Each weekday, Reading Rockets gathers interesting news headlines about reading and early education. Please note that Reading Rockets does not necessarily endorse these views or any others on these outside websites.
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Gina Russ, a volunteer reading coach at Stocking Elementary School, is helping a first grade student learn her vowel sounds. Russ holds up a card with a letter on it. She’s trying to see if the young girl can make the letter sound. “I am trying to help this young student understand the parts of reading and become better at them,” Russ said. Russ says a lot of students are good at one or two parts of reading when they enter first grade. “But in order to become a reader, they have to become better at all the parts and learn how to put them together,” she said. The student Russ is helping is one of eight in this first grade classroom who has a daily reading intervention as part of an individual reading plan. The idea is to get students reading at grade level by the end of the school year.
There were always signs that something was different about Emma Bullock, her mother said. On one occasion, while they were watching an American Girl movie where the dyslexic main character sees letters moving around on the page, Rachel Bullock recalled, “Emma turned to me and said, ‘Mom, that’s what it’s like when I try to read.’” But hunches and gut feelings didn’t count for much in the more rigid world of public education, Ms. Bullock found over six long, frustrating years of watching her daughter flounder and then almost lose hope because of her condition. It was only this fall, at age 11, that Emma finally found a school that could provide the necessary amount of specialized instruction dyslexic kids like her need to learn to read, she said. A new law passed last month in the state may provide an easier path for dyslexic children in the near future, she and other advocates hope. That measure, the product of years of lobbying from dyslexia awareness groups and families with dyslexic members, will require all public schools to screen children for dyslexia.
In Hey, Wall a young boy takes notice of an old, empty concrete wall in his diverse New York City neighborhood and decides to transform it. Narrated by an unnamed boy of color, he speaks directly to the wall throughout the book. He tells the wall about what he does in the street with his friends and about the communal gatherings that happen in his home and on the rooftops. Full of classroom possibilities, Hey, Wall is a book that invites readers to do something positive to make the world more beautiful for everyone.
Friends, I bring you delights! Glittery, silly, rambunctious delights. Five new humorous children’s books offer young readers a plethora of pleasure, plus pants for potatoes. Though very different from one another, four of the five feature classic children’s book imagery in one form or another. The fifth features, as I said, potato pants.
In the midst of all the excitement, there’s little strong evidence that classroom technology, including personalized learning, is improving educational outcomes. A 2015 report from the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development found countries that invested heavily in computer technology for schools showed “no appreciable improvements” in reading, math or science, and that technology “is of little help in bridging the skills divide between advantaged and disadvantaged students.” A recent Rand study evaluating the use of personalized learning found emerging signs of promise, but with plenty of caveats. Students in 40 schools with personalized-learning programs funded by the Gates Foundation scored a bit higher on standardized English and math tests over the course of one school year, with only the math gains reaching statistical significance. The Rand report also found challenges: Helping students work at their own pace can make group projects and collaboration more difficult because students are at different places, while also making it harder to prepare kids for year-end standardized tests.
Students’ social and emotional learning (SEL) has become a growing area of interest in classrooms. A study published by Child Development in 2011 found that SEL programs yielded “significant positive effects on targeted social-emotional competencies and attitudes about self, others, and school.” The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning identifies five core social-emotional competencies as keys to success in school and beyond: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision making. When students examine the emotions of the characters they are reading about, they gain not only a better understanding of the text but also a better understanding of their own feelings. The following books offer a gateway to the development of these five social-emotional competencies.
Robin Papaleka thought the program she created for the Laramie County Library in Cheyenne, WY, could be a hit, but she had doubts. Within an hour of announcing the event, they had evaporated. Papaleka, along with fellow librarian Anna McClure, created a Harry Potter–themed escape room that she planned to run for two days. When they posted details online, every 30-minute slot quickly filled, and people were angry about being shut out. Papaleka and McClure are among a growing group of librarians tapping into the popularity of escape rooms, physical rooms where groups of players work together using clues and strategy to solve puzzles. The phenomenon started with for-profit rooms where customers pay about $30 each to be locked in a room together and try to puzzle their way out within a set time frame.
