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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As states have crafted plans for addressing the academic disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic, one area has emerged as a policy priority: early reading instruction. At least 18 states and the District of Columbia have said that they plan to use COVID-19 relief funding through the American Rescue Plan or previous aid packages to support teacher training or instruction in evidence-based approaches to early literacy. And over the past year, four states have passed new laws or enacted regulations that mandate teachers be taught, and use, techniques that are grounded in the large body of research on how children learn to read.
A slow but significant change has been taking place in the early reading world over the past year, loosening the grip that some long-used, but unproven, instructional techniques have held over the field for decades. Big names—like Lucy Calkins, of the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, and author and literacy specialist Jennifer Serravallo—have recently released updates to their published materials or announced impending rewrites that change how they instruct students to decipher words. Reading researchers say they find these industry moves encouraging ... [but] cautioned that this narrow change in materials won’t necessarily lead to large shifts in instructional practice, and that more needs to be done to support teachers of the youngest learners in developing kids’ early reading skills—especially after several years of disrupted, pandemic-era schooling.
School districts don’t have to offer virtual learning this year, and most have scaled back their virtual offerings to encourage students to return to in-person school. But where virtual school is available, some students with disabilities are finding it’s closed to them — or they are being asked to give up certain kinds of support to enroll. That’s left families, advocates, lawyers, and school districts disagreeing on a key question: With schools open nationwide, what exactly must districts provide online?
The perfect children’s section in a public library encourages curiosity and exudes comfort by combining enthusiastic staff and a just-right collection with art, technology, play, and whimsical-but-functional furniture. It is escape and destination. Now, imagine an entire branch. Welcome to the Reby Cary Youth Library in Fort Worth, TX.
Project-based learning is an educational philosophy that calls upon students to take on a real-world question – such as how to best design a farm – and explore it over a period of weeks. Teachers incorporate grade-level instruction into the project, which is designed to meet academic goals and standards, and students learn content and skills while working collaboratively, thinking critically and often revising their work. At the end, that work is shared publicly. Experts say the real-world approach to learning resonates, and studies show it is effective.
Gary Paulsen, whose books taught generations of kids how to survive in the woods with only a hatchet, died Wednesday at the age of 82. Paulsen was best known for those wilderness survival stories, though he wrote more than 200 books during his lifetime, and three of his novels, Hatchet, Dogsong and The Winter Room, were Newbery Honor books.
Experts and educators have many suggestions to help children understand what they read. Learn more about improving oral language and vocabulary, understanding context, reciprocal teaching, and other strategies to build comprehension.
While librarians cannot take on or solve all the issues involving poverty and economic hardship, we can create policies that, at best, help vulnerable students access materials and their school environment; and, at the least, do not shame them. So what are school library programs and other school-wide initiatives doing to buffer the effects of poverty and economic hardship? Here is a list of original ideas and crowdsourced information from colleagues and librarians across the nation.
California's new $2.7 billion universal transitional kindergarten program is being hailed by many experts as a game-changer for families in a state with almost 3 million children under the age of 5. This expansion of the current TK program will create more equity in early education, many experts say. Increasing access to preschool may be one of the keys to closing the achievement gap, they say, since about 90% of brain growth happens before kindergarten.
Does the Science of Reading (SoR) have sufficient reach to account for the reading development of all students regardless of context or language? That is, can SoR-based theories and research effectively inform instruction in, for example, a dual language classroom or a school with a large percentage of emergent bilinguals? A more extensive dive into the science reveals SoR’s scope to be far more encompassing than critics admit.
Emily Solari, an education professor at the University of Virginia, talks about what reading instruction looks like in many of our schools and what we need to know about the Simple View of Reading, which highlights the importance of both decoding (word reading) development and linguistic awareness, or oral language development.
When these lavishly photo-illustrated books entered the U.S. marketplace in 1991, they revolutionized children’s nonfiction by giving young fact lovers a fresh, engaging way to access information. Both then and now, the eye-catching design and short blocks of clear, straightforward expository text delight “info-kids” who crave knowledge about the world and how it works and their place in it.
This fall, elementary school teachers and school leaders in one third of North Carolina school districts will begin LETRS training, with an ambitious goal of training all elementary school educators in the science of reading. A timely report entitled North Carolina Science of Teaching Reading Project from the Florida Center for Reading Research (FCRR) published earlier this week provides insights on how we can best support teachers.
