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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Dana Goldstein, a Times education reporter, weighs in on questions that she hears frequently from parents. "We’ve met new substitutes, scrambled to source tiny KN95 masks, and once again found ourselves wondering how to amuse (and tolerate!) two exuberant children during a frigid, virus-constrained winter. ... All to say, I’m here with you during this pandemic. And I’ve heard many questions from parents during the Omicron surge. Here is what I’ve learned from my reporting."
In 2002, Linda Sue Park won the John Newbery Medal for A Single Shard, a novel set in 12th-century Korea. Her stories have celebrated Korean food and family (Bee-Bim Bop! 2005), examined the joys and constraints of Korean girlhood (Seesaw Girl, 1999), and explored the painful history of Japan’s colonization of Korea (When My Name Was Keoko, 2002). Through meticulous research and carefully crafted stories, Park has enchanted more than one generation of readers. Park says, "You will never again love a book the way you do when you’re a child. Beyond that kind of fierce adoration, people remember their favorite childhood books for the rest of their lives. That’s what we get to do, those of us who write for young readers: We create the books that people remember forever. Privilege, responsibility, joy."
Outraged at the parents and politicians who are trying to rid school libraries of books they denounce as inappropriate or even pornographic, a band of Texas school librarians is fighting back. Shortly after Texas state Rep. Matt Krause called for the state’s school libraries to review a list of 850 books for possible removal, four librarians formed “#FReadom Fighters” to resist what they call “a war on books.” School districts in at least 30 other states are embroiled in book debates like the one in Texas.
Pandemic-related school closures, which caused an alarming rate of learning loss among the country’s most vulnerable students, have prompted some administrators to reconsider the school calendar. An earlier start date, a later end date and numerous, elongated breaks throughout the year could allow more timely remediation for children in need — and enrichment for those who are not. Such thinking has received at least tacit support from U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona. “Why do we go back to the same system that gives kids two months without engagement in the summer?” he asked in November. “We need to rethink that.”
What are your favorite classroom games? In the midst of the pandemic, I’m finding games an essential part of classroom instruction. They serve two (and many more) purposes: engagement in learning and distraction from COVID.
Steve Jenkins, an award-winning children’s book author and illustrator whose passion for science, as well as his meticulous and vibrant cut-paper collages, brought the natural world to life, died on Dec. 26 in Boulder, Colo. He was 69. In plain language, he answered many burning questions: How do you catch a fly? What do animals do the day they’re born? How loud is a lion’s roar?
The 2022 Children’s Book Week will include the first annual Floyd Cooper Day, in recognition of the late children’s book author-illustrator who is credited with portraying African American experiences through his storytelling. Teachers, librarians, and booksellers across the country will be encouraged to hold readings of his books on Friday, May 6, and to display his works throughout the week-long initiative. The event will celebrate Cooper, who died last July after illustrating more than 100 children’s books in more than 30 years.
With a little support, young learners can pick up the skills necessary to conduct successful classroom discussions. This article looks at how to use three intentional steps: modeling, waiting, and reflecting.
Katherine Paterson won her first Newbery Medal in 1978 for Bridge to Terabithia, followed by a Newbery Honor in 1979 for The Great Gilly Hopkins. Her second Newbery Medal was awarded in 1981 for Jacob Have I Loved. Over the course of her career, Paterson has been honored with many major award for children’s book authors. Today, as the book world celebrates the 100th anniversary of the Newbery, she is one of only six writers to have received that prestigious medal twice.
For a beginning writer, organization and conventions are mammoth mountains to climb, and they can fill all of our instruction and feedback time. But what about those proficient writers who have already mastered these things? A series of lessons focused on word choice can help high-achieving elementary school writers learn to revise their work.
It’s a painful truth already, but new numbers sharpen the picture: 61 percent of educators say that student absenteeism is higher this winter than it was in the fall of 2019, adding new urgency to questions about how to care for students who are struggling with trauma and illness during the pandemic, and how to catch them up academically.
Christopher Paul Curtis has been recognized by the Newbery committee three times. He was the recipient of a Newbery Honor in 1996 forThe Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963, and in 2008 for Elijah of Buxton. He received the Newbery Medal in 2000 for Bud, Not Buddy. Curtis’s award-winning fiction featuring African American families and children provides insight into the importance of history and its relationship to the present. In this interview, Curtis reflects on his post-Newbery life and offers insight into why his books, and their centering of African American history, are necessary, especially today.
