Blogs about Reading
Sound It Out
Dr. Joanne Meier
Along with her background as a professor, researcher, writer, and teacher, Joanne Meier is a mom. Join Joanne every week as she shares her experiences raising her own young readers, and guides parents and teachers on the best practices in reading.
Important professional books — you know, the sort you need to have close at hand, come along every once in a while. We've gathered many of those titles in our Research by Topic section. Look for those listed under Foundational Research. There you'll find the citations for important work such as Chall's Learning to Read: The Great Debate from 1967, Marilyn Adams' 1990 book Learning to read: Thinking and Learning About Print, Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children (1998, Snow et al), and many more.
The foundational work keeps coming. In 2002, the National Early Literacy Panel (NELP) was formed and sought to review the research on teaching literacy to preschool and kindergarten children. Their report came out in 2008 (full report; summary). The NELP report quickly became the go-to resource for current findings and best thoughts about teaching our youngest learners.
A new book, Early Childhood Literacy, edited by Timothy Shanahan and Christopher J. Lonigan, promises to add itself to the list of foundational reading for those who study early literacy. The book uses the NELP report as its point of departure, and relies on the field's top experts as chapter contributors. Through reading, you'll be up to date on the impact of federal research, know the latest research on how to share books with children, understand how to best educate parents, appreciate the value of oral language, and understand what is known about interventions for kids with special needs. And more! With each topic you'll learn key takeaways and recommendations for future directions in policy and practice.
Brookes Publishing is generously offering our Reading Rockets readers a 20% discount on Early Childhood Literacy. Just use the offer code READ2012 when checking out. The offer is good through 12/31/2012.
There's a new educational documentary that I can't wait to see, and I hope you'll try to see it as well. It's called The Big Picture: Rethinking Dyslexia, and is directed by James Redford. Redford shares the story of his son Dylan who, by the age of ten was "barely able to read and write. To say that school was difficult for him is beyond understatement." The film shares the Redford's story, as well as three other families, and insights from successful leaders in law, politics, and business, like Charles Schwab and Richard Branson, as well as from experts like Drs. Sally and Bennett Shaywitz.
Early reviews call it an "exemplary example of educational documentary filmmaking," and a film "filled with hope." Sounds great, doesn't it?
It's possible to schedule a screening in your hometown; I've asked my school's PTO if they'd be willing to host something for our community. If that happens, I'll take some pictures and share them with you!
Below are a few links to learn more about the movie:
I don't know what to be! Every day my girls have a different idea for their Halloween costume. One year, Anna changed her mind around 5 PM! Thankfully a stocked dress up box meant she could throw something together last minute. That year she went as a … hmmmm … someone wearing crazy mixed-up clothes!?!
If your little one is still trying to decide what to be, check out our Pinterest board for some very cute book-inspired costumes. I love, love, love the Cat in the Hat and Green Eggs & Ham ones, as well as the very cute Wild Things! Have a picture you'd like to see added to our board? Let me know!
I have a good friend with a 7 month old daughter. Through his video clips on Facebook, I have watched E react to new toys, try all sorts of new foods, and learn to sit up. Around our house, we're way past soft foods and teethers, so I watch with joy as E happily gums spoonfuls of bananas and sweet potato. But every time I watch, I'm struck by the silence. There are no adult sounds, just the occasional grunt or gurgle from baby E. When I finally asked E's Mom and Dad about the silence, it turns out to be plain 'ol stage fright — Mom and Dad are too shy to have their voice heard on video.
For those of us who worry, study and think about literacy development, we know the power of conversation and talk. We know about the heartbreaking 30 million word gap by age 3 (Hart & Risley) and take pains to share what we know with others, even if it's at inopportune times.
Vocabulary is back on the front burner this week with Before a Test, a Poverty of Words from the NY Times. Bellafante writes about the topic through the lens of middle-schoolers in New York preparing for the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test, the multiple-choice exam used "as the sole metric for entrance into some of New York City's elite public high schools." Bellafante suggests that studying for such an exam may be too little too late, citing E.D. Hirsch's belief that "there is strong evidence that increasing the general knowledge and vocabulary of a child before age 6 is the single highest correlate with later success." Middle schoolers who did not have the benefit of talkative adults using interesting words will have a much harder time on the test.
An interesting follow up to Bellafante's piece is Demographics Isn't Destiny. Vocabulary is Destiny from the Core Knowledge blog. Pondiscio, the author, thankfully has two messages: good conversation can happen in any home, not just affluent ones. And that skill and drill (and kill) with vocabulary worksheets is not the answer. The answer lies within our frequent conversations filled with interesting words. And I would add "even if the camera is rolling."
I saw this video for the first time a few years ago. I didn't know where the story was going, but I was entranced.
Do you think that sweet girl has been read to? Talked to? Listened to? It's clear she has. For many hours for many years.
All that work we do as parents and teachers — reading, talking, listening — it pays off. It truly does. In this month of October, I wish you "an orange ring that kills off all the witches."
