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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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National Public Radio
February 9, 2016

Erika Christakis' new book, The Importance Of Being Little, is an impassioned plea for educators and parents to put down the worksheets and flash cards. Ditch the tired craft projects (yes you, Thanksgiving Handprint Turkey) and exotic vocabulary lessons, and double-down on one, simple word: Play. That's because, she writes, "the distinction between early education and official school seems to be disappearing." If kindergarten is the new first grade, Christakis argues, preschool is quickly becoming the new kindergarten. And that is "a real threat to our society's future."

KQED Mindshift
February 9, 2016

Mark Pennington’s students often read on their laptops. Pennington, who’s a reading specialist in Elk Grove near Sacramento, Calif., sees a need to teach kids how to read digitally and stay engaged, and thinks that digital reading will eventually catch up to what kids can do reading print. When asked if his seventh-graders are more engaged when reading from digital readers or in print, he said it depends — motivation and environment play a big role. The trick to being a good reader, no matter the medium, is being an engaged reader, a fact that Pennington notes is well-supported by research. “It’s pretty clear that good readers are active readers engaged with the text,” he said.

The Atlantic
February 9, 2016

The staff at McGlone Elementary School has a mantra: Happy kids learn more. It’s why the extended-day school in far northeast Denver offers nearly two hours of specials like art and music per day; why the cheerful and affectionate principal keeps a few “golden tickets” clipped to her lanyard to give out as rewards; and why the classrooms aren’t the hushed, sit-up-straight, no-excuses type you might find elsewhere. McGlone’s joyful philosophy seems to be working. Once one of the lowest-performing schools in the city, its impressive academic growth has turned it into a district darling. Then-U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan toured the school last spring, and the district recently made a video about McGlone after its students showed remarkable improvement on state literacy tests.

Commercial News (Danville, IL)
February 9, 2016

For a 2-year-old, Charity Henton has a good vocabulary. “People are surprised she speaks so well, and puts sentences together well,” her mother said. It helps that the girl’s parents, Brittney and Jason, are college-educated, and know the value of an early education. It also helps that the family — including 6-month-old Jacob — is participating in the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, which partners locally with the United Way of Danville Area. Charity loves getting a free book in the mail once a month, and will continue to get a book until she’s 5. Giving children access to books is just one part of the United Way’s plan to help families get children ready for school — which, in turn, prepares them for success in life and future financial stability.

Ed Central
February 8, 2016

The National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE) and Learning First recently released a report entitled Beyond PD: Teacher Professional Learning in High-Performing Systems. The authors analyze the professional learning practices of four high-performing international education systems — British Columbia, Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Singapore—and find common themes. All systems emphasize the integration of professional learning into teachers’ weekly routines. Teachers have access to effective professional learning leaders, PD is continuously evaluated for its impact on student learning and instruction, and teachers receive dedicated time to collaborate with their peers. By contrast, the United States spends billions on professional development (PD), which tends to be ineffective. Even “job-embedded” PD is often reported as low-quality. And teachers typically lack the incentives, structure, and time to learn from their more effective peers. Perhaps most importantly, the decentralized structure of the U.S. education system — with various federal, state, and local-level governance structures — makes it nearly impossible to prescribe a national PD model from Washington, D.C.

KQED Mindshift
February 8, 2016

There is a relative lack of research available examining the effect of search engines on our brains even as the technology is rapidly dominating our lives. Of the studies available, the answers are sometimes unclear. Some argue that with easy access to information, we have more space in our brain to engage in creative activities, as humans have in the past. The few studies available, however, do not seem to bode well for the Google generation. A 2008 study commissioned by the British Library found that young people go through information online very quickly without evaluating it for accuracy. A 2011 study in the journal Science showed that when people know they have future access to information, they tend to have a better memory of how and where to find the information — instead of recalling the information itself.

International Literacy Association Daily
February 8, 2016

I love books—all books—but especially international books. I eagerly await the announcement in January of USBBY’s Outstanding International Books. Which of the books on the list have I read? Which did I miss? There are 42 books on the 2016 list, and I found I had some catching up to do. Here are the books that I missed during the year and enjoyed reading during the last few weeks.

Free Lance-Star (Fredericksburg, VA)
February 8, 2016

The world has Jerry Pinkney’s mother to thank for giving us one of children’s literature’s greatest illustrators. He suffered from dyslexia, although it went unnamed for 40 years, and his mother read aloud to him, fostering his love of books and encouraging his interest in art. In his over 50-year career, Pinkney has won multiple awards, illustrated over 100 books, and in 2016 received two of children’s literature’s highest honors.

Education Week
February 5, 2016

Students who took the 2014-15 PARCC exams via computer tended to score lower than those who took the exams with paper and pencil—a revelation that prompts questions about the validity of the test results and poses potentially big problems for state and district leaders. Hard numbers from across the consortium are not yet available. But the advantage for paper-and-pencil test-takers appears in some cases to be substantial, based on independent analyses conducted by one prominent PARCC state and a high-profile school district that administered the exams.

KQED Education
February 5, 2016

Whole class discussions come with limitations. This is why, over many years of teaching, I’ve tried different approaches to encourage meaningful dialogue among students. To me, a conversation isn’t meaningful if only 15 to 20% of the class is talking during the period. This is why I think the following strategies are great alternatives to the traditional approach of whole class discussions. In my classroom, I try to utilize a variety of strategies to give my students choice and to increase engagement. My goal is to foster a collaborative environment where all participants can feel they are a part of a larger conversation.

