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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A lowercase "e," it turns out, can be difficult to master. But Patrick Jagiello is endlessly patient. "Slide right, then circle around," Jagiello tells 4-year-old Tarrell Harvey at the sign-in table in Mandy Sluss' preschool class at Milwaukee's Next Door Foundation. Tarrell follows his lead, but his "e" looks a little wobbly. "Here, I'm going to help you," Jagiello tells him, gently placing his hand over the child's hand. And together they move the pencil, sliding right, then circling around. "That's cool," Tarrell tells him, obviously pleased with their effort. "Now, I want to try." That is exactly the reaction founders of the Washington, D.C.-based Literacy Lab hoped to elicit when they created the Leading Men Fellowship, a 2-year-old program aimed at boosting early childhood literacy skills while exposing young men of color to careers in education.
For decades, the Nebraska Writing Project has served the state by offering writing teachers the opportunity to change the face of teaching through collaborations with other educators with one goal in mind: serving the community. Open to kindergarten teachers through college professors, the Nebraska Writing Project aims to increase writing abilities by working with teachers across the state who teach writing in any subject area. For most teachers, the program starts with a summer class, with the option to continue once finished. For teachers, the emphasis is put on their personal writing and the understanding that the best writing teachers are writers themselves.
The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo and Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes are the winners of the 2019 Walter Dean Myers Awards for Outstanding Children's Literature, We Need Diverse Books announced Monday. The award, given in two categories—teen and young readers—recognizes titles by diverse authors that "feature diverse main characters and address diversity in a meaningful way." Two Honors Books were named in each category as well.
At this point in the proceedings, after doing a mess of reading, and reviewing, and contemplating, and pondering, you have a sense of how the year has shaped up. What kind of an award year will this one be? Will there be a lot of surprises or familiar faces? What are the dark horse candidates? Last year I said it was a Wild Card Year, and certainly on the Newbery side that was true. I’m not saying the same for this year. Early in the year the books had a slow start, but as the year progressed we started seeing some really impressive novels and works of nonfiction. Any of the books I mention here today deserve to win, but only a few will.
Once a week, several of the self-service laundromats in underserved areas of Chicago are converted into makeshift libraries where children can read or listen to stories, sing songs, and play educational games. In a city where more than 60 percent of low-income households don’t own any children’s books, the “Laundromat Story Time” program is filling a void. Ever since the Chicago Public Library launched the program in March 2018, it has become a routine in many families’ lives. It has also proven helpful to parents, who receive tips from librarians on how to replicate these reading habits at home and instill a love of reading in their children.
Two San Bernardino County departments are joining forces to help incarcerated parents better connect with their children through the simple but valuable act of reading books to them. Last month, volunteers from the San Bernardino County Public Defender’s Office volunteered time and donated items to the Parent and Child Connection (PACC), a program run by the Inmate Services Unit of the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department. The PACC program gives incarcerated parents the opportunity to record themselves reading books to their children and include personal messages. The goal is to create a connection between the parent and child while reinforcing the importance of reading. Studies show that children who are not read to are at risk for poor language development and are less prepared for classroom learning.
One convenient but sometimes overlooked way to reach out to others is through writing letters. This intimate and personal form of communication brings out the caring side of children, since they must take the time to sit down and think about another person. And what a delight for the child when a letter is returned, and the child’s thoughts are acknowledged! Nothing is better for a child than to see his or her ideas being recognized as important. A somewhat surreptitious way to encourage your children to write letters is to expose them to interesting books, written for their age level, that contain letters. Children will be able to see firsthand the emotional communication skills that lead to fulfilling relationships. And they can learn by example how letters are written.
P.S. 188 on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, known as the Island School, is one of 247 “community schools” in New York. These are regular public schools, with a twist. They have longer days and longer school years: Island stays open 12 hours a day, six days a week, including spring and winter breaks as well as the summer. A psychologist makes weekly rounds. A dentist comes by regularly. So does an optometrist, and students who need glasses get them free. Parents are ubiquitous at the school, learning computer skills, attending a “caring for the caregiver” class or picking up groceries from the food pantry. Pro bono lawyers are available to counsel families on immigration, housing and health insurance. The Island School is a small miracle. But is it the norm? A 2017 RAND Corporation study of the first wave of New York’s community schools concluded that they are generally on the right track. They are staying open longer and finding new ways to help their students. They’re working with families and relying on mentors to persuade students of the value of education.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation plans to invest in professional development providers who will train teachers on “high quality” curricula, the philanthropy announced this afternoon. The announcement fleshes out the curricular prong of the education improvement strategy the influential foundation laid out in late 2017, a major pivot away from its prior focus on teacher performance. The investment, at around $10 million, is a tiny portion of the approximately $1.7 billion the philanthropy expects to put into K-12 education by 2022. Nevertheless, it’s likely to attract attention for inching closer to the perennially touchy issue of what students learn every day at school.
