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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In a year when the usual summer slide in learning has stretched into a school-year slide, librarians say it is more important than ever to make reading a part of every child’s summer, especially underserved children and teens. For many libraries developing summer programming, addressing reading deficits is top of mind. Others are looking hard at inequities in their services laid bare by the pandemic and adjusting programming to remove barriers to participation.
When it comes to summer—particularly a summer that follows a year of pandemic-induced isolation—parents have three priorities for what they want summer programming to address for their children: their social and emotional health, providing them with physical outdoor activities and helping them discover their passion and purpose. A new, national survey by Arlington, VA-based market research firm Edge Research, in conjunction with Learning Heroes, a nonprofit dedicated to elevating the voice of parents in education, was commissioned by Wallace to explore the unique, differentiated role out-of-school time (OST) programs play in youth development compared with home and school, how parents assess quality in OST programs and the impact of COVID-19 for summer 2021—and beyond.
Before coronavirus vaccines, and before spring weather, many families across the country opted to keep students in remote learning for fear of the pandemic’s spread. But now their reasons have changed. Jobs, language barriers and hard-won coronavirus pandemic routines are just some of the reasons that children aren’t going back to classrooms in districts that have reopened.
The other week, Rick Hess shared Tom Loveless’ take that perhaps, after more than a decade, the large-scale federal implementation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) has amounted to little more than, in Hess’s words, “a big nothingburger.” The flaw in this line of thinking is that Common Core was never intended to be a burger at all, or any fully cooked meal that is immediately ready to academically nourish every child in America. Common Core, I would instead suggest, is a meal kit that provides beautiful nutrient-rich ingredients for a teacher to cook up—although, with this meal kit, it takes years to build the collective expertise to turn these new ingredients into Michelin-star teaching in every classroom.
Dr. Ibram X. Kendi's book “Stamped from the Beginning” has since been remixed as “Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You,” a version of the book that was re-written for teens by best-selling author Jason Reynolds. Now, we have “Stamped (For Kids): Racism, Antiracism, and You,” an adaptation aimed at 7- to 12-year-olds. These youth-centered books about race do the research for teachers so they don't have to spend huge amounts of time figuring out how to tackle units about American history and race in the classroom, explains author Dr. Sonja Cherry-Paul. She is an educator and researcher who wrote “Stamped (For Kids)” as an adaptation of Kendi’s original book. She's applying her 20 years of experience in middle school classrooms helping schools “shatter any kind of silence around race and racism.”
The International Literacy Association (ILA) announced the 2021 winners of its Children’s and Young Adults’ Book Awards this week, highlighting both fiction and nonfiction works that exemplify the very best from rising stars in the literary field. The winning authors and titles were unveiled during the ILA Children’s Literature Intensive: Creating a Culturally Responsive Classroom Through Books on May 11. ILA’s annual book awards program recognizes newly published authors who exhibit exceptional promise in the children’s and young adults’ book fields. This year’s honorees offer a range of topics—from overcoming adversity and trauma to celebrating the skin we’re in, from the beginning of the universe to a seahorse’s anatomy, and more.
More than two years after a scathing review by state officials over its approach to covering reading instruction, the University of Northern Colorado won kudos Wednesday for making changes to two majors within its teacher preparation program. The State Board of Education granted full approval to the university’s elementary education and early childhood education majors, an upgrade from the partial approval given to the majors previously. State officials detailed the university’s turnaround, noting the creation of a literacy committee and major revisions to several literacy courses to focus more on the science of reading. An accompanying report said university literacy faculty have taken trainings offered by the Colorado Department of Education, Reading Rockets, and North Carolina State University.
For those who have long sought to give students more “voice and choice” inside the country’s K-12 classrooms, the devastating coronavirus pandemic appears to have had a silver lining. More than half of teachers now offer students more flexibility in how they choose to complete assignments, more opportunities to revise and re-submit their work, and more ways to participate non-verbally in class discussions, according to a nationally representative survey of teachers administered by the EdWeek Research Center. The idea that students now have more ways to show what they know is a good thing, they said—especially for students who are still learning English or have special needs or have struggled in traditional school. Also encouraging is that educators appear to be focusing less on seat time and more on whether students have actually mastered classroom material.
