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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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Texas Public Radio (San Antonio, TX)
February 22, 2017

There’s concern in Bexar County that the number of third graders reading on grade level is low. That leaves them at risk for dropping out of high school, unemployment or worse. A tutoring program through SAReads is hoping to reverse the trend. Teachers are using a method of instruction that researchers say is proven, but isn’t used enough. The method of instruction is called scientifically based reading instruction, or SBRI. Louisa Moats is a leading researcher in reading education. She says teachers not knowing how to teach reading is a national problem. Moats says teachers are not the ones at fault; it’s the licensing process. She says most universities are not providing the right instruction. In 2000, after decades of debate about which reading method was best, Congress mandated that the National Reading Panel convene to do a scientific review. They published a report which identified that scientific methods like SBRI are the only reading techniques that work.

Education Week
February 22, 2017

Head Start, the venerable 52-year-old federal preschool program for children from low-income families, could be serve a role in improving the early-education workforce as a whole, says a new report from Bellwether Education Partners. In The Best Teachers for our Littlest Learners: Lessons from Head Start's Last Decade, authors Marnie Kaplan and Sara Mead note that Head Start has led the way in requiring its teachers to have bachelor's degrees; currently 74 percent of Head Start teachers have a bachelor's degree or beyond in early childhood or a related field. The report offers several suggestions, including making teacher compensation a priority and including Head Start in overall state policies relating to early childhood. But one of its most interesting proposals is to use Head Start as a vehicle for "piloting innovative programs with the power to change the broader early-childhood landscape."

Minneapolis Star Tribune (MN)
February 22, 2017

Three years ago, a scrappy group of parents and educators launched the first Dyslexia Day at the State Capitol in a small conference room, offering moving testimony from children who said their schools couldn’t help them. On Tuesday, the advocacy group’s annual rally spread across the Capitol rotunda, where several hundred parents and children called attention to a hidden disability that affects as many as one in 10 children. Dyslexia wasn’t even recognized as a specific learning disability by the Minnesota Department of Education until 2015. Children who spoke at Tuesday’s rally said they wished schools understood more. This year’s legislative agenda for Decoding Dyslexia Minnesota includes requiring schools to boost efforts to identify kids with dyslexia, provide reading instruction that meets their needs, and prepare teachers for the task.

The Atlantic
February 21, 2017

For elementary- and middle-school students, historical fiction can provide a helpful way into difficult subjects—for example, the Holocaust (Number the Stars), the civil-rights movement (The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963), or slavery and racism in America’s founding (The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation). Maureen Costello, the director of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance initiative, explained in a phone interview that, for certain topics such as slavery, teachers can employ the genre to “talk about the subject in a child appropriate way.” But beyond providing an introduction to troubling issues, historical fiction can offer the chance, if taught conscientiously, to engage students with multiple perspectives, which are essential to understanding history; to help students comprehend historical patterns and political analogies; and to introduce students to historiography — how history is written and studied.

KQED Mindshift
February 21, 2017

In the last few years there has been more focus on writing in classrooms and on tests, but many students still have difficulty expressing their ideas on paper. Often students struggle to begin writing, so some teachers have shifted assignments to allow students to write about something they care about, or to provide an authentic audience for written work. While these strategies are important parts of making learning relevant to students, they may not be enough on their own to improve the quality of writing. Practice is important, but how can teachers ensure students are practicing good habits?

National Public Radio
February 21, 2017

During Betsy DeVos' bitter confirmation hearing last month for education secretary, U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet pointed to Denver as a potential national model of a big city school district that's found an innovative, balanced approach to school choice. Denver Superintendent Tom Boasburg says at its core, choice in the city is focused on leveling the education playing field — or as he puts it, "How do we promote greater equity for our highest-need families?" But there are still big gaps in access to quality schools; choice has done little to narrow achievement gaps by income and race; poorer families point to on-going transportation challenges; and choice in Denver includes some painful choices about re-booting and closing under-performing schools, mostly in neighborhoods with some of the most vulnerable students. It all raises important questions about the promise and limitations of choice to bridge stubborn access and equity gaps in education.