Teachers, parents, and researchers often wonder similar things about the alphabet. Specifically, what's the right order to teach letters? How can I best assess what a very young child knows about the alphabet? Should I start by teaching my preschool-aged child the first letter of her name, and then go from there?
A recent study in the August 2012 Journal of School Psychology, IRTs of the ABCs: Children's letter name acquisition, both reinforces what we already know about letter name learning and sheds new light too. I encourage you to read the full study if you can, although for the uninitiated, item response theory (IRT) can be a bit daunting!
In everyday language, here's what the authors learned:
Of particular interest to researchers and those who assess letter naming knowledge:
So, in what order should letters be taught? Sadly, there's still no definitive sequence. It may be reasonable to being with a "personally relevant" letter (first letter of the name). Maybe it's reasonable to skip the easy to learn letters and sprinkle them in among the harder to learn letters. Maybe it's reasonable to teach them in order of prominence within written language, a common technique used by teachers. This one study wasn't able to take on all those research questions, but they're good ones!
As teachers, we know that a disruptive child can change a classroom environment. When a child is acting out, the teacher has to spend time redirecting that child, and then refocus the lesson for all students. Over the course of a day, interruptions from a disruptive child (i.e., a child with low self-regulation skills) really wear on a teacher and students. But does it have lasting effects on that child's learning? How about the learning of other students in the class?
New research on children's literacy growth in relation to classmates' self-regulation published in the Journal of Educational Psychology suggests that a child's self-regulation skill is related to his growth in literacy. While important, that's probably not surprising: A child who is able to use cues to regulate his emotions and behaviors is likely to be able to focus on reading and writing. One who isn't good at regulating his behavior may have trouble settling in to learning.
However, what's more interesting from this research is that the class average self-regulation score predicts how much an individual child will learn. So, the greater the number of kids with low self-regulation skills, the lower the class average, the less literacy learning for all kids in that class. Again, not super surprising results, but it is striking to see the results quantified in terms of Woodcock-Johnson subtests of comprehension and vocabulary.
I learned about the study through Daniel Willingham's Science and Education blog, a blog I highly recommend reading. Dr. Willingham states that this may be less of an issue in the younger grades, because younger grade teachers have "ready tools to deal with disruptive behavior," more so than middle or high school teachers. Ready tools? That wasn't the case for me!
In my teacher preparation program, I had one 3-hour course in behavior management sometime during my junior year. We covered everything from bulletin boards to assertive discipline to writing notes home to parents. The bulk of my behavior management "training" came from those early (painful) years of teaching as I struggled with boisterous kids and a sometimes too-loud classroom.
What's your experience? Do you feel disruptive kids disrupt everyone's learning?
I'm very excited about a new project I've been working on. It's a series of webinars focused on Parent Engagement, produced by Reading Rockets in partnership with the Campaign for Grade Level Reading. You can read more about the series here. You can also see the PPT slides our presenters used for the first webinar, and links to many related resources. We'll update that page each time we have a new webinar.
Our first webinar featured three speakers. One was Sandra Gutierrez from Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors. Ms. Gutierrez, the National Program Director, oversees this parenting, leadership and advocacy training program for low-income, primarily Spanish-speaking parents of children from birth to age 5.
Ms. Gutierrez shared a Literacy Pledge Card that is part of their parent engagement program. Parents sign the card, and pledge to do simple things that can make a big difference: read, talk, and sing with their child, encourage their child to ask questions, take their child to the library, and more. The Literacy Pledge Card is available in English and in Spanish.
As the saying goes, you only get one chance to make a first impression! I thought it might be fun to show some pictures of back-to-school classroom doors. Please check out our Pinterest board to see some great ones. If you have a picture of your own door to share, please let us know by commenting below. Enjoy!
Happy back to school time for all you teachers, Moms and Dads! If you're reading my blog for the first time, welcome! I blog weekly-ish about all sorts of things related to reading, writing, parenting, teaching, volunteering, and more. This is a "no teacher bashing, no parent bashing" zone created with the recognition that we all find our own path in a way that works for us. Along the way I'll share with you information from current and classic research on teaching, parenting, schools, and more.
Today I'll share a question from a friend as she prepares to send her third grader off to school.
Should I tell Mrs. G that we are having our daughter tested for ADHD — or just hold off on that until after she comments on things? I want to give her a heads up, but I don't want her to automatically peg L. as being "bad"….
I always prefer to be proactive rather than reactive, so my advice is to set up a time for a brief conference. You don't need to get into the specifics about suspecting ADHD, but rather use the time to talk about classroom settings that seem to work well, what work habits other teachers have noticed, etc. That way you're setting the stage for good communication. Chances are her 2nd grade teacher passed on some information too, or if she didn't, maybe you could suggest that the two teachers talk. Specific information about instructional strategies and classwork/homework structures that worked would save the 3rd grade teacher lots of time.
For more information about ADHD and starting the year off right with your learner, see: