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Today's Reading News

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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KQED
November 21, 2014

Libraries are experimenting with some exciting ways to inspire and engage the community by creating meeting and maker spaces with old technology and new.

Education Week
November 21, 2014

The reports show that students with disabilities are falling far short of their typically developing peers in several areas.

KQED
November 21, 2014

Does does a teacher's performance distract, or does it inspire?

School Library Journal
November 21, 2014

Highlights of the National Book Awards ceremony on November 19 included speeches by young people’s literature winner Jacqueline Woodson and medalist Ursula K. Le Guin.

The Hechinger Report
November 21, 2014

Space matters. For over 200 years we have been teaching in row-by-column seating. Many experts argue that this classroom style has conditioned both educators and students to ineffectively utilize space. Researchers have said that space affects human behavior in powerful ways. So it is striking to realize that in education, empirical research on space is largely underutilized.

USA Today
November 21, 2014

Popular iPad app improves preschoolers' reading skills 74%

The Washington Post
November 20, 2014

Read the 'interpretation' of the 'achievement levels' for the SBAC Common Core test.

National Public Radio
November 20, 2014

With Republican majorities in the House and Senate, Congress may push for change on several big education issues, including a rewrite of the law known as No Child Left Behind.

Reading Today
November 20, 2014

Literacy doesn't end in language arts. Science and math books need a focus as well.

KQED
November 19, 2014

The MindShift Guide to Digital Games and Learning explains key ideas in game-based learning, pedagogy, implementation, and assessment. This guide makes sense of the available research and provides suggestions for practical use.

The New York Times
November 19, 2014

The maker of ClassDojo, a popular classroom app, said that starting in January it plans to keep students’ behavioral records for only one school year.

The Columbus Dispatch
November 19, 2014

A bill to reduce state testing of students by half could get a vote in the Ohio House this week. House Bill 228 would limit testing time beginning next school year to no more than four hours per subject each year, according to sponsors of the legislation.

The Journal
November 19, 2014

How these forward-thinking districts are using software and mobile devices to help close the achievement gap before it's too late.

Huffington Post
November 18, 2014

Training teachers to promote structured play among kindergarteners yields improved reading, vocabulary and math scores that persist into first grade, according to a new study.

National Public Radio
November 18, 2014

Teachers and parents trade the lead in praise and criticism in conferences, finds a new study.

The New York Times
November 18, 2014

Many teachers say the ClassDojo app helps them automate the task of recording classroom conduct, but some critics say such apps are being adopted without sufficiently considering the ramifications for data privacy and fairness, like where and how the data might eventually be used.

The New York Times
November 17, 2014

Preschoolers performed better on literacy tests when their parents received text messages with tips on how to help them, a study in San Francisco found.

National Public Radio
November 17, 2014

Backers of the Common Core say it's important for kids to tackle complex texts. Critics argue that reading shouldn't be a struggle for kids. We'll visit one classroom that borrows from both sides.

Education Week
November 17, 2014

Even in the most collaborative schools, parent-teacher conferences can be a source of intense stress. A new study suggests teachers and parents subtly try to help each other through it—but tensions can rise quickly when they don't pick up each other's cues.

Salt Lake Tribune (UT)
November 14, 2014

Children raised in poverty are less likely to graduate from high school or remain consistently employed, leaving them in a life of poverty. That is the finding of the Annie E. Casey Foundation in its "Kids Count" report that emphasis a "two generation approach" to keep children in poverty from becoming adults in poverty. Patrick McCarthy, president of the foundation noted that intergenerational poverty needs a two-generation solution. "For too long, our approach to poverty has focused separately on children and adults, instead of their interrelated needs." That finding parallels a Utah program that has launched a pilot program aimed at putting families, rather than just individuals, on the path to stability and self-sufficiency.

National Public Radio
November 14, 2014

A search of the Common Core English Language Arts Standards turns up one remarkable word 105 times. It is "complex" (or "complexity"). This idea, that kids really need to grapple with complex reading material, says a lot about the soul of the Common Core. And it's controversial, raising fears among some parents and educators that kids, in the process, are being asked to struggle too much. We'll unpack that fear — and what it means for young readers to struggle — in just a minute. But first, we need to go back a few years, to understand why this shift toward reading "complexity" is a shift at all.

Education Week
November 14, 2014

Apparently, Tools of the Mind — the early-childhood curriculum intended to promote self-regulation and attention skills — is also teaching education watchers to be patient. While the first wave of evaluations of the program, on preschoolers, found lackluster results, a new randomized, controlled evaluation published this afternoon in the journal PLOS-One suggests it provided a significant boost for kindergartners in a slew of areas, including higher reasoning, attention control, and reading, vocabulary, and mathematics performance. Moreover, the effects were strongest among students in high-poverty schools, who also showed lower physical signs of stress.

