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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Reach, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit, trains high school students to be reading tutors for elementary school students. "It's a tutoring program that works in two directions," says former social worker Mark Hecker, who founded Reach in 2009. He says it's serving a vital need in the city: Two-thirds of students in D.C. public schools can't read and write at grade level when they start high school. Reach helps these older students become better readers — by giving them the tools to teach younger kids. Tutoring and mentorship programs that pair up younger and older students are common. But most rely on high-achieving students. Reach turns the idea on its head: Hecker says most of the teenage tutors start the program reading between a fourth and sixth grade level. The tutors receive training in literacy instruction because for them, Reach isn't just an after-school program — it's a job. They get paid for the time they spend reading and writing with kids.
I recently read about an elementary school class that was studying the American Revolution. Each student chose a historical figure to write about. When the teacher asked if anyone had picked a woman, a little girl called out: “No! There were no women then!” Even in 2019 this is what many kids think, which is why we still need a month dedicated to the words and deeds of females. Knowing the challenges and achievements of all manner of women history makers, from the big names (I’m looking at you, Amelia Earhart) to the unsung heroes, destroys the false notion that females are mere observers to history. Their stories serve as both inspiration and empowerment: If she could, then I can.
The Cooperative Children's Book Center at the School of Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison has released its annual publishing statistics on children's books about people of color and First/Native Nations, as well as titles written by people of color and First/Native Nations authors and illustrators. A number of “exciting” children’s and young adult literature debuts from authors and illustrators of color and First/Native Nation. Some authors specifically noted included Elizabeth Acevedo (The Poet X), Adib Khorram (Darius the Great Is Not Okay), Kheryn Callender (Hurricane Child), Henry Lien (Peasprout Chen:Future Legend of Skate and Sword), and Kelly Yang (Front Desk). Smaller publishing endeavors continue to make critical inroads in responding to the ongoing need for books that accurately and authentically reflect many aspects of diverse cultures and identities.
When we invited teachers to respond to a survey on reading instruction, we received nearly 70 responses. We heard from teachers in Colorado and several other states who said their educator preparation program didn’t provide the skills they needed to teach reading. We also learned that most respondents agreed with recent critiques that American schools pay little attention to the science behind reading instruction. Here’s a sampling of responses.
Here’s what we know. Early literacy instruction requires an intentional focus in developing two core competencies: systematic, explicit lessons in mastering the code of our language system, known as phonics, and building vocabulary and scientific, historical and technical knowledge. For years, the choice in curriculum and student reading materials has been limited. It has been either/or — educators could have either simple, often silly books that offered only decoding practice, or engaging, rich texts that were too challenging for students to read on their own. Students missed opportunities to practice with accessible texts, to build knowledge of the world, to engage with worthy topics and to grow their vocabulary. The good news is that better options are becoming available. There are comprehensive reading programs that focus both on foundational skills and on building knowledge and vocabulary. Publishers are releasing collections of books that expose children to the wider world — history, art and science — in accessible language so students can practice learned foundational skills.
Jasmond “Jazz the Barber” Schoolfield has been around too long and seen too much to have illusions about the challenges life poses in the North Philadelphia neighborhood where he earns his living cutting hair. “We’re witness to a lot of stuff – drugs, crime,” said Schoolfield, 42. But there is an alternative universe, one where an alligator worries about turning pink after swallowing a watermelon seed and where green eggs go best with ham, no matter what Sam thinks. It’s that world that youngsters visit when they stop by Schoolfield’s shop, Creative Image Unisex Hair Salon on the corner of 28th Street and Cecil B. Moore Avenue. In North Philadelphia, Jazz is a “Reading Captain,” one of many programs partnered with Read by 4th, a nationally acclaimed citywide campaign to attack poverty by boosting early childhood literacy. At Jazz’s place, the children and their grownups can pluck kids’ books like the “Watermelon Seed” and “Green Eggs and Ham,” from well-stocked book nooks to read there or take home.
