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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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Independent Tribune (Concord, NC)
May 22, 2015

For as long as Kelly Bumgardner can remember, she has wanted to be a school teacher and now she is the Cabarrus County Teacher of the Year. The relationships with students are the most attractive parts of teaching for Bumgardner, who is a seventh grade reading and English and Language Arts (ELA) teacher at Northwest Cabarrus. “For me it’s important to show kids that reading can be fun. I feel like we have a lot of focusing on testing and I like to be able to pull that fun element in. My biggest goal is that they say they enjoy reading when they leave my classroom,” Bumgardner said. One corner of Bumgardner’s classroom is filled with shelves of books – a variety of different books. It’s rare that Bumgardner gives students an assignment with just one book option. She tries to give students options. “That choice element is so big to our kids. They will sit and look through the books and a read a little bit before they make a decision.”

Daily Journal (Rockingham, NC)
May 22, 2015

What began as an incentive to increase attendance at East Rockingham Elementary School on Fridays blossomed into a cooperative education experience that made reading fun — the “Rocking Readers’ Club.” the Rocking Readers’ Club, held every Friday morning starting at 8 a.m., got the older students involved in reading to the younger students by broadening their vocabulary and comprehension skills and even conducting mini-novel units. “They became the teachers,” fifth-grade English language arts teacher Shannon Haywood said. Principal Jamie Greene said she believes that is what made the most difference and that placing students in a leadership role as important as teaching made them both confident and more enthusiastic about being in school.

Hechinger Report
May 22, 2015

“To get at what’s really fundamental in the Common Core, the higher-order thinking skills, we need performance-based tasks,” said Derek Briggs, professor and program chair at the Research & Evaluation Methodology Program at the University of Colorado Boulder, who advised both Smarter Balanced and PARCC on the design of the new tests. On the English exams, the performance sections ask students to write persuasively using information gathered from multiple sources. In math, students tackle multistep problems designed to test strategic-thinking skills.

The New York Times
May 22, 2015

New picture books include “The ABC Animal Orchestra” and “Drum Dream Girl.” Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music: A Cuban girl — an endnote tells us she’s the real-life pathbreaker Millo Castro Zaldarriaga — longs to play drums but is told they’re only for boys. She listens intently to the many beats on the “island of music,” imagining letting loose on the conga, bongos and timbales. After her father hires a teacher, she plays in cafes, joyously breaking the taboo. Engle’s poetic narrative combines with López’s warmly ethereal folk-art illustrations to evoke a nighttime tropical dreamscape.

Education Week
May 21, 2015

After two years of teaching and many hours of engaging in various kinds of remediation, I had an epiphany that I think has made my struggling students’ lives a little easier. Here it is: Remediation is often a terrible way to help kids catch up. Pre-teaching is more effective and more fun. For the same 20-minute investment of time, we can change the way a child sees himself as a reader, thinker, or mathematician. We can give [a child] the rare experience of being the kid who gets it first, who helps the other kids figure it out, who is ready with the answer the moment he hears the question. For children accustomed to struggle, those moments can be transformative. They can make reading an act of pleasure instead of torture. Math can become fun instead of frustrating. The feeling of confidence can linger long after the class has moved on to the next concept.

U.S. News and World Report
May 21, 2015

First lady Michelle Obama says America's libraries and museums aren't luxuries or "extras" that can be passed over while money goes toward other goals like creating jobs or teaching children. "So often our libraries and museums are doing the critical work to help us achieve those goals in the first place," Mrs. Obama said Monday at an East Room ceremony honoring 10 institutions from across the country for service to their communities.

KQED Mindshift
May 21, 2015

Rachel Langenhorst helps teachers in her district find solutions for those issues. She used to teach social studies, but is now the K-12 Technology Integrationist and Instructional Coach at Rock Valley Community Schools in Iowa. She put together a list of favorite digital tools for the social studies classroom and shared them during an edWeb webinar. She emphasizes that, as with any classroom technology, teachers need to be careful not to just substitute a tech tool for an analog one. Instead, technology should be used to enhance classroom learning in ways that wouldn’t be possible otherwise, including expanding learning beyond the classroom walls.

