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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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Education Next
April 1, 2015

This week marks the release of the 2015 Brown Center Report on American Education, the fourteenth issue of the series. One of the three studies in the report, “Girls, Boys, and Reading,” examines the gender gap in reading. Girls consistently outscore boys on reading assessments. They have for a long time. A 1942 study in Iowa discovered that girls were superior to boys on tests of reading comprehension, vocabulary, and basic language skills. [i] Girls have outscored boys on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading assessments since the first NAEP was administered in 1971. I hope you’ll read the full study—and the other studies in the report—but allow me to summarize the main findings of the gender gap study here.

Education Week
April 1, 2015

From more than 50 years of teaching experience, I've learned that elementary school teachers are typically more comfortable teaching reading. They delight in watching students become readers. They enjoy students' rapt attention when they read books aloud to them. They love discussing the ideas that books inspire. They have a variety of teaching strategies and ways to organize students for reading instruction. I've also learned, sadly, that when it comes to math, the same qualities don't always exist. Teachers often tell me that they come to math with a combination of trepidation, fear of the subject matter, and a general "uncomfortableness." A sense of confidence is often missing from teaching math, as are feelings of joy and delight.

Hechinger Report
April 1, 2015

After adopting the new Common Core standards, Berkeley has become one of an increasing number of districts across the country to reject textbooks or workbooks — at least for some classes. The new Common Core standards for kindergarten through 12th grade were widely expected to be a boon to textbook publishers, making it easier to market the same books in the 40-plus states that have fully adopted them. Instead, the standards may be rushing what many now see as the inevitable disappearance of the textbook. What the Berkeley district chose instead of a traditional textbook was a curriculum that was available free of charge on the Internet for anyone able to print it all out.

The Horn Book
April 1, 2015

A poster in our office lobby for the upcoming Simmons International Women’s Film Forum alerted me to the interestingly low–29%–number of female protagonists in films for children.* I guess it ain’t all Disney Princesses after all. How does this compare with the numbers in books for children? I asked myself. The gender disparity had been on my mind ever since I got sucked into the Bookriot discussion about girls and YA spurred by the Andrew Smith drama of a couple of weeks ago. Somebody on the thread was vociferously decrying the lack of female protagonists in YA novels, which made me think what you all are probably thinking: Wait, wut? But the poster and the discussion made me think it was a good time to do some arithmetic. Or, more precisely, engage our talented Emerson College intern Mariesa Negosanti in researching the question of gender representation in youth fiction via our ever-handy Horn Book Guide.

Daily Press (VA)
March 31, 2015

Never before have we been so challenged to ensure that larger portions of our society are prepared for the demands of the future. As archaic as it might sound in this tech-savvy era — reading is fundamental. Which brings us back to the AASL and School Library Month and perhaps the acceptance that libraries are actually about learning. Public libraries are vital to providing tools for digital literacy. In most communities, those facilities are the sole bridge for those without Internet access. Books in any form bring us together. Reading well is the skill that can help young students navigate various paths — digital or analog — that are available. One day our citizens-to-be will learn that, early on in our history, a good book or two had a profound impact on the direction of this nation.

Medical Xpress
March 31, 2015

Bournemouth University lecturer Dr Julie Kirkby is investigating the significance of copying and note-taking in the classroom and how it affects the learning of Dyslexic children. For children and adults with dyslexia, copying off of whiteboards can be very challenging at times. "In our experiment we use a head-mounted eye-tracker to simultaneous record eye movements, gaze transfer, and written production as adults and children hand-copied specially selected written stimuli presented on the classroom whiteboard." The results of the study show that adults typically encode and transcribe words as a whole word, but researchers found that even children without reading difficulties used only partial-word representations and separated the to-be-copied words into several sublexical units.

PBS NewsHour
March 31, 2015

Up and down the courts, a drive to the hoop, a fast break in the other direction. Middle school boys and basketball, and, well, why not poetry? They come together in “The Crossover,” a novel in verse about twin brothers obsessed with basketball. It’s won this year’s Newbery Medal, the highest honor in young adult literature. Its author is 46-year-old poet, writer and literary activist Kwame Alexander. At the St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes School near his home in Northern Virginia, he told us of his own obsession, introducing boys to the joys of reading.