Award-winning children’s author and illustrator Steve Jenkins, widely praised for his distinctive and detailed cut- and torn-paper collages depicting animals and the natural world, has died at age 69. In all, Jenkins created more than 80 books for young readers. Though it’s a profession he came to by serendipity, it proved a perfect fit. “For me, making children’s books represents the happy intersection of children, science, art, my design partnership with [wife, fellow artist and designer] Robin, and my lifelong love of reading,”
As a middle school language arts teacher, I’ve developed a systematic approach to writing that helps students improve their storytelling skills. It includes strategies for writing in a variety of genres, such as personal narrative, memoir, and creative nonfiction. And in the revision stage I teach a color-coded approach to analyzing details that helps students see clearly what kinds of details they’ve used—and which they haven’t. When these strategies are used together, they help students improve their writing skills while also fostering relationships among themselves as they act as sounding boards for each other’s work.
The new question-of-the-week is: What are you doing—or trying to do—to sustain your morale and the morale of your students in the face of Omicron? What are you doing—or trying to do—to sustain any kind of learning momentum you had built up before the winter break? Annie Holyfield, a K-1 teacher and literacy coach, talks about the value of unstructured play. Special education teacher Ann Stiltner talks about positivity. And elementary teacher Jennifer Orr says "we have to get back into our routines."
Teachers can use stories and poems to boost students’ understanding of math and science concepts while giving them extra reading practice. In everyday life, we don’t separate our time into short blocks to focus on one set of skills, so why do we do this in school? Here are three ways I incorporate reading into elementary science and math classes.
Schools across the country are overwhelmed with K-12 students struggling with mental health problems, according to school staff, pediatricians and mental health care workers. Not only has this surge made the return to classrooms more challenging to educators, it's also taxing an already strained health-care system. Schools are seeing many kids acting younger than their age, says Dr. Vera Feuer, an associate vice president of school mental health at Cohen's Children's Medical Center in Long Island.
In Everybody in the Red Brick Building, a howling Baby Izzie wakes up a squawking parrot, which wakes up a trio of flashlight tag-playing friends, who wake up a little girl who decides the middle of the night is the best time to set off her toy rocket, which wakes up a cat, who leaps onto a car, setting off the alarm. Soon, everyone in the apartment building is wide awake.
A district assistive technology specialist writes that removing barriers for diverse students requires overcoming pervasive narratives in learning. Myth 1: Assistive technology is only for special education students. Myth 2: UDL is just another education fad. Myth 3: Students need IEPs to qualify for special services or accommodations.
To start the year off on an upbeat note, Colorado’s muscular effort to improve K–3 reading curriculum finally appears to be paying off. One of twenty states that passed or recently considered measures related to the science of reading, the Centennial State began cracking down on how its teacher preparation programs cover early literacy. It is now in the process of requiring teachers to demonstrate more in-depth knowledge about reading pedagogy as well as tightening the reins on which reading programs may be used by districts. Last year, barely two in five of the state’s many local districts used reading curricula from the state’s list of approved programs. That has already risen to 63 percent.
Successful readers develop not just the skill but the habit of reading. As a decline in pleasure reading coincides with a move to different modes of screen-based texts, experts worry students need more comprehensive support to become lifelong readers in the digital age.
People often resist scientific evidence and the reasons vary. In the area of education, the situation is complicated by the fact that scientific findings about learning are often at odds with our intuition. To make matters worse, teacher-prep programs typically fail to inform teachers about those findings and even advocate instructional approaches that go against them. Here are seven examples of common intuitive beliefs that conflict with science.
The coronavirus pandemic upended almost every aspect of school at once. It was not just the move from classrooms to computer screens. It tested basic ideas about instruction, attendance, testing, funding, the role of technology and the human connections that hold it all together. A year later, a rethinking is underway, with a growing sense that some changes may last. “There may be an opportunity to reimagine what schools will look like,” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona told The Washington Post. “It’s always important we continue to think about how to evolve schooling so the kids get the most out of it.”
For the millions of students who struggle to read at grade level, every school day can bring feelings of anxiety, frustration, and shame. That’s why it’s critical to support students’ social-emotional needs alongside their reading instruction, experts say, especially in later years. School can be a minefield for those students, particularly as they reach middle and high school. Reading is woven throughout every subject area, meaning that children who don’t receive appropriate support can fall behind in multiple classes, even though they are capable of intellectually understanding the material. Teachers may call on students to read aloud in front of the entire class, opening them up to potential judgment or snickers from their peers. And sometimes, students who lack decoding skills are given early-reader texts to practice, which feel babyish and boring.
While city officials clash with the teachers’ union over how to return to classrooms amid Omicron, families around Chicago reflect on the pandemic’s effects on their children.
