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It is an often overlooked fact that one of the easiest ways to learn about a foreign culture is through the books it produces for its children. Shortly after my family moved to the Netherlands last summer, we discovered “zoekboeks” (pronounced “zhook-book”) the genre of kids’ picture books that invite you to search (“zoek”) for characters, objects or events obscured by visual busyness. English-language books for kids are hard to come by here, and we didn’t speak or read Dutch yet, so the wordless zoekboek was a welcome find. And then the zoekboek really opened my eyes. The zoekboek is closely related to a German genre, the Wimmelbuch, or “teeming book.” The zoekboek gives the reader explicit search tasks (where’s Waldo?) and often uses words, while the wordless wimmelbooks “allow for manifold reading options and encourage a highly active response from children and adults, which rightfully might be called a form of playing.”
If all dentists give out free toothbrushes after a child’s annual visit, how come all pediatricians don’t hand out free books? Both of these tools are essential in young children’s health, and considering a child’s brain is 80 percent developed by age three, shouldn’t books be as ubiquitous as a tooth scrubber? This is half the mission of Reach Out and Read Minnesota, a non-profit that gives children ages six-months to five years free books at each of their pediatric well-child visits. The other half is educating parents on the profound importance of reading aloud to young children, even before some might it’s effective. Pediatricians stress new research that shows not only what books are more effective to read aloud but how to read them aloud.
It's not like teenagers aren't willing to hold forth—at length—on dark, complex issues. So why do high school literature students so often respond to what they read in class with a sunny, cliched summary instead of a deeper analysis? The problem might be how we're asking the questions. In a study released this morning in the Journal of the Learning Sciences, students who received writing prompts in everyday language were less likely to summarize their text and more likely to analyze it in more nuanced ways. In related studies, Levine found struggling readers in urban schools showed significant improvement in moving from literal to interpretive readings when they received similar writing prompts based on students' feelings.
After mapping out the summer slide and its impact on students, David M. Quinn and Morgan Polikoff go on to describe the “faucet theory” from the book “Summer Learning and Home Environment.” This theory provides a hypothesis for to why the summer slide hits lower-income children harder. The “resource faucet’ is on for all students during the school year,” Quinn and Polikoff explain, “enabling all students to make learning gains. Over the summer, however, the flow of resources slows for students from disadvantaged backgrounds but not for students from advantaged backgrounds. Higher-income students tend to continue to have access to financial and human capital resources (such as parental education) over the summer, thereby facilitating learning.” Assuming that more resources help prevent the summer slide and fewer resources exacerbate it, teachers need to make a point of helping students gain access to resources throughout the summer. Here are 5 ways that teachers can keep the resource faucet on over the break.
In the world of children’s authors, Kate DiCamillo is a certified rock star. Beloved by young readers, parents and teachers, DiCamillo’s award-winning books — such as “Because of Winn-Dixie,” “The Tale of Despereaux” and “Flora & Ulysses” — are often used in conjunction with elementary school lessons. The Newbery Medal-winning author is also a strong advocate for summer reading. Experts say children who don’t read during summer vacation lose some of the vital skills they build during the school year. After a panel at Book Con, amNewYork asked DiCamillo for some summer reading suggestions. Not surprisingly, she pointed to books written by fellow panelists. But she also looked back to some classics she enjoyed as a young reader.
You remember Common Core. First it was going to save the educational universe (and help lift a couple of political careers). Then it was going to turn all our children into gay communists. Then, most everyone stopped using the words. These days, it's considered more appropriate to talk about "college and career ready." Meanwhile, while many states still have the Common Core Standards in place, many other states have made a show of throwing them out, then re-installing them under some new name. But most of the heat and light surrounding the Core erupted on the policy level. A decade after they slid into view, what effects have the Core had on actual classroom teachers?
