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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Does writing still matter? For little ones, absolutely. Pre-writing and writing activities are important skills to master before formalized education begins — and writing is one of the five practices (reading, writing, singing, playing, and talking) recognized by Every Child Ready to Read as a precursor to school success. By writing, I mean all forms — from nonsensical scribble to shaky, oversize capital letters to strings of letters that may (or not) spell words. It can also include caregivers’ writing and providing a model. A tot might tell you a story that you transcribe. One caveat: Stay away from trace-a-letter sheets. Instead, try incorporating some of these ideas into storytime and floor activities for caregivers and young kids.
A new nonprofit organization says educators must be better trained to recognize and teach students with learning disorders like dyslexia if they are to raise reading proficiency throughout Memphis. Michelle Gaines and Krista L. Johnson founded ALLMemphis in June to boost overall reading comprehension and fill a gap they see in local classrooms — the lack of training for teachers in approaches proven to help students with dyslexia, a disorder from which many Memphis students are likely struggling. Specifically, ALLMemphis trains teachers in the Orton-Gillingham multi-sensory approach to reading that is common in dyslexia therapy but is rarely a part of public school curriculum in Tennessee.
How much of what you read can you actually remember? One Martin Walker Elementary School teacher has a method for helping students truly understand and recall what they are reading. Teacher Angela Thomas plans interactive activities that involve student investigation and first-hand learning to reinforce comprehension. She has students conduct experiments after reading a book. “I do the hands-on lessons because the children obtain more information by seeing how things work. It also helps their understanding of the topics we read,” Thomas said. “I love bringing reading to life.” Thomas is one of Martin Walker’s interventionists that implements the Leveled Literacy Intervention program in her classroom. The program works with reading components such as fluency, vocabulary and comprehension to help students build necessary reading skills that can be applied across all subjects. The program has lessons suited for students at different reading levels and is designed to guide students through their reading before, during and after reading a book.
“The octopus is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to draw,” said children’s book author and illustrator Jan Brett, as she stared in wonder at the alien-looking creature. “That, and the innocence of children.” It was 8:15 a.m. and Brett and I were in for a treat. The aquarium had invited us to have a tentacles-on interaction with Gilligan in honor of Brett’s latest book, “The Mermaid,” a traditional Goldilocks tale with a mermaid and three octopuses twist.Brett is an animal lover, and her more than 40 books feature a menagerie of characters including badgers, polar bears, skunks and turtles. To help make her drawings more accurate, she tries to meet the animals that appear in her illustrations in person. She said that in her experience, octopuses are most similar to elephants in terms of personality. “They are both mischievous,” she said. “You always have to watch your back with an elephant, and I feel the same way with the octopus.”
Schools across the country are nervously watching to see if the Federal Communications Commission chooses to repeal Obama-era regulations that protect an open internet, often referred to as "net neutrality." The 2015 rules are meant to prevent internet providers, such as Comcast, AT&T and Verizon, from controlling what people can watch and see on the internet. Companies can't block access to any websites or apps, and can't meddle with loading speeds. Educators rely heavily on technology in the classroom, so the repeal vote — expected Thursday — could dramatically impact the way students learn. "One of the key elements of the internet is that it provides immediate access to a huge range of high-quality resources that are really useful to teachers," says Richard Culatta, CEO of the International Society for Technology in Education. He previously led the Department of Education's Office of Educational Technology during the Obama administration. "But when carriers can choose to prioritize paid content over freely available content, schools really are at risk," he says.
The Federal Communications Commission voted today to dismantle a policy designed to protect "net neutrality," in a dramatic shift that has roiled the public and carries uncertain implications for schools. The measure will reverse a two-year-old FCC policy that was meant to prevent internet service providers from unfairly blocking or throttling the flow of content over the internet. Critics fear the new policy will open the door for internet service providers to create fast and slow lanes in a way that restricts online options for consumers, including K-12 districts, which rely heavily on relatively unrestricted access to web-based lessons, videos, games, curricula, and other materials.
Dyslexia is the most common disability affecting young learners today, with 5 to 20 percent of the student population affected, say some studies. Dyslexic learners struggle in school and often do not receive the help they need due to a lack of educator and parental awareness. In order to reverse the negative academic trajectory these students often face, awareness is a crucial first step in helping learners get the help they need. The following true/false quiz addresses many of the common myths and misunderstandings surrounding the learning disability. See how you score on this awareness test!