The largest and longest study of its kind on summer learning programs reveals short- and long-term benefits among students who consistently attended voluntary, five- to six-week summer learning programs. The findings suggest that these programs can be an important component of how school districts support learning and skill development among children in low-income communities. The study, conducted by the RAND Corporation, followed nearly 6,000 students in five urban school districts from the end of 3rd grade through the spring of 7th grade.
As school districts and states scramble to use federal COVID relief aid to help students recover academically this summer, they’ll need to address a core challenge of summer learning: Too often, students don’t show up. So how should school districts design programs to ensure that students show up, making meaningful learning gains possible? A first step is to move away from the traditional summer school model, with teachers and students stuck inside classrooms. Instead, districts would be smart to work with YMCAs, recreation centers, Boys & Girls Clubs and other community organizations to add substantive academic content to the organizations’ existing sports and enrichment activities.
How can we encourage students to develop their own questions? And, once they create them, what’s next? Questioning is an essential part of any classroom. Oftentimes, however, it’s the teacher asking them or students asking fairly simple informative ones. What can educators do to help students develop the skills, appetite, and confidence to develop and ask questions that are deeper and more higher-order ones?
Targeted interventions for elementary students with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) should not occur at the expense of their also receiving quality whole-group instruction with the remainder of the class. As much as possible, every opportunity should be provided to offer student supports that scaffold grade-level instruction, particularly in English language arts, where the development of academic vocabulary and the opportunity to advance oral language competency are vital to literacy success.
The rapid switch to technology means that everyone needs to move from just consuming and sampling new technology to a true application and reliance on digital tools to transfer learning. Educators need to understand what tech equity is—leveraging technology to support all students’ needs—and how to best apply instructional design through culturally responsive teaching to assist learner-centered modalities.
Juliana Urtubey, an elementary special education teacher in Las Vegas, has been named the 2021 National Teacher of the Year. Urtubey, a National Board-certified teacher who co-teaches in prekindergarten through 5th grade special education settings at Booker Elementary School, was announced as the national awardee today on CBS This Morning. Urtubey, who was born in Colombia, is a bilingual educator and teaches many English-language learners. She also serves as an instructional strategist at her school, developing supports to meet students’ differing academic, social-emotional, and behavioral needs.
May is Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, and these titles, which include YA and middle grade fiction, picture books, and nonfiction, are perfect to recommend to readers both this month and year-round.
Little Free Libraries—those wooden pedestaled boxes stuffed with copies of The Hunger Games and lightly loved picture books—started popping up around Twin Cities neighborhoods a decade ago. Now more than 100,000 locations strong, the tiny book-sharing stands have been a hit in our cities and across the globe. But after George Floyd’s death and the unrest that followed, the Little Free Library nonprofit team, based in Hudson, knew it was time to become more intentional about their offerings. Last fall, the team launched their Read in Color initiative, which brings an array of diverse books (representing BIPOC and LGBTQ+ characters and authors) to 20 Read in Color Little Free Libraries around the Cities. And so far, they’re a hit.
Four teachers across the U.S. challenged their students to choose two Times pieces — one on a topic within their comfort zone, another on a topic outside it — and read both. It was a success everywhere.
On a Friday morning almost one year after their school closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, fifth graders in Jeanine Wilson’s class at Detroit’s Vernor Elementary-Middle School went on a field trip to the Detroit Institute of Arts. It was reminiscent of one of their favorite things about school that has been lost since last March — even if it looked a lot different. Instead of hopping on a school bus and traveling to the Midtown museum, students joined this virtual field trip from their computer screens. In a challenging year of pandemic learning, excursions like this are becoming increasingly common as museum officials at the DIA and other cultural institutions pivot to provide opportunities for students to have a connection to the arts.