In March, two entities announced the creation of a new certification process for educators who are teaching media literacy—whether it be in a specific news or media literacy course or as a practice embedded in their work as teachers of other subjects, such as language arts, science, or social studies in elementary, middle, or high school. The Media Literacy Educator Certification was developed by KQED, the public broadcasting station in the Bay Area of California, which has developed a suite of online videos and courses for students and educators across the age spectrum. It is being launched in a partnership between KQED and PBS. To learn more about the whys and hows asof this new program, we conducted the following Q-and-A with Sara A. Schapiro, vice president of education at PBS.
Beginning school with a strong vocabulary is a necessary component for school success. Research shows that engaging children in conversation and building their oral language capacity supports the learning of new words. Both adult students and their children can enjoy simple books with rich language and pictures to enhance comprehension. For example, after reading about colors entitled, Mouse Paint by Ellen Stoll Walsh (Harcourt), one adult student and his daughter looked in and around the house while referring to the book and located different objects with the same colors. Another favorite title in this category is Quiet, Loud by Leslie Patricelli (Candlewick), which demonstrates the meanings of opposites, has delightful illustrations, and is fun to read. Facilitating parents’ confidence with extended activities after reading a book in order to build vocabulary is a priority. Books and other tools that teach the basics such as numbers, shapes, animals, and the alphabet should also be included.
“Unstoppable” is the word that best fits the fictional children in three timely, poignant and sometimes tragic new novels describing the current global refugee crisis. Two address the plight of Syrian refugees; one takes a more general look at the common suffering of those who choose, or who are forced, to leave a turbulent homeland. All three revolve around a pivotal and devastating shipwreck in the Mediterranean Sea, which must be crossed before a better life can be found on European soil.
If we cannot easily perform lower-level reading processes like phonemic awareness, phonics, and decoding with automaticity, we will find it more difficult to free up our mental capacity to concentrate on the task. When our cognitive load becomes too intense to comprehend, there is more likelihood that gaps in our learning process will exist and thus affect reading achievement and give us a feeling of failure. This scenario happens for a great many English learners, as well as learners who are socioeconomically disadvantaged, struggling readers, and students with learning disabilities, like dyslexia.
Phonics gained widespread status as an essential component of reading instruction. The debate, however, pivoted to how much phonics instruction was necessary to develop strong readers. The “whole language” approach morphed into the “balanced literacy” approach, with educators incorporating bits and pieces of phonics instruction — still reluctant to drill students with word rules. This seems to be the case in Minnesota, where people — from professors and teachers to parents and education consultants — continue to be divided over how, and to what extent, phonics instruction should be delivered. Likewise, there’s still no consensus over whether explicit phonics-based curriculums should be delivered to the whole class, or reserved as an intervention tool for struggling readers.
The library–media center of old was a silent place where students read, researched, and studied in isolation. However, as students are asked to think more critically, create, and discuss, the library-media center has evolved into a place where collaboration and engaging discussions take place.
Reading Partners, program that trains community volunteers to provide additional one-on-one literacy support in the early grades is having a positive impact on reading achievement in schools serving low-income students, according to a new five-year study. The evaluation of Reading Partners shows that the almost 700 students who received the twice-weekly, 45-minute tutoring sessions moved from the 15th to the 21st percentile and had significantly higher spring reading scores than the sample of about 850 similar students who did not participate. The tutoring sessions — which are held during the regular school day — also had an even stronger impact among English language learners (ELL).
A new study finds that the problem of child-care scarcity is largely due to a lack of care for infants and young toddlers rather than for children from 3-5. The study by the Center for American Progress, which was released earlier this week, examined available child care in nine states and the District of Columbia and found that it was difficult for families to find licensed child care for the youngest children. The researchers wanted to take a closer look at what the center calls "child-care deserts," or areas "where there are three or more children for every licensed child-care slot." Where does that leave parents? In some cases parents rely on friends and family to care for their children or take advantage of unlicensed child care. Another common option is for one parent, usually the mother, to drop out of the workforce for a time to care for the children, but that comes with a hefty economic penalty.
In You Go First, 2018 Newbery medalist [for Hello, Universe] Erin Entrada Kelly probes the lives of two kids, Ben and Charlotte, who only know each other through online Scrabble and the occasional text message. But that, this novel suggests, can be a lot. Learn about Erin Entrada Kelly in this interview with The Horn Book editor-in-chief Roger Sutton.
