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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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School Library Journal
September 29, 2016

Libraries and museums…what a perfect combination! Both are established to educate patrons with curated resources. According to the Institute of Museum and Library Services, there are 123,000 libraries and 35,000 museums in the United States. Access to authentic documents and artifacts can transform lessons into rich, engaging learning experiences for students of all ages. Presenting history, science, art, music, and other subjects through immediate contact with objects that they can touch helps students develop emotional connections to learning. Facts and figures become tangible when we understand the human stories in our history. Who could forget show-and-tell day in kindergarten? That simple exercise supports storytelling, presentation, listening, and questioning techniques. Field trips to museums and cultural arts presentations, though often cut from school budgets when funds get tight, are integral to personal development, empathy, and the appreciation of creative expression. For librarians promoting information literacy and evaluation of resources, these places are fertile grounds for incorporating primary sources in lessons and activities.

The Washington Post
September 29, 2016

Jo Ann Bjornson spent her early childhood in the care of babysitters until it came time for her to board the bus to school for half-day classes, an event that came with little fanfare. For her daughter Isabella, the days before kindergarten started this month included structured preschool, a bevy of summer camps and months of agonizing over whether the smart, sensitive 5-year-old was academically and socially ready to start school. Kindergarten, where children were once encouraged to play and adjust to the rhythms of the school day, has long been evolving. But many parents new to modern-day elementary schooling say they have been shocked to find their children in a pressure cooker of rigorous academics, standardized tests, homework and what seem like outrageous expectations.

National Public Radio
September 29, 2016

Curious George famously managed all sorts of escapes — from policemen, firemen, zookeepers and plenty other humans who didn't like his mischief. But many readers don't know that the husband-wife team who created the inquisitive little monkey — who is celebrating his 75th birthday this year — had the most harrowing escape of all. In 1939, artists Hans Augusto and Margret Rey were living in Paris, where they had written a book with a side character named Fifi. The Reys thought this young, inquisitive monkey deserved his own story and wrote a manuscript for The Adventures of Fifi. But their plans were interrupted when the Nazis invaded France.

Aiken Standard (SC)
September 29, 2016

A yearlong, after-school reading program is helping young children develop a sound foundation in reading. The program, developed and directed by Dr. Elaine Clanton Harpine, uses the phonemic method, emphasizing the sounds of letters, to teach reading. The goal is to help first, second and third graders who are struggling with reading to reach their grade level or above. The children start by learning the consonant sounds and then move to the vowel sounds, Harpine said. Over the year, students receive more than 100 hours of instruction.

A.V. Club
September 28, 2016

Although many books written for children and young adults take place in entirely fictitious worlds, there are plenty more whose plots unfold in actual, real-world locations that can be found on the map. A team from Atlas Obscura has taken the liberty of compiling just such a map with blue, green, and teal dots denoting the places where famous children’s and YA novels took place. Among the titles referenced here: Anne Of Green Gables, Charlotte’s Web, The Wizard Of Oz, Catcher In The Rye, and Twilight. Anyone planning a children’s-literature-themed road trip of the United States would do well to start here.

KPCC Public Radio (CA)
September 28, 2016

Loyola Marymount University's school of education was awarded a $2.7 million dollar grant to collaborate with four LAUSD elementary schools with high ELL populations. LMU will train 84 transitional kindergarten through third grade teachers in a new method to get children proficient in English by utilizing the child’s first language as a literacy tool. According to LMU professor Magaly Lavadenz, director of the Center for Equity for English Learners, students do come with literacy skills –they just happen to be in another language. “They bring their home language. They know how to communicate, how to interact,” Lavandez said. “They know how to negotiate meaning in their first language.” These skills are the building blocks of early literacy, she said.

The Tennessean
September 28, 2016

In an effort to get more students reading on grade level, the Tennessee Department of Education has partnered with about 90 districts to build a network that coaches teachers on how best to teach literacy skills. The Read to be Ready coaching network, part a $9 million investment last year to improve student reading scores, will train, re-train and seek to support more than 200 reading coaches on how to aid teachers in literacy efforts. The state created the network to guide Tennessee school districts on practices identified to better reading instruction, especially in early grades and as the education department seeks to get 75 percent of all third-grade students reading on grade level by 2025.