Voracious readers, young and old and in-between, there's a local author whose work requires your attention. Kwame Alexander took his great loves, basketball and poetry, and combined them for the Newbery Medal-winning children's book The Crossover, about basketball playing twins, written in verse. He's gone on to publish more children's books, including Booked and Swing, written with Mary Rand Hess. In April, he will publish, under his own Versify imprint, his collaboration with illustrator and author Kadir Nelson called The Undefeated—a love letter to black life in the United States. Originally from Brooklyn and now living in Herndon, Alexander spoke with City Paper about how he got his start, why he writes what he writes, and what it was like winning that Newbery Medal.
March is Women's History Month and National Reading Month, which means it's the perfect time to curl up with your little one and read books about women's achievements and contributions in music, politics, science, and more. By learning about these success, they'll have an easier time envisioning their own. It's good to recognize the women who broke boundaries and made history, like NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson, who calculated how to send the first American into space, and Emily Roebling, who helped build the Brooklyn Bridge. Here are 10 children's books that will inspire young readers, no matter their age, to advocate for themselves, stand up for women's rights, and follow their dreams, whether that involves a pair of ballet shoes, a calculator, or a seat on the Supreme Court.
Kids aren't being taught to read, says senior education correspondent Emily Hanford of APM Reports, and that's because many teachers haven't learned how reading works. Hanford's hard-charging radio documentary, published last fall, has reinflamed decades-old debates about early reading. Her message is clear: The science has shown that systematic, explicit phonics instruction is the necessary foundation for successful reading. But that's not what teachers are learning in their training, and it's not what's happening in schools. We recently invited Hanford to the Education Week studio for a live conversation on what teachers should know about reading science. Here is the transcript of that discussion, which first aired on Facebook Live.
Spending time in nature boosts children's academic achievement and healthy development, concludes a new analysis examining hundreds of studies. Ming Kuo, associate professor in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois and lead author on the Frontiers in Psychology study, says she expected the critical review to lead to more questions than answers. Instead, all signs pointed to the same outcome: "It is time to take nature seriously as a resource for learning," she says, "in fact, the trend of increasing indoor instruction in hopes of maximizing standardized test performance may be doing more harm than good." Kuo and her University of Minnesota co-authors found that nature boosts learning in eight distinct ways. "We found strong evidence that time in nature has a rejuvenating effect on attention; relieves stress; boosts self-discipline; increases physical activity and fitness; and promotes student self-motivation, enjoyment, and engagement," Kuo explains. "And all of these have been shown to improve learning."
A pair of bills introduced in the Florida legislature would allow English-language learners to take state tests in their native languages, bypassing a key provision in the state's Every Students Succeeds Act plan. The state, which educates more than 300,000 English-learners in its public K-12 schools, has resisted translating its state tests into Spanish or any other language despite language in the federal education law that directs states to "make every effort" to do so. Dozens of states have laws or constitutional amendments on the books that establish English as their official language; several of those states, including Florida, were able to get their plans approved without adhering to that part of the law. The issue is personal for state Sen. Annette Taddeo. Born in Colombia to a Colombian mother and Italian-American father serving in the U.S. Air Force, she lived there until she moved to Alabama at the age of 17 with "very limited" knowledge of English. "I actually went through the excruciating pain of being tested in English," said Taddeo, who introduced the Senate version of the bill. She represents southern Miami-Dade County in the legislature.
The lack of knowledge about the science of reading doesn’t just affect teachers. It’s perfectly possible to become a principal or even a district curriculum leader without first learning the key research. In fact, this was true for us. We each learned critical reading research only after entering district leadership. Jared learned during school improvement work for a nonprofit, while between district leadership positions. When already a district leader, Brian learned from reading specialists when his district received grant-funded literacy support. Robin learned in her fourth year as a district leader, while doing research to prepare for a curriculum adoption. Understanding the research has been crucial to our ability to lead districts to improved reading outcomes. Yet each of us could easily have missed out on that critical professional learning. If not for those unplanned learning experiences, we’d probably still be ignorant about how kids learn to read.