School Library Journal
November 14, 2014

English teachers at Sayre Junior/Senior High School in Sayre, PA, used inspiration from Pinterest to dish up reading as the main course at their second annual Book Tasting Event. Amanda Wagaman, instructor of ninth grade language arts, stumbled on a “pin” on the social media platform that depicted a library decorated as a restaurant. She shared the concept with the department which has been working to increase the ratio of self-selected reading to whole-class texts in the curriculum. Members of the department embraced the Book Tasting Event as a way to get students to “sample” a variety of literary genres in order to find their preferred “tastes” in reading. The day of the Book Tasting was filled with reader enthusiasm as students attending with their period English classes entered a restaurant–style setting, obtained menus to record their favorite featured texts, and discussed books with peers. Students who arrived with canned goods to benefit the local food drive were entered into a raffle to win their choice from an assortment of books.

School Library Journal
November 13, 2014

Looking over 20 years’ worth of storytime plans that I have created for my toddler and preschool programs, I notice that one author’s name appears quite regularly: Lois Ehlert. Her titles are instantly recognizable with their vividly hued collages and repurposed objects, used in artistic ways. When I pulled a batch of her books off my local library’s shelves to reminisce, I realized how relevant the titles are, particularly in a STEAM (STEM+art) setting. STEAM programs incorporate science, technology, engineering, art, and math ideas and concepts. Think that’s too technical for toddlers and preschoolers? Think again. An early learning librarian can easily pull together a multi-week STEAM program using many of Ehlert’s titles.

National Public Radio
November 13, 2014

Linnea Wolters was prepared to hate the Common Core State Standards. She taught fifth grade at a low-income school in Reno, Nev., where, she says, there was always some new plan to improve things. And none of it added up to good education. But, after leading her class through a Core-aligned lesson — a close reading of Emma Lazarus' sonnet "The New Colossus" — she was intrigued, especially by the way different students reacted to the process. Many of Wolters' typically low-performing students really engaged with the lesson; they gave it their all. But the higher achievers were resistant, she says. Other Washoe County teachers who tried early Common Core-aligned lessons with their students noticed this too, says Torrey Palmer, who was a literacy coordinator for the school district. "High-achieving readers were used to reading very quickly through a text, answering a series of comprehension questions, done," she says. They weren't used to being challenged.

Reading Today
November 13, 2014

Lately, a common refrain I hear even amongst my most favorite and most fabulous teacher friends is that teaching isn’t fun anymore. They are feeling beat down and overwhelmed by the need to teach central message, to track character, to analyze language and do close readings and be all Common Core-y. The Common Core State Standards in and of themselves are not “fun.” They are dense and, frankly, a bit of a dry read. But what set of standards aren’t? The joy and fun don’t come from the Standards themselves, they come from us, from YOU. Joy and fun come in the form of engaging book choices and dynamic conversations about reading. It’s all in the presentation and sticking to those things we value most about the teaching of reading: finding great texts, talking about that those texts, and luxuriating in the act of reading.

Boston Globe
November 13, 2014

For the 5 to 10 percent of Americans who have dyslexia, reading can be a maddening experience of flipped, reversed, or unrecognizable letters. “It’s total frustration. You read a word and one letter is turned around so the whole thing doesn’t make sense,” said Christian Boer, who has dyslexia. “Your eyes scan the word again and again trying to comprehend it.” Boer, a graphic designer based in the Netherlands, decided to design his own font specifically for those with dyslexia called Dyslexie, which was recently made available for free download on his website (watch the video below to see what it looks like). Other designers have created another new font called OpenDyslexic, which can also be downloaded for free. Both are based on similar concepts that potentially make it easier to discern letters — such as wider spacing between letters and weighted bottoms to indicate direction — and help those with dyslexia not confuse an “n” with a “u,” for example.

National Public Radio
November 12, 2014

The Common Core English Language Arts Standards call for three major shifts in instruction. The first is: "Regular practice with complex texts." The idea is to move away from focusing so much on reading skills and strategies and instead to think more about what kids read and, in particular, to make sure all students are reading text that is at their grade level. In other words, less leveled instruction. The second Common Core shift in instruction is: "Reading, writing, and speaking grounded in evidence from texts." Instead of using a text as a springboard into kids' personal experiences, this Common Core shift demands that students stick to the material, reading it carefully and citing evidence for all that they say or write.

