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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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.
It’s summer break, but 14 rising third-graders spent a recent morning at Denver’s McMeen Elementary learning about proper nouns. After fastening imaginary bow ties around their necks — a reminder that the nouns were “proper” — the students called out words that fit the bill. Some of the 14 students were learning English as a second language. Others were native English speakers who struggle in reading. For 3½ weeks this summer, they all signed up to spend their mornings practicing literacy and language skills, and their afternoons doing fun activities as part of Denver Public Schools’ “summer academy.” The academy, which is free for families, has several purposes. It started years ago as a way to help English language learners maintain the progress they made during the school year. For nearly 30,000 of Denver’s 93,000 students, English is a second language; the most common first language is Spanish. Denver Public Schools has for decades been under a federal court order to better serve English language learners, and the academy is part of its strategy.
Meet the most necessary and least loved age range of children’s books. You haven’t truly lived until you’ve stared deep down into the eyes of a parent that is truly desperate for something for their 6-year-old to read. I have been carefully combing through every last easy book and early chapter book I could get my grubby little hands on and, with the help of my co-workers, I’ve come up with a good, if imperfect, list. Things I’d change about it? While it’s nice to see some Muslim and Latinx characters in these books, where are the Black and Asian-American kids? Suggestions in these areas that you’ve seen with 2019 pub dates are welcome (and necessary). To define our terms a little, when I say that something is an “Easy Book” I mean that it has a simplified text for beginning readers. Even so, the complexity of the text can vary. I will indicate when a book is appropriate for the earliest of readers when I can. An “Early Chapter Book” is a step above. These are books of varying length with chapters inside, but plenty of pictures. Again, they vary widely, so I’ll sort them from least complex to most complex on this list.
Children's literature fans can add a new kid lit character sculpture to their list of places to visit. Along with the book-inspired statues such as the Make Way for Ducklings Mallard family in Boston, Ramona, Henry, and Ribsy in Portland, and Harry the Dirty Dog in Sheboygan, WI, fans can now plan a road trip to visit Mo Willems's famed Knuffle Bunny in the Park Slope Library Storytelling Garden at the Brooklyn (NY) Public Library branch. Willems—whose Caldecott-winning Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale was set in the New York City neighborhood—came to the unveiling and read his beloved book to a group of fans before uncovering the sculpture that he designed and Chad Rimer created. Anyone planning a themed summer road trip should know that Knuffle Bunny—and the Mallards, Ramona, and Harry—are just a few of the many children's literature statues throughout the country.
Mo Willems feels like he's going back to second grade. The acclaimed children's author is the first ever Education Artist-in-Residence at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and even with all his awards and bestsellers, he says it's pretty scary. "I get to be really, really terrified in all kinds of new different ways," Willems says — but that doesn't mean he's not having fun. "There are all these sandboxes that I don't usually get to play in." Willems — who created the Pigeon series, Knuffle Bunny, and Elephant & Piggie — is exploring all sorts of artistic sandboxes at the Kennedy Center. He's collaborating with Ben Folds on a "symphonic spectacular"; he's working with Jason Moran on a Jazz Doodle Jam; and he's adapting Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus into a musical. In addition to delighting kids, Willems hopes he'll inspire some grown-ups, too. Children will create if they see the adults around them creating, he says — and it doesn't matter if you're "good."
A study published in 2017 by the Early Childhood Research Quarterly explores the short-term outcomes of the Connecticut School Readiness Program (CSRP), one of three early learning programs in Connecticut that serve three- and four-year olds. Programs operating under CSRP range from part-day and part-year to yearlong, extended-day services for eligible three- and four-year-olds. At least 60 percent of the seats must be filled by children from families at or below 75 percent of the state median income. In 2018, CSRP programs served over 12,000 children. Researchers found overall positive outcomes in reading and math scores for children who attended CSRP, but the magnitude and significance of those effects is inconsistent across different racial, ethnic, and economic subgroups. As in other areas of the country, early care and education costs in Connecticut impose a major financial burden on working families.
Just over a year ago, the Morton Grove (IL) Public Library, located in a Chicago suburb, began offering special storytime sessions to help young children deal with emotions such as fear and anger. The library also provides storytimes related to potty training. Amy Goodchild, a youth services associate who has a background in school counseling, came up with the ideas. “We’re using books as tools to address different situations, both giving parents the tools they need to be successful [and] showing people what we have in the library,” says Courtney Schroeder, who oversees youth services at the library. Morton Grove’s mission to help little patrons handle big emotions is one of many bold innovations in early learning services that include addressing difficult feelings, tech exposure, and guiding parents through developmental milestones. While traditional storytime isn’t going away, public libraries are exploring new strategies to introduce important concepts to toddlers and preschoolers in age-appropriate ways, while also providing support to families—and to the librarians who serve them.
Let's begin by talking about the elephant in the room—phonics instruction has a bad reputation for being boring, dull ... I could go on. But it doesn't have to be! Many programs include sensory integration, songs, poems, and other engaging resources. This video, showing students segmenting and blending words orally and with their bodies, is one of many examples. And just like with any other type of instruction, you can always infuse your own style and flavor.n Most importantly, students need it. The research is overwhelming: Students require systematic instruction to crack the alphabetic code. If they aren't reading fluently by 2nd grade, students have a tough road ahead, particularly when considering the complex text demands of new, more rigorous college- and career-ready standards like the Common Core State Standards.