Insights from neuroscience suggest that arts education can play additional important roles in how children learn. Paul T. Sowden, a professor of psychology at the University of Winchester in England,says that art education is a chance to build resilience and determination in children, as well as to help them master complex skills. Mariale Hardiman, a professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Education, where she directs the neuro-education initiative, was interested in how children do — and don’t — retain what they learn in school. “A lot of the information we teach doesn’t stick.” Her studies have focused on children’s memory for academic subjects, comparing what children remembered 10 weeks after material was taught. The children who had learned the material in the curriculum that made use of the arts remembered more, and the effect was largest among the children who were less strong academically, the “lower performers.”
Gates and CZI "share a view that there is enormous unrealized potential for students and that breakthroughs driven by innovation can help students and teachers," according to the report, titled "Education Research & Development: Learning From the Field." The underlying premise of the new effort is bold: Founded with the multi-billion-dollar fortunes amassed by two of the biggest figures in the tech industry, the Gates Foundation (started by Microsoft founder Bill Gates) and Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (started by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg) have teamed up to create a new R&D model for K-12 education. The three "immediate, high-leverage challenges" that Gates and CZI aim to tackle are: improving students' ability to write the kind of nonfiction that is increasingly required in college and the workplace; deepening students' understanding of key math skills and concepts; and strengthening children's "executive functions," such as the ability to think flexibly, consider multiple ideas, and regulate their own thoughts, emotions, and actions
Young readers can now vote in the Children’s and Teen Choice Book Awards, “the only national book awards voted on only by kids and teens” according to the award’s administrators, the Children’s Book Council (CBC) and Every Child a Reader. This year’s nominees include Julián Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love, Fakers by H. P. Wood, Pizzasaurus Rex by Justin Wagner, The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang, The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton, and The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo.The site features downloadable resources to get students involved in the voting process, including ballots, coloring pages, shelf talkers, and instructions to construct a voting booth with 13-inch test-taking screens. As an added bonus, the CBC is offering four free books to schools and libraries that send in a receipt for their cardboard screen.
Graphic novels provide a uniquely intimate reading experience. Through words and images, readers are invited into homes and schools; they are free to peek into corners and to quietly observe the worlds of the characters we meet. NEW KID, the cartoonist Jerry Craft’s new graphic novel, is a gift to readers who love the genre. Craft invites us into the world of Jordan Banks, one of the few African-American students at a fancy private school. As a realistic graphic novel starring a kid of color, “New Kid” is a desperately needed addition to middle-grade library collections everywhere. This funny, heartwarming and sometimes cringe-inducing take on middle school is sure to resonate deeply with its young audience. Lincoln Peirce, creator of the best-selling Big Nate series, hits it out of the park again with his newest book, MAX AND THE MIDKNIGHTS. This rollicking, irreverent tale of knights, troubadours and magicians proves Peirce is a middle-schooler at heart. Told in a hybrid comics and novel form, with a fast-moving plot and bad puns aplenty, “Max and the Midknights” will keep even the most reluctant of readers engaged to the end.
Michael Young was working one-on-one with a student when he heard a voice: "Maybe pause a little bit longer and wait for the student to respond." It wasn't his internal monologue reminding him of something he learned in training. The voice belonged to an instructional coach 50 miles away, who was watching what Young was doing in the classroom through a livestream and communicating via an earpiece. "It was really nice to feel supported and get direct feedback in the moment, because as much as you can do that through somebody being there and watching you, they always do it afterwards or by interrupting [the lesson]," said Young, who teaches special education at Elk Ridge Elementary School in Buckley, Wash. "It was helpful information that changed the way I taught." The practice is called bug-in-ear coaching, and it has been around for decades in different sectors in some capacity. But in recent years, more and more educators are beginning to try it out.
