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Motivation

Impact of teachers

Like most of us, I enjoy parties. And outdoor parties on glorious sunny days are among the best.

It was on just such a gorgeous day that, with young friend and his mom, I attended a book party to celebrate the publication of Katy Kelly's newest Melonhead (Delacorte) adventure. (To fully appreciate Adam Melon, you'll just have to read these engaging books — ideal for reading aloud to 6-8 year olds, by the way.)

The space between pictures and words

My newly 7 year old niece, now in the 2nd grade, is visiting us this week during her school district's professional days. She's reading like a champ, gobbling down various (and more difficult) chapter books — fiction and nonfiction — with great gusto.

But she reminded me of the joy of picture books and the pleasure in reading them together or independently for readers of all ages. Michaela's imagination soars in the space left between the pictures and the words.

Careful watching and listening during those first few days of school

First day jitters? First week jitters? Assessing kids those first few days and weeks of school probably isn't a great idea. Kids need a chance to settle in to school, to learn the new routine, and generally become more comfortable in the new classroom. Hopefully, by waiting, a child's assessment results more accurately reflect her true skills.

Revisiting silent reading

Those of us familiar with the 2000 National Reading Panel report remember that the report did not support teachers' use of silent reading in the classroom. The research evidence that it had any effect on reading achievement just wasn't there. Some school districts and teachers greatly reduced or stopped providing time during the instructional day for silent reading. Other teachers continued to provide daily DEAR or SSR time, citing the benefits of such a practice.

Harry and Henry: forever friends

As the last Harry Potter movie opens today, the media is filled with examinations of the impact of Harry Potter on a generation of children and adults. I know my son has grown up with the boy wizard and his friends and he continues to revisit them in books and film.

Being told what to read

We're experiencing a strange phenomenon in our house this summer. Molly, who turns 11 in August, has two books she's required to read before she starts 5th grade this fall. The two books are Little Women and The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: Book 1: The Mysterious Howling.

Is access to books enough? Nope.

Far too many children within the U.S. and abroad live in homes with little or no access to books. Among other things, no access means no reading materials for the summer months. Grass roots efforts like summer reading bags and neighborhood book swaps, public libraries, and organizations such as First Book and Book Ends in Southern California all operate with a goal to increase access to reading material for kids in need.

How do you encourage summer learning?

Many teachers find creative ways to keep kids learning over the summer. These efforts are fueled by summer learning loss research whose finding is clear: Children who don't read during the summer can lose up to three months of reading progress and that loss has a cumulative, long-term effect. Summer learning is loss is bad for kids, and it's especially bad news for kids who struggle during the school year.

Scan and learn? QR codes in the classroom

My technology prowess is adequate. Passable. Sufficient. I can manage my own use just fine, and (for now!) can answer most of the questions the girls ask about technology. But there's a ton more out there, and one technology has recently caught my eye: QR codes. They seem to be cropping up everywhere! The new coffee shop here in town has one plastered right on the side of it. And the house for sale down the street has one in the front yard where I might expect to see a For Sale sign. All of this has piqued my curiosity, and prompted me to learn more.

Flat Stanley goes to the gym

A while back, a child mailed a Flat Stanley to me. I took pictures of the intrepid traveler at local landmarks and with college students before mailing the paper thin guy back home.

Even more recently, Flat Stanley made the Sports section of The Washington Post.

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"You may have tangible wealth untold. Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold. Richer than I you can never be — I had a mother who read to me." — Strickland Gillilan