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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Public policy, research, and teaching methods have not adjusted to accommodate the nation's increasingly diverse English-language-learner population—and the problem begins well before children enter K-12 classrooms, a new report from the Migration Policy Institute finds. While more education programs and systems now have practices in place to support Spanish-speaking children, the "sheer diversity of languages spoken by families with young children makes providing bilingual education to all [dual-language learners] an unrealistic and unattainable goal." The nation's dual-language-learner population has grown by about 24 percent since 2000, and those students represent a wider range of languages and cultures than in the past. The report authors refer to the demographic shifts, fueled in part by immigration and refugee resettlements patterns, as the "diversification of diversity" or "superdiversity."
For parents, childcare providers, and early educators, new research describes a simple and powerful way to build children’s brains: talk with them, early and often. A study in Psychological Science shows how conversation — the interplay between a parent or caregiver and a child — ignites the language centers in a child’s brain. It’s the first study to show a relationship between the words children hear at home and the growth of their neural processing capacities — showing, in effect, that how parents talk to their children changes children’s brains. Don't just talk to your child; talk with your child. The interaction, more than the number of words a child hears, creates measurable changes in the brain and sets the stage for strong literacy skills in school. This new work — led by Harvard and MIT Ph.D. student Rachel Romeo, with coauthors at both of those institutions and the University of Pennsylvania — builds on what researchers have long known about the connections between “home language environment” and children’s cognitive development, literacy and language growth, and verbal ability.
A growing number of politicians and educators, like those in Appleton, have begun to heed the research and decided that to improve academic performance, they must do something about their students’ physical fitness as well. As a result of this new attitude, at least 14 state legislatures considered new laws in 2016 that would increase the amount of physical education or recess schools are required to offer or raise the bar for qualifications for physical education teachers, according to a 2016 report by the Society for Health and Physical Educators (SHAPE). Some even took action. Florida and Rhode Island now mandate 20 minutes of recess time a day for elementary school students. The new federal education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA, also provides increased access to funding for physical education by including the subject in its definition of a “well-rounded education.”
Math is at play in every sphere of our lives, from recipes to internet security to the electoral college. Educators have made strides to engage students through math. One way to bring the subject to life, according to a math research organization, is through literature. “Mathematics is very creative and playful and joyful,” says Kirsten Bohl, a spokeswoman for the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute. “Books connect with that sense of wonder and imagination and creativity.” To spotlight such books, MSRI created the Mathical Book Prize in 2015. Each year a panel of librarians, teachers, mathematicians and early childhood experts selects winners and honor books in five age categories. This year’s picks brings the full Mathical list to more than 50 titles that cross genres and formats, including picture books, graphic novels, biographies, and young adult novels.
UpToDate is an evidence-based, physician-authored clinical decision support resource that doctors use to make "point-of-care decisions" -- i.e., when a clinician needs to care for a patient in real time. Through this online resource, a clinician will find evidence-based, peer-reviewed, user-tested recommendations for the latest and best treatment options they can use with their patients. Each UpToDate post summarizes all medical knowledge known to date on a topic, and each post is regularly revised by a team of professional clinicians and researchers. As the field of education is increasingly pointing toward embracing the diversity of learning abilities and styles, and even building self-directed learning environments in which teachers are more likely to have their own "point-of-care decision" moments, the time for an UpToDate-style web resource for educators has arrived. While education is not perfectly analogous to medicine, there are parallels among the differences between theory and practice in the realm of research and development--namely, getting professionals to use the most current knowledge available and to engage in the discussions that improve best practices. If there were an online education resource similar to UpToDate, a teacher could look up a topic--e.g., teaching students with dyslexia in traditional classroom settings--and find a compilation of research, case studies, experiences, and innovative teaching methods that could make a world of difference for a child for whom learning is a challenge.
Each year, states, districts, schools, and classrooms across the United States and around the world hold thousands of events to celebrate Digital Learning Day (DLD). Created by the Alliance for Excellent Education in 2012, DLD offers educators an opportunity to collaborate with peers, exchange ideas, experiment with new digital tools, and showcase innovative practices that are improving student outcomes. At the heart of Digital Learning Day is an emphasis on equity—ensuring equitable access to high-quality digital learning opportunities. The event was started as a way to “actively spread innovative practices” to all schools and students. The event website provides digital tools, resources, lessons, and webinars to power your DLD activities. For more ideas, check out the links here.