A substantial percentage of students with ADHD symptoms severe enough to affect them both academically and socially are not getting any support in school for the disorder, says a new study based on the experiences of nearly 2,500 children and youth. The gap between symptoms and services was particularly wide for adolescents and for students from low-income backgrounds or who were English-language learners The primary provider of mental health services for children is schools. "If the school drops the ball, particularly with those low-income kids, where is [intervention] going to happen?" said George DuPaul, a professor of school psychology and the associate dean for research in the College of Education at Lehigh University. DuPaul was the lead author on the study, "Predictors of Receipt of School Services in a National Sample of Youth With ADHD."
How can you get the most books for your buck? Check out librarians’ recommendations, including used book stores, online book stores, and discount programs for low-income communities.
Educators in Michigan are using many strategies to ensure all their students become strong readers. In Mason, the district employs a “literacy coach” in each of its three elementary schools. They provide on-site training and assistance to classroom teachers. Veteran teacher Colleen Rockafellow is the Steele Elementary literacy coach. “There’s conferencing with the teacher, observing, co-planning,” Rockafellow says. “We also then will reflect; we have a lot of time to sit back and say what worked, what didn’t work. So, the term ‘job embedded professional development’ means exactly that.” The combination of phonics education and literacy coaches in Mason seems to be paying dividends. Each of its three elementary schools rank above 92 percent in English language arts proficiency as measured on the Michigan School Index.
The ability to understand and create media is essential—for teachers and students alike. PBS and San Francisco Bay Area public media station KQED have partnered toward that goal, creating a free certification program in media literacy for PreK-12 educators. Comprised of eight micro-credentials in a range of skill areas, from "Evaluating Online Information" to "Making Media for Classroom Use." PBS also announced a new course: Thinking and Making with Media in PreK-2 Classrooms.
With the anniversary of the first moon landing on July 20, many students will be curious about the brave astronauts who visited the moon and more recent space explorations. To help feed your students’ curiosity about space and inspire STEM reading and writing, here are several free NASA resources along with suggested activities. Select one activity, or combine several to create an in-depth unit on this timely, high-interest topic.
Despite accessibility to arts education steadily declining nationwide since the 1980s, arts-learning experiences can reduce disciplinary infractions, increase students' compassion for others and engagement, and improve writing skills and college aspirations, according to a new study. Forty-two Houston schools, representing more than 10,500 3rd-8th grade students, were assigned by lottery to take part in the Arts Access Initiative, through which schools receive infusions of arts education through community partnerships, local art organizations, cultural institutions, and teaching artists. Overall, the report found that increasing students' access to arts education reduced the proportion of students receiving disciplinary infractions by 3.6 percentage points; increased writing achievement by 0.13 of a standard deviation; and strengthened students' compassion for others by 0.08 of a standard deviation.
Reading is 9-year-old Kristen Hernandez’s thing. She pores over mystery books, stories about vampires and even a college-level anatomy textbook that her mother is studying to become an X-ray technician. So when her parents, Jessica and Alberto Hernandez, found out last summer that she had scored below grade level on the reading section of Texas’ annual high-stakes standardized test, they figured she had just had a bad test day. After all, Kristen is prone to nervousness, pushing her tortoiseshell glasses onto her forehead and rubbing her temples. But now a group of prominent state school superintendents and education experts is arguing that Texas has mistakenly identified Kristen and thousands of other students as falling short, when in fact their performance on the state test is well within grade-level reading standards.
Laura Gaughan, reading specialist at O’Loughlin Elementary School, said she thinks being a teacher and shaping young lives is the most important thing a person can do with his or her life. Gaughan has been honored as one of only seven Kansas Master Teachers for 2019. Gaughan, 52, is a reading specialist, which is a federally funded position. She spends part of her day as a reading recovery teacher. In this program, she works one on one with first graders to help them develop their reading skills. She also works with groups of students in grades kindergarten to second grade on early reading intervention. Having a foundation in reading is especially important to student confidence and success, Gaughan said. “Kids are forming ideas about their own self-esteem and what they think about themselves — ‘Do I think I am a good reader? Am I a good writer? Am I good at math?’ They are forming those opinions of themselves, and we never want them to have any negative thoughts about themselves about being a reader and a writer. We want to boost that in first grade before they start to struggle."