As children make their way back into physical classrooms after an unprecedented year of virtual education, parents and educators must ask a crucial question: What can be done to help returning students cope with feelings of anxiety, depression and powerlessness? One avenue for encouraging children’s personal wellness is a return to arts education, whose far-ranging benefits traverse their emotional, personal and academic lives.
A relatively easy way for libraries to include diverse books might be to create displays of We Need Diverse Books (WNDB) winners and honorees, past and present, every year. The WNDB Walter award is perhaps one of the most comprehensive in terms of its definition of diversity. In addition, here’s a list of other awards that seek out books about or authors from underrepresented and marginalized groups.
This white paper by Scholastic examines why efforts by schools to buy more books with diverse characters are important. It also looks at how librarians/media specialists and other K–12 leaders can make a difference by creating an inclusive literacy environment where students see both the stories of their cultures and their lives in the books they read, but also the stories of their classmates as well.
So how worried should educators be about all that time students spend staring at a Chromebook, iPad, or cellphone screen, especially if it’s followed by hours of television or video games? How many hours of screen time per day is too much? To answer those questions, Education Week spoke with Lisa Guernsey, a senior fellow and strategic advisor with the Education Policy Program at New America, and Michael Levine, Senior Vice President, Learning and Impact, for Noggin, Nickelodeon’s online interactive learning service for preschoolers.
In an effort to continue its support of educators during the COVID-19 pandemic, Discovery Education announced today that it will offer approximately 500 daily classroom activities available to teachers nationwide at no cost throughout the school year. Available until June of 2022, the free activities are designed to be quickly integrated into instruction no matter where it is taking place.
A new law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom Tuesday requires all state-subsidized preschool programs to identify the languages children speak at home and the language spoken by program staff. In addition, the bill requires programs to show they support children in developing both their home language and English in order to be considered a “quality” program by the state.
We've all heard about the benefits of learning to read quietly and independently. A big part of learning at school is all about reading, but it's not always easy to find time for more reading at home. But early childhood expert Keisha Siriboe says there is a way, and it doesn't have to be independent or quiet! Her solution: reading aloud as a family.
The best programs, according to experts, focus on spreading SEL practices by infusing them throughout the school’s culture. “Every kid needs to be heard and have a safe, nurturing relationship with an adult inside the school,” says Mathew Portell, principal of Fall-Hamilton Elementary School in Nashville, TN, and a national speaker about SEL. Portell says that wide geographic, socioeconomic, and racial differences in school districts across the country mean the pandemic affected different communities in different ways. “[SEL] curriculum builds common language; it’s a plate that everything sits upon. But the table is the school culture,” he says.
What can teachers (and parents) do to help children feel stable, safe, and ready to learn? My counsel is to return to social and emotional learning fundamentals by using strategies from evidence-based SEL learning programs designed for schools and other settings. Here are four recommendations for approaches that will help students feel understood, express themselves, and flourish during this school year.
For years, educators have pushed for more diverse books in classrooms and school libraries, emphasizing the importance of children of color seeing themselves reflected in the pages. And while progress has been made, some experts worry that the current debates over how race is addressed in schools may discourage certain stories from being taught.
The canon is defined as “a collection of rules or texts that are considered to be authoritative” or “a set group of works that are considered to be high quality and representative of a field.” When you think of the children’s canon of literature, what books do you think of? Do you think of the books from your childhood, or do you have a mix of those and newer ones that have since come out?
n Port Orford, Oregon, it’s a quick walk from the elementary and middle school building to the town library. In fact, the town library and school are linked by more than geography, since the school district’s two libraries became part of the Port Orford library system in 2017. The town’s library system stepped in to assist the district in buying books, organizing the collection, and other management tasks. They also provided crucial space, books, Wi-Fi, and activities to students during the pandemic. The school-library partnership exemplifies the close-knit community of the two small, coastal towns making up the Port Orford-Langlois School District.
Low attendance may indicate positive learning conditions are missing and interventions are needed. Strategies include creating positive relationships, letting data guide interventions, and a focus on transition grades.
Testing and masking, are critical, but so is collaboration and communication. For example: community partnerships can fill gaps in school services and communication with parents should be preemptive and constant.
Studies show classroom design affects student learning, so it’s important to design a space that matches 21st century learning styles. And who understands what they need better than the kids learning there? That is the logic behind user experience (UX) classroom design and an important reason why it’s beneficial for students to play a role in designing their classrooms.
