Reading Round-Up, 1 September

Happy Labor Day! Putting together the Round-ups is a labor of love, so it is only fitting that we publish today. It’s also the first day of September. Ah, autumn will be here soon. Bye-bye greasy sunscreen. I guess because everyone is wearing their back-to-school outfits that we seem to be heavy on the education-related news this week.

Among this morning’s Google Alerts were several references to Mem Fox’s speech where she characterizes childcare (really infant care) as a form of abuse. I’m sure it will continue to grow in fervor, but if you want an early look, here is the post at the Australian Politics  blog (you’ll need to scroll down).

FIrst up …

What’s in Your Wallet? September is Library Card Sign-up Month. The library card – the only card where you can borrow against it and NEVER run up debt … in fact, the more you borrow, the richer you are. Priceless.

Dates to Remember

PBJ& B(ooks)  Smuckers, Jif and Scholastic have come together for a reading contest. Write a 200-word essay that explains “why you want to feed your family’s need to read” and you could win a Scholastic Library for your family (up to $3,000) and a $3,000 Scholastic library for your school. The contest opened 24 August 2008 and ends 30 November 2008.

 Oh, No! It’s an Invasion of Washington! Thanks to Sarah at Read, Write, Believe for the complete rundown of the authors coming to the 2008 National Book Festival. This year, the authors will be signing books on 27 September 2008.

 Community Programs

 And the Award Goes to …. Yes, I think the Cybils are a community program. Follow along and you will learn about some terrific books. If you are a children’s book lover, you should be thrilled to know that there is a new category this year: Easy Readers. If you are actively blog about children’s and/or young adult books, and think you might want to be a judge, the official call has opened. Before you decide, first go here to learn more about the requirements. I am particularly excited about the new Easy Reader category (with Anastasia Suen at the helm). Like Jen Robinson and Gail Gauthier, I think books for this group are pivotal for turning kids into lifelong readers.

Brotherly Love: Reading Coaches Philadelphia Reads, a literacy non-profit, is looking for reading coaches. Volunteers will spend at least one a week working in school or as part of after school programs for three months. Philadelphia Reads is hosting three training workshops in September and October. We saw this on KYW News Radio’s website. You can click here to get more details and contact information.

Michigan Reads! There is a nice, detailed post at the Michigan State University Library’s blog about Michigan Reads! One State, One Children’s Book Program. The Librarian of Michigan invites adults and children to read Raccoon Tune by Nancy Shaw. She will be traveling the state reading her books as part of the 2008 Michigan Reads! Author tour. To learn more about Michigan Reads, visit their website.

Bravo! On 1 September, Pittsburg (CA) City Hall opens a new Children’s Reading Center. The idea is that toddlers can read while Mom and Dad pay bills. The Reading Center is a literacy project that introduces children to books but also offers resources to improve adult literacy. We found the post of the Contra Costa newspaper article on the Government Innovators Network, Harvard University

New Word: Librainium Isn’t that just the coolest word? So much packed into 10 letters. The Early Literacy Libranium™ in the children’s room at the Wheeler Taft Abbett, Sr. Branch Library (Pima County Public Library System, Tucson, AZ). It is sorta sad, though, that you have to trademark it.


You Go, Girl! I’m a big proponent of ensuring that a child’s “reading diet” includes a nice balance of fiction AND nonfiction books. For whatever reason, reading nonfiction comes with a stigma, but as Jill points out in her post at the Well-Read Child, a well-crafted nonfiction book may be just the thing for engaging reluctant readers. She opens with a nice description of why kids may not like reading; continues by offering tips on how to start a conversation to talk about reading; and tips for selecting nonfiction titles. Reaching Out to Reluctant Readers with Non-Fiction has everything you want, including some recommended books. Be sure to check out Anna M. Lewis’ post Play – Interesting Non-Fiction Books About and for Kids, which also has some suggested titles, over at I.N.K. (Interesting Nonfiction for Kids).

You Go, Dude. School Library Journal has a nice article by Michael Sullivan about boys and reading. He starts out with “If we want to transform boys into lifelong readers, we need to discover what makes them tick. Equally important, we need to have a better grasp of the kind of reading that attracts them.” He concludes (after a number of concrete suggestions and examples): “Although boys often do not become successful readers, the cost is too high to allow this trend to continue. It’s time to give boys more options, to respect their preferences. Boys can become readers: I’ve seen it with my own eyes.” We found this reading the Friday Afternoon Visit on Jen Robinson’s Book Page.

[Untitled] Autism is a subject near and dear to my heart. So when Jen Robinson had a link to Kelly Parrot’s article about storytimes for autistic children, I headed straight over to the ALSC blog to read it. Although Parrot talks about reading in a library setting, the same points work for reading at home or in a classroom. Thanks, Jen. You can read her Friday Afternoon Visits: Labor Day Weekend Edition on Jen Robinson’s Book Page. You can also read about bumpybooks, a multi-sensory book series to help kids get a head start on reading, in Brian Scott’s post at Literacy and Reading News. Scott mentions children and dyslexia, but I would also add children with diagnosis on the autism spectrum. Sensory seekers need to be able to actively participate in reading to help focus their attention.