Differentiated instruction was the key when an elementary school sought more equitable outcomes in students’ growth as readers. Grounded in the fundamental beliefs that all kids can learn and that it is our job to make it happen, we understood fairness to mean giving each student what he or she needed. Specifically, within our literacy block we eliminated guided reading and replaced it with differentiated reading instruction (DRI). This 40-minute period provided the opportunity for teachers to tailor instruction to address identified skill gaps. During this block, teachers grouped students according to their assessed needs. These groups, which replaced guided reading groups, were short-term and fluid, shifting as students’ needs shifted. We used a variety of tools to diagnose needs and monitor growth, including the Phonological Awareness Screening Test (PAST), the CORE Phonics Survey, the Words Their Way Spelling Inventory, fluency timed readings, and others.
Many schools and libraries host fiction-focused book clubs, but it’s important to keep young info-lovers in mind, too. After all, studies show that 40 percent of elementary-aged children prefer expository nonfiction and another 30 percent enjoy expository and narrative texts equally. Besides encouraging students to talk about reading, which enhances their comprehension and ability to navigate texts, book clubs give children an opportunity to practice life skills like taking turns, expressing opinions, listening to others, and working collaboratively. When students read and discuss nonfiction with their peers, they learn to recognize when they don’t understand the text and develop a range of strategies that can aid their comprehension, such as re-reading, asking questions, using a dictionary, and reading passages aloud. If a nonfiction book club seems like a good fit for the children at your school, here are some tips for getting started.
The development of children’s social and emotional skills is a longstanding component of elementary education, and may be more important now than ever. Many students will have spent more than a year away from school with limited opportunities to socialize with other children. Effective social and emotional learning (SEL) is best encountered not in standalone programs, but within the context of academic lessons and a broader school culture and climate that provides students opportunities to encounter, reflect on, and practice habits of character. Such activities are inclusive and recognize and affirm students’ diverse cultures. The proliferation of SEL programs is based on the recognition that students’ emotions and social contexts are deeply intertwined with their success in school and beyond.
The artist, the author, and the illustrator behind Roots and Wings: How Shahzia Sikander Became an Artist share the story of its making. "One of my early childhood memories is of an abandoned school bus converted, by volunteers in the neighborhood where I lived, into the Aleph Laila book bus library, and how my afternoons were spent perusing books," says Shahzia.
Taking an asset-based approach to supporting students who are new to the English language can help them thrive.
An analysis released today of student scores on the test known as the “nation’s report card” helps paint a more detailed picture of the country’s struggling readers. This new report looks at results from a supplemental Oral Reading Fluency (ORF) NAEP test that a portion of 4th graders took in 2018—a test that measured their ability to read passages with speed, accuracy, and expression, as well as their word-reading ability. These 4th graders also took the main NAEP reading test, which measures reading comprehension. The researchers found that students’ reading comprehension was connected to their ability to read text fluently and accurately, and to their ability to recognize and decode words. The lower students scored on the main NAEP reading test, the harder time they had with reading fluency and foundational skills on the ORF. These results are in line with what research has shown about how skilled reading works.
Tom Loveless has long been a clear-eyed incisive critic of the Common Core State Standards. Now Loveless has published a definitive autopsy of the failed policy initiative, Between the State and the Schoolhouse: Understanding the Failure of Common Core, and the Biden administration would do well to consult the educational coroner’s report before launching their next big education initiative. Loveless sets the stage with a look back at the history of the drive for education standards. While he’s exceptionally even-handed here, the progression points to some of the earliest missteps of the Core creators. For example, previous standardization attempts were slow and ungainly because so many different stakeholders with so many different concerns bogged down the process. The Common Core solution? Just don’t let all those people in the room.
Bob Slavin’s sudden death from a heart attack at the age of 70 last week sent a shock through the K-12 world. The renowned education researcher at Johns Hopkins University and co-founder of the Success for All Foundation with his wife, Nancy Madden, was still a formidable force in pushing for policies to support the nation’s students and ensure those most likely to struggle with learning had access to effective instruction and school services. His latest campaign, which Slavin outlined in a letter to President-elect Joe Biden a few days after the election, called for a “Marshall Plan” for tutoring. Slavin was anticipating the likelihood of millions of children in high-poverty schools falling further behind their peers as a result of the pandemic. He saw a massive mobilization of tutors and resources to bolster classroom learning as an effective strategy for tackling the problem.
