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 neural circuit for reading—often called the reading brain—combines processes used for vision in the cortex (to see written letters and words), hearing in the auditory cortex (to hear the sounds and rhythms that letters and words make and connect them to the written words), and language in the left hemisphere (to comprehend the meaning of written letters and words). Playing or learning to sing music, according to neuroscientists, is a parallel process. Working on challenging musical tasks over and over again, researchers say, strengthens the reading circuit dramatically, which in turn delivers a robust academic boost.
The federal Head Start program has contributed to multi-generational positive outcomes, including increases in education attainment and wages and decreases in teen pregnancy and criminal involvement, according to a study from the University of Notre Dame and Texas A&M University published this month in the Journal of Political Economy. The 122-page study said it is the first large-scale examination of the intergenerational effects of the 57-year-old Head Start program, created to improve the school readiness of preschool children from low-income families.
The past two years have offered a variety of challenges for schoolchildren, so helping kids avoid the “summer slide” –- while still enjoying this break time –- is more important than ever, said SUNY Oswego counseling and psychological services faculty member Michelle Storie. “It is important to establish a balance of providing a mental break from school while also fostering learning opportunities in less formal environments and at home,” said Storie. Storie recommends children get “screen breaks,” or time when they aren’t on a smartphone, tablet, gaming device, watching TV or engaging in other electronic activities. Families should take advantage of the weather and opportunities summer brings.
The WNY Education Alliance has formed a collaborative with 11 other groups to increase awareness of the science of reading and help develop partnerships between local schools and educational organizations that support evidence-based reading instruction through teacher training and the implementation of high-quality, content-rich curriculum. The group plans to hold a conference dedicated to the science of reading this fall. "Teachers are doing this work on their own," said Tarja Parssinen of the Alliance. After she was named to the newly created position of academic intervention services coordinator, she piloted a science of reading-aligned curriculum with an emphasis on phonics with a kindergarten classroom. "Our numbers since a lot of us have made the switch, and especially in those pilot classrooms, are phenomenal," DeTine said.
HarperCollins Children’s Books has announced the launch of Allida, a new imprint at Clarion Books led by author Linda Sue Park and Anne Hoppe, v-p and editorial director at Clarion. Park is the author of the Newbery Medal–winning A Single Shard and the bestselling A Long Walk to Water. Launching in early 2023, Allida—named for the Korean word that means to inform, announce, or make known—will publish books for children and teens. “I want Allida to be creator-centered, because I feel strongly that when artists are supported in making work from their deepest passions, kids get better books,” said Park in a statement. “Stories and voices that come from outside the dominant culture are essential for giving young readers a richer understanding of our shared and complex world. With Allida, we have the exhilarating opportunity to build on the hard-won inclusion work of past visionaries by freeing artists from any content expectations other than good writing and great stories.”
Principals are more than twice as likely as after-school program personnel to say the primary focus of after-school programs for elementary, middle, and high school students should be providing academic support, according to a new Education Week Research Center survey. The findings come as many students still need to catch up on unfinished learning more than two years after the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted instruction.
The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing agreed this week to create a new teaching credential for pre-kindergarten through third grade that will require teacher candidates to show they are trained in how to teach reading. Establishing an early childhood education credential has been talked about for years ... but it has gained urgency because of the phase-in by 2025 of transitional kindergarten for all 4-year-olds plus plans to expand state-funded pre-kindergarten. The Palo Alto based Learning Policy Institute projects between 12,000 and 15,000 teachers will be needed to fill transitional kindergarten positions, and yet only about 8,000 new teachers have annually been joining the teaching workforce by earning the existing credential.
Fort Worth schools are working with 19 community partners across the city this summer with one central goal — helping children learn to read. The collaboration, which is facilitated by the nonprofit Read Fort Worth, is of particular importance this year as teachers continue to help students recover from learning losses accrued over the course of the pandemic, while trying to prevent them from falling behind during the summer months. A history of low scores, compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, catalyzed a “seismic shift” in the way educators teach reading across the Fort Worth Independent School District, including a new curriculum with a greater focus on phonics, professional development and a departure from long-used interventions and tools.