Morning Sun (Pittsburgh, KS)
September 28, 2016

Children played with Lego while stimulating their minds at the Girard Public Library Tuesday. The library hosted a Lego Building Party to officially kick off its fall reading program. Library Director Barb Bailey said the program aims to connect creative play with reading. “We’ve always done story times, but we wanted a different way to get children involved with the stories,” Bailey said. “It helps make that connection with reading and playing.” At Tuesday’s Lego Party, children listened to stories and then built structures with building blocks that correspond with the story. They also enjoyed games, and prizes were awarded to the child with the “best build.”

Education Week
September 27, 2016

The Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge Grants, which were awarded to 20 states in 2011-13, encouraged winners to invest in a quality rating system for early-childhood programs—and even states that didn't get win the grant money went along with the program, says a report from Regional Educational Laboratory-Midwest. But in adopting these rating systems, states are struggling with how to create reliable ratings at a sustainable cost, the REL-Midwest report said. REL-Midwest examined how the Race to the Top competition shifted the early-childhood landscape in the seven states that are a part of its region: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin. Quality rating and improvement systems are seen as an important way to improve preschools and to provide information to parents. Now present in all but one state, these systems generally provide an easy-to-understand rating system for families to use to rank early-childhood programs, often with one star denoting basic quality and five stars denoting the highest quality.

International Literacy Association Daily
September 27, 2016

Though some researchers disagree, as a language arts teacher for 10 years in Chicago, I can testify that students (even students lacking foundational reading skills) can make significant gains in reading comprehension in one year. My students made such gains in their reading comprehension through daily opportunities to actively and purposefully read difficult text with teacher support. Although there are many research-based reading strategies, I stand strong with close reading. It is one of the most effective and manageable ways to read and comprehend difficult text.

WBAP Radio (Ft. Worth, TX)
September 27, 2016

The Fort Worth Independent School District has launched its campaign to help 100 percent of third graders read at grade level by 2025. Right now, just 30 percent of third graders are meeting current standards. Mayor Betsy Price, Superintendent Kent Scribner and BNSF Railroad Executive Chairman Matthew Rose met with kids at Oakhurst Elementary School Monday morning. “Our businesses know they have to have a steady stream of workers coming in,” Price said after reading a story to kids. The Fort Worth Literacy Partnership aims to bring together business, education and philanthropic leaders. Ft. Worth is also developing a web site that lets families track and compare reading achievement at the city’s 83 elementary campuses.

The New York Times
September 27, 2016

The movement calling for more diversity in children’s books has been gaining momentum in the last couple of years, and publishers are responding. There is still a big gap – now as in the past, the vast majority of American children’s books published feature white protagonists. But as the children’s books editor here at The Times, I’m definitely seeing a greater number of books by diverse authors and featuring children of different races and ethnicities. We Need Diverse Books is the unofficial home of the movement, and their web site is a good resource for reading lists and other useful news and information. Here is my own list of some great kids books with diverse characters – some classics and personal favorites, some new titles generating excitement.

The New York Times
September 26, 2016

Two weeks ago, classes began in this building at 212 East 93rd Street, the new home of the Windward School, which also has campuses north of the city in White Plains. Its mission is to teach children how to handle learning disabilities. The aim is to return them as quickly as possible with the skills to thrive in mainstream schools, said the head of school, John J. Russell.“In order to get in, you have to fail the admissions test,” Dr. Russell said. “When you start doing well, we ask you to leave. No treading water here.” Children at the school draw words in the air, write them on paper, shape letters out of clay, read from books or the classroom board. The parent of one fourth grader said her son, who could barely read a year ago, now confidently pages through this newspaper. (Or scrolls its digital incarnations.)

East Bay Times (CA)
September 26, 2016

A playground is a good place to get started on word skills. Little things can add up — little things like making small talk, especially with young children. Officer Willie Wilkins Playground became the latest outpost in the “Too Small to Fail” campaign to encourage early literacy. All around the play structure, newly installed signs in English and Spanish bore simple messages and illustrations. “Let’s talk about food,” one read. Others suggested talking about “the city,” letters, books, the bus, clothes, sunshine, hands and feet, and numbers. The idea is to get parents and caregivers to talk, read and sing with young children starting at birth. Simple things like describing ordinary objects in plain sight, singing and reading aloud benefit a baby’s ability to learn new words and concepts, building blocks for a brighter future. Those benefits are available to anyone who makes the effort, transcending the boundaries imposed by income, researchers have found.