A mobile app was successful at distinguishing toddlers diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) from typically developing toddlers based on their eye movements while watching videos, according to a study funded by the National Institutes of Health. The findings suggest that the app could one day screen infants and toddlers for ASD and refer them for early intervention, when chances for treatment success are greatest.
This summer will be crucial for catching up students who have fallen behind due to the pandemic and school closures, experts say. Districts are bolstering their summer learning offerings, and the federal government has given more than a billion dollars to help them do so. But there’s one big problem: Teachers are burned out and exhausted from a year of pandemic teaching. And many are saying thanks but no thanks to the offer of teaching summer school.
Explicit writing instruction not only improves students’ writing skills but also helps build and deepen their content knowledge, boosts reading comprehension and oral language ability, and fosters habits of critical and analytical thinking. The process of planning, writing, and revising can be taught in intentional, sequential steps. In following this process, students can improve their skills and overall comprehension and retention of information. It’s imperative that schools not scrimp on writing instruction as they help students recover from the pandemic. To be effective, writing should be embedded in the content of the core curriculum and begin at the sentence level.
An international team of more than 50 language acquisition researchers has recently released a comprehensive study on the COVID-19 pandemic’s effects on early language acquisition and how lockdown measures affected infants and toddlers’ vocabulary development. The researchers found that children whose parents read to them often and limited their screen time were more likely to have significant improvements throughout the lockdown than those whose parents did not. “... the results suggest that who you are (your education, your child’s age or sex) does not predict vocabulary development as much as what you did with your child during lockdown.”
It's been a year since teachers were handed an unprecedented request: Educate students in entirely new ways, amid the backdrop of a global pandemic. In this comic series, we'll illustrate one educator's story each week from now until the end of the school year. Episode 6: Librarian Emily Curtis and bus driver Edwin Steer of Georgetown, Texas, discuss creating places of "peace and security" by delivering books to students who can't be in school.
The Bank Street Center for Children's Literature (CLL) has named Your Place in the Universe by Jason Chin its 2021 Cook Prize winner. The Cook Prize has been awarded annually since 2012 to the best STEM picture book. It is the only national award chosen by children that honors a STEM title. The young readers enjoyed learning about the size of the universe and their place in it. "It shows you where you are in the whole world from an eight-year-old boy to beyond the Milky Way," said Dylan, who is in third grade. "It keeps getting further and further and deeper into space."
In a new study published in Reading and Writing, researchers found significant differences between students who read for pleasure outside of class—immersing themselves in fantasy novels or spy thrillers, for example—and those who primarily read books to satisfy school assignments. Not only was there a powerful link between reading for fun and stronger language skills, but students who disliked reading frequently attributed their negative outlook to experiences they had in classrooms. Too much emphasis on analyzing the compositional nuts and bolts of texts and reading merely to absorb information came at a psychological cost, the researchers found, as students disengaged from voluntary reading.
Even though the pandemic has interrupted learning, students are still making progress in reading and math this year, according to a new analysis from the assessment provider Renaissance. The company looked at a large sample of students—about 3.8 million in grades 1-8—who had taken Star Assessments, which are interim tests, in either math or reading during the winter of the 2020-21 school year. Overall, the analysis found, students’ scores rose during the first half of the 2020-21 school year. In other words, children did make academic progress during COVID-19. Even more encouraging, the amount of progress made was similar to what Renaissance would expect in a non-pandemic year. The COVID-19 impact was greater for Black, Hispanic, and Native American students than for their white and Asian peers, and for English-language learners and students with disabilities. Students in these groups also saw a slower rate of score growth during the first half of the 2020-21 school year compared to the overall sample.
Educators across the country say their top priority right now isn't doubling down on math or reading — it's helping students manage all of this pandemic-driven stress. "If kids don't return to school and get a lot of attention paid to security, safety, predictability and re-establishing of strong, secure relationships, [they] are not gonna be able to make up ground academically," says Matt Biel, a child psychiatrist at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital. To reestablish relationships in the classroom — and help kids cope with the stress and trauma of the past year — mental health experts say educators can start by building in time every day, for every student, in every classroom to share their feelings and learn the basics of naming and managing their emotions. Think morning circle time or, for older students, homeroom.
