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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There's a strong and growing demand for schools to provide instruction across grade levels and subjects that leads to students who are bilingual and biliterate. In this second installment on the growth in dual-language learning, one expert advises schools to take a year to plan a new program and to commit to a multi-year endeavor to teach students to read, write, and speak fluently in two languages. Education Week has talked with several regional and national dual-language education experts, who offer insights into what it takes to launch dual-language programs and strengthen existing ones.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor spoke at the Brooklyn Public Library about her life and the story behind her two new children’s books -- one book geared toward middle-school-aged children, “The Beloved World of Sonia Sotomayor,” as well as an illustrated version for younger children that comes in English and Spanish and is titled “Turning Pages” or “Pasando Páginas.” At the event, Justice Sotomayor recalled how she was a voracious reader as a child, often falling asleep while reading under her bed covers with a flashlight. In her book, Justice Sotomayor explains how she read everything from comic books to mystery series like Nancy Drew. “Books are the things that teach you the things you don’t know about,” she told the audience. “They open possibilities for you. The more you know, the more you can become. Because the more you know, the bigger your dreams.”
Hispanic Heritage Month is here, and if your kid is a little bookworm, there are plenty of ways to celebrate. This celebration started as a Hispanic Heritage Week until 1988, when it was expanded to a 30-day event that now lasts from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. We rounded up 19 children’s books to teach kids the same thing, through cultural icons, traditions, art and more. Check them out here.
With each new season of children’s books, subjects seem to cluster. Not long ago, a slew of sloth books appeared. Then two blobfish books, in the same month. This year it’s picture books that wear their hearts on their sleeves, displaying value statements, as titles, on their jackets. Now four new picture books, whose illustrators are among America’s best, arrive with almost matching titles: “The Dreamer,” “Dreamers,” “Imagine!” and “Imagine.” Until recently, people who imagined were dreamers, more or less; now “dreamer” has taken on an additional, weighty meaning. Two of these four books contend with the dreams that immigrants harbor, while two just celebrate the liberating imagination that informs both art and science. You might guess which are which, and you’d be wrong.
In Nikki Sawyers' third-grade class at Blue Grass Elementary School, there's no one way she teaches her students how to read. It's an individual process, the reading and language arts teacher emphasizes, as she often breaks students up into small groups to focus on certain elements of reading they may be struggling with. Her mission to help students develop as readers has become a leading priority in Knox County Schools championed by Superintendent Bob Thomas, particularly as 39.2 percent of the district’s third-grade students tested on grade level or mastered reading last year. Each day, Sawyers also facilitates a "quick write" assignment in which she assesses her kids' comprehension. As students read, the teacher asks them questions so they stow away the knowledge they need from the content to answer the quick write at the end.
The Center for Research on Learning at the University of Kansas has been selected to be part of a $27 million federal grant to help schools across the state boost language and literacy skills for struggling readers. The grant was awarded by the Kansas State Department of Education as part of the Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy Initiative funded by the U.S. Department of Education. The initiative is designed to improve literacy skills for students from birth through grade 12, including pre-literacy skills, reading and writing, with a focus on English learners, students with disabilities and students from low-income households. Throughout the life of the grant, KU researchers will work with teachers in the selected schools to help them set goals for student learning, develop action plans for meeting their goals and assist with their implementation of evidence-based curriculum and instruction. They have also developed a virtual instructional coaching model.
How can states ensure children make a smooth transition from preschool to kindergarten? That's one of the key questions researchers tackle in a new report released this month by the Education Commission of the States, a nonpartisan group that tracks policies related to education. The report cites research showing that without systems in place to ensure a smooth transition from preschool to kindergarten, children can suffer socially and academically. Despite this, the report notes that only six states address this transition in statute, or through state law, and only 14, including the District of Columbia, do so by code, which is a rule that's typically mandated by a state board of education. Three states, California, Massachusetts, and West Virginia, are profiled in the report for their efforts to help ease children into kindergarten.
Low-income minority students benefit from having teachers who look like them, studies show. But qualified minority teachers are in short supply, leading some to advocate relaxing the qualifications. The problem is, that risks putting disadvantaged kids even further behind. Only about 50% of American students in kindergarten through twelfth grade are white;16% are black and 25% Hispanic. For teachers, the proportions are different: 80% are white; only 7% are black and 9% Hispanic.We don't have to choose between bringing more teachers of color into the workforce and ensuring teachers have the knowledge they need to equip students for success. To improve outcomes for the most vulnerable students, we need to do both.
Inspiring, life-changing, thrilling, hilarious, emotional. In some combination, those are the types of experiences all school librarians aim for when they host an author at their school. Increasingly, they also want interaction. It’s as much about the conversation as the presentation. For a generation of young people accustomed to constant virtual banter, more authors are turning to games, workshopping kids’ stories, and student-centered activities to forge connections and make a lasting impact. The most inspiring visitors often use a range of strategies—including improv, surprise guests, and selfie opportunities—to create that memorable experience.
A new brief from the National Council on Teacher Quality found that a large majority of states haven't taken steps to make sure their teachers have sufficient knowledge to teach reading. According to the organization, just 11 states require licensing tests for both elementary and special education teachers to measure their knowledge of reading instruction. The other 40 states either don't have sufficient licensing tests in place for both groups of teachers or have no test at all. As the four-page "databurst" report noted, "The lack of these safeguards is especially notable for special education teacher candidates ... given that reading disabilities are the primary reason that students are referred for special education services." According to NCTQ research, five states have adequate tests in place for the elementary teacher candidates, but not the special ed candidates.