Brent Johnstone and Akeiff Staples met at Temple University, where they were both on the football team. Each went on to a career in social work, where they would cross paths from time to time. But as they put it, something else was “meant to be.” Five years ago, the two started a Philadelphia program to help fathers returning from prison re-engage with their kids through reading. They had seen firsthand how a lack of male role models, combined with frustration stemming from an inability to read, could lead to poverty, violence, substance abuse, and worse.
The transformation of one of America’s poorest and least-educated states into a fast-rising powerhouse took most outsiders by surprise. In reality, Mississippi’s emergence in 2019 resulted from a generation of groundwork in both schools and state government, with incremental gains coming along the way. Under Carey Wright's supervision — Wright has been Mississippi’s superintendent of schools since 2013 — the Mississippi Department of Education introduced massive changes to instruction and adopted rigorous new learning standards. State lawmakers pushed through a raft of new education bills, including a controversial mandate to hold back third-graders who cannot read on grade level. And now, with the COVID era receding and Wright set to retire at the end of this month, bigger and richer states are looking to Mississippi as a model.
Children and teens are increasingly online. Librarians and media specialists can help them sort fact from fiction. Study after study has shown that effective library programs can increase student literacy and test scores and create more equitable student outcomes. Having access to the skills needed to decode text and other media impacts our students now and forever. Literacy can make or break their school performance and enhance their career and civic participation. All our students should have access to a school library and a certified librarian to help improve reading levels and foster critical thinking and source analysis.
From full-fledged lesson plans and virtual field trips to expansive digital archives and opportunities for professional learning, museums have so much to offer beyond the in-person experience. Whether you spend a few minutes dipping into a museum’s digital archives, an hour taking a webinar, or days implementing a classroom activity created by a team of museum educators, these mostly free experiences and resources are customizable and completely driven by you.
The most common symptoms of long COVID in children are headache, fatigue, and sleep difficulties, but a broad range of other ailments have been linked to the virus. They include “brain fog,” heart palpitations, shortness of breath, joint or muscle pain, gastrointestinal issues, anxiety, and orthostatic intolerance—a drop in blood pressure when someone moves from a prone to an upright position. Here are key suggestions from medical and legal experts, and those who support families with long COVID, as schools plan for next year.
The best dinosaur resources today celebrate the unique traits of these creatures and share evolving discoveries and theories about them and their prehistoric habitats. Consider adding new titles regularly, especially books that cite recent findings rather than reiterate old ones. Look for variety in how books share the information; for example, some group creatures by period, others list them alphabetically. These top-notch dino titles are a great place to start.
The Tennessee Department of Education released the 2021-22 Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) state-level results, which show that elementary students significantly improved their ELA scores and are performing at a level similar to pre-pandemic years. These results include both spring 2022 and fall 2021 end-of-course exams in English Language Arts (ELA), mathematics, science and social studies. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Tennessee maintained its commitment to an annual statewide assessment to provide reliable data on how students are performing, and this past school year reflects Tennessee schools moving forward with a statewide laser-focus on helping students catch-up from a pandemic and accelerate their learning.
Aware that regular exposure to rich, varied vocabulary would bolster her students’ long-term academic success, sixth-grade social studies teacher Megan Kelly set out to find smart strategies “to incorporate vocabulary into small pockets of time in class.” Dedicating entire lesson blocks to vocabulary isn’t necessary because even “brief encounters with words”— veteran teacher and education consultant Marilee Sprenger says 10 minutes or even as little as 2 minutes—can be surprisingly effective, as long as they’re woven into lessons regularly. Here are six quick, engaging classroom strategies for weaving vocabulary into your curriculum without disrupting your regular classroom flow.
Kathryn Cottrell was taught a specific and popular method of teaching students how to read when she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in multidisciplinary studies with a focus on literacy in 2020. As soon as she started her professional career as a student teacher at a Fort Worth elementary school, however, she could see that the status quo wasn’t working for all students. “It was relatively common that you would get fourth-graders who were not reading even on a second- or third-grade level,” she said. “So we were constantly trying to fill those gaps where they were missing … these foundational skills they were not getting, because the way that reading was taught previously was not aligned with cognitive science.”
