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Reading Rockets News

August 2014

  • In Focus: Back to school for teachers and parents
  • Books & Authors: Little Journey on the Prairie | Interview with Phyllis Naylor Reynolds | Books and activities all about flight
  • Ideas for Educators: Portraits of struggling readers | Teaching with interactive e-books | Best apps tested and approved by teachers!
  • Ideas for Parents: Putting Your Family Calendar to Work | Building your child's vocabulary | Literacy and the family dinner
  • Research & News: Learning to read may take longer than we thought | Online reading and comprehension | Special education and the Common Core | Technology and home visits

In Focus: Back to school for teachers and parents

Creating a welcoming classroom, freshening up your literacy centers, tips for special education teachers, creative ideas for back-to-school night, and much more. Here's a sampling of what you'll find in our Back to School section for parents and teachers:

Literacy Centers

Literacy centers offer meaningful learning experiences where students work independently or collaboratively. Teachers can create literacy centers that support guided reading instruction — as the teacher works with one group of students for guided reading, other groups rotate through the literacy centers in the classroom. Literacy centers can be created by simply setting out literacy activities on a table or they can be located in designated classroom areas. They are also appropriate for integrating technology. Get ideas for how to organize and manage your centers.
Learn more >

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Watch videos of literacy centers and stations in action!

Creating a Welcoming, Literacy-Rich Classroom

A literacy-rich environment emphasizes the importance of speaking, reading and writing for all students — including English language learners and children with learning disabilities. Browse our collection of articles for a snapshot of what a literacy-rich environment looks like, a closer look at literacy centers, tips on how to set up a genre-rich and inviting classroom library and more.
See resources >

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Related resource from Edutopia
7 Learning Zones Every Classroom Must Have

Creating a Classroom Library

Teacher Mandy Gregory shares her ideas (and photos from her own classroom) for acquiring reading materials, organizing and labeling the shelves, and making the space cozy and inviting for young readers. In an accompanying video, see how one school allows the kids to help plan and manage their classroom library.
See article and video >

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Related resource from Choice Literacy
Helping Children Choose Books

Bright Ideas for Back-to-School Night — and Beyond

Back-to-school night is an important annual ritual — a wonderful opportunity for parents and teachers to meet, connect, and share their vision for the school year. We've gathered up the very best resources to help you make the most of back-to-school night — and set the stage for a year of learning and growth.
Browse resources >

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10 Tips for Special Education Teachers

Our top 10 back-to-school tips for special education teachers emphasize communication, organization and a focus on student success.
See article >

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Especially for Parents:

Who's Who in Your Child's School

There are many people at your child's school who are there to help your child succeed academically, grow socially and emotionally, and navigate the school environment. Learn more about how the literacy coach, school psychologist, speech-language pathologist, and other staff members support a healthy school community. You might want to keep this list handy all year long.
See article >

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What Does "Leveled Text" Mean? (and Other School Lingo)

With a new school year, parents often hear school-related terms that are unfamiliar. Get the basics on screening, differentiated instruction and leveled text — three terms related to reading instruction that will give you a better understanding of what's happening in your child's classroom and what it means for your young learner. (In English and Spanish)
See tips >

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8 Tips for Parents of Children with Special Needs

A new school year means a new grade, new teachers, new goals, and maybe even a new school! We've put together a list of helpful back-to-school tips that we hope will make the transition into a new school year a little easier for you and your child.
See tips >

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Books & Authors

Little Journey on the Prairie

In this special series, children's literacy consultant Rachael Walker and her family share some things they've learned about Laura Ingalls Wilder, offer advice for travelers considering their own journey and share lots of ideas for how to bring the Little House world to life for your readers at home or in the classroom.
See blog >

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Words Matter: Our Interview with Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

Mysteries, historical fiction, Wild West yarns, the life and times of a girl named Alice, scary tales, memoir — prolific writer Phyllis Reynolds Naylor never writes the same type of book twice in a row. That's how she keeps the work fresh for herself and her readers. After publishing more than 135 books, including the Newbery winner Shiloh and the best-selling Alice series, she truly lives and breathes the life of a writer. Naylor's love for words and storytelling began with her parents reading aloud to her every night, until she was well into her teens. "It was like feeding time for the imagination," she says.
Watch interview >

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Take Flight!