The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) were released in 2013 and currently being adopted in 19 states and the District of Columbia. Librarians are getting involved in NGSS implementation at schools with maker space projects or other activities that incorporate NGSS principles. Based on the Framework for K–12 Science Education from the National Research Council (NRC), the NGSS are the product of a coordinated effort by the National Science Teachers Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the NRC, and Achieve, Inc., a nonprofit focusing on college readiness, in collaboration with 26 lead state partners. The main thrust is to shift science education away from rote memorization of facts and teacher-led activities toward inquiry-based, student-driven learning projects connected to real-world science and engineering.
Curators reviewed more than 600 books by African-American authors and illustrators while creating Telling a People's Story: African-American Children's Illustrated Literature, an exhibition underway at the Miami University Art Museum. It includes 130 works from 33 artists depicting the African-American experience through a child's lens. The art represents themes ranging from African origins and slavery to the Harlem Renaissance and the Civil Rights Movement. The art in children's books is important because kids learn a lot about historical concepts from picture books, Curator of Exhibitions Jason Shaiman says. African-American children grow up hearing many of the stories in the exhibit or about the people in the books, "but most kids who are not African-American only know the Dr. Kings, The Rosa Parks, the Harriet Tubmans."
Despite ongoing debates over how to teach reading, research has proven that phonics instruction is an essential element of a comprehensive literacy program, according to ILA’s latest brief, Explaining Phonics Instruction: An Educator’s Guide. Phonics helps students to learn the written correspondences between letters, patterns of letters and sounds, leading to word knowledge. The brief shares research-based insights to explain the what, the when and the how of phonics instruction to noneducators, providing guidance on phonics for emerging readers, phonological awareness, the layers of writing, word study instruction, approaches to teaching phonics and teaching English learners.
Summer reading programs (SRPs), a traditional offering at many libraries, encourage recreational reading and learning when school’s out. Critically, SRPs help keep reading skills strong over the long vacation. According to an American Library Association (ALA) LibGuide on the topic (libguides.ala.org/summer-reading), “95 percent of libraries offer summer reading programs to forestall the ‘summer slide’ in reading achievement experienced when learning takes a holiday.” Other benefits: encouraging a lifelong reading habit, attracting reluctant readers with entertaining programming, providing an opportunity to make friends and connect with library staff, and generally creating interest in the library, according to ALA. Additionally, SRPs “can just be good fun and provide an opportunity for family time.” Here’s what some librarians are doing with SRPs.
The Read Up Madison program is working. About 90 percent of elementary school students in the summer reading program last year maintained or improved their literacy scores from June through August, according to the Madison School District. Participants in the local program — who get to select and keep five free books that interest them — also spent an average of 30 hours reading over the summer. The assessment scores of Read Up students improved more than they did for other summer school students who didn’t participate in the program. And unlike so many other students who didn’t attend summer classes or Read Up, their reading ability didn’t slip.
In a jungle of entertainment, how do we cultivate an addiction to reading? "Reading," says Steve Mannheimer, professor of Media Arts and Science at Indiana University, "doesn't occur without some fairly specific and concrete combination of physical objects, environment, and purpose." So one technique is to focus on the book as a book. "Intuitively, I would say that the paper book invites far more physical manipulation with at least the fingers and hands," he says. "All that finger/hand fidgeting is part of the cognitive process, or at least reinforces the cognitive process of reading." Another thing electronic books cannot provide is something that many reading experts believe is essential for creating an environment conducive to lifelong reading: a room filled with actual books.
During Cindy Haggerty’s three years as the media specialist at Mary H. Wright Elementary School in Spartanburg, she’s seen excitement for reading grow among young students. One of the benefits of starting to read in early childhood is vocabulary development, she said. “I always cover vocabulary in the books I read (to students). One I read the other day was about an imaginary friend, and some of them didn’t know what that was,” Haggerty said. “Children are exposed to vocabulary in books that they may never see otherwise. And more so with children in poverty, because their brains have other priorities over reading.” The United Way of the Piedmont and the Herald-Journal are working together on a six-week campaign to raise $20,000 for the Imagination Library Program. The Upstate program, created by the DollyWood Foundation and managed by United Way of the Piedmont, allows parents to sign their children up to receive one book every month from birth to age 5. The goal of the program is to provide children a chance to get a head start in reading.
