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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Dyslexia, my constant companion, occupies a taboo place in my personal narrative. Like my breath, I often forget it’s there. Sometimes I delude myself into thinking I’ve outgrown it. When I told friends that I was writing this article, several advised me to back out of the contract. One didn’t even believe me when I told her I was dyslexic. How could I be a writer? They were concerned this assignment might be my last. But I’ve never thought of myself as having a disability. Instead, I see it as a glitch, and one I've gotten good at masking. I've been able to hide my dyslexia for decades simply because I live in an age of technological wonders. But something happened a few months ago to break me out of my familiar routines. I began writing with the help of an AI-powered browser plug-in so adept at correcting my linguistic missteps, it ended up sending me on a quest to discover what life might be like in a technologically enabled post-dyslexic world.
As many as 4,059 South Carolina students might have to repeat the third grade next school year because they failed a reading test, thanks to a state law that seeks to address literacy problems early on. Put another way: In a representative class of 30 third-graders from across the state, two children would face the prospect of getting held back. When it comes to reading, South Carolina is a dark spot on the map. The state slid to 47th in the nation this year on the fourth-grade reading portion of the NAEP, a nationally standardized test dubbed the "Nation's Report Card." The students who don't qualify for an exemption still have one chance to move on: If they attend one of the five-week Summer Reading Camps taking place in districts across the state, and if they show they're hitting the mark on a literacy portfolio or test at the end of the camp, they can progress to the fourth grade this fall.
Reading a book to a small child can create a connection of exquisite intimacy, with the book itself as a vital point of contact. The quality of such a book is inextricably linked to the quality of that interaction. Such thoughts are stirred by these four new picture books featuring a loving relationship between a child and a grandparent. Leafing through each of these books, one tends to step outside the story and imagine it being read by grandparent to child. The fact that the two parties in this imagined scenario are in the earliest and latest chapters of their lives lends each book more than the usual measure of emotion.
Technology hasn’t only changed the way students find information—the way students can create texts has changed as well. They can use digital languages, including coding, to add video and sound or even make texts that change in response to commands by the readers—no two readers of the same text might ever see the same sequence of words, for example. Increasingly, for our students who are fully literate, writing is becoming about creating an experience for the reader. This must lead to changes in our approach to literacy in schools.
For Bradley Dilworth, 12, a celebratory meal at a restaurant with his family is a stressful event because, unlike his peers, he struggles to read the menu. In spite of his completion of Waco ISD’s dyslexia program at Tennyson Middle School, private after-school tutoring, Saturday tutoring, summer tutoring, and an additional two hours a day of “daddy work” with his father, Barbara Dilworth said her youngest son still struggles with reading because of dyslexia. And Dilworth recently learned Bradley, like other dyslexic students in Texas, may have been denied special education services schools are required to evaluate for.
Roughly 1.5 million American children attend state and federally funded pre-kindergarten in 43 states and Washington, D.C., but research shows quality and access vary across states, even from one classroom to the next. A number of states want to improve the quality of pre-K classes. A study suggesting the benefits of pre-K may not be long-lasting has sparked debate in Tennessee, where proposals for state-funded, universal programs are an issue in this year's governor's race. What’s behind the finding, and what are the keys to quality early education?
Small group math instruction outside of regular class time helped kindergartners in high-poverty schools perform better in math in a study conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan. More than 650 kindergarten students in low-income New York City schools participated in the High 5s program, an initiative designed to make math instruction fun in a club-like environment. "All of the activities were presented to children in the format of a game," said Robin Jacob, a research associate professor at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan, who helped to design the program, which was intended to give children an opportunity for hands-on learning and individualized instruction.
Whether or not there’s a texting ninja under your roof, here’s a few tried and true ideas to prevent early learning gains from slipping. Here are three ideas: Have your child keep a vacation diary. Record the names of parks, zoos, people, even animals encountered. (These are real treasures in years to come.) Turn grocery shopping into a game. Read the ingredients. Compare prices. Build a model toy, plane, boat, whatever. Assembling models requires reading and following directions. Demand cellphone-free meals and dedicate a fun half-hour each day to beating the summer slide. Your child’s teacher will thank you.
For the first time, the World Health Organization has officially designated "gaming disorder" among its list of mental health addictive behaviors. The move touches off a dispute among some researchers and clinicians over whether there is science to back the decision, and how it might impact children, families, and educators. Schools are increasingly embracing the use of gamification and digital gaming in the classroom to engage students. As concerns about video games rise, some educational gaming proponents worry that there could be blowback on classroom gaming techniques that engage students, boost learning, and promote positive interactions. Liz Kolb, a clinical associate professor of teacher education and learning technologies at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, cautioned that video gaming addiction should not be lumped in with educational gaming and gamification techniques. "You have to separate out the fact that gamification is an approach to teaching," she said. "We want to make sure to...recognize the positive things within gaming: the collaboration, problem solving, critical thinking skills."
Though much of the parent involvement research focuses on mothers, emerging studies show involved fathers can significantly improve their children's educational progress, too. Here are some of the ways dads make a difference, and how schools can do more to support them. One recent analysis of 66 studies of urban children in pre-K through college found that on average, involved fathers of all races were associated with significantly better education outcomes, equal to nearly a half year of typical academic learning. And while dads had a little more of an impact on elementary-age children than teenagers—as any parent of teenagers probably already believes—involved fathers had significant benefits for their older children, too.
Whether depicting a trip to the beach or a ramble through the neighborhood, these summer-themed books focus on getting outdoors, nurturing imaginations, and savoring time spent with family and friends.