Nonprofit organizations that have spent decades offering social-emotional learning and equity-based support to schools are facing a new challenge: defending their existence. This year, education terms like SEL and equity have become embroiled in the controversy surrounding “critical race theory,” an academic framework that argues racism is a social construct that has been embedded into legal systems and policies.
A collaboration between the STEM Innovation for Inclusion in Early Education (STEMIE) Center, the Kansas Deaf-Blind Project, and the Kansas State School for the Blind has resulted in the development of two video demonstrations on engaging young children with visual impairments in storybook conversations. The first video produced in this collaboration offers a look at how to prepare children for a shared book reading experience using the book Rosie’s Walk (2022) by Pat Hutchins. The book was selected as it explicitly introduces spatial and positional concepts as well as cause and effect, and offers many other opportunities for STEM talk. Employing strategies to engage children who are deaf-blind, blind, or have visual impairments so that they can have a tactile experience of items mentioned in the story, this method also provides a great way for sighted children to learn.
With 36 books and counting, there is no denying that the volume of Kwame Alexander’s body of work is impressive. But it is his depictions about Black life and the travails of growing up and adhering to society’s rules that have truly impacted the canon of youth literature—and opened the minds of young Black readers by allowing them to see themselves reflected in the characters and beyond stereotypes.
Six-word stories are very popular. In six words, please share an education-related story that you experienced and/or advice you would offer other educators. Common sense and simplicity are at the heart of the best advice.
In the aftermath of the Uvalde tragedy, Mexican American author, filmmaker, and youth literacy activist e.E. Charlton-Trujillo launched 600 Books of Hope. The idea was to collect 600 new books from kid lit creators and publishers to give to the kids of Robb Elementary School. Quickly, the idea expanded to add a goal of 1,300 books for the other elementary schools in Uvalde. Now, the project has gotten even bigger, collecting books for middle grade and high school students. Creators and publishers have stepped with support, including donations from Candlewick Press, Chronicle Books, Cameron Kids-Abrams, Macmillan Publishers, Penguin Random House, and Simon and Schuster. The goal is for every student in Uvalde to get a book.
Mayor Eric Adams has made improving reading instruction across the nation’s largest school system one of his major education goals. In doing so, he is disbanding a key literacy program launched under former Mayor Bill de Blasio — the “Universal Literacy” program, which paired coaches with K-2 teachers in more than half of New York City’s elementary schools to improve their reading instruction. Instead, the city plans to continue to employ reading coaches, but they will work across all grades at an unspecified number of “targeted” elementary, middle, and high schools, officials have said.
A forthcoming study from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine will include recommendations for creating “A New Vision for High Quality Pre-K Curriculum” for children ages three through five. An expert committee will research and issue recommendations around a variety of topics related to pre-K curriculum quality, including: the fundamental principles that should guide the development and use of pre-K curriculum; the features of pre-K curriculum that support equity and learning for all children; professional development opportunities needed by early educators to enable effective curriculum implementation; and funding mechanisms that can support the selection and use of effective pre-K curriculum.
At this Tennessee district, a new curriculum helped English Language Learners blend consonant-vowel-consonant words in just six weeks. "The CKLA skills curriculum, paired with Tennessee Sounds First, is systematic and explicit. It takes the guesswork out of what to teach. The results I have witnessed this year have been phenomenal. We are now equipped with high-quality instructional materials, first-rate training, and our students are excelling. I am excited to see how the literacy skills of these kindergarten students progress over the next few years."
Indulge me and say the following out loud: Students should read fewer books and write less expository prose. Did that feel right? I doubt it. But that’s the message the National Council of Teachers of English is sending its members. Its recent position statement on “Media Education in English Language Arts” demands that educators “decenter” the reading of books and the writing of essays. It instructs teachers to shift their focus from print media to digital media—including GIFs, memes, podcasts, and videos.