There's no better way to kick off Earth Day 2021 on April 22 than with books that celebrate kids' budding environmentalism. Last year's Caldecott-winning picture book, "We Are Water Protectors," is a luminous tale of an Ojibwe girl who rises up to protect the Earth's water from harm, inspired by many Indigenous-led movements across North America. We asked the book's author Carole Lindstrom and illustrator Michaela Goade to suggest children's books for Earth Day 2021 for kids of all ages.
In a recent survey from the EdWeek Research Center, about a third of school and district leaders said that they’re planning to start the 2021-22 school year with some form of hybrid instruction. And most of these lessons, teachers said, will inform their practice even once they return to the physical classroom. Being forced to slow down, to think creatively about how to reach all students in a new format, and to adjust based on student feedback built new skills that teachers want to continue using post-pandemic. By facing the challenges of remote and hybrid learning, teachers say they’ve been able to find some successes. Education Week spoke with six teachers about the important lessons they learned during this time, distilling eight of them here.
As schools approach the end of a full year of pandemic learning, summer school is being reimagined and broadened into what is likely to be the most expansive — and expensive — summer programming in modern history. Education leaders see it as a desperately needed remedy for a calamitous school year that left many students across the country struggling and falling behind. School districts are exploring classes that go beyond addressing learning loss and remedial work to provide social interactions and emotional support for students of every age group. Some districts are even envisioning a robust summer school program as part of an experiment in a move to year-round learning.
Literacy is the bedrock of every elementary school and should be the number-one priority for post-pandemic educational recovery. A high-quality elementary curriculum imparts essential foundational skills in early reading and uses rich, engaging, and culturally responsive literary and informational texts. In the discussion bhere, we focus on three considerations for elementary ELA curriculum selection and implementation: the science of reading, standards alignment, and design that gives all students access to grade-level content. We explore how this can be done, and these high-impact elements play out in an exemplar curriculum from EL Education.
Many teachers want to implement independent reading in the classroom, but the perennial challenge of student accountability is a concern. To tackle accountability means to think about what matters to students and what makes reading relevant. Many middle and high school students are interested in social media, and teachers can tap into that to promote enthusiasm for reading.
Going remote but delivering physical materials is one solution to a problem that has plagued after-school providers across the country — how to continue providing their enrichment and child care solutions during a pandemic. After-school programs across the country were hit with the twin catastrophes of plummeting enrollment and the loss of their physical space. Many simply went out of business. Others, with the funding to do so, went online. Still others were left with the overwhelming task of providing emergency child care that they were not set up to offer. And a year into the pandemic, federal financial support has only now begun to arrive in the form of public education dollars set aside for enrichment.
The federal economic stimulus package passed last month achieves something progressives have dreamed of for decades: monthly assistance for families in poverty with no application process, work requirements, nor restrictions on how the money is spent. This should result in an enormous improvement in educational outcomes for our most disadvantaged children as long as it reaches those most in need and is made permanent. The link between child poverty and educational success is undeniable. In the U.S., about 30% of children raised in poverty do not finish high school. The correlation between poverty and low literacy levels is even more disturbing—82% of students eligible for free or reduced lunches are not reading at or above proficient levels by fourth grade.
At least twenty states have passed or are considering measures related to the science of reading. I’m generally not keen to impose my preferred flavors of curriculum and instruction on schools, despite some well-defined opinions on such matters. But if there’s an exception, it’s early childhood literacy with curriculum and instruction grounded in the science of reading. The foundational role of proficient decoding and comprehension in academic success suggests that, while it might make sense to let a thousand flowers bloom in curriculum, instruction, and school models—vive la différence!—we have no more important shared task than getting kids to the starting line of basic literacy from the first days of school. So if I have any lingering technocratic impulses left, they’re limited to early childhood literacy and the “science of reading.” But the open question is whether literacy laws—from mandating phonics to third grade retention policies—can have a beneficial effect on classroom practice.