Screen time is a battle for many families. I've talked with parents who lock video game systems in the car overnight, hold on to iPad chargers, or who refuse to get a teen's cracked phone screen fixed, all to curb use. Earlier this month, Apple became the latest company to announce they're arming parents with more technical weapons, by adding Screen Time and more parental controls to iOS. The company isn't alone — besides Google's Family Link, Disney has a product called Circle, and Amazon has FreeTime. Plus, there are more third-party apps, including Net Nanny and Qustodio, and devices, like Torch and unGlue. All these products promise to help parents enforce time limits and steer kids to safer browsing or more positive activities with media. How do you make sense of all the different options out there?
The 1990s Hart/Risley study was a sensation, with the media and policymakers fixating on the so-called “word gap” as a key source of longer-term academic disparities between poor and rich kids. It was immediately embraced by academic researchers, and was cited in more than 7,000 academic publications. It influenced welfare initiatives, government pilot programs, and grant campaigns. Now, a new study has failed to replicate Hart and Risley’s findings, further complicating the legacy of this body of research and renewing a long-standing debate among researchers about just how large disparities of language and vocabulary are among different social classes—and how much those differences matter, if at all.
Recall fun adventures shared with a child. Did these moments occur while grocery shopping, fishing, building sandcastles, eating ice cream, baking cookies, swimming, visiting Disney, discussing a book or new experience? Anyone of these activities, along with many others, can be used to engage children in a visual storytelling activity. Following are step-by-step instructions and examples to inspire photo-writing adventures.
The early years are when the brain develops the most, forming neural connections that pave the way for how a child — and the eventual adult — will express feelings, embark on a task, and learn new skills and concepts. Scientists have even theorized that the anatomical structure of neural connections forms the basis for how children identify letters and recognize words. In other words, the brain’s architecture may predetermine who will have trouble with reading, including children with dyslexia. But teaching can change that, a new University of Washington study finds. Using MRI measurements of the brain’s neural connections, or “white matter,” UW researchers have shown that, in struggling readers, the neural circuitry strengthened — and their reading performance improved — after just eight weeks of a specialized tutoring program. The study, published June 8 in Nature Communications, is the first to measure white matter during an intensive educational intervention and link children’s learning with their brains’ flexibility.
Brigitte Alepin, is the creator of "Radio Dodo," or Sleepytime Radio, a program that creates bedtime stories for Syrian refugees. Her team of volunteers works out of a studio in Quebec. Local radio stations broadcast the show on Sundays around bedtime in areas with a lot of refugees and people sheltering from war. Originally it was just for Syrian children. Now it's also on the radio in Mali. As for the name Radio Dodo ... "The word dodo is coming from the French word dormir, but it's generally only for children. So when a child goes to sleep, we will tell him, have beautiful dodo."
Books were my anchors whenever I questioned myself, my attractiveness, my magic. Yet even in the pages that became my solace, I rarely saw images of black kids like me — weird, “quirky” and shy — who just got to be regular kids, grappling with everyday kid stuff. Much later, when I decided to write a children’s book, hair seemed like a natural subject, inspired by the special time I shared with my mom as she combed my hair, which had awakened my love of storytelling. But I also wanted to expand the kinds of stories told about African-American kids. The result was “I Love My Hair!,” a story about an African-American girl who uses vivid imagery to celebrate the ways she wears her hair, published in 1998 and now being reissued on its 20th anniversary. In “I Love My Hair!” I sought to create a whimsical story that encouraged kids not only to love their hair, but also to explore and find joy in their own imaginations.
The numbers are stark and staggering. Nearly a quarter of third graders who aren’t reading at grade level will not graduate from high school by the time they are 19. Once they get beyond the literacy skill-building support of elementary school, those who fail sixth grade English run an 82 percent chance of never graduating. With the negative predictors so clear, we have to talk about teens who are struggling readers: Who are they, what do they need, and how can libraries help them? Reading specialist and Book Whisperer author Donalyn Miller suggests that the first thing we must do is to stop calling them struggling. “I don’t see a lot of hope in that word,” she says. “It just reinforces this mind-set that some people can become readers and some people cannot. And as a teacher, I can’t subscribe to an idea that says some of my kids are not going to make it.” Miller prefers the term developing readers. “We’re all on the same highway, headed to the same destination. We’re just at different mile markers,” she says. Developing readers are different from dormant readers—Miller’s preferred term for reluctant readers.
A shared book reading intervention to help language and literacy skills in preschoolers on the autism spectrum has been successfully delivered by Griffith University and Autism CRC. The news comes in time for Autistic Pride Day on June 18, which is a celebration of the neurodiversity of people on the autism spectrum. Autistic pride recognises the innate strengths and abilities of all people, including those on the autism spectrum. This eight week intervention pilot study took place in Brisbane and on the Gold Coast, and sought to develop early spoken language and emergent literacy skills. It investigated whether a home-based shared book reading intervention would help facilitate these skills in children under six who had not yet started school and was led by Autism CRC project leader and Griffith senior lecturer Dr Marleen Westerveld from the university’s Menzies Health Institute Queensland.
Mental health concerns, like anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, can affect a student’s ability to concentrate, form friendships and thrive in the classroom. Educators and school counselors often provide Social and Emotional Learning programs (SEL) in order to help these students, as well as school-based therapeutic support groups. However, even in these forums, getting teenagers to speak about their problems can be challenging, especially when they feel like outsiders and worry about judgment from their peers. That is why Anita Cellucci, a school librarian at Westborough High School in Westborough, Massachusetts, developed an alternative way to support struggling students at the school. Cellucci and school counselor Ceil Parteleno began a six-week group specifically targeted to students who had experienced trauma and loss. Drawing upon Cellucci’s knowledge and love of books, and Parteleno’s expertise as a counselor, the pair began a unique school-based support group, using storytelling and literature as a way to help kids understand and cope with their emotions. This kind of support is known as bibliotherapy.