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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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The New York Times
August 28, 2015

Comprehension skills are important. However, as the cognitive scientist Daniel T. Willingham and others have demonstrated, you can’t improve reading comprehension just by practicing free-floating skills. For students to understand what they’re reading, they need relevant background knowledge and vocabulary. The education theorist E. D. Hirsch Jr. has argued for 30 years that elementary schools need to focus on knowledge. Mr. Hirsch’s ideas were long dismissed as encouraging a reactionary cultural tradition, but they are now beginning to command new respect among education reformers. And that’s largely because of the new Common Core education standards, currently in effect in more than 40 states and the District of Columbia. While critics blame the Common Core for further narrowing curriculums, the authors of the standards actually saw them as a tool to counteract that trend. They even included language stressing the importance of “building knowledge systematically.”

Understood
August 28, 2015

A national online survey by Understood founding partner National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD) found that having an IEP or a 504 plan wasn’t the most important factor in predicting future success. What mattered most was having strong support from parents, a strong connection to friends and community, and a strong sense of self-confidence.

iSchool Guide
August 28, 2015

The Alliance for Excellent Education, a Washington, D.C.-based education advocacy group, recently published a new report that found 60 percent of America's fourth and eighth graders are having reading issues. The group is urging the Congress to consider improving student literacy, from early childhood through grade 12, on its No Child Left Behind rewrite. "Teaching students to read when they are young is an important booster shot, but not a lifelong inoculation, against further reading problems," said Bob Wise, the organization's president. "Instead, students need continued reading and writing support throughout their educational career-especially as they encounter more challenging reading material in middle and high school." Wise, however, said only few states offer this continued support and this resulted in the majority of today's youth leaving high school without the necessary writing and reading skills for success.

Education Week
August 28, 2015

Head Start, the federal preschool program for children living in poverty, educates a significant portion of the few homeless children who are enrolled in preschool across the country. (Only about 3 percent of homeless children are enrolled in public preschools, according to the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth.) But a summer program in the Boston area, in its second summer this year, caters specifically to these children, with the idea of offering them a few "normal" hours in the midst of their often hectic and disorganized lives.

Education Week
August 28, 2015

Head Start, the federal preschool program for children living in poverty, educates a significant portion of the few homeless children who are enrolled in preschool across the country. (Only about 3 percent of homeless children are enrolled in public preschools, according to the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth.) But a summer program in the Boston area, in its second summer this year, caters specifically to these children, with the idea of offering them a few "normal" hours in the midst of their often hectic and disorganized lives.

National Public Radio
August 27, 2015

Ninety percent of students at Hobgood Elementary in Murfreesboro, Tenn., come from low-income households. Most of the school's teachers don't. And that's a challenge, says principal Tammy Garrett. "If you only know middle-class families, you may not understand at times why they don't have their homework or why they're tired," Garrett says. When she became principal four years ago, Garrett decided to get her teachers out of their classrooms — and comfort zones — for an afternoon. Once a year, just before school starts, they board a pair of yellow buses and head for the neighborhoods and apartment complexes where Hobgood students live.

Games and Learning
August 27, 2015

Speakaboos began with a simple, if ambitious, goal: to increase childhood literacy from pre-school to second grade. “We saw a real need in the publishing landscape to bring books to digital – specifically children’s books,” said Noelle Millholt, COO and co-founder of Speakaboos. “We also saw an opportunity to use interactivity… to add literacy support and additional comprehension-based activities to books that just aren’t available through a traditional book.” The result is a so-called scaffolded learning experience that walks kids through three stages, depending on their readiness – Read to Me, Read and Play, and Read it Myself.

School Library Journal
August 27, 2015

The School District of Philadelphia (SDP) has launched a $30 million early literacy initiative intended to ensure that by 2020, all students are reading on grade level when they reach fourth grade. Focusing on the district’s 48,000 kindergarten through third-grade students, the effort began this summer, with about 700 teachers and principals from 40 schools attending a week-long series of workshops. Dovetailing with the city’s READ! by 4th campaign, led by the Free Library of Philadelphia, the new three-year program will include teacher training, on-site support for teachers, and in-class libraries, with books students can check out selected with an eye to their reading abilities.

Portland Tribune
August 27, 2015

Two bills passed during the 2015 Oregon legislative session should help young students with dyslexia. Senate Bill 612 calls for at least one teacher in every K-5 school to be trained in teaching and identifying dyslexia; to screen all kindergartners and first-graders for dyslexia; and to designate a dyslexia specialist at the Oregon Department of Education. House Bill 2412 directs the state Teacher Standards and Practices Commission to ensure that the 20 early childhood education programs in the state incorporate dyslexia training into their college curriculum.