Writing workshops are a common daily feature in many classrooms, including my own. However, the work used to feel robotic. Writing time was not enjoyable, students did not see themselves as authors, and their craft was not improving. The workshop was not working. To reinvigorate our writing workshop, I studied Katie Wood Ray’s text, The Writing Workshop: Working Through the Hard Parts (And They’re All Hard Parts) (National Council for Teachers of English). After simple adjustments and a willingness to let students lead and guide learning, our writing workshop began to work for all involved. Moving to authentic, student-driven writing has improved student engagement and quality of work.
At 150, Louisa May Alcott’s classic book for girls, “Little Women,” is not getting older — it just keeps getting better, according to Anne Phillips and Greg Eiselein, two Kansas State University experts on the author and her most famous work. “’Little Women’ is the quintessential coming-of-age novel, so it remains relevant, especially as it considers human ambitions, aspirations, challenges and sacrifices,” Phillips said. “In depicting not only the March sisters’ coming of age but also their neighbor Theodore ‘Laurie’ Laurence’s maturation process, Alcott provided an especially well-rounded and compelling perspective on maturation.” Eiselein said the novel appeals to a wide variety of people. One example, he said, is parents seeking advice on raising their children and teaching them how to negotiate life’s challenges and trials.
Even for people who love books, finding the opportunity to read can be a challenge. Many, then, rely on audiobooks, a convenient alternative to old-fashioned reading. You can listen to the latest bestseller while commuting or cleaning up the house. But is listening to a book really the same as reading one? Find out what the research says about the pros and cons of audiobooks and differences in reading comprehension with audio text versus print text.
Attention exhausted parents: The next time your toddler starts making strange noises or babbling about Paw Patrol, try to strike up a conversation — it could make a big difference later, researchers say. A study published this week in Pediatrics found that toddlers with parents who spend lots of time listening and chatting with them are more likely to have better language skills and higher IQs a decade later than youngsters left hanging in silence. "If you knew that children who were fed a certain nutritional diet at age two were not only far healthier as toddlers, but much more likely to be in a healthy weight range at age 12, you'd want to pursue those findings, wouldn't you?" said study author Jill Gilkerson, senior director of research and evaluation at the LENA Foundation, a non-profit charity in Boulder, Col. "Conversational turns are that diet, that nutrition, for the brain."
Ten contenders for the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature have been announced by the National Book Foundation. Finalists will be revealed on October 10 and the winners will be announced November 14 at the National Book Awards ceremony in New York City. Among the longlisted authors are M.T. Anderson—who won the National Book Award in this category in 2006—for The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge (Candlewick), illustrated by Eugene Yelchin, and debut novelist Joy McCullough for Blood Water Paint (Penguin Random House). Two middle grade titles made this year’s longlist: The Journey of Little Charlie (Scholastic) by Newbery Medal winner Christopher Paul Curtis and Leslie Connor’s The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle (HarperCollins).
Scientific research has shown how children learn to read and how they should be taught. But many educators don't know the science and, in some cases, actively resist it. As a result, millions of kids are being set up to fail.
Many teachers have never learned how to teach reading using the method that science has determined to be effective, as an important new radio documentary explains. Others simply reject the evidence. But the documentary shows that in some places, things are at last beginning to change. On national reading tests, about two-thirds of American students score below the proficient level. For some, the problem is a lack of knowledge and vocabulary. For many others, it’s even more basic: no one has taught them how to sound out words. Released today, the American Public Media documentary—titled “Hard Words: Why Aren’t Our Kids Being Taught to Read?”—first zeroes in on Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, where educators realized that even some high school students couldn't decipher unfamiliar words in their textbooks. And it wasn’t just poor kids who had that problem, as many assumed. Nationally, according to the documentary, one third of struggling readers come from college-educated families.
The Alcorn School District in north Mississippi, which has been prioritizing literacy in the youngest grades for the past few years, is among several districts examining what initiatives have most helped improve literacy scores. Officials at Alcorn say they are seeing progress, which is reflected in the test scores: During the 2016-17 school year, about 44 percent of third grade students scored proficient on the state reading assessment, up from around 36 percent during the 2014-15 school year. What has the district done to boost scores? Here are four actions district officials say are key.
According to an international study published in 2016 by Zeno Group, today’s youth are more socially and globally minded than previous generations and share an enthusiastic desire to find new solutions to the world's most pressing problems. In this week’s column, we review a few of the many recently published books that introduce critical issues, spark important conversations, invite further exploration, and support the activism of children and young adults who want to contribute to positive change.
As students have returned to school, they have been greeted by teachers who, more likely than not, are white women. That means many students will be continuing to see teachers who are a different gender than they are, and a different skin color. Does it matter? Yes, according to a significant body of research: Students tend to benefit from having teachers who look like them, especially nonwhite students. The homogeneity of teachers is probably one of the contributors, the research suggests, to the stubborn gender and race gaps in student achievement: Over all, girls outperform boys (with an exception in math in certain districts), and white students outperform those who are black and Hispanic.