Los Angeles Times
February 5, 2016

Would you like fries with that children's book? From Tuesday through Feb. 15, people ordering Happy Meals at McDonald's will get a book as their prize. More than 17 million books will be distributed this way. The Happy Meals will contain one of four books, including the classic "Paddington" by Michael Bond and illustrated by R. W. Alley. The three other titles all have Valentine's Day themes. Spanish-language versions of the books will be available at some stores. McDonald's has partnered with the literacy nonprofit Reading is Fundamental, donating 100,000 books to the organization.

Minnesota Public Radio
February 5, 2016

The lack of diversity in publishing is not a new issue. The Cooperative Children's Book Center at the University of Wisconsin - Madison has been studying it for years. In 2014, of 3,500 children's books received by the center, less than nine percent were written by authors of color. The trend extends to the characters in those books: Only 11 percent of the books were about characters of color. The problem is not confined to children's books. Bestseller lists for adult fiction and nonfiction remain overwhelmingly white, though there are exceptions. Groups like We Need Diverse Books have been calling attention to the issue in recent years. Now, a new survey commissioned by the publisher Lee & Low Books provides the first-ever comprehensive look inside the industry.

WAMU 88.5 (Washington, D.C.)
February 4, 2016

A long-standing challenge in education is the dreaded “summer slide,” where children — especially those from low income families — lose some of the academic gains they made during the school year while they’re on vacation. Council member David Grosso says he visited Cooke Elementary recently, where he said the principal told him this was a “huge problem.” That school is one of 11 schools that will open in the fall with an extended school year: 200 days of instruction instead of 180. There will also be eight optional days where students who are struggling can come in to get their needs met. Chancellor Kaya Henderson says this is not an experiment. “There is very clear evidence that providing students with more instructional opportunities, more time for enrichment, particularly students who are the neediest, that leads to better outcomes.”

The Atlantic
February 4, 2016

What are the school colors? Is the whole school free? What happens if you miss a class? Is there detention? How many books are there in the library? These were just some of the questions eager Long Beach Unified School District 9- and 10-year-olds tossed during their Long Beach City College tour last spring. Their student tour guide, Ashley Martinez-Munoz, a graduate of Long Beach schools herself, took each question from the Madison Elementary School students seriously. After all, the goal of the tour was to make these fourth graders — many of whom come from families with no history of going to college — comfortable with the notion that they could earn a college degree, whether or not their parents did, as long as they’re willing to work for it.

International Literacy Association Daily
February 4, 2016

Do you often look at the short, complex text you’ve chosen for students to closely read and wonder what questions would best support their comprehension? As you examine the text, do you remind yourself that you need to ask questions that invite analysis of what the text says, how it works, and what it means? Clearly a consideration of the reader, the task, and the sociocultural context of the text is necessary, but the text should also inform the type of questions you need generate for students to achieve critical analysis. Not all questions provide equal support, so you must be very intentional in your analysis of the text and in your crafting of questions.

School Library Journal
February 4, 2016

Fairy tales are dead, right? I mean, other than the princess empire that dominates movie land, fairy tales just don’t exist anymore. Of this I was absolutely certain — that they were deader than the Grimms. Sure, sure, there are plenty of kiddo and YA novels borrowing from fairy tale land. But fairy tale library programming, in my expert opinion, was extinct. Turns out, it is a good thing I am not an expert in fairy tales—because I was wrong. Not only are folk and fairy tale collections still pulling their weight on our shelves and in classroom curriculum, but they continue to pop up in programming, often in new and creative ways. Prepare to be inspired.

KQED Mindshift
February 3, 2016

A report by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop and Rutgers University found that until all families have reliable Internet access at home, learning environments will not be equitable. Kids who don’t have reliable Internet access at home (which includes the use of a laptop of desktop for connecting to the Internet) are “less likely to go online to look up information about things that they are interested in,” according to the report. While mobile devices do provide Internet access, kids don’t seem to use them for the deeper type of informal learning championed by tech advocates: 35 percent of children with mobile-only access look up information often, as compared with 52 percent of kids with Internet at home.

Ed Central
February 3, 2016

In a recently released report from New America’s Early & Elementary Education Policy team, we ranked all 50 states and the District of Columbia on 65 policy indicators in seven policy areas that foster children’s literacy skills for third grade reading proficiency. We grouped states into three categories– crawling, toddling, or walking–based on whether or not states met our policy indicators. One of the policy areas that we analyzed was full-day kindergarten. Shockingly, only 12 states (most of them in the south) require their school districts by statute to provide full-day kindergarten. Two additional states (Washington and Rhode Island) are in the process of transitioning to statewide full-day kindergarten programs. As of 2014, thirty-five states do not require kindergarten attendance at all.

PBS NewsHour
February 3, 2016

Since 1998, Oklahoma has had fully funded preschool for every child, regardless of family income. Investing in preschool at the same level as K-12 has paid off here. Oklahoma was one of only 13 states to see significant growth on fourth grade reading scores this year as measured by the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Oklahoma was the fourth most-improved state in that category. Its fourth grade reading scores have trended upwards since 2002, the year before its first cohort of preschool grads reached third grade. And though Oklahoma has a long way to go to catch top scorers like Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont, the state is now on par with the national average fourth grade reading score for the first time in over a decade.

School Library Journal
February 3, 2016

Arranged chronologically, these informational picture books highlight trailblazing African Americans and significant moments throughout history. In addition to relating historical facts, these titles blend dynamic text and striking artwork to tell compelling stories, create a riveting sense of immediacy, and provide insightful and emotionally perceptive introductions to individuals of great courage and conviction. Use these books as a starting point for more in-depth treatment of the individuals and events presented and to initiate discussion of the African American experience throughout history.

"You know you’ve read a good book when you turn the last page and feel a little as if you have lost a friend." — Paul Sweeney