The state a baby is born in makes a big difference in whether that child gets a good start in life, according to a new report. The State of Babies Yearbook: 2019 was released this week by Zero To Three, a nonprofit that supports early-childhood development, and Child Trends, a nonprofit research center. The report, which is billed as the first of its kind, ranks all 50 states and the District of Columbia based on how babies born there fare in the categories of good health, strong families, and positive early-learning opportunities. But just how important is the state where a baby is born? "It is pretty significant," said Myra Jones-Taylor, the chief policy officer at Zero To Three, who led the federal policy team behind this report. "There are great, wide ranges between how babies are faring from state-to-state." For example, the report finds that only 17 percent of infants and toddlers in Mississippi received a developmental screening in the last year, while nearly 59 percent did so in Oregon.
We use the term “21st-century literacy skills” as a means of describing the skill set that is and will be necessary for students to be successful in our society with a shifting characterization of what it means to be literate. Yet, it is impossible to deny the ways in which young people are embodying what that actually means in practice. We now have to assimilate these digital literacy practices into our everyday lives and into the educational system. Yet, we know and understand that both traditional and digital literacy practices are important and there still needs to be a balance among them. Students need time, opportunities and support interacting with text, digital text, media, and multimodal artifacts. This is especially important because connecting in-school and out-of-school literacies has the potential to enhance learning and motivate students. As we approach the birthday of Theodore Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, we should reflect on the ways we can develop both traditional and digital literacy practices to motivate learners.
To foster a love of reading, elementary educators tell their students to read a book at night, or have someone read to them. One principal in Texas has made it personal: She snuggles into a pair of pajamas and reads to her students herself. “I don’t know if they are read to or not at home,” said Belinda George, 42, a first-year principal at Homer Drive Elementary in Beaumont, in Southeast Texas. George, often in a cozy onesie, opens Facebook Live on her phone each Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. As she reads a children’s book in her living room, anyone who goes to the school’s Facebook page can watch live. She calls it “Tucked-in Tuesdays,” and it’s become somewhat of a sensation at her school.
The number of special education teachers nationally has dropped by more than 17 percent over the past decade, a worrisome trend in a career path that has seen chronic shortages for years. An analysis of federal data by the Education Week Research Center shows that while the number of special education teachers was dropping, the number of students with disabilities ages 6 to 21 declined by only about 1 percent over the same time period. For the 2015-16 school year, which offers the most up-to-date data, there was one special education teacher for every 17 students with disabilities. So how does this play out at the school level? For Allison Oliver, a positive behavioral specialist for the 30,000-student DeSoto district in northern Mississippi, the shortage meant that during her time as a classroom teacher, she was responsible for classes of 18 middle school students with a spectrum of disabilities. Teens with emotional or behavioral disturbances, specific learning disabilities, or physical disabilities would all be in one class.
Students with dyslexia and their parents have beenpressing Colorado policy makers to make sure children are tested earlier for dyslexia, and that those affected receive the right reading instruction. And on Thursday, they packed a hearing room and an overflow chamber and urged Colorado lawmakers to pass legislation that could ultimately expand screening and support for children with dyslexia at younger ages. The bill, which passed unanimously out of the House Education Committee, would convene a group of parents, educators, and experts in literacy, dyslexia, and special education to make policy recommendations. It would also establish a pilot program to be run in five schools in which the same assessments used to identify struggling readers would be used to see if dyslexia might be an underlying cause. Educators in those schools would get additional support on providing appropriate interventions for students identified as having dyslexia.