When Lincoln Peirce comes to Jeff Kinney’s downtown bookstore, An Unlikely Story, it will not only be a convergence of two prominent figures in children’s literature and entertainment. It will also be a reunion of two old friends with an enduring admiration for one another — not to mention sense of gratitude. Peirce, the creator of the Big Nate comic strip and novels, and Kinney, known internationally for the Diary of a Wimpy Kid book series and movies, go way back, and Kinney credits Peirce with being a key inspiration in his eventually writing and illustrating his tales of the trials and triumphs of Greg Heffley. For his part, Peirce says Kinney was a huge help in turning his popular comic strip into a series of bestselling novels.
Entrepreneurs are launching innovative projects to support young children and their caregivers, but the investment pales compared to the investments aimed at children in kindergarten through 12th grade, says a new report from a philanthropic investment group. The Omidyar Network is trying to draw more interest to public and private investment in the early years. In the report "Big Ideas, Little Learners", the network shines a spotlight on several organizations that are already doing work in early childhood, and describes areas where more investment would be transformative. The fragmentation of early-childhood programs is one barrier to investment. But the report outlined several programs that are helping provide more high-quality options for children, as well as professional development for teachers and providers.
Schools in America are experiencing a surge in ethnic and racial diversity, making the classroom fertile ground for multicultural materials. While young people are especially curious about race and race relations and often chat about these issues among themselves, they rush to bury their heads in the metaphorical sand if the topic comes up in the classroom. But with appropriate texts, teachers can coax reluctant students to celebrate other cultures while discussing race without fear or shame. The research is clear that high-quality multicultural literature can be a powerful catalyst for conversation and understanding in classrooms. But teachers may not trust themselves to find the right books to engage students, and a multicultural program that is deficient can do more harm than good.
In an age where truth is harder than ever to pin down, making sure people have the skills to parse data fact from data fiction is of paramount importance. And according to a set of data visualization researchers, the path to improving our relationship with charts starts in elementary school. Although data visualization is a big part of education from an early age, it is also disjointed. The researchers discovered that while visualizations appear often in textbooks, they are not taught in a structured manner. Charts just appear inside different lessons, with the assumption that children comprehend what the chart is showing them because they have seen it before. For many kids, this may work, but others get lost. Researchers believe that making explicit what charts actually represent can help those kids that lose the plot.
Toddlers with a large vocabulary were more likely to start kindergarten ready to read and learn math. It turned out that they also paid more attention in class and were better behaved. This may also be why some kids do better than others in school. Building that vocabulary stems from very early and frequent interactions with mom and dad. It takes only simple things to engage baby, such as talking and reading. In fact, it's hard to overstress the importance of reading to babies. A very young baby may only babble in response to hearing your voice as you read, but when you respond back by repeating or expanding on his or her sound or offering a word with that sound, this back-and-forth interaction helps with language development.
Time is one of the most powerful levers for change in a school. Everything about how a school runs from where staff go, to when they have breaks and collaborative time, to what classes students can take, is based on how leaders schedule the limited time within a school day, week and year. It’s important to make those instructional minutes count because teachers never feel they have enough time to get everything done. For anyone who doesn’t have to do the scheduling in a school, it may not be apparent what a challenging and frustrating job it is. Almost every student has some kind of special schedule that needs accommodation, whether that’s an Individualized Education Program (IEP), Advanced Placement (AP) classes, an IB program, resource classes or even sports. On top of that, assistant principals, who are often tasked with scheduling, are looking to balance classes so there are even numbers of special education and English language learners in different sections. They’re trying to give grade-level teachers the same period off so they can plan together, and they’re thinking about professional development time.