Avi has written three books that have been recognized by the Newbery committee: The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle was awarded a Newbery Honor in 1991, Nothing but the Truth was the recipient of an Honor in 1992, and Crispin: The Cross of Lead won the Medal in 2003. While the prolific author is best known for his middle grade historical fiction, he has written for a wide range of audiences in different genres, formats, and styles. His 81st book, Loyalty, will be published February 2022.
Cynthia Kadohata is the author of 10 books for young readers that encompass a remarkably wide variety of topics, settings, cultures, and time periods. Whether she’s exploring the aftermath of the Japanese American incarceration during World War II, contemporary wheat threshing in the Midwest, or the love of an animal companion, all her works are anchored by a sense of heartfelt authenticity as characters navigate complex emotions and situations. Her reflective storytelling deftly balances darkness with light and consistently affirms the importance of family and connection. She was awarded the 2005 Newbery Medal for Kira-Kira, and her latest novel for young readers, Saucy, was published in 2020.
Author Jason Reynolds is a Newbery Honoree, a Printz Honoree, a two-time National Book Award finalist, a two-time Walter Dean Myers Award winner, and the recipient of multiple Coretta Scott King honors, among other accolades. He’s also the current National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. His books for young readers include All American Boys, When I Was the Greatest, and Long Way Down. Griffin has shown his art in major cities around the world. He created the artwork for My Name Is Jason. Mine Too, written by Reynolds, and his most recent projects include a mural for the children’s cancer wing at Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx. We asked Reynolds and Griffin to interview each other about their artistic approaches and their new collaboration, Ain’t Burned All the Bright, which combines poetry and collage to explore recent events in America and the kaleidoscope of Black experiences.
Gary Paulsen’s final novel, “Northwind” — a tale of survival as masterfully understated as the man himself — brings the author’s career, and his life, full circle. Where his 1986 novel “Hatchet” was about an earned connection to the land, “Northwind” is about an earned connection to the sea. Earned because the main characters of both must face the beauty and brutality of nature, as well as come to terms with its indifference.
Cece the superhero soars from page to screen — her cape flowing, her hearing aids firmly attached to her long, bunny ears and her amazing, power-giving phonic ear strapped to her chest. “El Deafo,” a three-episode animated series based on Cece Bell’s popular illustrated children’s book, premieres on Apple TV’s streaming service Jan. 7. The show adapts Bell’s story, which is a mostly autobiographical graphic novel about growing up deaf and going to school in 1970s-era Salem. The 2014 book earned a Newbery Honor, one of the top awards for children’s literature.
I’ve been writing Obituary posts for a number of years now, and I can say with certainty that in no year have I seen as many notable, unforgettable, downright amazing names as I saw pass away in 2021. This past year was a gut-punch to the children’s literature community. Here is every author and illustrator of books pertaining to children’s literature I knew of throughout the year, in the order in which they left us.
Older students struggling with reading is not a phenomenon new to the pandemic. In 2019, before COVID disrupted schools, scores from the National Assessment of Educational Progress showed that only 66 percent of 4th graders and 73 percent of 8th graders were at or above a “basic” level of proficiency in the subject. But the turmoil over the past two years has resurfaced questions about exactly how best to get students up to speed, and it’s directed funding toward academic recovery.
The marvelously versatile Lois Lowry is the author of more than 40 books for children and young adults. She has written picture books, humorous contemporary stories, historical fiction, and realistic and futuristic novels. No matter the genre, her books tend to feature kids trying to make sense of a complicated world. Lowry has said that all of her books are fundamentally about “the importance of human connections.” Lowry was awarded the Newbery Medal in 1990 for Number the Stars and again in 1994 for The Giver.
What are the consequences of closing virtually every American school and shifting to online education for months at a time? It’s a question that education experts have been asking since the emergence of COVID-19, and one whose answers are gradually becoming clearer. With federal sources reporting that 99 percent of students have now returned to classrooms, newly available data are showing how students were affected by spending long stretches of the last two school years at home. And the signs are not good. In a discovery that will reopen questions about the wisdom of keeping schools closed, economist Emily Oster and her co-authors found that learning loss was far worse in districts that kept classes fully remote, and that declines in reading scores were greater in districts serving predominantly poor and non-white students.
Mask requirements are returning in some school districts that had dropped them. Some are planning to vastly ramp up virus testing among students and staff. And a small number of school systems are switching to remote learning — for just a short while, educators hope. With coronavirus infections soaring, the return from schools’ winter break will be different than planned for some as administrators again tweak protocols and make real-time adjustments in response to the shifting pandemic. All are signaling a need to stay flexible.