States that have adopted legislation around science-aligned approaches to reading instruction have seen significant improvements in reading achievement. The research provides evidence that informs how proficient reading and writing skills develop over time and shows why some students have difficulty. Its conclusions can help us effectively assess, teach and improve student outcomes, both by preventing reading difficulties and identifying students early who need intervention.
If librarians worried about every book that has been challenged, then there would be few books in libraries. Instead of focusing on potential problems with specific books or series, place your focus on the reader.
Start this year looking for success stories. As veteran educator Ron Berger reminds us, the secret to motivating kids is to raise expectations and then provide the support needed to meet them. In word and in deed, tell your kids: “I’m really excited for you. You’re going to race ahead this year. You’re going to learn more than you did last year, and you’re going to feel so proud.”
Across the country, school and public libraries are dealing with the damage from natural disasters over the last few months. While storms brought deadly and destructive wind and flooding to the East Coast, the West Coast was once again battling multiple raging wildfires. SLJ checked in with just a few of the librarians to learn about their library recovery efforts as they also manage the personal impact of the storm.
We’ve put together a list of multicultural children’s books that feature characters of all kinds of ethnicities and races. These vibrant books provide age-appropriate stories and illustrations that artfully teach babies and kids about the wonderfully diverse world we live in—and the importance of respect for it all.
An unlikely coalition of parents has come together to challenge Minneapolis’s strategies for teaching reading. Backed by the nascent National Parents Union, Twin Cities families of color are leading the charge, representing a socioeconomic cross-section of the city that includes affluent, white district parents whose children struggle with dyslexia. The parents come armed with a growing archive of scholarly research that suggests the schools’ literacy strategies are ineffective at best. They also know there is cash to fix them, thanks to the American Rescue Plan. And they, finally, have the district’s attention.
StoryWalks encourage collaboration and reflection, and transform the often sedentary act of reading into a dynamic, interactive activity. Instead of snuggling up in a cozy reading spot, readers are presented with colorful pages from an illustrated book, displayed one-by-one on stakes as they stroll along an indoor or outdoor walking path.
In many places, communication between schools and parents is turning out to be one of the bright spots in an otherwise chaotic and uncertain era of education. And, it is a golden opportunity for schools to push parent engagement to a higher level this year and beyond.
The middle grade graphic novel boom brought with it two consequences that have coincided neatly: Publishers had an incentive to stretch the category to reach younger readers, and those younger readers, seeing siblings and friends reading “Dog Man” and Raina Telgemeier’s books, wanted to read comics as well. The result has been an explosion in the past year of graphic novels for early readers, ages four to eight, with most of the major book publishers jumping in with titles of their own. The model for the most recent wave of early reader graphic novels is Ben Clanton’s Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea, a very silly, simply drawn story about an easy-going narwhal and a more conscientious jellyfish.
Words have rescued us. During these strange seasons, amid the silences of public spaces, they’ve provided consolation, helped us stay tuned. We’ve broken quietude in new ways, re-examined what we thought we knew, carried phrases as mottoes, or leverage. Four new books (three picture books and a graphic novel) examine the curiosities of our playful word-life in four very different ways.
The Education Week Research Center surveyed 886 K-12 educators in July: Nineteen percent said they knew “a lot” about their students’ home learning environments before the pandemic; 43 percent said they know a lot now. That’s a pretty big jump. How might schools build on that awareness and use it to improve their future work? A new tool in Oregon might provide some grounds for discussion. Alongside traditional spring state tests on subjects like math and reading, students there piloted a new survey tool called the Student Educational Equity Development Survey, or SEEDS. The state expects to release initial results from the survey later in the fall. It builds on years of efforts around the country to expand schools’ understanding of their students’ experiences, including feelings of safety, support, and engagement at school, as well as access to learning resources.
Language educators may find that incorporating gestures or other types of movements in their vocabulary lessons improves learning outcomes, according to a study recently published in the Journal of Neuroscience. The study, conducted by researchers at Germany’s Dresden University of Technology, explored the ways in which stimulating the brain’s motor cortex impacts the acquisition of new vocabulary.
For the past 15 years, one of the nation’s brightest landscapes for prekindergarten has flourished in an unlikely place. Alabama First Class Pre-K stands out in the South, where investment in preschool education has traditionally lagged. And though the pandemic has slowed down its plans a bit, the state has kept its commitment to invest enough money in the program to make it available to 70 percent of the state’s 4-year-olds by 2025. Currently, its enrollment of close to 25,000 children in the 2021-22 school year represents 44 percent of the state’s eligible 4-year-olds. Alabama is one of only a handful of states to reach all 10 benchmarks by the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER).
Tennessee public school students who participated in recent summer learning camps showed improvement in reading and especially in math, based on recent test results. Gov. Bill Lee’s administration reported an overall improvement of nearly 6 percentage points in English language arts and more than 10 percentage points in math for students who attended the six-week camps. About 120,000 students in grades 1-8 — or 20% of those who were eligible — enrolled in the voluntary camps that districts were required to host under a new law aimed at recouping pandemic-related learning loss.
Since the start of the pandemic, much of the conversation around student assessment has focused on what was lost. Administrators, teachers, and researchers have largely measured differences in students’ standardized assessment or benchmark scores as compared with historical data. With last year’s state testing results available, and new students entering classrooms at a variety of levels, these conversations have increased. A more fruitful approach, however, would be to embrace formative assessment to improve understanding of student progress. Lindsay Unified School District (LUSD) in California offers an example of what this could look like in practice.
For nearly a century, the iconic Scripps National Spelling Bee has inspired a love of learning in students across the country and around the world. You may picture the annual television broadcast of the national finals or last year’s scholar-athlete champion, Zaila Avant-garde. You may even recall a moment when you competed in a classroom, school or regional spelling bee as a child. But did you know that the core of the Bee’s program takes place at the school level? Each year, millions of students participate in classroom- and school-level spelling bees, learning words and discovering interests that will shape the rest of their lives.
State superintendent Tony Thurmond announced the new initiative Tuesday, starting with a task force that will make program and funding recommendations to be considered by legislators. During the 2018-19 school year, only 51% of California students in grades three through 11 tested at grade level or above in English language arts on the state’s Smarter Balanced tests; only 48.5% of third graders tested at grade level or above in English language arts.
While American Sign Language (ASL) continues to soar in popularity, and hearing ASL interpreters are included in many online children’s literature platforms, d/Deaf, Hard of Hearing and Deafblind (DHHDB) authors and illustrators remain scarce. Those published are mainly white, though Black American Sign Language (BASL) has also increased in visibility, if not yet broad acceptance. Still, there is good news. I’m seeing some diverse, up-and-coming DHHDB authors and receiving calls from families and readers about a spectrum of DHHDB stories. Let’s shine a spotlight on a few recent DHHDB titles during Deaf Awareness Month (September), and all throughout the year!
There is a significant reservoir of support for the purpose and practices featured in most SEL programs. The pandemic has brought into focus the importance of skills such as coping, decision making, goal setting, and relationship building. Most adults see the need for young people do develop civic, moral, and character aspects of themselves. However, failure to address areas of potential confusion and concern could seriously undermine and even imperil efforts related to SEL. In fact, without attention and effort now, SEL could become the next flash point in partisan political conflict. Let’s explore five aspects of SEL that deserve attention now if we hope to avoid having it become the next battle in the culture wars.
A pack of kids on scooters race along the tree-lined streets like it’s 1955. A boy whizzes by on a bike — wait, was that Henry Huggins? The sidewalks are sprinkled liberally with chalk art, rope swings and Little Free Libraries. This is Beverly Cleary’s Grant Park, the real-life northeast Portland neighborhood where the beloved author grew up and which was used as the setting for her classic children’s books. Before Portland was known for hipsters and foodies (and anarchists), it was where the fun-loving, irrepressible Ramona Quimby lived.
“Kaleidoscope,” Brian Selznick’s brilliant new book, is a collection of magical, weird and mysterious stories. The stories seem related to one another. There is always a first-person narrator; there is usually a boy named James; the narrator loves James. But they don’t fit into one narrative, or even one world. Sometimes James is dead; sometimes he is becoming king of the moon, “making sure the universe is safe for dreaming.” Each tale is accompanied by art, which, as we’ve come to expect from Selznick, is stunning. We get two pieces per tale — first a kaleidoscopic image of shapes broken into crystalline forms; then, on the next page, the scene that was being refracted: a ship, a dragon, a clock, vines, a castle.