A 4-year-old Chicago boy is inspiring others to share the gift of reading after thousands watched him read 100 books in one day on Facebook Live. Caleb Green committed himself to reading 100 different books last Saturday, including his favorites about Ninja turtles and dogs. When ABC Chicago station WLS-TV asked him why he wanted to read so many books, Caleb’s response was simple. “I like to read and I want to read more like my sister,” he said. Wanting as many children as possible to benefit from his son’s latest endeavor, Sylus Green reached out to local author Candace Edwards about finding books for Chicago’s depleted school libraries.
If the Federal Communications Commission chooses to repeal net neutrality regulations, it could affect access to the Internet for schools across the country. NPR's Kelly McEvers talks to Richard Culatta, CEO of the International Society for Technology in Education, about the potential impact on classrooms if net neutrality is repealed. "One of the key elements of the Internet is that it provides immediate access to a huge range of high-quality resources that are really useful for teachers, whether it's videos of science concepts, simulations -- could be source materials and images from a Smithsonian gallery. Now, because it's free and because we aren't charging students sitting in a class to see those great resources, they don't really provide any financial incentive for the carriers to provide those at a higher speed. Now, with net neutrality, of course, that was not an issue. But when carriers can choose to prioritize paid content over freely available content, schools really are at risk."
Thanks to technology, and a novel system for tracking more than 20 kids in a room at once*, a team of seven researchers managed to track off-task behavior among every student in more than 50 classrooms, from kindergarten through fourth grade. They collected more than 100,000 observations of student behavior from roughly 1,100 students over the course of a school year. What they found confirms that students are distracted a lot. In one subset of 22 charter school classrooms, 29 percent of student behaviors were off task. In a broader group of 30 private, parochial and charter school classrooms, 26 percent of behaviors were off task. In other words, the average elementary school student is distracted more than a quarter of the time. That was as true for fourth graders as it was for kindergarteners. Off-task behavior didn’t improve with age, or with a child’s socioeconomic status.
With Wonder, 13 Reasons Why, and Wonderstruck making significant showings in 2017, the new year will bring even more screen adaptations of beloved children’s and YA books. The new year kicks off almost immediately with the sequel to 2014’s breezy and buoyant Paddington, based on the antics of writer Nick Bond’s perplexed Peruvian bear cub. Though the furball was a convincing creation of CGI animation (voiced by Ben Whishaw), the orphaned cub exuded a gentle soulfulness, along with Bond’s droll sensibility.
In 2001, not long after Oklahoma had adopted one of the nation's first universal pre-K programs, researchers from Georgetown University began tracking kids who came out of the program in Tulsa, documenting their academic progress over time. In a new report published in the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management today, researchers were able to show that Tulsa's pre-K program has significant, positive effects on students' outcomes and well-being through middle school. The program, which serves seven out of 10 4-year-olds in Tulsa, has attracted lots of national attention over the years because of the on-going debate over the benefits of preschool and whether those benefits are long-lasting. William Gormley, a professor of public policy at Georgetown and one of the lead researchers, says the Tulsa findings offer convincing and compelling evidence that they are.
At Liberty Elementary, and other Omaha schools, kindergartners like Isabella, Alivia Rafiner, Ahmad Rab and Jordyn Davis typically get an hour each day to play school, or get their hands dirty in a tub of green sand, or pretend to run a restaurant that serves plastic roast chickens. It’s part of a movement in Omaha Public Schools led by kindergarten teachers like Luisa Palomo who contend that play is a powerful teaching tool. And it shows the pendulum swinging back to kindergarten classrooms of old that devoted plenty of time to both finger painting and learning shapes. Giving students space to explore their environment and guide their own learning is a core concept in educational philosophies like the Reggio Emilia approach, which originated in Italy, and the Montessori method. Students in Finland — celebrated for its high performance on international tests — tend to start formal schooling later, and early childhood education revolves around free play.
There is an increasing, but still relatively small, catalog of children’s books featuring characters of color. However, there are still very few with biracial characters. Many of the titles that are available focus the story on some aspect of the character’s mixed race. So in response to this void in the market, Norah and Randolph Cooper, founded Loving Lion Books, a choose-your-own-character custom publishing company. They funded their venture with a Kickstarter campaign that raised nearly $25,000. “The goal was to create high quality, beautiful books that reflect a lot of families,” says Norah Cooper. “And the books would be acultural rather than multicultural.”