One of the longtime goals of public education is to produce young people capable of participating in the democratic process. Experts say that requires regular and high-quality social studies lessons, starting in kindergarten, to teach kids to be critical thinkers and communicators who know how to take meaningful action. Yet, as teachers scramble to meet math and reading standards, social studies lessons have been pushed far back on the list of academic priorities, especially in the early grades. “Without social studies, we lose the civic mission of public schools,” said Stephanie Serriere, a former early-grade teacher who is now an associate professor of social studies education at Indiana University-Purdue University Columbus. “Ultimately, we can’t prepare children for living in a rich, diverse democracy if we don't expose them to the controversial topics inherent in our democracy.”
In the world of children's literature, there's a new trend towards putting stories about resilient young Muslim refugees front and center. More than a dozen books are due out this fall, from picture books for toddlers to complex novels for the teen audience. The new crop adds to a growing list of titles that present a positive image of refugees, humanizing and personalizing the ongoing conflicts, says Vicky Smith, children's editor at Kirkus Reviews. "It is a real desire on the part of authors, illustrators and publishers to respond to the crisis in a way that is proactive and helpful," she says. The wave of children's books about refugees comes amid the largest refugee crisis since World War II, as millions of civilians — many of them children — flee wars and insurgencies in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.
Megan McDonald has written and published over 60 books for children in 22 languages, including the popular and award-winning Judy Moody and Stink series. She is also the author of three Sisters Club stories, Ant and Honey Bee: A Pair of Friends at Halloween, and many other books for children. Your wildly popular Judy Moody series is nearly 20 years old and has been translated into 22 languages. How does this series transcend generational, geographic, and cultural boundaries? “By being human. Having heart. And holding on to a sense of humor. In this way, Judy Moody stands for childhood, any childhood, anywhere around the globe."
Science could be considered the perfect elementary school subject. It provides real life applications for reading and math and develops critical thinking skills that help students solve problems in other subjects. Plus, it’s interesting. It helps answer all those “why” questions — Why is the sun hot? Why do fish swim? Why are some people tall and other people short? — that 5- to 8-year-old children are so famous for asking. Young children are “super curious,” said Matt Krehbiel, director of science for Achieve, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping students graduate high school ready to start college or to pursue a career. “We want them to be able to harness that curiosity to help them make sense of the world around them.” But science has long been given short shrift in the first few years of school. Most elementary school teachers have little scientific background and many say they feel unprepared to teach the subject well, according to a national survey of science and mathematics education.
NPR Ed reached out to some experts for recommendations and guidelines on helping pick the best apps, for backseat time or any time. These recommendations come with an important caveat. The American Academy of Pediatrics' latest guidelines on screen time for kids emphasize the need for balance with other activities. The goal for school-age children is at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day. Meals and other designated family activities should be screen-free time. Joint media use is another best practice that the AAP recommends: That means playing games or watching videos alongside your kids and discussing the content. That said, in a backseat situation, that's not always possible. So, here are the principles we came up with to guide your children in selecting the perfect apps to while away the time.
Reading consistently over the summer is one of the most important ways to keep your children on track for the next school year; however, that doesn't mean that efforts need to feel like school. Reading can (and should) be an activity where children find pleasure. Here are a few tips to help parents promote a love of reading over the summer. Think outside the book. Literacy encompasses reading, writing, listening, and speaking. Utilize audiobooks, word games, magazine, and read alouds (even with older children) as a means to engage with literacy skills. Reading isn't always about sitting down with a book and it is important to allow children to find what resonates with them. After all, the goal is to help foster a love of learning and develop literacy skills that will only develop further throughout their lifetime.
Children do not come wired to learn how to read: It is an acquired skill. A teacher must be able to synthesize a deep well of research, master a variety of instructional methods and then be able to deploy this knowledge daily to meet each child at his or her own reading ability level. At P.S. 218 in the Bronx, a high-poverty public bilingual school where nearly 90 percent of the students are Hispanic and 32 percent are English language learners, early-grade teachers have spent the last three years learning how to do a better job of teaching students to read — and they are seeing results. A partnership between the school and Early Reading Matters (ERM), a teacher-training program, focuses on showing public school teachers who work in New York City’s high-poverty schools how to skillfully get students in the early grades to read at grade level.