After 100 years, the Newbery Medal is as popular—and controversial—as ever. People have impassioned opinions. Lots of them. And they don’t hold back. On “Heavy Medal,” the Mock Newbery blog that we cohost, we’ve been discussing the history of the award for the better part of this year. To cap it off this month, we created a special poll for SLJ to collect librarians’ and readers’ opinions on the Newbery process.
In two short weeks, as the year closed out, the Omicron variant drove coronavirus case counts to record levels, upended air travel and left gaping staffing holes at police departments, firehouses and hospitals. And that was at a time many people were off for the holiday season. Now comes Monday, with millions of Americans having traveled back home to start school and work again, and no one is sure of what comes next. Most of the nation’s largest school districts have decided to forge ahead and remain open, at least for the time being, citing the toll that remote learning has taken on students’ mental health and academic success.
Can you believe it? The year is out and done and we’ve come to the end of the 31 Days, 31 Lists series. Today’s list represents just a handful of the titles published this year. This is some, but surely not all, of the finest. If you need a starting place where you can get a sense of what the year entailed, use this list. It was a pure pleasure putting it together.
Using strategies like co-teaching between leaders and teachers to intentionally structure teacher observations and create a positive experience can make the process less of a burden for the teacher and provide more opportunities for growth, learning and understanding, Miriam Plotinsky, an instructional specialist at Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland, writes. Allowing teachers to invite school leaders into the classroom as observers while they teach a lesson they are proud of lets the teacher showcase their best work. Likewise, teachers could also invite administrators in to gain feedback with problem areas.
The new question-of-the-week is: What is working and what is not during this school year? What has been working? 1. Peer Tutors: Our school has flooded our ELL newcomer and intermediate classes with peer tutors who are either advanced ELLs or students who have previously attended my International Baccalaureate Theory of Knowledge classes. They have been a tremendous asset in “accelerating learning,” and we plan on making this program a permanent fixture at our school. You can read more about it here.
Every year thousands of books are published for children. How do you choose what new books to stock your shelves with before the new year? Award-winning children’s books have always been a go-to resource for teachers, parents, and caregivers.
Lowry, who has lost a sister and a son, has spent decades writing about the pains of memory. Literature, she says, is “a way that we rehearse life.”
Monear Fatemi was on the hunt for a children's book she had loved as a kid in the 1980s. She remembered so many vivid details: the family in the book ate lima beans, the dad had a bushy mustache, the cat's name was "Dog." She could recall every detail, it seemed, except the title and author. Fatemi, a former English teacher, says she was eager to find this particular title for her 2-year-old daughter because it had meant so much to her when she was growing up. Fatemi is half Persian, and says she rarely saw people of color represented in books or television at the time.
“The Polar Express” was born in Providence, written by longtime New England resident Chris Van Allsburg. Since its publication in 1985, kids have experienced the magic of this Caldecott-winning modern classic. From his early days as a sculptor to his success as a children’s book author and illustrator, the Rhode Island School of Design alum shares his own story.
Our most widely circulated education coverage this year focused largely on how school is still looking a whole lot different today than it did two years ago, how educators and policymakers are both recognizing the need for urgent learning recovery efforts, and how emerging political fights over schools and curriculum are straining an already stretched system. These were our 21 most shared and debated articles of 2021.
We lost so many beloved children's book authors and illustrators this year, including Beverly Cleary (104 years old), Jerry Pinkney, Eloise Greenfield, Mitsumasa Anno, Lois Ehlert, George Ancona, and Norton Juster. Here's a brief remembrance of these book creators who touched so many children's lives.
Providing fun, engaging activities and welcoming settings for instruction can boost happiness in classrooms — and learning. Across the country, educators are infusing joy and happiness into learning. It's a strategy that has been recommended — and executed — for many decades, but one teachers and administrators say has become more deliberate and purposeful since COVID-19 disrupted in-person learning and created economic, emotional and physical hardships for communities and families.
Teaching in 2021 brought continued challenges and stressors as teachers navigated the second year of the pandemic. In the first half of the year, many schools were still at least partially remote, leaving teachers to juggle simultaneously teaching students who were at home and at school. Then, as nearly all schools opened for full in-person instruction this fall, teachers suddenly had to confront a host of new challenges, including staffing shortages, student mental health issues, and lost learning time.
Author and illustrator Sandra Boynton has had a long and prolific career, with over 70 million books, primarily for children, sold since her first, Hippos Go Berserk!, was published in 1977, written as part of a project while she was a student at Yale School of Drama. Boynton has since gone on to pen everything from the nonfiction Chocolate: The Consuming Passion to recent release Woodland Dance!, published this past September.