The Washington Post
March 31, 2015

There have been plenty of studies on small volunteer tutoring programs that reach a few dozen children at a time in individual schools. But until now, there has not been evidence that such programs can make a difference on a much larger scale, across many schools and for thousands of students. An independent evaluation of the Minnesota Reading Corps, which relies on AmeriCorps service members to identify and tutor struggling students, showed that preschoolers in the program were far more likely to gain the literacy skills they need to be ready for kindergarten than other preschoolers. A separate study of a different tutoring program, Oakland, Calif.-based Reading Partners, found that it added about two months of additional growth in students’ reading proficiency. And it made that difference despite depending on AmeriCorps members and community volunteers, who had no special training in literacy education.

Hechinger Report
March 30, 2015

In a very early assessment of how Common Core standards may be influencing how much students learn, a new Brookings report finds small math and reading test score gains for students who live in states that embraced the new standards early. The researcher, Tom Loveless, looked at how fourth-grade reading scores changed between 2009 and 2013 on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), a trusted national test taken by students across the United States every two years. He found that test scores of students in states that were strong, early adopters of Common Core standards rose between 1 and 1.5 points more than those of students who lived in states that didn’t adopt the standards. This echoes his finding from last year, when he found that eighth-grade NAEP math scores also increased by a similar 1- to 1.5-point amount in states that were enthusiastic, early adopters of Common Core.

Education Week
March 30, 2015

Children who attended North Carolina's state preschool program continued to make better-than-expected gains by the end of kindergarten, according to a March 25 study by the Frank Porter Graham Institute at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. We don't usually feature more than one report from the same source in the same week, but this study caught my attention. Whether or not preschool offers an ongoing benefit has been a matter of contention.

Channel 6 (Lawrence, KS)
March 30, 2015

An education study coming out of KU is looking to predict which students might have reading difficulties in the future. Researchers worked with more than 350 Lawrence kindergartners focusing on vocabulary, reading comprehension, and letter identification. "We know from research that the language development of a very young child, their vocabulary knowledge, and their ability to re-tell a story are good predictors of later reading comprehension. The message really is parents [should] read to their kids. That is really the strongest message of all of this," said Diane Nielsen, professor at KU's School of Education. Nielsen also says that while it is good for teachers to focus on phonics in Pre-K and Kindergarten, it is also essential to take a broader approach when it comes to comprehension-related instruction.

Le Center Leader (MN)
March 30, 2015

At 10 each morning, typical instruction in Kim Germscheid’s second grade Cleveland classroom comes to a quiet halt. Instead of sitting attentively facing the classroom front, her 20-some students settle on various perches for silent reading. Some sprawl out on the floor, sit cross legged atop corner rugs or stretch out across vinyl beanbag chairs. Others relax comfortably at their desk as they spend the next half hour devouring their latest book choice. Schools have implemented silent reading under a variety of names, such as “Sustained Silent Reading” (SSR), "Free Uninterrupted Reading (FUR) or “Daily Independent Reading” (DIRT). But whatever it’s called, silent reading is simply a time each day when students independently read books they’ve selected…with some guidance from their teacher.

Newsweek
March 27, 2015

When literate adults pick up a book, they don’t start sounding out each word letter by letter or sound by sound, the way their kindergarten or first-grade teacher probably told them to do when they were first beginning to read. Instead, as a new study shows, their brains recognize whole words they’ve seen before, which facilitates quicker reading. Researchers at Georgetown University Medical Center’s Department of Neuroscience published their findings Tuesday in The Journal of Neuroscience. The paper, “Adding Words to the Brain’s Visual Dictionary: Novel Word Selectively Sharpens Orthographic Representations in the VWFA,” demonstrates the brain’s ability to adapt and learn to recognize new words. The brain can add new words to its “visual dictionary” even if they are made up and have no meaning attached to them, the researchers found.