As more early-childhood education advocates call for universal pre-K, it's interesting to note that less than a third of all states even require full-day kindergarten. That's one of the findings in a 50-state comparison guide to policies surrounding kindergarten through 3rd grade by the Education Commission of the States, a nonprofit and nonpartisan group of researchers who track policies related to education. The newly updated report, which was released last month, finds that that only 15 states and the District of Columbia require full-day kindergarten. Commenting on the report, Karen Schulman, the child care and early learning research director for the National Women's Law Center, an advocacy group based in Washington, noted that in many states and school districts, education policies don't reflect the reality of both parents working in many families.
When three Cleveland seventh graders read Jacqueline Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming, the Citizens Leadership Academy students didn’t know about the #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement in the publishing world. They had never heard about mirrors and windows. Kiara Ransaw, James Kline, and Jayla Henderson knew only this: They had never read a book like this before, and they had never felt like this about a book before. That connection and realization sparked an idea for a project that grew beyond anyone’s expectations. In the end, the three charter school students, with help from classmates along the way, led a project to diversify the libraries at the elementary schools that feed their middle school.
The lawyers filing the suit—from the pro bono Los Angeles firm Public Counsel—contend that the students (who attend five of Detroit’s lowest-performing schools) are receiving an education so inferior and underfunded that it’s as if they’re not attending school at all. The 100-page-plus complaint alleges that the state of Michigan (which has overseen Detroit’s public schools for nearly two decades) is depriving these children—97 percent of whom are students of color—of their constitutional rights to liberty and nondiscrimination by denying them access to basic literacy. Almost all the students at these schools perform well below grade level in reading and writing, and, the suit argues, those skills are necessary to function properly in society. It’s the first case to argue that the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to become literate (and thus to be educated) because other rights in the Constitution necessarily require the ability to read.
In the last decade, educators have focused on boosting literacy skills among low-income kids in the hope that all children will read well by third grade. But the early-grade math skills of these same low-income children have not received equal attention. Researchers say many high-poverty kindergarten classrooms don’t teach enough math and the few lessons on the subject are often too basic. While instruction may challenge kids with no previous exposure to math, it is often not engaging enough for the growing number of kindergarteners with some math skills.
None of the specific reading comprehension strategies has demonstrated statistically significant effects on reading comprehension on its own as a discrete skill. Although plenty of lessons, activities, bookmarks, and worksheets provide some means of how to learn practice, none of these strategies can be taught to mastery, nor accurately assessed. So, if individual reading comprehension strategies fail to meet the criteria for research-based concepts and skills to improve reading comprehension, should we teach any of them and require our students to practice them? Yes, but minimally—as process, not content. We need to teach these strategies as being what good readers do as they read. The think-aloud provides an effective means of modeling each reading comprehension strategy. Some practice, such as a read-think-pair-share, makes sense to reinforce what the strategy entails. A brief writing activity, requiring students to apply the strategy, could also be helpful. But minimal instructional time is key.
The solution first: 15. More precisely, 15 books. That's Alvin Irby's answer to a problem he knows all too well as a former kindergarten teacher: How to get children of color excited about reading if they don't have much experience with books or reading outside of school, and the books they see inside of school don't speak to them. Alvin Irby wears many hats. He is a stand-up comedian, a children's book author, a former kindergarten teacher, the founder of Barbershop Books and, above all, a dynamo. His nonprofit has put a curated list of 15 books — all picked by kids — in dozens of barbershops, in predominantly black neighborhoods, across the country. And that's not counting the many barbers who have heard his story and done something similar on their own.
You sneak them into backpacks and let them commingle with the video games (hoping some of the latter's appeal will rub off). You lay them around the kids' beds like stepping stones through the Slough of Despond and, for good measure, Vitamix them to an imperceptible pulp for the occasional smoothie. Books are everywhere in your house, and yet ... they're not being consumed. Because it's summer, and kids have so many other things they'd rather do. You should model reading, make reading pleasurable, read aloud to your kid in situations that are warm and create positive associations. But also setting a tone where our family is one where we like to learn new things. We like to learn about the world, and a big part of that is reading.