Hechinger Report
November 12, 2014

In order to help its many low-income families, Mississippi must focus on aiding the family as a whole and take a “two-generation approach” to ending poverty, a new report says. More than half the state’s children are members of low-income families, a status that has far-reaching consequences beyond poor housing and poor schools. It traps whole families in a cycle of poverty, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation KIDS COUNT report released today. “Creating Opportunity for Families: A Two-Generation Approach,” examines the economic and educational barriers facing people living in poverty. It encourages a wide coordination of services that could help both parents and children receive support.

KQED Mindshift
November 12, 2014

Third grader Cordell Steiner makes a pretty convincing argument for using video games in the classroom in this TEDx talk. He describes feeling more motivated to learn and master new skills because of his eagerness to beat his own high score or finish before the clock runs out. He says he used to be bored in class when his teachers had to slow down to explain concepts, but now each student plays games intended to help him or her with specific skills they’re trying to master. He even gives examples!

School Library Journal
November 12, 2014

Introducing three African American women born in the early 20th century, these noteworthy picture book biographies resound with compelling storytelling, expressive artwork, and a sonorous message about overcoming obstacles and following one’s dreams.

Hechinger Report
November 11, 2014

I am a public school teacher. I usually arrive at school well before 7 a.m. and stay at least until 4 or 5 p.m., and sometimes as late as 6 p.m. Every teacher in my building here at North Star Academy Charter School in Newark, New Jersey, puts in long hours. Why? Because the achievement gap — particularly here in Newark — is ferocious. Fewer than half of all Newark students are reading on grade level. So every day, my colleagues and I know that the work is not done until every child has equal opportunity to the very best education. Our students are here with us close to nine hours a day, rather than the typical 6.5 hours at most public schools. Just by adding two hours to each day, and seven days to the year, our students gain the equivalent of an extra 50 days of instruction. While the extra hours are essential for our students, there’s a fault in the logic to think that a longer school day alone produces better outcomes for students. Simply lengthening the day will not produce magical results. Instead, it is how that time is spent that matters most.

U.S. News and World Report
November 11, 2014

Nearly 25 years ago, two education movements started independently of one another – the introduction of charter schools and the push toward rigorous standards for all students. Both grew from the mix of frustration over the quality of American schools and the analysis of what was lacking. Both movements have matured. And each has often come under attack for undermining the status quo. Those of us who have built and sustained high-quality charter schools understand the value of setting high expectations for students and the educators who teach them. We seek educational excellence for all of our students. The Common Core State Standards give us shared clarity about what students need to be ready for college and the world beyond high school. The very rigor of the standards makes them a challenge to implement. Yet we enthusiastically embrace them. As we observe in classrooms where teachers are striving to reach this higher bar, it is so clear that students are benefiting.

The New York Times
November 11, 2014

Lately, my 4-year-old and I have been having a conflict about the library. One of us wants to go. This is not a debate that is playing out according to plan. If you guessed that I am the one pushing to visit our local branch of the Brooklyn Public Library, you’re mistaken. I wish I were. I’ve always loved going to the library. I’ve been a bona fide bookworm for most of my life. Recently, I’m very surprised to hear myself muttering to my partner, sotto voce: “I don’t want go to the library.” I tell my children that we will have to go another day, when really, I’m putting it off until winter arrives and our choices are much more limited. Right now we have the park, the playground and the ball field, areas that are decidedly computer-free. Because, thanks to an influx of computers at our local library, library time has come to mean screen time.

School Library Journal
November 11, 2014

Books on extreme weather cover many curriculum topics, from science to social studies. They also generate discussions about a wide range of emotions and provide information about preparation and survival. Many nonfiction titles include dramatic photos and eyewitness accounts. Novels and picture books provide similar tales of loss, courage, and survival. While discussions can include and acknowledge frightening aspects of extreme weather, adults can also point out safety precautions and storm preparations as well as examples of rescue and rebuilding after calm returns.

Education Week
November 10, 2014

Eighty-five percent of the students at my school speak English as a second language. Many of these children come to us in kindergarten without knowing the English words for “pencil” or “butter.” But by the time they leave us in 5th grade, they’re talking confidently about cytoplasm, the associative property of multiplication, and key features of informational texts. What’s the secret to this dramatic growth? It comes down to a few simple factors, including explicit language instruction in structures of English that are invisible to native speakers.