Much of the support and scientific backing for these interventions and concerns about lags in language development are couched in terms of closing the “word gap” between children from low-income families and their more privileged counterparts. Recent studies, however, have not replicated these word gap findings and show substantial variations in sociolinguistic environments even within socioeconomic strata. This suggests that there is no singular gap. We question the use of the word gap concept and the reliance on an approach in which the deficits, rather than strengths, of low-income and minority families are highlighted. We argue instead for a universal, nonstigmatizing approach to enhancing childhood literacy and propose using a positive framework of language building to replace the concept of a word gap.
De la Peña is a Newbery Medal-winning author of six young adult novels, including the 2008 Mexican WhiteBoy and the 2009 We Were Here and four picture books including Last Stop on Market Street. His work sheds light on stories about children and teens feeling out of place or growing up with less. On Friday, he visited Cameron, Fuller, and Walsh Middle Schools as well as Framingham High School, speaking to hundreds of kids about his transition from a reluctant reader to an award-winning author. Throughout the talk, he underscored that good writers need to be great readers, saying he grew up feeling that an interest in reading would make him “soft.” He said he finally fell in love with books when he read “The Color Purple” as a sophomore at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California, which he attended on a full-ride basketball scholarship.
When Jean Kaneko started volunteering at her son’s kindergarten class in Santa Monica, Calif., she was surprised by how hesitant the children were to play with toys they didn’t recognize, to make a mess and, well, to be kids. “‘I can’t do that. I’m not good at that,’” she remembered them saying. Even at 4 or 5 years old, there was already a ‘be perfect, don’t fail’ attitude, she said.So she started bringing in blocks, strange clay creations, crafts, and handing them to the students with no instructions. They warmed to it. The craft supply grew, the activities changed and soon teachers were asking her to go into classrooms and even host after-school programs and camps.Ms. Kaneko describes herself as a maker, and she brings maker spaces to schools all over her area. Now, those include 3-D printers and virtual reality technology.
Since 1952, we’ve convened a rotating annual panel of three expert judges, who consider every illustrated children’s book published that year in the United States. They select the winners purely on the basis of artistic merit. The judges this time were Leonard Marcus, a children’s literature historian and critic; Jenny Rosenoff, a children’s librarian at the New York Public Library; and Bryan Collier, the author and illustrator of many acclaimed picture books and a past winner of the award. Below you’ll find images from each winning book, with commentary from the judges.
Native people do way more than dance and drum. Native people are activists, artists, and astronauts. They are people of nations whose leaders had diplomatic negotiations with leaders of European and American nations for hundreds of years. The old saying that “a picture is worth 1,000 words” is particularly important when the only pictures non-Native children see of indigenous peoples are sepia-toned ones set in the past that show us in traditional clothing. If that is all children see, they may come to think of us in a narrow way: as people of the past. We are—of course—part of the present day, too, and young readers need books like the ones listed here. In words and illustrations, these titles depict Native children and their nations accurately. In the spirit of Rudine Sims Bishop’s “Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors” essay, these works can be both mirrors and windows for children. For those who are not Native, the following are windows onto the lives of Native peoples in the U.S. and Canada. For the Native children and families who visit your libraries, these books are splendid mirrors, written and illustrated by Native people who do not shy away from dark histories.
Debra Ackerman is an expert in early childhood assessment at Educational Testing Services (ETS). In a new article, she takes a closer look at the Kindergarten Entry Assessments (KEAs) states are using to assess English learners (ELs). KEAs are usually administered in the first few months of kindergarten and help provide teachers with information on what students know and can do. Specifically, she compared the KEAs used in California, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Mississippi, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah and Washington and examined whether they contained items that are specific to ELs, allow/mandate the use of linguistic accommodations, have policies on KEA assessor or observer linguistic capacity and are supported by research. I reached out to her to learn more about the study and general considerations of using KEAs with English learners.
Parents and caregivers play a critical role in children’s literacy development and lifelong achievement. First held in 1994, National Family Literacy Day highlights the importance of family literacy by encouraging parents and caregivers to engage in their child’s learning. Following are some links to websites and organizations that provide resources, information, and ideas for promoting literacy as a family-wide activity. Startwithabook.org allows parents and caregivers to easily find books that fit their child’s topics of interest and reading level. The website also provides ideas for hands-on activities that foster literacy development. Reading Rockets’ Family Guide contains tips and information for families regarding the steps they can take to become more involved at school and at home. The site also includes videos and fun activities to enhance learning.
