks, Terry! Lots of great stuff, as usual. I just linked to this. Not sure how many people will take time to read today, with all the ALA Award excitement, but it’s here when they’re ready.

  2. Thanks for your kind words about my blog, Terry and Jen!

    The Reach Out and Read study is depressing if you look at it one way. But on the other hand, wonderful for those kids who are being read to. And what a great program ROR is! I linked to the Denver Post and read of a little one whose only books previously were from a dumpster. Nothing wrong with second hand books, but I love to think of her joy as she grows up and receives brand new books for her very own.

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