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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The International Literacy Association has put out a new brief endorsing "systematic and explicit" phonics in all early reading instruction. "English is an alphabetic language. We have 26 letters. These letters, in various combinations, represent the 44 sounds in our language," the ILA brief released last week reads. "Teaching students the basic letter-sound combinations gives them access to sounding out approximately 84% of the words in English print." It's a strong statement from an influential, big-tent organization whose members, which include teachers, researchers, and parents, have traditionally held a wide range of views on reading approaches. "It's kind of a refreshing piece," said Timothy Shanahan, a professor emeritus at the University of Illinois at Chicago. "A lot of people think ILA is an anti-phonics group, but it's a large group." The ILA's word choices in this brief are important. Systematic phonics means that students are exposed to each sound-letter pattern in the English language in turn. Explicit means that those patterns are directly taught by teachers, not "discovered" via indirect prompting or inquiry activities. This may seem like common sense: Of course students need to be taught letters and sounds. But for any of you who have spent any time in the early-reading space, it gets right to the heart of the decades-old reading wars.
Students are identified as English-language learners, in theory, to prevent educational inequity, but that classification may present another problem for children: teacher bias. Research from Ilana Umansky of the University of Oregon and Hanna Dumont of Germany's Leibniz Institute for Research and Information in Education suggests that English-learner classification has a "direct and negative effect on teachers' perceptions of students' academic skills." Using data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, the researchers examined teacher perceptions of 2,166 students who spoke a language other than English at home. They focused on teachers' perceptions of students' skills and knowledge in four areas: language and literacy; math; social studies; and science. Their findings indicate that, across all the grade levels and content areas, teachers had lower perceptions of the academic skills and knowledge of those students who were classified as English-learners. They also found, however, that the teachers' negative bias or low academic perceptions were virtually nonexistent for English-learners in bilingual settings, such as dual-language programs and traditional bilingual programs, where a teacher or paraprofessional is using a language other than English at least half the time.
Scholastic has revealed a new ALA READ poster and bookmark, featuring original "Dog Man" artwork by Dav Pilkey and a message to kids: “Be a Reading Supa-Buddy. Do Good,” “It’s such an honor to be asked by the American Library Association," Pilkey said. "I’m grateful for librarians for their dedication to the community and children’s literacy.” The poster echoes Pilkey's "Do Good Tour," which kicks off next month and hopes to highlight how books inspire readers, as well as the ability to make a positive difference in the world. Pilkey, the American Association of School Librarians's 2019 national spokesperson, is combining this message of service and inspiration with a tour for his latest installment in the "Dog Man" series. Dog Man: For Whom the Ball Rolls publishes August 13 and "delves into the importance of not just being good but doing good," according to Scholastic.
When Esaïe Prickett sat down in the living room with his mother, father and four older brothers, he was the only one wearing Google Glass. As Esaïe, who was 10 at the time and is 12 now, gazed through the computerized glasses, his family made faces — happy, sad, surprised, angry, bored — and he tried to identify each emotion. In an instant, the glasses told him whether he was right or wrong, flashing tiny digital icons that only he could see. Esaïe was 6 when he and his family learned he had autism. The technology he was using while sitting in the living room was meant to help him learn how to recognize emotions and make eye contact with those around him. The glasses would verify his choices only if he looked directly at a face. He and his family tested the technology for several weeks as part of a clinical trial run by researchers at Stanford University in and around the San Francisco Bay Area. Recently detailed in The Journal of the American Medical Association, Pediatrics, the trial fits into a growing effort to build new technologies for children on the autism spectrum, including interactive robots and computerized eyewear.
A supportive school reading culture is one where there is availability, opportunity, encouragement and support for reading. But how do schools actually go about building this kind of culture in their own contexts? To answer this question, Senior Lecturer at Edith Cowan University Dr Margaret Merga went straight to the source – teacher librarians – to gain their valuable insights into the factors that enable and constrain the development of a whole school reading culture. The results from this research were published in the Australian Journal of Education in a paper titled, Building a school reading culture: Teacher librarians’ perceptions of enabling and constraining factors. In today’s episode, I sit down with Margaret to talk more about her study and its findings, including the role that school leadership plays in the development and maintenance of a school reading culture.