If I had to name the most important institution in American life, and the one with the most potential for changing the course of our country, it would be the humble elementary school. Especially the 20,000 or so high-poverty elementary schools in the nation’s cities and inner-ring suburbs, educating millions of kids growing up in poor or working-class families. Yes, of course, we also need to dramatically improve the other parts of our education system if we’re to help all young Americans fulfill their God-given potential. That includes making high-quality pre-K more widely accessible to those who need it most, upping the quality of our middle schools, and rethinking and improving our high schools. Not to mention revamping our post-secondary education system and overhauling our workforce training programs. Still, if I were king for a day, or even just superintendent of a large district, I would spend at least twenty-three of my twenty-four hours in charge obsessing about elementary schools. And that’s for four big reasons.
[We may be looking at] a uniquely challenging situation this fall, as children enroll in kindergarten in potentially record numbers. Problematically, many of those children may lack the school readiness that their older peers were afforded in kindergarten, due to the pandemic’s impact on social interactions, structured learning experiences, and consistent, high-quality instruction. During a recent virtual event, the Hunt Institute, an education nonprofit affiliated with Duke University, led a conversation around the difficulties and opportunities that families and educators face as they look to transition a new class of children into kindergarten after more than a year of the pandemic. What follows are some of the highlights of that discussion.
Reading isn’t just a set of skills. The most important factor in helping middle schoolers overcome literacy issues is creating strong relationships with students and families. If we can identify struggling readers and keep them motivated, we can turn them around in life-changing ways. They might not be reading Faulkner or Shakespeare, but they can read their high school textbooks and graduate from high school. The challenge for our educators is that, by 7th grade, students might be hiding their challenges behind coping mechanisms that keep them from being discovered. Here’s how we find and help our middle schoolers who have trouble with reading.
Andrea Wang, Jason Chin, Travis Jonker, Grant Snider, Juana Martinez-Neal, Corinna Luyken and more depict our symbiotic relationship with the environment.
Children’s books are commonly used in home, school, and community contexts to promote awareness of complex social issues at the earliest stages of development. Children and their caregivers encounter cultural models for, and may appropriate sociocultural values and norms about, the screen time dilemma through their experiences with texts that contain narratives about screens. The dilemma centers on the question of how much screen time—oftentimes measured in the number of minutes—is too much? Also considered is the types of interactions children have with devices. More and more frequently, picture books contain representations of screens, media, and technologies. How might these texts be leveraged to help children understand their relationships with screens in a more nuanced way?
As the esteemed multicultural children’s literature scholar Rudine Sims Bishop explained, books can be “windows and mirrors.” As “windows,” books can offer children a view into a real or imagined world different from their own that can be gently explored, understood, and appreciated. We have compiled a list of exceptional children’s picture books about and by the Asian American community. The books on this list do not portray Asian Americans as exotic, foreign, or “other.” Books about holidays, food, or immigration are important, but—in order to avoid inadvertently “othering” Asian Americans—we also need to expose young people to narratives of kids (like the ones below) that don’t center identity as the main story.
In 2020, New America embarked on a year-long initiative with librarians in children’s and youth services across three library systems in Illinois. The aim was to build staff members’ skills and confidence in media mentorship—the act of mentoring and providing tailored guidance to students and families in selecting, analyzing, and using media to support learning.1 As media environments become increasingly complicated, this kind of mentorship is crucial to helping families and students get the non-commercial guidance they need to build skills and choose media (including books, videos, apps, and podcasts) that match their needs. Librarians are often well-positioned to do this kind of mentoring. Media mentorship is, after all, aligned with what many staff members are taught in schools of library and information science. But they need their own support and training on new techniques and programming innovations to keep up with the ever-changing media landscape.
Maryville University developed this visual guide to help with initial assessment of language development in pre-K children and determine what type of intervention may be appropriate.
A new study published in Cognition suggests that infants may have more advanced linguistic understanding than previously believed. Conducted by a team of researchers at the University of Edinburgh and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the study looks at how children aged 11-12 months old processed multi-word sequences—phrases like “clap your hands,” for instance. The results showed that children are indeed sensitive to multi-word utterances, thus challenging the commonly held understanding of language acquisition that children progress from understanding and producing single words to phrases and then to sentences.
Alternative note-taking practices like mind-mapping and sketchnoting prompt students to organize their thoughts visually, boosting comprehension and retention.