Teachers at Athlos Academy know that parent involvement is key to their child’s development of literacy. “We want to teach the parents as well as the students that reading is important and that we all need to be on the same page with it,” said Athlos Public Relations Specialist Courtney Haake. The charter school held a Literacy Night to show parents how literacy is taught in the classroom and to provide information on how they can support their child’s reading skills at home. To emphasize the importance of reading, Athlos Academy has created a culture of reading. Parents are encouraged to make reading part of their family culture, letting their children see them read and providing a variety of reading materials. Listening to a fluent reader helps develop comprehension skills so parents should read aloud to their children no matter their age.
Here is a new look at what we know about how to teach kids to read, this by Willingham, a psychology professor at U-Va. who focuses his research on the application of cognitive psychology to K-12 schools and higher education. "Last Friday, Emily Hanford published an op-ed in the New York Times that argued there are errors of omission and of commission in the education of future teachers concerning how most children learn to read. Curiously, but not unexpectedly, most of the comments on the New York Times website and on social media did not concern teacher education, but student learning, specifically whether phonics instruction is effective. These comments put me in mind of the polarization of American politics, and this recent survey showing that relatively small percentages of those on the left and right are really far from the mainstream."
Balanced literacy.” It means different things to different people. On the importance of explicit, systematic phonics instruction, I agree with Emily Hanford’s arguments in her recent article. I also believe that part of the reason we are still having this debate of phonics versus whole language versus balanced literacy is a matter of definitions. Phonics instruction that is all worksheets all the time and those little decodable books is boring. All picture books all the time is great fun, but students are being shortchanged without the phonics piece. I know. I was trained as a whole language reading teacher, and saw very quickly that my kindergarten students needed more explicit phonics instruction. Balanced literacy seemed to be the answer, as I believed it meant taking the best of both approaches. However, the literature defines balanced literacy differently.
Last month, an audio documentary and article provocatively titled "Why Aren't Kids Being Taught to Read?" sent shockwaves through the education community. The premise of the story, reported by American Public Media's Emily Hanford, is that scientific research has shown how children learn to read. But many teachers either don't know that science or resist it. While Hanford's piece has received some criticism, it has struck a chord among teachers and other education advocates online. Some have begun sending open letters to the deans of their schools of education, complaining that they were not adequately taught how to teach reading. Patricia James, a teacher who majored in elementary and special education at Arkansas State University, published an open letter to the school's dean on Arkansas' Decoding Dyslexia Facebook page. "While I feel like most of my teacher preparation was very good, I can say I was totally unprepared to teach reading, especially to the struggling readers that I had at the beginning of my career in my resource classroom," she wrote.
Our children aren’t being taught to read in ways that line up with what scientists have discovered about how people actually learn. It’s a problem that has been hiding in plain sight for decades. According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, more than six in 10 fourth graders aren’t proficient readers. It has been this way since testing began. A third of kids can’t read at a basic level. How do we know that a big part of the problem is how children are being taught? Because reading researchers have done studies in classrooms and clinics, and they’ve shown over and over that virtually all kids can learn to read — if they’re taught with approaches that use what scientists have discovered about how the brain does the work of reading. But many teachers don’t know this science.
Almost two decades ago, the National Reading Panel reviewed more than 100,000 studies and arrived at recommendations for how students should receive daily, explicit, systematic phonics instruction in the early grades. Why is this literacy research not more widely known? Why is the fact that reading skills need to be taught, and that there is a well-documented way to do it, not something highlighted in many teacher-preparation programs (or parenting books, for that matter)? Recently, a remarkable audio-documentary by Emily Hanford went viral, shining a spotlight on such crucial literacy research—none of which is new, but much of which is unknown to today’s teachers.
Let me begin by saying that I embrace technology in my sixth-grade language arts classroom, but there are times when tried-and-true methods, however archaic or old school they may seem, are the best tools for the task at hand. I encourage you to ditch the tech and try a timeless technique that has endured since the first word was printed on a page: marking text. I’m referring to annotation, or writing in the margins of books. Readers across time and across the world have read with a pen or pencil in hand, ready to mark an important paragraph or scribble their innermost thoughts in response to a relevant passage. Low-skilled readers often have difficulty in establishing a purpose for reading. This is especially true of my special education students, who, although willing to please and work hard for the most part, often miss out on the journey and the simple joys of reading.