Chalkbeat has chronicled this seesawing school year up close for the last 10 months. As this third year of disrupted learning draws to an end, reporters from our eight local bureaus interviewed members of school communities about the highs and lows of the year, how they’ll remember this time, and what lessons they’ll take with them from a comeback year that didn’t always feel like one.
An instructional technique developed in a museum can boost students’ critical thinking and evidence-based argumentation. Many teachers also know that getting students to engage in art, to draw, or even to look at art is easier than getting them to write. Peggy saw how her students loved art, and when she learned about an instructional strategy taught in museums, she decided to combine her students’ interests in art with the need to learn evidence-based thinking and writing. She partnered with researchers at the University of Oregon, like me, and educators from the local museum, and Project STELLAR was launched, combining visual arts and writing using Visual Thinking Strategies in grades 4 to 8.
Harini Logan won the Scripps National Spelling Bee on Thursday night, claiming victory in a blistering, first-of-its-kind spell-off that capped a marathon duel of one arcane term after another. Harini, 14, an eighth grader from San Antonio, beat Vikram Raju, 12, a seventh grader from Denver, after she rattled off word after word in a 90-second speed round. Both students spelled so fast that the judges had to go to video to determine a winner: Harini spelled 21 words correctly, compared with 15 for Vikram.
Educators can introduce metacognitive skills in the classroom to encourage and support students who face difficulty knowing when to ask for help, can’t connect new learning to previous lessons, or don’t know how to critically assess their own work. Educators can focus on building up three metacognitive areas of focus: knowledge, experience and processes. Students can also improve the metacognitive processes that support planning, monitoring and evaluating their abilities through classroom tasks.
One strategy for facilitating classroom discussions and encouraging children toward a collaborative mindset is to read picture books featuring characters (ideally children) who collaborate on a project. Numerous picture books address the needs, interests, and antics of the individual child, but in a school setting, it’s imperative that educators share stories that enable children to begin to identify what peer collaboration looks and sounds like. The picture books that follow depict small groups of children or characters who demonstrate interdependence though navigating a project with a small group or partner.
Science fiction is a great entry point for helping elementary and middle school students think about science in new ways. Look for books that don’t just go on a fun adventure but also feature speculation or extrapolation. Speculation refers to stories that ask what-if questions like “What would society be like if everyone were connected to the internet through a chip in their head?” Speculative stories are great for thinking about how much science impacts people. Extrapolation refers to stories that imagine what a technology or society could be like in the future based on current trajectories, like how advances in medical prosthetics might eventually be able to replace whole bodies with machines. Authors who utilize the speculative and extrapolative potential of science fiction often show how science can change the world.
New results from Florida’s 3rd grade reading exams statewide aren’t good, showing that only about a quarter of kids tested in public schools could read proficiently, meaning they scored a 4 or 5 on the crucial exam. In Florida, the 3rd grade reading exams are key, typically requiring 3rd graders to earn a passing grade in order to move on to 4th grade. The results are also crucial as students move through the school system. Reading becomes a foundational tool for the rest of a student’s school career in every subject after entering the fourth grade, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
In recent weeks, I’ve dug into the “excellence gap“—the sharp divides along lines of race and class at the highest levels of academic and educational achievement. So what might we do to keep the excellence gap from widening in the early grades? The first item on my to-do list is already familiar to the gifted education field: Identify students with the potential for high achievement via universal screening and local, school-based norms. But there are other actions policymakers and practitioners should take that get less attention in gifted-education circles.
Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have been hugely influential in the comics industry, from creators of traditional comics such as Larry Hama (“G.I. Joe”), Whilce Portacio (“Iron Man,” “The Punisher”), and Jim Lee, the chief creative officer of DC Comics, to graphic novel creators such as Gene Luen Yang (Dragon Hoops) and Kazu Kibuishi (“Amulet”). So, the hardest part of putting together a roundup of graphic novels by APA creators is not so much finding great books, as choosing from the wide variety available. Here are 10 recent and upcoming titles across a range of genres and styles.
On June 1, 1972, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day was first published. Written by Judith Viorst with illustrations by Ray Cruz, the best seller has been made into a musical and a Hollywood movie. The book is so popular, Viorst's string of sad adjectives entered the vernacular; it's been used to describe lousy days, weeks and years far and wide, from political leaders to corporations. Teachers have even used poor Alexander's misadventures to teach kids about cause and effect and ethics.