What started as a way to give parents a break and excite students about reading has now attracted authors from around the world to send books for Principal Archie Moss to read on Facebook Live. Moss has read bedtime stories every Tuesday night since February when he announced the push for more reading while at Bruce Elementary School’s Black History Month event. Moss’ weekly bedtime stories attracted global media attention as Shelby County Schools leaders search for ways to incorporate literacy into more aspects of student life. Superintendent Joris Ray recently encouraged local leaders and celebrities with ties to Memphis to get online and follow Moss’ example.
If “the classics” are as important as we seem to think they are as an education system, why don’t we make them more accessible by laying down the foundations for them earlier? Spending an hour in a children’s department at a library will quickly prove to you that graphic novel is king—the format seems to be more digestible and certainly more exciting for young readers—so it follows that we ought to share the classics earlier in these formats and reintroduce them in full later on, particularly if we have determined that plot comprehension is a necessary part of interacting with a piece of literature in an academic setting.
When educators think of literacy -- the ability to read and write -- they often place more importance on students’ abilities to read and fully understand a piece of writing. But experts say critical and creative writing skills are equally important. And, they say, they are too often overlooked in the classroom. Compared to reading, writing is more active. It helps students be independent thinkers, take ownership of their stories and ideas and communicate them clearly to others, says Elyse Eidman-Aadahl. She heads the National Writing Project, which offers help for teachers who want to push students to write more. Teaching reading together with writing improves both skills, says Rebecca Wallace-Segall, who heads a New York City writing center, Writopia Lab.
Although summer allows educators and students a few months to rest and recharge before school resumes in the fall, families have the important responsibility of ensuring what their children learned over the previous 10 months is not lost during days spent swimming in the pool or building sand castles at the beach. The term commonly used among educators for the skills students lose between the end of one school year and the beginning of the next is known as the “summer slide.” So what can families do to avoid the summer slide? Although not exhaustive, the recommendations below can help children maintain their academic skills during their months off. One recommendation: Expect children to read—books, magazines, graphic novels, newspapers—for at least 20 minutes each day on the level at which they were reading when the school year ended.
In this week’s column, we review U.S. editions of books that originated in Great Britain and Ireland. Included are books by authors and illustrators who continue to receive national and international recognition and are popular with readers on both sides of “the pond.”
A decade ago, just five states had any laws that mentioned dyslexia. Now if AB-110–a modest bill about developing a dyslexia guidebook–passes the Wisconsin senate and is signed by the governor, that state will become the 46th to have legislation specifically addressing the needs of children with that condition. This year alone, according to the website Dyslegia, more than 75 dyslexia-related bills are expected to be introduced in state legislatures. Why the wave of laws around this learning disability? Legal experts, teachers and literacy advocates point to one organization in particular: Decoding Dyslexia, a decentralized group of parents who have used social media and online resources to mobilize, raise awareness, and lobby state and federal legislators. Decoding Dyslexia started in 2011, when some parents–mostly mothers–in New Jersey discovered they were having almost identical struggles with different schools and districts. Their children had a hereditary disability, which had a treatment–dyslexic kids have to be taught to read more painstakingly, with special attention to what’s known as “phonemic awareness,” or the sound each letter makes–but the schools were unwilling or unable to provide the services they needed.
As teachers, we have some misconceptions about vocabulary. Many of us think, “If I discuss the target words during our read-aloud, I’ve effectively taught new vocabulary!” But that’s not true. Research shows that effective vocabulary instruction requires an explicit, multifaceted approach. This means that we need to incorporate many opportunities throughout the day to help students retain this new information. Hearing words during a read-aloud is just not enough. We also need to make sure our students get repeated exposure to vocabulary words across different texts, repeatedly, over time.
The Elgin Partnership for Early Learning is partnering with Greater Elgin Family Care Center to bring the While You Wait early learning initiative to center's waiting rooms this summer. Modeled after the successful Language in the Laundromat Campaign, which created early learning experiences for families at two local laundromats in Elgin, the While You Wait initiative will create early learning spaces and experiences for families in waiting rooms. This initiative is part of Elgin Partnership for Early Learning's strategy of reaching families where they are in the community and bringing early learning materials and activities within families reach. Elgin Partnership for Early Learning created bilingual, educational flipbooks with activities for parents to interact with their children as they wait to be seen by their doctor.
According to a new study published in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, any toddlers who have more exposure to other children, such as those in daycare, may be particularly good at certain word learning skills. Young language learners acquire their first language(s) from the speech they are exposed to in their environment. For some children, like those in daycare, this environmental speech includes a large quantity of speech from other children, rather than from just adults and parents. Researchers at the University of Waterloo showed that toddlers processed the child speaker’s productions as well as those of an adult and with the same level of sensitivity to phonetic detail previously shown for adult speakers. This means that the toddlers understood the child speaker at roughly the same ability as an adult speaker. Although all of the children were good at processing child speech, the study found that toddlers who had more exposure to other children were better at associating a new word to a new object, which is a key process for language learning.