Education Next
May 20, 2015

Fareed Zakaria’s bestselling In Defense of a Liberal Education worries that in the era of technology and globalization, “an open-ended exploration of knowledge is seen as a road to nowhere.” But in my U.S. News column this week, I suggest that if we really want to save the liberal arts, we should start in elementary school. Doing so would go a long way toward not just rescuing the liberal arts, but raising reading achievement. I had this thought while reading Dan Willingham’s terrific new book Raising Kids Who Read. Nearly every idea I’ve ever written about reading, I’ve borrowed or stolen from Dan — but none more important than this: Reading comprehension is not a “skill.” Once a child learns to decode fluently, he notes, the biggest factor in a child’s ability to read with understanding is knowing at least a little bit about the topic he or she is reading about.

University of Rochester Medical Center
May 20, 2015

At the end of the school year, districts often send stacks of books home with their students in the hopes of combating the “summer slide,” the literacy loss experienced during the long break that hits low-income students particularly hard. But a study by researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center showed that these programs can be made significantly more effective with only a small tweak: Let the kids choose the books. More than 75 percent of students who were allowed to select at least some of their books maintained or improved their reading levels, compared to a one-month literacy loss seen in previous studies. No significant difference was seen in students who picked all of their own books, compared with a group that selected only some.

KUNC (Colorado)
May 20, 2015

To truly fight the dropout crisis, many advocates say intervention needs to start much earlier than senior year. The Colorado READ Act was created to help young children who struggle with reading. According to many education experts, the ability to read at or above grade level before entering 4th grade is a critical milestone, and a strong predictor of who will ultimately graduate.

PBS NewsHour
May 19, 2015

Russ Whitehurst is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and has studied preschool programs extensively. He says, even though it’s an iconic program, evidence has revealed that Head Start’s long-term outcomes are questionable. Whitehurst points to a 2010 study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the 2014 follow-up report, which found almost no evidence of lasting impacts for Head Start children beyond the third grade. In 2011, President Barack Obama expanded accountability reforms introduced by George W. Bush, and this year has appropriated about $8 billion for Head Start services. Still, Russ Whitehurst says the program isn’t meeting the needs of many low-income families. He believes they would better served with vouchers to choose their own preschools, especially since many Head Start centers are open just a few hours a day. Numbers proving Head Start’s success are hard to come by, but the program’s supporters say they know it’s changed many lives.

Ed Central
May 19, 2015

Based upon 2015 Census data projections for children under eight, children with foreign born parents, and percentage of the population that speaks a language other than English, a reasonable estimate for the number of DLLs is somewhere between seven and nine million, or between 21-27 percent of children under the age of eight. Since the majority of DLLs are U.S. citizens (roughly 9 out of 10) and will play an increasingly important role in the country’s economy in the coming decade, fostering their bilingual and biculturalism at school should be a national priority. However, given these numbers, it is safe to say that DLLs, who total a quarter of children under the age of eight, have language abilities that are likely not leveraged through their formal education.

Philadelphia Inquirer
May 19, 2015

Philadelphia isn't the only large urban area on the East Coast whose public schools no longer require cursive-writing instruction. But some states may be close to turning back the clock to a time when cursive was standard. An Ohio state representative introduced a bill earlier this year mandating handwriting, including cursive, from kindergarten to fifth grade. Tennessee lawmakers passed legislation in 2014 that would make cursive mandatory from second to fourth grades starting this fall. Advocates for the cursive tradition argue that it should continue to be taught so that children can sign their names to legal documents, read historical documents in their original form and carry on a tradition that's as old as time. They point to studies that found that children who write cursive learn to think better and have an advantage when it comes to composition and reading.

SRQ Magazine (Sarasota, FL)
May 19, 2015

Talk, sing, read, write, and play! It is remarkable that these five simple activities identified by the American Library Association promote early literacy all while strengthening the child and parent bond. Early literacy is not the teaching of reading; rather it is laying a strong foundation so that when children are taught to read, they are ready. Parents and caregivers participating in Partners In Play classes by Forty Carrots at the Sarasota and Manatee County libraries are engaged in these five activities that are helping children get ready to read.