The New York Times
February 21, 2017

One night nearly 140 years ago, Samuel Clemens told his young daughters Clara and Susie a bedtime story about a poor boy who eats a magic flower that gives him the ability to talk to animals. Storytelling was a nightly ritual in the Clemens home. But something about this particular tale must have stuck with Clemens, better known as Mark Twain, because he decided to jot down some notes about it. The story might have ended there, lost to history. But decades later, the scholar John Bird was searching the Twain archives at the University of California, Berkeley, when he came across the notes for the story, which Twain titled “Oleomargarine.” Mr. Bird was astonished to find a richly imagined fable, in Twain’s inimitable voice. He and other scholars believe it may be the only written remnant of a children’s fairy tale from Twain.

The New York Times
February 17, 2017

Mo Willems and Oliver Jeffers — two of the most beloved, and singular, creators of children’s picture books working today — have both seen their literary creations head to the stage. The musical “Elephant & Piggie’s We Are in a Play!,” based on Willems’s Elephant & Piggie series, recently finished a run at New York’s New Victory Theater and is setting out on a national tour; “The Way Back Home,” a puppet production based on Jeffers’s book of the same title, will be at the New Victory in March. The two authors talked to Maria Russo, The Times’s children’s books editor, about the thrills and embarrassments of children’s theater and their books’ very different journeys to the stage.

Education Week
February 17, 2017

As a method of organizing efforts to help students who are struggling academically, response to intervention has seen widespread adoption. But as an improved method of identifying students with learning disabilities, RTI shows far less clear benefits, researchers are finding. The RTI instructional model is designed to identify students in need of extra assistance and provide them targeted and research-based lessons, or interventions.

News and Observer (Raleigh, NC)
February 17, 2017

The spotlight focused Thursday in downtown Raleigh on a group of students who don’t normally get to show off their academic competitiveness – visually impaired students. Seventeen students came to the Church of the Good Shepherd to compete in the Eastern North Carolina Regional Braille Challenge. The participants are hoping to score high enough to be among the 50 students nationally who will be invited to California in June to compete in the 2017 National Braille Challenge sponsored by the non-profit Braille Institute.

KQED Mindshift
February 16, 2017

As the national attention to fake news and the debate over what to do about it continue, one place many are looking for solutions is in the classroom. Since a recent Stanford study showed that students at practically all grade levels can’t determine fake news from the real stuff, the push to teach media literacy has gained new momentum. The study showed that while students absorb media constantly, they often lack the critical thinking skills needed to tell fake news from the real stuff. Teachers are taking up the challenge to change that. NPR Ed put out a social media call asking how educators are teaching fake news and media literacy, and we got a lot of responses. Here’s a sampling from around the country.

Education Week
February 16, 2017

Children enrolled for a year in an enhanced Head Start program known as Educare show better results on tests of auditory and expressive language skills, parent-reported problem behaviors, and parent-child interactions compared to children who were not able to enroll in the program, a new study has found. The report, published this month in Child Development, tracked more than 200 children under the age of 19 months. The children were either enrolled in Educare, a national program that blends federal, public, and private dollars to support children from birth to age 5, or in a "business as usual" control group of children who were not able to enroll in Educare. There are 21 Educare programs in 18 cities, serving rural, suburban and urban communities. The model includes embedded professional development for teachers, the use of data to guide decisionmaking, and high-quality teaching practices.

The Washington Post
February 16, 2017

One of the most important things parents can do, beyond keeping kids healthy and safe, is to read with them. That means starting when they are newborns and not even able to talk, and continuing well beyond the years that they can read by themselves. Study after study shows that early reading with children helps them learn to speak, interact, bond with parents and read early themselves, and reading with kids who already know how to read helps them feel close to caretakers, understand the world around them and be empathetic citizens of the world. We spoke with Liza Baker, the executive editorial director at Scholastic, which just released its Kids & Family Reading Report. Here, Baker shares highlights of the report and offers tips for parents on how to turn their babies and children into readers.

National Public Radio
February 16, 2017

The hugely successful fantasy trilogy His Dark Materials will be getting a "companion" trilogy, author Philip Pullman announced this evening. The first book of the new series, which will collectively be called The Book of Dust, is set for publication on October 19. The original His Dark Materials trilogy consists of three volumes (The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass). The events of the first trilogy took place across several parallel worlds — including our own — and touched on disparate ideas related to theology, particle physics, and the loss of childhood innocence. Characters included a headstrong and fiercely intelligent young girl named Lyra Belacqua, and an armored, talking polar bear. The Book of Dust will return to the world(s) and characters of His Dark Materials, Pullman said, and Lyra will be integral to the new story — but not in the way she was before.