Roses are red, Violets … There is a neat article on the School Library Association (UK) website about poetry and kids. A 2006/2007 Ofsted (UK equivalent of Department of Education) report – Poetry in Schools – found that kids enjoy poetry, but their teachers don’t know enough about it to teach it well. In a UK Literary Association report called “Teachers as Readers,” only 10% of the teachers surveyed could name six good poets; and 59% could name one, two or no poets. This is in the United Kingdom … bastion of poesy for centuries. So Scholastic has stepped in. Literacy Time PLUS, a Scholastic magazine, has named Paul Cookson Poet-in-Residence. Cookson is helping the LTP group build three workshops to be conducted in elementary  schools with limited resources. You can click here to download the full Ofsted Report (Ofsted = Office of Standards in Education)

Out of the Mouths of Babes Children born to moms at St. Joseph Hospital or Southern New Hampshire Medical Center can thank the Friends of the Nashua Public Library (NH) for their first books. The organization runs Books 2 Babies, a pre-literacy effort to introduce children to books as early as possible in hopes of starting a child’s lifelong love of reading and learning. We saw the article in the Today’s Reading News section of the Reading Rockets website.  You can also read the complete Nashua Telegraph (NH) article.

Speaking of babies … E. McGrew has an informative post at the Library Gremlin Talks Shop blog. She posts about her experience at the recent Ohio Library Conference, but the session that was “hands down the best program” was Literacy and the Teen Parent. In a nutshell: a high school has started a program where teen mothers come on their own time (lunch) to sit and read with their children. There is other great info about the conference, too.

[Q: Pomp and Circumstance]   Over at the EdWeek Maps Website you can find a new tool that lets you review and download detailed reports on the high school graduation rates of every school district in the United States. This is a project of the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center.  In other news, Education Week is hosting an open house, where you can get access to all of their articles free. Just go to The Open House begins on September 1, a holiday. Argh!

Map This What would REALLY be useful is if someone would overlay the high school graduation rate data (mentioned above) with surveys of time spent on homework. The results of a survey by the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans, 21 percent of high school students report spending more than 10 hours a week on homework. This is a 9 percent increase since the 2005 survey. A nearly 10 percent jump in two years? With so much more time on homework, does it surprise you to learn that SAT scores for the Class of 2008 haven’t changed? You can read more about the survey and teen stress over grades in Scott J. Cech’s article in Education Week. Cech also wrote SAT Scores Flat as Test-taking Edges Upward (Education Week). Shall we try less homework and more learning time?

Elementary, Mrs. Watson According to an article in Education Week, teachers are re-discovering the link between writing and learning. In her article Writing to Learn, Kathleen Kennedy Manzo tells us about workshops sponsored by the Bay area chapter  of the  National Writing Project. In the article, a teacher explains how writing can help kids think more analytically, which helps with not only communication but also math. The article is full of vignettes, as well as links to studies on the importance of writing, such as The Neglected ‘R’: The Need for a Writing Revolution. I loved this quote from the Citizens Against Government Waste: “The National Writing Project [duplicates the work of the US Department of Education which] already spends $3 billion annually on programs meant to professionally train teachers to hone their writing skills. Hopefully, these teachers learned how to write in college.” (emphasis mine) Wow! Now I know why teachers have such great handwriting! They didn’t have to write until they were 18. As for relying on the US Department of Education … I worked for the government for nearly 20 years. I know what their idea of writing is. The operative word is obfuscate, not educate.

Now for Some Good News The National Network of Partnership Schools (Johns Hopkins University) has just published Promising Partnership Practices 2008. NNPS pulled together the best-of-the-best ideas for projects and activities that educators created and found successful. The data is drawn from 77 schools, 18 districts, five organizations and three state departments of education.  We read about the new book in Louise Ash’s article for Reading Today Daily. While we were at the National Networks of Partnership Schools website, we found Family Reading Night, a book that “offers clear and practical ideas to help you plan a successful Family Reading Night and engage parents in students’ success.”

Reading: On a Scale of 100 to 1200 A couple weeks ago (remember, I’ve been catching up with my reader), Gail Gauthier wrote an interesting post about Lexile scores at her blog, Original Content. A great discussion follows, with comments and observations from teachers, librarians, and parents. IMHO, labeling a book with a reading level is not unlike labeling a kid (ADD, autistic, etc.). Having a label can be helpful for those who aren’t experts in the field and can be useful in building a learning plan, but it can just as easily be a crutch or an excuse. As more and more publishers move to create hi/low books (high interest/low readability) the waters will surely get murkier.

Out-testing the Testers Evaluators at the What Works Clearinghouse (part of the Institute of Education Sciences, US Department of Education) didn’t have all the data they needed to assess Open Court Reading and Reading Mastery, both commercially-available reading programs published by SRA/McGraw-Hill. The article Studies of Popular Reading Tests Don’t Meet Reviewers’ Rigor Test (Curriculum Matters, Education Week) looks as much at the Clearinghouse’s effectiveness as it does the programs. The comments help put it all in perspective.

Enjoy  the holiday! We’ll see you again next week.

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