For 100 years, the shiny John Newbery Medal seal that appears on the covers of children’s books has moved those titles to the top of to-be-read piles. It has parked them prominently on shelves in schools, libraries, and stores. A badge of distinction, the medal labels books as pieces of distinguished literature meant to entertain, motivate, educate, and engage children. The award’s centennial celebration this year is the perfect time to reflect on this first century—and look ahead to the next one.
As part of teacher appreciation month, Morning Edition asked NPR's audience to write a poem about teachers who have had an impact on their lives. We put out this call a week before the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, so the majority of contributors are not reflecting on that horrific day but a late addition did reflect that loss. We received over 300 responses, and NPR's poet in residence Kwame Alexander took lines from submissions to create a community poem. This poem is dedicated to all teachers, but especially to Irma Garcia and Eva Mireles, fourth grade teachers who lost their lives at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde.
Reeling from the horrific mass shooting at Ross Elementary in Uvalde, Tex., literacy specialist Kylene Beers took action from her perspective as an teacher and Texan. She emailed four friends to help process the devastating situation: former Young People’s Poet Laureate Naomi Shihab Nye, Newbery Medalist Matt de la Peña, novelist and retired therapist Chris Crutcher, and Book Love Foundation president Penny Kittle. They swiftly coordinated a free panel in support of heartbroken teachers, “Words Can Help Heal: Helping You and Students Through Trauma,” scheduled to air tonight (5/31).
If you have school-age children, chances are they've already talked to their classmates about the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas. So what's the best way to know how they're feeling and what they're thinking? Ask them. "Children's questions may be very different from adults'," says David Schonfeld, a pediatrician who directs the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement at Children's Hospital Los Angeles. And the best way to determine how much information they need is to listen to them, he says. "Before we can offer reassurance or help them with what's bothering them, we have to understand what their actual concerns are," Schonfeld says. His group has developed guidelines for talking to children after a tragic event.
In interviews with Education Week, social-emotional learning experts said that spending some classroom time explicitly teaching social-emotional skills is important, but what matters even more is effectively integrating the skills—such as time management, collaboration skills, and responsible decisionmaking—into everything that students are learning in school and in after-school programs.
Texas, one of several states working to bring reading instruction in line with cognitive science, has made a knowledge-building elementary literacy curriculum freely available to districts, individual teachers, and parents. The state contracted with a company called Amplify to create a Texas-specific version of its literacy curriculum, including Spanish-language versions of all materials. The effort is part of the state’s response to the challenges of remote learning during the pandemic: the materials are designed to be used for remote and hybrid as well as face-to-face instruction.
“I can actually read this!” kindergartner Easton Malone exclaimed while reading a book during a book celebration week this spring. Every teacher in primary grades longs to hear those words from their students. If you step foot in any of the classrooms from pre-K through second grade in Elizabethton City Schools, you are met with a palpable buzz of excitement and purpose as our youngest readers embrace a new reading approach. This enthusiasm has not always been present: getting to this point has been a journey.
About 10 years ago, JonArno Lawson was at a beach in Virginia watching his kids build sandcastles right next to the waves. "I kept trying to get them to come back because I thought it was a terrible idea," he says. He wanted them to build their sandcastles closer to the dunes. But they found it more exciting to build right where the waves hit, seeing their sandcastles get destroyed, and then re-building them with whatever debris washed up from the ocean. "It seemed so symbolic, somehow, of... how life works more than just building your perfect sandcastle," says Lawson. When he decided to turn that sunny day into a children's book, the idea came to just use pictures. "It seemed like it would work beautifully without words," he says. "Like the whole thing would just be visual."
Will extra time in school help children make up for instruction lost because of the pandemic? The research is not encouraging: studies show that extending school time has no effect or a very small effect on learning. Another study noted that one elementary school in Atlanta had positive effects from adding 30 minutes to the school day, but the school made extraordinary efforts, e.g., two adults in every classroom, tracking, and ongoing analysis of test scores. Increasing instruction time by increasing homework is clearly not the answer. I suggest we try a different path: decrease school pressure and encourage pleasure reading.
The value of public libraries has been well proven. They offer free educational materials, help underserved communities, boost local economies, connect people, and make communities healthier. It seems that while schools continue to have the physical libraries, they are missing the integral part that public libraries have — librarians. Let’s get real, the public libraries aren’t integral parts of their communities because they have shelves of books. They are community mainstays because of the people who work in them and visit them. Librarians are what make these spaces so special and safe. Not understanding what school librarians do is a big part of the problem, so let me highlight just a few of our responsibilities.
To succeed, a California statewide initiative needs to focus the attention and change the practices across almost 6,000 elementary schools and 75,000 K-3 classrooms. The plan needs to address teacher PD, curriculum, and screening and assessment. This mammoth effort requires visible and ongoing commitment from all our leaders: Governor Newsom, State Board of Education President Darling-Hammond, State Superintendent Thurmond, and our leading legislators. If they don’t make reading a top state priority, neither will schools.
Educators need a plan ambitious enough to remedy enormous learning losses. Starting in the spring of 2020, school boards and superintendents across the country faced a dreadful choice: Keep classrooms open and risk more COVID-19 deaths, or close schools and sacrifice children’s learning. In the name of safety, many districts shut down for long periods. But researchers are now learning that the closures came at a stiff price—a large decline in children’s achievement overall and a historic widening in achievement gaps by race and economic status. The achievement loss is far greater than most educators and parents seem to realize. The only question now is whether state and local governments will recognize the magnitude of the educational damage and make students whole.
Lucy Calkins, a leading literacy expert, has rewritten her curriculum to include a fuller embrace of phonics and the science of reading. Critics may not be appeased. Parents and educators who champion the “science of reading” have fiercely criticized Professor Calkins and other supporters of balanced literacy. They cite a half-century of research that shows phonics — sound it out exercises that are purposefully sequenced — is the most effective way to teach reading, along with books that build vocabulary and depth.
As a scholar of social studies education, I have noticed that social studies is often a lower priority than reading, writing and math in many schools. For instance, from 1993 to 2008, the time allotted to social studies instruction dropped by 56 minutes per week in third through fifth grade classes in the U.S.This trend continued, with a 2014 study that documented an “an average of 2.52 hours of social studies instructional time per week.” This reduction in social studies instruction has affected minority students more than others. Federal statistics show that since at least 1998, Black students have tended to score lower on tests of civics knowledge than white students. One study described how that this civic education gap contributes to a civic participation gap, in which poorer people and those from nonwhite ethnic groups vote less.
Bradley, who has autism and is non-verbal, participates in an education department program to help make up for occupational and physical therapies that were often difficult or impossible to deliver remotely. The initiative, called Sensory Exploration, Education & Discovery (SEED), serves students with disabilities who have sensory issues that are “dramatically impacting their school performance,” said Suzanne Sanchez, the education department’s senior director of therapy services who helps oversee the program. The SEED program operates after school and on Saturdays at 10 sites across the city — two in each borough. It’s part of a broader effort backed by roughly $200 million in federal relief funding to provide students with disabilities extra services outside of the traditional school day to address pandemic disruptions.
Well, sure, hat rhymes with lots of satisfying words, including fat, flat, mat, splat, sat and cat, as Dr. Seuss, a great lover of hats who gave Bartholomew Cubbins 500 of them, made plain. The rhymability alone makes it good material for a picture book as well as a musical. But a hat can be deeply symbolic, too, as Stephen Sondheim well knew (in “Sunday in the Park With George” it stands for nothing less than art itself). Jon Klassen showed this in his lauded Hat Trilogy, and so do a barbershop quartet of new books with wildly different tones.
At a House Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties meeting today to “examine the ongoing efforts to prohibit discussion in K-12 classrooms about American history, race, and LGBTQ+ issues, and to punish teachers who violate vague and discriminatory state laws by discussing these topics,” a letter signed by 1,300 children’s literature authors was read into the record. It was signed by authors of different generations and genres, award winners, and bestsellers, including Christina Soontornvat—who drafted the letter—Jason Reynolds, Judy Blume, Rick Riordan, Jacqueline Woodson, Dav Pilkey, Alex Gino, Jenny Han, Jeff Kinney, Angie Thomas, and Yuyi Morales.
Parents and teachers expressed strong and widespread support for incorporating social-emotional learning in K-12 schools, despite recent efforts to politicize the practice, according to two surveys released this week. One poll found nearly all teachers (94%) said students do better in school when teachers integrate SEL into the classroom. Although there’s wide support for SEL practices, more than half of teachers surveyed said they weren’t prepared to serve students effectively in this area. As schools work to strengthen students’ mental and social-emotional well-being, leaders should also prioritize teachers’ personal health, the teacher survey recommended.
Students with reading disabilities can interact with texts in a variety of ways. They can decode, they can listen to an in-person read-aloud, or they can listen to human audio text or digital text, also called text-to-speech (TTS). Using TTS allows for equity and access. If struggling readers are limited to text they can decode, how can they enjoy the richness of written language, participate in class discussions, learn academic content, and develop a love for reading? Text-to-speech opens up new worlds for them. Research demonstrates that using text-to-speech tools increases engagement and allows students to access grade-level content and material, as well as websites and books of interest. Interaction with curricular content can help students improve their vocabulary, comprehension, reading accuracy, and fluency. Perhaps most importantly, the use of TTS improves students’ positive feelings about reading and school.
Accusations continue to be hurled that the achievement levels are set far too high. Why isn’t “basic” good enough? And—a concern to be taken seriously—what about all those kids, especially the very large numbers of poor and minority pupils, whose scores fall “below basic?” Shouldn’t NAEP provide much more information about what they can and cannot do? After all, the “below basic” category ranges from completely illiterate to the cusp of essential reading skills. The achievement-level refresh that’s now underway is partly a response to a 2017 recommendation from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine that urged an evaluation of the “alignment among the frameworks, the item pools, the achievement-level descriptors, and the cut scores,” declaring such alignment “fundamental to the validity of inferences about student achievement.”
Teachers need more help to be able to provide the individualized attention they say children in the early grades need to recover from the time they missed in school. Maggie Berger is a former first grade teacher and now a reading specialist in San Antonio, Texas. Her school serves immigrant families from Central America, Mexico, and Afghanistan. There were many families in her district who continued to choose online learning even after classrooms had opened, Berger said. And when students did come to school there was not always a physical teacher in the classroom. This school year, Berger said, has been very challenging. “We have many kids who are still playing catch up,” she said. Most of her first graders are still working on their letter sounds. “They did not get what they needed in kindergarten. They don’t have handwriting. They don't know how to form letters.”
Younger children seem to have suffered the most from school closures imposed during lockdowns. In addition to affecting literacy and numeracy skills, lockdowns also hindered the development of language and communication, physical co-ordination and social and emotional skills, according to new research. The findings point towards the early years of education as a key target for interventions to help reverse the Covid-19 learning loss. And they back up fears at the start of the pandemic that the social and emotional impact of lockdowns could be as damaging as the effect on education.
Summer library programs offer a great opportunity to guide students toward podcasts they’ll enjoy. Connecting families to kidcast playlists this summer through your website, newsletter, and/or social media channels can engage kids and families in your community with great screen-free content. This year’s summer playlists include an ocean of podcasts in line with this year’s Collaborative Summer Library Program theme, “Oceans of Possibilities." We have crossed genres and audio styles to bring a range of podcasts to fit different age ranges and needs.
All kids are readers. Some just haven’t discovered it yet. That’s the belief of Kitty Felde, former NPR correspondent and current host and executive producer of the podcast “Book Club for Kids.” In May, she joined Kerri Miller for a Friday episode of Big Books and Bold Ideas to talk about how to get kids reading over their summer break. Here are a few of her top tips. One example: If you have a reluctant reader, any book is a good book. Felde recommends parents or caregivers take kids to a library or a bookstore and let them choose any book they show interest in.