Explore pioneering aviators and astronauts, kite flying and magical journeys across the sky in this rich collection of fiction and nonfiction books. And let your imagination really take off with our flight-related activities, kid-friendly websites and apps. Try your hand at building a boomerang, a roto-copter or a digital version of the Wright Brothers 1903 Flyer, or find out how to use basic math to launch a spaceship.
See books and activities about flight >

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See also
Flight-Themed Reading Adventure Pack

Ideas for Parents

Putting Your Family Calendar to Work

Here are a few easy ways to use the familiar family calendar to help build literacy and numbers skills. Have fun coming up with words-of-the-month or a family timeline! [From our Growing Readers series, in English and Spanish]
See tips >

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Building Your Child's Vocabulary

Talking to and reading with your child are two terrific ways to help them hear and read new words. Conversations and questions about interesting words are easy, non-threatening ways to get new words into everyday talk. Here are some ideas to get you started. [From our Growing Readers series, in English and Spanish]
See tips >

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Literacy and the Family Dinner

Sitting down together for the evening meal is not only good for "checking in" with your kids and building closeness, it's also great for practicing literacy skills — vocabulary, listening and speaking, storytelling, and writing. See how one family brings all this "literacy nutrition" to the kitchen table every night.
See article >

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Ideas for Educators

Portraits of Struggling Readers

Not all reading difficulties look the same. Meet four children who are struggling with different aspects of learning to become strong, confident readers. (From our First Year Teacher self-study course).
Learn more >

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Related resource
Target the Problem!

Teaching with Interactive Picture E-Books

Learn about the features in e-books that can distract, support, or extend comprehension and the need for more scaffolding of reading instruction with e-books.
See article >

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Apps that Rise to the Top: Tested and Approved by Teachers

With the thousands of educational apps vying for the attention of busy teachers, it can be hard to sift for the gold. Michelle Luhtala, a savvy librarian from New Canaan High School in Connecticut has crowd-sourced the best, most extensive list of apps voted on by educators around the country.
See apps list >

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Research & News

Learning to Read May Take Longer Than We Thought

Most of what we know — or think we know — about how kids learn comes from classroom practice and behavioral psychology. Now, neuroscientists are adding to and qualifying that store of knowledge by studying the brain itself. The latest example: new research in the journal Developmental Science suggests a famous phenomenon known as the "fourth-grade shift" isn't so clear-cut. "The theory of the fourth-grade shift had been based on behavioral data," says the lead author of the study, Donna Coch. She heads the Reading Brains Lab at Dartmouth College. The assumption teachers make: by fourth grade you stop learning to read and start reading to learn. We're done teaching the basic skills in third grade, and you go use them starting in the fourth. The study suggests there is nothing so neat as a fourth-grade shift. It found that third-graders exhibit some signs of automatic word processing while fifth-graders are still processing words differently from adults.
See story from NPR >

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Being a Better Online Reader

Soon after Maryanne Wolf published "Proust and the Squid," a history of the science and the development of the reading brain from antiquity to the twenty-first century, she began to receive letters from readers. Hundreds of them. While the backgrounds of the writers varied, a theme began to emerge: the more reading moved online, the less students seemed to understand. Wolf's concerns go far beyond simple comprehension. She fears that as we turn to digital formats, we may see a negative effect on the process that she calls deep reading. Deep reading isn't how we approach looking for news or information, or trying to get the gist of something. It's the "sophisticated comprehension processes," as Wolf calls it, that those young architects and doctors were missing.
See article in The New Yorker >

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Can Special Education Students Keep Up with the Common Core?

The seven students in Nicole Papa's classroom at East Moriches Elementary School have all been classified as needing special education services because of diagnoses ranging from autism spectrum disorders to learning disabilities to mood disorders. Papa's lesson is contained within the first part of the EngageNY English language arts curriculum for New York State fourth graders — and is aligned to the new Common Core State Standards. Papa, an educator with more than 20 years of experience, was initially resistant to the Common Core. She worried that her students, whose reading is two to three levels below others their age, would be unable to handle the increased rigor along with a scripted approach to teaching and learning.
See story from the Hechinger Report >

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How Technology Can Strengthen Home Visit Programs — and Early Literacy

It may sound strange to put the word "technology" in the same sentence as home-visiting programs for mothers, infants, and toddlers, but over the past few years, many of these programs have started using multimedia and digital tools to engage parents. Their success could open up new ways of thinking about technology to promote the early cognitive and social skills in children that lead to reading proficiency and a host of other positive results.
See story from Ed Central >

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"I'm wondering what to read next."

Matilda, Roald Dahl

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