As California expands transitional kindergarten, English learner advocates are urging school districts to prioritize children learning English as a second language. California is expanding transitional kindergarten, or TK, over four years, to eventually offer all 4-year-olds a free year of preschool before kindergarten. Advocates say the expansion of TK is an opportunity to offer high-quality preschool to more children who speak a language other than English at home — about 60% of young children in California, according to the Migration Policy Institute.
LeVar Burton has been hired as host of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, giving the competition a celebrity headliner who’s also a longtime literacy advocate as Scripps takes over production of the bee telecast. Burton, who was the longtime host of the children’s educational program “Reading Rainbow,” said yes immediately when approached about the hosting role. Burton comes from a family of educators and said the bee represents “the inspirational, aspirational ideal of education.”
In a school year that was supposed to be a return to normal but has proven anything but, Michigan's Van Buren Intermediate School District has launched an educational program based on a key component of modern psychology — cognitive behavior therapy. Principles of this method are embedded in the curriculum and are part of the district's full embrace of social and emotional learning.
Marguerite Higgins faced off with armed Nazi soldiers at the Dachau concentration camp, stared down Gen. Douglas MacArthur and went behind enemy lines all to get a story. Higgins may not be a household name, but she was a trailblazing war correspondent before women were a prescence on the battlefield. A Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Higgins died well before the Internet age, but her story is being told in Nathan Hale’s new graphic novel, “Cold War Correspondent.”
Teachers continue to be trained in ways that ignore the findings of cognitive science. One practical implication of cognitive load theory is that you can’t teach students critical thinking in the abstract; you can think critically about a topic only if you have ample information about it stored in long-term memory. It’s also important to provide students with “retrieval practice”: having them recall information from long-term memory to make it more readily available, perhaps by giving frequent quizzes. Students should have some freedom of choice, but if the curriculum is guided by their individual interests, they likely won’t acquire the information needed to gain new knowledge later on. .
Fewer young Denver students were reading at grade level this fall than in the previous two years — a concerning trend district officials attribute to unfinished learning during the pandemic. The district is rolling out several strategies to reverse the trend, including tutoring students who need extra help, expanding summer literacy programming, and adopting a new state-approved curriculum based on the “science of reading,” officials said. Some schools are already piloting the curriculum, called Core Knowledge Language Arts, and teachers said it’s making a big difference.
I support a whole-child approach to teaching, but how do schools integrate it when we have so many different subjects to cover? Stop teaching in “bins.” Math is from 10 a.m. to 10:45 a.m., followed by reading until 11:50, then off to recess to build social-emotional skills. We often break the whole child into fragments to receive piecemeal instruction in individual subjects. Even though the science of learning indicates that teaching in bins is not optimal, the practice has remained a mainstay for decades. Take the bins we absolutely believe in—the divide between reading and math.
The troubling enrollment losses that school districts reported last year have in many places continued this fall, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt public education across the country, an NPR investigation has found. We compiled the latest headcount data directly from more than 600 districts in 23 states and Washington, D.C., including statewide data from Massachusetts, Georgia and Alabama. We found that very few districts, especially larger ones, have returned to pre-pandemic numbers. Most are now posting a second straight year of declines. This is particularly true in some of the nation's largest systems.
I remember, not too fondly, one writing assignment I gave my students in which I asked them to write about the most disgusting thing that happened to them. It led to giggles and students were paying attention that day. But were they learning much to support their success in school and beyond? Not really. I’ve since come to understand that good writing instruction should integrate reading and writing, connecting writing assignments to great books, articles, and texts students are assigned to read.
The picture books of 2021 have been beautiful, funny, emotional, and important — sometimes all within the same book. From informational nonfiction picture books about Black and Native American history to books about accepting our emotions, celebrating our family heritage, or just being silly, this year’s picture books have been amazing. So when you are picking out books to give as holiday gifts or bringing home something to read from the library, I hope you’ll consider supporting 2021 picture books.
Of the five senses, the ability to sense sound is “undervalued and underappreciated,” and yet inextricably tied to our understanding of the world, says neuroscientist Nina Kraus. “We live in a visually-oriented world,” says Kraus. Visual objects have “ingredients” such as size, texture and color. “So does sound. Sound is invisible but consists of so much information: pitch, timing, rhythm, timbre and phrase." Kraus’s new book, "Of Sound Mind: How Our Brain Constructs a Meaningful Sonic World,” is her love letter to sound. Drawing on decades of research from her Brainvolts auditory neuroscience laboratory, she offers compelling insights for parents and teachers as they think about children’s sonic environment – and how everything from background noise to music lessons can influence brain development.