Attorney Warren Binford started a nonprofit dedicated to strengthening legal protections for children in custody. On its website, visitors can read sworn testimony from dozens of children and teenagers. But Binford ran into a problem: She says the children's stories were just too harrowing to hold an audience. Her solution: a picture book. Hear My Voice/Escucha Mi Voz, published in both English and Spanish, features excerpts of the testimonies, paired with art by award-winning illustrators who are Latinx. Binford is hoping that Hear My Voice/Escucha Mi Voz will be suitable for families to read and talk about together. "The children's book allows it to be a little kinder and gentler accounting of the children," she explains. "And by creating this mosaic from different declarations [it] helps to give a sense of who these children are collectively."
National Poetry Month inspires us to delve into poetry with our students; to read, write, and listen. The creativity and intimacy of audio can connect kids with poets, past and present, from across the globe. This playlist includes shows that use a range of audio methods to appeal to children’s ears, including a delightful Scottish host reading a musical poem; a how-to for writing haiku; an immersive biography of poet Dorothea MacKellar; an interview with poet and verse writer Elizabeth Acevedo; and a meditative show featuring the work of poet Amanda Gorman. And, if you still want Shel Silverstein, then there’s that too.
Over the past year, Deprece Bonilla, a mother of five in Oakland, Calif., has gotten creative about helping her children thrive in a world largely mediated by screens. It all sometimes feels like too much to bear. Still, when her fifth-grade son’s public-school teacher told her he was years behind in reading, she was in disbelief. Ms. Bonilla’s experience illustrates a roiling debate in education, about how and even whether to measure the academic impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the nation’s children — and how to describe learning gaps without stigmatizing or discouraging students and families. [Some] are pushing back against the concept of “learning loss,” especially on behalf of the Black, Hispanic and low-income children who, research shows, have fallen further behind over the past year. They fear that a focus on what’s been lost could incite a moral panic that paints an entire generation as broken, and say that relatively simple, common-sense solutions can help students get back up to speed.
In Transylvania, the district started training its elementary teachers in the science of reading in December. Since then, third-grade teacher Samantha Osteen says, she feels more hopeful. “It’s a relief for me to hear this and see this,” she said. “This is exactly what my kids need. I don’t have to guess. I can see, this is what they need if I need them to learn how to read, point blank. It’s not impossible. It’s manageable.” Transylvania County Schools plans more training. Already, teachers completed a one-day training with the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching, and some received another four-day training through The Reading League. Plans to start training in Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling (LETRS) are on hold, as the district waits to see what happens with proposed legislation that could impact future district-level training.
How do we teach very young learners to appreciate each person’s unique story and background—especially those who are traditionally underrepresented? At Germantown Friends School (GFS), author studies offer an engaging opportunity for students to take a deep dive into the works of one author or illustrator of color at a time to learn what their books reveal about different backgrounds, cultures, traditions, journeys, and families.
Rocks, even in kids’ books, such as William Steig’s “Sylvester and the Magic Pebble,” bode bad things: hopelessness, stuckness, imprisonment. But in this beautiful, spare, funny book by Jon Klassen — the Caldecott Medal-winning author of “I Want My Hat Back,” “This Is Not My Hat” and “We Found a Hat” — the rock signals something different: doom. Yay. With its muted, desolate landscapes, “The Rock From the Sky” is hilariously dark, especially about social relations. It features three main characters in five stories — a hat-wearing turtle whose favorite spot happens to be right where (unbeknown to him) a giant boulder is about to drop, a hat-wearing armadillo who’s worried about standing with the turtle in this spot and a beret-wearing snake who joins the armadillo.
Despite an estimated $18 billion spent annually on professional learning, there’s very little evidence that it’s effective. A new initiative is taking up the challenge of reviewing and rating professional learning in a more rigorous way, centered on the adoption and use of “high-quality instructional materials” (HQIM), and with the ambition of becoming something like the EdReports.org of professional learning. Louisiana-based Rivet Education has quietly published a “Professional Learning Partner Guide” aimed at increasing states’ use of high-quality instructional materials (HQIM) and aligned professional development for teachers.