Education Week
February 15, 2017

Jane M. Quenneville, the principal of a public school that serves children and youths with severe disabilities, was among the parents and educators invited to the White House Tuesday for what was billed as a listening session with President Donald Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. The guests—which also included teachers, parents who have children enrolled in public and in private schools, and home-schooling parents—did much of the listening, Quenneville said. But Quenneville said she did have conversations with staff members before and after the session about two areas that concern her: special education teacher shortages and children with disabilities educated separately from their general education peers. Quenneville also said that she renewed the Council for Exceptional Children's invitation to DeVos to meet with its leadership. "She was very receptive," Quenneville said. "We're looking forward to another conversation."

Education Week
February 15, 2017

How do you take a practice that's working in one classroom and share it with a team of teachers, a school, or an entire district without turning it into "one more thing" for already-busy teachers to do? Leading for Literacy: A Reading Apprenticeship Approach is a new book for teachers, coaches, school and district leaders, and others interested in using the Reading Apprenticeship approach that combines theoretical ideas with practical suggestions and stories from schools. Reading Apprenticeship encourages teachers to learn and model "expert" reading strategies in different academic disciplines. Teachers examine their own approaches to reading and comprehension through an inquiry-based approach and work on challenging texts in their fields, and then help their students do the same. The goal is to develop students' disciplinary literacy, an idea that has gained traction in recent years, as is evidenced by various sets of standards: The Common Core State Standards include standards for literacy in science and social studies, and the C3 Framework for social studies and the Next Generation Science Standards both focus on inquiry and learning through texts.

School Library Journal
February 15, 2017

Some problems are so persistent and complex that only a whole new approach can break open the potential for a solution. That may just be the case with so-called book deserts, where reading materials are so scarce as to be nearly impossible to find. The recently announced national Book-Rich Environment Initiative promises to be a critical step toward that much-needed new perspective on this intractable problem—with libraries as key partners in the coalition. Libraries are a critical infrastructure asset at work in realizing the goals of the Book-Rich Environment Initiative. To make the essential impact that is so needed, those worthy goals deserve our attention, support, and ongoing commitment to bringing the riches of books to every community.

KQED Mindshift
February 15, 2017

In order to help teachers learn and and become proficient in relevant skills, a nascent movement of nonprofits, states, districts and educators are exploring what a competency-based professional learning system could look like using micro-credentials. Digital Promise, a nonprofit with a mission of “accelerating innovation in education,” has been a strong proponent of micro-credentials, describing them as competency-based, on-demand, personalized and shareable. Micro-credentials have the benefit of being rooted in classroom practice. In this model, teachers can no longer attend a workshop and receive credit for merely being there. Instead, they must take their learning back into their classrooms and try it out, submitting evidence, receiving feedback from peers and refining their approach. They also have to reflect on what they learned through those experiences.

University of Kansas News (Lawrence, KS)
February 14, 2017

For years, minorities have been disproportionately placed in special education classes, and figures available indicate the complexity of this issue for one group. National estimates reveal that English-language learners may be over-represented in the learning disabilities category due to the fact that neither a method for accurate identification nor a consistent definition of learning disabilities across states exists. This underscores the need for better tools and methods for accurate identification of those with special needs. A new study co-authored by a University of Kansas professor shows the development of accurate and stable assessment tools for the identification of learning disabilities in English-language learner children and documentation of the rate of cognitive, language and reading growth as a function of instructional practice.

Iowa Reading Research Center (Iowa City, IA)
February 14, 2017

Simply put, background knowledge is what you already know or have learned about a topic. When good readers begin reading, various information about the topic in the text is stimulated in their brains. They begin to connect that existing knowledge with new knowledge they are encountering in the text, adding to or making new categories of information in the brain to be accessed in the future. When this happens, readers are able to increase their reading comprehension. With each new reading experience, readers can continue linking and growing their knowledge, thus increasing their ability to understand a wider variety of texts. The goal of building background knowledge is to take advantage of that curiosity and channel it to support students’ reading comprehension. Revealing all the information to them prior to reading cuts the journey short. But giving students enough to get them started will facilitate building knowledge, learning new things, and enjoying the process of reading.

"There is no frigate like a book, to take us lands away" — Emily Dickinson