National Public Radio
March 27, 2015

A stack of research suggests that all the classroom technology in the world can't compare to the power of a great teacher. And, since we haven't yet figured out how to clone our best teachers, a few schools around the country are trying something like it: Stretching them across multiple classrooms. "We'll probably never fill up every single classroom with one of those teachers," says Bryan Hassel, founder of Charlotte-based education consulting firm Public Impact. But, he says, it's important to ask: "How can we change the way schools work so that the great teachers we do have can reach more of the students, maybe even all of them?" Public Impact is working with schools in Tennessee, North Carolina and New York to build what it calls an "opportunity culture" for teachers. It's part of a broader turnaround strategy at schools like Bailey Middle Prep in Nashville.

KQED Mindshift
March 27, 2015

When students use their bodies in the learning process, it can have a big effect, even if it seems silly or unconnected to the learning goal at hand. Researchers have found that when students use their bodies while doing mathematical storytelling (like with word problems, for example), it changes the way they think about math. “We understand language in a richer, fuller way if we can connect it to the actions we perform,” said Sian Beilock, professor of psychology at the University of Chicago.

NewJersey.com
March 27, 2015

April is National Poetry Month, and maybe you didn't even know it. But 21 Harrison kids are prepared with poems in their back pockets. These students, all fifth grade students in one Hamilton Intermediate School class, recently took part in a cross-curriculum project combining art and poetry -- and blue jeans. They decorated old jean pockets and stuck poems that they wrote inside. The project honors Poem in Your Pocket Day, a national initiative of the Academy of American Poets encouraging people to keep poems in their pockets, to share with others throughout the day (this year, it's on April 30).

National Public Radio
March 26, 2015

When it comes to kids and exercise, schools need to step up and focus more on quality as well as quantity. And, says Dr. Gregory D. Myer, they need to promote activities that develop motor skills, socialization and fun. Myer is one of the authors of a recent paper and commentary on children and exercise. He's also director of the Human Performance Lab and director of research at the Division of Sports Medicine at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. Myer helped develop exercise guidelines for youth aimed at reducing sports-related injuries and promoting health. The guidelines call for greater focus on short, interval-like bursts of activity interspersed with rest. It includes core strength building, resistance training, agility and more.

Education Week
March 26, 2015

One of the lowest-performing schools in Washington State has moved to the top half of the state's elementary schools three years into a federal School Improvement Grant (SIG) that included lengthening the school day and year and replacing the principal. Lakeridge Elementary School in suburban Seattle's Renton School District ranked in the bottom 5 percent statewide and was labeled a persistently low-performing school when it received the $3 million SIG grant starting in the 2011-12 school year. Earlier this month, the state superintendent of public instruction and other state education officials paid a surprise visit to the school bearing cupcakes and balloons to congratulate students for surpassing the state average in math and 3rd grade reading, and coming close to the state average in 4th and 5th grade reading.

Michigan State University Extension
March 26, 2015

Did you know if you start daily reading at birth, and read with your child for 30 minutes a day, they will go to kindergarten with over 900 hours of literacy time? If you reduce that to 30 minutes a week, they lose over 770 hours of this critical “brain food” and go to kindergarten with just 130 hours of literacy time. Make a commitment to help your child be ready to succeed in school and commit to engaging in 30 minutes of daily literacy skill-building time starting at birth! Here are seven tips from Michigan State University Extension and ideas to support your young child’s literacy development.

Webster University Today (St. Louis, MO)
March 26, 2015

For three years, Webster University School of Education students have been teaching reading literacy to children at Edgar Road Elementary School as part of the Methods of Teaching Elementary Reading course. Tutoring elementary students is more than a class requirement – it is an opportunity to put theory into practice and grow as a future teacher. When Webster University students visit the school, they first observe the teacher by simply watching and listening. After making observations on the teacher’s style, methods and the material covered, the students then put their skills to the test, working with kindergarteners and first and second graders. They complete a variety of different exercises involving reading and comprehension over the course of the year with the younger students.

"To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark." — Victor Hugo, Les Miserables