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February 2015 Newsletter

  • In Focus: Comprehension
  • Books & Authors: New booklist: Their Legacy Lives On | Celebrating Black History Month | Video interview with Christopher Myers | El Deafo: Author CeCe Bell Turns Her Use of an Assistive Technology Device into a Strength | Books for President's Day
  • Ideas for Educators: Learning About Theodor Geisel with Our Author Study Toolkit | Read Across America STEAM activity guide | Valentine's Day and writing
  • Ideas for Parents: Calling all archaeologists, astronauts and secret agents! | "Our Government" reading adventure pack | The vocabulary of science
  • Research & News: Scholastic Study Finds Reading to Children of All Ages Grooms Them to Read More on Their Own | Will Digital Accessible Books Improve Reading for Students with Dyslexia? | The Surprising Amount of Time Kids Spend Looking at Screens

In Focus: Comprehension

Close Reading: Asking the Right Questions

Using an old basal reader story as his sample text, literacy expert Tim Shanahan provides a sample set of questions to guide students to really think about what they're reading. Unlike in other questioning schemes, these questions do not try to get kids to exercise particular thinking skills (e.g., inference, higher order reasoning, comparison) — they focus on interpreting the text rather than on exercising particular cognitive muscles.
Read blog post >

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Featured Strategy: Jigsaw

With this cooperative learning strategy, "home groups" and "expert groups" do research, collaborate, debate, and present everything they've learned about a topic.

Watch jigsaw in action! Go inside Cathy Doyle's second grade classroom in Evanston, Illinois to observe her students use the jigsaw strategy to understand the topic of gardening. Joanne Meier, our research director, introduces the strategy and talks about the importance of advanced planning and organization to make this strategy really effective.
See jigsaw strategy >

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Featured Strategy: Reciprocal Teaching

Summarizer, Questioner, Clarifier, Predictor. With this comprehension strategy, kids take on active roles in guiding group discussions about text. In a video clip from our Launching Young Readers series, take a seat at the table at a Seattle elementary classroom where the "students take charge." The teacher models the technique by starting with a strong "main idea" question.
See reciprocal teaching strategy >

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Related article:
Reciprocal Teaching for the Primary Grades: "We Can Do It, Too!"

See more comprehension strategies >

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Deconstructing Expository Text

Expository text can be challenging to young readers because of the unfamiliar concepts and vocabulary it presents. Discover ways to help your students analyze expository text structures, pull apart the text to uncover the main idea and supporting details.
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Embedded Supports to Differentiate Instruction for Struggling Students

Learn how technology tools can support struggling students and those with learning disabilities in acquiring background knowledge and vocabulary, improving their reading comprehension, and making connections between reading and writing.
See article >

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See all of our comprehension resources >

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Books & Authors

New Booklist! Their Legacy Lives On

Fictionalized or real, you'll meet interesting and strong individuals in these nine wonderful picture books. Travel back in time to join a Harlem Renaissance party of artists, writers and musicians. Meet opera legend Leontyne Price and gospel great Mahalia Jackson. And learn how the "seeds of freedom" planted by Martin Luther King, Jr. helped bring about the peaceful integration of Huntsville, Alabama.
See booklist >

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Related resource:

Celebrate Black History Month! Explore the extraordinary achievements of African Americans through stories, biography, and literacy activities.
See our Black History Month section >

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A Wider World: Our Interview with Christopher Myers

Christopher Myers comes from a long line of creative storytellers — he's the son of beloved writer Walter Dean Myers. In this video interview with Reading Rockets, Christopher Myers talks about his Brooklyn neighborhood, why he believes everyone has a story to tell, why reading "is not like going to Hawaii" and how reading touches every part of his life. Myers was awarded the 2015 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award for Firebird on February 2, by the American Library Association.
Watch video interview >

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Related video

Myers visits some of his biggest fans at P.S. 304 in New York City. There he uses his humongous feet to show children that being different is something to celebrate.
Watch video clip >

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El Deafo: Author CeCe Bell Turns Her Use of an Assistive Technology Device into a Strength

Students who use a device to support their access to the curriculum often struggle because assistive technology (AT) can make them feel different from their peers. Writer/illustrator CeCe Bell knows firsthand what that's like. A bout of meningitis when she was 4 years old left Bell with significant hearing loss — and a big and bulky Phonic Ear listening device she used in elementary school. Find out how that AT device gave Bell a funny kind of superpower and how it inspired her popular new graphic novel, El Deafo. Bell was awarded a 2015 Newbery Honor for El Deafo on February 2, by the American Library Association.
See blog post >

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Hail to the Chief: Picture Books for President's Day

Personalities and life inside the White House (including the wackiest pets), the truth about George Washington's teeth, Abe Lincoln's honest words, a brief history of voting in the U.S. (and why we have the electoral college), clever and revealing "collage portraits" of our Presidents, and much more.