The Washington Post
September 26, 2016

Given all the depressing statistics about children’s reading habits and screen-time addictions, the Walter E. Washington Convention Center on Saturday served as a loud-and-proud rebuttal. The place was jam-packed with children and teenagers at the annual National Book Festival, sponsored by the Library of Congress. Kids came for the literary stars of their orbit: Edwidge Danticat, a Haitian American novelist, recipient of a National Book Critics Circle Award and author of the new book “Untwine”; Lois Lowry , the Newbery Medal-winning juggernaut and creator of the “The Giver” whose latest work is actually a memoir, “Looking Back”; Gene Luen Yang, the graphic novelist who last week was awarded one of this year’s 23 MacArthur “genius grants”; and Meg Medina, the Cuban American author whose newest novel, “Burn Baby Burn” just made the longlist for this year’s National Book Award for Young People’s Literature.

KSFY (Sioux Falls, SD)
September 26, 2016

It was a morning of reading for thousands of kids in the Sioux Empire. The United Way hosted its 16th Annual Reading Festival in Sioux Falls Saturday, working to give all children the gift of reading. "Early childhood literacy is one of the most important things you can do for a child's development," Julia Brown, a United Way Reading Festival coordinator, said. "Reading level by grade three is the biggest indicator of a child's future success, so the earlier you can get them started with reading and the love of reading, the more successful they'll be later in life."

Education Week
September 23, 2016

States and school districts that get federal funding to support students who are English-language learners, can use that money to support long-term ELLs and ELLs in special education, as well as to help figure out how those students are progressing, according to new Every Student Succeeds Act guidance released by the U.S. Department of Education Friday. The guidance also makes it clear that districts and states can use their English Language Acquisition grants--provided through a $737 million program also known as Title III of ESSA for many of the same purposes as they did under No Child Left Behind. That's true even though schools' accountability for ensuring ELLs progress in their English-proficiency has moved to Title I of the law, along with accountability for all other groups of kids. That means that states are allowed to use their Title III funds to help identify ELLs who are struggling, make sure their English-language proficiency tests match up with English-language proficiency standards, and align state content standards with English-language proficiency standards. And districts can use Title III funds to help notify parents that their child is an English-learner.

The Atlantic
September 23, 2016

Alison Gopnik’s latest book, The Gardener and the Carpenter, makes a compelling case that parents should get out of the way of children’s natural drive to learn through play and observation of the world. The book explains how young children decide whom to believe; why they categorize; and how their intuitive understanding of statistics, mass, and gravity operates. Especially compelling are the sections on the role of experimentation and playing pretend in learning. Gopnik even explains the incessant “why” questions common in 3-year-olds. Gopnik musters all this evidence in an attempt to persuade parents and educators to stop trying to mold children into adults with some desirable mix of characteristics, the way a carpenter might build a cabinet from a set of plans. Instead, we adults should model ourselves on gardeners, who create a nurturing ecosystem for children to flourish, but accept our limited ability to control or even predict the outcome of. Rather than viewing parenting as an activity or skill to be mastered, adults should simply be parents.

School Library Journal
September 23, 2016

On Saturday, September 24, 2016, on the National Mall in Washington, DC, a place once bordered by “pens for enslaved people bound for the Deep South,” the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) will open its doors. Originally conceived of as a memorial, this testament to the history, culture, and contributions of African Americans to our nation has been 100 years in the making. In her book How to Build a Museum (Viking, 2016; Gr 5 Up), distinguished author Tonya Bolden discusses the museum’s long road to fruition, the visions of its director, designers, and architects, and the collection.

The Washington Post
September 22, 2016

Two years ago, Gene Luen Yang made a particular splash at the National Book Festival. He was asked to give a speech at the event’s Friday-night gala, ahead of such literary luminaries as E.L. Doctorow. But Yang had not come to talk about pure prose. He had come to talk comics. On Saturday evening, Yang — a two-time National Book Award finalist (“American Born Chinese” and “Boxers & Saints”) — will return to the National Book Festival as headliner of the Graphic Novel Night pavilion, at the Washington Convention Center, in conversation with The Post’s Comic Riffs. Just days ahead of that talk, Yang, a Bay Area-based cartoonist/educator, was named a 2016 MacArthur “genius grant” fellow — one of two visual storytellers to receive that honor this year.

"Fill your house with stacks of books, in all the crannies and all the nooks." — Dr. Seuss