Parents and educators at struggling schools in California say students there are not reading well, and lawyers this week sued the state, arguing that it had failed to provide the children with the resources they needed to learn. The lawsuit was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court on behalf of parents, teachers and students at three schools — La Salle Avenue Elementary School in Los Angeles; Van Buren Elementary School in Stockton; and Children of Promise Preparatory Academy, a charter school in Inglewood. It said California had failed to follow up on its own report by state literacy experts that found there was a “critical need” to address the skills and development of students, particularly those who are learning English, have disabilities, are economically disadvantaged, or are African-American or Hispanic. The suit, announced in a statement, is the first in the United States to seek recognition of the constitutional right to literacy, the lawyers said. It alleges that the state failed to intervene when students achieved low proficiency rates in reading and fell behind at the three schools, which are among the lowest performing in the state.
At the start of every school year, Jawanda Mast met with administrators at her daughter Rachel’s school. Every year, it was the same fight. Teachers wanted to separate Rachel ― who has Down syndrome ― from her peers without disabilities, and put her in a segregated class. Mast always pushed back. Isolating her daughter from her peers would have a devastating effect. Rachel was vivacious and social, and loved to be with her friends. After years of having the same fight over and over, Mast made a hard choice right before Rachel was set to begin third grade. Mast and her family decided to leave their home in Tennessee for Kansas, where they could put Rachel into a school system that offered a better education and would include her in an integrated classroom. The family also made the move due to Mast’s husband’s job, but the education issues in Tennessee were a key factor.
A study conducted at the Department of Psychology at the University of Jyväskylä, Finland and Jyväskylä Centre for Interdisciplinary Brain Research (CIBR) has found that the brain responses of infants with an inherited risk for dyslexia, a specific reading disability, predict their future reading speed in secondary school. The longitudinal study looked at the electrical brain responses of six-month-old infants to speech and the correlation between the brain responses and their pre-literacy skills in pre-school-age, as well as their literacy in the eighth grade at 14 years of age. The study discovered that the brain response of the infants with an inherited dyslexia risk differed from the brain responses of the control infants and predicted their reading speed in secondary school. The larger brain responses were related to a more fluent naming speed of familiar objects, better phonological skills, and faster reading.
There is a very real way teachers across subjects can work together to strengthen our readers. According to a large body of research, what actually works is when students spend time reading something of interest (generally of their choosing) in a supportive environment. It makes sense—we get better at the things we spend time doing. In secondary schools, where English teachers often have just 50-minute periods, we really struggle to provide enough time for our students to read on a daily basis. Perhaps we can devote an average of 20 minutes of our class daily class period to sustained reading. If that's all that students are reading in an entire day, that's not enough—especially when students need to catch up on years of not reading enough. Twenty minutes a day is barely treading water. I think teams of teachers can and should work together to increase the amount of time each student spends during a school day reading productively—by that I mean, reading something interesting (generally of their choosing), in a supportive environment.
How do we prepare our children for a future where information is everything and the jobs they will apply for may not yet exist? Their success will rely on their ability to access—and to make sense of—an overabundance of information. We can call this "the language of power”—the ability to translate seemingly unrelated data into an executable plan. This idea is directly tied to closing the opportunity gap for our youth. To reach this goal requires a much more concerted effort to overcome the class-based literacy divide, which remains stubbornly in place. School districts must make it a priority that every student can read at or above grade level because when students are fully literate—regardless of zip code, mobility, or poverty—everything changes. When the critical mass of students within a school district can read at or above grade level, it need not be a miraculous event. Success does, however, depend on three key ingredients: commitment, coaching, and family engagement.
You can find scads of wonderful children’s books about grandparents, even if there aren’t a lot of great adult books for them. Why the disparity? Maybe the industry thinks we’ve been parents already, so we don’t need or want books about grandparenting, even though these are very different roles. Still, here are my picks. I’ll be interested in yours.You’ll find the true riches, though, among the children’s books. Here, I turned to a friend, Marjorie Ingall, author of “Mamaleh Knows Best,” who reviews children’s books for the Times Book Review.