Changes in education policy often emanate from the federal government. But one policy that has spread across the country came not from Washington, D.C., but from Florida. "Mandatory retention" requires that third-graders who do not show sufficient proficiency in reading repeat the grade. It was part of a broader packet of reforms proposed by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush in 2002. Now 19 states have adopted the policy, in part because Bush has pushed hard for it. Florida's law also included millions of dollars for supports like reading coaches and summer school sessions. Professor Nell Duke at the University of Michigan points out that the short-term gains could be due to those interventions, rather than retaining children. Oklahoma adopted mandatory retention in 2014. The policy was not accompanied with large state investments in its schools; in fact, it has one of the lowest rates of per pupil expenditure in the country. And yet, over the past 20 years, it has created one of the most comprehensive public pre-K programs in the country. Seventy-three percent of its 4-year-olds are enrolled.
Six new vending machines were placed in the city this week, but you won’t find snacks inside them. Instead, the machines are stocked with children’s books. The books are free and part of an initiative launched by JetBlue that aims to provide children with access to age-appropriate reading. The vending machines were placed in neighborhoods where access to children’s books is limited and were chosen with the help of Susan B. Neuman, a childhood and literacy professor at the NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. Children and their families are encouraged to take as many books as they want. The vending machines will be restocked every two weeks with new titles, in English and Spanish.
Regardless of our online reading habits, the “internet of things” doesn’t sleep and will continue to soar in the variety of information being generated through the datafication of online clicks, likes, shares, postings, streamings, and more. The diverse reading that we—and our students—will have to traverse online requires that we have skills and strategies to navigate and comprehend the various multimedia elements in genre-bending spaces. It’s clear informational reading plays a significant role in our readerly lives yet early learners often have limited access and exposure to informational text in school. What can we do to help prepare our students to comprehend informational text in a digital environment?
The state of Texas has been working to correct serious problems in special education highlighted by an investigative report by the Houston Chronicle in 2016. The series of reports shined a spotlight on how Texas was shortchanging special education for more than a decade. When federal education officials did their own investigation, they estimated that over 13 years, 32,000 students missed out on services they should have gotten. One of the biggest problems was with dyslexia services. That learning disability was never classified under special education, and that reduced oversight and enforcement. But this session lawmakers changed that, and will now help schools pay for interventions. The moves give parents and advocates hope for the future.
Dysart Unified’s preschool program for students with disabilities, which is offered at each of its elementary schools and staffed with teams of teachers, therapists and paraprofessionals, has become a model for Arizona. It’s the kind of inclusive, widespread program that experts say is ideal for young children with disabilities and can lead to impressive outcomes. Some children do so well in these programs they no longer need special education services by the time they enter school. But comprehensive programs like the one in Dysart are a rarity, especially in a state where public pre-K is not yet widely available for all students, let alone children with disabilities.
The American educational system has a difficult time understanding dyslexia and an even harder time identifying children with dyslexia in order to provide the correct intervention for students who are native English speakers. When a school has the added challenge of identifying struggling English language learners (ELLs), the task becomes an even more complicated process, and often, these kids are completely missed. But that does not have to be the case. Children who are learning English are just as likely to have dyslexia as their native-English-speaking counterparts, and there is a way to identify dyslexia in these children. The difference is that dyslexia might appear in the native language quite as vividly as it will when they attempt to learn English.
The beauty—and fragility—of our oceans and the variety of life that they support are highlighted in these recently published, abundantly illustrated titles.
As far back as 1977, early-elementary teachers spent more than twice as much time on reading as on science and social studies combined. But since 2001, when the federal No Child Left Behind legislation made standardized reading and math scores the yardstick for measuring progress, the time devoted to both subjects has only grown. In turn, the amount of time spent on social studies and science has plummeted—especially in schools where test scores are low. All of which raises a disturbing question: What if the medicine we have been prescribing is only making matters worse, particularly for poor children? What if the best way to boost reading comprehension is not to drill kids on discrete skills but to teach them, as early as possible, the very things we’ve marginalized—including history, science, and other content that could build the knowledge and vocabulary they need to understand both written texts and the world around them?