While the pandemic made it harder for teachers everywhere to do their jobs, special education teachers in particular experienced a lack of training, support, and collaboration with their general education counterparts. That’s according to a new study released by the Center for Reinventing Public Education. Most of the special education teachers did not have their own classrooms, but provided special education to students in general education classrooms, according to Lane McKittrick, a research analyst for CRPE. Here are some of the difficulties special education teachers in particular have faced over the last 18 months. #1: Special education teachers didn’t collaborate with general education teachers.
When students use a questioning strategy to think about their own thinking, they can see how to transfer their learning to new situations. Educator and Metuchen administrator Rick Cohen and colleagues (authors of The Metacognitive Student) define metacognition as “thinking about and managing your thoughts, experiences, and what your senses are telling you.” They say that these are the questions students need to be asking to promote metacognition.
Do you believe that young kids (say, from birth to age five or six) should be firmly rooted in the world of print? Or are you worried you're depriving children of a valuable opportunity if you deny them access to digital reading? Parents are torn. Studies from multiple English-speaking countries show the majority of parents continue to prefer print for their toddlers and preschoolers. Yet by nixing digital offerings, mothers and fathers worry their kids will be left behind—in enjoyment, learning, or preparation for primary school, where children might be handed a tablet their first day. As I thought about the dilemma and read conflicting research, I began asking myself, was the debate missing the point? Just as many adults choose print for some purposes and digital for others, were there solid arguments for when digital is appropriate for young children and when to stick with print?
Jason Reynolds is an award-winning author and National Ambassador for Young People's Literature. This hour, Jason speaks with Manoush about reaching kids through stories that let them feel understood. As ambassador, Reynolds visits schools all over the country to connect with kids over books and reading, as well as raise national awareness of the importance of young people's literature. He is featured in a YouTube series entitled "Write. Rite. Right." through the Library of Congress where he gives young writers creative prompts to stretch their imagination and to learn to write authentically.
Instructional practices are all about how we teach students. Recently, while perusing the pages of the International Literacy Association’s Instructional Practices online resource, I was struck by the expansiveness of the listed methods: project based learning, student engagement through classroom libraries, collaborations between schools and the communities, and many others. To these powerful “big picture” practices, however, I would add a number of small, hour-by-hour instructional techniques educators can use to produce greater gains in student learning, especially for those who struggle to read, write, and spell. Here are three.
When students get to make decisions about their learning, it can be powerfully motivating. Offering students choices—making it a regular dynamic in the school day—isn’t a recipe for chaos. It goes almost without saying: Rules and boundaries are a necessary element in schools and classrooms, essential in many ways for keeping kids and adults safe and productive throughout the school day. But by centering choice, educators signal openness to negotiating the middle ground and offer students scaffolded opportunities to practice decision-making, explore their academic identity, and connect their learning to interests and passions.
Classroom social and emotional learning (SEL) practices can help students learn to problem-solve, manage their emotions, and build relationships. Integrating SEL practices into school culture helps to ensure that students gain these critical life skills. Whatever this school year brings, teachers can consistently use these strategies to promote critical life skills.
While young readers editions of adult books have been around for a long time, this year’s release of Michelle Obama’s Becoming: Adapted for Young Readers shines a spotlight on this ever-evolving catalog of titles. Young readers editions (YREs) span mega-best-selling titles like Obama’s to riveting but lesser-known reads for tweens and teens. We’re in a moment of tremendous growth in YREs, evidenced by the number of available options over the last five years in WorldCat. But what are YREs, and what makes them different from their original publications? Where and how can they be used in schools and classrooms? And what elements make an adaptation irresistible to kids?
This playlist aims to promote well-being and belonging during this “new normal’ back-to-school time, with episodes about emotions, kindness, mindfulness, choices, bullying, homework, and being the new kid at school. The stories remind us that learning may not have looked like we wanted it to look last year. But it was not altogether a year lost; it was a year of learning anew.
Your child might not recognize that school has changed, or if they do, they might not know how to cope with it. Here’s how you can help. For starters, monitor your child’s progress a little more closely. Second, help your child learn self-discipline through practice in a supportive environment. For example, suppose that, for an hour each evening, your family gathers, each working quietly on their own activity. Kids will do homework, and parents might catch up on work themselves, write a letter or read.
After more than a year of significantly increased screen time and disrupted vision testing for many students, new research shows how learning could improve if schools help students identify and swiftly correct developing vision problems. Nearly 7 percent of U.S. children under 18 have a diagnosed vision problem, according to federal data. But school closures and social distancing in the last year have disrupted routine campus-based vision screenings in many districts.