Huffington Post
August 26, 2015

Reading is a wonderful way to expand children's worlds and to bond children and caregivers, and one that can start at birth. It also is a crucial way to help children gain the language and literacy skills needed for a good start in school. The effects of early reading ability are far-reaching. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, "Reading proficiency by third grade is the most significant predictor of high school graduation and career success, yet two-thirds of U.S. third-graders lack competent reading skills." To help your child develop these important skills, make reading a daily activity, starting on day one.

National Public Radio
August 26, 2015

High school English teacher Jennifer McQuillan spent the summer collecting clippings from the gardens of American authors. She's using them to plant a "literary garden" in her school's courtyard.

School Library Journal
August 26, 2015

The Academy of American Poets hopes to give teachers in all content areas multiple opportunities to integrate poetry into their instruction with Teach this Poem, a new, free weekly email that features a poem along with instructional resources and ideas for activities related to the selection. Teachers can sign up now to begin receiving the emails. The Academy created the new resource to build upon the lesson plans already available on its website and to give teachers a version of Poem-a-Day for students.

The Hechinger Report
August 26, 2015

Pediatricians, parents, educators and technology executives are all grappling with questions about the health effects of mobile devices. Too much screen exposure might lead to speech or memory impairments, problems concentrating, inability to self-regulate, addictive behavior or sleep difficulties. But we don’t know for sure. Rather than worrying about unknown risks, leading researchers and pediatricians say, the priority should be placed on paying attention to behavior.

Education Week
August 25, 2015

It's incredibly difficult to learn a second language as an adult, but it's much easier for young children. Not to mention that babies learn an entire first language without a single textbook or Rosetta Stone tutorial. Scientists are still working out how exactly babies' brains allow them to accomplish this incredible feat. Rechele Brooks, a research assistant professor at the University of Washington in Seattle, studies young children's social skills. She and her colleagues recently completed a study that looked at how a specific baby behavior, called gaze shifting, allows infants to learn language. Specifically, they wanted to know whether a higher frequency of this one behavior helped children learn a language other than the one their parents spoke at home. It did.

The Hechinger Report
August 25, 2015

A tiny study of 40 high school students in Chicago perked up some ears recently. It found that a small amount of musical instrument instruction — only two to three hours of band class a week — improved how the teenage brain processed sound. Neuroscientists from Northwestern University made the case that the kind of brain maturation they documented was not only important for becoming a better musician, but also for developing non-musical verbal skills.

Arizona Daily Star
August 25, 2015

Once upon a time, there was a woman who loved children’s books. In fact, Mary Jan Bancroft loved books so much, she wanted to make sure all the kids in Tucson could, too. Seventeen years ago, Bancroft made a way for babies, toddlers and young children to get their hands on stories before reaching kindergarten — even if they or their preschool have limited access to quality books. The nonprofit organization she founded, Make Way for Books, provides early literacy resources to children, families and educators, especially in low-income areas.

Huffington Post
August 25, 2015

As part of our Smart Parents series (and our culminating book, Smart Parents: Parenting for Powerful Learning), we have been discovering new tools, tips and even books for little ones that teach new skills, ways of learning and looking at the world. Inspired by the amazing children's books in our house and suggestions by fellow colleagues, here's our list of the top 20 children's books for the littlest in your house.

The Washington Post
August 21, 2015

It seems counter-intuitive to think that less classroom time and more outdoor play would lead to a better education for kids. But longer time on task doesn’t equate to better results, only greater burnout. For years, educators have tried different unsuccessful strategies – more testing, more instruction– to reverse these trends. The answer, however, is not more class time. It’s more play. Study after study has affirmed the importance of play in children’s physical and mental health. It helps boost language development, problem solving, risk management and independent learning skills. Play is linked to improvements in academic skills, classroom behavior, healthy emotional attitudes and better adjustment to school life. So why aren’t our kids spending more time at recess?

Chalkbeat Tennessee
August 21, 2015

Calling Tennessee’s stagnant reading scores a “true ethical and moral dilemma,” Education Commissioner Candice McQueen is rolling out a pair of initiatives to boost students’ literacy skills, starting even before they enter school. Under McQueen’s plan, educators across the state will get additional training about how to teach reading, support from a growing fleet of literacy coaches, and insights from new standardized tests. In addition, state agencies will team up to grapple with the realities that cause many poor children to start kindergarten without basic literacy skills.

Birmingham Business Journal (AL)
August 21, 2015

Stereotypes regarding literacy in Alabama are less than favorable and recent rankings have done little to say otherwise. I recently reported that Alabama finished 39th overall among U.S. states in a recent WalletHub ranking based on the quality of its school systems. A state where students do not get a proper education, particularly in reading, could also result in a state that does not have a strong or prepared workforce.

"I'm wondering what to read next." — Matilda, Roald Dahl