School Library Journal
May 18, 2015

First Book, a leading provider of educational resources to kids from low-income families, has unveiled the latest milestone in its Stories for All Project, launched in 2013 and aimed at increasing diversity and inclusivity in children’s literature, in collaboration with Target, KPMG, and JetBlue Airways. First Book has selected six titles that showcase characters and storylines often underrepresented in children’s literature and are making 10,000 copies of each title—totaling 60,000 books—available in affordable trade paperback format for the first time ever.

Asbury Park Press (NJ)
May 18, 2015

A national education newspaper is taking a hard look at literacy in a special report that examines the state of reading instruction for children in early grades. Education Week has explored practices used to teach children how to read at schools across the country. The organization found that some methods are working while others are not. The report discusses school-community efforts to boost early-reading skills, teaching practices that are successful, the neglect of reading fluency, and research on the potentially negative effects of zoning in on 3rd graders' reading proficiency. It also analyzes a program in Alabama schools that has boosted achievement across racial groups. Low literacy has been identified as the root cause of failure in the Asbury Park School District where three in four students are reading below their grade level.

The Gazette (Colorado Springs, CO)
May 18, 2015

The villagers at two Colorado Springs elementary schools are assembling to the beat of a drum they believe imparts a new solution to an age-old problem: Why can't Johnny read? "We think we have the answer," said Bob Null, who has been on the board of Colorado Springs School District 11 since 2007. He and local resident Gary Smith have created a reading model that follows the premise of former first lady Hillary Clinton's 1996 book, "It Takes a Village: And Other Lessons Children Teach Us." Null and Smith contend that as the book suggests, it takes a village to raise a child - including teaching a child to read.

The New York Times
May 15, 2015

RIF started Read for Success in 2012, a two-year program designed to combat summer learning loss, or “summer slide.” The study focused on the three factors RIF has found to be essential to childhood literacy: access to plenty of high-quality books, giving children a choice in selecting those books and book ownership. RIF evaluated thousands of books and settled on a list oriented toward quality art and prose, multiculturalism, STEAM (Science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) and informational texts. This collection of books was given to 173 of the most underserved urban and rural schools in America’s 100 poorest counties. In addition to providing books for children to take home, RIF provided instruction guides and professional development so teachers would have ready access to lesson plans and strategies for incorporating the books into their curriculum. Students enrolled in the Read for Success program made huge gains in their literacy skills. On average, 57 percent of students showed improvements, and nearly half of third graders increased their reading proficiency. The greatest gains were observed in children performing below the 10th percentile, but even students at or above the 90th percentile showed gains in reading proficiency.

Education Week
May 15, 2015

What do we know now about fluency that we didn't know then? What's changed in the 15 years since the National Reading Panel report was released? What tools do teachers have that could've helped me? What I found was that not a ton has changed. The same fluency-building strategies — repeated reading, choral reading, and echo reading — are still well-prescribed. Having students read alone silently is still seen as lacking an evidence base. Some experts said it's clear repeated reading works — now teachers just need to use it more often and more faithfully. Others said additional, larger-scale research on fluency practices is still needed. One thing that has changed, Tim Rasinski, a literacy education professor at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio, told me, is that many teachers are now overly focused on reading speed. "Fluency becomes little more than encouraging kids to read faster and faster," he said. "It gives them the wrong idea about what reading is about."

Education Week
May 15, 2015

As many educators and researchers will attest, there's no exact science to choosing vocabulary words — no inherent reason the word "detest" is more important to teach than "despise," or why "compassion" should be highlighted in a text before "sympathy." But some reading experts, including those who helped write the Common Core State Standards, are saying what's critical about vocabulary instruction is how the words are introduced — and that context is key. "We've known for a long, long time from research that giving students a list of words and asking them to look them up in the dictionary and write a sentence is not an effective way to teach vocabulary," said Nell K. Duke, a professor of literacy, language, and culture at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. A better approach, some say, is to have students focus on a topic—anything from the musculatory system to the Great Depression to Greek myths.

"There is no substitute for books in the life of a child." — May Ellen Chase