While many students eagerly count down the last few days of the school year, the start of summer break is a more anxious prospect for students in and on the verge of homelessness. "Letting these kids go in the summer, which sounds great, is for many homeless kids the worst time in their life," said Ralph da Costa Nunez, the president of the Institute for Children, Poverty, and Homelessness. That's why programs like the Bossier Schools Summer Blast program here are working to help the most vulnerable students keep the academic and social supports they enjoy while school is in session. Nearly half of Bossier Parish's 23,000 students live in poverty and 400 are homeless. Blast Camp provides three full-day weeks for students in grades 2-5 who are homeless or in foster care. Campers get free transportation, t-shirts, and breakfast, lunch, and afternoon snacks. Four days a week, they have hands-on classes in reading, math, science, and art with district teachers and community groups. On Fridays, the campers go on field trips to local museums, nature centers, and the local emergency services center.
Readers have been very good about suggesting titles and I haven’t added every last one of them yet, but don’t stop! If you don’t see one of of your favorites here, please let me know in the comments and I’ll update continuously. Remember, the statue must be of a character from a book. Real life figures that just happened to be connected to books in some way don’t quite count. Extra points if you can list the location and the name of the sculptor.
When teacher Kay Nelson directs her class at Hamlin Robinson School to spell a word, she helps them break down every step. Spell the word “monster,” she tells her students. How many syllables does it have? What is the vowel sound in the first syllable? The second? Spell it out loud. Spell it in the air with your hand. Write it on the paper on your desk.Her class, 15 children in all, spell the word out loud, in unison. Fifteen students raise their hands and write big, loopy letters in the air. Fifteen hands pick up pencils and write the word on paper, in cursive. Nelson teaches fourth grade. But in this class of 15, there are students reading at the first-grade level, and also the fifth grade. Most children here entered this private school in the Central District in third grade, diagnosed with a language-based learning disability such as dyslexia that was derailing their educations.
"Reading logs" are forms that, typically, parents have to sign showing that their children have read for a certain period of time each night. They're pretty common—I suspect that any of us who are parents and/or teachers have had some experience with them. But do they do more harm than good in alienating students from reading? This four-part series will explore that question.Today, Mary Beth Nicklaus, Beth Jarzabek, Jennifer Casa-Todd, Jennifer Orr, and Leah Wilson contribute their responses.
My school is one of many whose ELA departments have moved from a focus on whole-class novels to independent reading and reading partnerships (both pairs and clubs). These combine the essential elements of choice, volume, engagement, and quality talk, which professor of education Richard Allington asserts are foundational to quality literacy education. What follows are a few digital tools for helping teachers and students from upper elementary through high school support choice and shared reading.
Young children who spend more time learning about the relationship between letters and sounds are better at counting, calculating, and recognizing numbers, a new study has found. Researchers from Liverpool John Moores University in England looked at the reading and math learning experiences that young children have at home with parents. At the end of their last year of preschool, researchers tested students' early number skills. Among all of the factors researchers asked parents about, only practice with letter-sound interactions positively predicted children's ability to count, calculate, and recognize numbers, when controlling for other factors including socioeconomic status. Number experiences didn't predict this variance. And other code-focused literacy activities that didn't focus on letter sounds—for example, reciting the alphabet—also didn't have the same effect. Why does learning about the sounds that letters have anything to do with math skills? One possible explanation is that learning letter-sound interactions gives children the tools to understand abstract symbolic systems—the idea that a printed symbol on a page can stand for something else. If children can understand this concept as it applies to letters and reading, it might be easier for them to apply it to numbers and math.
For kids, summer means freedom. No school, no homework — and for some, no reading. Unfortunately, this can lead to something called the summer slide. The summer slide is not a fun water park ride. It’s not even the scorching hot piece of playground equipment we’ve all learned to avoid in the summer. Rather, it’s the phenomenon of children losing academic skills — for instance, a decline in their reading ability — that can occur over the summer months. According to the National Summer Learning Association, summers spent without reading can lead to a cumulative learning loss that puts kids at a significant disadvantage in school. That’s where libraries come in. Families often come to the library for programs, and once there, they browse the shelves. “Libraries play an important role in the summer months with flexible reading programs, but also through games and fun events,” says Westbank librarian Colleen Cunningham.
Half a century later, the story of the first lunar landing still has the capacity to astound. These picture books, many with all-ages appeal, combine artful, accurate texts and wondrous images to introduce a new generation to the Apollo program — and some of the 410,000 people who made it possible.