Seuss-apalooza

Start planning your Seuss reading party! March 2nd approaches and NEA's annual Read Across America celebration will be here soon. This is a great opportunity for toddlers, teens and everyone in between to celebrate their literacy and language skills, the joys of reading, and their love of Dr. Seuss.
See our Read Across America resources >

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Ideas for Educators

Learning About Theodor Geisel with Our Author Study Toolkit

Kids are curious about the real Dr. Seuss — here's a step-by-step for learning more about this favorite author. From setting a purpose for your study, to researching Geisel's life, to developing a culminating project — our Author Study Toolkit will help you create a rich classroom experience.
See Author Study toolkit >

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Read Across America 2015 Classroom Activity Guide

Inspire curiosity and activate imaginations with this year's guide developed by Rachael Walker (Belle of the Book). The guide focuses on reading and learning fun with STEAM — Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, and Math. You'll discover activities to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Oh, the Places You'll Go! as well as STEAM-filled ideas linked to classic Dr. Seuss books (all matched with Common Core State Standards in ELA-Literacy).
Download guide >

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Related resource:
Dr. Seuss in the Classroom: An Educator's Guide Correlating to Common Core State Standards >

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Valentine's Day: We Love Writing

Valentine's Day is a perfect opportunity to practice creative writing skills — and take a fresh look at poetry, figurative language, and word play. Kids can experiment with new poetry forms like Korean sijo and cinquain. Special video feature: a visit with children's writer Laura Elliott, author of A String of Hearts who shares wonderful ideas to spark creativity with words and art.
See Valentine's Day writing activities >

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Ideas for Parents

Calling All Archaeologists, Astronauts and Secret Agents!

Do you have a junior Sherlock Holmes or Buzz Aldrin in your house? Kids are fascinated by the who-what-why-where-when-ness of the world around them — from the deep ocean floor to the Milky Way and everything in between. Nourish their natural curiosity with our handpicked collection of fiction and nonfiction picture books, hands-on activities, interactive apps, online resources for deeper learning, and more.
See Detectives and Explorers >

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Browse 23 more kid-friendly themes at our sister site, Start with a Book.

Related resources:

Civics 101: Our Government

Our new reading adventure pack pairs fiction and nonfiction books with hands-on activities to introduce kids to how our government works. See first-hand how tricky it can be to balance the three legislative branches, take on the role and responsibilities of being President for a day or go on a scavenger hunt in your city or town to see government at work.
See Government adventure pack >

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For more great books, activities, kid-friendly websites and apps all about the U.S. government, see Our Government on our companion site, Start with a Book.

The Vocabulary of Science

"Mom, what's photosynthesis?" Science learning involves lots of new vocabulary words. Discover ways to help your child figure out "big words" by breaking the words apart, thinking about what the smaller parts mean, and exploring related words. Have fun building "word families" together! (In English and Spanish)
See tips >

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Research & News

Study Finds Reading to Children of All Ages Grooms Them to Read More on Their Own

The New York Times

Cue the hand-wringing about digital distraction: Fewer children are reading books frequently for fun, according to a new report released by Scholastic, the children's book publisher. In a 2014 survey of just over 1,000 children ages 6 to 17, only 31 percent said they read a book for fun almost daily, down from 37 percent four years ago. There were some consistent patterns among the heavier readers: For the younger children — ages 6 to 11 — being read aloud to regularly and having restricted online time were correlated with frequent reading; for the older children — ages 12 to 17 — one of the largest predictors was whether they had time to read on their own during the school day. The finding about reading aloud to children long after toddlerhood may come as a surprise to some parents who read books to children at bedtime when they were very young but then tapered off.
Read article >

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Related article:
One cool chart about literacy that explains why kids start reading on their own

Will Digital Accessible Books Improve Reading for Students with Dyslexia?

Ed Surge

In second grade, Jose Alvarez struggled to read. He had fallen behind early in school. His older brothers and mother are dyslexic, and the family feared that Jose might have a learning disability too. Shortly after attending a third grade class taught by Ann Henkels, a dyslexia teacher in Frisco Independent School District in Texas, Jose's reading abilities began to improve. His teacher had given him a reading assignment with an accessible book that he read on an iPad. Jose's reading ability went from a second grade level to a fifth grade level. His mom credits Ms. Henkels, his teacher and accessible books for the joy her nine-year-old now experiences in the learning process.
Read article >

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The Surprising Amount of Time Kids Spend Looking at Screens

The Atlantic

Slouching posture, carpal-tunnel, neck strain, eye problems. The negative effects that technology use is having on humans' bodies are surprising. Kids who spend much of their days in and out of school, their faces glued to digital screens, may be establishing bad habits early. And according to a recent study by a group of Australian education and psychology experts, kids are spending more time with technology than researchers previously thought, far surpassing the American Academy of Pediatrics' recommendation that screen time should be limited to two hours per day.
Read article >

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We need diverse books because we need books in which children can find themselves, see reflections of themselves ... But books can also be windows. And so you can look through and see other worlds and see how they match up or don't match up to your own.

— Rudine Sims Bishop

Watch our interview with Rudine Sims Bishop, author of Free within Ourselves: The Development of African American Children's Literature

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February 26, 2015
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