HarperCollins Children’s Books has announced the launch of Remember Reading?, a monthly podcast dedicated to classic and contemporary books for young readers. In each 30-minute episode, guests including journalists, educators, and award-winning authors will discuss the connections between beloved books from childhood and recent favorites, and the enduring appeal of children’s literature. The podcast launches on January 8, and can be found on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and SoundCloud. Lindsay Jacobsen, HarperCollins digital marketing manager and host of the podcast, said, “The books we love as kids often stay with us throughout adulthood. We wondered why that is and that question led us to create the Remember Reading? podcast. Through conversations with star authors like Gail Carson Levine, Katherine Paterson, and Louis Sachar, we explore the emotional nostalgia that books universally create.”
John Burningham, the children’s author and illustrator behind some of the 20th century’s most enduring children’s books, has died at the age of 82. Burningham, who last year was jointly given a lifetime achievement award from children’s charity Booktrust with his wife and fellow illustrator Helen Oxenbury, wrote and illustrated dozens of books including Husherbye, Avocado Baby – inspired by their youngest daughter, whose favourite food was avocados - Granpa and Oi! Get Off Our Train. “John was a true original, a picture book pioneer and an endlessly inventive creator of stories that could be by turns hilarious and comforting, shocking and playful. He never spoke down to children, always treating them with the utmost respect,” said Francesca Dow, managing director at Penguin Random House Children’s.
The creator of a mobile library serving children in Afghanistan via a converted bus and a middle school teacher-designer of a social justice course being piloted in West Philadelphia are among the global literacy leaders named to the International Literacy Association’s (ILA) “30 Under 30” list. Announced today, the 2019 list features rising notables in the literacy field from 13 countries and includes educators, nonprofit leaders, researchers, and social entrepreneurs. At 14, Marley Dias is a familiar face in library and publishing circles as the founder of #1000BlackGirlBooks. As an 11-year-old, the New Jersey native sought to collect 1,000 titles with black female protagonists. The successful campaign—boosted by Dias’s appearance on multiple talk shows—brought greater public attention to the need for books reflecting a fuller diversity of human experience. Allister Chang, 28, is another “30 Under 30” honoree. Executive director of Libraries Without Borders, Chang has driven some of the nonprofit’s most creative initiatives, including the Ideas Box, a portable multimedia center for refugee camps and other areas in crisis.
It's time to ramp up STEM in early childhood education, according to the Community for Advancing Discovery Research in Education (CADRE). CADRE is a network for STEM education researchers funded by the National Science Foundation's Discovery Research preK-12 program. A new science brief has suggested that quality STEM experiences in pre-K through grade 3 can offer a "critical foundation for learning about these disciplines in ways that facilitate later learning." Among the benefits of early learning in science and math, in particular: It contributes to gains in all the other subjects by supporting literacy and language development and better reading comprehension and writing skills and it covers subjects that can engage students with varying backgrounds, including English learners.
A new initiative designed to help young students develop a daily reading habit to improve their reading proficiency called “Mission: READ!” launched Monday, Jan. 7. The mission of the partnership between the four Kent County library systems, Kent Intermediate School District, and the Literacy Center of West Michigan is to help beginning readers – kindergarten through third grade – read at grade level and advance to fourth grade. Families in the county with K-3 students can sign up for Mission Read at any Kent District Library or Grand Rapids Public Library locations, as well as at Cedar Springs Public Library and Sparta Township Library. For every 100 days of reading, each student will get a planet sticker to place on a map of the solar system. The 500-day prize is a book, and the 1,000-day prize is a digital tablet reader. The mission is to read for 1,000 days before sixth grade.
Many probably saw a flurry of social media posts by library and literary types about This American Life podcast episode on libraries at the end of December. For those who haven't found the time to listen yet, though, we offer the link and a little push. Find the time. If nothing else, go from the intro where two young kids from Queens, NY, ask their public librarian for books without pictures—"I want a challenging one," the boy says. The girl with him adds, "now that I'm bigger, I don't really want to have more pictures. I want to mostly just use my imagination for reading."— to Act Three where an Iowa woman named Lydia Sigwarth returns to the find the librarian at the library where she spent all day almost every day for six months growing up during a tough time for her family. No spoilers here, but don't turn it off before it ends.
Whether or not a child comprehends what she is reading depends primarily on how much background knowledge and vocabulary she brings to the task. This background knowledge is also known as “schema,” and students will be better readers of new material if adults and teachers have helped them expand their knowledge about the subject, whether it be science, history, literature or the arts. So, how can we help our children learn that essential background knowledge that will improve their reading comprehension? We can increase our children’s access to schema by talking, talking, talking to them about all kinds of subjects.