Language Magazine
November 10, 2014

November is Family Literacy Month, and the National Center for Families Learning is promoting their guide to 30 Days of Families Learning. The guide has literacy activities and practices for every day of the month designed to inspire family memory-making as families play, imagine and learn together. Activities include “Mystery Dinner Guests,” where each person chooses and researches a famous person before dinner, and then while eating everyone takes turns asking questions about each other’s mystery person, trying to guess the guest; or “Listen to Your Children’s Stories,” where children tell a story to the adults, and the adults write down the stories and save them to be read in the future. Many of the activities are excellent even for youngsters who aren’t quite reading yet, as they stimulate language and story-telling skills.

Daily Journal (Park Hills, MO)
November 10, 2014

Nov. 10-14 is National Young Readers Week and Central West Elementary will be taking part in the annual event. National Young Readers Week was co-founded in 1989 by Pizza Hut and the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. During the week, many schools recruit local “celebrities” to read aloud a favorite children’s book to classrooms. Julie Scott is the event organizer for Central West Elementary. She said this is great week for students because it reinforces the idea that reading is important at any age and that everybody needs to be good readers for any job. Scott believes this is a good way to get people from the community into the schools and see what is happening as well as making a positive impact on the students. Principal Keith Groom and Tracie Kasey have accepted the “Principal’s Challenge” which helps fire up reading for the entire school by encouraging principals to take one or more days out of the week and read from bell to bell.

School Library Journal
November 10, 2014

It’s a crisp morning in Nashville, TN, when a 15-foot box truck pulls up to Mt. View Elementary School. The truck looks ordinary enough — a lot like the hundreds of others that make deliveries in Nashville every day. But this truck is carrying something special in its cargo bed: puppets. The puppets come from Nashville Public Library (NPL), and the truck drivers are actually professional performing artists and puppeteers who form NPL’s Wishing Chair Productions troupe. This day, they’ll perform their production of “Hansel and Gretel.” On the surface, the Wishing Chair performance can seem like mere fun and games. However, the puppetry is actually part of NPL’s strategy to nurture the city’s kids into confident, eager young readers. What’s more, other educators around the country can take a cue from NPL and build their own performing arts-inspired early reading strategy.

Slate
November 7, 2014

As public prekindergarten expands in New York City and other parts of the country, teachers face competing tensions: On the one hand, there’s new pressure to teach more challenging academic material at younger and younger ages. On the other, there’s mounting concern about the wisdom of shoehorning kindergarten and even first-grade content into the preschool years. Today’s pre-K instructors, for instance, feel much more compelled to teach children their numbers up to 100 or how to begin sounding out words than they used to. Increasingly, early education experts agree that the best solution is to follow this model: Mold and challenge young minds, but do it through purposeful play. That’s not as easy as it sounds.

School Library Journal
November 7, 2014

Fifteen nonprofit organizations dedicated to helping kids with learning and attention issues, including the Child Mind Institute, the Parents Education Network, and the National Center for Learning Disabilities, have come together to pool knowledge and create a single Web resource for parents — or “parent toolbox” — to navigate and find answers for complex issues—and seek personalized support. Understood.org is a new, free online resource (in English and Spanish) that is aimed at providing families with the practical tools and advice for their child’s academic, social, and emotional journey. “Our goal is to help the millions of parents whose children, ages 3–20, are struggling with learning and attention issues. We want to empower them to understand their children’s issues and relate to their experiences,” states the Understood.org website. “With this knowledge, parents can make effective choices that propel their children from simply coping to truly thriving.”

The Hechinger Report
November 7, 2014

At Highlander Charter School here, in the nation’s smallest state, several teachers said they are encouraged to think outside the box. They try new ways to incorporate technology, and try to find new efficiencies in familiar routines. They combine in-person instruction with computer-assisted lessons, something that is called blended learning. The school, the first independent charter in Rhode Island, started in 2000, and adopted this high-tech model of instruction early on. This fall, the state announced plans to bring the method into all of its schools. At Highlander Charter — where more than three-quarters of the children at qualify for free and reduced-priced lunch, and many students are learning to speak English – teachers use laptops, tablets and smartphones to make teaching and learning more effective and efficient, weaving them in alongside more traditional lessons.

MassLive (MA)
November 7, 2014

Mo Willems, the popular area author and illustrator of the “Elephant and Piggie” early reader children’s books is out with a new book with a surprise twist at the end. “Waiting Is Not Easy!”, is the 22nd installment in the "Elephant and Piggie" series, and just like its predecessors, its plot focuses on an everyday life lesson. In “Waiting Is Not Easy!,” Piggie has a surprise for his best friend Gerald, but Gerald is going to have to wait for it. And wait some more. The "Elephant and Piggie" books are early readers, but they aren’t numbered, like so many early readers are. He said the books are reviewed by education professionals, and he has a list of words he can use in the text. “We want to make sure it’s at an appropriate level,” he said. “We want them to be challenged, but we also want it to be a book a kid who is learning how to read, can read.”