Combining the efforts of the library and the elementary school to enhance literacy in the community is the focus of a grant called WeReadSC which began in August 2017. As part of the $100,000 grant funded by the Hearst Foundations, the University of South Carolina’s College of Education is partnering with the South Carolina Center for Children’s Books and Literacy, housed in the College of Information and Communications, to help the community unify its literacy efforts. “Children first learn at home, then in the community, then at school, then all of the above. If we only focus our literacy program on one aspect, we weaken our efforts,” says Pamela Hoppock , WeReadSC program coordinator. “By working together, we provide a stronger support for our youth and their families.”
In a world where so much communication is done through writing, literacy has long been considered an essential skill for success in life. However, one in five students is affected by dyslexia or another language-based learning disability, which makes it much harder for students to acquire this skill. Struggling to read hurts students' self-confidence, and makes it difficult to enjoy school--or any type learning, for that matter. That being said, as educators, we need to ask ourselves: should our focus be teaching these students how to read or teaching them how to learn? I think the key is teaching them how to learn. Many successful people have been dyslexic, from Albert Einstein to Steve Jobs, and they came up with their own coping mechanisms to help them through it. I don't think dyslexic kids necessarily have a disability, they just have a different learning style, and we need to find ways to work with them. Luckily, we couldn't live in a better time for kids who struggle with reading. There are so many tools out there that can enable these kids to still learn at high levels, even if they are poor eye readers.
It should be no surprise that “A Different Pond,” written by Minneapolis poet Bao Phi and illustrated by Thi Bui, was named one of four Caldecott Honor books last Monday. It’s a beautiful book that tells a simple but moving story about a man going fishing with his young son. It had already been honored with the prestigious Charlotte Zolotow Award, and has been named a finalist for a Minnesota Book Award. But its Caldecott win was seminal. The Caldecott, given by the American Library Association, is for illustrations. “A Different Pond” was the first book illustrated by a Vietnamese woman to be so honored, and one of the few books both written and illustrated by immigrants. (Ed Young, who was born in China, won the Caldecott in 1990 for “Lon Po Po,” which he translated and illustrated.) Major awards for children’s books by people of color have been a long time coming.
Beginning in 2006, the United States Board on Books for Youth (USBBY) has published its now annual Outstanding International Books list (OIB). This list of books that were first published/released in other countries has, over the years, grown in importance and significance. This year the 2018 OIB committee selected 38 titles originally published in countries as far away as India or as near as Canada. These books reflect cultural, ethnic, and geographical differences and similarities for all youthful readers, from preschoolers to older young adults. On this list readers can move from humor and play to suffering and bravery.
On a recent winter afternoon, the scene inside Dobrila Hasic-Botic’s preschool classroom in Granite, Utah, seemed typical of a high-quality pre-K. A 4-year-old in a poufy pink skirt recited the first letter of her name. A boy in jeans and a golf shirt drew shapes on a small whiteboard in his lap. And a 3-year-old with an infectious smile did a somersault on the rug. But preschool in this struggling Utah district is far from ordinary. Granite is the first district in the nation to be financed by private investors who pay upfront for preschool seats, and make a profit if enough of the district’s “at-risk” kids succeed. The controversial financing tool, often referred to as a social impact bond, has allowed this cash-strapped district, one of five in the Salt Lake City area, to provide high-quality early education to thousands of poor 3- and 4-year-olds who might have otherwise stayed home.
In the over three decades he hosted the children’s television show “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” Fred Rogers conveyed virtue and kindness with his signature zippered cardigans and puppet friends. Next month, the United States Postal Service will immortalize Mr. Rogers, who died of cancer in 2003, alongside cultural and political icons such as Elvis, Big Bird and former presidents, when it introduces a Forever postage stamp with his portrait. He will be depicted wearing — no surprise here — a sweater, and cuddling up to a puppet, King Friday XIII. The stamp featuring Mr. Rogers will have a print run of about 15 million. It will be unveiled on March 23 at WQED, the Pittsburgh studio where his show was filmed, the Postal Service announced.
Danielle Burnett, a truancy prevention social worker in Albuquerque Public Schools, spends her days figuring out why students miss school. Her job is to identify the underlying reasons and help families change course. Sometimes it’s simply a matter of educating parents about the importance of attendance. In the early grades, parents can be lulled into thinking class time isn’t that important — even though these grades lay the foundation for students’ literacy and math skills for the rest of their lives. “The culture of attendance is huge,” Burnett said. “If parents weren’t taught that it’s important, then their kids are not going to be taught that.”