The Austintown library partnered with the United Way for the Imagine With Us program. The program is part of the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, which has been sponsored through the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County in conjunction with the United Way since 2014. Josephine Nolfi, the Youth Services and Programming Director with the public library, said that the importance lies not in having a lot of books, but in the child’s ability to comprehend them. “It’s not a question of how many books are in the home, it’s a question of having adults in the home who know how to share those books in developmentally appropriate ways to maximize the learning that goes along with the various stages of brain development,” Nolfi said. That’s when the library and United Way developed the Imagine With Us program, which aims to teach parents skills to help their child develop strong early literacy skills.
If we want to harness the potential power of homework—particularly for disadvantaged students—we’ll need to educate teachers about what kind of assignments actually work. For example, there’s something called “retrieval practice,” which means trying to recall information you’ve already learned. The optimal time to engage in retrieval practice is not immediately after you’ve acquired information but after you’ve forgotten it a bit—like, perhaps, after school. A homework assignment could require students to answer questions about what was covered in class that day without consulting their notes. Research has found that retrieval practice and similar learning strategies are far more powerful than simply rereading or reviewing material. But first, we’ll need to start teaching kids something substantive about the world, beginning as early as possible.
The living room may not have been what New York City’s mayor had in mind a year ago when he ran for re-election on the ambitious promise of free preschool for all of the city’s 3-year-olds. That door is now open. New York City recently introduced a plan that would bring 3-K into home-based childcare. It’s a move that other cities and districts are likely to watch closely. The school district is the nation’s largest. There is no playbook for how to effectively include home-based childcare in public preschool, and most programs have relied on schools and centers. (Home-based childcare is also known as family childcare or group family daycare.) In a recent report, the Center for New York City Affairs at The New School explored the opportunities and challenges that home-based childcare presents for the city’s evolving 3-K program.
When it comes to teachable moments, nothing beats commemorative dates. The new year will bring some monumental 50th anniversaries, including the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. If you’re looking for summer programming or planning ahead for the fall, now is the time to go back a half century. There were two very different historical events and two equally distinct book publications in 1969. Each had a powerful and lasting impact and each deserves its continued legacy. The challenge, of course, is to make them relevant to today. These events and titles can lend themselves to crosscurricular lessons and projects. The calendar has offered a gift this year—don’t miss the opportunity.
Writers: how often have you been told to “write what you know”? Generic writing advice is so often repeated it’s become a joke in the New Yorker. But do young or emerging writers feel boxed-in when they hear the same lessons over and over again that prioritize certain kinds of writing styles? Today on The Kojo Nnamdi Show, we’ll explore what it takes to write fiction, and what resources the Washington region has for new writers. One of our guests, Zachary Clark, leads 826DC, a nonprofit chapter that provides writing support to young Washingtonians. Check out Zachary’s writing advice, and leave your own in the comments section!
Children should have equal access to a high-quality education. If you provide students and families with a broad range of options—including charter schools, private schools, and traditional public schools—they can choose the one that best suits them. In theory, the schools would compete with one another, vying for students, and the competition itself would spur them all to improve. Ideally, that competition is open to all students equally, as it is that sort of open free-for-all that ought to produce the best results. Of course, for this to work, parents need to know about the options available to them. Research has shown that there are significant barriers to choice, among them access to transportation, enrollment issues, and a lack of information about the schools. A new working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research adds another dimension to this problem: Schools themselves may play a role in encouraging more “desirable” students to enroll, meaning that often it’s more the schools choosing the students than the reverse.
In the last 20 years, dual language (DL) programs––which provide instruction in two languages and aim for students to become bilingual, biliterate, and bicultural––have become increasingly popular in the U.S. Despite the growing popularity of DL programs throughout the country, language and education policies at all levels—federal, state, local—are still needed. Policies that support DL education are pivotal to implement and sustain these programs effectively. The Center for Applied Linguistics recently released Profiles in Dual Language Education, which examines the characteristics of effective DL program implementation, its challenges, and opportunities.
While I suspect some of you are quite sick of them, for me a truly fun part of the new year is stopping to look back at the bounty of the past year’s discoveries in the form of best lists. Many of our friends–reviewers, publishers, bloggers, etc.–have been hard at work collecting their picks for best-of-the-year across media formats. So, I thought it would be handy to gather them together in the form of a little curated list of best lists.