Republican-American (Waterbury, CT)
November 6, 2014

Virginia Berninger and Patricia Kuhl, who codirects the University of Washingtron's Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences, are two of the prominent researchers at UW exploring how children's brains develop for literacy. Their discoveries already are helping parents — and schools and preschools — strengthen children's neural connections in ways that can prevent or at least blunt learning problems later. In Berninger's lab, she and Richards are working on helping older children who struggle with reading, investigating whether specialized instruction developed at UW can help them. They are building on other studies showing that teaching 4- and 5-year-olds to write and name the letters of the alphabet improves their reading later on. The basic idea is this: Naming the letters and physically making them stroke by stroke in preschool helps children notice and remember their differences.

USA Today
November 6, 2014

While listening to a dyslexia interventionist specialist this spring, Tracie Luttrell started to see the faces of students who were struggling in her elementary school — faces of past students who never really thrived but ones Luttrell knew were intelligent. It was a light bulb moment for the educator. "I knew right then there was something we could do for these students," said Luttrell, principal at Flippin Elementary School. The district adopted a dyslexia intervention program, brought on several dyslexia interventionists and began screening students, all in advance of a recently passed law in Arkansas that will require school districts to meet the needs of students with dyslexia by the 2015-2016 school year.

The Southwest Times (VA)
November 6, 2014

In an effort to promote literacy at the youngest of ages, Pulaski County Library System is participating in the “1,000 Books Before Kindergarten” program. The program encourages parents and caregivers to read to their newborns, infants and toddlers to promote reading and strengthen the parent-child relationship. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, reading regularly with young children “stimulates optimal patterns of brain development and strengthens parent-child relationships,” thus building “language, literacy and social-emotional skills that last a lifetime.”

School Library Journal
November 6, 2014

Liberian children will be receiving brand new books and educational materials before Christmas, says Wendy Saul, the president and executive director of the International Book Bank (IBB), a global literacy nonprofit in Baltimore, MD, which donates brand new books to charities in developing countries. In its latest efforts, with a focus on Liberia’s Ebola crisis, IBB has raised $20,000 to ship a container of approximately 86,000 books bound for Liberia. The container of books is part of a bigger mission—to offer children education and reading material during the next few months in the form of approximately 10,000 “homeschool packages,” which the We Care Foundation will be hand delivering to Liberian schoolkids throughout Monrovia and its outlying areas.

The Patriot-News (PA)
November 5, 2014

November is National Novel Writing Month — or "NaNoWriMo," because writers love fancy acronyms — and would-be authors of all ages are sharpening their pencils and firing up their computers, getting ready for a 30-day writing marathon. The result of all that scribbling could be the next "The Great Gatsby." Or NaNoWriMo could simply be a great way to hone your gerunds and meet new friends. The NaNoWriMo Young Writer's Program website has suggestions for final word count — anywhere from 1.200 to 15,000 for middle school student. (50,000 is the suggested word count for adults.) The website also offers free workbooks with guides on everything from creating interesting characters to writing a submission letter for the final, polished product.

The Conversation (U.K.)
November 5, 2014

The classroom is fraught with social, emotional, physical and cognitive demands. Students enter at their own risk. So, what do we do? We teach resilience. We model coping strategies. We reinforce the strengths in each individual learner. We involve family, peers, the community of the school and their staff. We focus on what the student can do, what they enjoy, what jolts that spark in their eyes. We accept that each learner will have bad days, but we can motivate and engage them again soon. We get to know our students, we take pride in their achievements and set their next goal.

Chicago Tribune
November 5, 2014

Friendship, fun, language and culture were the key ingredients at Grand Prairie Elementary School recently during an English Language Learner (ELL) Family Night. Students and their families came out to enjoy pizza, crafts, games, pumpkin painting, reading together and having fun with their classmates. Current students in the program include children from Project BEGIN and all K-8 grades except sixth grade. Their languages include Spanish, Russian, Korean, Arabic, Polish, Vietnamese, Japanese, Mandarin, Chinese and Kazakh. Project BEGIN English Language Learners are taught together by the Project BEGIN teachers who have the appropriate ELL endorsement. A combination of pull-out and push-in services is used, depending upon the needs of the students.

"Children are made readers on the laps of their parents." — Emilie Buchwald